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Title: Sylvia's Lovers — Complete
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 — Complete" ***

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. I.

LONDON:

M.DCCC.LXIII.



CONTENTS

       I  MONKSHAVEN
      II  HOME FROM GREENLAND
     III  BUYING A NEW CLOAK
      IV  PHILIP HEPBURN
       V  STORY OF THE PRESS-GANG
      VI  THE SAILOR'S FUNERAL
     VII  TETE-A-TETE.--THE WILL
    VIII  ATTRACTION AND REPULSION
      IX  THE SPECKSIONEER
       X  A REFRACTORY PUPIL
      XI  VISIONS OF THE FUTURE
     XII  NEW YEAR'S FETE
    XIII  PERPLEXITIES
     XIV  PARTNERSHIP
      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
     XXX  HAPPY DAYS
    XXXI  EVIL OMENS
   XXXII  RESCUED FROM THE WAVES
  XXXIII  AN APPARITION
   XXXIV  A RECKLESS RECRUIT
    XXXV  THINGS UNUTTERABLE
   XXXVI  MYSTERIOUS TIDINGS
  XXXVII  BEREAVEMENT
 XXXVIII  THE RECOGNITION
   XXXIX  CONFIDENCES
      XL  AN UNEXPECTED MESSENGER
     XLI  THE BEDESMAN OF ST SEPULCHRE
    XLII  A FABLE AT FAULT
   XLIII  THE UNKNOWN
    XLIV  FIRST WORDS
     XLV  SAVED AND LOST



CHAPTER I

MONKSHAVEN


On the north-eastern shores of England there is a town called
Monkshaven, containing at the present day about fifteen thousand
inhabitants. There were, however, but half the number at the end of
the last century, and it was at that period that the events narrated
in the following pages occurred.

Monkshaven was a name not unknown in the history of England, and
traditions of its having been the landing-place of a throneless
queen were current in the town. At that time there had been a
fortified castle on the heights above it, the site of which was now
occupied by a deserted manor-house; and at an even earlier date than
the arrival of the queen and coeval with the most ancient remains of
the castle, a great monastery had stood on those cliffs, overlooking
the vast ocean that blended with the distant sky. Monkshaven itself
was built by the side of the Dee, just where the river falls into
the German Ocean. The principal street of the town ran parallel to
the stream, and smaller lanes branched out of this, and straggled up
the sides of the steep hill, between which and the river the houses
were pent in. There was a bridge across the Dee, and consequently a
Bridge Street running at right angles to the High Street; and on the
south side of the stream there were a few houses of more pretension,
around which lay gardens and fields. It was on this side of the town
that the local aristocracy lived. And who were the great people of
this small town? Not the younger branches of the county families
that held hereditary state in their manor-houses on the wild bleak
moors, that shut in Monkshaven almost as effectually on the land
side as ever the waters did on the sea-board. No; these old families
kept aloof from the unsavoury yet adventurous trade which brought
wealth to generation after generation of certain families in
Monkshaven.

The magnates of Monkshaven were those who had the largest number of
ships engaged in the whaling-trade. Something like the following was
the course of life with a Monkshaven lad of this class:--He was
apprenticed as a sailor to one of the great ship-owners--to his own
father, possibly--along with twenty other boys, or, it might be,
even more. During the summer months he and his fellow apprentices
made voyages to the Greenland seas, returning with their cargoes in
the early autumn; and employing the winter months in watching the
preparation of the oil from the blubber in the melting-sheds, and
learning navigation from some quaint but experienced teacher, half
schoolmaster, half sailor, who seasoned his instructions by stirring
narrations of the wild adventures of his youth. The house of the
ship-owner to whom he was apprenticed was his home and that of his
companions during the idle season between October and March. The
domestic position of these boys varied according to the premium
paid; some took rank with the sons of the family, others were
considered as little better than servants. Yet once on board an
equality prevailed, in which, if any claimed superiority, it was the
bravest and brightest. After a certain number of voyages the
Monkshaven lad would rise by degrees to be captain, and as such
would have a share in the venture; all these profits, as well as all
his savings, would go towards building a whaling vessel of his own,
if he was not so fortunate as to be the child of a ship-owner. At
the time of which I write, there was but little division of labour
in the Monkshaven whale fishery. The same man might be the owner of
six or seven ships, any one of which he himself was fitted by
education and experience to command; the master of a score of
apprentices, each of whom paid a pretty sufficient premium; and the
proprietor of the melting-sheds into which his cargoes of blubber
and whalebone were conveyed to be fitted for sale. It was no wonder
that large fortunes were acquired by these ship-owners, nor that
their houses on the south side of the river Dee were stately
mansions, full of handsome and substantial furniture. It was also
not surprising that the whole town had an amphibious appearance, to
a degree unusual even in a seaport. Every one depended on the whale
fishery, and almost every male inhabitant had been, or hoped to be,
a sailor. Down by the river the smell was almost intolerable to any
but Monkshaven people during certain seasons of the year; but on
these unsavoury 'staithes' the old men and children lounged for
hours, almost as if they revelled in the odours of train-oil.

This is, perhaps, enough of a description of the town itself. I have
said that the country for miles all around was moorland; high above
the level of the sea towered the purple crags, whose summits were
crowned with greensward that stole down the sides of the scaur a
little way in grassy veins. Here and there a brook forced its way
from the heights down to the sea, making its channel into a valley
more or less broad in long process of time. And in the moorland
hollows, as in these valleys, trees and underwood grew and
flourished; so that, while on the bare swells of the high land you
shivered at the waste desolation of the scenery, when you dropped
into these wooded 'bottoms' you were charmed with the nestling
shelter which they gave. But above and around these rare and fertile
vales there were moors for many a mile, here and there bleak enough,
with the red freestone cropping out above the scanty herbage; then,
perhaps, there was a brown tract of peat and bog, uncertain footing
for the pedestrian who tried to make a short cut to his destination;
then on the higher sandy soil there was the purple ling, or
commonest species of heather growing in beautiful wild luxuriance.
Tufts of fine elastic grass were occasionally to be found, on which
the little black-faced sheep browsed; but either the scanty food, or
their goat-like agility, kept them in a lean condition that did not
promise much for the butcher, nor yet was their wool of a quality
fine enough to make them profitable in that way to their owners. In
such districts there is little population at the present day; there
was much less in the last century, before agriculture was
sufficiently scientific to have a chance of contending with such
natural disqualifications as the moors presented, and when there
were no facilities of railroads to bring sportsmen from a distance
to enjoy the shooting season, and make an annual demand for
accommodation.

There were old stone halls in the valleys; there were bare
farmhouses to be seen on the moors at long distances apart, with
small stacks of coarse poor hay, and almost larger stacks of turf
for winter fuel in their farmyards. The cattle in the pasture fields
belonging to these farms looked half starved; but somehow there was
an odd, intelligent expression in their faces, as well as in those
of the black-visaged sheep, which is seldom seen in the placidly
stupid countenances of well-fed animals. All the fences were turf
banks, with loose stones piled into walls on the top of these.

There was comparative fertility and luxuriance down below in the
rare green dales. The narrow meadows stretching along the brookside
seemed as though the cows could really satisfy their hunger in the
deep rich grass; whereas on the higher lands the scanty herbage was
hardly worth the fatigue of moving about in search of it. Even in
these 'bottoms' the piping sea-winds, following the current of the
stream, stunted and cut low any trees; but still there was rich
thick underwood, tangled and tied together with brambles, and
brier-rose, [sic] and honeysuckle; and if the farmer in these
comparatively happy valleys had had wife or daughter who cared for
gardening, many a flower would have grown on the western or southern
side of the rough stone house. But at that time gardening was not a
popular art in any part of England; in the north it is not yet.
Noblemen and gentlemen may have beautiful gardens; but farmers and
day-labourers care little for them north of the Trent, which is all
I can answer for. A few 'berry' bushes, a black currant tree or two
(the leaves to be used in heightening the flavour of tea, the fruit
as medicinal for colds and sore throats), a potato ground (and this
was not so common at the close of the last century as it is now), a
cabbage bed, a bush of sage, and balm, and thyme, and marjoram, with
possibly a rose tree, and 'old man' growing in the midst; a little
plot of small strong coarse onions, and perhaps some marigolds, the
petals of which flavoured the salt-beef broth; such plants made up a
well-furnished garden to a farmhouse at the time and place to which
my story belongs. But for twenty miles inland there was no
forgetting the sea, nor the sea-trade; refuse shell-fish, seaweed,
the offal of the melting-houses, were the staple manure of the
district; great ghastly whale-jaws, bleached bare and white, were
the arches over the gate-posts to many a field or moorland stretch.
Out of every family of several sons, however agricultural their
position might be, one had gone to sea, and the mother looked
wistfully seaward at the changes of the keen piping moorland winds.
The holiday rambles were to the coast; no one cared to go inland to
see aught, unless indeed it might be to the great annual horse-fairs
held where the dreary land broke into habitation and cultivation.

Somehow in this country sea thoughts followed the thinker far
inland; whereas in most other parts of the island, at five miles
from the ocean, he has all but forgotten the existence of such an
element as salt water. The great Greenland trade of the coasting
towns was the main and primary cause of this, no doubt. But there
was also a dread and an irritation in every one's mind, at the time
of which I write, in connection with the neighbouring sea.

Since the termination of the American war, there had been nothing to
call for any unusual energy in manning the navy; and the grants
required by Government for this purpose diminished with every year
of peace. In 1792 this grant touched its minimum for many years. In
1793 the proceedings of the French had set Europe on fire, and the
English were raging with anti-Gallican excitement, fomented into
action by every expedient of the Crown and its Ministers. We had our
ships; but where were our men? The Admiralty had, however, a ready
remedy at hand, with ample precedent for its use, and with common
(if not statute) law to sanction its application. They issued 'press
warrants,' calling upon the civil power throughout the country to
support their officers in the discharge of their duty. The sea-coast
was divided into districts, under the charge of a captain in the
navy, who again delegated sub-districts to lieutenants; and in this
manner all homeward-bound vessels were watched and waited for, all
ports were under supervision; and in a day, if need were, a large
number of men could be added to the forces of his Majesty's navy.
But if the Admiralty became urgent in their demands, they were also
willing to be unscrupulous. Landsmen, if able-bodied, might soon be
trained into good sailors; and once in the hold of the tender, which
always awaited the success of the operations of the press-gang, it
was difficult for such prisoners to bring evidence of the nature of
their former occupations, especially when none had leisure to listen
to such evidence, or were willing to believe it if they did listen,
or would act upon it for the release of the captive if they had by
possibility both listened and believed. Men were kidnapped,
literally disappeared, and nothing was ever heard of them again. The
street of a busy town was not safe from such press-gang captures, as
Lord Thurlow could have told, after a certain walk he took about
this time on Tower Hill, when he, the attorney-general of England,
was impressed, when the Admiralty had its own peculiar ways of
getting rid of tiresome besiegers and petitioners. Nor yet were
lonely inland dwellers more secure; many a rustic went to a statute
fair or 'mop,' and never came home to tell of his hiring; many a
stout young farmer vanished from his place by the hearth of his
father, and was no more heard of by mother or lover; so great was
the press for men to serve in the navy during the early years of the
war with France, and after every great naval victory of that war.

The servants of the Admiralty lay in wait for all merchantmen and
traders; there were many instances of vessels returning home after
long absence, and laden with rich cargo, being boarded within a
day's distance of land, and so many men pressed and carried off,
that the ship, with her cargo, became unmanageable from the loss of
her crew, drifted out again into the wild wide ocean, and was
sometimes found in the helpless guidance of one or two infirm or
ignorant sailors; sometimes such vessels were never heard of more.
The men thus pressed were taken from the near grasp of parents or
wives, and were often deprived of the hard earnings of years, which
remained in the hands of the masters of the merchantman in which
they had served, subject to all the chances of honesty or
dishonesty, life or death. Now all this tyranny (for I can use no
other word) is marvellous to us; we cannot imagine how it is that a
nation submitted to it for so long, even under any warlike
enthusiasm, any panic of invasion, any amount of loyal subservience
to the governing powers. When we read of the military being called
in to assist the civil power in backing up the press-gang, of
parties of soldiers patrolling the streets, and sentries with
screwed bayonets placed at every door while the press-gang entered
and searched each hole and corner of the dwelling; when we hear of
churches being surrounded during divine service by troops, while the
press-gang stood ready at the door to seize men as they came out
from attending public worship, and take these instances as merely
types of what was constantly going on in different forms, we do not
wonder at Lord Mayors, and other civic authorities in large towns,
complaining that a stop was put to business by the danger which the
tradesmen and their servants incurred in leaving their houses and
going into the streets, infested by press-gangs.

Whether it was that living in closer neighbourhood to the
metropolis--the centre of politics and news--inspired the
inhabitants of the southern counties with a strong feeling of that
kind of patriotism which consists in hating all other nations; or
whether it was that the chances of capture were so much greater at
all the southern ports that the merchant sailors became inured to
the danger; or whether it was that serving in the navy, to those
familiar with such towns as Portsmouth and Plymouth, had an
attraction to most men from the dash and brilliancy of the
adventurous employment--it is certain that the southerners took the
oppression of press-warrants more submissively than the wild
north-eastern people. For with them the chances of profit beyond
their wages in the whaling or Greenland trade extended to the lowest
description of sailor. He might rise by daring and saving to be a
ship-owner himself. Numbers around him had done so; and this very
fact made the distinction between class and class less apparent; and
the common ventures and dangers, the universal interest felt in one
pursuit, bound the inhabitants of that line of coast together with a
strong tie, the severance of which by any violent extraneous
measure, gave rise to passionate anger and thirst for vengeance. A
Yorkshireman once said to me, 'My county folk are all alike. Their
first thought is how to resist. Why! I myself, if I hear a man say
it is a fine day, catch myself trying to find out that it is no such
thing. It is so in thought; it is so in word; it is so in deed.'

So you may imagine the press-gang had no easy time of it on the
Yorkshire coast. In other places they inspired fear, but here rage
and hatred. The Lord Mayor of York was warned on 20th January, 1777,
by an anonymous letter, that 'if those men were not sent from the
city on or before the following Tuesday, his lordship's own
dwelling, and the Mansion-house also, should be burned to the
ground.'

Perhaps something of the ill-feeling that prevailed on the subject
was owing to the fact which I have noticed in other places similarly
situated. Where the landed possessions of gentlemen of ancient
family but limited income surround a centre of any kind of
profitable trade or manufacture, there is a sort of latent ill-will
on the part of the squires to the tradesman, be he manufacturer,
merchant, or ship-owner, in whose hands is held a power of
money-making, which no hereditary pride, or gentlemanly love of
doing nothing, prevents him from using. This ill-will, to be sure,
is mostly of a negative kind; its most common form of manifestation
is in absence of speech or action, a sort of torpid and genteel
ignoring all unpleasant neighbours; but really the whale-fisheries
of Monkshaven had become so impertinently and obtrusively prosperous
of late years at the time of which I write, the Monkshaven
ship-owners were growing so wealthy and consequential, that the
squires, who lived at home at ease in the old stone manor-houses
scattered up and down the surrounding moorland, felt that the check
upon the Monkshaven trade likely to be inflicted by the press-gang,
was wisely ordained by the higher powers (how high they placed these
powers I will not venture to say), to prevent overhaste in getting
rich, which was a scriptural fault, and they also thought that they
were only doing their duty in backing up the Admiralty warrants by
all the civil power at their disposal, whenever they were called
upon, and whenever they could do so without taking too much trouble
in affairs which did not after all much concern themselves.

There was just another motive in the minds of some provident parents
of many daughters. The captains and lieutenants employed on this
service were mostly agreeable bachelors, brought up to a genteel
profession, at the least they were very pleasant visitors, when they
had a day to spare; who knew what might come of it?

Indeed, these brave officers were not unpopular in Monkshaven
itself, except at the time when they were brought into actual
collision with the people. They had the frank manners of their
profession; they were known to have served in those engagements, the
very narrative of which at this day will warm the heart of a Quaker,
and they themselves did not come prominently forward in the dirty
work which, nevertheless, was permitted and quietly sanctioned by
them. So while few Monkshaven people passed the low public-house
over which the navy blue-flag streamed, as a sign that it was the
rendezvous of the press-gang, without spitting towards it in sign of
abhorrence, yet, perhaps, the very same persons would give some
rough token of respect to Lieutenant Atkinson if they met him in
High Street. Touching their hats was an unknown gesture in those
parts, but they would move their heads in a droll, familiar kind of
way, neither a wag nor a nod, but meant all the same to imply
friendly regard. The ship-owners, too, invited him to an occasional
dinner or supper, all the time looking forward to the chances of his
turning out an active enemy, and not by any means inclined to give
him 'the run of the house,' however many unmarried daughters might
grace their table. Still as he could tell a rattling story, drink
hard, and was seldom too busy to come at a short notice, he got on
better than any one could have expected with the Monkshaven folk.
And the principal share of the odium of his business fell on his
subordinates, who were one and all regarded in the light of mean
kidnappers and spies--'varmint,' as the common people esteemed
them: and as such they were ready at the first provocation to hunt
and to worry them, and little cared the press-gang for this.
Whatever else they were, they were brave and daring. They had law to
back them, therefore their business was lawful. They were serving
their king and country. They were using all their faculties, and
that is always pleasant. There was plenty of scope for the glory and
triumph of outwitting; plenty of adventure in their life. It was a
lawful and loyal employment, requiring sense, readiness, courage,
and besides it called out that strange love of the chase inherent in
every man. Fourteen or fifteen miles at sea lay the _Aurora_, good
man-of-war; and to her were conveyed the living cargoes of several
tenders, which were stationed at likely places along the sea-coast.
One, the _Lively Lady_, might be seen from the cliffs above
Monkshaven, not so far away, but hidden by the angle of the high
lands from the constant sight of the townspeople; and there was
always the Randyvow-house (as the public-house with the navy
blue-flag was called thereabouts) for the crew of the _Lively Lady_
to lounge about, and there to offer drink to unwary passers-by. At
present this was all that the press-gang had done at Monkshaven.



CHAPTER II

HOME FROM GREENLAND


One hot day, early in October of the year 1796, two girls set off
from their country homes to Monkshaven to sell their butter and
eggs, for they were both farmers' daughters, though rather in
different circumstances; for Molly Corney was one of a large family
of children, and had to rough it accordingly; Sylvia Robson was an
only child, and was much made of in more people's estimation than
Mary's by her elderly parents. They had each purchases to make after
their sales were effected, as sales of butter and eggs were effected
in those days by the market-women sitting on the steps of the great
old mutilated cross till a certain hour in the afternoon, after
which, if all their goods were not disposed of, they took them
unwillingly to the shops and sold them at a lower price. But good
housewives did not despise coming themselves to the Butter Cross,
and, smelling and depreciating the articles they wanted, kept up a
perpetual struggle of words, trying, often in vain, to beat down
prices. A housekeeper of the last century would have thought that
she did not know her business, if she had not gone through this
preliminary process; and the farmers' wives and daughters treated it
all as a matter of course, replying with a good deal of independent
humour to the customer, who, once having discovered where good
butter and fresh eggs were to be sold, came time after time to
depreciate the articles she always ended in taking. There was
leisure for all this kind of work in those days.

Molly had tied a knot on her pink-spotted handkerchief for each of
the various purchases she had to make; dull but important articles
needed for the week's consumption at home; if she forgot any one of
them she knew she was sure of a good 'rating' from her mother. The
number of them made her pocket-handkerchief look like one of the
nine-tails of a 'cat;' but not a single thing was for herself, nor,
indeed, for any one individual of her numerous family. There was
neither much thought nor much money to spend for any but collective
wants in the Corney family.

It was different with Sylvia. She was going to choose her first
cloak, not to have an old one of her mother's, that had gone down
through two sisters, dyed for the fourth time (and Molly would have
been glad had even this chance been hers), but to buy a bran-new
duffle cloak all for herself, with not even an elder authority to
curb her as to price, only Molly to give her admiring counsel, and
as much sympathy as was consistent with a little patient envy of
Sylvia's happier circumstances. Every now and then they wandered off
from the one grand subject of thought, but Sylvia, with unconscious
art, soon brought the conversation round to the fresh consideration
of the respective merits of gray and scarlet. These girls were
walking bare-foot and carrying their shoes and stockings in their
hands during the first part of their way; but as they were drawing
near Monkshaven they stopped, and turned aside along a foot-path
that led from the main-road down to the banks of the Dee. There were
great stones in the river about here, round which the waters
gathered and eddied and formed deep pools. Molly sate down on the
grassy bank to wash her feet; but Sylvia, more active (or perhaps
lighter-hearted with the notion of the cloak in the distance),
placed her basket on a gravelly bit of shore, and, giving a long
spring, seated herself on a stone almost in the middle of the
stream. Then she began dipping her little rosy toes in the cool
rushing water and whisking them out with childish glee.

'Be quiet, wi' the', Sylvia? Thou'st splashing me all ower, and my
feyther'll noane be so keen o' giving me a new cloak as thine is,
seemingly.'

Sylvia was quiet, not to say penitent, in a moment. She drew up her
feet instantly; and, as if to take herself out of temptation, she
turned away from Molly to that side of her stony seat on which the
current ran shallow, and broken by pebbles. But once disturbed in
her play, her thoughts reverted to the great subject of the cloak.
She was now as still as a minute before she had been full of frolic
and gambolling life. She had tucked herself up on the stone, as if
it had been a cushion, and she a little sultana.

Molly was deliberately washing her feet and drawing on her
stockings, when she heard a sudden sigh, and her companion turned
round so as to face her, and said,

'I wish mother hadn't spoken up for t' gray.'

'Why, Sylvia, thou wert saying as we topped t'brow, as she did
nought but bid thee think twice afore settling on scarlet.'

'Ay! but mother's words are scarce, and weigh heavy. Feyther's liker
me, and we talk a deal o' rubble; but mother's words are liker to
hewn stone. She puts a deal o' meaning in 'em. And then,' said
Sylvia, as if she was put out by the suggestion, 'she bid me ask
cousin Philip for his opinion. I hate a man as has getten an opinion
on such-like things.'

'Well! we shall niver get to Monkshaven this day, either for to sell
our eggs and stuff, or to buy thy cloak, if we're sittin' here much
longer. T' sun's for slanting low, so come along, lass, and let's be
going.'

'But if I put on my stockings and shoon here, and jump back into yon
wet gravel, I 'se not be fit to be seen,' said Sylvia, in a pathetic
tone of bewilderment, that was funnily childlike. She stood up, her
bare feet curved round the curving surface of the stone, her slight
figure balancing as if in act to spring.

'Thou knows thou'll have just to jump back barefoot, and wash thy
feet afresh, without making all that ado; thou shouldst ha' done it
at first, like me, and all other sensible folk. But thou'st getten
no gumption.'

Molly's mouth was stopped by Sylvia's hand. She was already on the
river bank by her friend's side.

'Now dunnot lecture me; I'm none for a sermon hung on every peg o'
words. I'm going to have a new cloak, lass, and I cannot heed thee
if thou dost lecture. Thou shall have all the gumption, and I'll
have my cloak.'

It may be doubted whether Molly thought this an equal division.

Each girl wore tightly-fitting stockings, knit by her own hands, of
the blue worsted common in that country; they had on neat
high-heeled black leather shoes, coming well over the instep, and
fastened as well as ornamented with bright steel buckles. They did
not walk so lightly and freely now as they did before they were
shod, but their steps were still springy with the buoyancy of early
youth; for neither of them was twenty, indeed I believe Sylvia was
not more than seventeen at this time.

They clambered up the steep grassy path, with brambles catching at
their kilted petticoats, through the copse-wood, till they regained
the high road; and then they 'settled themselves,' as they called
it; that is to say, they took off their black felt hats, and tied up
their clustering hair afresh; they shook off every speck of wayside
dust; straightened the little shawls (or large neck-kerchiefs, call
them which you will) that were spread over their shoulders, pinned
below the throat, and confined at the waist by their apron-strings;
and then putting on their hats again, and picking up their baskets,
they prepared to walk decorously into the town of Monkshaven.

The next turn of the road showed them the red peaked roofs of the
closely packed houses lying almost directly below the hill on which
they were. The full autumn sun brought out the ruddy colour of the
tiled gables, and deepened the shadows in the narrow streets. The
narrow harbour at the mouth of the river was crowded with small
vessels of all descriptions, making an intricate forest of masts.
Beyond lay the sea, like a flat pavement of sapphire, scarcely a
ripple varying its sunny surface, that stretched out leagues away
till it blended with the softened azure of the sky. On this blue
trackless water floated scores of white-sailed fishing boats,
apparently motionless, unless you measured their progress by some
land-mark; but still, and silent, and distant as they seemed, the
consciousness that there were men on board, each going forth into
the great deep, added unspeakably to the interest felt in watching
them. Close to the bar of the river Dee a larger vessel lay to.
Sylvia, who had only recently come into the neighbourhood, looked at
this with the same quiet interest as she did at all the others; but
Molly, as soon as her eye caught the build of it, cried out aloud--

'She's a whaler! she's a whaler home from t' Greenland seas! T'
first this season! God bless her!' and she turned round and shook
both Sylvia's hands in the fulness of her excitement. Sylvia's
colour rose, and her eyes sparkled out of sympathy.

'Is ta sure?' she asked, breathless in her turn; for though she did
not know by the aspect of the different ships on what trade they
were bound, yet she was well aware of the paramount interest
attached to whaling vessels.

'Three o'clock! and it's not high water till five!' said Molly. 'If
we're sharp we can sell our eggs, and be down to the staithes before
she comes into port. Be sharp, lass!'

And down the steep long hill they went at a pace that was almost a
run. A run they dared not make it; and as it was, the rate at which
they walked would have caused destruction among eggs less carefully
packed. When the descent was ended, there was yet the long narrow
street before them, bending and swerving from the straight line, as
it followed the course of the river. The girls felt as if they
should never come to the market-place, which was situated at the
crossing of Bridge Street and High Street. There the old stone cross
was raised by the monks long ago; now worn and mutilated, no one
esteemed it as a holy symbol, but only as the Butter Cross, where
market-women clustered on Wednesday, and whence the town crier made
all his proclamations of household sales, things lost or found,
beginning with 'Oh! yes, oh! yes, oh! yes!' and ending with 'God
bless the king and the lord of this manor,' and a very brisk 'Amen,'
before he went on his way and took off the livery-coat, the colours
of which marked him as a servant of the Burnabys, the family who
held manorial rights over Monkshaven.

Of course the much frequented space surrounding the Butter Cross was
the favourite centre for shops; and on this day, a fine market day,
just when good housewives begin to look over their winter store of
blankets and flannels, and discover their needs betimes, these shops
ought to have had plenty of customers. But they were empty and of
even quieter aspect than their every-day wont. The three-legged
creepie-stools that were hired out at a penny an hour to such
market-women as came too late to find room on the steps were
unoccupied; knocked over here and there, as if people had passed by
in haste.

Molly took in all at a glance, and interpreted the signs, though she
had no time to explain their meaning, and her consequent course of
action, to Sylvia, but darted into a corner shop.

'T' whalers is coming home! There's one lying outside t' bar!'

This was put in the form of an assertion; but the tone was that of
eager cross-questioning.

'Ay!' said a lame man, mending fishing-nets behind a rough deal
counter. 'She's come back airly, and she's brought good news o' t'
others, as I've heered say. Time was I should ha' been on th'
staithes throwing up my cap wit' t' best on 'em; but now it pleases
t' Lord to keep me at home, and set me to mind other folks' gear.
See thee, wench, there's a vast o' folk ha' left their skeps o'
things wi' me while they're away down to t' quay side. Leave me your
eggs and be off wi' ye for t' see t' fun, for mebbe ye'll live to be
palsied yet, and then ye'll be fretting ower spilt milk, and that ye
didn't tak' all chances when ye was young. Ay, well! they're out o'
hearin' o' my moralities; I'd better find a lamiter like mysen to
preach to, for it's not iverybody has t' luck t' clargy has of
saying their say out whether folks likes it or not.'

He put the baskets carefully away with much of such talk as this
addressed to himself while he did so. Then he sighed once or twice;
and then he took the better course and began to sing over his tarry
work.

Molly and Sylvia were far along the staithes by the time he got to
this point of cheerfulness. They ran on, regardless of stitches and
pains in the side; on along the river bank to where the concourse of
people was gathered. There was no great length of way between the
Butter Cross and the harbour; in five minutes the breathless girls
were close together in the best place they could get for seeing, on
the outside of the crowd; and in as short a time longer they were
pressed inwards, by fresh arrivals, into the very midst of the
throng. All eyes were directed to the ship, beating her anchor just
outside the bar, not a quarter of a mile away. The custom-house
officer was just gone aboard of her to receive the captain's report
of his cargo, and make due examination. The men who had taken him
out in his boat were rowing back to the shore, and brought small
fragments of news when they landed a little distance from the crowd,
which moved as one man to hear what was to be told. Sylvia took a
hard grasp of the hand of the older and more experienced Molly, and
listened open-mouthed to the answers she was extracting from a gruff
old sailor she happened to find near her.

'What ship is she?'

'T' _Resolution_ of Monkshaven!' said he, indignantly, as if any
goose might have known that.

'An' a good _Resolution_, and a blessed ship she's been to me,'
piped out an old woman, close at Mary's elbow. 'She's brought me
home my ae' lad--for he shouted to yon boatman to bid him tell me he
was well. 'Tell Peggy Christison,' says he (my name is Margaret
Christison)--'tell Peggy Christison as her son Hezekiah is come back
safe and sound.' The Lord's name be praised! An' me a widow as never
thought to see my lad again!'

It seemed as if everybody relied on every one else's sympathy in
that hour of great joy.

'I ax pardon, but if you'd gie me just a bit of elbow-room for a
minute like, I'd hold my babby up, so that he might see daddy's
ship, and happen, my master might see him. He's four months old last
Tuesday se'nnight, and his feyther's never clapt eyne on him yet,
and he wi' a tooth through, an another just breaking, bless him!'

One or two of the better end of the Monkshaven inhabitants stood a
little before Molly and Sylvia; and as they moved in compliance with
the young mother's request, they overheard some of the information
these ship-owners had received from the boatman.

'Haynes says they'll send the manifest of the cargo ashore in twenty
minutes, as soon as Fishburn has looked over the casks. Only eight
whales, according to what he says.'

'No one can tell,' said the other, 'till the manifest comes to
hand.'

'I'm afraid he's right. But he brings a good report of the _Good
Fortune_. She's off St Abb's Head, with something like fifteen
whales to her share.'

'We shall see how much is true, when she comes in.'

'That'll be by the afternoon tide to-morrow.'

'That's my cousin's ship,' said Molly to Sylvia. 'He's specksioneer
on board the _Good Fortune_.'

An old man touched her as she spoke--

'I humbly make my manners, missus, but I'm stone blind; my lad's
aboard yon vessel outside t' bar; and my old woman is bed-fast. Will
she be long, think ye, in making t' harbour? Because, if so be as
she were, I'd just make my way back, and speak a word or two to my
missus, who'll be boiling o'er into some mak o' mischief now she
knows he's so near. May I be so bold as to ax if t' Crooked Negro is
covered yet?'

Molly stood on tip-toe to try and see the black stone thus named;
but Sylvia, stooping and peeping through the glimpses afforded
between the arms of the moving people, saw it first, and told the
blind old man it was still above water.

'A watched pot,' said he, 'ne'er boils, I reckon. It's ta'en a vast
o' watter t' cover that stone to-day. Anyhow, I'll have time to go
home and rate my missus for worritin' hersen, as I'll be bound she's
done, for all as I bade her not, but to keep easy and content.'

'We'd better be off too,' said Molly, as an opening was made through
the press to let out the groping old man. 'Eggs and butter is yet to
sell, and tha' cloak to be bought.'

'Well, I suppose we had!' said Sylvia, rather regretfully; for,
though all the way into Monkshaven her head had been full of the
purchase of this cloak, yet she was of that impressible nature that
takes the tone of feeling from those surrounding; and though she
knew no one on board the Resolution, she was just as anxious for the
moment to see her come into harbour as any one in the crowd who had
a dear relation on board. So she turned reluctantly to follow the
more prudent Molly along the quay back to the Butter Cross.

It was a pretty scene, though it was too familiar to the eyes of all
who then saw it for them to notice its beauty. The sun was low
enough in the west to turn the mist that filled the distant valley
of the river into golden haze. Above, on either bank of the Dee,
there lay the moorland heights swelling one behind the other; the
nearer, russet brown with the tints of the fading bracken; the more
distant, gray and dim against the rich autumnal sky. The red and
fluted tiles of the gabled houses rose in crowded irregularity on
one side of the river, while the newer suburb was built in more
orderly and less picturesque fashion on the opposite cliff. The
river itself was swelling and chafing with the incoming tide till
its vexed waters rushed over the very feet of the watching crowd on
the staithes, as the great sea waves encroached more and more every
minute. The quay-side was unsavourily ornamented with glittering
fish-scales, for the hauls of fish were cleansed in the open air,
and no sanitary arrangements existed for sweeping away any of the
relics of this operation.

The fresh salt breeze was bringing up the lashing, leaping tide from
the blue sea beyond the bar. Behind the returning girls there rocked
the white-sailed ship, as if she were all alive with eagerness for
her anchors to be heaved.

How impatient her crew of beating hearts were for that moment, how
those on land sickened at the suspense, may be imagined, when you
remember that for six long summer months those sailors had been as
if dead from all news of those they loved; shut up in terrible,
dreary Arctic seas from the hungry sight of sweethearts and friends,
wives and mothers. No one knew what might have happened. The crowd
on shore grew silent and solemn before the dread of the possible
news of death that might toll in upon their hearts with this
uprushing tide. The whalers went out into the Greenland seas full of
strong, hopeful men; but the whalers never returned as they sailed
forth. On land there are deaths among two or three hundred men to be
mourned over in every half-year's space of time. Whose bones had
been left to blacken on the gray and terrible icebergs? Who lay
still until the sea should give up its dead? Who were those who
should come back to Monkshaven never, no, never more?

Many a heart swelled with passionate, unspoken fear, as the first
whaler lay off the bar on her return voyage.

Molly and Sylvia had left the crowd in this hushed suspense. But
fifty yards along the staithe they passed five or six girls with
flushed faces and careless attire, who had mounted a pile of timber,
placed there to season for ship-building, from which, as from the
steps of a ladder or staircase, they could command the harbour. They
were wild and free in their gestures, and held each other by the
hand, and swayed from side to side, stamping their feet in time, as
they sang--

  Weel may the keel row, the keel row, the keel row,
  Weel may the keel row that my laddie's in!

'What for are ye going off, now?' they called out to our two girls.
'She'll be in in ten minutes!' and without waiting for the answer
which never came, they resumed their song.

Old sailors stood about in little groups, too proud to show their
interest in the adventures they could no longer share, but quite
unable to keep up any semblance of talk on indifferent subjects.

The town seemed very quiet and deserted as Molly and Sylvia entered
the dark, irregular Bridge Street, and the market-place was as empty
of people as before. But the skeps and baskets and three-legged
stools were all cleared away.

'Market's over for to-day,' said Molly Corney, in disappointed
surprise. 'We mun make the best on't, and sell to t' huxters, and a
hard bargain they'll be for driving. I doubt mother'll be vexed.'

She and Sylvia went to the corner shop to reclaim their baskets. The
man had his joke at them for their delay.

'Ay, ay! lasses as has sweethearts a-coming home don't care much
what price they get for butter and eggs! I dare say, now, there's
some un in yon ship that 'ud give as much as a shilling a pound for
this butter if he only knowed who churned it!' This was to Sylvia,
as he handed her back her property.

The fancy-free Sylvia reddened, pouted, tossed back her head, and
hardly deigned a farewell word of thanks or civility to the lame
man; she was at an age to be affronted by any jokes on such a
subject. Molly took the joke without disclaimer and without offence.
She rather liked the unfounded idea of her having a sweetheart, and
was rather surprised to think how devoid of foundation the notion
was. If she could have a new cloak as Sylvia was going to have,
then, indeed, there might be a chance! Until some such good luck, it
was as well to laugh and blush as if the surmise of her having a
lover was not very far from the truth, and so she replied in
something of the same strain as the lame net-maker to his joke about
the butter.

'He'll need it all, and more too, to grease his tongue, if iver he
reckons to win me for his wife!'

When they were out of the shop, Sylvia said, in a coaxing tone,--

'Molly, who is it? Whose tongue 'll need greasing? Just tell me, and
I'll never tell!'

She was so much in earnest that Molly was perplexed. She did not
quite like saying that she had alluded to no one in particular, only
to a possible sweetheart, so she began to think what young man had
made the most civil speeches to her in her life; the list was not a
long one to go over, for her father was not so well off as to make
her sought after for her money, and her face was rather of the
homeliest. But she suddenly remembered her cousin, the specksioneer,
who had given her two large shells, and taken a kiss from her
half-willing lips before he went to sea the last time. So she smiled
a little, and then said,--

'Well! I dunno. It's ill talking o' these things afore one has made
up one's mind. And perhaps if Charley Kinraid behaves hissen, I
might be brought to listen.'

'Charley Kinraid! who's he?'

'Yon specksioneer cousin o' mine, as I was talking on.'

'And do yo' think he cares for yo'?' asked Sylvia, in a low, tender
tone, as if touching on a great mystery.

Molly only said, 'Be quiet wi' yo',' and Sylvia could not make out
whether she cut the conversation so short because she was offended,
or because they had come to the shop where they had to sell their
butter and eggs.

'Now, Sylvia, if thou'll leave me thy basket, I'll make as good a
bargain as iver I can on 'em; and thou can be off to choose this
grand new cloak as is to be, afore it gets any darker. Where is ta
going to?'

'Mother said I'd better go to Foster's,' answered Sylvia, with a
shade of annoyance in her face. 'Feyther said just anywhere.'

'Foster's is t' best place; thou canst try anywhere afterwards. I'll
be at Foster's in five minutes, for I reckon we mun hasten a bit
now. It'll be near five o'clock.'

Sylvia hung her head and looked very demure as she walked off by
herself to Foster's shop in the market-place.



CHAPTER III

BUYING A NEW CLOAK


Foster's shop was the shop of Monkshaven. It was kept by two Quaker
brothers, who were now old men; and their father had kept it before
them; probably his father before that. People remembered it as an
old-fashioned dwelling-house, with a sort of supplementary shop with
unglazed windows projecting from the lower story. These openings had
long been filled with panes of glass that at the present day would
be accounted very small, but which seventy years ago were much
admired for their size. I can best make you understand the
appearance of the place by bidding you think of the long openings in
a butcher's shop, and then to fill them up in your imagination with
panes about eight inches by six, in a heavy wooden frame. There was
one of these windows on each side the door-place, which was kept
partially closed through the day by a low gate about a yard high.
Half the shop was appropriated to grocery; the other half to
drapery, and a little mercery. The good old brothers gave all their
known customers a kindly welcome; shaking hands with many of them,
and asking all after their families and domestic circumstances
before proceeding to business. They would not for the world have had
any sign of festivity at Christmas, and scrupulously kept their shop
open at that holy festival, ready themselves to serve sooner than
tax the consciences of any of their assistants, only nobody ever
came. But on New Year's Day they had a great cake, and wine, ready
in the parlour behind the shop, of which all who came in to buy
anything were asked to partake. Yet, though scrupulous in most
things, it did not go against the consciences of these good brothers
to purchase smuggled articles. There was a back way from the
river-side, up a covered entry, to the yard-door of the Fosters, and
a peculiar kind of knock at this door always brought out either John
or Jeremiah, or if not them, their shopman, Philip Hepburn; and the
same cake and wine that the excise officer's wife might just have
been tasting, was brought out in the back parlour to treat the
smuggler. There was a little locking of doors, and drawing of the
green silk curtain that was supposed to shut out the shop, but
really all this was done very much for form's sake. Everybody in
Monkshaven smuggled who could, and every one wore smuggled goods who
could, and great reliance was placed on the excise officer's
neighbourly feelings.

The story went that John and Jeremiah Foster were so rich that they
could buy up all the new town across the bridge. They had certainly
begun to have a kind of primitive bank in connection with their
shop, receiving and taking care of such money as people did not wish
to retain in their houses for fear of burglars. No one asked them
for interest on the money thus deposited, nor did they give any;
but, on the other hand, if any of their customers, on whose
character they could depend, wanted a little advance, the Fosters,
after due inquiries made, and in some cases due security given, were
not unwilling to lend a moderate sum without charging a penny for
the use of their money. All the articles they sold were as good as
they knew how to choose, and for them they expected and obtained
ready money. It was said that they only kept on the shop for their
amusement. Others averred that there was some plan of a marriage
running in the brothers' heads--a marriage between William Coulson,
Mr. Jeremiah's wife's nephew (Mr. Jeremiah was a widower), and Hester
Rose, whose mother was some kind of distant relation, and who served
in the shop along with William Coulson and Philip Hepburn. Again,
this was denied by those who averred that Coulson was no blood
relation, and that if the Fosters had intended to do anything
considerable for Hester, they would never have allowed her and her
mother to live in such a sparing way, ekeing out their small income
by having Coulson and Hepburn for lodgers. No; John and Jeremiah
would leave all their money to some hospital or to some charitable
institution. But, of course, there was a reply to this; when are
there not many sides to an argument about a possibility concerning
which no facts are known? Part of the reply turned on this: the old
gentlemen had, probably, some deep plan in their heads in permitting
their cousin to take Coulson and Hepburn as lodgers, the one a kind
of nephew, the other, though so young, the head man in the shop; if
either of them took a fancy to Hester, how agreeably matters could
be arranged!

All this time Hester is patiently waiting to serve Sylvia, who is
standing before her a little shy, a little perplexed and distracted,
by the sight of so many pretty things.

Hester was a tall young woman, sparely yet largely formed, of a
grave aspect, which made her look older than she really was. Her
thick brown hair was smoothly taken off her broad forehead, and put
in a very orderly fashion, under her linen cap; her face was a
little square, and her complexion sallow, though the texture of her
skin was fine. Her gray eyes were very pleasant, because they looked
at you so honestly and kindly; her mouth was slightly compressed, as
most have it who are in the habit of restraining their feelings; but
when she spoke you did not perceive this, and her rare smile slowly
breaking forth showed her white even teeth, and when accompanied, as
it generally was, by a sudden uplifting of her soft eyes, it made
her countenance very winning. She was dressed in stuff of sober
colours, both in accordance with her own taste, and in unasked
compliance with the religious customs of the Fosters; but Hester
herself was not a Friend.

Sylvia, standing opposite, not looking at Hester, but gazing at the
ribbons in the shop window, as if hardly conscious that any one
awaited the expression of her wishes, was a great contrast; ready to
smile or to pout, or to show her feelings in any way, with a
character as undeveloped as a child's, affectionate, wilful,
naughty, tiresome, charming, anything, in fact, at present that the
chances of an hour called out. Hester thought her customer the
prettiest creature ever seen, in the moment she had for admiration
before Sylvia turned round and, recalled to herself, began,--

'Oh, I beg your pardon, miss; I was thinking what may the price of
yon crimson ribbon be?'

Hester said nothing, but went to examine the shop-mark.

'Oh! I did not mean that I wanted any, I only want some stuff for a
cloak. Thank you, miss, but I am very sorry--some duffle, please.'

Hester silently replaced the ribbon and went in search of the
duffle. While she was gone Sylvia was addressed by the very person
she most wished to avoid, and whose absence she had rejoiced over on
first entering the shop, her cousin Philip Hepburn.

He was a serious-looking young man, tall, but with a slight stoop in
his shoulders, brought on by his occupation. He had thick hair
standing off from his forehead in a peculiar but not unpleasing
manner; a long face, with a slightly aquiline nose, dark eyes, and a
long upper lip, which gave a disagreeable aspect to a face that
might otherwise have been good-looking.

'Good day, Sylvie,' he said; 'what are you wanting? How are all at
home? Let me help you!'

Sylvia pursed up her red lips, and did not look at him as she
replied,

'I'm very well, and so is mother; feyther's got a touch of
rheumatiz, and there's a young woman getting what I want.'

She turned a little away from him when she had ended this sentence,
as if it had comprised all she could possibly have to say to him.
But he exclaimed,

'You won't know how to choose,' and, seating himself on the counter,
he swung himself over after the fashion of shop-men.

Sylvia took no notice of him, but pretended to be counting over her
money.

'What do you want, Sylvie?' asked he, at last annoyed at her
silence.

'I don't like to be called "Sylvie;" my name is Sylvia; and I'm
wanting duffle for a cloak, if you must know.'

Hester now returned, with a shop-boy helping her to drag along the
great rolls of scarlet and gray cloth.

'Not that,' said Philip, kicking the red duffle with his foot, and
speaking to the lad. 'It's the gray you want, is it not, Sylvie?' He
used the name he had had the cousin's right to call her by since her
childhood, without remembering her words on the subject not five
minutes before; but she did, and was vexed.

'Please, miss, it is the scarlet duffle I want; don't let him take
it away.'

