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Title: Sylvia's Lovers — Volume 2
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 2" ***

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. II.

LONDON:

M.DCCC.LXIII.



CONTENTS

      XV  A DIFFICULT QUESTION
     XVI  THE ENGAGEMENT
    XVII  REJECTED WARNINGS
   XVIII  EDDY IN LOVE'S CURRENT
     XIX  AN IMPORTANT MISSION
      XX  LOVED AND LOST
     XXI  A REJECTED SUITOR
    XXII  DEEPENING SHADOWS
   XXIII  RETALIATION
    XXIV  BRIEF REJOICING
     XXV  COMING TROUBLES
    XXVI  A DREARY VIGIL
   XXVII  GLOOMY DAYS
  XXVIII  THE ORDEAL
    XXIX  WEDDING RAIMENT



CHAPTER XV

A DIFFICULT QUESTION


Philip went to bed with that kind of humble penitent gratitude in
his heart, which we sometimes feel after a sudden revulsion of
feeling from despondency to hope. The night before it seemed as if
all events were so arranged as to thwart him in his dearest wishes;
he felt now as if his discontent and repining, not twenty-four hours
before, had been almost impious, so great was the change in his
circumstances for the better. Now all seemed promising for the
fulfilment of what he most desired. He was almost convinced that he
was mistaken in thinking that Kinraid had had anything more than a
sailor's admiration for a pretty girl with regard to Sylvia; at any
rate, he was going away to-morrow, in all probability not to return
for another year (for Greenland ships left for the northern seas as
soon as there was a chance of the ice being broken up), and ere then
he himself might speak out openly, laying before her parents all his
fortunate prospects, and before her all his deep passionate love.

So this night his prayers were more than the mere form that they had
been the night before; they were a vehement expression of gratitude
to God for having, as it were, interfered on his behalf, to grant
him the desire of his eyes and the lust of his heart. He was like
too many of us, he did not place his future life in the hands of
God, and only ask for grace to do His will in whatever circumstances
might arise; but he yearned in that terrible way after a blessing
which, when granted under such circumstances, too often turns out to
be equivalent to a curse. And that spirit brings with it the
material and earthly idea that all events that favour our wishes are
answers to our prayer; and so they are in one sense, but they need
prayer in a deeper and higher spirit to keep us from the temptation
to evil which such events invariably bring with them.

Philip little knew how Sylvia's time had been passed that day. If he
had, he would have laid down this night with even a heavier heart
than he had done on the last.

Charley Kinraid accompanied his cousins as far as the spot where the
path to Haytersbank Farm diverged. Then he stopped his merry talk,
and announced his intention of going to see farmer Robson. Bessy
Corney looked disappointed and a little sulky; but her sister Molly
Brunton laughed, and said,--

'Tell truth, lad! Dannel Robson 'd niver have a call fra' thee if he
hadn't a pretty daughter.'

'Indeed, but he would,' replied Charley, rather annoyed; 'when I've
said a thing, I do it. I promised last night to go see him; besides,
I like the old man.'

'Well! when shall we tell mother yo're comin' whoam?'

'Toward eight o'clock--may-be sooner.'

'Why it's bare five now! bless t' lad, does he think o' staying
theere a' neet, and they up so late last night, and Mrs. Robson
ailing beside? Mother 'll not think it kind on yo' either, will she,
Bess?'

'I dunno. Charley mun do as he likes; I daresay no one'll miss him
if he does bide away till eight.'

'Well, well! I can't tell what I shall do; but yo'd best not stop
lingering here, for it's getting on, and there'll be a keen frost by
t' look o' the stars.'

Haytersbank was closed for the night as far as it ever was closed;
there were no shutters to the windows, nor did they care to draw the
inside curtains, so few were the passers-by. The house door was
fastened; but the shippen door a little on in the same long low
block of building stood open, and a dim light made an oblong upon
the snowy ground outside. As Kinraid drew near he heard talking
there, and a woman's voice; he threw a passing glance through the
window into the fire-lit house-place, and seeing Mrs. Robson asleep
by the fireside in her easy-chair, he went on.

There was the intermittent sound of the sharp whistling of milk into
the pail, and Kester, sitting on a three-legged stool, cajoling a
capricious cow into letting her fragrant burden flow. Sylvia stood
near the farther window-ledge, on which a horn lantern was placed,
pretending to knit at a gray worsted stocking, but in reality
laughing at Kester's futile endeavours, and finding quite enough to
do with her eyes, in keeping herself untouched by the whisking tail,
or the occasional kick. The frosty air was mellowed by the warm and
odorous breath of the cattle--breath that hung about the place in
faint misty clouds. There was only a dim light; such as it was, it
was not dearly defined against the dark heavy shadow in which the
old black rafters and manger and partitions were enveloped.

As Charley came to the door, Kester was saying, 'Quiet wi' thee,
wench! Theere now, she's a beauty, if she'll stand still. There's
niver sich a cow i' t' Riding; if she'll only behave hersel'. She's
a bonny lass, she is; let down her milk, theere's a pretty!'

'Why, Kester,' laughed Sylvia, 'thou'rt asking her for her milk wi'
as many pretty speeches as if thou wert wooing a wife!'

'Hey, lass!' said Kester, turning a bit towards her, and shutting
one eye to cock the other the better upon her; an operation which
puckered up his already wrinkled face into a thousand new lines and
folds. 'An' how does thee know how a man woos a wife, that thee
talks so knowin' about it? That's tellin'. Some un's been tryin' it
on thee.'

'There's niver a one been so impudent,' said Sylvia, reddening and
tossing her head a little; 'I'd like to see 'em try me!'

'Well, well!' said Kester, wilfully misunderstanding her meaning,
'thou mun be patient, wench; and if thou's a good lass, may-be thy
turn 'll come and they 'll try it.'

'I wish thou'd talk of what thou's some knowledge on, Kester,
i'stead of i' that silly way,' replied Sylvia.

'Then a mun talk no more 'bout women, for they're past knowin', an'
druv e'en King Solomon silly.'

At this moment Charley stepped in. Sylvia gave a little start and
dropped her ball of worsted. Kester made as though absorbed in his
task of cajoling Black Nell; but his eyes and ears were both
vigilant.

'I was going into the house, but I saw yo'r mother asleep, and I
didn't like to waken her, so I just came on here. Is yo'r father to
the fore?'

'No,' said Sylvia, hanging down her head a little, wondering if he
could have heard the way in which she and Kester had been talking,
and thinking over her little foolish jokes with anger against
herself. 'Father is gone to Winthrop about some pigs as he's heerd
on. He'll not be back till seven o'clock or so.'

It was but half-past five, and Sylvia in the irritation of the
moment believed that she wished Kinraid would go. But she would have
been extremely disappointed if he had. Kinraid himself seemed to
have no thought of the kind. He saw with his quick eyes, not
unaccustomed to women, that his coming so unexpectedly had fluttered
Sylvia, and anxious to make her quite at her ease with him, and not
unwilling to conciliate Kester, he addressed his next speech to him,
with the same kind of air of interest in the old man's pursuit that
a young man of a different class sometimes puts on when talking to
the chaperone of a pretty girl in a ball-room.

'That's a handsome beast yo've just been milking, master.'

'Ay; but handsome is as handsome does. It were only yesterday as she
aimed her leg right at t' pail wi' t' afterings in. She knowed it
were afterings as well as any Christian, and t' more t' mischief t'
better she likes it; an' if a hadn't been too quick for her, it
would have a' gone swash down i' t' litter. This'n 's a far better
cow i' t' long run, she's just a steady goer,' as the milky
down-pour came musical and even from the stall next to Black Nell's.

Sylvia was knitting away vigorously, thinking all the while that it
was a great pity she had not put on a better gown, or even a cap
with brighter ribbon, and quite unconscious how very pretty she
looked standing against the faint light, her head a little bent
down; her hair catching bright golden touches, as it fell from under
her little linen cap; her pink bed-gown, confined by her
apron-string, giving a sort of easy grace to her figure; her dark
full linsey petticoat short above her trim ancles, looking far more
suitable to the place where she was standing than her long gown of
the night before would have done. Kinraid was wanting to talk to
her, and to make her talk, but was uncertain how to begin. In the
meantime Kester went on with the subject last spoken about.

'Black Nell's at her fourth calf now, so she ought to ha' left off
her tricks and turned sober-like. But bless yo', there's some cows
as 'll be skittish till they're fat for t' butcher. Not but what a
like milking her better nor a steady goer; a man has allays summat
to be watchin' for; and a'm kind o' set up when a've mastered her at
last. T' young missus theere, she's mighty fond o' comin' t' see
Black Nell at her tantrums. She'd niver come near me if a' cows were
like this'n.'

'Do you often come and see the cows milked?' asked Kinraid,

'Many a time,' said Sylvia, smiling a little. 'Why, when we're
throng, I help Kester; but now we've only Black Nell and Daisy
giving milk. Kester knows as I can milk Black Nell quite easy,' she
continued, half vexed that Kester had not named this accomplishment.

'Ay! when she's in a good frame o' mind, as she is sometimes. But t'
difficulty is to milk her at all times.'

'I wish I'd come a bit sooner. I should like t' have seen you milk
Black Nell,' addressing Sylvia.

'Yo'd better come to-morrow e'en, and see what a hand she'll mak' on
her,' said Kester.

'To-morrow night I shall be far on my road back to Shields.'

'To-morrow!' said Sylvia, suddenly looking up at him, and then
dropping her eyes, as she found he had been watching for the effect
of his intelligence on her.

'I mun be back at t' whaler, where I'm engaged,' continued he.
'She's fitting up after a fresh fashion, and as I've been one as
wanted new ways, I mun be on the spot for t' look after her. Maybe I
shall take a run down here afore sailing in March. I'm sure I shall
try.'

There was a good deal meant and understood by these last few words.
The tone in which they were spoken gave them a tender intensity not
lost upon either of the hearers. Kester cocked his eye once more,
but with as little obtrusiveness as he could, and pondered the
sailor's looks and ways. He remembered his coming about the place
the winter before, and how the old master had then appeared to have
taken to him; but at that time Sylvia had seemed to Kester too
little removed from a child to have either art or part in Kinraid's
visits; now, however, the case was different. Kester in his
sphere--among his circle of acquaintance, narrow though it was--had
heard with much pride of Sylvia's bearing away the bell at church
and at market, wherever girls of her age were congregated. He was a
north countryman, so he gave out no further sign of his feelings
than his mistress and Sylvia's mother had done on a like occasion.

'T' lass is weel enough,' said he; but he grinned to himself, and
looked about, and listened to the hearsay of every lad, wondering
who was handsome, and brave, and good enough to be Sylvia's mate.
Now, of late, it had seemed to the canny farm-servant pretty clear
that Philip Hepburn was 'after her'; and to Philip, Kester had an
instinctive objection, a kind of natural antipathy such as has
existed in all ages between the dwellers in a town and those in the
country, between agriculture and trade. So, while Kinraid and Sylvia
kept up their half-tender, half-jesting conversation, Kester was
making up his slow persistent mind as to the desirability of the
young man then present as a husband for his darling, as much from
his being other than Philip in every respect, as from the individual
good qualities he possessed. Kester's first opportunity of favouring
Kinraid's suit consisted in being as long as possible over his
milking; so never were cows that required such 'stripping,' or were
expected to yield such 'afterings', as Black Nell and Daisy that
night. But all things must come to an end; and at length Kester got
up from his three-legged stool, on seeing what the others did
not--that the dip-candle in the lantern was coming to an end--and
that in two or three minutes more the shippen would be in darkness,
and so his pails of milk be endangered. In an instant Sylvia had
started out of her delicious dreamland, her drooping eyes were
raised, and recovered their power of observation; her ruddy arms
were freed from the apron in which she had enfolded them, as a
protection from the gathering cold, and she had seized and adjusted
the wooden yoke across her shoulders, ready to bear the brimming
milk-pails to the dairy.

'Look yo' at her!' exclaimed Kester to Charley, as he adjusted the
fragrant pails on the yoke. 'She thinks she's missus a ready, and
she's allays for carrying in t' milk since t' rhumatiz cotched my
shouther i' t' back end; and when she says "Yea," it's as much as my
heed's worth to say "Nay."'

And along the wall, round the corner, down the round slippery stones
of the rambling farmyard, behind the buildings, did Sylvia trip,
safe and well-poised, though the ground wore all one coating of
white snow, and in many places was so slippery as to oblige Kinraid
to linger near Kester, the lantern-bearer. Kester did not lose his
opportunity, though the cold misty night air provoked his asthmatic
cough when-ever he breathed, and often interrupted his words.

'She's a good wench--a good wench as iver was--an come on a good
stock, an' that's summat, whether in a cow or a woman. A've known
her from a baby; she's a reet down good un.'

By this time they had reached the back-kitchen door, just as Sylvia
had unladen herself, and was striking a light with flint and tinder.
The house seemed warm and inviting after the piercing outer air,
although the kitchen into which they entered contained only a raked
and slumbering fire at one end, over which, on a crook, hung the
immense pan of potatoes cooking for the evening meal of the pigs. To
this pan Kester immediately addressed himself, swinging it round
with ease, owing to the admirable simplicity of the old-fashioned
machinery. Kinraid stood between Kester and the door into the dairy,
through which Sylvia had vanished with the milk. He half wished to
conciliate Kester by helping him, but he seemed also attracted, by a
force which annihilated his will, to follow her wherever she went.
Kester read his mind.

'Let alone, let alone,' said he; 'pigs' vittle takes noan such
dainty carryin' as milk. A may set it down an' niver spill a drop;
she's noan fit for t' serve swine, nor yo' other, mester; better
help her t' teem t' milk.'

So Kinraid followed the light--his light--into the icy chill of the
dairy, where the bright polished tin cans were quickly dimmed with
the warm, sweet-smelling milk, that Sylvia was emptying out into the
brown pans. In his haste to help her, Charley took up one of the
pails.

'Eh? that'n 's to be strained. Yo' have a' the cow's hair in.
Mother's very particular, and cannot abide a hair.'

So she went over to her awkward dairymaid, and before she--but not
before he--was aware of the sweet proximity, she was adjusting his
happy awkward arms to the new office of holding a milk-strainer over
the bowl, and pouring the white liquid through it.

'There!' said she, looking up for a moment, and half blushing; 'now
yo'll know how to do it next time.'

'I wish next time was to come now,' said Kinraid; but she had
returned to her own pail, and seemed not to hear him. He followed
her to her side of the dairy. 'I've but a short memory, can yo' not
show me again how t' hold t' strainer?'

'No,' said she, half laughing, but holding her strainer fast in
spite of his insinuating efforts to unlock her fingers. 'But there's
no need to tell me yo've getten a short memory.'

'Why? what have I done? how dun you know it?'

'Last night,' she began, and then she stopped, and turned away her
head, pretending to be busy in her dairy duties of rinsing and such
like.

'Well!' said he, half conjecturing her meaning, and flattered by it,
if his conjecture were right. 'Last night--what?'

'Oh, yo' know!' said she, as if impatient at being both literally
and metaphorically followed about, and driven into a corner.

'No; tell me,' persisted he.

'Well,' said she, 'if yo' will have it, I think yo' showed yo'd but
a short memory when yo' didn't know me again, and yo' were five
times at this house last winter, and that's not so long sin'. But I
suppose yo' see a vast o' things on yo'r voyages by land or by sea,
and then it's but natural yo' should forget.' She wished she could
go on talking, but could not think of anything more to say just
then; for, in the middle of her sentence, the flattering
interpretation he might put upon her words, on her knowing so
exactly the number of times he had been to Haytersbank, flashed upon
her, and she wanted to lead the conversation a little farther
afield--to make it a little less personal. This was not his wish,
however. In a tone which thrilled through her, even in her own
despite, he said,--

'Do yo' think that can ever happen again, Sylvia?'

She was quite silent; almost trembling. He repeated the question as
if to force her to answer. Driven to bay, she equivocated.

'What happen again? Let me go, I dunno what yo're talking about, and
I'm a'most numbed wi' cold.'

For the frosty air came sharp in through the open lattice window,
and the ice was already forming on the milk. Kinraid would have
found a ready way of keeping his cousins, or indeed most young
women, warm; but he paused before he dared put his arm round Sylvia;
she had something so shy and wild in her look and manner; and her
very innocence of what her words, spoken by another girl, might lead
to, inspired him with respect, and kept him in check. So he
contented himself with saying,--

'I'll let yo' go into t' warm kitchen if yo'll tell me if yo' think
I can ever forget yo' again.'

She looked up at him defiantly, and set her red lips firm. He
enjoyed her determination not to reply to this question; it showed
she felt its significance. Her pure eyes looked steadily into his;
nor was the expression in his such as to daunt her or make her
afraid. They were like two children defying each other; each
determined to conquer. At last she unclosed her lips, and nodding
her head as if in triumph, said, as she folded her arms once more in
her check apron,--

'Yo'll have to go home sometime.'

'Not for a couple of hours yet,' said he; 'and yo'll be frozen
first; so yo'd better say if I can ever forget yo' again, without
more ado.'

Perhaps the fresh voices breaking on the silence,--perhaps the tones
were less modulated than they had been before, but anyhow Bell
Robson's voice was heard calling Sylvia through the second door,
which opened from the dairy to the house-place, in which her mother
had been till this moment asleep. Sylvia darted off in obedience to
the call; glad to leave him, as at the moment Kinraid resentfully
imagined. Through the open door he heard the conversation between
mother and daughter, almost unconscious of its meaning, so difficult
did he find it to wrench his thoughts from the ideas he had just
been forming with Sylvia's bright lovely face right under his eyes.

'Sylvia!' said her mother, 'who's yonder?' Bell was sitting up in
the attitude of one startled out of slumber into intensity of
listening; her hands on each of the chair-arms, as if just going to
rise. 'There's a fremd man i' t' house. I heerd his voice!'

'It's only--it's just Charley Kinraid; he was a-talking to me i' t'
dairy.'

'I' t' dairy, lass! and how com'd he i' t' dairy?'

'He com'd to see feyther. Feyther asked him last night,' said
Sylvia, conscious that he could overhear every word that was said,
and a little suspecting that he was no great favourite with her
mother.

'Thy feyther's out; how com'd he i' t' dairy?' persevered Bell.

'He com'd past this window, and saw yo' asleep, and didn't like for
t' waken yo'; so he com'd on to t' shippen, and when I carried t'
milk in---'

But now Kinraid came in, feeling the awkwardness of his situation a
little, yet with an expression so pleasant and manly in his open
face, and in his exculpatory manner, that Sylvia lost his first
words in a strange kind of pride of possession in him, about which
she did not reason nor care to define the grounds. But her mother
rose from her chair somewhat formally, as if she did not intend to
sit down again while he stayed, yet was too weak to be kept in that
standing attitude long.

'I'm afeared, sir, Sylvie hasn't told yo' that my master's out, and
not like to be in till late. He'll be main and sorry to have missed
yo'.'

There was nothing for it after this but to go. His only comfort was
that on Sylvia's rosy face he could read unmistakable signs of
regret and dismay. His sailor's life, in bringing him suddenly face
to face with unexpected events, had given him something of that
self-possession which we consider the attribute of a gentleman; and
with an apparent calmness which almost disappointed Sylvia, who
construed it into a symptom of indifference as to whether he went or
stayed, he bade her mother good-night, and only said, in holding her
hand a minute longer than was absolutely necessary,--

'I'm coming back ere I sail; and then, may-be, you'll answer yon
question.'

He spoke low, and her mother was rearranging herself in her chair,
else Sylvia would have had to repeat the previous words. As it was,
with soft thrilling ideas ringing through her, she could get her
wheel, and sit down to her spinning by the fire; waiting for her
mother to speak first, Sylvia dreamt her dreams.

Bell Robson was partly aware of the state of things, as far as it
lay on the surface. She was not aware how deep down certain feelings
had penetrated into the girl's heart who sat on the other side of
the fire, with a little sad air diffused over her face and figure.
Bell looked upon Sylvia as still a child, to be warned off forbidden
things by threats of danger. But the forbidden thing was already
tasted, and possible danger in its full acquisition only served to
make it more precious-sweet.

Bell sat upright in her chair, gazing into the fire. Her milk-white
linen mob-cap fringed round and softened her face, from which the
usual apple-red was banished by illness, and the features, from the
same cause, rendered more prominent and stern. She had a clean buff
kerchief round her neck, and stuffed into the bosom of her Sunday
woollen gown of dark blue,--if she had been in working-trim she
would have worn a bedgown like Sylvia's. Her sleeves were pinned
back at the elbows, and her brown arms and hard-working hands lay
crossed in unwonted idleness on her check apron. Her knitting was by
her side; and if she had been going through any accustomed
calculation or consideration she would have had it busily clinking
in her fingers. But she had something quite beyond common to think
about, and, perhaps, to speak about; and for the minute she was not
equal to knitting.

'Sylvie,' she began at length, 'did I e'er tell thee on Nancy
Hartley as I knew when I were a child? I'm thinking a deal on her
to-night; may-be it's because I've been dreaming on yon old times.
She was a bonny lass as ever were seen, I've heerd folk say; but
that were afore I knew her. When I knew her she were crazy, poor
wench; wi' her black hair a-streaming down her back, and her eyes,
as were a'most as black, allays crying out for pity, though never a
word she spoke but "He once was here." Just that o'er and o'er
again, whether she were cold or hot, full or hungry, "He once was
here," were all her speech. She had been farm-servant to my mother's
brother--James Hepburn, thy great-uncle as was; she were a poor,
friendless wench, a parish 'prentice, but honest and gaum-like, till
a lad, as nobody knowed, come o'er the hills one sheep-shearing fra'
Whitehaven; he had summat to do wi' th' sea, though not rightly to
be called a sailor: and he made a deal on Nancy Hartley, just to
beguile the time like; and he went away and ne'er sent a thought
after her more. It's the way as lads have; and there's no holding
'em when they're fellows as nobody knows--neither where they come
fro', nor what they've been doing a' their lives, till they come
athwart some poor wench like Nancy Hartley. She were but a softy
after all: for she left off doing her work in a proper manner. I've
heerd my aunt say as she found out as summat was wrong wi' Nancy as
soon as th' milk turned bingy, for there ne'er had been such a clean
lass about her milk-cans afore that; and from bad it grew to worse,
and she would sit and do nothing but play wi' her fingers fro' morn
till night, and if they asked her what ailed her, she just said, "He
once was here;" and if they bid her go about her work, it were a'
the same. And when they scolded her, and pretty sharp too, she would
stand up and put her hair from her eyes, and look about her like a
crazy thing searching for her wits, and ne'er finding them, for all
she could think on was just, "He once was here." It were a caution
to me again thinking a man t' mean what he says when he's a-talking
to a young woman.'

'But what became on poor Nancy?' asked Sylvia.

'What should become on her or on any lass as gives hersel' up to
thinking on a man who cares nought for her?' replied her mother, a
little severely. 'She were crazed, and my aunt couldn't keep her
on, could she? She did keep her a long weary time, thinking as she
would, may-be, come to hersel', and, anyhow, she were a motherless
wench. But at length she had for t' go where she came fro'--back to
Keswick workhouse: and when last I heerd on her she were chained to
th' great kitchen dresser i' t' workhouse; they'd beaten her till
she were taught to be silent and quiet i' th' daytime, but at night,
when she were left alone, she would take up th' oud cry, till it
wrung their heart, so they'd many a time to come down and beat her
again to get any peace. It were a caution to me, as I said afore, to
keep fro' thinking on men as thought nought on me.'

'Poor crazy Nancy!' sighed Sylvia. The mother wondered if she had
taken the 'caution' to herself, or was only full of pity for the mad
girl, dead long before.



CHAPTER XVI

THE ENGAGEMENT


'As the day lengthens so the cold strengthens.' It was so that year;
the hard frost which began on new year's eve lasted on and on into
late February, black and bitter, but welcome enough to the farmers,
as it kept back the too early growth of autumn-sown wheat, and gave
them the opportunity of leading manure. But it did not suit invalids
as well, and Bell Robson, though not getting worse, did not make any
progress towards amendment. Sylvia was kept very busy,
notwithstanding that she had the assistance of a poor widow-woman in
the neighbourhood on cleaning, or washing, or churning days. Her
life was quiet and monotonous, although hard-working; and while her
hands mechanically found and did their accustomed labour, the
thoughts that rose in her head always centred on Charley Kinraid,
his ways, his words, his looks, whether they all meant what she
would fain believe they did, and whether, meaning love at the time,
such a feeling was likely to endure. Her mother's story of crazy
Nancy had taken hold of her; but not as a 'caution,' rather as a
parallel case to her own. Like Nancy, and borrowing the poor girl's
own words, she would say softly to herself, 'He once was here'; but
all along she believed in her heart he would come back again to her,
though it touched her strangely to imagine the agonies of forsaken
love.

Philip knew little of all this. He was very busy with facts and
figures, doggedly fighting through the necessary business, and only
now and then allowing himself the delicious relaxation of going to
Haytersbank in an evening, to inquire after his aunt's health, and
to see Sylvia; for the two Fosters were punctiliously anxious to
make their shopmen test all their statements; insisting on an
examination of the stock, as if Hepburn and Coulson were strangers
to the shop; having the Monkshaven auctioneer in to appraise the
fixtures and necessary furniture; going over the shop books for the
last twenty years with their successors, an employment which took up
evening after evening; and not unfrequently taking one of the young
men on the long commercial journeys which were tediously made in a
gig. By degrees both Hepburn and Coulson were introduced to distant
manufacturers and wholesale dealers. They would have been willing to
take the Fosters' word for every statement the brothers had made on
new year's day; but this, it was evident, would not have satisfied
their masters, who were scrupulous in insisting that whatever
advantage there was should always fall on the side of the younger
men.

When Philip saw Sylvia she was always quiet and gentle; perhaps more
silent than she had been a year ago, and she did not attend so
briskly to what was passing around her. She was rather thinner and
paler; but whatever change there was in her was always an
improvement in Philip's eyes, so long as she spoke graciously to
him. He thought she was suffering from long-continued anxiety about
her mother, or that she had too much to do; and either cause was
enough to make him treat her with a grave regard and deference which
had a repressed tenderness in it, of which she, otherwise occupied,
was quite unaware. She liked him better, too, than she had done a
year or two before, because he did not show her any of the eager
attention which teased her then, although its meaning was not fully
understood.

Things were much in this state when the frost broke, and milder
weather succeeded. This was the time so long looked forward to by
the invalid and her friends, as favouring the doctor's
recommendation of change of air. Her husband was to take her to
spend a fortnight with a kindly neighbour, who lived near the farm
they had occupied, forty miles or so inland, before they came to
Haytersbank. The widow-woman was to come and stay in the house, to
keep Sylvia company, during her mother's absence. Daniel, indeed,
was to return home after conveying his wife to her destination; but
there was so much to be done on the land at this time of the year,
that Sylvia would have been alone all day had it not been for the
arrangement just mentioned.

There was active stirring in Monkshaven harbour as well as on shore.
The whalers were finishing their fittings-out for the Greenland
seas. It was a 'close' season, that is to say, there would be
difficulty in passing the barrier of ice which lay between the ships
and the whaling-grounds; and yet these must be reached before June,
or the year's expedition would be of little avail. Every
blacksmith's shop rung with the rhythmical clang of busy hammers,
beating out old iron, such as horseshoes, nails or stubs, into the
great harpoons; the quays were thronged with busy and important
sailors, rushing hither and thither, conscious of the demand in
which they were held at this season of the year. It was war time,
too. Many captains unable to procure men in Monkshaven would have to
complete their crews in the Shetlands. The shops in the town were
equally busy; stores had to be purchased by the whaling-masters,
warm clothing of all sorts to be provided. These were the larger
wholesale orders; but many a man, and woman, too, brought out their
small hoards to purchase extra comforts, or precious keepsakes for
some beloved one. It was the time of the great half-yearly traffic
of the place; another impetus was given to business when the whalers
returned in the autumn, and the men were flush of money, and full of
delight at once more seeing their homes and their friends.

There was much to be done in Fosters' shop, and later hours were
kept than usual. Some perplexity or other was occupying John and
Jeremiah Foster; their minds were not so much on the alert as usual,
being engaged on some weighty matter of which they had as yet spoken
to no one. But it thus happened that they did not give the prompt
assistance they were accustomed to render at such times; and Coulson
had been away on some of the new expeditions devolving on him and
Philip as future partners. One evening after the shop was closed,
while they were examining the goods, and comparing the sales with
the entries in the day-book, Coulson suddenly inquired--

'By the way, Hester, does thee know where the parcel of best
bandanas is gone? There was four left, as I'm pretty sure, when I
set off to Sandsend; and to-day Mark Alderson came in, and would
fain have had one, and I could find none nowhere.'

'I sold t' last to-day, to yon sailor, the specksioneer, who fought
the press-gang same time as poor Darley were killed. He took it, and
three yards of yon pink ribbon wi' t' black and yellow crosses on
it, as Philip could never abide. Philip has got 'em i' t' book, if
he'll only look.'

'Is he here again?' said Philip; 'I didn't see him. What brings him
here, where he's noan wanted?'

'T' shop were throng wi' folk,' said Hester, 'and he knew his own
mind about the handkercher, and didn't tarry long. Just as he was
leaving, his eye caught on t' ribbon, and he came back for it. It
were when yo' were serving Mary Darby and there was a vast o' folk
about yo'.'

'I wish I'd seen him,' said Coulson. 'I'd ha' gi'en him a word and a
look he'd not ha' forgotten in a hurry.'

'Why, what's up?' said Philip, surprised at William's unusual
manner, and, at the same time, rather gratified to find a reflection
of his own feelings about Kinraid. Coulson's face was pale with
anger, but for a moment or two he seemed uncertain whether he would
reply or not.

'Up!' said he at length. 'It's just this: he came after my sister
for better nor two year; and a better lass--no, nor a prettier i' my
eyes--niver broke bread. And then my master saw another girl, that
he liked better'--William almost choked in his endeavour to keep
down all appearance of violent anger, and then went on, 'and that
he played t' same game wi', as I've heerd tell.'

'And how did thy sister take it?' asked Philip, eagerly.

'She died in a six-month,' said William; '_she_ forgived him, but
it's beyond me. I thought it were him when I heerd of t' work about
Darley; Kinraid--and coming fra' Newcassel, where Annie lived
'prentice--and I made inquiry, and it were t' same man. But I'll
say no more about him, for it stirs t' old Adam more nor I like, or
is fitting.'

Out of respect to him, Philip asked no more questions although there
were many things that he fain would have known. Both Coulson and he
went silently and grimly through the remainder of their day's work.
Independent of any personal interest which either or both of them
had or might have in Kinraid's being a light o' love, this fault of
his was one with which the two grave, sedate young men had no
sympathy. Their hearts were true and constant, whatever else might
be their failings; and it is no new thing to 'damn the faults we
have no mind to.' Philip wished that it was not so late, or that
very evening he would have gone to keep guard over Sylvia in her
mother's absence--nay, perhaps he might have seen reason to give her
a warning of some kind. But, if he had done so, it would have been
locking the stable-door after the steed was stolen. Kinraid had
turned his steps towards Haytersbank Farm as soon as ever he had
completed his purchases. He had only come that afternoon to
Monkshaven, and for the sole purpose of seeing Sylvia once more
before he went to fulfil his engagement as specksioneer in the
_Urania_, a whaling-vessel that was to sail from North Shields on
Thursday morning, and this was Monday.

Sylvia sat in the house-place, her back to the long low window, in
order to have all the light the afternoon hour afforded for her
work. A basket of her father's unmended stockings was on the little
round table beside her, and one was on her left hand, which she
supposed herself to be mending; but from time to time she made long
pauses, and looked in the fire; and yet there was but little motion
of flame or light in it out of which to conjure visions. It was
'redd up' for the afternoon; covered with a black mass of coal, over
which the equally black kettle hung on the crook. In the
back-kitchen Dolly Reid, Sylvia's assistant during her mother's
absence, chanted a lugubrious ditty, befitting her condition as a
widow, while she cleaned tins, and cans, and milking-pails. Perhaps
these bustling sounds prevented Sylvia from hearing approaching
footsteps coming down the brow with swift advance; at any rate, she
started and suddenly stood up as some one entered the open door. It
was strange she should be so much startled, for the person who
entered had been in her thoughts all during those long pauses.
Charley Kinraid and the story of crazy Nancy had been the subjects
for her dreams for many a day, and many a night. Now he stood there,
bright and handsome as ever, with just that much timidity in his
face, that anxiety as to his welcome, which gave his accost an added
charm, could she but have perceived it. But she was so afraid of
herself, so unwilling to show what she felt, and how much she had
been thinking of him in his absence, that her reception seemed cold
and still. She did not come forward to meet him; she went crimson to
the very roots of her hair; but that, in the waning light, he could
not see; and she shook so that she felt as if she could hardly
stand; but the tremor was not visible to him. She wondered if he
remembered the kiss that had passed between them on new year's
eve--the words that had been spoken in the dairy on new year's day;
the tones, the looks, that had accompanied those words. But all she
said was--

'I didn't think to see yo'. I thought yo'd ha' sailed.'

'I told yo' I should come back, didn't I?' said he, still standing,
with his hat in his hand, waiting to be asked to sit down; and she,
in her bashfulness, forgetting to give the invitation, but, instead,
pretending to be attentively mending the stocking she held. Neither
could keep quiet and silent long. She felt his eyes were upon her,
watching every motion, and grew more and more confused in her
expression and behaviour. He was a little taken aback by the nature
of his reception, and was not sure at first whether to take the
great change in her manner, from what it had been when last he saw
her, as a favourable symptom or otherwise. By-and-by, luckily for
him, in some turn of her arm to reach the scissors on the table, she
caught the edge of her work-basket, and down it fell. She stooped to
pick up the scattered stockings and ball of worsted, and so did he;
and when they rose up, he had fast hold of her hand, and her face
was turned away, half ready to cry.

'What ails yo' at me?' said he, beseechingly. 'Yo' might ha'
forgotten me; and yet I thought we made a bargain against forgetting
each other.' No answer. He went on: 'Yo've never been out o' my
thoughts, Sylvia Robson; and I'm come back to Monkshaven for nought
but to see you once and again afore I go away to the northern seas.
It's not two hour sin' I landed at Monkshaven, and I've been near
neither kith nor kin as yet; and now I'm here you won't speak to
me.'

'I don't know what to say,' said she, in a low, almost inaudible
tone. Then hardening herself, and resolving to speak as if she did
not understand his only half-expressed meaning, she lifted up her
head, and all but looking at him--while she wrenched her hand out of
his--she said: 'Mother's gone to Middleham for a visit, and
feyther's out i' t' plough-field wi' Kester; but he'll be in afore
long.'

Charley did not speak for a minute or so. Then he said--

'Yo're not so dull as to think I'm come all this way for t' see
either your father or your mother. I've a great respect for 'em
both; but I'd hardly ha' come all this way for to see 'em, and me
bound to be back i' Shields, if I walk every step of the way, by
Wednesday night. It's that yo' won't understand my meaning, Sylvia;
it's not that yo' don't, or that yo' can't.' He made no effort to
repossess himself of her hand. She was quite silent, but in spite of
herself she drew long hard breaths. 'I may go back to where I came
from,' he went on. 'I thought to go to sea wi' a blessed hope to
cheer me up, and a knowledge o' some one as loved me as I'd left
behind; some one as loved me half as much as I did her; for th'
measure o' my love toward her is so great and mighty, I'd be content
wi' half as much from her, till I'd taught her to love me more. But
if she's a cold heart and cannot care for a honest sailor, why,
then, I'd best go back at once.'

He made for the door. He must have been pretty sure from some sign
or other, or he would never have left it to her womanly pride to
give way, and for her to make the next advance. He had not taken two
steps when she turned quickly towards him, and said something--the
echo of which, rather than the words themselves, reached him.

