Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Mirk Abbey, Volume 1(of 3)
Author: Payn, James
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 "Mirk Abbey, Volume 1(of 3)" ***

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



MIRK ABBEY,

By James Payn

The Author of "Lost Sir Massengberd;" "the Clyffards Of Glyffe;"
etc., etc.

In Three Volumes. Vol. I.

London: Hurst And Blackett, Publishers,

1866.


                        TO

                   Charles Dickens,

               This Book Is, By Permission,

                   Cordially dedicated.



CHAPTER I. IN MY LADY'S CHAMBER.

|IT is an hour short of midnight, and the depth of winter. The morrow is
Christmas Day. Mirk Abbey bears snow everywhere; inches thick upon its
huge broad coping-stones; much even on its sloping roof, save on the
side where the north wind makes fitful rushes, and, wolf-like, tears and
worries the white fleeces. Mirk woods sway mournfully their naked arms,
and grind and moan without; the ivy taps unceasingly against the pane,
as though entreating shelter.

The whole earth lies cold and dead beneath its snow-shroud, and yet the
snow falls and falls, flake by flake, soft and noiseless in its white
malice, like a woman's hate upon her rival.

It hides the stars, it dims the moon, it dulls the murmur of the river
to which the Park slopes down, and whose voice the frost has striven in
vain to hush these three weeks. Only the Christmas-bells are heard,
now faint, now full--that sound more laden with divine regret than
any other that falls on human ear. Like one who, spurring from the
battle-field, proclaims "The fight is ours, but our great chief is
slain!" there is sorrow in that message of good tidings; and not only
for pious Christian folk; in every bosom it stirs some sleeping memory,
and reminds it of the days that are no more. No wonder, then, that such
music should touch my Lady's heart--the widowed mistress of Mirk
Abbey. Those Christmas-bells which are also wedding-bells, remind her
doubtless of the hour when Sir Bobert lifted her lace-veil aside, and
kissed her brow before all the people in the little church by the sea,
and called her for the first time his Wife. He will never do so more. He
has been dead for years. But what of that? Our dead are with us still.
Our acts, our dealings with the world, form but a portion of our lives;
our thoughts still dwell with those dear ones who have gone home before
us, and in our dreams they still are our companions. My Lady is not
alone in her private chamber, although no human being is there besides
herself. Her eyes are fixed upon the fire, and in its flame she sees a
once-loved face invisible to others, whose smile has power to move her
even to tears. How foolish are those who ascribe romance to Youth alone
--to Youth, that has scarcely learned to love, far less to lose! My Lady
is five-and-forty at the least, although still comely; and yet there are
memories at work within that broad white brow, which, for interest and
pathos, outweigh the fancies of a score of girls. Even so far as we--the
world--are acquainted with her past, it is a strange one, and may well
give her that thoughtful air.

Lady Lisgard, of Mirk Abbey, has looked at life from a far other
station than that which she now occupies. When a man of fortune does not
materially increase his property by marriage, we call the lady of his
choice, although she may have a few thousand pounds of her own, "a
girl without a sixpence." But Sir Robert Lisgard did literally make
a match of this impecunious sort. Moreover, he married a very
"unsuitable young person;" by which expression you will understand
that he was blamed, not for choosing a bride very much junior to
himself, but for not selecting her from the proper circles. When
accidentally interrogated by blundering folks respecting her ancestry,
the baronet used good-humouredly to remark, that his wife was the
daughter of Neptune and Thetis. When asked for her maiden name, he would
reply drily: "She was a Miss Anna Dyomene;" for the simple fact
was, that she had been thrown up almost at his feet by the sea--the sole
survivor of a crowded emigrant-ship that went to pieces before his
eyes while he was staying one stormy autumn at a sea-side village in the
South. Lashed to a spar, the poor soul came ashore one terrible night in
a very insufficient costume, so as to excite the liveliest compassion
in all beholders. There was a subscription got up among some visitors of
fashion to supply her with a wardrobe; and they do say that Sir Bobert
Lisgard's name is still to be seen set down with the rest of the
benevolent donors, for five pounds, in the list that is kept among the
archives of the village post-office.

But it was not until three years afterwards that he bought her a
_trousseau_; for the baronet, intending to make her his wife not only in
name--a companion for life, and not a plaything, which is prized so long
as it is new, and no longer--caused Lucy Gavestone, during the greater
part of that interval, to be educated for her future position. If it was
madness in him, as many averred, to marry so far beneath him, there
was much method in his madness, Not ashamed of her as a bride, he was
resolved not to be ashamed of her as the mistress of his house, or as
the mother of his children, if it should please Heaven to grant him
issue. It was in France, folks said, that her Ladyship acquired those
manners which subsequently so excited the envy of the midland county in
which she lived. She bore the burden of the honours unto which she was
not born as gracefully as the white rose in her blue-black hair. But
to perform her loving duties as a mother, in the way even her enemies
admitted that she did perform them, could scarcely have been learned in
France. Only love and natural good sense could have taught her those.
Never once had Sir Robert Lisgard cause to regret the gift which the sea
had given him. He used, however, smilingly to remark, in his later years
--and his words were not without their pathos then--that he wished that
he could have married his Lucy earlier, and while he was yet a young
man; but in that case she would have been fitter for the font than
the altar, inasmuch as there was a quarter of a century between their
respective ages. He always averred that five-and-twenty years of his
manhood had been thrown away.

But good wife and matron as Lady Lisgard had been, she was no less
excellent a widow and mother. If Sir Tobert could have risen from that
grave in Mirk churchyard, where he had preferred to lie, rather than
in the family vault, so that she might come to visit him in his lonely
sleep, and daily lay a flower or two, culled with her own hands, upon
him--not perhaps unconscious of that loving service--he would have
found all things at the Abbey as he would have wished them to be during
life: that is, so far as she could keep them so. Sir Richard, their
eldest son, was within a few months of his majority, and, of course, had
become in a great degree his own master; not that he misused his
years so as to place himself in opposition to his mother, for he was a
gentleman above everything; but he was of a disposition more haughty
and stem than her kindly nature could well cope with, and she
nervously shrank from any contest with it, although, on a question of
principle--which, however, had not occurred--she might have braved even
him.

Walter Lisgard, the younger son, was as genial and good-humoured as his
father before him, and although (in common with every one who knew her)
loved and respected my Lady, it must be confessed that he was too openly
his mother's favourite, as he was the favourite of all at Mirk, in the
Abbey or out of it.

Lastly, there was Letty Lisgard--but she shall speak for her sweet self.
While her mother sits and thinks before her fire, there is a knock at
the chamber-door, and on the instant the picture in her brain dissolves,
which was affecting her so deeply, and she has no eyes save for her only
daughter. A girl of seventeen enters the room, not gaily, as would have
become her age, but with a certain gentle gravity that becomes her at
least as well, since it is impossible to imagine that she could look
more lovely. Fair as a lily, but not pale, for her usually delicate
colour is heightened by some mental emotion, which causes, too, the
little diamond cross upon her bosom to rise and fall, and the hazel
eyes to melt and glitter beneath their dark lashes; lithe and tall as
a sapling wooed too roughly by the north wind, she glides in, with her
fair head slightly bowed, and casting herself upon her knees beside my
Lady, exclaims: "Ah, do not weep, dear mother--do not weep!" at the
same time herself bursting into a passion of tears. "I knew what you
would be thinking of," continues she, "upon this sad night, and
therefore I came to comfort you a little, if I could. If not a merry
Christmas, let me at least wish you a happy one, my own dear mother. I
am sure that if dear papa can see us now, he wishes you the same."

"Yes, dearest Letty, that is true. How thoughtful and kind it was of
you to leave your friend--breaking off, no doubt, some pleasant chat
over school-days"----

"Nay, mother," interrupted the girl; "what is Rose to me in
comparison with you? Was it likely that I should forget this anniversary
of our common loss!"

Lady Lisgard did not answer in words, but shedding by the wealth of
golden brown hair that had fallen over her daughter's forehead, she
kissed that pure brow tenderly. Upon her own cheeks, a crimson flush,
called thither by the young girl's words, was lingering yet. Reader,
happy are you if you have never known a loving voice say: "What are
you thinking of, dearest?" expecting to receive the answer: "Of
you," when you have no such reply to give--when your mind has been
wandering far from that trustful being, and perhaps even whither it
should not have wandered. Such a flush may then have visited your
cheeks, as now touched those of Lady Lisgard, although it is certain
that memory never played _her_ so false as to remind her of aught
whereof she need have been ashamed. The fact was, she had not been
thinking of Sir Robert at all, albeit it was upon that very day, five
years back, that she had received from his failing hand its last loving
pressure, and in that very room. Human nature cannot be trained like
those wondrous mechanical inventions of the monks, that indicated the
fasts and festivals of the church so accurately--to suffer or rejoice at
particular times and seasons; we are often sad when the jest is upon
our lips, and bear a light heart beneath the sackcloth. Lady Lisgard's
thoughts had, Heaven knew, been far from merry ones; but because she
had not been mourning with chronological propriety, her woman's heart
unjustly smote her with a sense of want of fealty to the memory of him
for whom she still wore--and intended to wear to her dying day--the
visible tokens of regret.

It is the fashion to jeer at widows; but, to a reverent mind, there are
few things more touching than that frequent sight in honest England--a
widowed mother, whose only joy seems to be in what remains to her of her
dead lover, husband, counsellor--his children; and the only grief that
has power to wring whose heart, past sense of common pain through the
dread anguish that it has once undergone, arises from their misfortunes
and misdoings. Ah, selfish hoy, beware how you still further burden that
sorrow-laden soul!--ah, thoughtless girl, exchange not that faithful
breast too hastily for one that may spurn your head in the hour of need!

My Lady--for that was what we always called her about Mirk--was neither
more nor less fortunate with her children than most mothers. They all
three loved her; but they did not all love one another. Between Sir
Richard and Walter was only a year of time, but upon it had arisen a
thousand quarrels. The former thought that the privilege of an elder
brother was a divine right, extending over every circumstance of
fraternal life; the latter conceived it to be an immoral institution,
borrowed in an evil hour from the Jews, and one to be strictly
kept within its peculiar limits--themselves more than sufficiently
comprehensive--the inheritance of the family title, and the succession
to the landed estates.

"Where are Richard and Walter, Letty?" asked Lady Lisgard, breaking
a long silence. "They, too, have been always mindful, like yourself,
of this sad day."

"They are mindful still, dear mother. I hear Walter's foot in the
corridor even now."

A swift elastic footfall it was, such as is Very suggestive of the
impulsive nature of him who uses it; for a phlegmatic man may move
swiftly on rare occasions--such as bayonets behind him, or a mad
bull--but there will be no more elasticity in his gait, even then, than
in that of a walking-doll; whereas every step of Captain Walter
Lisgard had a double action, a rise and fall in it, independent of the
progressive motion altogether.