Hester looked up at both their countenances, a little wondering what
was their position with regard to each other; for this, then, was
the beautiful little cousin about whom Philip had talked to her
mother, as sadly spoilt, and shamefully ignorant; a lovely little
dunce, and so forth. Hester had pictured Sylvia Robson, somehow, as
very different from what she was: younger, more stupid, not half so
bright and charming (for, though she was now both pouting and cross,
it was evident that this was not her accustomed mood). Sylvia
devoted her attention to the red cloth, pushing aside the gray.

Philip Hepburn was vexed at his advice being slighted; and yet he
urged it afresh.

'This is a respectable, quiet-looking article that will go well with
any colour; you niver will be so foolish as to take what will mark
with every drop of rain.'

'I'm sorry you sell such good-for-nothing things,' replied Sylvia,
conscious of her advantage, and relaxing a little (as little as she
possibly could) of her gravity.

Hester came in now.

'He means to say that this cloth will lose its first brightness in
wet or damp; but it will always be a good article, and the colour
will stand a deal of wear. Mr. Foster would not have had it in his
shop else.'

Philip did not like that even a reasonable peace-making interpreter
should come between him and Sylvia, so he held his tongue in
indignant silence.

Hester went on:

'To be sure, this gray is the closer make, and would wear the
longest.'

'I don't care,' said Sylvia, still rejecting the dull gray. 'I like
this best. Eight yards, if you please, miss.'

'A cloak takes nine yards, at least,' said Philip, decisively.

'Mother told me eight,' said Sylvia, secretly conscious that her
mother would have preferred the more sober colour; and feeling that
as she had had her own way in that respect, she was bound to keep to
the directions she had received as to the quantity. But, indeed, she
would not have yielded to Philip in anything that she could help.

There was a sound of children's feet running up the street from the
river-side, shouting with excitement. At the noise, Sylvia forgot
her cloak and her little spirit of vexation, and ran to the
half-door of the shop. Philip followed because she went. Hester
looked on with passive, kindly interest, as soon as she had
completed her duty of measuring. One of those girls whom Sylvia had
seen as she and Molly left the crowd on the quay, came quickly up
the street. Her face, which was handsome enough as to feature, was
whitened with excess of passionate emotion, her dress untidy and
flying, her movements heavy and free. She belonged to the lowest
class of seaport inhabitants. As she came near, Sylvia saw that the
tears were streaming down her cheeks, quite unconsciously to
herself. She recognized Sylvia's face, full of interest as it was,
and stopped her clumsy run to speak to the pretty, sympathetic
creature.

'She's o'er t' bar! She's o'er t' bar! I'm boun' to tell mother!'

She caught at Sylvia's hand, and shook it, and went on breathless
and gasping.

'Sylvia, how came you to know that girl?' asked Philip, sternly.
'She's not one for you to be shaking hands with. She's known all
down t' quay-side as "Newcastle Bess."'

'I can't help it,' said Sylvia, half inclined to cry at his manner
even more than his words. 'When folk are glad I can't help being
glad too, and I just put out my hand, and she put out hers. To think
o' yon ship come in at last! And if yo'd been down seeing all t'
folk looking and looking their eyes out, as if they feared they
should die afore she came in and brought home the lads they loved,
yo'd ha' shaken hands wi' that lass too, and no great harm done. I
never set eyne upon her till half an hour ago on th' staithes, and
maybe I'll niver see her again.'

Hester was still behind the counter, but had moved so as to be near
the window; so she heard what they were saying, and now put in her
word:

'She can't be altogether bad, for she thought o' telling her mother
first thing, according to what she said.'

Sylvia gave Hester a quick, grateful look. But Hester had resumed
her gaze out of the window, and did not see the glance.

And now Molly Corney joined them, hastily bursting into the shop.

'Hech!' said she. 'Hearken! how they're crying and shouting down on
t' quay. T' gang's among 'em like t' day of judgment. Hark!'

No one spoke, no one breathed, I had almost said no heart beat for
listening. Not long; in an instant there rose the sharp simultaneous
cry of many people in rage and despair. Inarticulate at that
distance, it was yet an intelligible curse, and the roll, and the
roar, and the irregular tramp came nearer and nearer.

'They're taking 'em to t' Randyvowse,' said Molly. 'Eh! I wish I'd
King George here just to tell him my mind.'

The girl clenched her hands, and set her teeth.

'It's terrible hard!' said Hester; 'there's mothers, and wives,
looking out for 'em, as if they were stars dropt out o' t' lift.'

'But can we do nothing for 'em?' cried Sylvia. 'Let us go into t'
thick of it and do a bit of help; I can't stand quiet and see 't!'
Half crying, she pushed forwards to the door; but Philip held her
back.

'Sylvie! you must not. Don't be silly; it's the law, and no one can
do aught against it, least of all women and lasses.

By this time the vanguard of the crowd came pressing up Bridge
Street, past the windows of Foster's shop. It consisted of wild,
half-amphibious boys, slowly moving backwards, as they were
compelled by the pressure of the coming multitude to go on, and yet
anxious to defy and annoy the gang by insults, and curses half
choked with their indignant passion, doubling their fists in the
very faces of the gang who came on with measured movement, armed to
the teeth, their faces showing white with repressed and determined
energy against the bronzed countenances of the half-dozen sailors,
who were all they had thought it wise to pick out of the whaler's
crew, this being the first time an Admiralty warrant had been used
in Monkshaven for many years; not since the close of the American
war, in fact. One of the men was addressing to his townspeople, in a
high pitched voice, an exhortation which few could hear, for,
pressing around this nucleus of cruel wrong, were women crying
aloud, throwing up their arms in imprecation, showering down abuse
as hearty and rapid as if they had been a Greek chorus. Their wild,
famished eyes were strained on faces they might not kiss, their
cheeks were flushed to purple with anger or else livid with impotent
craving for revenge. Some of them looked scarce human; and yet an
hour ago these lips, now tightly drawn back so as to show the teeth
with the unconscious action of an enraged wild animal, had been soft
and gracious with the smile of hope; eyes, that were fiery and
bloodshot now, had been loving and bright; hearts, never to recover
from the sense of injustice and cruelty, had been trustful and glad
only one short hour ago.

There were men there, too, sullen and silent, brooding on remedial
revenge; but not many, the greater proportion of this class being
away in the absent whalers.

The stormy multitude swelled into the market-place and formed a
solid crowd there, while the press-gang steadily forced their way on
into High Street, and on to the rendezvous. A low, deep growl went
up from the dense mass, as some had to wait for space to follow the
others--now and then going up, as a lion's growl goes up, into a
shriek of rage.

A woman forced her way up from the bridge. She lived some little way
in the country, and had been late in hearing of the return of the
whaler after her six months' absence; and on rushing down to the
quay-side, she had been told by a score of busy, sympathizing
voices, that her husband was kidnapped for the service of the
Government.

She had need pause in the market-place, the outlet of which was
crammed up. Then she gave tongue for the first time in such a
fearful shriek, you could hardly catch the words she said.

'Jamie! Jamie! will they not let you to me?'

Those were the last words Sylvia heard before her own hysterical
burst of tears called every one's attention to her.

She had been very busy about household work in the morning, and much
agitated by all she had seen and heard since coming into Monkshaven;
and so it ended in this.

Molly and Hester took her through the shop into the parlour
beyond--John Foster's parlour, for Jeremiah, the elder brother,
lived in a house of his own on the other side of the water. It was a
low, comfortable room, with great beams running across the ceiling,
and papered with the same paper as the walls--a piece of elegant
luxury which took Molly's fancy mightily! This parlour looked out on
the dark courtyard in which there grew two or three poplars,
straining upwards to the light; and through an open door between the
backs of two houses could be seen a glimpse of the dancing, heaving
river, with such ships or fishing cobles as happened to be moored in
the waters above the bridge.

They placed Sylvia on the broad, old-fashioned sofa, and gave her
water to drink, and tried to still her sobbing and choking. They
loosed her hat, and copiously splashed her face and clustering
chestnut hair, till at length she came to herself; restored, but
dripping wet. She sate up and looked at them, smoothing back her
tangled curls off her brow, as if to clear both her eyes and her
intellect.

'Where am I?--oh, I know! Thank you. It was very silly, but somehow
it seemed so sad!'

And here she was nearly going off again, but Hester said--

'Ay, it were sad, my poor lass--if I may call you so, for I don't
rightly know your name--but it's best not think on it for we can do
no mak' o' good, and it'll mebbe set you off again. Yo're Philip
Hepburn's cousin, I reckon, and yo' bide at Haytersbank Farm?'

'Yes; she's Sylvia Robson,' put in Molly, not seeing that Hester's
purpose was to make Sylvia speak, and so to divert her attention
from the subject which had set her off into hysterics. 'And we came
in for market,' continued Molly, 'and for t' buy t' new cloak as her
feyther's going to give her; and, for sure, I thought we was i'
luck's way when we saw t' first whaler, and niver dreaming as t'
press-gang 'ud be so marred.'

She, too, began to cry, but her little whimper was stopped by the
sound of the opening door behind her. It was Philip, asking Hester
by a silent gesture if he might come in.

Sylvia turned her face round from the light, and shut her eyes. Her
cousin came close up to her on tip-toe, and looked anxiously at what
he could see of her averted face; then he passed his hand so
slightly over her hair that he could scarcely be said to touch it,
and murmured--

'Poor lassie! it's a pity she came to-day, for it's a long walk in
this heat!'

But Sylvia started to her feet, almost pushing him along. Her
quickened senses heard an approaching step through the courtyard
before any of the others were aware of the sound. In a minute
afterwards, the glass-door at one corner of the parlour was opened
from the outside, and Mr. John stood looking in with some surprise at
the group collected in his usually empty parlour.

'It's my cousin,' said Philip, reddening a little; 'she came wi' her
friend in to market, and to make purchases; and she's got a turn wi'
seeing the press-gang go past carrying some of the crew of the
whaler to the Randyvowse.

'Ay, ay,' said Mr. John, quickly passing on into the shop on tip-toe,
as if he were afraid he were intruding in his own premises, and
beckoning Philip to follow him there. 'Out of strife cometh strife.
I guessed something of the sort was up from what I heard on t'
bridge as I came across fra' brother Jeremiah's.' Here he softly
shut the door between the parlour and the shop. 'It beareth hard on
th' expectant women and childer; nor is it to be wondered at that
they, being unconverted, rage together (poor creatures!) like the
very heathen. Philip,' he said, coming nearer to his 'head young
man,' 'keep Nicholas and Henry at work in the ware-room upstairs
until this riot be over, for it would grieve me if they were misled
into violence.'

Philip hesitated.

'Speak out, man! Always ease an uneasy heart, and never let it get
hidebound.'

'I had thought to convoy my cousin and the other young woman home,
for the town is like to be rough, and it's getting dark.'

'And thou shalt, my lad,' said the good old man; 'and I myself will
try and restrain the natural inclinations of Nicholas and Henry.'

But when he went to find the shop-boys with a gentle homily on his
lips, those to whom it should have been addressed were absent. In
consequence of the riotous state of things, all the other shops in
the market-place had put their shutters up; and Nicholas and Henry,
in the absence of their superiors, had followed the example of their
neighbours, and, as business was over, they had hardly waited to put
the goods away, but had hurried off to help their townsmen in any
struggle that might ensue.

There was no remedy for it, but Mr. John looked rather discomfited.
The state of the counters, and of the disarranged goods, was such
also as would have irritated any man as orderly but less
sweet-tempered. All he said on the subject was: 'The old Adam! the
old Adam!' but he shook his head long after he had finished
speaking.

'Where is William Coulson?' he next asked. 'Oh! I remember. He was
not to come back from York till the night closed in.'

Philip and his master arranged the shop in the exact order the old
man loved. Then he recollected the wish of his subordinate, and
turned round and said--

'Now go with thy cousin and her friend. Hester is here, and old
Hannah. I myself will take Hester home, if need be. But for the
present I think she had best tarry here, as it isn't many steps to
her mother's house, and we may need her help if any of those poor
creatures fall into suffering wi' their violence.'

With this, Mr. John knocked at the door of the parlour, and waited
for permission to enter. With old-fashioned courtesy he told the two
strangers how glad he was that his room had been of service to them;
that he would never have made so bold as to pass through it, if he
had been aware how it was occupied. And then going to a corner
cupboard, high up in the wall, he pulled a key out of his pocket and
unlocked his little store of wine, and cake, and spirits; and
insisted that they should eat and drink while waiting for Philip,
who was taking some last measures for the security of the shop
during the night.

Sylvia declined everything, with less courtesy than she ought to
have shown to the offers of the hospitable old man. Molly took wine
and cake, leaving a good half of both, according to the code of
manners in that part of the country; and also because Sylvia was
continually urging her to make haste. For the latter disliked the
idea of her cousin's esteeming it necessary to accompany them home,
and wanted to escape from him by setting off before he returned. But
any such plans were frustrated by Philip's coming back into the
parlour, full of grave content, which brimmed over from his eyes,
with the parcel of Sylvia's obnoxious red duffle under his arm;
anticipating so keenly the pleasure awaiting him in the walk, that
he was almost surprised by the gravity of his companions as they
prepared for it. Sylvia was a little penitent for her rejection of
Mr. John's hospitality, now she found out how unavailing for its
purpose such rejection had been, and tried to make up by a modest
sweetness of farewell, which quite won his heart, and made him
praise her up to Hester in a way to which she, observant of all,
could not bring herself fully to respond. What business had the
pretty little creature to reject kindly-meant hospitality in the
pettish way she did, thought Hester. And, oh! what business had she
to be so ungrateful and to try and thwart Philip in his thoughtful
wish of escorting them through the streets of the rough, riotous
town? What did it all mean?



CHAPTER IV

PHILIP HEPBURN


The coast on that part of the island to which this story refers is
bordered by rocks and cliffs. The inland country immediately
adjacent to the coast is level, flat, and bleak; it is only where
the long stretch of dyke-enclosed fields terminates abruptly in a
sheer descent, and the stranger sees the ocean creeping up the sands
far below him, that he is aware on how great an elevation he has
been. Here and there, as I have said, a cleft in the level land
(thus running out into the sea in steep promontories) occurs--what
they would call a 'chine' in the Isle of Wight; but instead of the
soft south wind stealing up the woody ravine, as it does there, the
eastern breeze comes piping shrill and clear along these northern
chasms, keeping the trees that venture to grow on the sides down to
the mere height of scrubby brushwood. The descent to the shore
through these 'bottoms' is in most cases very abrupt, too much so
for a cartway, or even a bridle-path; but people can pass up and
down without difficulty, by the help of a few rude steps hewn here
and there out of the rock.

Sixty or seventy years ago (not to speak of much later times) the
farmers who owned or hired the land which lay directly on the summit
of these cliffs were smugglers to the extent of their power, only
partially checked by the coast-guard distributed, at pretty nearly
equal interspaces of eight miles, all along the north-eastern
seaboard. Still sea-wrack was a good manure, and there was no law
against carrying it up in great osier baskets for the purpose of
tillage, and many a secret thing was lodged in hidden crevices in
the rocks till the farmer sent trusty people down to the shore for a
good supply of sand and seaweed for his land.

One of the farms on the cliff had lately been taken by Sylvia's
father. He was a man who had roamed about a good deal--been sailor,
smuggler, horse-dealer, and farmer in turns; a sort of fellow
possessed by a spirit of adventure and love of change, which did him
and his own family more harm than anybody else. He was just the kind
of man that all his neighbours found fault with, and all his
neighbours liked. Late in life (for such an imprudent man as he, was
one of a class who generally wed, trusting to chance and luck for
the provision for a family), farmer Robson married a woman whose
only want of practical wisdom consisted in taking him for a husband.
She was Philip Hepburn's aunt, and had had the charge of him until
she married from her widowed brother's house. He it was who had let
her know when Haytersbank Farm had been to let; esteeming it a
likely piece of land for his uncle to settle down upon, after a
somewhat unprosperous career of horse-dealing. The farmhouse lay in
the shelter of a very slight green hollow scarcely scooped out of
the pasture field by which it was surrounded; the short crisp turf
came creeping up to the very door and windows, without any attempt
at a yard or garden, or any nearer enclosure of the buildings than
the stone dyke that formed the boundary of the field itself. The
buildings were long and low, in order to avoid the rough violence of
the winds that swept over that wild, bleak spot, both in winter and
summer. It was well for the inhabitants of that house that coal was
extremely cheap; otherwise a southerner might have imagined that
they could never have survived the cutting of the bitter gales that
piped all round, and seemed to seek out every crevice for admission
into the house.

But the interior was warm enough when once you had mounted the long
bleak lane, full of round rough stones, enough to lame any horse
unaccustomed to such roads, and had crossed the field by the little
dry, hard footpath, which tacked about so as to keep from directly
facing the prevailing wind. Mrs. Robson was a Cumberland woman, and
as such, was a cleaner housewife than the farmers' wives of that
north-eastern coast, and was often shocked at their ways, showing it
more by her looks than by her words, for she was not a great talker.
This fastidiousness in such matters made her own house extremely
comfortable, but did not tend to render her popular among her
neighbours. Indeed, Bell Robson piqued herself on her housekeeping
generally, and once in-doors in the gray, bare stone house, there
were plenty of comforts to be had besides cleanliness and warmth.
The great rack of clap-bread hung overhead, and Bell Robson's
preference of this kind of oat-cake over the leavened and partly
sour kind used in Yorkshire was another source of her unpopularity.
Flitches of bacon and 'hands' (_i.e._, shoulders of cured pork, the
legs or hams being sold, as fetching a better price) abounded; and
for any visitor who could stay, neither cream nor finest wheaten
flour was wanting for 'turf cakes' and 'singing hinnies,' with which
it is the delight of the northern housewives to regale the honoured
guest, as he sips their high-priced tea, sweetened with dainty
sugar.

This night farmer Robson was fidgeting in and out of his house-door,
climbing the little eminence in the field, and coming down
disappointed in a state of fretful impatience. His quiet, taciturn
wife was a little put out by Sylvia's non-appearance too; but she
showed her anxiety by being shorter than usual in her replies to his
perpetual wonders as to where the lass could have been tarrying, and
by knitting away with extra diligence.

'I've a vast o' mind to go down to Monkshaven mysen, and see after
t' child. It's well on for seven.'

'No, Dannel,' said his wife; 'thou'd best not. Thy leg has been
paining thee this week past, and thou'rt not up to such a walk. I'll
rouse Kester, and send him off, if thou think'st there's need on
it.'

'A'll noan ha' Kester roused. Who's to go afield betimes after t'
sheep in t' morn, if he's ca'ed up to-neet? He'd miss t' lass, and
find a public-house, a reckon,' said Daniel, querulously.

'I'm not afeard o' Kester,' replied Bell. 'He's a good one for
knowing folk i' th' dark. But if thou'd rather, I'll put on my hood
and cloak and just go to th' end o' th' lane, if thou'lt have an eye
to th' milk, and see as it does na' boil o'er, for she canna stomach
it if it's bishopped e'er so little.'

Before Mrs. Robson, however, had put away her knitting, voices were
heard at a good distance down the lane, but coming nearer every
moment, and once more Daniel climbed the little brow to look and to
listen.

'It's a' reet!' said he, hobbling quickly down. 'Niver fidget
theesel' wi' gettin' ready to go search for her. I'll tak' thee a
bet it's Philip Hepburn's voice, convoying her home, just as I said
he would, an hour sin'.'

Bell did not answer, as she might have done, that this probability
of Philip's bringing Sylvia home had been her own suggestion, set
aside by her husband as utterly unlikely. Another minute and the
countenances of both parents imperceptibly and unconsciously relaxed
into pleasure as Sylvia came in.

She looked very rosy from the walk, and the October air, which began
to be frosty in the evenings; there was a little cloud over her face
at first, but it was quickly dispersed as she met the loving eyes of
home. Philip, who followed her, had an excited, but not altogether
pleased look about him. He received a hearty greeting from Daniel,
and a quiet one from his aunt.

'Tak' off thy pan o' milk, missus, and set on t' kettle. Milk may do
for wenches, but Philip and me is for a drop o' good Hollands and
watter this cold night. I'm a'most chilled to t' marrow wi' looking
out for thee, lass, for t' mother was in a peck o' troubles about
thy none coining home i' t' dayleet, and I'd to keep hearkening out
on t' browhead.'

This was entirely untrue, and Bell knew it to be so; but her husband
did not. He had persuaded himself now, as he had done often before,
that what he had in reality done for his own pleasure or
satisfaction, he had done in order to gratify some one else.

'The town was rough with a riot between the press-gang and the
whaling folk; and I thought I'd best see Sylvia home.'

'Ay, ay, lad; always welcome, if it's only as an excuse for t'
liquor. But t' whalers, say'st ta? Why, is t' whalers in? There was
none i' sight yesterday, when I were down on t' shore. It's early
days for 'em as yet. And t' cursed old press-gang's agate again,
doing its devil's work!'

His face changed as he ended his speech, and showed a steady passion
of old hatred.

'Ay, missus, yo' may look. I wunnot pick and choose my words,
noather for yo' nor for nobody, when I speak o' that daumed gang.
I'm none ashamed o' my words. They're true, and I'm ready to prove
'em. Where's my forefinger? Ay! and as good a top-joint of a thumb
as iver a man had? I wish I'd kept 'em i' sperits, as they done
things at t' 'potticary's, just to show t' lass what flesh and bone
I made away wi' to get free. I ups wi' a hatchet when I saw as I
were fast a-board a man-o'-war standing out for sea--it were in t'
time o' the war wi' Amerikay, an' I could na stomach the thought o'
being murdered i' my own language--so I ups wi' a hatchet, and I
says to Bill Watson, says I, "Now, my lad, if thou'll do me a
kindness, I'll pay thee back, niver fear, and they'll be glad enough
to get shut on us, and send us to old England again. Just come down
with a will." Now, missus, why can't ye sit still and listen to me,
'stead o' pottering after pans and what not?' said he, speaking
crossly to his wife, who had heard the story scores of times, and,
it must be confessed, was making some noise in preparing bread and
milk for Sylvia's supper.

Bell did not say a word in reply, but Sylvia tapped his shoulder
with a pretty little authoritative air.

'It's for me, feyther. I'm just keen-set for my supper. Once let me
get quickly set down to it, and Philip there to his glass o' grog,
and you'll never have such listeners in your life, and mother's mind
will be at ease too.'

'Eh! thou's a wilfu' wench,' said the proud father, giving her a
great slap on her back. 'Well! set thee down to thy victual, and be
quiet wi' thee, for I want to finish my tale to Philip. But,
perhaps, I've telled it yo' afore?' said he, turning round to
question Hepburn.

Hepburn could not say that he had not heard it, for he piqued
himself on his truthfulness. But instead of frankly and directly
owning this, he tried to frame a formal little speech, which would
soothe Daniel's mortified vanity; and, of course, it had the
directly opposite effect. Daniel resented being treated like a
child, and yet turned his back on Philip with all the wilfulness of
one. Sylvia did not care for her cousin, but hated the discomfort of
having her father displeased; so she took up her tale of adventure,
and told her father and mother of her afternoon's proceedings.
Daniel pretended not to listen at first, and made ostentatious
noises with his spoon and glass; but by-and-by he got quite warm and
excited about the doings of the press-gang, and scolded both Philip
and Sylvia for not having learnt more particulars as to what was the
termination of the riot.

'I've been whaling mysel',' said he; 'and I've heerd tell as whalers
wear knives, and I'd ha' gi'en t' gang a taste o' my whittle, if I'd
been cotched up just as I'd set my foot a-shore.'

'I don't know,' said Philip; 'we're at war wi' the French, and we
shouldn't like to be beaten; and yet if our numbers are not equal to
theirs, we stand a strong chance of it.'

'Not a bit on't--so be d--d!' said Daniel Robson, bringing down his
fist with such violence on the round deal table, that the glasses
and earthenware shook again. 'Yo'd not strike a child or a woman,
for sure! yet it 'ud be like it, if we did na' give the Frenchies
some 'vantages--if we took 'em wi' equal numbers. It's not fair
play, and that's one place where t' shoe pinches. It's not fair play
two ways. It's not fair play to cotch up men as has no call for
fightin' at another man's biddin', though they've no objection to
fight a bit on their own account and who are just landed, all keen
after bread i'stead o' biscuit, and flesh-meat i'stead o' junk, and
beds i'stead o' hammocks. (I make naught o' t' sentiment side, for I
were niver gi'en up to such carnal-mindedness and poesies.) It's
noane fair to cotch 'em up and put 'em in a stifling hole, all lined
with metal for fear they should whittle their way out, and send 'em
off to sea for years an' years to come. And again it's no fair play
to t' French. Four o' them is rightly matched wi' one o' us; and if
we go an' fight 'em four to four it's like as if yo' fell to beatin'
Sylvie there, or little Billy Croxton, as isn't breeched. And that's
my mind. Missus, where's t' pipe?'

Philip did not smoke, so took his turn at talking, a chance he
seldom had with Daniel, unless the latter had his pipe between his
lips. So after Daniel had filled it, and used Sylvia's little finger
as a stopper to ram down the tobacco--a habit of his to which she
was so accustomed that she laid her hand on the table by him, as
naturally as she would have fetched him his spittoon when he began
to smoke--Philip arranged his arguments, and began--

'I'm for fair play wi' the French as much as any man, as long as we
can be sure o' beating them; but, I say, make sure o' that, and then
give them ivery advantage. Now I reckon Government is not sure as
yet, for i' the papers it said as half th' ships i' th' Channel
hadn't got their proper complement o' men; and all as I say is, let
Government judge a bit for us; and if they say they're hampered for
want o' men, why we must make it up somehow. John and Jeremiah
Foster pay in taxes, and Militiaman pays in person; and if sailors
cannot pay in taxes, and will not pay in person, why they must be
made to pay; and that's what th' press-gang is for, I reckon. For my
part, when I read o' the way those French chaps are going on, I'm
thankful to be governed by King George and a British Constitution.'

Daniel took his pipe out of his mouth at this.

'And when did I say a word again King George and the Constitution? I
only ax 'em to govern me as I judge best, and that's what I call
representation. When I gived my vote to Measter Cholmley to go up to
t' Parliament House, I as good as said, 'Now yo' go up theer, sir,
and tell 'em what I, Dannel Robson, think right, and what I, Dannel
Robson, wish to have done.' Else I'd be darned if I'd ha' gi'en my
vote to him or any other man. And div yo' think I want Seth Robson (
as is my own brother's son, and mate to a collier) to be cotched up
by a press-gang, and ten to one his wages all unpaid? Div yo' think
I'd send up Measter Cholmley to speak up for that piece o' work? Not
I.' He took up his pipe again, shook out the ashes, puffed it into a
spark, and shut his eyes, preparatory to listening.

'But, asking pardon, laws is made for the good of the nation, not
for your good or mine.'

Daniel could not stand this. He laid down his pipe, opened his eyes,
stared straight at Philip before speaking, in order to enforce his
words, and then said slowly--

'Nation here! nation theere! I'm a man and yo're another, but
nation's nowheere. If Measter Cholmley talked to me i' that fashion,
he'd look long for another vote frae me. I can make out King George,
and Measter Pitt, and yo' and me, but nation! nation, go hang!'

Philip, who sometimes pursued an argument longer than was politic
for himself, especially when he felt sure of being on the conquering
side, did not see that Daniel Robson was passing out of the
indifference of conscious wisdom into that state of anger which
ensues when a question becomes personal in some unspoken way. Robson
had contested this subject once or twice before, and had the
remembrance of former disputes to add to his present vehemence. So
it was well for the harmony of the evening that Bell and Sylvia
returned from the kitchen to sit in the house-place. They had been
to wash up the pans and basins used for supper; Sylvia had privately
shown off her cloak, and got over her mother's shake of the head at
its colour with a coaxing kiss, at the end of which her mother had
adjusted her cap with a 'There! there! ha' done wi' thee,' but had
no more heart to show her disapprobation; and now they came back to
their usual occupations until it should please their visitor to go;
then they would rake the fire and be off to bed; for neither
Sylvia's spinning nor Bell's knitting was worth candle-light, and
morning hours are precious in a dairy.

People speak of the way in which harp-playing sets off a graceful
figure; spinning is almost as becoming an employment. A woman stands
at the great wool-wheel, one arm extended, the other holding the
thread, her head thrown back to take in all the scope of her
occupation; or if it is the lesser spinning-wheel for flax--and it
was this that Sylvia moved forwards to-night--the pretty sound of
the buzzing, whirring motion, the attitude of the spinner, foot and
hand alike engaged in the business--the bunch of gay coloured
ribbon that ties the bundle of flax on the rock--all make it into a
picturesque piece of domestic business that may rival harp-playing
any day for the amount of softness and grace which it calls out.

Sylvia's cheeks were rather flushed by the warmth of the room after
the frosty air. The blue ribbon with which she had thought it
necessary to tie back her hair before putting on her hat to go to
market had got rather loose, and allowed her disarranged curls to
stray in a manner which would have annoyed her extremely, if she had
been upstairs to look at herself in the glass; but although they
were not set in the exact fashion which Sylvia esteemed as correct,
they looked very pretty and luxuriant. Her little foot, placed on
the 'traddle', was still encased in its smartly buckled shoe--not
slightly to her discomfort, as she was unaccustomed to be shod in
walking far; only as Philip had accompanied them home, neither she
nor Molly had liked to go barefoot. Her round mottled arm and ruddy
taper hand drew out the flax with nimble, agile motion, keeping time
to the movement of the wheel. All this Philip could see; the greater
part of her face was lost to him as she half averted it, with a shy
dislike to the way in which she knew from past experience that
cousin Philip always stared at her. And avert it as she would she
heard with silent petulance the harsh screech of Philip's chair as
he heavily dragged it on the stone floor, sitting on it all the
while, and felt that he was moving round so as to look at her as
much as was in his power, without absolutely turning his back on
either her father or mother. She got herself ready for the first
opportunity of contradiction or opposition.

'Well, wench! and has ta bought this grand new cloak?'

'Yes, feyther. It's a scarlet one.'

'Ay, ay! and what does mother say?'

'Oh, mother's content,' said Sylvia, a little doubting in her heart,
but determined to defy Philip at all hazards.

'Mother 'll put up with it if it does na spot would be nearer fact,
I'm thinking,' said Bell, quietly.

'I wanted Sylvia to take the gray,' said Philip.

'And I chose the red; it's so much gayer, and folk can see me the
farther off. Feyther likes to see me at first turn o' t' lane, don't
yo', feyther? and I'll niver turn out when it's boun' for to rain,
so it shall niver get a spot near it, mammy.'

'I reckoned it were to wear i' bad weather,' said Bell. 'Leastways
that were the pretext for coaxing feyther out o' it.'

She said it in a kindly tone, though the words became a prudent
rather than a fond mother. But Sylvia understood her better than
Daniel did as it appeared.

'Hou'd thy tongue, mother. She niver spoke a pretext at all.'

He did not rightly know what a 'pretext' was: Bell was a touch
better educated than her husband, but he did not acknowledge this,
and made a particular point of differing from her whenever she used
a word beyond his comprehension.

'She's a good lass at times; and if she liked to wear a
yellow-orange cloak she should have it. Here's Philip here, as
stands up for laws and press-gangs, I'll set him to find us a law
again pleasing our lass; and she our only one. Thou dostn't think on
that, mother!

Bell did think of that often; oftener than her husband, perhaps, for
she remembered every day, and many times a day, the little one that
had been born and had died while its father was away on some long
voyage. But it was not her way to make replies.

Sylvia, who had more insight into her mother's heart than Daniel,
broke in with a new subject.

'Oh! as for Philip, he's been preaching up laws all t' way home. I
said naught, but let Molly hold her own; or else I could ha' told a
tale about silks an' lace an' things.'

Philip's face flushed. Not because of the smuggling; every one did
that, only it was considered polite to ignore it; but he was annoyed
to perceive how quickly his little cousin had discovered that his
practice did not agree with his preaching, and vexed, too, to see
how delighted she was to bring out the fact. He had some little
idea, too, that his uncle might make use of his practice as an
argument against the preaching he had lately been indulging in, in
opposition to Daniel; but Daniel was too far gone in his
Hollands-and-water to do more than enunciate his own opinions, which
he did with hesitating and laboured distinctness in the following
sentence:

'What I think and say is this. Laws is made for to keep some folks
fra' harming others. Press-gangs and coast-guards harm me i' my
business, and keep me fra' getting what I want. Theerefore, what I
think and say is this: Measter Cholmley should put down press-gangs
and coast-guards. If that theere isn't reason I ax yo' to tell me
what is? an' if Measter Cholmley don't do what I ax him, he may go
whistle for my vote, he may.'

At this period in his conversation, Bell Robson interfered; not in
the least from any feeling of disgust or annoyance, or dread of what
he might say or do if he went on drinking, but simply as a matter of
health. Sylvia, too, was in no way annoyed; not only with her
father, but with every man whom she knew, excepting her cousin
Philip, was it a matter of course to drink till their ideas became
confused. So she simply put her wheel aside, as preparatory to going
to bed, when her mother said, in a more decided tone than that which
she had used on any other occasion but this, and similar ones--

'Come, measter, you've had as much as is good for you.'

'Let a' be! Let a' be,' said he, clutching at the bottle of spirits,
but perhaps rather more good-humoured with what he had drunk than he
was before; he jerked a little more into his glass before his wife
carried it off, and locked it up in the cupboard, putting the key in
her pocket, and then he said, winking at Philip--

'Eh! my man. Niver gie a woman t' whip hand o'er yo'! Yo' seen what
it brings a man to; but for a' that I'll vote for Cholmley, an'
d----t' press-gang!'

He had to shout out the last after Philip, for Hepburn, really
anxious to please his aunt, and disliking drinking habits himself by
constitution, was already at the door, and setting out on his return
home, thinking, it must be confessed, far more of the character of
Sylvia's shake of the hand than of the parting words of either his
uncle or aunt.



CHAPTER V

STORY OF THE PRESS-GANG


For a few days after the evening mentioned in the last chapter the
weather was dull. Not in quick, sudden showers did the rain come
down, but in constant drizzle, blotting out all colour from the
surrounding landscape, and filling the air with fine gray mist,
until people breathed more water than air. At such times the
consciousness of the nearness of the vast unseen sea acted as a
dreary depression to the spirits; but besides acting on the nerves
of the excitable, such weather affected the sensitive or ailing in
material ways. Daniel Robson's fit of rheumatism incapacitated him
from stirring abroad; and to a man of his active habits, and
somewhat inactive mind, this was a great hardship. He was not
ill-tempered naturally, but this state of confinement made him more
ill-tempered than he had ever been before in his life. He sat in the
chimney-corner, abusing the weather and doubting the wisdom or
desirableness of all his wife saw fit to do in the usual daily
household matters. The 'chimney-corner' was really a corner at
Haytersbank. There were two projecting walls on each side of the
fire-place, running about six feet into the room, and a stout wooden
settle was placed against one of these, while opposite was the
circular-backed 'master's chair,' the seat of which was composed of
a square piece of wood judiciously hollowed out, and placed with one
corner to the front. Here, in full view of all the operations going
on over the fire, sat Daniel Robson for four live-long days,
advising and directing his wife in all such minor matters as the
boiling of potatoes, the making of porridge, all the work on which
she specially piqued herself, and on which she would have taken
advice--no! not from the most skilled housewife in all the three
Ridings. But, somehow, she managed to keep her tongue quiet from
telling him, as she would have done any woman, and any other man, to
mind his own business, or she would pin a dish-clout to his tail.
She even checked Sylvia when the latter proposed, as much for fun as
for anything else, that his ignorant directions should be followed,
and the consequences brought before his eyes and his nose.

'Na, na!' said Bell, 'th' feyther's feyther, and we mun respect him.
But it's dree work havin' a man i' th' house, nursing th' fire, an'
such weather too, and not a soul coming near us, not even to fall
out wi' him; for thee and me must na' do that, for th' Bible's sake,
dear; and a good stand-up wordy quarrel would do him a power of
good; stir his blood like. I wish Philip would turn up.'

Bell sighed, for in these four days she had experienced somewhat of
Madame de Maintenon's difficulty (and with fewer resources to meet
it) of trying to amuse a man who was not amusable. For Bell, good
and sensible as she was, was not a woman of resources. Sylvia's
plan, undutiful as it was in her mother's eyes, would have done
Daniel more good, even though it might have made him angry, than his
wife's quiet, careful monotony of action, which, however it might
conduce to her husband's comfort when he was absent, did not amuse
him when present.

Sylvia scouted the notion of cousin Philip coming into their
household in the character of an amusing or entertaining person,
till she nearly made her mother angry at her ridicule of the good
steady young fellow, to whom Bell looked up as the pattern of all
that early manhood should be. But the moment Sylvia saw she had been
giving her mother pain, she left off her wilful little jokes, and
kissed her, and told her she would manage all famously, and ran out
of the back-kitchen, in which mother and daughter had been scrubbing
the churn and all the wooden implements of butter-making. Bell
looked at the pretty figure of her little daughter, as, running past
with her apron thrown over her head, she darkened the window beneath
which her mother was doing her work. She paused just for a moment,
and then said, almost unawares to herself, 'Bless thee, lass,'
before resuming her scouring of what already looked almost
snow-white.

Sylvia scampered across the rough farmyard in the wetting, drizzling
rain to the place where she expected to find Kester; but he was not
there, so she had to retrace her steps to the cow-house, and, making
her way up a rough kind of ladder-staircase fixed straight against
the wall, she surprised Kester as he sat in the wool-loft, looking
over the fleeces reserved for the home-spinning, by popping her
bright face, swathed round with her blue woollen apron, up through
the trap-door, and thus, her head the only visible part, she
addressed the farm-servant, who was almost like one of the family.

'Kester, feyther's just tiring hissel' wi' weariness an' vexation,
sitting by t' fireside wi' his hands afore him, an' nought to do.
An' mother and me can't think on aught as 'll rouse him up to a bit
of a laugh, or aught more cheerful than a scolding. Now, Kester,
thou mun just be off, and find Harry Donkin th' tailor, and bring
him here; it's gettin' on for Martinmas, an' he'll be coming his
rounds, and he may as well come here first as last, and feyther's
clothes want a deal o' mending up, and Harry's always full of his
news, and anyhow he'll do for feyther to scold, an' be a new person
too, and that's somewhat for all on us. Now go, like a good old
Kester as yo' are.'

Kester looked at her with loving, faithful admiration. He had set
himself his day's work in his master's absence, and was very
desirous of finishing it, but, somehow, he never dreamed of
resisting Sylvia, so he only stated the case.

'T' 'ool's a vast o' muck in 't, an' a thowt as a'd fettle it, an'
do it up; but a reckon a mun do yo'r biddin'.'

'There's a good old Kester,' said she, smiling, and nodding her
muffled head at him; then she dipped down out of his sight, then
rose up again (he had never taken his slow, mooney eyes from the
spot where she had disappeared) to say--'Now, Kester, be wary and
deep--thou mun tell Harry Donkin not to let on as we've sent for
him, but just to come in as if he were on his round, and took us
first; and he mun ask feyther if there is any work for him to do;
and I'll answer for 't, he'll have a welcome and a half. Now, be
deep and fause, mind thee!'

'A'se deep an' fause enow wi' simple folk; but what can a do i'
Donkin be as fause as me--as happen he may be?'

'Ga way wi' thee! I' Donkin be Solomon, thou mun be t' Queen o'
Sheba; and I'se bound for to say she outwitted him at last!'

Kester laughed so long at the idea of his being the Queen of Sheba,
that Sylvia was back by her mother's side before the cachinnation
ended.

That night, just as Sylvia was preparing to go to bed in her little
closet of a room, she heard some shot rattling at her window. She
opened the little casement, and saw Kester standing below. He
recommenced where he left off, with a laugh--

'He, he, he! A's been t' queen! A'se ta'en Donkin on t' reet side,
an' he'll coom in to-morrow, just permiskus, an' ax for work, like
as if 't were a favour; t' oud felley were a bit cross-grained at
startin', for he were workin' at farmer Crosskey's up at t' other
side o' t' town, wheer they puts a strike an' a half of maut intil
t' beer, when most folk put nobbut a strike, an t' made him ill to
convince: but he'll coom, niver fear!'

The honest fellow never said a word of the shilling he had paid out
of his own pocket to forward Sylvia's wishes, and to persuade the
tailor to leave the good beer. All his anxiety now was to know if he
had been missed, and if it was likely that a scolding awaited him in
the morning.

'T' oud measter didn't set up his back, 'cause a didn't coom in t'
supper?'

'He questioned a bit as to what thou were about, but mother didn't
know, an' I held my peace. Mother carried thy supper in t' loft for
thee.'

'A'll gang after 't, then, for a'm like a pair o' bellowses wi' t'
wind out; just two flat sides wi' nowt betwixt.'

The next morning, Sylvia's face was a little redder than usual when
Harry Donkin's bow-legs were seen circling down the path to the
house door.

'Here's Donkin, for sure!' exclaimed Bell, when she caught sight of
him a minute after her daughter. 'Well, I just call that lucky! for
he'll be company for thee while Sylvia and me has to turn th'
cheeses.'

This was too original a remark for a wife to make in Daniel's
opinion, on this especial morning, when his rheumatism was twinging
him more than usual, so he replied with severity--

'That's all t' women know about it. Wi' them it's "coompany,
coompany, coompany," an' they think a man's no better than
theirsels. A'd have yo' to know a've a vast o' thoughts in myself',
as I'm noane willing to lay out for t' benefit o' every man. A've
niver gotten time for meditation sin' a were married; leastways,
sin' a left t' sea. Aboard ship, wi' niver a woman wi'n leagues o'
hail, and upo' t' masthead, in special, a could.'

'Then I'd better tell Donkin as we've no work for him,' said Sylvia,
instinctively managing her father by agreeing with him, instead of
reasoning with or contradicting him.

'Now, theere you go!' wrenching himself round, for fear Sylvia
should carry her meekly made threat into execution. 'Ugh! ugh!' as
his limb hurt him. 'Come in, Harry, come in, and talk a bit o' sense
to me, for a've been shut up wi' women these four days, and a'm
a'most a nateral by this time. A'se bound for 't, they'll find yo'
some wark, if 't's nought but for to save their own fingers.'

So Harry took off his coat, and seated himself professional-wise on
the hastily-cleared dresser, so that he might have all the light
afforded by the long, low casement window. Then he blew in his
thimble, sucked his finger, so that they might adhere tightly
together, and looked about for a subject for opening conversation,
while Sylvia and her mother might be heard opening and shutting
drawers and box-lids before they could find the articles that needed
repair, or that were required to mend each other.

'Women's well enough i' their way,' said Daniel, in a philosophizing
tone, 'but a man may have too much on 'em. Now there's me, leg-fast
these four days, and a'll make free to say to yo', a'd rather a deal
ha' been loading dung i' t' wettest weather; an' a reckon it's th'
being wi' nought but women as tires me so: they talk so foolish it
gets int' t' bones like. Now thou know'st thou'rt not called much of
a man oather, but bless yo', t' ninth part's summut to be thankful
for, after nought but women. An' yet, yo' seen, they were for
sending yo' away i' their foolishness! Well! missus, and who's to
pay for t' fettling of all them clothes?' as Bell came down with her
arms full. She was going to answer her husband meekly and literally
according to her wont, but Sylvia, already detecting the increased
cheerfulness of his tone, called out from behind her mother--

'I am, feyther. I'm going for to sell my new cloak as I bought
Thursday, for the mending on your old coats and waistcoats.'

'Hearken till her,' said Daniel, chuckling. 'She's a true wench.
Three days sin' noane so full as she o' t' new cloak that now she's
fain t' sell.'

'Ay, Harry. If feyther won't pay yo' for making all these old
clothes as good as new, I'll sell my new red cloak sooner than yo'
shall go unpaid.'

'A reckon it's a bargain,' said Harry, casting sharp, professional
eyes on the heap before him, and singling out the best article as to
texture for examination and comment.

'They're all again these metal buttons,' said he. 'Silk weavers has
been petitioning Ministers t' make a law to favour silk buttons; and
I did hear tell as there were informers goin' about spyin' after
metal buttons, and as how they could haul yo' before a justice for
wearing on 'em.'

'A were wed in 'em, and a'll wear 'em to my dyin' day, or a'll wear
noane at a'. They're for making such a pack o' laws, they'll be for
meddling wi' my fashion o' sleeping next, and taxing me for ivery
snore a give. They've been after t' winders, and after t' vittle,
and after t' very saut to 't; it's dearer by hauf an' more nor it
were when a were a boy: they're a meddlesome set o' folks,
law-makers is, an' a'll niver believe King George has ought t' do
wi' 't. But mark my words; I were wed wi' brass buttons, and brass
buttons a'll wear to my death, an' if they moither me about it, a'll
wear brass buttons i' my coffin!'

By this time Harry had arranged a certain course of action with Mrs
Robson, conducting the consultation and agreement by signs. His
thread was flying fast already, and the mother and daughter felt
more free to pursue their own business than they had done for
several days; for it was a good sign that Daniel had taken his pipe
out of the square hollow in the fireside wall, where he usually kept
it, and was preparing to diversify his remarks with satisfying
interludes of puffing.