'I didn't know yo' cared for me; yo' niver said so.' In an instant
he was back at her side, his arm round her in spite of her short
struggle, and his eager passionate voice saying, 'Yo' never knowed I
loved you, Sylvia? say it again, and look i' my face while yo' say
it, if yo' can. Why, last winter I thought yo'd be such a woman when
yo'd come to be one as my een had never looked upon, and this year,
ever sin' I saw yo' i' the kitchen corner sitting crouching behind
my uncle, I as good as swore I'd have yo' for wife, or never wed at
all. And it was not long ere yo' knowed it, for all yo' were so coy,
and now yo' have the face--no, yo' have not the face--come, my
darling, what is it?' for she was crying; and on his turning her wet
blushing face towards him the better to look at it, she suddenly hid
it in his breast. He lulled and soothed her in his arms, as if she
had been a weeping child and he her mother; and then they sat down
on the settle together, and when she was more composed they began to
talk. He asked her about her mother; not sorry in his heart at Bell
Robson's absence. He had intended if necessary to acknowledge his
wishes and desires with regard to Sylvia to her parents; but for
various reasons he was not sorry that circumstances had given him
the chance of seeing her alone, and obtaining her promise to marry
him without being obliged to tell either her father or her mother at
present. 'I ha' spent my money pretty free,' he said, 'and I've
ne'er a penny to the fore, and yo'r parents may look for something
better for yo', my pretty: but when I come back fro' this voyage I
shall stand a chance of having a share i' th' _Urania_, and may-be I
shall be mate as well as specksioneer; and I can get a matter of
from seventy to ninety pound a voyage, let alone th' half-guineas
for every whale I strike, and six shilling a gallon on th' oil; and
if I keep steady wi' Forbes and Company, they'll make me master i'
time, for I've had good schooling, and can work a ship as well as
any man; an' I leave yo' wi' yo'r parents, or take a cottage for yo'
nigh at hand; but I would like to have something to the fore, and
that I shall have, please God, when we come back i' th' autumn. I
shall go to sea happy, now, thinking I've yo'r word. Yo're not one
to go back from it, I'm sure, else it's a long time to leave such a
pretty girl as yo', and ne'er a chance of a letter reaching yo' just
to tell yo' once again how I love yo', and to bid yo' not forget
yo'r true love.'

'There'll be no need o' that,' murmured Sylvia.

She was too dizzy with happiness to have attended much to his
details of his worldly prospects, but at the sound of his tender
words of love her eager heart was ready to listen.

'I don't know,' said he, wanting to draw her out into more
confession of her feelings. 'There's many a one ready to come after
yo'; and yo'r mother is not o'er captivated wi' me; and there's yon
tall fellow of a cousin as looks black at me, for if I'm not
mista'en he's a notion of being sweet on yo' hisself.'

'Not he,' said Sylvia, with some contempt in her tone. 'He's so full
o' business and t' shop, and o' makin' money, and gettin' wealth.'

'Ay, ay; but perhaps when he gets a rich man he'll come and ask my
Sylvia to be his wife, and what will she say then?'

'He'll niver come asking such a foolish question,' said she, a
little impatiently; 'he knows what answer he'd get if he did.'

Kinraid said, almost as if to himself, 'Yo'r mother favours him
though.' But she, weary of a subject she cared nothing about, and
eager to identify herself with all his interests, asked him about
his plans almost at the same time that he said these last words; and
they went on as lovers do, intermixing a great many tender
expressions with a very little conversation relating to facts.

Dolly Reid came in, and went out softly, unheeded by them. But
Sylvia's listening ears caught her father's voice, as he and Kester
returned homewards from their day's work in the plough-field; and
she started away, and fled upstairs in shy affright, leaving Charley
to explain his presence in the solitary kitchen to her father.

He came in, not seeing that any one was there at first; for they had
never thought of lighting a candle. Kinraid stepped forward into the
firelight; his purpose of concealing what he had said to Sylvia
quite melted away by the cordial welcome her father gave him the
instant that he recognized him.

'Bless thee, lad! who'd ha' thought o' seein' thee? Why, if iver a
thought on thee at all, it were half way to Davis' Straits. To be
sure, t' winter's been a dree season, and thou'rt, may-be, i' t'
reet on 't to mak' a late start. Latest start as iver I made was
ninth o' March, an' we struck thirteen whales that year.'

'I have something to say to you,' said Charley, in a hesitating
voice, so different to his usual hearty way, that Daniel gave him a
keen look of attention before he began to speak. And, perhaps, the
elder man was not unprepared for the communication that followed. At
any rate, it was not unwelcome. He liked Kinraid, and had strong
sympathy not merely with what he knew of the young sailor's
character, but with the life he led, and the business he followed.
Robson listened to all he said with approving nods and winks, till
Charley had told him everything he had to say; and then he turned
and struck his broad horny palm into Kinraid's as if concluding a
bargain, while he expressed in words his hearty consent to their
engagement. He wound up with a chuckle, as the thought struck him
that this great piece of business, of disposing of their only child,
had been concluded while his wife was away.

'A'm noan so sure as t' missus 'll like it,' said he; 'tho'
whativer she'll ha' to say again it, mischief only knows. But she's
noan keen on matterimony; though a have made her as good a man as
there is in a' t' Ridings. Anyhow, a'm master, and that she knows.
But may-be, for t' sake o' peace an' quietness--tho' she's niver a
scolding tongue, that a will say for her--we'n best keep this matter
to ourselves till thou comes int' port again. T' lass upstairs 'll
like nought better than t' curl hersel' round a secret, and purr
o'er it, just as t' oud cat does o'er her blind kitten. But thou'll
be wanting to see t' lass, a'll be bound. An oud man like me isn't
as good company as a pretty lass.' Laughing a low rich laugh over
his own wit, Daniel went to the bottom of the stairs, and called,
'Sylvie, Sylvie! come down, lass! a's reet; come down!'

For a time there was no answer. Then a door was unbolted, and Sylvia
said,

'I can't come down again. I'm noan comin' down again to-night.'

Daniel laughed the more at this, especially when he caught Charley's
look of disappointment.

'Hearken how she's bolted her door. She'll noane come near us this
night. Eh! but she's a stiff little 'un; she's been our only one, and
we'n mostly let her have her own way. But we'll have a pipe and a
glass; and that, to my thinking, is as good company as iver a woman
in Yorkshire.'



CHAPTER XVII

REJECTED WARNINGS


The post arrived at Monkshaven three times in the week; sometimes,
indeed, there were not a dozen letters in the bag, which was brought
thither by a man in a light mail-cart, who took the better part of a
day to drive from York; dropping private bags here and there on the
moors, at some squire's lodge or roadside inn. Of the number of
letters that arrived in Monkshaven, the Fosters, shopkeepers and
bankers, had the largest share.

The morning succeeding the day on which Sylvia had engaged herself
to Kinraid, the Fosters seemed unusually anxious to obtain their
letters. Several times Jeremiah came out of the parlour in which his
brother John was sitting in expectant silence, and, passing through
the shop, looked up and down the market-place in search of the old
lame woman, who was charitably employed to deliver letters, and who
must have been lamer than ever this morning, to judge from the
lateness of her coming. Although none but the Fosters knew the cause
of their impatience for their letters, yet there was such tacit
sympathy between them and those whom they employed, that Hepburn,
Coulson, and Hester were all much relieved when the old woman at
length appeared with her basket of letters.

One of these seemed of especial consequence to the good brothers.
They each separately looked at the direction, and then at one
another; and without a word they returned with it unread into the
parlour, shutting the door, and drawing the green silk curtain
close, the better to read it in privacy.

Both Coulson and Philip felt that something unusual was going on,
and were, perhaps, as full of consideration as to the possible
contents of this London letter, as of attention to their more
immediate business. But fortunately there was little doing in the
shop. Philip, indeed, was quite idle when John Foster opened the
parlour-door, and, half doubtfully, called him into the room. As the
door of communication shut the three in, Coulson felt himself a
little aggrieved. A minute ago Philip and he were on a level of
ignorance, from which the former was evidently going to be raised.
But he soon returned to his usual state of acquiescence in things as
they were, which was partly constitutional, and partly the result of
his Quaker training.

It was apparently by John Foster's wish that Philip had been
summoned. Jeremiah, the less energetic and decided brother, was
still discussing the propriety of the step when Philip entered.

'No need for haste, John; better not call the young man till we have
further considered the matter.'

But the young man was there in presence; and John's will carried the
day.

It seemed from his account to Philip (explanatory of what he, in
advance of his brother's slower judgment, thought to be a necessary
step), that the Fosters had for some time received anonymous
letters, warning them, with distinct meaning, though in ambiguous
terms, against a certain silk-manufacturer in Spitalfields, with
whom they had had straightforward business dealings for many years;
but to whom they had latterly advanced money. The letters hinted at
the utter insolvency of this manufacturer. They had urged their
correspondent to give them his name in confidence, and this
morning's letter had brought it; but the name was totally unknown to
them, though there seemed no reason to doubt the reality of either
it or the address, the latter of which was given in full. Certain
circumstances were mentioned regarding the transactions between the
Fosters and this manufacturer, which could be known only to those
who were in the confidence of one or the other; and to the Fosters
the man was, as has been said, a perfect stranger. Probably, they
would have been unwilling to incur the risk they had done on this
manufacturer Dickinson's account, if it had not been that he
belonged to the same denomination as themselves, and was publicly
distinguished for his excellent and philanthropic character; but
these letters were provocative of anxiety, especially since this
morning's post had brought out the writer's full name, and various
particulars showing his intimate knowledge of Dickinson's affairs.

After much perplexed consultation, John had hit upon the plan of
sending Hepburn to London to make secret inquiries respecting the
true character and commercial position of the man whose creditors,
not a month ago, they had esteemed it an honour to be.

Even now Jeremiah was ashamed of their want of confidence in one so
good; he believed that the information they had received would all
prove a mistake, founded on erroneous grounds, if not a pure
invention of an enemy; and he had only been brought partially to
consent to the sending of Hepburn, by his brother's pledging himself
that the real nature of Philip's errand should be unknown to any
human creature, save them three.

As all this was being revealed to Philip, he sat apparently unmoved
and simply attentive. In fact, he was giving all his mind to
understanding the probabilities of the case, leaving his own
feelings in the background till his intellect should have done its
work. He said little; but what he did say was to the point, and
satisfied both brothers. John perceived that his messenger would
exercise penetration and act with energy; while Jeremiah was soothed
by Philip's caution in not hastily admitting the probability of any
charge against Dickinson, and in giving full weight to his previous
good conduct and good character.

Philip had the satisfaction of feeling himself employed on a mission
which would call out his powers, and yet not exceed them. In his own
mind he forestalled the instructions of his masters, and was
silently in advance of John Foster's plans and arrangements, while
he appeared to listen to all that was said with quiet business-like
attention.

It was settled that the next morning he was to make his way
northwards to Hartlepool, whence he could easily proceed either by
land or sea to Newcastle, from which place smacks were constantly
sailing to London. As to his personal conduct and behaviour there,
the brothers overwhelmed him with directions and advice; nor did
they fail to draw out of the strong box in the thick wall of their
counting-house a more than sufficient sum of money for all possible
expenses. Philip had never had so much in his hands before, and
hesitated to take it, saying it was more than he should require; but
they repeated, with fresh urgency, their warnings about the terrible
high prices of London, till he could only resolve to keep a strict
account, and bring back all that he did not expend, since nothing
but his taking the whole sum would satisfy his employers.

When he was once more behind the counter, he had leisure enough for
consideration as far as Coulson could give it him. The latter was
silent, brooding over the confidence which Philip had apparently
received, but which was withheld from him. He did not yet know of
the culminating point--of Philip's proposed journey to London; that
great city of London, which, from its very inaccessibility fifty
years ago, loomed so magnificent through the mist of men's
imaginations. It is not to be denied that Philip felt exultant at
the mere fact of 'going to London.' But then again, the thought of
leaving Sylvia; of going out of possible daily reach of her; of not
seeing her for a week--a fortnight; nay, he might be away for a
month,--for no rash hurry was to mar his delicate negotiation,--gnawed
at his heart, and spoilt any enjoyment he might have anticipated
from gratified curiosity, or even from the consciousness of
being trusted by those whose trust and regard he valued. The
sense of what he was leaving grew upon him the longer he thought on
the subject; he almost wished that he had told his masters earlier
in the conversation of his unwillingness to leave Monkshaven for so
long a time; and then again he felt that the gratitude he owed them
quite prohibited his declining any task they might impose,
especially as they had more than once said that it would not do for
them to appear in the affair, and yet that to no one else could they
entrust so difficult and delicate a matter. Several times that day,
as he perceived Coulson's jealous sullenness, he thought in his
heart that the consequence of the excessive confidence for which
Coulson envied him was a burden from which he would be thankful to
be relieved.

As they all sat at tea in Alice Rose's house-place, Philip announced
his intended journey; a piece of intelligence he had not
communicated earlier to Coulson because he had rather dreaded the
increase of dissatisfaction it was sure to produce, and of which he
knew the expression would be restrained by the presence of Alice
Rose and her daughter.

'To Lunnon!' exclaimed Alice.

Hester said nothing.

'Well! some folks has the luck!' said Coulson.

'Luck!' said Alice, turning sharp round on him. 'Niver let me hear
such a vain word out o' thy mouth, laddie, again. It's the Lord's
doing, and luck's the devil's way o' putting it. Maybe it's to try
Philip he's sent there; happen it may be a fiery furnace to him; for
I've heerd tell it's full o' temptations, and he may fall into
sin--and then where'd be the "luck" on it? But why art ta going? and
the morning, say'st thou? Why, thy best shirt is in t' suds, and no
time for t' starch and iron it. Whatten the great haste as should
take thee to Lunnon wi'out thy ruffled shirt?'

'It's none o' my doing,' said Philip; 'there's business to be done,
and John Foster says I'm to do it; and I'm to start to-morrow.'

'I'll not turn thee out wi'out thy ruffled shirt, if I sit up a'
neet,' said Alice, resolutely.

'Niver fret thyself, mother, about t' shirt,' said Philip. 'If I
need a shirt, London's not what I take it for if I can't buy mysel'
one ready-made.'

'Hearken to him!' said Alice. 'He speaks as if buying o' ready-made
shirts were nought to him, and he wi' a good half-dozen as I made
mysel'. Eh, lad? but if that's the frame o' mind thou'rt in, Lunnon
is like for to be a sore place o' temptation. There's pitfalls for
men, and traps for money at ivery turn, as I've heerd say. It would
ha' been better if John Foster had sent an older man on his
business, whativer it be.'

'They seem to make a deal o' Philip all on a sudden,' said Coulson.
'He's sent for, and talked to i' privacy, while Hester and me is
left i' t' shop for t' bear t' brunt o' t' serving.'

'Philip knows,' said Hester, and then, somehow, her voice failed her
and she stopped.

Philip paid no attention to this half-uttered sentence; he was eager
to tell Coulson, as far as he could do so without betraying his
master's secret, how many drawbacks there were to his proposed
journey, in the responsibility which it involved, and his
unwillingness to leave Monkshaven: he said--

'Coulson, I'd give a deal it were thou that were going, and not me.
At least, there is many a time I'd give a deal. I'll not deny but at
other times I'm pleased at the thought on't. But, if I could I'd
change places wi' thee at this moment.'

'It's fine talking,' said Coulson, half mollified, and yet not
caring to show it. 'I make no doubt it were an even chance betwixt
us two at first, which on us was to go; but somehow thou got the
start and thou'st stuck to it till it's too late for aught but to
say thou's sorry.'

'Nay, William,' said Philip, rising, 'it's an ill look-out for the
future, if thee and me is to quarrel, like two silly wenches, o'er
each bit of pleasure, or what thou fancies to be pleasure, as falls
in t' way of either on us. I've said truth to thee, and played thee
fair, and I've got to go to Haytersbank for to wish 'em good-by, so
I'll not stay longer here to be misdoubted by thee.'

He took his cap and was gone, not heeding Alice's shrill inquiry as
to his clothes and his ruffled shirt. Coulson sat still, penitent
and ashamed; at length he stole a look at Hester. She was playing
with her teaspoon, but he could see that she was choking down her
tears; he could not choose but force her to speak with an ill-timed
question.

'What's to do, Hester?' said he.

She lifted up those eyes, usually so soft and serene; now they were
full of the light of indignation shining through tears.

'To do!' she said; 'Coulson, I'd thought better of thee, going and
doubting and envying Philip, as niver did thee an ill turn, or said
an ill word, or thought an ill thought by thee; and sending him away
out o' t' house this last night of all, may-be, wi' thy envyings and
jealousy.'

She hastily got up and left the room. Alice was away, looking up
Philip's things for his journey. Coulson remained alone, feeling
like a guilty child, but dismayed by Hester's words, even more than
by his own regret at what he had said.

Philip walked rapidly up the hill-road towards Haytersbank. He was
chafed and excited by Coulson's words, and the events of the day. He
had meant to shape his life, and now it was, as it were, being
shaped for him, and yet he was reproached for the course it was
taking, as much as though he were an active agent; accused of taking
advantage over Coulson, his intimate companion for years; he who
esteemed himself above taking an unfair advantage over any man! His
feeling on the subject was akin to that of Hazael, 'Is thy servant a
dog that he should do this thing?'

His feelings, disturbed on this one point, shook his judgment off
its balance on another. The resolution he had deliberately formed of
not speaking to Sylvia on the subject of his love till he could
announce to her parents the fact of his succession to Fosters'
business, and till he had patiently, with long-continuing and deep
affection, worked his way into her regard, was set aside during the
present walk. He would speak to her of his passionate attachment,
before he left, for an uncertain length of time, and the certain
distance of London. And all the modification on this point which his
judgment could obtain from his impetuous and excited heart was, that
he would watch her words and manner well when he announced his
approaching absence, and if in them he read the slightest token of
tender regretful feeling, he would pour out his love at her feet,
not even urging the young girl to make any return, or to express the
feelings of which he hoped the germ was already budding in her. He
would be patient with her; he could not be patient himself. His
heart beating, his busy mind rehearsing the probable coming scene,
he turned into the field-path that led to Haytersbank. Coming along
it, and so meeting him, advanced Daniel Robson, in earnest talk with
Charley Kinraid. Kinraid, then, had been at the farm: Kinraid had
been seeing Sylvia, her mother away. The thought of poor dead Annie
Coulson flashed into Philip's mind. Could he be playing the same
game with Sylvia? Philip set his teeth and tightened his lips at the
thought of it. They had stopped talking; they had seen him already,
or his impulse would have been to dodge behind the wall and avoid
them; even though one of his purposes in going to Haytersbank had
been to bid his uncle farewell.

Kinraid took him by surprise from the hearty greeting he gave him,
and which Philip would fain have avoided. But the specksioneer was
full of kindliness towards all the world, especially towards all
Sylvia's friends, and, convinced of her great love towards himself,
had forgotten any previous jealousy of Philip. Secure and exultant,
his broad, handsome, weather-bronzed face was as great a contrast to
Philip's long, thoughtful, sallow countenance, as his frank manner
was to the other's cold reserve. It was some minutes before Hepburn
could bring himself to tell the great event that was about to befall
him before this third person whom he considered as an intrusive
stranger. But as Kinraid seemed to have no idea of going on, and as
there really was no reason why he and all the world should not know
of Philip's intentions, he told his uncle that he was bound for
London the next day on business connected with the Fosters.

Daniel was deeply struck with the fact that he was talking to a man
setting off for London at a day's notice.

'Thou'll niver tell me this hasn't been brewin' longer nor twelve
hours; thou's a sly close chap, and we hannot seen thee this
se'nnight; thou'll ha' been thinkin' on this, and cogitating it,
may-be, a' that time.'

'Nay,' said Philip, 'I knew nought about it last night; it's none o'
my doing, going, for I'd liefer ha' stayed where I am.'

'Yo'll like it when once yo're there,' said Kinraid, with a
travelled air of superiority, as Philip fancied.

'No, I shan't,' he replied, shortly. 'Liking has nought to do with
it.'

'Ah' yo' knew nought about it last neet,' continued Daniel,
musingly. 'Well, life's soon o'er; else when I were a young fellow,
folks made their wills afore goin' to Lunnon.'

'Yet I'll be bound to say yo' niver made a will before going to
sea,' said Philip, half smiling.

'Na, na; but that's quite another mak' o' thing; going' to sea comes
natteral to a man, but goin' to Lunnon,--I were once there, and were
near deafened wi' t' throng and t' sound. I were but two hours i' t'
place, though our ship lay a fortneet off Gravesend.'

Kinraid now seemed in a hurry; but Philip was stung with curiosity
to ascertain his movements, and suddenly addressed him:

'I heard yo' were i' these parts. Are you for staying here long?'

There was a certain abruptness in Philip's tone, if not in his
words, which made Kinraid look in his face with surprise, and answer
with equal curtness.

'I'm off i' th' morning; and sail for the north seas day after.'

He turned away, and began to whistle, as if he did not wish for any
further conversation with his interrogator. Philip, indeed, had
nothing more to say to him: he had learned all he wanted to know.

'I'd like to bid good-by to Sylvie. Is she at home?' he asked of her
father.

'A'm thinking thou'll not find her. She'll be off to Yesterbarrow t'
see if she'd get a settin' o' their eggs; her grey speckled hen is
cluckin', and nought 'll serve our Sylvia but their eggs to set her
upon. But, for a' that, she mayn't be gone yet. Best go on and see
for thysel'.'

So they parted; but Philip had not gone many steps before his uncle
called him back, Kinraid slowly loitering on meanwhile. Robson was
fumbling among some dirty papers he had in an old leather case,
which he had produced out of his pocket.

'Fact is, Philip, t' pleugh's in a bad way, gearin' and a', an' folk
is talkin' on a new kind o' mak'; and if thou's bound for York---'

'I'm not going by York; I'm going by a Newcastle smack.'

'Newcassel--Newcassel--it's pretty much t' same. Here, lad, thou can
read print easy; it's a bit as was cut out on a papper; there's
Newcassel, and York, and Durham, and a vast more towns named, wheere
folk can learn a' about t' new mak' o' pleugh.'

'I see,' said Philip: '"Robinson, Side, Newcastle, can give all
requisite information."'

'Ay, ay,' said Robson; 'thou's hit t' marrow on t' matter. Now, if
thou'rt i' Newcassel, thou can learn all about it; thou'rt little
better nor a woman, for sure, bein' mainly acquaint wi' ribbons, but
they'll tell thee--they'll tell thee, lad; and write down what they
sayn, and what's to be t' price, and look sharp as to what kind o'
folk they are as sells 'em, an' write and let me know. Thou'll be i'
Newcassel to-morrow, may-be? Well, then, I'll reckon to hear fro'
thee in a week, or, mayhap, less,--for t' land is backward, and I'd
like to know about t' pleughs. I'd a month's mind to write to
Brunton, as married Molly Corney, but writin' is more i' thy way an'
t' parson's nor mine; and if thou sells ribbons, Brunton sells
cheese, and that's no better.'

Philip promised to do his best, and to write word to Robson, who,
satisfied with his willingness to undertake the commission, bade him
go on and see if he could not find the lass. Her father was right in
saying that she might not have set out for Yesterbarrow. She had
talked about it to Kinraid and her father in order to cover her
regret at her lover's accompanying her father to see some new kind
of harpoon about which the latter had spoken. But as soon as they
had left the house, and she had covertly watched them up the brow in
the field, she sate down to meditate and dream about her great
happiness in being beloved by her hero, Charley Kinraid. No gloomy
dread of his long summer's absence; no fear of the cold, glittering
icebergs bearing mercilessly down on the _Urania_, nor shuddering
anticipation of the dark waves of evil import, crossed her mind. He
loved her, and that was enough. Her eyes looked, trance-like, into a
dim, glorious future of life; her lips, still warm and reddened by
his kiss, were just parted in a happy smile, when she was startled
by the sound of an approaching footstep--a footstep quite familiar
enough for her to recognize it, and which was unwelcome now, as
disturbing her in the one blessed subject of thought in which alone
she cared to indulge.

'Well, Philip! an' what brings _yo'_ here?' was her rather
ungracious greeting.

'Why, Sylvie, are yo' sorry to see me?' asked Philip, reproachfully.
But she turned it off with assumed lightness.

'Oh, yes,' said she. 'I've been wanting yo' this week past wi' t'
match to my blue ribbon yo' said yo'd get and bring me next time yo'
came.'

'I've forgotten it, Sylvie. It's clean gone out of my mind,' said
Philip, with true regret. 'But I've had a deal to think on,' he
continued, penitently, as if anxious to be forgiven. Sylvia did not
want his penitence, did not care for her ribbon, was troubled by his
earnestness of manner--but he knew nothing of all that; he only knew
that she whom he loved had asked him to do something for her, and he
had neglected it; so, anxious to be excused and forgiven, he went on
with the apology she cared not to hear.

If she had been less occupied with her own affairs, less engrossed
with deep feeling, she would have reproached him, if only in jest,
for his carelessness. As it was, she scarcely took in the sense of
his words.

'You see, Sylvie, I've had a deal to think on; before long I intend
telling yo' all about it; just now I'm not free to do it. And when a
man's mind is full o' business, most particular when it's other
folk's as is trusted to him, he seems to lose count on the very
things he'd most care for at another time.' He paused a little.

Sylvia's galloping thoughts were pulled suddenly up by his silence;
she felt that he wanted her to say something, but she could think of
nothing besides an ambiguous--

'Well?'

'And I'm off to London i' t' morning,' added he, a little wistfully,
almost as if beseeching her to show or express some sorrow at a
journey, the very destination of which showed that he would be
absent for some time.

'To Lunnon!' said she, with some surprise. 'Yo're niver thinking o'
going to live theere, for sure!'

Surprise, and curiosity, and wonder; nothing more, as Philip's
instinct told him. But he reasoned that first correct impression
away with ingenious sophistry.

'Not to live there: only to stay for some time. I shall be back, I
reckon, in a month or so.'

'Oh! that's nought of a going away,' said she, rather petulantly.
'Them as goes to t' Greenland seas has to bide away for six months
and more,' and she sighed.

Suddenly a light shone down into Philip's mind. His voice was
changed as he spoke next.

'I met that good-for-nothing chap, Kinraid, wi' yo'r father just
now. He'll ha' been here, Sylvie?'

She stooped for something she had dropped, and came up red as a
rose.

'To be sure; what then?' And she eyed him defiantly, though in her
heart she trembled, she knew not why.

'What then? and yo'r mother away. He's no company for such as thee,
at no time, Sylvie.'

'Feyther and me chooses our own company, without iver asking leave
o' yo',' said Sylvia, hastily arranging the things in the little
wooden work-box that was on the table, preparatory to putting it
away. At the time, in his agitation, he saw, but did not affix any
meaning to it, that the half of some silver coin was among the
contents thus turned over before the box was locked.

'But thy mother wouldn't like it, Sylvie; he's played false wi'
other lasses, he'll be playing thee false some o' these days, if
thou lets him come about thee. He went on wi' Annie Coulson,
William's sister, till he broke her heart; and sin then he's been on
wi' others.'

'I dunnot believe a word on 't,' said Sylvia, standing up, all
aflame.

'I niver telled a lie i' my life,' said Philip, almost choking with
grief at her manner to him, and the regard for his rival which she
betrayed. 'It were Willie Coulson as telled me, as solemn and
serious as one man can speak to another; and he said it weren't the
first nor the last time as he had made his own game with young
women.'

'And how dare yo' come here to me wi' yo'r backbiting tales?' said
Sylvia, shivering all over with passion.

Philip tried to keep calm, and to explain.

'It were yo'r own mother, Sylvia, as knowed yo' had no brother, or
any one to see after yo'; and yo' so pretty, so pretty, Sylvia,' he
continued, shaking his head, sadly, 'that men run after yo' against
their will, as one may say; and yo'r mother bade me watch o'er ye
and see what company yo' kept, and who was following after yo', and
to warn yo', if need were.'

'My mother niver bade yo' to come spying after me, and blaming me
for seeing a lad as my feyther thinks well on. An' I don't believe a
word about Annie Coulson; an' I'm not going to suffer yo' to come
wi' yo'r tales to me; say 'em out to his face, and hear what he'll
say to yo'.'

'Sylvie, Sylvie,' cried poor Philip, as his offended cousin rushed
past him, and upstairs to her little bedroom, where he heard the
sound of the wooden bolt flying into its place. He could hear her
feet pacing quickly about through the unceiled rafters. He sate
still in despair, his head buried in his two hands. He sate till it
grew dusk, dark; the wood fire, not gathered together by careful
hands, died out into gray ashes. Dolly Reid had done her work and
gone home. There were but Philip and Sylvia in the house. He knew he
ought to be going home, for he had much to do, and many arrangements
to make. Yet it seemed as though he could not stir. At length he
raised his stiffened body, and stood up, dizzy. Up the little wooden
stairs he went, where he had never been before, to the small square
landing, almost filled up with the great chest for oat-cake. He
breathed hard for a minute, and then knocked at the door of Sylvia's
room.

'Sylvie! I'm going away; say good-by.' No answer. Not a sound heard.
'Sylvie!' (a little louder, and less hoarsely spoken). There was no
reply. 'Sylvie! I shall be a long time away; perhaps I may niver
come back at all'; here he bitterly thought of an unregarded death.
'Say good-by.' No answer. He waited patiently. Can she be wearied
out, and gone to sleep, he wondered. Yet once again--'Good-by,
Sylvie, and God bless yo'! I'm sorry I vexed yo'.'

No reply.

With a heavy, heavy heart he creaked down the stairs, felt for his
cap, and left the house.

'She's warned, any way,' thought he. Just at that moment the little
casement window of Sylvia's room was opened, and she said--

'Good-by, Philip!'

The window was shut again as soon as the words were spoken. Philip
knew the uselessness of remaining; the need for his departure; and
yet he stood still for a little time like one entranced, as if his
will had lost all power to compel him to leave the place. Those two
words of hers, which two hours before would have been so far beneath
his aspirations, had now power to re-light hope, to quench reproach
or blame.

'She's but a young lassie,' said he to himself; 'an' Kinraid has
been playing wi' her, as such as he can't help doing, once they get
among the women. An' I came down sudden on her about Annie Coulson,
and touched her pride. Maybe, too, it were ill advised to tell her
how her mother was feared for her. I couldn't ha' left the place
to-morrow if he'd been biding here; but he's off for half a year or
so, and I'll be home again as soon as iver I can. In half a year
such as he forgets, if iver he's thought serious about her; but in
a' my lifetime, if I live to fourscore, I can niver forget. God
bless her for saying, "Good-by, Philip."' He repeated the words
aloud in fond mimicry of her tones: 'Good-by, Philip.'



CHAPTER XVIII

EDDY IN LOVE'S CURRENT


The next morning shone bright and clear, if ever a March morning
did. The beguiling month was coming in like a lamb, with whatever
storms it might go raging out. It was long since Philip had tasted
the freshness of the early air on the shore, or in the country, as
his employment at the shop detained him in Monkshaven till the
evening. And as he turned down the quays (or staithes) on the north
side of the river, towards the shore, and met the fresh sea-breeze
blowing right in his face, it was impossible not to feel bright and
elastic. With his knapsack slung over his shoulder, he was prepared
for a good stretch towards Hartlepool, whence a coach would take him
to Newcastle before night. For seven or eight miles the level sands
were as short and far more agreeable a road than the up and down
land-ways. Philip walked on pretty briskly, unconsciously enjoying
the sunny landscape before him; the crisp curling waves rushing
almost up to his feet, on his right hand, and then swishing back
over the fine small pebbles into the great swelling sea. To his left
were the cliffs rising one behind another, having deep gullies here
and there between, with long green slopes upward from the land, and
then sudden falls of brown and red soil or rock deepening to a yet
greater richness of colour at their base towards the blue ocean
before him. The loud, monotonous murmur of the advancing and
receding waters lulled him into dreaminess; the sunny look of
everything tinged his day-dreams with hope. So he trudged merrily
over the first mile or so; not an obstacle to his measured pace on
the hard, level pavement; not a creature to be seen since he had
left the little gathering of bare-legged urchins dabbling in the
sea-pools near Monkshaven. The cares of land were shut out by the
glorious barrier of rocks before him. There were some great masses
that had been detached by the action of the weather, and lay half
embedded in the sand, draperied over by the heavy pendent
olive-green seaweed. The waves were nearer at this point; the
advancing sea came up with a mighty distant length of roar; here and
there the smooth swell was lashed by the fret against unseen rocks
into white breakers; but otherwise the waves came up from the German
Ocean upon that English shore with a long steady roll that might
have taken its first impetus far away, in the haunt of the
sea-serpent on the coast of 'Norroway over the foam.' The air was
soft as May; right overhead the sky was blue, but it deadened into
gray near the sea lines. Flocks of seagulls hovered about the edge
of the waves, slowly rising and turning their white under-plumage to
glimmer in the sunlight as Philip approached. The whole scene was so
peaceful, so soothing, that it dispelled the cares and fears (too
well founded in fact) which had weighed down on his heart during the
dark hours of the past night.

There was Haytersbank gully opening down its green entrance among
the warm brown bases of the cliffs. Below, in the sheltered
brushwood, among the last year's withered leaves, some primroses
might be found. He half thought of gathering Sylvia a posy of them,
and rushing up to the farm to make a little farewell peace-offering.
But on looking at his watch, he put all thoughts of such an action
out of his head; it was above an hour later than he had supposed,
and he must make all haste on to Hartlepool. Just as he was
approaching this gully, a man came dashing down, and ran out some
way upon the sand with the very force of his descent; then he turned
to the left and took the direction of Hartlepool a hundred yards or
so in advance of Philip. He never stayed to look round him, but went
swiftly and steadily on his way. By the peculiar lurch in his
walk--by everything--Philip knew it was the specksioneer, Kinraid.

Now the road up Haytersbank gully led to the farm, and nowhere else.
Still any one wishing to descend to the shore might do so by first
going up to the Robsons' house, and skirting the walls till they
came to the little slender path down to the shore. But by the farm,
by the very house-door they must of necessity pass. Philip slackened
his pace, keeping under the shadow of the rock. By-and-by Kinraid,
walking on the sunlight open sands, turned round and looked long and
earnestly towards Haytersbank gully. Hepburn paused when he paused,
but as intently as he looked at some object above, so intently did
Hepburn look at him. No need to ascertain by sight towards whom his
looks, his thoughts were directed. He took off his hat and waved it,
touching one part of it as if with particular meaning. When he
turned away at last, Hepburn heaved a heavy sigh, and crept yet more
into the cold dank shadow of the cliffs. Each step was now a heavy
task, his sad heart tired and weary. After a while he climbed up a
few feet, so as to mingle his form yet more completely with the
stones and rocks around. Stumbling over the uneven and often jagged
points, slipping on the sea-weed, plunging into little pools of
water left by the ebbing tide in some natural basins, he yet kept
his eyes fixed as if in fascination on Kinraid, and made his way
almost alongside of him. But the last hour had pinched Hepburn's
features into something of the wan haggardness they would wear when
he should first be lying still for ever.

And now the two men were drawing near a creek, about eight miles
from Monkshaven. The creek was formed by a beck (or small stream)
that came flowing down from the moors, and took its way to the sea
between the widening rocks. The melting of the snows and running of
the flooded water-springs above made this beck in the early
spring-time both deep and wide. Hepburn knew that here they both
must take a path leading inland to a narrow foot-bridge about a
quarter of a mile up the stream; indeed from this point, owing to
the jutting out of the rocks, the land path was the shortest; and
this way lay by the water-side at an angle right below the cliff to
which Hepburn's steps were leading him. He knew that on this long
level field path he might easily be seen by any one following; nay,
if he followed any one at a short distance, for it was full of
turnings; and he resolved, late as he was, to sit down for a while
till Kinraid was far enough in advance for him to escape being seen.
He came up to the last rock behind which he could be concealed;
seven or eight feet above the stream he stood, and looked cautiously
for the specksioneer. Up by the rushing stream he looked, then right
below.

'It is God's providence,' he murmured. 'It is God's providence.'

He crouched down where he had been standing and covered his face
with his hands. He tried to deafen as well as to blind himself, that
he might neither hear nor see anything of the coming event of which
he, an inhabitant of Monkshaven at that day, well understood the
betokening signs.

Kinraid had taken the larger angle of the sands before turning up
towards the bridge. He came along now nearing the rocks. By this
time he was sufficiently buoyant to whistle to himself. It steeled
Philip's heart to what was coming to hear his rival whistling, 'Weel
may the keel row,' so soon after parting with Sylvia.

The instant Kinraid turned the corner of the cliff, the ambush was
upon him. Four man-of-war's men sprang on him and strove to pinion
him.

'In the King's name!' cried they, with rough, triumphant jeers.

Their boat was moored not a dozen yards above; they were sent by the
tender of a frigate lying off Hartlepool for fresh water. The tender
was at anchor just beyond the jutting rocks in face.