He was of a slim, yet not delicate build; his every movement (and, as
I have said, there was plenty of it) had a native grace like that of a
child; childlike and trustful, too, were those blue eyes; soft in
their expression as his sister's, while he stooped down to kiss
his mother's cheek, scarce more smooth than his own. Upon his lip,
however, was a fairy moustache, which being, fortunately, coal-black
like his somewhat close-cropped hair, made itself apparent to all
beholders, and rescued his comeliness from downright effeminacy. But no
woman ever owned a softer voice, or could freight it with deeper feeling
than Walter Lisgard.

"God bless you, dearest mother, and give you all the good you
deserve!" murmured he tenderly.

"And God bless _you_, my darling!" answered Lady Lisgard, holding
him at the full distance of her white and rounded arms, clasped with two
costly jewels, which had a worth, however, in her eyes far beyond their
price, being Sir Robert's wedding-gift. "Ah me! how you remind me of
your father's picture, Watty, taken on the day when he came of age. I
trust you will grow up to be like him in other respects, dear boy."

"I hope so, mother; although," added he, with a sudden petulancy,
"there will be a vast difference between us in some things, you know.
He was an only son, whereas I am not even an eldest one; and when _I_
come of age, there will be no picture taken, nor any fuss made, such as
is to happen in June, I hear, upon Richard's majority."

"Walter, Walter!" exclaimed Lady Lisgard reprovingly, "this is not
like yourself, for it's envious--and--and--covetous!"----

"At all events, it is very foolish, mother," interrupted the young
man drily; "for what can't be cured must be endured."

"And very, very cruel to me," added Lady Lisgard.

"Then I am sincerely sorry I spoke," returned Walter hastily,
the moodiness upon his features chased away at once by loving regret.
"Only, when a fellow leaves his regiment to spend Christmas-eve at
home--as I am sure I was delighted to do, so far as you and Letty were
concerned--he does not want to find there another commanding officer,
uncommissioned and self-appointed."

"Walter, Walter! this is very sad," broke in Lady Lisgard piteously:
"you know what is Richard's manner, and how much less kind it is
than his true meaning. Can you not make some allowance for your own
brother?"

"That's exactly what I said to _him_, mother," answered Walter,
laughing bitterly. "Here have I just got my troop, with no more to
keep myself on than when I was a cornet, and had no back debts to speak
of; and yet, so far from helping me a little, as Richard might easily
do, by _making some allowance for his own brother_, he complains of that
which you are so good as to let me have out of your own income. Why,
that's not _his_ business, if it were twice as much--although, I am
sure, dear mother, you are liberality itself. Has he not got enough
of his own--and of what should be mine and Letty's here, by
rights--without grudging me your benevolences? Is he not Sir Richard
Lisgard of Mirk Abbey?"----

"I will not listen to this, Walter," cried his mother sternly.
"This is mere mean jealousy of your elder brother."

"Oh, dear no, mother; indeed, it is not that," answered the young
man coldly. "I envy him nothing. I hold him superior to me in no
respect whatever; and that is exactly why I will not submit to his
dictation. Here he comes stalking along the gallery, as though conscious
that every foot of oak belongs to him, and every picture on the wall."

It was undoubtedly a firm determined step enough--unusually so, for one
so young as Sir Richard. The face of the new-comer, too, was stem almost
to harshness; and as he entered the room, and beheld Walter standing by
his mother's side, his features seemed to stiffen into stone. A
fine face, too; more aristocratic if not so winning as his younger
brother's, and not without considerable sagacity: if his manner was
not graceful, it had a high chivalric air about it which befitted his
haughty person very well. When he taught himself submission (a rare
lesson with him), as now, while he raised his mother's fingers to his
lips, and kissed them with dutiful devotion, it would have been hard to
find a man with a more noble presence than Richard Lisgard.

"A merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you, mother." The words,
though conventional, had an earnest kindness, which came from the heart.
Lady Lisgard kissed him fondly.

"Thank you, dear Richard," said she; "but, alas! no Christmas can
be a merry one, no year a happy one, when I see my children disagree."

"Ah, Master Walter has been here before me, I see," quoth Sir
Richard bitterly, "stealing, like Jacob, his mother's blessing from
her first-born, and giving his own account of matters. But please now to
listen to _my_ version."

"Not to-night, Richard," exclaimed Lady, Lisgard with deep emotion.
"Let not tonight, sacred to the memory of your common father, be a
witness to your mutual accusations. In this room, almost at this very
hour, but a few years back, he died, bequeathing you with his last
breath to my tenderest care. Here it was that you kissed his white
lips, weary with prayers for your future welfare; here it was that you
promised, in return, to be good and dutiful sons. I know--I think, at
least--that you both love your mother. No, I will kiss neither of you
while thus unreconciled. That was not all that he required of you: he
would have bidden you, could he have looked forward to this evil time,
to love one another also; and O Richard! O Walter! hark to those bells,
that seem to strive to beat their message into the most stubborn ears.
Do you not hear what they say?--Letty, dear, do you tell them, then, for
there are no lips better suited to deliver it."

The young girl lifted up her head from her mother's lap, to gaze into
her eyes; then, with exquisite pathos and softness, repeated, like a
silver peal of bells: "Peace and good-will, peace and good-will, peace
and good-will to all mankind."

Sir Richard looked at his brother fixedly, but no longer in wrath. "It
is my part to make the first advance," said he, "although I was not
the first to quarrel;" and he frankly stretched forth his hand.

The other paused a second; then reading on his mother's anxious lips:
"For _my_ sake, Walter," he grasped his brother's fingers. There
was grace in the very delay, as in the motion tenderness and genial
ease, but scarcely the warmth of reconciliation. It was more like the
action of a woman who wishes to please; and if you had seen the small
hand apart from its owner, as it lay with its one glittering ring half
hid in the other's huge white palm, you would have said it was a
woman's hand.



CHAPTER II. THE WAITS.

|ONCE more my Lady is alone, except for her companion-thoughts, which
are, however, no longer of a distressing nature. The reconcilement of
her boys has gladdened her to the core: she thinks, she trusts at least,
that the truce will be a lasting peace. As for Letty, she is all that
a mother's heart could wish her to be. If much is lost to my Lady,
surely much remains. With the Poor, one misery is removed only to bring
another into greater prominence; but with the Rich, this is not so. Only
let the disease he cured, or the quarrel he made up, which is at present
vexing them, and all, for a time at least, is sunshine. Even not to be
cold, not to be hungry, is something; and not to have to take thought
of the morrow is a great deal From her warm and curtained chamber, Lady
Lisgard looks forth into the night. The snow falls as fast as ever,
now straight, now aslant, now whirled in circular eddies by the hitter
north. Through its thick and shifting veil, she can scarcely see the
old church-tower of Mirk, though it stands close by within the very
garden-grounds of the Abbey; nor the windmill which crowns Mirkland
Hill, and on moonlit nights stands up so clear against the sky, a beacon
to all the country round. It was weather which those who are armed
against it call "Seasonable;" and some of the tender sex, who have
a fire lit in their rooms before they rise, and go out in seal-skin, and
travel with foot-warmers, even go so far as to call "Delightful."
At all events, it is such as is pleasant to watch from within for a
few moments, and then to return to one's fireside with enhanced
satisfaction.

There are merry-makings in the kitchen to-night, as befits the season,
and my Lady's maid has been enjoined not to hurry herself. Her
mistress is beginning to unrobe, without her assistance, but very
leisurely. She unclasps one warm and sparkling jewel from her arm, and
gazes thoughtfully, but far from sadly, upon the picture that is hid
within it. It is the miniature of a handsome man past middle age,
attired in a blue coat and gold buttons; what persons of my Lady's age
would call a decidedly old-fashioned portrait; but it is the likeness
of Sir Robert as her bridegroom. "What a good, kind husband he was,"
thinks she. "How he loved me, and loaded me with favours; how much
he overlooked, how much he forgot--of which others know nothing--for
my sake. How terrible would it be to feel that one had not done one's
poor duty in return for so much love. Thank Heaven, I feel free from
any such charge. If I had not love--that is, first love--to give him
in exchange, I gave him all I had. I gave him genuine affection,
esteem--worship. Everybody knows that; and what is better, my own heart
knows it. It never beat with truer fealty towards him than it beats
to-night. God knows. I live for his children only. What a fine noble boy
is Richard grown; surely, to look upon him, and to say to one's self:
'This is my son,' should be happiness enough for any mother. True,
he is proud; but has he not something to be proud of? He, Sir Richard,
and one of those Lisgards who have ruled at Mirk for twelve generations.
(Here a quiet smile stole over my Lady's features.) They said with
reason at those _tableaux_ at the Vanes, that with that helmet on he was
the image of young Sir Maurice, who died at Edgehill with the colours
twisted round him. I wonder if it was his poor mother who had her dead
boy painted so. 'Tis certain that she thought: 'Ah, were he but
alive, there would be no such thing as sorrow more for me.' Yet here
I have him. Ah (here she grew as pale as death), why did _I_ ever let my
Walter be a soldier? What weakness to give way--to the very peril of him
for whom I was so weak! He would have gone to the wars themselves
but for good Dr Haldane, through whom (thanks to the Duke) he was not
gazetted to the corps he had applied for. Why did he not choose the bar,
like his elder brother? How he would have moved men's hearts to mercy
with that winning tongue! Or why did he not become God's messenger--I
am sure he has an angel's face--and carry the news those bells are
telling of to shipwrecked souls? Oftentimes, when, as a child, he knelt
beside me to say his prayers, his very looks have seemed to make the
action more sacred. Goodness seemed better worth when he was praying for
it, and heaven no home for saints unless he shared it! God grant he may
grow up a good man!

"Then Letty, too--what mother's wealth must I possess since that
sweet girl is not the chief of it, the central jewel of my crown? When
matched with others of her age--with this Rose Aynton, for example--how
bright and fair she shews! Not but that Rose is a good girl,
doubtless; accomplished, too, beyond her years, and far beyond her
opportunities--she sparkles like a crystal cut in ten thousand facets;
but my own Letty is the flawless diamond, bright and pure as light
itself. What blessings are these three! May Heaven keep them always as
I deem them now. I wish my Walter were a little less impulsive; but the
darling boy is young. As for dear Richard, I have no fears for him. The
proud lad will find some noble helpmate, meet to----Great Heaven! what
is that?"

A burst of melody without fell suddenly upon the midnight air, and at
the same moment the chamber-door opened to the touch of Mistress Forest,
her Ladyship's confidential maid. "I beg your pardon, my Lady, if I
startled you; but I knocked twice, and could not make you hear."

"It was not you, Mary, that startled me," returned Lady Lisgard;
"it was the sudden music. The Christmas Waits, as I suppose?"