'Why, look ye; this very baccy had a run for 't. It came ashore
sewed up neatly enough i' a woman's stays, as was wife to a
fishing-smack down at t' bay yonder. She were a lean thing as iver
you saw, when she went for t' see her husband aboard t' vessel; but
she coom back lustier by a deal, an' wi' many a thing on her, here
and theere, beside baccy. An' that were i' t' face o' coast-guard
and yon tender, an' a'. But she made as though she were tipsy, an'
so they did nought but curse her, an' get out on her way.'

'Speaking of t' tender, there's been a piece o' wark i' Monkshaven
this week wi' t' press-gang,' said Harry.

'Ay! ay! our lass was telling about 't; but, Lord bless ye! there's
no gettin' t' rights on a story out on a woman--though a will say
this for our Sylvie, she's as bright a lass as iver a man looked
at.'

Now the truth was, that Daniel had not liked to demean himself, at
the time when Sylvia came back so full of what she had seen at
Monkshaven, by evincing any curiosity on the subject. He had then
thought that the next day he would find some business that should
take him down to the town, when he could learn all that was to be
learnt, without flattering his womankind by asking questions, as if
anything they might say could interest him. He had a strong notion
of being a kind of domestic Jupiter.

'It's made a deal o' wark i' Monkshaven. Folk had gotten to think
nought o' t' tender, she lay so still, an' t' leftenant paid such a
good price for all he wanted for t' ship. But o' Thursday t'
_Resolution_, first whaler back this season, came in port, and t'
press-gang showed their teeth, and carried off four as good
able-bodied seamen as iver I made trousers for; and t' place were
all up like a nest o' wasps, when yo've set your foot in t' midst.
They were so mad, they were ready for t' fight t' very pavin'
stones.'

'A wish a'd been theere! A just wish a had! A've a score for t'
reckon up wi' t' press-gang!'

And the old man lifted up his right hand--his hand on which the
forefinger and thumb were maimed and useless--partly in
denunciation, and partly as a witness of what he had endured to
escape from the service, abhorred because it was forced. His face
became a totally different countenance with the expression of
settled and unrelenting indignation, which his words called out.

'G'on, man, g'on,' said Daniel, impatient with Donkin for the little
delay occasioned by the necessity of arranging his work more fully.

'Ay! ay! all in good time; for a've a long tale to tell yet; an' a
mun have some 'un to iron me out my seams, and look me out my bits,
for there's none here fit for my purpose.'

'Dang thy bits! Here, Sylvie! Sylvie! come and be tailor's man, and
let t' chap get settled sharp, for a'm fain t' hear his story.'

Sylvia took her directions, and placed her irons in the fire, and
ran upstairs for the bundle which had been put aside by her careful
mother for occasions like the present. It consisted of small pieces
of various coloured cloth, cut out of old coats and waistcoats, and
similar garments, when the whole had become too much worn for use,
yet when part had been good enough to be treasured by a thrifty
housewife. Daniel grew angry before Donkin had selected his patterns
and settled the work to his own mind.

'Well,' said he at last; 'a mought be a young man a-goin' a wooin',
by t' pains thou'st taken for t' match my oud clothes. I don't care
if they're patched wi' scarlet, a tell thee; so as thou'lt work away
at thy tale wi' thy tongue, same time as thou works at thy needle
wi' thy fingers.'

'Then, as a were saying, all Monkshaven were like a nest o' wasps,
flyin' hither and thither, and makin' sich a buzzin' and a talkin'
as niver were; and each wi' his sting out, ready for t' vent his
venom o' rage and revenge. And women cryin' and sobbin' i' t'
streets--when, Lord help us! o' Saturday came a worse time than
iver! for all Friday there had been a kind o' expectation an' dismay
about t' _Good Fortune_, as t' mariners had said was off St Abb's
Head o' Thursday, when t' _Resolution_ came in; and there was wives
and maids wi' husbands an' sweethearts aboard t' _Good Fortune_
ready to throw their eyes out on their heads wi' gazin', gazin'
nor'ards over t'sea, as were all one haze o' blankness wi' t' rain;
and when t' afternoon tide comed in, an' niver a line on her to be
seen, folk were oncertain as t' whether she were holding off for
fear o' t' tender--as were out o' sight, too--or what were her mak'
o' goin' on. An' t' poor wet draggled women folk came up t' town,
some slowly cryin', as if their hearts was sick, an' others just
bent their heads to t' wind, and went straight to their homes,
nother looking nor speaking to ony one; but barred their doors, and
stiffened theirsels up for a night o' waiting. Saturday morn--yo'll
mind Saturday morn, it were stormy and gusty, downreet dirty
weather--theere stood t' folk again by daylight, a watching an' a
straining, and by that tide t' _Good Fortune_ came o'er t' bar. But
t' excisemen had sent back her news by t' boat as took 'em there.
They'd a deal of oil, and a vast o' blubber. But for all that her
flag was drooping i' t' rain, half mast high, for mourning and
sorrow, an' they'd a dead man aboard--a dead man as was living and
strong last sunrise. An' there was another as lay between life an'
death, and there was seven more as should ha' been theere as wasn't,
but was carried off by t' gang. T' frigate as we 'n a' heard tell
on, as lying off Hartlepool, got tidings fra' t' tender as captured
t' seamen o' Thursday: and t' _Aurora_, as they ca'ed her, made off
for t' nor'ard; and nine leagues off St Abb's Head, t' _Resolution_
thinks she were, she see'd t' frigate, and knowed by her build she
were a man-o'-war, and guessed she were bound on king's kidnapping.
I seen t' wounded man mysen wi' my own eyes; and he'll live! he'll
live! Niver a man died yet, wi' such a strong purpose o' vengeance
in him. He could barely speak, for he were badly shot, but his
colour coome and went, as t' master's mate an' t' captain telled me
and some others how t' _Aurora_ fired at 'em, and how t' innocent
whaler hoisted her colours, but afore they were fairly run up,
another shot coome close in t' shrouds, and then t' Greenland ship
being t' windward, bore down on t' frigate; but as they knew she
were an oud fox, and bent on mischief, Kinraid (that's he who lies
a-dying, only he'll noane die, a'se bound), the specksioneer, bade
t' men go down between decks, and fasten t' hatches well, an' he'd
stand guard, he an' captain, and t' oud master's mate, being left
upo' deck for t' give a welcome just skin-deep to t' boat's crew
fra' t' _Aurora_, as they could see coming t'wards them o'er t'
watter, wi' their reg'lar man-o'-war's rowing----'

'Damn 'em!' said Daniel, in soliloquy, and under his breath.

Sylvia stood, poising her iron, and listening eagerly, afraid to
give Donkin the hot iron for fear of interrupting the narrative,
unwilling to put it into the fire again, because that action would
perchance remind him of his work, which now the tailor had
forgotten, so eager was he in telling his story.

'Well! they coome on over t' watters wi' great bounds, and up t'
sides they coome like locusts, all armed men; an' t' captain says he
saw Kinraid hide away his whaling knife under some tarpaulin', and
he knew he meant mischief, an' he would no more ha' stopped him wi'
a word nor he would ha' stopped him fra' killing a whale. And when
t' _Aurora_'s men were aboard, one on 'em runs to t' helm; and at
that t' captain says, he felt as if his wife were kissed afore his
face; but says he, "I bethought me on t' men as were shut up below
hatches, an' I remembered t' folk at Monkshaven as were looking out
for us even then; an' I said to mysel', I would speak fair as long
as I could, more by token o' the whaling-knife, as I could see
glinting bright under t' black tarpaulin." So he spoke quite fair
and civil, though he see'd they was nearing t' _Aurora_, and t'
_Aurora_ was nearing them. Then t' navy captain hailed him thro' t'
trumpet, wi' a great rough blast, and, says he, "Order your men to
come on deck." And t' captain of t' whaler says his men cried up
from under t' hatches as they'd niver be gi'en up wi'out bloodshed,
and he sees Kinraid take out his pistol, and look well to t'
priming; so he says to t' navy captain, "We're protected
Greenland-men, and you have no right t' meddle wi' us." But t' navy
captain only bellows t' more, "Order your men t' come on deck. If
they won't obey you, and you have lost the command of your vessel, I
reckon you're in a state of mutiny, and you may come aboard t'
_Aurora_ and such men as are willing t' follow you, and I'll fire
int' the rest." Yo' see, that were t' depth o' the man: he were for
pretending and pretexting as t' captain could na manage his own
ship, and as he'd help him. But our Greenland captain were noane so
poor-spirited, and says he, "She's full of oil, and I ware you of
consequences if you fire into her. Anyhow, pirate, or no pirate"
(for t' word pirate stuck in his gizzard), "I'm a honest Monkshaven
man, an' I come fra' a land where there's great icebergs and many a
deadly danger, but niver a press-gang, thank God! and that's what
you are, I reckon." Them's the words he told me, but whether he
spoke 'em out so bold at t' time, I'se not so sure; they were in his
mind for t' speak, only maybe prudence got t' better on him, for he
said he prayed i' his heart to bring his cargo safe to t' owners,
come what might. Well, t' _Aurora_'s men aboard t' _Good Fortune_
cried out "might they fire down t' hatches, and bring t' men out
that a way?" and then t' specksioneer, he speaks, an' he says he
stands ower t' hatches, and he has two good pistols, and summut
besides, and he don't care for his life, bein' a bachelor, but all
below are married men, yo' see, and he'll put an end to t' first two
chaps as come near t' hatches. An' they say he picked two off as
made for t' come near, and then, just as he were stooping for t'
whaling knife, an' it's as big as a sickle----'

'Teach folk as don't know a whaling knife,' cried Daniel. 'I were a
Greenland-man mysel'.'

'They shot him through t' side, and dizzied him, and kicked him
aside for dead; and fired down t' hatches, and killed one man, and
disabled two, and then t' rest cried for quarter, for life is sweet,
e'en aboard a king's ship; and t' _Aurora_ carried 'em off, wounded
men, an' able men, an' all: leaving Kinraid for dead, as wasn't
dead, and Darley for dead, as was dead, an' t' captain and master's
mate as were too old for work; and t' captain, as loves Kinraid like
a brother, poured rum down his throat, and bandaged him up, and has
sent for t' first doctor in Monkshaven for to get t' slugs out; for
they say there's niver such a harpooner in a' t' Greenland seas; an'
I can speak fra' my own seeing he's a fine young fellow where he
lies theere, all stark and wan for weakness and loss o' blood. But
Darley's dead as a door-nail; and there's to be such a burying of
him as niver was seen afore i' Monkshaven, come Sunday. And now gi'
us t' iron, wench, and let's lose no more time a-talking.'

'It's noane loss o' time,' said Daniel, moving himself heavily in
his chair, to feel how helpless he was once more. 'If a were as
young as once a were--nay, lad, if a had na these sore rheumatics,
now--a reckon as t' press-gang 'ud find out as t' shouldn't do such
things for nothing. Bless thee, man! it's waur nor i' my youth i'
th' Ameriky war, and then 't were bad enough.'

'And Kinraid?' said Sylvia, drawing a long breath, after the effort
of realizing it all; her cheeks had flushed up, and her eyes had
glittered during the progress of the tale.

'Oh! he'll do. He'll not die. Life's stuff is in him yet.'

'He'll be Molly Corney's cousin, I reckon,' said Sylvia, bethinking
her with a blush of Molly Corney's implication that he was more than
a cousin to her, and immediately longing to go off and see Molly,
and hear all the little details which women do not think it beneath
them to give to women. From that time Sylvia's little heart was bent
on this purpose. But it was not one to be openly avowed even to
herself. She only wanted sadly to see Molly, and she almost believed
herself that it was to consult her about the fashion of her cloak;
which Donkin was to cut out, and which she was to make under his
directions; at any rate, this was the reason she gave to her mother
when the day's work was done, and a fine gleam came out upon the
pale and watery sky towards evening.



CHAPTER VI

THE SAILOR'S FUNERAL


Moss Brow, the Corney's house, was but a disorderly, comfortless
place. You had to cross a dirty farmyard, all puddles and dungheaps,
on stepping-stones, to get to the door of the house-place. That
great room itself was sure to have clothes hanging to dry at the
fire, whatever day of the week it was; some one of the large
irregular family having had what is called in the district a
'dab-wash' of a few articles, forgotten on the regular day. And
sometimes these articles lay in their dirty state in the untidy
kitchen, out of which a room, half parlour, half bedroom, opened on
one side, and a dairy, the only clean place in the house, at the
opposite. In face of you, as you entered the door, was the entrance
to the working-kitchen, or scullery. Still, in spite of disorder
like this, there was a well-to-do aspect about the place; the
Corneys were rich in their way, in flocks and herds as well as in
children; and to them neither dirt nor the perpetual bustle arising
from ill-ordered work detracted from comfort. They were all of an
easy, good-tempered nature; Mrs. Corney and her daughters gave every
one a welcome at whatever time of the day they came, and would just
as soon sit down for a gossip at ten o'clock in the morning, as at
five in the evening, though at the former time the house-place was
full of work of various kinds which ought to be got out of hand and
done with: while the latter hour was towards the end of the day,
when farmers' wives and daughters were usually--'cleaned' was the
word then, 'dressed' is that in vogue now. Of course in such a
household as this Sylvia was sure to be gladly received. She was
young, and pretty, and bright, and brought a fresh breeze of
pleasant air about her as her appropriate atmosphere. And besides,
Bell Robson held her head so high that visits from her daughter were
rather esteemed as a favour, for it was not everywhere that Sylvia
was allowed to go.

'Sit yo' down, sit yo' down!' cried Dame Corney, dusting a chair
with her apron; 'a reckon Molly 'll be in i' no time. She's nobbut
gone int' t' orchard, to see if she can find wind-falls enough for
t' make a pie or two for t' lads. They like nowt so weel for supper
as apple-pies sweetened wi' treacle, crust stout and leathery, as
stands chewing, and we hannot getten in our apples yet.'

'If Molly is in t' orchard, I'll go find her,' said Sylvia.

'Well! yo' lasses will have your conks' (private talks), 'a know;
secrets 'bout sweethearts and such like,' said Mrs. Corney, with a
knowing look, which made Sylvia hate her for the moment. 'A've not
forgotten as a were young mysen. Tak' care; there's a pool o' mucky
watter just outside t' back-door.'

But Sylvia was half-way across the back-yard--worse, if possible,
than the front as to the condition in which it was kept--and had
passed through the little gate into the orchard. It was full of old
gnarled apple-trees, their trunks covered with gray lichen, in which
the cunning chaffinch built her nest in spring-time. The cankered
branches remained on the trees, and added to the knotted
interweaving overhead, if they did not to the productiveness; the
grass grew in long tufts, and was wet and tangled under foot. There
was a tolerable crop of rosy apples still hanging on the gray old
trees, and here and there they showed ruddy in the green bosses of
untrimmed grass. Why the fruit was not gathered, as it was evidently
ripe, would have puzzled any one not acquainted with the Corney
family to say; but to them it was always a maxim in practice, if not
in precept, 'Do nothing to-day that you can put off till to-morrow,'
and accordingly the apples dropped from the trees at any little gust
of wind, and lay rotting on the ground until the 'lads' wanted a
supply of pies for supper.

Molly saw Sylvia, and came quickly across the orchard to meet her,
catching her feet in knots of grass as she hurried along.

'Well, lass!' said she, 'who'd ha' thought o' seeing yo' such a day
as it has been?'

'But it's cleared up now beautiful,' said Sylvia, looking up at the
soft evening sky, to be seen through the apple boughs. It was of a
tender, delicate gray, with the faint warmth of a promising sunset
tinging it with a pink atmosphere. 'Rain is over and gone, and I
wanted to know how my cloak is to be made; for Donkin 's working at
our house, and I wanted to know all about--the news, yo' know.'

'What news?' asked Molly, for she had heard of the affair between
the _Good Fortune_ and the _Aurora_ some days before; and, to tell
the truth, it had rather passed out of her head just at this moment.

'Hannot yo' heard all about t' press-gang and t' whaler, and t'
great fight, and Kinraid, as is your cousin, acting so brave and
grand, and lying on his death-bed now?'

'Oh!' said Molly, enlightened as to Sylvia's 'news,' and half
surprised at the vehemence with which the little creature spoke;
'yes; a heerd that days ago. But Charley's noane on his death-bed,
he's a deal better; an' mother says as he's to be moved up here next
week for nursin' and better air nor he gets i' t' town yonder.'

'Oh! I am so glad,' said Sylvia, with all her heart. 'I thought he'd
maybe die, and I should niver see him.'

'A'll promise yo' shall see him; that's t' say if a' goes on well,
for he's getten an ugly hurt. Mother says as there's four blue marks
on his side as'll last him his life, an' t' doctor fears bleeding i'
his inside; and then he'll drop down dead when no one looks for 't.'

'But you said he was better,' said Sylvia, blanching a little at
this account.

'Ay, he's better, but life's uncertain, special after gun-shot
wounds.'

'He acted very fine,' said Sylvia, meditating.

'A allays knowed he would. Many's the time a've heerd him say
"honour bright," and now he's shown how bright his is.'

Molly did not speak sentimentally, but with a kind of proprietorship
in Kinraid's honour, which confirmed Sylvia in her previous idea of
a mutual attachment between her and her cousin. Considering this
notion, she was a little surprised at Molly's next speech.

'An' about yer cloak, are you for a hood or a cape? a reckon that's
the question.'

'Oh, I don't care! tell me more about Kinraid. Do yo' really think
he'll get better?'

'Dear! how t' lass takes on about him. A'll tell him what a deal of
interest a young woman taks i' him!'

From that time Sylvia never asked another question about him. In a
somewhat dry and altered tone, she said, after a little pause--

'I think on a hood. What do you say to it?'

'Well; hoods is a bit old-fashioned, to my mind. If 't were mine,
I'd have a cape cut i' three points, one to tie on each shoulder,
and one to dip down handsome behind. But let yo' an' me go to
Monkshaven church o' Sunday, and see Measter Fishburn's daughters,
as has their things made i' York, and notice a bit how they're made.
We needn't do it i' church, but just scan 'em o'er i' t' churchyard,
and there'll be no harm done. Besides, there's to be this grand
burryin' o' t' man t' press-gang shot, and 't will be like killing
two birds at once.'

'I should like to go,' said Sylvia. 'I feel so sorry like for the
poor sailors shot down and kidnapped just as they was coming home,
as we see'd 'em o' Thursday last. I'll ask mother if she'll let me
go.'

'Ay, do. I know my mother 'll let me, if she doesn't go hersen; for
it 'll be a sight to see and to speak on for many a long year, after
what I've heerd. And Miss Fishburns is sure to be theere, so I'd
just get Donkin to cut out cloak itsel', and keep back yer mind fra'
fixing o' either cape or hood till Sunday's turn'd.'

'Will yo' set me part o' t' way home?' said Sylvia, seeing the dying
daylight become more and more crimson through the blackening trees.

'No; I can't. A should like it well enough, but somehow, there's a
deal o' work to be done yet, for t' hours slip through one's fingers
so as there's no knowing. Mind yo', then, o' Sunday. A'll be at t'
stile one o'clock punctual; and we'll go slowly into t' town, and
look about us as we go, and see folk's dresses; and go to t' church,
and say wer prayers, and come out and have a look at t' funeral.'

And with this programme of proceedings settled for the following
Sunday, the girls whom neighbourhood and parity of age had forced
into some measure of friendship parted for the time.

Sylvia hastened home, feeling as if she had been absent long; her
mother stood on the little knoll at the side of the house watching
for her, with her hand shading her eyes from the low rays of the
setting sun: but as soon as she saw her daughter in the distance,
she returned to her work, whatever that might be. She was not a
woman of many words, or of much demonstration; few observers would
have guessed how much she loved her child; but Sylvia, without any
reasoning or observation, instinctively knew that her mother's heart
was bound up in her.

Her father and Donkin were going on much as when she had left them;
talking and disputing, the one compelled to be idle, the other
stitching away as fast as he talked. They seemed as if they had
never missed Sylvia; no more did her mother for that matter, for she
was busy and absorbed in her afternoon dairy-work to all appearance.
But Sylvia had noted the watching not three minutes before, and many
a time in her after life, when no one cared much for her out-goings
and in-comings, the straight, upright figure of her mother, fronting
the setting sun, but searching through its blinding rays for a sight
of her child, rose up like a sudden-seen picture, the remembrance of
which smote Sylvia to the heart with a sense of a lost blessing, not
duly valued while possessed.

'Well, feyther, and how's a' wi' you?' asked Sylvia, going to the
side of his chair, and laying her hand on his shoulder.

'Eh! harkee till this lass o' mine. She thinks as because she's gone
galraverging, I maun ha' missed her and be ailing. Why, lass, Donkin
and me has had t' most sensible talk a've had this many a day. A've
gi'en him a vast o' knowledge, and he's done me a power o' good.
Please God, to-morrow a'll tak' a start at walking, if t' weather
holds up.'

'Ay!' said Donkin, with a touch of sarcasm in his voice; 'feyther
and me has settled many puzzles; it's been a loss to Government as
they hannot been here for profiting by our wisdom. We've done away
wi' taxes and press-gangs, and many a plague, and beaten t'
French--i' our own minds, that's to say.'

'It's a wonder t' me as those Lunnon folks can't see things clear,'
said Daniel, all in good faith.

Sylvia did not quite understand the state of things as regarded
politics and taxes--and politics and taxes were all one in her mind,
it must be confessed--but she saw that her innocent little scheme of
giving her father the change of society afforded by Donkin's coming
had answered; and in the gladness of her heart she went out and ran
round the corner of the house to find Kester, and obtain from him
that sympathy in her success which she dared not ask from her
mother.

'Kester, Kester, lad!' said she, in a loud whisper; but Kester was
suppering the horses, and in the clamp of their feet on the round
stable pavement, he did not hear her at first. She went a little
farther into the stable. 'Kester! he's a vast better, he'll go out
to-morrow; it's all Donkin's doing. I'm beholden to thee for
fetching him, and I'll try and spare thee waistcoat fronts out o' t'
stuff for my new red cloak. Thou'll like that, Kester, won't ta?'

Kester took the notion in slowly, and weighed it.

'Na, lass,' said he, deliberately, after a pause. 'A could na' bear
to see thee wi' thy cloak scrimpit. A like t' see a wench look bonny
and smart, an' a tak' a kind o' pride in thee, an should be a'most
as much hurt i' my mind to see thee i' a pinched cloak as if old
Moll's tail here were docked too short. Na, lass, a'se niver got a
mirroring glass for t' see mysen in, so what's waistcoats to me?
Keep thy stuff to thysen, theere's a good wench; but a'se main and
glad about t' measter. Place isn't like itsen when he's shut up and
cranky.'

He took up a wisp of straw and began rubbing down the old mare, and
hissing over his work as if he wished to consider the conversation
as ended. And Sylvia, who had strung herself up in a momentary
fervour of gratitude to make the generous offer, was not sorry to
have it refused, and went back planning what kindness she could show
to Kester without its involving so much sacrifice to herself. For
giving waistcoat fronts to him would deprive her of the pleasant
power of selecting a fashionable pattern in Monkshaven churchyard
next Sunday.

That wished-for day seemed long a-coming, as wished-for days most
frequently do. Her father got better by slow degrees, and her mother
was pleased by the tailor's good pieces of work; showing the
neatly-placed patches with as much pride as many matrons take in new
clothes now-a-days. And the weather cleared up into a dim kind of
autumnal fineness, into anything but an Indian summer as far as
regarded gorgeousness of colouring, for on that coast the mists and
sea fogs early spoil the brilliancy of the foliage. Yet, perhaps,
the more did the silvery grays and browns of the inland scenery
conduce to the tranquillity of the time,--the time of peace and rest
before the fierce and stormy winter comes on. It seems a time for
gathering up human forces to encounter the coming severity, as well
as of storing up the produce of harvest for the needs of winter. Old
people turn out and sun themselves in that calm St. Martin's summer,
without fear of 'the heat o' th' sun, or the coming winter's rages,'
and we may read in their pensive, dreamy eyes that they are weaning
themselves away from the earth, which probably many may never see
dressed in her summer glory again.

Many such old people set out betimes, on the Sunday afternoon to
which Sylvia had been so looking forward, to scale the long flights
of stone steps--worn by the feet of many generations--which led up
to the parish church, placed on a height above the town, on a great
green area at the summit of the cliff, which was the angle where the
river and the sea met, and so overlooking both the busy crowded
little town, the port, the shipping, and the bar on the one hand,
and the wide illimitable tranquil sea on the other--types of life
and eternity. It was a good situation for that church.
Homeward-bound sailors caught sight of the tower of St Nicholas, the
first land object of all. They who went forth upon the great deep
might carry solemn thoughts with them of the words they had heard
there; not conscious thoughts, perhaps--rather a distinct if dim
conviction that buying and selling, eating and marrying, even life
and death, were not all the realities in existence. Nor were the
words that came up to their remembrance words of sermons preached
there, however impressive. The sailors mostly slept through the
sermons; unless, indeed, there were incidents such as were involved
in what were called 'funeral discourses' to be narrated. They did
not recognize their daily faults or temptations under the grand
aliases befitting their appearance from a preacher's mouth. But they
knew the old, oft-repeated words praying for deliverance from the
familiar dangers of lightning and tempest; from battle, murder, and
sudden death; and nearly every man was aware that he left behind him
some one who would watch for the prayer for the preservation of
those who travel by land or by water, and think of him, as
God-protected the more for the earnestness of the response then
given.

There, too, lay the dead of many generations; for St. Nicholas had
been the parish church ever since Monkshaven was a town, and the
large churchyard was rich in the dead. Masters, mariners,
ship-owners, seamen: it seemed strange how few other trades were
represented in that great plain so full of upright gravestones. Here
and there was a memorial stone, placed by some survivor of a large
family, most of whom perished at sea:--'Supposed to have perished
in the Greenland seas,' 'Shipwrecked in the Baltic,' 'Drowned off
the coast of Iceland.' There was a strange sensation, as if the cold
sea-winds must bring with them the dim phantoms of those lost
sailors, who had died far from their homes, and from the hallowed
ground where their fathers lay.

Each flight of steps up to this churchyard ended in a small flat
space, on which a wooden seat was placed. On this particular Sunday,
all these seats were filled by aged people, breathless with the
unusual exertion of climbing. You could see the church stair, as it
was called, from nearly every part of the town, and the figures of
the numerous climbers, diminished by distance, looked like a busy
ant-hill, long before the bell began to ring for afternoon service.
All who could manage it had put on a bit of black in token of
mourning; it might be very little; an old ribbon, a rusty piece of
crape; but some sign of mourning was shown by every one down to the
little child in its mother's arms, that innocently clutched the
piece of rosemary to be thrown into the grave 'for remembrance.'
Darley, the seaman shot by the press-gang, nine leagues off St.
Abb's Head, was to be buried to-day, at the accustomed time for the
funerals of the poorer classes, directly after evening service, and
there were only the sick and their nurse-tenders who did not come
forth to show their feeling for the man whom they looked upon as
murdered. The crowd of vessels in harbour bore their flags half-mast
high; and the crews were making their way through the High Street.
The gentlefolk of Monkshaven, full of indignation at this
interference with their ships, full of sympathy with the family who
had lost their son and brother almost within sight of his home, came
in unusual numbers--no lack of patterns for Sylvia; but her
thoughts were far otherwise and more suitably occupied. The unwonted
sternness and solemnity visible on the countenances of all whom she
met awed and affected her. She did not speak in reply to Molly's
remarks on the dress or appearance of those who struck her. She felt
as if these speeches jarred on her, and annoyed her almost to
irritation; yet Molly had come all the way to Monkshaven Church in
her service, and deserved forbearance accordingly. The two mounted
the steps alongside of many people; few words were exchanged, even
at the breathing places, so often the little centres of gossip.
Looking over the sea there was not a sail to be seen; it seemed
bared of life, as if to be in serious harmony with what was going on
inland.

The church was of old Norman architecture; low and massive outside:
inside, of vast space, only a quarter of which was filled on
ordinary Sundays. The walls were disfigured by numerous tablets of
black and white marble intermixed, and the usual ornamentation of
that style of memorial as erected in the last century, of weeping
willows, urns, and drooping figures, with here and there a ship in
full sail, or an anchor, where the seafaring idea prevalent through
the place had launched out into a little originality. There was no
wood-work, the church had been stripped of that, most probably when
the neighbouring monastery had been destroyed. There were large
square pews, lined with green baize, with the names of the families
of the most flourishing ship-owners painted white on the doors;
there were pews, not so large, and not lined at all, for the farmers
and shopkeepers of the parish; and numerous heavy oaken benches
which, by the united efforts of several men, might be brought within
earshot of the pulpit. These were being removed into the most
convenient situations when Molly and Sylvia entered the church, and
after two or three whispered sentences they took their seats on one
of these.

The vicar of Monkshaven was a kindly, peaceable old man, hating
strife and troubled waters above everything. He was a vehement Tory
in theory, as became his cloth in those days. He had two bugbears to
fear--the French and the Dissenters. It was difficult to say of
which he had the worst opinion and the most intense dread. Perhaps
he hated the Dissenters most, because they came nearer in contact
with him than the French; besides, the French had the excuse of
being Papists, while the Dissenters might have belonged to the
Church of England if they had not been utterly depraved. Yet in
practice Dr Wilson did not object to dine with Mr. Fishburn, who was
a personal friend and follower of Wesley, but then, as the doctor
would say, 'Wesley was an Oxford man, and that makes him a
gentleman; and he was an ordained minister of the Church of England,
so that grace can never depart from him.' But I do not know what
excuse he would have alleged for sending broth and vegetables to old
Ralph Thompson, a rabid Independent, who had been given to abusing
the Church and the vicar, from a Dissenting pulpit, as long as ever
he could mount the stairs. However, that inconsistency between Dr
Wilson's theories and practice was not generally known in
Monkshaven, so we have nothing to do with it.

Dr Wilson had had a very difficult part to play, and a still more
difficult sermon to write, during this last week. The Darley who had
been killed was the son of the vicar's gardener, and Dr Wilson's
sympathies as a man had been all on the bereaved father's side. But
then he had received, as the oldest magistrate in the neighbourhood,
a letter from the captain of the _Aurora_, explanatory and
exculpatory. Darley had been resisting the orders of an officer in
his Majesty's service. What would become of due subordination and
loyalty, and the interests of the service, and the chances of
beating those confounded French, if such conduct as Darley's was to
be encouraged? (Poor Darley! he was past all evil effects of human
encouragement now!)

So the vicar mumbled hastily over a sermon on the text, 'In the
midst of life we are in death'; which might have done as well for a
baby cut off in a convulsion-fit as for the strong man shot down
with all his eager blood hot within him, by men as hot-blooded as
himself. But once when the old doctor's eye caught the up-turned,
straining gaze of the father Darley, seeking with all his soul to
find a grain of holy comfort in the chaff of words, his conscience
smote him. Had he nothing to say that should calm anger and revenge
with spiritual power? no breath of the comforter to soothe repining
into resignation? But again the discord between the laws of man and
the laws of Christ stood before him; and he gave up the attempt to
do more than he was doing, as beyond his power. Though the hearers
went away as full of anger as they had entered the church, and some
with a dull feeling of disappointment as to what they had got there,
yet no one felt anything but kindly towards the old vicar. His
simple, happy life led amongst them for forty years, and open to all
men in its daily course; his sweet-tempered, cordial ways; his
practical kindness, made him beloved by all; and neither he nor they
thought much or cared much for admiration of his talents. Respect
for his office was all the respect he thought of; and that was
conceded to him from old traditional and hereditary association. In
looking back to the last century, it appears curious to see how
little our ancestors had the power of putting two things together,
and perceiving either the discord or harmony thus produced. Is it
because we are farther off from those times, and have, consequently,
a greater range of vision? Will our descendants have a wonder about
us, such as we have about the inconsistency of our forefathers, or a
surprise at our blindness that we do not perceive that, holding such
and such opinions, our course of action must be so and so, or that
the logical consequence of particular opinions must be convictions
which at present we hold in abhorrence? It seems puzzling to look
back on men such as our vicar, who almost held the doctrine that the
King could do no wrong, yet were ever ready to talk of the glorious
Revolution, and to abuse the Stuarts for having entertained the same
doctrine, and tried to put it in practice. But such discrepancies
ran through good men's lives in those days. It is well for us that
we live at the present time, when everybody is logical and
consistent. This little discussion must be taken in place of Dr
Wilson's sermon, of which no one could remember more than the text
half an hour after it was delivered. Even the doctor himself had the
recollection of the words he had uttered swept out of his mind, as,
having doffed his gown and donned his surplice, he came out of the
dusk of his vestry and went to the church-door, looking into the
broad light which came upon the plain of the church-yard on the
cliffs; for the sun had not yet set, and the pale moon was slowly
rising through the silvery mist that obscured the distant moors.
There was a thick, dense crowd, all still and silent, looking away
from the church and the vicar, who awaited the bringing of the dead.
They were watching the slow black line winding up the long steps,
resting their heavy burden here and there, standing in silent groups
at each landing-place; now lost to sight as a piece of broken,
overhanging ground intervened, now emerging suddenly nearer; and
overhead the great church bell, with its mediaeval inscription,
familiar to the vicar, if to no one else who heard it, I to the
grave do summon all, kept on its heavy booming monotone, with which
no other sound from land or sea, near or distant, intermingled,
except the cackle of the geese on some far-away farm on the moors,
as they were coming home to roost; and that one noise from so great
a distance seemed only to deepen the stillness. Then there was a
little movement in the crowd; a little pushing from side to side, to
make a path for the corpse and its bearers--an aggregate of the
fragments of room.

With bent heads and spent strength, those who carried the coffin
moved on; behind came the poor old gardener, a brown-black funeral
cloak thrown over his homely dress, and supporting his wife with
steps scarcely less feeble than her own. He had come to church that
afternoon, with a promise to her that he would return to lead her to
the funeral of her firstborn; for he felt, in his sore perplexed
heart, full of indignation and dumb anger, as if he must go and hear
something which should exorcize the unwonted longing for revenge
that disturbed his grief, and made him conscious of that great blank
of consolation which faithfulness produces. And for the time he was
faithless. How came God to permit such cruel injustice of man?
Permitting it, He could not be good. Then what was life, and what
was death, but woe and despair? The beautiful solemn words of the
ritual had done him good, and restored much of his faith. Though he
could not understand why such sorrow had befallen him any more than
before, he had come back to something of his childlike trust; he
kept saying to himself in a whisper, as he mounted the weary steps,
'It is the Lord's doing'; and the repetition soothed him
unspeakably. Behind this old couple followed their children, grown
men and women, come from distant place or farmhouse service; the
servants at the vicarage, and many a neighbour, anxious to show
their sympathy, and most of the sailors from the crews of the
vessels in port, joined in procession, and followed the dead body
into the church.

There was too great a crowd immediately within the door for Sylvia
and Molly to go in again, and they accordingly betook themselves to
the place where the deep grave was waiting, wide and hungry, to
receive its dead. There, leaning against the headstones all around,
were many standing--looking over the broad and placid sea, and
turned to the soft salt air which blew on their hot eyes and rigid
faces; for no one spoke of all that number. They were thinking of
the violent death of him over whom the solemn words were now being
said in the gray old church, scarcely out of their hearing, had not
the sound been broken by the measured lapping of the tide far
beneath.

Suddenly every one looked round towards the path from the churchyard
steps. Two sailors were supporting a ghastly figure that, with
feeble motions, was drawing near the open grave.

'It's t' specksioneer as tried to save him! It's him as was left for
dead!' the people murmured round.

'It's Charley Kinraid, as I'm a sinner!' said Molly, starting
forward to greet her cousin.

But as he came on, she saw that all his strength was needed for the
mere action of walking. The sailors, in their strong sympathy, had
yielded to his earnest entreaty, and carried him up the steps, in
order that he might see the last of his messmate. They placed him
near the grave, resting against a stone; and he was hardly there
before the vicar came forth, and the great crowd poured out of the
church, following the body to the grave.

Sylvia was so much wrapt up in the solemnity of the occasion, that
she had no thought to spare at the first moment for the pale and
haggard figure opposite; much less was she aware of her cousin
Philip, who now singling her out for the first time from among the
crowd, pressed to her side, with an intention of companionship and
protection.

As the service went on, ill-checked sobs rose from behind the two
girls, who were among the foremost in the crowd, and by-and-by the
cry and the wail became general. Sylvia's tears rained down her
face, and her distress became so evident that it attracted the
attention of many in that inner circle. Among others who noticed it,
the specksioneer's hollow eyes were caught by the sight of the
innocent blooming childlike face opposite to him, and he wondered if
she were a relation; yet, seeing that she bore no badge of mourning,
he rather concluded that she must have been a sweetheart of the dead
man.

And now all was over: the rattle of the gravel on the coffin; the
last long, lingering look of friends and lovers; the rosemary sprigs
had been cast down by all who were fortunate enough to have brought
them--and oh! how much Sylvia wished she had remembered this last
act of respect--and slowly the outer rim of the crowd began to
slacken and disappear.

Now Philip spoke to Sylvia.

'I never dreamt of seeing you here. I thought my aunt always went to
Kirk Moorside.'

'I came with Molly Corney,' said Sylvia. 'Mother is staying at home
with feyther.'

'How's his rheumatics?' asked Philip.

But at the same moment Molly took hold of Sylvia's hand, and said--

'A want t' get round and speak to Charley. Mother 'll be main and
glad to hear as he's getten out; though, for sure, he looks as
though he'd ha' been better in 's bed. Come, Sylvia.'

And Philip, fain to keep with Sylvia, had to follow the two girls
close up to the specksioneer, who was preparing for his slow
laborious walk back to his lodgings. He stopped on seeing his
cousin.

'Well, Molly,' said he, faintly, putting out his hand, but his eye
passing her face to look at Sylvia in the background, her
tear-stained face full of shy admiration of the nearest approach to
a hero she had ever seen.

'Well, Charley, a niver was so taken aback as when a saw yo' theere,
like a ghost, a-standin' agin a gravestone. How white and wan yo' do
look!'

'Ay!' said he, wearily, 'wan and weak enough.'

'But I hope you're getting better, sir,' said Sylvia, in a low
voice, longing to speak to him, and yet wondering at her own
temerity.

'Thank you, my lass. I'm o'er th' worst.'

He sighed heavily.

Philip now spoke.

'We're doing him no kindness a-keeping him standing here i' t'
night-fall, and him so tired.' And he made as though he would turn
away. Kinraid's two sailor friends backed up Philip's words with
such urgency, that, somehow, Sylvia thought they had been to blame
in speaking to him, and blushed excessively with the idea.

'Yo'll come and be nursed at Moss Brow, Charley,' said Molly; and
Sylvia dropped her little maidenly curtsey, and said, 'Good-by;'
and went away, wondering how Molly could talk so freely to such a
hero; but then, to be sure, he was a cousin, and probably a
sweetheart, and that would make a great deal of difference, of
course.

Meanwhile her own cousin kept close by her side.



CHAPTER VII

TETE-A-TETE.--THE WILL


'And now tell me all about th' folk at home?' said Philip, evidently
preparing to walk back with the girls. He generally came to
Haytersbank every Sunday afternoon, so Sylvia knew what she had to
expect the moment she became aware of his neighbourhood in the
churchyard.

'My feyther's been sadly troubled with his rheumatics this week
past; but he's a vast better now, thank you kindly.' Then,
addressing herself to Molly, she asked, 'Has your cousin a doctor to
look after him?'

'Ay, for sure!' said Molly, quickly; for though she knew nothing
about the matter, she was determined to suppose that her cousin had
everything becoming an invalid as well as a hero. 'He's well-to-do,
and can afford everything as he needs,' continued she. 'His
feyther's left him money, and he were a farmer out up in
Northumberland, and he's reckoned such a specksioneer as never,
never was, and gets what wage he asks for and a share on every whale
he harpoons beside.'

'I reckon he'll have to make himself scarce on this coast for
awhile, at any rate,' said Philip.

'An' what for should he?' asked Molly, who never liked Philip at the
best of times, and now, if he was going to disparage her cousin in
any way, was ready to take up arms and do battle.

'Why, they do say as he fired the shot as has killed some o' the
men-o'-war's men, and, of course, if he has, he'll have to stand his
trial if he's caught.'

'What lies people do say!' exclaimed Molly. 'He niver killed nought
but whales, a'll be bound; or, if he did, it were all right and
proper as he should, when they were for stealing him an' all t'
others, and did kill poor Darley as we come fra' seeming buried. A
suppose, now yo're such a Quaker that, if some one was to break
through fra' t' other side o' this dyke and offer for to murder
Sylvia and me, yo'd look on wi' yo'r hands hanging by yo'r side.'

'But t' press-gang had law on their side, and were doing nought but
what they'd warrant for.'

'Th' tender's gone away, as if she were ashamed o' what she'd done,'
said Sylvia, 'and t' flag's down fra' o'er the Randyvowse. There 'll
be no more press-ganging here awhile.'

'No; feyther says,' continued Molly, 'as they've made t' place too
hot t' hold 'em, coming so strong afore people had getten used to
their ways o' catchin' up poor lads just come fra' t' Greenland
seas. T' folks ha' their blood so up they'd think no harm o'
fighting 'em i' t' streets--ay, and o' killing 'em, too, if they
were for using fire-arms, as t' _Aurora_'s men did.'

'Women is so fond o' bloodshed,' said Philip; 'for t' hear you talk,
who'd ha' thought you'd just come fra' crying ower the grave of a
man who was killed by violence? I should ha' thought you'd seen
enough of what sorrow comes o' fighting. Why, them lads o' t'
_Aurora_ as they say Kinraid shot down had fathers and mothers,
maybe, a looking out for them to come home.'

'I don't think he could ha' killed them,' said Sylvia; 'he looked so
gentle.'

But Molly did not like this half-and-half view of the case.

'A dare say he did kill 'em dead; he's not one to do things by
halves. And a think he served 'em reet, that's what a do.'

'Is na' this Hester, as serves in Foster's shop?' asked Sylvia, in a
low voice, as a young woman came through a stile in the stone wall
by the roadside, and suddenly appeared before them.

'Yes,' said Philip. 'Why, Hester, where have you been?' he asked, as
they drew near.

Hester reddened a little, and then replied, in her slow, quiet way--

'I've been sitting with Betsy Darley--her that is bed-ridden. It
were lonesome for her when the others were away at the burying.'

And she made as though she would have passed; but Sylvia, all her
sympathies alive for the relations of the murdered man, wanted to
ask more questions, and put her hand on Hester's arm to detain her a
moment. Hester suddenly drew back a little, reddened still more, and
then replied fully and quietly to all Sylvia asked.

In the agricultural counties, and among the class to which these
four persons belonged, there is little analysis of motive or
comparison of characters and actions, even at this present day of
enlightenment. Sixty or seventy years ago there was still less. I do
not mean that amongst thoughtful and serious people there was not
much reading of such books as _Mason_ on _Self-Knowledge_ and _Law's
Serious Call_, or that there were not the experiences of the
Wesleyans, that were related at class-meeting for the edification of
the hearers. But, taken as a general ride, it may be said that few
knew what manner of men they were, compared to the numbers now who
are fully conscious of their virtues, qualities, failings, and
weaknesses, and who go about comparing others with themselves--not
in a spirit of Pharisaism and arrogance, but with a vivid
self-consciousness that more than anything else deprives characters
of freshness and originality.

To return to the party we left standing on the high-raised footway
that ran alongside of the bridle-road to Haytersbank. Sylvia had
leisure in her heart to think 'how good Hester is for sitting with
the poor bed-ridden sister of Darley!' without having a pang of
self-depreciation in the comparison of her own conduct with that she
was capable of so fully appreciating. She had gone to church for the
ends of vanity, and remained to the funeral for curiosity and the
pleasure of the excitement. In this way a modern young lady would
have condemned herself, and therefore lost the simple, purifying
pleasure of admiration of another.

Hester passed onwards, going down the hill towards the town. The
other three walked slowly on. All were silent for a few moments,
then Sylvia said--

'How good she is!'

And Philip replied with ready warmth,--

'Yes, she is; no one knows how good but us, who live in the same
house wi' her.'

'Her mother is an old Quakeress, bean't she?' Molly inquired.

'Alice Rose is a Friend, if that is what you mean,' said Philip.

'Well, well! some folk's so particular. Is William Coulson a Quaker,
by which a mean a Friend?'

'Yes; they're all on 'em right-down good folk.'

'Deary me! What a wonder yo' can speak to such sinners as Sylvia and
me, after keepin' company with so much goodness,' said Molly, who
had not yet forgiven Philip for doubting Kinraid's power of killing
men. 'Is na' it, Sylvia?'

But Sylvia was too highly strung for banter. If she had not been one
of those who went to mock, but remained to pray, she had gone to
church with the thought of the cloak-that-was-to-be uppermost in her
mind, and she had come down the long church stair with life and
death suddenly become real to her mind, the enduring sea and hills
forming a contrasting background to the vanishing away of man. She
was full of a solemn wonder as to the abiding-place of the souls of
the dead, and a childlike dread lest the number of the elect should
be accomplished before she was included therein. How people could
ever be merry again after they had been at a funeral, she could not
imagine; so she answered gravely, and slightly beside the question:

'I wonder if I was a Friend if I should be good?'

'Gi' me your red cloak, that's all, when yo' turn Quaker; they'll
none let thee wear scarlet, so it 'll be of no use t' thee.'