They knew that fishermen were in the habit of going to and from
their nets by the side of the creek; but such a prize as this
active, strong, and evidently superior sailor, was what they had not
hoped for, and their endeavours to secure him were in proportion to
the value of the prize.

Although taken by surprise, and attacked by so many, Kinraid did not
lose his wits. He wrenched himself free, crying out loud:

'Avast, I'm a protected whaler. I claim my protection. I've my
papers to show, I'm bonded specksioneer to the _Urania_ whaler,
Donkin captain, North Shields port.'

As a protected whaler, the press-gang had, by the 17th section of
Act 26 Geo. III. no legal right to seize him, unless he had failed
to return to his ship by the 10th March following the date of his
bond. But of what use were the papers he hastily dragged out of his
breast; of what use were laws in those days of slow intercourse with
such as were powerful enough to protect, and in the time of popular
panic against a French invasion?

'D--n your protection,' cried the leader of the press-gang; 'come
and serve his Majesty, that's better than catching whales.'

'Is it though?' said the specksioneer, with a motion of his hand,
which the swift-eyed sailor opposed to him saw and interpreted
rightly.

'Thou wilt, wilt thou? Close with him, Jack; and ware the cutlass.'

In a minute his cutlass was forced from him, and it became a
hand-to-hand struggle, of which, from the difference in numbers, it
was not difficult to foretell the result. Yet Kinraid made desperate
efforts to free himself; he wasted no breath in words, but fought,
as the men said, 'like a very devil.'

Hepburn heard loud pants of breath, great thuds, the dull struggle
of limbs on the sand, the growling curses of those who thought to
have managed their affair more easily; the sudden cry of some one
wounded, not Kinraid he knew, Kinraid would have borne any pain in
silence at such a moment; another wrestling, swearing, infuriated
strife, and then a strange silence. Hepburn sickened at the heart;
was then his rival dead? had he left this bright world? lost his
life--his love? For an instant Hepburn felt guilty of his death; he
said to himself he had never wished him dead, and yet in the
struggle he had kept aloof, and now it might be too late for ever.
Philip could not bear the suspense; he looked stealthily round the
corner of the rock behind which he had been hidden, and saw that
they had overpowered Kinraid, and, too exhausted to speak, were
binding him hand and foot to carry him to their boat.

Kinraid lay as still as any hedgehog: he rolled when they pushed
him; he suffered himself to be dragged without any resistance, any
motion; the strong colour brought into his face while fighting was
gone now, his countenance was livid pale; his lips were tightly held
together, as if it cost him more effort to be passive, wooden, and
stiff in their hands than it had done to fight and struggle with all
his might. His eyes seemed the only part about him that showed
cognizance of what was going on. They were watchful, vivid, fierce
as those of a wild cat brought to bay, seeking in its desperate
quickened brain for some mode of escape not yet visible, and in all
probability never to become visible to the hopeless creature in its
supreme agony.

Without a motion of his head, he was perceiving and taking in
everything while he lay bound at the bottom of the boat. A sailor
sat by his side, who had been hurt by a blow from him. The man held
his head in his hand, moaning; but every now and then he revenged
himself by a kick at the prostrate specksioneer, till even his
comrades stopped their cursing and swearing at their prisoner for
the trouble he had given them, to cry shame on their comrade. But
Kinraid never spoke, nor shrank from the outstretched foot.

One of his captors, with the successful insolence of victory,
ventured to jeer him on the supposed reason for his vehement and
hopeless resistance.

He might have said yet more insolent things; the kicks might have
hit harder; Kinraid did not hear or heed. His soul was beating
itself against the bars of inflexible circumstance; reviewing in one
terrible instant of time what had been, what might have been, what
was. Yet while these thoughts thus stabbed him, he was still
mechanically looking out for chances. He moved his head a little, so
as to turn towards Haytersbank, where Sylvia must be quickly, if
sadly, going about her simple daily work; and then his quick eye
caught Hepburn's face, blanched with excitement rather than fear,
watching eagerly from behind the rock, where he had sat breathless
during the affray and the impressment of his rival.

'Come here, lad!' shouted the specksioneer as soon as he saw Philip,
heaving and writhing his body the while with so much vigour that the
sailors started away from the work they were engaged in about the
boat, and held him down once more, as if afraid he should break the
strong rope that held him like withes of green flax. But the bound
man had no such notion in his head. His mighty wish was to call
Hepburn near that he might send some message by him to Sylvia. 'Come
here, Hepburn,' he cried again, falling back this time so weak and
exhausted that the man-of-war's men became sympathetic.

'Come down, peeping Tom, and don't be afeared,' they called out.

'I'm not afeared,' said Philip; 'I'm no sailor for yo' t' impress
me: nor have yo' any right to take that fellow; he's a Greenland
specksioneer, under protection, as I know and can testify.'

'Yo' and yo'r testify go hang. Make haste, man and hear what this
gem'man, as was in a dirty blubbery whale-ship, and is now in his
Majesty's service, has got to say. I dare say, Jack,' went on the
speaker, 'it's some message to his sweetheart, asking her to come
for to serve on board ship along with he, like Billy Taylor's young
woman.'

Philip was coming towards them slowly, not from want of activity,
but because he was undecided what he should be called upon to do or
to say by the man whom he hated and dreaded, yet whom just now he
could not help admiring.

Kinraid groaned with impatience at seeing one, free to move with
quick decision, so slow and dilatory.

'Come on then,' cried the sailors, 'or we'll take you too on board,
and run you up and down the main-mast a few times. Nothing like life
aboard ship for quickening a land-lubber.'

'Yo'd better take him and leave me,' said Kinraid, grimly. 'I've
been taught my lesson; and seemingly he has his yet to learn.'

'His Majesty isn't a schoolmaster to need scholars; but a jolly good
captain to need men,' replied the leader of the gang, eyeing Philip
nevertheless, and questioning within himself how far, with only two
other available men, they durst venture on his capture as well as
the specksioneer's. It might be done, he thought, even though there
was this powerful captive aboard, and the boat to manage too; but,
running his eye over Philip's figure, he decided that the tall
stooping fellow was never cut out for a sailor, and that he should
get small thanks if he captured him, to pay him for the possible
risk of losing the other. Or else the mere fact of being a landsman
was of as little consequence to the press-gang, as the protecting
papers which Kinraid had vainly showed.

'Yon fellow wouldn't have been worth his grog this many a day, and
be d--d to you,' said he, catching Hepburn by the shoulder, and
giving him a push. Philip stumbled over something in this, his
forced run. He looked down; his foot had caught in Kinraid's hat,
which had dropped off in the previous struggle. In the band that
went round the low crown, a ribbon was knotted; a piece of that same
ribbon which Philip had chosen out, with such tender hope, to give
to Sylvia for the Corneys' party on new year's eve. He knew every
delicate thread that made up the briar-rose pattern; and a spasm of
hatred towards Kinraid contracted his heart. He had been almost
relenting into pity for the man captured before his eyes; now he
abhorred him.

Kinraid did not speak for a minute or two. The sailors, who had
begun to take him into favour, were all agog with curiosity to hear
the message to his sweetheart, which they believed he was going to
send. Hepburn's perceptions, quickened with his vehement agitation
of soul, were aware of this feeling of theirs; and it increased his
rage against Kinraid, who had exposed the idea of Sylvia to be the
subject of ribald whispers. But the specksioneer cared little what
others said or thought about the maiden, whom he yet saw before his
closed eyelids as she stood watching him, from the Haytersbank
gully, waving her hands, her handkerchief, all in one passionate
farewell.

'What do yo' want wi' me?' asked Hepburn at last in a gloomy tone.
If he could have helped it, he would have kept silence till Kinraid
spoke first; but he could no longer endure the sailors' nudges, and
winks, and jests among themselves.

'Tell Sylvia,' said Kinraid----

'There's a smart name for a sweetheart,' exclaimed one of the men;
but Kinraid went straight on,--

'What yo've seen; how I've been pressed by this cursed gang.'

'Civil words, messmate, if you please. Sylvia can't abide cursing
and swearing, I'm sure. We're gentlemen serving his Majesty on board
the _Alcestis_, and this proper young fellow shall be helped on to
more honour and glory than he'd ever get bobbing for whales. Tell
Sylvia this, with my love; Jack Carter's love, if she's anxious
about my name.'

One of the sailors laughed at this rude humour; another bade Carter
hold his stupid tongue. Philip hated him in his heart. Kinraid
hardly heard him. He was growing faint with the heavy blows he had
received, the stunning fall he had met with, and the reaction from
his dogged self-control at first.

Philip did not speak nor move.

'Tell her,' continued Kinraid, rousing himself for another effort,
'what yo've seen. Tell her I'll come back to her. Bid her not forget
the great oath we took together this morning; she's as much my wife
as if we'd gone to church;--I'll come back and marry her afore
long.'

Philip said something inarticulately.

'Hurra!' cried Carter, 'and I'll be best man. Tell her, too that
I'll have an eye on her sweetheart, and keep him from running after
other girls.'

'Yo'll have yo'r hands full, then,' muttered Philip, his passion
boiling over at the thought of having been chosen out from among all
men to convey such a message as Kinraid's to Sylvia.

'Make an end of yo'r d--d yarns, and be off,' said the man who had
been hurt by Kinraid, and who had sate apart and silent till now.

Philip turned away; Kinraid raised himself and cried after him,--

'Hepburn, Hepburn! tell her---' what he added Philip could not hear,
for the words were lost before they reached him in the outward noise
of the regular splash of the oars and the rush of the wind down the
gully, with which mingled the closer sound that filled his ears of
his own hurrying blood surging up into his brain. He was conscious
that he had said something in reply to Kinraid's adjuration that he
would deliver his message to Sylvia, at the very time when Carter
had stung him into fresh anger by the allusion to the possibility of
the specksioneer's 'running after other girls,' for, for an instant,
Hepburn had been touched by the contrast of circumstances. Kinraid
an hour or two ago,--Kinraid a banished man; for in those days, an
impressed sailor might linger out years on some foreign station, far
from those he loved, who all this time remained ignorant of his
cruel fate.

But Hepburn began to wonder what he himself had said--how much of a
promise he had made to deliver those last passionate words of
Kinraid's. He could not recollect how much, how little he had said;
he knew he had spoken hoarsely and low almost at the same time as
Carter had uttered his loud joke. But he doubted if Kinraid had
caught his words.

And then the dread Inner Creature, who lurks in each of our hearts,
arose and said, 'It is as well: a promise given is a fetter to the
giver. But a promise is not given when it has not been received.'

At a sudden impulse, he turned again towards the shore when he had
crossed the bridge, and almost ran towards the verge of the land.
Then he threw himself down on the soft fine turf that grew on the
margin of the cliffs overhanging the sea, and commanding an extent
of view towards the north. His face supported by his hands, he
looked down upon the blue rippling ocean, flashing here and there,
into the sunlight in long, glittering lines. The boat was still in
the distance, making her swift silent way with long regular bounds
to the tender that lay in the offing.

Hepburn felt insecure, as in a nightmare dream, so long as the boat
did not reach her immediate destination. His contracted eyes could
see four minute figures rowing with ceaseless motion, and a fifth
sate at the helm. But he knew there was a sixth, unseen, lying,
bound and helpless, at the bottom of the boat; and his fancy kept
expecting this man to start up and break his bonds, and overcome all
the others, and return to the shore free and triumphant.

It was by no fault of Hepburn's that the boat sped well away; that
she was now alongside the tender, dancing on the waves; now emptied
of her crew; now hoisted up to her place. No fault of his! and yet
it took him some time before he could reason himself into the belief
that his mad, feverish wishes not an hour before--his wild prayer to
be rid of his rival, as he himself had scrambled onward over the
rocks alongside of Kinraid's path on the sands--had not compelled
the event.

'Anyhow,' thought he, as he rose up, 'my prayer is granted. God be
thanked!'

Once more he looked out towards the ship. She had spread her
beautiful great sails, and was standing out to sea in the glittering
path of the descending sun.

He saw that he had been delayed on his road, and had lingered long.
He shook his stiffened limbs, shouldered his knapsack, and prepared
to walk on to Hartlepool as swiftly as he could.



CHAPTER XIX

AN IMPORTANT MISSION


Philip was too late for the coach he had hoped to go by, but there
was another that left at night, and which reached Newcastle in the
forenoon, so that, by the loss of a night's sleep, he might overtake
his lost time. But, restless and miserable, he could not stop in
Hartlepool longer than to get some hasty food at the inn from which
the coach started. He acquainted himself with the names of the towns
through which it would pass, and the inns at which it would stop,
and left word that the coachman was to be on the look-out for him
and pick him up at some one of these places.

He was thoroughly worn out before this happened--too much tired to
gain any sleep in the coach. When he reached Newcastle, he went to
engage his passage in the next London-bound smack, and then directed
his steps to Robinson's, in the Side, to make all the inquiries he
could think of respecting the plough his uncle wanted to know about.

So it was pretty late in the afternoon, indeed almost evening,
before he arrived at the small inn on the quay-side, where he
intended to sleep. It was but a rough kind of place, frequented
principally by sailors; he had been recommended to it by Daniel
Robson, who had known it well in former days. The accommodation in
it was, however, clean and homely, and the people keeping it were
respectable enough in their way.

Still Hepburn was rather repelled by the appearance of the sailors
who sate drinking in the bar, and he asked, in a low voice, if there
was not another room. The woman stared in surprise, and only shook
her head. Hepburn went to a separate table, away from the roaring
fire, which on this cold March evening was the great attraction, and
called for food and drink. Then seeing that the other men were
eyeing him with the sociable idea of speaking to him, he asked for
pen and ink and paper, with the intention of defeating their purpose
by pre-occupation on his part. But when the paper came, the new pen,
the unused thickened ink, he hesitated long before he began to
write; and at last he slowly put down the words,--

'DEAR AND HONOURED UNCLE,'----

There was a pause; his meal was brought and hastily swallowed. Even
while he was eating it, he kept occasionally touching up the letters
of these words. When he had drunk a glass of ale he began again to
write: fluently this time, for he was giving an account of the
plough. Then came another long stop; he was weighing in his own mind
what he should say about Kinraid. Once he thought for a second of
writing to Sylvia herself, and telling her---how much? She might
treasure up her lover's words like grains of gold, while they were
lighter than dust in their meaning to Philip's mind; words which
such as the specksioneer used as counters to beguile and lead astray
silly women. It was for him to prove his constancy by action; and
the chances of his giving such proof were infinitesimal in Philip's
estimation. But should the latter mention the bare fact of Kinraid's
impressment to Robson? That would have been the natural course of
things, remembering that the last time Philip had seen either, they
were in each other's company. Twenty times he put his pen to the
paper with the intention of relating briefly the event that had
befallen Kinraid; and as often he stopped, as though the first word
would be irrevocable. While he thus sate pen in hand, thinking
himself wiser than conscience, and looking on beyond the next step
which she bade him take into an indefinite future, he caught some
fragments of the sailors' talk at the other end of the room, which
made him listen to their words. They were speaking of that very
Kinraid, the thought of whom filled his own mind like an actual
presence. In a rough, careless way they spoke of the specksioneer,
with admiration enough for his powers as a sailor and harpooner; and
from that they passed on to jesting mention of his power amongst
women, and one or two girls' names were spoken of in connection with
him. Hepburn silently added Annie Coulson and Sylvia Robson to this
list, and his cheeks turned paler as he did so. Long after they had
done speaking about Kinraid, after they had paid their shot, and
gone away, he sate in the same attitude, thinking bitter thoughts.

The people of the house prepared for bed. Their silent guest took no
heed of their mute signs. At length the landlord spoke to him, and
he started, gathered his wits together with an effort, and prepared
to retire with the rest. But before he did so, he signed and
directed the letter to his uncle, leaving it still open, however, in
case some sudden feeling should prompt him to add a postscript. The
landlord volunteered the information that the letter his guest had
been writing must be posted early the next morning if it was going
south; as the mails in that direction only left Newcastle every
other day.

All night long Hepburn wearied himself with passionate tossings,
prompted by stinging recollection. Towards morning he fell into a
dead sound sleep. He was roused by a hasty knocking at the door. It
was broad full daylight; he had overslept himself, and the smack was
leaving by the early tide. He was even now summoned on board. He
dressed, wafered his letter, and rushed with it to the neighbouring
post-office; and, without caring to touch the breakfast for which he
paid, he embarked. Once on board, he experienced the relief which it
always is to an undecided man, and generally is at first to any one
who has been paltering with duty, when circumstances decide for him.
In the first case, it is pleasant to be relieved from the burden of
decision; in the second, the responsibility seems to be shifted on
to impersonal events.

And so Philip sailed out of the mouth of the Tyne on to the great
open sea. It would be a week before the smack reached London, even
if she pursued a tolerably straight course, but she had to keep a
sharp look-out after possible impressment of her crew; and it was
not until after many dodges and some adventures that, at the end of
a fortnight from the time of his leaving Monkshaven, Philip found
himself safely housed in London, and ready to begin the delicate
piece of work which was given him to do.

He felt himself fully capable of unravelling each clue to
information, and deciding on the value of the knowledge so gained.
But during the leisure of the voyage he had wisely determined to
communicate everything he learnt about Dickinson, in short, every
step he took in the matter, by letter to his employers. And thus his
mind both in and out of his lodgings might have appeared to have
been fully occupied with the concerns of others.

But there were times when the miserable luxury of dwelling upon his
own affairs was his--when he lay down in his bed till he fell into
restless sleep--when the point to which his steps tended in his
walks was ascertained. Then he gave himself up to memory, and regret
which often deepened into despair, and but seldom was cheered by
hope.

He grew so impatient of the ignorance in which he was kept--for in
those days of heavy postage any correspondence he might have had on
mere Monkshaven intelligence was very limited--as to the affairs at
Haytersbank, that he cut out an advertisement respecting some new
kind of plough, from a newspaper that lay in the chop-house where he
usually dined, and rising early the next morning he employed the
time thus gained in going round to the shop where these new ploughs
were sold.

That night he wrote another letter to Daniel Robson, with a long
account of the merits of the implements he had that day seen. With a
sick heart and a hesitating hand, he wound up with a message of
regard to his aunt and to Sylvia; an expression of regard which he
dared not make as warm as he wished, and which, consequently, fell
below the usual mark attained by such messages, and would have
appeared to any one who cared to think about it as cold and formal.

When this letter was despatched, Hepburn began to wonder what he had
hoped for in writing it. He knew that Daniel could write--or rather
that he could make strange hieroglyphics, the meaning of which
puzzled others and often himself; but these pen-and-ink signs were
seldom employed by Robson, and never, so far as Philip knew, for the
purpose of letter-writing. But still he craved so for news of
Sylvia--even for a sight of paper which she had seen, and perhaps
touched--that he thought all his trouble about the plough (to say
nothing of the one-and-twopence postage which he had prepaid in
order to make sure of his letter's reception in the frugal household
at Haytersbank) well lost for the mere chance of his uncle's caring
enough for the intelligence to write in reply, or even to get some
friend to write an answer; for in such case, perhaps, Philip might
see her name mentioned in some way, even though it was only that she
sent her duty to him.

But the post-office was dumb; no letter came from Daniel Robson.
Philip heard, it is true, from his employers pretty frequently on
business; and he felt sure they would have named it, if any ill had
befallen his uncle's family, for they knew of the relationship and
of his intimacy there. They generally ended their formal letters
with as formal a summary of Monkshaven news; but there was never a
mention of the Robsons, and that of itself was well, but it did not
soothe Philip's impatient curiosity. He had never confided his
attachment to his cousin to any one, it was not his way; but he
sometimes thought that if Coulson had not taken his present
appointment to a confidential piece of employment so ill, he would
have written to him and asked him to go up to Haytersbank Farm, and
let him know how they all were.

All this time he was transacting the affair on which he had been
sent, with great skill; and, indeed, in several ways, he was quietly
laying the foundation for enlarging the business in Monkshaven.
Naturally grave and quiet, and slow to speak, he impressed those who
saw him with the idea of greater age and experience than he really
possessed. Indeed, those who encountered him in London, thought he
was absorbed in the business of money-making. Yet before the time
came when he could wind up affairs and return to Monkshaven, he
would have given all he possessed for a letter from his uncle,
telling him something about Sylvia. For he still hoped to hear from
Robson, although he knew that he hoped against reason. But we often
convince ourselves by good argument that what we wish for need never
have been expected; and then, at the end of our reasoning, find that
we might have saved ourselves the trouble, for that our wishes are
untouched, and are as strong enemies to our peace of mind as ever.
Hepburn's baulked hope was the Mordecai sitting in Haman's gate; all
his success in his errand to London, his well-doing in worldly
affairs, was tasteless, and gave him no pleasure, because of this
blank and void of all intelligence concerning Sylvia.

And yet he came back with a letter from the Fosters in his pocket,
curt, yet expressive of deep gratitude for his discreet services in
London; and at another time--in fact, if Philip's life had been
ordered differently to what it was--it might have given this man a
not unworthy pleasure to remember that, without a penny of his own,
simply by diligence, honesty, and faithful quick-sightedness as to
the interests of his masters, he had risen to hold the promise of
being their successor, and to be ranked by them as a trusted friend.

As the Newcastle smack neared the shore on her voyage home, Hepburn
looked wistfully out for the faint gray outline of Monkshaven Priory
against the sky, and the well-known cliffs; as if the masses of
inanimate stone could tell him any news of Sylvia.

In the streets of Shields, just after landing, he encountered a
neighbour of the Robsons, and an acquaintance of his own. By this
honest man, he was welcomed as a great traveller is welcomed on his
return from a long voyage, with many hearty good shakes of the hand,
much repetition of kind wishes, and offers to treat him to drink.
Yet, from some insurmountable feeling, Philip avoided all mention of
the family who were the principal bond between the honest farmer and
himself. He did not know why, but he could not bear the shock of
first hearing her name in the open street, or in the rough
public-house. And thus he shrank from the intelligence he craved to
hear.

Thus he knew no more about the Robsons when he returned to
Monkshaven, than he had done on the day when he had last seen them;
and, of course, his first task there was to give a long _viva voce_
account of all his London proceedings to the two brothers Foster,
who, considering that they had heard the result of everything by
letter, seemed to take an insatiable interest in details.

He could hardly tell why, but even when released from the Fosters'
parlour, he was unwilling to go to Haytersbank Farm. It was late, it
is true, but on a May evening even country people keep up till eight
or nine o'clock. Perhaps it was because Hepburn was still in his
travel-stained dress; having gone straight to the shop on his
arrival in Monkshaven. Perhaps it was because, if he went this night
for the short half-hour intervening before bed-time, he would have
no excuse for paying a longer visit on the following evening. At any
rate, he proceeded straight to Alice Rose's, as soon as he had
finished his interview with his employers.

Both Hester and Coulson had given him their welcome home in the
shop, which they had, however, left an hour or two before him.

Yet they gave him a fresh greeting, almost one in which surprise was
blended, when he came to his lodgings. Even Alice seemed gratified
by his spending this first evening with them, as if she had thought
it might have been otherwise. Weary though he was, he exerted
himself to talk and to relate what he had done and seen in London,
as far as he could without breaking confidence with his employers.
It was something to see the pleasure he gave to his auditors,
although there were several mixed feelings in their minds to produce
the expression of it which gratified him. Coulson was sorry for his
former ungenerous reception of the news that Philip was going to
London; Hester and her mother each secretly began to feel as if this
evening was like more happy evenings of old, before the Robsons came
to Haytersbank Farm; and who knows what faint delicious hopes this
resemblance may not have suggested?

While Philip, restless and excited, feeling that he could not sleep,
was glad to pass away the waking hours that must intervene before
to-morrow night, at times, he tried to make them talk of what had
happened in Monkshaven during his absence, but all had gone on in an
eventless manner, as far as he could gather; if they knew of
anything affecting the Robsons, they avoided speaking of it to him;
and, indeed, how little likely were they ever to have heard their
names while he was away?



CHAPTER XX

LOVED AND LOST


Philip walked towards the Robsons' farm like a man in a dream, who
has everything around him according to his wish, and yet is
conscious of a secret mysterious inevitable drawback to his
enjoyment. Hepburn did not care to think--would not realize what
this drawback, which need not have been mysterious in his case, was.

The May evening was glorious in light and shadow. The crimson sun
warmed up the chilly northern air to a semblance of pleasant heat.
The spring sights and sounds were all about; the lambs were bleating
out their gentle weariness before they sank to rest by the side of
their mothers; the linnets were chirping in every bush of golden
gorse that grew out of the stone walls; the lark was singing her
good-night in the cloudless sky, before she dropped down to her nest
in the tender green wheat; all spoke of brooding peace--but Philip's
heart was not at peace.

Yet he was going to proclaim his good fortune. His masters had that
day publicly announced that Coulson and he were to be their
successors, and he had now arrived at that longed-for point in his
business, when he had resolved to openly speak of his love to
Sylvia, and might openly strive to gain her love. But, alas! the
fulfilment of that wish of his had lagged sadly behind. He was
placed as far as he could, even in his most sanguine moments, have
hoped to be as regarded business, but Sylvia was as far from his
attainment as ever--nay, farther. Still the great obstacle was
removed in Kinraid's impressment. Philip took upon himself to decide
that, with such a man as the specksioneer, absence was equivalent to
faithless forgetfulness. He thought that he had just grounds for
this decision in the account he had heard of Kinraid's behaviour to
Annie Coulson; to the other nameless young girl, her successor in
his fickle heart; in the ribald talk of the sailors in the Newcastle
public-house. It would be well for Sylvia if she could forget as
quickly; and, to promote this oblivion, the name of her lover should
never be brought up, either in praise or blame. And Philip would be
patient and enduring; all the time watching over her, and labouring
to win her reluctant love.

There she was! He saw her as he stood at the top of the little
hill-path leading down to the Robsons' door. She was out of doors,
in the garden, which, at some distance from the house, sloped up the
bank on the opposite side of the gully; much too far off to be
spoken to--not too far off to be gazed at by eyes that caressed her
every movement. How well Philip knew that garden; placed long ago by
some tenant of the farm on a southern slope; walled in with rough
moorland stones; planted with berry-bushes for use, and southernwood
and sweet-briar for sweetness of smell. When the Robsons had first
come to Haytersbank, and Sylvia was scarcely more than a pretty
child, how well he remembered helping her with the arrangement of
this garden; laying out his few spare pence in hen-and-chicken
daisies at one time, in flower-seeds at another; again in a
rose-tree in a pot. He knew how his unaccustomed hands had laboured
with the spade at forming a little primitive bridge over the beck in
the hollow before winter streams should make it too deep for
fording; how he had cut down branches of the mountain-ash and
covered them over, yet decked with their scarlet berries, with sods
of green turf, beyond which the brilliancy crept out; but now it was
months and years since he had been in that garden, which had lost
its charm for Sylvia, as she found the bleak sea-winds came up and
blighted all endeavours at cultivating more than the most useful
things--pot-herbs, marigolds, potatoes, onions, and such-like. Why
did she tarry there now, standing quite motionless up by the highest
bit of wall, looking over the sea, with her hand shading her eyes?
Quite motionless; as if she were a stone statue. He began to wish
she would move--would look at him--but any way that she would move,
and not stand gazing thus over that great dreary sea.

He went down the path with an impatient step, and entered the
house-place. There sat his aunt spinning, and apparently as well as
ever. He could hear his uncle talking to Kester in the neighbouring
shippen; all was well in the household. Why was Sylvia standing in
the garden in that strange quiet way?

'Why, lad! thou'rt a sight for sair een!' said his aunt, as she
stood up to welcome him back. 'An' when didst ta come, eh?--but thy
uncle will be glad to see thee, and to hear thee talk about yon
pleughs; he's thought a deal o' thy letters. I'll go call him in.'

'Not yet,' said Philip, stopping her in her progress towards the
door. 'He's busy talking to Kester. I'm in no haste to be gone. I
can stay a couple of hours. Sit down, and tell me how you are
yoursel'--and how iverything is. And I've a deal to tell you.'

'To be sure--to be sure. To think thou's been in Lunnon sin' I saw
thee!--well to be sure! There's a vast o' coming and going i' this
world. Thou'll mind yon specksioneer lad, him as was cousin to t'
Corneys--Charley Kinraid?'

Mind him! As if he could forget him.

'Well! he's dead and gone.'

'Dead! Who told you? I don't understand,' said Philip, in strange
bewilderment. Could Kinraid have tried to escape after all, and been
wounded, killed in the attempt? If not, how should they know he was
dead? Missing he might be, though how this should be known was
strange, as he was supposed to be sailing to the Greenland seas. But
dead! What did they mean? At Philip's worst moment of hatred he had
hardly dared to wish him dead.

'Dunnot yo' mention it afore our Sylvie; we niver speak on him to
her, for she takes it a deal to heart, though I'm thinkin' it were a
good thing for her; for he'd got a hold of her--he had on Bessy
Corney, too, as her mother telled me;--not that I iver let on to
them as Sylvia frets after him, so keep a calm sough, my lad. It's a
girl's fancy--just a kind o' calf-love; let it go by; and it's well
for her he's dead, though it's hard to say so on a drowned man.'

'Drowned!' said Philip. 'How do yo' know?' half hoping that the poor
drenched swollen body might have been found, and thus all questions
and dilemmas solved. Kinraid might have struggled overboard with
ropes or handcuffs on, and so have been drowned.

'Eh, lad! there's no misdoubtin' it. He were thought a deal on by t'
captain o' t' _Urania_; and when he niver come back on t' day when
she ought for to have sailed, he sent to Kinraid's people at
Cullercoats, and they sent to Brunton's i' Newcassel, and they knew
he'd been here. T' captain put off sailing for two or three days,
that he might ha' that much law; but when he heard as Kinraid were
not at Corneys', but had left 'em a'most on to a week, he went off
to them Northern seas wi' t' next best specksioneer he could find.
For there's no use speaking ill on t' dead; an' though I couldn't
abear his coming for iver about t' house, he were a rare good
specksioneer, as I've been told.'

'But how do you know he was drowned?' said Philip, feeling guiltily
disappointed at his aunt's story.

'Why, lad! I'm a'most ashamed to tell thee, I were sore put out
mysel'; but Sylvia were so broken-hearted like I couldn't cast it up
to her as I should ha' liked: th' silly lass had gone and gi'en him
a bit o' ribbon, as many a one knowed, for it had been a vast
noticed and admired that evenin' at th' Corneys'--new year's eve I
think it were--and t' poor vain peacock had tied it on his hat, so
that when t' tide----hist! there's Sylvie coming in at t' back-door;
never let on,' and in a forced made-up voice she inquired aloud, for
hitherto she had been speaking almost in a whisper,--

'And didst ta see King George an' Queen Charlotte?'

Philip could not answer--did not hear. His soul had gone out to meet
Sylvia, who entered with quiet slowness quite unlike her former
self. Her face was wan and white; her gray eyes seemed larger, and
full of dumb tearless sorrow; she came up to Philip, as if his being
there touched her with no surprise, and gave him a gentle greeting
as if he were a familiar indifferent person whom she had seen but
yesterday. Philip, who had recollected the quarrel they had had, and
about Kinraid too, the very last time they had met, had expected
some trace of this remembrance to linger in her looks and speech to
him. But there was no such sign; her great sorrow had wiped away all
anger, almost all memory. Her mother looked at her anxiously, and
then said in the same manner of forced cheerfulness which she had
used before,--

'Here's Philip, lass, a' full o' Lunnon; call thy father in, an
we'll hear a' about t' new-fangled pleughs. It'll be rare an' nice
a' sitting together again.'

Sylvia, silent and docile, went out to the shippen to obey her
mother's wish. Bell Robson leant forward towards Philip,
misinterpreting the expression on his face, which was guilt as much
as sympathy, and checked the possible repentance which might have
urged him on at that moment to tell all he knew, by saying, 'Lad!
it's a' for t' best. He were noane good enough for her; and I
misdoubt me he were only playin' wi' her as he'd done by others. Let
her a-be, let her a-be; she'll come round to be thankful.'

Robson bustled in with loud welcome; all the louder and more
talkative because he, like his wife, assumed a cheerful manner
before Sylvia. Yet he, unlike his wife, had many a secret regret
over Kinraid's fate. At first, while merely the fact of his
disappearance was known, Daniel Robson had hit on the truth, and had
stuck to his opinion that the cursed press-gang were at the bottom
of it. He had backed his words by many an oath, and all the more
because he had not a single reason to give that applied to the
present occasion. No one on the lonely coast had remarked any sign
of the presence of the men-of-war, or the tenders that accompanied
them, for the purpose of impressment on the king's ships. At
Shields, and at the mouth of the Tyne, where they lay in greedy
wait, the owners of the _Urania_ had caused strict search to be made
for their skilled and protected specksioneer, but with no success.
All this positive evidence in contradiction to Daniel Robson's
opinion only made him cling to it the more; until the day when the
hat was found on the shore with Kinraid's name written out large and
fair in the inside, and the tell-tale bit of ribbon knotted in the
band. Then Daniel, by a sudden revulsion, gave up every hope; it
never entered his mind that it could have fallen off by any
accident. No! now Kinraid was dead and drowned, and it was a bad
job, and the sooner it could be forgotten the better for all
parties; and it was well no one knew how far it had gone with
Sylvia, especially now since Bessy Corney was crying her eyes out as
if he had been engaged to her. So Daniel said nothing to his wife
about the mischief that had gone on in her absence, and never spoke
to Sylvia about the affair; only he was more than usually tender to
her in his rough way, and thought, morning, noon, and night, on what
he could do to give her pleasure, and drive away all recollection of
her ill-starred love.

To-night he would have her sit by him while Philip told his stories,
or heavily answered questions put to him. Sylvia sat on a stool by
her father's knee, holding one of his hands in both of hers; and
presently she laid down her head upon them, and Philip saw her sad
eyes looking into the flickering fire-light with long unwinking
stare, showing that her thoughts were far distant. He could hardly
go on with his tales of what he had seen, and what done, he was so
full of pity for her. Yet, for all his pity, he had now resolved
never to soothe her with the knowledge of what he knew, nor to
deliver the message sent by her false lover. He felt like a mother
withholding something injurious from the foolish wish of her
plaining child.

But he went away without breathing a word of his good fortune in
business. The telling of such kind of good fortune seemed out of
place this night, when the thought of death and the loss of friends
seemed to brood over the household, and cast its shadow there,
obscuring for the time all worldly things.

And so the great piece of news came out in the ordinary course of
gossip, told by some Monkshaven friend to Robson the next market
day. For months Philip had been looking forward to the sensation
which the intelligence would produce in the farm household, as a
preliminary to laying his good fortune at Sylvia's feet. And they
heard of it, and he away, and all chance of his making use of it in
the manner he had intended vanished for the present.

Daniel was always curious after other people's affairs, and now was
more than ever bent on collecting scraps of news which might
possibly interest Sylvia, and rouse her out of the state of
indifference as to everything into which she had fallen. Perhaps he
thought that he had not acted altogether wisely in allowing her to
engage herself to Kinraid, for he was a man apt to judge by results;
and moreover he had had so much reason to repent of the
encouragement which he had given to the lover whose untimely end had
so deeply affected his only child, that he was more unwilling than
ever that his wife should know of the length to which the affair had
gone during her absence. He even urged secrecy upon Sylvia as a
personal favour; unwilling to encounter the silent blame which he
openly affected to despise.

'We'll noane fret thy mother by lettin' on how oft he came and went.
She'll, may-be, be thinkin' he were for speakin' to thee, my poor
lass; an' it would put her out a deal, for she's a woman of a stern
mind towards matteremony. And she'll be noane so strong till
summer-weather comes, and I'd be loath to give her aught to worrit
hersel' about. So thee and me 'll keep our own counsel.'

'I wish mother had been here, then she'd ha' known all, without my
telling her.'

'Cheer up, lass; it's better as it is. Thou'll get o'er it sooner
for havin' no one to let on to. A myself am noane going to speak
on't again.'

No more he did; but there was a strange tenderness in his tones when
he spoke to her; a half-pathetic way of seeking after her, if by any
chance she was absent for a minute from the places where he expected
to find her; a consideration for her, about this time, in his way of
bringing back trifling presents, or small pieces of news that he
thought might interest her, which sank deep into her heart.