"Yes, my Lady. They came up from the village a little while ago,
and have been staying in the servants-hall for the clock to strike
twelve."

"I trust they have all had supper?"

"You may be sure of that, my Lady. Mrs Welsh is as openhanded (with
your Ladyship's property) as any cook in the county; nor is
George Steve a likely man to sit thirsty while he sees others drink.
One would think that a public-housekeeper should have drinking enough at
home; but--pardon, my Lady--I am making complaints which, however
just, I know you dislike to hear, and, besides, I am interrupting the
carol."

          Earthly friends will change and falter,

               Earthly hearts will vary;

                   He is born that cannot alter,

                        Of the Virgin Mary.

                        Born to-day--

                        Raise the lay;

                        Born to-day--

                   Twine the bay.

                   Jesus Christ is born to suffer,

                   Born for you--born for you;

                   Holly, strew:

                   Jesus Christ was born to conquer,

                        Born to save--born to save;

                   Laurel, wave:

                   Jesus Christ was born to govern,

                        Born a king--born a king;


Bay-wreaths, bring:

               Jesus Christ was born of Mary,

          Born for all. Well befall Hearth and Hall.

Here the manly but not unmelodious voices exchanged their verse for
prose, if Christmas good-wishes can be said to be mere prose. "A merry
Christmas and a happy New Year to your Ladyship, and many on 'em!"

Lady Lisgard moved to the window with a smile, and drawing the curtain
aside, threw up the sash. On the white lawn beneath, stood five dark
figures, bearing various instruments of music, and one a huge horn
lantern, the light of which glinted upon the laurels. It was impossible
to recognise the features of the rest, as they stood, cap in hand,
notwithstanding the still driving snow, awaiting her Ladyship's reply;
but she addressed them each by name nevertheless.

"Mr Steve, I thank you kindly. Henry Ash, I am glad to find you in
good voice again. John Lewis and Peter Stone--if I am not mistaken.
Neighbours and friends all, I thank you very much. But it is a cold
night for caroling, and I hope you have been taken care of within. A
merry Christmas to you and a happy New Year." There was a tremor in my
Lady's voice, although she spoke with such particularity, which shewed
how deeply she was moved.

"God bless your Ladyship," returned the voices, disorderly as
to unison, but each one of itself distinct and clear as
file-tiring.--"God bless Sir Richard, and send him a fair bride.--God
bless Master Walter's handsome face.--God bless Miss Letty."

Lady Lisgard closed the window, but as she did so, dropped the heavy
curtain between herself and the lighted chamber, so that she could still
look out, but without being seen. The curtain, too, cut her off from the
observation of her maid within. "Who is the fifth man that bears the
lantern, Mary?" asked her Ladyship in a tone of carelessness very
unsuited to the expression of her face, which all in a moment had grown
pinched and terror-stricken, as though it hungered for some reply that
it yet dreaded to hear.

"Nobody as you know, my Lady--nor indeed as _I_ know, for the matter
of that. He's a stranger in these parts, who's putting up at the
_Lisgard Arms_. He only came for a few days last week, walking across
the country for all the world like a pedler--a way he says he learned in
foreign parts; but Steve with his odd ways has taken his fancy, so that
he stays on. A very well-spoken sort of person he is too, although the
sea, it seems, has been his calling, which is a rough trade. However, he
has made it answer--according at least to Mr Steve. Any way, he flings
his money about free enough, and indeed is what _I_ call rather too fond
of treating folks. He is good company himself, they say, and a favourite
with everybody he comes across, which is a very dangerous thing--that
is," added Mistress Forest, correcting herself, "unless one is a
gentleman, like handsome Master Walter."

"You don't--remember--this--this person's name, Mary, do you?"
asked Lady Lisgard.

"No, strange to say, I don't, my Lady; although but a moment ago it
was on the tip of my tongue. It is something like Hathaway." A trace
of colour once more returns to my Lady's cheek, and her breath, which,
by reason perhaps of the confined space in which she stands, has seemed
to be stifled during the narration of her maid, now comes and goes with
a little less of effort.

"That is his voice, I reckon, my Lady--yes, I thought so--and the new
carol which he has been teaching the choir."

               O'er the hill and o'er the vale

                   Come three kings together,

               Caring nought for snow and hail,

                   Cold, and wind, and weather;

               Now on Persia's sandy plains,

                   Now where Tigris swells with rains,

                   They their camels tether.

               Now through Syrian lands they go,

                   Now through Moab, faint and slow,

               Now o'er Edom's heather.

"Ah, now I've got it, my Lady," cried Mistress Forest
triumphantly. "It isn't Hathaway. He's the man they were talking
of in the servants-hall as has just bought the windmill of old Daniels,
and that was how I confused them. The stranger's name is Derrick--a
Mr Derrick."

My Lady's dimpled hand flew to her heart, and would have pressed
against it had she had any strength to do so. Her limbs, however, were
nerveless, and shook as if she had the ague. But for the window-seat,
she must have dropped; and as it was, leaned, huddled up against it, a
shapeless form, decked in gray satin and pearls indeed, but as unlike
my Lady as those poor wretches whom we strangle for a show are unlike
themselves, who seem to lose, the instant that the fatal bolt is drawn,
all fellowship with the human, and become mere bundles of clothes. The
drop had fallen, and without warning, from under Lady Lisgard's feet,
but unhappily the victim was conscious, and not dead.



CHAPTER III. ONLY "THE HEART."

|IGNORANT of the ruin it had wrought, the rich full voice of the
stranger still rang forth, manifestly to the admiration of the
confidential maid, since her nimble tongue failed to interrupt its
melody. She was not displeased that her lady too was listening with such
unbroken attention, and probably also looking out upon the singer;
for Mr Derrick was a very "proper man"--at all events in external
appearance--and had shewn himself in the servant shall a while ago by
no means unconscious of the personal charms of Mistress Forest, which,
although mature, were still by no means despicable. A few years younger
than my Lady herself, Mary had been treated by Time at least with equal
courtesy; her figure was plump, her eyes were bright, her voice, which,
if not absolutely musical, could reach some very high notes, and upon
occasion, was clear and cheery. One would have said she would have been
too talkative to have suited my Lady's grave and quiet ways; but this
was not so. Lady Lisgard had that blessed gift of being able not
to listen unless it pleased her to do so, which enables so many
conscientious persons to speak favourably of sermons; all the avalanche
of her maid's eloquence passed clean over her head, and suffered her
to pursue her own meditations at the easy tribute of an appreciating nod
when all was ended. Even had she been much more inconvenienced by the
_debris_ of words, her tormentor would have been freely forgiven.
The affection between mistress and maid was deep and genuine, and had
extended over more than half their lifetime.

Mary Forest was the daughter of a fisherman at Coveton, the village
on whose sandy beach Sir Robert had picked up his bride. To old Jacob
Forest's cottage, the human flotsam and jetsam had been conveyed,
and upon Mary, then almost a child, had much of its tending at first
devolved. The kindly little nurse soon won the regard of her patient,
cut off by that one night's storm from kith and kin, for this emigrant
ship had contained all that were near or dear to her on earth, and
ready as a babe to clasp the tendrils of love about whoever shewed her
kindness. Removed from the cottage to the rectory, where the clergyman
and his wife welcomed her very hospitably, first, as a poor human waif,
that claimed some lodgment ere she could decide upon her future calling,
for a short time after that as their nursery governess, and finally as
guest and inmate pending those arrangements of her betrothed husband
which subsequently took her to France, Lucy Gavestone--for that was the
name by which my Lady was then known--did not forget little Mary and her
loving ministrations. She asked and easily obtained permission of
Sir Robert that the girl should accompany her to the semi-scholastic
establishment at Dijon in which he had decided to place her previous
to their marriage. This she accordingly did; and many a strange
reminiscence unshared by others (itself a great knitter of the bond of
friendship) had mistress and maid in common. The fortunes of the latter
of course rose with those of the former, and of all the household at
Mirk Abbey there was none in higher trust than Mary Forest, nor more
certain of the envied position she held, since the affection of my Lady
set her above the machinations of that Nemesis of favourite servants, a
Domestic Cabal Those natural enemies, the butler and the cook, had even
shaken hands together for the purpose of compassing Mary's downfall,
but their combined endeavours had only obtained for a reward her
sovereign forgiveness and (I am afraid I must add) contempt.

In a word, Mary Forest was as happy in her circumstances as any woman
at her time of life could expect to be whose title of "Mistress" was
only brevet rank. She had subjugated many other male folks beside the
butler (the ancient coachman, for example, with the back view of whose
broad shoulders and no neck the Lisgard family had been familiar for
half a century), but such victories had not at all been owing to her
charms. By them, hitherto, Man had been an unconquered animal, and this
was the knot in the otherwise smooth surface of Mary's destiny which
no amount of planing (within _her_ philosophy) could make even. She
had been wooed, of course (what woman of twoscore, according to her own
account, has not?), but hitherto the suitors had not been eligible, or
her own ideas had been too ambitious. The time had now arrived with her
when compromise begins to be expedient, and high expectations abate.
Matrimonial opportunities at the Abbey were few and far between. She
had not received such marked attention from anybody for months as this
stranger, living upon his own means at the _Lisgard Arms_, had paid her
that very night in the servants-hall. No wonder, then, that while he
sang, she should for once be content to be a listener.

               O'er the hill and o'er the vale

                   Each king bears a present;

               Wise men go a child to hail,

                   Monarchs seek a peasant;

               And a star in front proceeds,

                   Over rocks and rivers leads,

                   Shines with beams incessant.

               Therefore onward, onward still,

               Ford the stream, and climb the hill--

                        Love makes all things pleasant.

"There, now, I call that very pretty, my Lady," exclaimed Mistress
Forest, as the last cadence died away; "and a very pretty sentiment at
the end--'Love makes all things pleasant;' although, for my part,
I know nothing about _that_, thank Heaven, and prefer to be my own
mistress--that is, with the exception of your Ladyship, to obey whom is
a labour of love. I am sure there are few husbands for whom I would give
up such a service as yours, my Lady. I wish Mr What's-his-name--dear
me, how stupid of me--ah, Derrick! It's rather a pretty name too;
don't you think so, my Lady? I wish this Mr Derrick would sing
us another song. He has a very beautiful voice, and I am sure his
expression--don't you think so, my Lady? Ahem. No; I hear them moving
off. Well, he will be in the choir to-morrow morning, that's sure. Had
you not better come to the fire, my---- Ah, great Heaven! Mistress, my
dear darling mistress, what is the matter? Let me ring for help!"

It was impossible to misunderstand my Lady's "No," although it was
not articulate.

