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Title: Sylvia's Lovers — Volume 3
Author: Gaskell, Elizabeth Cleghorn, 1810-1865
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Sylvia's Lovers — Volume 3" ***

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



[Editor's Note:--The chapter numbering for volume 2 & 3 was changed
from the original in order to have unique chapter numbers for the
complete version, so volume 2 starts with chapter XV and volume 3
starts with chapter XXX.]



SYLVIA'S LOVERS.


BY

ELIZABETH GASKELL



  Oh for thy voice to soothe and bless!
  What hope of answer, or redress?
  Behind the veil! Behind the veil!--Tennyson



IN THREE VOLUMES.

VOL. III.

LONDON:

M.DCCC.LXIII.



CONTENTS

     XXX  HAPPY DAYS
    XXXI  EVIL OMENS
   XXXII  RESCUED FROM THE WAVES
  XXXIII  AN APPARITION
   XXXIV  A RECKLESS RECRUIT
    XXXV  THINGS UNUTTERABLE
   XXXVI  MYSTERIOUS TIDINGS
  XXXVII  BEREAVEMENT
 XXXVIII  THE RECOGNITION
   XXXIX  CONFIDENCES
      XL  AN UNEXPECTED MESSENGER
     XLI  THE BEDESMAN OF ST SEPULCHRE
    XLII  A FABLE AT FAULT
   XLIII  THE UNKNOWN
    XLIV  FIRST WORDS
     XLV  SAVED AND LOST



CHAPTER XXX

HAPPY DAYS


And now Philip seemed as prosperous as his heart could desire. The
business flourished, and money beyond his moderate wants came in. As
for himself he required very little; but he had always looked
forward to placing his idol in a befitting shrine; and means for
this were now furnished to him. The dress, the comforts, the
position he had desired for Sylvia were all hers. She did not need
to do a stroke of household work if she preferred to 'sit in her
parlour and sew up a seam'. Indeed Phoebe resented any interference
in the domestic labour, which she had performed so long, that she
looked upon the kitchen as a private empire of her own. 'Mrs
Hepburn' (as Sylvia was now termed) had a good dark silk gown-piece
in her drawers, as well as the poor dove-coloured, against the day
when she chose to leave off mourning; and stuff for either gray or
scarlet cloaks was hers at her bidding.

What she cared for far more were the comforts with which it was in
her power to surround her mother. In this Philip vied with her; for
besides his old love, and new pity for his aunt Bell, he never
forgot how she had welcomed him to Haytersbank, and favoured his
love to Sylvia, in the yearning days when he little hoped he should
ever win his cousin to be his wife. But even if he had not had these
grateful and affectionate feelings towards the poor woman, he would
have done much for her if only to gain the sweet, rare smiles which
his wife never bestowed upon him so freely as when she saw him
attending to 'mother,' for so both of them now called Bell. For her
creature comforts, her silk gowns, and her humble luxury, Sylvia did
not care; Philip was almost annoyed at the indifference she often
manifested to all his efforts to surround her with such things. It
was even a hardship to her to leave off her country dress, her
uncovered hair, her linsey petticoat, and loose bed-gown, and to don
a stiff and stately gown for her morning dress. Sitting in the dark
parlour at the back of the shop, and doing 'white work,' was much
more wearying to her than running out into the fields to bring up
the cows, or spinning wool, or making up butter. She sometimes
thought to herself that it was a strange kind of life where there
were no out-door animals to look after; the 'ox and the ass' had
hitherto come into all her ideas of humanity; and her care and
gentleness had made the dumb creatures round her father's home into
mute friends with loving eyes, looking at her as if wistful to speak
in words the grateful regard that she could read without the poor
expression of language.

She missed the free open air, the great dome of sky above the
fields; she rebelled against the necessity of 'dressing' (as she
called it) to go out, although she acknowledged that it was a
necessity where the first step beyond the threshold must be into a
populous street.

It is possible that Philip was right at one time when he had thought
to win her by material advantages; but the old vanities had been
burnt out of her by the hot iron of acute suffering. A great deal of
passionate feeling still existed, concealed and latent; but at this
period it appeared as though she were indifferent to most things,
and had lost the power of either hoping or fearing much. She was
stunned into a sort of temporary numbness on most points; those on
which she was sensitive being such as referred to the injustice and
oppression of her father's death, or anything that concerned her
mother.

She was quiet even to passiveness in all her dealings with Philip;
he would have given not a little for some of the old bursts of
impatience, the old pettishness, which, naughty as they were, had
gone to form his idea of the former Sylvia. Once or twice he was
almost vexed with her for her docility; he wanted her so much to
have a will of her own, if only that he might know how to rouse her
to pleasure by gratifying it. Indeed he seldom fell asleep at nights
without his last thoughts being devoted to some little plan for the
morrow, that he fancied she would like; and when he wakened in the
early dawn he looked to see if she were indeed sleeping by his side,
or whether it was not all a dream that he called Sylvia 'wife.'

He was aware that her affection for him was not to be spoken of in
the same way as his for her, but he found much happiness in only
being allowed to love and cherish her; and with the patient
perseverance that was one remarkable feature in his character, he
went on striving to deepen and increase her love when most other men
would have given up the endeavour, made themselves content with half
a heart, and turned to some other object of attainment. All this
time Philip was troubled by a dream that recurred whenever he was
over-fatigued, or otherwise not in perfect health. Over and over
again in this first year of married life he dreamt this dream;
perhaps as many as eight or nine times, and it never varied. It was
always of Kinraid's return; Kinraid was full of life in Philip's
dream, though in his waking hours he could and did convince himself
by all the laws of probability that his rival was dead. He never
remembered the exact sequence of events in that terrible dream after
he had roused himself, with a fight and a struggle, from his
feverish slumbers. He was generally sitting up in bed when he found
himself conscious, his heart beating wildly, with a conviction of
Kinraid's living presence somewhere near him in the darkness.
Occasionally Sylvia was disturbed by his agitation, and would
question him about his dreams, having, like most of her class at
that time, great faith in their prophetic interpretation; but Philip
never gave her any truth in his reply.

After all, and though he did not acknowledge it even to himself, the
long-desired happiness was not so delicious and perfect as he had
anticipated. Many have felt the same in their first year of married
life; but the faithful, patient nature that still works on, striving
to gain love, and capable itself of steady love all the while, is a
gift not given to all.

For many weeks after their wedding, Kester never came near them: a
chance word or two from Sylvia showed Philip that she had noticed
this and regretted it; and, accordingly, he made it his business at
the next leisure opportunity to go to Haytersbank (never saying a
word to his wife of his purpose), and seek out Kester.

All the whole place was altered! It was new white-washed, new
thatched: the patches of colour in the surrounding ground were
changed with altered tillage; the great geraniums were gone from the
window, and instead, was a smart knitted blind. Children played
before the house-door; a dog lying on the step flew at Philip; all
was so strange, that it was even the strangest thing of all for
Kester to appear where everything else was so altered!

Philip had to put up with a good deal of crabbed behaviour on the
part of the latter before he could induce Kester to promise to come
down into the town and see Sylvia in her new home.

Somehow, the visit when paid was but a failure; at least, it seemed
so at the time, though probably it broke the ice of restraint which
was forming over the familiar intercourse between Kester and Sylvia.
The old servant was daunted by seeing Sylvia in a strange place, and
stood, sleeking his hair down, and furtively looking about him,
instead of seating himself on the chair Sylvia had so eagerly
brought forward for him.

Then his sense of the estrangement caused by their new positions
infected her, and she began to cry pitifully, saying,--

'Oh, Kester! Kester! tell me about Haytersbank! Is it just as it
used to be in feyther's days?'

'Well, a cannot say as it is,' said Kester, thankful to have a
subject started. 'They'n pleughed up t' oud pasture-field, and are
settin' it for 'taters. They're not for much cattle, isn't
Higginses. They'll be for corn in t' next year, a reckon, and
they'll just ha' their pains for their payment. But they're allays
so pig-headed, is folk fra' a distance.'

So they went on discoursing on Haytersbank and the old days, till
Bell Robson, having finished her afternoon nap, came slowly
down-stairs to join them; and after that the conversation became so
broken up, from the desire of the other two to attend and reply as
best they could to her fragmentary and disjointed talk, that Kester
took his leave before long; falling, as he did so, into the formal
and unnaturally respectful manner which he had adopted on first
coming in.

But Sylvia ran after him, and brought him back from the door.

'To think of thy going away, Kester, without either bit or drink;
nay, come back wi' thee, and taste wine and cake.'

Kester stood at the door, half shy, half pleased, while Sylvia, in
all the glow and hurry of a young housekeeper's hospitality, sought
for the decanter of wine, and a wine-glass in the corner cupboard,
and hastily cut an immense wedge of cake, which she crammed into his
hand in spite of his remonstrances; and then she poured him out an
overflowing glass of wine, which Kester would far rather have gone
without, as he knew manners too well to suppose that he might taste
it without having gone through the preliminary ceremony of wishing
the donor health and happiness. He stood red and half smiling, with
his cake in one hand, his wine in the other, and then began,--

  'Long may ye live,
  Happy may ye he,
  And blest with a num'rous
  Pro-ge-ny.'

'Theere, that's po'try for yo' as I larnt i' my youth. But there's a
deal to be said as cannot be put int' po'try, an' yet a cannot say
it, somehow. It 'd tax a parson t' say a' as a've getten i' my mind.
It's like a heap o' woo' just after shearin' time; it's worth a
deal, but it tak's a vast o' combin', an' cardin', an' spinnin'
afore it can be made use on. If a were up to t' use o' words, a
could say a mighty deal; but somehow a'm tongue-teed when a come to
want my words most, so a'll only just mak' bold t' say as a think
yo've done pretty well for yo'rsel', getten a house-full o'
furniture' (looking around him as he said this), 'an' vittle an'
clothin' for t' axing, belike, an' a home for t' missus in her time
o' need; an' mebbe not such a bad husband as a once thought yon man
'ud mak'; a'm not above sayin' as he's, mebbe, better nor a took him
for;--so here's to ye both, and wishin' ye health and happiness, ay,
and money to buy yo' another, as country folk say.'

Having ended his oration, much to his own satisfaction, Kester
tossed off his glass of wine, smacked his lips, wiped his mouth with
the back of his hand, pocketed his cake, and made off.

That night Sylvia spoke of his visit to her husband. Philip never
said how he himself had brought it to pass, nor did he name the fact
that he had heard the old man come in just as he himself had
intended going into the parlour for tea, but had kept away, as he
thought Sylvia and Kester would most enjoy their interview
undisturbed. And Sylvia felt as if her husband's silence was
unsympathizing, and shut up the feelings that were just beginning to
expand towards him. She sank again into the listless state of
indifference from which nothing but some reference to former days,
or present consideration for her mother, could rouse her.

Hester was almost surprised at Sylvia's evident liking for her. By
slow degrees Hester was learning to love the woman, whose position
as Philip's wife she would have envied so keenly had she not been so
truly good and pious. But Sylvia seemed as though she had given
Hester her whole affection all at once. Hester could not understand
this, while she was touched and melted by the trust it implied. For
one thing Sylvia remembered and regretted--her harsh treatment of
Hester the rainy, stormy night on which the latter had come to
Haytersbank to seek her and her mother, and bring them into
Monkshaven to see the imprisoned father and husband. Sylvia had been
struck with Hester's patient endurance of her rudeness, a rudeness
which she was conscious that she herself should have immediately and
vehemently resented. Sylvia did not understand how a totally
different character from hers might immediately forgive the anger
she could not forget; and because Hester had been so meek at the
time, Sylvia, who knew how passing and transitory was her own anger,
thought that all was forgotten; while Hester believed that the
words, which she herself could not have uttered except under deep
provocation, meant much more than they did, and admired and wondered
at Sylvia for having so entirely conquered her anger against her.

Again, the two different women were divergently affected by the
extreme fondness which Bell had shown towards Hester ever since
Sylvia's wedding-day. Sylvia, who had always received more love from
others than she knew what to do with, had the most entire faith in
her own supremacy in her mother's heart, though at times Hester
would do certain things more to the poor old woman's satisfaction.
Hester, who had craved for the affection which had been withheld
from her, and had from that one circumstance become distrustful of
her own power of inspiring regard, while she exaggerated the delight
of being beloved, feared lest Sylvia should become jealous of her
mother's open display of great attachment and occasional preference
for Hester. But such a thought never entered Sylvia's mind. She was
more thankful than she knew how to express towards any one who made
her mother happy; as has been already said, the contributing to Bell
Robson's pleasures earned Philip more of his wife's smiles than
anything else. And Sylvia threw her whole heart into the words and
caresses she lavished on Hester whenever poor Mrs. Robson spoke of
the goodness and kindness of the latter. Hester attributed more
virtue to these sweet words and deeds of gratitude than they
deserved; they did not imply in Sylvia any victory over evil
temptation, as they would have done in Hester.

It seemed to be Sylvia's fate to captivate more people than she
cared to like back again. She turned the heads of John and Jeremiah
Foster, who could hardly congratulate Philip enough on his choice of
a wife.

They had been prepared to be critical on one who had interfered with
their favourite project of a marriage between Philip and Hester;
and, though full of compassion for the cruelty of Daniel Robson's
fate, they were too completely men of business not to have some
apprehension that the connection of Philip Hepburn with the daughter
of a man who was hanged, might injure the shop over which both his
and their name appeared. But all the possible proprieties demanded
that they should pay attention to the bride of their former shopman
and present successor; and the very first visitors whom Sylvia had
received after her marriage had been John and Jeremiah Foster, in
their sabbath-day clothes. They found her in the parlour (so
familiar to both of them!) clear-starching her mother's caps, which
had to be got up in some particular fashion that Sylvia was afraid
of dictating to Phoebe.

She was a little disturbed at her visitors discovering her at this
employment; but she was on her own ground, and that gave her
self-possession; and she welcomed the two old men so sweetly and
modestly, and looked so pretty and feminine, and, besides, so
notable in her handiwork, that she conquered all their prejudices at
one blow; and their first thought on leaving the shop was how to do
her honour, by inviting her to a supper party at Jeremiah Foster's
house.

Sylvia was dismayed when she was bidden to this wedding feast, and
Philip had to use all his authority, though tenderly, to make her
consent to go at all. She had been to merry country parties like the
Corneys', and to bright haymaking romps in the open air; but never
to a set stately party at a friend's house.

She would fain have made attendance on her mother an excuse; but
Philip knew he must not listen to any such plea, and applied to
Hester in the dilemma, asking her to remain with Mrs. Robson while he
and Sylvia went out visiting; and Hester had willingly, nay, eagerly
consented--it was much more to her taste than going out.

So Philip and Sylvia set out, arm-in-arm, down Bridge Street, across
the bridge, and then clambered up the hill. On the way he gave her
the directions she asked for about her behaviour as bride and most
honoured guest; and altogether succeeded, against his intention and
will, in frightening her so completely as to the grandeur and
importance of the occasion, and the necessity of remembering certain
set rules, and making certain set speeches and attending to them
when the right time came, that, if any one so naturally graceful
could have been awkward, Sylvia would have been so that night.

As it was, she sate, pale and weary-looking, on the very edge of her
chair; she uttered the formal words which Philip had told her were
appropriate to the occasion, and she heartily wished herself safe at
home and in bed. Yet she left but one unanimous impression on the
company when she went away, namely, that she was the prettiest and
best-behaved woman they had ever seen, and that Philip Hepburn had
done well in choosing her, felon's daughter though she might be.

Both the hosts had followed her into the lobby to help Philip in
cloaking her, and putting on her pattens. They were full of
old-fashioned compliments and good wishes; one speech of theirs came
up to her memory in future years:--

'Now, Sylvia Hepburn,' said Jeremiah, 'I've known thy husband long,
and I don't say but what thou hast done well in choosing him; but if
he ever neglects or ill-uses thee, come to me, and I'll give him a
sound lecture on his conduct. Mind, I'm thy friend from this day
forrards, and ready to take thy part against him!'

Philip smiled as if the day would never come when he should neglect
or ill-use his darling; Sylvia smiled a little, without much
attending to, or caring for, the words that were detaining her,
tired as she was; John and Jeremiah chuckled over the joke; but the
words came up again in after days, as words idly spoken sometimes
do.

Before the end of that first year, Philip had learnt to be jealous
of his wife's new love for Hester. To the latter, Sylvia gave the
free confidence on many things which Philip fancied she withheld
from him. A suspicion crossed his mind, from time to time, that
Sylvia might speak of her former lover to Hester. It would be not
unnatural, he thought, if she did so, believing him to be dead; but
the idea irritated him.

He was entirely mistaken, however; Sylvia, with all her apparent
frankness, kept her deep sorrows to herself. She never mentioned her
father's name, though he was continually present to her mind. Nor
did she speak of Kinraid to human being, though, for his sake, her
voice softened when, by chance, she spoke to a passing sailor; and
for his sake her eyes lingered on such men longer than on others,
trying to discover in them something of the old familiar gait; and
partly for his dead sake, and partly because of the freedom of the
outlook and the freshness of the air, she was glad occasionally to
escape from the comfortable imprisonment of her 'parlour', and the
close streets around the market-place, and to mount the cliffs and
sit on the turf, gazing abroad over the wide still expanse of the
open sea; for, at that height, even breaking waves only looked like
broken lines of white foam on the blue watery plain.

She did not want any companion on these rambles, which had somewhat
of the delight of stolen pleasures; for all the other respectable
matrons and town-dwellers whom she knew were content to have always
a business object for their walk, or else to stop at home in their
own households; and Sylvia was rather ashamed of her own yearnings
for solitude and open air, and the sight and sound of the
mother-like sea. She used to take off her hat, and sit there, her
hands clasping her knees, the salt air lifting her bright curls,
gazing at the distant horizon over the sea, in a sad dreaminess of
thought; if she had been asked on what she meditated, she could not
have told you.

But, by-and-by, the time came when she was a prisoner in the house;
a prisoner in her room, lying in bed with a little baby by her
side--her child, Philip's child. His pride, his delight knew no
bounds; this was a new fast tie between them; this would reconcile
her to the kind of life that, with all its respectability and
comfort, was so different from what she had lived before, and which
Philip had often perceived that she felt to be dull and restraining.
He already began to trace in the little girl, only a few days old,
the lovely curves that he knew so well by heart in the mother's
face. Sylvia, too, pale, still, and weak, was very happy; yes,
really happy for the first time since her irrevocable marriage. For
its irrevocableness had weighed much upon her with a sense of dull
hopelessness; she felt all Philip's kindness, she was grateful to
him for his tender regard towards her mother, she was learning to
love him as well as to like and respect him. She did not know what
else she could have done but marry so true a friend, and she and her
mother so friendless; but, at the same time, it was like lead on her
morning spirits when she awoke and remembered that the decision was
made, the dead was done, the choice taken which comes to most people
but once in their lives. Now the little baby came in upon this state
of mind like a ray of sunlight into a gloomy room.

Even her mother was rejoiced and proud; even with her crazed brain
and broken heart, the sight of sweet, peaceful infancy brought light
to her. All the old ways of holding a baby, of hushing it to sleep,
of tenderly guarding its little limbs from injury, came back, like
the habits of her youth, to Bell; and she was never so happy or so
easy in her mind, or so sensible and connected in her ideas, as when
she had Sylvia's baby in her arms.

It was a pretty sight to see, however familiar to all of us such
things may be--the pale, worn old woman, in her quaint,
old-fashioned country dress, holding the little infant on her knees,
looking at its open, unspeculative eyes, and talking the little
language to it as though it could understand; the father on his
knees, kept prisoner by a small, small finger curled round his
strong and sinewy one, and gazing at the tiny creature with
wondering idolatry; the young mother, fair, pale, and smiling,
propped up on pillows in order that she, too, might see the
wonderful babe; it was astonishing how the doctor could come and go
without being drawn into the admiring vortex, and look at this baby
just as if babies came into the world every day.

'Philip,' said Sylvia, one night, as he sate as still as a mouse in
her room, imagining her to be asleep. He was by her bed-side in a
moment.

'I've been thinking what she's to be called. Isabella, after mother;
and what were yo'r mother's name?'

'Margaret,' said he.

'Margaret Isabella; Isabella Margaret. Mother's called Bell. She
might be called Bella.'

'I could ha' wished her to be called after thee.'

She made a little impatient movement.

'Nay; Sylvia's not a lucky name. Best be called after thy mother and
mine. And I want for to ask Hester to be godmother.'

'Anything thou likes, sweetheart. Shall we call her Rose, after
Hester Rose?'

'No, no!' said Sylvia; 'she mun be called after my mother, or thine,
or both. I should like her to be called Bella, after mother, because
she's so fond of baby.'

'Anything to please thee, darling.'

'Don't say that as if it didn't signify; there's a deal in having a
pretty name,' said Sylvia, a little annoyed. 'I ha' allays hated
being called Sylvia. It were after father's mother, Sylvia Steele.'

'I niver thought any name in a' the world so sweet and pretty as
Sylvia,' said Philip, fondly; but she was too much absorbed in her
own thoughts to notice either his manner or his words.

'There, yo'll not mind if it is Bella, because yo' see my mother is
alive to be pleased by its being named after her, and Hester may be
godmother, and I'll ha' t' dove-coloured silk as yo' gave me afore
we were married made up into a cloak for it to go to church in.'

'I got it for thee,' said Philip, a little disappointed. 'It'll be
too good for the baby.'

'Eh! but I'm so careless, I should be spilling something on it? But
if thou got it for me I cannot find i' my heart for t' wear it on
baby, and I'll have it made into a christening gown for mysel'. But
I'll niver feel at my ease in it, for fear of spoiling it.'

'Well! an' if thou does spoil it, love, I'll get thee another. I
make account of riches only for thee; that I may be able to get thee
whativer thou's a fancy for, for either thysel', or thy mother.'

She lifted her pale face from her pillow, and put up her lips to
kiss him for these words.

Perhaps on that day Philip reached the zenith of his life's
happiness.



CHAPTER XXXI

EVIL OMENS


The first step in Philip's declension happened in this way. Sylvia
had made rapid progress in her recovery; but now she seemed at a
stationary point of weakness; wakeful nights succeeding to languid
days. Occasionally she caught a little sleep in the afternoons, but
she usually awoke startled and feverish.

One afternoon Philip had stolen upstairs to look at her and his
child; but the efforts he made at careful noiselessness made the
door creak on its hinges as he opened it. The woman employed to
nurse her had taken the baby into another room that no sound might
rouse her from her slumber; and Philip would probably have been
warned against entering the chamber where his wife lay sleeping had
he been perceived by the nurse. As it was, he opened the door, made
a noise, and Sylvia started up, her face all one flush, her eyes
wild and uncertain; she looked about her as if she did not know
where she was; pushed the hair off her hot forehead; all which
actions Philip saw, dismayed and regretful. But he kept still,
hoping that she would lie down and compose herself. Instead she
stretched out her arms imploringly, and said, in a voice full of
yearning and tears,--

'Oh! Charley! come to me--come to me!' and then as she more fully
became aware of the place where she was, her actual situation, she
sank back and feebly began to cry. Philip's heart boiled within him;
any man's would under the circumstances, but he had the sense of
guilty concealment to aggravate the intensity of his feelings. Her
weak cry after another man, too, irritated him, partly through his
anxious love, which made him wise to know how much physical harm she
was doing herself. At this moment he stirred, or unintentionally
made some sound: she started up afresh, and called out,--

'Oh, who's theere? Do, for God's sake, tell me who yo' are!'

'It's me,' said Philip, coming forwards, striving to keep down the
miserable complication of love and jealousy, and remorse and anger,
that made his heart beat so wildly, and almost took him out of
himself. Indeed, he must have been quite beside himself for the
time, or he could never have gone on to utter the unwise, cruel
words he did. But she spoke first, in a distressed and plaintive
tone of voice.

'Oh, Philip, I've been asleep, and yet I think I was awake! And I
saw Charley Kinraid as plain as iver I see thee now, and he wasn't
drowned at all. I'm sure he's alive somewheere; he were so clear and
life-like. Oh! what shall I do? what shall I do?'

She wrung her hands in feverish distress. Urged by passionate
feelings of various kinds, and also by his desire to quench the
agitation which was doing her harm, Philip spoke, hardly knowing
what he said.

'Kinraid's dead, I tell yo', Sylvie! And what kind of a woman are
yo' to go dreaming of another man i' this way, and taking on so
about him, when yo're a wedded wife, with a child as yo've borne to
another man?'

In a moment he could have bitten out his tongue. She looked at him
with the mute reproach which some of us see (God help us!) in the
eyes of the dead, as they come before our sad memories in the
night-season; looked at him with such a solemn, searching look,
never saying a word of reply or defence. Then she lay down,
motionless and silent. He had been instantly stung with remorse for
his speech; the words were not beyond his lips when an agony had
entered his heart; but her steady, dilated eyes had kept him dumb
and motionless as if by a spell.

Now he rushed to the bed on which she lay, and half knelt, half
threw himself upon it, imploring her to forgive him; regardless for
the time of any evil consequences to her, it seemed as if he must
have her pardon--her relenting--at any price, even if they both died
in the act of reconciliation. But she lay speechless, and, as far as
she could be, motionless, the bed trembling under her with the
quivering she could not still.

Philip's wild tones caught the nurse's ears, and she entered full of
the dignified indignation of wisdom.

'Are yo' for killing yo'r wife, measter?' she asked. 'She's noane so
strong as she can bear flytin' and scoldin', nor will she be for
many a week to come. Go down wi' ye, and leave her i' peace if yo're
a man as can be called a man!'

Her anger was rising as she caught sight of Sylvia's averted face.
It was flushed crimson, her eyes full of intense emotion of some
kind, her lips compressed; but an involuntary twitching
overmastering her resolute stillness from time to time. Philip, who
did not see the averted face, nor understand the real danger in
which he was placing his wife, felt as though he must have one word,
one responsive touch of the hand which lay passive in his, which was
not even drawn away from the kisses with which he covered it, any
more than if it had been an impassive stone. The nurse had fairly to
take him by the shoulders, and turn him out of the room.

In half an hour the doctor had to be summoned. Of course, the nurse
gave him her version of the events of the afternoon, with much
_animus_ against Philip; and the doctor thought it his duty to have
some very serious conversation with him.

'I do assure you, Mr. Hepburn, that, in the state your wife has been
in for some days, it was little less than madness on your part to
speak to her about anything that could give rise to strong emotion.'

'It was madness, sir!' replied Philip, in a low, miserable tone of
voice. The doctor's heart was touched, in spite of the nurse's
accusations against the scolding husband. Yet the danger was now too
serious for him to mince matters.

'I must tell you that I cannot answer for her life, unless the
greatest precautions are taken on your part, and unless the measures
I shall use have the effect I wish for in the next twenty-four
hours. She is on the verge of a brain fever. Any allusion to the
subject which has been the final cause of the state in which she now
is must be most cautiously avoided, even to a chance word which may
bring it to her memory.'

And so on; but Philip seemed to hear only this: then he might not
express contrition, or sue for pardon, he must go on unforgiven
through all this stress of anxiety; and even if she recovered the
doctor warned him of the undesirableness of recurring to what had
passed!

Heavy miserable times of endurance and waiting have to be passed
through by all during the course of their lives; and Philip had had
his share of such seasons, when the heart, and the will, and the
speech, and the limbs, must be bound down with strong resolution to
patience.

For many days, nay, for weeks, he was forbidden to see Sylvia, as
the very sound of his footstep brought on a recurrence of the fever
and convulsive movement. Yet she seemed, from questions she feebly
asked the nurse, to have forgotten all that had happened on the day
of her attack from the time when she dropped off to sleep. But how
much she remembered of after occurrences no one could ascertain. She
was quiet enough when, at length, Philip was allowed to see her. But
he was half jealous of his child, when he watched how she could
smile at it, while she never changed a muscle of her face at all he
could do or say.

And of a piece with this extreme quietude and reserve was her
behaviour to him when at length she had fully recovered, and was
able to go about the house again. Philip thought many a time of the
words she had used long before--before their marriage. Ominous words
they were.

'It's not in me to forgive; I sometimes think it's not in me to
forget.'

Philip was tender even to humility in his conduct towards her. But
nothing stirred her from her fortress of reserve. And he knew she
was so different; he knew how loving, nay, passionate, was her
nature--vehement, demonstrative--oh! how could he stir her once more
into expression, even if the first show or speech she made was of
anger? Then he tried being angry with her himself; he was sometimes
unjust to her consciously and of a purpose, in order to provoke her
into defending herself, and appealing against his unkindness. He
only seemed to drive her love away still more.

If any one had known all that was passing in that household, while
yet the story of it was not ended, nor, indeed, come to its crisis,
their hearts would have been sorry for the man who lingered long at
the door of the room in which his wife sate cooing and talking to
her baby, and sometimes laughing back to it, or who was soothing the
querulousness of failing age with every possible patience of love;
sorry for the poor listener who was hungering for the profusion of
tenderness thus scattered on the senseless air, yet only by stealth
caught the echoes of what ought to have been his.

It was so difficult to complain, too; impossible, in fact.
Everything that a wife could do from duty she did; but the love
seemed to have fled, and, in such cases, no reproaches or complaints
can avail to bring it back. So reason outsiders, and are convinced
of the result before the experiment is made. But Philip could not
reason, or could not yield to reason; and so he complained and
reproached. She did not much answer him; but he thought that her
eyes expressed the old words,--

'It's not in me to forgive; I sometimes think it's not in me to
forget.'

However, it is an old story, an ascertained fact, that, even in the
most tender and stable masculine natures, at the supremest season of
their lives, there is room for other thoughts and passions than such
as are connected with love. Even with the most domestic and
affectionate men, their emotions seem to be kept in a cell distinct
and away from their actual lives. Philip had other thoughts and
other occupations than those connected with his wife during all this
time.

An uncle of his mother's, a Cumberland 'statesman', of whose
existence he was barely conscious, died about this time, leaving to
his unknown great-nephew four or five hundred pounds, which put him
at once in a different position with regard to his business.
Henceforward his ambition was roused,--such humble ambition as
befitted a shop-keeper in a country town sixty or seventy years ago.
To be respected by the men around him had always been an object with
him, and was, perhaps, becoming more so than ever now, as a sort of
refuge from his deep, sorrowful mortification in other directions.
He was greatly pleased at being made a sidesman; and, in preparation
for the further honour of being churchwarden, he went regularly
twice a day to church on Sundays. There was enough religious feeling
in him to make him disguise the worldly reason for such conduct from
himself. He believed that he went because he thought it right to
attend public worship in the parish church whenever it was offered
up; but it may be questioned of him, as of many others, how far he
would have been as regular in attendance in a place where he was not
known. With this, however, we have nothing to do. The fact was that
he went regularly to church, and he wished his wife to accompany him
to the pew, newly painted, with his name on the door, where he sate
in full sight of the clergyman and congregation.

Sylvia had never been in the habit of such regular church-going, and
she felt it as a hardship, and slipped out of the duty as often as
ever she could. In her unmarried days, she and her parents had gone
annually to the mother-church of the parish in which Haytersbank was
situated: on the Monday succeeding the Sunday next after the Romish
Saint's Day, to whom the church was dedicated, there was a great
feast or wake held; and, on the Sunday, all the parishioners came to
church from far and near. Frequently, too, in the course of the
year, Sylvia would accompany one or other of her parents to Scarby
Moorside afternoon service,--when the hay was got in, and the corn
not ready for cutting, or the cows were dry and there was no
afternoon milking. Many clergymen were languid in those days, and
did not too curiously inquire into the reasons which gave them such
small congregations in country parishes.

Now she was married, this weekly church-going which Philip seemed to
expect from her, became a tie and a small hardship, which connected
itself with her life of respectability and prosperity. 'A crust of
bread and liberty' was much more accordant to Sylvia's nature than
plenty of creature comforts and many restraints. Another wish of
Philip's, against which she said no word, but constantly rebelled in
thought and deed, was his desire that the servant he had engaged
during the time of her illness to take charge of the baby, should
always carry it whenever it was taken out for a walk. Sylvia often
felt, now she was strong, as if she would far rather have been
without the responsibility of having this nursemaid, of whom she
was, in reality, rather afraid. The good side of it was that it set
her at liberty to attend to her mother at times when she would have
been otherwise occupied with her baby; but Bell required very little
from any one: she was easily pleased, unexacting, and methodical
even in her dotage; preserving the quiet, undemonstrative habits of
her earlier life now that the faculty of reason, which had been at
the basis of the formation of such habits, was gone. She took great
delight in watching the baby, and was pleased to have it in her care
for a short time; but she dozed so much that it prevented her having
any strong wish on the subject.

So Sylvia contrived to get her baby as much as possible to herself,
in spite of the nursemaid; and, above all, she would carry it out,
softly cradled in her arms, warm pillowed on her breast, and bear it
to the freedom and solitude of the sea-shore on the west side of the
town where the cliffs were not so high, and there was a good space
of sand and shingle at all low tides.

Once here, she was as happy as she ever expected to be in this
world. The fresh sea-breeze restored something of the colour of
former days to her cheeks, the old buoyancy to her spirits; here she
might talk her heart-full of loving nonsense to her baby; here it
was all her own; no father to share in it, no nursemaid to dispute
the wisdom of anything she did with it. She sang to it, she tossed
it; it crowed and it laughed back again, till both were weary; and
then she would sit down on a broken piece of rock, and fall to
gazing on the advancing waves catching the sunlight on their crests,
advancing, receding, for ever and for ever, as they had done all her
life long--as they did when she had walked with them that once by
the side of Kinraid; those cruel waves that, forgetful of the happy
lovers' talk by the side of their waters, had carried one away, and
drowned him deep till he was dead. Every time she sate down to look
at the sea, this process of thought was gone through up to this
point; the next step would, she knew, bring her to the question she
dared not, must not ask. He was dead; he must be dead; for was she
not Philip's wife? Then came up the recollection of Philip's speech,
never forgotten, only buried out of sight: 'What kind of a woman are
yo' to go on dreaming of another man, and yo' a wedded wife?' She
used to shudder as if cold steel had been plunged into her warm,
living body as she remembered these words; cruel words, harmlessly
provoked. They were too much associated with physical pains to be
dwelt upon; only their memory was always there. She paid for these
happy rambles with her baby by the depression which awaited her on
her re-entrance into the dark, confined house that was her home; its
very fulness of comfort was an oppression. Then, when her husband
saw her pale and fatigued, he was annoyed, and sometimes upbraided
her for doing what was so unnecessary as to load herself with her
child. She knew full well it was not that that caused her weariness.
By-and-by, when he inquired and discovered that all these walks were
taken in one direction, out towards the sea, he grew jealous of her
love for the inanimate ocean. Was it connected in her mind with the
thought of Kinraid? Why did she so perseveringly, in wind or cold,
go out to the sea-shore; the western side, too, where, if she went
but far enough, she would come upon the mouth of the Haytersbank
gully, the point at which she had last seen Kinraid? Such fancies
haunted Philip's mind for hours after she had acknowledged the
direction of her walks. But he never said a word that could
distinctly tell her he disliked her going to the sea, otherwise she
would have obeyed him in this, as in everything else; for absolute
obedience to her husband seemed to be her rule of life at this
period--obedience to him who would so gladly have obeyed her
smallest wish had she but expressed it! She never knew that Philip
had any painful association with the particular point on the
sea-shore that she instinctively avoided, both from a consciousness
of wifely duty, and also because the sight of it brought up so much
sharp pain.