'And what dun yo' think a' t' folks is talkin' on i' Monkshaven?'
asked he, almost before he had taken off his coat, on the day when
he had heard of Philip's promotion in the world. 'Why, missus, thy
nephew, Philip Hepburn, has got his name up i' gold letters four
inch long o'er Fosters' door! Him and Coulson has set up shop
together, and Fosters is gone out!'

'That's t' secret of his journey t' Lunnon,' said Bell, more
gratified than she chose to show.

'Four inch long if they're theere at all! I heerd on it at t' Bay
Horse first; but I thought yo'd niver be satisfied 'bout I seed it
wi' my own eyes. They do say as Gregory Jones, t' plumber, got it
done i' York, for that nought else would satisfy old Jeremiah. It'll
be a matter o' some hundreds a year i' Philip's pocket.'

'There'll be Fosters i' th' background, as one may say, to take t'
biggest share on t' profits,' said Bell.

'Ay, ay, that's but as it should be, for I reckon they'll ha' to
find t' brass the first, my lass!' said he, turning to Sylvia. 'A'm
fain to tak' thee in to t' town next market-day, just for thee t'
see 't. A'll buy thee a bonny ribbon for thy hair out o' t' cousin's
own shop.'

Some thought of another ribbon which had once tied up her hair, and
afterwards been cut in twain, must have crossed Sylvia's mind, for
she answered, as if she shrank from her father's words,--

'I cannot go, I'm noane wantin' a ribbon; I'm much obliged, father,
a' t' same.'

Her mother read her heart clearly, and suffered with her, but never
spoke a word of sympathy. But she went on rather more quickly than
she would otherwise have done to question her husband as to all he
knew about this great rise of Philip's. Once or twice Sylvia joined
in with languid curiosity; but presently she became tired and went
to bed. For a few moments after she left, her parents sate silent.
Then Daniel, in a tone as if he were justifying his daughter, and
comforting himself as well as his wife, observed that it was almost
on for nine; the evenings were light so long now. Bell said nothing
in reply, but gathered up her wool, and began to arrange the things
for night.

By-and-by Daniel broke the silence by saying,--

'A thowt at one time as Philip had a fancy for our Sylvie.'

For a minute or two Bell did not speak. Then, with deeper insight
into her daughter's heart than her husband, in spite of his greater
knowledge of the events that had happened to affect it, she said,--

'If thou's thinking on a match between 'em, it 'll be a long time
afore th' poor sad wench is fit t' think on another man as
sweetheart.'

'A said nought about sweethearts,' replied he, as if his wife had
reproached him in some way. 'Woman's allays so full o' sweethearts
and matteremony. A only said as a'd thowt once as Philip had a fancy
for our lass, and a think so still; and he'll be worth his two
hunder a year afore long. But a niver said nought about
sweethearts.'



CHAPTER XXI

A REJECTED SUITOR


There were many domestic arrangements to be made in connection with
the new commercial ones which affected Hepburn and Coulson.

The Fosters, with something of the busybodiness which is apt to
mingle itself with kindly patronage, had planned in their own minds
that the Rose household should be removed altogether to the house
belonging to the shop; and that Alice, with the assistance of the
capable servant, who, at present, managed all John's domestic
affairs, should continue as mistress of the house, with Philip and
Coulson for her lodgers.

But arrangements without her consent did not suit Alice at any time,
and she had very good reasons for declining to accede to this. She
was not going to be uprooted at her time of life, she said, nor
would she consent to enter upon a future which might be so
uncertain. Why, Hepburn and Coulson were both young men, she said,
and they were as likely to marry as not; and then the bride would be
sure to wish to live in the good old-fashioned house at the back of
the shop.

It was in vain she was told by every one concerned, that, in case of
such an event, the first married partner should take a house of his
own, leaving her in undisputed possession. She replied, with
apparent truth, that both might wish to marry, and surely the wife
of one ought to take possession of the house belonging to the
business; that she was not going to trust herself to the fancies of
young men, who were always, the best of them, going and doing the
very thing that was most foolish in the way of marriage; of which
state, in fact, she spoke with something of acrimonious contempt and
dislike, as if young people always got mismatched, yet had not the
sense to let older and wiser people choose for them.

'Thou'll not have been understanding why Alice Rose spoke as she did
this morning,' said Jeremiah Foster to Philip, on the afternoon
succeeding the final discussion of this plan. 'She was a-thinking of
her youth, I reckon, when she was a well-favoured young woman, and
our John was full of the thought of marrying her. As he could not
have her, he has lived a bachelor all his days. But if I am not a
vast mistaken, all that he has will go to her and to Hester, for all
that Hester is the child of another man. Thee and Coulson should
have a try for Hester, Philip. I have told Coulson this day of
Hester's chances. I told him first because he is my wife's nephew;
but I tell thee now, Philip. It would be a good thing for the shop
if one of ye was married.'

Philip reddened. Often as the idea of marriage had come into his
mind, this was the first time it had been gravely suggested to him
by another. But he replied quietly enough.

'I don't think Hester Rose has any thought of matrimony.'

'To be sure not; it is for thee, or for William Coulson, to make her
think. She, may-be, remembers enough of her mother's life with her
father to make her slow to think on such things. But it's in her to
think on matrimony; it's in all of us.'

'Alice's husband was dead before I knew her,' said Philip, rather
evading the main subject.

'It was a mercy when he were taken. A mercy to them who were left, I
mean. Alice was a bonny young woman, with a smile for everybody,
when he wed her--a smile for every one except our John, who never
could do enough to try and win one from her. But, no! she would have
none of him, but set her heart on Jack Rose, a sailor in a
whale-ship. And so they were married at last, though all her own
folks were against it. And he was a profligate sinner, and went
after other women, and drank, and beat her. She turned as stiff and
as grey as thou seest her now within a year of Hester's birth. I
believe they'd have perished for want and cold many a time if it had
not been for John. If she ever guessed where the money came from, it
must have hurt her pride above a bit, for she was always a proud
woman. But mother's love is stronger than pride.'

Philip fell to thinking; a generation ago something of the same kind
had been going on as that which he was now living through, quick
with hopes and fears. A girl beloved by two--nay, those two so
identical in occupation as he and Kinraid were--Rose identical even
in character with what he knew of the specksioneer; a girl choosing
the wrong lover, and suffering and soured all her life in
consequence of her youth's mistake; was that to be Sylvia's
lot?--or, rather, was she not saved from it by the event of the
impressment, and by the course of silence he himself had resolved
upon? Then he went on to wonder if the lives of one generation were
but a repetition of the lives of those who had gone before, with no
variation but from the internal cause that some had greater capacity
for suffering than others. Would those very circumstances which made
the interest of his life now, return, in due cycle, when he was dead
and Sylvia was forgotten?

Perplexed thoughts of this and a similar kind kept returning into
Philip's mind whenever he had leisure to give himself up to
consideration of anything but the immediate throng of business. And
every time he dwelt on this complication and succession of similar
events, he emerged from his reverie more and more satisfied with the
course he had taken in withholding from Sylvia all knowledge of her
lover's fate.

It was settled at length that Philip was to remove to the house
belonging to the shop, Coulson remaining with Alice and her
daughter. But in the course of the summer the latter told his
partner that he had offered marriage to Hester on the previous day,
and been refused. It was an awkward affair altogether, as he lived
in their house, and was in daily companionship with Hester, who,
however, seemed to preserve her gentle calmness, with only a tinge
more of reserve in her manner to Coulson.

'I wish yo' could find out what she has again' me, Philip,' said
Coulson, about a fortnight after he had made the proposal. The poor
young man thought that Hester's composure of manner towards him
since the event argued that he was not distasteful to her; and as he
was now on very happy terms with Philip, he came constantly to him,
as if the latter could interpret the meaning of all the little
occurrences between him and his beloved. 'I'm o' right age, not two
months betwixt us; and there's few in Monkshaven as would think on
her wi' better prospects than me; and she knows my folks; we're kind
o' cousins, in fact; and I'd be like a son to her mother; and
there's noane i' Monkshaven as can speak again' my character.
There's nought between yo' and her, is there, Philip?'

'I ha' telled thee many a time that she and me is like brother and
sister. She's no more thought on me nor I have for her. So be
content wi't, for I'se not tell thee again.'

'Don't be vexed, Philip; if thou knew what it was to be in love,
thou'd be always fancying things, just as I am.'

'I might be,' said Philip; 'but I dunnut think I should be always
talking about my fancies.'

'I wunnot talk any more after this once, if thou'll just find out
fra' thysel', as it were, what it is she has again' me. I'd go to
chapel for iver with her, if that's what she wants. Just ask her,
Philip.'

'It's an awkward thing for me to be melling wi',' said Hepburn,
reluctantly.

'But thou said thee and she were like brother and sister; and a
brother would ask a sister, and niver think twice about it.'

'Well, well,' replied Philip, 'I'll see what I can do; but, lad, I
dunnot think she'll have thee. She doesn't fancy thee, and fancy is
three parts o' love, if reason is t' other fourth.'

But somehow Philip could not begin on the subject with Hester. He
did not know why, except that, as he said, 'it was so awkward.' But
he really liked Coulson so much as to be anxious to do what the
latter wished, although he was almost convinced that it would be of
no use. So he watched his opportunity, and found Alice alone and at
leisure one Sunday evening.

She was sitting by the window, reading her Bible, when he went in.
She gave him a curt welcome, hearty enough for her, for she was
always chary in her expressions of pleasure or satisfaction. But she
took off her horn spectacles and placed them in the book to keep her
place; and then turning more fully round on her chair, so as to face
him, she said,--

'Well, lad! and how does it go on? Though it's not a day for t' ask
about worldly things. But I niver see thee now but on Sabbath day,
and rarely then. Still we munnot speak o' such things on t' Lord's
day. So thee mun just say how t' shop is doing, and then we'll leave
such vain talk.'

'T' shop is doing main an' well, thank ye, mother. But Coulson could
tell yo' o' that any day.'

'I'd a deal rayther hear fra' thee, Philip. Coulson doesn't know how
t' manage his own business, let alone half the business as it took
John and Jeremiah's heads--ay, and tasked 'em, too--to manage. I've
no patience with Coulson.'

'Why? he's a decent young fellow as ever there is in Monkshaven.'

'He may be. He's noane cut his wisdom-teeth yet. But, for that
matter, there's other folks as far fra' sense as he is.'

'Ay, and farther. Coulson mayn't be so bright at all times as he
might be, but he's a steady-goer, and I'd back him again' any chap
o' his age i' Monkshaven.'

'I know who I'd sooner back in many a thing, Philip!' She said it
with so much meaning that he could not fail to understand that he
himself was meant, and he replied, ingenuously enough,--

'If yo' mean me, mother, I'll noane deny that in a thing or two I
may be more knowledgeable than Coulson. I've had a deal o' time on
my hands i' my youth, and I'd good schooling as long as father
lived.'

'Lad! it's not schooling, nor knowledge, nor book-learning as
carries a man through t' world. It's mother-wit. And it's noane
schooling, nor knowledge, nor book-learning as takes a young woman.
It's summat as cannot be put into words.'

'That's just what I told Coulson!' said Philip, quickly. 'He were
sore put about because Hester had gi'en him the bucket, and came to
me about it.'

'And what did thou say?' asked Alice, her deep eyes gleaming at him
as if to read his face as well as his words. Philip, thinking he
could now do what Coulson had begged of him in the neatest manner,
went on,--

'I told him I'd help him all as I could---'

'Thou did, did thou? Well, well, there's nought sa queer as folks,
that a will say,' muttered Alice, between her teeth.

'--but that fancy had three parts to do wi' love,' continued Philip,
'and it would be hard, may-be, to get a reason for her not fancying
him. Yet I wish she'd think twice about it; he so set upon having
her, I think he'll do himself a mischief wi' fretting, if it goes on
as it is.'

'It'll noane go on as it is,' said Alice, with gloomy oracularness.

'How not?' asked Philip. Then, receiving no answer, he went on, 'He
loves her true, and he's within a month or two on her age, and his
character will bear handling on a' sides; and his share on t' shop
will be worth hundreds a year afore long.'

Another pause. Alice was trying to bring down her pride to say
something, which she could not with all her efforts.

'Maybe yo'll speak a word for him, mother,' said Philip, annoyed at
her silence.

'I'll do no such thing. Marriages are best made wi'out melling. How
do I know but what she likes some one better?'

'Our Hester's not th' lass to think on a young man unless he's been
a-wooing on her. And yo' know, mother, as well as I do--and Coulson
does too--she's niver given any one a chance to woo her; living half
her time here, and t' other half in t' shop, and niver speaking to
no one by t' way.'

'I wish thou wouldn't come here troubling me on a Sabbath day wi'
thy vanity and thy worldly talk. I'd liefer by far be i' that world
wheere there's neither marrying nor giving in marriage, for it's all
a moithering mess here.' She turned to the closed Bible lying on the
dresser, and opened it with a bang. While she was adjusting her
spectacles on her nose, with hands trembling with passion, she heard
Philip say,--

'I ask yo'r pardon, I'm sure. I couldn't well come any other day.'

'It's a' t' same--I care not. But thou might as well tell truth.
I'll be bound thou's been at Haytersbank Farm some day this week?'

Philip reddened; in fact, he had forgotten how he had got to
consider his frequent visits to the farm as a regular piece of
occupation. He kept silence.

Alice looked at him with a sharp intelligence that read his silence
through.

'I thought so. Next time thou thinks to thyself, 'I'm more
knowledgeable than Coulson,' just remember Alice Rose's words, and
they are these:--If Coulson's too thick-sighted to see through a
board, thou'rt too blind to see through a window. As for comin' and
speakin' up for Coulson, why he'll be married to some one else afore
t' year's out, for all he thinks he's so set upon Hester now. Go thy
ways, and leave me to my Scripture, and come no more on Sabbath days
wi' thy vain babbling.'

So Philip returned from his mission rather crestfallen, but quite as
far as ever from 'seeing through a glass window.'

Before the year was out, Alice's prophecy was fulfilled. Coulson,
who found the position of a rejected lover in the same house with
the girl who had refused him, too uncomfortable to be endured, as
soon as he was convinced that his object was decidedly out of his
reach, turned his attention to some one else. He did not love his
new sweetheart as he had done Hester: there was more of reason and
less of fancy in his attachment. But it ended successfully; and
before the first snow fell, Philip was best man at his partner's
wedding.



CHAPTER XXII

DEEPENING SHADOWS


But before Coulson was married, many small events happened--small
events to all but Philip. To him they were as the sun and moon. The
days when he went up to Haytersbank and Sylvia spoke to him, the
days when he went up and she had apparently no heart to speak to any
one, but left the room as soon as he came, or never entered it at
all, although she must have known that he was there--these were his
alternations from happiness to sorrow.

From her parents he always had a welcome. Oppressed by their
daughter's depression of spirits, they hailed the coming of any
visitor as a change for her as well as for themselves. The former
intimacy with the Corneys was in abeyance for all parties, owing to
Bessy Corney's out-spoken grief for the loss of her cousin, as if
she had had reason to look upon him as her lover, whereas Sylvia's
parents felt this as a slur upon their daughter's cause of grief.
But although at this time the members of the two families ceased to
seek after each other's society, nothing was said. The thread of
friendship might be joined afresh at any time, only just now it was
broken; and Philip was glad of it. Before going to Haytersbank he
sought each time for some little present with which to make his
coming welcome. And now he wished even more than ever that Sylvia
had cared for learning; if she had he could have taken her many a
pretty ballad, or story-book, such as were then in vogue. He did try
her with the translation of the _Sorrows of Werther_, so popular at
the time that it had a place in all pedlars' baskets, with Law's
_Serious Call_, the _Pilgrim's Progress_, Klopstock's _Messiah_, and
_Paradise Lost_. But she could not read it for herself; and after
turning the leaves languidly over, and smiling a little at the
picture of Charlotte cutting bread and butter in a left-handed
manner, she put it aside on the shelf by the _Complete Farrier_; and
there Philip saw it, upside down and untouched, the next time he
came to the farm.

Many a time during that summer did he turn to the few verses in
Genesis in which Jacob's twice seven years' service for Rachel is
related, and try and take fresh heart from the reward which came to
the patriarch's constancy at last. After trying books, nosegays,
small presents of pretty articles of dress, such as suited the
notions of those days, and finding them all received with the same
languid gratitude, he set himself to endeavour to please her in some
other way. It was time that he should change his tactics; for the
girl was becoming weary of the necessity for thanking him, every
time he came, for some little favour or other. She wished he would
let her alone and not watch her continually with such sad eyes. Her
father and mother hailed her first signs of impatient petulance
towards him as a return to the old state of things before Kinraid
had come to disturb the tenour of their lives; for even Daniel had
turned against the specksioneer, irritated by the Corneys' loud
moans over the loss of the man to whom their daughter said that she
was attached. If Daniel wished for him to be alive again, it was
mainly that the Corneys might be convinced that his last visit to
the neighbourhood of Monkshaven was for the sake of the pale and
silent Sylvia, and not for that of Bessy, who complained of
Kinraid's untimely death rather as if by it she had been cheated of
a husband than for any overwhelming personal love towards the
deceased.

'If he were after her he were a big black scoundrel, that's what he
were; and a wish he were alive again to be hung. But a dunnot
believe it; them Corney lasses were allays a-talkin' an' a-thinking
on sweethearts, and niver a man crossed t' threshold but they tried
him on as a husband. An' their mother were no better: Kinraid has
spoken civil to Bessy as became a lad to a lass, and she makes an
ado over him as if they'd been to church together not a week sin'.'

'I dunnot uphold t' Corneys; but Molly Corney--as is Molly Brunton
now--used to speak on this dead man to our Sylvie as if he were her
sweetheart in old days. Now there's no smoke without fire, and I'm
thinking it's likely enough he were one of them fellows as is always
after some lass or another, and, as often as not, two or three at a
time. Now look at Philip, what a different one he is! He's niver
thought on a woman but our Sylvie, I'll be bound. I wish he wern't
so old-fashioned and faint-hearted.'

'Ay! and t' shop's doin' a vast o' business, I've heard say. He's a
deal better company, too, 'n or he used to be. He'd a way o'
preaching wi' him as a couldn't abide; but now he tak's his glass,
an' holds his tongue, leavin' room for wiser men to say their say.'

Such was a conjugal colloquy about this time. Philip was gaining
ground with Daniel, and that was something towards winning Sylvia's
heart; for she was unaware of her father's change of feeling towards
Kinraid, and took all his tenderness towards herself as if they were
marks of his regard for her lost lover and his sympathy in her loss,
instead of which he was rather feeling as if it might be a good
thing after all that the fickle-hearted sailor was dead and drowned.
In fact, Daniel was very like a child in all the parts of his
character. He was strongly affected by whatever was present, and apt
to forget the absent. He acted on impulse, and too often had reason
to be sorry for it; but he hated his sorrow too much to let it teach
him wisdom for the future. With all his many faults, however, he had
something in him which made him be dearly loved, both by the
daughter whom he indulged, and the wife who was in fact superior to
him, but whom he imagined that he ruled with a wise and absolute
sway.

Love to Sylvia gave Philip tact. He seemed to find out that to
please the women of the household he must pay all possible attention
to the man; and though he cared little in comparison for Daniel, yet
this autumn he was continually thinking of how he could please him.
When he had said or done anything to gratify or amuse her father,
Sylvia smiled and was kind. Whatever he did was right with his aunt;
but even she was unusually glad when her husband was pleased. Still
his progress was slow towards his object; and often he sighed
himself to sleep with the words, 'seven years, and maybe seven years
more'. Then in his dreams he saw Kinraid again, sometimes
struggling, sometimes sailing towards land, the only one on board a
swift advancing ship, alone on deck, stern and avenging; till Philip
awoke in remorseful terror.

Such and similar dreams returned with the greater frequency when, in
the November of that year, the coast between Hartlepool and
Monkshaven was overshadowed by the presence of guard-ships, driven
south from their station at North Shields by the resolution which
the sailors of that port had entered into to resist the press-gang,
and the energy with which they had begun to carry out their
determination. For on a certain Tuesday evening yet remembered by
old inhabitants of North Shields, the sailors in the merchant
service met together and overpowered the press-gang, dismissing them
from the town with the highest contempt, and with their jackets
reversed. A numerous mob went with them to Chirton Bar; gave them
three cheers at parting, but vowed to tear them limb from limb
should they seek to re-enter North Shields. But a few days
afterwards some fresh cause of irritation arose, and five hundred
sailors, armed with such swords and pistols as they could collect,
paraded through the town in the most riotous manner, and at last
attempted to seize the tender Eleanor, on some pretext of the
ill-treatment of the impressed men aboard. This endeavour failed,
however, owing to the energetic conduct of the officers in command.
Next day this body of sailors set off for Newcastle; but learning,
before they reached the town, that there was a strong military and
civil force prepared to receive them there, they dispersed for the
time; but not before the good citizens had received a great fright,
the drums of the North Yorkshire militia beating to arms, and the
terrified people rushing out into the streets to learn the reason of
the alarm, and some of them seeing the militia, under the command of
the Earl of Fauconberg, marching from the guard-house adjoining New
Gate to the house of rendezvous for impressed seamen in the Broad
Chase.

But a few weeks after, the impressment service took their revenge
for the insults they had been subjected to in North Shields. In the
dead of night a cordon was formed round that town by a regiment
stationed at Tynemouth barracks; the press-gangs belonging to armed
vessels lying off Shields harbour were let loose; no one within the
circle could escape, and upwards of two hundred and fifty men,
sailors, mechanics, labourers of every description, were forced on
board the armed ships. With that prize they set sail, and wisely
left the place, where deep passionate vengeance was sworn against
them. Not all the dread of an invasion by the French could reconcile
the people of these coasts to the necessity of impressment. Fear and
confusion prevailed after this to within many miles of the
sea-shore. A Yorkshire gentleman of rank said that his labourers
dispersed like a covey of birds, because a press-gang was reported
to have established itself so far inland as Tadcaster; and they only
returned to work on the assurance from the steward of his master's
protection, but even then begged leave to sleep on straw in the
stables or outhouses belonging to their landlord, not daring to
sleep at their own homes. No fish was caught, for the fishermen
dared not venture out to sea; the markets were deserted, as the
press-gangs might come down on any gathering of men; prices were
raised, and many were impoverished; many others ruined. For in the
great struggle in which England was then involved, the navy was
esteemed her safeguard; and men must be had at any price of money,
or suffering, or of injustice. Landsmen were kidnapped and taken to
London; there, in too many instances, to be discharged without
redress and penniless, because they were discovered to be useless
for the purpose for which they had been taken.

Autumn brought back the whaling-ships. But the period of their
return was full of gloomy anxiety, instead of its being the annual
time of rejoicing and feasting; of gladdened households, where brave
steady husbands or sons returned; of unlimited and reckless
expenditure, and boisterous joviality among those who thought that
they had earned unbounded licence on shore by their six months of
compelled abstinence. In other years this had been the time for new
and handsome winter clothing; for cheerful if humble hospitality;
for the shopkeepers to display their gayest and best; for the
public-houses to be crowded; for the streets to be full of blue
jackets, rolling along with merry words and open hearts. In other
years the boiling-houses had been full of active workers, the
staithes crowded with barrels, the ship-carpenters' yards thronged
with seamen and captains; now a few men, tempted by high wages, went
stealthily by back lanes to their work, clustering together, with
sinister looks, glancing round corners, and fearful of every
approaching footstep, as if they were going on some unlawful
business, instead of true honest work. Most of them kept their
whaling-knives about them ready for bloody defence if they were
attacked. The shops were almost deserted; there was no unnecessary
expenditure by the men; they dared not venture out to buy lavish
presents for the wife or sweetheart or little children. The
public-houses kept scouts on the look-out; while fierce men drank
and swore deep oaths of vengeance in the bar--men who did not
maunder in their cups, nor grow foolishly merry, but in whom liquor
called forth all the desperate, bad passions of human nature.

Indeed, all along the coast of Yorkshire, it seemed as if a blight
hung over the land and the people. Men dodged about their daily
business with hatred and suspicion in their eyes, and many a curse
went over the sea to the three fatal ships lying motionless at
anchor three miles off Monkshaven. When first Philip had heard in
his shop that these three men-of-war might be seen lying fell and
still on the gray horizon, his heart sank, and he scarcely dared to
ask their names. For if one should be the _Alcestis_; if Kinraid
should send word to Sylvia; if he should say he was living, and
loving, and faithful; if it should come to pass that the fact of the
undelivered message sent by her lover through Philip should reach
Sylvia's ears: what would be the position of the latter, not merely
in her love--that, of course, would be hopeless--but in her esteem?
All sophistry vanished; the fear of detection awakened Philip to a
sense of guilt; and, besides, he found out, that, in spite of all
idle talk and careless slander, he could not help believing that
Kinraid was in terrible earnest when he uttered those passionate
words, and entreated that they might be borne to Sylvia. Some
instinct told Philip that if the specksioneer had only flirted with
too many, yet that for Sylvia Robson his love was true and vehement.
Then Philip tried to convince himself that, from all that was said
of his previous character, Kinraid was not capable of an enduring
constant attachment; and with such poor opiate to his conscience as
he could obtain from this notion Philip was obliged to remain
content, until, a day or two after the first intelligence of the
presence of those three ships, he learned, with some trouble and
pains, that their names were the _Megoera_, the _Bellerophon_, and
the _Hanover_.

Then he began to perceive how unlikely it was that the _Alcestis_
should have been lingering on this shore all these many months. She
was, doubtless, gone far away by this time; she had, probably,
joined the fleet on the war station. Who could tell what had become
of her and her crew? she might have been in battle before now, and
if so---

So his previous fancies shrank to nothing, rebuked for their
improbability, and with them vanished his self-reproach. Yet there
were times when the popular attention seemed totally absorbed by the
dread of the press-gang; when no other subject was talked about--hardly,
in fact, thought about. At such flows of panic, Philip had his
own private fears lest a flash of light should come upon Sylvia,
and she should suddenly see that Kinraid's absence might be
accounted for in another way besides death. But when he reasoned,
this seemed unlikely. No man-of-war had been seen off the coast, or,
if seen, had never been spoken about, at the time of Kinraid's
disappearance. If he had vanished this winter time, every one would
have been convinced that the press-gang had seized upon him. Philip
had never heard any one breathe the dreaded name of the _Alcestis_.
Besides, he went on to think, at the farm they are out of hearing of
this one great weary subject of talk. But it was not so, as he
became convinced one evening. His aunt caught him a little aside
while Sylvia was in the dairy, and her husband talking in the
shippen with Kester.

'For good's sake, Philip, dunnot thee bring us talk about t'
press-gang. It's a thing as has got hold on my measter, till thou'd
think him possessed. He's speaking perpetual on it i' such a way,
that thou'd think he were itching to kill 'em a' afore he tasted
bread again. He really trembles wi' rage and passion; an' a' night
it's just as bad. He starts up i' his sleep, swearing and cursing at
'em, till I'm sometimes afeard he'll mak' an end o' me by mistake.
And what mun he do last night but open out on Charley Kinraid, and
tell Sylvie he thought m'appen t' gang had got hold on him. It might
make her cry a' her saut tears o'er again.'

Philip spoke, by no wish of his own, but as if compelled to speak.

'An' who knows but what it's true?'

The instant these words had come out of his lips he could have
bitten his tongue off. And yet afterwards it was a sort of balm to
his conscience that he had so spoken.

'What nonsense, Philip!' said his aunt; 'why, these fearsome ships
were far out o' sight when he went away, good go wi' him, and Sylvie
just getting o'er her trouble so nicely, and even my master went on
for to say if they'd getten hold on him, he were not a chap to stay
wi' 'em; he'd gi'en proofs on his hatred to 'em, time on. He either
ha' made off--an' then sure enough we should ha' heerd on him
somehow--them Corneys is full on him still and they've a deal to wi'
his folk beyond Newcassel--or, as my master says, he were just t'
chap to hang or drown hissel, sooner nor do aught against his will.'

'What did Sylvie say?' asked Philip, in a hoarse low voice.

'Say? why, a' she could say was to burst out crying, and after a
bit, she just repeated her feyther's words, and said anyhow he was
dead, for he'd niver live to go to sea wi' a press-gang. She knowed
him too well for that. Thou sees she thinks a deal on him for a
spirited chap, as can do what he will. I belie' me she first began
to think on him time o' t' fight aboard th' _Good Fortune_, when
Darley were killed, and he would seem tame-like to her if he
couldn't conquer press-gangs, and men-o'-war. She's sooner think on
him drowned, as she's ne'er to see him again.'

'It's best so,' said Philip, and then, to calm his unusually excited
aunt, he promised to avoid the subject of the press-gang as much as
possible.

But it was a promise very difficult of performance, for Daniel
Robson was, as his wife said, like one possessed. He could hardly
think of anything else, though he himself was occasionally weary of
the same constantly recurring idea, and would fain have banished it
from his mind. He was too old a man to be likely to be taken by
them; he had no son to become their victim; but the terror of them,
which he had braved and defied in his youth, seemed to come back and
take possession of him in his age; and with the terror came
impatient hatred. Since his wife's illness the previous winter he
had been a more sober man until now. He was never exactly drunk, for
he had a strong, well-seasoned head; but the craving to hear the
last news of the actions of the press-gang drew him into Monkshaven
nearly every day at this dead agricultural season of the year; and a
public-house is generally the focus from which gossip radiates; and
probably the amount of drink thus consumed weakened Robson's power
over his mind, and caused the concentration of thought on one
subject. This may be a physiological explanation of what afterwards
was spoken of as a supernatural kind of possession, leading him to
his doom.



CHAPTER XXIII

RETALIATION


The public-house that had been chosen by the leaders of the
press-gang in Monkshaven at this time, for their rendezvous (or
'Randyvowse', as it was generally pronounced), was an inn of poor
repute, with a yard at the back which opened on to the staithe or
quay nearest to the open sea. A strong high stone wall bounded this
grass-grown mouldy yard on two sides; the house, and some unused
out-buildings, formed the other two. The choice of the place was
good enough, both as to situation, which was sufficiently isolated,
and yet near to the widening river; and as to the character of the
landlord, John Hobbs was a failing man, one who seemed as if doomed
to be unfortunate in all his undertakings, and the consequence of
all this was that he was envious of the more prosperous, and willing
to do anything that might bring him in a little present success in
life. His household consisted of his wife, her niece, who acted as
servant, and an out-of-doors man, a brother of Ned Simpson, the
well-doing butcher, who at one time had had a fancy for Sylvia. But
the one brother was prosperous, the other had gone on sinking in
life, like him who was now his master. Neither Hobbs nor his man
Simpson were absolutely bad men; if things had gone well with them
they might each have been as scrupulous and conscientious as their
neighbours, and even now, supposing the gain in money to be equal,
they would sooner have done good than evil; but a very small sum was
enough to turn the balance. And in a greater degree than in most
cases was the famous maxim of Rochefoucault true with them; for in
the misfortunes of their friends they seemed to see some
justification of their own. It was blind fate dealing out events,
not that the events themselves were the inevitable consequences of
folly or misconduct. To such men as these the large sum offered by
the lieutenant of the press-gang for the accommodation of the
Mariners' Arms was simply and immediately irresistible. The best
room in the dilapidated house was put at the service of the
commanding officer of the impress service, and all other
arrangements made at his desire, irrespective of all the former
unprofitable sources of custom and of business. If the relatives
both of Hobbs and of Simpson had not been so well known and so
prosperous in the town, they themselves would have received more
marks of popular ill opinion than they did during the winter the
events of which are now being recorded. As it was, people spoke to
them when they appeared at kirk or at market, but held no
conversation with them; no, not although they each appeared better
dressed than they had either of them done for years past, and
although their whole manner showed a change, inasmuch as they had
been formerly snarling and misanthropic, and were now civil almost
to deprecation.

Every one who was capable of understanding the state of feeling in
Monkshaven at this time must have been aware that at any moment an
explosion might take place; and probably there were those who had
judgment enough to be surprised that it did not take place sooner
than it did. For until February there were only occasional cries and
growls of rage, as the press-gang made their captures first here,
then there; often, apparently, tranquil for days, then heard of at
some distance along the coast, then carrying off a seaman from the
very heart of the town. They seemed afraid of provoking any general
hostility, such as that which had driven them from Shields, and
would have conciliated the inhabitants if they could; the officers
on the service and on board the three men-of-war coming often into
the town, spending largely, talking to all with cheery friendliness,
and making themselves very popular in such society as they could
obtain access to at the houses of the neighbouring magistrates or at
the rectory. But this, however agreeable, did not forward the object
the impress service had in view; and, accordingly, a more decided
step was taken at a time when, although there was no apparent
evidence as to the fact, the town was full of the Greenland mariners
coming quietly in to renew their yearly engagements, which, when
done, would legally entitle them to protection from impressment. One
night--it was on a Saturday, February 23rd, when there was a bitter
black frost, with a north-east wind sweeping through the streets,
and men and women were close shut in their houses--all were startled
in their household content and warmth by the sound of the fire-bell
busily swinging, and pealing out for help. The fire-bell was kept in
the market-house where High Street and Bridge Street met: every one
knew what it meant. Some dwelling, or maybe a boiling-house was on
fire, and neighbourly assistance was summoned with all speed, in a
town where no water was laid on, nor fire-engines kept in readiness.
Men snatched up their hats, and rushed out, wives following, some
with the readiest wraps they could lay hands on, with which to
clothe the over-hasty husbands, others from that mixture of dread
and curiosity which draws people to the scene of any disaster. Those
of the market people who were making the best of their way
homewards, having waited in the town till the early darkness
concealed their path, turned back at the sound of the ever-clanging
fire-bell, ringing out faster and faster as if the danger became
every instant more pressing.

As men ran against or alongside of each other, their breathless
question was ever, 'Where is it?' and no one could tell; so they
pressed onwards into the market-place, sure of obtaining the
information desired there, where the fire-bell kept calling out with
its furious metal tongue.

The dull oil-lamps in the adjoining streets only made darkness
visible in the thronged market-place, where the buzz of many men's
unanswered questions was rising louder and louder. A strange feeling
of dread crept over those nearest to the closed market-house. Above
them in the air the bell was still clanging; but before them was a
door fast shut and locked; no one to speak and tell them why they
were summoned--where they ought to be. They were at the heart of the
mystery, and it was a silent blank! Their unformed dread took shape
at the cry from the outside of the crowd, from where men were still
coming down the eastern side of Bridge Street. 'The gang! the gang!'
shrieked out some one. 'The gang are upon us! Help! help!' Then the
fire-bell had been a decoy; a sort of seething the kid in its
mother's milk, leading men into a snare through their kindliest
feelings. Some dull sense of this added to utter dismay, and made
them struggle and strain to get to all the outlets save that in
which a fight was now going on; the swish of heavy whips, the thud
of bludgeons, the groans, the growls of wounded or infuriated men,
coming with terrible distinctness through the darkness to the
quickened ear of fear.

A breathless group rushed up the blackness of a narrow entry to
stand still awhile, and recover strength for fresh running. For a
time nothing but heavy pants and gasps were heard amongst them. No
one knew his neighbour, and their good feeling, so lately abused and
preyed upon, made them full of suspicion. The first who spoke was
recognized by his voice.

'Is it thee, Daniel Robson?' asked his neighbour, in a low tone.

'Ay! Who else should it be?'

'A dunno.'

'If a am to be any one else, I'd like to be a chap of nobbut eight
stun. A'm welly done for!'

'It were as bloody a shame as iver I heerd on. Who's to go t' t'
next fire, a'd like to know!'

'A tell yo' what, lads,' said Daniel, recovering his breath, but
speaking in gasps. 'We were a pack o' cowards to let 'em carry off
yon chaps as easy as they did, a'm reckoning!'

'A think so, indeed,' said another voice.

Daniel went on--

'We was two hunder, if we was a man; an' t' gang has niver numbered
above twelve.'

'But they was armed. A seen t' glitter on their cutlasses,' spoke
out a fresh voice.

'What then!' replied he who had latest come, and who stood at the
mouth of the entry. 'A had my whalin' knife wi' me i' my pea-jacket
as my missus threw at me, and a'd ha' ripped 'em up as soon as
winkin', if a could ha' thought what was best to do wi' that d----d
bell makin' such a din reet above us. A man can but die onest, and
we was ready to go int' t' fire for t' save folks' lives, and yet
we'd none on us t' wit to see as we might ha' saved yon poor chaps
as screeched out for help.'

'They'll ha' getten 'em to t' Randyvowse by now,' said some one.