'I think thou'rt good enough as thou art,' said Philip, tenderly--at
least as tenderly as he durst, for he knew by experience that it did
not do to alarm her girlish coyness. Either one speech or the other
made Sylvia silent; neither was accordant to her mood of mind; so
perhaps both contributed to her quietness.

'Folk say William Coulson looks sweet on Hester Rose,' said Molly,
always up in Monkshaven gossip. It was in the form of an assertion,
but was said in the tone of a question, and as such Philip replied
to it.

'Yes, I think he likes her a good deal; but he's so quiet, I never
feel sure. John and Jeremiah would like the match, I've a notion.'

And now they came to the stile which had filled Philip's eye for
some minutes past, though neither of the others had perceived they
were so near it; the stile which led to Moss Brow from the road into
the fields that sloped down to Haystersbank. Here they would leave
Molly, and now would begin the delicious _tete-a-tete_ walk, which
Philip always tried to make as lingering as possible. To-day he was
anxious to show his sympathy with Sylvia, as far as he could read
what was passing in her mind; but how was he to guess the multitude
of tangled thoughts in that unseen receptacle? A resolution to be
good, if she could, and always to be thinking on death, so that what
seemed to her now as simply impossible, might come true--that she
might 'dread the grave as little as her bed'; a wish that Philip
were not coming home with her; a wonder if the specksioneer really
had killed a man, an idea which made her shudder; yet from the awful
fascination about it, her imagination was compelled to dwell on the
tall, gaunt figure, and try to recall the wan countenance; a hatred
and desire of revenge on the press-gang, so vehement that it sadly
militated against her intention of trying to be good; all these
notions, and wonders, and fancies, were whirling about in Sylvia's
brain, and at one of their promptings she spoke,--

'How many miles away is t' Greenland seas?--I mean, how long do they
take to reach?'

'I don't know; ten days or a fortnight, or more, maybe. I'll ask.'

'Oh! feyther 'll tell me all about it. He's been there many a time.'

'I say, Sylvie! My aunt said I were to give you lessons this winter
i' writing and ciphering. I can begin to come up now, two evenings,
maybe, a week. T' shop closes early after November comes in.'

Sylvia did not like learning, and did not want him for her teacher;
so she answered in a dry little tone,--

'It'll use a deal o' candle-light; mother 'll not like that. I can't
see to spell wi'out a candle close at my elbow.'

'Niver mind about candles. I can bring up a candle wi' me, for I
should be burning one at Alice Rose's.'

So that excuse would not do. Sylvia beat her brains for another.

'Writing cramps my hand so, I can't do any sewing for a day after;
and feyther wants his shirts very bad.'

'But, Sylvia, I'll teach you geography, and ever such a vast o' fine
things about t' countries, on t' map.'

'Is t' Arctic seas down on t' map?' she asked, in a tone of greater
interest.

'Yes! Arctics, and tropics, and equator, and equinoctial line; we'll
take 'em turn and turn about; we'll do writing and ciphering one
night, and geography t' other.'

Philip spoke with pleasure at the prospect, but Sylvia relaxed into
indifference.

'I'm no scholard; it's like throwing away labour to teach me, I'm
such a dunce at my book. Now there's Betsy Corney, third girl, her
as is younger than Molly, she'd be a credit to you. There niver was
such a lass for pottering ower books.'

If Philip had had his wits about him, he would have pretended to
listen to this proposition of a change of pupils, and then possibly
Sylvia might have repented making it. But he was too much mortified
to be diplomatic.

'My aunt asked me to teach _you_ a bit, not any neighbour's lass.'

'Well! if I mun be taught, I mun; but I'd rayther be whipped and ha'
done with it,' was Sylvia's ungracious reply.

A moment afterwards, she repented of her little spirit of
unkindness, and thought that she should not like to die that night
without making friends. Sudden death was very present in her
thoughts since the funeral. So she instinctively chose the best
method of making friends again, and slipped her hand into his, as he
walked a little sullenly at her side. She was half afraid, however,
when she found it firmly held, and that she could not draw it away
again without making what she called in her own mind a 'fuss.' So,
hand in hand, they slowly and silently came up to the door of
Haytersbank Farm; not unseen by Bell Robson, who sate in the
window-seat, with her Bible open upon her knee. She had read her
chapter aloud to herself, and now she could see no longer, even if
she had wished to read more; but she gazed out into the darkening
air, and a dim look of contentment came like moonshine over her face
when she saw the cousins approach.

'That's my prayer day and night,' said she to herself.

But there was no unusual aspect of gladness on her face, as she
lighted the candle to give them a more cheerful welcome.

'Wheere's feyther?' said Sylvia, looking round the room for Daniel.

'He's been to Kirk Moorside Church, for t' see a bit o' th' world,
as he ca's it. And sin' then he's gone out to th' cattle; for
Kester's ta'en his turn of playing hissel', now that father's
better.'

'I've been talking to Sylvia,' said Philip, his head still full of
his pleasant plan, his hand still tingling from the touch of hers,
'about turning schoolmaster, and coming up here two nights a week for
t' teach her a bit o' writing and ciphering.'

'And geography,' put in Sylvia; 'for,' thought she, 'if I'm to learn
them things I don't care a pin about, anyhow I'll learn what I do
care to know, if it 'll tell me about t' Greenland seas, and how far
they're off.'

That same evening, a trio alike in many outward circumstances sate
in a small neat room in a house opening out of a confined court on
the hilly side of the High Street of Monkshaven--a mother, her only
child, and the young man who silently loved that daughter, and was
favoured by Alice Rose, though not by Hester.

When the latter returned from her afternoon's absence, she stood for
a minute or two on the little flight of steep steps, whitened to a
snowy whiteness; the aspect of the whole house partook of the same
character of irreproachable cleanliness. It was wedged up into a
space which necessitated all sorts of odd projections and
irregularities in order to obtain sufficient light for the interior;
and if ever the being situated in a dusky, confined corner might
have been made an excuse for dirt, Alice Rose's house had that
apology. Yet the small diamond panes of glass in the casement window
were kept so bright and clear that a great sweet-scented-leaved
geranium grew and flourished, though it did not flower profusely.
The leaves seemed to fill the air with fragrance as soon as Hester
summoned up energy enough to open the door. Perhaps that was because
the young Quaker, William Coulson, was crushing one between his
finger and thumb, while waiting to set down Alice's next words. For
the old woman, who looked as if many years of life remained in her
yet, was solemnly dictating her last will and testament.

It had been on her mind for many months; for she had something to
leave beyond the mere furniture of the house. Something--a few
pounds--in the hands of John and Jeremiah Foster, her cousins: and
it was they who had suggested the duty on which she was engaged. She
had asked William Coulson to write down her wishes, and he had
consented, though with some fear and trepidation; for he had an idea
that he was infringing on a lawyer's prerogative, and that, for
aught he knew, he might be prosecuted for making a will without a
licence, just as a man might be punished for selling wine and
spirits without going through the preliminary legal forms that give
permission for such a sale. But to his suggestion that Alice should
employ a lawyer, she had replied--

'That would cost me five pounds sterling; and thee canst do it as
well, if thee'll but attend to my words.'

So he had bought, at her desire, a black-edged sheet of fine-wove
paper, and a couple of good pens, on the previous Saturday; and
while waiting for her to begin her dictation, and full serious
thought himself, he had almost unconsciously made the grand flourish
at the top of the paper which he had learnt at school, and which was
there called a spread-eagle.

'What art thee doing there?' asked Alice, suddenly alive to his
proceedings.

Without a word he showed her his handiwork.

'It's a vanity,' said she, 'and 't may make t' will not stand. Folk
may think I were na in my right mind, if they see such fly-legs and
cob-webs a-top. Write, "This is my doing, William Coulson, and none
of Alice Rose's, she being in her sound mind."'

'I don't think it's needed,' said William. Nevertheless he wrote
down the words.

'Hast thee put that I'm in my sound mind and seven senses? Then make
the sign of the Trinity, and write, "In the name of the Father, the
Son, and the Holy Ghost."'

'Is that the right way o' beginning a will?' said Coulson, a little
startled.

'My father, and my father's father, and my husband had it a-top of
theirs, and I'm noane going for to cease fra' following after them,
for they were godly men, though my husband were o' t' episcopal
persuasion.'

'It's done,' said William.

'Hast thee dated it?' asked Alice.

'Nay.'

'Then date it third day, ninth month. Now, art ready?'

Coulson nodded.

'I, Alice Rose, do leave my furniture (that is, my bed and chest o'
drawers, for thy bed and things is thine, and not mine), and settle,
and saucepans, and dresser, and table, and kettle, and all the rest
of my furniture, to my lawful and only daughter, Hester Rose. I
think that's safe for her to have all, is 't not, William?'

'I think so, too,' said he, writing on all the time.

'And thee shalt have t' roller and paste-board, because thee's so
fond o' puddings and cakes. It 'll serve thy wife after I'm gone,
and I trust she'll boil her paste long enough, for that's been t'
secret o' mine, and thee'll noane be so easy t' please.'

'I din't reckon on marriage,' said William.

'Thee'll marry,' said Alice. 'Thee likes to have thy victuals hot
and comfortable; and there's noane many but a wife as'll look after
that for t' please thee.'

'I know who could please me,' sighed forth William, 'but I can't
please her.'

Alice looked sharply at him from over her spectacles, which she had
put on the better to think about the disposal of her property.

'Thee art thinking on our Hester,' said she, plainly out.

He started a little, but looked up at her and met her eyes.

'Hester cares noane for me,' said he, dejectedly.

'Bide a while, my lad,' said Alice, kindly. 'Young women don't
always know their own minds. Thee and her would make a marriage
after my own heart; and the Lord has been very good to me hitherto,
and I think He'll bring it t' pass. But don't thee let on as thee
cares for her so much. I sometimes think she wearies o' thy looks
and thy ways. Show up thy manly heart, and make as though thee had
much else to think on, and no leisure for to dawdle after her, and
she'll think a deal more on thee. And now mend thy pen for a fresh
start. I give and bequeath--did thee put "give and bequeath," at th'
beginning?'

'Nay,' said William, looking back. 'Thee didst not tell me "give and
bequeath!"'

'Then it won't be legal, and my bit o' furniture 'll be taken to
London, and put into chancery, and Hester will have noane on it.'

'I can write it over,' said William.

'Well, write it clear then, and put a line under it to show those
are my special words. Hast thee done it? Then now start afresh. I
give and bequeath my book o' sermons, as is bound in good calfskin,
and lies on the third shelf o' corner cupboard at the right hand o'
t' fire-place, to Philip Hepburn; for I reckon he's as fond o'
reading sermons as thee art o' light, well-boiled paste, and I'd be
glad for each on ye to have somewhat ye like for to remember me by.
Is that down? There; now for my cousins John and Jeremiah. They are
rich i' world's gear, but they'll prize what I leave 'em if I could
only onbethink me what they would like. Hearken! Is na' that our
Hester's step? Put it away, quick! I'm noane for grieving her wi'
telling her what I've been about. We'll take a turn at t' will next
First Day; it will serve us for several Sabbaths to come, and maybe
I can think on something as will suit cousin John and cousin
Jeremiah afore then.'

Hester, as was mentioned, paused a minute or two before lifting the
latch of the door. When she entered there was no unusual sign of
writing about; only Will Coulson looking very red, and crushing and
smelling at the geranium leaf.

Hester came in briskly, with the little stock of enforced
cheerfulness she had stopped at the door to acquire. But it faded
away along with the faint flush of colour in her cheeks; and the
mother's quick eye immediately noted the wan heavy look of care.

'I have kept t' pot in t' oven; it'll have a'most got a' t' goodness
out of t' tea by now, for it'll be an hour since I made it. Poor
lass, thou look'st as if thou needed a good cup o' tea. It were dree
work sitting wi' Betsy Darley, were it? And how does she look on her
affliction?'

'She takes it sore to heart,' said Hester, taking off her hat, and
folding and smoothing away her cloak, before putting them in the
great oak chest (or 'ark,' as it was called), in which they were
laid from Sunday to Sunday.

As she opened the lid a sweet scent of dried lavender and
rose-leaves came out. William stepped hastily forwards to hold up
the heavy lid for her. She lifted up her head, looked at him full
with her serene eyes, and thanked him for his little service. Then
she took a creepie-stool and sate down on the side of the
fire-place, having her back to the window.

The hearth was of the same spotless whiteness as the steps; all that
was black about the grate was polished to the utmost extent; all
that was of brass, like the handle of the oven, was burnished
bright. Her mother placed the little black earthenware teapot, in
which the tea had been stewing, on the table, where cups and saucers
were already set for four, and a large plate of bread and butter
cut. Then they sate round the table, bowed their heads, and kept
silence for a minute or two.

When this grace was ended, and they were about to begin, Alice said,
as if without premeditation, but in reality with a keen shrinking of
heart out of sympathy with her child--

'Philip would have been in to his tea by now, I reckon, if he'd been
coming.'

William looked up suddenly at Hester; her mother carefully turned
her head another way. But she answered quite quietly--

'He'll be gone to his aunt's at Haytersbank. I met him at t' top o'
t' Brow, with his cousin and Molly Corney.'

'He's a deal there,' said William.

'Yes,' said Hester. 'It's likely; him and his aunt come from
Carlisle-way, and must needs cling together in these strange parts.'

'I saw him at the burying of yon Darley,' said William.

'It were a vast o' people went past th' entry end,' said Alice. 'It
were a'most like election time; I were just come back fra' meeting
when they were all going up th' church steps. I met yon sailor as,
they say, used violence and did murder; he looked like a ghost,
though whether it were his bodily wounds, or the sense of his sins
stirring within him, it's not for me to say. And by t' time I was
back here and settled to my Bible, t' folk were returning, and it
were tramp, tramp, past th' entry end for better nor a quarter of an
hour.'

'They say Kinraid has getten slugs and gun-shot in his side,' said
Hester.

'He's niver one Charley Kinraid, for sure, as I knowed at
Newcastle,' said William Coulson, roused to sudden and energetic
curiosity.

'I don't know,' replied Hester; 'they call him just Kinraid; and
Betsy Darley says he's t' most daring specksioneer of all that go
off this coast to t' Greenland seas. But he's been in Newcastle, for
I mind me she said her poor brother met with him there.'

'How didst thee come to know him?' inquired Alice.

'I cannot abide him if it is Charley,' said William. 'He kept
company with my poor sister as is dead for better nor two year, and
then he left off coming to see her and went wi' another girl, and it
just broke her heart.'

'He don't look now as if he iver could play at that game again,'
said Alice; 'he has had a warning fra' the Lord. Whether it be a
call no one can tell. But to my eyne he looks as if he had been
called, and was going.'

'Then he'll meet my sister,' said William, solemnly; 'and I hope the
Lord will make it clear to him, then, how he killed her, as sure as
he shot down yon sailors; an' if there's a gnashing o' teeth for
murder i' that other place, I reckon he'll have his share on't. He's
a bad man yon.'

'Betsy said he were such a friend to her brother as niver was; and
he's sent her word and promised to go and see her, first place he
goes out to.

But William only shook his head, and repeated his last words,--

'He's a bad man, he is.'

When Philip came home that Sunday night, he found only Alice up to
receive him. The usual bedtime in the household was nine o'clock,
and it was but ten minutes past the hour; but Alice looked
displeased and stern.

'Thee art late, lad,' said she, shortly.

'I'm sorry; it's a long way from my uncle's, and I think clocks are
different,' said he, taking out his watch to compare it with the
round moon's face that told the time to Alice.

'I know nought about thy uncle's, but thee art late. Take thy
candle, and begone.'

If Alice made any reply to Philip's 'good-night,' he did not hear
it.



CHAPTER VIII

ATTRACTION AND REPULSION


A fortnight had passed over and winter was advancing with rapid
strides. In bleak northern farmsteads there was much to be done
before November weather should make the roads too heavy for half-fed
horses to pull carts through. There was the turf, pared up on the
distant moors, and left out to dry, to be carried home and stacked;
the brown fern was to be stored up for winter bedding for the
cattle; for straw was scarce and dear in those parts; even for
thatching, heather (or rather ling) was used. Then there was meat to
salt while it could be had; for, in default of turnips and
mangold-wurzel, there was a great slaughtering of barren cows as
soon as the summer herbage failed; and good housewives stored up
their Christmas piece of beef in pickle before Martinmas was over.
Corn was to be ground while yet it could be carried to the distant
mill; the great racks for oat-cake, that swung at the top of the
kitchen, had to be filled. And last of all came the pig-killing,
when the second frost set in. For up in the north there is an idea
that the ice stored in the first frost will melt, and the meat cured
then taint; the first frost is good for nothing but to be thrown
away, as they express it.

There came a breathing-time after this last event. The house had had
its last autumn cleaning, and was neat and bright from top to
bottom, from one end to another. The turf was led; the coal carted
up from Monkshaven; the wood stored; the corn ground; the pig
killed, and the hams and head and hands lying in salt. The butcher
had been glad to take the best parts of a pig of Dame Robson's
careful feeding; but there was unusual plenty in the Haytersbank
pantry; and as Bell surveyed it one morning, she said to her husband--

'I wonder if yon poor sick chap at Moss Brow would fancy some o' my
sausages. They're something to crack on, for they are made fra' an
old Cumberland receipt, as is not known i' Yorkshire yet.'

'Thou's allays so set upo' Cumberland ways!' said her husband, not
displeased with the suggestion, however. 'Still, when folk's sick
they han their fancies, and maybe Kinraid 'll be glad o' thy
sausages. I ha' known sick folk tak' t' eating snails.'

This was not complimentary, perhaps. But Daniel went on to say that
he did not mind if he stepped over with the sausages himself, when
it was too late to do anything else. Sylvia longed to offer to
accompany her father; but, somehow, she did not like to propose it.
Towards dusk she came to her mother to ask for the key of the great
bureau that stood in the house-place as a state piece of furniture,
although its use was to contain the family's best wearing apparel,
and stores of linen, such as might be supposed to be more needed
upstairs.

'What for do yo' want my keys?' asked Bell.

'Only just to get out one of t' damask napkins.'

'The best napkins, as my mother span?'

'Yes!' said Sylvia, her colour heightening. 'I thought as how it
would set off t' sausages.'

'A good clean homespun cloth will serve them better,' said Bell,
wondering in her own mind what was come over the girl, to be
thinking of setting off sausages that were to be eaten, not to be
looked at like a picture-book. She might have wondered still more,
if she had seen Sylvia steal round to the little flower border she
had persuaded Kester to make under the wall at the sunny side of the
house, and gather the two or three Michaelmas daisies, and the one
bud of the China rose, that, growing against the kitchen chimney,
had escaped the frost; and then, when her mother was not looking,
softly open the cloth inside of the little basket that contained the
sausages and a fresh egg or two, and lay her autumn blossoms in one
of the folds of the towel.

After Daniel, now pretty clear of his rheumatism, had had his
afternoon meal (tea was a Sunday treat), he prepared to set out on
his walk to Moss Brow; but as he was taking his stick he caught the
look on Sylvia's face; and unconsciously interpreted its dumb
wistfulness.

'Missus,' said he, 't' wench has nought more t' do, has she? She may
as well put on her cloak and step down wi' me, and see Molly a bit;
she'll be company like.'

Bell considered.

'There's t' yarn for thy stockings as is yet to spin; but she can
go, for I'll do a bit at 't mysel', and there's nought else agate.'

'Put on thy things in a jiffy, then, and let's be off,' said Daniel.

And Sylvia did not need another word. Down she came in a twinkling,
dressed in her new red cloak and hood, her face peeping out of the
folds of the latter, bright and blushing.

'Thou should'st na' ha' put on thy new cloak for a night walk to
Moss Brow,' said Bell, shaking her head.

'Shall I go take it off, and put on my shawl?' asked Sylvia, a
little dolefully.

'Na, na, come along! a'm noane goin' for t' wait o' women's chops
and changes. Come along; come, Lassie!' (this last to his dog).

So Sylvia set off with a dancing heart and a dancing step, that had
to be restrained to the sober gait her father chose. The sky above
was bright and clear with the light of a thousand stars, the grass
was crisping under their feet with the coming hoar frost; and as
they mounted to the higher ground they could see the dark sea
stretching away far below them. The night was very still, though now
and then crisp sounds in the distant air sounded very near in the
silence. Sylvia carried the basket, and looked like little Red
Riding Hood. Her father had nothing to say, and did not care to make
himself agreeable; but Sylvia enjoyed her own thoughts, and any
conversation would have been a disturbance to her. The long
monotonous roll of the distant waves, as the tide bore them in, the
multitudinous rush at last, and then the retreating rattle and
trickle, as the baffled waters fell back over the shingle that
skirted the sands, and divided them from the cliffs; her father's
measured tread, and slow, even movement; Lassie's pattering--all
lulled Sylvia into a reverie, of which she could not have given
herself any definite account. But at length they arrived at Moss
Brow, and with a sudden sigh she quitted the subjects of her dreamy
meditations, and followed her father into the great house-place. It
had a more comfortable aspect by night than by day. The fire was
always kept up to a wasteful size, and the dancing blaze and the
partial light of candles left much in shadow that was best ignored
in such a disorderly family. But there was always a warm welcome to
friends, however roughly given; and after the words of this were
spoken, the next rose up equally naturally in the mind of Mrs
Corney.

'And what will ye tak'? Eh! but t' measter 'll be fine and vexed at
your comin' when he's away. He's off to Horncastle t' sell some
colts, and he'll not be back till to-morrow's neet. But here's
Charley Kinraid as we've getten to nurse up a bit, and' t' lads 'll
be back fra' Monkshaven in a crack o' no time.'

All this was addressed to Daniel, to whom she knew that none but
masculine company would be acceptable. Amongst uneducated
people--whose range of subjects and interest do not extend beyond
their daily life--it is natural that when the first blush and hurry
of youth is over, there should be no great pleasure in the
conversation of the other sex. Men have plenty to say to men, which
in their estimation (gained from tradition and experience) women
cannot understand; and farmers of a much later date than the one of
which I am writing, would have contemptuously considered it as a
loss of time to talk to women; indeed, they were often more
communicative to the sheep-dog that accompanied them through all the
day's work, and frequently became a sort of dumb confidant. Farmer
Robson's Lassie now lay down at her master's feet, placed her nose
between her paws, and watched with attentive eyes the preparations
going on for refreshments--preparations which, to the
disappointment of her canine heart, consisted entirely of tumblers
and sugar.

'Where's t' wench?' said Robson, after he had shaken hands with
Kinraid, and spoken a few words to him and to Mrs. Corney. 'She's
getten' a basket wi' sausages in 'em, as my missus has made, and
she's a rare hand at sausages; there's noane like her in a' t' three
Ridings, I'll be bound!'

For Daniel could praise his wife's powers in her absence, though he
did not often express himself in an appreciative manner when she was
by to hear. But Sylvia's quick sense caught up the manner in which
Mrs. Corney would apply the way in which her mother's housewifery had
been exalted, and stepping forwards out of the shadow, she said,--

'Mother thought, maybe, you hadn't killed a pig yet, and sausages is
always a bit savoury for any one who is na' well, and----'

She might have gone on but that she caught Kinraid's eyes looking at
her with kindly admiration. She stopped speaking, and Mrs. Corney
took up the word--

'As for sausages, I ha' niver had a chance this year, else I stand
again any one for t' making of 'em. Yorkshire hams 's a vast thought
on, and I'll niver let another county woman say as she can make
better sausages nor me. But, as I'm saying, I'd niver a chance; for
our pig, as I were sa fond on, and fed mysel', and as would ha' been
fourteen stone by now if he were an ounce, and as knew me as well as
any Christian, and a pig, as I may say, that I just idolized, went
and took a fit a week after Michaelmas Day, and died, as if it had
been to spite me; and t' next is na' ready for killing, nor wunnot
be this six week. So I'm much beholden to your missus, and so's
Charley, I'm sure; though he's ta'en a turn to betterin' sin' he
came out here to be nursed.'

'I'm a deal better,' said Kinraid; 'a'most ready for t' press-gang
to give chase to again.'

'But folk say they're gone off this coast for one while,' added
Daniel.

'They're gone down towards Hull, as I've been told,' said Kinraid.
'But they're a deep set, they'll be here before we know where we
are, some of these days.'

'See thee here!' said Daniel, exhibiting his maimed hand; 'a reckon
a served 'em out time o' t' Ameriky war.' And he began the story
Sylvia knew so well; for her father never made a new acquaintance
but what he told him of his self-mutilation to escape the
press-gang. It had been done, as he would himself have owned, to
spite himself as well as them; for it had obliged him to leave a
sea-life, to which, in comparison, all life spent on shore was worse
than nothing for dulness. For Robson had never reached that rank
aboard ship which made his being unable to run up the rigging, or to
throw a harpoon, or to fire off a gun, of no great consequence; so
he had to be thankful that an opportune legacy enabled him to turn
farmer, a great degradation in his opinion. But his blood warmed, as
he told the specksioneer, towards a sailor, and he pressed Kinraid
to beguile the time when he was compelled to be ashore, by coming
over to see him at Haytersbank, whenever he felt inclined.

Sylvia, appearing to listen to Molly's confidences, was hearkening
in reality to all this conversation between her father and the
specksioneer; and at this invitation she became especially
attentive.

Kinraid replied,--

'I'm much obliged to ye, I'm sure; maybe I can come and spend an
ev'ning wi' you; but as soon as I'm got round a bit, I must go see
my own people as live at Cullercoats near Newcastle-upo'-Tyne.'

'Well, well!' said Daniel, rising to take leave, with unusual
prudence as to the amount of his drink. 'Thou'lt see, thou'lt see! I
shall be main glad to see thee; if thou'lt come. But I've na' lads
to keep thee company, only one sprig of a wench. Sylvia, come here,
an let's show thee to this young fellow!'

Sylvia came forwards, ruddy as any rose, and in a moment Kinraid
recognized her as the pretty little girl he had seen crying so
bitterly over Darley's grave. He rose up out of true sailor's
gallantry, as she shyly approached and stood by her father's side,
scarcely daring to lift her great soft eyes, to have one fair gaze
at his face. He had to support himself by one hand rested on the
dresser, but she saw he was looking far better--younger, less
haggard--than he had seemed to her before. His face was short and
expressive; his complexion had been weatherbeaten and bronzed,
though now he looked so pale; his eyes and hair were dark,--the
former quick, deep-set, and penetrating; the latter curly, and
almost in ringlets. His teeth gleamed white as he smiled at her, a
pleasant friendly smile of recognition; but she only blushed the
deeper, and hung her head.

'I'll come, sir, and be thankful. I daresay a turn'll do me good, if
the weather holds up, an' th' frost keeps on.'

'That's right, my lad,' said Robson, shaking him by the hand, and
then Kinraid's hand was held out to Sylvia, and she could not avoid
the same friendly action.

Molly Corney followed her to the door, and when they were fairly
outside, she held Sylvia back for an instant to say,--

'Is na' he a fine likely man? I'm so glad as yo've seen him, for
he's to be off next week to Newcastle and that neighbourhood.'

'But he said he'd come to us some night?' asked Sylvia, half in a
fright.

'Ay, I'll see as he does; never fear. For I should like yo' for to
know him a bit. He's a rare talker. I'll mind him o' coming to yo'.'

Somehow, Sylvia felt as if this repeated promise of reminding
Kinraid of his promise to come and see her father took away part of
the pleasure she had anticipated from his visit. Yet what could be
more natural than that Molly Corney should wish her friend to be
acquainted with the man whom Sylvia believed to be all but Molly's
engaged lover?

Pondering these thoughts, the walk home was as silent as that going
to Moss Brow had been. The only change seemed to be that now they
faced the brilliant northern lights flashing up the sky, and that
either this appearance or some of the whaling narrations of Kinraid
had stirred up Daniel Robson's recollections of a sea ditty, which
he kept singing to himself in a low, unmusical voice, the burden of
which was, 'for I loves the tossin' say!' Bell met them at the door.

'Well, and here ye are at home again! and Philip has been, Sylvie,
to give thee thy ciphering lesson; and he stayed awhile, thinking
thou'd be coming back.'

'I'm very sorry,' said Sylvia, more out of deference to her mother's
tone of annoyance, than because she herself cared either for her
lesson or her cousin's disappointment.

'He'll come again to-morrow night, he says. But thou must take care,
and mind the nights he says he'll come, for it's a long way to come
for nought.'

Sylvia might have repeated her 'I'm very sorry' at this announcement
of Philip's intentions; but she restrained herself, inwardly and
fervently hoping that Molly would not urge the fulfilment of the
specksioneer's promise for to-morrow night, for Philip's being there
would spoil all; and besides, if she sate at the dresser at her
lesson, and Kinraid at the table with her father, he might hear all,
and find out what a dunce she was.

She need not have been afraid. With the next night Hepburn came; and
Kinraid did not. After a few words to her mother, Philip produced
the candles he had promised, and some books and a quill or two.

'What for hast thou brought candles?' asked Bell, in a
half-affronted tone.

Hepburn smiled.

'Sylvia thought it would take a deal of candlelight, and was for
making it into a reason not to learn. I should ha' used t' candles
if I'd stayed at home, so I just brought them wi' me.'

'Then thou may'st just take them back again,' said Bell, shortly,
blowing out that which he had lighted, and placing one of her own on
the dresser instead.

Sylvia caught her mother's look of displeasure, and it made her
docile for the evening, although she owed her cousin a grudge for
her enforced good behaviour.

'Now, Sylvia, here's a copy-book wi' t' Tower o' London on it, and
we'll fill it wi' as pretty writing as any in t' North Riding.'

Sylvia sate quite still, unenlivened by this prospect.

'Here's a pen as 'll nearly write of itsel',' continued Philip,
still trying to coax her out her sullenness of manner.

Then he arranged her in the right position.

'Don't lay your head down on your left arm, you'll ne'er see to
write straight.'

The attitude was changed, but not a word was spoken. Philip began to
grow angry at such determined dumbness.

'Are you tired?' asked he, with a strange mixture of crossness and
tenderness.

'Yes, very,' was her reply.

'But thou ought'st not to be tired,' said Bell, who had not yet got
over the offence to her hospitality; who, moreover, liked her
nephew, and had, to boot, a great respect for the learning she had
never acquired.

'Mother!' said Sylvia, bursting out, 'what's the use on my writing
"Abednego," "Abednego," "Abednego," all down a page? If I could see
t' use on 't, I'd ha' axed father to send me t' school; but I'm none
wanting to have learning.'

'It's a fine thing, tho', is learning. My mother and my grandmother
had it: but th' family came down i' the world, and Philip's mother
and me, we had none of it; but I ha' set my heart on thy having it,
child.'

'My fingers is stiff,' pleaded Sylvia, holding up her little hand
and shaking it.

'Let us take a turn at spelling, then,' said Philip.

'What's t' use on't?' asked captious Sylvia.

'Why, it helps one i' reading an' writing.'

'And what does reading and writing do for one?'

Her mother gave her another of the severe looks that, quiet woman as
she was, she could occasionally bestow upon the refractory, and
Sylvia took her book and glanced down the column Philip pointed out
to her; but, as she justly considered, one man might point out the
task, but twenty could not make her learn it, if she did not choose;
and she sat herself down on the edge of the dresser, and idly gazed
into the fire. But her mother came round to look for something in
the drawers of the dresser, and as she passed her daughter she said
in a low voice--

'Sylvie, be a good lass. I set a deal o' store by learning, and
father 'ud never send thee to school, as has stuck by me sore.'

If Philip, sitting with his back to them, heard these words he was
discreet enough not to show that he heard. And he had his reward;
for in a very short time, Sylvia stood before him with her book in
her hand, prepared to say her spelling. At which he also stood up by
instinct, and listened to her slow succeeding letters; helping her
out, when she looked up at him with a sweet childlike perplexity in
her face: for a dunce as to book-learning poor Sylvia was and was
likely to remain; and, in spite of his assumed office of
schoolmaster, Philip Hepburn could almost have echoed the words of
the lover of Jess MacFarlane--

  I sent my love a letter,
  But, alas! she canna read,
  And I lo'e her a' the better.

Still he knew his aunt's strong wish on the subject, and it was very
delightful to stand in the relation of teacher to so dear and
pretty, if so wilful, a pupil.

Perhaps it was not very flattering to notice Sylvia's great joy when
her lessons were over, sadly shortened as they were by Philip's
desire not to be too hard upon her. Sylvia danced round to her
mother, bent her head back, and kissed her face, and then said
defyingly to Philip,--

'If iver I write thee a letter it shall just be full of nothing but
"Abednego! Abednego! Abednego!"'

But at this moment her father came in from a distant expedition on
the moors with Kester to look after the sheep he had pasturing there
before the winter set fairly in. He was tired, and so was Lassie,
and so, too, was Kester, who, lifting his heavy legs one after the
other, and smoothing down his hair, followed his master into the
house-place, and seating himself on a bench at the farther end of
the dresser, patiently awaited the supper of porridge and milk which
he shared with his master. Sylvia, meanwhile, coaxed Lassie--poor
footsore dog--to her side, and gave her some food, which the
creature was almost too tired to eat. Philip made as though he would
be going, but Daniel motioned to him to be quiet.

'Sit thee down, lad. As soon as I've had my victual, I want t' hear
a bit o' news.'

Sylvia took her sewing and sat at the little round table by her
mother, sharing the light of the scanty dip-candle. No one spoke.
Every one was absorbed in what they were doing. What Philip was
doing was, gazing at Sylvia--learning her face off by heart.

When every scrap of porridge was cleared out of the mighty bowl,
Kester yawned, and wishing good-night, withdrew to his loft over the
cow-house. Then Philip pulled out the weekly York paper, and began
to read the latest accounts of the war then raging. This was giving
Daniel one of his greatest pleasures; for though he could read
pretty well, yet the double effort of reading and understanding what
he read was almost too much for him. He could read, or he could
understand what was read aloud to him; reading was no pleasure, but
listening was.

Besides, he had a true John Bullish interest in the war, without
very well knowing what the English were fighting for. But in those
days, so long as they fought the French for any cause, or for no
cause at all, every true patriot was satisfied. Sylvia and her
mother did not care for any such far-extended interest; a little bit
of York news, the stealing of a few apples out of a Scarborough
garden that they knew, was of far more interest to them than all the
battles of Nelson and the North.

Philip read in a high-pitched and unnatural tone of voice, which
deprived the words of their reality; for even familiar expressions
can become unfamiliar and convey no ideas, if the utterance is
forced or affected. Philip was somewhat of a pedant; yet there was a
simplicity in his pedantry not always to be met with in those who
are self-taught, and which might have interested any one who cared
to know with what labour and difficulty he had acquired the
knowledge which now he prized so highly; reading out Latin
quotations as easily as if they were English, and taking a pleasure
in rolling polysyllables, until all at once looking askance at
Sylvia, he saw that her head had fallen back, her pretty rosy lips
open, her eyes fast shut; in short, she was asleep.

'Ay,' said Farmer Robson, 'and t' reading has a'most sent me off.
Mother 'd look angry now if I was to tell yo' yo' had a right to a
kiss; but when I was a young man I'd ha' kissed a pretty girl as I
saw asleep, afore yo'd said Jack Robson.'

Philip trembled at these words, and looked at his aunt. She gave him
no encouragement, standing up, and making as though she had never
heard her husband's speech, by extending her hand, and wishing him
'good-night.' At the noise of the chairs moving over the flag floor,
Sylvia started up, confused and annoyed at her father's laughter.

'Ay, lass; it's iver a good time t' fall asleep when a young fellow
is by. Here's Philip here as thou'rt bound t' give a pair o' gloves
to.'

Sylvia went like fire; she turned to her mother to read her face.

'It's only father's joke, lass,' said she. 'Philip knows manners too
well.'

'He'd better,' said Sylvia, flaming round at him. 'If he'd a touched
me, I'd niver ha' spoken to him no more.' And she looked even as it
was as if she was far from forgiving him.

'Hoots, lass! wenches are brought up sa mim, now-a-days; i' my time
they'd ha' thought na' such great harm of a kiss.'

'Good-night, Philip,' said Bell Robson, thinking the conversation
unseemly.

'Good-night, aunt, good-night, Sylvie!' But Sylvia turned her back
on him, and he could hardly say 'good-night' to Daniel, who had
caused such an unpleasant end to an evening that had at one time
been going on so well.



CHAPTER IX

THE SPECKSIONEER


A few days after, Farmer Robson left Haytersbank betimes on a
longish day's journey, to purchase a horse. Sylvia and her mother
were busied with a hundred household things, and the early winter's
evening closed in upon them almost before they were aware. The
consequences of darkness in the country even now are to gather the
members of a family together into one room, and to make them settle
to some sedentary employment; and it was much more the case at the
period of my story, when candles were far dearer than they are at
present, and when one was often made to suffice for a large family.

The mother and daughter hardly spoke at all when they sat down at
last. The cheerful click of the knitting-needles made a pleasant
home-sound; and in the occasional snatches of slumber that overcame
her mother, Sylvia could hear the long-rushing boom of the waves,
down below the rocks, for the Haytersbank gulley allowed the sullen
roar to come up so far inland. It might have been about eight
o'clock--though from the monotonous course of the evening it seemed
much later--when Sylvia heard her father's heavy step cranching down
the pebbly path. More unusual, she heard his voice talking to some
companion.

Curious to see who it could be, with a lively instinctive advance
towards any event which might break the monotony she had begun to
find somewhat dull, she sprang up to open the door. Half a glance
into the gray darkness outside made her suddenly timid, and she drew
back behind the door as she opened it wide to admit her father and
Kinraid.

Daniel Robson came in bright and boisterous. He was pleased with his
purchase, and had had some drink to celebrate his bargain. He had
ridden the new mare into Monkshaven, and left her at the smithy
there until morning, to have her feet looked at, and to be new shod.
On his way from the town he had met Kinraid wandering about in
search of Haytersbank Farm itself, so he had just brought him along
with him; and here they were, ready for bread and cheese, and aught
else the mistress would set before them.

To Sylvia the sudden change into brightness and bustle occasioned by
the entrance of her father and the specksioneer was like that which
you may effect any winter's night, when you come into a room where a
great lump of coal lies hot and slumbering on the fire; just break
it up with a judicious blow from the poker, and the room, late so
dark, and dusk, and lone, is full of life, and light, and warmth.

She moved about with pretty household briskness, attending to all
her father's wants. Kinraid's eye watched her as she went backwards
and forwards, to and fro, into the pantry, the back-kitchen, out of
light into shade, out of the shadow into the broad firelight where
he could see and note her appearance. She wore the high-crowned
linen cap of that day, surmounting her lovely masses of golden brown
hair, rather than concealing them, and tied firm to her head by a
broad blue ribbon. A long curl hung down on each side of her neck--her
throat rather, for her neck was concealed by a little spotted
handkerchief carefully pinned across at the waist of her brown stuff
gown.

How well it was, thought the young girl, that she had doffed her
bed-gown and linsey-woolsey petticoat, her working-dress, and made
herself smart in her stuff gown, when she sate down to work with her
mother.

By the time she could sit down again, her father and Kinraid had
their glasses filled, and were talking of the relative merits of
various kinds of spirits; that led on to tales of smuggling, and the
different contrivances by which they or their friends had eluded the
preventive service; the nightly relays of men to carry the goods
inland; the kegs of brandy found by certain farmers whose horses had
gone so far in the night, that they could do no work the next day;
the clever way in which certain women managed to bring in prohibited
goods; in fact, that when a woman did give her mind to smuggling,
she was more full of resources, and tricks, and impudence, and
energy than any man. There was no question of the morality of the
affair; one of the greatest signs of the real progress we have made
since those times seems to be that our daily concerns of buying and
selling, eating and drinking, whatsoever we do, are more tested by
the real practical standard of our religion than they were in the
days of our grandfathers. Neither Sylvia nor her mother was in
advance of their age. Both listened with admiration to the ingenious
devices, and acted as well as spoken lies, that were talked about as
fine and spirited things. Yet if Sylvia had attempted one tithe of
this deceit in her every-day life, it would have half broken her
mother's heart. But when the duty on salt was strictly and cruelly
enforced, making it penal to pick up rough dirty lumps containing
small quantities that might be thrown out with the ashes of the
brine-houses on the high-roads; when the price of this necessary was
so increased by the tax upon it as to make it an expensive,
sometimes an unattainable, luxury to the working man, Government did
more to demoralise the popular sense of rectitude and uprightness
than heaps of sermons could undo. And the same, though in smaller
measure, was the consequence of many other taxes. It may seem
curious to trace up the popular standard of truth to taxation; but I
do not think the idea would be so very far-fetched.

From smuggling adventures it was easy to pass on to stories of what
had happened to Robson, in his youth a sailor in the Greenland seas,
and to Kinraid, now one of the best harpooners in any whaler that
sailed off the coast.

'There's three things to be afeared on,' said Robson,
authoritatively: 'there's t' ice, that's bad; there's dirty weather,
that's worse; and there's whales theirselves, as is t' worst of all;
leastways, they was i' my days; t' darned brutes may ha' larnt
better manners sin'. When I were young, they could niver be got to
let theirsels be harpooned wi'out flounderin' and makin' play wi'
their tales and their fins, till t' say were all in a foam, and t'
boats' crews was all o'er wi' spray, which i' them latitudes is a
kind o' shower-bath not needed.'

'Th' whales hasn't mended their manners, as you call it,' said
Kinraid; 'but th' ice is not to be spoken lightly on. I were once in
th' ship _John_ of Hull, and we were in good green water, and were
keen after whales; and ne'er thought harm of a great gray iceberg as
were on our lee-bow, a mile or so off; it looked as if it had been
there from the days of Adam, and were likely to see th' last man
out, and it ne'er a bit bigger nor smaller in all them thousands and
thousands o' years. Well, the fast-boats were out after a fish, and
I were specksioneer in one; and we were so keen after capturing our
whale, that none on us ever saw that we were drifting away from them
right into deep shadow o' th' iceberg. But we were set upon our
whale, and I harpooned it; and as soon as it were dead we lashed its
fins together, and fastened its tail to our boat; and then we took
breath and looked about us, and away from us a little space were th'
other boats, wi' two other fish making play, and as likely as not to
break loose, for I may say as I were th' best harpooner on board the
_John_, wi'out saying great things o' mysel'. So I says, "My lads,
one o' you stay i' th' boat by this fish,"--the fins o' which, as I
said, I'd reeved a rope through mysel', and which was as dead as
Noah's grandfather--"and th' rest on us shall go off and help th'
other boats wi' their fish." For, you see, we had another boat close
by in order to sweep th' fish. (I suppose they swept fish i' your
time, master?)'

'Ay, ay!' said Robson; 'one boat lies still holding t' end o' t'
line; t' other makes a circuit round t' fish.'

'Well! luckily for us we had our second boat, for we all got into
it, ne'er a man on us was left i' th' fast-boat. And says I, "But
who's to stay by t' dead fish?" And no man answered, for they were
all as keen as me for to go and help our mates; and we thought as we
could come back to our dead fish, as had a boat for a buoy, once we
had helped our mates. So off we rowed, every man Jack on us, out o'
the black shadow o' th' iceberg, as looked as steady as th'
pole-star. Well! we had na' been a dozen fathoms away fra' th' boat
as we had left, when crash! down wi' a roaring noise, and then a
gulp of the deep waters, and then a shower o' blinding spray; and
when we had wiped our eyes clear, and getten our hearts down agen
fra' our mouths, there were never a boat nor a glittering belly o'
e'er a great whale to be seen; but th' iceberg were there, still and
grim, as if a hundred ton or more had fallen off all in a mass, and
crushed down boat, and fish, and all, into th' deep water, as goes
half through the earth in them latitudes. Th' coal-miners round
about Newcastle way may come upon our good boat if they mine deep
enough, else ne'er another man will see her. And I left as good a
clasp-knife in her as ever I clapt eyes on.'

'But what a mercy no man stayed in her,' said Bell.

'Why, mistress, I reckon we a' must die some way; and I'd as soon go
down into the deep waters as be choked up wi' moulds.'

'But it must be so cold,' said Sylvia, shuddering and giving a
little poke to the fire to warm her fancy.

'Cold!' said her father, 'what do ye stay-at-homes know about cold,
a should like to know? If yo'd been where a were once, north
latitude 81, in such a frost as ye ha' niver known, no, not i' deep
winter, and it were June i' them seas, and a whale i' sight, and a
were off in a boat after her: an' t' ill-mannered brute, as soon as
she were harpooned, ups wi' her big awkward tail, and struck t' boat
i' her stern, and chucks me out into t' watter. That were cold, a
can tell the'! First, I smarted all ower me, as if my skin were
suddenly stript off me: and next, ivery bone i' my body had getten
t' toothache, and there were a great roar i' my ears, an' a great
dizziness i' my eyes; an' t' boat's crew kept throwin' out their
oars, an' a kept clutchin' at 'em, but a could na' make out where
they was, my eyes dazzled so wi' t' cold, an' I thought I were bound
for "kingdom come," an' a tried to remember t' Creed, as a might die
a Christian. But all a could think on was, "What is your name, M or
N?" an' just as a were giving up both words and life, they heaved me
aboard. But, bless ye, they had but one oar; for they'd thrown a' t'
others after me; so yo' may reckon, it were some time afore we could
reach t' ship; an' a've heerd tell, a were a precious sight to look
on, for my clothes was just hard frozen to me, an' my hair a'most as
big a lump o' ice as yon iceberg he was a-telling us on; they rubbed
me as missus theere were rubbing t' hams yesterday, and gav' me
brandy; an' a've niver getten t' frost out o' my bones for a' their
rubbin', and a deal o' brandy as I 'ave ta'en sin'. Talk o' cold!
it's little yo' women known o' cold!'