Philip used to wonder if the dream that preceded her illness was the
suggestive cause that drew her so often to the shore. Her illness
consequent upon that dream had filled his mind, so that for many
months he himself had had no haunting vision of Kinraid to disturb
his slumbers. But now the old dream of Kinraid's actual presence by
Philip's bedside began to return with fearful vividness. Night after
night it recurred; each time with some new touch of reality, and
close approach; till it was as if the fate that overtakes all men
were then, even then, knocking at his door.

In his business Philip prospered. Men praised him because he did
well to himself. He had the perseverance, the capability for
head-work and calculation, the steadiness and general forethought
which might have made him a great merchant if he had lived in a
large city. Without any effort of his own, almost, too, without
Coulson's being aware of it, Philip was now in the position of
superior partner; the one to suggest and arrange, while Coulson only
carried out the plans that emanated from Philip. The whole work of
life was suited to the man: he did not aspire to any different
position, only to the full development of the capabilities of that
which he already held. He had originated several fresh schemes with
regard to the traffic of the shop; and his old masters, with all
their love of tried ways, and distrust of everything new, had been
candid enough to confess that their successors' plans had resulted
in success. 'Their successors.' Philip was content with having the
power when the exercise of it was required, and never named his own
important share in the new improvements. Possibly, if he had,
Coulson's vanity might have taken the alarm, and he might not have
been so acquiescent for the future. As it was, he forgot his own
subordinate share, and always used the imperial 'we', 'we thought',
'it struck us,' &c.



CHAPTER XXXII

RESCUED FROM THE WAVES


Meanwhile Hester came and went as usual; in so quiet and methodical
a way, with so even and undisturbed a temper, that she was almost
forgotten when everything went well in the shop or household. She
was a star, the brightness of which was only recognized in times of
darkness. She herself was almost surprised at her own increasing
regard for Sylvia. She had not thought she should ever be able to
love the woman who had been such a laggard in acknowledging Philip's
merits; and from all she had ever heard of Sylvia before she came to
know her, from the angry words with which Sylvia had received her
when she had first gone to Haytersbank Farm, Hester had intended to
remain on friendly terms, but to avoid intimacy. But her kindness to
Bell Robson had won both the mother's and daughter's hearts; and in
spite of herself, certainly against her own mother's advice, she had
become the familiar friend and welcome guest of the household.

Now the very change in Sylvia's whole manner and ways, which grieved
and vexed Philip, made his wife the more attractive to Hester.
Brought up among Quakers, although not one herself, she admired and
respected the staidness and outward peacefulness common amongst the
young women of that sect. Sylvia, whom she had expected to find
volatile, talkative, vain, and wilful, was quiet and still, as if
she had been born a Friend: she seemed to have no will of her own;
she served her mother and child for love; she obeyed her husband in
all things, and never appeared to pine after gaiety or pleasure. And
yet at times Hester thought, or rather a flash came across her mind,
as if all things were not as right as they seemed. Philip looked
older, more care-worn; nay, even Hester was obliged to allow to
herself that she had heard him speak to his wife in sharp, aggrieved
tones. Innocent Hester! she could not understand how the very
qualities she so admired in Sylvia were just what were so foreign to
her nature that the husband, who had known her from a child, felt
what an unnatural restraint she was putting upon herself, and would
have hailed petulant words or wilful actions with an unspeakable
thankfulness for relief.

One day--it was in the spring of 1798--Hester was engaged to stay to
tea with the Hepburns, in order that after that early meal she might
set to again in helping Philip and Coulson to pack away the winter
cloths and flannels, for which there was no longer any use. The
tea-time was half-past four; about four o'clock a heavy April shower
came on, the hail pattering against the window-panes so as to awaken
Mrs. Robson from her afternoon's nap. She came down the corkscrew
stairs, and found Phoebe in the parlour arranging the tea-things.

Phoebe and Mrs. Robson were better friends than Phoebe and her young
mistress; and so they began to talk a little together in a
comfortable, familiar way. Once or twice Philip looked in, as if he
would be glad to see the tea-table in readiness; and then Phoebe
would put on a spurt of busy bustle, which ceased almost as soon as
his back was turned, so eager was she to obtain Mrs. Robson's
sympathy in some little dispute that had occurred between her and
the nurse-maid. The latter had misappropriated some hot water,
prepared and required by Phoebe, to the washing of the baby's
clothes; it was a long story, and would have tired the patience of
any one in full possession of their senses; but the details were
just within poor Bell's comprehension, and she was listening with
the greatest sympathy. Both the women were unaware of the lapse of
time; but it was of consequence to Philip, as the extra labour was
not to be begun until after tea, and the daylight hours were
precious.

At a quarter to five Hester and he came in, and then Phoebe began to
hurry. Hester went up to sit by Bell and talk to her. Philip spoke
to Phoebe in the familiar words of country-folk. Indeed, until his
marriage, Phoebe had always called him by his Christian name, and
had found it very difficult to change it into 'master.'

'Where's Sylvie?' said he.

'Gone out wi' t' babby,' replied Phoebe.

'Why can't Nancy carry it out?' asked Philip.

It was touching on the old grievance: he was tired, and he spoke
with sharp annoyance. Phoebe might easily have told him the real
state of the case; Nancy was busy at her washing, which would have
been reason enough. But the nursemaid had vexed her, and she did not
like Philip's sharpness, so she only said,--

'It's noane o' my business; it's yo' t' look after yo'r own wife and
child; but yo'r but a lad after a'.'

This was not conciliatory speech, and just put the last stroke to
Philip's fit of ill-temper.

'I'm not for my tea to-night,' said he, to Hester, when all was
ready. 'Sylvie's not here, and nothing is nice, or as it should be.
I'll go and set to on t' stock-taking. Don't yo' hurry, Hester; stop
and chat a bit with th' old lady.'

'Nay, Philip,' said Hester, 'thou's sadly tired; just take this cup
o' tea; Sylvia 'll be grieved if yo' haven't something.'

'Sylvia doesn't care whether I'm full or fasting,' replied he,
impatiently putting aside the cup. 'If she did she'd ha' taken care
to be in, and ha' seen to things being as I like them.'

Now in general Philip was the least particular of men about meals;
and to do Sylvia justice, she was scrupulously attentive to every
household duty in which old Phoebe would allow her to meddle, and
always careful to see after her husband's comforts. But Philip was
too vexed at her absence to perceive the injustice of what he was
saying, nor was he aware how Bell Robson had been attending to what
he said. But she was sadly discomfited by it, understanding just
enough of the grievance in hand to think that her daughter was
neglectful of those duties which she herself had always regarded as
paramount to all others; nor could Hester convince her that Philip
had not meant what he said; neither could she turn the poor old
woman's thoughts from the words which had caused her distress.

Presently Sylvia came in, bright and cheerful, although breathless
with hurry.

'Oh,' said she, taking off her wet shawl, 'we've had to shelter from
such a storm of rain, baby and me--but see! she's none the worse for
it, as bonny as iver, bless her.'

Hester began some speech of admiration for the child in order to
prevent Bell from delivering the lecture she felt sure was coming
down on the unsuspecting Sylvia; but all in vain.

'Philip's been complaining on thee, Sylvie,' said Bell, in the way
in which she had spoken to her daughter when she was a little child;
grave and severe in tone and look, more than in words. 'I forget
justly what about, but he spoke on thy neglecting him continual.
It's not right, my lass, it's not right; a woman should--but my
head's very tired, and all I can think on to say is, it's not
right.'

'Philip been complaining of me, and to mother!' said Sylvia, ready
to burst into tears, so grieved and angry was she.

'No!' said Hester, 'thy mother has taken it a little too strong; he
were vexed like at his tea not being ready.'

Sylvia said no more, but the bright colour faded from her cheek, and
the contraction of care returned to her brow. She occupied herself
with taking off her baby's walking things. Hester lingered, anxious
to soothe and make peace; she was looking sorrowfully at Sylvia,
when she saw tears dropping on the baby's cloak, and then it seemed
as if she must speak a word of comfort before going to the
shop-work, where she knew she was expected by both Philip and
Coulson. She poured out a cup of tea, and coming close up to Sylvia,
and kneeling down by her, she whispered,--

'Just take him this into t' ware-room; it'll put all to rights if
thou'll take it to him wi' thy own hands.'

Sylvia looked up, and Hester then more fully saw how she had been
crying. She whispered in reply, for fear of disturbing her mother,--

'I don't mind anything but his speaking ill on me to mother. I know
I'm for iver trying and trying to be a good wife to him, an' it's
very dull work; harder than yo' think on, Hester,--an' I would ha'
been home for tea to-night only I was afeared of baby getting wet
wi' t' storm o' hail as we had down on t' shore; and we sheltered
under a rock. It's a weary coming home to this dark place, and to
find my own mother set against me.'

'Take him his tea, like a good lassie. I'll answer for it he'll be
all right. A man takes it hardly when he comes in tired, a-thinking
his wife '11 be there to cheer him up a bit, to find her off, and
niver know nought of t' reason why.'

'I'm glad enough I've getten a baby,' said Sylvia, 'but for aught
else I wish I'd niver been married, I do!'

'Hush thee, lass!' said Hester, rising up indignant; 'now that is a
sin. Eh! if thou only knew the lot o' some folk. But let's talk no
more on that, that cannot be helped; go, take him his tea, for it's
a sad thing to think on him fasting all this time.'

Hester's voice was raised by the simple fact of her change of
position; and the word fasting caught Mrs. Robson's ear, as she sate
at her knitting by the chimney-corner.

'Fasting? he said thou didn't care if he were full or fasting.
Lassie! it's not right in thee, I say; go, take him his tea at
once.'

Sylvia rose, and gave up the baby, which she had been suckling, to
Nancy, who having done her washing, had come for her charge, to put
it to bed. Sylvia kissed it fondly, making a little moan of sad,
passionate tenderness as she did so. Then she took the cup of tea;
but she said, rather defiantly, to Hester,--

'I'll go to him with it, because mother bids me, and it'll ease her
mind.'

Then louder to her mother, she added,--

'Mother, I'll take him his tea, though I couldn't help the being
out.'

If the act itself was conciliatory, the spirit in which she was
going to do it was the reverse. Hester followed her slowly into the
ware-room, with intentional delay, thinking that her presence might
be an obstacle to their mutually understanding one another. Sylvia
held the cup and plate of bread and butter out to Philip, but
avoided meeting his eye, and said not a word of explanation, or
regret, or self-justification. If she had spoken, though ever so
crossly, Philip would have been relieved, and would have preferred
it to her silence. He wanted to provoke her to speech, but did not
know how to begin.

'Thou's been out again wandering on that sea-shore!' said he. She
did not answer him. 'I cannot think what's always taking thee there,
when one would ha' thought a walk up to Esdale would be far more
sheltered, both for thee and baby in such weather as this. Thou'll
be having that baby ill some of these days.'

At this, she looked up at him, and her lips moved as though she were
going to say something. Oh, how he wished she would, that they might
come to a wholesome quarrel, and a making friends again, and a
tender kissing, in which he might whisper penitence for all his
hasty words, or unreasonable vexation. But she had come resolved not
to speak, for fear of showing too much passion, too much emotion.
Only as she was going away she turned and said,--

'Philip, mother hasn't many more years to live; dunnot grieve her,
and set her again' me by finding fault wi' me afore her. Our being
wed were a great mistake; but before t' poor old widow woman let us
make as if we were happy.'

'Sylvie! Sylvie!' he called after her. She must have heard, but she
did not turn. He went after her, and seized her by the arm rather
roughly; she had stung him to the heart with her calm words, which
seemed to reveal a long-formed conviction.

'Sylvie!' said he, almost fiercely, 'what do yo' mean by what you've
said? Speak! I will have an answer.'

He almost shook her: she was half frightened by his vehemence of
behaviour, which she took for pure anger, while it was the outburst
of agonized and unrequited love.

'Let me go! Oh, Philip, yo' hurt me!'

Just at this moment Hester came up; Philip was ashamed of his
passionate ways in her serene presence, and loosened his grasp of
his wife, and she ran away; ran into her mother's empty room, as to
a solitary place, and there burst into that sobbing, miserable
crying which we instinctively know is too surely lessening the
length of our days on earth to be indulged in often.

When she had exhausted that first burst and lay weak and quiet for a
time, she listened in dreading expectation of the sound of his
footstep coming in search of her to make friends. But he was
detained below on business, and never came. Instead, her mother came
clambering up the stairs; she was now in the habit of going to bed
between seven and eight, and to-night she was retiring at even an
earlier hour.

Sylvia sprang up and drew down the window-blind, and made her face
and manner as composed as possible, in order to soothe and comfort
her mother's last waking hours. She helped her to bed with gentle
patience; the restraint imposed upon her by her tender filial love
was good for her, though all the time she was longing to be alone to
have another wild outburst. When her mother was going off to sleep,
Sylvia went to look at her baby, also in a soft sleep. Then she
gazed out at the evening sky, high above the tiled roofs of the
opposite houses, and the longing to be out under the peaceful
heavens took possession of her once more.

'It's my only comfort,' said she to herself; 'and there's no earthly
harm in it. I would ha' been at home to his tea, if I could; but
when he doesn't want me, and mother doesn't want me, and baby is
either in my arms or asleep; why, I'll go any cry my fill out under
yon great quiet sky. I cannot stay in t' house to be choked up wi'
my tears, nor yet to have him coming about me either for scolding or
peace-making.'

So she put on her things and went out again; this time along the
High Street, and up the long flights of steps towards the parish
church, and there she stood and thought that here she had first met
Kinraid, at Darley's burying, and she tried to recall the very look
of all the sad, earnest faces round the open grave--the whole scene,
in fact; and let herself give way to the miserable regrets she had
so often tried to control. Then she walked on, crying bitterly,
almost unawares to herself; on through the high, bleak fields at the
summit of the cliffs; fields bounded by loose stone fences, and far
from all sight of the habitation of man. But, below, the sea rose
and raged; it was high water at the highest tide, and the wind blew
gustily from the land, vainly combating the great waves that came
invincibly up with a roar and an impotent furious dash against the
base of the cliffs below.

Sylvia heard the sound of the passionate rush and rebound of many
waters, like the shock of mighty guns, whenever the other sound of
the blustering gusty wind was lulled for an instant. She was more
quieted by this tempest of the elements than she would have been had
all nature seemed as still as she had imagined it to be while she
was yet in-doors and only saw a part of the serene sky.

She fixed on a certain point, in her own mind, which she would
reach, and then turn back again. It was where the outline of the
land curved inwards, dipping into a little bay. Here the field-path
she had hitherto followed descended somewhat abruptly to a cluster
of fishermen's cottages, hardly large enough to be called a village;
and then the narrow roadway wound up the rising ground till it again
reached the summit of the cliffs that stretched along the coast for
many and many a mile.

Sylvia said to herself that she would turn homewards when she came
within sight of this cove,--Headlington Cove, they called it. All
the way along she had met no one since she had left the town, but
just as she had got over the last stile, or ladder of
stepping-stones, into the field from which the path descended, she
came upon a number of people--quite a crowd, in fact; men moving
forward in a steady line, hauling at a rope, a chain, or something
of that kind; boys, children, and women holding babies in their
arms, as if all were fain to come out and partake in some general
interest.

They kept within a certain distance from the edge of the cliff, and
Sylvia, advancing a little, now saw the reason why. The great cable
the men held was attached to some part of a smack, which could now
be seen by her in the waters below, half dismantled, and all but a
wreck, yet with her deck covered with living men, as far as the
waning light would allow her to see. The vessel strained to get free
of the strong guiding cable; the tide was turning, the wind was
blowing off shore, and Sylvia knew without being told, that almost
parallel to this was a line of sunken rocks that had been fatal to
many a ship before now, if she had tried to take the inner channel
instead of keeping out to sea for miles, and then steering in
straight for Monkshaven port. And the ships that had been thus lost
had been in good plight and order compared to this vessel, which
seemed nothing but a hull without mast or sail.

By this time, the crowd--the fishermen from the hamlet down below,
with their wives and children--all had come but the bedridden--had
reached the place where Sylvia stood. The women, in a state of wild
excitement, rushed on, encouraging their husbands and sons by words,
even while they hindered them by actions; and, from time to time,
one of them would run to the edge of the cliff and shout out some
brave words of hope in her shrill voice to the crew on the deck
below. Whether these latter heard it or not, no one could tell; but
it seemed as if all human voice must be lost in the tempestuous stun
and tumult of wind and wave. It was generally a woman with a child
in her arms who so employed herself. As the strain upon the cable
became greater, and the ground on which they strove more uneven,
every hand was needed to hold and push, and all those women who were
unencumbered held by the dear rope on which so many lives were
depending. On they came, a long line of human beings, black against
the ruddy sunset sky. As they came near Sylvia, a woman cried out,--

'Dunnot stand idle, lass, but houd on wi' us; there's many a bonny
life at stake, and many a mother's heart a-hangin' on this bit o'
hemp. Tak' houd, lass, and give a firm grip, and God remember thee
i' thy need.'

Sylvia needed no second word; a place was made for her, and in an
instant more the rope was pulling against her hands till it seemed
as though she was holding fire in her bare palms. Never a one of
them thought of letting go for an instant, though when all was over
many of their hands were raw and bleeding. Some strong, experienced
fishermen passed a word along the line from time to time, giving
directions as to how it should be held according to varying
occasions; but few among the rest had breath or strength enough to
speak. The women and children that accompanied them ran on before,
breaking down the loose stone fences, so as to obviate delay or
hindrance; they talked continually, exhorting, encouraging,
explaining. From their many words and fragmentary sentences, Sylvia
learnt that the vessel was supposed to be a Newcastle smack sailing
from London, that had taken the dangerous inner channel to save
time, and had been caught in the storm, which she was too crazy to
withstand; and that if by some daring contrivance of the fishermen
who had first seen her the cable had not been got ashore, she would
have been cast upon the rocks before this, and 'all on board
perished'.

'It were dayleet then,' quoth one woman; 'a could see their faces,
they were so near. They were as pale as dead men, an' one was
prayin' down on his knees. There was a king's officer aboard, for I
saw t' gowd about him.'

'He'd maybe come from these hom'ard parts, and be comin' to see his
own folk; else it's no common for king's officers to sail in aught
but king's ships.'

'Eh! but it's gettin' dark! See there's t' leeghts in t' houses in
t' New Town! T' grass is crispin' wi' t' white frost under out feet.
It'll be a hard tug round t' point, and then she'll be gettin' into
still waters.'

One more great push and mighty strain, and the danger was past; the
vessel--or what remained of her--was in the harbour, among the
lights and cheerful sounds of safety. The fishermen sprang down the
cliff to the quay-side, anxious to see the men whose lives they had
saved; the women, weary and over-excited, began to cry. Not Sylvia,
however; her fount of tears had been exhausted earlier in the day:
her principal feeling was of gladness and high rejoicing that they
were saved who had been so near to death not half an hour before.

She would have liked to have seen the men, and shaken hands with
them all round. But instead she must go home, and well would it be
with her if she was in time for her husband's supper, and escaped
any notice of her absence. So she separated herself from the groups
of women who sate on the grass in the churchyard, awaiting the
return of such of their husbands as could resist the fascinations of
the Monkshaven public houses. As Sylvia went down the church steps,
she came upon one of the fishermen who had helped to tow the vessel
into port.

'There was seventeen men and boys aboard her, and a navy-lieutenant
as had comed as passenger. It were a good job as we could manage
her. Good-neet to thee, thou'll sleep all t' sounder for havin' lent
a hand.'

The street air felt hot and close after the sharp keen atmosphere of
the heights above; the decent shops and houses had all their
shutters put up, and were preparing for their early bed-time.
Already lights shone here and there in the upper chambers, and
Sylvia scarcely met any one.

She went round up the passage from the quay-side, and in by the
private door. All was still; the basins of bread and milk that she
and her husband were in the habit of having for supper stood in the
fender before the fire, each with a plate upon them. Nancy had gone
to bed, Phoebe dozed in the kitchen; Philip was still in the
ware-room, arranging goods and taking stock along with Coulson, for
Hester had gone home to her mother.

Sylvia was not willing to go and seek out Philip, after the manner
in which they had parted. All the despondency of her life became
present to her again as she sate down within her home. She had
forgotten it in her interest and excitement, but now it came back
again.

Still she was hungry, and youthful, and tired. She took her basin
up, and was eating her supper when she heard a cry of her baby
upstairs, and ran away to attend to it. When it had been fed and
hushed away to sleep, she went in to see her mother, attracted by
some unusual noise in her room.

She found Mrs. Robson awake, and restless, and ailing; dwelling much
on what Philip had said in his anger against Sylvia. It was really
necessary for her daughter to remain with her; so Sylvia stole out,
and went quickly down-stairs to Philip--now sitting tired and worn
out, and eating his supper with little or no appetite--and told him
she meant to pass the night with her mother.

His answer of acquiescence was so short and careless, or so it
seemed to her, that she did not tell him any more of what she had
done or seen that evening, or even dwell upon any details of her
mother's indisposition.

As soon as she had left the room, Philip set down his half-finished
basin of bread and milk, and sate long, his face hidden in his
folded arms. The wick of the candle grew long and black, and fell,
and sputtered, and guttered; he sate on, unheeding either it or the
pale gray fire that was dying out--dead at last.



CHAPTER XXXIII

AN APPARITION


Mrs. Robson was very poorly all night long. Uneasy thoughts seemed
to haunt and perplex her brain, and she neither slept nor woke, but
was restless and uneasy in her talk and movements.

Sylvia lay down by her, but got so little sleep, that at length she
preferred sitting in the easy-chair by the bedside. Here she dropped
off to slumber in spite of herself; the scene of the evening before
seemed to be repeated; the cries of the many people, the heavy roar
and dash of the threatening waves, were repeated in her ears; and
something was said to her through all the conflicting noises,--what
it was she could not catch, though she strained to hear the hoarse
murmur that, in her dream, she believed to convey a meaning of the
utmost importance to her.

This dream, that mysterious, only half-intelligible sound, recurred
whenever she dozed, and her inability to hear the words uttered
distressed her so much, that at length she sate bolt upright,
resolved to sleep no more. Her mother was talking in a
half-conscious way; Philip's speech of the evening before was
evidently running in her mind.

'Sylvie, if thou're not a good wife to him, it'll just break my
heart outright. A woman should obey her husband, and not go her own
gait. I never leave the house wi'out telling father, and getting his
leave.'

And then she began to cry pitifully, and to say unconnected things,
till Sylvia, to soothe her, took her hand, and promised never to
leave the house without asking her husband's permission, though in
making this promise, she felt as if she were sacrificing her last
pleasure to her mother's wish; for she knew well enough that Philip
would always raise objections to the rambles which reminded her of
her old free open-air life.

But to comfort and cherish her mother she would have done anything;
yet this very morning that was dawning, she must go and ask his
permission for a simple errand, or break her word.

She knew from experience that nothing quieted her mother so well as
balm-tea; it might be that the herb really possessed some sedative
power; it might be only early faith, and often repeated experience,
but it had always had a tranquillizing effect; and more than once,
during the restless hours of the night, Mrs. Robson had asked for it;
but Sylvia's stock of last year's dead leaves was exhausted. Still
she knew where a plant of balm grew in the sheltered corner of
Haytersbank Farm garden; she knew that the tenants who had succeeded
them in the occupation of the farm had had to leave it in
consequence of a death, and that the place was unoccupied; and in
the darkness she had planned that if she could leave her mother
after the dawn came, and she had attended to her baby, she would
walk quickly to the old garden, and gather the tender sprigs which
she was sure to find there.

Now she must go and ask Philip; and till she held her baby to her
breast, she bitterly wished that she were free from the duties and
chains of matrimony. But the touch of its waxen fingers, the hold of
its little mouth, made her relax into docility and gentleness. She
gave it back to Nancy to be dressed, and softly opened the door of
Philip's bed-room.

'Philip!' said she, gently. 'Philip!'

He started up from dreams of her; of her, angry. He saw her there,
rather pale with her night's watch and anxiety, but looking meek,
and a little beseeching.

'Mother has had such a bad night! she fancied once as some balm-tea
would do her good--it allays used to: but my dried balm is all gone,
and I thought there'd be sure to be some in t' old garden at
Haytersbank. Feyther planted a bush just for mother, wheere it
allays came up early, nigh t' old elder-tree; and if yo'd not mind,
I could run theere while she sleeps, and be back again in an hour,
and it's not seven now.'

'Thou's not wear thyself out with running, Sylvie,' said Philip,
eagerly; 'I'll get up and go myself, or, perhaps,' continued he,
catching the shadow that was coming over her face, 'thou'd rather go
thyself: it's only that I'm so afraid of thy tiring thyself.'

'It'll not tire me,' said Sylvia. 'Afore I was married, I was out
often far farther than that, afield to fetch up t' kine, before my
breakfast.'

'Well, go if thou will,' said Philip. 'But get somewhat to eat
first, and don't hurry; there's no need for that.'

She had got her hat and shawl, and was off before he had finished
his last words.

The long High Street was almost empty of people at that early hour;
one side was entirely covered by the cool morning shadow which lay
on the pavement, and crept up the opposite houses till only the
topmost story caught the rosy sunlight. Up the hill-road, through
the gap in the stone wall, across the dewy fields, Sylvia went by
the very shortest path she knew.

She had only once been at Haytersbank since her wedding-day. On that
occasion the place had seemed strangely and dissonantly changed by
the numerous children who were diverting themselves before the open
door, and whose playthings and clothes strewed the house-place, and
made it one busy scene of confusion and untidiness, more like the
Corneys' kitchen in former times, than her mother's orderly and
quiet abode. Those little children were fatherless now; and the
house was shut up, awaiting the entry of some new tenant. There were
no shutters to shut; the long low window was blinking in the rays of
the morning sun; the house and cow-house doors were closed, and no
poultry wandered about the field in search of stray grains of corn,
or early worms. It was a strange and unfamiliar silence, and struck
solemnly on Sylvia's mind. Only a thrush in the old orchard down in
the hollow, out of sight, whistled and gurgled with continual shrill
melody.

Sylvia went slowly past the house and down the path leading to the
wild, deserted bit of garden. She saw that the last tenants had had
a pump sunk for them, and resented the innovation, as though the
well she was passing could feel the insult. Over it grew two
hawthorn trees; on the bent trunk of one of them she used to sit,
long ago: the charm of the position being enhanced by the possible
danger of falling into the well and being drowned. The rusty unused
chain was wound round the windlass; the bucket was falling to pieces
from dryness. A lean cat came from some outhouse, and mewed
pitifully with hunger; accompanying Sylvia to the garden, as if glad
of some human companionship, yet refusing to allow itself to be
touched. Primroses grew in the sheltered places, just as they
formerly did; and made the uncultivated ground seem less deserted
than the garden, where the last year's weeds were rotting away, and
cumbering the ground.

Sylvia forced her way through the berry bushes to the herb-plot, and
plucked the tender leaves she had come to seek; sighing a little all
the time. Then she retraced her steps; paused softly before the
house-door, and entered the porch and kissed the senseless wood.

She tried to tempt the poor gaunt cat into her arms, meaning to
carry it home and befriend it; but it was scared by her endeavour
and ran back to its home in the outhouse, making a green path across
the white dew of the meadow. Then Sylvia began to hasten home,
thinking, and remembering--at the stile that led into the road she
was brought short up.

Some one stood in the lane just on the other side of the gap; his
back was to the morning sun; all she saw at first was the uniform of
a naval officer, so well known in Monkshaven in those days.

Sylvia went hurrying past him, not looking again, although her
clothes almost brushed his, as he stood there still. She had not
gone a yard--no, not half a yard--when her heart leaped up and fell
again dead within her, as if she had been shot.

'Sylvia!' he said, in a voice tremulous with joy and passionate
love. 'Sylvia!'

She looked round; he had turned a little, so that the light fell
straight on his face. It was bronzed, and the lines were
strengthened; but it was the same face she had last seen in
Haytersbank Gully three long years ago, and had never thought to see
in life again.

He was close to her and held out his fond arms; she went fluttering
towards their embrace, as if drawn by the old fascination; but when
she felt them close round her, she started away, and cried out with
a great pitiful shriek, and put her hands up to her forehead as if
trying to clear away some bewildering mist.

Then she looked at him once more, a terrible story in her eyes, if
he could but have read it.

Twice she opened her stiff lips to speak, and twice the words were
overwhelmed by the surges of her misery, which bore them back into
the depths of her heart.

He thought that he had come upon her too suddenly, and he attempted
to soothe her with soft murmurs of love, and to woo her to his
outstretched hungry arms once more. But when she saw this motion of
his, she made a gesture as though pushing him away; and with an
inarticulate moan of agony she put her hands to her head once more,
and turning away began to run blindly towards the town for
protection.

For a minute or so he was stunned with surprise at her behaviour;
and then he thought it accounted for by the shock of his accost, and
that she needed time to understand the unexpected joy. So he
followed her swiftly, ever keeping her in view, but not trying to
overtake her too speedily.

'I have frightened my poor love,' he kept thinking. And by this
thought he tried to repress his impatience and check the speed he
longed to use; yet he was always so near behind that her quickened
sense heard his well-known footsteps following, and a mad notion
flashed across her brain that she would go to the wide full river,
and end the hopeless misery she felt enshrouding her. There was a
sure hiding-place from all human reproach and heavy mortal woe
beneath the rushing waters borne landwards by the morning tide.

No one can tell what changed her course; perhaps the thought of her
sucking child; perhaps her mother; perhaps an angel of God; no one
on earth knows, but as she ran along the quay-side she all at once
turned up an entry, and through an open door.

He, following all the time, came into a quiet dark parlour, with a
cloth and tea-things on the table ready for breakfast; the change
from the bright sunny air out of doors to the deep shadow of this
room made him think for the first moment that she had passed on, and
that no one was there, and he stood for an instant baffled, and
hearing no sound but the beating of his own heart; but an
irrepressible sobbing gasp made him look round, and there he saw her
cowered behind the door, her face covered tight up, and sharp
shudders going through her whole frame.

'My love, my darling!' said he, going up to her, and trying to raise
her, and to loosen her hands away from her face. 'I've been too
sudden for thee: it was thoughtless in me; but I have so looked
forward to this time, and seeing thee come along the field, and go
past me, but I should ha' been more tender and careful of thee. Nay!
let me have another look of thy sweet face.'

All this he whispered in the old tones of manoeuvring love, in that
voice she had yearned and hungered to hear in life, and had not
heard, for all her longing, save in her dreams.

She tried to crouch more and more into the corner, into the hidden
shadow--to sink into the ground out of sight.

Once more he spoke, beseeching her to lift up her face, to let him
hear her speak.

But she only moaned.

'Sylvia!' said he, thinking he could change his tactics, and pique
her into speaking, that he would make a pretence of suspicion and
offence.

'Sylvia! one would think you weren't glad to see me back again at
length. I only came in late last night, and my first thought on
wakening was of you; it has been ever since I left you.'

Sylvia took her hands away from her face; it was gray as the face of
death; her awful eyes were passionless in her despair.

'Where have yo' been?' she asked, in slow, hoarse tones, as if her
voice were half strangled within her.

'Been!' said he, a red light coming into his eyes, as he bent his
looks upon her; now, indeed, a true and not an assumed suspicion
entering his mind.

'Been!' he repeated; then, coming a step nearer to her, and taking
her hand, not tenderly this time, but with a resolution to be
satisfied.

'Did not your cousin--Hepburn, I mean--did not he tell you?--he saw
the press-gang seize me,--I gave him a message to you--I bade you
keep true to me as I would be to you.'

Between every clause of this speech he paused and gasped for her
answer; but none came. Her eyes dilated and held his steady gaze
prisoner as with a magical charm--neither could look away from the
other's wild, searching gaze. When he had ended, she was silent for
a moment, then she cried out, shrill and fierce,--

'Philip!' No answer.

Wilder and shriller still, 'Philip!' she cried.

He was in the distant ware-room completing the last night's work
before the regular shop hours began; before breakfast, also, that
his wife might not find him waiting and impatient.

He heard her cry; it cut through doors, and still air, and great
bales of woollen stuff; he thought that she had hurt herself, that
her mother was worse, that her baby was ill, and he hastened to the
spot whence the cry proceeded.

On opening the door that separated the shop from the sitting-room,
he saw the back of a naval officer, and his wife on the ground,
huddled up in a heap; when she perceived him come in, she dragged
herself up by means of a chair, groping like a blind person, and
came and stood facing him.

The officer turned fiercely round, and would have come towards
Philip, who was so bewildered by the scene that even yet he did not
understand who the stranger was, did not perceive for an instant
that he saw the realization of his greatest dread.

But Sylvia laid her hand on Kinraid's arm, and assumed to herself
the right of speech. Philip did not know her voice, it was so
changed.

'Philip,' she said, 'this is Kinraid come back again to wed me. He
is alive; he has niver been dead, only taken by t' press-gang. And
he says yo' saw it, and knew it all t' time. Speak, was it so?'

Philip knew not what to say, whither to turn, under what refuge of
words or acts to shelter.

Sylvia's influence was keeping Kinraid silent, but he was rapidly
passing beyond it.

'Speak!' he cried, loosening himself from Sylvia's light grasp, and
coming towards Philip, with a threatening gesture. 'Did I not bid
you tell her how it was? Did I not bid you say how I would be
faithful to her, and she was to be faithful to me? Oh! you damned
scoundrel! have you kept it from her all that time, and let her
think me dead, or false? Take that!'

His closed fist was up to strike the man, who hung his head with
bitterest shame and miserable self-reproach; but Sylvia came swift
between the blow and its victim.

'Charley, thou shan't strike him,' she said. 'He is a damned
scoundrel' (this was said in the hardest, quietest tone) 'but he is
my husband.'

'Oh! thou false heart!' exclaimed Kinraid, turning sharp on her. 'If
ever I trusted woman, I trusted you, Sylvia Robson.'

He made as though throwing her from him, with a gesture of contempt
that stung her to life.

'Oh, Charley!' she cried, springing to him, 'dunnot cut me to the
quick; have pity on me, though he had none. I did so love thee; it
was my very heart-strings as gave way when they told me thou was
drowned--feyther, and th' Corneys, and all, iverybody. Thy hat and
t' bit o' ribbon I gave thee were found drenched and dripping wi'
sea-water; and I went mourning for thee all the day long--dunnot
turn away from me; only hearken this once, and then kill me dead,
and I'll bless yo',--and have niver been mysel' since; niver ceased
to feel t' sun grow dark and th' air chill and dreary when I thought
on t' time when thou was alive. I did, my Charley, my own love! And
I thought thou was dead for iver, and I wished I were lying beside
thee. Oh, Charley! Philip, theere, where he stands, could tell yo'
this was true. Philip, wasn't it so?'