'They cannot tak' 'em aboard till morning; t' tide won't serve,'
said the last speaker but one.

Daniel Robson spoke out the thought that was surging up into the
brain of every one there.

'There's a chance for us a'. How many be we?' By dint of touching
each other the numbers were counted. Seven. 'Seven. But if us seven
turns out and rouses t' town, there'll be many a score ready to gang
t' Mariners' Arms, and it'll be easy work reskyin' them chaps as is
pressed. Us seven, each man jack on us, go and seek up his friends,
and get him as well as he can to t' church steps; then, mebbe,
there'll be some theere as'll not be so soft as we was, lettin' them
poor chaps be carried off from under our noses, just becase our ears
was busy listenin' to yon confounded bell, whose clip-clappin'
tongue a'll tear out afore this week is out.'

Before Daniel had finished speaking, those nearest to the entrance
muttered their assent to his project, and had stolen off, keeping to
the darkest side of the streets and lanes, which they threaded in
different directions; most of them going straight as sleuth-hounds
to the haunts of the wildest and most desperate portion of the
seafaring population of Monkshaven. For, in the breasts of many,
revenge for the misery and alarm of the past winter took a deeper
and more ferocious form than Daniel had thought of when he made his
proposal of a rescue. To him it was an adventure like many he had
been engaged in in his younger days; indeed, the liquor he had drunk
had given him a fictitious youth for the time; and it was more in
the light of a rough frolic of which he was to be the leader, that
he limped along ( always lame from old attacks of rheumatism),
chuckling to himself at the apparent stillness of the town, which
gave no warning to the press-gang at the Rendezvous of anything in
the wind. Daniel, too, had his friends to summon; old hands like
himself, but 'deep uns', also, like himself, as he imagined.

It was nine o'clock when all who were summoned met at the church
steps; and by nine o'clock, Monkshaven, in those days, was more
quiet and asleep than many a town at present is at midnight. The
church and churchyard above them were flooded with silver light, for
the moon was high in the heavens: the irregular steps were here and
there in pure white clearness, here and there in blackest shadow.
But more than half way up to the top, men clustered like bees; all
pressing so as to be near enough to question those who stood nearest
to the planning of the attack. Here and there, a woman, with wild
gestures and shrill voice, that no entreaty would hush down to the
whispered pitch of the men, pushed her way through the crowd--this
one imploring immediate action, that adjuring those around her to
smite and spare not those who had carried off her 'man',--the
father, the breadwinner. Low down in the darkened silent town were
many whose hearts went with the angry and excited crowd, and who
would bless them and caress them for that night's deeds. Daniel soon
found himself a laggard in planning, compared to some of those
around him. But when, with the rushing sound of many steps and but
few words, they had arrived at the blank, dark, shut-up Mariners'
Arms, they paused in surprise at the uninhabited look of the whole
house: it was Daniel once more who took the lead.

'Speak 'em fair,' said he; 'try good words first. Hobbs 'll mebbe
let 'em out quiet, if we can catch a word wi' him. A say, Hobbs,'
said he, raising his voice, 'is a' shut up for t' neet; for a'd be
glad of a glass. A'm Dannel Robson, thou knows.'

Not one word in reply, any more than from the tomb; but his speech
had been heard nevertheless. The crowd behind him began to jeer and
to threaten; there was no longer any keeping down their voices,
their rage, their terrible oaths. If doors and windows had not of
late been strengthened with bars of iron in anticipation of some
such occasion, they would have been broken in with the onset of the
fierce and now yelling crowd who rushed against them with the force
of a battering-ram, to recoil in baffled rage from the vain assault.
No sign, no sound from within, in that breathless pause.

'Come away round here! a've found a way to t' back o' behint, where
belike it's not so well fenced,' said Daniel, who had made way for
younger and more powerful men to conduct the assault, and had
employed his time meanwhile in examining the back premises. The men
rushed after him, almost knocking him down, as he made his way into
the lane into which the doors of the outbuildings belonging to the
inn opened. Daniel had already broken the fastening of that which
opened into a damp, mouldy-smelling shippen, in one corner of which
a poor lean cow shifted herself on her legs, in an uneasy, restless
manner, as her sleeping-place was invaded by as many men as could
cram themselves into the dark hold. Daniel, at the end farthest from
the door, was almost smothered before he could break down the rotten
wooden shutter, that, when opened, displayed the weedy yard of the
old inn, the full clear light defining the outline of each blade of
grass by the delicate black shadow behind.

This hole, used to give air and light to what had once been a
stable, in the days when horse travellers were in the habit of
coming to the Mariners' Arms, was large enough to admit the passage
of a man; and Daniel, in virtue of its discovery, was the first to
get through. But he was larger and heavier than he had been; his
lameness made him less agile, and the impatient crowd behind him
gave him a helping push that sent him down on the round stones with
which the yard was paved, and for the time disabled him so much that
he could only just crawl out of the way of leaping feet and heavy
nailed boots, which came through the opening till the yard was
filled with men, who now set up a fierce, derisive shout, which, to
their delight, was answered from within. No more silence, no more
dead opposition: a living struggle, a glowing, raging fight; and
Daniel thought he should be obliged to sit there still, leaning
against the wall, inactive, while the strife and the action were
going on in which he had once been foremost.

He saw the stones torn up; he saw them used with good effect on the
unguarded back-door; he cried out in useless warning as he saw the
upper windows open, and aim taken among the crowd; but just then the
door gave way, and there was an involuntary forward motion in the
throng, so that no one was so disabled by the shots as to prevent
his forcing his way in with the rest. And now the sounds came veiled
by the walls as of some raging ravening beast growling over his
prey; the noise came and went--once utterly ceased; and Daniel
raised himself with difficulty to ascertain the cause, when again
the roar came clear and fresh, and men poured into the yard again,
shouting and rejoicing over the rescued victims of the press-gang.
Daniel hobbled up, and shouted, and rejoiced, and shook hands with
the rest, hardly caring to understand that the lieutenant and his
gang had quitted the house by a front window, and that all had
poured out in search of them; the greater part, however, returning
to liberate the prisoners, and then glut their vengeance on the
house and its contents.

From all the windows, upper and lower, furniture was now being
thrown into the yard. The smash of glass, the heavier crash of wood,
the cries, the laughter, the oaths, all excited Daniel to the
utmost; and, forgetting his bruises, he pressed forwards to lend a
helping hand. The wild, rough success of his scheme almost turned
his head. He hurraed at every flagrant piece of destruction; he
shook hands with every one around him, and, at last, when the
destroyers inside paused to take breath, he cried out,--

'If a was as young as onest a was, a'd have t' Randyvowse down, and
mak' a bonfire on it. We'd ring t' fire-bell then t' some purpose.'

No sooner said than done. Their excitement was ready to take the
slightest hint of mischief; old chairs, broken tables, odd drawers,
smashed chests, were rapidly and skilfully heaped into a pyramid,
and one, who at the first broaching of the idea had gone for live
coals the speedier to light up the fire, came now through the crowd
with a large shovelful of red-hot cinders. The rioters stopped to
take breath and look on like children at the uncertain flickering
blaze, which sprang high one moment, and dropped down the next only
to creep along the base of the heap of wreck, and make secure of its
future work. Then the lurid blaze darted up wild, high, and
irrepressible; and the men around gave a cry of fierce exultation,
and in rough mirth began to try and push each other in. In one of
the pauses of the rushing, roaring noise of the flames, the moaning
low and groan of the poor alarmed cow fastened up in the shippen
caught Daniel's ear, and he understood her groans as well as if they
had been words. He limped out of the yard through the now deserted
house, where men were busy at the mad work of destruction, and found
his way back to the lane into which the shippen opened. The cow was
dancing about at the roar, and dazzle, and heat of the fire; but
Daniel knew how to soothe her, and in a few minutes he had a rope
round her neck, and led her gently out from the scene of her alarm.
He was still in the lane when Simpson, the man-of-all-work at the
Mariners' Arms, crept out of some hiding-place in the deserted
outbuilding, and stood suddenly face to face with Robson.

The man was white with fear and rage.

'Here, tak' thy beast, and lead her wheere she'll noane hear yon
cries and shouts. She's fairly moithered wi' heat an' noise.'

'They're brennin' ivery rag I have i' t' world,' gasped out Simpson:
'I niver had much, and now I'm a beggar.'

'Well! thou shouldn't ha' turned again' thine own town-folks, and
harboured t' gang. Sarves thee reet. A'd noane be here leadin'
beasts if a were as young as a were; a'd be in t' thick on it.'

'It was thee set 'm on--a heerd thee--a see'd thee a helping on 'em
t' break in; they'd niver ha' thought on attackin' t' house, and
settin' fire to yon things, if thou hadn't spoken on it.' Simpson
was now fairly crying. But Daniel did not realize what the loss of
all the small property he had in the world was to the poor fellow
(rapscallion though he was, broken down, unprosperous
ne'er-do-weel!) in his pride at the good work he believed he had set
on foot.

'Ay,' said he; 'it's a great thing for folk to have a chap for t'
lead 'em wi' a head on his shouthers. A misdoubt me if there were a
felly theere as would ha' thought o' routling out yon wasps' nest;
it tak's a deal o' mother-wit to be up to things. But t' gang'll
niver harbour theere again, one while. A only wish we'd cotched 'em.
An' a should like t' ha' gi'en Hobbs a bit o' my mind.'

'He's had his sauce,' said Simpson, dolefully. 'Him and me is
ruined.'

'Tut, tut, thou's got thy brother, he's rich enough. And Hobbs 'll
do a deal better; he's had his lesson now, and he'll stick to his
own side time to come. Here, tak' thy beast an' look after her, for
my bones is achin'. An' mak' thysel' scarce, for some o' them fellys
has getten their blood up, an' wunnot be for treating thee o'er well
if they fall in wi' thee.'

'Hobbs ought to be served out; it were him as made t' bargain wi'
lieutenant; and he's off safe wi' his wife and his money bag, and
a'm left a beggar this neet i' Monkshaven street. My brother and me
has had words, and he'll do nought for me but curse me. A had three
crown-pieces, and a good pair o' breeches, and a shirt, and a dare
say better nor two pair o' stockings. A wish t' gang, and thee, and
Hobbs and them mad folk up yonder, were a' down i' hell, a do.'

'Coom, lad,' said Daniel, noways offended at his companion's wish on
his behalf. 'A'm noane flush mysel', but here's half-a-crown and
tuppence; it's a' a've getten wi' me, but it'll keep thee and t'
beast i' food and shelter to-neet, and get thee a glass o' comfort,
too. A had thought o' takin' one mysel', but a shannot ha' a penny
left, so a'll just toddle whoam to my missus.'

Daniel was not in the habit of feeling any emotion at actions not
directly affecting himself; or else he might have despised the poor
wretch who immediately clutched at the money, and overwhelmed that
man with slobbery thanks whom he had not a minute before been
cursing. But all Simpson's stronger passions had been long ago used
up; now he only faintly liked and disliked, where once he loved and
hated; his only vehement feeling was for himself; that cared for,
other men might wither or flourish as best suited them.

Many of the doors which had been close shut when the crowd went down
the High Street, were partially open as Daniel slowly returned; and
light streamed from them on the otherwise dark road. The news of the
successful attempt at rescue had reached those who had sate in
mourning and in desolation an hour or two ago, and several of these
pressed forwards as from their watching corner they recognized
Daniel's approach; they pressed forward into the street to shake him
by the hand, to thank him (for his name had been bruited abroad as
one of those who had planned the affair), and at several places he
was urged to have a dram--urgency that he was loath for many reasons
to refuse, but his increasing uneasiness and pain made him for once
abstinent, and only anxious to get home and rest. But he could not
help being both touched and flattered at the way in which those who
formed his 'world' looked upon him as a hero; and was not
insensible to the words of blessing which a wife, whose husband had
been impressed and rescued this night, poured down upon him as he
passed.

'Theere, theere,--dunnot crack thy throat wi' blessin'. Thy man
would ha' done as much for me, though mebbe he mightn't ha' shown so
much gumption and capability; but them's gifts, and not to be proud
on.'

When Daniel reached the top of the hill on the road home, he turned
to look round; but he was lame and bruised, he had gone along
slowly, the fire had pretty nearly died out, only a red hue in the
air about the houses at the end of the long High Street, and a hot
lurid mist against the hill-side beyond where the Mariners' Arms had
stood, were still left as signs and token of the deed of violence.

Daniel looked and chuckled. 'That comes o' ringin' t' fire-bell,'
said he to himself; 'it were shame for it to be tellin' a lie, poor
oud story-teller.'



CHAPTER XXIV

BRIEF REJOICING


Daniel's unusually late absence from home disturbed Bell and Sylvia
not a little. He was generally at home between eight and nine on
market days. They expected to see him the worse for liquor at such
times; but this did not shock them; he was no worse than most of his
neighbours, indeed better than several, who went off once or twice a
year, or even oftener, on drinking bouts of two or three days'
duration, returning pale, sodden, and somewhat shame-faced, when all
their money was gone; and, after the conjugal reception was well
over, settling down into hard-working and decently sober men until
the temptation again got power over them. But, on market days, every
man drank more than usual; every bargain or agreement was ratified
by drink; they came from greater or less distances, either afoot or
on horseback, and the 'good accommodation for man and beast' (as the
old inn-signs expressed it) always included a considerable amount of
liquor to be drunk by the man.

Daniel's way of announcing his intention of drinking more than
ordinary was always the same. He would say at the last moment,
'Missus, I've a mind to get fuddled to-neet,' and be off,
disregarding her look of remonstrance, and little heeding the
injunctions she would call after him to beware of such and such
companions, or to attend to his footsteps on his road home.

But this night he had given no such warning. Bell and Sylvia put the
candle on the low window-seat at the usual hour to guide him through
the fields--it was a habit kept up even on moonlight nights like
this--and sate on each side of the fire, at first scarcely caring to
listen, so secure were they of his return. Bell dozed, and Sylvia
sate gazing at the fire with abstracted eyes, thinking of the past
year and of the anniversary which was approaching of the day when
she had last seen the lover whom she believed to be dead, lying
somewhere fathoms deep beneath the surface of that sunny sea on
which she looked day by day without ever seeing his upturned face
through the depths, with whatsoever heart-sick longing for just one
more sight she yearned and inwardly cried. If she could set her eyes
on his bright, handsome face, that face which was fading from her
memory, overtasked in the too frequent efforts to recall it; if she
could but see him once again, coming over the waters beneath which
he lay with supernatural motion, awaiting her at the stile, with the
evening sun shining ruddy into his bonny eyes, even though, after
that one instant of vivid and visible life, he faded into mist; if
she could but see him now, sitting in the faintly flickering
fire-light in the old, happy, careless way, on a corner of the
dresser, his legs dangling, his busy fingers playing with some of
her woman's work;--she wrung her hands tight together as she
implored some, any Power, to let her see him just once again--just
once--for one minute of passionate delight. Never again would she
forget that dear face, if but once more she might set her eyes upon
it.

Her mother's head fell with a sudden jerk, and she roused herself
up; and Sylvia put by her thought of the dead, and her craving after
his presence, into that receptacle of her heart where all such are
kept closed and sacred from the light of common day.

'Feyther's late,' said Bell.

'It's gone eight,' replied Sylvia.

'But our clock is better nor an hour forrard,' answered Bell.

'Ay, but t' wind brings Monkshaven bells clear to-night. I heerd t'
eight o'clock bell ringing not five minutes ago.'

It was the fire-bell, but she had not distinguished the sound.

There was another long silence; both wide awake this time.

'He'll have his rheumatics again,' said Bell.

'It's cold for sartin,' said Sylvia. 'March weather come afore its
time. But I'll make him a treacle-posset, it's a famous thing for
keeping off hoasts.'

The treacle-posset was entertainment enough for both while it was
being made. But once placed in a little basin in the oven, there was
again time for wonder and anxiety.

'He said nought about having a bout, did he, mother?' asked Sylvia
at length.

'No,' said Bell, her face a little contracting. After a while she
added, 'There's many a one as has husbands that goes off drinking
without iver saying a word to their wives. My master is none o' that
mak'.'

'Mother,' broke in Sylvia again, 'I'll just go and get t' lantern
out of t' shippen, and go up t' brow, and mebbe to t' ash-field
end.'

'Do, lass,' said her mother. 'I'll get my wraps and go with thee.'

'Thou shall do niver such a thing,' said Sylvia. 'Thou's too frail
to go out i' t' night air such a night as this.'

'Then call Kester up.'

'Not I. I'm noane afraid o' t' dark.'

'But of what thou mayst meet i' t' dark, lass?'

Sylvia shivered all over at the sudden thought, suggested by this
speech of her mother's, that the idea that had flashed into her own
mind of going to look for her father might be an answer to the
invocation to the Powers which she had made not long ago, that she
might indeed meet her dead lover at the ash-field stile; but though
she shivered as this superstitious fancy came into her head, her
heart beat firm and regular; not from darkness nor from the spirits
of the dead was she going to shrink; her great sorrow had taken away
all her girlish nervous fear.

She went; and she came back. Neither man nor spirit had she seen;
the wind was blowing on the height enough to sweep all creatures
before it; but no one was coming.

So they sate down again to keep watch. At length his step was heard
close to the door; and it startled them even in their state of
expectation.

'Why, feyther!' cried Sylvia as he entered; while his wife stood up
trembling, but not saying a word.

'A'm a'most done up,' said he, sitting heavily down on the chair
nearest the door.

'Poor old feyther!' said Sylvia, stooping to take off his heavy
clogged shoes; while Bell took the posset out of the oven.

'What's this? posset? what creatures women is for slops,' said he;
but he drank it all the same, while Sylvia fastened the door, and
brought the flaring candle from the window-seat. The fresh
arrangement of light displayed his face blackened with smoke, and
his clothes disarranged and torn.

'Who's been melling wi' thee?' asked Bell.

'No one has melled wi' me; but a've been mellin' wi' t' gang at
last.'

'Thee: they niver were for pressing thee!' exclaimed both the women
at once.

'No! they knowed better. They'n getten their belly-full as it is.
Next time they try it on, a reckon they'll ax if Daniel Robson is
wi'in hearin'. A've led a resky this neet, and saved nine or ten
honest chaps as was pressed, and carried off to t' Randyvowse. Me
and some others did it. And Hobbs' things and t' lieutenant's is a'
burnt; and by this time a reckon t' Randyvowse is pretty nigh four
walls, ready for a parish-pound.'

'Thou'rt niver for saying thou burnt it down wi' t' gang in it, for
sure?' asked Bell.

'Na, na, not this time. T' 'gang fled up t' hill like coneys; and
Hobbs and his folks carried off a bag o' money; but t' oud
tumbledown place is just a heap o' brick and mortar; an' t'
furniture is smoulderin' int' ashes; and, best of a', t' men is
free, and will niver be cotched wi' a fire-bell again.'

And so he went on to tell of the ruse by which they had been enticed
into the market-place; interrupted from time to time by their eager
questions, and interrupting himself every now and then with
exclamations of weariness and pain, which made him at last say,--

'Now a'm willing to tell yo' a' about it to-morrow, for it's not
ivery day a man can do such great things; but to-neet a mun go to
bed, even if King George were wantin' for to know how a managed it
a'.'

He went wearily upstairs, and wife and daughter both strove their
best to ease his aching limbs, and make him comfortable. The
warming-pan, only used on state occasions, was taken down and
unpapered for his service; and as he got between the warm sheets, he
thanked Sylvia and her mother in a sleepy voice, adding,--

'It's a vast o' comfort to think on yon poor lads as is sleepin' i'
their own homes this neet,' and then slumber fell upon him, and he
was hardly roused by Bell's softly kissing his weather-beaten cheek,
and saying low,--

'God bless thee, my man! Thou was allays for them that was down and
put upon.'

He murmured some monosyllabic reply, unheard by his wife, who stole
away to undress herself noiselessly, and laid herself down on her
side of the bed as gently as her stiffened limbs would permit.

They were late in rising the next morning. Kester was long since up
and at his work among the cattle before he saw the house-door open
to admit the fresh chill morning air; and even then Sylvia brushed
softly, and went about almost on tip-toe. When the porridge was
ready, Kester was called in to his breakfast, which he took sitting
at the dresser with the family. A large wooden platter stood in the
middle; and each had a bowl of the same material filled with milk.
The way was for every one to dip his pewter spoon into the central
dish, and convey as much or as little as he liked at a time of the
hot porridge into his pure fresh milk. But to-day Bell told Kester
to help himself all at once, and to take his bowl up to the master's
room and keep him company. For Daniel was in bed, resting from his
weariness, and bemoaning his painful bruises whenever he thought of
them. But his mind was still so much occupied with the affair of the
previous night, that Bell judged rightly that a new listener would
give ease to his body as well as to his mind, and her proposal of
Kester's carrying up his breakfast had been received by Daniel with
satisfaction.

So Kester went up slowly, carrying his over-full basin tenderly, and
seated himself on the step leading down into the bed-room (for
levels had not been calculated when the old house was built) facing
his master, who, half sitting up in the blue check bed, not
unwillingly began his relation again; to which Kester listened so
attentively, that his spoon was often arrested in its progress from
the basin to his mouth, open ready to receive it, while he gazed
with unwinking eyes at Daniel narrating his exploits.

But after Daniel had fought his battle o'er again to every auditor
within his reach, he found the seclusion of his chamber rather
oppressive, without even the usual week-days' noises below; so after
dinner, though far from well, he came down and wandered about the
stable and the fields nearest to the house, consulting with Kester
as to crops and manure for the most part; but every now and then
breaking out into an episodical chuckle over some part of last
night's proceedings. Kester enjoyed the day even more than his
master, for he had no bruises to remind him that, although a hero,
he was also flesh and blood.

When they returned to the house they found Philip there, for it was
already dusk. It was Kester's usual Sunday plan to withdraw to bed
at as early an hour as he could manage to sleep, often in winter
before six; but now he was too full of interest in what Philip might
have to tell of Monkshaven news to forego his Sabbath privilege of
spending the evening sitting on the chair at the end of the dresser
behind the door.

Philip was as close to Sylvia as he could possibly get without
giving her offence, when they came in. Her manner was listless and
civil; she had lost all that active feeling towards him which made
him positively distasteful, and had called out her girlish
irritation and impertinence. She now was rather glad to see him than
otherwise. He brought some change into the heavy monotony of her
life--monotony so peaceful until she had been stirred by passion out
of that content with the small daily events which had now become
burdensome recurrences. Insensibly to herself she was becoming
dependent on his timid devotion, his constant attention; and he,
lover-like, once so attracted, in spite of his judgment, by her
liveliness and piquancy, now doted on her languor, and thought her
silence more sweet than words.

He had only just arrived when master and man came in. He had been to
afternoon chapel; none of them had thought of going to the distant
church; worship with them was only an occasional duty, and this day
their minds had been too full of the events of the night before.
Daniel sate himself heavily down in his accustomed chair, the
three-cornered arm-chair in the fireside corner, which no one
thought of anybody else ever occupying on any occasion whatever. In
a minute or two he interrupted Philip's words of greeting and
inquiry by breaking out into the story of the rescue of last night.
But to the mute surprise of Sylvia, the only one who noticed it,
Philip's face, instead of expressing admiration and pleasant wonder,
lengthened into dismay; once or twice he began to interrupt, but
stopped himself as if he would consider his words again. Kester was
never tired of hearing his master talk; by long living together they
understood every fold of each other's minds, and small expressions
had much significance to them. Bell, too, sate thankful that her
husband should have done such deeds. Only Sylvia was made uneasy by
Philip's face and manner. When Daniel had ended there was a great
silence, instead of the questions and compliments he looked to
receive. He became testy, and turning to Bell, said,--

'My nephew looks as though he was a-thinking more on t' little
profit he has made on his pins an' bobs, than as if he was heeding
how honest men were saved from being haled out to yon tender, an'
carried out o' sight o' wives and little 'uns for iver. Wives an'
little 'uns may go t' workhouse or clem for aught he cares.

Philip went very red, and then more sallow than usual. He had not
been thinking of Charley Kinraid, but of quite another thing, while
Daniel had told his story; but this last speech of the old man's
brought up the remembrance that was always quick, do what he would
to smother or strangle it. He did not speak for a moment or two,
then he said,--

'To-day has not been like Sabbath in Monkshaven. T' rioters, as
folks call 'em, have been about all night. They wanted to give
battle to t' men-o'-war's men; and it were taken up by th' better
end, and they've sent to my Lord Malton for t' militia; and they're
come into t' town, and they're hunting for a justice for t' read th'
act; folk do say there'll be niver a shop opened to-morrow.'

This was rather a more serious account of the progress of the affair
than any one had calculated upon. They looked grave upon it awhile,
then Daniel took heart and said,--

'A think we'd done a'most enough last neet; but men's not to be
stopped wi' a straw when their blood is up; still it's hard lines to
call out t' sojers, even if they be but militia. So what we seven
hatched in a dark entry has ta'en a lord to put a stop to 't!'
continued he, chuckling a little, but more faintly this time.

Philip went on, still graver than before, boldly continuing to say
what he knew would be discordant to the family he loved so well.

'I should ha' telled yo' all about it; I thought on it just as a bit
o' news; I'd niver thought on such a thing as uncle there having
been in it, and I'm main sorry to hear on it, I am.'

'Why?' said Sylvia, breathlessly.

'It's niver a thing to be sorry on. I'm proud and glad,' said Bell.

'Let-a-be, let-a-be,' said Daniel, in much dudgeon. 'A were a fool
to tell him o' such-like doings, they're noane i' his line; we'll
talk on yard measures now.

Philip took no notice of this poor attempt at sarcasm: he seemed as
if lost in thought, then he said,--

'I'm vexed to plague yo', but I'd best say all I've got i' my mind.
There was a vast o' folk at our chapel speaking about it--last
night's doings and this morning's work--and how them as set it afoot
was assured o' being clapt int' prison and tried for it; and when I
heered uncle say as he was one, it like ran through me; for they say
as t' justices will be all on t' Government side, and mad for
vengeance.'

For an instant there was dead silence. The women looked at each
other with blank eyes, as if they were as yet unable to take in the
new idea that the conduct which had seemed to them a subject for
such just pride could be regarded by any one as deserving of
punishment or retribution. Daniel spoke before they had recovered
from their amazement.

'A'm noane sorry for what a did, an' a'd do it again to-neet, if
need were. So theere's for thee. Thou may tell t' justices fra' me
that a reckon a did righter nor them, as letten poor fellys be
carried off i' t' very midst o' t' town they're called justices
for.'

Perhaps Philip had better have held his tongue; but he believed in
the danger, which he was anxious to impress upon his uncle, in order
that, knowing what was to be apprehended, the latter might take some
pains to avert it.

He went on.

'But they're making a coil about the Randyvowse being all
destroyed!'

Daniel had taken down his pipe from the shelf in the chimney corner,
and was stuffing tobacco into the bowl. He went on pretending to do
this a little while after it was filled; for, to tell the truth, he
was beginning to feel uncomfortable at the new view of his conduct
presented to him. Still he was not going to let this appear, so
lifting up his head with an indifferent air he lighted the pipe,
blew into it, took it out and examined it as something were wrong
about it, and until that was put to rights he was unable to attend
to anything else; all the while the faithful three who hung upon his
well-being, gazing, breathless, at his proceedings, and anxious for
his reply.

'Randyvowse!' said he at length, 'it were a good job it were brenned
down, for such a harbour for vermin a never seed: t' rats ran across
t' yard by hunders an' thousands; an' it were no man's property as
a've heerd tell, but belonged to Chancery, up i' Lunnon; so wheere's
t' harm done, my fine felly?'

Philip was silent. He did not care to brave any further his uncle's
angry frown and contracted eye. If he had only known of Daniel
Robson's part in the riot before he had left the town, he would have
taken care to have had better authority for the reality of the
danger which he had heard spoken about, and in which he could not
help believing. As it was, he could only keep quiet until he had
ascertained what was the legal peril overhanging the rioters, and
how far his uncle had been recognized.

Daniel went on puffing angrily. Kester sighed audibly, and then was
sorry he had done so, and began to whistle. Bell, full of her new
fear, yet desirous to bring all present into some kind of harmony,
said,--

'It'll ha' been a loss to John Hobbs--all his things burnt, or
trampled on. Mebbe he desarved it all, but one's a kind o' tender
feeling to one's tables and chairs, special if one's had t'
bees-waxing on 'em.'

'A wish he'd been burnt on t' top on 'em, a do,' growled out Daniel,
shaking the ash out of his pipe.

'Don't speak so ill o' thysel',' said his wife. 'Thou'd ha' been t'
first t' pluck him down if he'd screeched out.'

'An' a'll warrant if they come about wi' a paper asking for
feyther's name to make up for what Hobbs has lost by t' fire,
feyther 'll be for giving him summut,' said Sylvia.

'Thou knows nought about it,' said Daniel. 'Hold thy tongue next
time till thou's axed to speak, my wench.'

His sharp irritated way of speaking was so new to Sylvia, that the
tears sprang to her eyes, and her lip quivered. Philip saw it all,
and yearned over her. He plunged headlong into some other subject to
try and divert attention from her; but Daniel was too ill at ease to
talk much, and Bell was obliged to try and keep up the semblance of
conversation, with an occasional word or two from Kester, who seemed
instinctively to fall into her way of thinking, and to endeavour to
keep the dark thought in the background.

Sylvia stole off to bed; more concerned at her father's angry way of
speaking than at the idea of his being amenable to law for what he
had done; the one was a sharp present evil, the other something
distant and unlikely. Yet a dim terror of this latter evil hung over
her, and once upstairs she threw herself on her bed and sobbed.
Philip heard her where he sate near the bottom of the short steep
staircase, and at every sob the cords of love round his heart seemed
tightened, and he felt as if he must there and then do something to
console her.

But, instead, he sat on talking of nothings, a conversation in which
Daniel joined with somewhat of surliness, while Bell, grave and
anxious, kept wistfully looking from one to the other, desirous of
gleaning some further information on the subject, which had begun to
trouble her mind. She hoped some chance would give her the
opportunity of privately questioning Philip, but it seemed to be
equally her husband's wish to thwart any such intention of hers. He
remained in the house-place, till after Philip had left, although he
was evidently so much fatigued as to give some very distinct, though
unintentional, hints to his visitor to be gone.

At length the house-door was locked on Philip, and then Daniel
prepared to go to bed. Kester had left for his loft above the
shippen more than an hour before. Bell had still to rake the fire,
and then she would follow her husband upstairs.

As she was scraping up the ashes, she heard, intermixed with the
noise she was making, the sound of some one rapping gently at the
window. In her then frame of mind she started a little; but on
looking round, she saw Kester's face pressed against the glass, and,
reassured, she softly opened the door. There he stood in the dusk
outer air, distinct against the gray darkness beyond, and in his
hand something which she presently perceived was a pitchfork.

'Missus!' whispered he, 'a've watched t' maister t' bed; an' now a'd
be greatly beholden to yo' if yo'd let me just lay me down i' t'
house-place. A'd warrant niver a constable i' a' Monkshaven should
get sight o' t' maister, an' me below t' keep ward.'

Bell shivered a little.

'Nay, Kester,' she said, patting her hand kindly on his shoulder;
'there's nought for t' fear. Thy master is not one for t' hurt
nobody; and I dunnot think they can harm him for setting yon poor
chaps free, as t' gang catched i' their wicked trap.'

Kester stood still; then he shook his head slowly.

'It's t' work at t' Randyvowse as a'm afeared on. Some folks thinks
such a deal o' a bonfire. Then a may lay me down afore t' fire,
missus?' said he, beseechingly.

'Nay, Kester--' she began; but suddenly changing, she said, 'God
bless thee, my man; come in and lay thee down on t' settle, and I'll
cover thee up wi' my cloak as hangs behind t' door. We're not many
on us that love him, an' we'll be all on us under one roof, an'
niver a stone wall or a lock betwixt us.'

So Kester took up his rest in the house-place that night, and none
knew of it besides Bell.



CHAPTER XXV

COMING TROUBLES


The morning brought more peace if it did not entirely dissipate
fear. Daniel seemed to have got over his irritability, and was
unusually kind and tender to wife and daughter, especially striving
by silent little deeds to make up for the sharp words he had said
the night before to the latter.

As if by common consent, all allusion to the Saturday night's
proceedings was avoided. They spoke of the day's work before them;
of the crops to be sown; of the cattle; of the markets; but each one
was conscious of a wish to know more distinctly what were the
chances of the danger that, to judge from Philip's words, hung over
them, falling upon them and cutting them off from all these places
for the coming days.

Bell longed to send Kester down into Monkshaven as a sort of spy to
see how the land lay; but she dared not manifest her anxiety to her
husband, and could not see Kester alone. She wished that she had
told him to go to the town, when she had had him to herself in the
house-place the night before; now it seemed as though Daniel were
resolved not to part from him, and as though both had forgotten that
any peril had been anticipated. Sylvia and her mother, in like
manner, clung together, not speaking of their fears, yet each
knowing that it was ever present in the other's mind.

So things went on till twelve o'clock--dinner-time. If at any time
that morning they had had the courage to speak together on the
thought which was engrossing all their minds, it is possible that
some means might have been found to avert the calamity that was
coming towards them with swift feet. But among the uneducated--the
partially educated--nay, even the weakly educated--the feeling
exists which prompted the futile experiment of the well-known
ostrich. They imagine that, by closing their own eyes to apprehended
evil, they avert it. The expression of fear is supposed to
accelerate the coming of its cause. Yet, on the other hand, they
shrink from acknowledging the long continuance of any blessing, in
the idea that when unusual happiness is spoken about, it disappears.
So, although perpetual complaints of past or present grievances and
sorrows are most common among this class, they shrink from embodying
apprehensions for the future in words, as if it then took shape and
drew near.

They all four sate down to dinner, but not one of them was inclined
to eat. The food was scarcely touched on their plates, yet they were
trying to make talk among themselves as usual; they seemed as though
they dared not let themselves be silent, when Sylvia, sitting
opposite to the window, saw Philip at the top of the brow, running
rapidly towards the farm. She had been so full of the anticipation
of some kind of misfortune all the morning that she felt now as if
this was the very precursive circumstance she had been expecting;
she stood up, turning quite white, and, pointing with her finger,
said,--

'There he is!'

Every one at table stood up too. An instant afterwards, Philip,
breathless, was in the room.

He gasped out, 'They're coming! the warrant is out. You must go. I
hoped you were gone.'

'God help us!' said Bell, and sate suddenly down, as if she had
received a blow that made her collapse into helplessness; but she
got up again directly.

Sylvia flew for her father's hat. He really seemed the most unmoved
of the party.

'A'm noane afeared,' said he. 'A'd do it o'er again, a would; an'
a'll tell 'em so. It's a fine time o' day when men's to be trapped
and carried off, an' them as lays traps to set 'em free is to be put
i' t' lock-ups for it.'

'But there was rioting, beside the rescue; t' house was burnt,'
continued eager, breathless Philip.

'An' a'm noane goin' t' say a'm sorry for that, neyther; tho',
mebbe, a wouldn't do it again.'

Sylvia had his hat on his head by this time; and Bell, wan and
stiff, trembling all over, had his over-coat, and his leather purse
with the few coins she could muster, ready for him to put on.

He looked at these preparations, at his wife and daughter, and his
colour changed from its ruddy brown.

'A'd face lock-ups, an' a fair spell o' jail, but for these,' said
he, hesitating.

'Oh!' said Philip, 'for God's sake, lose no time, but be off.'

'Where mun he go?' asked Bell, as if Philip must decide all.

'Anywhere, anywhere, out of this house--say Haverstone. This
evening, I'll go and meet him there and plan further; only be off
now.' Philip was so keenly eager, he hardly took note at the time of
Sylvia's one vivid look of unspoken thanks, yet he remembered it
afterwards.

'A'll dang 'em dead,' said Kester, rushing to the door, for he saw
what the others did not--that all chance of escape was over; the
constables were already at the top of the little field-path not
twenty yards off.

'Hide him, hide him,' cried Bell, wringing her hands in terror; for
she, indeed they all, knew that flight would now be impossible.
Daniel was heavy, rheumatic, and, moreover, had been pretty severely
bruised on that unlucky night.

Philip, without another word, pushed Daniel before him upstairs,
feeling that his own presence at Haytersbank Farm at that hour of
the day would be a betrayal. They had just time to shut themselves
up in the larger bed-room, before they heard a scuffle and the
constables' entry down-stairs.