Huddled up, as I have said, in the space between the curtain and the
window-seat, white and cold as the snow without, voiceless and almost
breathless as her maid found her upon venturing to draw aside the heavy
damask folds between them, such a look of agonised apprehension yet shot
from her eyes as at once to prevent Mistress Forest from putting her
design with respect to the bell into effect; nay, more, having assisted
my Lady to the sofa, she rightly interpreted a second glance in the
direction of the door, to mean "Lock it," and this she did even
before arranging the cushions, which would have been the first action
with most persons of her class. Mary Forest, although a babbler, was
no fool, and she perceived immediately that the distress which was
agitating her beloved mistress was at least as much mental as physical.
Once before, and only once, she had known my Lady to be what females
call "overcome"--that was upon the eve of her marriage with Sir
Robert; there was much similarity between the two attacks, but the
present was far more violent. In the first instance, she had been told
by her Ladyship that it was owing to "the heart," which was
fitting enough under her then circumstances--but now when there was
no bridegroom-expectant to flutter that organ, it did seem singular
certainly. Doubtless her mistress would speak presently, and afford
the fullest information; in the meantime there was nothing for it but
silence and sal volatile.

My Lady's eyes are closed, and her features pale and still as marble,
but her lips are a little parted. With her white hands thus crosswise
over her bosom, she looks, thinks the confidential maid--for all the
world like that Dame Lisgard in the chancel, by the side of whose
marble couch her twelve fair children kneel, and take their mother's
ceaseless blessing. All twelve so near of an age, and so marvellously
alike, thanks to the skill of the sculptor, that one would have thought
the whole dozen--but that four, as Mistress Forest has read in _Portents
and Prodigies_, is the extreme limit--had made their simultaneous
arrival in the world. Stiff and cold almost as marble are my Lady's
limbs, blue-veined like it and rounded; but by degrees, as Mary rubs
them steadily, their life returns.

"Thank you, thank you," murmurs her Ladyship. "I feel better now;
but" (this with effort) "I wish to be left alone."

"Alone, my Lady! I dare not leave you thus, without even knowing what
ails you."

"Nothing ails me now, Mary--nothing." Lady Lisgard made a feint of
smiling, but kept her eyelids shut. She did not dare to let her maid
read what was written in her eyes.

"Was it your poor heart, again, madam?"

"Ay, my poor heart!" My Lady was speaking truth there. Among the
thousand millions born to suffer on this earth, there was not one
upon that Christmas Eve in mental agony more deep than hers. The blow
received had been so terrible and unexpected, that it had at first half
stupified all feeling; the real torture was now commencing, when she was
about to realise the full extent of her injuries. Lady Lisgard was not
without courage; but she was no Indian warrior to desire a spectator
of such torments. "I must be alone, dear Mary," repeated she. "Be
sure you breathe no word of this to any one. Say, however, that I am not
very well. The cold when I opened that window to the Waits"--here she
visibly shuddered--"seems to have frozen me to the marrow--you may
tell them I have taken cold. I shall not be down to breakfast."

"And I should recommend you to stay indoors, my dear (as I hope to
persuade Miss Letty to do), although it _is_ Christmas Day," said Mary
tenderly, as she made up the fire before leaving the room; "for the
church is far from warm."

"I shall not go to church," said Lady Lisgard, with a decision
that reassured her attendant, and enabled her to wish her mistress
"good-night" without much apprehension.

"He will be in the choir to-morrow morning," was the thought which
was crossing the minds of mistress and maid at the same instant.



CHAPTER IV. SIR RICHARD GAINS HIS POINT.

|I DON'T know how it was in the Monkish times in England, but it appears
that the keeping of religious days--always excepting the Sabbath--is not
in accordance with the genius of this country as it exists at present.
By general habit, we are devout, or certainly reverent; and yet the
majority seem unable to discriminate between a fast and a festival.
Christmas Day, for example, is kept by the evangelical folks exactly
like Sunday, which is with them very much the reverse of a feast-day.
With the High Church people, again, it is a Holiday, to be enjoyed after
a certain peculiar fashion of their own; while the great mass of the
population outrage both these parties by treating half the day as a fast
and the other half as a festival. After morning church, it is generally
understood that one may enjoy one's self--that is, within the limit of
the domestic circle. There is the rub. It is not every disposition which
can appreciate forfeits and snap-dragon. My own respected grandfather
used to thank Heaven with much devotion that he had always been a
domestic man, who knew how to enjoy a peaceful Christmas in the bosom of
his family; but then he always went to sleep immediately after dinner,
and nobody ventured to wake him until the servants came in to prayers,
after which he went to bed.

It is a pleasant sight, says Holy Writ, to see brethren dwelling
together in unity; but the remark would not have been put on record had
the spectacle been a very common one. It is a sad confession to make,
but I think most of us must own that the "family gathering" in
the country, even at Christmas-tide, is not the most agreeable sort of
social entertainment. There is too much predetermination to be jolly
about such festivities, too much resolution to put up with Polly's
temper and Jack's rudeness, and to please grandpapa (who is funded)
at all hazards. When we find ourselves in the up-train again after that
domestic holiday-week, we are not altogether displeased that it is over,
and secretly congratulate ourselves that there has not been a row. I
am, of course, speaking of ordinary folks, such as the world is mainly
composed of, and not of such exemplary people as my readers and myself.
_We_ have no family jealousies, no struggles for grandpapa's favour,
no difficulties in having common patience with Polly, no private
opinion--if he was not our brother--about Jack; no astonishment at
Henry's success, no envy at Augusta's prospects. But with the
majority of grown-up brothers and sisters, this is not so. Since they
parted from one another under the paternal roof, their lines of life
have diverged daily; their interests, so far from being identical, have
become antagonistic. Margaret is as nice as ever, but Penelope is not
a bit improved, and yet one must seem to be as glad to see one as the
other. One must not only forgive, but forget; it is not (unhappily)
necessary that we should be polite, but we must be affectionate; nay, we
must not only be affectionate--grandpapa will think it extremely odd if
we are not "gushing."

The Lisgard family circle was not large, though, as we have seen, there
was room in it for disagreement; moreover, there was not a "dead
set" of domestic element, the consanguinity being relieved by the
presence of Miss Rose Aynton. If grandpapa were wise, this should always
be the case; for it prevents Courtesy from taking leave of the company,
which she is only too apt to do, under the mistaken notion that near
relations can afford to do without her. It was with no such intention,
however, that my Lady had asked Miss Aynton to visit Mirk. She would
have thought it hard, indeed, if her two sons could not have spent a
week together under the same roof without the presence of a stranger to
prevent their quarrelling. Rose had been a school-friend of Letty, and
the latter young lady had asked permission to invite her young friend
to the Abbey for Christmas. She had no home of her own to go to, poor
thing, having neither father nor mother. She lived with her aunt, Miss
Colyfield, a fashionable old lady in Mayfair, very popular among her
acquaintance, but a sort of person, not uncommon in that locality, whom
it is not altogether charming to reside with as a dependent. Miss
Aynton was evidently accustomed to suppression. It made a man positively
indignant to see one whose youth and intelligence entitled her to be
the mistress of all who approached her, so humble, so unegotistic, so
grateful. It was evident that she had plenty of natural good spirits,
and every faculty for enjoyment, if she had only dared exhibit them. Her
very accomplishments, which were numerous, were timidly concealed, and
peeped forth one by one, almost, as it seemed, by compulsion. She might
have left Mirk, for instance, without a soul knowing of her taste for
ecclesiastical decoration, if it had not been for a sore throat which
prevented Letty from superintending the Christmas ornamentations in the
chancel.

"Can't _you_ do it, my dear?" said Letty, a little peevish at
the disappointment, and hopeless that her place could be satisfactorily
filled by a London-bred girl like Rose, who had never seen
holly-berries except in the greengrocers' shops, or at the artificial
florist's. "Now, do try, and Richard and Walter will both help."

"I will do my best, dear," this young lady had answered simply.
And never had anything so beautiful been seen in the county, as was the
result of her efforts. So much was said of them that Letty had ventured
to go to church that morning, despite her ailment, and was as earnest
in her praise as any in the congregation. There was no such thing as
jealousy in her composition, and the success of her friend was a genuine
pleasure to her.

"O mamma, you have missed such a sight!" cried she, as Lady Lisgard
made her first appearance that morning at the luncheon-table, looking a
little grave and pale, but gracious and dignified as a queen in exile,
as usual. "Not only the chancel, but the whole church a perfect
bower of evergreens, and everything so exquisitely done! The pillars,
alternately ivy and laurel; and under the gallery, beautiful texts
in holly-berries set in green. As for the wall at the back of the
altar--the decorations there are such that it makes one cry to think
they are ever to be taken down again. Oh, I do hope you will feel well
enough, dear mamma, to come to church this afternoon and see them."

"Really, Lady Lisgard," said Miss Aynton, blushing deeply, and with
her soft eyes looking very much inclined to be tearful, "you must not
believe all that Lefty's kindness induces her to say about me."

"Nay, but it's true, mother," broke forth Sir Richard. "I never
could have dreamt of anything so beautiful being made out of leaves and
berries. The old church looks enchanted, and Miss Aynton is the fairy
that has done it."

"Sir Richard suggested the centre design himself," returned Rose
gravely; "and the fact is, I am nothing but a plagiarist in the whole
affair. Our curate in Park Street gives himself up to floral religion,
and dresses up his church in a dozen different garbs according to
the season. I am one of its volunteer tiring-women, and am therefore
accustomed to the business--that is all."

"It is very honest of you to tell us that, Rose," said my Lady
approvingly.

"Yes, mamma," broke in Letty; "but it was very wicked of her
not to tell Mr Mosely, who came to thank her in the churchyard after
service. He actually made an allusion to her in his sermon--talked about
her 'pious hands.' She never told him one word about this London
curate."

Letty's laugh rang merrily out as she thus twitted her friend, but her
brothers did not echo it. Neither of them relished this mention of the
Mayfair clergyman. They had each in turn enjoyed that religious work, in
which they had been fellow-labourers with Miss Aynton, and each perhaps
flattered himself that she had been most pleased when his own fingers
were looping the berries for her, or holding the ivy while she fastened
it in its place. Of course there was nothing serious between either of
them and herself. Sir Richard would naturally look higher for a bride
than to the dependent niece of a fickle old woman of fashion; while as
to Walter, with his comparatively small fortune and expensive tastes, it
was absolutely necessary that he should "marry money," and not mere
expectations. Still, no man is altogether pleased to hear that a young
girl he admires is engaged to somebody else; and although this had not
been said of Rose, yet Mayfair curates are dangerous persons, and church
decoration (as they were aware by recent experience) is a fascinating
occupation when indulged in by both sexes at the same time.

So Letty had all the laughter to herself.

"How strange it was to hear the people when they first came in,"
continued she. "Their 'Ohs!' and Ahhs!' and 'Well I nevers!'
were quite irrepressible."