'Would God I were dead!' moaned forth the unhappy, guilty man. But
she had turned to Kinraid, and was speaking again to him, and
neither of them heard or heeded him--they were drawing closer and
closer together--she, with her cheeks and eyes aflame, talking
eagerly.

'And feyther was taken up, and all for setting some free as t'
press-gang had gotten by a foul trick; and he were put i' York
prison, and tried, and hung!--hung! Charley!--good kind feyther was
hung on a gallows; and mother lost her sense and grew silly in
grief, and we were like to be turned out on t' wide world, and poor
mother dateless--and I thought yo' were dead--oh! I thought yo' were
dead, I did--oh, Charley, Charley!'

By this time they were in each other's arms, she with her head on
his shoulder, crying as if her heart would break.

Philip came forwards and took hold of her to pull her away; but
Charley held her tight, mutely defying Philip. Unconsciously she was
Philip's protection, in that hour of danger, from a blow which might
have been his death if strong will could have aided it to kill.

'Sylvie!' said he, grasping her tight. 'Listen to me. He didn't love
yo' as I did. He had loved other women. I, yo'--yo' alone. He loved
other girls before yo', and had left off loving 'em. I--I wish God
would free my heart from the pang; but it will go on till I die,
whether yo' love me or not. And then--where was I? Oh! that very
night that he was taken, I was a-thinking on yo' and on him; and I
might ha' given yo' his message, but I heard them speaking of him as
knew him well; talking of his false fickle ways. How was I to know
he would keep true to thee? It might be a sin in me, I cannot say;
my heart and my sense are gone dead within me. I know this, I've
loved yo' as no man but me ever loved before. Have some pity and
forgiveness on me, if it's only because I've been so tormented with
my love.'

He looked at her with feverish eager wistfulness; it faded away into
despair as she made no sign of having even heard his words. He let
go his hold of her, and his arm fell loosely by his side.

'I may die,' he said, 'for my life is ended!'

'Sylvia!' spoke out Kinraid, bold and fervent, 'your marriage is no
marriage. You were tricked into it. You are my wife, not his. I am
your husband; we plighted each other our troth. See! here is my half
of the sixpence.'

He pulled it out from his bosom, tied by a black ribbon round his
neck.

'When they stripped me and searched me in th' French prison, I
managed to keep this. No lies can break the oath we swore to each
other. I can get your pretence of a marriage set aside. I'm in
favour with my admiral, and he'll do a deal for me, and back me out.
Come with me; your marriage shall be set aside, and we'll be married
again, all square and above-board. Come away. Leave that damned
fellow to repent of the trick he played an honest sailor; we'll be
true, whatever has come and gone. Come, Sylvia.'

His arm was round her waist, and he was drawing her towards the
door, his face all crimson with eagerness and hope. Just then the
baby cried.

'Hark!' said she, starting away from Kinraid, 'baby's crying for me.
His child--yes, it is his child--I'd forgotten that--forgotten all.
I'll make my vow now, lest I lose mysel' again. I'll never forgive
yon man, nor live with him as his wife again. All that's done and
ended. He's spoilt my life,--he's spoilt it for as long as iver I
live on this earth; but neither yo' nor him shall spoil my soul. It
goes hard wi' me, Charley, it does indeed. I'll just give yo' one
kiss--one little kiss--and then, so help me God, I'll niver see nor
hear till--no, not that, not that is needed--I'll niver see--sure
that's enough--I'll never see yo' again on this side heaven, so help
me God! I'm bound and tied, but I've sworn my oath to him as well as
yo': there's things I will do, and there's things I won't. Kiss me
once more. God help me, he's gone!'



CHAPTER XXXIV

A RECKLESS RECRUIT


She lay across a chair, her arms helplessly stretched out, her face
unseen. Every now and then a thrill ran through her body: she was
talking to herself all the time with incessant low incontinence of
words.

Philip stood near her, motionless: he did not know whether she was
conscious of his presence; in fact, he knew nothing but that he and
she were sundered for ever; he could only take in that one idea, and
it numbed all other thought.

Once more her baby cried for the comfort she alone could give.

She rose to her feet, but staggered when she tried to walk; her
glazed eyes fell upon Philip as he instinctively made a step to hold
her steady. No light came into her eyes any more than if she had
looked upon a perfect stranger; not even was there the contraction
of dislike. Some other figure filled her mind, and she saw him no
more than she saw the inanimate table. That way of looking at him
withered him up more than any sign of aversion would have done.

He watched her laboriously climb the stairs, and vanish out of
sight; and sat down with a sudden feeling of extreme bodily
weakness.

The door of communication between the parlour and the shop was
opened. That was the first event of which Philip took note; but
Phoebe had come in unawares to him, with the intention of removing
the breakfast things on her return from market, and seeing them
unused, and knowing that Sylvia had sate up all night with her
mother, she had gone back to the kitchen. Philip had neither seen
nor heard her.

Now Coulson came in, amazed at Hepburn's non-appearance in the shop.

'Why! Philip, what's ado? How ill yo' look, man!' exclaimed he,
thoroughly alarmed by Philip's ghastly appearance. 'What's the
matter?'

'I!' said Philip, slowly gathering his thoughts. 'Why should there
be anything the matter?'

His instinct, quicker to act than his reason, made him shrink from
his misery being noticed, much more made any subject for explanation
or sympathy.

'There may be nothing the matter wi' thee,' said Coulson, 'but
thou's the look of a corpse on thy face. I was afeared something was
wrong, for it's half-past nine, and thee so punctual!'

He almost guarded Philip into the shop, and kept furtively watching
him, and perplexing himself with Philip's odd, strange ways.

Hester, too, observed the heavy broken-down expression on Philip's
ashen face, and her heart ached for him; but after that first
glance, which told her so much, she avoided all appearance of
noticing or watching. Only a shadow brooded over her sweet, calm
face, and once or twice she sighed to herself.

It was market-day, and people came in and out, bringing their store
of gossip from the country, or the town--from the farm or the
quay-side.

Among the pieces of news, the rescue of the smack the night before
furnished a large topic; and by-and-by Philip heard a name that
startled him into attention.

The landlady of a small public-house much frequented by sailors was
talking to Coulson.

'There was a sailor aboard of her as knowed Kinraid by sight, in
Shields, years ago; and he called him by his name afore they were
well out o' t' river. And Kinraid was no ways set up, for all his
lieutenant's uniform (and eh! but they say he looks handsome in
it!); but he tells 'm all about it--how he was pressed aboard a
man-o'-war, an' for his good conduct were made a warrant officer,
boatswain, or something!'

All the people in the shop were listening now; Philip alone seemed
engrossed in folding up a piece of cloth, so as to leave no possible
chance of creases in it; yet he lost not a syllable of the good
woman's narration.

She, pleased with the enlarged audience her tale had attracted, went
on with fresh vigour.

'An' there's a gallant captain, one Sir Sidney Smith, and he'd a
notion o' goin' smack into a French port, an' carryin' off a vessel
from right under their very noses; an' says he, "Which of yo'
British sailors 'll go along with me to death or glory?" So Kinraid
stands up like a man, an' "I'll go with yo', captain," he says. So
they, an' some others as brave, went off, an' did their work, an'
choose whativer it was, they did it famously; but they got caught by
them French, an' were clapped into prison i' France for iver so
long; but at last one Philip--Philip somethin' (he were a Frenchman,
I know)--helped 'em to escape, in a fishin'-boat. But they were
welcomed by th' whole British squadron as was i' t' Channel for t'
piece of daring they'd done i' cuttin' out t' ship from a French
port; an' Captain Sir Sidney Smith was made an admiral, an' him as
we used t' call Charley Kinraid, the specksioneer, is made a
lieutenant, an' a commissioned officer i' t' King's service; and is
come to great glory, and slep in my house this very blessed night as
is just past!'

A murmur of applause and interest and rejoicing buzzed all around
Philip. All this was publicly known about Kinraid,--and how much
more? All Monkshaven might hear tomorrow--nay, to-day--of Philip's
treachery to the hero of the hour; how he had concealed his fate,
and supplanted him in his love.

Philip shrank from the burst of popular indignation which he knew
must follow. Any wrong done to one who stands on the pinnacle of the
people's favour is resented by each individual as a personal injury;
and among a primitive set of country-folk, who recognize the wild
passion in love, as it exists untamed by the trammels of reason and
self-restraint, any story of baulked affections, or treachery in
such matters, spreads like wildfire.

Philip knew this quite well; his doom of disgrace lay plain before
him, if only Kinraid spoke the word. His head was bent down while he
thus listened and reflected. He half resolved on doing something; he
lifted up his head, caught the reflection of his face in the little
strip of glass on the opposite side, in which the women might look
at themselves in their contemplated purchases, and quite resolved.

The sight he saw in the mirror was his own long, sad, pale face,
made plainer and grayer by the heavy pressure of the morning's
events. He saw his stooping figure, his rounded shoulders, with
something like a feeling of disgust at his personal appearance as he
remembered the square, upright build of Kinraid; his fine uniform,
with epaulette and sword-belt; his handsome brown face; his dark
eyes, splendid with the fire of passion and indignation; his white
teeth, gleaming out with the terrible smile of scorn.

The comparison drove Philip from passive hopelessness to active
despair.

He went abruptly from the crowded shop into the empty parlour, and
on into the kitchen, where he took up a piece of bread, and heedless
of Phoebe's look and words, began to eat it before he even left the
place; for he needed the strength that food would give; he needed it
to carry him out of the sight and the knowledge of all who might
hear what he had done, and point their fingers at him.

He paused a moment in the parlour, and then, setting his teeth tight
together, he went upstairs.

First of all he went into the bit of a room opening out of theirs,
in which his baby slept. He dearly loved the child, and many a time
would run in and play a while with it; and in such gambols he and
Sylvia had passed their happiest moments of wedded life.

The little Bella was having her morning slumber; Nancy used to tell
long afterwards how he knelt down by the side of her cot, and was so
strange she thought he must have prayed, for all it was nigh upon
eleven o'clock, and folk in their senses only said their prayers
when they got up, and when they went to bed.

Then he rose, and stooped over, and gave the child a long,
lingering, soft, fond kiss. And on tip-toe he passed away into the
room where his aunt lay; his aunt who had been so true a friend to
him! He was thankful to know that in her present state she was safe
from the knowledge of what was past, safe from the sound of the
shame to come.

He had not meant to see Sylvia again; he dreaded the look of her
hatred, her scorn, but there, outside her mother's bed, she lay,
apparently asleep. Mrs. Robson, too, was sleeping, her face towards
the wall. Philip could not help it; he went to have one last look at
his wife. She was turned towards her mother, her face averted from
him; he could see the tear-stains, the swollen eyelids, the lips yet
quivering: he stooped down, and bent to kiss the little hand that
lay listless by her side. As his hot breath neared that hand it was
twitched away, and a shiver ran through the whole prostrate body.
And then he knew that she was not asleep, only worn out by her
misery,--misery that he had caused.

He sighed heavily; but he went away, down-stairs, and away for ever.
Only as he entered the parlour his eyes caught on two silhouettes,
one of himself, one of Sylvia, done in the first month of their
marriage, by some wandering artist, if so he could be called. They
were hanging against the wall in little oval wooden frames; black
profiles, with the lights done in gold; about as poor semblances of
humanity as could be conceived; but Philip went up, and after
looking for a minute or so at Sylvia's, he took it down, and
buttoned his waistcoat over it.

It was the only thing he took away from his home.

He went down the entry on to the quay. The river was there, and
waters, they say, have a luring power, and a weird promise of rest
in their perpetual monotony of sound. But many people were there, if
such a temptation presented itself to Philip's mind; the sight of
his fellow-townsmen, perhaps of his acquaintances, drove him up
another entry--the town is burrowed with such--back into the High
Street, which he straightway crossed into a well-known court, out of
which rough steps led to the summit of the hill, and on to the fells
and moors beyond.

He plunged and panted up this rough ascent. From the top he could
look down on the whole town lying below, severed by the bright
shining river into two parts. To the right lay the sea, shimmering
and heaving; there were the cluster of masts rising out of the
little port; the irregular roofs of the houses; which of them,
thought he, as he carried his eye along the quay-side to the
market-place, which of them was his? and he singled it out in its
unfamiliar aspect, and saw the thin blue smoke rising from the
kitchen chimney, where even now Phoebe was cooking the household
meal that he never more must share.

Up at that thought and away, he knew not nor cared not whither. He
went through the ploughed fields where the corn was newly springing;
he came down upon the vast sunny sea, and turned his back upon it
with loathing; he made his way inland to the high green pastures;
the short upland turf above which the larks hung poised 'at heaven's
gate'. He strode along, so straight and heedless of briar and bush,
that the wild black cattle ceased from grazing, and looked after him
with their great blank puzzled eyes.

He had passed all enclosures and stone fences now, and was fairly on
the desolate brown moors; through the withered last year's ling and
fern, through the prickly gorse, he tramped, crushing down the
tender shoots of this year's growth, and heedless of the startled
plover's cry, goaded by the furies. His only relief from thought,
from the remembrance of Sylvia's looks and words, was in violent
bodily action.

So he went on till evening shadows and ruddy evening lights came out
upon the wild fells.

He had crossed roads and lanes, with a bitter avoidance of men's
tracks; but now the strong instinct of self-preservation came out,
and his aching limbs, his weary heart, giving great pants and beats
for a time, and then ceasing altogether till a mist swam and
quivered before his aching eyes, warned him that he must find some
shelter and food, or lie down to die. He fell down now, often;
stumbling over the slightest obstacle. He had passed the cattle
pastures; he was among the black-faced sheep; and they, too, ceased
nibbling, and looked after him, and somehow, in his poor wandering
imagination, their silly faces turned to likenesses of Monkshaven
people--people who ought to be far, far away.

'Thou'll be belated on these fells, if thou doesn't tak' heed,'
shouted some one.

Philip looked abroad to see whence the voice proceeded.

An old stiff-legged shepherd, in a smock-frock, was within a couple
of hundred yards. Philip did not answer, but staggered and stumbled
towards him.

'Good lork!' said the man, 'wheere hast ta been? Thou's seen Oud
Harry, I think, thou looks so scared.'

Philip rallied himself, and tried to speak up to the old standard of
respectability; but the effort was pitiful to see, had any one been
by, who could have understood the pain it caused to restrain cries
of bodily and mental agony.

'I've lost my way, that's all.'

''Twould ha' been enough, too, I'm thinkin', if I hadn't come out
after t' ewes. There's t' Three Griffins near at hand: a sup o'
Hollands 'll set thee to reeghts.'

Philip followed faintly. He could not see before him, and was guided
by the sound of footsteps rather than by the sight of the figure
moving onwards. He kept stumbling; and he knew that the old shepherd
swore at him; but he also knew such curses proceeded from no
ill-will, only from annoyance at the delay in going and 'seem' after
t' ewes.' But had the man's words conveyed the utmost expression of
hatred, Philip would neither have wondered at them, nor resented
them.

They came into a wild mountain road, unfenced from the fells. A
hundred yards off, and there was a small public-house, with a broad
ruddy oblong of firelight shining across the tract.

'Theere!' said the old man. 'Thee cannot well miss that. A dunno
tho', thee bees sich a gawby.'

So he went on, and delivered Philip safely up to the landlord.

'Here's a felly as a fund on t' fell side, just as one as if he were
drunk; but he's sober enough, a reckon, only summat's wrong i' his
head, a'm thinkin'.'

'No!' said Philip, sitting down on the first chair he came to. 'I'm
right enough; just fairly wearied out: lost my way,' and he fainted.

There was a recruiting sergeant of marines sitting in the
house-place, drinking. He, too, like Philip, had lost his way; but
was turning his blunder to account by telling all manner of
wonderful stories to two or three rustics who had come in ready to
drink on any pretence; especially if they could get good liquor
without paying for it.

The sergeant rose as Philip fell back, and brought up his own mug of
beer, into which a noggin of gin had been put (called in Yorkshire
'dog's-nose'). He partly poured and partly spilt some of this
beverage on Philip's face; some drops went through the pale and
parted lips, and with a start the worn-out man revived.

'Bring him some victual, landlord,' called out the recruiting
sergeant. 'I'll stand shot.'

They brought some cold bacon and coarse oat-cake. The sergeant asked
for pepper and salt; minced the food fine and made it savoury, and
kept administering it by teaspoonfuls; urging Philip to drink from
time to time from his own cup of dog's-nose.

A burning thirst, which needed no stimulant from either pepper or
salt, took possession of Philip, and he drank freely, scarcely
recognizing what he drank. It took effect on one so habitually
sober; and he was soon in that state when the imagination works
wildly and freely.

He saw the sergeant before him, handsome, and bright, and active, in
his gay red uniform, without a care, as it seemed to Philip, taking
life lightly; admired and respected everywhere because of his cloth.

If Philip were gay, and brisk, well-dressed like him, returning with
martial glory to Monkshaven, would not Sylvia love him once more?
Could not he win her heart? He was brave by nature, and the prospect
of danger did not daunt him, if ever it presented itself to his
imagination.

He thought he was cautious in entering on the subject of enlistment
with his new friend, the sergeant; but the latter was twenty times
as cunning as he, and knew by experience how to bait his hook.

Philip was older by some years than the regulation age; but, at that
time of great demand for men, the question of age was lightly
entertained. The sergeant was profuse in statements of the
advantages presented to a man of education in his branch of the
service; how such a one was sure to rise; in fact, it would have
seemed from the sergeant's account, as though the difficulty
consisted in remaining in the ranks.

Philip's dizzy head thought the subject over and over again, each
time with failing power of reason.

At length, almost, as it would seem, by some sleight of hand, he
found the fatal shilling in his palm, and had promised to go before
the nearest magistrate to be sworn in as one of his Majesty's
marines the next morning. And after that he remembered nothing more.

He wakened up in a little truckle-bed in the same room as the
sergeant, who lay sleeping the sleep of full contentment; while
gradually, drop by drop, the bitter recollections of the day before
came, filling up Philip's cup of agony.

He knew that he had received the bounty-money; and though he was
aware that he had been partly tricked into it, and had no hope, no
care, indeed, for any of the advantages so liberally promised him
the night before, yet he was resigned, with utterly despondent
passiveness, to the fate to which he had pledged himself. Anything
was welcome that severed him from his former life, that could make
him forget it, if that were possible; and also welcome anything
which increased the chances of death without the sinfulness of his
own participation in the act. He found in the dark recess of his
mind the dead body of his fancy of the previous night; that he might
come home, handsome and glorious, to win the love that had never
been his.

But he only sighed over it, and put it aside out of his sight--so
full of despair was he. He could eat no breakfast, though the
sergeant ordered of the best. The latter kept watching his new
recruit out of the corner of his eye, expecting a remonstrance, or
dreading a sudden bolt.

But Philip walked with him the two or three miles in the most
submissive silence, never uttering a syllable of regret or
repentance; and before Justice Cholmley, of Holm-Fell Hall, he was
sworn into his Majesty's service, under the name of Stephen Freeman.
With a new name, he began a new life. Alas! the old life lives for
ever!



CHAPTER XXXV

THINGS UNUTTERABLE


After Philip had passed out of the room, Sylvia lay perfectly still,
from very exhaustion. Her mother slept on, happily unconscious of
all the turmoil that had taken place; yes, happily, though the heavy
sleep was to end in death. But of this her daughter knew nothing,
imagining that it was refreshing slumber, instead of an ebbing of
life. Both mother and daughter lay motionless till Phoebe entered
the room to tell Sylvia that dinner was on the table.

Then Sylvia sate up, and put back her hair, bewildered and uncertain
as to what was to be done next; how she should meet the husband to
whom she had discarded all allegiance, repudiated the solemn promise
of love and obedience which she had vowed.

Phoebe came into the room, with natural interest in the invalid,
scarcely older than herself.

'How is t' old lady?' asked she, in a low voice.

Sylvia turned her head round to look; her mother had never moved,
but was breathing in a loud uncomfortable manner, that made her
stoop over her to see the averted face more nearly.

'Phoebe!' she cried, 'come here! She looks strange and odd; her eyes
are open, but don't see me. Phoebe! Phoebe!'

'Sure enough, she's in a bad way!' said Phoebe, climbing stiffly on
to the bed to have a nearer view. 'Hold her head a little up t' ease
her breathin' while I go for master; he'll be for sendin' for t'
doctor, I'll be bound.'

Sylvia took her mother's head and laid it fondly on her breast,
speaking to her and trying to rouse her; but it was of no avail: the
hard, stertorous breathing grew worse and worse.

Sylvia cried out for help; Nancy came, the baby in her arms. They
had been in several times before that morning; and the child came
smiling and crowing at its mother, who was supporting her own dying
parent.

'Oh, Nancy!' said Sylvia; 'what is the matter with mother? yo' can
see her face; tell me quick!'

Nancy set the baby on the bed for all reply, and ran out of the
room, crying out,

'Master! master! Come quick! T' old missus is a-dying!'

This appeared to be no news to Sylvia, and yet the words came on her
with a great shock, but for all that she could not cry; she was
surprised herself at her own deadness of feeling.

Her baby crawled to her, and she had to hold and guard both her
mother and her child. It seemed a long, long time before any one
came, and then she heard muffled voices, and a heavy tramp: it was
Phoebe leading the doctor upstairs, and Nancy creeping in behind to
hear his opinion.

He did not ask many questions, and Phoebe replied more frequently to
his inquiries than did Sylvia, who looked into his face with a
blank, tearless, speechless despair, that gave him more pain than
the sight of her dying mother.

The long decay of Mrs. Robson's faculties and health, of which he was
well aware, had in a certain manner prepared him for some such
sudden termination of the life whose duration was hardly desirable,
although he gave several directions as to her treatment; but the
white, pinched face, the great dilated eye, the slow comprehension
of the younger woman, struck him with alarm; and he went on asking
for various particulars, more with a view of rousing Sylvia, if even
it were to tears, than for any other purpose that the information
thus obtained could answer.

'You had best have pillows propped up behind her--it will not be
for long; she does not know that you are holding her, and it is only
tiring you to no purpose!'

Sylvia's terrible stare continued: he put his advice into action,
and gently tried to loosen her clasp, and tender hold. This she
resisted; laying her cheek against her poor mother's unconscious
face.

'Where is Hepburn?' said he. 'He ought to be here!'

Phoebe looked at Nancy, Nancy at Phoebe. It was the latter who
replied,

'He's neither i' t' house nor i' t' shop. A seed him go past t'
kitchen window better nor an hour ago; but neither William Coulson
or Hester Rose knows where he's gone to.

Dr Morgan's lips were puckered up into a whistle, but he made no
sound.

'Give me baby!' he said, suddenly. Nancy had taken her up off the
bed where she had been sitting, encircled by her mother's arm. The
nursemaid gave her to the doctor. He watched the mother's eye, it
followed her child, and he was rejoiced. He gave a little pinch to
the baby's soft flesh, and she cried out piteously; again the same
action, the same result. Sylvia laid her mother down, and stretched
out her arms for her child, hushing it, and moaning over it.

'So far so good!' said Dr Morgan to himself. 'But where is the
husband? He ought to be here.' He went down-stairs to make inquiry
for Philip; that poor young creature, about whose health he had
never felt thoroughly satisfied since the fever after her
confinement, was in an anxious condition, and with an inevitable
shock awaiting her. Her husband ought to be with her, and supporting
her to bear it.

Dr Morgan went into the shop. Hester alone was there. Coulson had
gone to his comfortable dinner at his well-ordered house, with his
common-place wife. If he had felt anxious about Philip's looks and
strange disappearance, he had also managed to account for them in
some indifferent way.

Hester was alone with the shop-boy; few people came in during the
universal Monkshaven dinner-hour. She was resting her head on her
hand, and puzzled and distressed about many things--all that was
implied by the proceedings of the evening before between Philip and
Sylvia; and that was confirmed by Philip's miserable looks and
strange abstracted ways to-day. Oh! how easy Hester would have found
it to make him happy! not merely how easy, but what happiness it
would have been to her to merge her every wish into the one great
object of fulfiling his will. To her, an on-looker, the course of
married life, which should lead to perfect happiness, seemed to
plain! Alas! it is often so! and the resisting forces which make all
such harmony and delight impossible are not recognized by the
bystanders, hardly by the actors. But if these resisting forces are
only superficial, or constitutional, they are but the necessary
discipline here, and do not radically affect the love which will
make all things right in heaven.

Some glimmering of this latter comforting truth shed its light on
Hester's troubled thoughts from time to time. But again, how easy
would it have been to her to tread the maze that led to Philip's
happiness; and how difficult it seemed to the wife he had chosen!

She was aroused by Dr Morgan's voice.

'So both Coulson and Hepburn have left the shop to your care,
Hester. I want Hepburn, though; his wife is in a very anxious state.
Where is he? can you tell me?'

'Sylvia in an anxious state! I've not seen her to-day, but last
night she looked as well as could be.'

'Ay, ay; but many a thing happens in four-and-twenty hours. Her
mother is dying, may be dead by this time; and her husband should be
there with her. Can't you send for him?'

'I don't know where he is,' said Hester. 'He went off from here all
on a sudden, when there was all the market-folks in t' shop; I
thought he'd maybe gone to John Foster's about th' money, for they
was paying a deal in. I'll send there and inquire.'

No! the messenger brought back word that he had not been seen at
their bank all morning. Further inquiries were made by the anxious
Hester, by the doctor, by Coulson; all they could learn was that
Phoebe had seen him pass the kitchen window about eleven o'clock,
when she was peeling the potatoes for dinner; and two lads playing
on the quay-side thought they had seen him among a group of sailors;
but these latter, as far as they could be identified, had no
knowledge of his appearance among them.

Before night the whole town was excited about his disappearance.
Before night Bell Robson had gone to her long home. And Sylvia still
lay quiet and tearless, apparently more unmoved than any other
creature by the events of the day, and the strange vanishing of her
husband.

The only thing she seemed to care for was her baby; she held it
tight in her arms, and Dr Morgan bade them leave it there, its touch
might draw the desired tears into her weary, sleepless eyes, and
charm the aching pain out of them.

They were afraid lest she should inquire for her husband, whose
non-appearance at such a time of sorrow to his wife must (they
thought) seem strange to her. And night drew on while they were all
in this state. She had gone back to her own room without a word when
they had desired her to do so; caressing her child in her arms, and
sitting down on the first chair she came to, with a heavy sigh, as
if even this slight bodily exertion had been too much for her. They
saw her eyes turn towards the door every time it was opened, and
they thought it was with anxious expectation of one who could not be
found, though many were seeking for him in all probable places.

When night came some one had to tell her of her husband's
disappearance; and Dr Morgan was the person who undertook this.

He came into her room about nine o'clock; her baby was sleeping in
her arms; she herself pale as death, still silent and tearless,
though strangely watchful of gestures and sounds, and probably
cognizant of more than they imagined.

'Well, Mrs. Hepburn,' said he, as cheerfully as he could, 'I should
advise your going to bed early; for I fancy your husband won't come
home to-night. Some journey or other, that perhaps Coulson can
explain better than I can, will most likely keep him away till
to-morrow. It's very unfortunate that he should be away at such a
sad time as this, as I'm sure he'll feel when he returns; but we
must make the best of it.'

He watched her to see the effect of his words.

She sighed, that was all. He still remained a little while. She
lifted her head up a little and asked,

'How long do yo' think she was unconscious, doctor? Could she hear
things, think yo', afore she fell into that strange kind o'
slumber?'

'I cannot tell,' said he, shaking his head. 'Was she breathing in
that hard snoring kind of way when you left her this morning?'

'Yes, I think so; I cannot tell, so much has happened.'

'When you came back to her, after your breakfast, I think you said
she was in much the same position?'

'Yes, and yet I may be telling yo' lies; if I could but think: but
it's my head as is aching so; doctor, I wish yo'd go, for I need
being alone, I'm so mazed.'

'Good-night, then, for you're a wise woman, I see, and mean to go to
bed, and have a good night with baby there.'

But he went down to Phoebe, and told her to go in from time to time,
and see how her mistress was.

He found Hester Rose and the old servant together; both had been
crying, both were evidently in great trouble about the death and the
mystery of the day.

Hester asked if she might go up and see Sylvia, and the doctor gave
his leave, talking meanwhile with Phoebe over the kitchen fire.
Hester came down again without seeing Sylvia. The door of the room
was bolted, and everything quiet inside.

'Does she know where her husband is, think you?' asked the doctor at
this account of Hester's. 'She's not anxious about him at any rate:
or else the shock of her mother's death has been too much for her.
We must hope for some change in the morning; a good fit of crying,
or a fidget about her husband, would be more natural. Good-night to
you both,' and off he went.

Phoebe and Hester avoided looking at each other at these words. Both
were conscious of the probability of something having gone seriously
wrong between the husband and wife. Hester had the recollection of
the previous night, Phoebe the untasted breakfast of to-day to go
upon.

She spoke first.

'A just wish he'd come home to still folks' tongues. It need niver
ha' been known if t' old lady hadn't died this day of all others.
It's such a thing for t' shop t' have one o' t' partners missin',
an' no one for t' know what's comed on him. It niver happened i'
Fosters' days, that's a' I know.'

'He'll maybe come back yet,' said Hester. 'It's not so very late.'

'It were market day, and a',' continued Phoebe, 'just as if
iverything mun go wrong together; an' a' t' country customers'll go
back wi' fine tale i' their mouths, as Measter Hepburn was strayed
an' missin' just like a beast o' some kind.'

'Hark! isn't that a step?' said Hester suddenly, as a footfall
sounded in the now quiet street; but it passed the door, and the
hope that had arisen on its approach fell as the sound died away.

'He'll noane come to-night,' said Phoebe, who had been as eager a
listener as Hester, however. 'Thou'd best go thy ways home; a shall
stay up, for it's not seemly for us a' t' go to our beds, an' a
corpse in t' house; an' Nancy, as might ha' watched, is gone to her
bed this hour past, like a lazy boots as she is. A can hear, too, if
t' measter does come home; tho' a'll be bound he wunnot; choose
wheere he is, he'll be i' bed by now, for it's well on to eleven.
I'll let thee out by t' shop-door, and stand by it till thou's close
at home, for it's ill for a young woman to be i' t' street so late.'

So she held the door open, and shaded the candle from the flickering
outer air, while Hester went to her home with a heavy heart.

Heavily and hopelessly did they all meet in the morning. No news of
Philip, no change in Sylvia; an unceasing flow of angling and
conjecture and gossip radiating from the shop into the town.

Hester could have entreated Coulson on her knees to cease from
repeating the details of a story of which every word touched on a
raw place in her sensitive heart; moreover, when they talked
together so eagerly, she could not hear the coming footsteps on the
pavement without.

Once some one hit very near the truth in a chance remark.

'It seems strange,' she said, 'how as one man turns up, another just
disappears. Why, it were but upo' Tuesday as Kinraid come back, as
all his own folk had thought to be dead; and next day here's Measter
Hepburn as is gone no one knows wheere!'

'That's t' way i' this world,' replied Coulson, a little
sententiously. 'This life is full o' changes o' one kind or another;
them that's dead is alive; and as for poor Philip, though he was
alive, he looked fitter to be dead when he came into t' shop o'
Wednesday morning.'

'And how does she take it?' nodding to where Sylvia was supposed to
be.

'Oh! she's not herself, so to say. She were just stunned by finding
her mother was dying in her very arms when she thought as she were
only sleeping; yet she's never been able to cry a drop; so that t'
sorrow's gone inwards on her brain, and from all I can hear, she
doesn't rightly understand as her husband is missing. T' doctor says
if she could but cry, she'd come to a juster comprehension of
things.'

'And what do John and Jeremiah Foster say to it all?'

'They're down here many a time in t' day to ask if he's come back,
or how she is; for they made a deal on 'em both. They're going t'
attend t' funeral to-morrow, and have given orders as t' shop is to
be shut up in t' morning.'

To the surprise of every one, Sylvia, who had never left her room
since the night of her mother's death, and was supposed to be almost
unconscious of all that was going on in the house, declared her
intention of following her mother to the grave. No one could do more
than remonstrate: no one had sufficient authority to interfere with
her. Dr Morgan even thought that she might possibly be roused to
tears by the occasion; only he begged Hester to go with her, that
she might have the solace of some woman's company.

She went through the greater part of the ceremony in the same hard,
unmoved manner in which she had received everything for days past.

But on looking up once, as they formed round the open grave, she saw
Kester, in his Sunday clothes, with a bit of new crape round his
hat, crying as if his heart would break over the coffin of his good,
kind mistress.

His evident distress, the unexpected sight, suddenly loosed the
fountain of Sylvia's tears, and her sobs grew so terrible that
Hester feared she would not be able to remain until the end of the
funeral. But she struggled hard to stay till the last, and then she
made an effort to go round by the place where Kester stood.

'Come and see me,' was all she could say for crying: and Kester only
nodded his head--he could not speak a word.



CHAPTER XXXVI

MYSTERIOUS TIDINGS


That very evening Kester came, humbly knocking at the kitchen-door.
Phoebe opened it. He asked to see Sylvia.

'A know not if she'll see thee,' said Phoebe. 'There's no makin' her
out; sometimes she's for one thing, sometimes she's for another.'

'She bid me come and see her,' said Kester. 'Only this mornin', at
missus' buryin', she telled me to come.'

So Phoebe went off to inform Sylvia that Kester was there; and
returned with the desire that he would walk into the parlour. An
instant after he was gone, Phoebe heard him return, and carefully
shut the two doors of communication between the kitchen and
sitting-room.

Sylvia was in the latter when Kester came in, holding her baby close
to her; indeed, she seldom let it go now-a-days to any one else,
making Nancy's place quite a sinecure, much to Phoebe's indignation.

Sylvia's face was shrunk, and white, and thin; her lovely eyes alone
retained the youthful, almost childlike, expression. She went up to
Kester, and shook his horny hand, she herself trembling all over.

'Don't talk to me of her,' she said hastily. 'I cannot stand it.
It's a blessing for her to be gone, but, oh----'

She began to cry, and then cheered herself up, and swallowed down
her sobs.

'Kester,' she went on, hastily, 'Charley Kinraid isn't dead; dost ta
know? He's alive, and he were here o' Tuesday--no, Monday, was it? I
cannot tell--but he were here!'

'A knowed as he weren't dead. Every one is a-speaking on it. But a
didn't know as thee'd ha' seen him. A took comfort i' thinkin' as
thou'd ha' been wi' thy mother a' t' time as he were i' t' place.'

'Then he's gone?' said Sylvia.

'Gone; ay, days past. As far as a know, he but stopped a' neet. A
thought to mysel' (but yo' may be sure a said nought to nobody),
he's heerd as our Sylvia were married, and has put it in his pipe,
and ta'en hissel' off to smoke it.'

'Kester!' said Sylvia, leaning forwards, and whispering. 'I saw him.
He was here. Philip saw him. Philip had known as he wasn't dead a'
this time!'

Kester stood up suddenly.

'By goom, that chap has a deal t' answer for.'

A bright red spot was on each of Sylvia's white cheeks; and for a
minute or so neither of them spoke.