'They're in,' said Philip, as Daniel squeezed himself under the bed;
and then they held quite still, Philip as much concealed by the
scanty, blue-check curtain as he could manage to be. They heard a
confusion of voices below, a hasty moving of chairs, a banging of
doors, a further parley, and then a woman's scream, shrill and
pitiful; then steps on the stairs.

'That screech spoiled all,' sighed Philip.

In one instant the door was opened, and each of the hiders was
conscious of the presence of the constables, although at first the
latter stood motionless, surveying the apparently empty room with
disappointment. Then in another moment they had rushed at Philip's
legs, exposed as these were. They drew him out with violence, and
then let him go.

'Measter Hepburn!' said one in amaze. But immediately they put two
and two together; for in so small a place as Monkshaven every one's
relationships and connexions, and even likings, were known; and the
motive of Philip's coming out to Haytersbank was perfectly clear to
these men.

'T' other 'll not be far off,' said the other constable. 'His plate
were down-stairs, full o' victual; a seed Measter Hepburn a-walking
briskly before me as a left Monkshaven.'

'Here he be, here he be,' called out the other man, dragging Daniel
out by his legs, 'we've getten him.'

Daniel kicked violently, and came out from his hiding-place in a
less ignominious way than by being pulled out by his heels.

He shook himself, and then turned, facing his captors.

'A wish a'd niver hidden mysel'; it were his doing,' jerking his
thumb toward Philip: 'a'm ready to stand by what a've done. Yo've
getten a warrant a'll be bound, for them justices is grand at
writin' when t' fight's over.'

He was trying to carry it off with bravado, but Philip saw that he
had received a shock, from his sudden look of withered colour and
shrunken feature.

'Don't handcuff him,' said Philip, putting money into the
constable's hand. 'You'll be able to guard him well enough without
them things.'

Daniel turned round sharp at this whisper.

'Let-a-be, let-a-be, my lad,' he said. 'It 'll be summut to think on
i' t' lock-up how two able-bodied fellys were so afeared on t' chap
as reskyed them honest sailors o' Saturday neet, as they mun put him
i' gyves, and he sixty-two come Martinmas, and sore laid up wi' t'
rheumatics.'

But it was difficult to keep up this tone of bravado when he was led
a prisoner through his own house-place, and saw his poor wife
quivering and shaking all over with her efforts to keep back all
signs of emotion until he was gone; and Sylvia standing by her
mother, her arm round Bell's waist and stroking the poor shrunken
fingers which worked so perpetually and nervously in futile
unconscious restlessness. Kester was in a corner of the room,
sullenly standing.

Bell quaked from head to foot as her husband came down-stairs a
prisoner. She opened her lips several times with an uneasy motion,
as if she would fain say something, but knew not what. Sylvia's
passionate swollen lips and her beautiful defiant eyes gave her face
quite a new aspect; she looked a helpless fury.

'A may kiss my missus, a reckon,' said Daniel, coming to a
standstill as he passed near her.

'Oh, Dannel, Dannel!' cried she, opening her arms wide to receive
him. 'Dannel, Dannel, my man!' and she shook with her crying, laying
her head on his shoulder, as if he was all her stay and comfort.

'Come, missus! come, missus!' said he, 'there couldn't be more ado
if a'd been guilty of murder, an' yet a say again, as a said afore,
a'm noane ashamed o' my doings. Here, Sylvie, lass, tak' thy mother
off me, for a cannot do it mysel', it like sets me off.' His voice
was quavering as he said this. But he cheered up a little and said,
'Now, good-by, oud wench' (kissing her), 'and keep a good heart,
and let me see thee lookin' lusty and strong when a come back.
Good-by, my lass; look well after mother, and ask Philip for
guidance if it's needed.'

He was taken out of his home, and then arose the shrill cries of the
women; but in a minute or two they were checked by the return of one
of the constables, who, cap in hand at the sight of so much grief,
said,--

'He wants a word wi' his daughter.'

The party had come to a halt about ten yards from the house. Sylvia,
hastily wiping her tears on her apron, ran out and threw her arms
round her father, as if to burst out afresh on his neck.

'Nay, nay, my wench, it's thee as mun be a comfort to mother: nay,
nay, or thou'll niver hear what a've got to say. Sylvie, my lass,
a'm main and sorry a were so short wi' thee last neet; a ax thy
pardon, lass, a were cross to thee, and sent thee to thy bed wi' a
sore heart. Thou munnot think on it again, but forgie me, now a'm
leavin' thee.'

'Oh, feyther! feyther!' was all Sylvia could say; and at last they
had to make as though they would have used force to separate her
from their prisoner. Philip took her hand, and softly led her back
to her weeping mother.

For some time nothing was to be heard in the little farmhouse
kitchen but the sobbing and wailing of the women. Philip stood by
silent, thinking, as well as he could, for his keen sympathy with
their grief, what had best be done next. Kester, after some growls
at Sylvia for having held back the uplifted arm which he thought
might have saved Daniel by a well-considered blow on his captors as
they entered the house, went back into his shippen--his cell for
meditation and consolation, where he might hope to soothe himself
before going out to his afternoon's work; labour which his master
had planned for him that very morning, with a strange foresight, as
Kester thought, for the job was one which would take him two or
three days without needing any further directions than those he had
received, and by the end of that time he thought that his master
would be at liberty again. So he--so they all thought in their
ignorance and inexperience.

Although Daniel himself was unreasoning, hasty, impulsive--in a
word, often thinking and acting very foolishly--yet, somehow, either
from some quality in his character, or from the loyalty of nature in
those with whom he had to deal in his every-day life, he had made
his place and position clear as the arbiter and law-giver of his
household. On his decision, as that of husband, father, master,
perhaps superior natures waited. So now that he was gone and had
left them in such strange new circumstances so suddenly, it seemed
as though neither Bell nor Sylvia knew exactly what to do when their
grief was spent, so much had every household action and plan been
regulated by the thought of him. Meanwhile Philip had slowly been
arriving at the conclusion that he was more wanted at Monkshaven to
look after Daniel's interests, to learn what were the legal
probabilities in consequence of the old man's arrest, and to arrange
for his family accordingly, than standing still and silent in the
Haytersbank kitchen, too full of fellow-feeling and heavy foreboding
to comfort, awkwardly unsympathetic in appearance from the very
aching of his heart.

So when his aunt, with instinctive sense of regularity and
propriety, began to put away the scarcely tasted dinner, and Sylvia,
blinded with crying, and convulsively sobbing, was yet trying to
help her mother, Philip took his hat, and brushing it round and
round with the sleeve of his coat, said,--

'I think I'll just go back, and see how matters stand.' He had a
more distinct plan in his head than these words implied, but it
depended on so many contingencies of which he was ignorant that he
said only these few words; and with a silent resolution to see them
again that day, but a dread of being compelled to express his fears,
so far beyond theirs, he went off without saying anything more. Then
Sylvia lifted up her voice with a great cry. Somehow she had
expected him to do something--what, she did not know; but he was
gone, and they were left without stay or help.

'Hush thee, hush thee,' said her mother, trembling all over herself;
'it's for the best. The Lord knows.'

'But I niver thought he'd leave us,' moaned Sylvia, half in her
mother's arms, and thinking of Philip. Her mother took the words as
applied to Daniel.

'And he'd niver ha' left us, my wench, if he could ha' stayed.'

'Oh, mother, mother, it's Philip as has left us, and he could ha'
stayed.'

'He'll come back, or mebbe send, I'll be bound. Leastways he'll be
gone to see feyther, and he'll need comfort most on all, in a fremd
place--in Bridewell--and niver a morsel of victual or a piece o'
money.' And now she sate down, and wept the dry hot tears that come
with such difficulty to the eyes of the aged. And so--first one
grieving, and then the other, and each draining her own heart of
every possible hope by way of comfort, alternately trying to cheer
and console--the February afternoon passed away; the continuous rain
closing in the daylight even earlier than usual, and adding to the
dreariness, with the natural accompaniments of wailing winds, coming
with long sweeps over the moors, and making the sobbings at the
windows that always sound like the gasps of some one in great agony.
Meanwhile Philip had hastened back to Monkshaven. He had no
umbrella, he had to face the driving rain for the greater part of
the way; but he was thankful to the weather, for it kept men
indoors, and he wanted to meet no one, but to have time to think and
mature his plans. The town itself was, so to speak, in mourning. The
rescue of the sailors was a distinctly popular movement; the
subsequent violence (which had, indeed, gone much further than has
been described, after Daniel left it) was, in general, considered as
only a kind of due punishment inflicted in wild justice on the
press-gang and their abettors. The feeling of the Monkshaven people
was, therefore, in decided opposition to the vigorous steps taken by
the county magistrates, who, in consequence of an appeal from the
naval officers in charge of the impressment service, had called out
the militia (from a distant and inland county) stationed within a
few miles, and had thus summarily quenched the riots that were
continuing on the Sunday morning after a somewhat languid fashion;
the greater part of the destruction of property having been
accomplished during the previous night. Still there was little doubt
but that the violence would have been renewed as evening drew on,
and the more desperate part of the population and the enraged
sailors had had the Sabbath leisure to brood over their wrongs, and
to encourage each other in a passionate attempt at redress, or
revenge. So the authorities were quite justified in the decided
steps they had taken, both in their own estimation then, and now, in
ours, looking back on the affair in cold blood. But at the time
feeling ran strongly against them; and all means of expressing
itself in action being prevented, men brooded sullenly in their own
houses. Philip, as the representative of the family, the head of
which was now suffering for his deeds in the popular cause, would
have met with more sympathy, ay, and more respect than he imagined,
as he went along the streets, glancing from side to side, fearful of
meeting some who would shy him as the relation of one who had been
ignominiously taken to Bridewell a few hours before. But in spite of
this wincing of Philip's from observation and remark, he never
dreamed of acting otherwise than as became a brave true friend. And
this he did, and would have done, from a natural faithfulness and
constancy of disposition, without any special regard for Sylvia.

He knew his services were needed in the shop; business which he had
left at a moment's warning awaited him, unfinished; but at this time
he could not bear the torture of giving explanations, and alleging
reasons to the languid intelligence and slow sympathies of Coulson.

He went to the offices of Mr. Donkin, the oldest established and most
respected attorney in Monkshaven--he who had been employed to draw
up the law papers and deeds of partnership consequent on Hepburn and
Coulson succeeding to the shop of John and Jeremiah Foster,
Brothers.

Mr. Donkin knew Philip from this circumstance. But, indeed, nearly
every one in Monkshaven knew each other; if not enough to speak to,
at least enough to be acquainted with the personal appearance and
reputation of most of those whom they met in the streets. It so
happened that Mr. Donkin had a favourable opinion of Philip; and
perhaps for this reason the latter had a shorter time to wait before
he obtained an interview with the head of the house, than many of
the clients who came for that purpose from town or country for many
miles round.

Philip was ushered in. Mr. Donkin sate with his spectacles pushed up
on his forehead, ready to watch his countenance and listen to his
words.

'Good afternoon, Mr. Hepburn!'

'Good afternoon, sir.' Philip hesitated how to begin. Mr. Donkin
became impatient, and tapped with the fingers of his left hand on
his desk. Philip's sensitive nerves felt and rightly interpreted the
action.

'Please, sir, I'm come to speak to you about Daniel Robson, of
Haytersbank Farm.'

'Daniel Robson?' said Mr. Donkin, after a short pause, to try and
compel Philip into speed in his story.

'Yes, sir. He's been taken up on account of this affair, sir, about
the press-gang on Saturday night.'

'To be sure! I thought I knew the name.' And Mr. Donkin's face became
graver, and the expression more concentrated. Looking up suddenly at
Philip, he said, 'You are aware that I am the clerk to the
magistrates?'

'No, sir,' in a tone that indicated the unexpressed 'What then?'

'Well, but I am. And so of course, if you want my services or advice
in favour of a prisoner whom they have committed, or are going to
commit, you can't have them, that's all.'

'I am very sorry--very!' said Philip; and then he was again silent
for a period; long enough to make the busy attorney impatient.

'Well, Mr. Hepburn, have you anything else to say to me?'

'Yes, sir. I've a deal to ask of you; for you see I don't rightly
understand what to do; and yet I'm all as Daniel's wife and daughter
has to look to; and I've their grief heavy on my heart. You could
not tell me what is to be done with Daniel, could you, sir?'

'He'll be brought up before the magistrates to-morrow morning for
final examination, along with the others, you know, before he's sent
to York Castle to take his trial at the spring assizes.'

'To York Castle, sir?'

Mr. Donkin nodded, as if words were too precious to waste.

'And when will he go?' asked poor Philip, in dismay.

'To-morrow: most probably as soon as the examination is over. The
evidence is clear as to his being present, aiding and
abetting,--indicted on the 4th section of 1 George I., statute 1,
chapter 5. I'm afraid it's a bad look-out. Is he a friend of yours,
Mr. Hepburn?'

'Only an uncle, sir,' said Philip, his heart getting full; more from
Mr. Donkin's manner than from his words. 'But what can they do to
him, sir?'

'Do?' Mr. Donkin half smiled at the ignorance displayed. 'Why, hang
him, to be sure; if the judge is in a hanging mood. He's been either
a principal in the offence, or a principal in the second degree,
and, as such, liable to the full punishment. I drew up the warrant
myself this morning, though I left the exact name to be filled up by
my clerk.'

'Oh, sir! can you do nothing for me?' asked Philip, with sharp
beseeching in his voice. He had never imagined that it was a capital
offence; and the thought of his aunt's and Sylvia's ignorance of the
possible fate awaiting him whom they so much loved, was like a stab
to his heart.

'No, my good fellow. I'm sorry; but, you see, it's my duty to do all
I can to bring criminals to justice.'

'My uncle thought he was doing such a fine deed.'

'Demolishing and pulling down, destroying and burning
dwelling-houses and outhouses,' said Mr. Donkin. 'He must have some
peculiar notions.'

'The people is so mad with the press-gang, and Daniel has been at
sea hisself; and took it so to heart when he heard of mariners and
seafaring folk being carried off, and just cheated into doing what
was kind and helpful--leastways, what would have been kind and
helpful, if there had been a fire. I'm against violence and riots
myself, sir, I'm sure; but I cannot help thinking as Daniel had a
deal to justify him on Saturday night, sir.'

'Well; you must try and get a good lawyer to bring out all that side
of the question. There's a good deal to be said on it; but it's my
duty to get up all the evidence to prove that he and others were
present on the night in question; so, as you'll perceive, I can give
you no help in defending him.'

'But who can, sir? I came to you as a friend who, I thought, would
see me through it. And I don't know any other lawyer; leastways, to
speak to.'

Mr. Donkin was really more concerned for the misguided rioters than
he was aware; and he was aware of more interest than he cared to
express. So he softened his tone a little, and tried to give the
best advice in his power.

'You'd better go to Edward Dawson on the other side of the river; he
that was articled clerk with me two years ago, you know. He's a
clever fellow, and has not too much practice; he'll do the best he
can for you. He'll have to be at the court-house, tell him,
to-morrow morning at ten, when the justices meet. He'll watch the
case for you; and then he'll give you his opinion, and tell you what
to do. You can't do better than follow his advice. I must do all I
can to collect evidence for a conviction, you know.'

Philip stood up, looked at his hat, and then came forward and laid
down six and eightpence on the desk in a blushing, awkward way.

'Pooh! pooh!' said Mr. Donkin, pushing the money away. 'Don't be a
fool; you'll need it all before the trial's over. I've done nothing,
man. It would be a pretty thing for me to be feed by both parties.'

Philip took up the money, and left the room. In an instant he came
back again, glanced furtively at Mr. Donkin's face, and then, once
more having recourse to brushing his hat, he said, in a low voice--

'You'll not be hard upon him, sir, I hope?'

'I must do my duty,' replied Mr. Donkin, a little sternly, 'without
any question of hardness.'

Philip, discomfited, left the room; an instant of thought and Mr
Donkin had jumped up, and hastening to the door he opened it and
called after Philip.

'Hepburn--Hepburn--I say, he'll be taken to York as soon as may be
to-morrow morning; if any one wants to see him before then, they'd
better look sharp about it.'

Philip went quickly along the streets towards Mr. Dawson's, pondering
upon the meaning of all that he had heard, and what he had better
do. He had made his plans pretty clearly out by the time he arrived
at Mr. Dawson's smart door in one of the new streets on the other
side of the river. A clerk as smart as the door answered Philip's
hesitating knock, and replied to his inquiry as to whether Mr. Dawson
was at home, in the negative, adding, after a moment's pause--

'He'll be at home in less than an hour; he's only gone to make Mrs
Dawson's will--Mrs. Dawson, of Collyton--she's not expected to get
better.'

Probably the clerk of an older-established attorney would not have
given so many particulars as to the nature of his master's
employment; but, as it happened it was of no consequence, the
unnecessary information made no impression on Philip's mind; he
thought the matter over and then said--

'I'll be back in an hour, then. It's gone a quarter to four; I'll be
back before five, tell Mr. Dawson.'

He turned on his heel and went back to the High Street as fast as he
could, with a far more prompt and decided step than before. He
hastened through the streets, emptied by the bad weather, to the
principal inn of the town, the George--the sign of which was
fastened to a piece of wood stretched across the narrow street; and
going up to the bar with some timidity (for the inn was frequented
by the gentry of Monkshaven and the neighbourhood, and was
considered as a touch above such customers as Philip), he asked if
he could have a tax-cart made ready in a quarter of an hour, and
sent up to the door of his shop.

'To be sure he could; how far was it to go?'

Philip hesitated before he replied--

'Up the Knotting Lane, to the stile leading down to Haytersbank
Farm; they'll have to wait there for some as are coming.'

'They must not wait long such an evening as this; standing in such
rain and wind as there'll be up there, is enough to kill a horse.'

'They shan't wait long,' said Philip, decisively: 'in a quarter of
an hour, mind.'

He now went back to the shop, beating against the storm, which was
increasing as the tide came in and the night hours approached.

Coulson had no word for him, but he looked reproachfully at his
partner for his long, unexplained absence. Hester was putting away
the ribbons and handkerchiefs, and bright-coloured things which had
been used to deck the window; for no more customers were likely to
come this night through the blustering weather to a shop dimly
lighted by two tallow candles and an inefficient oil-lamp. Philip
came up to her, and stood looking at her with unseeing eyes; but the
strange consciousness of his fixed stare made her uncomfortable, and
called the faint flush to her pale cheeks, and at length compelled
her, as it were, to speak, and break the spell of the silence. So,
curiously enough, all three spoke at once. Hester asked (without
looking at Philip)--

'Yo're sadly wet, I'm feared?'

Coulson said--

'Thou might have a bit o' news to tell one after being on the gad
all afternoon.'

Philip whispered to Hester--

'Wilt come into t' parlour? I want a word wi' thee by oursel's.'

Hester quietly finished rolling up the ribbon she had in her hands
when he spoke, and then followed him into the room behind the shop
before spoken of.

Philip set down on the table the candle which he had brought out of
the shop, and turning round to Hester, took her trembling hand into
both of his, and gripping it nervously, said--

'Oh! Hester, thou must help me--thou will, will not thou?'

Hester gulped down something that seemed to rise in her throat and
choke her, before she answered.

'Anything, thou knows, Philip.'

'Yes, yes, I know. Thou sees the matter is this: Daniel Robson--he
who married my aunt--is taken up for yon riot on Saturday night at
t' Mariners' Arms----'

'They spoke on it this afternoon; they said the warrant was out,'
said Hester, filling up the sentence as Philip hesitated, lost for
an instant in his own thoughts.

'Ay! the warrant is out, and he's in t' lock-up, and will be carried
to York Castle to-morrow morn; and I'm afeared it will go bad with
him; and they at Haytersbank is not prepared, and they must see him
again before he goes. Now, Hester, will thou go in a tax-cart as
will be here in less than ten minutes from t' George, and bring them
back here, and they must stay all night for to be ready to see him
to-morrow before he goes? It's dree weather for them, but they'll
not mind that.'

He had used words as if he was making a request to Hester; but he
did not seem to await her answer, so sure was he that she would go.
She noticed this, and noticed also that the rain was spoken of in
reference to them, not to her. A cold shadow passed over her heart,
though it was nothing more than she already knew--that Sylvia was
the one centre of his thoughts and his love.

'I'll go put on my things at once,' said she, gently.

Philip pressed her hand tenderly, a glow of gratitude overspread
him.

'Thou's a real good one, God bless thee!' said he. 'Thou must take
care of thyself, too,' continued he; 'there's wraps and plenty i'
th' house, and if there are not, there's those i' the shop as 'll be
none the worse for once wearing at such a time as this; and wrap
thee well up, and take shawls and cloaks for them, and mind as they
put 'em on. Thou'll have to get out at a stile, I'll tell t' driver
where; and thou must get over t' stile and follow t' path down two
fields, and th' house is right before ye, and bid 'em make haste and
lock up th' house, for they mun stay all night here. Kester 'll look
after things.'

All this time Hester was hastily putting on her hat and cloak, which
she had fetched from the closet where they usually hung through the
day; now she stood listening, as it were, for final directions.

'But suppose they will not come,' said she; 'they dunnot know me,
and mayn't believe my words.'

'They must,' said he, impatiently. 'They don't know what awaits
'em,' he continued. 'I'll tell thee, because thou 'll not let out,
and it seems as if I mun tell some one--it were such a shock--he's
to be tried for 's life. They know not it's so serious; and,
Hester,' said he, going on in his search after sympathy, 'she's
like as if she was bound up in her father.'

His lips quivered as he looked wistfully into Hester's face at these
words. No need to tell her who was _she_. No need to put into words
the fact, told plainer than words could have spoken it, that his
heart was bound up in Sylvia.

Hester's face, instead of responding to his look, contracted a
little, and, for the life of her, she could not have helped
saying,--

'Why don't yo' go yourself, Philip?'

'I can't, I can't,' said he, impatiently. 'I'd give the world to go,
for I might be able to comfort her; but there's lawyers to see, and
iver so much to do, and they've niver a man friend but me to do it
all. You'll tell her,' said Philip, insinuatingly, as if a fresh
thought had struck him, 'as how I would ha' come. I would fain ha'
come for 'em, myself, but I couldn't, because of th' lawyer,--mind
yo' say because of th' lawyer. I'd be loath for her to think I was
minding any business of my own at this time; and, whatever yo' do,
speak hopeful, and, for t' life of yo', don't speak of th' hanging,
it's likely it's a mistake o' Donkin's; and anyhow--there's t'
cart--anyhow I should perhaps not ha' telled thee, but it's a comfort
to make a clean breast to a friend at times. God bless thee, Hester. I
don't know what I should ha' done without thee,' said he, as he
wrapped her well up in the cart, and placed the bundles of cloaks
and things by her side.

Along the street, in the jolting cart, as long as Hester could see
the misty light streaming out of the shop door, so long was Philip
standing bareheaded in the rain looking after her. But she knew that
it was not her own poor self that attracted his lingering gaze. It
was the thought of the person she was bound to.



CHAPTER XXVI

A DREARY VIGIL


Through the dark rain, against the cold wind, shaken over the rough
stones, went Hester in the little tax-cart. Her heart kept rising
against her fate; the hot tears came unbidden to her eyes. But
rebellious heart was soothed, and hot tears were sent back to their
source before the time came for her alighting.

The driver turned his horse in the narrow lane, and shouted after
her an injunction to make haste as, with her head bent low, she
struggled down to the path to Haytersbank Farm. She saw the light in
the window from the top of the brow, and involuntarily she slackened
her pace. She had never seen Bell Robson, and would Sylvia recollect
her? If she did not how awkward it would be to give the explanation
of who she was, and what her errand was, and why she was sent.
Nevertheless, it must be done; so on she went, and standing within
the little porch, she knocked faintly at the door; but in the
bluster of the elements the sound was lost. Again she knocked, and
now the murmur of women's voices inside was hushed, and some one
came quickly to the door, and opened it sharply.

It was Sylvia. Although her face was completely in shadow, of course
Hester knew her well; but she, if indeed she would have recognized
Hester less disguised, did not know in the least who the woman,
muffled up in a great cloak, with her hat tied down with a silk
handkerchief, standing in the porch at this time of night, could be.
Nor, indeed, was she in a mood to care or to inquire. She said
hastily, in a voice rendered hoarse and arid with grief:

'Go away. This is no house for strangers to come to. We've enough on
our own to think on;' and she hastily shut the door in Hester's
face, before the latter could put together the right words in which
to explain her errand. Hester stood outside in the dark, wet porch
discomfited, and wondering how next to obtain a hearing through the
shut and bolted door. Not long did she stand, however; some one was
again at the door, talking in a voice of distress and remonstrance,
and slowly unbarring the bolts. A tall, thin figure of an elderly
woman was seen against the warm fire-light inside as soon as the
door was opened; a hand was put out, like that which took the dove
into the ark, and Hester was drawn into the warmth and the light,
while Bell's voice went on speaking to Sylvia before addressing the
dripping stranger--

'It's not a night to turn a dog fra' t' door; it's ill letting our
grief harden our hearts. But oh! missus (to Hester), yo' mun forgive
us, for a great sorrow has fallen upon us this day, an' we're like
beside ourselves wi' crying an' plaining.'

Bell sate down, and threw her apron over her poor worn face, as if
decently to shield the signs of her misery from a stranger's gaze.
Sylvia, all tear-swollen, and looking askance and almost fiercely at
the stranger who had made good her intrusion, was drawn, as it were,
to her mother's side, and, kneeling down by her, put her arms round
her waist, and almost lay across her lap, still gazing at Hester
with cold, distrustful eyes, the expression of which repelled and
daunted that poor, unwilling messenger, and made her silent for a
minute or so after her entrance. Bell suddenly put down her apron.

'Yo're cold and drenched,' said she. 'Come near to t' fire and warm
yo'rsel'; yo' mun pardon us if we dunnot think on everything at
onest.'

'Yo're very kind, very kind indeed,' said Hester, touched by the
poor woman's evident effort to forget her own grief in the duties of
hospitality, and loving Bell from that moment.

'I'm Hester Rose,' she continued, half addressing Sylvia, who she
thought might remember the name, 'and Philip Hepburn has sent me in
a tax-cart to t' stile yonder, to fetch both on yo' back to
Monkshaven.' Sylvia raised her head and looked intently at Hester.
Bell clasped her hands tight together and leant forwards.

'It's my master as wants us?' said she, in an eager, questioning
tone.

'It's for to see yo'r master,' said Hester. 'Philip says he'll be
sent to York to-morrow, and yo'll be fain to see him before he goes;
and if yo'll come down to Monkshaven to-night, yo'll be on t' spot
again' the time comes when t' justices will let ye.'

Bell was up and about, making for the place where she kept her
out-going things, almost before Hester had begun to speak. She
hardly understood about her husband's being sent to York, in the
possession of the idea that she might go and see him. She did not
understand or care how, in this wild night, she was to get to
Monkshaven; all she thought of was, that she might go and see her
husband. But Sylvia took in more points than her mother, and, almost
suspiciously, began to question Hester.

'Why are they sending him to York? What made Philip leave us? Why
didn't he come hissel'?'

'He couldn't come hissel', he bade me say; because he was bound to
be at the lawyer's at five, about yo'r father's business. I think
yo' might ha' known he would ha' come for any business of his own;
and, about York, it's Philip as telled me, and I never asked why. I
never thought on yo'r asking me so many questions. I thought yo'd be
ready to fly on any chance o' seeing your father.' Hester spoke out
the sad reproach that ran from her heart to her lips. To distrust
Philip! to linger when she might hasten!

'Oh!' said Sylvia, breaking out into a wild cry, that carried with
it more conviction of agony than much weeping could have done. 'I
may be rude and hard, and I may ask strange questions, as if I cared
for t' answers yo' may gi' me; an', in my heart o' hearts, I care
for nought but to have father back wi' us, as love him so dear. I
can hardly tell what I say, much less why I say it. Mother is so
patient, it puts me past mysel', for I could fight wi' t' very
walls, I'm so mad wi' grieving. Sure, they'll let him come back wi'
us to-morrow, when they hear from his own sel' why he did it?'

She looked eagerly at Hester for an answer to this last question,
which she had put in a soft, entreating tone, as if with Hester
herself the decision rested. Hester shook her head. Sylvia came up
to her and took her hands, almost fondling them.

'Yo' dunnot think they'll be hard wi' him when they hear all about
it, done yo'? Why, York Castle's t' place they send a' t' thieves
and robbers to, not honest men like feyther.'

Hester put her hand on Sylvia's shoulder with a soft, caressing
gesture.

'Philip will know,' she said, using Philip's name as a kind of
spell--it would have been so to her. 'Come away to Philip,' said she
again, urging Sylvia, by her looks and manner, to prepare for the
little journey. Sylvia moved away for this purpose, saying to
herself,--

'It's going to see feyther: he will tell me all.'

Poor Mrs. Robson was collecting a few clothes for her husband with an
eager, trembling hand, so trembling that article after article fell
to the floor, and it was Hester who picked them up; and at last,
after many vain attempts by the grief-shaken woman, it was Hester
who tied the bundle, and arranged the cloak, and fastened down the
hood; Sylvia standing by, not unobservant, though apparently
absorbed in her own thoughts.

At length, all was arranged, and the key given over to Kester. As
they passed out into the storm, Sylvia said to Hester,--

'Thou's a real good wench. Thou's fitter to be about mother than me.
I'm but a cross-patch at best, an' now it's like as if I was no good
to nobody.'

Sylvia began to cry, but Hester had no time to attend to her, even
had she the inclination: all her care was needed to help the hasty,
tottering steps of the wife who was feebly speeding up the wet and
slippery brow to her husband. All Bell thought of was that 'he' was
at the end of her toil. She hardly understood when she was to see
him; her weary heart and brain had only received one idea--that each
step she was now taking was leading her to him. Tired and exhausted
with her quick walk up hill, battling all the way with wind and
rain, she could hardly have held up another minute when they reached
the tax-cart in the lane, and Hester had almost to lift her on to
the front seat by the driver. She covered and wrapped up the poor
old woman, and afterwards placed herself in the straw at the back of
the cart, packed up close by the shivering, weeping Sylvia. Neither
of them spoke a word at first; but Hester's tender conscience smote
her for her silence before they had reached Monkshaven. She wanted
to say some kind word to Sylvia, and yet knew not how to begin.
Somehow, without knowing why, or reasoning upon it, she hit upon
Philip's message as the best comfort in her power to give. She had
delivered it before, but it had been apparently little heeded.

'Philip bade me say it was business as kept him from fetchin' yo'
hissel'--business wi' the lawyer, about--about yo'r father.'

'What do they say?' said Sylvia, suddenly, lifting her bowed head,
as though she would read her companion's face in the dim light.

'I dunnot know,' said Hester, sadly. They were now jolting over the
paved streets, and not a word could be spoken. They were now at
Philip's door, which was opened to receive them even before they
arrived, as if some one had been watching and listening. The old
servant, Phoebe, the fixture in the house, who had belonged to it
and to the shop for the last twenty years, came out, holding a
candle and sheltering it in her hand from the weather, while Philip
helped the tottering steps of Mrs. Robson as she descended behind. As
Hester had got in last, so she had now to be the first to move. Just
as she was moving, Sylvia's cold little hand was laid on her arm.

'I am main and thankful to yo'. I ask yo'r pardon for speaking
cross, but, indeed, my heart's a'most broken wi' fear about
feyther.'

The voice was so plaintive, so full of tears, that Hester could not
but yearn towards the speaker. She bent over and kissed her cheek,
and then clambered unaided down by the wheel on the dark side of the
cart. Wistfully she longed for one word of thanks or recognition
from Philip, in whose service she had performed this hard task; but
he was otherwise occupied, and on casting a further glance back as
she turned the corner of the street, she saw Philip lifting Sylvia
carefully down in his arms from her footing on the top of the wheel,
and then they all went into the light and the warmth, the door was
shut, the lightened cart drove briskly away, and Hester, in rain,
and cold, and darkness, went homewards with her tired sad heart.

Philip had done all he could, since his return from lawyer Dawson's,
to make his house bright and warm for the reception of his beloved.
He had a strong apprehension of the probable fate of poor Daniel
Robson; he had a warm sympathy with the miserable distress of the
wife and daughter; but still at the back of his mind his spirits
danced as if this was to them a festal occasion. He had even taken
unconscious pleasure in Phoebe's suspicious looks and tones, as he
had hurried and superintended her in her operations. A fire blazed
cheerily in the parlour, almost dazzling to the travellers brought
in from the darkness and the rain; candles burned--two candles, much
to Phoebe's discontent. Poor Bell Robson had to sit down almost as
soon as she entered the room, so worn out was she with fatigue and
excitement; yet she grudged every moment which separated her, as she
thought, from her husband.

'I'm ready now,' said she, standing up, and rather repulsing
Sylvia's cares; 'I'm ready now,' said she, looking eagerly at
Philip, as if for him to lead the way.

'It's not to-night,' replied he, almost apologetically. 'You can't
see him to-night; it's to-morrow morning before he goes to York; it
was better for yo' to be down here in town ready; and beside I
didn't know when I sent for ye that he was locked up for the night.'

'Well-a-day, well-a-day,' said Bell, rocking herself backwards and
forwards, and trying to soothe herself with these words. Suddenly
she said,--

'But I've brought his comforter wi' me--his red woollen comforter as
he's allays slept in this twelvemonth past; he'll get his rheumatiz
again; oh, Philip, cannot I get it to him?'

'I'll send it by Phoebe,' said Philip, who was busy making tea,
hospitable and awkward.

'Cannot I take it mysel'?' repeated Bell. 'I could make surer nor
anybody else; they'd maybe not mind yon woman--Phoebe d'ye call
her?'

'Nay, mother,' said Sylvia, 'thou's not fit to go.'

'Shall I go?' asked Philip, hoping she would say 'no', and be
content with Phoebe, and leave him where he was.

'Oh, Philip, would yo'?' said Sylvia, turning round.

'Ay,' said Bell, 'if thou would take it they'd be minding yo'.'

So there was nothing for it but for him to go, in the first flush of
his delightful rites of hospitality.

'It's not far,' said he, consoling himself rather than them. 'I'll
be back in ten minutes, the tea is maskit, and Phoebe will take yo'r
wet things and dry 'em by t' kitchen fire; and here's the stairs,'
opening a door in the corner of the room, from which the stairs
immediately ascended. 'There's two rooms at the top; that to t' left
is all made ready, t' other is mine,' said he, reddening a little as
he spoke. Bell was busy undoing her bundle with trembling fingers.

'Here,' said she; 'and oh, lad, here's a bit o' peppermint cake;
he's main and fond on it, and I catched sight on it by good luck
just t' last minute.'

Philip was gone, and the excitement of Bell and Sylvia flagged once
more, and sank into wondering despondency. Sylvia, however, roused
herself enough to take off her mother's wet clothes, and she took
them timidly into the kitchen and arranged them before Phoebe's
fire.

Phoebe opened her lips once or twice to speak in remonstrance, and
then, with an effort, gulped her words down; for her sympathy, like
that of all the rest of the Monkshaven world, was in favour of
Daniel Robson; and his daughter might place her dripping cloak this
night wherever she would, for Phoebe.

Sylvia found her mother still sitting on the chair next the door,
where she had first placed herself on entering the room.

'I'll gi'e you some tea, mother,' said she, struck with the shrunken
look of Bell's face.

'No, no' said her mother. 'It's not manners for t' help oursel's.'

'I'm sure Philip would ha' wished yo' for to take it,' said Sylvia,
pouring out a cup.

Just then he returned, and something in his look, some dumb
expression of delight at her occupation, made her blush and hesitate
for an instant; but then she went on, and made a cup of tea ready,
saying something a little incoherent all the time about her mother's
need of it. After tea Bell Robson's weariness became so extreme,
that Philip and Sylvia urged her to go to bed. She resisted a
little, partly out of 'manners,' and partly because she kept
fancying, poor woman, that somehow or other her husband might send
for her. But about seven o'clock Sylvia persuaded her to come
upstairs. Sylvia, too, bade Philip good-night, and his look followed
the last wave of her dress as she disappeared up the stairs; then
leaning his chin on his hand, he gazed at vacancy and thought
deeply--for how long he knew not, so intent was his mind on the
chances of futurity.

He was aroused by Sylvia's coming down-stairs into the sitting-room
again. He started up.