"Especially the gentleman in the gallery, who expressed his opinion
that it was for all the world like May-day," observed Walter
slily. "Miss Aynton's _chef-d'oeuvre_ reminded him, it seems, of
Jack-in-the-Green."

"Yes, was it not shocking, mamma?" exclaimed Letty. "He spoke
quite loud. I shouldn't suppose that the creature had ever been in a
church before. How he did stare about him!"

"You must have been looking in his direction yourself, miss,"
returned the young dragoon, "as, indeed, were all the female part of
the congregation. We don't see such awful beards as his in Mirk church
every Sunday."

"How touchy dear Walter is upon the subject of beards," observed
Letty demurely.

The captain's smooth face coloured like a girl's, while Miss Rose
Aynton sought concealment in her pocket-handkerchief. Even Lady Lisgard
forced herself to smile at the embarrassment of her handsome boy. But
Sir Richard did not smile; he was not on sufficiently good terms with
his younger brother to enjoy even so innocent a joke at his expense.

"You have not yet seen this distinguished stranger, I suppose,
mamma?" resumed Letty, without whom--what with Rose's shyness and
the coldness between the two young men--the conversation would have
languished altogether.

"What stranger do you mean, my dear?" said my Lady coldly.

"Why, the man that came with the Waits last night, and sang beneath
your window. Surely you must have noticed his voice, so different from
poor old Ash and the rest of them."

"Now you mention it, Letty, I think I did remark that there was a
strange singer among them. He had a voice like Mr Steve's."

"Very probably, my dear mother," observed Walter laughing; "for
they both use the same tuning-key--the Spigot. Steve is said to be quite
jealous because this gentleman from foreign parts can take two glasses
to his one, although it cannot be added that he doesn't shew it. Steve
can look like a Methodist parson when he pleases, whereas his new friend
has made a sacrifice of his very countenance to Bacchus; and yet he must
have been a handsome fellow at one time.--Don't you think so, Miss
Aynton?"

"I really scarcely looked at him," returned the young lady
addressed. "I should hesitate to pass an opinion upon this
distinguished----"

"O Rose," interrupted Betty archly; "how dare you!--Why, Walter,
she told me herself, only five minutes ago, while we were taking off our
bonnets, that she thought his expression 'magnificent '--that was
her very word--and that she would like to take him in chalks."

"I must confess," said Rose, "without venturing to call it
good-looking or otherwise, that his countenance, artistically speaking,
seems to me very striking. He is just one of those wicked people,
I fancy, in whom one feels a sort of interest in spite of one's
self.--Now, don't you think so, Sir Richard?"

"My dear Miss Aynton," returned the baronet with an air of hauteur
that neutralised the familiarity implied by his words, "if this person
has won your sympathy, he is fortunate indeed; but I must say that
I don't see that he deserves it. His beard, which is certainly a
handsome one, has also--as it seems to me--the great advantage of
obscuring half his countenance. I confess, I think he looks to be a
scoundrel of the first salt-water."

"That's what Rose _means!_" cried Letty, clapping her hands.
"He's one of those dear handsome villains who used to--ah, infest--yes,
that's the phrase--who used to infest the Spanish Main. How charmingly
mysterious was the very place in which they carried on their profession!
If it was not for seasickness, I should like to have had something to do
in the Spanish Main myself. I have not the shadow of a doubt that this
Mr Derrick--evidently an assumed name---- What's the matter, dearest
mother?"

My Lady had uttered a low cry, such as is evoked by sudden and acute
physical pain.

"Nothing, my love--nothing: it was a passing spasm, nothing more. A
tinge of my old rheumatism again, I fear, which is a sign of old age,
and therefore a malady I do not wish to be taken notice of.--Now,
don't distress yourselves, my dears"--for all had risen with looks
of genuine and affectionate anxiety, except Miss Aynton, who had rapidly
poured out a glass of wine.--"Thank you, Rose; that was all I wanted.
Nobody offered me any sherry, so I thought I would try whether I
could not obtain it medicinally.--What were you saying, Letty, about
this--this person?"

"I was merely remarking that he had probably been a buccaneer,
mamma."

"In other words, that he deserves hanging," observed Sir Richard
gruffly. "I hope he will soon take himself out of the parish, for we
have got tipplers enough in it already."

"Dear, dear, dear!" said Letty sedately; "to make such an
observation as that, just after mamma has been craving for sherry!
Besides, how can this gentleman annoy _you_, Sir Richard? He isn't
come here to dispute the title, is he?"

My Lady kept her lips closed this time; but an anguish passed over her
face that would have been easy to see, had not the eyes of those at
table been otherwise engaged.

Letty was looking at her friend, in hopes that she should get her to
laugh at her high and mighty brother; Rose did not dare look up, for
fear she should do so. Walter, his handsome lips slightly curled, was
contemptuously watching the baronet, who stared, Sphinx-like, right
before him, as was his custom whenever he was in one of his autocratic
humours, as at present.

"I don't choose to have persons of that sort in the parish," said he
with icy distinctness.

"But, my dear Richard, you can't turn him out," reasoned Letty,
rather vexed by an exhibition of her brother's pride before her
school-friend beyond what she had calculated upon. "He has a right to
stop at the _Lisgard Arms_ as long as he pleases."

"And _I_ have a right to turn Steve out as a tenant"----

"You have nothing of the kind, Richard," interposed Walter quietly;
"you have no more right than I--not even legal right, for the inn is
not yet yours, and as for moral right, it would be the most monstrous
piece of territorial oppression ever heard of out of Poland. So long as
the man behaves himself"----

"He does _not_ behave himself," put in Sir Richard angrily. "He is
a drunkard, and a brawler in church."

"Gracious mercy! how you must have been looking up Burn's _Justice_.
But you will not be a magistrate, a _custos rotulorum_, till you are of
age, remember, so that he is safe for six months. In the meantime, he
certainly means to stay here. He is so good as to say he likes Mirk, I
understand; and the village folks like _him_. He is a great addition to
the choir; and I shall certainly ask him, in case he remains, to join
our Mirk volunteers: Steve tells me he is a most admirable shot with a
rifle, and will do the corps credit."

"That is all the worse," quoth Sir Richard violently; "he is only
the more likely to be a poacher. We have more than enough of that sort
already, and I beg that you will give none such your encouragement."

"Encouragement!" returned Walter airily. "What patronage have _I_
to offer? I am not Sir Richard, who can make a man happy with a word."

"Very well," continued the baronet with suppressed passion, "let
him take care how he trespasses upon the Abbey-lands--that's all."

"Nay, you'll see him at the Abbey itself," laughed Walter
carelessly, "and that pretty often, unless I quite misinterpreted
Mistress Forest's manner when she parted from him at the Lych Gate: I
never saw two people more affectionate upon so short an acquaintance."

"A most ineligible suitor, I am sure," broke forth the baronet. "I
trust Mary is not fool enough to disgrace herself at her time of life by
any such alliance."

"She is almost old enough to choose for herself," responded Walter
drily. "The selection of a husband for one's servant is scarcely
the privilege of even a lord of the manor, and when the servant is not
one's own"----

"I believe, sir," interrupted Sir Richard hastily, "that I am only
speaking the sentiments of her mistress, in whose hands, of course, the
matter lies.--Mother, do you not agree with me that it would be
very unwise to encourage any attachment between Mary Forest and this
reprobate stranger, Derrick?"

It was plain my Lady had not recovered from her late ailment, of
whatever nature the attack might have been; otherwise, she would have
interfered between the brothers before a direct appeal for her decision
had been made by either of them, it being a rule with her never to place
herself in an invidious position with respect to her children. To the
astonishment of the baronet himself, however, Lady Lisgard now forced
her pale lips to utter deliberately enough: "I think it would be very
unwise."

"And therefore," pursued Sir Richard, hastening to push his
advantage, "it would be worse than unwise, it would be absolute
cruelty, since you do not intend her to marry this fellow, that
opportunities should be afforded her of meeting him under the same roof.
I do not say that his offence of brawling in church this morning is a
sufficient ground of itself for forbidding him the house, although
to most persons with any sense of decency it would be a serious
misdemeanour: but would it not be well, under these particular
circumstances, to treat it so?"

"Yes," returned my Lady, rising from the table, white as a ghost,
"you are right, Richard; let this Mr Derrick be forbidden the
house."



CHAPTER V. MASTER WALTER.

|THE day after Christmas Day was friendly to the fox; in other words, a
hard frost; and since Miss Rose Aynton and Letty had declined to play
at billiards with Walter until the afternoon--for it is vicious (in the
country) to indulge in that pastime in the morning, as it is to play at
cards before candle-light--that young gentleman, being no reader, felt
the time rather heavy on his hands, and strolled into the village to
get rid of it. The snow had ceased to fall, but not before, like a good
housekeeper when the family has left town, it had covered up everything
very carefully, except the tops of the chimneys, through which the
tidings of good-cheer rolled forth in dusky columns from every cottage;
for there were no abject poor in Mirk, thanks to my Lady, or any that
lacked victuals at that joyous season.

The Lisgards had ever been a free-handed race, as generous out of doors
as hospitable within; and their influence for good had been felt for
generations throughout the village. I do not say that they expected no
repayment; their rule was paternal, and they looked for something like
filial obedience in return. If a villager had passed any member of that
august family without pulling his hair, as though it were a bell-handle,
in token of respect, it would have been considered a sign of revolution,
and they would have congratulated themselves that the yeomanry were in
a state of efficiency. The feudal system was still in vogue at Mirk, but
tempered not only by excellent beef-tea in sickness, and port wine
from the Abbey cellar during convalescence, but by the best Gothic
architecture, as applied to cottages. If eleven human beings did
sometimes sleep in a single room, and the domestic arrangements
were inferior to those which Mr Chifney of the Farm provided for his
race-horses, the tenement looked outside very picturesque, as seen from
the Abbey windows. Nay, it must be owned that even this inconvenience
of overcrowding was rare in the home-village, in comparison with other
places on the Lisgard estate, not so near the family seat, about which
everything was in externals, at least, becomingly spick and span.

Dr Haldane, indeed, who had property of his own, and could afford to
entertain political opinions at variance with those in favour at the
Abbey, had been of old accustomed irreverently to adapt a certain
popular nursery ballad to the state of things at Mirk.

               Who built the infant school so red?

               Who set that striking-clock o'erhead,

               To tell us all the time for bed?

                        The Lisgards.


               Who made, and at such great expense,

               Around our pond that iron fence,

               To keep the pigs and boys from thence?

                        The Lisgards, &c.