Then she went on, still whispering out her words.

'Kester, I'm more afeared than I dare tell any one: can they ha'
met, think yo'? T' very thought turns me sick. I told Philip my
mind, and took a vow again' him--but it would be awful to think on
harm happening to him through Kinraid. Yet he went out that morning,
and has niver been seen or heard on sin'; and Kinraid were just fell
again' him, and as for that matter, so was I; but----'

The red spot vanished as she faced her own imagination.

Kester spoke.

'It's a thing as can be easy looked into. What day an' time were it
when Philip left this house?'

'Tuesday--the day she died. I saw him in her room that morning
between breakfast and dinner; I could a'most swear to it's being
close after eleven. I mind counting t' clock. It was that very morn
as Kinraid were here.'

'A'll go an' have a pint o' beer at t' King's Arms, down on t'
quay-side; it were theere he put up at. An' a'm pretty sure as he
only stopped one night, and left i' t' morning betimes. But a'll go
see.'

'Do,' said Sylvia, 'and go out through t' shop; they're all watching
and watching me to see how I take things; and daren't let on about
t' fire as is burning up my heart. Coulson is i' t' shop, but he'll
not notice thee like Phoebe.'

By-and-by Kester came back. It seemed as though Sylvia had never
stirred; she looked eagerly at him, but did not speak.

'He went away i' Rob Mason's mail-cart, him as tak's t' letters to
Hartlepool. T' lieutenant (as they ca' him down at t' King's Arms;
they're as proud on his uniform as if it had been a new-painted sign
to swing o'er their doors), t' lieutenant had reckoned upo' stayin'
longer wi' 'em; but he went out betimes o' Tuesday morn', an' came
back a' ruffled up, an paid his bill--paid for his breakfast, though
he touched noane on it--an' went off i' Rob postman's mail-cart, as
starts reg'lar at ten o'clock. Corneys has been theere askin' for
him, an' makin' a piece o' work, as he niver went near em; and they
bees cousins. Niver a one among 'em knows as he were here as far as
a could mak' out.'

'Thank yo', Kester,' said Sylvia, falling back in her chair, as if
all the energy that had kept her stiff and upright was gone now that
her anxiety was relieved.

She was silent for a long time; her eyes shut, her cheek laid on her
child's head. Kester spoke next.

'A think it's pretty clear as they'n niver met. But it's a' t' more
wonder where thy husband's gone to. Thee and him had words about it,
and thou telled him thy mind, thou said?'

'Yes,' said Sylvia, not moving. 'I'm afeared lest mother knows what
I said to him, there, where she's gone to--I am-' the tears filled
her shut eyes, and came softly overflowing down her cheeks; 'and yet
it were true, what I said, I cannot forgive him; he's just spoilt my
life, and I'm not one-and-twenty yet, and he knowed how wretched,
how very wretched, I were. A word fra' him would ha' mended it a';
and Charley had bid him speak the word, and give me his faithful
love, and Philip saw my heart ache day after day, and niver let on
as him I was mourning for was alive, and had sent me word as he'd
keep true to me, as I were to do to him.'

'A wish a'd been theere; a'd ha' felled him to t' ground,' said
Kester, clenching his stiff, hard hand with indignation.

Sylvia was silent again: pale and weary she sate, her eyes still
shut.

Then she said,

'Yet he were so good to mother; and mother loved him so. Oh,
Kester!' lifting herself up, opening her great wistful eyes, 'it's
well for folks as can die; they're spared a deal o' misery.'

'Ay!' said he. 'But there's folk as one 'ud like to keep fra'
shirkin' their misery. Think yo' now as Philip is livin'?'

Sylvia shivered all over, and hesitated before she replied.

'I dunnot know. I said such things; he deserved 'em all----'

'Well, well, lass!' said Kester, sorry that he had asked the
question which was producing so much emotion of one kind or another.
'Neither thee nor me can tell; we can neither help nor hinder,
seein' as he's ta'en hissel' off out on our sight, we'd best not
think on him. A'll try an' tell thee some news, if a can think on it
wi' my mind so full. Thou knows Haytersbank folk ha' flitted, and t'
oud place is empty?'

'Yes!' said Sylvia, with the indifference of one wearied out with
feeling.

'A only telled yo' t' account like for me bein' at a loose end i'
Monkshaven. My sister, her as lived at Dale End an' is a widow, has
comed int' town to live; an' a'm lodging wi' her, an' jobbin' about.
A'm gettin' pretty well to do, an' a'm noane far t' seek, an' a'm
going now: only first a just wanted for t' say as a'm thy oldest
friend, a reckon, and if a can do a turn for thee, or go an errand,
like as a've done to-day, or if it's any comfort to talk a bit to
one who's known thy life from a babby, why yo've only t' send for
me, an' a'd come if it were twenty mile. A'm lodgin' at Peggy
Dawson's, t' lath and plaster cottage at t' right hand o' t' bridge,
a' among t' new houses, as they're thinkin' o' buildin' near t' sea:
no one can miss it.'

He stood up and shook hands with her. As he did so, he looked at her
sleeping baby.

'She's liker yo' than him. A think a'll say, God bless her.'

With the heavy sound of his out-going footsteps, baby awoke. She
ought before this time to have been asleep in her bed, and the
disturbance made her cry fretfully.

'Hush thee, darling, hush thee!' murmured her mother; 'there's no
one left to love me but thee, and I cannot stand thy weeping, my
pretty one. Hush thee, my babe, hush thee!'

She whispered soft in the little one's ear as she took her upstairs
to bed.

About three weeks after the miserable date of Bell Robson's death
and Philip's disappearance, Hester Rose received a letter from him.
She knew the writing on the address well; and it made her tremble so
much that it was many minutes before she dared to open it, and make
herself acquainted with the facts it might disclose.

But she need not have feared; there were no facts told, unless the
vague date of 'London' might be something to learn. Even that much
might have been found out by the post-mark, only she had been too
much taken by surprise to examine it.

It ran as follows:--


'DEAR HESTER,--

'Tell those whom it may concern, that I have left Monkshaven for
ever. No one need trouble themselves about me; I am provided for.
Please to make my humble apologies to my kind friends, the Messrs
Foster, and to my partner, William Coulson. Please to accept of my
love, and to join the same to your mother. Please to give my
particular and respectful duty and kind love to my aunt Isabella
Robson. Her daughter Sylvia knows what I have always felt, and shall
always feel, for her better than I can ever put into language, so I
send her no message; God bless and keep my child. You must all look
on me as one dead; as I am to you, and maybe shall soon be in
reality.

'Your affectionate and obedient friend to command,

'PHILIP HEPBURN.

'P.S.--Oh, Hester! for God's sake and mine, look
after ('my wife,' scratched out) Sylvia and my child. I think
Jeremiah Foster will help you to be a friend to them. This is the
last solemn request of P. H. She is but very young.'


Hester read this letter again and again, till her heart caught the
echo of its hopelessness, and sank within her. She put it in her
pocket, and reflected upon it all the day long as she served in the
shop.

The customers found her as gentle, but far more inattentive than
usual. She thought that in the evening she would go across the
bridge, and consult with the two good old brothers Foster. But
something occurred to put off the fulfilment of this plan.

That same morning Sylvia had preceded her, with no one to consult,
because consultation would have required previous confidence, and
confidence would have necessitated such a confession about Kinraid
as it was most difficult for Sylvia to make. The poor young wife yet
felt that some step must be taken by her; and what it was to be she
could not imagine.

She had no home to go to; for as Philip was gone away, she remained
where she was only on sufferance; she did not know what means of
livelihood she had; she was willing to work, nay, would be thankful
to take up her old life of country labour; but with her baby, what
could she do?

In this dilemma, the recollection of the old man's kindly speech and
offer of assistance, made, it is true, half in joke, at the end of
her wedding visit, came into her mind; and she resolved to go and
ask for some of the friendly counsel and assistance then offered.

It would be the first time of her going out since her mother's
funeral, and she dreaded the effort on that account. More even than
on that account did she shrink from going into the streets again.
She could not get over the impression that Kinraid must be lingering
near; and she distrusted herself so much that it was a positive
terror to think of meeting him again. She felt as though, if she but
caught a sight of him, the glitter of his uniform, or heard his
well-known voice in only a distant syllable of talk, her heart would
stop, and she should die from very fright of what would come next.
Or rather so she felt, and so she thought before she took her baby
in her arms, as Nancy gave it to her after putting on its
out-of-door attire.

With it in her arms she was protected, and the whole current of her
thoughts was changed. The infant was wailing and suffering with its
teething, and the mother's heart was so occupied in soothing and
consoling her moaning child, that the dangerous quay-side and the
bridge were passed almost before she was aware; nor did she notice
the eager curiosity and respectful attention of those she met who
recognized her even through the heavy veil which formed part of the
draping mourning provided for her by Hester and Coulson, in the
first unconscious days after her mother's death.

Though public opinion as yet reserved its verdict upon Philip's
disappearance--warned possibly by Kinraid's story against hasty
decisions and judgments in such times as those of war and general
disturbance--yet every one agreed that no more pitiful fate could
have befallen Philip's wife.

Marked out by her striking beauty as an object of admiring interest
even in those days when she sate in girlhood's smiling peace by her
mother at the Market Cross--her father had lost his life in a
popular cause, and ignominious as the manner of his death might be,
he was looked upon as a martyr to his zeal in avenging the wrongs of
his townsmen; Sylvia had married amongst them too, and her quiet
daily life was well known to them; and now her husband had been
carried off from her side just on the very day when she needed his
comfort most.

For the general opinion was that Philip had been 'carried off'--in
seaport towns such occurrences were not uncommon in those
days--either by land-crimps or water-crimps.

So Sylvia was treated with silent reverence, as one sorely
afflicted, by all the unheeded people she met in her faltering walk
to Jeremiah Foster's.

She had calculated her time so as to fall in with him at his dinner
hour, even though it obliged her to go to his own house rather than
to the bank where he and his brother spent all the business hours of
the day.

Sylvia was so nearly exhausted by the length of her walk and the
weight of her baby, that all she could do when the door was opened
was to totter into the nearest seat, sit down, and begin to cry.

In an instant kind hands were about her, loosening her heavy cloak,
offering to relieve her of her child, who clung to her all the more
firmly, and some one was pressing a glass of wine against her lips.

'No, sir, I cannot take it! wine allays gives me th' headache; if I
might have just a drink o' water. Thank you, ma'am' (to the
respectable-looking old servant), 'I'm well enough now; and perhaps,
sir, I might speak a word with yo', for it's that I've come for.'

'It's a pity, Sylvia Hepburn, as thee didst not come to me at the
bank, for it's been a long toil for thee all this way in the heat,
with thy child. But if there's aught I can do or say for thee, thou
hast but to name it, I am sure. Martha! wilt thou relieve her of her
child while she comes with me into the parlour?'

But the wilful little Bella stoutly refused to go to any one, and
Sylvia was not willing to part with her, tired though she was.

So the baby was carried into the parlour, and much of her after-life
depended on this trivial fact.

Once installed in the easy-chair, and face to face with Jeremiah,
Sylvia did not know how to begin.

Jeremiah saw this, and kindly gave her time to recover herself, by
pulling out his great gold watch, and letting the seal dangle before
the child's eyes, almost within reach of the child's eager little
fingers.

'She favours you a deal,' said he, at last. 'More than her father,'
he went on, purposely introducing Philip's name, so as to break the
ice; for he rightly conjectured she had come to speak to him about
something connected with her husband.

Still Sylvia said nothing; she was choking down tears and shyness,
and unwillingness to take as confidant a man of whom she knew so
little, on such slight ground (as she now felt it to be) as the
little kindly speech with which she had been dismissed from that
house the last time that she entered it.

'It's no use keeping yo', sir,' she broke out at last. 'It's about
Philip as I comed to speak. Do yo' know any thing whatsomever about
him? He niver had a chance o' saying anything, I know; but maybe
he's written?'

'Not a line, my poor young woman!' said Jeremiah, hastily putting an
end to that vain idea.

'Then he's either dead or gone away for iver,' she whispered. 'I mun
be both feyther and mother to my child.'

'Oh! thee must not give it up,' replied he. 'Many a one is carried
off to the wars, or to the tenders o' men-o'-war; and then they turn
out to be unfit for service, and are sent home. Philip 'll come back
before the year's out; thee'll see that.'

'No; he'll niver come back. And I'm not sure as I should iver wish
him t' come back, if I could but know what was gone wi' him. Yo'
see, sir, though I were sore set again' him, I shouldn't like harm
to happen him.'

'There is something behind all this that I do not understand. Can
thee tell me what it is?'

'I must, sir, if yo're to help me wi' your counsel; and I came up
here to ask for it.'

Another long pause, during which Jeremiah made a feint of playing
with the child, who danced and shouted with tantalized impatience at
not being able to obtain possession of the seal, and at length
stretched out her soft round little arms to go to the owner of the
coveted possession. Surprise at this action roused Sylvia, and she
made some comment upon it.

'I niver knew her t' go to any one afore. I hope she'll not be
troublesome to yo', sir?'

The old man, who had often longed for a child of his own in days
gone by, was highly pleased by this mark of baby's confidence, and
almost forgot, in trying to strengthen her regard by all the winning
wiles in his power, how her poor mother was still lingering over
some painful story which she could not bring herself to tell.

'I'm afeared of speaking wrong again' any one, sir. And mother were
so fond o' Philip; but he kept something from me as would ha' made
me a different woman, and some one else, happen, a different man. I
were troth-plighted wi' Kinraid the specksioneer, him as was cousin
to th' Corneys o' Moss Brow, and comed back lieutenant i' t' navy
last Tuesday three weeks, after ivery one had thought him dead and
gone these three years.'

She paused.

'Well?' said Jeremiah, with interest; although his attention
appeared to be divided between the mother's story and the eager
playfulness of the baby on his knee.

'Philip knew he were alive; he'd seen him taken by t' press-gang,
and Charley had sent a message to me by Philip.'

Her white face was reddening, her eyes flashing at this point of her
story.

'And he niver told me a word on it, not when he saw me like to break
my heart in thinking as Kinraid were dead; he kept it a' to hissel';
and watched me cry, and niver said a word to comfort me wi' t'
truth. It would ha' been a great comfort, sir, only t' have had his
message if I'd niver ha' been to see him again. But Philip niver let
on to any one, as I iver heared on, that he'd seen Charley that
morning as t' press-gang took him. Yo' know about feyther's death,
and how friendless mother and me was left? and so I married him; for
he were a good friend to us then, and I were dazed like wi' sorrow,
and could see naught else to do for mother. He were allays very
tender and good to her, for sure.'

Again a long pause of silent recollection, broken by one or two deep
sighs.

'If I go on, sir, now, I mun ask yo' to promise as yo'll niver tell.
I do so need some one to tell me what I ought to do, and I were led
here, like, else I would ha' died wi' it all within my teeth. Yo'll
promise, sir?'

Jeremiah Foster looked in her face, and seeing the wistful, eager
look, he was touched almost against his judgment into giving the
promise required; she went on.

'Upon a Tuesday morning, three weeks ago, I think, tho' for t'
matter o' time it might ha' been three years, Kinraid come home;
come back for t' claim me as his wife, and I were wed to Philip! I
met him i' t' road at first; and I couldn't tell him theere. He
followed me into t' house--Philip's house, sir, behind t' shop--and
somehow I told him all, how I were a wedded wife to another. Then he
up and said I'd a false heart--me false, sir, as had eaten my daily
bread in bitterness, and had wept t' nights through, all for sorrow
and mourning for his death! Then he said as Philip knowed all t'
time he were alive and coming back for me; and I couldn't believe
it, and I called Philip, and he come, and a' that Charley had said
were true; and yet I were Philip's wife! So I took a mighty oath,
and I said as I'd niver hold Philip to be my lawful husband again,
nor iver forgive him for t' evil he'd wrought us, but hold him as a
stranger and one as had done me a heavy wrong.'

She stopped speaking; her story seemed to her to end there. But her
listener said, after a pause,

'It were a cruel wrong, I grant thee that; but thy oath were a sin,
and thy words were evil, my poor lass. What happened next?'

'I don't justly remember,' she said, wearily. 'Kinraid went away,
and mother cried out; and I went to her. She were asleep, I thought,
so I lay down by her, to wish I were dead, and to think on what
would come on my child if I died; and Philip came in softly, and I
made as if I were asleep; and that's t' very last as I've iver seen
or heared of him.'

Jeremiah Foster groaned as she ended her story. Then he pulled
himself up, and said, in a cheerful tone of voice,

'He'll come back, Sylvia Hepburn. He'll think better of it: never
fear!'

'I fear his coming back!' said she. 'That's what I'm feared on; I
would wish as I knew on his well-doing i' some other place; but him
and me can niver live together again.'

'Nay,' pleaded Jeremiah. 'Thee art sorry what thee said; thee were
sore put about, or thee wouldn't have said it.'

He was trying to be a peace-maker, and to heal over conjugal
differences; but he did not go deep enough.

'I'm not sorry,' said she, slowly. 'I were too deeply wronged to be
"put about"; that would go off wi' a night's sleep. It's only the
thought of mother (she's dead and happy, and knows nought of all
this, I trust) that comes between me and hating Philip. I'm not
sorry for what I said.'

Jeremiah had never met with any one so frank and undisguised in
expressions of wrong feeling, and he scarcely knew what to say.

He looked extremely grieved, and not a little shocked. So pretty and
delicate a young creature to use such strong relentless language!

She seemed to read his thoughts, for she made answer to them.

'I dare say you think I'm very wicked, sir, not to be sorry. Perhaps
I am. I can't think o' that for remembering how I've suffered; and
he knew how miserable I was, and might ha' cleared my misery away
wi' a word; and he held his peace, and now it's too late! I'm sick
o' men and their cruel, deceitful ways. I wish I were dead.'

She was crying before she had ended this speech, and seeing her
tears, the child began to cry too, stretching out its little arms to
go back to its mother. The hard stony look on her face melted away
into the softest, tenderest love as she clasped the little one to
her, and tried to soothe its frightened sobs.

A bright thought came into the old man's mind.

He had been taking a complete dislike to her till her pretty way
with her baby showed him that she had a heart of flesh within her.

'Poor little one!' said he, 'thy mother had need love thee, for
she's deprived thee of thy father's love. Thou'rt half-way to being
an orphan; yet I cannot call thee one of the fatherless to whom God
will be a father. Thou'rt a desolate babe, thou may'st well cry;
thine earthly parents have forsaken thee, and I know not if the Lord
will take thee up.'

Sylvia looked up at him affrighted; holding her baby tighter to her,
she exclaimed.

'Don't speak so, sir! it's cursing, sir! I haven't forsaken her! Oh,
sir! those are awful sayings.'

'Thee hast sworn never to forgive thy husband, nor to live with him
again. Dost thee know that by the law of the land, he may claim his
child; and then thou wilt have to forsake it, or to be forsworn?
Poor little maiden!' continued he, once more luring the baby to him
with the temptation of the watch and chain.

Sylvia thought for a while before speaking. Then she said,

'I cannot tell what ways to take. Whiles I think my head is crazed.
It were a cruel turn he did me!'

'It was. I couldn't have thought him guilty of such baseness.'

This acquiescence, which was perfectly honest on Jeremiah's part,
almost took Sylvia by surprise. Why might she not hate one who had
been both cruel and base in his treatment of her? And yet she
recoiled from the application of such hard terms by another to
Philip, by a cool-judging and indifferent person, as she esteemed
Jeremiah to be. From some inscrutable turn in her thoughts, she
began to defend him, or at least to palliate the harsh judgment
which she herself had been the first to pronounce.

'He were so tender to mother; she were dearly fond on him; he niver
spared aught he could do for her, else I would niver ha' married
him.'

'He was a good and kind-hearted lad from the time he was fifteen.
And I never found him out in any falsehood, no more did my brother.'

'But it were all the same as a lie,' said Sylvia, swiftly changing
her ground, 'to leave me to think as Charley were dead, when he
knowed all t' time he were alive.'

'It was. It was a self-seeking lie; putting thee to pain to get his
own ends. And the end of it has been that he is driven forth like
Cain.'

'I niver told him to go, sir.'

'But thy words sent him forth, Sylvia.'

'I cannot unsay them, sir; and I believe as I should say them
again.'

But she said this as one who rather hopes for a contradiction.

All Jeremiah replied, however, was, 'Poor wee child!' in a pitiful
tone, addressed to the baby.

Sylvia's eyes filled with tears.

'Oh, sir, I'll do anything as iver yo' can tell me for her. That's
what I came for t' ask yo'. I know I mun not stay theere, and Philip
gone away; and I dunnot know what to do: and I'll do aught, only I
must keep her wi' me. Whativer can I do, sir?'

Jeremiah thought it over for a minute or two. Then he replied,

'I must have time to think. I must talk it over with brother John.'

'But you've given me yo'r word, sir!' exclaimed she.

'I have given thee my word never to tell any one of what has passed
between thee and thy husband, but I must take counsel with my
brother as to what is to be done with thee and thy child, now that
thy husband has left the shop.'

This was said so gravely as almost to be a reproach, and he got up,
as a sign that the interview was ended.

He gave the baby back to its mother; but not without a solemn
blessing, so solemn that, to Sylvia's superstitious and excited
mind, it undid the terrors of what she had esteemed to be a curse.

'The Lord bless thee and keep thee! The Lord make His face to shine
upon thee!'

All the way down the hill-side, Sylvia kept kissing the child, and
whispering to its unconscious ears,--

'I'll love thee for both, my treasure, I will. I'll hap thee round
wi' my love, so as thou shall niver need a feyther's.'



CHAPTER XXXVII

BEREAVEMENT


Hester had been prevented by her mother's indisposition from taking
Philip's letter to the Fosters, to hold a consultation with them
over its contents.

Alice Rose was slowly failing, and the long days which she had to
spend alone told much upon her spirits, and consequently upon her
health.

All this came out in the conversation which ensued after reading
Hepburn's letter in the little parlour at the bank on the day after
Sylvia had had her confidential interview with Jeremiah Foster.

He was a true man of honour, and never so much as alluded to her
visit to him; but what she had then told him influenced him very
much in the formation of the project which he proposed to his
brother and Hester.

He recommended her remaining where she was, living still in the
house behind the shop; for he thought within himself that she might
have exaggerated the effect of her words upon Philip; that, after
all, it might have been some cause totally disconnected with them,
which had blotted out her husband's place among the men of
Monkshaven; and that it would be so much easier for both to resume
their natural relations, both towards each other and towards the
world, if Sylvia remained where her husband had left her--in an
expectant attitude, so to speak.

Jeremiah Foster questioned Hester straitly about her letter: whether
she had made known its contents to any one. No, not to any one.
Neither to her mother nor to William Coulson? No, to neither.

She looked at him as she replied to his inquiries, and he looked at
her, each wondering if the other could be in the least aware that a
conjugal quarrel might be at the root of the dilemma in which they
were placed by Hepburn's disappearance.

But neither Hester, who had witnessed the misunderstanding between
the husband and wife on the evening, before the morning on which
Philip went away, nor Jeremiah Foster, who had learnt from Sylvia
the true reason of her husband's disappearance, gave the slightest
reason to the other to think that they each supposed they had a clue
to the reason of Hepburn's sudden departure.

What Jeremiah Foster, after a night's consideration, had to propose
was this; that Hester and her mother should come and occupy the
house in the market-place, conjointly with Sylvia and her child.
Hester's interest in the shop was by this time acknowledged.
Jeremiah had made over to her so much of his share in the business,
that she had a right to be considered as a kind of partner; and she
had long been the superintendent of that department of goods which
were exclusively devoted to women. So her daily presence was
requisite for more reasons than one.

Yet her mother's health and spirits were such as to render it
unadvisable that the old woman should be too much left alone; and
Sylvia's devotion to her own mother seemed to point her out as the
very person who could be a gentle and tender companion to Alice Rose
during those hours when her own daughter would necessarily be
engaged in the shop.

Many desirable objects seemed to be gained by this removal of Alice:
an occupation was provided for Sylvia, which would detain her in the
place where her husband had left her, and where (Jeremiah Foster
fairly expected in spite of his letter) he was likely to come back
to find her; and Alice Rose, the early love of one of the brothers,
the old friend of the other, would be well cared for, and under her
daughter's immediate supervision during the whole of the time that
she was occupied in the shop.

Philip's share of the business, augmented by the money which he had
put in from the legacy of his old Cumberland uncle, would bring in
profits enough to support Sylvia and her child in ease and comfort
until that time, which they all anticipated, when he should return
from his mysterious wandering--mysterious, whether his going forth
had been voluntary or involuntary.

Thus far was settled; and Jeremiah Foster went to tell Sylvia of the
plan.

She was too much a child, too entirely unaccustomed to any
independence of action, to do anything but leave herself in his
hands. Her very confession, made to him the day before, when she
sought his counsel, seemed to place her at his disposal. Otherwise,
she had had notions of the possibility of a free country life once
more--how provided for and arranged she hardly knew; but Haytersbank
was to let, and Kester disengaged, and it had just seemed possible
that she might have to return to her early home, and to her old
life. She knew that it would take much money to stock the farm
again, and that her hands were tied from much useful activity by the
love and care she owed to her baby. But still, somehow, she hoped
and she fancied, till Jeremiah Foster's measured words and
carefully-arranged plan made her silently relinquish her green,
breezy vision.

Hester, too, had her own private rebellion--hushed into submission
by her gentle piety. If Sylvia had been able to make Philip happy,
Hester could have felt lovingly and almost gratefully towards her;
but Sylvia had failed in this.

Philip had been made unhappy, and was driven forth a wanderer into
the wide world--never to come back! And his last words to Hester,
the postscript of his letter, containing the very pith of it, was to
ask her to take charge and care of the wife whose want of love
towards him had uprooted him from the place where he was valued and
honoured.

It cost Hester many a struggle and many a self-reproach before she
could make herself feel what she saw all along--that in everything
Philip treated her like a sister. But even a sister might well be
indignant if she saw her brother's love disregarded and slighted,
and his life embittered by the thoughtless conduct of a wife! Still
Hester fought against herself, and for Philip's sake she sought to
see the good in Sylvia, and she strove to love her as well as to
take care of her.

With the baby, of course, the case was different. Without thought or
struggle, or reason, every one loved the little girl. Coulson and
his buxom wife, who were childless, were never weary of making much
of her. Hester's happiest hours were spent with that little child.
Jeremiah Foster almost looked upon her as his own from the day when
she honoured him by yielding to the temptation of the chain and
seal, and coming to his knee; not a customer to the shop but knew
the smiling child's sad history, and many a country-woman would save
a rosy-cheeked apple from out her store that autumn to bring it on
next market-day for 'Philip Hepburn's baby, as had lost its father,
bless it.'

Even stern Alice Rose was graciously inclined towards the little
Bella; and though her idea of the number of the elect was growing
narrower and narrower every day, she would have been loth to exclude
the innocent little child, that stroked her wrinkled cheeks so
softly every night in return for her blessing, from the few that
should be saved. Nay, for the child's sake, she relented towards the
mother; and strove to have Sylvia rescued from the many castaways
with fervent prayer, or, as she phrased it, 'wrestling with the
Lord'.

Alice had a sort of instinct that the little child, so tenderly
loved by, so fondly loving, the mother whose ewe-lamb she was, could
not be even in heaven without yearning for the creature she had
loved best on earth; and the old woman believed that this was the
principal reason for her prayers for Sylvia; but unconsciously to
herself, Alice Rose was touched by the filial attentions she
constantly received from the young mother, whom she believed to be
foredoomed to condemnation.

Sylvia rarely went to church or chapel, nor did she read her Bible;
for though she spoke little of her ignorance, and would fain, for
her child's sake, have remedied it now it was too late, she had lost
what little fluency of reading she had ever had, and could only make
out her words with much spelling and difficulty. So the taking her
Bible in hand would have been a mere form; though of this Alice Rose
knew nothing.

No one knew much of what was passing in Sylvia; she did not know
herself. Sometimes in the nights she would waken, crying, with a
terrible sense of desolation; every one who loved her, or whom she
had loved, had vanished out of her life; every one but her child,
who lay in her arms, warm and soft.

But then Jeremiah Foster's words came upon her; words that she had
taken for cursing at the time; and she would so gladly have had some
clue by which to penetrate the darkness of the unknown region from
whence both blessing and cursing came, and to know if she had indeed
done something which should cause her sin to be visited on that
soft, sweet, innocent darling.

If any one would teach her to read! If any one would explain to her
the hard words she heard in church or chapel, so that she might find
out the meaning of sin and godliness!--words that had only passed
over the surface of her mind till now! For her child's sake she
should like to do the will of God, if she only knew what that was,
and how to be worked out in her daily life.

But there was no one she dared confess her ignorance to and ask
information from. Jeremiah Foster had spoken as if her child, sweet
little merry Bella, with a loving word and a kiss for every one, was
to suffer heavily for the just and true words her wronged and
indignant mother had spoken. Alice always spoke as if there were no
hope for her; and blamed her, nevertheless, for not using the means
of grace that it was not in her power to avail herself of.

And Hester, that Sylvia would fain have loved for her uniform
gentleness and patience with all around her, seemed so cold in her
unruffled and undemonstrative behaviour; and moreover, Sylvia felt
that Hester blamed her perpetual silence regarding Philip's absence
without knowing how bitter a cause Sylvia had for casting him off.

The only person who seemed to have pity upon her was Kester; and his
pity was shown in looks rather than words; for when he came to see
her, which he did from time to time, by a kind of mutual tacit
consent, they spoke but little of former days.

He was still lodging with his sister, widow Dobson, working at odd
jobs, some of which took him into the country for weeks at a time.
But on his returns to Monkshaven he was sure to come and see her and
the little Bella; indeed, when his employment was in the immediate
neighbourhood of the town, he never allowed a week to pass away
without a visit.

There was not much conversation between him and Sylvia at such
times. They skimmed over the surface of the small events in which
both took an interest; only now and then a sudden glance, a checked
speech, told each that there were deeps not forgotten, although they
were never mentioned.

Twice Sylvia--below her breath--had asked Kester, just as she was
holding the door open for his departure, if anything had ever been
heard of Kinraid since his one night's visit to Monkshaven: each
time (and there was an interval of some months between the
inquiries) the answer had been simply, no.

To no one else would Sylvia ever have named his name. But indeed she
had not the chance, had she wished it ever so much, of asking any
questions about him from any one likely to know. The Corneys had
left Moss Brow at Martinmas, and gone many miles away towards
Horncastle. Bessy Corney, it is true was married and left behind in
the neighbourhood; but with her Sylvia had never been intimate; and
what girlish friendship there might have been between them had
cooled very much at the time of Kinraid's supposed death three years
before.

One day before Christmas in this year, 1798, Sylvia was called into
the shop by Coulson, who, with his assistant, was busy undoing the
bales of winter goods supplied to them from the West Riding, and
other places. He was looking at a fine Irish poplin dress-piece when
Sylvia answered to his call.

'Here! do you know this again?' asked he, in the cheerful tone of
one sure of giving pleasure.

'No! have I iver seen it afore?'

'Not this, but one for all t' world like it.'

She did not rouse up to much interest, but looked at it as if trying
to recollect where she could have seen its like.

'My missus had one on at th' party at John Foster's last March, and
yo' admired it a deal. And Philip, he thought o' nothing but how he
could get yo' just such another, and he set a vast o' folk agait for
to meet wi' its marrow; and what he did just the very day afore he
went away so mysterious was to write through Dawson Brothers, o'
Wakefield, to Dublin, and order that one should be woven for yo'.
Jemima had to cut a bit off hers for to give him t' exact colour.'

Sylvia did not say anything but that it was very pretty, in a low
voice, and then she quickly left the shop, much to Coulson's
displeasure.

All the afternoon she was unusually quiet and depressed.

Alice Rose, sitting helpless in her chair, watched her with keen
eyes.

At length, after one of Sylvia's deep, unconscious sighs, the old
woman spoke:

'It's religion as must comfort thee, child, as it's done many a one
afore thee.'

'How?' said Sylvia, looking up, startled to find herself an object
of notice.

'How?' (The answer was not quite so ready as the precept had been.)
'Read thy Bible, and thou wilt learn.'

'But I cannot read,' said Sylvia, too desperate any longer to
conceal her ignorance.

'Not read! and thee Philip's wife as was such a great scholar! Of a
surety the ways o' this life are crooked! There was our Hester, as
can read as well as any minister, and Philip passes over her to go
and choose a young lass as cannot read her Bible.'

'Was Philip and Hester----'

Sylvia paused, for though a new curiosity had dawned upon her, she
did not know how to word her question.

'Many a time and oft have I seen Hester take comfort in her Bible
when Philip was following after thee. She knew where to go for
consolation.'

'I'd fain read,' said Sylvia, humbly, 'if anybody would learn me;
for perhaps it might do me good; I'm noane so happy.'

Her eyes, as she looked up at Alice's stern countenance, were full
of tears.

The old woman saw it, and was touched, although she did not
immediately show her sympathy. But she took her own time, and made
no reply.

The next day, however, she bade Sylvia come to her, and then and
there, as if her pupil had been a little child, she began to teach
Sylvia to read the first chapter of Genesis; for all other reading
but the Scriptures was as vanity to her, and she would not
condescend to the weakness of other books. Sylvia was now, as ever,
slow at book-learning; but she was meek and desirous to be taught,
and her willingness in this respect pleased Alice, and drew her
singularly towards one who, from being a pupil, might become a
convert.

All this time Sylvia never lost the curiosity that had been excited
by the few words Alice had let drop about Hester and Philip, and by
degrees she approached the subject again, and had the idea then
started confirmed by Alice, who had no scruple in using the past
experience of her own, of her daughter's, or of any one's life, as
an instrument to prove the vanity of setting the heart on anything
earthly.

This knowledge, unsuspected before, sank deep into Sylvia's
thoughts, and gave her a strange interest in Hester--poor Hester,
whose life she had so crossed and blighted, even by the very
blighting of her own. She gave Hester her own former passionate
feelings for Kinraid, and wondered how she herself should have felt
towards any one who had come between her and him, and wiled his love
away. When she remembered Hester's unfailing sweetness and kindness
towards herself from the very first, she could better bear the
comparative coldness of her present behaviour.

She tried, indeed, hard to win back the favour she had lost; but the
very means she took were blunders, and only made it seem to her as
if she could never again do right in Hester's eyes.

For instance, she begged her to accept and wear the pretty poplin
gown which had been Philip's especial choice; feeling within herself
as if she should never wish to put it on, and as if the best thing
she could do with it was to offer it to Hester. But Hester rejected
the proffered gift with as much hardness of manner as she was
capable of assuming; and Sylvia had to carry it upstairs and lay it
by for the little daughter, who, Hester said, might perhaps learn to
value things that her father had given especial thought to.

Yet Sylvia went on trying to win Hester to like her once more; it
was one of her great labours, and learning to read from Hester's
mother was another.