'Mother is so shivery,' said she. 'May I go in there,' indicating
the kitchen, 'and make her a drop of gruel?'

'Phoebe shall make it, not you,' said Philip, eagerly preventing
her, by going to the kitchen door and giving his orders. When he
turned round again, Sylvia was standing over the fire, leaning her
head against the stone mantel-piece for the comparative coolness.
She did not speak at first, or take any notice of him. He watched
her furtively, and saw that she was crying, the tears running down
her cheeks, and she too much absorbed in her thoughts to wipe them
away with her apron.

While he was turning over in his mind what he could best say to
comfort her (his heart, like hers, being almost too full for words),
she suddenly looked him full in the face, saying,--

'Philip! won't they soon let him go? what can they do to him?' Her
open lips trembled while awaiting his answer, the tears came up and
filled her eyes. It was just the question he had most dreaded; it
led to the terror that possessed his own mind, but which he had
hoped to keep out of hers. He hesitated. 'Speak, lad!' said she,
impatiently, with a little passionate gesture. 'I can see thou
knows!'

He had only made it worse by consideration; he rushed blindfold at a
reply.

'He's ta'en up for felony.'

'Felony,' said she. 'There thou're out; he's in for letting yon men
out; thou may call it rioting if thou's a mind to set folks again'
him, but it's too bad to cast such hard words at him as
yon--felony,' she repeated, in a half-offended tone.

'It's what the lawyers call it,' said Philip, sadly; 'it's no word
o' mine.'

'Lawyers is allays for making the worst o' things,' said she, a
little pacified, 'but folks shouldn't allays believe them.'

'It's lawyers as has to judge i' t' long run.'

'Cannot the justices, Mr. Harter and them as is no lawyers, give him
a sentence to-morrow, wi'out sending him to York?'

'No!' said Philip, shaking his head. He went to the kitchen door and
asked if the gruel was not ready, so anxious was he to stop the
conversation at this point; but Phoebe, who held her young master in
but little respect, scolded him for a stupid man, who thought, like
all his sex, that gruel was to be made in a minute, whatever the
fire was, and bade him come and make it for himself if he was in
such a hurry.

He had to return discomfited to Sylvia, who meanwhile had arranged
her thoughts ready to return to the charge.

'And say he's sent to York, and say he's tried theere, what's t'
worst they can do again' him?' asked she, keeping down her agitation
to look at Philip the more sharply. Her eyes never slackened their
penetrating gaze at his countenance, until he replied, with the
utmost unwillingness, and most apparent confusion,--

'They may send him to Botany Bay.'

He knew that he held back a worse contingency, and he was mortally
afraid that she would perceive this reserve. But what he did say was
so much beyond her utmost apprehension, which had only reached to
various terms of imprisonment, that she did not imagine the dark
shadow lurking behind. What he had said was too much for her. Her
eyes dilated, her lips blanched, her pale cheeks grew yet paler.
After a minute's look into his face, as if fascinated by some
horror, she stumbled backwards into the chair in the chimney comer,
and covered her face with her hands, moaning out some inarticulate
words.

Philip was on his knees by her, dumb from excess of sympathy,
kissing her dress, all unfelt by her; he murmured half-words, he
began passionate sentences that died away upon his lips; and
she--she thought of nothing but her father, and was possessed and
rapt out of herself by the dread of losing him to that fearful
country which was almost like the grave to her, so all but
impassable was the gulf. But Philip knew that it was possible that
the separation impending might be that of the dark, mysterious
grave--that the gulf between the father and child might indeed be
that which no living, breathing, warm human creature can ever cross.

'Sylvie, Sylvie!' said he,--and all their conversation had to be
carried on in low tones and whispers, for fear of the listening ears
above,--'don't,--don't, thou'rt rending my heart. Oh, Sylvie,
hearken. There's not a thing I'll not do; there's not a penny I've
got,--th' last drop of blood that's in me,--I'll give up my life for
his.'

'Life,' said she, putting down her hands, and looking at him as if
her looks could pierce his soul; 'who talks o' touching his life?
Thou're going crazy, Philip, I think;' but she did not think so,
although she would fain have believed it. In her keen agony she read
his thoughts as though they were an open page; she sate there,
upright and stony, the conviction creeping over her face like the
grey shadow of death. No more tears, no more trembling, almost no
more breathing. He could not bear to see her, and yet she held his
eyes, and he feared to make the effort necessary to move or to turn
away, lest the shunning motion should carry conviction to her heart.
Alas! conviction of the probable danger to her father's life was
already there: it was that that was calming her down, tightening her
muscles, bracing her nerves. In that hour she lost all her early
youth.

'Then he may be hung,' said she, low and solemnly, after a long
pause. Philip turned away his face, and did not utter a word. Again
deep silence, broken only by some homely sound in the kitchen.
'Mother must not know on it,' said Sylvia, in the same tone in which
she had spoken before.

'It's t' worst as can happen to him,' said Philip. 'More likely
he'll be transported: maybe he'll be brought in innocent after all.'

'No,' said Sylvia, heavily, as one without hope--as if she were
reading some dreadful doom in the tablets of the awful future.
'They'll hang him. Oh, feyther! feyther!' she choked out, almost
stuffing her apron into her mouth to deaden the sound, and catching
at Philip's hand, and wringing it with convulsive force, till the
pain that he loved was nearly more than he could bear. No words of
his could touch such agony; but irrepressibly, and as he would have
done it to a wounded child, he bent over her, and kissed her with a
tender, trembling kiss. She did not repulse it, probably she did not
even perceive it.

At that moment Phoebe came in with the gruel. Philip saw her, and
knew, in an instant, what the old woman's conclusion must needs be;
but Sylvia had to be shaken by the now standing Philip, before she
could be brought back to the least consciousness of the present
time. She lifted up her white face to understand his words, then she
rose up like one who slowly comes to the use of her limbs.

'I suppose I mun go,' she said; 'but I'd sooner face the dead. If
she asks me, Philip, what mun I say?'

'She'll not ask yo',' said he, 'if yo' go about as common. She's
never asked yo' all this time, an' if she does, put her on to me.
I'll keep it from her as long as I can; I'll manage better nor I've
done wi' thee, Sylvie,' said he, with a sad, faint smile, looking
with fond penitence at her altered countenance.

'Thou mustn't blame thysel',' said Sylvia, seeing his regret. 'I
brought it on me mysel'; I thought I would ha' t' truth, whativer
came on it, and now I'm not strong enough to stand it, God help me!'
she continued, piteously.

'Oh, Sylvie, let me help yo'! I cannot do what God can,--I'm not
meaning that, but I can do next to Him of any man. I have loved yo'
for years an' years, in a way it's terrible to think on, if my love
can do nought now to comfort yo' in your sore distress.'

'Cousin Philip,' she replied, in the same measured tone in which she
had always spoken since she had learnt the extent of her father's
danger, and the slow stillness of her words was in harmony with the
stony look of her face, 'thou's a comfort to me, I couldn't bide my
life without thee; but I cannot take in the thought o' love, it
seems beside me quite; I can think on nought but them that is quick
and them that is dead.'



CHAPTER XXVII

GLOOMY DAYS


Philip had money in the Fosters' bank, not so much as it might have
been if he had not had to pay for the furniture in his house. Much
of this furniture was old, and had belonged to the brothers Foster,
and they had let Philip have it at a very reasonable rate; but still
the purchase of it had diminished the amount of his savings. But on
the sum which he possessed he drew largely--he drew all--nay, he
overdrew his account somewhat, to his former masters' dismay,
although the kindness of their hearts overruled the harder arguments
of their heads.

All was wanted to defend Daniel Robson at the approaching York
assizes. His wife had handed over to Philip all the money or money's
worth she could lay her hands upon. Daniel himself was not one to be
much beforehand with the world; but to Bell's thrifty imagination
the round golden guineas, tied up in the old stocking-foot against
rent-day, seemed a mint of money on which Philip might draw
infinitely. As yet she did not comprehend the extent of her
husband's danger. Sylvia went about like one in a dream, keeping
back the hot tears that might interfere with the course of life she
had prescribed for herself in that terrible hour when she first
learnt all. Every penny of money either she or her mother could save
went to Philip. Kester's hoard, too, was placed in Hepburn's hands
at Sylvia's earnest entreaty; for Kester had no great opinion of
Philip's judgment, and would rather have taken his money straight
himself to Mr. Dawson, and begged him to use it for his master's
behoof.

Indeed, if anything, the noiseless breach between Kester and Philip
had widened of late. It was seed-time, and Philip, in his great
anxiety for every possible interest that might affect Sylvia, and
also as some distraction from his extreme anxiety about her father,
had taken to study agriculture of an evening in some old books which
he had borrowed--_The Farmer's Complete Guide_, and such like; and
from time to time he came down upon the practical dogged Kester with
directions gathered from the theories in his books. Of course the
two fell out, but without many words. Kester persevered in his old
ways, making light of Philip and his books in manner and action,
till at length Philip withdrew from the contest. 'Many a man may
lead a horse to water, but there's few can make him drink,' and
Philip certainly was not one of those few. Kester, indeed, looked
upon him with jealous eyes on many accounts. He had favoured Charley
Kinraid as a lover of Sylvia's; and though he had no idea of the
truth--though he believed in the drowning of the specksioneer as
much as any one--yet the year which had elapsed since Kinraid's
supposed death was but a very short while to the middle-aged man,
who forgot how slowly time passes with the young; and he could often
have scolded Sylvia, if the poor girl had been a whit less heavy at
heart than she was, for letting Philip come so much about her--come,
though it was on her father's business. For the darkness of their
common dread drew them together, occasionally to the comparative
exclusion of Bell and Kester, which the latter perceived and
resented. Kester even allowed himself to go so far as to wonder what
Philip could want with all the money, which to him seemed
unaccountable; and once or twice the ugly thought crossed his mind,
that shops conducted by young men were often not so profitable as
when guided by older heads, and that some of the coin poured into
Philip's keeping might have another destination than the defence of
his master. Poor Philip! and he was spending all his own, and more
than all his own money, and no one ever knew it, as he had bound
down his friendly bankers to secrecy.

Once only Kester ventured to speak to Sylvia on the subject of
Philip. She had followed her cousin to the field just in front of
their house, just outside the porch, to ask him some question she
dared not put in her mother's presence--(Bell, indeed, in her
anxiety, usually absorbed all the questions when Philip came)--and
stood, after Philip had bid her good-by, hardly thinking about him
at all, but looking unconsciously after him as he ascended the brow;
and at the top he had turned to take a last glance at the place his
love inhabited, and, seeing her, he had waved his hat in gratified
farewell. She, meanwhile, was roused from far other thoughts than of
him, and of his now acknowledged love, by the motion against the
sky, and was turning back into the house when she heard Kester's low
hoarse call, and saw him standing at the shippen door.

'Come hither, wench,' said he, indignantly; 'is this a time for
courtin'?'

'Courting?' said she, drawing up her head, and looking back at him
with proud defiance.

'Ay, courtin'! what other mak' o' thing is't when thou's gazin'
after yon meddlesome chap, as if thou'd send thy eyes after him, and
he making marlocks back at thee? It's what we ca'ed courtin' i' my
young days anyhow. And it's noane a time for a wench to go courtin'
when her feyther's i' prison,' said he, with a consciousness as he
uttered these last words that he was cruel and unjust and going too
far, yet carried on to say them by his hot jealousy against Philip.

Sylvia continued looking at him without speaking: she was too much
offended for expression.

'Thou may glower an' thou may look, lass,' said he, 'but a'd thought
better on thee. It's like last week thy last sweetheart were
drowned; but thou's not one to waste time i' rememberin' them as is
gone--if, indeed, thou iver cared a button for yon Kinraid--if it
wasn't a make-believe.'

Her lips were contracted and drawn up, showing her small glittering
teeth, which were scarcely apart as she breathed out--

'Thou thinks so, does thou, that I've forgetten _him_? Thou'd better
have a care o' thy tongue.'

Then, as if fearful that her self-command might give way, she turned
into the house; and going through the kitchen like a blind person,
she went up to her now unused chamber, and threw herself, face
downwards, flat on her bed, almost smothering herself.

Ever since Daniel's committal, the decay that had imperceptibly
begun in his wife's bodily and mental strength during her illness of
the previous winter, had been making quicker progress. She lost her
reticence of speech, and often talked to herself. She had not so
much forethought as of old; slight differences, it is true, but
which, with some others of the same description, gave foundation for
the homely expression which some now applied to Bell, 'She'll never
be t' same woman again.

This afternoon she had cried herself to sleep in her chair after
Philip's departure. She had not heard Sylvia's sweeping passage
through the kitchen; but half an hour afterwards she was startled up
by Kester's abrupt entry.

'Where's Sylvie?' asked he.

'I don't know,' said Bell, looking scared, and as if she was ready
to cry. 'It's no news about him?' said she, standing up, and
supporting herself on the stick she was now accustomed to use.

'Bless yo', no, dunnot be afeared, missus; it's only as a spoke
hasty to t' wench, an' a want t' tell her as a'm sorry,' said
Kester, advancing into the kitchen, and looking round for Sylvia.

'Sylvie, Sylvie!' shouted he; 'she mun be i' t' house.'

Sylvia came slowly down the stairs, and stood before him. Her face
was pale, her mouth set and determined; the light of her eyes veiled
in gloom. Kester shrank from her look, and even more from her
silence.

'A'm come to ax pardon,' said he, after a little pause.

She was still silent.

'A'm noane above axing pardon, though a'm fifty and more, and thee's
but a silly wench, as a've nursed i' my arms. A'll say before thy
mother as a ought niver to ha' used them words, and as how a'm sorry
for 't.'

'I don't understand it all,' said Bell, in a hurried and perplexed
tone. 'What has Kester been saying, my lass?' she added, turning to
Sylvia.

Sylvia went a step or two nearer to her mother, and took hold of her
hand as if to quieten her; then facing once more round, she said
deliberately to Kester,--

'If thou wasn't Kester, I'd niver forgive thee. Niver,' she added,
with bitterness, as the words he had used recurred to her mind.
'It's in me to hate thee now, for saying what thou did; but thou're
dear old Kester after all, and I can't help mysel', I mun needs
forgive thee,' and she went towards him. He took her little head
between his horny hands and kissed it. She looked up with tears in
her eyes, saying softly,--

'Niver say things like them again. Niver speak on----'

'A'll bite my tongue off first,' he interrupted.

He kept his word.

In all Philip's comings and goings to and from Haytersbank Farm at
this time, he never spoke again of his love. In look, words, manner,
he was like a thoughtful, tender brother; nothing more. He could be
nothing more in the presence of the great dread which loomed larger
upon him after every conversation with the lawyer.

For Mr. Donkin had been right in his prognostication. Government took
up the attack on the Rendezvous with a high and heavy hand. It was
necessary to assert authority which had been of late too often
braved. An example must be made, to strike dismay into those who
opposed and defied the press-gang; and all the minor authorities who
held their powers from Government were in a similar manner severe
and relentless in the execution of their duty. So the attorney, who
went over to see the prisoner in York Castle, told Philip. He added
that Daniel still retained his pride in his achievement, and could
not be brought to understand the dangerous position in which he was
placed; that when pressed and questioned as to circumstances that
might possibly be used in his defence, he always wandered off to
accounts of previous outrages committed by the press-gang, or to
passionate abuse of the trick by which men had been lured from their
homes on the night in question to assist in putting out an imaginary
fire, and then seized and carried off. Some of this very natural
indignation might possibly have some effect on the jury; and this
seemed the only ground of hope, and was indeed a slight one, as the
judge was likely to warn the jury against allowing their natural
sympathy in such a case to divert their minds from the real
question.

Such was the substance of what Philip heard, and heard repeatedly,
during his many visits to Mr. Dawson. And now the time of trial drew
near; for the York assizes opened on March the twelfth; not much
above three weeks since the offence was committed which took Daniel
from his home and placed him in peril of death.

Philip was glad that, the extremity of his danger never having been
hinted to Bell, and travelling some forty miles being a most unusual
exertion at that time to persons of her class, the idea of going to
see her husband at York had never suggested itself to Bell's mind.
Her increasing feebleness made this seem a step only to be taken in
case of the fatal extreme necessity; such was the conclusion that
both Sylvia and he had come to; and it was the knowledge of this
that made Sylvia strangle her own daily longing to see her father.
Not but that her hopes were stronger than her fears. Philip never
told her the causes for despondency; she was young, and she, like
her father, could not understand how fearful sometimes is the
necessity for prompt and severe punishment of rebellion against
authority.

Philip was to be in York during the time of the assizes; and it was
understood, almost without words, that if the terrible worst
occurred, the wife and daughter were to come to York as soon as
might be. For this end Philip silently made all the necessary
arrangements before leaving Monkshaven. The sympathy of all men was
with him; it was too large an occasion for Coulson to be anything
but magnanimous. He urged Philip to take all the time requisite; to
leave all business cares to him. And as Philip went about pale and
sad, there was another cheek that grew paler still, another eye that
filled with quiet tears as his heaviness of heart became more and
more apparent. The day for opening the assizes came on. Philip was
in York Minster, watching the solemn antique procession in which the
highest authority in the county accompanies the judges to the House
of the Lord, to be there admonished as to the nature of their
duties. As Philip listened to the sermon with a strained and beating
heart, his hopes rose higher than his fears for the first time, and
that evening he wrote his first letter to Sylvia.


'DEAR SYLVIA,

'It will be longer first than I thought for. Mr. Dawson says Tuesday
in next week. But keep up your heart. I have been hearing the sermon
to-day which is preached to the judges; and the clergyman said so
much in it about mercy and forgiveness, I think they cannot fail to
be lenient this assize. I have seen uncle, who looks but thin, but
is in good heart: only he will keep saying he would do it over again
if he had the chance, which neither Mr. Dawson nor I think is wise in
him, in especial as the gaoler is by and hears every word as is
said. He was very fain of hearing all about home; and wants you to
rear Daisy's calf, as he thinks she will prove a good one. He bade
me give his best love to you and my aunt, and his kind duty to
Kester.

'Sylvia, will you try and forget how I used to scold you about your
writing and spelling, and just write me two or three lines. I think
I would rather have them badly spelt than not, because then I shall
be sure they are yours. And never mind about capitals; I was a fool
to say such a deal about them, for a man does just as well without
them. A letter from you would do a vast to keep me patient all these
days till Tuesday. Direct--

'Mr. Philip Hepburn,

  'Care of Mr. Fraser, Draper,
  'Micklegate, York.
  'My affectionate duty to my aunt.
  'Your respectful cousin and servant,
  'PHILIP HEPBURN.

'P.S. The sermon was grand. The text was Zechariah vii. 9, "Execute
true judgment and show mercy." God grant it may have put mercy into
the judge's heart as is to try my uncle.'


Heavily the days passed over. On Sunday Bell and Sylvia went to
church, with a strange, half-superstitious feeling, as if they could
propitiate the Most High to order the events in their favour by
paying Him the compliment of attending to duties in their time of
sorrow which they had too often neglected in their prosperous days.

But He 'who knoweth our frame, and remembereth that we are dust,'
took pity upon His children, and sent some of His blessed peace into
their hearts, else they could scarce have endured the agony of
suspense of those next hours. For as they came slowly and wearily
home from church, Sylvia could no longer bear her secret, but told
her mother of the peril in which Daniel stood. Cold as the March
wind blew, they had not felt it, and had sate down on a hedge bank
for Bell to rest. And then Sylvia spoke, trembling and sick for
fear, yet utterly unable to keep silence any longer. Bell heaved up
her hands, and let them fall down on her knees before she replied.

'The Lord is above us,' said she, solemnly. 'He has sent a fear o'
this into my heart afore now. I niver breathed it to thee, my
lass----'

'And I niver spoke on it to thee, mother, because----'

Sylvia choked with crying, and laid her head on her mother's lap,
feeling that she was no longer the strong one, and the protector,
but the protected. Bell went on, stroking her head,

'The Lord is like a tender nurse as weans a child to look on and to
like what it lothed once. He has sent me dreams as has prepared me
for this, if so be it comes to pass.

'Philip is hopeful,' said Sylvia, raising her head and looking
through her tears at her mother.

'Ay, he is. And I cannot tell, but I think it's not for nought as
the Lord has ta'en away all fear o' death out o' my heart. I think
He means as Daniel and me is to go hand-in-hand through the
valley--like as we walked up to our wedding in Crosthwaite Church. I
could never guide th' house without Daniel, and I should be feared
he'd take a deal more nor is good for him without me.'

'But me, mother, thou's forgetting me,' moaned out Sylvia. 'Oh,
mother, mother, think on me!'

'Nay, my lass, I'm noane forgetting yo'. I'd a sore heart a' last
winter a-thinking on thee, when that chap Kinraid were hanging about
thee. I'll noane speak ill on the dead, but I were uneasylike. But
sin' Philip and thee seem to ha' made it up----'

Sylvia shivered, and opened her mouth to speak, but did not say a
word.

'And sin' the Lord has been comforting me, and talking to me many a
time when thou's thought I were asleep, things has seemed to redd
theirselves up, and if Daniel goes, I'm ready to follow. I could
niver stand living to hear folks say he'd been hung; it seems so
unnatural and shameful.'

'But, mother, he won't!--he shan't be hung!' said Sylvia, springing
to her feet. 'Philip says he won't.'

Bell shook her head. They walked on, Sylvia both disheartened and
almost irritated at her mother's despondency. But before they went
to bed at night Bell said things which seemed as though the
morning's feelings had been but temporary, and as if she was
referring every decision to the period of her husband's return.
'When father comes home,' seemed a sort of burden at the beginning
or end of every sentence, and this reliance on his certain coming
back to them was almost as great a trial to Sylvia as the absence of
all hope had been in the morning. But that instinct told her that
her mother was becoming incapable of argument, she would have asked
her why her views were so essentially changed in so few hours. This
inability of reason in poor Bell made Sylvia feel very desolate.

Monday passed over--how, neither of them knew, for neither spoke of
what was filling the thoughts of both. Before it was light on
Tuesday morning, Bell was astir.

'It's very early, mother,' said weary, sleepy Sylvia, dreading
returning consciousness.

'Ay, lass!' said Bell, in a brisk, cheerful tone; 'but he'll, maybe,
be home to-night, and I'se bound to have all things ready for him.'

'Anyhow,' said Sylvia, sitting up in bed, 'he couldn't come home
to-night.'

'Tut, lass! thou doesn't know how quick a man comes home to wife and
child. I'll be a' ready at any rate.'

She hurried about in a way which Sylvia wondered to see; till at
length she fancied that perhaps her mother did so to drive away
thought. Every place was cleaned; there was scarce time allowed for
breakfast; till at last, long before mid-day, all the work was done,
and the two sat down to their spinning-wheels. Sylvia's spirits sank
lower and lower at each speech of her mother's, from whose mind all
fear seemed to have disappeared, leaving only a strange restless
kind of excitement.

'It's time for t' potatoes,' said Bell, after her wool had snapped
many a time from her uneven tread.

'Mother,' said Sylvia, 'it's but just gone ten!'

'Put 'em on,' said Bell, without attending to the full meaning of
her daughter's words. 'It'll, maybe, hasten t' day on if we get
dinner done betimes.'

'But Kester is in t' Far Acre field, and he'll not be home till
noon.'

This seemed to settle matters for a while; but then Bell pushed her
wheel away, and began searching for her hood and cloak. Sylvia found
them for her, and then asked sadly--

'What does ta want 'em for, mother?'

'I'll go up t' brow and through t' field, and just have a look down
t' lane.'

'I'll go wi' thee,' said Sylvia, feeling all the time the
uselessness of any looking for intelligence from York so early in
the day. Very patiently did she wait by her mother's side during the
long half-hour which Bell spent in gazing down the road for those
who never came.

When they got home Sylvia put the potatoes on to boil; but when
dinner was ready and the three were seated at the dresser, Bell
pushed her plate away from her, saying it was so long after dinner
time that she was past eating. Kester would have said something
about its being only half-past twelve, but Sylvia gave him a look
beseeching silence, and he went on with his dinner without a word,
only brushing away the tears from his eyes with the back of his hand
from time to time.

'A'll noane go far fra' home t' rest o' t' day,' said he, in a
whisper to Sylvia, as he went out.

'Will this day niver come to an end?' cried Bell, plaintively.

'Oh, mother! it'll come to an end some time, never fear. I've heerd
say--
"Be the day weary or be the day long,
At length it ringeth to even-song."'

'To even-song--to even-song,' repeated Bell. 'D'ye think now that
even-song means death, Sylvie?'

'I cannot tell--I cannot bear it. Mother,' said Sylvia, in despair,
'I'll make some clap-bread: that's a heavy job, and will while away
t' afternoon.'

'Ay, do!' replied the mother. 'He'll like it fresh--he'll like it
fresh.'

Murmuring and talking to herself, she fell into a doze, from which
Sylvia was careful not to disturb her.

The days were now getting long, although as cold as ever; and at
Haytersbank Farm the light lingered, as there was no near horizon to
bring on early darkness. Sylvia had all ready for her mother's tea
against she wakened; but she slept on and on, the peaceful sleep of
a child, and Sylvia did not care to waken her. Just after the sun
had set, she saw Kester outside the window making signs to her to
come out. She stole out on tip-toe by the back-kitchen, the door of
which was standing open. She almost ran against Philip, who did not
perceive her, as he was awaiting her coming the other way round the
corner of the house, and who turned upon her a face whose import she
read in an instant. 'Philip!' was all she said, and then she fainted
at his feet, coming down with a heavy bang on the round paving
stones of the yard.

'Kester! Kester!' he cried, for she looked like one dead, and with
all his strength the wearied man could not lift her and carry her
into the house.

With Kester's help she was borne into the back-kitchen, and Kester
rushed to the pump for some cold water to throw over her.

While Philip, kneeling at her head, was partly supporting her in his
arms, and heedless of any sight or sound, the shadow of some one
fell upon him. He looked up and saw his aunt; the old dignified,
sensible expression on her face, exactly like her former self,
composed, strong, and calm.

'My lass,' said she, sitting down by Philip, and gently taking her
out of his arms into her own. 'Lass, bear up! we mun bear up, and be
agait on our way to him, he'll be needing us now. Bear up, my lass!
the Lord will give us strength. We mun go to him; ay, time's
precious; thou mun cry thy cry at after!'

Sylvia opened her dim eyes, and heard her mother's voice; the ideas
came slowly into her mind, and slowly she rose up, standing still,
like one who has been stunned, to regain her strength; and then,
taking hold of her mother's arm, she said, in a soft, strange
voice--

'Let's go. I'm ready.'



CHAPTER XXVIII

THE ORDEAL


It was the afternoon of an April day in that same year, and the sky
was blue above, with little sailing white clouds catching the
pleasant sunlight. The earth in that northern country had scarcely
yet put on her robe of green. The few trees grew near brooks running
down from the moors and the higher ground. The air was full of
pleasant sounds prophesying of the coming summer. The rush, and
murmur, and tinkle of the hidden watercourses; the song of the lark
poised high up in the sunny air; the bleat of the lambs calling to
their mothers--everything inanimate was full of hope and gladness.

For the first time for a mournful month the front door of
Haytersbank Farm was open; the warm spring air might enter, and
displace the sad dark gloom, if it could. There was a newly-lighted
fire in the unused grate; and Kester was in the kitchen, with his
clogs off his feet, so as not to dirty the spotless floor, stirring
here and there, and trying in his awkward way to make things look
home-like and cheerful. He had brought in some wild daffodils which
he had been to seek in the dawn, and he placed them in a jug on the
dresser. Dolly Reid, the woman who had come to help Sylvia during
her mother's illness a year ago, was attending to something in the
back-kitchen, making a noise among the milk-cans, and singing a
ballad to herself as she worked; yet every now and then she checked
herself in her singing, as if a sudden recollection came upon her
that this was neither the time nor the place for songs. Once or
twice she took up the funeral psalm which is sung by the bearers of
the body in that country--

Our God, our help in ages past.

But it was of no use: the pleasant April weather out of doors, and
perhaps the natural spring in the body, disposed her nature to
cheerfulness, and insensibly she returned to her old ditty.

Kester was turning over many things in his rude honest mind as he
stood there, giving his finishing touches every now and then to the
aspect of the house-place, in preparation for the return of the
widow and daughter of his old master.

It was a month and more since they had left home; more than a
fortnight since Kester, with three halfpence in his pocket, had set
out after his day's work to go to York--to walk all night long, and
to wish Daniel Robson his last farewell.

Daniel had tried to keep up and had brought out one or two familiar,
thread-bare, well-worn jokes, such as he had made Kester chuckle
over many a time and oft, when the two had been together afield or
in the shippen at the home which he should never more see. But no
'Old Grouse in the gunroom' could make Kester smile, or do anything
except groan in but a heart-broken sort of fashion, and presently
the talk had become more suitable to the occasion, Daniel being up
to the last the more composed of the two; for Kester, when turned
out of the condemned cell, fairly broke down into the heavy sobbing
he had never thought to sob again on earth. He had left Bell and
Sylvia in their lodging at York, under Philip's care; he dared not
go to see them; he could not trust himself; he had sent them his
duty, and bade Philip tell Sylvia that the game-hen had brought out
fifteen chickens at a hatch.

Yet although Kester sent this message through Philip--although he
saw and recognized all that Philip was doing in their behalf, in the
behalf of Daniel Robson, the condemned felon, his honoured master--he
liked Hepburn not a whit better than he had done before all this
sorrow had come upon them.

Philip had, perhaps, shown a want of tact in his conduct to Kester.
Acute with passionate keenness in one direction, he had a sort of
dull straightforwardness in all others. For instance, he had
returned Kester the money which the latter had so gladly advanced
towards the expenses incurred in defending Daniel. Now the money
which Philip gave him back was part of an advance which Foster
Brothers had made on Philip's own account. Philip had thought that
it was hard on Kester to lose his savings in a hopeless cause, and
had made a point of repaying the old man; but Kester would far
rather have felt that the earnings of the sweat of his brow had gone
in the attempt to save his master's life than have had twice ten
times as many golden guineas.

Moreover, it seemed to take his action in lending his hoard out of
the sphere of love, and make it but a leaden common loan, when it
was Philip who brought him the sum, not Sylvia, into whose hands he
had given it.

With these feelings Kester felt his heart shut up as he saw the
long-watched-for two coming down the little path with a third
person; with Philip holding up the failing steps of poor Bell
Robson, as, loaded with her heavy mourning, and feeble from the
illness which had detained her in York ever since the day of her
husband's execution, she came faltering back to her desolate home.
Sylvia was also occupied in attending to her mother; one or twice,
when they paused a little, she and Philip spoke, in the familiar way
in which there is no coyness nor reserve. Kester caught up his
clogs, and went quickly out through the back-kitchen into the
farm-yard, not staying to greet them, as he had meant to do; and yet
it was dull-sighted of him not to have perceived that whatever might
be the relations between Philip and Sylvia, he was sure to have
accompanied them home; for, alas! he was the only male protector of
their blood remaining in the world. Poor Kester, who would fain have
taken that office upon himself, chose to esteem himself cast off,
and went heavily about the farmyard, knowing that he ought to go in
and bid such poor welcome as he had to offer, yet feeling too much
to like to show himself before Philip.

It was long, too, before any one had leisure to come and seek him.
Bell's mind had flashed up for a time, till the fatal day, only to
be reduced by her subsequent illness into complete and hopeless
childishness. It was all Philip and Sylvia could do to manage her in
the first excitement of returning home; her restless inquiry for him
who would never more be present in the familiar scene, her feverish
weariness and uneasiness, all required tender soothing and most
patient endurance of her refusals to be satisfied with what they
said or did.

At length she took some food, and, refreshed by it, and warmed by
the fire, she sank asleep in her chair. Then Philip would fain have
spoken with Sylvia before the hour came at which he must return to
Monkshaven, but she eluded him, and went in search of Kester, whose
presence she had missed.

She had guessed some of the causes which kept him from greeting them
on their first return. But it was not as if she had shaped these
causes into the definite form of words. It is astonishing to look
back and find how differently constituted were the minds of most
people fifty or sixty years ago; they felt, they understood, without
going through reasoning or analytic processes, and if this was the
case among the more educated people, of course it was still more so
in the class to which Sylvia belonged. She knew by some sort of
intuition that if Philip accompanied them home (as, indeed, under
the circumstances, was so natural as to be almost unavoidable), the
old servant and friend of the family would absent himself; and so
she slipped away at the first possible moment to go in search of
him. There he was in the farm-yard, leaning over the gate that
opened into the home-field, apparently watching the poultry that
scratched and pecked at the new-springing grass with the utmost
relish. A little farther off were the ewes with their new-dropped
lambs, beyond that the great old thorn-tree with its round fresh
clusters of buds, again beyond that there was a glimpse of the vast
sunny rippling sea; but Sylvia knew well that Kester was looking at
none of these things. She went up to him and touched his arm. He
started from his reverie, and turned round upon her with his dim
eyes full of unshed tears. When he saw her black dress, her deep
mourning, he had hard work to keep from breaking out, but by dint of
a good brush of his eyes with the back of his hand, and a moment's
pause, he could look at her again with tolerable calmness.

'Why, Kester: why didst niver come to speak to us?' said Sylvia,
finding it necessary to be cheerful if she could.

'A dun know; niver ax me. A say, they'n gi'en Dick Simpson' (whose
evidence had been all material against poor Daniel Robson at the
trial) 'a' t' rotten eggs and fou' things they could o' Saturday,
they did,' continued he, in a tone of satisfaction; 'ay, and they
niver stopped t' see whether t' eggs were rotten or fresh when their
blood was up--nor whether stones was hard or soft,' he added, in a
lower tone, and chuckling a little.

Sylvia was silent. He looked at her now, chuckling still. Her face
was white, her lips tightened, her eyes a-flame. She drew a long
breath.

'I wish I'd been theere! I wish I could do him an ill turn,' sighed
she, with some kind of expression on her face that made Kester quail
a little.

'Nay, lass! he'll get it fra' others. Niver fret thysel' about sich
rubbish. A'n done ill to speak on him.'

'No! thou hasn't. Then as was friends o' father's I'll love for iver
and iver; them as helped for t' hang him' (she shuddered from head
to foot--a sharp irrepressible shudder!) 'I'll niver
forgive--niver!'

'Niver's a long word,' said Kester, musingly. 'A could horsewhip
him, or cast stones at him, or duck him mysel'; but, lass! niver's a
long word!'

'Well! niver heed if it is--it's me as said it, and I'm turned
savage late days. Come in, Kester, and see poor mother.'

'A cannot,' said he, turning his wrinkled puckered face away, that
she might not see the twitchings of emotion on it. 'There's kine to
be fetched up, and what not, and he's theere, isn't he, Sylvie?'
facing round upon her with inquisitiveness. Under his peering eyes
she reddened a little.

'Yes, if it's Philip thou means; he's been all we've had to look to
sin'.' Again the shudder.

'Well, now he'll be seein' after his shop, a reckon?'

Sylvia was calling to the old mare nibbling tufts of early-springing
grass here and there, and half unconsciously coaxing the creature to
come up to the gate to be stroked. But she heard Kester's words well
enough, and so he saw, although she made this excuse not to reply.
But Kester was not to be put off.

'Folks is talkin' about thee and him; thou'll ha' to mind lest thee
and him gets yo'r names coupled together.'

'It's right down cruel on folks, then,' said she, crimsoning from
some emotion. 'As if any man as was a man wouldn't do all he could
for two lone women at such a time--and he a cousin, too! Tell me who
said so,' continued she, firing round at Kester, 'and I'll niver
forgive 'em--that's all.'

'Hoots!' said Kester, a little conscious that he himself was the
principal representative of that name of multitude folk. 'Here's a
pretty lass; she's' got "a'll niver forgi'e" at her tongue's end wi'
a vengeance.'

Sylvia was a little confused.

'Oh, Kester, man,' said she, 'my heart is sore again' every one, for
feyther's sake.'

And at length the natural relief of plentiful tears came; and
Kester, with instinctive wisdom, let her weep undisturbed; indeed,
he cried not a little himself. They were interrupted by Philip's
voice from the back-door.

'Sylvie, your mother's awake, and wants you!'

'Come, Kester, come,' and taking hold of him she drew him with her
into the house.

Bell rose as they came in, holding by the arms of the chair. At
first she received Kester as though he had been a stranger.

'I'm glad to see yo', sir; t' master's out, but he'll be in afore
long. It'll be about t' lambs yo're come, mebbe?'