In short, Mirk was a pet hamlet, and exhibited a hundred tokens of its
patron's favour. It was surely only right and proper, therefore, that
all the votes in the village at election-time, except the doctor's,
went the same way with the squire's, and that even in social
matters he exercised unquestioned sway. Mirk was as respectable as
the brotherhood of Quakers, and was rendered so by the same simple
machinery; any one in the place who shewed a disposition to be otherwise
was immediately turned out. Did a man drink, so as to cause public
disturbance, or pick up sticks (to save himself trouble) out of
the park-fences--or, worse than all, did he Poach--were it but a
pheasant's egg--he received the most peremptory notice to quit the
model village. The issuing of these ukases of banishment had been, now
and then, a severe trial to the popularity of the Lisgards; but it
had overlived all such acts--nay, more, even its favouritism, that
seemingly indispensable element of the feudal system, had been forgiven
it. Nobody now complained that George Steve, who notoriously never went
to bed quite sober, still continued tenant of the _Lisgard Arms_; while
Jacob Flail and Joseph Dibble had been condemned, with their families,
to banishment for life for a less habitual commission of the same
offence.

Much less did it strike the villagers that it was inconsistent in a
landlord, so careful for the morality of his people, to let so large a
portion of the Abbey Farm to a trainer of race-horses, of which there
were at present upwards of thirty in Mirk; and in summer, when the
Downland above was fit for their exercise, there were often twice as
many. But then Mr Chifney was not like an ordinary trainer; nor did
his jockey-boys, thanks to his strict supervision, behave like ordinary
jockey-boys. They attended divine service on alternate Sundays, and
half-a-dozen of them were in the choir. Mr Mosely (who was Anglican)
had even taken into consideration the advisability of putting these last
into surplices, but Mr Chifney had dissuaded him from that experiment.
They had always been accustomed to the most tight-fitting of garments,
strait-waistcoats, buck-skin breeches, and gaiters--and perhaps he
thought the transition would be too abrupt. Their habits, in some other
respects, were loose, and yet they were suffered to breathe the Lisgard
air. Mr Chifney's boys were like the servants of ambassadors at
foreign courts, who enjoy a separate jurisdiction from that to which the
native inhabitants submit. The law itself--at least in the case of
petty offences--was not called in to punish these young gentlemen; but
I believe they were "colted"--for the whole discipline was
"horsey"--by Mr Chifney's head-groom. I do not know the exact
manner in which this chastisement was inflicted, but it must have
differed from the ordinary method, since they never failed to pursue
their daily equestrian duties as usual. Mr Chifney looked after that
himself, and exceedingly sharp. Nothing went amiss through oversight in
his establishment, and his employers had every reason to put confidence
in him. He left no means untried to insure the success of the costly
animals it was his mission to groom and guard. His very acceptance of
the post of churchwarden had been described by his enemies as an attempt
to "hedge"--to make friends with those powers of good which are
generally supposed, to be antagonistic, if they have anything to do
with it at all, to the profession of horse-racing. It is certain that Mr
Chifney, whose occupations seldom permitted his own attendance at
public worship, never failed to come to church upon those Sundays which
immediately preceded the Derby and the St Leger, and indeed it is very
likely that he treated them (without knowing it) as the eves of his
patron saints' days.

It was to the Abbey Farm that Mr Walter Lisgard was now bound; for to
the young gentlemen of England, what is a more interesting spectacle
than a racing-stable--what is a more charming subject of conversation
than the next Great Event? And who more fitted to afford every
information upon that important topic--if he chose--than Mr Tite
Chifney? _If he chose_. Therein lay the whole matter; for Mr Chifney
was reticent, as became one intrusted with a hundred thousand pounds'
worth of horseflesh, upon whose performances depended perhaps, in the
aggregate, millions of money. He had put "Master Walter" up to a
"good thing," however, more than once, and the captain had no doubt
but that he would do it again. He never did doubt of his own success
either with man or woman. Confidence, but without swagger, self-content,
but without vanity, were evident enough in those handsome features,
illuminated almost at all times with the desire to please. He lit his
cigar at the hall-door, smoothed away a fallen spark from his sealskin
waistcoat, and took his way down the leafless avenue, humming the
latest lively air, as he crunched the snow beneath his dainty boots.
How different from Sir Richard's measured step and haughty silence,
thought the gatekeeper's wife, as she hastened out of the lodge, from
the side-window of which she had marked her favourite approach. "Never
mind me, Martha," cried he laughing; "I'm tall enough now to lift
the latch for myself. My boots are thicker than yours are--look--and I
have no rheumatism, which, I am afraid, you have not quite got rid of
yet. There--I won't speak a word with you till you go inside. How's
the guidman? Ah, out, is he? How's little Polly? Hullo, Polly, how
you're grown! Why, I daresay she won't kiss me now, as she always
used to do."

"Oh yes, she'll kiss you, Master Walter," answered the old dame;
"there's no harm in kissing o' _you_; although I wouldn't say
that to my daughter of ne'er another young man in the county.--Come,
lass, you need not blush so, for I've had many a one from the same
young gentleman." And the old dame laughed and chuckled, until that
dread enemy of honest-hearted mirth, the lumbago, twitched her into her
chair.

Polly, a very pretty country lassie, about sixteen, stood pink and
hesitating while the captain removed his cigar, and waited--smiling
demigod--for the promised favour.

"Come, gi'e it to him, and ha' done wi' it," cried the old
lady, exasperated by her torments. Thereupon the girl stepped forward,
head aside. Master Walter met her, touched her soft cheek with his lip,
and as his silken moustache brushed her ear, whispered an airy something
which turned her crimson. There was nothing in the words themselves save
the merest compliment; their magic lay in the tone of him who used them;
so tender, yet so frank, so familiar, and yet so gracious. Then, with a
smile, he hade them both "good-bye," and strolling through the gate,
resumed his interrupted ditty, as though kissing were the most innocent
as well as the most natural of all pastimes; but Polly pressed her
throbbing brow against the pane for its very coolness, and watched him
saunter down the village street with quite a flutter at her heart, and
promised to herself that she would not forget the captain's kiss--no,
not though Joe, the under-gardener, should speak his mind next
"feast" (as it was rumoured in well-informed circles that he
intended to do), and "keep her company" in earnest.

That she was doing no wrong in this was certain, for not only her
mother, but everybody else in Mirk, agreed that there was no sort of
harm in Master Walter, let him do what he might. He had a way of doing
things so very different from others. How the very dogs fawned upon him
as he sauntered on, and the old horse in the straw-yard stretched its
gray head over the gate in hopes of a caress as he went by! How the boys
by the roadside left their Snow-man an unfinished torso, and ran to make
their bows before the good-natured captain, with an eye to _largesse_,
in the form of a copper scramble; and how the school-girls courtesied,
with admiring awe, as they pictured to themselves how fine a figure
handsome Master Walter must needs cut in gold and scarlet! He had a nod
or a word for almost everybody, young or old; but if his look but lit
upon another's face, it left a pleasure there, as the Sun leaves when
it has shone upon one. Delayed by these reciprocal manifestations
of good-will, like a young prince making a Royal Progress among a
well-affected people, Walter Lisgard at length got free of the village,
and climbing a steep hill (never used by the race-horses even in much
less slippery weather), arrived at his destination, the Abbey Farm. This
was a long, low, ancient building, belonging to one could scarce tell
what date, so pieced, and restored, and added to, had been the original
structure; but when the Abbey was an Abbey, the Abbey Farm had been a
sort of branch-establishment, in the occupation of the monks; there were
traces of their sojourn even now: over the pointed porch yet stood a
cross of stone, though broken; and in the garden, now all white and
hoar, that lay between the house and road, there was a mighty sundial,
carved like a font with noseless saints in niches, and round the rim a
scripture, of which alone the words _nox venit_ could be deciphered. The
night _had_ come, not only upon those who built and blessed such things,
but on the faith which they professed. The very memory of themselves and
it had faded from men's minds. Not one in ten at Mirk--where all had
owned the Abbot for liege-lord, and bowed their heads before his meanest
monk, in token of their soul's humility, but a few centuries back--not
one in ten, I say, could tell even what that niche on the south side
of the communion-table meant, which the learned called _Piscina_. The
mighty bower that had once been the granary of the Abbey, and to which
the poor had looked with thankful eyes in times of scarcity, still stood
beside the homestead, but the remembrance of its very use was gone; the
only legend clinging to its moss-grown walls was that a Long Parliament
had once held its sittings there. Save the farmhouse and the barn, all
relics of the past had been swept away. Immediately behind them
was quite a town of stables and loose boxes, all of the most modern
construction, and furnished with the latest inventions for equine
comfort. The enormous farmyard, strewn with a thick carpet of clean
straw, was now the exercising-ground for the horses; but in the summer,
a gate at the back of the premises opened immediately upon the grassy
upland, the proximity of which had tempted Mr Tite Chifney to pitch his
tent and enlarge his boundaries at the Abbey Farm. So high had been the
rent he offered for this eligible situation, that the late Sir Robert
had removed his own agricultural head-quarters elsewhere, and suffered
Mr Chifney and his race-horses to occupy the whole place, which was
now the capital of the Houwhyhims--the largest establishment in Great
Britain, wherein man held the secondary position, and the Horse the
principal.



CHAPTER VI. THE RACING-STABLE.

|IT was Mr Chifney in person who admitted Walter Lisgard, after a
precautionary glance at him through a little grating, which doubtless
the monks had used for a similar purpose, although without the same
excuse, for they had never possessed any Derby "cracks" to be
poisoned. Mr Chifney might have been himself a monk but for his apparel,
which, although scrupulously neat and plain, fitted him almost like
war-paint, so that there was not a crease to be seen, except at the
knees, of which he made as much use as the holy fathers themselves did,
though not precisely in the same way. His dark hair was closely cropped,
and a little bald spot on the top of the crown might well have been
taken for a tonsure. Moreover, he had a grave and secretive look, which
would have well enough become one in whom were reposed the secrets of
the Confessional; and when he smiled, he looked sorry for it immediately
afterwards, as though he had given way to a carnal pleasure.