Alice, indeed, in her solemn way, was becoming quite fond of Sylvia;
if she could not read or write, she had a deftness and gentleness of
motion, a capacity for the household matters which fell into her
department, that had a great effect on the old woman, and for her
dear mother's sake Sylvia had a stock of patient love ready in her
heart for all the aged and infirm that fell in her way. She never
thought of seeking them out, as she knew that Hester did; but then
she looked up to Hester as some one very remarkable for her
goodness. If only she could have liked her!

Hester tried to do all she could for Sylvia; Philip had told her to
take care of his wife and child; but she had the conviction that
Sylvia had so materially failed in her duties as to have made her
husband an exile from his home--a penniless wanderer, wifeless and
childless, in some strange country, whose very aspect was
friendless, while the cause of all lived on in the comfortable home
where he had placed her, wanting for nothing--an object of interest
and regard to many friends--with a lovely little child to give her
joy for the present, and hope for the future; while he, the poor
outcast, might even lie dead by the wayside. How could Hester love
Sylvia?

Yet they were frequent companions that ensuing spring. Hester was
not well; and the doctors said that the constant occupation in the
shop was too much for her, and that she must, for a time at least,
take daily walks into the country.

Sylvia used to beg to accompany her; she and the little girl often
went with Hester up the valley of the river to some of the nestling
farms that were hidden in the more sheltered nooks--for Hester was
bidden to drink milk warm from the cow; and to go into the familiar
haunts about a farm was one of the few things in which Sylvia seemed
to take much pleasure. She would let little Bella toddle about while
Hester sate and rested: and she herself would beg to milk the cow
destined to give the invalid her draught.

One May evening the three had been out on some such expedition; the
country side still looked gray and bare, though the leaves were
showing on the willow and blackthorn and sloe, and by the tinkling
runnels, making hidden music along the copse side, the pale delicate
primrose buds were showing amid their fresh, green, crinkled leaves.
The larks had been singing all the afternoon, but were now dropping
down into their nests in the pasture fields; the air had just the
sharpness in it which goes along with a cloudless evening sky at
that time of the year.

But Hester walked homewards slowly and languidly, speaking no word.
Sylvia noticed this at first without venturing to speak, for Hester
was one who disliked having her ailments noticed. But after a while
Hester stood still in a sort of weary dreamy abstraction; and Sylvia
said to her,

'I'm afeared yo're sadly tired. Maybe we've been too far.'

Hester almost started.

'No!' said she, 'it's only my headache which is worse to-night. It
has been bad all day; but since I came out it has felt just as if
there were great guns booming, till I could almost pray 'em to be
quiet. I am so weary o' th' sound.'

She stepped out quickly towards home after she had said this, as if
she wished for neither pity nor comment on what she had said.



CHAPTER XXXVIII

THE RECOGNITION


Far away, over sea and land, over sunny sea again, great guns were
booming on that 7th of May, 1799.

The Mediterranean came up with a long roar on a beach glittering
white with snowy sand, and the fragments of innumerable sea-shells,
delicate and shining as porcelain. Looking at that shore from the
sea, a long ridge of upland ground, beginning from an inland depth,
stretched far away into the ocean on the right, till it ended in a
great mountainous bluff, crowned with the white buildings of a
convent sloping rapidly down into the blue water at its base.

In the clear eastern air, the different characters of the foliage
that clothed the sides of that sea-washed mountain might be
discerned from a long distance by the naked eye; the silver gray of
the olive-trees near its summit; the heavy green and bossy forms of
the sycamores lower down; broken here and there by a solitary
terebinth or ilex tree, of a deeper green and a wider spread; till
the eye fell below on the maritime plain, edged with the white
seaboard and the sandy hillocks; with here and there feathery
palm-trees, either isolated or in groups--motionless and distinct
against the hot purple air.

Look again; a little to the left on the sea-shore there are the
white walls of a fortified town, glittering in sunlight, or black in
shadow.

The fortifications themselves run out into the sea, forming a port
and a haven against the wild Levantine storms; and a lighthouse
rises out of the waves to guide mariners into safety.

Beyond this walled city, and far away to the left still, there is
the same wide plain shut in by the distant rising ground, till the
upland circuit comes closing in to the north, and the great white
rocks meet the deep tideless ocean with its intensity of blue
colour.

Above, the sky is literally purple with heat; and the pitiless light
smites the gazer's weary eye as it comes back from the white shore.
Nor does the plain country in that land offer the refuge and rest of
our own soft green. The limestone rock underlies the vegetation, and
gives a glittering, ashen hue to all the bare patches, and even to
the cultivated parts which are burnt up early in the year. In
spring-time alone does the country look rich and fruitful; then the
corn-fields of the plain show their capability of bearing, 'some
fifty, some an hundred fold'; down by the brook Kishon, flowing not
far from the base of the mountainous promontory to the south, there
grow the broad green fig-trees, cool and fresh to look upon; the
orchards are full of glossy-leaved cherry-trees; the tall amaryllis
puts forth crimson and yellow glories in the fields, rivalling the
pomp of King Solomon; the daisies and the hyacinths spread their
myriad flowers; the anemones, scarlet as blood, run hither and
thither over the ground like dazzling flames of fire.

A spicy odour lingers in the heated air; it comes from the multitude
of aromatic flowers that blossom in the early spring. Later on they
will have withered and faded, and the corn will have been gathered,
and the deep green of the eastern foliage will have assumed a kind
of gray-bleached tint.

Even now in May, the hot sparkle of the everlasting sea, the
terribly clear outline of all objects, whether near or distant, the
fierce sun right overhead, the dazzling air around, were
inexpressibly wearying to the English eyes that kept their skilled
watch, day and night, on the strongly-fortified coast-town that lay
out a little to the northward of where the British ships were
anchored.

They had kept up a flanking fire for many days in aid of those
besieged in St Jean d'Acre; and at intervals had listened,
impatient, to the sound of the heavy siege guns, or the sharper
rattle of the French musketry.

In the morning, on the 7th of May, a man at the masthead of the
_Tigre_ sang out that he saw ships in the offing; and in reply to
the signal that was hastily run up, he saw the distant vessels hoist
friendly flags. That May morning was a busy time. The besieged Turks
took heart of grace; the French outside, under the command of their
great general, made hasty preparations for a more vigorous assault
than all many, both vigorous and bloody, that had gone before (for
the siege was now at its fifty-first day), in hopes of carrying the
town by storm before the reinforcement coming by sea could arrive;
and Sir Sidney Smith, aware of Buonaparte's desperate intention,
ordered all the men, both sailors and marines, that could be spared
from the necessity of keeping up a continual flanking fire from the
ships upon the French, to land, and assist the Turks and the British
forces already there in the defence of the old historic city.

Lieutenant Kinraid, who had shared his captain's daring adventure
off the coast of France three years before, who had been a prisoner
with him and Westley Wright, in the Temple at Paris, and had escaped
with them, and, through Sir Sidney's earnest recommendation, been
promoted from being a warrant officer to the rank of lieutenant,
received on this day the honour from his admiral of being appointed
to an especial post of danger. His heart was like a war-horse, and
said, Ha, ha! as the boat bounded over the waves that were to land
him under the ancient machicolated walls where the Crusaders made
their last stand in the Holy Land. Not that Kinraid knew or cared
one jot about those gallant knights of old: all he knew was, that
the French, under Boney, were trying to take the town from the
Turks, and that his admiral said they must not, and so they should
not.

He and his men landed on that sandy shore, and entered the town by
the water-port gate; he was singing to himself his own country
song,--

  Weel may the keel row, the keel row, &C.

and his men, with sailors' aptitude for music, caught up the air,
and joined in the burden with inarticulate sounds.

So, with merry hearts, they threaded the narrow streets of Acre,
hemmed in on either side by the white walls of Turkish houses, with
small grated openings high up, above all chance of peeping
intrusion.

Here and there they met an ample-robed and turbaned Turk going along
with as much haste as his stately self-possession would allow. But
the majority of the male inhabitants were gathered together to
defend the breach, where the French guns thundered out far above the
heads of the sailors.

They went along none the less merrily for the sound to Djezzar
Pacha's garden, where the old Turk sate on his carpet, beneath the
shade of a great terebinth tree, listening to the interpreter, who
made known to him the meaning of the eager speeches of Sir Sidney
Smith and the colonel of the marines.

As soon as the admiral saw the gallant sailors of H.M.S. _Tigre_, he
interrupted the council of war without much ceremony, and going to
Kinraid, he despatched them, as before arranged, to the North
Ravelin, showing them the way with rapid, clear directions.

Out of respect to him, they had kept silent while in the strange,
desolate garden; but once more in the streets, the old Newcastle
song rose up again till the men were, perforce, silenced by the
haste with which they went to the post of danger.

It was three o'clock in the afternoon. For many a day these very men
had been swearing at the terrific heat at this hour--even when at
sea, fanned by the soft breeze; but now, in the midst of hot smoke,
with former carnage tainting the air, and with the rush and whizz of
death perpetually whistling in their ears, they were uncomplaining
and light-hearted. Many an old joke, and some new ones, came brave
and hearty, on their cheerful voices, even though the speaker was
veiled from sight in great clouds of smoke, cloven only by the
bright flames of death.

A sudden message came; as many of the crew of the _Tigre_ as were
under Lieutenant Kinraid's command were to go down to the Mole, to
assist the new reinforcements (seen by the sailor from the masthead
at day-dawn), under command of Hassan Bey, to land at the Mole,
where Sir Sidney then was.

Off they went, almost as bright and thoughtless as before, though
two of their number lay silent for ever at the North
Ravelin--silenced in that one little half-hour. And one went along
with the rest, swearing lustily at his ill-luck in having his right
arm broken, but ready to do good business with his left.

They helped the Turkish troops to land more with good-will than
tenderness; and then, led by Sir Sidney, they went under the shelter
of English guns to the fatal breach, so often assailed, so gallantly
defended, but never so fiercely contested as on this burning
afternoon. The ruins of the massive wall that here had been broken
down by the French, were used by them as stepping stones to get on a
level with the besieged, and so to escape the heavy stones which the
latter hurled down; nay, even the dead bodies of the morning's
comrades were made into ghastly stairs.

When Djezzar Pacha heard that the British sailors were defending the
breach, headed by Sir Sidney Smith, he left his station in the
palace garden, gathered up his robes in haste, and hurried to the
breach; where, with his own hands, and with right hearty good-will,
he pulled the sailors down from the post of danger, saying that if
he lost his English friends he lost all!

But little recked the crew of the _Tigre_ of the one old man--Pacha
or otherwise--who tried to hold them back from the fight; they were
up and at the French assailants clambering over the breach in an
instant; and so they went on, as if it were some game at play
instead of a deadly combat, until Kinraid and his men were called
off by Sir Sidney, as the reinforcement of Turkish troops under
Hassan Bey were now sufficient for the defence of that old breach in
the walls, which was no longer the principal object of the French
attack; for the besiegers had made a new and more formidable breach
by their incessant fire, knocking down whole streets of the city
walls.

'Fight your best Kinraid!' said Sir Sidney; 'for there's Boney on
yonder hill looking at you.'

And sure enough, on a rising ground, called Richard Coeur de Lion's
Mount, there was a half-circle of French generals, on horseback, all
deferentially attending to the motions, and apparently to the words,
of a little man in their centre; at whose bidding the aide-de-camp
galloped swift with messages to the more distant French camp.

The two ravelins which Kinraid and his men had to occupy, for the
purpose of sending a flanking fire upon the enemy, were not ten
yards from that enemy's van.

But at length there was a sudden rush of the French to that part of
the wall where they imagined they could enter unopposed.

Surprised at this movement, Kinraid ventured out of the shelter of
the ravelin to ascertain the cause; he, safe and untouched during
that long afternoon of carnage, fell now, under a stray musket-shot,
and lay helpless and exposed upon the ground undiscerned by his men,
who were recalled to help in the hot reception which had been
planned for the French; who, descending the city walls into the
Pacha's garden, were attacked with sabre and dagger, and lay
headless corpses under the flowering rose-bushes, and by the
fountain side.

Kinraid lay beyond the ravelins, many yards outside the city walls.

He was utterly helpless, for the shot had broken his leg. Dead
bodies of Frenchmen lay strewn around him; no Englishman had
ventured out so far.

All the wounded men that he could see were French; and many of
these, furious with pain, gnashed their teeth at him, and cursed him
aloud, till he thought that his best course was to assume the
semblance of death; for some among these men were still capable of
dragging themselves up to him, and by concentrating all their
failing energies into one blow, put him to a speedy end.

The outlying pickets of the French army were within easy rifle shot;
and his uniform, although less conspicuous in colour than that of
the marines, by whose sides he had been fighting, would make him a
sure mark if he so much as moved his arm. Yet how he longed to turn,
if ever so slightly, so that the cruel slanting sun might not beat
full into his aching eyes. Fever, too, was coming upon him; the pain
in his leg was every moment growing more severe; the terrible thirst
of the wounded, added to the heat and fatigue of the day, made his
lips and tongue feel baked and dry, and his whole throat seemed
parched and wooden. Thoughts of other days, of cool Greenland seas,
where ice abounded, of grassy English homes, began to make the past
more real than the present.

With a great effort he brought his wandering senses back; he knew
where he was now, and could weigh the chances of his life, which
were but small; the unwonted tears came to his eyes as he thought of
the newly-made wife in her English home, who might never know how he
died thinking of her.

Suddenly he saw a party of English marines advance, under shelter of
the ravelin, to pick up the wounded, and bear them within the walls
for surgical help. They were so near he could see their faces, could
hear them speak; yet he durst not make any sign to them when he lay
within range of the French picket's fire.

For one moment he could not resist raising his head, to give himself
a chance for life; before the unclean creatures that infest a camp
came round in the darkness of the night to strip and insult the dead
bodies, and to put to death such as had yet the breath of life
within them. But the setting sun came full into his face, and he saw
nothing of what he longed to see.

He fell back in despair; he lay there to die.

That strong clear sunbeam had wrought his salvation.

He had been recognized as men are recognized when they stand in the
red glare of a house on fire; the same despair of help, of hopeless
farewell to life, stamped on their faces in blood-red light.

One man left his fellows, and came running forwards, forwards in
among the enemy's wounded, within range of their guns; he bent down
over Kinraid; he seemed to understand without a word; he lifted him
up, carrying him like a child; and with the vehement energy that is
more from the force of will than the strength of body, he bore him
back to within the shelter of the ravelin--not without many shots
being aimed at them, one of which hit Kinraid in the fleshy part of
his arm.

Kinraid was racked with agony from his dangling broken leg, and his
very life seemed leaving him; yet he remembered afterwards how the
marine recalled his fellows, and how, in the pause before they
returned, his face became like one formerly known to the sick senses
of Kinraid; yet it was too like a dream, too utterly improbable to
be real.

Yet the few words this man said, as he stood breathless and alone by
the fainting Kinraid, fitted in well with the belief conjured up by
his personal appearance. He panted out,--

'I niver thought you'd ha' kept true to her!'

And then the others came up; and while they were making a sling of
their belts, Kinraid fainted utterly away, and the next time that he
was fully conscious, he was lying in his berth in the _Tigre_, with
the ship surgeon setting his leg. After that he was too feverish for
several days to collect his senses. When he could first remember,
and form a judgment upon his recollections, he called the man
especially charged to attend upon him, and bade him go and make
inquiry in every possible manner for a marine named Philip Hepburn,
and, when he was found, to entreat him to come and see Kinraid.

The sailor was away the greater part of the day, and returned
unsuccessful in his search; he had been from ship to ship, hither
and thither; he had questioned all the marines he had met with, no
one knew anything of any Philip Hepburn.

Kinraid passed a miserably feverish night, and when the doctor
exclaimed the next morning at his retrogression, he told him, with
some irritation, of the ill-success of his servant; he accused the
man of stupidity, and wished fervently that he were able to go
himself.

Partly to soothe him, the doctor promised that he would undertake
the search for Hepburn, and he engaged faithfully to follow all
Kinraid's eager directions; not to be satisfied with men's careless
words, but to look over muster-rolls and ships' books.

He, too, brought the same answer, however unwillingly given.

He had set out upon the search so confident of success, that he felt
doubly discomfited by failure. However, he had persuaded himself
that the lieutenant had been partially delirious from the effects of
his wound, and the power of the sun shining down just where he lay.
There had, indeed, been slight symptoms of Kinraid's having received
a sun-stroke; and the doctor dwelt largely on these in his endeavour
to persuade his patient that it was his imagination which had endued
a stranger with the lineaments of some former friend.

Kinraid threw his arms out of bed with impatience at all this
plausible talk, which was even more irritating than the fact that
Hepburn was still undiscovered.

'The man was no friend of mine; I was like to have killed him when
last I saw him. He was a shopkeeper in a country town in England. I
had seen little enough of him; but enough to make me able to swear
to him anywhere, even in a marine's uniform, and in this sweltering
country.'

'Faces once seen, especially in excitement, are apt to return upon
the memory in cases of fever,' quoth the doctor, sententiously.

The attendant sailor, reinstalled to some complacency by the failure
of another in the search in which he himself had been unsuccessful,
now put in his explanation.

'Maybe it was a spirit. It's not th' first time as I've heared of a
spirit coming upon earth to save a man's life i' time o' need. My
father had an uncle, a west-country grazier. He was a-coming over
Dartmoor in Devonshire one moonlight night with a power o' money as
he'd got for his sheep at t' fair. It were stowed i' leather bags
under th' seat o' th' gig. It were a rough kind o' road, both as a
road and in character, for there'd been many robberies there of
late, and th' great rocks stood convenient for hiding-places. All at
once father's uncle feels as if some one were sitting beside him on
th' empty seat; and he turns his head and looks, and there he sees
his brother sitting--his brother as had been dead twelve year and
more. So he turns his head back again, eyes right, and never say a
word, but wonders what it all means. All of a sudden two fellows
come out upo' th' white road from some black shadow, and they
looked, and they let th' gig go past, father's uncle driving hard,
I'll warrant him. But for all that he heard one say to t' other,
"By----, there's _two_ on 'em!" Straight on he drove faster than
ever, till he saw th' far lights of some town or other. I forget its
name, though I've heared it many a time; and then he drew a long
breath, and turned his head to look at his brother, and ask him how
he'd managed to come out of his grave i' Barum churchyard, and th'
seat was as empty as it had been when he set out; and then he knew
that it were a spirit come to help him against th' men who thought
to rob him, and would likely enough ha' murdered him.'

Kinraid had kept quiet through this story. But when the sailor began
to draw the moral, and to say, 'And I think I may make bold to say,
sir, as th' marine who carried you out o' th' Frenchy's gun-shot was
just a spirit come to help you,' he exclaimed impatiently, swearing
a great oath as he did so, 'It was no spirit, I tell you; and I was
in my full senses. It was a man named Philip Hepburn. He said words
to me, or over me, as none but himself would have said. Yet we hated
each other like poison; and I can't make out why he should be there
and putting himself in danger to save me. But so it was; and as you
can't find him, let me hear no more of your nonsense. It was him,
and not my fancy, doctor. It was flesh and blood, and not a spirit,
Jack. So get along with you, and leave me quiet.'

All this time Stephen Freeman lay friendless, sick, and shattered,
on board the _Thesus_.

He had been about his duty close to some shells that were placed on
her deck; a gay young midshipman was thoughtlessly striving to get
the fusee out of one of these by a mallet and spike-nail that lay
close at hand; and a fearful explosion ensued, in which the poor
marine, cleaning his bayonet near, was shockingly burnt and
disfigured, the very skin of all the lower part of his face being
utterly destroyed by gunpowder. They said it was a mercy that his
eyes were spared; but he could hardly feel anything to be a mercy,
as he lay tossing in agony, burnt by the explosion, wounded by
splinters, and feeling that he was disabled for life, if life itself
were preserved. Of all that suffered by that fearful accident (and
they were many) none was so forsaken, so hopeless, so desolate, as
the Philip Hepburn about whom such anxious inquiries were being made
at that very time.



CHAPTER XXXIX

CONFIDENCES


It was a little later on in that same summer that Mrs. Brunton came
to visit her sister Bessy.

Bessy was married to a tolerably well-to-do farmer who lived at an
almost equal distance between Monkshaven and Hartswell; but from old
habit and convenience the latter was regarded as the Dawsons'
market-town; so Bessy seldom or never saw her old friends in
Monkshaven.

But Mrs. Brunton was far too flourishing a person not to speak out
her wishes, and have her own way. She had no notion, she said, of
coming such a long journey only to see Bessy and her husband, and
not to have a sight of her former acquaintances at Monkshaven. She
might have added, that her new bonnet and cloak would be as good as
lost if it was not displayed among those who, knowing her as Molly
Corney, and being less fortunate in matrimony than she was, would
look upon it with wondering admiration, if not with envy.

So one day farmer Dawson's market-cart deposited Mrs. Brunton in all
her bravery at the shop in the market-place, over which Hepburn and
Coulson's names still flourished in joint partnership.

After a few words of brisk recognition to Coulson and Hester, Mrs
Brunton passed on into the parlour and greeted Sylvia with
boisterous heartiness.

It was now four years and more since the friends had met; and each
secretly wondered how they had ever come to be friends. Sylvia had a
country, raw, spiritless look to Mrs. Brunton's eye; Molly was loud
and talkative, and altogether distasteful to Sylvia, trained in
daily companionship with Hester to appreciate soft slow speech, and
grave thoughtful ways.

However, they kept up the forms of their old friendship, though
their hearts had drifted far apart. They sat hand in hand while each
looked at the other with eyes inquisitive as to the changes which
time had made. Molly was the first to speak.

'Well, to be sure! how thin and pale yo've grown, Sylvia! Matrimony
hasn't agreed wi' yo' as well as it's done wi me. Brunton is allays
saying (yo' know what a man he is for his joke) that if he'd ha'
known how many yards o' silk I should ha' ta'en for a gown, he'd ha'
thought twice afore he'd ha' married me. Why, I've gained a matter
o' thirty pound o' flesh sin' I were married!'

'Yo' do look brave and hearty!' said Sylvia, putting her sense of
her companion's capacious size and high colour into the prettiest
words she could.

'Eh! Sylvia! but I know what it is,' said Molly, shaking her head.
'It's just because o' that husband o' thine as has gone and left
thee; thou's pining after him, and he's not worth it. Brunton said,
when he heared on it--I mind he was smoking at t' time, and he took
his pipe out of his mouth, and shook out t' ashes as grave as any
judge--"The man," says he, "as can desert a wife like Sylvia Robson
as was, deserves hanging!" That's what he says! Eh! Sylvia, but
speakin' o' hanging I was so grieved for yo' when I heared of yo'r
poor feyther! Such an end for a decent man to come to! Many a one
come an' called on me o' purpose to hear all I could tell 'em about
him!'

'Please don't speak on it!' said Sylvia, trembling all over.

'Well, poor creature, I wunnot. It is hard on thee, I grant. But to
give t' devil his due, it were good i' Hepburn to marry thee, and so
soon after there was a' that talk about thy feyther. Many a man
would ha' drawn back, choose howiver far they'd gone. I'm noane so
sure about Charley Kinraid. Eh, Sylvia! only think on his being
alive after all. I doubt if our Bessy would ha' wed Frank Dawson if
she'd known as he wasn't drowned. But it's as well she did, for
Dawson's a man o' property, and has getten twelve cows in his
cow-house, beside three right down good horses; and Kinraid were
allays a fellow wi' two strings to his bow. I've allays said and do
maintain, that he went on pretty strong wi' yo', Sylvie; and I will
say I think he cared more for yo' than for our Bessy, though it were
only yesterday at e'en she were standing out that he liked her
better than yo'. Yo'll ha' heared on his grand marriage?'

'No!' said Sylvia, with eager painful curiosity.

'No! It was in all t' papers! I wonder as yo' didn't see it. Wait a
minute! I cut it out o' t' _Gentleman's Magazine_, as Brunton bought
o' purpose, and put it i' my pocket-book when I were a-coming here:
I know I've got it somewheere.'

She took out her smart crimson pocket-book, and rummaged in the
pocket until she produced a little crumpled bit of printed paper,
from which she read aloud,

'On January the third, at St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, Charles
Kinraid, Esq., lieutenant Royal Navy, to Miss Clarinda Jackson, with
a fortune of 10,000_l_.'

'Theere!' said she, triumphantly, 'it's something as Brunton says,
to be cousin to that.'

'Would yo' let me see it?' said Sylvia, timidly.

Mrs. Brunton graciously consented; and Sylvia brought her newly
acquired reading-knowledge, hitherto principally exercised on the
Old Testament, to bear on these words.

There was nothing wonderful in them, nothing that she might not have
expected; and yet the surprise turned her giddy for a moment or two.
She never thought of seeing him again, never. But to think of his
caring for another woman as much as he had done for her, nay,
perhaps more!

The idea was irresistibly forced upon her that Philip would not have
acted so; it would have taken long years before he could have been
induced to put another on the throne she had once occupied. For the
first time in her life she seemed to recognize the real nature of
Philip's love.

But she said nothing but 'Thank yo',' when she gave the scrap of
paper back to Molly Brunton. And the latter continued giving her
information about Kinraid's marriage.

'He were down in t' west, Plymouth or somewheere, when he met wi'
her. She's no feyther; he'd been in t' sugar-baking business; but
from what Kinraid wrote to old Turner, th' uncle as brought him up
at Cullercoats, she's had t' best of edications: can play on t'
instrument and dance t' shawl dance; and Kinraid had all her money
settled on her, though she said she'd rayther give it all to him,
which I must say, being his cousin, was very pretty on her. He's
left her now, having to go off in t' _Tigre_, as is his ship, to t'
Mediterranean seas; and she's written to offer to come and see old
Turner, and make friends with his relations, and Brunton is going to
gi'e me a crimson satin as soon as we know for certain when she's
coming, for we're sure to be asked out to Cullercoats.'

'I wonder if she's very pretty?' asked Sylvia, faintly, in the first
pause in this torrent of talk.

'Oh! she's a perfect beauty, as I understand. There was a traveller
as come to our shop as had been at York, and knew some of her
cousins theere that were in t' grocery line--her mother was a York
lady--and they said she was just a picture of a woman, and iver so
many gentlemen had been wantin' to marry her, but she just waited
for Charley Kinraid, yo' see!'

'Well, I hope they'll be happy; I'm sure I do!' said Sylvia.

'That's just luck. Some folks is happy i' marriage, and some isn't.
It's just luck, and there's no forecasting it. Men is such
unaccountable animals, there's no prophesyin' upon 'em. Who'd ha'
thought of yo'r husband, him as was so slow and sure--steady Philip,
as we lasses used to ca' him--makin' a moonlight flittin', and
leavin' yo' to be a widow bewitched?'

'He didn't go at night,' said Sylvia, taking the words 'moonlight
flitting' in their literal sense.

'No! Well, I only said "moonlight flittin'" just because it come
uppermost and I knowed no better. Tell me all about it, Sylvie, for
I can't mak' it out from what Bessy says. Had he and yo' had
words?--but in course yo' had.'

At this moment Hester came into the room; and Sylvia joyfully
availed herself of the pretext for breaking off the conversation
that had reached this painful and awkward point. She detained Hester
in the room for fear lest Mrs. Brunton should repeat her inquiry as
to how it all happened that Philip had gone away; but the presence
of a third person seemed as though it would be but little restraint
upon the inquisitive Molly, who repeatedly bore down upon the same
questions till she nearly drove Sylvia distracted, between her
astonishment at the news of Kinraid's marriage; her wish to be alone
and quiet, so as to realize the full meaning of that piece of
intelligence; her desire to retain Hester in the conversation; her
efforts to prevent Molly's recurrence to the circumstances of
Philip's disappearance, and the longing--more vehement every
minute--for her visitor to go away and leave her in peace. She
became so disturbed with all these thoughts and feelings that she
hardly knew what she was saying, and assented or dissented to
speeches without there being either any reason or truth in her
words.

Mrs. Brunton had arranged to remain with Sylvia while the horse
rested, and had no compunction about the length of her visit. She
expected to be asked to tea, as Sylvia found out at last, and this
she felt would be the worst of all, as Alice Rose was not one to
tolerate the coarse, careless talk of such a woman as Mrs. Brunton
without uplifting her voice in many a testimony against it. Sylvia
sate holding Hester's gown tight in order to prevent her leaving the
room, and trying to arrange her little plans so that too much
discordance should not arise to the surface. Just then the door
opened, and little Bella came in from the kitchen in all the pretty,
sturdy dignity of two years old, Alice following her with careful
steps, and protecting, outstretched arms, a slow smile softening the
sternness of her grave face; for the child was the unconscious
darling of the household, and all eyes softened into love as they
looked on her. She made straight for her mother with something
grasped in her little dimpled fist; but half-way across the room she
seemed to have become suddenly aware of the presence of a stranger,
and she stopped short, fixing her serious eyes full on Mrs. Brunton,
as if to take in her appearance, nay, as if to penetrate down into
her very real self, and then, stretching out her disengaged hand,
the baby spoke out the words that had been hovering about her
mother's lips for an hour past.

'Do away!' said Bella, decisively.

'What a perfect love!' said Mrs. Brunton, half in real admiration,
half in patronage. As she spoke, she got up and went towards the
child, as if to take her up.

'Do away! do away!' cried Bella, in shrill affright at this
movement.

'Dunnot,' said Sylvia; 'she's shy; she doesn't know strangers.'

But Mrs. Brunton had grasped the struggling, kicking child by this
time, and her reward for this was a vehement little slap in the
face.

'Yo' naughty little spoilt thing!' said she, setting Bella down in a
hurry. 'Yo' deserve a good whipping, yo' do, and if yo' were mine
yo' should have it.'

Sylvia had no need to stand up for the baby who had run to her arms,
and was soothing herself with sobbing on her mother's breast; for
Alice took up the defence.

'The child said, as plain as words could say, "go away," and if thou
wouldst follow thine own will instead of heeding her wish, thou mun
put up with the wilfulness of the old Adam, of which it seems to me
thee hast getten thy share at thirty as well as little Bella at
two.'

'Thirty!' said Mrs. Brunton, now fairly affronted. 'Thirty! why,
Sylvia, yo' know I'm but two years older than yo'; speak to that
woman an' tell her as I'm only four-and-twenty. Thirty, indeed!'

'Molly's but four-and-twenty,' said Sylvia, in a pacificatory tone.

'Whether she be twenty, or thirty, or forty, is alike to me,' said
Alice. 'I meant no harm. I meant but for t' say as her angry words
to the child bespoke her to be one of the foolish. I know not who
she is, nor what her age may be.'

'She's an old friend of mine,' said Sylvia. 'She's Mrs. Brunton now,
but when I knowed her she was Molly Corney.'

'Ay! and yo' were Sylvia Robson, and as bonny and light-hearted a
lass as any in a' t' Riding, though now yo're a poor widow
bewitched, left wi' a child as I mustn't speak a word about, an'
living wi' folk as talk about t' old Adam as if he wasn't dead and
done wi' long ago! It's a change, Sylvia, as makes my heart ache for
yo', to think on them old days when yo' were so thought on yo' might
have had any man, as Brunton often says; it were a great mistake as
yo' iver took up wi' yon man as has run away. But seven year '11
soon be past fro' t' time he went off, and yo'll only be
six-and-twenty then; and there'll be a chance of a better husband
for yo' after all, so keep up yo'r heart, Sylvia.'

Molly Brunton had put as much venom as she knew how into this
speech, meaning it as a vengeful payment for the supposition of her
being thirty, even more than for the reproof for her angry words
about the child. She thought that Alice Rose must be either mother
or aunt to Philip, from the serious cast of countenance that was
remarkable in both; and she rather exulted in the allusion to a
happier second marriage for Sylvia, with which she had concluded her
speech. It roused Alice, however, as effectually as if she had been
really a blood relation to Philip; but for a different reason. She
was not slow to detect the intentional offensiveness to herself in
what had been said; she was indignant at Sylvia for suffering the
words spoken to pass unanswered; but in truth they were too much in
keeping with Molly Brunton's character to make as much impression on
Sylvia as they did on a stranger; and besides, she felt as if the
less reply Molly received, the less likely would it be that she
would go on in the same strain. So she coaxed and chattered to her
child and behaved like a little coward in trying to draw out of the
conversation, while at the same time listening attentively.

'As for Sylvia Hepburn as was Sylvia Robson, she knows my mind,'
said Alice, in grim indignation. 'She's humbling herself now, I
trust and pray, but she was light-minded and full of vanity when
Philip married her, and it might ha' been a lift towards her
salvation in one way; but it pleased the Lord to work in a different
way, and she mun wear her sackcloth and ashes in patience. So I'll
say naught more about her. But for him as is absent, as thee hast
spoken on so lightly and reproachfully, I'd have thee to know he
were one of a different kind to any thee ever knew, I reckon. If he
were led away by a pretty face to slight one as was fitter for him,
and who had loved him as the apple of her eye, it's him as is
suffering for it, inasmuch as he's a wanderer from his home, and an
outcast from wife and child.'

To the surprise of all, Molly's words of reply were cut short even
when they were on her lips, by Sylvia. Pale, fire-eyed, and excited,
with Philip's child on one arm, and the other stretched out, she
said,--

'Noane can tell--noane know. No one shall speak a judgment 'twixt
Philip and me. He acted cruel and wrong by me. But I've said my
words to him hissel', and I'm noane going to make any plaint to
others; only them as knows should judge. And it's not fitting, it's
not' (almost sobbing), 'to go on wi' talk like this afore me.'

The two--for Hester, who was aware that her presence had only been
desired by Sylvia as a check to an unpleasant _tete-a-tete_
conversation, had slipped back to her business as soon as her mother
came in--the two looked with surprise at Sylvia; her words, her
whole manner, belonged to a phase of her character which seldom came
uppermost, and which had not been perceived by either of them
before.

Alice Rose, though astonished, rather approved of Sylvia's speech;
it showed that she had more serious thought and feeling on the
subject than the old woman had given her credit for; her general
silence respecting her husband's disappearance had led Alice to
think that she was too childish to have received any deep impression
from the event. Molly Brunton gave vent to her opinion on Sylvia's
speech in the following words:--

'Hoighty-toighty! That tells tales, lass. If yo' treated steady
Philip to many such looks an' speeches as yo'n given us now, it's
easy t' see why he took hisself off. Why, Sylvia, I niver saw it in
yo' when yo' was a girl; yo're grown into a regular little vixen,
theere wheere yo' stand!'

Indeed she did look defiant, with the swift colour flushing her
cheeks to crimson on its return, and the fire in her eyes not yet
died away. But at Molly's jesting words she sank back into her usual
look and manner, only saying quietly,--

'It's for noane to say whether I'm vixen or not, as doesn't know th'
past things as is buried in my heart. But I cannot hold them as my
friends as go on talking on either my husband or me before my very
face. What he was, I know; and what I am, I reckon he knows. And now
I'll go hurry tea, for yo'll be needing it, Molly!'

The last clause of this speech was meant to make peace; but Molly
was in twenty minds as to whether she should accept the olive-branch
or not. Her temper, however, was of that obtuse kind which is not
easily ruffled; her mind, stagnant in itself, enjoyed excitement
from without; and her appetite was invariably good, so she stayed,
in spite of the inevitable _tete-a-tete_ with Alice. The latter,
however, refused to be drawn into conversation again; replying to
Mrs. Brunton's speeches with a curt yes or no, when, indeed, she
replied at all.