'But there's heat, too, i' some places,' said Kinraid. I was once a
voyage i' an American. They goes for th' most part south, to where
you come round to t' cold again; and they'll stay there for three
year at a time, if need be, going into winter harbour i' some o' th'
Pacific Islands. Well, we were i' th' southern seas, a-seeking for
good whaling-ground; and, close on our larboard beam, there were a
great wall o' ice, as much as sixty feet high. And says our
captain--as were a dare-devil, if ever a man were--"There'll be an
opening in yon dark gray wall, and into that opening I'll sail, if I
coast along it till th' day o' judgment." But, for all our sailing,
we never seemed to come nearer to th' opening. The waters were
rocking beneath us, and the sky were steady above us; and th' ice
rose out o' the waters, and seemed to reach up into the sky. We
sailed on, and we sailed on, for more days nor I could count. Our
captain were a strange, wild man, but once he looked a little pale
when he came upo' deck after his turn-in, and saw the green-gray ice
going straight up on our beam. Many on us thought as the ship were
bewitched for th' captain's words; and we got to speak low, and to
say our prayers o' nights, and a kind o' dull silence came into th'
very air; our voices did na' rightly seem our own. And we sailed on,
and we sailed on. All at once, th' man as were on watch gave a cry:
he saw a break in the ice, as we'd begun to think were everlasting;
and we all gathered towards the bows, and the captain called to th'
man at the helm to keep her course, and cocked his head, and began
to walk the quarter-deck jaunty again. And we came to a great cleft
in th' long weary rock of ice; and the sides o' th' cleft were not
jagged, but went straight sharp down into th' foaming waters. But we
took but one look at what lay inside, for our captain, with a loud
cry to God, bade the helmsman steer nor'ards away fra' th' mouth o'
Hell. We all saw wi' our own eyes, inside that fearsome wall o'
ice--seventy miles long, as we could swear to--inside that gray,
cold ice, came leaping flames, all red and yellow wi' heat o' some
unearthly kind out o' th' very waters o' the sea; making our eyes
dazzle wi' their scarlet blaze, that shot up as high, nay, higher
than th' ice around, yet never so much as a shred on 't was melted.
They did say that some beside our captain saw the black devils dart
hither and thither, quicker than the very flames themselves; anyhow,
he saw them. And as he knew it were his own daring as had led him to
have that peep at terrors forbidden to any on us afore our time, he
just dwined away, and we hadn't taken but one whale afore our
captain died, and first mate took th' command. It were a prosperous
voyage; but, for all that, I'll never sail those seas again, nor
ever take wage aboard an American again.'

'Eh, dear! but it's awful t' think o' sitting wi' a man that has
seen th' doorway into hell,' said Bell, aghast.

Sylvia had dropped her work, and sat gazing at Kinraid with
fascinated wonder.

Daniel was just a little annoyed at the admiration which his own
wife and daughter were bestowing on the specksioneer's wonderful
stories, and he said--

'Ay, ay. If a'd been a talker, ye'd ha' thought a deal more on me
nor ye've iver done yet. A've seen such things, and done such
things.'

'Tell us, father!' said Sylvia, greedy and breathless.

'Some on 'em is past telling,' he replied, 'an some is not to be had
for t' asking, seeing as how they might bring a man into trouble.
But, as a said, if a had a fancy to reveal all as is on my mind a
could make t' hair on your heads lift up your caps--well, we'll say
an inch, at least. Thy mother, lass, has heerd one or two on 'em.
Thou minds the story o' my ride on a whale's back, Bell? That'll
maybe be within this young fellow's comprehension o' t' danger;
thou's heerd me tell it, hastn't ta?'

'Yes,' said Bell; 'but it's a long time ago; when we was courting.'

'An' that's afore this young lass were born, as is a'most up to
woman's estate. But sin' those days a ha' been o'er busy to tell
stories to my wife, an' as a'll warrant she's forgotten it; an' as
Sylvia here niver heerd it, if yo'll fill your glass, Kinraid, yo'
shall ha' t' benefit o't.

'A were a specksioneer mysel, though, after that, a rayther directed
my talents int' t' smuggling branch o' my profession; but a were
once a whaling aboord t' _Ainwell_ of Whitby. An' we was anchored
off t' coast o' Greenland one season, an' we'd getten a cargo o'
seven whale; but our captain he were a keen-eyed chap, an' niver
above doin' any man's work; an' once seein' a whale he throws
himself int' a boat an' goes off to it, makin' signals to me, an'
another specksioneer as were off for diversion i' another boat, for
to come after him sharp. Well, afore we comes alongside, captain had
harpooned t' fish; an' says he, "Now, Robson, all ready! give into
her again when she comes to t' top;" an' I stands up, right leg
foremost, harpoon all ready, as soon as iver I cotched a sight o' t'
whale, but niver a fin could a see. 'Twere no wonder, for she were
right below t' boat in which a were; and when she wanted to rise,
what does t' great ugly brute do but come wi' her head, as is like
cast iron, up bang again t' bottom o' t' boat. I were thrown up in
t' air like a shuttlecock, me an' my line an' my harpoon--up we
goes, an' many a good piece o' timber wi' us, an' many a good fellow
too; but a had t' look after mysel', an a were up high i' t' air,
afore I could say Jack Robinson, an' a thowt a were safe for another
dive int' saut water; but i'stead a comes down plump on t' back o'
t' whale. Ay! yo' may stare, master, but theere a were, an' main an'
slippery it were, only a sticks my harpoon intil her an' steadies
mysel', an' looks abroad o'er t' vast o' waves, and gets sea-sick in
a manner, an' puts up a prayer as she mayn't dive, and it were as
good a prayer for wishin' it might come true as iver t' clargyman
an' t' clerk too puts up i' Monkshaven church. Well, a reckon it
were heerd, for all a were i' them north latitudes, for she keeps
steady, an' a does my best for t' keep steady; an' 'deed a was too
steady, for a was fast wi' t' harpoon line, all knotted and tangled
about me. T' captain, he sings out for me to cut it; but it's easy
singin' out, and it's noane so easy fumblin' for your knife i' t'
pocket o' your drawers, when yo've t' hold hard wi' t' other hand on
t' back of a whale, swimmin' fourteen knots an hour. At last a
thinks to mysel' a can't get free o' t' line, and t' line is fast to
t' harpoon, and t' harpoon is fast to t' whale; and t' whale may go
down fathoms deep wheniver t' maggot stirs i' her head; an' t'
watter's cold, an noane good for drownin' in; a can't get free o' t'
line, and a connot get my knife out o' my breeches pocket though t'
captain should ca' it mutiny to disobey orders, and t' line's fast
to t' harpoon--let's see if t' harpoon's fast to t' whale. So a
tugged, and a lugged, and t' whale didn't mistake it for ticklin',
but she cocks up her tail, and throws out showers o' water as were
ice or iver it touched me; but a pulls on at t' shank, an' a were
only afeard as she wouldn't keep at t' top wi' it sticking in her;
but at last t' harpoon broke, an' just i' time, for a reckon she was
near as tired o' me as a were on her, and down she went; an' a had
hard work to make for t' boats as was near enough to catch me; for
what wi' t' whale's being but slippery an' t' watter being cold, an'
me hampered wi' t' line an' t' piece o' harpoon, it's a chance,
missus, as thou had stopped an oud maid.'

'Eh dear a' me!' said Bell, 'how well I mind yo'r telling me that
tale! It were twenty-four year ago come October. I thought I never
could think enough on a man as had rode on a whale's back!'

'Yo' may learn t' way of winnin' t' women,' said Daniel, winking at
the specksioneer.

And Kinraid immediately looked at Sylvia. It was no premeditated
action; it came as naturally as wakening in the morning when his
sleep was ended; but Sylvia coloured as red as any rose at his
sudden glance,--coloured so deeply that he looked away until he
thought she had recovered her composure, and then he sat gazing at
her again. But not for long, for Bell suddenly starting up, did all
but turn him out of the house. It was late, she said, and her master
was tired, and they had a hard day before them next day; and it was
keeping Ellen Corney up; and they had had enough to drink,--more
than was good for them, she was sure, for they had both been taking
her in with their stories, which she had been foolish enough to
believe. No one saw the real motive of all this almost inhospitable
haste to dismiss her guest, how the sudden fear had taken possession
of her that he and Sylvia were 'fancying each other'. Kinraid had
said early in the evening that he had come to thank her for her
kindness in sending the sausages, as he was off to his own home near
Newcastle in a day or two. But now he said, in reply to Daniel
Robson, that he would step in another night before long and hear
some more of the old man's yarns.

Daniel had just had enough drink to make him very good-tempered, or
else his wife would not have dared to have acted as she did; and
this maudlin amiability took the shape of hospitable urgency that
Kinraid should come as often as he liked to Haytersbank; come and
make it his home when he was in these parts; stay there altogether,
and so on, till Bell fairly shut the outer door to, and locked it
before the specksioneer had well got out of the shadow of their
roof.

All night long Sylvia dreamed of burning volcanoes springing out of
icy southern seas. But, as in the specksioneer's tale the flames
were peopled with demons, there was no human interest for her in the
wondrous scene in which she was no actor, only a spectator. With
daylight came wakening and little homely every-day wonders. Did
Kinraid mean that he was going away really and entirely, or did he
not? Was he Molly Corney's sweetheart, or was he not? When she had
argued herself into certainty on one side, she suddenly wheeled
about, and was just of the opposite opinion. At length she settled
that it could not be settled until she saw Molly again; so, by a
strong gulping effort, she resolutely determined to think no more
about him, only about the marvels he had told. She might think a
little about them when she sat at night, spinning in silence by the
household fire, or when she went out in the gloaming to call the
cattle home to be milked, and sauntered back behind the patient,
slow-gaited creatures; and at times on future summer days, when, as
in the past, she took her knitting out for the sake of the freshness
of the faint sea-breeze, and dropping down from ledge to ledge of
the rocks that faced the blue ocean, established herself in a
perilous nook that had been her haunt ever since her parents had
come to Haytersbank Farm. From thence she had often seen the distant
ships pass to and fro, with a certain sort of lazy pleasure in
watching their swift tranquillity of motion, but no thought as to
where they were bound to, or what strange places they would
penetrate to before they turned again, homeward bound.



CHAPTER X

A REFRACTORY PUPIL


Sylvia was still full of the specksioneer and his stories, when
Hepburn came up to give her the next lesson. But the prospect of a
little sensible commendation for writing a whole page full of
flourishing 'Abednegos,' had lost all the slight charm it had ever
possessed. She was much more inclined to try and elicit some
sympathy in her interest in the perils and adventures of the
northern seas, than to bend and control her mind to the right
formation of letters. Unwisely enough, she endeavoured to repeat one
of the narratives that she had heard from Kinraid; and when she
found that Hepburn (if, indeed, he did not look upon the whole as a
silly invention) considered it only as an interruption to the real
business in hand, to which he would try to listen as patiently as he
could, in the hope of Sylvia's applying herself diligently to her
copy-book when she had cleared her mind, she contracted her pretty
lips, as if to check them from making any further appeals for
sympathy, and set about her writing-lesson in a very rebellious
frame of mind, only restrained by her mother's presence from spoken
mutiny.

'After all,' said she, throwing down her pen, and opening and
shutting her weary, cramped hand, 'I see no good in tiring myself
wi' learning for t' write letters when I'se never got one in a' my
life. What for should I write answers, when there's niver a one
writes to me? and if I had one, I couldn't read it; it's bad enough
wi' a book o' print as I've niver seen afore, for there's sure to be
new-fangled words in 't. I'm sure I wish the man were farred who
plagues his brains wi' striking out new words. Why can't folks just
ha' a set on 'em for good and a'?'

'Why! you'll be after using two or three hundred yoursel' every day
as you live, Sylvie; and yet I must use a great many as you never
think on about t' shop; and t' folks in t' fields want their set,
let alone the high English that parsons and lawyers speak.'

'Well, it's weary work is reading and writing. Cannot you learn me
something else, if we mun do lessons?'

'There's sums--and geography,' said Hepburn, slowly and gravely.

'Geography!' said Sylvia, brightening, and perhaps not pronouncing
the word quite correctly, 'I'd like yo' to learn me geography.
There's a deal o' places I want to hear all about.'

'Well, I'll bring up a book and a map next time. But I can tell you
something now. There's four quarters in the globe.'

'What's that?' asked Sylvia.

'The globe is the earth; the place we live on.'

'Go on. Which quarter is Greenland?'

'Greenland is no quarter. It is only a part of one.'

'Maybe it's a half quarter.'

'No, not so much as that.'

'Half again?'

'No!' he replied, smiling a little.

She thought he was making it into a very small place in order to
tease her; so she pouted a little, and then said,--

'Greenland is all t' geography I want to know. Except, perhaps,
York. I'd like to learn about York, because of t' races, and London,
because King George lives there.'

'But if you learn geography at all, you must learn 'bout all places:
which of them is hot, and which is cold, and how many inhabitants is
in each, and what's the rivers, and which is the principal towns.'

'I'm sure, Sylvie, if Philip will learn thee all that, thou'lt be
such a sight o' knowledge as ne'er a one o' th' Prestons has been
sin' my great-grandfather lost his property. I should be main proud
o' thee; 'twould seem as if we was Prestons o' Slaideburn once
more.'

'I'd do a deal to pleasure yo', mammy; but weary befa' riches and
land, if folks that has 'em is to write "Abednegos" by t' score, and
to get hard words int' their brains, till they work like barm, and
end wi' cracking 'em.'

This seemed to be Sylvia's last protest against learning for the
night, for after this she turned docile, and really took pains to
understand all that Philip could teach her, by means of the not
unskilful, though rude, map which he drew for her with a piece of
charred wood on his aunt's dresser. He had asked his aunt's leave
before beginning what Sylvia called his 'dirty work;' but by-and-by
even she became a little interested in starting from a great black
spot called Monkshaven, and in the shaping of land and sea around
that one centre. Sylvia held her round chin in the palms of her
hands, supporting her elbows on the dresser; looking down at the
progress of the rough drawing in general, but now and then glancing
up at him with sudden inquiry. All along he was not so much absorbed
in his teaching as to be unconscious of her sweet proximity. She was
in her best mood towards him; neither mutinous nor saucy; and he was
striving with all his might to retain her interest, speaking better
than ever he had done before (such brightness did love call
forth!)--understanding what she would care to hear and to know;
when, in the middle of an attempt at explaining the cause of the
long polar days, of which she had heard from her childhood, he felt
that her attention was no longer his; that a discord had come in
between their minds; that she had passed out of his power. This
certainty of intuition lasted but for an instant; he had no time to
wonder or to speculate as to what had affected her so adversely to
his wishes before the door opened and Kinraid came in. Then Hepburn
knew that she must have heard his coming footsteps, and recognized
them.

He angrily stiffened himself up into coldness of demeanour. Almost
to his surprise, Sylvia's greeting to the new comer was as cold as
his own. She stood rather behind him; so perhaps she did not see the
hand which Kinraid stretched out towards her, for she did not place
her own little palm in it, as she had done to Philip an hour ago.
And she hardly spoke, but began to pore over the rough black map, as
if seized with strong geographical curiosity, or determined to
impress Philip's lesson deep on her memory.

Still Philip was dismayed by seeing the warm welcome which Kinraid
received from the master of the house, who came in from the back
premises almost at the same time as the specksioneer entered at the
front. Hepburn was uneasy, too, at finding Kinraid take his seat by
the fireside, like one accustomed to the ways of the house. Pipes
were soon produced. Philip disliked smoking. Possibly Kinraid did so
too, but he took a pipe at any rate, and lighted it, though he
hardly used it at all, but kept talking to farmer Robson on sea
affairs. He had the conversation pretty much to himself. Philip sat
gloomily by; Sylvia and his aunt were silent, and old Robson smoked
his long clay pipe, from time to time taking it out of his mouth to
spit into the bright copper spittoon, and to shake the white ashes
out of the bowl. Before he replaced it, he would give a short laugh
of relishing interest in Kinraid's conversation; and now and then he
put in a remark. Sylvia perched herself sideways on the end of the
dresser, and made pretence to sew; but Philip could see how often
she paused in her work to listen.

By-and-by, his aunt spoke to him, and they kept up a little side
conversation, more because Bell Robson felt that her nephew, her own
flesh and blood, was put out, than for any special interest they
either of them felt in what they were saying. Perhaps, also, they
neither of them disliked showing that they had no great faith in the
stories Kinraid was telling. Mrs. Robson, at any rate, knew so little
as to be afraid of believing too much.

Philip was sitting on that side of the fire which was nearest to the
window and to Sylvia, and opposite to the specksioneer. At length he
turned to his cousin and said in a low voice--

'I suppose we can't go on with our spell at geography till that
fellow's gone?'

The colour came into Sylvia's cheek at the words 'that fellow'; but
she only replied with a careless air--

'Well, I'm one as thinks enough is as good as a feast; and I've had
enough of geography this one night, thank you kindly all the same.'

Philip took refuge in offended silence. He was maliciously pleased
when his aunt made so much noise with her preparation for supper as
quite to prevent the sound of the sailor's words from reaching
Sylvia's ears. She saw that he was glad to perceive that her efforts
to reach the remainder of the story were baulked! this nettled her,
and, determined not to let him have his malicious triumph, and still
more to put a stop to any attempt at private conversation, she began
to sing to herself as she sat at her work; till, suddenly seized
with a desire to help her mother, she dexterously slipped down from
her seat, passed Hepburn, and was on her knees toasting cakes right
in front of the fire, and just close to her father and Kinraid. And
now the noise that Hepburn had so rejoiced in proved his foe. He
could not hear the little merry speeches that darted backwards and
forwards as the specksioneer tried to take the toasting-fork out of
Sylvia's hand.

'How comes that sailor chap here?' asked Hepburn of his aunt. 'He's
none fit to be where Sylvia is.'

'Nay, I dunnot know,' said she; 'the Corneys made us acquaint first,
and my master is quite fain of his company.'

'And do you like him, too, aunt?' asked Hepburn, almost wistfully;
he had followed Mrs. Robson into the dairy on pretence of helping
her.

'I'm none fond on him; I think he tells us traveller's tales, by way
o' seeing how much we can swallow. But the master and Sylvia think
that there never was such a one.'

'I could show them a score as good as he down on the quayside.'

'Well, laddie, keep a calm sough. Some folk like some folk and
others don't. Wherever I am there'll allays be a welcome for thee.'

For the good woman thought that he had been hurt by the evident
absorption of her husband and daughter with their new friend, and
wished to make all easy and straight. But do what she would, he did
not recover his temper all evening: he was uncomfortable, put out,
not enjoying himself, and yet he would not go. He was determined to
assert his greater intimacy in that house by outstaying Kinraid. At
length the latter got up to go; but before he went, he must needs
bend over Sylvia and say something to her in so low a tone that
Philip could not hear it; and she, seized with a sudden fit of
diligence, never looked up from her sewing; only nodded her head by
way of reply. At last he took his departure, after many a little
delay, and many a quick return, which to the suspicious Philip
seemed only pretences for taking stolen glances at Sylvia. As soon
as he was decidedly gone, she folded up her work, and declared that
she was so much tired that she must go to bed there and then. Her
mother, too, had been dozing for the last half-hour, and was only
too glad to see signs that she might betake herself to her natural
place of slumber.

'Take another glass, Philip,' said farmer Robson.

But Hepburn refused the offer rather abruptly. He drew near to
Sylvia instead. He wanted to make her speak to him, and he saw that
she wished to avoid it. He took up the readiest pretext. It was an
unwise one as it proved, for it deprived him of his chances of
occasionally obtaining her undivided attention.

'I don't think you care much for learning geography, Sylvie?'

'Not much to-night,' said she, making a pretence to yawn, yet
looking timidly up at his countenance of displeasure.

'Nor at any time,' said he, with growing anger; 'nor for any kind of
learning. I did bring some books last time I came, meaning to teach
you many a thing--but now I'll just trouble you for my books; I put
them on yon shelf by the Bible.'

He had a mind that she should bring them to him; that, at any rate,
he should have the pleasure of receiving them out of her hands.

Sylvia did not reply, but went and took down the books with a
languid, indifferent air.

'And so you won't learn any more geography,' said Hepburn.

Something in his tone struck her, and she looked up in his face.
There were marks of stern offence upon his countenance, and yet in
it there was also an air of wistful regret and sadness that touched
her.

'Yo're niver angry with me, Philip? Sooner than vex yo', I'll try
and learn. Only, I'm just stupid; and it mun be such a trouble to
you.'

Hepburn would fain have snatched at this half proposal that the
lessons should be continued, but he was too stubborn and proud to
say anything. He turned away from the sweet, pleading face without a
word, to wrap up his books in a piece of paper. He knew that she was
standing quite still by his side, though he made as if he did not
perceive her. When he had done he abruptly wished them all
'good-night,' and took his leave.

There were tears in Sylvia's eyes, although the feeling in her heart
was rather one of relief. She had made a fair offer, and it had been
treated with silent contempt. A few days afterwards, her father came
in from Monkshaven market, and dropped out, among other pieces of
news, that he had met Kinraid, who was bound for his own home at
Cullercoats. He had desired his respects to Mrs. Robson and her
daughter; and had bid Robson say that he would have come up to
Haytersbank to wish them good-by, but that as he was pressed for
time, he hoped they would excuse him. But Robson did not think it
worth while to give this long message of mere politeness. Indeed, as
it did not relate to business, and was only sent to women, Robson
forgot all about it, pretty nearly as soon as it was uttered. So
Sylvia went about fretting herself for one or two days, at her
hero's apparent carelessness of those who had at any rate treated
him more like a friend than an acquaintance of only a few weeks'
standing; and then, her anger quenching her incipient regard, she
went about her daily business pretty much as though he had never
been. He had gone away out of her sight into the thick mist of
unseen life from which he had emerged--gone away without a word, and
she might never see him again. But still there was a chance of her
seeing him when he came to marry Molly Corney. Perhaps she should be
bridesmaid, and then what a pleasant merry time the wedding-day
would be! The Corneys were all such kind people, and in their family
there never seemed to be the checks and restraints by which her own
mother hedged her round. Then there came an overwhelming
self-reproaching burst of love for that 'own mother'; a humiliation
before her slightest wish, as penance for the moment's unspoken
treason; and thus Sylvia was led to request her cousin Philip to
resume his lessons in so meek a manner, that he slowly and
graciously acceded to a request which he was yearning to fulfil all
the time.

During the ensuing winter, all went on in monotonous regularity at
Haytersbank Farm for many weeks. Hepburn came and went, and thought
Sylvia wonderfully improved in docility and sobriety; and perhaps
also he noticed the improvement in her appearance. For she was at
that age when a girl changes rapidly, and generally for the better.
Sylvia shot up into a tall young woman; her eyes deepened in colour,
her face increased in expression, and a sort of consciousness of
unusual good looks gave her a slight tinge of coquettish shyness
with the few strangers whom she ever saw. Philip hailed her interest
in geography as another sign of improvement. He had brought back his
book of maps to the farm; and there he sat on many an evening
teaching his cousin, who had strange fancies respecting the places
about which she wished to learn, and was coolly indifferent to the
very existence of other towns, and countries, and seas far more
famous in story. She was occasionally wilful, and at times very
contemptuous as to the superior knowledge of her instructor; but, in
spite of it all, Philip went regularly on the appointed evenings to
Haytersbank--through keen black east wind, or driving snow, or
slushing thaw; for he liked dearly to sit a little behind her, with
his arm on the back of her chair, she stooping over the outspread
map, with her eyes,--could he have seen them,--a good deal fixed on
one spot in the map, not Northumberland, where Kinraid was spending
the winter, but those wild northern seas about which he had told
them such wonders.

One day towards spring, she saw Molly Corney coming towards the
farm. The companions had not met for many weeks, for Molly had been
from home visiting her relations in the north. Sylvia opened the
door, and stood smiling and shivering on the threshold, glad to see
her friend again. Molly called out, when a few paces off,--

'Why, Sylvia, is that thee! Why, how thou'rt growed, to be sure!
What a bonny lass thou is!'

'Dunnot talk nonsense to my lass,' said Bell Robson, hospitably
leaving her ironing and coming to the door; but though the mother
tried to look as if she thought it nonsense, she could hardly keep
down the smile that shone out of her eyes, as she put her hand on
Sylvia's shoulder, with a fond sense of proprietorship in what was
being praised.

'Oh! but she is,' persisted Molly. 'She's grown quite a beauty sin'
I saw her. And if I don't tell her so, the men will.'

'Be quiet wi' thee,' said Sylvia, more than half offended, and
turning away in a huff at the open barefaced admiration.

'Ay; but they will,' persevered Molly. 'Yo'll not keep her long,
Mistress Robson. And as mother says, yo'd feel it a deal more to
have yer daughters left on hand.'

'Thy mother has many, I have but this one,' said Mrs. Robson, with
severe sadness; for now Molly was getting to talk as she disliked.
But Molly's purpose was to bring the conversation round to her own
affairs, of which she was very full.

'Yes! I tell mother that wi' so many as she has, she ought to be
thankful to t' one as gets off quickest.'

'Who? which is it?' asked Sylvia, a little eagerly, seeing that
there was news of a wedding behind the talk.

'Why! who should it be but me?' said Molly, laughing a good deal,
and reddening a little. 'I've not gone fra' home for nought; I'se
picked up a measter on my travels, leastways one as is to be.'

'Charley Kinraid,' said Sylvia smiling, as she found that now she
might reveal Molly's secret, which hitherto she had kept sacred.

'Charley Kinraid be hung!' said Molly, with a toss of her head.
'Whatten good's a husband who's at sea half t' year? Ha ha, my
measter is a canny Newcassel shopkeeper, on t' Side. A reckon a've
done pretty well for mysel', and a'll wish yo' as good luck, Sylvia.
For yo' see,' (turning to Bell Robson, who, perhaps, she thought
would more appreciate the substantial advantages of her engagement
than Sylvia,) 'though Measter Brunton is near upon forty if he's a
day, yet he turns over a matter of two hundred pound every year; an
he's a good-looking man of his years too, an' a kind, good-tempered
feller int' t' bargain. He's been married once, to be sure; but his
childer are dead a' 'cept one; an' I don't mislike childer either;
an' a'll feed 'em well, an' get 'em to bed early, out o' t' road.'

Mrs. Robson gave her her grave good wishes; but Sylvia was silent.
She was disappointed; it was a coming down from the romance with the
specksioneer for its hero. Molly laughed awkwardly, understanding
Sylvia's thoughts better than the latter imagined.

'Sylvia's noane so well pleased. Why, lass! it's a' t' better for
thee. There's Charley to t' fore now, which if a'd married him, he'd
not ha' been; and he's said more nor once what a pretty lass yo'd
grow into by-and-by.'

Molly's prosperity was giving her an independence and fearlessness
of talk such as had seldom appeared hitherto; and certainly never
before Mrs. Robson. Sylvia was annoyed at Molly's whole tone and
manner, which were loud, laughing, and boisterous; but to her mother
they were positively repugnant. She said shortly and gravely,--

'Sylvia's none so set upo' matrimony; she's content to bide wi' me
and her father. Let a be such talking, it's not i' my way.'

Molly was a little subdued; but still her elation at the prospect of
being so well married kept cropping out of all the other subjects
which were introduced; and when she went away, Mrs. Robson broke out
in an unwonted strain of depreciation.

'That's the way wi' some lasses. They're like a cock on a dunghill,
when they've teased a silly chap into wedding 'em. It's
cock-a-doodle-do, I've cotched a husband, cock-a-doodle-doo, wi'
'em. I've no patience wi' such like; I beg, Sylvie, thou'lt not get
too thick wi' Molly. She's not pretty behaved, making such an ado
about men-kind, as if they were two-headed calves to be run after.'

'But Molly's a good-hearted lass, mother. Only I never dreamt but
what she was troth-plighted wi' Charley Kinraid,' said Sylvia,
meditatively.

'That wench 'll be troth-plight to th' first man as 'll wed her and
keep her i' plenty; that's a' she thinks about,' replied Bell,
scornfully.



CHAPTER XI

VISIONS OF THE FUTURE


Before May was out, Molly Corney was married and had left the
neighbourhood for Newcastle. Although Charley Kinraid was not the
bridegroom, Sylvia's promise to be bridesmaid was claimed. But the
friendship brought on by the circumstances of neighbourhood and
parity of age had become very much weakened in the time that elapsed
between Molly's engagement and wedding. In the first place, she
herself was so absorbed in her preparations, so elated by her good
fortune in getting married, and married, too, before her elder
sister, that all her faults blossomed out full and strong. Sylvia
felt her to be selfish; Mrs. Robson thought her not maidenly. A year
before she would have been far more missed and regretted by Sylvia;
now it was almost a relief to the latter to be freed from the
perpetual calls upon her sympathy, from the constant demands upon
her congratulations, made by one who had no thought or feeling to
bestow on others; at least, not in these weeks of 'cock-a-doodle-dooing,'
as Mrs. Robson persisted in calling it. It was seldom that Bell
was taken with a humorous idea; but this once having hatched a
solitary joke, she was always clucking it into notice--to go on
with her own poultry simile.

Every time during that summer that Philip saw his cousin, he thought
her prettier than she had ever been before; some new touch of
colour, some fresh sweet charm, seemed to have been added, just as
every summer day calls out new beauty in the flowers. And this was
not the addition of Philip's fancy. Hester Rose, who met Sylvia on
rare occasions, came back each time with a candid, sad
acknowledgement in her heart that it was no wonder that Sylvia was
so much admired and loved.

One day Hester had seen her sitting near her mother in the
market-place; there was a basket by her, and over the clean cloth
that covered the yellow pounds of butter, she had laid the
hedge-roses and honeysuckles she had gathered on the way into
Monkshaven; her straw hat was on her knee, and she was busy placing
some of the flowers in the ribbon that went round it. Then she held
it on her hand, and turned it round about, putting her head on one
side, the better to view the effect; and all this time, Hester,
peeping at her through the folds of the stuffs displayed in Foster's
windows, saw her with admiring, wistful eyes; wondering, too, if
Philip, at the other counter, were aware of his cousin's being
there, so near to him. Then Sylvia put on her hat, and, looking up
at Foster's windows, caught Hester's face of interest, and smiled
and blushed at the consciousness of having been watched over her
little vanities, and Hester smiled back, but rather sadly. Then a
customer came in, and she had to attend to her business, which, on
this as on all market days, was great. In the midst she was aware of
Philip rushing bare-headed out of the shop, eager and delighted at
something he saw outside. There was a little looking-glass hung
against the wall on Hester's side, placed in that retired corner, in
order that the good women who came to purchase head-gear of any kind
might see the effect thereof before they concluded their bargain. In
a pause of custom, Hester, half-ashamed, stole into this corner, and
looked at herself in the glass. What did she see? a colourless face,
dark soft hair with no light gleams in it, eyes that were melancholy
instead of smiling, a mouth compressed with a sense of
dissatisfaction. This was what she had to compare with the bright
bonny face in the sunlight outside. She gave a gulp to check the
sigh that was rising, and came back, even more patient than she had
been before this disheartening peep, to serve all the whims and
fancies of purchasers.

Sylvia herself had been rather put out by Philip's way of coming to
her. 'It made her look so silly,' she thought; and 'what for must he
make a sight of himself, coming among the market folk in
that-a-way'; and when he took to admiring her hat, she pulled out
the flowers in a pet, and threw them down, and trampled them under
foot.

'What for art thou doing that, Sylvie?' said her mother. 'The
flowers is well enough, though may-be thy hat might ha' been
stained.'

'I don't like Philip to speak to me so,' said Sylvia, pouting.

'How?' asked her mother.

But Sylvia could not repeat his words. She hung her head, and looked
red and pre-occupied, anything but pleased. Philip had addressed his
first expression of personal admiration at an unfortunate tune.

It just shows what different views different men and women take of
their fellow-creatures, when I say that Hester looked upon Philip as
the best and most agreeable man she had ever known. He was not one
to speak of himself without being questioned on the subject, so his
Haytersbank relations, only come into the neighborhood in the last
year or two, knew nothing of the trials he had surmounted, or the
difficult duties he had performed. His aunt, indeed, had strong
faith in him, both from partial knowledge of his character, and
because he was of her own tribe and kin; but she had never learnt
the small details of his past life. Sylvia respected him as her
mother's friend, and treated him tolerably well as long as he
preserved his usual self-restraint of demeanour, but hardly ever
thought of him when he was absent.

Now Hester, who had watched him daily for all the years since he had
first come as an errand-boy into Foster's shop--watching with quiet,
modest, yet observant eyes--had seen how devoted he was to his
master's interests, had known of his careful and punctual
ministration to his absent mother's comforts, as long as she was
living to benefit by his silent, frugal self-denial.

His methodical appropriation of the few hours he could call his own
was not without its charms to the equally methodical Hester; the way
in which he reproduced any lately acquired piece of
knowledge--knowledge so wearisome to Sylvia--was delightfully
instructive to Hester--although, as she was habitually silent, it
would have required an observer more interested in discovering her
feelings than Philip was to have perceived the little flush on the
pale cheek, and the brightness in the half-veiled eyes whenever he
was talking. She had not thought of love on either side. Love was a
vanity, a worldliness not to be spoken about, or even thought about.
Once or twice before the Robsons came into the neighbourhood, an
idea had crossed her mind that possibly the quiet, habitual way in
which she and Philip lived together, might drift them into matrimony
at some distant period; and she could not bear the humble advances
which Coulson, Philip's fellow-lodger, sometimes made. They seemed
to disgust her with him.

But after the Robsons settled at Haytersbank, Philip's evenings were
so often spent there that any unconscious hopes Hester might,
unawares, have entertained, died away. At first she had felt a pang
akin to jealousy when she heard of Sylvia, the little cousin, who
was passing out of childhood into womanhood. Once--early in those
days--she had ventured to ask Philip what Sylvia was like. Philip
had not warmed up at the question, and had given rather a dry
catalogue of her features, hair, and height, but Hester, almost to
her own surprise, persevered, and jerked out the final question.

'Is she pretty?'

Philip's sallow cheek grew deeper by two or three shades; but he
answered with a tone of indifference,--

'I believe some folks think her so.'

'But do you?' persevered Hester, in spite of her being aware that he
somehow disliked the question.

'There's no need for talking o' such things,' he answered, with
abrupt displeasure.

Hester silenced her curiosity from that time. But her heart was not
quite at ease, and she kept on wondering whether Philip thought his
little cousin pretty until she saw her and him together, on that
occasion of which we have spoken, when Sylvia came to the shop to
buy her new cloak; and after that Hester never wondered whether
Philip thought his cousin pretty or no, for she knew quite well.
Bell Robson had her own anxieties on the subject of her daughter's
increasing attractions. She apprehended the dangers consequent upon
certain facts, by a mental process more akin to intuition than
reason. She was uncomfortable, even while her motherly vanity was
flattered, at the admiration Sylvia received from the other sex.
This admiration was made evident to her mother in many ways. When
Sylvia was with her at market, it might have been thought that the
doctors had prescribed a diet of butter and eggs to all the men
under forty in Monkshaven. At first it seemed to Mrs. Robson but a
natural tribute to the superior merit of her farm produce; but by
degrees she perceived that if Sylvia remained at home, she stood no
better chance than her neighbours of an early sale. There were more
customers than formerly for the fleeces stored in the wool-loft;
comely young butchers came after the calf almost before it had been
decided to sell it; in short, excuses were seldom wanting to those
who wished to see the beauty of Haytersbank Farm. All this made Bell
uncomfortable, though she could hardly have told what she dreaded.
Sylvia herself seemed unspoilt by it as far as her home relations
were concerned. A little thoughtless she had always been, and
thoughtless she was still; but, as her mother had often said, 'Yo'
canna put old heads on young shoulders;' and if blamed for her
carelessness by her parents, Sylvia was always as penitent as she
could be for the time being. To be sure, it was only to her father
and mother that she remained the same as she had been when an
awkward lassie of thirteen. Out of the house there were the most
contradictory opinions of her, especially if the voices of women
were to be listened to. She was 'an ill-favoured, overgrown thing';
'just as bonny as the first rose i' June, and as sweet i' her nature
as t' honeysuckle a-climbing round it;' she was 'a vixen, with a
tongue sharp enough to make yer very heart bleed;' she was 'just a
bit o' sunshine wheriver she went;' she was sulky, lively, witty,
silent, affectionate, or cold-hearted, according to the person who
spoke about her. In fact, her peculiarity seemed to be this--that
every one who knew her talked about her either in praise or blame;
in church, or in market, she unconsciously attracted attention; they
could not forget her presence, as they could that of other girls
perhaps more personally attractive. Now all this was a cause of
anxiety to her mother, who began to feel as if she would rather have
had her child passed by in silence than so much noticed. Bell's
opinion was, that it was creditable to a woman to go through life in
the shadow of obscurity,--never named except in connexion with good
housewifery, husband, or children. Too much talking about a girl,
even in the way of praise, disturbed Mrs. Robson's opinion of her;
and when her neighbours told her how her own daughter was admired,
she would reply coldly, 'She's just well enough,' and change the
subject of conversation. But it was quite different with her
husband. To his looser, less-restrained mind, it was agreeable to
hear of, and still more to see, the attention which his daughter's
beauty received. He felt it as reflecting consequence on himself. He
had never troubled his mind with speculations as to whether he
himself was popular, still less whether he was respected. He was
pretty welcome wherever he went, as a jovial good-natured man, who
had done adventurous and illegal things in his youth, which in some
measure entitled him to speak out his opinions on life in general in
the authoritative manner he generally used; but, of the two, he
preferred consorting with younger men, to taking a sober stand of
respectability with the elders of the place; and he perceived,
without reasoning upon it, that the gay daring spirits were more
desirous of his company when Sylvia was by his side than at any
other time. One or two of these would saunter up to Haytersbank on a
Sunday afternoon, and lounge round his fields with the old farmer.
Bell kept herself from the nap which had been her weekly solace for
years, in order to look after Sylvia, and on such occasions she
always turned as cold a shoulder to the visitors as her sense of
hospitality and of duty to her husband would permit. But if they did
not enter the house, old Robson would always have Sylvia with him
when he went the round of his land. Bell could see them from the
upper window: the young men standing in the attitudes of listeners,
while Daniel laid down the law on some point, enforcing his words by
pantomimic actions with his thick stick; and Sylvia, half turning
away as if from some too admiring gaze, was possibly picking flowers
out of the hedge-bank. These Sunday afternoon strolls were the
plague of Bell's life that whole summer. Then it took as much of
artifice as was in the simple woman's nature to keep Daniel from
insisting on having Sylvia's company every time he went down to
Monkshaven. And here, again, came a perplexity, the acknowledgement
of which in distinct thought would have been an act of disloyalty,
according to Bell's conscience. If Sylvia went with her father, he
never drank to excess; and that was a good gain to health at any
rate (drinking was hardly a sin against morals in those days, and in
that place); so, occasionally, she was allowed to accompany him to
Monkshaven as a check upon his folly; for he was too fond and proud
of his daughter to disgrace her by any open excess. But one Sunday
afternoon early in November, Philip came up before the time at which
he usually paid his visits. He looked grave and pale; and his aunt
began,--

'Why, lad! what's been ado? Thou'rt looking as peaked and pined as a
Methody preacher after a love-feast, when he's talked hisself to
Death's door. Thee dost na' get good milk enow, that's what it
is,--such stuff as Monkshaven folks put up wi'!'

'No, aunt; I'm quite well. Only I'm a bit put out--vexed like at
what I've heerd about Sylvie.'

His aunt's face changed immediately.

'And whatten folk say of her, next thing?'

'Oh,' said Philip, struck by the difference of look and manner in
his aunt, and subdued by seeing how instantly she took alarm. 'It
were only my uncle;--he should na' take a girl like her to a public.
She were wi' him at t' "Admiral's Head" upo' All Souls' Day--that
were all. There were many a one there beside,--it were statute fair;
but such a one as our Sylvie ought not to be cheapened wi' t' rest.'

'And he took her there, did he?' said Bell, in severe meditation. 'I
had never no opinion o' th' wenches as 'll set theirselves to be
hired for servants i' th' fair; they're a bad lot, as cannot find
places for theirselves--'bout going and stannin' to be stared at by
folk, and grinnin' wi' th' plough-lads when no one's looking; it's a
bad look-out for t' missus as takes one o' these wenches for a
servant; and dost ta mean to say as my Sylvie went and demeaned
hersel' to dance and marlock wi' a' th' fair-folk at th' "Admiral's
Head?"'

'No, no, she did na' dance; she barely set foot i' th' room; but it
were her own pride as saved her; uncle would niver ha' kept her from
it, for he had fallen in wi' Hayley o' Seaburn and one or two
others, and they were having a glass i' t' bar, and Mrs. Lawson, t'
landlady, knew how there was them who would come and dance among
parish 'prentices if need were, just to get a word or a look wi'
Sylvie! So she tempts her in, saying that the room were all
smartened and fine wi' flags; and there was them in the room as told
me that they never were so startled as when they saw our Sylvie's
face peeping in among all t' flustered maids and men, rough and red
wi' weather and drink; and Jem Macbean, he said she were just like a
bit o' apple-blossom among peonies; and some man, he didn't know
who, went up and spoke to her; an' either at that, or at some o' t'
words she heard--for they'd got a good way on afore that time--she
went quite white and mad, as if fire were coming out of her eyes,
and then she turned red and left the room, for all t' landlady tried
to laugh it off and keep her in.'

'I'll be down to Monkshaven before I'm a day older, and tell
Margaret Lawson some on my mind as she'll not forget in a hurry.'

Bell moved as though she would put on her cloak and hood there and
then.

'Nay, it's not in reason as a woman i' that line o' life shouldn't
try to make her house agreeable,' said Philip.

'Not wi' my wench,' said Bell, in a determined voice.

Philip's information had made a deeper impression on his aunt than
he intended. He himself had been annoyed more at the idea that
Sylvia would be spoken of as having been at a rough piece of rustic
gaiety--a yearly festival for the lower classes of Yorkshire
servants, out-door as well as in-door--than at the affair itself,
for he had learnt from his informant how instantaneous her
appearance had been. He stood watching his aunt's troubled face, and
almost wishing that he had not spoken. At last she heaved a deep
sigh, and stirring the fire, as if by this little household
occupation to compose her mind, she said--

'It's a pity as wenches aren't lads, or married folk. I could ha'
wished--but it were the Lord's will--It would ha' been summut to
look to, if she'd had a brother. My master is so full on his own
thoughts, yo' see, he's no mind left for thinking on her, what wi'
th' oats, and th' wool, and th' young colt, and his venture i' th'
_Lucky Mary_.'

She really believed her husband to have the serious and important
occupation for his mind that she had been taught to consider
befitting the superior intellect of the masculine gender; she would
have taxed herself severely, if, even in thought, she had blamed
him, and Philip respected her feelings too much to say that Sylvia's
father ought to look after her more closely if he made such a pretty
creature so constantly his companion; yet some such speech was only
just pent within Philip's closed lips. Again his aunt spoke--

'I used to think as she and yo' might fancy one another, but thou'rt
too old-fashioned like for her; ye would na' suit; and it's as well,
for now I can say to thee, that I would take it very kindly if thou
would'st look after her a bit.'

Philip's countenance fell into gloom. He had to gulp down certain
feelings before he could make answer with discretion.

'How can I look after her, and me tied to the shop more and more
every day?'

'I could send her on a bit of an errand to Foster's, and then, for
sure, yo' might keep an eye upon her when she's in th' town; and
just walk a bit way with her when she's in th' street, and keep t'
other fellows off her--Ned Simpson, t' butcher, in 'special, for
folks do say he means no good by any girl he goes wi'--and I'll ask
father to leave her a bit more wi' me. They're coming down th' brow,
and Ned Simpson wi' them. Now, Philip, I look to thee to do a
brother's part by my wench, and warn off all as isn't fit.'

The door opened, and the coarse strong voice of Simpson made itself
heard. He was a stout man, comely enough as to form and feature, but
with a depth of colour in his face that betokened the coming on of
the habits of the sot. His Sunday hat was in his hand, and he
smoothed the long nap of it, as he said, with a mixture of shyness
and familiarity--

'Sarvant, missus. Yo'r measter is fain that I should come in an'
have a drop; no offence, I hope?'

Sylvia passed quickly through the house-place, and went upstairs
without speaking to her cousin Philip or to any one. He sat on,
disliking the visitor, and almost disliking his hospitable uncle for
having brought Simpson into the house, sympathizing with his aunt in
the spirit which prompted her curt answers, and in the intervals of
all these feelings wondering what ground she had for speaking as if
she had now given up all thought of Sylvia and him ever being
married, and in what way he was too 'old-fashioned.'