'Mother!' said Sylvia, 'dunnot yo' see? it's Kester,--Kester, wi'
his Sunday clothes on.'

'Kester! ay, sure it is; my eyes have getten so sore and dim of
late; just as if I'd been greeting. I'm sure, lad, I'm glad to see
thee! It's a long time I've been away, but it were not
pleasure-seeking as took me, it were business o' some mak'--tell
him, Sylvie, what it were, for my head's clean gone. I only know I
wouldn't ha' left home if I could ha' helped it; for I think I
should ha' kept my health better if I'd bided at home wi' my master.
I wonder as he's not comed in for t' bid me welcome? Is he far
afield, think ye, Kester?'

Kester looked at Sylvia, mutely imploring her to help him out in the
dilemma of answering, but she was doing all she could to help
crying. Philip came to the rescue.

'Aunt,' said he, 'the clock has stopped; can you tell me where t'
find t' key, and I'll wind it up.'

'T' key,' said she, hurriedly, 't' key, it's behind th' big Bible on
yon shelf. But I'd rayther thou wouldn't touch it, lad; it's t'
master's work, and he distrusts folk meddling wi' it.'

Day after day there was this constant reference to her dead husband.
In one sense it was a blessing; all the circumstances attendant on
his sad and untimely end were swept out of her mind along with the
recollection of the fact itself. She referred to him as absent, and
had always some plausible way of accounting for it, which satisfied
her own mind; and, accordingly they fell into the habit of humouring
her, and speaking of him as gone to Monkshaven, or afield, or
wearied out, and taking a nap upstairs, as her fancy led her to
believe for the moment. But this forgetfulness, though happy for
herself, was terrible for her child. It was a constant renewing of
Sylvia's grief, while her mother could give her no sympathy, no
help, or strength in any circumstances that arose out of this grief.
She was driven more and more upon Philip; his advice and his
affection became daily more necessary to her.

Kester saw what would be the end of all this more clearly than
Sylvia did herself; and, impotent to hinder what he feared and
disliked, he grew more and more surly every day. Yet he tried to
labour hard and well for the interests of the family, as if they
were bound up in his good management of the cattle and land. He was
out and about by the earliest dawn, working all day long with might
and main. He bought himself a pair of new spectacles, which might,
he fancied, enable him to read the _Farmer's Complete Guide_, his
dead master's _vade-mecum_. But he had never learnt more than his
capital letters, and had forgotten many of them; so the spectacles
did him but little good. Then he would take the book to Sylvia, and
ask her to read to him the instructions he needed; instructions, be
it noted, that he would formerly have despised as mere
book-learning: but his present sense of responsibility had made him
humble.

Sylvia would find the place with all deliberation: and putting her
finger under the line to keep the exact place of the word she was
reading, she would strive in good earnest to read out the directions
given; but when every fourth word had to be spelt, it was rather
hopeless work, especially as all these words were unintelligible to
the open-mouthed listener, however intent he might be. He had
generally to fall back on his own experience; and, guided by that,
things were not doing badly in his estimation, when, one day, Sylvia
said to him, as they were in the hay-field, heaping up the hay into
cocks with Dolly Reid's assistance--

'Kester--I didn't tell thee--there were a letter from Measter Hall,
Lord Malton's steward, that came last night and that Philip read
me.'

She stopped for a moment.

'Ay, lass! Philip read it thee, and whatten might it say?'

'Only that he had an offer for Haytersbank Farm, and would set
mother free to go as soon as t' crops was off t' ground.'

She sighed a little as she said this.

"'Only!" sayst ta? Whatten business has he for to go an' offer to
let t' farm afore iver he were told as yo' wished to leave it?'
observed Kester, in high dudgeon.

'Oh!' replied Sylvia, throwing down her rake, as if weary of life.
'What could we do wi' t' farm and land? If it were all dairy I might
ha' done, but wi' so much on it arable.'

'And if 'tis arable is not I allays to t' fore?'

'Oh, man, dunnot find fault wi' me! I'm just fain to lie down and
die, if it were not for mother.'

'Ay! thy mother will be sore unsettled if thou's for quitting
Haytersbank,' said merciless Kester.

'I cannot help it; I cannot help it! What can I do? It would take
two pair o' men's hands to keep t' land up as Measter Hall likes it;
and beside----'

'Beside what?' said Kester, looking up at her with his sudden odd
look, one eye shut, the other open: there she stood, her two hands
clasped tight together, her eyes filling with tears, her face pale
and sad. 'Beside what?' he asked again, sharply.

'T' answer's sent to Measter Hall--Philip wrote it last night; so
there's no use planning and fretting, it were done for t' best, and
mun be done.' She stooped and picked up her rake, and began tossing
the hay with energy, the tears streaming down her cheeks unheeded.
It was Kester's turn to throw down his rake. She took no notice, he
did not feel sure that she had observed his action. He began to walk
towards the field-gate; this movement did catch her eye, for in a
minute her hand was on his arm, and she was stooping forward to look
into his face. It was working and twitching with emotion. 'Kester!
oh, man! speak out, but dunnot leave me a this-ns. What could I ha'
done? Mother is gone dateless wi' sorrow, and I am but a young lass,
i' years I mean; for I'm old enough wi' weeping.'

'I'd ha' put up for t' farm mysel', sooner than had thee turned
out,' said Kester, in a low voice; then working himself up into a
passion, as a new suspicion crossed his mind, he added, 'An' what
for didn't yo' tell me on t' letter? Yo' were in a mighty hurry to
settle it a', and get rid on t' oud place.'

'Measter Hall had sent a notice to quit on Midsummer day; but Philip
had answered it hisself. Thou knows I'm not good at reading writing,
'special when a letter's full o' long words, and Philip had ta'en it
in hand to answer.'

'Wi'out asking thee?'

Sylvia went on without minding the interruption.

'And Measter Hall makes a good offer, for t' man as is going to come
in will take t' stock and a' t' implements; and if mother--if we--if
I--like, th' furniture and a'----'

'Furniture!' said Kester, in grim surprise. 'What's to come o' t'
missus and thee, that yo'll not need a bed to lie on, or a pot to
boil yo'r vittel in?'

Sylvia reddened, but kept silence.

'Cannot yo' speak?'

'Oh, Kester, I didn't think thou'd turn again' me, and me so
friendless. It's as if I'd been doin' something wrong, and I have so
striven to act as is best; there's mother as well as me to be
thought on.'

'Cannot yo' answer a question?' said Kester, once more. 'Whatten's
up that t' missus and yo'll not need bed and table, pots and pans?'

'I think I'm going to marry Philip,' said Sylvia, in so low a tone,
that if Kester had not suspected what her answer was to be, he could
not have understood it.

After a moment's pause he recommenced his walk towards the
field-gate. But she went after him and held him tight by the arm,
speaking rapidly.

'Kester, what could I do? What can I do? He's my cousin, and mother
knows him, and likes him; and he's been so good to us in a' this
time o' trouble and heavy grief, and he'll keep mother in comfort
all t' rest of her days.'

'Ay, and thee in comfort. There's a deal in a well-filled purse in a
wench's eyes, or one would ha' thought it weren't so easy forgettin'
yon lad as loved thee as t' apple on his eye.'

'Kester, Kester,' she cried, 'I've niver forgotten Charley; I think
on him, I see him ivery night lying drowned at t' bottom o' t' sea.
Forgetten him! Man! it's easy talking!' She was like a wild creature
that sees its young, but is unable to reach it without a deadly
spring, and yet is preparing to take that fatal leap. Kester himself
was almost startled, and yet it was as if he must go on torturing
her.

'An' who telled thee so sure and certain as he were drowned? He
might ha' been carried off by t' press-gang as well as other men.'

'Oh! if I were but dead that I might know all!' cried she, flinging
herself down on the hay.

Kester kept silence. Then she sprang up again, and looking with
eager wistfulness into his face, she said,--

'Tell me t' chances. Tell me quick! Philip's very good, and kind,
and he says he shall die if I will not marry him, and there's no
home for mother and me,--no home for her, for as for me I dunnot
care what becomes on me; but if Charley's alive I cannot marry
Philip--no, not if he dies for want o' me--and as for mother, poor
mother, Kester, it's an awful strait; only first tell me if there's
a chance, just one in a thousand, only one in a hundred thousand, as
Charley were ta'en by t' gang?' She was breathless by this time,
what with her hurried words, and what with the beating of her heart.
Kester took time to answer. He had spoken before too hastily, this
time he weighed his words.

'Kinraid went away from this here place t' join his ship. An' he
niver joined it no more; an' t' captain an' all his friends at
Newcassel as iver were, made search for him, on board t' king's
ships. That's more nor fifteen month ago, an' nought has iver been
heerd on him by any man. That's what's to be said on one side o' t'
matter. Then on t' other there's this as is known. His hat were cast
up by t' sea wi' a ribbon in it, as there's reason t' think as he'd
not ha' parted wi' so quick if he'd had his own will.'

'But yo' said as he might ha' been carried off by t' gang--yo' did,
Kester, tho' now yo're a' for t' other side.'

'My lass, a'd fain have him alive, an' a dunnot fancy Philip for thy
husband; but it's a serious judgment as thou's put me on, an' a'm
trying it fair. There's allays one chance i' a thousand as he's
alive, for no man iver saw him dead. But t' gang were noane about
Monkshaven then: there were niver a tender on t' coast nearer than
Shields, an' those theere were searched.'

He did not say any more, but turned back into the field, and took up
his hay-making again.

Sylvia stood quite still, thinking, and wistfully longing for some
kind of certainty.

Kester came up to her.

'Sylvie, thou knows Philip paid me back my money, and it were eight
pound fifteen and three-pence; and t' hay and stock 'll sell for
summat above t' rent; and a've a sister as is a decent widow-woman,
tho' but badly off, livin' at Dale End; and if thee and thy mother
'll go live wi' her, a'll give thee well on to all a can earn, and
it'll be a matter o' five shilling a week. But dunnot go and marry a
man as thou's noane taken wi', and another as is most like for t' be
dead, but who, mebbe, is alive, havin' a pull on thy heart.'

Sylvia began to cry as if her heart was broken. She had promised
herself more fully to Philip the night before than she had told
Kester; and, with some pains and much patience, her cousin, her
lover, alas! her future husband, had made the fact clear to the
bewildered mind of her poor mother, who had all day long shown that
her mind and heart were full of the subject, and that the
contemplation of it was giving her as much peace as she could ever
know. And now Kester's words came to call up echoes in the poor
girl's heart. Just as she was in this miserable state, wishing that
the grave lay open before her, and that she could lie down, and be
covered up by the soft green turf from all the bitter sorrows and
carking cares and weary bewilderments of this life; wishing that her
father was alive, that Charley was once more here; that she had not
repeated the solemn words by which she had promised herself to
Philip only the very evening before, she heard a soft, low whistle,
and, looking round unconsciously, there was her lover and affianced
husband, leaning on the gate, and gazing into the field with
passionate eyes, devouring the fair face and figure of her, his
future wife.

'Oh, Kester,' said she once more, 'what mun I do? I'm pledged to him
as strong as words can make it, and mother blessed us both wi' more
sense than she's had for weeks. Kester, man, speak! Shall I go and
break it all off?--say.'

'Nay, it's noane for me t' say; m'appen thou's gone too far. Them
above only knows what is best.'

Again that long, cooing whistle. 'Sylvie!'

'He's been very kind to us all,' said Sylvia, laying her rake down
with slow care, 'and I'll try t' make him happy.'



CHAPTER XXIX

WEDDING RAIMENT


Philip and Sylvia were engaged. It was not so happy a state of
things as Philip had imagined. He had already found that out,
although it was not twenty-four hours since Sylvia had promised to
be his. He could not have defined why he was dissatisfied; if he had
been compelled to account for his feeling, he would probably have
alleged as a reason that Sylvia's manner was so unchanged by her new
position towards him. She was quiet and gentle; but no shyer, no
brighter, no coyer, no happier, than she had been for months before.
When she joined him at the field-gate, his heart was beating fast,
his eyes were beaming out love at her approach. She neither blushed
nor smiled, but seemed absorbed in thought of some kind. But she
resisted his silent effort to draw her away from the path leading to
the house, and turned her face steadily homewards. He murmured soft
words, which she scarcely heard. Right in their way was the stone
trough for the fresh bubbling water, that, issuing from a roadside
spring, served for all the household purposes of Haytersbank Farm.
By it were the milk-cans, glittering and clean. Sylvia knew she
should have to stop for these, and carry them back home in readiness
for the evening's milking; and at this time, during this action, she
resolved to say what was on her mind.

They were there. Sylvia spoke.

'Philip, Kester has been saying as how it might ha' been----'

'Well!' said Philip.

Sylvia sate down on the edge of the trough, and dipped her hot
little hand in the water. Then she went on quickly, and lifting her
beautiful eyes to Philip's face, with a look of inquiry--'He thinks
as Charley Kinraid may ha' been took by t' press-gang.'

It was the first time she had named the name of her former lover to
her present one since the day, long ago now, when they had
quarrelled about him; and the rosy colour flushed her all over; but
her sweet, trustful eyes never flinched from their steady,
unconscious gaze.

Philip's heart stopped beating; literally, as if he had come to a
sudden precipice, while he had thought himself securely walking on
sunny greensward. He went purple all over from dismay; he dared not
take his eyes away from that sad, earnest look of hers, but he was
thankful that a mist came before them and drew a veil before his
brain. He heard his own voice saying words he did not seem to have
framed in his own mind.

'Kester's a d--d fool,' he growled.

'He says there's mebbe but one chance i' a hundred,' said Sylvia,
pleading, as it were, for Kester; 'but oh! Philip, think yo' there's
just that one chance?'

'Ay, there's a chance, sure enough,' said Philip, in a kind of
fierce despair that made him reckless what he said or did. 'There's
a chance, I suppose, for iverything i' life as we have not seen with
our own eyes as it may not ha' happened. Kester may say next as
there's a chance as your father is not dead, because we none on us
saw him----'

'Hung,' he was going to have said, but a touch of humanity came back
into his stony heart. Sylvia sent up a little sharp cry at his
words. He longed at the sound to take her in his arms and hush her
up, as a mother hushes her weeping child. But the very longing,
having to be repressed, only made him more beside himself with
guilt, anxiety, and rage. They were quite still now. Sylvia looking
sadly down into the bubbling, merry, flowing water: Philip glaring
at her, wishing that the next word were spoken, though it might stab
him to the heart. But she did not speak.

At length, unable to bear it any longer, he said, 'Thou sets a deal
o' store on that man, Sylvie.'

If 'that man' had been there at the moment, Philip would have
grappled with him, and not let go his hold till one or the other
were dead. Sylvia caught some of the passionate meaning of the
gloomy, miserable tone of Philip's voice as he said these words. She
looked up at him.

'I thought yo' knowed that I cared a deal for him.'

There was something so pleading and innocent in her pale, troubled
face, so pathetic in her tone, that Philip's anger, which had been
excited against her, as well as against all the rest of the world,
melted away into love; and once more he felt that have her for his
own he must, at any cost. He sate down by her, and spoke to her in
quite a different manner to that which he had used before, with a
ready tact and art which some strange instinct or tempter 'close at
his ear' supplied.

'Yes, darling, I knew yo' cared for him. I'll not say ill of him
that is--dead--ay, dead and drowned--whativer Kester may
say--before now; but if I chose I could tell tales.'

'No! tell no tales; I'll not hear them,' said she, wrenching herself
out of Philip's clasping arm. 'They may misca' him for iver, and
I'll not believe 'em.'

'I'll niver miscall one who is dead,' said Philip; each new
unconscious sign of the strength of Sylvia's love for her former
lover only making him the more anxious to convince her that he was
dead, only rendering him more keen at deceiving his own conscience
by repeating to it the lie that long ere this Kinraid was in all
probability dead--killed by either the chances of war or tempestuous
sea; that, even if not, he was as good as dead to her; so that the
word 'dead' might be used in all honest certainty, as in one of its
meanings Kinraid was dead for sure.

'Think yo' that if he were not dead he wouldn't ha' written ere this
to some one of his kin, if not to thee? Yet none of his folk
Newcassel-way but believe him dead.'

'So Kester says,' sighed Sylvia.

Philip took heart. He put his arm softly round her again, and
murmured--

'My lassie, try not to think on them as is gone, as is dead, but t'
think a bit more on him as loves yo' wi' heart, and soul, and might,
and has done iver sin' he first set eyes on yo'. Oh, Sylvie, my love
for thee is just terrible.'

At this moment Dolly Reid was seen at the back-door of the
farmhouse, and catching sight of Sylvia, she called out--

'Sylvia, thy mother is axing for thee, and I cannot make her mind
easy.'

In a moment Sylvia had sprung up from her seat, and was running in
to soothe and comfort her mother's troubled fancies.

Philip sate on by the well-side, his face buried in his two hands.
Presently he lifted himself up, drank some water eagerly out of his
hollowed palm, sighed, and shook himself, and followed his cousin
into the house. Sometimes he came unexpectedly to the limits of his
influence over her. In general she obeyed his expressed wishes with
gentle indifference, as if she had no preferences of her own; once
or twice he found that she was doing what he desired out of the
spirit of obedience, which, as her mother's daughter, she believed
to be her duty towards her affianced husband. And this last motive
for action depressed her lover more than anything. He wanted the old
Sylvia back again; captious, capricious, wilful, haughty, merry,
charming. Alas! that Sylvia was gone for ever.

But once especially his power, arising from whatever cause, was
stopped entirely short--was utterly of no avail.

It was on the occasion of Dick Simpson's mortal illness. Sylvia and
her mother kept aloof from every one. They had never been intimate
with any family but the Corneys, and even this friendship had
considerably cooled since Molly's marriage, and most especially
since Kinraid's supposed death, when Bessy Corney and Sylvia had
been, as it were, rival mourners. But many people, both in
Monkshaven and the country round about, held the Robson family in
great respect, although Mrs. Robson herself was accounted 'high' and
'distant;' and poor little Sylvia, in her heyday of beautiful youth
and high spirits, had been spoken of as 'a bit flighty,' and 'a
set-up lassie.' Still, when their great sorrow fell upon them, there
were plenty of friends to sympathize deeply with them; and, as
Daniel had suffered in a popular cause, there were even more who,
scarcely knowing them personally, were ready to give them all the
marks of respect and friendly feeling in their power. But neither
Bell nor Sylvia were aware of this. The former had lost all
perception of what was not immediately before her; the latter shrank
from all encounters of any kind with a sore heart, and sensitive
avoidance of everything that could make her a subject of remark. So
the poor afflicted people at Haytersbank knew little of Monkshaven
news. What little did come to their ears came through Dolly Reid,
when she returned from selling the farm produce of the week; and
often, indeed, even then she found Sylvia too much absorbed in other
cares or thoughts to listen to her gossip. So no one had ever named
that Simpson was supposed to be dying till Philip began on the
subject one evening. Sylvia's face suddenly flashed into glow and
life.

'He's dying, is he? t' earth is well rid on such a fellow!'

'Eh, Sylvie, that's a hard speech o' thine!' said Philip; 'it gives
me but poor heart to ask a favour of thee!'

'If it's aught about Simpson,' replied she, and then she interrupted
herself. 'But say on; it were ill-mannered in me for t' interrupt
yo'.'

'Thou would be sorry to see him, I think, Sylvie. He cannot get over
the way, t' folk met him, and pelted him when he came back fra'
York,--and he's weak and faint, and beside himself at times; and
he'll lie a dreaming, and a-fancying they're all at him again,
hooting, and yelling, and pelting him.'

'I'm glad on 't,' said Sylvia; 'it's t' best news I've heered for
many a day,--he, to turn again' feyther, who gave him money fo t'
get a lodging that night, when he'd no place to go to. It were his
evidence as hung feyther; and he's rightly punished for it now.'

'For a' that,--and he's done a vast o' wrong beside, he's dying now,
Sylvie!'

'Well! let him die--it's t' best thing he could do!'

'But he's lying i' such dree poverty,--and niver a friend to go near
him,--niver a person to speak a kind word t' him.'

'It seems as yo've been speaking wi' him, at any rate,' said Sylvia,
turning round on Philip.

'Ay. He sent for me by Nell Manning, th' old beggar-woman, who
sometimes goes in and makes his bed for him, poor wretch,--he's
lying in t' ruins of th' cow-house of th' Mariners' Arms, Sylvie.'

'Well!' said she, in the same hard, dry tone.

'And I went and fetched th' parish doctor, for I thought he'd ha'
died before my face,--he was so wan, and ashen-grey, so thin, too,
his eyes seem pushed out of his bony face.'

'That last time--feyther's eyes were starting, wild-like, and as if
he couldn't meet ours, or bear the sight on our weeping.'

It was a bad look-out for Philip's purpose; but after a pause he
went bravely on.

'He's a poor dying creature, anyhow. T' doctor said so, and told him
he hadn't many hours, let alone days, to live.'

'And he'd shrink fra' dying wi' a' his sins on his head?' said
Sylvia, almost exultingly.

Philip shook his head. 'He said this world had been too strong for
him, and men too hard upon him; he could niver do any good here, and
he thought he should, maybe, find folks i' t' next place more
merciful.'

'He'll meet feyther theere,' said Sylvia, still hard and bitter.

'He's a poor ignorant creature, and doesn't seem to know rightly who
he's like to meet; only he seems glad to get away fra' Monkshaven
folks; he were really hurt, I am afeared, that night, Sylvie,--and
he speaks as if he'd had hard times of it ever since he were a
child,--and he talks as if he were really grieved for t' part t'
lawyers made him take at th' trial,--they made him speak, against
his will, he says.'

'Couldn't he ha' bitten his tongue out?' asked Sylvia. 'It's fine
talking o' sorrow when the thing is done!'

'Well, anyhow he's sorry now; and he's not long for to live. And,
Sylvie, he bid me ask thee, if, for the sake of all that is dear to
thee both here, and i' th' world to come, thou'd go wi' me, and just
say to him that thou forgives him his part that day.'

'He sent thee on that errand, did he? And thou could come and ask
me? I've a mind to break it off for iver wi' thee, Philip.' She kept
gasping, as if she could not say any more. Philip watched and waited
till her breath came, his own half choked.

'Thee and me was niver meant to go together. It's not in me to
forgive,--I sometimes think it's not in me to forget. I wonder,
Philip, if thy feyther had done a kind deed--and a right deed--and a
merciful deed--and some one as he'd been good to, even i' t' midst
of his just anger, had gone and let on about him to th' judge, as
was trying to hang him,--and had getten him hanged,--hanged dead, so
that his wife were a widow, and his child fatherless for
ivermore,--I wonder if thy veins would run milk and water, so that
thou could go and make friends, and speak soft wi' him as had caused
thy feyther's death?'

'It's said in t' Bible, Sylvie, that we're to forgive.'

'Ay, there's some things as I know I niver forgive; and there's
others as I can't--and I won't, either.'

'But, Sylvie, yo' pray to be forgiven your trespasses, as you
forgive them as trespass against you.'

'Well, if I'm to be taken at my word, I'll noane pray at all, that's
all. It's well enough for them as has but little to forgive to use
them words; and I don't reckon it's kind, or pretty behaved in yo',
Philip, to bring up Scripture again' me. Thou may go about thy
business.'

'Thou'rt vexed with me, Sylvie; and I'm not meaning but that it
would go hard with thee to forgive him; but I think it would be
right and Christian-like i' thee, and that thou'd find thy comfort
in thinking on it after. If thou'd only go, and see his wistful
eyes--I think they'd plead wi' thee more than his words, or mine
either.'

'I tell thee my flesh and blood wasn't made for forgiving and
forgetting. Once for all, thou must take my word. When I love I
love, and when I hate I hate; and him as has done hard to me, or to
mine, I may keep fra' striking or murdering, but I'll niver forgive.
I should be just a monster, fit to be shown at a fair, if I could
forgive him as got feyther hanged.'

Philip was silent, thinking what more he could urge.

'Yo'd better be off,' said Sylvia, in a minute or two. 'Yo' and me
has got wrong, and it'll take a night's sleep to set us right. Yo've
said all yo' can for him; and perhaps it's not yo' as is to blame,
but yo'r nature. But I'm put out wi' thee, and want thee out o' my
sight for awhile.'

One or two more speeches of this kind convinced him that it would be
wise in him to take her at her word. He went back to Simpson, and
found him, though still alive, past the understanding of any words
of human forgiveness. Philip had almost wished he had not troubled
or irritated Sylvia by urging the dying man's request: the
performance of this duty seemed now to have been such a useless
office.

After all, the performance of a duty is never a useless office,
though we may not see the consequences, or they may be quite
different to what we expected or calculated on. In the pause of
active work, when daylight was done, and the evening shades came on,
Sylvia had time to think; and her heart grew sad and soft, in
comparison to what it had been when Philip's urgency had called out
all her angry opposition. She thought of her father--his sharp
passions, his frequent forgiveness, or rather his forgetfulness that
he had even been injured. All Sylvia's persistent or enduring
qualities were derived from her mother, her impulses from her
father. It was her dead father whose example filled her mind this
evening in the soft and tender twilight. She did not say to herself
that she would go and tell Simpson that she forgave him; but she
thought that if Philip asked her again that she should do so.

But when she saw Philip again he told her that Simpson was dead; and
passed on from what he had reason to think would be an unpleasant
subject to her. Thus he never learnt how her conduct might have been
more gentle and relenting than her words--words which came up into
his memory at a future time, with full measure of miserable
significance.

In general, Sylvia was gentle and good enough; but Philip wanted her
to be shy and tender with him, and this she was not. She spoke to
him, her pretty eyes looking straight and composedly at him. She
consulted him like the family friend that he was: she met him
quietly in all the arrangements for the time of their marriage,
which she looked upon more as a change of home, as the leaving of
Haytersbank, as it would affect her mother, than in any more
directly personal way. Philip was beginning to feel, though not as
yet to acknowledge, that the fruit he had so inordinately longed for
was but of the nature of an apple of Sodom.

Long ago, lodging in widow Rose's garret, he had been in the habit
of watching some pigeons that were kept by a neighbour; the flock
disported themselves on the steep tiled roofs just opposite to the
attic window, and insensibly Philip grew to know their ways, and one
pretty, soft little dove was somehow perpetually associated in his
mind with his idea of his cousin Sylvia. The pigeon would sit in one
particular place, sunning herself, and puffing out her feathered
breast, with all the blue and rose-coloured lights gleaming in the
morning rays, cooing softly to herself as she dressed her plumage.
Philip fancied that he saw the same colours in a certain piece of
shot silk--now in the shop; and none other seemed to him so suitable
for his darling's wedding-dress. He carried enough to make a gown,
and gave it to her one evening, as she sate on the grass just
outside the house, half attending to her mother, half engaged in
knitting stockings for her scanty marriage outfit. He was glad that
the sun was not gone down, thus allowing him to display the changing
colours in fuller light. Sylvia admired it duly; even Mrs. Robson was
pleased and attracted by the soft yet brilliant hues. Philip
whispered to Sylvia--(he took delight in whispers,--she, on the
contrary, always spoke to him in her usual tone of voice)--

'Thou'lt look so pretty in it, sweetheart,--o' Thursday fortnight!'

'Thursday fortnight. On the fourth yo're thinking on. But I cannot
wear it then,--I shall be i' black.'

'Not on that day, sure!' said Philip.

'Why not? There's nought t' happen on that day for t' make me forget
feyther. I couldn't put off my black, Philip,--no, not to save my
life! Yon silk is just lovely, far too good for the likes of
me,--and I'm sure I'm much beholden to yo'; and I'll have it made up
first of any gown after last April come two years,--but, oh, Philip,
I cannot put off my mourning!'

'Not for our wedding-day!' said Philip, sadly.

'No, lad, I really cannot. I'm just sorry about it, for I see
thou'rt set upon it; and thou'rt so kind and good, I sometimes think
I can niver be thankful enough to thee. When I think on what would
ha' become of mother and me if we hadn't had thee for a friend i'
need, I'm noane ungrateful, Philip; tho' I sometimes fancy thou'rt
thinking I am.'

'I don't want yo' to be grateful, Sylvie,' said poor Philip,
dissatisfied, yet unable to explain what he did want; only knowing
that there was something he lacked, yet fain would have had.

As the marriage-day drew near, all Sylvia's care seemed to be for
her mother; all her anxiety was regarding the appurtenances of the
home she was leaving. In vain Philip tried to interest her in
details of his improvements or contrivances in the new home to which
he was going to take her. She did not tell him; but the idea of the
house behind the shop was associated in her mind with two times of
discomfort and misery. The first time she had gone into the parlour
about which Philip spoke so much was at the time of the press-gang
riot, when she had fainted from terror and excitement; the second
was on that night of misery when she and her mother had gone in to
Monkshaven, to bid her father farewell before he was taken to York;
in that room, on that night, she had first learnt something of the
fatal peril in which he stood. She could not show the bright shy
curiosity about her future dwelling that is common enough with girls
who are going to be married. All she could do was to restrain
herself from sighing, and listen patiently, when he talked on the
subject. In time he saw that she shrank from it; so he held his
peace, and planned and worked for her in silence,--smiling to
himself as he looked on each completed arrangement for her pleasure
or comfort; and knowing well that her happiness was involved in what
fragments of peace and material comfort might remain to her mother.

The wedding-day drew near apace. It was Philip's plan that after
they had been married in Kirk Moorside church, he and his Sylvia,
his cousin, his love, his wife, should go for the day to Robin
Hood's Bay, returning in the evening to the house behind the shop in
the market-place. There they were to find Bell Robson installed in
her future home; for Haytersbank Farm was to be given up to the new
tenant on the very day of the wedding. Sylvia would not be married
any sooner; she said that she must stay there till the very last;
and had said it with such determination that Philip had desisted
from all urgency at once.

He had told her that all should be settled for her mother's comfort
during their few hours' absence; otherwise Sylvia would not have
gone at all. He told her he should ask Hester, who was always so
good and kind--who never yet had said him nay, to go to church with
them as bridesmaid--for Sylvia would give no thought or care to
anything but her mother--and that they would leave her at
Haytersbank as they returned from church; she would manage Mrs
Robson's removal--she would do this--do that--do everything. Such
friendly confidence had Philip in Hester's willingness and tender
skill. Sylvia acquiesced at length, and Philip took upon himself to
speak to Hester on the subject.

'Hester,' said he, one day when he was preparing to go home after
the shop was closed; 'would yo' mind stopping a bit? I should like
to show yo' the place now it's done up; and I've a favour to ask on
yo' besides.' He was so happy he did not see her shiver all over.
She hesitated just a moment before she answered,--

'I'll stay, if thou wishes it, Philip. But I'm no judge o' fashions
and such like.'

'Thou'rt a judge o' comfort, and that's what I've been aiming at. I
were niver so comfortable in a' my life as when I were a lodger at
thy house,' said he, with brotherly tenderness in his tone. 'If my
mind had been at ease I could ha' said I niver were happier in all
my days than under thy roof; and I know it were thy doing for the
most part. So come along, Hester, and tell me if there's aught more
I can put in for Sylvie.'

It might not have been a very appropriate text, but such as it was
the words, 'From him that would ask of thee turn not thou away,'
seemed the only source of strength that could have enabled her to go
patiently through the next half-hour. As it was, she unselfishly
brought all her mind to bear upon the subject; admired this, thought
and decided upon that, as one by one Philip showed her all his
alterations and improvements. Never was such a quiet little bit of
unconscious and unrecognized heroism. She really ended by such a
conquest of self that she could absolutely sympathize with the proud
expectant lover, and had quenched all envy of the beloved, in
sympathy with the delight she imagined Sylvia must experience when
she discovered all these proofs of Philip's fond consideration and
care. But it was a great strain on the heart, that source of life;
and when Hester returned into the parlour, after her deliberate
survey of the house, she felt as weary and depressed in bodily
strength as if she had gone through an illness of many days. She
sate down on the nearest chair, and felt as though she never could
rise again. Philip, joyous and content, stood near her talking.

'And, Hester,' said he, 'Sylvie has given me a message for thee--she
says thou must be her bridesmaid--she'll have none other.'

'I cannot,' said Hester, with sudden sharpness.

'Oh, yes, but yo' must. It wouldn't be like my wedding if thou
wasn't there: why I've looked upon thee as a sister iver since I
came to lodge with thy mother.'

Hester shook her head. Did her duty require her not to turn away
from this asking, too? Philip saw her reluctance, and, by intuition
rather than reason, he knew that what she would not do for gaiety or
pleasure she would consent to, if by so doing she could render any
service to another. So he went on.

'Besides, Sylvie and me has planned to go for our wedding jaunt to
Robin Hood's Bay. I ha' been to engage a shandry this very morn,
before t' shop was opened; and there's no one to leave wi' my aunt.
Th' poor old body is sore crushed with sorrow; and is, as one may
say, childish at times; she's to come down here, that we may find
her when we come back at night; and there's niver a one she'll come
with so willing and so happy as with thee, Hester. Sylvie and me has
both said so.'

Hester looked up in his face with her grave honest eyes.

'I cannot go to church wi' thee, Philip; and thou must not ask me
any further. But I'll go betimes to Haytersbank Farm, and I'll do my
best to make the old lady happy, and to follow out thy directions in
bringing her here before nightfall.'

Philip was on the point of urging her afresh to go with them to
church; but something in her eyes brought a thought across his mind,
as transitory as a breath passes over a looking-glass, and he
desisted from his entreaty, and put away his thought as a piece of
vain coxcombry, insulting to Hester. He passed rapidly on to all the
careful directions rendered necessary by her compliance with the
latter part of his request, coupling Sylvia's name with his
perpetually; so that Hester looked upon her as a happy girl, as
eager in planning all the details of her marriage as though no heavy
shameful sorrow had passed over her head not many months ago.

Hester did not see Sylvia's white, dreamy, resolute face, that
answered the solemn questions of the marriage service in a voice
that did not seem her own. Hester was not with them to notice the
heavy abstraction that made the bride as if unconscious of her
husband's loving words, and then start and smile, and reply with a
sad gentleness of tone. No! Hester's duty lay in conveying the poor
widow and mother down from Haytersbank to the new home in
Monkshaven; and for all Hester's assistance and thoughtfulness, it
was a dreary, painful piece of work--the poor old woman crying like
a child, with bewilderment at the confused bustle which, in spite of
all Sylvia's careful forethought, could not be avoided on this final
day, when her mother had to be carried away from the homestead over
which she had so long presided. But all this was as nothing to the
distress which overwhelmed poor Bell Robson when she entered
Philip's house; the parlour--the whole place so associated with the
keen agony she had undergone there, that the stab of memory
penetrated through her deadened senses, and brought her back to
misery. In vain Hester tried to console her by telling her the fact
of Sylvia's marriage with Philip in every form of words that
occurred to her. Bell only remembered her husband's fate, which
filled up her poor wandering mind, and coloured everything; insomuch
that Sylvia not being at hand to reply to her mother's cry for her,
the latter imagined that her child, as well as her husband, was in
danger of trial and death, and refused to be comforted by any
endeavour of the patient sympathizing Hester. In a pause of Mrs
Robson's sobs, Hester heard the welcome sound of the wheels of the
returning shandry, bearing the bride and bridegroom home. It stopped
at the door--an instant, and Sylvia, white as a sheet at the sound
of her mother's wailings, which she had caught while yet at a
distance, with the quick ears of love, came running in; her mother
feebly rose and tottered towards her, and fell into her arms,
saying, 'Oh! Sylvie, Sylvie, take me home, and away from this cruel
place!'

Hester could not but be touched with the young girl's manner to her
mother--as tender, as protecting as if their relation to each other
had been reversed, and she was lulling and tenderly soothing a
wayward, frightened child. She had neither eyes nor ears for any one
till her mother was sitting in trembling peace, holding her
daughter's hand tight in both of hers, as if afraid of losing sight
of her: then Sylvia turned to Hester, and, with the sweet grace
which is a natural gift to some happy people, thanked her; in common
words enough she thanked her, but in that nameless manner, and with
that strange, rare charm which made Hester feel as if she had never
been thanked in all her life before; and from that time forth she
understood, if she did not always yield to, the unconscious
fascination which Sylvia could exercise over others at times.

Did it enter into Philip's heart to perceive that he had wedded his
long-sought bride in mourning raiment, and that the first sounds
which greeted them as they approached their home were those of
weeping and wailing?



END OF VOL. II.





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