When all were gathered at tea, Sylvia was quite calm again; rather
paler than usual, and very attentive and subduced in her behaviour
to Alice; she would evidently fain have been silent, but as Molly
was her own especial guest, that could not be, so all her endeavours
went towards steering the conversation away from any awkward points.
But each of the four, let alone little Bella, was thankful when the
market-cart drew up at the shop door, that was to take Mrs. Brunton
back to her sister's house.

When she was fairly off, Alice Rose opened her mouth in strong
condemnation; winding up with--

'And if aught in my words gave thee cause for offence, Sylvia, it
was because my heart rose within me at the kind of talk thee and she
had been having about Philip; and her evil and light-minded counsel
to thee about waiting seven years, and then wedding another.'

Hard as these words may seem when repeated, there was something of a
nearer approach to an apology in Mrs. Rose's manner than Sylvia had
ever seen in it before. She was silent for a few moments, then she
said,--

'I ha' often thought of telling yo' and Hester, special-like, when
yo've been so kind to my little Bella, that Philip an' me could
niver come together again; no, not if he came home this very
night----'

She would have gone on speaking, but Hester interrupted her with a
low cry of dismay.

Alice said,--

'Hush thee, Hester. It's no business o' thine. Sylvia Hepburn,
thou'rt speaking like a silly child.'

'No. I'm speaking like a woman; like a woman as finds out she's been
cheated by men as she trusted, and as has no help for it. I'm noane
going to say any more about it. It's me as has been wronged, and as
has to bear it: only I thought I'd tell yo' both this much, that yo'
might know somewhat why he went away, and how I said my last word
about it.'

So indeed it seemed. To all questions and remonstrances from Alice,
Sylvia turned a deaf ear. She averted her face from Hester's sad,
wistful looks; only when they were parting for the night, at the top
of the little staircase, she turned, and putting her arms round
Hester's neck she laid her head on her neck, and whispered,--

'Poor Hester--poor, poor Hester! if yo' an' he had but been married
together, what a deal o' sorrow would ha' been spared to us all!'

Hester pushed her away as she finished these words; looked
searchingly into her face, her eyes, and then followed Sylvia into
her room, where Bella lay sleeping, shut the door, and almost knelt
down at Sylvia's feet, clasping her, and hiding her face in the
folds of the other's gown.

'Sylvia, Sylvia,' she murmured, 'some one has told you--I thought no
one knew--it's no sin--it's done away with now--indeed it is--it was
long ago--before yo' were married; but I cannot forget. It was a
shame, perhaps, to have thought on it iver, when he niver thought o'
me; but I niver believed as any one could ha' found it out. I'm just
fit to sink into t' ground, what wi' my sorrow and my shame.'

Hester was stopped by her own rising sobs, immediately she was in
Sylvia's arms. Sylvia was sitting on the ground holding her, and
soothing her with caresses and broken words.

'I'm allays saying t' wrong things,' said she. 'It seems as if I
were all upset to-day; and indeed I am;' she added, alluding to the
news of Kinraid's marriage she had yet to think upon.

'But it wasn't yo', Hester: it were nothing yo' iver said, or did,
or looked, for that matter. It were yo'r mother as let it out.'

'Oh, mother! mother!' wailed out Hester; 'I niver thought as any one
but God would ha' known that I had iver for a day thought on his
being more to me than a brother.'

Sylvia made no reply, only went on stroking Hester's smooth brown
hair, off which her cap had fallen. Sylvia was thinking how strange
life was, and how love seemed to go all at cross purposes; and was
losing herself in bewilderment at the mystery of the world; she was
almost startled when Hester rose up, and taking Sylvia's hands in
both of hers, and looking solemnly at her, said,--

'Sylvia, yo' know what has been my trouble and my shame, and I'm
sure yo're sorry for me--for I will humble myself to yo', and own
that for many months before yo' were married, I felt my
disappointment like a heavy burden laid on me by day and by night;
but now I ask yo', if yo've any pity for me for what I went through,
or if yo've any love for me because of yo'r dead mother's love for
me, or because of any fellowship, or daily breadliness between us
two,--put the hard thoughts of Philip away from out yo'r heart; he
may ha' done yo' wrong, anyway yo' think that he has; I niver knew
him aught but kind and good; but if he comes back from wheriver in
th' wide world he's gone to (and there's not a night but I pray God
to keep him, and send him safe back), yo' put away the memory of
past injury, and forgive it all, and be, what yo' can be, Sylvia, if
you've a mind to, just the kind, good wife he ought to have.'

'I cannot; yo' know nothing about it, Hester.'

'Tell me, then,' pleaded Hester.

'No!' said Sylvia, after a moment's hesitation; 'I'd do a deal for
yo', I would, but I daren't forgive Philip, even if I could; I took
a great oath again' him. Ay, yo' may look shocked at me, but it's
him as yo' ought for to be shocked at if yo' knew all. I said I'd
niver forgive him; I shall keep to my word.'

'I think I'd better pray for his death, then,' said Hester,
hopelessly, and almost bitterly, loosing her hold of Sylvia's hands.

'If it weren't for baby theere, I could think as it were my death as
'ud be best. Them as one thinks t' most on, forgets one soonest.'

It was Kinraid to whom she was alluding; but Hester did not
understand her; and after standing for a moment in silence, she
kissed her, and left her for the night.



CHAPTER XL

AN UNEXPECTED MESSENGER


After this agitation, and these partial confidences, no more was
said on the subject of Philip for many weeks. They avoided even the
slightest allusion to him; and none of them knew how seldom or how
often he might be present in the minds of the others.

One day the little Bella was unusually fractious with some slight
childish indisposition, and Sylvia was obliged to have recourse to a
never-failing piece of amusement; namely, to take the child into the
shop, when the number of new, bright-coloured articles was sure to
beguile the little girl out of her fretfulness. She was walking
along the high terrace of the counter, kept steady by her mother's
hand, when Mr. Dawson's market-cart once more stopped before the
door. But it was not Mrs. Brunton who alighted now; it was a very
smartly-dressed, very pretty young lady, who put one dainty foot
before the other with care, as if descending from such a primitive
vehicle were a new occurrence in her life. Then she looked up at the
names above the shop-door, and after ascertaining that this was
indeed the place she desired to find, she came in blushing.

'Is Mrs. Hepburn at home?' she asked of Hester, whose position in the
shop brought her forwards to receive the customers, while Sylvia
drew Bella out of sight behind some great bales of red flannel.

'Can I see her?' the sweet, south-country voice went on, still
addressing Hester. Sylvia heard the inquiry, and came forwards, with
a little rustic awkwardness, feeling both shy and curious.

'Will yo' please walk this way, ma'am?' said she, leading her
visitor back into her own dominion of the parlour, and leaving Bella
to Hester's willing care.

'You don't know me!' said the pretty young lady, joyously. 'But I
think you knew my husband. I am Mrs. Kinraid!'

A sob of surprise rose to Sylvia's lips--she choked it down,
however, and tried to conceal any emotion she might feel, in placing
a chair for her visitor, and trying to make her feel welcome,
although, if the truth must be told, Sylvia was wondering all the
time why her visitor came, and how soon she would go.

'You knew Captain Kinraid, did you not?' said the young lady, with
innocent inquiry; to which Sylvia's lips formed the answer, 'Yes,'
but no clear sound issued therefrom.

'But I know your husband knew the captain; is he at home yet? Can I
speak to him? I do so want to see him.'

Sylvia was utterly bewildered; Mrs. Kinraid, this pretty, joyous,
prosperous little bird of a woman, Philip, Charley's wife, what
could they have in common? what could they know of each other? All
she could say in answer to Mrs. Kinraid's eager questions, and still
more eager looks, was, that her husband was from home, had been long
from home: she did not know where he was, she did not know when he
would come back.

Mrs. Kinraid's face fell a little, partly from her own real
disappointment, partly out of sympathy with the hopeless,
indifferent tone of Sylvia's replies.

'Mrs. Dawson told me he had gone away rather suddenly a year ago, but
I thought he might be come home by now. I am expecting the captain
early next month. Oh! how I should have liked to see Mr. Hepburn, and
to thank him for saving the captain's life!'

'What do yo' mean?' asked Sylvia, stirred out of all assumed
indifference. 'The captain! is that' (not 'Charley', she could not
use that familiar name to the pretty young wife before her) 'yo'r
husband?'

'Yes, you knew him, didn't you? when he used to be staying with Mr
Corney, his uncle?'

'Yes, I knew him; but I don't understand. Will yo' please to tell me
all about it, ma'am?' said Sylvia, faintly.

'I thought your husband would have told you all about it; I hardly
know where to begin. You know my husband is a sailor?'

Sylvia nodded assent, listening greedily, her heart beating thick
all the time.

'And he's now a Commander in the Royal Navy, all earned by his own
bravery! Oh! I am so proud of him!'

So could Sylvia have been if she had been his wife; as it was, she
thought how often she had felt sure that he would be a great man
some day.

'And he has been at the siege of Acre.'

Sylvia looked perplexed at these strange words, and Mrs. Kinraid
caught the look.

'St Jean d'Acre, you know--though it's fine saying "you know", when
I didn't know a bit about it myself till the captain's ship was
ordered there, though I was the head girl at Miss Dobbin's in the
geography class--Acre is a seaport town, not far from Jaffa, which
is the modern name for Joppa, where St Paul went to long ago; you've
read of that, I'm sure, and Mount Carmel, where the prophet Elijah
was once, all in Palestine, you know, only the Turks have got it
now?'

'But I don't understand yet,' said Sylvia, plaintively; 'I daresay
it's all very true about St Paul, but please, ma'am, will yo' tell
me about yo'r husband and mine--have they met again?'

'Yes, at Acre, I tell you,' said Mrs. Kinraid, with pretty petulance.
'The Turks held the town, and the French wanted to take it; and we,
that is the British Fleet, wouldn't let them. So Sir Sidney Smith, a
commodore and a great friend of the captain's, landed in order to
fight the French; and the captain and many of the sailors landed
with him; and it was burning hot; and the poor captain was wounded,
and lay a-dying of pain and thirst within the enemy's--that is the
French--fire; so that they were ready to shoot any one of his own
side who came near him. They thought he was dead himself, you see,
as he was very near; and would have been too, if your husband had
not come out of shelter, and taken him up in his arms or on his back
(I couldn't make out which), and carried him safe within the walls.'

'It couldn't have been Philip,' said Sylvia, dubiously.

'But it was. The captain says so; and he's not a man to be mistaken.
I thought I'd got his letter with me; and I would have read you a
part of it, but I left it at Mrs. Dawson's in my desk; and I can't
send it to you,' blushing as she remembered certain passages in
which 'the captain' wrote very much like a lover, 'or else I would.
But you may be quite sure it was your husband that ventured into all
that danger to save his old friend's life, or the captain would not
have said so.'

'But they weren't--they weren't--not to call great friends.'

'I wish I'd got the letter here; I can't think how I could be so
stupid; I think I can almost remember the very words, though--I've
read them over so often. He says, "Just as I gave up all hope, I saw
one Philip Hepburn, a man whom I had known at Monkshaven, and whom I
had some reason to remember well"--(I'm sure he says so--"remember
well"), "he saw me too, and came at the risk of his life to where I
lay. I fully expected he would be shot down; and I shut my eyes not
to see the end of my last chance. The shot rained about him, and I
think he was hit; but he took me up and carried me under cover." I'm
sure he says that, I've read it over so often; and he goes on and
says how he hunted for Mr. Hepburn all through the ships, as soon as
ever he could; but he could hear nothing of him, either alive or
dead. Don't go so white, for pity's sake!' said she, suddenly
startled by Sylvia's blanching colour. 'You see, because he couldn't
find him alive is no reason for giving him up as dead; because his
name wasn't to be found on any of the ships' books; so the captain
thinks he must have been known by a different name to his real one.
Only he says he should like to have seen him to have thanked him;
and he says he would give a deal to know what has become of him; and
as I was staying two days at Mrs. Dawson's, I told them I must come
over to Monkshaven, if only for five minutes, just to hear if your
good husband was come home, and to shake his hands, that helped to
save my own dear captain.'

'I don't think it could have been Philip,' reiterated Sylvia.

'Why not?' asked her visitor; 'you say you don't know where he is;
why mightn't he have been there where the captain says he was?'

'But he wasn't a sailor, nor yet a soldier.'

'Oh! but he was. I think somewhere the captain calls him a marine;
that's neither one nor the other, but a little of both. He'll be
coming home some day soon; and then you'll see!'

Alice Rose came in at this minute, and Mrs. Kinraid jumped to the
conclusion that she was Sylvia's mother, and in her overflowing
gratitude and friendliness to all the family of him who had 'saved
the captain' she went forward, and shook the old woman's hand in
that pleasant confiding way that wins all hearts.

'Here's your daughter, ma'am!' said she to the half-astonished,
half-pleased Alice. 'I'm Mrs. Kinraid, the wife of the captain that
used to be in these parts, and I'm come to bring her news of her
husband, and she don't half believe me, though it's all to his
credit, I'm sure.'

Alice looked so perplexed that Sylvia felt herself bound to explain.

'She says he's either a soldier or a sailor, and a long way off at
some place named in t' Bible.'

'Philip Hepburn led away to be a soldier!' said she, 'who had once
been a Quaker?'

'Yes, and a very brave one too, and one that it would do my heart
good to look upon,' exclaimed Mrs. Kinraid. 'He's been saving my
husband's life in the Holy Land, where Jerusalem is, you know.'

'Nay!' said Alice, a little scornfully. 'I can forgive Sylvia for
not being over keen to credit thy news. Her man of peace becoming a
man of war; and suffered to enter Jerusalem, which is a heavenly and
a typical city at this time; while me, as is one of the elect, is
obliged to go on dwelling in Monkshaven, just like any other body.'

'Nay, but,' said Mrs. Kinraid, gently, seeing she was touching on
delicate ground, 'I did not say he had gone to Jerusalem, but my
husband saw him in those parts, and he was doing his duty like a
brave, good man; ay, and more than his duty; and, you may take my
word for it, he'll be at home some day soon, and all I beg is that
you'll let the captain and me know, for I'm sure if we can, we'll
both come and pay our respects to him. And I'm very glad I've seen
you,' said she, rising to go, and putting out her hand to shake that
of Sylvia; 'for, besides being Hepburn's wife, I'm pretty sure I've
heard the captain speak of you; and if ever you come to Bristol I
hope you'll come and see us on Clifton Downs.'

She went away, leaving Sylvia almost stunned by the new ideas
presented to her. Philip a soldier! Philip in a battle, risking his
life. Most strange of all, Charley and Philip once more meeting
together, not as rivals or as foes, but as saviour and saved! Add to
all this the conviction, strengthened by every word that happy,
loving wife had uttered, that Kinraid's old, passionate love for
herself had faded away and vanished utterly: its very existence
apparently blotted out of his memory. She had torn up her love for
him by the roots, but she felt as if she could never forget that it
had been.

Hester brought back Bella to her mother. She had not liked to
interrupt the conversation with the strange lady before; and now she
found her mother in an obvious state of excitement; Sylvia quieter
than usual.

'That was Kinraid's wife, Hester! Him that was th' specksioneer as
made such a noise about t' place at the time of Darley's death. He's
now a captain--a navy captain, according to what she says. And she'd
fain have us believe that Philip is abiding in all manner of
Scripture places; places as has been long done away with, but the
similitude whereof is in the heavens, where the elect shall one day
see them. And she says Philip is there, and a soldier, and that he
saved her husband's life, and is coming home soon. I wonder what
John and Jeremiah 'll say to his soldiering then? It'll noane be to
their taste, I'm thinking.'

This was all very unintelligible to Hester, and she would dearly
have liked to question Sylvia; but Sylvia sate a little apart, with
Bella on her knee, her cheek resting on her child's golden curls,
and her eyes fixed and almost trance-like, as if she were seeing
things not present.

So Hester had to be content with asking her mother as many
elucidatory questions as she could; and after all did not gain a
very clear idea of what had really been said by Mrs. Kinraid, as her
mother was more full of the apparent injustice of Philip's being
allowed the privilege of treading on holy ground--if, indeed, that
holy ground existed on this side heaven, which she was inclined to
dispute--than to confine herself to the repetition of words, or
narration of facts.

Suddenly Sylvia roused herself to a sense of Hester's deep interest
and balked inquiries, and she went over the ground rapidly.

'Yo'r mother says right--she is his wife. And he's away fighting;
and got too near t' French as was shooting and firing all round him;
and just then, according to her story, Philip saw him, and went
straight into t' midst o' t' shots, and fetched him out o' danger.
That's what she says, and upholds.'

'And why should it not be?' asked Hester, her cheek flushing.

But Sylvia only shook her head, and said,

'I cannot tell. It may be so. But they'd little cause to be friends,
and it seems all so strange--Philip a soldier, and them meeting
theere after all!'

Hester laid the story of Philip's bravery to her heart--she fully
believed in it. Sylvia pondered it more deeply still; the causes for
her disbelief, or, at any rate, for her wonder, were unknown to
Hester! Many a time she sank to sleep with the picture of the event
narrated by Mrs. Kinraid as present to her mind as her imagination or
experience could make it: first one figure prominent, then another.
Many a morning she wakened up, her heart beating wildly, why, she
knew not, till she shuddered at the remembrance of the scenes that
had passed in her dreams: scenes that might be acted in reality that
very day; for Philip might come back, and then?

And where was Philip all this time, these many weeks, these heavily
passing months?



CHAPTER XLI

THE BEDESMAN OF ST SEPULCHRE


Philip lay long ill on board the hospital ship. If his heart had
been light, he might have rallied sooner; but he was so depressed he
did not care to live. His shattered jaw-bone, his burnt and
blackened face, his many injuries of body, were torture to both his
physical frame, and his sick, weary heart. No more chance for him,
if indeed there ever had been any, of returning gay and gallant, and
thus regaining his wife's love. This had been his poor, foolish
vision in the first hour of his enlistment; and the vain dream had
recurred more than once in the feverish stage of excitement which
the new scenes into which he had been hurried as a recruit had
called forth. But that was all over now. He knew that it was the
most unlikely thing in the world to have come to pass; and yet those
were happy days when he could think of it as barely possible. Now
all he could look forward to was disfigurement, feebleness, and the
bare pittance that keeps pensioners from absolute want.

Those around him were kind enough to him in their fashion, and
attended to his bodily requirements; but they had no notion of
listening to any revelations of unhappiness, if Philip had been the
man to make confidences of that kind. As it was, he lay very still
in his berth, seldom asking for anything, and always saying he was
better, when the ship-surgeon came round with his daily inquiries.
But he did not care to rally, and was rather sorry to find that his
case was considered so interesting in a surgical point of view, that
he was likely to receive a good deal more than the average amount of
attention. Perhaps it was owing to this that he recovered at all.
The doctors said it was the heat that made him languid, for that his
wounds and burns were all doing well at last; and by-and-by they
told him they had ordered him 'home'. His pulse sank under the
surgeon's finger at the mention of the word; but he did not say a
word. He was too indifferent to life and the world to have a will;
otherwise they might have kept their pet patient a little longer
where he was.

Slowly passing from ship to ship as occasion served; resting here
and there in garrison hospitals, Philip at length reached Portsmouth
on the evening of a September day in 1799. The transport-ship in
which he was, was loaded with wounded and invalided soldiers and
sailors; all who could manage it in any way struggled on deck to
catch the first view of the white coasts of England. One man lifted
his arm, took off his cap, and feebly waved it aloft, crying, 'Old
England for ever!' in a faint shrill voice, and then burst into
tears and sobbed aloud. Others tried to pipe up 'Rule Britannia',
while more sate, weak and motionless, looking towards the shores
that once, not so long ago, they never thought to see again. Philip
was one of these; his place a little apart from the other men. He
was muffled up in a great military cloak that had been given him by
one of his officers; he felt the September breeze chill after his
sojourn in a warmer climate, and in his shattered state of health.

As the ship came in sight of Portsmouth harbour, the signal flags
ran up the ropes; the beloved Union Jack floated triumphantly over
all. Return signals were made from the harbour; on board all became
bustle and preparation for landing; while on shore there was the
evident movement of expectation, and men in uniform were seen
pressing their way to the front, as if to them belonged the right of
reception. They were the men from the barrack hospital, that had
been signalled for, come down with ambulance litters and other marks
of forethought for the sick and wounded, who were returning to the
country for which they had fought and suffered.

With a dash and a great rocking swing the vessel came up to her
appointed place, and was safely moored. Philip sat still, almost as
if he had no part in the cries of welcome, the bustling care, the
loud directions that cut the air around him, and pierced his nerves
through and through. But one in authority gave the order; and
Philip, disciplined to obedience, rose to find his knapsack and
leave the ship. Passive as he seemed to be, he had his likings for
particular comrades; there was one especially, a man as different
from Philip as well could be, to whom the latter had always attached
himself; a merry fellow from Somersetshire, who was almost always
cheerful and bright, though Philip had overheard the doctors say he
would never be the man he was before he had that shot through the
side. This marine would often sit making his fellows laugh, and
laughing himself at his own good-humoured jokes, till so terrible a
fit of coughing came on that those around him feared he would die in
the paroxysm. After one of these fits he had gasped out some words,
which led Philip to question him a little; and it turned out that in
the quiet little village of Potterne, far inland, nestled beneath
the high stretches of Salisbury Plain, he had a wife and a child, a
little girl, just the same age even to a week as Philip's own little
Bella. It was this that drew Philip towards the man; and this that
made Philip wait and go ashore along with the poor consumptive
marine.

The litters had moved off towards the hospital, the sergeant in
charge had given his words of command to the remaining invalids, who
tried to obey them to the best of their power, falling into
something like military order for their march; but soon, very soon,
the weakest broke step, and lagged behind; and felt as if the rough
welcomes and rude expressions of sympathy from the crowd around were
almost too much for them. Philip and his companion were about
midway, when suddenly a young woman with a child in her arms forced
herself through the people, between the soldiers who kept pressing
on either side, and threw herself on the neck of Philip's friend.

'Oh, Jem!' she sobbed, 'I've walked all the road from Potterne. I've
never stopped but for food and rest for Nelly, and now I've got you
once again, I've got you once again, bless God for it!'

She did not seem to see the deadly change that had come over her
husband since she parted with him a ruddy young labourer; she had
got him once again, as she phrased it, and that was enough for her;
she kissed his face, his hands, his very coat, nor would she be
repulsed from walking beside him and holding his hand, while her
little girl ran along scared by the voices and the strange faces,
and clinging to her mammy's gown.

Jem coughed, poor fellow! he coughed his churchyard cough; and
Philip bitterly envied him--envied his life, envied his approaching
death; for was he not wrapped round with that woman's tender love,
and is not such love stronger than death? Philip had felt as if his
own heart was grown numb, and as though it had changed to a cold
heavy stone. But at the contrast of this man's lot to his own, he
felt that he had yet the power of suffering left to him.

The road they had to go was full of people, kept off in some measure
by the guard of soldiers. All sorts of kindly speeches, and many a
curious question, were addressed to the poor invalids as they walked
along. Philip's jaw, and the lower part of his face, were bandaged
up; his cap was slouched down; he held his cloak about him, and
shivered within its folds.

They came to a standstill from some slight obstacle at the corner of
a street. Down the causeway of this street a naval officer with a
lady on his arm was walking briskly, with a step that told of health
and a light heart. He stayed his progress though, when he saw the
convoy of maimed and wounded men; he said something, of which Philip
only caught the words, 'same uniform,' 'for his sake,' to the young
lady, whose cheek blanched a little, but whose eyes kindled. Then
leaving her for an instant, he pressed forward; he was close to
Philip,--poor sad Philip absorbed in his own thoughts,--so absorbed
that he noticed nothing till he heard a voice at his ear, having the
Northumbrian burr, the Newcastle inflections which he knew of old,
and that were to him like the sick memory of a deadly illness; and
then he turned his muffled face to the speaker, though he knew well
enough who it was, and averted his eyes after one sight of the
handsome, happy man,--the man whose life he had saved once, and
would save again, at the risk of his own, but whom, for all that, he
prayed that he might never meet more on earth.

'Here, my fine fellow, take this,' forcing a crown piece into
Philip's hand. 'I wish it were more; I'd give you a pound if I had
it with me.'

Philip muttered something, and held out the coin to Captain Kinraid,
of course in vain; nor was there time to urge it back upon the
giver, for the obstacle to their progress was suddenly removed, the
crowd pressed upon the captain and his wife, the procession moved
on, and Philip along with it, holding the piece in his hand, and
longing to throw it far away. Indeed he was on the point of dropping
it, hoping to do so unperceived, when he bethought him of giving it
to Jem's wife, the footsore woman, limping happily along by her
husband's side. They thanked him, and spoke in his praise more than
he could well bear. It was no credit to him to give that away which
burned his fingers as long as he kept it.

Philip knew that the injuries he had received in the explosion on
board the _Theseus_ would oblige him to leave the service. He also
believed that they would entitle him to a pension. But he had little
interest in his future life; he was without hope, and in a depressed
state of health. He remained for some little time stationary, and
then went through all the forms of dismissal on account of wounds
received in service, and was turned out loose upon the world,
uncertain where to go, indifferent as to what became of him.

It was fine, warm October weather as he turned his back upon the
coast, and set off on his walk northwards. Green leaves were yet
upon the trees; the hedges were one flush of foliage and the wild
rough-flavoured fruits of different kinds; the fields were tawny
with the uncleared-off stubble, or emerald green with the growth of
the aftermath. The roadside cottage gardens were gay with hollyhocks
and Michaelmas daisies and marigolds, and the bright panes of the
windows glittered through a veil of China roses.

The war was a popular one, and, as a natural consequence, soldiers
and sailors were heroes everywhere. Philip's long drooping form, his
arm hung in a sling, his face scarred and blackened, his jaw bound
up with a black silk handkerchief; these marks of active service
were reverenced by the rustic cottagers as though they had been
crowns and sceptres. Many a hard-handed labourer left his seat by
the chimney corner, and came to his door to have a look at one who
had been fighting the French, and pushed forward to have a grasp of
the stranger's hand as he gave back the empty cup into the good
wife's keeping, for the kind homely women were ever ready with milk
or homebrewed to slake the feverish traveller's thirst when he
stopped at their doors and asked for a drink of water.

At the village public-house he had had a welcome of a more
interested character, for the landlord knew full well that his
circle of customers would be large that night, if it was only known
that he had within his doors a soldier or a sailor who had seen
service. The rustic politicians would gather round Philip, and smoke
and drink, and then question and discuss till they were drouthy
again; and in their sturdy obtuse minds they set down the extra
glass and the supernumerary pipe to the score of patriotism.

Altogether human nature turned its sunny side out to Philip just
now; and not before he needed the warmth of brotherly kindness to
cheer his shivering soul. Day after day he drifted northwards,
making but the slow progress of a feeble man, and yet this short
daily walk tired him so much that he longed for rest--for the
morning to come when he needed not to feel that in the course of an
hour or two he must be up and away.

He was toiling on with this longing at his heart when he saw that he
was drawing near a stately city, with a great old cathedral in the
centre keeping solemn guard. This place might be yet two or three
miles distant; he was on a rising ground looking down upon it. A
labouring man passing by, observed his pallid looks and his languid
attitude, and told him for his comfort, that if he turned down a
lane to the left a few steps farther on, he would find himself at
the Hospital of St Sepulchre, where bread and beer were given to all
comers, and where he might sit him down and rest awhile on the old
stone benches within the shadow of the gateway. Obeying these
directions, Philip came upon a building which dated from the time of
Henry the Fifth. Some knight who had fought in the French wars of
that time, and had survived his battles and come home to his old
halls, had been stirred up by his conscience, or by what was
equivalent in those days, his confessor, to build and endow a
hospital for twelve decayed soldiers, and a chapel wherein they were
to attend the daily masses he ordained to be said till the end of
all time (which eternity lasted rather more than a century, pretty
well for an eternity bespoken by a man), for his soul and the souls
of those whom he had slain. There was a large division of the
quadrangular building set apart for the priest who was to say these
masses; and to watch over the well-being of the bedesmen. In process
of years the origin and primary purpose of the hospital had been
forgotten by all excepting the local antiquaries; and the place
itself came to be regarded as a very pleasant quaint set of
almshouses; and the warden's office (he who should have said or sung
his daily masses was now called the warden, and read daily prayers
and preached a sermon on Sundays) an agreeable sinecure.

Another legacy of old Sir Simon Bray was that of a small croft of
land, the rent or profits of which were to go towards giving to all
who asked for it a manchet of bread and a cup of good beer. This
beer was, so Sir Simon ordained, to be made after a certain receipt
which he left, in which ground ivy took the place of hops. But the
receipt, as well as the masses, was modernized according to the
progress of time.

Philip stood under a great broad stone archway; the back-door into
the warden's house was on the right side; a kind of buttery-hatch
was placed by the porter's door on the opposite side. After some
consideration, Philip knocked at the closed shutter, and the signal
seemed to be well understood. He heard a movement within; the hatch
was drawn aside, and his bread and beer were handed to him by a
pleasant-looking old man, who proved himself not at all disinclined
for conversation.

'You may sit down on yonder bench,' said he. 'Nay, man! sit i' the
sun, for it's a chilly place, this, and then you can look through
the grate and watch th' old fellows toddling about in th' quad.'

Philip sat down where the warm October sun slanted upon him, and
looked through the iron railing at the peaceful sight.

A great square of velvet lawn, intersected diagonally with broad
flag-paved walks, the same kind of walk going all round the
quadrangle; low two-storied brick houses, tinted gray and yellow by
age, and in many places almost covered with vines, Virginian
creepers, and monthly roses; before each house a little plot of
garden ground, bright with flowers, and evidently tended with the
utmost care; on the farther side the massive chapel; here and there
an old or infirm man sunning himself, or leisurely doing a bit of
gardening, or talking to one of his comrades--the place looked as if
care and want, and even sorrow, were locked out and excluded by the
ponderous gate through which Philip was gazing.

'It's a nice enough place, bean't it?' said the porter, interpreting
Philip's looks pretty accurately. 'Leastways, for them as likes it.
I've got a bit weary on it myself; it's so far from th' world, as a
man may say; not a decent public within a mile and a half, where one
can hear a bit o' news of an evening.'

'I think I could make myself very content here,' replied Philip.
'That's to say, if one were easy in one's mind.'

'Ay, ay, my man. That's it everywhere. Why, I don't think that I
could enjoy myself--not even at th' White Hart, where they give you
as good a glass of ale for twopence as anywhere i' th' four
kingdoms--I couldn't, to say, flavour my ale even there, if my old
woman lay a-dying; which is a sign as it's the heart, and not the
ale, as makes the drink.'

Just then the warden's back-door opened, and out came the warden
himself, dressed in full clerical costume.

He was going into the neighbouring city, but he stopped to speak to
Philip, the wounded soldier; and all the more readily because his
old faded uniform told the warden's experienced eye that he had
belonged to the Marines.

'I hope you enjoy the victual provided for you by the founder of St
Sepulchre,' said he, kindly. 'You look but poorly, my good fellow,
and as if a slice of good cold meat would help your bread down.'

'Thank you, sir!' said Philip. 'I'm not hungry, only weary, and glad
of a draught of beer.'

'You've been in the Marines, I see. Where have you been serving?'

'I was at the siege of Acre, last May, sir.'

'At Acre! Were you, indeed? Then perhaps you know my boy Harry? He
was in the----th.'

'It was my company,' said Philip, warming up a little. Looking back
upon his soldier's life, it seemed to him to have many charms,
because it was so full of small daily interests.

'Then, did you know my son, Lieutenant Pennington?'

'It was he that gave me this cloak, sir, when they were sending me
back to England. I had been his servant for a short time before I
was wounded by the explosion on board the _Theseus_, and he said I
should feel the cold of the voyage. He's very kind; and I've heard
say he promises to be a first-rate officer.'

'You shall have a slice of roast beef, whether you want it or not,'
said the warden, ringing the bell at his own back-door. 'I recognize
the cloak now--the young scamp! How soon he has made it shabby,
though,' he continued, taking up a corner where there was an immense
tear not too well botched up. 'And so you were on board the
_Theseus_ at the time of the explosion? Bring some cold meat here
for the good man--or stay! Come in with me, and then you can tell
Mrs. Pennington and the young ladies all you know about Harry,--and
the siege,--and the explosion.'

So Philip was ushered into the warden's house and made to eat roast
beef almost against his will; and he was questioned and
cross-questioned by three eager ladies, all at the same time, as it
seemed to him. He had given all possible details on the subjects
about which they were curious; and was beginning to consider how he
could best make his retreat, when the younger Miss Pennington went
up to her father--who had all this time stood, with his hat on,
holding his coat-tails over his arms, with his back to the fire. He
bent his ear down a very little to hear some whispered suggestion of
his daughter's, nodded his head, and then went on questioning
Philip, with kindly inquisitiveness and patronage, as the rich do
question the poor.

'And where are you going to now?'

Philip did not answer directly. He wondered in his own mind where he
was going. At length he said,

'Northwards, I believe. But perhaps I shall never reach there.'

'Haven't you friends? Aren't you going to them?'

There was again a pause; a cloud came over Philip's countenance. He
said,

'No! I'm not going to my friends. I don't know that I've got any
left.'

They interpreted his looks and this speech to mean that he had
either lost his friends by death, or offended them by enlisting.

The warden went on,

'I ask, because we've got a cottage vacant in the mead. Old Dobson,
who was with General Wolfe at the taking of Quebec, died a fortnight
ago. With such injuries as yours, I fear you'll never be able to
work again. But we require strict testimonials as to character,' he
added, with as penetrating a look as he could summon up at Philip.

Philip looked unmoved, either by the offer of the cottage, or the
illusion to the possibility of his character not being satisfactory.
He was grateful enough in reality, but too heavy at heart to care
very much what became of him.

The warden and his family, who were accustomed to consider a
settlement at St Sepulchre's as the sum of all good to a worn-out
soldier, were a little annoyed at Philip's cool way of receiving the
proposition. The warden went on to name the contingent advantages.

'Besides the cottage, you would have a load of wood for firing on
All Saints', on Christmas, and on Candlemas days--a blue gown and
suit of clothes to match every Michaelmas, and a shilling a day to
keep yourself in all other things. Your dinner you would have with
the other men, in hall.'

'The warden himself goes into hall every day, and sees that
everything is comfortable, and says grace,' added the warden's lady.

'I know I seem stupid,' said Philip, almost humbly, 'not to be more
grateful, for it's far beyond what I iver expected or thought for
again, and it's a great temptation, for I'm just worn out with
fatigue. Several times I've thought I must lie down under a hedge,
and just die for very weariness. But once I had a wife and a child
up in the north,' he stopped.

'And are they dead?' asked one of the young ladies in a soft
sympathizing tone. Her eyes met Philip's, full of dumb woe. He tried
to speak; he wanted to explain more fully, yet not to reveal the
truth.