Robson would gladly have persuaded Philip to join him and Simpson in
their drink, but Philip was in no sociable mood, and sate a little
aloof, watching the staircase down which sooner or later Sylvia must
come; for, as perhaps has been already said, the stairs went up
straight out of the kitchen. And at length his yearning watch was
rewarded; first, the little pointed toe came daintily in sight, then
the trim ankle in the tight blue stocking, the wool of which was
spun and the web of which was knitted by her mother's careful hands;
then the full brown stuff petticoat, the arm holding the petticoat
back in decent folds, so as not to encumber the descending feet; the
slender neck and shoulders hidden under the folded square of fresh
white muslin; the crowning beauty of the soft innocent face radiant
in colour, and with the light brown curls clustering around. She
made her way quickly to Philip's side; how his heart beat at her
approach! and even more when she entered into a low-voiced
_tete-a-tete_.

'Isn't he gone yet?' said she. 'I cannot abide him; I could ha'
pinched father when he asked him for t' come in.'

'Maybe, he'll not stay long,' said Philip, hardly understanding the
meaning of what he said, so sweet was it to have her making her
whispered confidences to him.

But Simpson was not going to let her alone in the dark corner
between the door and the window. He began paying her some coarse
country compliments--too strong in their direct flattery for even
her father's taste, more especially as he saw by his wife's set lips
and frowning brow how much she disapproved of their visitor's style
of conversation.

'Come, measter, leave t' lass alone; she's set up enough a'ready,
her mother makes such a deal on her. Yo' an' me's men for sensible
talk at our time o' life. An', as I was saying, t' horse was a
weaver if iver one was, as any one could ha' told as had come within
a mile on him.'

And in this way the old farmer and the bluff butcher chatted on
about horses, while Philip and Sylvia sate together, he turning over
all manner of hopes and projects for the future, in spite of his
aunt's opinion that he was too 'old-fashioned' for her dainty,
blooming daughter. Perhaps, too, Mrs. Robson saw some reason for
changing her mind on this head as she watched Sylvia this night, for
she accompanied Philip to the door, when the time came for him to
start homewards, and bade him 'good-night' with unusual fervour,
adding--

'Thou'st been a deal o' comfort to me, lad--a'most as one as if thou
wert a child o' my own, as at times I could welly think thou art to
be. Anyways, I trust to thee to look after the lile lass, as has no
brother to guide her among men--and men's very kittle for a woman to
deal wi; but if thou'lt have an eye on whom she consorts wi', my
mind 'll be easier.'

Philip's heart beat fast, but his voice was as calm as usual when he
replied--

'I'd just keep her a bit aloof from Monkshaven folks; a lass is
always the more thought on for being chary of herself; and as for t'
rest, I'll have an eye to the folks she goes among, and if I see
that they don't befit her, I'll just give her a warning, for she's
not one to like such chaps as yon Simpson there; she can see what's
becoming in a man to say to a lass, and what's not.'

Philip set out on his two-mile walk home with a tumult of happiness
in his heart. He was not often carried away by delusions of his own
creating; to-night he thought he had good ground for believing that
by patient self-restraint he might win Sylvia's love. A year ago he
had nearly earned her dislike by obtruding upon her looks and words
betokening his passionate love. He alarmed her girlish coyness, as
well as wearied her with the wish he had then felt that she should
take an interest in his pursuits. But, with unusual wisdom, he had
perceived his mistake; it was many months now since he had betrayed,
by word or look, that she was anything more to him than a little
cousin to be cared for and protected when need was. The consequence
was that she had become tamed, just as a wild animal is tamed; he
had remained tranquil and impassive, almost as if he did not
perceive her shy advances towards friendliness. These advances were
made by her after the lessons had ceased. She was afraid lest he was
displeased with her behaviour in rejecting his instructions, and was
not easy till she was at peace with him; and now, to all appearance,
he and she were perfect friends, but nothing more. In his absence
she would not allow her young companions to laugh at his grave
sobriety of character, and somewhat prim demeanour; she would even
go against her conscience, and deny that she perceived any
peculiarity. When she wanted it, she sought his advice on such small
subjects as came up in her daily life; and she tried not to show
signs of weariness when he used more words--and more difficult
words--than were necessary to convey his ideas. But her ideal
husband was different from Philip in every point, the two images
never for an instant merged into one. To Philip she was the only
woman in the world; it was the one subject on which he dared not
consider, for fear that both conscience and judgment should decide
against him, and that he should be convinced against his will that
she was an unfit mate for him, that she never would be his, and that
it was waste of time and life to keep her shrined in the dearest
sanctuary of his being, to the exclusion of all the serious and
religious aims which, in any other case, he would have been the
first to acknowledge as the object he ought to pursue. For he had
been brought up among the Quakers, and shared in their austere
distrust of a self-seeking spirit; yet what else but self-seeking
was his passionate prayer, 'Give me Sylvia, or else, I die?' No
other vision had ever crossed his masculine fancy for a moment; his
was a rare and constant love that deserved a better fate than it met
with. At this time his hopes were high, as I have said, not merely
as to the growth of Sylvia's feelings towards him, but as to the
probability of his soon being in a position to place her in such
comfort, as his wife, as she had never enjoyed before.

For the brothers Foster were thinking of retiring from business, and
relinquishing the shop to their two shopmen, Philip Hepburn and
William Coulson. To be sure, it was only by looking back for a few
months, and noticing chance expressions and small indications, that
this intention of theirs could be discovered. But every step they
took tended this way, and Philip knew their usual practice of
deliberation too well to feel in the least impatient for the quicker
progress of the end which he saw steadily approaching. The whole
atmosphere of life among the Friends at this date partook of this
character of self-repression, and both Coulson and Hepburn shared in
it. Coulson was just as much aware of the prospect opening before
him as Hepburn; but they never spoke together on the subject,
although their mutual knowledge might be occasionally implied in
their conversation on their future lives. Meanwhile the Fosters were
imparting more of the background of their business to their
successors. For the present, at least, the brothers meant to retain
an interest in the shop, even after they had given up the active
management; and they sometimes thought of setting up a separate
establishment as bankers. The separation of the business,--the
introduction of their shopmen to the distant manufacturers who
furnished their goods (in those days the system of 'travellers' was
not so widely organized as it is at present),--all these steps were
in gradual progress; and already Philip saw himself in imagination
in the dignified position of joint master of the principal shop in
Monkshaven, with Sylvia installed as his wife, with certainly a silk
gown, and possibly a gig at her disposal. In all Philip's visions of
future prosperity, it was Sylvia who was to be aggrandized by them;
his own life was to be spent as it was now, pretty much between the
four shop walls.



CHAPTER XII

NEW YEAR'S FETE


All this enlargement of interest in the shop occupied Philip fully
for some months after the period referred to in the preceding
chapter. Remembering his last conversation with his aunt, he might
have been uneasy at his inability to perform his promise and look
after his pretty cousin, but that about the middle of November Bell
Robson had fallen ill of a rheumatic fever, and that her daughter
had been entirely absorbed in nursing her. No thought of company or
gaiety was in Sylvia's mind as long as her mother's illness lasted;
vehement in all her feelings, she discovered in the dread of losing
her mother how passionately she was attached to her. Hitherto she
had supposed, as children so often do, that her parents would live
for ever; and now when it was a question of days, whether by that
time the following week her mother might not be buried out of her
sight for ever, she clung to every semblance of service to be
rendered, or affection shown, as if she hoped to condense the love
and care of years into the few days only that might remain. Mrs.
Robson lingered on, began slowly to recover, and before Christmas
was again sitting by the fireside in the house-place, wan and pulled
down, muffled up with shawls and blankets, but still there once
more, where not long before Sylvia had scarcely expected to see her
again. Philip came up that evening and found Sylvia in wild spirits.
She thought that everything was done, now that her mother had once
come downstairs again; she laughed with glee; she kissed her mother;
she shook hands with Philip, she almost submitted to a speech of
more than usual tenderness from him; but, in the midst of his words,
her mother's pillows wanted arranging and she went to her chair,
paying no more heed to his words than if they had been addressed to
the cat, that lying on the invalid's knee was purring out her
welcome to the weak hand feebly stroking her back. Robson himself
soon came in, looking older and more subdued since Philip had seen
him last. He was very urgent that his wife should have some spirits
and water; but on her refusal, almost as if she loathed the thought
of the smell, he contented himself with sharing her tea, though he
kept abusing the beverage as 'washing the heart out of a man,' and
attributing all the degeneracy of the world, growing up about him in
his old age, to the drinking of such slop. At the same time, his
little self-sacrifice put him in an unusually good temper; and,
mingled with his real gladness at having his wife once more on the
way to recovery, brought back some of the old charm of tenderness
combined with light-heartedness, which had won the sober Isabella
Preston long ago. He sat by her side, holding her hand, and talking
of old times to the young couple opposite; of his adventures and
escapes, and how he had won his wife. She, faintly smiling at the
remembrance of those days, yet half-ashamed at having the little
details of her courtship revealed, from time to time kept saying,--

'For shame wi' thee, Dannel--I never did,' and faint denials of a
similar kind.

'Niver believe her, Sylvie. She were a woman, and there's niver a
woman but likes to have a sweetheart, and can tell when a chap's
castin' sheep's-eyes at her; ay, an' afore he knows what he's about
hissen. She were a pretty one then, was my old 'ooman, an' liked
them as thought her so, though she did cock her head high, as bein'
a Preston, which were a family o' standin' and means i' those parts
aforetime. There's Philip there, I'll warrant, is as proud o' bein'
Preston by t' mother's side, for it runs i' t' blood, lass. A can
tell when a child of a Preston tak's to being proud o' their kin, by
t' cut o' their nose. Now Philip's and my missus's has a turn beyond
common i' their nostrils, as if they was sniffin' at t' rest of us
world, an' seein' if we was good enough for 'em to consort wi'. Thee
an' me, lass, is Robsons--oat-cake folk, while they's pie-crust.
Lord! how Bell used to speak to me, as short as though a wasn't a
Christian, an' a' t' time she loved me as her very life, an' well a
knew it, tho' a'd to mak' as tho' a didn't. Philip, when thou goes
courtin', come t' me, and a'll give thee many a wrinkle. A've shown,
too, as a know well how t' choose a good wife by tokens an' signs,
hannot a, missus? Come t' me, my lad, and show me t' lass, an' a'll
just tak' a squint at her, an' tell yo' if she'll do or not; an' if
she'll do, a'll teach yo' how to win her.'

'They say another o' yon Corney girls is going to be married,' said
Mrs. Robson, in her faint deliberate tones.

'By gosh, an' it's well thou'st spoke on 'em; a was as clean
forgettin' it as iver could be. A met Nanny Corney i' Monkshaven
last neet, and she axed me for t' let our Sylvia come o' New Year's
Eve, an' see Molly an' her man, that 'n as is wed beyond Newcassel,
they'll be over at her feyther's, for t' New Year, an' there's to be
a merry-making.'

Sylvia's colour came, her eyes brightened, she would have liked to
go; but the thought of her mother came across her, and her features
fell. Her mother's eye caught the look and the change, and knew what
both meant as well as if Sylvia had spoken out.

'Thursday se'nnight,' said she. 'I'll be rare and strong by then,
and Sylvie shall go play hersen; she's been nurse-tending long
enough.'

'You're but weakly yet,' said Philip shortly; he did not intend to
say it, but the words seemed to come out in spite of himself.

'A said as our lass should come, God willin', if she only came and
went, an' thee goin' on sprightly, old 'ooman. An' a'll turn
nurse-tender mysen for t' occasion, 'special if thou can stand t'
good honest smell o' whisky by then. So, my lass, get up thy smart
clothes, and cut t' best on 'em out, as becomes a Preston. Maybe,
a'll fetch thee home, an' maybe Philip will convoy thee, for Nanny
Corney bade thee to t' merry-making, as well. She said her measter
would be seem' thee about t' wool afore then.'

'I don't think as I can go,' said Philip, secretly pleased to know
that he had the opportunity in his power; 'I'm half bound to go Wi'
Hester Rose and her mother to t' watch-night.'

'Is Hester a Methodee?' asked Sylvia in surprise.

'No! she's neither a Methodee, nor a Friend, nor a Church person;
but she's a turn for serious things, choose wherever they're found.'

'Well, then,' said good-natured farmer Robson, only seeing the
surface of things, 'a'll make shift to fetch Sylvie back fra' t'
merry-making, and thee an' thy young woman can go to t'
prayer-makin'; it's every man to his taste, say I.'

But in spite of his half-promise, nay against his natural
inclination, Philip was lured to the Corneys' by the thought of
meeting Sylvia, of watching her and exulting in her superiority in
pretty looks and ways to all the other girls likely to be assembled.
Besides (he told his conscience) he was pledged to his aunt to watch
over Sylvia like a brother. So in the interval before New Year's
Eve, he silently revelled as much as any young girl in the
anticipation of the happy coming time.

At this hour, all the actors in this story having played out their
parts and gone to their rest, there is something touching in
recording the futile efforts made by Philip to win from Sylvia the
love he yearned for. But, at the time, any one who had watched him
might have been amused to see the grave, awkward, plain young man
studying patterns and colours for a new waistcoat, with his head a
little on one side, after the meditative manner common to those who
are choosing a new article of dress. They might have smiled could
they have read in his imagination the frequent rehearsals of the
coming evening, when he and she should each be dressed in their gala
attire, to spend a few hours under a bright, festive aspect, among
people whose company would oblige them to assume a new demeanour
towards each other, not so familiar as their every-day manner, but
allowing more scope for the expression of rustic gallantry. Philip
had so seldom been to anything of the kind, that, even had Sylvia
not been going, he would have felt a kind of shy excitement at the
prospect of anything so unusual. But, indeed, if Sylvia had not been
going, it is very probable that Philip's rigid conscience might have
been aroused to the question whether such parties did not savour too
much of the world for him to form one in them.

As it was, however, the facts to him were simply these. He was going
and she was going. The day before, he had hurried off to Haytersbank
Farm with a small paper parcel in his pocket--a ribbon with a little
briar-rose pattern running upon it for Sylvia. It was the first
thing he had ever ventured to give her--the first thing of the kind
would, perhaps, be more accurate; for when he had first begun to
teach her any lessons, he had given her Mavor's Spelling-book, but
that he might have done, out of zeal for knowledge, to any dunce of
a little girl of his acquaintance. This ribbon was quite a different
kind of present; he touched it tenderly, as if he were caressing it,
when he thought of her wearing it; the briar-rose (sweetness and
thorns) seemed to be the very flower for her; the soft, green ground
on which the pink and brown pattern ran, was just the colour to show
off her complexion. And she would in a way belong to him: her
cousin, her mentor, her chaperon, her lover! While others only
admired, he might hope to appropriate; for of late they had been
such happy friends! Her mother approved of him, her father liked
him. A few months, perhaps only a few weeks more of self-restraint,
and then he might go and speak openly of his wishes, and what he had
to offer. For he had resolved, with the quiet force of his
character, to wait until all was finally settled between him and his
masters, before he declared himself to either Sylvia or her parents.
The interval was spent in patient, silent endeavours to recommend
himself to her.

He had to give his ribbon to his aunt in charge for Sylvia, and that
was a disappointment to his fancy, although he tried to reason
himself into thinking that it was better so. He had not time to wait
for her return from some errand on which she had gone, for he was
daily more and more occupied with the affairs of the shop.

Sylvia made many a promise to her mother, and more to herself, that
she would not stay late at the party, but she might go as early as
she liked; and before the December daylight had faded away, Sylvia
presented herself at the Corneys'. She was to come early in order to
help to set out the supper, which was arranged in the large old
flagged parlour, which served as best bed-room as well. It opened
out of the house-place, and was the sacred room of the house, as
chambers of a similar description are still considered in retired
farmhouses in the north of England. They are used on occasions like
the one now described for purposes of hospitality; but in the state
bed, overshadowing so large a portion of the floor, the births and,
as far as may be, the deaths, of the household take place. At the
Corneys', the united efforts of some former generation of the family
had produced patchwork curtains and coverlet; and patchwork was
patchwork in those days, before the early Yates and Peels had found
out the secret of printing the parsley-leaf. Scraps of costly Indian
chintzes and palempours were intermixed with commoner black and red
calico in minute hexagons; and the variety of patterns served for
the useful purpose of promoting conversation as well as the more
obvious one of displaying the work-woman 's taste. Sylvia, for
instance, began at once to her old friend, Molly Brunton, who had
accompanied her into this chamber to take off her hat and cloak,
with a remark on one of the chintzes. Stooping over the counterpane,
with a face into which the flush would come whether or no, she said
to Molly,--

'Dear! I never seed this one afore--this--for all t' world like th'
eyes in a peacock's tail.'

'Thou's seen it many a time and oft, lass. But weren't thou
surprised to find Charley here? We picked him up at Shields, quite
by surprise like; and when Brunton and me said as we was comin'
here, nought would serve him but comin' with us, for t' see t' new
year in. It's a pity as your mother's ta'en this time for t' fall
ill and want yo' back so early.'

Sylvia had taken off her hat and cloak by this time, and began to
help Molly and a younger unmarried sister in laying out the
substantial supper.

'Here,' continued Mrs. Brunton; 'stick a bit o' holly i' yon pig's
mouth, that's the way we do things i' Newcassel; but folks is so
behindhand in Monkshaven. It's a fine thing to live in a large town,
Sylvia; an' if yo're looking out for a husband, I'd advise yo' to
tak' one as lives in a town. I feel as if I were buried alive comin'
back here, such an out-o'-t'-way place after t' Side, wheere there's
many a hundred carts and carriages goes past in a day. I've a great
mind for t' tak yo' two lassies back wi' me, and let yo' see a bit
o' t' world; may-be, I may yet.

Her sister Bessy looked much pleased with this plan, but Sylvia was
rather inclined to take offence at Molly's patronizing ways, and
replied,--

'I'm none so fond o' noise and bustle; why, yo'll not be able to
hear yoursels speak wi' all them carts and carriages. I'd rayther
bide at home; let alone that mother can't spare me.'

It was, perhaps, a rather ungracious way of answering Molly
Brunton's speech, and so she felt it to be, although her invitation
had been none of the most courteously worded. She irritated Sylvia
still further by repeating her last words,--

'"Mother can't spare me;" why, mother 'll have to spare thee
sometime, when t' time for wedding comes.'

'I'm none going to be wed,' said Sylvia; 'and if I were, I'd niver
go far fra' mother.'

'Eh! what a spoilt darling it is. How Brunton will laugh when I tell
him about yo'; Brunton's a rare one for laughin'. It's a great thing
to have got such a merry man for a husband. Why! he has his joke for
every one as comes into t' shop; and he'll ha' something funny to
say to everything this evenin'.'

Bessy saw that Sylvia was annoyed, and, with more delicacy than her
sister, she tried to turn the conversation.

'That's a pretty ribbon in thy hair, Sylvia; I'd like to have one o'
t' same pattern. Feyther likes pickled walnuts stuck about t' round
o' beef, Molly.'

'I know what I'm about,' replied Mrs. Brunton, with a toss of her
married head.

Bessy resumed her inquiry.

'Is there any more to be had wheere that come fra', Sylvia?'

'I don't know,' replied Sylvia. 'It come fra' Foster's, and yo' can
ask.'

'What might it cost?' said Betsy, fingering an end of it to test its
quality.

'I can't tell,' said Sylvia, 'it were a present.'

'Niver mak' ado about t' price,' said Molly; 'I'll gi'e thee enough
on 't to tie up thy hair, just like Sylvia's. Only thou hastn't such
wealth o' curls as she has; it'll niver look t' same i' thy straight
locks. And who might it be as give it thee, Sylvia?' asked the
unscrupulous, if good-natured Molly.

'My cousin Philip, him as is shopman at Foster's,' said Sylvia,
innocently. But it was far too good an opportunity for the exercise
of Molly's kind of wit for her to pass over.

'Oh, oh! our cousin Philip, is it? and he'll not be living so far
away from your mother? I've no need be a witch to put two and two
together. He's a coming here to-night, isn't he, Bessy?'

'I wish yo' wouldn't talk so, Molly,' said Sylvia; 'me and Philip is
good enough friends, but we niver think on each other in that way;
leastways, I don't.'

'(Sweet butter! now that's my mother's old-fashioned way; as if
folks must eat sweet butter now-a-days, because her mother did!)
That way,' continued Molly, in the manner that annoyed Sylvia so
much, repeating her words as if for the purpose of laughing at them.
'"That way?" and pray what is t' way yo're speaking on? I niver said
nought about marrying, did I, that yo' need look so red and
shamefaced about yo'r cousin Philip? But, as Brunton says, if t' cap
fits yo', put it on. I'm glad he's comin' to-night tho', for as I'm
done makin' love and courtin', it's next best t' watch other folks;
an' yo'r face, Sylvia, has letten me into a secret, as I'd some
glimpses on afore I was wed.'

Sylvia secretly determined not to speak a word more to Philip than
she could help, and wondered how she could ever have liked Molly at
all, much less have made a companion of her. The table was now laid
out, and nothing remained but to criticize the arrangement a little.

Bessy was full of admiration.

'Theere, Molly!' said she. 'Yo' niver seed more vittle brought
together i' Newcassel, I'll be bound; there'll be above half a
hundredweight o' butcher's meat, beside pies and custards. I've
eaten no dinner these two days for thinking on 't; it's been a weary
burden on my mind, but it's off now I see how well it looks. I told
mother not to come near it till we'd spread it all out, and now I'll
go fetch her.'

Bessy ran off into the house-place.

'It's well enough in a country kind o' way,' said Molly, with the
faint approbation of condescension. 'But if I'd thought on, I'd ha'
brought 'em down a beast or two done i' sponge-cake, wi' currants
for his eyes to give t' table an air.'

The door was opened, and Bessy came in smiling and blushing with
proud pleasure. Her mother followed her on tip-toe, smoothing down
her apron, and with her voice subdued to a whisper:--

'Ay, my lass, it _is_ fine! But dunnot mak' an ado about it, let 'em
think it's just our common way. If any one says aught about how good
t' vittle is, tak' it calm, and say we'n better i' t' house,--it'll
mak' 'em eat wi' a better appetite, and think the more on us.
Sylvie, I'm much beholden t' ye for comin' so early, and helpin' t'
lasses, but yo' mun come in t' house-place now, t' folks is
gatherin', an' yo'r cousin's been asking after yo' a'ready.'

Molly gave her a nudge, which made Sylvia's face go all aflame with
angry embarrassment. She was conscious that the watching which Molly
had threatened her with began directly; for Molly went up to her
husband, and whispered something to him which set him off in a
chuckling laugh, and Sylvia was aware that his eyes followed her
about with knowing looks all the evening. She would hardly speak to
Philip, and pretended not to see his outstretched hand, but passed
on to the chimney-corner, and tried to shelter herself behind the
broad back of farmer Corney, who had no notion of relinquishing his
customary place for all the young people who ever came to the
house,--or for any old people either, for that matter. It was his
household throne, and there he sat with no more idea of abdicating
in favour of any comer than King George at St James's. But he was
glad to see his friends; and had paid them the unwonted compliment
of shaving on a week-day, and putting on his Sunday coat. The united
efforts of wife and children had failed to persuade him to make any
farther change in his attire; to all their arguments on this head he
had replied,--

'Them as doesn't like t' see me i' my work-a-day wescut and breeches
may bide away.'

It was the longest sentence he said that day, but he repeated it
several times over. He was glad enough to see all the young people,
but they were not 'of his kidney,' as he expressed it to himself,
and he did not feel any call upon himself to entertain them. He left
that to his bustling wife, all smartness and smiles, and to his
daughters and son-in-law. His efforts at hospitality consisted in
sitting still, smoking his pipe; when any one came, he took it out
of his mouth for an instant, and nodded his head in a cheerful
friendly way, without a word of speech; and then returned to his
smoking with the greater relish for the moment's intermission. He
thought to himself:--

'They're a set o' young chaps as thinks more on t' lasses than on
baccy;--they'll find out their mistake in time; give 'em time, give
'em time.'

And before eight o'clock, he went as quietly as a man of twelve
stone can upstairs to bed, having made a previous arrangement with
his wife that she should bring him up about two pounds of spiced
beef, and a hot tumbler of stiff grog. But at the beginning of the
evening he formed a good screen for Sylvia, who was rather a
favourite with the old man, for twice he spoke to her.

'Feyther smokes?'

'Yes,' said Sylvia.

'Reach me t' baccy-box, my lass.'

And that was all the conversation that passed between her and her
nearest neighbour for the first quarter of an hour after she came
into company.

But, for all her screen, she felt a pair of eyes were fixed upon her
with a glow of admiration deepening their honest brightness.
Somehow, look in what direction she would, she caught the glance of
those eyes before she could see anything else. So she played with
her apron-strings, and tried not to feel so conscious. There were
another pair of eyes,--not such beautiful, sparkling
eyes,--deep-set, earnest, sad, nay, even gloomy, watching her every
movement; but of this she was not aware. Philip had not recovered
from the rebuff she had given him by refusing his offered hand, and
was standing still, in angry silence, when Mrs. Corney thrust a young
woman just arrived upon his attention.

'Come, Measter Hepburn, here's Nancy Pratt wi'out ev'n a soul to
speak t' her, an' yo' mopin' theere. She says she knows yo' by sight
fra' having dealt at Foster's these six year. See if yo' can't find
summut t' say t' each other, for I mun go pour out tea. Dixons, an'
Walkers, an' Elliotts, an' Smiths is come,' said she, marking off
the families on her fingers, as she looked round and called over
their names; 'an' there's only Will Latham an' his two sisters, and
Roger Harbottle, an' Taylor t' come; an' they'll turn up afore tea's
ended.'

So she went off to her duty at the one table, which, placed
alongside of the dresser, was the only article of furniture left in
the middle of the room: all the seats being arranged as close to the
four walls as could be managed. The candles of those days gave but a
faint light compared to the light of the immense fire, which it was
a point of hospitality to keep at the highest roaring, blazing
pitch; the young women occupied the seats, with the exception of two
or three of the elder ones, who, in an eager desire to show their
capability, insisted on helping Mrs. Corney in her duties, very much
to her annoyance, as there were certain little contrivances for
eking out cream, and adjusting the strength of the cups of tea to
the worldly position of the intended drinkers, which she did not
like every one to see. The young men,--whom tea did not embolden,
and who had as yet had no chance of stronger liquor,--clustered in
rustic shyness round the door, not speaking even to themselves,
except now and then, when one, apparently the wag of the party, made
some whispered remark, which set them all off laughing; but in a
minute they checked themselves, and passed the back of their hands
across their mouths to compose that unlucky feature, and then some
would try to fix their eyes on the rafters of the ceiling, in a
manner which was decorous if rather abstracted from the business in
hand. Most of these were young farmers, with whom Philip had nothing
in common, and from whom, in shy reserve, he had withdrawn himself
when he first came in. But now he wished himself among them sooner
than set to talk to Nancy Pratt, when he had nothing to say. And yet
he might have had a companion less to his mind, for she was a decent
young woman of a sober age, less inclined to giggle than many of the
younger ones. But all the time that he was making commonplace
remarks to her he was wondering if he had offended Sylvia, and why
she would not shake hands with him, and this pre-occupation of his
thoughts did not make him an agreeable companion. Nancy Pratt, who
had been engaged for some years to a mate of a whaling-ship,
perceived something of his state of mind, and took no offence at it;
on the contrary, she tried to give him pleasure by admiring Sylvia.

'I've often heerd tell on her,' said she, 'but I niver thought she's
be so pretty, and so staid and quiet-like too. T' most part o' girls
as has looks like hers are always gape-gazing to catch other folks's
eyes, and see what is thought on 'em; but she looks just like a
child, a bit flustered wi' coming into company, and gettin' into as
dark a corner and bidin' as still as she can.

Just then Sylvia lifted up her long, dark lashes, and catching the
same glance which she had so often met before--Charley Kinraid was
standing talking to Brunton on the opposite side of the
fire-place--she started back into the shadow as if she had not
expected it, and in so doing spilt her tea all over her gown. She
could almost have cried, she felt herself so awkward, and as if
everything was going wrong with her; she thought that every one
would think she had never been in company before, and did not know
how to behave; and while she was thus fluttered and crimson, she saw
through her tearful eyes Kinraid on his knees before her, wiping her
gown with his silk pocket handkerchief, and heard him speaking
through all the buzz of commiserating voices.

'Your cupboard handle is so much i' th' way--I hurt my elbow
against it only this very afternoon.'

So perhaps it was no clumsiness of hers,--as they would all know,
now, since he had so skilfully laid the blame somewhere else; and
after all it turned out that her accident had been the means of
bringing him across to her side, which was much more pleasant than
having him opposite, staring at her; for now he began to talk to
her, and this was very pleasant, although she was rather embarrassed
at their _tete-a-tete_ at first.

'I did not know you again when I first saw you,' said he, in a tone
which implied a good deal more than was uttered in words.

'I knowed yo' at once,' she replied, softly, and then she blushed
and played with her apron-string, and wondered if she ought to have
confessed to the clearness of her recollection.

'You're grown up into--well, perhaps it's not manners to say what
you're grown into--anyhow, I shan't forget yo' again.'

More playing with her apron-string, and head hung still lower down,
though the corners of her mouth would go up in a shy smile of
pleasure. Philip watched it all as greedily as if it gave him
delight.

'Yo'r father, he'll be well and hearty, I hope?' asked Charley.

'Yes,' replied Sylvia, and then she wished she could originate some
remark; he would think her so stupid if she just kept on saying such
little short bits of speeches, and if he thought her stupid he might
perhaps go away again to his former place.

But he was quite far enough gone in love of her beauty, and pretty
modest ways, not to care much whether she talked or no, so long as
she showed herself so pleasingly conscious of his close
neighbourhood.

'I must come and see the old gentleman; and your mother, too,' he
added more slowly, for he remembered that his visits last year had
not been quite so much welcomed by Bell Robson as by her husband;
perhaps it was because of the amount of drink which he and Daniel
managed to get through of an evening. He resolved this year to be
more careful to please the mother of Sylvia.

When tea was ended there was a great bustle and shifting of places,
while Mrs. Corney and her daughters carried out trays full of used
cups, and great platters of uneaten bread and butter into the
back-kitchen, to be washed up after the guests were gone. Just
because she was so conscious that she did not want to move, and
break up the little conversation between herself and Kinraid, Sylvia
forced herself to be as active in the service going on as became a
friend of the house; and she was too much her mother's own daughter
to feel comfortable at leaving all the things in the disorder which
to the Corney girls was second nature.

'This milk mun go back to t' dairy, I reckon,' said she, loading
herself with milk and cream.

'Niver fash thysel' about it,' said Nelly Corney, 'Christmas comes
but onest a year, if it does go sour; and mother said she'd have a
game at forfeits first thing after tea to loosen folks's tongues,
and mix up t' lads and lasses, so come along.'

But Sylvia steered her careful way to the cold chill of the dairy,
and would not be satisfied till she had carried away all the unused
provision into some fresher air than that heated by the fires and
ovens used for the long day's cooking of pies and cakes and much
roast meat.

When they came back a round of red-faced 'lads,' as young men up to
five-and-thirty are called in Lancashire and Yorkshire if they are
not married before, and lasses, whose age was not to be defined,
were playing at some country game, in which the women were
apparently more interested than the men, who looked shamefaced, and
afraid of each other's ridicule. Mrs. Corney, however, knew how to
remedy this, and at a sign from her a great jug of beer was brought
in. This jug was the pride of her heart, and was in the shape of a
fat man in white knee-breeches, and a three-cornered hat; with one
arm he supported the pipe in his broad, smiling mouth, and the other
was placed akimbo and formed the handle. There was also a great
china punch-bowl filled with grog made after an old ship-receipt
current in these parts, but not too strong, because if their
visitors had too much to drink at that early part of the evening 'it
would spoil t' fun,' as Nelly Corney had observed. Her father,
however, after the notions of hospitality prevalent at that time in
higher circles, had stipulated that each man should have 'enough'
before he left the house; enough meaning in Monkshaven parlance the
liberty of getting drunk, if they thought fit to do it.

Before long one of the lads was seized with a fit of admiration for
Toby--the name of the old gentleman who contained liquor--and went
up to the tray for a closer inspection. He was speedily followed by
other amateurs of curious earthenware; and by-and-by Mr. Brunton (who
had been charged by his mother-in-law with the due supplying of
liquor--by his father-in-law that every man should have his fill,
and by his wife and her sisters that no one should have too much, at
any rate at the beginning of the evening,) thought fit to carry out
Toby to be replenished; and a faster spirit of enjoyment and mirth
began to reign in the room.

Kinraid was too well seasoned to care what amount of liquor he
drank; Philip had what was called a weak head, and disliked muddling
himself with drink because of the immediate consequence of intense
feelings of irritability, and the more distant one of a racking
headache next day; so both these two preserved very much the same
demeanour they had held at the beginning of the evening.

Sylvia was by all acknowledged and treated as the belle. When they
played at blind-man's-buff go where she would, she was always
caught; she was called out repeatedly to do what was required in any
game, as if all had a pleasure in seeing her light figure and deft
ways. She was sufficiently pleased with this to have got over her
shyness with all except Charley. When others paid her their rustic
compliments she tossed her head, and made her little saucy
repartees; but when he said something low and flattering, it was too
honey-sweet to her heart to be thrown off thus. And, somehow, the
more she yielded to this fascination the more she avoided Philip. He
did not speak flatteringly--he did not pay compliments--he watched
her with discontented, longing eyes, and grew more inclined every
moment, as he remembered his anticipation of a happy evening, to cry
out in his heart _vanitas vanitatum_.

And now came crying the forfeits. Molly Brunton knelt down, her face
buried in her mother's lap; the latter took out the forfeits one by
one, and as she held them up, said the accustomed formula,--

'A fine thing and a very fine thing, what must he (or she) do who
owns this thing.'

One or two had been told to kneel to the prettiest, bow to the
wittiest, and kiss those they loved best; others had had to bite an
inch off the poker, or such plays upon words. And now came Sylvia's
pretty new ribbon that Philip had given her (he almost longed to
snatch it out of Mrs. Corney's hands and burn it before all their
faces, so annoyed was he with the whole affair.)

'A fine thing and a very fine thing--a most particular fine
thing--choose how she came by it. What must she do as owns this
thing?'

'She must blow out t' candle and kiss t' candlestick.'

In one instant Kinraid had hold of the only candle within reach, all
the others had been put up high on inaccessible shelves and other
places. Sylvia went up and blew out the candle, and before the
sudden partial darkness was over he had taken the candle into his
fingers, and, according to the traditional meaning of the words, was
in the place of the candlestick, and as such was to be kissed. Every
one laughed at innocent Sylvia's face as the meaning of her penance
came into it, every one but Philip, who almost choked.

'I'm candlestick,' said Kinraid, with less of triumph in his voice
than he would have had with any other girl in the room.

'Yo' mun kiss t' candlestick,' cried the Corneys, 'or yo'll niver
get yo'r ribbon back.'

'And she sets a deal o' store by that ribbon,' said Molly Brunton,
maliciously.

'I'll none kiss t' candlestick, nor him either,' said Sylvia, in a
low voice of determination, turning away, full of confusion.

'Yo'll not get yo'r ribbon if yo' dunnot,' cried one and all.

'I don't care for t' ribbon,' said she, flashing up with a look at
her tormentors, now her back was turned to Kinraid. 'An' I wunnot
play any more at such like games,' she added, with fresh indignation
rising in her heart as she took her old place in the corner of the
room a little away from the rest.

Philip's spirits rose, and he yearned to go to her and tell her how
he approved of her conduct. Alas, Philip! Sylvia, though as modest a
girl as ever lived, was no prude, and had been brought up in simple,
straightforward country ways; and with any other young man,
excepting, perhaps, Philip's self, she would have thought no more of
making a rapid pretence of kissing the hand or cheek of the
temporary 'candlestick', than our ancestresses did in a much higher
rank on similar occasions. Kinraid, though mortified by his public
rejection, was more conscious of this than the inexperienced Philip;
he resolved not to be baulked, and watched his opportunity. For the
time he went on playing as if Sylvia's conduct had not affected him
in the least, and as if he was hardly aware of her defection from
the game. As she saw others submitting, quite as a matter of course,
to similar penances, she began to be angry with herself for having
thought twice about it, and almost to dislike herself for the
strange consciousness which had made it at the time seem impossible
to do what she was told. Her eyes kept filling with tears as her
isolated position in the gay party, the thought of what a fool she
had made of herself, kept recurring to her mind; but no one saw her,
she thought, thus crying; and, ashamed to be discovered when the
party should pause in their game, she stole round behind them into
the great chamber in which she had helped to lay out the supper,
with the intention of bathing her eyes, and taking a drink of water.
One instant Charley Kinraid was missing from the circle of which he
was the life and soul; and then back he came with an air of
satisfaction on his face, intelligible enough to those who had seen
his game; but unnoticed by Philip, who, amidst the perpetual noise
and movements around him, had not perceived Sylvia's leaving the
room, until she came back at the end of about a quarter of an hour,
looking lovelier than ever, her complexion brilliant, her eyes
drooping, her hair neatly and freshly arranged, tied with a brown
ribbon instead of that she was supposed to have forfeited. She
looked as if she did not wish her return to be noticed, stealing
softly behind the romping lads and lasses with noiseless motions,
and altogether such a contrast to them in her cool freshness and
modest neatness, that both Kinraid and Philip found it difficult to
keep their eyes off her. But the former had a secret triumph in his
heart which enabled him to go on with his merry-making as if it
absorbed him; while Philip dropped out of the crowd and came up to
where she was standing silently by Mrs. Corney, who, arms akimbo, was
laughing at the frolic and fun around her. Sylvia started a little
when Philip spoke, and kept her soft eyes averted from him after the
first glance; she answered him shortly, but with unaccustomed
gentleness. He had only asked her when she would like him to take
her home; and she, a little surprised at the idea of going home when
to her the evening seemed only beginning, had answered--

'Go home? I don't know! It's New Year's eve!'

'Ay! but yo'r mother 'll lie awake till yo' come home, Sylvie!'

But Mrs. Corney, having heard his question, broke in with all sorts
of upbraidings. 'Go home! Not see t' New Year in! Why, what should
take 'em home these six hours? Wasn't there a moon as clear as day?
and did such a time as this come often? And were they to break up
the party before the New Year came in? And was there not supper,
with a spiced round of beef that had been in pickle pretty nigh sin'
Martinmas, and hams, and mince-pies, and what not? And if they
thought any evil of her master's going to bed, or that by that early
retirement he meant to imply that he did not bid his friends
welcome, why he would not stay up beyond eight o'clock for King
George upon his throne, as he'd tell them soon enough, if they'd
only step upstairs and ask him. Well; she knowed what it was to want
a daughter when she was ailing, so she'd say nought more, but hasten
supper.

And this idea now took possession of Mrs. Corney's mind, for she
would not willingly allow one of her guests to leave before they had
done justice to her preparations; and, cutting her speech short, she
hastily left Sylvia and Philip together.

His heart beat fast; his feeling towards her had never been so
strong or so distinct as since her refusal to kiss the
'candlestick.' He was on the point of speaking, of saying something
explicitly tender, when the wooden trencher which the party were
using at their play, came bowling between him and Sylvia, and spun
out its little period right betwixt them. Every one was moving from
chair to chair, and when the bustle was over Sylvia was seated at
some distance from him, and he left standing outside the circle, as
if he were not playing. In fact, Sylvia had unconsciously taken his
place as actor in the game while he remained spectator, and, as it
turned out, an auditor of a conversation not intended for his ears.
He was wedged against the wall, close to the great eight-day clock,
with its round moon-like smiling face forming a ludicrous contrast
to his long, sallow, grave countenance, which was pretty much at the
same level above the sanded floor. Before him sat Molly Brunton and
one of her sisters, their heads close together in too deep talk to
attend to the progress of the game. Philip's attention was caught by
the words--

'I'll lay any wager he kissed her when he ran off into t' parlour.'

'She's so coy she'd niver let him,' replied Bessy Corney.

'She couldn't help hersel'; and for all she looks so demure and prim
now' (and then both heads were turned in the direction of Sylvia),
'I'm as sure as I'm born that Charley is not t' chap to lose his
forfeit; and yet yo' see he says nought more about it, and she's
left off being 'feared of him.'

There was something in Sylvia's look, ay, and in Charley Kinraid's,
too, that shot conviction into Philip's mind. He watched them
incessantly during the interval before supper; they were intimate,
and yet shy with each other, in a manner that enraged while it
bewildered Philip. What was Charley saying to her in that whispered
voice, as they passed each other? Why did they linger near each
other? Why did Sylvia look so dreamily happy, so startled at every
call of the game, as if recalled from some pleasant idea? Why did
Kinraid's eyes always seek her while hers were averted, or downcast,
and her cheeks all aflame? Philip's dark brow grew darker as he
gazed. He, too, started when Mrs. Corney, close at his elbow, bade
him go in to supper along with some of the elder ones, who were not
playing; for the parlour was not large enough to hold all at once,
even with the squeezing and cramming, and sitting together on
chairs, which was not at all out of etiquette at Monkshaven. Philip
was too reserved to express his disappointment and annoyance at
being thus arrested in his painful watch over Sylvia; but he had no
appetite for the good things set before him, and found it hard work
to smile a sickly smile when called upon by Josiah Pratt for
applause at some country joke. When supper was ended, there was some
little discussion between Mrs. Corney and her son-in-law as to
whether the different individuals of the company should be called
upon for songs or stories, as was the wont at such convivial
meetings. Brunton had been helping his mother-in-law in urging
people to eat, heaping their plates over their shoulders with
unexpected good things, filling the glasses at the upper end of the
table, and the mugs which supplied the deficiency of glasses at the
lower. And now, every one being satisfied, not to say stuffed to
repletion, the two who had been attending to their wants stood
still, hot and exhausted.

'They're a'most stawed,' said Mrs. Corney, with a pleased smile.
'It'll be manners t' ask some one as knows how to sing.'

'It may be manners for full men, but not for fasting,' replied
Brunton. 'Folks in t' next room will be wanting their victual, and
singing is allays out o' tune to empty bellies.'

'But there's them here as 'll take it ill if they're not asked. I
heerd Josiah Pratt a-clearing his throat not a minute ago, an' he
thinks as much on his singin' as a cock does on his crowin'.'

'If one sings I'm afeard all on 'em will like to hear their own
pipes.'

But their dilemma was solved by Bessy Corney, who opened the door to
see if the hungry ones outside might not come in for their share of
the entertainment; and in they rushed, bright and riotous, scarcely
giving the first party time to rise from their seats ere they took
their places. One or two young men, released from all their previous
shyness, helped Mrs. Corney and her daughters to carry off such
dishes as were actually empty. There was no time for changing or
washing of plates; but then, as Mrs. Corney laughingly observed,--

'We're a' on us friends, and some on us mayhap sweethearts; so no
need to be particular about plates. Them as gets clean ones is
lucky; and them as doesn't, and cannot put up wi' plates that has
been used, mun go without.'

It seemed to be Philip's luck this night to be pent up in places;
for again the space between the benches and the wall was filled up
by the in-rush before he had time to make his way out; and all he
could do was to sit quiet where he was. But between the busy heads
and over-reaching arms he could see Charley and Sylvia, sitting
close together, talking and listening more than eating. She was in a
new strange state of happiness not to be reasoned about, or
accounted for, but in a state of more exquisite feeling than she had
ever experienced before; when, suddenly lifting her eyes, she caught
Philip's face of extreme displeasure.

'Oh,' said she, 'I must go. There's Philip looking at me so.'

'Philip!' said Kinraid, with a sudden frown upon his face.

'My cousin,' she replied, instinctively comprehending what had
flashed into his mind, and anxious to disclaim the suspicion of
having a lover. 'Mother told him to see me home, and he's noan one
for staying up late.'

'But you needn't go. I'll see yo' home.'

'Mother's but ailing,' said Sylvia, a little conscience-smitten at
having so entirely forgotten everything in the delight of the
present, 'and I said I wouldn't be late.'

'And do you allays keep to your word?' asked he, with a tender
meaning in his tone.

'Allays; leastways I think so,' replied she, blushing.

'Then if I ask you not to forget me, and you give me your word, I
may be sure you'll keep it.'

'It wasn't I as forgot you,' said Sylvia, so softly as not to be
heard by him.

He tried to make her repeat what she had said, but she would not,
and he could only conjecture that it was something more tell-tale
than she liked to say again, and that alone was very charming to
him.

'I shall walk home with you,' said he, as Sylvia at last rose to
depart, warned by a further glimpse of Philip's angry face.

'No!' said she, hastily, 'I can't do with yo''; for somehow she felt
the need of pacifying Philip, and knew in her heart that a third
person joining their _tete-a-tete_ walk would only increase his
displeasure.

'Why not?' said Charley, sharply.

'Oh! I don't know, only please don't!'

By this time her cloak and hood were on, and she was slowly making
her way down her side of the room followed by Charley, and often
interrupted by indignant remonstrances against her departure, and
the early breaking-up of the party. Philip stood, hat in hand, in
the doorway between the kitchen and parlour, watching her so
intently that he forgot to be civil, and drew many a jest and gibe
upon him for his absorption in his pretty cousin.

When Sylvia reached him, he said,--

'Yo're ready at last, are yo'?'