Captain Lisgard shook the trainer's hand with his usual hearty warmth,
and Mr Chifney returned his pressure with unwonted cordiality. He was
accustomed to meet men of a much higher social rank than his present
visitor on something like equal terms; many of them shook hands with
him; all of them treated him with familiarity. The Turf, like the Grave,
levels all distinctions. Between the Lord and the Blackleg (to make an
antithetical use of terms that are not seldom synonymous), there is
but slight partition on that common ground; the widest gulf of
social difference is bridged over, _pro tem_, by the prospect of an
advantageous bet. How much more, then, was this wont to be the case in
view of the trustworthy "information" which Mr Tite Chifney had
it so often in his power to bestow? Marquises had taken his arm in a
confidential manner before now in the most public places, and dukes had
called him "Tite;" even ladies of the highest fashion had treated
him to pretty speeches, and to what they hoped might turn out
literally "winning ways." But the great trainer estimated all these
condescensions at their true value. He never concealed from himself the
motives that caused these people to be so civil to him; and perhaps he
had seen too much of the turfite aristocracy to be flattered by their
attentions, even had they been disinterested. But Walter Lisgard's
greeting was different from those which he was wont to receive from his
great patrons; there was not only a cordial frankness about it, but a
something of sympathy, conveyed with marvellous tact, in his air and
manner; which seemed to say: "I unfeignedly regret that anything
like friendship should be impossible between us, for I am your social
superior; and yet, how ridiculous a thing it is that this should be so!
I, but the younger brother of a man himself of no great position, and
you, at the head of that profession in which the noblest in the land
take so great and personal an interest." If Mr Chifney did not read
all this, it is certain that so acute an observer could not fail to read
some of it. He was as far from being moved by any considerations not
strictly practical as any man connected with horseflesh; his calling,
too, rendered him as suspicious of his fellow-creatures as a police
detective; but Master Walter's sort of flattery was too subtle for
him. He had always had a liking for this genial young fellow, with
his handsome face and pleasant speech, and who, moreover, rode across
country like a centaur; he was one of his own landlord's family, too,
and the heir-presumptive of the property, whose favour it was just
as well to win and keep; and lastly, the lad had been so unfeignedly
grateful to him for the little hints he had occasionally afforded him,
as well as so wisely reticent about his informant, that he was not
unwilling to help him again to a few "fivers," if he could do so
without the betrayal of professional confidence.

"Come for another 'tip,' eh, Master Walter?" whispered he
good-naturedly as he led the way into the house. "You see I did not
deceive you the last time you were here about _Cambyses!_"

"No, indeed, you did not, Mr Chifney" (Walter never addressed this
friend of his without the Mister), "and a very great blessing it was
to yours thankfully at a time when he was even more hard-up than usual.
Is your Derby 'crack' visible today? I am poor, but honest. I have
no motive beyond that of curiosity, and if suspected of a concealed
weapon, will submit to be searched."

"Well, Master Walter," grinned the trainer, "I can't say that
I much credit the honesty of anybody myself; but I don't see why you
should not have a look at his majesty, particularly as there is one
coming here this morning already upon the same errand, and I'm sure
I'd as soon oblige you as him--or, indeed, as any man, let it be who
it will."

"You are very kind to say so, Mr Chifney, and still more to mean it,
as I am sure you do; but I feel that I have no right with my bagatelle
of a stake depending upon the matter to take up your time--nay, I must
insist upon throwing my cigar away before entering your house; it is all
very well for Mrs Chifney to give _you_ the privilege of smoking within
doors, but I could not venture to take such a liberty myself. What a
jolly place this is of yours; I always think it is so much snugger than
the Abbey. I should never sit anywhere but in your grand old kitchen,
if I were you."

"Well, the fact is we _do_ sit a good deal in the kitchen," returned Mr
Chifney reddening. "It's warm, you see, although it's large, and my wife
likes to see how things are going on. She's engaged there just at
present, and--you're a great favourite of hers; but I would recommend
you to step in as you _go out_, instead of now. A queer thing is woman,
Master Walter, and no man can tell how queer till he comes to be
married! Young gals is all sweetness and easily cajoled; but wives--O
lor! Now, it's exactly different with horseflesh, for the brood-mares
one _can_ manage with a little care, and it's only the fillies that give
us trouble, and have such tempers of their own. There; that's a Derby
nag, _Blue Ruin_, in the cloths yonder, and I believe the Duke would not
sell him for three thousand pounds; but I have told His Grace, as I tell
you, that I wouldn't back the horse even for a place."

"A splendid stepper, too," exclaimed Walter admiringly, as the
beautiful creature paced slowly round the straw-yard, with arching
neck and distended nostrils, as though he were aware of the trainer's
depreciating remarks, and could afford to despise them.

"That's true," rejoined Mr Chifney drily; "but we don't want
steppers, but goers; there's a vast of steppers in this world, both
men and horses.--Now, in that box yonder, there is an animal who, in
my opinion, could give _Blue Ruin_ ten pounds; but you shall judge for
yourself presently. _The King's_ palace is this next one."

And truly, scarce could horse he better housed than was his equine
majesty. No light-house could be more exquisitely clean; no drawing-room
in Mayfair more neat, or better suited to the requirements of its
inhabitant, although of ornament, save the plaited straw that fringed
the royal couch, there was nothing. A dim religious light pervaded this
sanctuary, which was kept at a moderate temperature by artificial means,
while an admirable ventilation prevented the slightest "smell of the
stable" from being perceptible. The object of all this consideration
was a magnificent bay horse, by rule of Liliput, very fitly named _The
King_, since, if not a head taller than his fellows, he was fully "a
hand." His coat quite shone amid the gloom, and as the key turned in
the door, he pricked his long fine ears, and turned his full eyes upon
his two visitors inquiringly, with far more expression in his lean-jawed
face than is possessed by many a human creature.

"This gives the world assurance of a horse indeed," muttered Walter
to himself as he contemplated this wonder. "Shew me his faults, Mr
Chifney, for his excellences dazzle me."

"Well, sir," whispered the trainer, looking up towards a square hole
in the ceiling, "it is not for me to depreciate 'the crack;' and
there's a boy up yonder--for the horse is never left for a moment,
night or day--who is getting too sharp to live, at least in my stables.
But look at what he stands on."

Most men who ride think it a disgrace not to know all about a horse.
Every man who keeps a pony thinks himself qualified to "pick" out
the winner from any number of thoroughbreds before "the start;" and
when the race is over, protests that he _had_ picked him out in his
own mind, only something (not quite satisfactorily explained) made him
distrust his own judgment, and back a loser.

It was a great temptation to Captain Walter Lisgard, of the 104th Light
Dragoons, to shew himself horse-wise, but he put it from him manfully,
or rather, with strength of mind far beyond that of most men of his
class. "The pasterns seem to be long and strong enough," answered
he, "and the feet neither too large nor too small."

"Just what my lord says," observed the trainer in the same
low tones; "nor can I make him see that there is any degree of
contraction. But he is not _your_ horse, so tell me; look now--is it not
so?"

It was so, or at least it seemed to be so to the captain, as the trainer
returned the faulty member to its proprietor, with the air of a banker
declining a forged cheque.

"It is of small consequence to me," said Walter; "but I shall be
sorry if the winner does not come out of your stable. I took a thousand
to twenty in October, which I can now hedge to great advantage."

"If you take my advice, you will hold on," said Mr Chifney
confidentially. "Twenty pound is little to lose, and what I have shewn
you by no means destroys his chance; moreover, _The King_ will not be
deposed in the betting. I shall be surprised if, in the paddock, they
lay more than three to one."

"You were going to tell me something, Mr Chifney, only you thought
better of it," said Captain Lisgard, laying his finger upon the
other's coat-cuff as they emerged from the royal presence. "And yet
you trusted me when I was but a boy at school, and I never abused your
confidence."

"What a fellow you are to read a chap!" returned the trainer
admiringly. "Burst my buttons, but you are a cunning one, Master
Walter! It is true that I was thinking of letting you into a little
secret--though, after all, it mayn't be worth much. Let us come on
to the tan-gallop for five minutes, for nowhere else can we get out of
earshot of these boys." With that, passing through a paddock, itself
provided with a straw-ride, so that the race-horses need not set foot
upon the frost-bound turf as they issued forth to exercise, Mr
Chifney led the way to the upland, where a broad brown road of tan
was permanently laid on the level down. Here the trainer paused, and
speaking aloud for the first time, observed in a solemn tone: "How,
look you, true as fate, I would tell no other man but you. What I said
about _The King's_ feet was on the square: but that ain't all.
There's a horse here as nobody ever heard of, and yet who's a real
good un. He's the one that I said could give _Blue Ruin_ ten pounds.
You may get two hundred to one against him at this blessed moment, and
he'll be at twenty to one before April Fool Day. It's the best
thing we've had at Mirk yet, and---- Ah, the devil! here comes the man
I was expecting; remember, we were talking about _The King_."

"Morning, Mr Chifney," said the new-comer, nodding familiarly to
the trainer.--"And morning to _you_, sir, if you ain't too proud to
accept it."

He was a large-built middle-aged man, with a sunburnt countenance,
generally good-humoured enough, notwithstanding the presence of a
truculent red beard, but upon this occasion, somewhat sullen, and even
defiant. Walter recognised in him the stranger stopping at the _Lisgard
Arms_, at once, and was at no loss to account for his displeasure. He
had doubtless received some hint that his presence at the Abbey would
not be welcome.

"Good-morning, Mr Derrick," returned the captain cheerfully.
"There is no pride about me, since, unfortunately, I have nothing to
be proud of; but if there was, why should I not return a civil reply to
a civil speech?"

"Oh, because I ain't good enough to speak to," answered the other
scornfully. "Because I ain't a gentleman, forsooth, like your high
and mighty family. But the fact is, sir, although I have got decent
blood in my veins myself, I come from a country where we don't care
_that_"--and he snapped his fingers with a noise equal to the crack of
a whip--"for who is a man's father, unless the man himself is worth
his salt."

"That, then, must have been the reason why this good-for-nothing
ruffian left that country," thought the captain; but he answered with
humility: "Then, I fear, I should be giving up my best chance if I
went there."

"Well," answered the stranger, somewhat mollified, "you don't
speak like one of them beastly aristocrats--that I will say--as though
it were too much trouble to open their darned lips."

Mr Derrick himself did not speak like an aristocrat either; his voice,
though rich in song, had in speech a strong northern burr, which
rescued it from any such imputations. "Why, if a man in my country,"
continued he, "should venture to warn another off his land--unless,
of course, it was a mining claim--as Sir Richard Lisgard"----

"Mr Derrick," interrupted the captain firmly, "I am sure that it
is not the custom in any country in the world to abuse a man's
brother to his face. Having said that much, I will add that, if you have
received any rudeness from any one at the Abbey, I am sincerely sorry
for it. It did not emanate from _me_. Mr Chifney here will give me
a character so far."

"Master Walter is as civil-spoken and well-behaved a young gentleman as
any in the county," exclaimed the trainer warmly; "and I will go bail
has never given you or any man offence. He has just stepped in, like
you, to see 'the crack' on which he has a little money; and since I am
not one of those who say: 'It is no use now a days to attempt to take in
your enemies, and therefore your friends must suffer,' I have been
giving him some advice."

"About _Manylaws?_" inquired the stranger suspiciously, turning
sharp round upon the captain.

The look of blank astonishment upon that gallant officer's face would
have set at rest the doubts of a Pollaky.

"It is not my habit to disclose my customer's secrets," observed
the trainer tartly; "although I may say that, with Master Walter,
everything is as safe as wax."

"Is it so?" quoth Mr Derrick warmly; "then let him come with us and see
the Black.--Only mind, Mr Walter Lisgard, I will not have that brother
of yours bettered by a fourpenny-piece by anything you may see or hear
to-day."

"My brother never bets upon any race," answered the captain quietly;
"so that promise is easily given."