'Well!' said the warden, thinking he perceived the real state of
things, 'what I propose is this. You shall go into old Dobson's
house at once, as a kind of probationary bedesman. I'll write to
Harry, and get your character from him. Stephen Freeman I think you
said your name was? Before I can receive his reply you'll have been
able to tell how you'd like the kind of life; and at any rate you'll
have the rest you seem to require in the meantime. You see, I take
Harry's having given you that cloak as a kind of character,' added
he, smiling kindly. 'Of course you'll have to conform to rules just
like all the rest,--chapel at eight, dinner at twelve, lights out at
nine; but I'll tell you the remainder of our regulations as we walk
across quad to your new quarters.'

And thus Philip, almost in spite of himself, became installed in a
bedesman's house at St Sepulchre.



CHAPTER XLII

A FABLE AT FAULT


Philip took possession of the two rooms which had belonged to the
dead Sergeant Dobson. They were furnished sufficiently for every
comfort by the trustees of the hospital. Some little fragments of
ornament, some small articles picked up in distant countries, a few
tattered books, remained in the rooms as legacies from their former
occupant.

At first the repose of the life and the place was inexpressibly
grateful to Philip. He had always shrunk from encountering
strangers, and displaying his blackened and scarred countenance to
them, even where such disfigurement was most regarded as a mark of
honour. In St Sepulchre's he met none but the same set day after
day, and when he had once told the tale of how it happened and
submitted to their gaze, it was over for ever, if he so minded. The
slight employment his garden gave him--there was a kitchen-garden
behind each house, as well as the flower-plot in front--and the
daily arrangement of his parlour and chamber were, at the beginning
of his time of occupation, as much bodily labour as he could manage.
There was something stately and utterly removed from all Philip's
previous existence in the forms observed at every day's dinner, when
the twelve bedesmen met in the large quaint hall, and the warden
came in his college-cap and gown to say the long Latin grace which
wound up with something very like a prayer for the soul of Sir Simon
Bray. It took some time to get a reply to ship letters in those
times when no one could exactly say where the fleet might be found.

And before Dr Pennington had received the excellent character of
Stephen Freeman, which his son gladly sent in answer to his father's
inquiries, Philip had become restless and uneasy in the midst of all
this peace and comfort.

Sitting alone over his fire in the long winter evenings, the scenes
of his past life rose before him; his childhood; his aunt Robson's
care of him; his first going to Foster's shop in Monkshaven;
Haytersbank Farm, and the spelling lessons in the bright warm
kitchen there; Kinraid's appearance; the miserable night of the
Corneys' party; the farewell he had witnessed on Monkshaven sands;
the press-gang, and all the long consequences of that act of
concealment; poor Daniel Robson's trial and execution; his own
marriage; his child's birth; and then he came to that last day at
Monkshaven: and he went over and over again the torturing details,
the looks of contempt and anger, the words of loathing indignation,
till he almost brought himself, out of his extreme sympathy with
Sylvia, to believe that he was indeed the wretch she had considered
him to be.

He forgot his own excuses for having acted as he had done; though
these excuses had at one time seemed to him to wear the garb of
reasons. After long thought and bitter memory came some wonder. What
was Sylvia doing now? Where was she? What was his child like--his
child as well as hers? And then he remembered the poor footsore wife
and the little girl she carried in her arms, that was just the age
of Bella; he wished he had noticed that child more, that a clear
vision of it might rise up when he wanted to picture Bella.

One night he had gone round this mill-wheel circle of ideas till he
was weary to the very marrow of his bones. To shake off the
monotonous impression he rose to look for a book amongst the old
tattered volumes, hoping that he might find something that would
sufficiently lay hold of him to change the current of his thoughts.
There was an old volume of _Peregrine Pickle_; a book of sermons;
half an army list of 1774, and the _Seven Champions of Christendom_.
Philip took up this last, which he had never seen before. In it he
read how Sir Guy, Earl of Warwick, went to fight the Paynim in his
own country, and was away for seven long years; and when he came
back his own wife Phillis, the countess in her castle, did not know
the poor travel-worn hermit, who came daily to seek his dole of
bread at her hands along with many beggars and much poor. But at
last, when he lay a-dying in his cave in the rock, he sent for her
by a secret sign known but to them twain. And she came with great
speed, for she knew it was her lord who had sent for her; and they
had many sweet and holy words together before he gave up the ghost,
his head lying on her bosom.

The old story known to most people from their childhood was all new
and fresh to Philip. He did not quite believe in the truth of it,
because the fictitious nature of the histories of some of the other
Champions of Christendom was too patent. But he could not help
thinking that this one might be true; and that Guy and Phillis might
have been as real flesh and blood, long, long ago, as he and Sylvia
had even been. The old room, the quiet moonlit quadrangle into which
the cross-barred casement looked, the quaint aspect of everything
that he had seen for weeks and weeks; all this predisposed Philip to
dwell upon the story he had just been reading as a faithful legend
of two lovers whose bones were long since dust. He thought that if
he could thus see Sylvia, himself unknown, unseen--could live at her
gates, so to speak, and gaze upon her and his child--some day too,
when he lay a-dying, he might send for her, and in soft words of
mutual forgiveness breathe his life away in her arms. Or perhaps--and
so he lost himself, and from thinking, passed on to dreaming.
All night long Guy and Phillis, Sylvia and his child, passed in and
out of his visions; it was impossible to make the fragments of his
dreams cohere; but the impression made upon him by them was not the
less strong for this. He felt as if he were called to Monkshaven,
wanted at Monkshaven, and to Monkshaven he resolved to go; although
when his reason overtook his feeling, he knew perfectly how unwise
it was to leave a home of peace and tranquillity and surrounding
friendliness, to go to a place where nothing but want and
wretchedness awaited him unless he made himself known; and if he
did, a deeper want, a more woeful wretchedness, would in all
probability be his portion.

In the small oblong of looking-glass hung against the wall, Philip
caught the reflection of his own face, and laughed scornfully at the
sight. The thin hair lay upon his temples in the flakes that betoken
long ill-health; his eyes were the same as ever, and they had always
been considered the best feature in his face; but they were sunk in
their orbits, and looked hollow and gloomy. As for the lower part of
his face, blackened, contracted, drawn away from his teeth, the
outline entirely changed by the breakage of his jaw-bone, he was
indeed a fool if he thought himself fit to go forth to win back that
love which Sylvia had forsworn. As a hermit and a beggar, he must
return to Monkshaven, and fall perforce into the same position which
Guy of Warwick had only assumed. But still he should see his
Phillis, and might feast his sad hopeless eyes from time to time
with the sight of his child. His small pension of sixpence a day
would keep him from absolute want of necessaries.

So that very day he went to the warden and told him he thought of
giving up his share in the bequest of Sir Simon Bray. Such a
relinquishment had never occurred before in all the warden's
experience; and he was very much inclined to be offended.

'I must say that for a man not to be satisfied as a bedesman of St
Sepulchre's argues a very wrong state of mind, and a very ungrateful
heart.'

'I'm sure, sir, it's not from any ingratitude, for I can hardly feel
thankful to you and to Sir Simon, and to madam, and the young
ladies, and all my comrades in the hospital, and I niver expect to
be either so comfortable or so peaceful again, but----'

'But? What can you have to say against the place, then? Not but what
there are always plenty of applicants for every vacancy; only I
thought I was doing a kindness to a man out of Harry's company. And
you'll not see Harry either; he's got his leave in March!'

'I'm very sorry. I should like to have seen the lieutenant again.
But I cannot rest any longer so far away from--people I once knew.'

'Ten to one they're dead, or removed, or something or other by this
time; and it'll serve you right if they are. Mind! no one can be
chosen twice to be a bedesman of St Sepulchre's.'

The warden turned away; and Philip, uneasy at staying, disheartened
at leaving, went to make his few preparations for setting out once
more on his journey northwards. He had to give notice of his change
of residence to the local distributor of pensions; and one or two
farewells had to be taken, with more than usual sadness at the
necessity; for Philip, under his name of Stephen Freeman, had
attached some of the older bedesmen a good deal to him, from his
unselfishness, his willingness to read to them, and to render them
many little services, and, perhaps, as much as anything, by his
habitual silence, which made him a convenient recipient of all their
garrulousness. So before the time for his departure came, he had the
opportunity of one more interview with the warden, of a more
friendly character than that in which he gave up his bedesmanship.
And so far it was well; and Philip turned his back upon St
Sepulchre's with his sore heart partly healed by his four months'
residence there.

He was stronger, too, in body, more capable of the day-after-day
walks that were required of him. He had saved some money from his
allowance as bedesman and from his pension, and might occasionally
have taken an outside place on a coach, had it not been that he
shrank from the first look of every stranger upon his disfigured
face. Yet the gentle, wistful eyes, and the white and faultless
teeth always did away with the first impression as soon as people
became a little acquainted with his appearance.

It was February when Philip left St Sepulchre's. It was the first
week in April when he began to recognize the familiar objects
between York and Monkshaven. And now he began to hang back, and to
question the wisdom of what he had done--just as the warden had
prophesied that he would. The last night of his two hundred mile
walk he slept at the little inn at which he had been enlisted nearly
two years before. It was by no intention of his that he rested at
that identical place. Night was drawing on; and, in making, as he
thought, a short cut, he had missed his way, and was fain to seek
shelter where he might find it. But it brought him very straight
face to face with his life at that time, and ever since. His mad,
wild hopes--half the result of intoxication, as he now knew--all
dead and gone; the career then freshly opening shut up against him
now; his youthful strength and health changed into premature
infirmity, and the home and the love that should have opened wide
its doors to console him for all, why in two years Death might have
been busy, and taken away from him his last feeble chance of the
faint happiness of seeing his beloved without being seen or known of
her. All that night and all the next day, the fear of Sylvia's
possible death overclouded his heart. It was strange that he had
hardly ever thought of this before; so strange, that now, when the
terror came, it took possession of him, and he could almost have
sworn that she must be lying dead in Monkshaven churchyard. Or was
it little Bella, that blooming, lovely babe, whom he was never to
see again? There was the tolling of mournful bells in the distant
air to his disturbed fancy, and the cry of the happy birds, the
plaintive bleating of the new-dropped lambs, were all omens of evil
import to him.

As well as he could, he found his way back to Monkshaven, over the
wild heights and moors he had crossed on that black day of misery;
why he should have chosen that path he could not tell--it was as if
he were led, and had no free will of his own.

The soft clear evening was drawing on, and his heart beat thick, and
then stopped, only to start again with fresh violence. There he was,
at the top of the long, steep lane that was in some parts a literal
staircase leading down from the hill-top into the High Street,
through the very entry up which he had passed when he shrank away
from his former and his then present life. There he stood, looking
down once more at the numerous irregular roofs, the many stacks of
chimneys below him, seeking out that which had once been his own
dwelling--who dwelt there now?

The yellower gleams grew narrower; the evening shadows broader, and
Philip crept down the lane a weary, woeful man. At every gap in the
close-packed buildings he heard the merry music of a band, the
cheerful sound of excited voices. Still he descended slowly,
scarcely wondering what it could be, for it was not associated in
his mind with the one pervading thought of Sylvia.

When he came to the angle of junction between the lane and the High
Street, he seemed plunged all at once into the very centre of the
bustle, and he drew himself up into a corner of deep shadow, from
whence he could look out upon the street.

A circus was making its grand entry into Monkshaven, with all the
pomp of colour and of noise that it could muster. Trumpeters in
parti-coloured clothes rode first, blaring out triumphant discord.
Next came a gold-and-scarlet chariot drawn by six piebald horses,
and the windings of this team through the tortuous narrow street
were pretty enough to look upon. In the chariot sate kings and
queens, heroes and heroines, or what were meant for such; all the
little boys and girls running alongside of the chariot envied them;
but they themselves were very much tired, and shivering with cold in
their heroic pomp of classic clothing. All this Philip might have
seen; did see, in fact; but heeded not one jot. Almost opposite to
him, not ten yards apart, standing on the raised step at the
well-known shop door, was Sylvia, holding a child, a merry dancing
child, up in her arms to see the show. She too, Sylvia, was laughing
for pleasure, and for sympathy with pleasure. She held the little
Bella aloft that the child might see the gaudy procession the better
and the longer, looking at it herself with red lips apart and white
teeth glancing through; then she turned to speak to some one behind
her--Coulson, as Philip saw the moment afterwards; his answer made
her laugh once again. Philip saw it all; her bonny careless looks,
her pretty matronly form, her evident ease of mind and prosperous
outward circumstances. The years that he had spent in gloomy sorrow,
amongst wild scenes, on land or by sea, his life in frequent peril
of a bloody end, had gone by with her like sunny days; all the more
sunny because he was not there. So bitterly thought the poor
disabled marine, as, weary and despairing, he stood in the cold
shadow and looked upon the home that should have been his haven, the
wife that should have welcomed him, the child that should have been
his comfort. He had banished himself from his home; his wife had
forsworn him; his child was blossoming into intelligence unwitting
of any father. Wife, and child, and home, were all doing well
without him; what madness had tempted him thither? an hour ago, like
a fanciful fool, he had thought she might be dead--dead with sad
penitence for her cruel words at her heart--with mournful wonder at
the unaccounted-for absence of her child's father preying on her
spirits, and in some measure causing the death he had apprehended.
But to look at her there where she stood, it did not seem as if she
had had an hour's painful thought in all her blooming life.

Ay! go in to the warm hearth, mother and child, now the gay
cavalcade has gone out of sight, and the chill of night has
succeeded to the sun's setting. Husband and father, steal out into
the cold dark street, and seek some poor cheap lodging where you may
rest your weary bones, and cheat your more weary heart into
forgetfulness in sleep. The pretty story of the Countess Phillis,
who mourned for her husband's absence so long, is a fable of old
times; or rather say Earl Guy never wedded his wife, knowing that
one she loved better than him was alive all the time she had
believed him to be dead.



CHAPTER XLIII

THE UNKNOWN


A few days before that on which Philip arrived at Monkshaven, Kester
had come to pay Sylvia a visit. As the earliest friend she had, and
also as one who knew the real secrets of her life, Sylvia always
gave him the warm welcome, the cordial words, and the sweet looks in
which the old man delighted. He had a sort of delicacy of his own
which kept him from going to see her too often, even when he was
stationary at Monkshaven; but he looked forward to the times when he
allowed himself this pleasure as a child at school looks forward to
its holidays. The time of his service at Haytersbank had, on the
whole, been the happiest in all his long monotonous years of daily
labour. Sylvia's father had always treated him with the rough
kindness of fellowship; Sylvia's mother had never stinted him in his
meat or grudged him his share of the best that was going; and once,
when he was ill for a few days in the loft above the cow-house, she
had made him possets, and nursed him with the same tenderness which
he remembered his mother showing to him when he was a little child,
but which he had never experienced since then. He had known Sylvia
herself, as bud, and sweet promise of blossom; and just as she was
opening into the full-blown rose, and, if she had been happy and
prosperous, might have passed out of the narrow circle of Kester's
interests, one sorrow after another came down upon her pretty
innocent head, and Kester's period of service to Daniel Robson, her
father, was tragically cut short. All this made Sylvia the great
centre of the faithful herdsman's affection; and Bella, who reminded
him of what Sylvia was when first Kester knew her, only occupied the
second place in his heart, although to the child he was much more
demonstrative of his regard than to the mother.

He had dressed himself in his Sunday best, and although it was only
Thursday, had forestalled his Saturday's shaving; he had provided
himself with a paper of humbugs for the child--'humbugs' being the
north-country term for certain lumps of toffy, well-flavoured with
peppermint--and now he sat in the accustomed chair, as near to the
door as might be, in Sylvia's presence, coaxing the little one, who
was not quite sure of his identity, to come to him, by opening the
paper parcel, and letting its sweet contents be seen.

'She's like thee--and yet she favours her feyther,' said he; and the
moment he had uttered the incautious words he looked up to see how
Sylvia had taken the unpremeditated, unusual reference to her
husband. His stealthy glance did not meet her eye; but though he
thought she had coloured a little, she did not seem offended as he
had feared. It was true that Bella had her father's grave,
thoughtful, dark eyes, instead of her mother's gray ones, out of
which the childlike expression of wonder would never entirely pass
away. And as Bella slowly and half distrustfully made her way
towards the temptation offered her, she looked at Kester with just
her father's look.

Sylvia said nothing in direct reply; Kester almost thought she could
not have heard him. But, by-and-by, she said,--

'Yo'll have heared how Kinraid--who's a captain now, and a grand
officer--has gone and got married.'

'Nay!' said Kester, in genuine surprise. 'He niver has, for sure!'

'Ay, but he has,' said Sylvia. 'And I'm sure I dunnot see why he
shouldn't.'

'Well, well!' said Kester, not looking up at her, for he caught the
inflections in the tones of her voice. 'He were a fine stirrin'
chap, yon; an' he were allays for doin' summut; an' when he fund as
he couldn't ha' one thing as he'd set his mind on, a reckon he
thought he mun put up wi' another.'

'It 'ud be no "putting up,"' said Sylvia. 'She were staying at Bessy
Dawson's, and she come here to see me--she's as pretty a young lady
as yo'd see on a summer's day; and a real lady, too, wi' a fortune.
She didn't speak two words wi'out bringing in her husband's
name,--"the captain", as she called him.'

'An' she come to see thee?' said Kester, cocking his eye at Sylvia
with the old shrewd look. 'That were summut queer, weren't it?'

Sylvia reddened a good deal.

'He's too fause to have spoken to her on me, in t' old way,--as he
used for t' speak to me. I were nought to her but Philip's wife.'

'An' what t' dickins had she to do wi' Philip?' asked Kester, in
intense surprise; and so absorbed in curiosity that he let the
humbugs all fall out of the paper upon the floor, and the little
Bella sat down, plump, in the midst of treasures as great as those
fabled to exist on Tom Tiddler's ground.

Sylvia was again silent; but Kester, knowing her well, was sure that
she was struggling to speak, and bided his time without repeating
his question.

'She said--and I think her tale were true, though I cannot get to t'
rights on it, think on it as I will--as Philip saved her husband's
life somewheere nearabouts to Jerusalem. She would have it that t'
captain--for I think I'll niver ca' him Kinraid again--was in a
great battle, and were near upon being shot by t' French, when
Philip--our Philip--come up and went right into t' fire o' t' guns,
and saved her husband's life. And she spoke as if both she and t'
captain were more beholden to Philip than words could tell. And she
come to see me, to try and get news on him.

'It's a queer kind o' story,' said Kester, meditatively. 'A should
ha' thought as Philip were more likely to ha' gi'en him a shove into
t' thick on it, than t' help him out o' t' scrape.'

'Nay!' said Sylvia, suddenly looking straight at Kester; 'yo're out
theere. Philip had a deal o' good in him. And I dunnot think as he'd
ha' gone and married another woman so soon, if he'd been i'
Kinraid's place.'

'An' yo've niver heared on Philip sin' he left?' asked Kester, after
a while.

'Niver; nought but what she told me. And she said that t' captain
made inquiry for him right and left, as soon after that happened as
might be, and could hear niver a word about him. No one had seen
him, or knowed his name.'

'Yo' niver heared of his goin' for t' be a soldier?' persevered
Kester.

'Niver. I've told yo' once. It were unlike Philip to think o' such a
thing.'

'But thou mun ha' been thinkin' on him at times i' a' these years.
Bad as he'd behaved hissel', he were t' feyther o' thy little un.
What did ta think he had been agait on when he left here?'

'I didn't know. I were noane so keen a-thinking on him at first. I
tried to put him out o' my thoughts a'together, for it made me like
mad to think how he'd stood between me and--that other. But I'd
begun to wonder and to wonder about him, and to think I should like
to hear as he were doing well. I reckon I thought he were i' London,
wheere he'd been that time afore, yo' know, and had allays spoke as
if he'd enjoyed hissel' tolerable; and then Molly Brunton told me on
t' other one's marriage; and, somehow, it gave me a shake in my
heart, and I began for to wish I hadn't said all them words i' my
passion; and then that fine young lady come wi' her story--and I've
thought a deal on it since,--and my mind has come out clear.
Philip's dead, and it were his spirit as come to t' other's help in
his time o' need. I've heard feyther say as spirits cannot rest i'
their graves for trying to undo t' wrongs they've done i' their
bodies.'

'Them's my conclusions,' said Kester, solemnly. 'A was fain for to
hear what were yo'r judgments first; but them's the conclusions I
comed to as soon as I heard t' tale.'

'Let alone that one thing,' said Sylvia, 'he were a kind, good man.'

'It were a big deal on a "one thing", though,' said Kester. 'It just
spoilt yo'r life, my poor lass; an' might ha' gone near to spoilin'
Charley Kinraid's too.'

'Men takes a deal more nor women to spoil their lives,' said Sylvia,
bitterly.

'Not a' mak' o' men. I reckon, lass, Philip's life were pretty well
on for bein' spoilt at after he left here; and it were, mebbe, a
good thing he got rid on it so soon.'

'I wish I'd just had a few kind words wi' him, I do,' said Sylvia,
almost on the point of crying.

'Come, lass, it's as ill moanin' after what's past as it 'ud be for
me t' fill my eyes wi' weepin' after t' humbugs as this little wench
o' thine has grubbed up whilst we'n been talkin'. Why, there's not
one on 'em left!'

'She's a sad spoilt little puss!' said Sylvia, holding out her arms
to the child, who ran into them, and began patting her mother's
cheeks, and pulling at the soft brown curls tucked away beneath the
matronly cap. 'Mammy spoils her, and Hester spoils her----'

'Granny Rose doesn't spoil me,' said the child, with quick,
intelligent discrimination, interrupting her mother's list.

'No; but Jeremiah Foster does above a bit. He'll come in fro' t'
Bank, Kester, and ask for her, a'most ivery day. And he'll bring her
things in his pocket; and she's so fause, she allays goes straight
to peep in, and then he shifts t' apple or t' toy into another. Eh!
but she's a little fause one,'--half devouring the child with her
kisses. 'And he comes and takes her a walk oftentimes, and he goes
as slow as if he were quite an old man, to keep pace wi' Bella's
steps. I often run upstairs and watch 'em out o' t' window; he
doesn't care to have me with 'em, he's so fain t' have t' child all
to hisself.'

'She's a bonny un, for sure,' said Kester; 'but not so pretty as
thou was, Sylvie. A've niver tell'd thee what a come for tho', and
it's about time for me t' be goin'. A'm off to t' Cheviots to-morrow
morn t' fetch home some sheep as Jonas Blundell has purchased. It'll
be a job o' better nor two months a reckon.'

'It'll be a nice time o' year,' said Sylvia, a little surprised at
Kester's evident discouragement at the prospect of the journey or
absence; he had often been away from Monkshaven for a longer time
without seeming to care so much about it.

'Well, yo' see it's a bit hard upon me for t' leave my sister--she
as is t' widow-woman, wheere a put up when a'm at home. Things is
main an' dear; four-pound loaves is at sixteenpence; an' there's a
deal o' talk on a famine i' t' land; an' whaten a paid for my
victual an' t' bed i' t' lean-to helped t' oud woman a bit,--an'
she's sadly down i' t' mouth, for she cannot hear on a lodger for t'
tak' my place, for a' she's moved o'er to t' other side o' t' bridge
for t' be nearer t' new buildings, an' t' grand new walk they're
makin' round t' cliffs, thinkin' she'd be likelier t' pick up a
labourer as would be glad on a bed near his work. A'd ha' liked to
ha' set her agait wi' a 'sponsible lodger afore a'd ha' left, for
she's just so soft-hearted, any scamp may put upon her if he nobbut
gets houd on her blind side.'

'Can I help her?' said Sylvia, in her eager way. 'I should be so
glad; and I've a deal of money by me---'

'Nay, my lass,' said Kester, 'thou munnot go off so fast; it were
just what I were feared on i' tellin' thee. I've left her a bit o'
money, and I'll mak' shift to send her more; it's just a kind word,
t' keep up her heart when I'm gone, as I want. If thou'd step in and
see her fra' time to time, and cheer her up a bit wi' talkin' to her
on me, I'd tak' it very kind, and I'd go off wi' a lighter heart.'

'Then I'm sure I'll do it for yo', Kester. I niver justly feel like
mysel' when yo're away, for I'm lonesome enough at times. She and I
will talk a' t' better about yo' for both on us grieving after yo'.'

So Kester took his leave, his mind set at ease by Sylvia's promise
to go and see his sister pretty often during his absence in the
North.

But Sylvia's habits were changed since she, as a girl at
Haytersbank, liked to spend half her time in the open air, running
out perpetually without anything on to scatter crumbs to the
poultry, or to take a piece of bread to the old cart-horse, to go up
to the garden for a handful of herbs, or to clamber to the highest
point around to blow the horn which summoned her father and Kester
home to dinner. Living in a town where it was necessary to put on
hat and cloak before going out into the street, and then to walk in
a steady and decorous fashion, she had only cared to escape down to
the freedom of the sea-shore until Philip went away; and after that
time she had learnt so to fear observation as a deserted wife, that
nothing but Bella's health would have been a sufficient motive to
take her out of doors. And, as she had told Kester, the necessity of
giving the little girl a daily walk was very much lightened by the
great love and affection which Jeremiah Foster now bore to the
child. Ever since the day when the baby had come to his knee,
allured by the temptation of his watch, he had apparently considered
her as in some sort belonging to him; and now he had almost come to
think that he had a right to claim her as his companion in his walk
back from the Bank to his early dinner, where a high chair was
always placed ready for the chance of her coming to share his meal.
On these occasions he generally brought her back to the shop-door
when he returned to his afternoon's work at the Bank. Sometimes,
however, he would leave word that she was to be sent for from his
house in the New Town, as his business at the Bank for that day was
ended. Then Sylvia was compelled to put on her things, and fetch
back her darling; and excepting for this errand she seldom went out
at all on week-days.

About a fortnight after Kester's farewell call, this need for her
visit to Jeremiah Foster's arose; and it seemed to Sylvia that there
could not be a better opportunity of fulfilling her promise and
going to see the widow Dobson, whose cottage was on the other side
of the river, low down on the cliff-side, just at the bend and rush
of the full stream into the open sea. She set off pretty early in
order to go there first. She found the widow with her house-place
tidied up after the midday meal, and busy knitting at the open
door--not looking at her rapid-clicking needles, but gazing at the
rush and recession of the waves before her; yet not seeing them
either,--rather seeing days long past.

She started into active civility as soon as she recognized Sylvia,
who was to her as a great lady, never having known Sylvia Robson in
her wild childish days. Widow Dobson was always a little scandalized
at her brother Christopher's familiarity with Mrs. Hepburn.

She dusted a chair which needed no dusting, and placed it for
Sylvia, sitting down herself on a three-legged stool to mark her
sense of the difference in their conditions, for there was another
chair or two in the humble dwelling; and then the two fell into
talk--first about Kester, whom his sister would persist in calling
Christopher, as if his dignity as her elder brother was compromised
by any familiar abbreviation; and by-and-by she opened her heart a
little more.

'A could wish as a'd learned write-of-hand,' said she; 'for a've
that for to tell Christopher as might set his mind at ease. But yo'
see, if a wrote him a letter he couldn't read it; so a just comfort
mysel' wi' thinkin' nobody need learn writin' unless they'n got
friends as can read. But a reckon he'd ha' been glad to hear as a've
getten a lodger.' Here she nodded her head in the direction of the
door opening out of the house-place into the 'lean-to', which Sylvia
had observed on drawing near the cottage, and the recollection of
the mention of which by Kester had enabled her to identify widow
Dobson's dwelling. 'He's a-bed yonder,' the latter continued,
dropping her voice. 'He's a queer-lookin' tyke, but a don't think as
he's a bad un.'

'When did he come?' said Sylvia, remembering Kester's account of his
sister's character, and feeling as though it behoved her, as
Kester's confidante on this head, to give cautious and prudent
advice.

'Eh! a matter of a s'ennight ago. A'm noane good at mindin' time;
he's paid me his rent twice, but then he were keen to pay aforehand.
He'd comed in one night, an' sate him down afore he could speak, he
were so done up; he'd been on tramp this many a day, a reckon. "Can
yo' give me a bed?" says he, panting like, after a bit. "A chap as a
met near here says as yo've a lodging for t' let." "Ay," says a, "a
ha' that; but yo' mun pay me a shilling a week for 't." Then my mind
misgive me, for a thought he hadn't a shilling i' t' world, an' yet
if he hadn't, a should just ha' gi'en him t' bed a' t' same: a'm not
one as can turn a dog out if he comes t' me wearied o' his life. So
he outs wi' a shillin', an' lays it down on t' table, 'bout a word.
"A'll not trouble yo' long," says he. "A'm one as is best out o' t'
world," he says. Then a thought as a'd been a bit hard upon him. An'
says I, "A'm a widow-woman, and one as has getten but few friends:"
for yo' see a were low about our Christopher's goin' away north; "so
a'm forced-like to speak hard to folk; but a've made mysel' some
stirabout for my supper; and if yo'd like t' share an' share about
wi' me, it's but puttin' a sup more watter to 't, and God's blessing
'll be on 't, just as same as if 't were meal." So he ups wi' his
hand afore his e'en, and says not a word. At last he says, "Missus,"
says he, "can God's blessing be shared by a sinner--one o' t'
devil's children?" says he. "For the Scriptur' says he's t' father
o' lies." So a were puzzled-like; an' at length a says, "Thou mun
ask t' parson that; a'm but a poor faint-hearted widow-woman; but
a've allays had God's blessing somehow, now a bethink me, an' a'll
share it wi' thee as far as my will goes." So he raxes his hand
across t' table, an' mutters summat, as he grips mine. A thought it
were Scriptur' as he said, but a'd needed a' my strength just then
for t' lift t' pot off t' fire--it were t' first vittle a'd tasted
sin' morn, for t' famine comes down like stones on t' head o' us
poor folk: an' a' a said were just "Coom along, chap, an' fa' to;
an' God's blessing be on him as eats most." An' sin' that day him
and me's been as thick as thieves, only he's niver telled me nought
of who he is, or wheere he comes fra'. But a think he's one o' them
poor colliers, as has getten brunt i' t' coal-pits; for, t' be sure,
his face is a' black wi' fire-marks; an' o' late days he's ta'en t'
his bed, an' just lies there sighing,--for one can hear him plain as
dayleet thro' t' bit partition wa'.'

As a proof of this, a sigh--almost a groan--startled the two women
at this very moment.

'Poor fellow!' said Sylvia, in a soft whisper. 'There's more sore
hearts i' t' world than one reckons for!' But after a while, she
bethought her again of Kester's account of his sister's 'softness';
and she thought that it behoved her to give some good advice. So she
added, in a sterner, harder tone--'Still, yo' say yo' know nought
about him; and tramps is tramps a' t' world over; and yo're a widow,
and it behoves yo' to be careful. I think I'd just send him off as
soon as he's a bit rested. Yo' say he's plenty o' money?'

'Nay! A never said that. A know nought about it. He pays me
aforehand; an' he pays me down for whativer a've getten for him; but
that's but little; he's noane up t' his vittle, though a've made him
some broth as good as a could make 'em.'

'I wouldn't send him away till he was well again, if I were yo; but
I think yo'd be better rid on him,' said Sylvia. 'It would be
different if yo'r brother were in Monkshaven.' As she spoke she rose
to go.

Widow Dobson held her hand in hers for a minute, then the humble
woman said,--

'Yo'll noane be vexed wi' me, missus, if a cannot find i' my heart
t' turn him out till he wants to go hissel'? For a wouldn't like to
vex yo', for Christopher's sake; but a know what it is for t' feel
for friendless folk, an' choose what may come on it, I cannot send
him away.'

'No!' said Sylvia. 'Why should I be vexed? it's no business o' mine.
Only I should send him away if I was yo'. He might go lodge wheere
there was men-folk, who know t' ways o' tramps, and are up to them.'

Into the sunshine went Sylvia. In the cold shadow the miserable
tramp lay sighing. She did not know that she had been so near to him
towards whom her heart was softening, day by day.



CHAPTER XLIV

FIRST WORDS


It was the spring of 1800. Old people yet can tell of the hard
famine of that year. The harvest of the autumn before had failed;
the war and the corn laws had brought the price of corn up to a
famine rate; and much of what came into the market was unsound, and
consequently unfit for food, yet hungry creatures bought it eagerly,
and tried to cheat disease by mixing the damp, sweet, clammy flour
with rice or potato meal. Rich families denied themselves pastry and
all unnecessary and luxurious uses of wheat in any shape; the duty
on hair-powder was increased; and all these palliatives were but as
drops in the ocean of the great want of the people.

Philip, in spite of himself, recovered and grew stronger; and as he
grew stronger hunger took the place of loathing dislike to food. But
his money was all spent; and what was his poor pension of sixpence a
day in that terrible year of famine? Many a summer's night he walked
for hours and hours round the house which once was his, which might
be his now, with all its homely, blessed comforts, could he but go
and assert his right to it. But to go with authority, and in his
poor, maimed guise assert that right, he had need be other than
Philip Hepburn. So he stood in the old shelter of the steep, crooked
lane opening on to the hill out of the market-place, and watched the
soft fading of the summer's eve into night; the closing of the once
familiar shop; the exit of good, comfortable William Coulson, going
to his own home, his own wife, his comfortable, plentiful supper.
Then Philip--there were no police in those days, and scarcely an old
watchman in that primitive little town--would go round on the shady
sides of streets, and, quickly glancing about him, cross the bridge,
looking on the quiet, rippling stream, the gray shimmer foretelling
the coming dawn over the sea, the black masts and rigging of the
still vessels against the sky; he could see with his wistful, eager
eyes the shape of the windows--the window of the very room in which
his wife and child slept, unheeding of him, the hungry,
broken-hearted outcast. He would go back to his lodging, and softly
lift the latch of the door; still more softly, but never without an
unspoken, grateful prayer, pass by the poor sleeping woman who had
given him a shelter and her share of God's blessing--she who, like
him, knew not the feeling of satisfied hunger; and then he laid him
down on the narrow pallet in the lean-to, and again gave Sylvia
happy lessons in the kitchen at Haytersbank, and the dead were
alive; and Charley Kinraid, the specksioneer, had never come to
trouble the hopeful, gentle peace.

For widow Dobson had never taken Sylvia's advice. The tramp known to
her by the name of Freeman--that in which he received his
pension--lodged with her still, and paid his meagre shilling in
advance, weekly. A shilling was meagre in those hard days of
scarcity. A hungry man might easily eat the produce of a shilling in
a day.

Widow Dobson pleaded this to Sylvia as an excuse for keeping her
lodger on; to a more calculating head it might have seemed a reason
for sending him away.