'Yes,' she replied, in her little beseeching tone. 'Yo've not been
wanting to go long, han yo'? I ha' but just eaten my supper.'

'Yo've been so full of talk, that's been the reason your supper
lasted so long. That fellow's none going wi' us?' said he sharply,
as he saw Kinraid rummaging for his cap in a heap of men's clothes,
thrown into the back-kitchen.

'No,' said Sylvia, in affright at Philip's fierce look and
passionate tone. 'I telled him not.'

But at that moment the heavy outer door was opened by Daniel Robson
himself--bright, broad, and rosy, a jolly impersonation of Winter.
His large drover's coat was covered with snow-flakes, and through
the black frame of the doorway might be seen a white waste world of
sweeping fell and field, with the dark air filled with the pure
down-fall. Robson stamped his snow-laden feet and shook himself
well, still standing on the mat, and letting a cold frosty current
of fresh air into the great warm kitchen. He laughed at them all
before he spoke.

'It's a coud new year as I'm lettin' in though it's noan t' new year
yet. Yo'll a' be snowed up, as sure as my name s Dannel, if yo' stop
for twel' o'clock. Yo'd better mak' haste and go whoam. Why,
Charley, my lad! how beest ta? who'd ha' thought o' seeing thee i'
these parts again! Nay, missus, nay, t' new year mun find its way
int' t' house by itsel' for me; for a ha' promised my oud woman to
bring Sylvie whoam as quick as may-be; she's lyin' awake and
frettin' about t' snow and what not. Thank yo' kindly, missus, but
a'll tak' nought to eat; just a drop o' somethin' hot to keep out
coud, and wish yo' a' the compliments o' the season. Philip, my man,
yo'll not be sorry to be spared t' walk round by Haytersbank such a
neet. My missus were i' such a way about Sylvie that a thought a'd
just step off mysel', and have a peep at yo' a', and bring her some
wraps. Yo'r sheep will be a' folded, a reckon, Measter Pratt, for
there'll niver be a nibble o' grass to be seen this two month,
accordin' to my readin'; and a've been at sea long enough, and on
land long enough t' know signs and wonders. It's good stuff that,
any way, and worth comin' for,' after he had gulped down a
tumblerful of half-and-half grog. 'Kinraid, if ta doesn't come and
see me afore thou'rt many days ouder, thee and me'll have words.
Come, Sylvie, what art ta about, keepin' me here? Here's Mistress
Corney mixin' me another jorum. Well, this time a'll give "T'
married happy, and t' single wed!"'

Sylvia was all this while standing by her father quite ready for
departure, and not a little relieved by his appearance as her convoy
home.

'I'm ready to see Haytersbank to-night, master!' said Kinraid, with
easy freedom--a freedom which Philip envied, but could not have
imitated, although he was deeply disappointed at the loss of his
walk with Sylvia, when he had intended to exercise the power his
aunt had delegated to him of remonstrance if her behaviour had been
light or thoughtless, and of warning if he saw cause to disapprove
of any of her associates.

After the Robsons had left, a blank fell upon both Charley and
Philip. In a few minutes, however, the former, accustomed to prompt
decision, resolved that she and no other should be his wife.
Accustomed to popularity among women, and well versed in the
incipient signs of their liking for him, he anticipated no
difficulty in winning her. Satisfied with the past, and pleasantly
hopeful about the future, he found it easy to turn his attention to
the next prettiest girl in the room, and to make the whole gathering
bright with his ready good temper and buoyant spirit.

Mrs. Corney had felt it her duty to press Philip to stay, now that,
as she said, he had no one but himself to see home, and the new year
so near coming in. To any one else in the room she would have added
the clinching argument, 'A shall take it very unkind if yo' go now';
but somehow she could not say this, for in truth Philip's look
showed that he would be but a wet blanket on the merriment of the
party. So, with as much civility as could be mustered up between
them, he took leave. Shutting the door behind him, he went out into
the dreary night, and began his lonesome walk back to Monkshaven.
The cold sleet almost blinded him as the sea-wind drove it straight
in his face; it cut against him as it was blown with drifting force.
The roar of the wintry sea came borne on the breeze; there was more
light from the whitened ground than from the dark laden sky above.
The field-paths would have been a matter of perplexity, had it not
been for the well-known gaps in the dyke-side, which showed the
whitened land beyond, between the two dark stone walls. Yet he went
clear and straight along his way, having unconsciously left all
guidance to the animal instinct which co-exists with the human soul,
and sometimes takes strange charge of the human body, when all the
nobler powers of the individual are absorbed in acute suffering. At
length he was in the lane, toiling up the hill, from which, by day,
Monkshaven might be seen. Now all features of the landscape before
him were lost in the darkness of night, against which the white
flakes came closer and nearer, thicker and faster. On a sudden, the
bells of Monkshaven church rang out a welcome to the new year, 1796.
From the direction of the wind, it seemed as if the sound was flung
with strength and power right into Philip's face. He walked down the
hill to its merry sound--its merry sound, his heavy heart. As he
entered the long High Street of Monkshaven he could see the watching
lights put out in parlour, chamber, or kitchen. The new year had
come, and expectation was ended. Reality had begun.

He turned to the right, into the court where he lodged with Alice
Rose. There was a light still burning there, and cheerful voices
were heard. He opened the door; Alice, her daughter, and Coulson
stood as if awaiting him. Hester's wet cloak hung on a chair before
the fire; she had her hood on, for she and Coulson had been to the
watch-night.

The solemn excitement of the services had left its traces upon her
countenance and in her mind. There was a spiritual light in her
usually shadowed eyes, and a slight flush on her pale cheek. Merely
personal and self-conscious feelings were merged in a loving
good-will to all her fellow-creatures. Under the influence of this
large charity, she forgot her habitual reserve, and came forward as
Philip entered to meet him with her new year's wishes--wishes that
she had previously interchanged with the other two.

'A happy new year to you, Philip, and may God have you in his
keeping all the days thereof!'

He took her hand, and shook it warmly in reply. The flush on her
cheek deepened as she withdrew it. Alice Rose said something curtly
about the lateness of the hour and her being much tired; and then
she and her daughter went upstairs to the front chamber, and Philip
and Coulson to that which they shared at the back of the house.



CHAPTER XIII

PERPLEXITIES


Coulson and Philip were friendly, but not intimate. They never had
had a dispute, they never were confidential with each other; in
truth, they were both reserved and silent men, and, probably,
respected each other the more for being so self-contained. There was
a private feeling in Coulson's heart which would have made a less
amiable fellow dislike Philip. But of this the latter was
unconscious: they were not apt to exchange many words in the room
which they occupied jointly.

Coulson asked Philip if he had enjoyed himself at the Corneys', and
Philip replied,--

'Not much; such parties are noane to my liking.'

'And yet thou broke off from t' watch-night to go there.'

No answer; so Coulson went on, with a sense of the duty laid upon
him, to improve the occasion--the first that had presented itself
since the good old Methodist minister had given his congregation the
solemn warning to watch over the opportunities of various kinds
which the coming year would present.

'Jonas Barclay told us as the pleasures o' this world were like
apples o' Sodom, pleasant to look at, but ashes to taste.'

Coulson wisely left Philip to make the application for himself. If
he did he made no sign, but threw himself on his bed with a heavy
sigh.

'Are yo' not going to undress?' said Coulson, as he covered him up
in bed.

There had been a long pause of silence. Philip did not answer him,
and he thought he had fallen asleep. But he was roused from his
first slumber by Hepburn's soft movements about the room. Philip had
thought better of it, and, with some penitence in his heart for his
gruffness to the unoffending Coulson, was trying not to make any
noise while he undressed.

But he could not sleep. He kept seeing the Corneys' kitchen and the
scenes that had taken place in it, passing like a pageant before his
closed eyes. Then he opened them in angry weariness at the recurring
vision, and tried to make out the outlines of the room and the
furniture in the darkness. The white ceiling sloped into the
whitewashed walls, and against them he could see the four
rush-bottomed chairs, the looking-glass hung on one side, the old
carved oak-chest (his own property, with the initials of forgotten
ancestors cut upon it), which held his clothes; the boxes that
belonged to Coulson, sleeping soundly in the bed in the opposite
corner of the room; the casement window in the roof, through which
the snowy ground on the steep hill-side could be plainly seen; and
when he got so far as this in the catalogue of the room, he fell
into a troubled feverish sleep, which lasted two or three hours; and
then he awoke with a start, and a consciousness of uneasiness,
though what about he could not remember at first.

When he recollected all that had happened the night before, it
impressed him much more favourably than it had done at the time. If
not joy, hope had come in the morning; and, at any rate, he could be
up and be doing, for the late wintry light was stealing down the
hill-side, and he knew that, although Coulson lay motionless in his
sleep, it was past their usual time of rising. Still, as it was new
year's Day, a time of some licence, Philip had mercy on his
fellow-shopman, and did not waken him till just as he was leaving
the room.

Carrying his shoes in his hand, he went softly downstairs for he
could see from the top of the flight that neither Alice nor her
daughter was down yet, as the kitchen shutters were not unclosed. It
was Mrs. Rose's habit to rise early, and have all bright and clean
against her lodgers came down; but then, in general, she went to
rest before nine o'clock, whereas the last night she had not gone
till past twelve. Philip went about undoing the shutters, and trying
to break up the raking coal, with as little noise as might be, for
he had compassion on the tired sleepers. The kettle had not been
filled, probably because Mrs. Rose had been unable to face the storm
of the night before, in taking it to the pump just at the entrance
of the court. When Philip came back from filling it, he found Alice
and Hester both in the kitchen, and trying to make up for lost time
by hastening over their work. Hester looked busy and notable with
her gown pinned up behind her, and her hair all tucked away under a
clean linen cap; but Alice was angry with herself for her late
sleeping, and that and other causes made her speak crossly to
Philip, as he came in with his snowy feet and well-filled kettle.

'Look the' there! droppin' and drippin' along t' flags as was
cleaned last night, and meddlin' wi' woman's work as a man has no
business wi'.'

Philip was surprised and annoyed. He had found relief from his own
thoughts in doing what he believed would help others. He gave up the
kettle to her snatching hands, and sate down behind the door in
momentary ill-temper. But the kettle was better filled, and
consequently heavier than the old woman expected, and she could not
manage to lift it to the crook from which it generally hung
suspended. She looked round for Hester, but she was gone into the
back-kitchen. In a minute Philip was at her side, and had heaved it
to its place for her. She looked in his face for a moment wistfully,
but hardly condescended to thank him; at least the sound of the
words did not pass the lips that formed them. Rebuffed by her
manner, he went back to his old seat, and mechanically watched the
preparations for breakfast; but his thoughts went back to the night
before, and the comparative ease of his heart was gone. The first
stir of a new day had made him feel as if he had had no sufficient
cause for his annoyance and despondency the previous evening; but
now, condemned to sit quiet, he reviewed looks and words, and saw
just reason for his anxiety. After some consideration he resolved to
go that very night to Haytersbank, and have some talk with either
Sylvia or her mother; what the exact nature of this purposed
conversation should be, he did not determine; much would depend on
Sylvia's manner and mood, and on her mother's state of health; but
at any rate something would be learnt.

During breakfast something was learnt nearer home; though not all
that a man less unconscious and more vain than Philip might have
discovered. He only found out that Mrs. Rose was displeased with him
for not having gone to the watch-night with Hester, according to the
plan made some weeks before. But he soothed his conscience by
remembering that he had made no promise; he had merely spoken of his
wish to be present at the service, about which Hester was speaking;
and although at the time and for a good while afterwards, he had
fully intended going, yet as there had been William Coulson to
accompany her, his absence could not have been seriously noticed.
Still he was made uncomfortable by Mrs. Rose's change of manner; once
or twice he said to himself that she little knew how miserable he
had been during his 'gay evening,' as she would persist in calling
it, or she would not talk at him with such persevering bitterness
this morning. Before he left for the shop, he spoke of his intention
of going to see how his aunt was, and of paying her a new year's day
visit.

Hepburn and Coulson took it in turns week and week about to go first
home to dinner; the one who went first sate down with Mrs. Rose and
her daughter, instead of having his portion put in the oven to keep
warm for him. To-day it was Hepburn's turn to be last. All morning
the shop was full with customers, come rather to offer good wishes
than to buy, and with an unspoken remembrance of the cake and wine
which the two hospitable brothers Foster made a point of offering to
all comers on new year's day. It was busy work for all--for Hester
on her side, where caps, ribbons, and women's gear were exclusively
sold--for the shopmen and boys in the grocery and drapery
department. Philip was trying to do his business with his mind far
away; and the consequence was that his manner was not such as to
recommend him to the customers, some of whom recollected it as very
different, courteous and attentive, if grave and sedate. One buxom
farmer's wife noticed the change to him. She had a little girl with
her, of about five years old, that she had lifted up on the counter,
and who was watching Philip with anxious eyes, occasionally
whispering in her mother's ear, and then hiding her face against her
cloak.

'She's thought a deal o' coming to see yo', and a dunnot think as
yo' mind her at all. My pretty, he's clean forgotten as how he said
last new year's day, he'd gi' thee a barley-sugar stick, if thou'd
hem him a handkercher by this.'

The child's face was buried in the comfortable breadth of duffle at
these words, while the little outstretched hand held a small square
of coarse linen.

'Ay, she's noane forgotten it, and has done her five stitches a day,
bless her; and a dunnot believe as yo' know her again. She's Phoebe
Moorsom, and a'm Hannah, and a've dealt at t' shop reg'lar this
fifteen year.'

'I'm very sorry,' said Philip. 'I was up late last night, and I'm a
bit dazed to-day. Well! this is nice work, Phoebe, and I'm sure I'm
very much beholden to yo'. And here's five sticks o' barley-sugar,
one for every stitch, and thank you kindly, Mrs. Moorsom, too.'

Philip took the handkerchief and hoped he had made honourable amends
for his want of recognition. But the wee lassie refused to be lifted
down, and whispered something afresh into her mother's ear, who
smiled and bade her be quiet. Philip saw, however, that there was
some wish ungratified on the part of the little maiden which he was
expected to inquire into, and, accordingly, he did his duty.

'She's a little fool; she says yo' promised to gi'e her a kiss, and
t' make her yo'r wife.'

The child burrowed her face closer into her mother's neck, and
refused to allow the kiss which Philip willingly offered. All he
could do was to touch the back of the little white fat neck with his
lips. The mother carried her off only half satisfied, and Philip
felt that he must try and collect his scattered wits, and be more
alive to the occasion.

Towards the dinner-hour the crowd slackened; Hester began to
replenish decanters and bottles, and to bring out a fresh cake
before she went home to dinner; and Coulson and Philip looked over
the joint present they always made to her on this day. It was a silk
handkerchief of the prettiest colours they could pick out of the
shop, intended for her to wear round her neck. Each tried to
persuade the other to give it to her, for each was shy of the act of
presentation. Coulson was, however, the most resolute; and when she
returned from the parlour the little parcel was in Philip's hands.

'Here, Hester,' said he, going round the counter to her, just as she
was leaving the shop. 'It's from Coulson and me; a handkerchief for
yo' to wear; and we wish yo' a happy New Year, and plenty on 'em;
and there's many a one wishes the same.'

He took her hand as he said this. She went a little paler, and her
eyes brightened as though they would fill with tears as they met
his; she could not have helped it, do what she would. But she only
said, 'Thank yo' kindly,' and going up to Coulson she repeated the
words and action to him; and then they went off together to dinner.

There was a lull of business for the next hour. John and Jeremiah
were dining like the rest of the world. Even the elder errand-boy
had vanished. Philip rearranged disorderly goods; and then sate down
on the counter by the window; it was the habitual place for the one
who stayed behind; for excepting on market-day there was little or
no custom during the noon-hour. Formerly he used to move the drapery
with which the window was ornamented, and watch the passers-by with
careless eye. But now, though he seemed to gaze abroad, he saw
nothing but vacancy. All the morning since he got up he had been
trying to fight through his duties--leaning against a hope--a hope
that first had bowed, and then had broke as soon as he really tried
its weight. There was not a sign of Sylvia's liking for him to be
gathered from the most careful recollection of the past evening. It
was of no use thinking that there was. It was better to give it up
altogether and at once. But what if he could not? What if the
thought of her was bound up with his life; and that once torn out by
his own free will, the very roots of his heart must come also?

No; he was resolved he would go on; as long as there was life there
was hope; as long as Sylvia remained unpledged to any one else,
there was a chance for him. He would remodel his behaviour to her.
He could not be merry and light-hearted like other young men; his
nature was not cast in that mould; and the early sorrows that had
left him a lonely orphan might have matured, but had not enlivened,
his character. He thought with some bitterness on the power of easy
talking about trifles which some of those he had met with at the
Corneys' had exhibited. But then he felt stirring within him a force
of enduring love which he believed to be unusual, and which seemed
as if it must compel all things to his wish in the end. A year or so
ago he had thought much of his own cleverness and his painfully
acquired learning, and he had imagined that these were the qualities
which were to gain Sylvia. But now, whether he had tried them and
had failed to win even her admiration, or whether some true instinct
had told him that a woman's love may be gained in many ways sooner
than by mere learning, he was only angry with himself for his past
folly in making himself her school--nay, her taskmaster. To-night,
though, he would start off on a new tack. He would not even upbraid
her for her conduct the night before; he had shown her his
displeasure at the time; but she should see how tender and forgiving
he could be. He would lure her to him rather than find fault with
her. There had perhaps been too much of that already.

When Coulson came back Philip went to his solitary dinner. In
general he was quite alone while eating it; but to-day Alice Rose
chose to bear him company. She watched him with cold severe eye for
some time, until he had appeased his languid appetite. Then she
began with the rebuke she had in store for him; a rebuke the motives
to which were not entirely revealed even to herself.

'Thou 're none so keen after thy food as common,' she began. 'Plain
victuals goes ill down after feastin'.'

Philip felt the colour mount to his face; he was not in the mood for
patiently standing the brunt of the attack which he saw was coming,
and yet he had a reverent feeling for woman and for age. He wished
she would leave him alone; but he only said--'I had nought but a
slice o' cold beef for supper, if you'll call that feasting.'

'Neither do godly ways savour delicately after the pleasures of the
world,' continued she, unheeding his speech. 'Thou wert wont to seek
the house of the Lord, and I thought well on thee; but of late
thou'st changed, and fallen away, and I mun speak what is in my
heart towards thee.'

'Mother,' said Philip, impatiently (both he and Coulson called Alice
'mother' at times), 'I don't think I am fallen away, and any way I
cannot stay now to be--it's new year's Day, and t' shop is throng.'

But Alice held up her hand. Her speech was ready, and she must
deliver it.

'Shop here, shop there. The flesh and the devil are gettin' hold on
yo', and yo' need more nor iver to seek t' ways o' grace. New year's
day comes and says, "Watch and pray," and yo' say, "Nay, I'll seek
feasts and market-places, and let times and seasons come and go
without heedin' into whose presence they're hastening me." Time was,
Philip, when thou'd niver ha' letten a merry-making keep thee fra'
t' watch-night, and t' company o' the godly.'

'I tell yo' it was no merry-making to me,' said Philip, with
sharpness, as he left the house.

Alice sat down on the nearest seat, and leant her head on her
wrinkled hand.

'He's tangled and snared,' said she; 'my heart has yearned after
him, and I esteemed him as one o' the elect. And more nor me yearns
after him. O Lord, I have but one child! O Lord, spare her! But o'er
and above a' I would like to pray for his soul, that Satan might not
have it, for he came to me but a little lad.'

At that moment Philip, smitten by his conscience for his hard manner
of speech, came back; but Alice did not hear or see him till he was
close by her, and then he had to touch her to recall her attention.

'Mother,' said he, 'I was wrong. I'm fretted by many things. I
shouldn't ha' spoken so. It was ill-done of me.'

'Oh, my lad!' said she, looking up and putting her thin arm on his
shoulder as he stooped, 'Satan is desiring after yo' that he may
sift yo' as wheat. Bide at whoam, bide at whoam, and go not after
them as care nought for holy things. Why need yo' go to Haytersbank
this night?'

Philip reddened. He could not and would not give it up, and yet it
was difficult to resist the pleading of the usually stern old woman.

'Nay,' said he, withdrawing himself ever so little from her hold;
'my aunt is but ailing, they're my own flesh and blood, and as good
folks as needs be, though they mayn't be o' our--o' your way o'
thinking in a' things.'

'Our ways--your ways o' thinking, says he, as if they were no longer
his'n. And as good folks as need be,' repeated she, with returning
severity. 'Them's Satan's words, tho' yo' spoke 'em, Philip. I can
do nought again Satan, but I can speak to them as can; an' we'll see
which pulls hardest, for it'll be better for thee to be riven and
rent i' twain than to go body and soul to hell.'

'But don't think, mother,' said Philip, his last words of
conciliation, for the clock had given warning for two, 'as I'm boun'
for hell, just because I go t' see my own folks, all I ha' left o'
kin.' And once more, after laying his hand with as much of a caress
as was in his nature on hers, he left the house.

Probably Alice would have considered the first words that greeted
Philip on his entrance into the shop as an answer to her prayer, for
they were such as put a stop to his plan of going to see Sylvia that
evening; and if Alice had formed her inchoate thoughts into words,
Sylvia would have appeared as the nearest earthly representative of
the spirit of temptation whom she dreaded for Philip.

As he took his place behind the counter, Coulson said to him in a
low voice,--

'Jeremiah Foster has been round to bid us to sup wi' him to-night.
He says that he and John have a little matter o' business to talk
over with us.'

A glance from his eyes to Philip told the latter that Coulson
believed the business spoken of had something to do with the
partnership, respecting which there had been a silent intelligence
for some time between the shopmen.

'And what did thou say?' asked Philip, doggedly unwilling, even yet,
to give up his purposed visit.

'Say! why, what could a say, but that we'd come? There was summat
up, for sure; and summat as he thought we should be glad on. I could
tell it fra' t' look on his face.'

'I don't think as I can go,' said Philip, feeling just then as if
the long-hoped-for partnership was as nothing compared to his plan.
It was always distasteful to him to have to give up a project, or to
disarrange an intended order of things, such was his nature; but
to-day it was absolute pain to yield his own purpose.

'Why, man alive?' said Coulson, in amaze at his reluctance.

'I didn't say I mightn't go,' said Philip, weighing consequences,
until called off to attend to customers.

In the course of the afternoon, however, he felt himself more easy
in deferring his visit to Haytersbank till the next evening. Charley
Kinraid entered the shop, accompanied by Molly Brunton and her
sisters; and though they all went towards Hester's side of the shop,
and Philip and Coulson had many people to attend to, yet Hepburn's
sharpened ears caught much of what the young women were saying. From
that he gathered that Kinraid had promised them new year's gifts,
for the purchase of which they were come; and after a little more
listening he learnt that Kinraid was returning to Shields the next
day, having only come over to spend a holiday with his relations,
and being tied with ship's work at the other end. They all talked
together lightly and merrily, as if his going or staying was almost
a matter of indifference to himself and his cousins. The principal
thought of the young women was to secure the articles they most
fancied; Charley Kinraid was (so Philip thought) especially anxious
that the youngest and prettiest should be pleased. Hepburn watched
him perpetually with a kind of envy of his bright, courteous manner,
the natural gallantry of the sailor. If it were but clear that
Sylvia took as little thought of him as he did of her, to all
appearance, Philip could even have given him praise for manly good
looks, and a certain kind of geniality of disposition which made him
ready to smile pleasantly at all strangers, from babies upwards.

As the party turned to leave the shop they saw Philip, the guest of
the night before; and they came over to shake hands with him across
the counter; Kinraid's hand was proffered among the number. Last
night Philip could not have believed it possible that such a
demonstration of fellowship should have passed between them; and
perhaps there was a slight hesitation of manner on his part, for
some idea or remembrance crossed Kinraid's mind which brought a keen
searching glance into the eyes which for a moment were fastened on
Philip's face. In spite of himself, and during the very action of
hand-shaking, Philip felt a cloud come over his face, not altering
or moving his features, but taking light and peace out of his
countenance.

Molly Brunton began to say something, and he gladly turned to look
at her. She was asking him why he went away so early, for they had
kept it up for four hours after he left, and last of all, she added
(turning to Kinraid), her cousin Charley had danced a hornpipe among
the platters on the ground.

Philip hardly knew what he said in reply, the mention of that pas
seul lifted such a weight off his heart. He could smile now, after
his grave fashion, and would have shaken hands again with Kinraid
had it been required; for it seemed to him that no one, caring ever
so little in the way that he did for Sylvia, could have borne four
mortal hours of a company where she had been, and was not; least of
all could have danced a hornpipe, either from gaiety of heart, or
even out of complaisance. He felt as if the yearning after the
absent one would have been a weight to his legs, as well as to his
spirit; and he imagined that all men were like himself.



CHAPTER XIV

PARTNERSHIP


As darkness closed in, and the New Year's throng became scarce,
Philip's hesitation about accompanying Coulson faded away. He was
more comfortable respecting Sylvia, and his going to see her might
be deferred; and, after all, he felt that the wishes of his masters
ought to be attended to, and the honour of an invitation to the
private house of Jeremiah not to be slighted for anything short of a
positive engagement. Besides, the ambitious man of business existed
strongly in Philip. It would never do to slight advances towards the
second great earthly object in his life; one also on which the first
depended.

So when the shop was closed, the two set out down Bridge Street to
cross the river to the house of Jeremiah Foster. They stood a moment
on the bridge to breathe the keen fresh sea air after their busy
day. The waters came down, swollen full and dark, with rapid rushing
speed from the snow-fed springs high up on the moorland above. The
close-packed houses in the old town seemed a cluster of white roofs
irregularly piled against the more unbroken white of the hill-side.
Lights twinkled here and there in the town, and were slung from
stern and bow of the ships in the harbour. The air was very still,
settling in for a frost; so still that all distant sounds seemed
near: the rumble of a returning cart in the High Street, the voices
on board ship, the closing of shutters and barring of doors in the
new town to which they were bound. But the sharp air was filled, as
it were, with saline particles in a freezing state; little pungent
crystals of sea salt burning lips and cheeks with their cold
keenness. It would not do to linger here in the very centre of the
valley up which passed the current of atmosphere coming straight
with the rushing tide from the icy northern seas. Besides, there was
the unusual honour of a supper with Jeremiah Foster awaiting them.
He had asked each of them separately to a meal before now; but they
had never gone together, and they felt that there was something
serious in the conjuncture.

They began to climb the steep heights leading to the freshly-built
rows of the new town of Monkshaven, feeling as if they were rising
into aristocratic regions where no shop profaned the streets.
Jeremiah Foster's house was one of six, undistinguished in size, or
shape, or colour; but noticed in the daytime by all passers-by for
its spotless cleanliness of lintel and doorstep, window and window
frame. The very bricks seemed as though they came in for the daily
scrubbing which brightened handle, knocker, all down to the very
scraper.

The two young men felt as shy of the interview with their master
under such unusual relations of guest and host, as a girl does of
her first party. Each rather drew back from the decided step of
knocking at the door; but with a rebuffing shake at his own folly,
Philip was the one to give a loud single rap. As if they had been
waited for, the door flew open, and a middle-aged servant stood
behind, as spotless and neat as the house itself; and smiled a
welcome to the familiar faces.

'Let me dust yo' a bit, William,' said she, suiting the action to
the word. 'You've been leanin' again some whitewash, a'll be bound.
Ay, Philip,' continued she, turning him round with motherly freedom,
'yo'll do if yo'll but gi' your shoon a polishin' wipe on yon other
mat. This'n for takin' t' roughest mud off. Measter allays polishes
on that.'

In the square parlour the same precise order was observed. Every
article of furniture was free from speck of dirt or particle of
dust; and everything was placed either in a parallel line, or at
exact right-angles with every other. Even John and Jeremiah sat in
symmetry on opposite sides of the fire-place; the very smiles on
their honest faces seemed drawn to a line of exactitude.

Such formality, however admirable, was not calculated to promote
ease: it was not until after supper--until a good quantity of
Yorkshire pie had been swallowed, and washed down, too, with the
best and most generous wine in Jeremiah's cellar--that there was the
least geniality among them, in spite of the friendly kindness of the
host and his brother. The long silence, during which mute thanks for
the meal were given, having come to an end, Jeremiah called for
pipes, and three of the party began to smoke.

Politics in those days were tickle subjects to meddle with, even in
the most private company. The nation was in a state of terror
against France, and against any at home who might be supposed to
sympathise with the enormities she had just been committing. The
oppressive act against seditious meetings had been passed the year
before; and people were doubtful to what extremity of severity it
might be construed. Even the law authorities forgot to be impartial,
but either their alarms or their interests made too many of them
vehement partisans instead of calm arbiters, and thus destroyed the
popular confidence in what should have been considered the supreme
tribunal of justice. Yet for all this, there were some who dared to
speak of reform of Parliament, as a preliminary step to fair
representation of the people, and to a reduction of the heavy
war-taxation that was imminent, if not already imposed. But these
pioneers of 1830 were generally obnoxious. The great body of the
people gloried in being Tories and haters of the French, with whom
they were on tenter-hooks to fight, almost unaware of the rising
reputation of the young Corsican warrior, whose name would be used
ere a dozen years had passed to hush English babies with a terror
such as that of Marlborough once had for the French.

At such a place as Monkshaven all these opinions were held in
excess. One or two might, for the mere sake of argument, dispute on
certain points of history or government; but they took care to be
very sure of their listeners before such arguments touched on
anything of the present day; for it had been not unfrequently found
that the public duty of prosecuting opinions not your own overrode
the private duty of respecting confidence. Most of the Monkshaven
politicians confined themselves, therefore, to such general
questions as these: 'Could an Englishman lick more than four
Frenchmen at a time?' 'What was the proper punishment for members of
the Corresponding Society (correspondence with the French
directory), hanging and quartering, or burning?' 'Would the
forthcoming child of the Princess of Wales be a boy or a girl? If a
girl, would it be more loyal to call it Charlotte or Elizabeth?'

The Fosters were quite secure enough of their guests this evening to
have spoken freely on politics had they been so inclined. And they
did begin on the outrages which had been lately offered to the king
in crossing St James's Park to go and open the House of Lords; but
soon, so accustomed were their minds to caution and restraint, the
talk dropped down to the high price of provisions. Bread at 1_s_.
3_d_. the quartern loaf, according to the London test. Wheat at
120_s_. per quarter, as the home-baking northerners viewed the
matter; and then the conversation died away to an ominous silence.
John looked at Jeremiah, as if asking him to begin. Jeremiah was the
host, and had been a married man. Jeremiah returned the look with
the same meaning in it. John, though a bachelor, was the elder
brother. The great church bell, brought from the Monkshaven
monastery centuries ago, high up on the opposite hill-side, began to
ring nine o'clock; it was getting late. Jeremiah began:

'It seems a bad time for starting any one on business, wi' prices
and taxes and bread so dear; but John and I are getting into years,
and we've no children to follow us: yet we would fain draw out of
some of our worldly affairs. We would like to give up the shop, and
stick to banking, to which there seemeth a plain path. But first
there is the stock and goodwill of the shop to be disposed on.'

A dead pause. This opening was not favourable to the hopes of the
two moneyless young men who had been hoping to succeed their masters
by the more gradual process of partnership. But it was only the kind
of speech that had been agreed upon by the two brothers with a view
of impressing on Hepburn and Coulson the great and unusual
responsibility of the situation into which the Fosters wished them
to enter. In some ways the talk of many was much less simple and
straightforward in those days than it is now. The study of effect
shown in the London diners-out of the last generation, who prepared
their conversation beforehand, was not without its parallel in
humbler spheres, and for different objects than self-display. The
brothers Foster had all but rehearsed the speeches they were about
to make this evening. They were aware of the youth of the parties to
whom they were going to make a most favourable proposal; and they
dreaded that if that proposal was too lightly made, it would be too
lightly considered, and the duties involved in it too carelessly
entered upon. So the _role_ of one brother was to suggest, that of
the other to repress. The young men, too, had their reserves. They
foresaw, and had long foreseen, what was coming that evening. They
were impatient to hear it in distinct words; and yet they had to
wait, as if unconscious, during all the long preamble. Do age and
youth never play the same parts now? To return. John Foster replied
to his brother:

'The stock and goodwill! That would take much wealth. And there will
be fixtures to be considered. Philip, canst thee tell me the exact
amount of stock in the shop at present?'

It had only just been taken; Philip had it at his fingers' ends.
'One thousand nine hundred and forty-one pounds, thirteen shillings
and twopence.'

Coulson looked at him in a little dismay, and could not repress a
sigh. The figures put into words and spoken aloud seemed to indicate
so much larger an amount of money than when quickly written down in
numerals. But Philip read the countenances, nay, by some process of
which he was not himself aware, he read the minds of the brothers,
and felt no dismay at what he saw there.

'And the fixtures?' asked John Foster.

'The appraiser valued them at four hundred and thirty-five pounds
three and sixpence when father died. We have added to them since,
but we will reckon them at that. How much does that make with the
value of the stock?'

'Two thousand one hundred and seventy-six pounds, sixteen shillings
and eightpence,' said Philip.

Coulson had done the sum quicker, but was too much disheartened by
the amount to speak.

'And the goodwill?' asked the pitiless John. 'What dost thee set
that at?'

'I think, brother, that that would depend on who came forward with
the purchase-money of the stock and fixtures. To some folks we might
make it sit easy, if they were known to us, and those as we wished
well to. If Philip and William here, for instance, said they'd like
to purchase the business, I reckon thee and me would not ask 'em so
much as we should ask Millers' (Millers was an upstart petty rival
shop at the end of the bridge in the New Town).

'I wish Philip and William was to come after us,' said John. 'But
that's out of the question,' he continued, knowing all the while
that, far from being out of the question, it was the very question,
and that it was as good as settled at this very time.

No one spoke. Then Jeremiah went on:

'It's out of the question, I reckon?'

He looked at the two young men. Coulson shook his head. Philip more
bravely said,--

'I have fifty-three pounds seven and fourpence in yo'r hands, Master
John, and it's all I have i' the world.'

'It's a pity,' said John, and again they were silent. Half-past nine
struck. It was time to be beginning to make an end. 'Perhaps,
brother, they have friends who could advance 'em the money. We might
make it sit light to them, for the sake of their good service?'

Philip replied,--

'There's no one who can put forwards a penny for me: I have but few
kin, and they have little to spare beyond what they need.'

Coulson said--

'My father and mother have nine on us.'

'Let alone, let alone!' said John, relenting fast; for he was weary
of his part of cold, stern prudence. 'Brother, I think we have
enough of this world's goods to do what we like wi' our own.'

Jeremiah was a little scandalized at the rapid melting away of
assumed character, and took a good pull at his pipe before he
replied--

'Upwards of two thousand pounds is a large sum to set on the
well-being and well-doing of two lads, the elder of whom is not
three-and-twenty. I fear we must look farther a-field.'

'Why, John,' replied Jeremiah, 'it was but yesterday thee saidst
thee would rather have Philip and William than any men o' fifty that
thee knowed. And now to bring up their youth again them.'

'Well, well! t' half on it is thine, and thou shall do even as thou
wilt. But I think as I must have security for my moiety, for it's a
risk--a great risk. Have ye any security to offer? any expectations?
any legacies, as other folk have a life-interest in at present?'

No; neither of them had. So Jeremiah rejoined--

'Then, I suppose, I mun do as thee dost, John, and take the security
of character. And it's a great security too, lads, and t' best o'
all, and one that I couldn't ha' done without; no, not if yo'd pay
me down five thousand for goodwill, and stock, and fixtures. For
John Foster and Son has been a shop i' Monkshaven this eighty years
and more; and I dunnot think there's a man living--or dead, for that
matter--as can say Fosters wronged him of a penny, or gave short
measure to a child or a Cousin Betty.'

They all four shook hands round with the same heartiness as if it
had been a legal ceremony necessary to the completion of the
partnership. The old men's faces were bright with smiles; the eyes
of the young ones sparkled with hope.

'But, after all,' said Jeremiah, 'we've not told you particulars.
Yo're thanking us for a pig in a poke; but we had more forethought,
and we put all down on a piece o' paper.'

He took down a folded piece of paper from the mantel-shelf, put on
his horn spectacles, and began to read aloud, occasionally peering
over his glasses to note the effect on the countenances of the young
men. The only thing he was in the habit of reading aloud was a
chapter in the Bible daily to his housekeeper servant; and, like
many, he reserved a peculiar tone for that solemn occupation--a tone
which he unconsciously employed for the present enumeration of
pounds, shillings, and pence.

'Average returns of the last three years, one hundred and
twenty-seven pounds, three shillings, and seven penny and one-sixth
a week. Profits thereupon thirty-four per cent.--as near as may be.
Clear profits of the concern, after deducting all expenses except
rent--for t' house is our own--one thousand two hundred and two
pound a year.'

This was far more than either Hepburn or Coulson had imagined it to
be; and a look of surprise, almost amounting to dismay, crept over
their faces, in spite of their endeavour to keep simply motionless
and attentive.

'It's a deal of money, lads, and the Lord give you grace to guide
it,' said Jeremiah, putting down his paper for a minute.

'Amen,' said John, shaking his head to give effect to his word.

'Now what we propose is this,' continued Jeremiah, beginning afresh
to refer to his paper: 'We will call t' value of stock and fixtures
two thousand one hundred and fifty. You may have John Holden,
appraiser and auctioneer, in to set a price on them if yo' will; or
yo' may look over books and bills; or, better still, do both, and so
check one again t'other; but for t' sake o' making the ground o' the
bargain, I state the sum as above; and I reckon it so much capital
left in yo'r hands for the use o' which yo're bound to pay us five
per cent. quarterly--that's one hundred and seven pound ten per
annum at least for t' first year; and after it will be reduced by
the gradual payment on our money, which must be at the rate of
twenty per cent., thus paying us our principal back in five years.
And the rent, including all back yards, right of wharfage,
warehouse, and premises, is reckoned by us to be sixty-five pound
per annum. So yo' will have to pay us, John and Jeremiah Foster,
brothers, six hundred and twelve pound ten out of the profits of the
first year, leaving, at the present rate of profits, about five
hundred and eighty-nine pound ten, for the share to be divided
between yo'.'

The plan had, in all its details, been carefully arranged by the two
brothers. They were afraid lest Hepburn and Coulson should be
dazzled by the amount of profits, and had so arranged the
sliding-scale of payment as to reduce the first year's income to
what the elder men thought a very moderate sum, but what to the
younger ones appeared an amount of wealth such as they, who had
neither of them ever owned much more than fifty pounds, considered
almost inexhaustible. It was certainly a remarkable instance of
prosperity and desert meeting together so early in life.

For a moment or two the brothers were disappointed at not hearing
any reply from either of them. Then Philip stood up, for he felt as
if anything he could say sitting down would not be sufficiently
expressive of gratitude, and William instantly followed his example.
Hepburn began in a formal manner, something the way in which he had
read in the York newspapers that honourable members returned thanks
when their health was given.

'I can hardly express my feelings' (Coulson nudged him) 'his
feelings, too--of gratitude. Oh, Master John! Master Jeremiah, I
thought it might come i' time; nay, I've thought it might come afore
long; but I niver thought as it would be so much, or made so easy.
We've got good kind friends--we have, have we not, William?--and
we'll do our best, and I hope as we shall come up to their wishes.'

Philip's voice quivered a little, as some remembrance passed across
his mind; at this unusual moment of expansion out it came. 'I wish
mother could ha' seen this day.'

'She shall see a better day, my lad, when thy name and William's is
painted over t' shop-door, and J. and J. Foster blacked out.'

'Nay, master,' said William, 'that mun never be. I'd a'most sooner
not come in for the business. Anyhow, it must be 'late J. and J.
Foster,' and I'm not sure as I can stomach that.'

'Well, well, William,' said John Foster, highly gratified, 'there be
time enough to talk over that. There was one thing more to be said,
was there not, brother Jeremiah? We do not wish to have this talked
over in Monkshaven until shortly before the time when yo' must enter
on the business. We have our own arrangements to make wi' regard to
the banking concern, and there'll be lawyer's work to do, after
yo've examined books and looked over stock again together; may-be
we've overstated it, or t' fixtures aren't worth so much as we said.
Anyhow yo' must each on yo' give us yo'r word for to keep fra'
naming this night's conversation to any one. Meantime, Jeremiah and
I will have to pay accounts, and take a kind of farewell of the
merchants and manufacturers with whom Fosters have had dealings this
seventy or eighty year; and when and where it seems fitting to us we
will take one of yo' to introduce as our successors and friends. But
all that's to come. But yo' must each give us yo'r word not to name
what has passed here to any one till further speech on the subject
has passed between us.'

Coulson immediately gave the promise. Philip's assent came lagging.
He had thought of Sylvia living, almost as much as of the dead
mother, whose last words had been a committal of her child to the
Father of the friendless; and now that a short delay was placed
between the sight of the cup and his enjoyment of it, there was an
impatient chafing in the mind of the composed and self-restrained
Philip; and then repentance quick as lightning effaced the feeling,
and he pledged himself to the secrecy which was enjoined. Some few
more details as to their mode of procedure--of verifying the
Fosters' statements, which to the younger men seemed a perfectly
unnecessary piece of business--of probable journeys and
introductions, and then farewell was bidden, and Hepburn and Coulson
were in the passage donning their wraps, and rather to their
indignation being assisted therein by Martha, who was accustomed to
the office with her own master. Suddenly they were recalled into the
parlour.

John Foster was fumbling with the papers a little nervously:
Jeremiah spoke--

'We have not thought it necessary to commend Hester Rose to you; if
she had been a lad she would have had a third o' the business along
wi' yo'. Being a woman, it's ill troubling her with a partnership;
better give her a fixed salary till such time as she marries.'

He looked a little knowingly and curiously at the faces of the young
men he addressed. William Coulson seemed sheepish and uncomfortable,
but said nothing, leaving it as usual to Philip to be spokesman.

'If we hadn't cared for Hester for hersel', master, we should ha'
cared for her as being forespoken by yo'. Yo' and Master John shall
fix what we ought t' pay her; and I think I may make bold to say
that, as our income rises, hers shall too--eh, Coulson?' (a sound of
assent quite distinct enough); 'for we both look on her as a sister
and on Alice like a mother, as I told her only this very day.'



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?



CHAPTER XXX

HAPPY DAYS


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Margaret,' said he.

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

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

She made a little impatient movement.

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

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

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

'Anything to please thee, darling.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER XXXI

EVIL OMENS


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER XXXII

RESCUED FROM THE WAVES


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

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

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

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

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

'Where's Sylvie?' said he.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then louder to her mother, she added,--

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER XXXIII

AN APPARITION


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But she only moaned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Philip!' No answer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER XXXIV

A RECKLESS RECRUIT


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The comparison drove Philip from passive hopelessness to active
despair.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philip looked abroad to see whence the voice proceeded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER XXXV

THINGS UNUTTERABLE


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She was aroused by Dr Morgan's voice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He watched her to see the effect of his words.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She spoke first.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER XXXVI

MYSTERIOUS TIDINGS


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Then he's gone?' said Sylvia.

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

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

Kester stood up suddenly.

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

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

Then she went on, still whispering out her words.

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

The red spot vanished as she faced her own imagination.

Kester spoke.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then she said,

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

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

Sylvia shivered all over, and hesitated before she replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It ran as follows:--


'DEAR HESTER,--

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

'Your affectionate and obedient friend to command,

'PHILIP HEPBURN.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She paused.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'I niver told him to go, sir.'

'But thy words sent him forth, Sylvia.'

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

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

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

Sylvia's eyes filled with tears.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER XXXVII

BEREAVEMENT


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'No! have I iver seen it afore?'

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

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

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

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

All the afternoon she was unusually quiet and depressed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Was Philip and Hester----'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hester almost started.

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

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



CHAPTER XXXVIII

THE RECOGNITION


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That strong clear sunbeam had wrought his salvation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER XXXIX

CONFIDENCES


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Do away!' said Bella, decisively.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alice said,--

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Tell me, then,' pleaded Hester.

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER XL

AN UNEXPECTED MESSENGER


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Sylvia only shook her head, and said,

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

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

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



CHAPTER XLI

THE BEDESMAN OF ST SEPULCHRE


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'And where are you going to now?'

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

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

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

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

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

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

The warden went on,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER XLII

A FABLE AT FAULT


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the small oblong of looking-glass hung against the wall, Philip
caught the reflection of his own face, and laughed scornfully at the
sight. The thin hair lay upon his temples in the flakes that betoken
long ill-health; his eyes were the same as ever, and they had always
been considered the best feature in his face; but they were sunk in
their orbits, and looked hollow and gloomy. As for the lower part of
his face, blackened, contracted, drawn away from his teeth, the
outline entirely changed by the breakage of his jaw-bone, he was
indeed a fool if he thought himself fit to go forth to win back that
love which Sylvia had forsworn. As a hermit and a beggar, he must
return to Monkshaven, and fall perforce into the same position which
Guy of Warwick had only assumed. But still he should see his
Phillis, and might feast his sad hopeless eyes from time to time
with the sight of his child. His small pension of sixpence a day
would keep him from absolute want of necessaries.

So that very day he went to the warden and told him he thought of
giving up his share in the bequest of Sir Simon Bray. Such a
relinquishment had never occurred before in all the warden's
experience; and he was very much inclined to be offended.

'I must say that for a man not to be satisfied as a bedesman of St
Sepulchre's argues a very wrong state of mind, and a very ungrateful
heart.'

'I'm sure, sir, it's not from any ingratitude, for I can hardly feel
thankful to you and to Sir Simon, and to madam, and the young
ladies, and all my comrades in the hospital, and I niver expect to
be either so comfortable or so peaceful again, but----'

'But? What can you have to say against the place, then? Not but what
there are always plenty of applicants for every vacancy; only I
thought I was doing a kindness to a man out of Harry's company. And
you'll not see Harry either; he's got his leave in March!'

'I'm very sorry. I should like to have seen the lieutenant again.
But I cannot rest any longer so far away from--people I once knew.'

'Ten to one they're dead, or removed, or something or other by this
time; and it'll serve you right if they are. Mind! no one can be
chosen twice to be a bedesman of St Sepulchre's.'

The warden turned away; and Philip, uneasy at staying, disheartened
at leaving, went to make his few preparations for setting out once
more on his journey northwards. He had to give notice of his change
of residence to the local distributor of pensions; and one or two
farewells had to be taken, with more than usual sadness at the
necessity; for Philip, under his name of Stephen Freeman, had
attached some of the older bedesmen a good deal to him, from his
unselfishness, his willingness to read to them, and to render them
many little services, and, perhaps, as much as anything, by his
habitual silence, which made him a convenient recipient of all their
garrulousness. So before the time for his departure came, he had the
opportunity of one more interview with the warden, of a more
friendly character than that in which he gave up his bedesmanship.
And so far it was well; and Philip turned his back upon St
Sepulchre's with his sore heart partly healed by his four months'
residence there.

He was stronger, too, in body, more capable of the day-after-day
walks that were required of him. He had saved some money from his
allowance as bedesman and from his pension, and might occasionally
have taken an outside place on a coach, had it not been that he
shrank from the first look of every stranger upon his disfigured
face. Yet the gentle, wistful eyes, and the white and faultless
teeth always did away with the first impression as soon as people
became a little acquainted with his appearance.

It was February when Philip left St Sepulchre's. It was the first
week in April when he began to recognize the familiar objects
between York and Monkshaven. And now he began to hang back, and to
question the wisdom of what he had done--just as the warden had
prophesied that he would. The last night of his two hundred mile
walk he slept at the little inn at which he had been enlisted nearly
two years before. It was by no intention of his that he rested at
that identical place. Night was drawing on; and, in making, as he
thought, a short cut, he had missed his way, and was fain to seek
shelter where he might find it. But it brought him very straight
face to face with his life at that time, and ever since. His mad,
wild hopes--half the result of intoxication, as he now knew--all
dead and gone; the career then freshly opening shut up against him
now; his youthful strength and health changed into premature
infirmity, and the home and the love that should have opened wide
its doors to console him for all, why in two years Death might have
been busy, and taken away from him his last feeble chance of the
faint happiness of seeing his beloved without being seen or known of
her. All that night and all the next day, the fear of Sylvia's
possible death overclouded his heart. It was strange that he had
hardly ever thought of this before; so strange, that now, when the
terror came, it took possession of him, and he could almost have
sworn that she must be lying dead in Monkshaven churchyard. Or was
it little Bella, that blooming, lovely babe, whom he was never to
see again? There was the tolling of mournful bells in the distant
air to his disturbed fancy, and the cry of the happy birds, the
plaintive bleating of the new-dropped lambs, were all omens of evil
import to him.

As well as he could, he found his way back to Monkshaven, over the
wild heights and moors he had crossed on that black day of misery;
why he should have chosen that path he could not tell--it was as if
he were led, and had no free will of his own.

The soft clear evening was drawing on, and his heart beat thick, and
then stopped, only to start again with fresh violence. There he was,
at the top of the long, steep lane that was in some parts a literal
staircase leading down from the hill-top into the High Street,
through the very entry up which he had passed when he shrank away
from his former and his then present life. There he stood, looking
down once more at the numerous irregular roofs, the many stacks of
chimneys below him, seeking out that which had once been his own
dwelling--who dwelt there now?

The yellower gleams grew narrower; the evening shadows broader, and
Philip crept down the lane a weary, woeful man. At every gap in the
close-packed buildings he heard the merry music of a band, the
cheerful sound of excited voices. Still he descended slowly,
scarcely wondering what it could be, for it was not associated in
his mind with the one pervading thought of Sylvia.

When he came to the angle of junction between the lane and the High
Street, he seemed plunged all at once into the very centre of the
bustle, and he drew himself up into a corner of deep shadow, from
whence he could look out upon the street.

A circus was making its grand entry into Monkshaven, with all the
pomp of colour and of noise that it could muster. Trumpeters in
parti-coloured clothes rode first, blaring out triumphant discord.
Next came a gold-and-scarlet chariot drawn by six piebald horses,
and the windings of this team through the tortuous narrow street
were pretty enough to look upon. In the chariot sate kings and
queens, heroes and heroines, or what were meant for such; all the
little boys and girls running alongside of the chariot envied them;
but they themselves were very much tired, and shivering with cold in
their heroic pomp of classic clothing. All this Philip might have
seen; did see, in fact; but heeded not one jot. Almost opposite to
him, not ten yards apart, standing on the raised step at the
well-known shop door, was Sylvia, holding a child, a merry dancing
child, up in her arms to see the show. She too, Sylvia, was laughing
for pleasure, and for sympathy with pleasure. She held the little
Bella aloft that the child might see the gaudy procession the better
and the longer, looking at it herself with red lips apart and white
teeth glancing through; then she turned to speak to some one behind
her--Coulson, as Philip saw the moment afterwards; his answer made
her laugh once again. Philip saw it all; her bonny careless looks,
her pretty matronly form, her evident ease of mind and prosperous
outward circumstances. The years that he had spent in gloomy sorrow,
amongst wild scenes, on land or by sea, his life in frequent peril
of a bloody end, had gone by with her like sunny days; all the more
sunny because he was not there. So bitterly thought the poor
disabled marine, as, weary and despairing, he stood in the cold
shadow and looked upon the home that should have been his haven, the
wife that should have welcomed him, the child that should have been
his comfort. He had banished himself from his home; his wife had
forsworn him; his child was blossoming into intelligence unwitting
of any father. Wife, and child, and home, were all doing well
without him; what madness had tempted him thither? an hour ago, like
a fanciful fool, he had thought she might be dead--dead with sad
penitence for her cruel words at her heart--with mournful wonder at
the unaccounted-for absence of her child's father preying on her
spirits, and in some measure causing the death he had apprehended.
But to look at her there where she stood, it did not seem as if she
had had an hour's painful thought in all her blooming life.

Ay! go in to the warm hearth, mother and child, now the gay
cavalcade has gone out of sight, and the chill of night has
succeeded to the sun's setting. Husband and father, steal out into
the cold dark street, and seek some poor cheap lodging where you may
rest your weary bones, and cheat your more weary heart into
forgetfulness in sleep. The pretty story of the Countess Phillis,
who mourned for her husband's absence so long, is a fable of old
times; or rather say Earl Guy never wedded his wife, knowing that
one she loved better than him was alive all the time she had
believed him to be dead.



CHAPTER XLIII

THE UNKNOWN


A few days before that on which Philip arrived at Monkshaven, Kester
had come to pay Sylvia a visit. As the earliest friend she had, and
also as one who knew the real secrets of her life, Sylvia always
gave him the warm welcome, the cordial words, and the sweet looks in
which the old man delighted. He had a sort of delicacy of his own
which kept him from going to see her too often, even when he was
stationary at Monkshaven; but he looked forward to the times when he
allowed himself this pleasure as a child at school looks forward to
its holidays. The time of his service at Haytersbank had, on the
whole, been the happiest in all his long monotonous years of daily
labour. Sylvia's father had always treated him with the rough
kindness of fellowship; Sylvia's mother had never stinted him in his
meat or grudged him his share of the best that was going; and once,
when he was ill for a few days in the loft above the cow-house, she
had made him possets, and nursed him with the same tenderness which
he remembered his mother showing to him when he was a little child,
but which he had never experienced since then. He had known Sylvia
herself, as bud, and sweet promise of blossom; and just as she was
opening into the full-blown rose, and, if she had been happy and
prosperous, might have passed out of the narrow circle of Kester's
interests, one sorrow after another came down upon her pretty
innocent head, and Kester's period of service to Daniel Robson, her
father, was tragically cut short. All this made Sylvia the great
centre of the faithful herdsman's affection; and Bella, who reminded
him of what Sylvia was when first Kester knew her, only occupied the
second place in his heart, although to the child he was much more
demonstrative of his regard than to the mother.

He had dressed himself in his Sunday best, and although it was only
Thursday, had forestalled his Saturday's shaving; he had provided
himself with a paper of humbugs for the child--'humbugs' being the
north-country term for certain lumps of toffy, well-flavoured with
peppermint--and now he sat in the accustomed chair, as near to the
door as might be, in Sylvia's presence, coaxing the little one, who
was not quite sure of his identity, to come to him, by opening the
paper parcel, and letting its sweet contents be seen.

'She's like thee--and yet she favours her feyther,' said he; and the
moment he had uttered the incautious words he looked up to see how
Sylvia had taken the unpremeditated, unusual reference to her
husband. His stealthy glance did not meet her eye; but though he
thought she had coloured a little, she did not seem offended as he
had feared. It was true that Bella had her father's grave,
thoughtful, dark eyes, instead of her mother's gray ones, out of
which the childlike expression of wonder would never entirely pass
away. And as Bella slowly and half distrustfully made her way
towards the temptation offered her, she looked at Kester with just
her father's look.

Sylvia said nothing in direct reply; Kester almost thought she could
not have heard him. But, by-and-by, she said,--

'Yo'll have heared how Kinraid--who's a captain now, and a grand
officer--has gone and got married.'

'Nay!' said Kester, in genuine surprise. 'He niver has, for sure!'

'Ay, but he has,' said Sylvia. 'And I'm sure I dunnot see why he
shouldn't.'

'Well, well!' said Kester, not looking up at her, for he caught the
inflections in the tones of her voice. 'He were a fine stirrin'
chap, yon; an' he were allays for doin' summut; an' when he fund as
he couldn't ha' one thing as he'd set his mind on, a reckon he
thought he mun put up wi' another.'

'It 'ud be no "putting up,"' said Sylvia. 'She were staying at Bessy
Dawson's, and she come here to see me--she's as pretty a young lady
as yo'd see on a summer's day; and a real lady, too, wi' a fortune.
She didn't speak two words wi'out bringing in her husband's
name,--"the captain", as she called him.'

'An' she come to see thee?' said Kester, cocking his eye at Sylvia
with the old shrewd look. 'That were summut queer, weren't it?'

Sylvia reddened a good deal.

'He's too fause to have spoken to her on me, in t' old way,--as he
used for t' speak to me. I were nought to her but Philip's wife.'

'An' what t' dickins had she to do wi' Philip?' asked Kester, in
intense surprise; and so absorbed in curiosity that he let the
humbugs all fall out of the paper upon the floor, and the little
Bella sat down, plump, in the midst of treasures as great as those
fabled to exist on Tom Tiddler's ground.

Sylvia was again silent; but Kester, knowing her well, was sure that
she was struggling to speak, and bided his time without repeating
his question.

'She said--and I think her tale were true, though I cannot get to t'
rights on it, think on it as I will--as Philip saved her husband's
life somewheere nearabouts to Jerusalem. She would have it that t'
captain--for I think I'll niver ca' him Kinraid again--was in a
great battle, and were near upon being shot by t' French, when
Philip--our Philip--come up and went right into t' fire o' t' guns,
and saved her husband's life. And she spoke as if both she and t'
captain were more beholden to Philip than words could tell. And she
come to see me, to try and get news on him.

'It's a queer kind o' story,' said Kester, meditatively. 'A should
ha' thought as Philip were more likely to ha' gi'en him a shove into
t' thick on it, than t' help him out o' t' scrape.'

'Nay!' said Sylvia, suddenly looking straight at Kester; 'yo're out
theere. Philip had a deal o' good in him. And I dunnot think as he'd
ha' gone and married another woman so soon, if he'd been i'
Kinraid's place.'

'An' yo've niver heared on Philip sin' he left?' asked Kester, after
a while.

'Niver; nought but what she told me. And she said that t' captain
made inquiry for him right and left, as soon after that happened as
might be, and could hear niver a word about him. No one had seen
him, or knowed his name.'

'Yo' niver heared of his goin' for t' be a soldier?' persevered
Kester.

'Niver. I've told yo' once. It were unlike Philip to think o' such a
thing.'

'But thou mun ha' been thinkin' on him at times i' a' these years.
Bad as he'd behaved hissel', he were t' feyther o' thy little un.
What did ta think he had been agait on when he left here?'

'I didn't know. I were noane so keen a-thinking on him at first. I
tried to put him out o' my thoughts a'together, for it made me like
mad to think how he'd stood between me and--that other. But I'd
begun to wonder and to wonder about him, and to think I should like
to hear as he were doing well. I reckon I thought he were i' London,
wheere he'd been that time afore, yo' know, and had allays spoke as
if he'd enjoyed hissel' tolerable; and then Molly Brunton told me on
t' other one's marriage; and, somehow, it gave me a shake in my
heart, and I began for to wish I hadn't said all them words i' my
passion; and then that fine young lady come wi' her story--and I've
thought a deal on it since,--and my mind has come out clear.
Philip's dead, and it were his spirit as come to t' other's help in
his time o' need. I've heard feyther say as spirits cannot rest i'
their graves for trying to undo t' wrongs they've done i' their
bodies.'

'Them's my conclusions,' said Kester, solemnly. 'A was fain for to
hear what were yo'r judgments first; but them's the conclusions I
comed to as soon as I heard t' tale.'

'Let alone that one thing,' said Sylvia, 'he were a kind, good man.'

'It were a big deal on a "one thing", though,' said Kester. 'It just
spoilt yo'r life, my poor lass; an' might ha' gone near to spoilin'
Charley Kinraid's too.'

'Men takes a deal more nor women to spoil their lives,' said Sylvia,
bitterly.

'Not a' mak' o' men. I reckon, lass, Philip's life were pretty well
on for bein' spoilt at after he left here; and it were, mebbe, a
good thing he got rid on it so soon.'

'I wish I'd just had a few kind words wi' him, I do,' said Sylvia,
almost on the point of crying.

'Come, lass, it's as ill moanin' after what's past as it 'ud be for
me t' fill my eyes wi' weepin' after t' humbugs as this little wench
o' thine has grubbed up whilst we'n been talkin'. Why, there's not
one on 'em left!'

'She's a sad spoilt little puss!' said Sylvia, holding out her arms
to the child, who ran into them, and began patting her mother's
cheeks, and pulling at the soft brown curls tucked away beneath the
matronly cap. 'Mammy spoils her, and Hester spoils her----'

'Granny Rose doesn't spoil me,' said the child, with quick,
intelligent discrimination, interrupting her mother's list.

'No; but Jeremiah Foster does above a bit. He'll come in fro' t'
Bank, Kester, and ask for her, a'most ivery day. And he'll bring her
things in his pocket; and she's so fause, she allays goes straight
to peep in, and then he shifts t' apple or t' toy into another. Eh!
but she's a little fause one,'--half devouring the child with her
kisses. 'And he comes and takes her a walk oftentimes, and he goes
as slow as if he were quite an old man, to keep pace wi' Bella's
steps. I often run upstairs and watch 'em out o' t' window; he
doesn't care to have me with 'em, he's so fain t' have t' child all
to hisself.'

'She's a bonny un, for sure,' said Kester; 'but not so pretty as
thou was, Sylvie. A've niver tell'd thee what a come for tho', and
it's about time for me t' be goin'. A'm off to t' Cheviots to-morrow
morn t' fetch home some sheep as Jonas Blundell has purchased. It'll
be a job o' better nor two months a reckon.'

'It'll be a nice time o' year,' said Sylvia, a little surprised at
Kester's evident discouragement at the prospect of the journey or
absence; he had often been away from Monkshaven for a longer time
without seeming to care so much about it.

'Well, yo' see it's a bit hard upon me for t' leave my sister--she
as is t' widow-woman, wheere a put up when a'm at home. Things is
main an' dear; four-pound loaves is at sixteenpence; an' there's a
deal o' talk on a famine i' t' land; an' whaten a paid for my
victual an' t' bed i' t' lean-to helped t' oud woman a bit,--an'
she's sadly down i' t' mouth, for she cannot hear on a lodger for t'
tak' my place, for a' she's moved o'er to t' other side o' t' bridge
for t' be nearer t' new buildings, an' t' grand new walk they're
makin' round t' cliffs, thinkin' she'd be likelier t' pick up a
labourer as would be glad on a bed near his work. A'd ha' liked to
ha' set her agait wi' a 'sponsible lodger afore a'd ha' left, for
she's just so soft-hearted, any scamp may put upon her if he nobbut
gets houd on her blind side.'

'Can I help her?' said Sylvia, in her eager way. 'I should be so
glad; and I've a deal of money by me---'

'Nay, my lass,' said Kester, 'thou munnot go off so fast; it were
just what I were feared on i' tellin' thee. I've left her a bit o'
money, and I'll mak' shift to send her more; it's just a kind word,
t' keep up her heart when I'm gone, as I want. If thou'd step in and
see her fra' time to time, and cheer her up a bit wi' talkin' to her
on me, I'd tak' it very kind, and I'd go off wi' a lighter heart.'

'Then I'm sure I'll do it for yo', Kester. I niver justly feel like
mysel' when yo're away, for I'm lonesome enough at times. She and I
will talk a' t' better about yo' for both on us grieving after yo'.'

So Kester took his leave, his mind set at ease by Sylvia's promise
to go and see his sister pretty often during his absence in the
North.

But Sylvia's habits were changed since she, as a girl at
Haytersbank, liked to spend half her time in the open air, running
out perpetually without anything on to scatter crumbs to the
poultry, or to take a piece of bread to the old cart-horse, to go up
to the garden for a handful of herbs, or to clamber to the highest
point around to blow the horn which summoned her father and Kester
home to dinner. Living in a town where it was necessary to put on
hat and cloak before going out into the street, and then to walk in
a steady and decorous fashion, she had only cared to escape down to
the freedom of the sea-shore until Philip went away; and after that
time she had learnt so to fear observation as a deserted wife, that
nothing but Bella's health would have been a sufficient motive to
take her out of doors. And, as she had told Kester, the necessity of
giving the little girl a daily walk was very much lightened by the
great love and affection which Jeremiah Foster now bore to the
child. Ever since the day when the baby had come to his knee,
allured by the temptation of his watch, he had apparently considered
her as in some sort belonging to him; and now he had almost come to
think that he had a right to claim her as his companion in his walk
back from the Bank to his early dinner, where a high chair was
always placed ready for the chance of her coming to share his meal.
On these occasions he generally brought her back to the shop-door
when he returned to his afternoon's work at the Bank. Sometimes,
however, he would leave word that she was to be sent for from his
house in the New Town, as his business at the Bank for that day was
ended. Then Sylvia was compelled to put on her things, and fetch
back her darling; and excepting for this errand she seldom went out
at all on week-days.

About a fortnight after Kester's farewell call, this need for her
visit to Jeremiah Foster's arose; and it seemed to Sylvia that there
could not be a better opportunity of fulfilling her promise and
going to see the widow Dobson, whose cottage was on the other side
of the river, low down on the cliff-side, just at the bend and rush
of the full stream into the open sea. She set off pretty early in
order to go there first. She found the widow with her house-place
tidied up after the midday meal, and busy knitting at the open
door--not looking at her rapid-clicking needles, but gazing at the
rush and recession of the waves before her; yet not seeing them
either,--rather seeing days long past.

She started into active civility as soon as she recognized Sylvia,
who was to her as a great lady, never having known Sylvia Robson in
her wild childish days. Widow Dobson was always a little scandalized
at her brother Christopher's familiarity with Mrs. Hepburn.

She dusted a chair which needed no dusting, and placed it for
Sylvia, sitting down herself on a three-legged stool to mark her
sense of the difference in their conditions, for there was another
chair or two in the humble dwelling; and then the two fell into
talk--first about Kester, whom his sister would persist in calling
Christopher, as if his dignity as her elder brother was compromised
by any familiar abbreviation; and by-and-by she opened her heart a
little more.

'A could wish as a'd learned write-of-hand,' said she; 'for a've
that for to tell Christopher as might set his mind at ease. But yo'
see, if a wrote him a letter he couldn't read it; so a just comfort
mysel' wi' thinkin' nobody need learn writin' unless they'n got
friends as can read. But a reckon he'd ha' been glad to hear as a've
getten a lodger.' Here she nodded her head in the direction of the
door opening out of the house-place into the 'lean-to', which Sylvia
had observed on drawing near the cottage, and the recollection of
the mention of which by Kester had enabled her to identify widow
Dobson's dwelling. 'He's a-bed yonder,' the latter continued,
dropping her voice. 'He's a queer-lookin' tyke, but a don't think as
he's a bad un.'

'When did he come?' said Sylvia, remembering Kester's account of his
sister's character, and feeling as though it behoved her, as
Kester's confidante on this head, to give cautious and prudent
advice.

'Eh! a matter of a s'ennight ago. A'm noane good at mindin' time;
he's paid me his rent twice, but then he were keen to pay aforehand.
He'd comed in one night, an' sate him down afore he could speak, he
were so done up; he'd been on tramp this many a day, a reckon. "Can
yo' give me a bed?" says he, panting like, after a bit. "A chap as a
met near here says as yo've a lodging for t' let." "Ay," says a, "a
ha' that; but yo' mun pay me a shilling a week for 't." Then my mind
misgive me, for a thought he hadn't a shilling i' t' world, an' yet
if he hadn't, a should just ha' gi'en him t' bed a' t' same: a'm not
one as can turn a dog out if he comes t' me wearied o' his life. So
he outs wi' a shillin', an' lays it down on t' table, 'bout a word.
"A'll not trouble yo' long," says he. "A'm one as is best out o' t'
world," he says. Then a thought as a'd been a bit hard upon him. An'
says I, "A'm a widow-woman, and one as has getten but few friends:"
for yo' see a were low about our Christopher's goin' away north; "so
a'm forced-like to speak hard to folk; but a've made mysel' some
stirabout for my supper; and if yo'd like t' share an' share about
wi' me, it's but puttin' a sup more watter to 't, and God's blessing
'll be on 't, just as same as if 't were meal." So he ups wi' his
hand afore his e'en, and says not a word. At last he says, "Missus,"
says he, "can God's blessing be shared by a sinner--one o' t'
devil's children?" says he. "For the Scriptur' says he's t' father
o' lies." So a were puzzled-like; an' at length a says, "Thou mun
ask t' parson that; a'm but a poor faint-hearted widow-woman; but
a've allays had God's blessing somehow, now a bethink me, an' a'll
share it wi' thee as far as my will goes." So he raxes his hand
across t' table, an' mutters summat, as he grips mine. A thought it
were Scriptur' as he said, but a'd needed a' my strength just then
for t' lift t' pot off t' fire--it were t' first vittle a'd tasted
sin' morn, for t' famine comes down like stones on t' head o' us
poor folk: an' a' a said were just "Coom along, chap, an' fa' to;
an' God's blessing be on him as eats most." An' sin' that day him
and me's been as thick as thieves, only he's niver telled me nought
of who he is, or wheere he comes fra'. But a think he's one o' them
poor colliers, as has getten brunt i' t' coal-pits; for, t' be sure,
his face is a' black wi' fire-marks; an' o' late days he's ta'en t'
his bed, an' just lies there sighing,--for one can hear him plain as
dayleet thro' t' bit partition wa'.'

As a proof of this, a sigh--almost a groan--startled the two women
at this very moment.

'Poor fellow!' said Sylvia, in a soft whisper. 'There's more sore
hearts i' t' world than one reckons for!' But after a while, she
bethought her again of Kester's account of his sister's 'softness';
and she thought that it behoved her to give some good advice. So she
added, in a sterner, harder tone--'Still, yo' say yo' know nought
about him; and tramps is tramps a' t' world over; and yo're a widow,
and it behoves yo' to be careful. I think I'd just send him off as
soon as he's a bit rested. Yo' say he's plenty o' money?'

'Nay! A never said that. A know nought about it. He pays me
aforehand; an' he pays me down for whativer a've getten for him; but
that's but little; he's noane up t' his vittle, though a've made him
some broth as good as a could make 'em.'

'I wouldn't send him away till he was well again, if I were yo; but
I think yo'd be better rid on him,' said Sylvia. 'It would be
different if yo'r brother were in Monkshaven.' As she spoke she rose
to go.

Widow Dobson held her hand in hers for a minute, then the humble
woman said,--

'Yo'll noane be vexed wi' me, missus, if a cannot find i' my heart
t' turn him out till he wants to go hissel'? For a wouldn't like to
vex yo', for Christopher's sake; but a know what it is for t' feel
for friendless folk, an' choose what may come on it, I cannot send
him away.'

'No!' said Sylvia. 'Why should I be vexed? it's no business o' mine.
Only I should send him away if I was yo'. He might go lodge wheere
there was men-folk, who know t' ways o' tramps, and are up to them.'

Into the sunshine went Sylvia. In the cold shadow the miserable
tramp lay sighing. She did not know that she had been so near to him
towards whom her heart was softening, day by day.



CHAPTER XLIV

FIRST WORDS


It was the spring of 1800. Old people yet can tell of the hard
famine of that year. The harvest of the autumn before had failed;
the war and the corn laws had brought the price of corn up to a
famine rate; and much of what came into the market was unsound, and
consequently unfit for food, yet hungry creatures bought it eagerly,
and tried to cheat disease by mixing the damp, sweet, clammy flour
with rice or potato meal. Rich families denied themselves pastry and
all unnecessary and luxurious uses of wheat in any shape; the duty
on hair-powder was increased; and all these palliatives were but as
drops in the ocean of the great want of the people.

Philip, in spite of himself, recovered and grew stronger; and as he
grew stronger hunger took the place of loathing dislike to food. But
his money was all spent; and what was his poor pension of sixpence a
day in that terrible year of famine? Many a summer's night he walked
for hours and hours round the house which once was his, which might
be his now, with all its homely, blessed comforts, could he but go
and assert his right to it. But to go with authority, and in his
poor, maimed guise assert that right, he had need be other than
Philip Hepburn. So he stood in the old shelter of the steep, crooked
lane opening on to the hill out of the market-place, and watched the
soft fading of the summer's eve into night; the closing of the once
familiar shop; the exit of good, comfortable William Coulson, going
to his own home, his own wife, his comfortable, plentiful supper.
Then Philip--there were no police in those days, and scarcely an old
watchman in that primitive little town--would go round on the shady
sides of streets, and, quickly glancing about him, cross the bridge,
looking on the quiet, rippling stream, the gray shimmer foretelling
the coming dawn over the sea, the black masts and rigging of the
still vessels against the sky; he could see with his wistful, eager
eyes the shape of the windows--the window of the very room in which
his wife and child slept, unheeding of him, the hungry,
broken-hearted outcast. He would go back to his lodging, and softly
lift the latch of the door; still more softly, but never without an
unspoken, grateful prayer, pass by the poor sleeping woman who had
given him a shelter and her share of God's blessing--she who, like
him, knew not the feeling of satisfied hunger; and then he laid him
down on the narrow pallet in the lean-to, and again gave Sylvia
happy lessons in the kitchen at Haytersbank, and the dead were
alive; and Charley Kinraid, the specksioneer, had never come to
trouble the hopeful, gentle peace.

For widow Dobson had never taken Sylvia's advice. The tramp known to
her by the name of Freeman--that in which he received his
pension--lodged with her still, and paid his meagre shilling in
advance, weekly. A shilling was meagre in those hard days of
scarcity. A hungry man might easily eat the produce of a shilling in
a day.

Widow Dobson pleaded this to Sylvia as an excuse for keeping her
lodger on; to a more calculating head it might have seemed a reason
for sending him away.

'Yo' see, missus,' said she, apologetically, to Sylvia, one evening,
as the latter called upon the poor widow before going to fetch
little Bella (it was now too hot for the child to cross the bridge
in the full heat of the summer sun, and Jeremiah would take her up
to her supper instead)--'Yo' see, missus, there's not a many as 'ud
take him in for a shillin' when it goes so little way; or if they
did, they'd take it out on him some other way, an' he's not getten
much else, a reckon. He ca's me granny, but a'm vast mista'en if
he's ten year younger nor me; but he's getten a fine appetite of his
own, choose how young he may be; an' a can see as he could eat a
deal more nor he's getten money to buy, an' it's few as can mak'
victual go farther nor me. Eh, missus, but yo' may trust me a'll
send him off when times is better; but just now it would be sendin'
him to his death; for a ha' plenty and to spare, thanks be to God
an' yo'r bonny face.'

So Sylvia had to be content with the knowledge that the money she
gladly gave to Kester's sister went partly to feed the lodger who
was neither labourer nor neighbour, but only just a tramp, who, she
feared, was preying on the good old woman. Still the cruel famine
cut sharp enough to penetrate all hearts; and Sylvia, an hour after
the conversation recorded above, was much touched, on her return
from Jeremiah Foster's with the little merry, chattering Bella, at
seeing the feeble steps of one, whom she knew by description must be
widow Dobson's lodger, turn up from the newly-cut road which was to
lead to the terrace walk around the North Cliff, a road which led to
no dwelling but widow Dobson's. Tramp, and vagrant, he might be in
the eyes of the law; but, whatever his character, Sylvia could see
him before her in the soft dusk, creeping along, over the bridge,
often stopping to rest and hold by some support, and then going on
again towards the town, to which she and happy little Bella were
wending.

A thought came over her: she had always fancied that this unknown
man was some fierce vagabond, and had dreaded lest in the lonely bit
of road between widow Dobson's cottage and the peopled highway, he
should fall upon her and rob her if he learnt that she had money
with her; and several times she had gone away without leaving the
little gift she had intended, because she imagined that she had seen
the door of the small chamber in the 'lean-to' open softly while she
was there, as if the occupant (whom widow Dobson spoke of as never
leaving the house before dusk, excepting once a week) were listening
for the chink of the coin in her little leathern purse. Now that she
saw him walking before her with heavy languid steps, this fear gave
place to pity; she remembered her mother's gentle superstition which
had prevented her from ever sending the hungry empty away, for fear
lest she herself should come to need bread.

'Lassie,' said she to little Bella, who held a cake which Jeremiah's
housekeeper had given her tight in her hand, 'yon poor man theere is
hungry; will Bella give him her cake, and mother will make her
another to-morrow twice as big?'

For this consideration, and with the feeling of satisfaction which a
good supper not an hour ago gives even to the hungry stomach of a
child of three years old, Bella, after some thought, graciously
assented to the sacrifice.

Sylvia stopped, the cake in her hand, and turned her back to the
town, and to the slow wayfarer in front. Under the cover of her
shawl she slipped a half-crown deep into the crumb of the cake, and
then restoring it to little Bella, she gave her her directions.

'Mammy will carry Bella; and when Bella goes past the poor man, she
shall give him the cake over mammy's shoulder. Poor man is so
hungry; and Bella and mammy have plenty to eat, and to spare.'

The child's heart was touched by the idea of hunger, and her little
arm was outstretched ready for the moment her mother's hurried steps
took her brushing past the startled, trembling Philip.

'Poor man, eat this; Bella not hungry.'

They were the first words he had ever heard his child utter. The
echoes of them rang in his ears as he stood endeavouring to hide his
disfigured face by looking over the parapet of the bridge down upon
the stream running away towards the ocean, into which his hot tears
slowly fell, unheeded by the weeper. Then he changed the intention
with which he had set out upon his nightly walk, and turned back to
his lodging.

Of course the case was different with Sylvia; she would have
forgotten the whole affair very speedily, if it had not been for
little Bella's frequent recurrence to the story of the hungry man,
which had touched her small sympathies with the sense of an
intelligible misfortune. She liked to act the dropping of the bun
into the poor man's hand as she went past him, and would take up any
article near her in order to illustrate the gesture she had used.
One day she got hold of Hester's watch for this purpose, as being of
the same round shape as the cake; and though Hester, for whose
benefit the child was repeating the story in her broken language for
the third or fourth time, tried to catch the watch as it was
intended that she should (she being the representative of the
'hungry man' for the time being), it went to the ground with a smash
that frightened the little girl, and she began to cry at the
mischief she had done.

'Don't cry, Bella,' said Hester. 'Niver play with watches again. I
didn't see thee at mine, or I'd ha' stopped thee in time. But I'll
take it to old Darley's on th' quay-side, and maybe he'll soon set
it to rights again. Only Bella must niver play with watches again.'

'Niver no more!' promised the little sobbing child. And that evening
Hester took her watch down to old Darley's.

This William Darley was the brother of the gardener at the rectory;
the uncle to the sailor who had been shot by the press-gang years
before, and to his bed-ridden sister. He was a clever mechanician,
and his skill as a repairer of watches and chronometers was great
among the sailors, with whom he did a very irregular sort of
traffic, conducted, often without much use of money, but rather on
the principle of barter, they bringing him foreign coins and odd
curiosities picked up on their travels in exchange for his services
to their nautical instruments or their watches. If he had ever had
capital to extend his business, he might have been a rich man; but
it is to be doubted whether he would have been as happy as he was
now in his queer little habitation of two rooms, the front one being
both shop and workshop, the other serving the double purpose of
bedroom and museum.

The skill of this odd-tempered, shabby old man was sometimes sought
by the jeweller who kept the more ostentatious shop in the High
Street; but before Darley would undertake any 'tickle' piece of
delicate workmanship for the other, he sneered at his ignorance, and
taunted and abused him well. Yet he had soft places in his heart,
and Hester Rose had found her way to one by her patient, enduring
kindness to his bed-ridden niece. He never snarled at her as he did
at too many; and on the few occasions when she had asked him to do
anything for her, he had seemed as if she were conferring the favour
on him, not he on her, and only made the smallest possible charge.

She found him now sitting where he could catch the most light for
his work, spectacles on nose, and microscope in hand.

He took her watch, and examined it carefully without a word in reply
to her. Then he began to open it and take it to pieces, in order to
ascertain the nature of the mischief.

Suddenly he heard her catch her breath with a checked sound of
surprise. He looked at her from above his spectacles; she was
holding a watch in her hand which she had just taken up off the
counter.

'What's amiss wi' thee now?' said Darley. 'Hast ta niver seen a
watch o' that mak' afore? or is it them letters on t' back, as is so
wonderful?'

Yes, it was those letters--that interlaced, old-fashioned cipher.
That Z. H. that she knew of old stood for Zachary Hepburn, Philip's
father. She knew how Philip valued this watch. She remembered having
seen it in his hands the very day before his disappearance, when he
was looking at the time in his annoyance at Sylvia's detention in
her walk with baby. Hester had no doubt that he had taken this watch
as a matter of course away with him. She felt sure that he would not
part with this relic of his dead father on any slight necessity.
Where, then, was Philip?--by what chance of life or death had this,
his valued property, found its way once more to Monkshaven?

'Where did yo' get this?' she asked, in as quiet a manner as she
could assume, sick with eagerness as she was.

To no one else would Darley have answered such a question. He made a
mystery of most of his dealings; not that he had anything to
conceal, but simply because he delighted in concealment. He took it
out of her hands, looked at the number marked inside, and the
maker's name--'Natteau Gent, York'--and then replied,--

'A man brought it me yesterday, at nightfall, for t' sell it. It's a
matter o' forty years old. Natteau Gent has been dead and in his
grave pretty nigh as long as that. But he did his work well when he
were alive; and so I gave him as brought it for t' sell about as
much as it were worth, i' good coin. A tried him first i' t'
bartering line, but he wouldn't bite; like enough he wanted
food,--many a one does now-a-days.'

'Who was he?' gasped Hester.

'Bless t' woman! how should I know?'

'What was he like?--how old?--tell me.'

'My lass, a've summut else to do wi' my eyes than go peering into
men's faces i' t' dusk light.'

'But yo' must have had light for t' judge about the watch.'

'Eh! how sharp we are! A'd a candle close to my nose. But a didn't
tak' it up for to gaze int' his face. That wouldn't be manners, to
my thinking.'

Hester was silent. Then Darley's heart relented.

'If yo're so set upo' knowing who t' fellow was, a could, mebbe, put
yo' on his tracks.'

'How?' said Hester, eagerly. 'I do want to know. I want to know very
much, and for a good reason.'

'Well, then, a'll tell yo'. He's a queer tyke, that one is. A'll be
bound he were sore pressed for t' brass; yet he out's wi' a good
half-crown, all wrapped up i' paper, and he axes me t' make a hole
in it. Says I, "It's marring good king's coin, at after a've made a
hole in't, it'll never pass current again." So he mumbles, and
mumbles, but for a' that it must needs be done; and he's left it
here, and is t' call for 't to-morrow at e'en.'

'Oh, William Darley!' said Hester, clasping her hands tight
together. 'Find out who he is, where he is--anything--everything
about him--and I will so bless yo'.'

Darley looked at her sharply, but with some signs of sympathy on his
grave face. 'My woman,' he said 'a could ha' wished as you'd niver
seen t' watch. It's poor, thankless work thinking too much on one o'
God's creatures. But a'll do thy bidding,' he continued, in a
lighter and different tone. 'A'm a 'cute old badger when need be.
Come for thy watch in a couple o' days, and a'll tell yo' all as
a've learnt.'

So Hester went away, her heart beating with the promise of knowing
something about Philip,--how much, how little, in these first
moments, she dared not say even to herself. Some sailor newly landed
from distant seas might have become possessed of Philip's watch in
far-off latitudes; in which case, Philip would be dead. That might
be. She tried to think that this was the most probable way of
accounting for the watch. She could be certain as to the positive
identity of the watch--being in William Darley's possession. Again,
it might be that Philip himself was near at hand--was here in this
very place--starving, as too many were, for insufficiency of means
to buy the high-priced food. And then her heart burnt within her as
she thought of the succulent, comfortable meals which Sylvia
provided every day--nay, three times a day--for the household in the
market-place, at the head of which Philip ought to have been; but
his place knew him not. For Sylvia had inherited her mother's talent
for housekeeping, and on her, in Alice's decrepitude and Hester's
other occupations in the shop, devolved the cares of due provision
for the somewhat heterogeneous family.

And Sylvia! Hester groaned in heart over the remembrance of Sylvia's
words, 'I can niver forgive him the wrong he did to me,' that night
when Hester had come, and clung to her, making the sad, shameful
confession of her unreturned love.

What could ever bring these two together again? Could Hester
herself--ignorant of the strange mystery of Sylvia's heart, as those
who are guided solely by obedience to principle must ever be of the
clue to the actions of those who are led by the passionate ebb and
flow of impulse? Could Hester herself? Oh! how should she speak, how
should she act, if Philip were near--if Philip were sad and in
miserable estate? Her own misery at this contemplation of the case
was too great to bear; and she sought her usual refuge in the
thought of some text, some promise of Scripture, which should
strengthen her faith.

'With God all things are possible,' said she, repeating the words as
though to lull her anxiety to rest.

Yes; with God all things are possible. But ofttimes He does his work
with awful instruments. There is a peacemaker whose name is Death.



CHAPTER XLV

SAVED AND LOST


Hester went out on the evening of the day after that on which the
unknown owner of the half-crown had appointed to call for it again
at William Darley's. She had schooled herself to believe that time
and patience would serve her best. Her plan was to obtain all the
knowledge about Philip that she could in the first instance; and
then, if circumstances allowed it, as in all probability they would,
to let drop by drop of healing, peacemaking words and thoughts fall
on Sylvia's obdurate, unforgiving heart. So Hester put on her
things, and went out down towards the old quay-side on that evening
after the shop was closed.

Poor little Sylvia! She was unforgiving, but not obdurate to the full
extent of what Hester believed. Many a time since Philip went away
had she unconsciously missed his protecting love; when folks spoke
shortly to her, when Alice scolded her as one of the non-elect, when
Hester's gentle gravity had something of severity in it; when her
own heart failed her as to whether her mother would have judged that
she had done well, could that mother have known all, as possibly she
did by this time. Philip had never spoken otherwise than tenderly to
her during the eighteen months of their married life, except on the
two occasions before recorded: once when she referred to her dream
of Kinraid's possible return, and once again on the evening of the
day before her discovery of his concealment of the secret of
Kinraid's involuntary disappearance.

After she had learnt that Kinraid was married, her heart had still
more strongly turned to Philip; she thought that he had judged
rightly in what he had given as the excuse for his double dealing;
she was even more indignant at Kinraid's fickleness than she had any
reason to be; and she began to learn the value of such enduring love
as Philip's had been--lasting ever since the days when she first
began to fancy what a man's love for a woman should be, when she had
first shrunk from the tone of tenderness he put into his especial
term for her, a girl of twelve--'Little lassie,' as he was wont to
call her.

But across all this relenting came the shadow of her vow--like the
chill of a great cloud passing over a sunny plain. How should she
decide? what would be her duty, if he came again, and once more
called her 'wife'? She shrank from such a possibility with all the
weakness and superstition of her nature; and this it was which made
her strengthen herself with the re-utterance of unforgiving words;
and shun all recurrence to the subject on the rare occasion when
Hester had tried to bring it back, with a hope of softening the
heart which to her appeared altogether hardened on this one point.

Now, on this bright summer evening, while Hester had gone down to
the quay-side, Sylvia stood with her out-of-door things on in the
parlour, rather impatiently watching the sky, full of hurrying
clouds, and flushing with the warm tints of the approaching sunset.
She could not leave Alice: the old woman had grown so infirm that
she was never left by her daughter and Sylvia at the same time; yet
Sylvia had to fetch her little girl from the New Town, where she had
been to her supper at Jeremiah Foster's. Hester had said that she
should not be away more than a quarter of an hour; and Hester was
generally so punctual that any failure of hers, in this respect,
appeared almost in the light of an injury on those who had learnt to
rely upon her. Sylvia wanted to go and see widow Dobson, and learn
when Kester might be expected home. His two months were long past;
and Sylvia had heard through the Fosters of some suitable and
profitable employment for him, of which she thought he would be glad
to know as soon as possible. It was now some time since she had been
able to get so far as across the bridge; and, for aught she knew,
Kester might already be come back from his expedition to the
Cheviots. Kester was come back. Scarce five minutes had elapsed
after these thoughts had passed through her mind before his hasty
hand lifted the latch of the kitchen-door, his hurried steps brought
him face to face with her. The smile of greeting was arrested on her
lips by one look at him: his eyes staring wide, the expression on
his face wild, and yet pitiful.

'That's reet,' said he, seeing that her things were already on.
'Thou're wanted sore. Come along.'

'Oh! dear God! my child!' cried Sylvia, clutching at the chair near
her; but recovering her eddying senses with the strong fact before
her that whatever the terror was, she was needed to combat it.

'Ay; thy child!' said Kester, taking her almost roughly by the arm,
and drawing her away with him out through the open doors on to the
quay-side.

'Tell me!' said Sylvia, faintly, 'is she dead?'

'She's safe now,' said Kester. 'It's not her--it's him as saved her
as needs yo', if iver husband needed a wife.'

'He?--who? O Philip! Philip! is it yo' at last?'

Unheeding what spectators might see her movements, she threw up her
arms and staggered against the parapet of the bridge they were then
crossing.

'He!--Philip!--saved Bella? Bella, our little Bella, as got her
dinner by my side, and went out wi' Jeremiah, as well as could be. I
cannot take it in; tell me, Kester.' She kept trembling so much in
voice and in body, that he saw she could not stir without danger of
falling until she was calmed; as it was, her eyes became filmy from
time to time, and she drew her breath in great heavy pants, leaning
all the while against the wall of the bridge.

'It were no illness,' Kester began. 'T' little un had gone for a
walk wi' Jeremiah Foster, an' he were drawn for to go round t' edge
o' t' cliff, wheere they's makin' t' new walk reet o'er t' sea. But
it's but a bit on a pathway now; an' t' one was too oud, an' t'
other too young for t' see t' water comin' along wi' great leaps;
it's allays for comin' high up again' t' cliff, an' this spring-tide
it's comin' in i' terrible big waves. Some one said as they passed
t' man a-sittin' on a bit on a rock up above--a dunnot know, a only
know as a heared a great fearful screech i' t' air. A were just
a-restin' me at after a'd comed in, not half an hour i' t' place.
A've walked better nor a dozen mile to-day; an' a ran out, an' a
looked, an' just on t' walk, at t' turn, was t' swish of a wave
runnin' back as quick as t' mischief int' t' sea, an' oud Jeremiah
standin' like one crazy, lookin' o'er int' t' watter; an' like a
stroke o' leeghtnin' comes a man, an' int' t' very midst o' t' great
waves like a shot; an' then a knowed summut were in t' watter as
were nearer death than life; an' a seemed to misdoubt me that it
were our Bella; an' a shouts an' a cries for help, an' a goes mysel'
to t' very edge o' t' cliff, an' a bids oud Jeremiah, as was like
one beside hissel', houd tight on me, for he were good for nought
else; an' a bides my time, an' when a sees two arms houdin' out a
little drippin' streamin' child, a clutches her by her waist