'Yo' see, missus,' said she, apologetically, to Sylvia, one evening,
as the latter called upon the poor widow before going to fetch
little Bella (it was now too hot for the child to cross the bridge
in the full heat of the summer sun, and Jeremiah would take her up
to her supper instead)--'Yo' see, missus, there's not a many as 'ud
take him in for a shillin' when it goes so little way; or if they
did, they'd take it out on him some other way, an' he's not getten
much else, a reckon. He ca's me granny, but a'm vast mista'en if
he's ten year younger nor me; but he's getten a fine appetite of his
own, choose how young he may be; an' a can see as he could eat a
deal more nor he's getten money to buy, an' it's few as can mak'
victual go farther nor me. Eh, missus, but yo' may trust me a'll
send him off when times is better; but just now it would be sendin'
him to his death; for a ha' plenty and to spare, thanks be to God
an' yo'r bonny face.'

So Sylvia had to be content with the knowledge that the money she
gladly gave to Kester's sister went partly to feed the lodger who
was neither labourer nor neighbour, but only just a tramp, who, she
feared, was preying on the good old woman. Still the cruel famine
cut sharp enough to penetrate all hearts; and Sylvia, an hour after
the conversation recorded above, was much touched, on her return
from Jeremiah Foster's with the little merry, chattering Bella, at
seeing the feeble steps of one, whom she knew by description must be
widow Dobson's lodger, turn up from the newly-cut road which was to
lead to the terrace walk around the North Cliff, a road which led to
no dwelling but widow Dobson's. Tramp, and vagrant, he might be in
the eyes of the law; but, whatever his character, Sylvia could see
him before her in the soft dusk, creeping along, over the bridge,
often stopping to rest and hold by some support, and then going on
again towards the town, to which she and happy little Bella were
wending.

A thought came over her: she had always fancied that this unknown
man was some fierce vagabond, and had dreaded lest in the lonely bit
of road between widow Dobson's cottage and the peopled highway, he
should fall upon her and rob her if he learnt that she had money
with her; and several times she had gone away without leaving the
little gift she had intended, because she imagined that she had seen
the door of the small chamber in the 'lean-to' open softly while she
was there, as if the occupant (whom widow Dobson spoke of as never
leaving the house before dusk, excepting once a week) were listening
for the chink of the coin in her little leathern purse. Now that she
saw him walking before her with heavy languid steps, this fear gave
place to pity; she remembered her mother's gentle superstition which
had prevented her from ever sending the hungry empty away, for fear
lest she herself should come to need bread.

'Lassie,' said she to little Bella, who held a cake which Jeremiah's
housekeeper had given her tight in her hand, 'yon poor man theere is
hungry; will Bella give him her cake, and mother will make her
another to-morrow twice as big?'

For this consideration, and with the feeling of satisfaction which a
good supper not an hour ago gives even to the hungry stomach of a
child of three years old, Bella, after some thought, graciously
assented to the sacrifice.

Sylvia stopped, the cake in her hand, and turned her back to the
town, and to the slow wayfarer in front. Under the cover of her
shawl she slipped a half-crown deep into the crumb of the cake, and
then restoring it to little Bella, she gave her her directions.

'Mammy will carry Bella; and when Bella goes past the poor man, she
shall give him the cake over mammy's shoulder. Poor man is so
hungry; and Bella and mammy have plenty to eat, and to spare.'

The child's heart was touched by the idea of hunger, and her little
arm was outstretched ready for the moment her mother's hurried steps
took her brushing past the startled, trembling Philip.

'Poor man, eat this; Bella not hungry.'

They were the first words he had ever heard his child utter. The
echoes of them rang in his ears as he stood endeavouring to hide his
disfigured face by looking over the parapet of the bridge down upon
the stream running away towards the ocean, into which his hot tears
slowly fell, unheeded by the weeper. Then he changed the intention
with which he had set out upon his nightly walk, and turned back to
his lodging.

Of course the case was different with Sylvia; she would have
forgotten the whole affair very speedily, if it had not been for
little Bella's frequent recurrence to the story of the hungry man,
which had touched her small sympathies with the sense of an
intelligible misfortune. She liked to act the dropping of the bun
into the poor man's hand as she went past him, and would take up any
article near her in order to illustrate the gesture she had used.
One day she got hold of Hester's watch for this purpose, as being of
the same round shape as the cake; and though Hester, for whose
benefit the child was repeating the story in her broken language for
the third or fourth time, tried to catch the watch as it was
intended that she should (she being the representative of the
'hungry man' for the time being), it went to the ground with a smash
that frightened the little girl, and she began to cry at the
mischief she had done.

'Don't cry, Bella,' said Hester. 'Niver play with watches again. I
didn't see thee at mine, or I'd ha' stopped thee in time. But I'll
take it to old Darley's on th' quay-side, and maybe he'll soon set
it to rights again. Only Bella must niver play with watches again.'

'Niver no more!' promised the little sobbing child. And that evening
Hester took her watch down to old Darley's.

This William Darley was the brother of the gardener at the rectory;
the uncle to the sailor who had been shot by the press-gang years
before, and to his bed-ridden sister. He was a clever mechanician,
and his skill as a repairer of watches and chronometers was great
among the sailors, with whom he did a very irregular sort of
traffic, conducted, often without much use of money, but rather on
the principle of barter, they bringing him foreign coins and odd
curiosities picked up on their travels in exchange for his services
to their nautical instruments or their watches. If he had ever had
capital to extend his business, he might have been a rich man; but
it is to be doubted whether he would have been as happy as he was
now in his queer little habitation of two rooms, the front one being
both shop and workshop, the other serving the double purpose of
bedroom and museum.

The skill of this odd-tempered, shabby old man was sometimes sought
by the jeweller who kept the more ostentatious shop in the High
Street; but before Darley would undertake any 'tickle' piece of
delicate workmanship for the other, he sneered at his ignorance, and
taunted and abused him well. Yet he had soft places in his heart,
and Hester Rose had found her way to one by her patient, enduring
kindness to his bed-ridden niece. He never snarled at her as he did
at too many; and on the few occasions when she had asked him to do
anything for her, he had seemed as if she were conferring the favour
on him, not he on her, and only made the smallest possible charge.

She found him now sitting where he could catch the most light for
his work, spectacles on nose, and microscope in hand.

He took her watch, and examined it carefully without a word in reply
to her. Then he began to open it and take it to pieces, in order to
ascertain the nature of the mischief.

Suddenly he heard her catch her breath with a checked sound of
surprise. He looked at her from above his spectacles; she was
holding a watch in her hand which she had just taken up off the
counter.

'What's amiss wi' thee now?' said Darley. 'Hast ta niver seen a
watch o' that mak' afore? or is it them letters on t' back, as is so
wonderful?'

Yes, it was those letters--that interlaced, old-fashioned cipher.
That Z. H. that she knew of old stood for Zachary Hepburn, Philip's
father. She knew how Philip valued this watch. She remembered having
seen it in his hands the very day before his disappearance, when he
was looking at the time in his annoyance at Sylvia's detention in
her walk with baby. Hester had no doubt that he had taken this watch
as a matter of course away with him. She felt sure that he would not
part with this relic of his dead father on any slight necessity.
Where, then, was Philip?--by what chance of life or death had this,
his valued property, found its way once more to Monkshaven?

'Where did yo' get this?' she asked, in as quiet a manner as she
could assume, sick with eagerness as she was.

To no one else would Darley have answered such a question. He made a
mystery of most of his dealings; not that he had anything to
conceal, but simply because he delighted in concealment. He took it
out of her hands, looked at the number marked inside, and the
maker's name--'Natteau Gent, York'--and then replied,--

'A man brought it me yesterday, at nightfall, for t' sell it. It's a
matter o' forty years old. Natteau Gent has been dead and in his
grave pretty nigh as long as that. But he did his work well when he
were alive; and so I gave him as brought it for t' sell about as
much as it were worth, i' good coin. A tried him first i' t'
bartering line, but he wouldn't bite; like enough he wanted
food,--many a one does now-a-days.'

'Who was he?' gasped Hester.

'Bless t' woman! how should I know?'

'What was he like?--how old?--tell me.'

'My lass, a've summut else to do wi' my eyes than go peering into
men's faces i' t' dusk light.'

'But yo' must have had light for t' judge about the watch.'

'Eh! how sharp we are! A'd a candle close to my nose. But a didn't
tak' it up for to gaze int' his face. That wouldn't be manners, to
my thinking.'

Hester was silent. Then Darley's heart relented.

'If yo're so set upo' knowing who t' fellow was, a could, mebbe, put
yo' on his tracks.'

'How?' said Hester, eagerly. 'I do want to know. I want to know very
much, and for a good reason.'

'Well, then, a'll tell yo'. He's a queer tyke, that one is. A'll be
bound he were sore pressed for t' brass; yet he out's wi' a good
half-crown, all wrapped up i' paper, and he axes me t' make a hole
in it. Says I, "It's marring good king's coin, at after a've made a
hole in't, it'll never pass current again." So he mumbles, and
mumbles, but for a' that it must needs be done; and he's left it
here, and is t' call for 't to-morrow at e'en.'

'Oh, William Darley!' said Hester, clasping her hands tight
together. 'Find out who he is, where he is--anything--everything
about him--and I will so bless yo'.'

Darley looked at her sharply, but with some signs of sympathy on his
grave face. 'My woman,' he said 'a could ha' wished as you'd niver
seen t' watch. It's poor, thankless work thinking too much on one o'
God's creatures. But a'll do thy bidding,' he continued, in a
lighter and different tone. 'A'm a 'cute old badger when need be.
Come for thy watch in a couple o' days, and a'll tell yo' all as
a've learnt.'

So Hester went away, her heart beating with the promise of knowing
something about Philip,--how much, how little, in these first
moments, she dared not say even to herself. Some sailor newly landed
from distant seas might have become possessed of Philip's watch in
far-off latitudes; in which case, Philip would be dead. That might
be. She tried to think that this was the most probable way of
accounting for the watch. She could be certain as to the positive
identity of the watch--being in William Darley's possession. Again,
it might be that Philip himself was near at hand--was here in this
very place--starving, as too many were, for insufficiency of means
to buy the high-priced food. And then her heart burnt within her as
she thought of the succulent, comfortable meals which Sylvia
provided every day--nay, three times a day--for the household in the
market-place, at the head of which Philip ought to have been; but
his place knew him not. For Sylvia had inherited her mother's talent
for housekeeping, and on her, in Alice's decrepitude and Hester's
other occupations in the shop, devolved the cares of due provision
for the somewhat heterogeneous family.

And Sylvia! Hester groaned in heart over the remembrance of Sylvia's
words, 'I can niver forgive him the wrong he did to me,' that night
when Hester had come, and clung to her, making the sad, shameful
confession of her unreturned love.

What could ever bring these two together again? Could Hester
herself--ignorant of the strange mystery of Sylvia's heart, as those
who are guided solely by obedience to principle must ever be of the
clue to the actions of those who are led by the passionate ebb and
flow of impulse? Could Hester herself? Oh! how should she speak, how
should she act, if Philip were near--if Philip were sad and in
miserable estate? Her own misery at this contemplation of the case
was too great to bear; and she sought her usual refuge in the
thought of some text, some promise of Scripture, which should
strengthen her faith.

'With God all things are possible,' said she, repeating the words as
though to lull her anxiety to rest.

Yes; with God all things are possible. But ofttimes He does his work
with awful instruments. There is a peacemaker whose name is Death.



CHAPTER XLV

SAVED AND LOST


Hester went out on the evening of the day after that on which the
unknown owner of the half-crown had appointed to call for it again
at William Darley's. She had schooled herself to believe that time
and patience would serve her best. Her plan was to obtain all the
knowledge about Philip that she could in the first instance; and
then, if circumstances allowed it, as in all probability they would,
to let drop by drop of healing, peacemaking words and thoughts fall
on Sylvia's obdurate, unforgiving heart. So Hester put on her
things, and went out down towards the old quay-side on that evening
after the shop was closed.

Poor little Sylvia! She was unforgiving, but not obdurate to the full
extent of what Hester believed. Many a time since Philip went away
had she unconsciously missed his protecting love; when folks spoke
shortly to her, when Alice scolded her as one of the non-elect, when
Hester's gentle gravity had something of severity in it; when her
own heart failed her as to whether her mother would have judged that
she had done well, could that mother have known all, as possibly she
did by this time. Philip had never spoken otherwise than tenderly to
her during the eighteen months of their married life, except on the
two occasions before recorded: once when she referred to her dream
of Kinraid's possible return, and once again on the evening of the
day before her discovery of his concealment of the secret of
Kinraid's involuntary disappearance.

After she had learnt that Kinraid was married, her heart had still
more strongly turned to Philip; she thought that he had judged
rightly in what he had given as the excuse for his double dealing;
she was even more indignant at Kinraid's fickleness than she had any
reason to be; and she began to learn the value of such enduring love
as Philip's had been--lasting ever since the days when she first
began to fancy what a man's love for a woman should be, when she had
first shrunk from the tone of tenderness he put into his especial
term for her, a girl of twelve--'Little lassie,' as he was wont to
call her.

But across all this relenting came the shadow of her vow--like the
chill of a great cloud passing over a sunny plain. How should she
decide? what would be her duty, if he came again, and once more
called her 'wife'? She shrank from such a possibility with all the
weakness and superstition of her nature; and this it was which made
her strengthen herself with the re-utterance of unforgiving words;
and shun all recurrence to the subject on the rare occasion when
Hester had tried to bring it back, with a hope of softening the
heart which to her appeared altogether hardened on this one point.

Now, on this bright summer evening, while Hester had gone down to
the quay-side, Sylvia stood with her out-of-door things on in the
parlour, rather impatiently watching the sky, full of hurrying
clouds, and flushing with the warm tints of the approaching sunset.
She could not leave Alice: the old woman had grown so infirm that
she was never left by her daughter and Sylvia at the same time; yet
Sylvia had to fetch her little girl from the New Town, where she had
been to her supper at Jeremiah Foster's. Hester had said that she
should not be away more than a quarter of an hour; and Hester was
generally so punctual that any failure of hers, in this respect,
appeared almost in the light of an injury on those who had learnt to
rely upon her. Sylvia wanted to go and see widow Dobson, and learn
when Kester might be expected home. His two months were long past;
and Sylvia had heard through the Fosters of some suitable and
profitable employment for him, of which she thought he would be glad
to know as soon as possible. It was now some time since she had been
able to get so far as across the bridge; and, for aught she knew,
Kester might already be come back from his expedition to the
Cheviots. Kester was come back. Scarce five minutes had elapsed
after these thoughts had passed through her mind before his hasty
hand lifted the latch of the kitchen-door, his hurried steps brought
him face to face with her. The smile of greeting was arrested on her
lips by one look at him: his eyes staring wide, the expression on
his face wild, and yet pitiful.

'That's reet,' said he, seeing that her things were already on.
'Thou're wanted sore. Come along.'

'Oh! dear God! my child!' cried Sylvia, clutching at the chair near
her; but recovering her eddying senses with the strong fact before
her that whatever the terror was, she was needed to combat it.

'Ay; thy child!' said Kester, taking her almost roughly by the arm,
and drawing her away with him out through the open doors on to the
quay-side.

'Tell me!' said Sylvia, faintly, 'is she dead?'

'She's safe now,' said Kester. 'It's not her--it's him as saved her
as needs yo', if iver husband needed a wife.'

'He?--who? O Philip! Philip! is it yo' at last?'

Unheeding what spectators might see her movements, she threw up her
arms and staggered against the parapet of the bridge they were then
crossing.

'He!--Philip!--saved Bella? Bella, our little Bella, as got her
dinner by my side, and went out wi' Jeremiah, as well as could be. I
cannot take it in; tell me, Kester.' She kept trembling so much in
voice and in body, that he saw she could not stir without danger of
falling until she was calmed; as it was, her eyes became filmy from
time to time, and she drew her breath in great heavy pants, leaning
all the while against the wall of the bridge.

'It were no illness,' Kester began. 'T' little un had gone for a
walk wi' Jeremiah Foster, an' he were drawn for to go round t' edge
o' t' cliff, wheere they's makin' t' new walk reet o'er t' sea. But
it's but a bit on a pathway now; an' t' one was too oud, an' t'
other too young for t' see t' water comin' along wi' great leaps;
it's allays for comin' high up again' t' cliff, an' this spring-tide
it's comin' in i' terrible big waves. Some one said as they passed
t' man a-sittin' on a bit on a rock up above--a dunnot know, a only
know as a heared a great fearful screech i' t' air. A were just
a-restin' me at after a'd comed in, not half an hour i' t' place.
A've walked better nor a dozen mile to-day; an' a ran out, an' a
looked, an' just on t' walk, at t' turn, was t' swish of a wave
runnin' back as quick as t' mischief int' t' sea, an' oud Jeremiah
standin' like one crazy, lookin' o'er int' t' watter; an' like a
stroke o' leeghtnin' comes a man, an' int' t' very midst o' t' great
waves like a shot; an' then a knowed summut were in t' watter as
were nearer death than life; an' a seemed to misdoubt me that it
were our Bella; an' a shouts an' a cries for help, an' a goes mysel'
to t' very edge o' t' cliff, an' a bids oud Jeremiah, as was like
one beside hissel', houd tight on me, for he were good for nought
else; an' a bides my time, an' when a sees two arms houdin' out a
little drippin' streamin' child, a clutches her by her waist-band,
an' hauls her to land. She's noane t' worse for her bath, a'll be
bound.'

'I mun go--let me,' said Sylvia, struggling with his detaining hand,
which he had laid upon her in the fear that she would slip down to
the ground in a faint, so ashen-gray was her face. 'Let me,--Bella,
I mun go see her.'

He let go, and she stood still, suddenly feeling herself too weak to
stir.

'Now, if you'll try a bit to be quiet, a'll lead yo' along; but yo'
mun be a steady and brave lass.'

'I'll be aught if yo' only let me see Bella,' said Sylvia, humbly.

'An' yo' niver ax at after him as saved her,' said Kester,
reproachfully.

'I know it's Philip,' she whispered, 'and yo' said he wanted me; so
I know he's safe; and, Kester, I think I'm 'feared on him, and I'd
like to gather courage afore seeing him, and a look at Bella would
give me courage. It were a terrible time when I saw him last, and I
did say--'

'Niver think on what thou did say; think on what thou will say to
him now, for he lies a-dyin'! He were dashed again t' cliff an'
bruised sore in his innards afore t' men as come wi' a boat could
pick him up.'

She did not speak; she did not even tremble now; she set her teeth
together, and, holding tight by Kester, she urged him on; but when
they came to the end of the bridge, she seemed uncertain which way
to turn.

'This way,' said Kester. 'He's been lodgin' wi' Sally this nine
week, an' niver a one about t' place as knowed him; he's been i' t'
wars an' getten his face brunt.'

'And he was short o' food,' moaned Sylvia, 'and we had plenty, and I
tried to make yo'r sister turn him out, and send him away. Oh! will
God iver forgive me?'

Muttering to herself, breaking her mutterings with sharp cries of
pain, Sylvia, with Kester's help, reached widow Dobson's house. It
was no longer a quiet, lonely dwelling. Several sailors stood about
the door, awaiting, in silent anxiety, for the verdict of the
doctor, who was even now examining Philip's injuries. Two or three
women stood talking eagerly, in low voices, in the doorway.

But when Sylvia drew near the men fell back; and the women moved
aside as though to allow her to pass, all looking upon her with a
certain amount of sympathy, but perhaps with rather more of
antagonistic wonder as to how she was taking it--she who had been
living in ease and comfort while her husband's shelter was little
better than a hovel, her husband's daily life a struggle with
starvation; for so much of the lodger at widow Dobson's was
popularly known; and any distrust of him as a stranger and a tramp
was quite forgotten now.

Sylvia felt the hardness of their looks, the hardness of their
silence; but it was as nothing to her. If such things could have
touched her at this moment, she would not have stood still right in
the midst of their averted hearts, and murmured something to Kester.
He could not hear the words uttered by that hoarse choked voice,
until he had stooped down and brought his ear to the level of her
mouth.

'We'd better wait for t' doctors to come out,' she said again. She
stood by the door, shivering all over, almost facing the people in
the road, but with her face turned a little to the right, so that
they thought she was looking at the pathway on the cliff-side, a
hundred yards or so distant, below which the hungry waves still
lashed themselves into high ascending spray; while nearer to the
cottage, where their force was broken by the bar at the entrance to
the river, they came softly lapping up the shelving shore.

Sylvia saw nothing of all this, though it was straight before her
eyes. She only saw a blurred mist; she heard no sound of waters,
though it filled the ears of those around. Instead she heard low
whispers pronouncing Philip's earthly doom.

For the doctors were both agreed; his internal injury was of a
mortal kind, although, as the spine was severely injured above the
seat of the fatal bruise, he had no pain in the lower half of his
body.

They had spoken in so low a tone that John Foster, standing only a
foot or so away, had not been able to hear their words. But Sylvia
heard each syllable there where she stood outside, shivering all
over in the sultry summer evening. She turned round to Kester.

'I mun go to him, Kester; thou'll see that noane come in to us, when
t' doctors come out.'

She spoke in a soft, calm voice; and he, not knowing what she had
heard, made some easy conditional promise. Then those opposite to
the cottage door fell back, for they could see the grave doctors
coming out, and John Foster, graver, sadder still, following them.
Without a word to them,--without a word even of inquiry--which many
outside thought and spoke of as strange--white-faced, dry-eyed
Sylvia slipped into the house out of their sight.

And the waves kept lapping on the shelving shore.

The room inside was dark, all except the little halo or circle of
light made by a dip candle. Widow Dobson had her back to the
bed--her bed--on to which Philip had been borne in the hurry of
terror as to whether he was alive or whether he was dead. She was
crying--crying quietly, but the tears down-falling fast, as, with
her back to the lowly bed, she was gathering up the dripping clothes
cut off from the poor maimed body by the doctors' orders. She only
shook her head as she saw Sylvia, spirit-like, steal in--white,
noiseless, and upborne from earth.

But noiseless as her step might be, he heard, he recognized, and
with a sigh he turned his poor disfigured face to the wall, hiding
it in the shadow.

He knew that she was by him; that she had knelt down by his bed;
that she was kissing his hand, over which the languor of approaching
death was stealing. But no one spoke.

At length he said, his face still averted, speaking with an effort.

'Little lassie, forgive me now! I cannot live to see the morn!'

There was no answer, only a long miserable sigh, and he felt her
soft cheek laid upon his hand, and the quiver that ran through her
whole body.

'I did thee a cruel wrong,' he said, at length. 'I see it now. But
I'm a dying man. I think that God will forgive me--and I've sinned
against Him; try, lassie--try, my Sylvie--will not thou forgive me?'

He listened intently for a moment. He heard through the open window
the waves lapping on the shelving shore. But there came no word from
her; only that same long shivering, miserable sigh broke from her
lips at length.

'Child,' said he, once more. 'I ha' made thee my idol; and if I
could live my life o'er again I would love my God more, and thee
less; and then I shouldn't ha' sinned this sin against thee. But
speak one word of love to me--one little word, that I may know I
have thy pardon.'

'Oh, Philip! Philip!' she moaned, thus adjured.

Then she lifted her head, and said,

'Them were wicked, wicked words, as I said; and a wicked vow as I
vowed; and Lord God Almighty has ta'en me at my word. I'm sorely
punished, Philip, I am indeed.'

He pressed her hand, he stroked her cheek. But he asked for yet
another word.

'I did thee a wrong. In my lying heart I forgot to do to thee as I
would have had thee to do to me. And I judged Kinraid in my heart.'

'Thou thought as he was faithless and fickle,' she answered quickly;
'and so he were. He were married to another woman not so many weeks
at after thou went away. Oh, Philip, Philip! and now I have thee
back, and--'

'Dying' was the word she would have said, but first the dread of
telling him what she believed he did not know, and next her
passionate sobs, choked her.

'I know,' said he, once more stroking her cheek, and soothing her
with gentle, caressing hand. 'Little lassie!' he said, after a while
when she was quiet from very exhaustion, 'I niver thought to be so
happy again. God is very merciful.'

She lifted up her head, and asked wildly, 'Will He iver forgive me,
think yo'? I drove yo' out fra' yo'r home, and sent yo' away to t'
wars, wheere yo' might ha' getten yo'r death; and when yo' come
back, poor and lone, and weary, I told her for t' turn yo' out, for
a' I knew yo' must be starving in these famine times. I think I
shall go about among them as gnash their teeth for iver, while yo'
are wheere all tears are wiped away.'

'No!' said Philip, turning round his face, forgetful of himself in
his desire to comfort her. 'God pities us as a father pities his
poor wandering children; the nearer I come to death the clearer I
see Him. But you and me have done wrong to each other; yet we can
see now how we were led to it; we can pity and forgive one another.
I'm getting low and faint, lassie; but thou must remember this: God
knows more, and is more forgiving than either you to me, or me to
you. I think and do believe as we shall meet together before His
face; but then I shall ha' learnt to love thee second to Him; not
first, as I have done here upon the earth.'

Then he was silent--very still. Sylvia knew--widow Dobson had
brought it in--that there was some kind of medicine, sent by the
hopeless doctors, lying upon the table hard by, and she softly rose
and poured it out and dropped it into the half-open mouth. Then she
knelt down again, holding the hand feebly stretched out to her, and
watching the faint light in the wistful loving eyes. And in the
stillness she heard the ceaseless waves lapping against the shelving
shore.

Something like an hour before this time, which was the deepest
midnight of the summer's night, Hester Rose had come hurrying up the
road to where Kester and his sister sate outside the open door,
keeping their watch under the star-lit sky, all others having gone
away, one by one, even John and Jeremiah Foster having returned to
their own house, where the little Bella lay, sleeping a sound and
healthy slumber after her perilous adventure.

Hester had heard but little from William Darley as to the owner of
the watch and the half-crown; but he was chagrined at the failure of
all his skilful interrogations to elicit the truth, and promised her
further information in a few days, with all the more vehemence
because he was unaccustomed to be baffled. And Hester had again
whispered to herself 'Patience! Patience!' and had slowly returned
back to her home to find that Sylvia had left it, why she did not at
once discover. But, growing uneasy as the advancing hours neither
brought Sylvia nor little Bella to their home, she had set out for
Jeremiah Foster's as soon as she had seen her mother comfortably
asleep in her bed; and then she had learnt the whole story, bit by
bit, as each person who spoke broke in upon the previous narration
with some new particular. But from no one did she clearly learn
whether Sylvia was with her husband, or not; and so she came
speeding along the road, breathless, to where Kester sate in
wakeful, mournful silence, his sister's sleeping head lying on his
shoulder, the cottage door open, both for air and that there might
be help within call if needed; and the dim slanting oblong of the
interior light lying across the road.

Hester came panting up, too agitated and breathless to ask how much
was truth of the fatal, hopeless tale which she had heard. Kester
looked at her without a word. Through this solemn momentary silence
the lapping of the ceaseless waves was heard, as they came up close
on the shelving shore.

'He? Philip?' said she. Kester shook his head sadly.

'And his wife--Sylvia?' said Hester.

'In there with him, alone,' whispered Kester.

Hester turned away, and wrung her hands together.

'Oh, Lord God Almighty!' said she, 'was I not even worthy to bring
them together at last?' And she went away slowly and heavily back to
the side of her sleeping mother. But 'Thy will be done' was on her
quivering lips before she lay down to her rest.

The soft gray dawn lightens the darkness of a midsummer night soon
after two o'clock. Philip watched it come, knowing that it was his
last sight of day,--as we reckon days on earth.

He had been often near death as a soldier; once or twice, as when he
rushed into fire to save Kinraid, his chances of life had been as
one to a hundred; but yet he had had a chance. But now there was the
new feeling--the last new feeling which we shall any of us
experience in this world--that death was not only close at hand,
but inevitable.

He felt its numbness stealing up him--stealing up him. But the head
was clear, the brain more than commonly active in producing vivid
impressions.

It seemed but yesterday since he was a little boy at his mother's
knee, wishing with all the earnestness of his childish heart to be
like Abraham, who was called the friend of God, or David, who was
said to be the man after God's own heart, or St John, who was called
'the Beloved.' As very present seemed the day on which he made
resolutions of trying to be like them; it was in the spring, and
some one had brought in cowslips; and the scent of those flowers was
in his nostrils now, as he lay a-dying--his life ended, his battles
fought, his time for 'being good' over and gone--the opportunity,
once given in all eternity, past.

All the temptations that had beset him rose clearly before him; the
scenes themselves stood up in their solid materialism--he could have
touched the places; the people, the thoughts, the arguments that
Satan had urged in behalf of sin, were reproduced with the vividness
of a present time. And he knew that the thoughts were illusions, the
arguments false and hollow; for in that hour came the perfect vision
of the perfect truth: he saw the 'way to escape' which had come
along with the temptation; now, the strong resolve of an ardent
boyhood, with all a life before it to show the world 'what a
Christian might be'; and then the swift, terrible now, when his
naked, guilty soul shrank into the shadow of God's mercy-seat, out
of the blaze of His anger against all those who act a lie.

His mind was wandering, and he plucked it back. Was this death in
very deed? He tried to grasp at the present, the earthly present,
fading quick away. He lay there on the bed--on Sally Dobson's bed in
the house-place, not on his accustomed pallet in the lean-to. He
knew that much. And the door was open into the still, dusk night;
and through the open casement he could hear the lapping of the waves
on the shelving shore, could see the soft gray dawn over the sea--he
knew it was over the sea--he saw what lay unseen behind the poor
walls of the cottage. And it was Sylvia who held his hand tight in
her warm, living grasp; it was his wife whose arm was thrown around
him, whose sobbing sighs shook his numbed frame from time to time.

'God bless and comfort my darling,' he said to himself. 'She knows
me now. All will be right in heaven--in the light of God's mercy.'

And then he tried to remember all that he had ever read about, God,
and all that the blessed Christ--that bringeth glad tidings of great
joy unto all people, had said of the Father, from whom He came.
Those sayings dropped like balm down upon his troubled heart and
brain. He remembered his mother, and how she had loved him; and he
was going to a love wiser, tenderer, deeper than hers.

As he thought this, he moved his hands as if to pray; but Sylvia
clenched her hold, and he lay still, praying all the same for her,
for his child, and for himself. Then he saw the sky redden with the
first flush of dawn; he heard Kester's long-drawn sigh of weariness
outside the open door.

He had seen widow Dobson pass through long before to keep the
remainder of her watch on the bed in the lean-to, which had been his
for many and many a sleepless and tearful night. Those nights were
over--he should never see that poor chamber again, though it was
scarce two feet distant. He began to lose all sense of the
comparative duration of time: it seemed as long since kind Sally
Dobson had bent over him with soft, lingering look, before going
into the humble sleeping-room--as long as it was since his boyhood,
when he stood by his mother dreaming of the life that should be his,
with the scent of the cowslips tempting him to be off to the
woodlands where they grew. Then there came a rush and an eddying
through his brain--his soul trying her wings for the long flight.
Again he was in the present: he heard the waves lapping against the
shelving shore once again.

And now his thoughts came back to Sylvia. Once more he spoke aloud,
in a strange and terrible voice, which was not his. Every sound came
with efforts that were new to him.

'My wife! Sylvie! Once more--forgive me all.'

She sprang up, she kissed his poor burnt lips; she held him in her
arms, she moaned, and said,

'Oh, wicked me! forgive me--me--Philip!'

Then he spoke, and said, 'Lord, forgive us our trespasses as we
forgive each other!' And after that the power of speech was
conquered by the coming death. He lay very still, his consciousness
fast fading away, yet coming back in throbs, so that he knew it was
Sylvia who touched his lips with cordial, and that it was Sylvia who
murmured words of love in his ear. He seemed to sleep at last, and
so he did--a kind of sleep, but the light of the red morning sun
fell on his eyes, and with one strong effort he rose up, and turned
so as once more to see his wife's pale face of misery.

'In heaven,' he cried, and a bright smile came on his face, as he
fell back on his pillow.

Not long after Hester came, the little Bella scarce awake in her
arms, with the purpose of bringing his child to see him ere yet he
passed away. Hester had watched and prayed through the livelong
night. And now she found him dead, and Sylvia, tearless and almost
unconscious, lying by him, her hand holding his, her other thrown
around him.

Kester, poor old man, was sobbing bitterly; but she not at all.

Then Hester bore her child to her, and Sylvia opened wide her
miserable eyes, and only stared, as if all sense was gone from her.
But Bella suddenly rousing up at the sight of the poor, scarred,
peaceful face, cried out,--

'Poor man who was so hungry. Is he not hungry now?'

'No,' said Hester, softly. 'The former things are passed away--and
he is gone where there is no more sorrow, and no more pain.'

But then she broke down into weeping and crying. Sylvia sat up and
looked at her.

'Why do yo' cry, Hester?' she said. 'Yo' niver said that yo'
wouldn't forgive him as long as yo' lived. Yo' niver broke the heart
of him that loved yo', and let him almost starve at yo'r very door.
Oh, Philip! my Philip, tender and true.'

Then Hester came round and closed the sad half-open eyes; kissing
the calm brow with a long farewell kiss. As she did so, her eye fell
on a black ribbon round his neck. She partly lifted it out; to it
was hung a half-crown piece.

'This is the piece he left at William Darley's to be bored,' said
she, 'not many days ago.'

Bella had crept to her mother's arms as a known haven in this
strange place; and the touch of his child loosened the fountains of
her tears. She stretched out her hand for the black ribbon, put it
round her own neck; after a while she said,

'If I live very long, and try hard to be very good all that time, do
yo' think, Hester, as God will let me to him where he is?'

      *      *      *      *      *

Monkshaven is altered now into a rising bathing place. Yet, standing
near the site of widow Dobson's house on a summer's night, at the
ebb of a spring-tide, you may hear the waves come lapping up the
shelving shore with the same ceaseless, ever-recurrent sound as that
which Philip listened to in the pauses between life and death.

And so it will be until 'there shall be no more sea'.

But the memory of man fades away. A few old people can still tell
you the tradition of the man who died in a cottage somewhere about
this spot,--died of starvation while his wife lived in hard-hearted
plenty not two good stone-throws away. This is the form into which
popular feeling, and ignorance of the real facts, have moulded the
story. Not long since a lady went to the 'Public Baths', a handsome
stone building erected on the very site of widow Dobson's cottage,
and finding all the rooms engaged she sat down and had some talk
with the bathing woman; and, as it chanced, the conversation fell on
Philip Hepburn and the legend of his fate.

'I knew an old man when I was a girl,' said the bathing woman, 'as
could niver abide to hear t' wife blamed. He would say nothing
again' th' husband; he used to say as it were not fit for men to be
judging; that she had had her sore trial, as well as Hepburn
hisself.'

The lady asked, 'What became of the wife?'

'She was a pale, sad woman, allays dressed in black. I can just
remember her when I was a little child, but she died before her
daughter was well grown up; and Miss Rose took t' lassie, as had
always been like her own.'

'Miss Rose?'

'Hester Rose! have yo' niver heared of Hester Rose, she as founded
t' alms-houses for poor disabled sailors and soldiers on t'
Horncastle road? There's a piece o' stone in front to say that "This
building is erected in memory of P. H."--and some folk will have it
P. H. stands for t' name o' th' man as was starved to death.'

'And the daughter?'

'One o' th' Fosters, them as founded t' Old Bank, left her a vast o'
money; and she were married to distant cousin of theirs, and went
off to settle in America many and many a year ago.'



THE END.





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