"Then come along with me and Mr Chifney," said the stranger, holding
out his hairy hand in token of amity. "You've read a deal about
that crack as I've just been looking at; but I dare say, now, you have
never so much as heard of this same _Manylaws_."

"Not unless you mean the French horse, about which there were a few
lines in _Bell_ some time ago--_Menelaus_."

"Ay, that's him. But it's called Manylaws" explained Mr Derrick;
"for you wouldn't think of calling the Oaks' mare _Antigown_, I
suppose, _Antigone_. Well, the Black ain't fancied much, I reckon; but
he _will_ be, Mr Chifney, eh? He _will_ be?"

"It is my opinion that he will be at very short odds indeed,"
returned the trainer; "and many more people will be desirous of paying
him a call than do him that honour just at present. This is his stable.
He does not look quite such a likely horse as _The King_, Master Walter,
does he? There's bone for you!"

"An ounce of blood is worth a pound of bone, says the proverb,"
remarked the captain.

"So far as that goes, although he _is_ a Frenchman," answered the
trainer, "he has Godolphin's blood in his veins. But only look at
his ragged hips!"

"Ragged enough, Mr Chifney. And do you mean to say that this animal
will be a public favourite?"

"We hope not," returned the trainer, winking facetiously at his
bearded friend; "but---- Shall we tell him what we do hope, Mr
Derrick?"

"I'll tell him myself," quoth the other impulsively, "for you say
the young gentleman is safe, and I have taken a sort of unaccountable
fancy to him. We hope, and more than that, believe, Captain Lisgard,
that that same ragged-hipped horse will Win the Derby!"

"Two hundred to one against Mr Blanquette's _Menelaus_," murmured Walter
pathetically, as though it were a line from some poem of the affections.

"That's the present quotation," answered Mr Derrick with a
chuckle, and rattling a quantity of loose silver and gold in his
breeches' pockets. "Perhaps you would like to lay it in ponies with
Mr Chifney and me."

"No, Mr Derrick; but I should like to thank you very much for letting
me into this secret, which, I assure you, shall never pass my lips;"
and he held out his hand to the stranger.

"Our way lies together as far as the inn," returned the other
warmly; "we'll liquor---- But there; I forgot I was no longer in
Cariboo. I dare say a gentleman like you _don't_ liquor so early in the
day."

"At all events, I will walk with you, my good sir," answered
the captain laughing; and so, forgetting to repeat his request to be
permitted to pay his respects to the trainer's wife, he took his
departure with his new acquaintance.

"And who _is_ this Monsieur Blanquette?" inquired Walter carelessly
as they walked down the village street.

"He was a mate of mine at the gold-diggings in British Columbia, and
the only Frenchman as ever I saw there. We did a pretty good stroke
of work together; and when we came home, he invested his money
in horseflesh, and that there _Manylaws_ was one of his cheapest
bargains."

"I think I saw it stated somewhere that Mr Blanquette is only
part-owner of the horse?" observed the captain inquiringly.

"That's so," rejoined the other. "It belongs to him and a
company."

"And you are the company, eh, Mr Derrick?"

"You have hit it," responded the bearded man with the air of a
proprietor. "This here child is the _Co._ in question."



CHAPTER VII. A BROKEN FRIENDSHIP.

|WEEKS and months have passed by thawed, and the cold winds of March
have done their worst, and the spring is clothing nature's nakedness
with garments of green. Yet all this time, my Lady, who is so fond of
outdoor exercise, even in rough weather, and such a constant visitor of
the poor, has never been seen beyond the Park gates. To be sure, she has
had more to keep her within than usual, for the captain not only at
Mirk Abbey; the snow has got his leave prolonged at the beginning of the
year, but came home for three weeks very shortly after, and is at Mirk
again at the present time. Miss Rose Aynton, too, a very nice young
lady, and most attentive to her hostess, seems to have become quite a
resident at the Abbey, for, with the exception of a week's absence
in London, she has remained there since Christmas, her departure having
indeed been vaguely fixed more than once, but only to be as indefinitely
postponed. It is now understood that she will certainly stay over the
festivities attendant upon Sir Richard's coming of age in June. The
baronet himself, who, his detractors say, always prefers the country,
where he is somebody, to town, where baronets are plentiful, has
scarcely been away at all. He writes to inquiring friends in London,
most of whom happen to have marriageable daughters, that he is immersed
in business connected with the estate, and cannot leave Mirk at present.
Mr Rinkel, the agent, however, has seen no cause to relax his ordinary
exertions, in consequence of this new-born application of the young
gentleman to his own affairs; and Walter wickedly asserts that his
brother is in reality occupied with no other business whatever, save
that of keeping the man Derrick from trespassing upon the Abbey lands.
He is very glad, he says, that Richard has at last found an object in
life, and hopes that, like the French sportsman's woodcock, it will
last him for a good long time.

It does not help to heal the breach between the brothers that Walter
and this same man have grown very intimate, a fact which Sir Richard
(assuming to himself a metaphor usually applied only to Providence)
stigmatises as "flying in his face."--His mother, however, declines
to take this view of it--declines even to express an opinion about it
one way or another, and avoids the subject as much as she can. Even with
the confidential maid, notwithstanding her decision about Mr Derrick's
ineligibility as a suitor, she forbears to reason with respect to this
matter, although it is understood that the forbidden swain is gaining
ground in the affections of Mistress Forest. There is but one person
to whom my Lady has opened her lips concerning the man she dimly saw
by lantern-light on Christmas Eve, and has never seen since. Her
confidant--if one can be called so to whom so little was confided--is Mr
Arthur Haldane, the only son of the doctor, and one who has been a great
favourite with Lady Lisgard from his youth up, not for his own sake
merely, although he is honest and kind, and very winning with those who
look beyond externals (for he is not goodlooking, or, at least, does
not appear so by contrast with her own handsome sons), but for another
reason: my Lady owed him a reparation of love for a wrong that she had
inadvertently done his father.

Dr Haldane and the late Sir Robert had been at school together, and
their boy-friendship had lasted, as it seldom does, through their
university course. Their mutual esteem had not afterwards suffered by
propinquity, when they came to pass their days within a few hundred
yards of one another; and when my Lady married, she found that the
dearest friend her husband had on earth was Dr Haldane. She was not
the woman to come between her husband's friends and himself; and the
doctor (who had had his doubts about the matter before he came to know
her) was wont to declare the Abbey was even more of a second home to
him than it used to he, now that his old friend had placed so charming
a mistress at the head of it. He was always welcome there, and being
himself a widower, was glad to take advantage of Sir Robert's
hospitality whenever he could; a knife and fork were laid for him at
table all the year round; and when he did not appear at the dinner-hour,
either husband or wife was sure to observe: "I am afraid we shall not
see the doctor with us to-day." It would have seemed as though nothing
short of death could have interrupted such cordiality as this.

But in those days there was such a thing as Politics. The baronet was
a Tory, and his friend a Whig of what was afterwards called "advanced
opinions." They bickered over their wine three nights out of every
seven, though they never failed to drink each other's healths before
they sought the company of the hostess. These political discussions
(unfortunately, as it turned out) were scrupulously confined to
the diningroom, so that my Lady had no idea of the strength of the
respective prejudices of the combatants, and of the severity of the
trial to which their friendship was so often subjected. Brought up
as she had been among persons in humble life, who were engaged in
bread-winning (a very monopolising occupation), and educated in France,
where the question of English reform was never mooted, she knew little
or nothing of the matters which formed the subjects of dispute, although
they were setting half England together by the ears. It seems strange
to read of now, but the idol which Toryism had set up to worship at that
epoch was a heartless and vulgar fop, whom it sycophantically dubbed the
First Gentleman in Europe; while the Whigs pinned their faith upon the
virtue of his wife, a woman as vulgar as himself, and whom her enemies
endeavoured to shew was almost as vicious. Over this good-for-nothing
pair, Lords, Commons, and People were quarrelling together, like a mob
at a dog-fight, and the public press was solely occupied with hounding
them on. To dip into a newspaper of that date is to make an excursion
to Billingsgate, for both parties, equally unable to whitewash their
candidate, confined themselves to vilifying their opponent.

When the report upon the bill of Pains and Penalties against Queen
Caroline was finally approved by a majority of nine only, and those
nine representing the votes of the ministers themselves, the popular
excitement culminated. The Whigs decreed that there should be
illuminations throughout the kingdom, and (what seems hard) that their
adversaries should express the same satisfaction in a similar manner.
For three consecutive nights, the Londoners made plain the innocence of
their queen, so far as pyrotechnics and oil-lamps could do it; and for
one night, the country was expected to do the like. Vast mobs paraded
the streets of the provincial towns, to see that this was done, and even
made excursions to the country-houses of the Disaffected. Among others,
Mirk Abbey was threatened with a visitation of this sort; and I must
confess that the doctor rather chuckled over the notion, that the
stubborn Sir Robert, who had called his sovereign lady so many
opprobrious epithets, would have to dedicate his candles to her, as
though she were his patron saint. The baronet, on his part, protested
that every window in his house should be broken rather than exhibit
so much as a farthing-dip; but he said nothing to his wife about the
matter, lest it should make her nervous.

They happened to be engaged to pass that November week at a friend's
house in the country, and left home accordingly.

The gentleman with whom they stayed himself suffered some inconvenience
from the rioters on the night in question; and when Sir Robert came
back, he was even less inclined to be a convert to his Whig friend's
opinions than before.

"But you _did_ illuminate," said the doctor with a chuckle, as they
sat together after dinner, as usual, upon the day of his return.

"I did nothing of the kind, sir," returned the baronet angrily.

"Well, your servants did it for you, then, and I presume by your
orders. Mr Brougham himself could not have exhibited his patriotism
more significantly. The Abbey was a blaze of light from basement to
garret."

"That is a lie!" cried Sir Robert, making the glasses jump with the
force with which he brought his fist down upon the table.

"A what?" exclaimed the doctor, rising from the table livid with
rage. "Do you, then, call me a liar?"

"Yes," thundered the baronet; "like all your radical crew."

The two men that had so long been nearer and dearer to each other than
brothers never again interchanged one word.

Dr Haldane left the Abbey, solemnly protesting that he would never cross
its threshold again during the lifetime of its owner; and he kept his
determination even in the hour when his old friend lay a-dying.

Now, poor Lady Lisgard was the person to blame for all this. Before Sir
Robert and she had set out on their visit, the housekeeper had told
her that everybody was going to illuminate their houses on the 12th, on
account of what had happened in London with respect to Queen Caroline;
and she was afraid that if some sign of rejoicing was not shewn at the
Abbey, the mob would do some damage. A candle in each of the windows
would save a hundred pounds of mischief belike. "Well, then, put a
candle," said my Lady, not dreaming that by that simple order she was
wounding her husband in his most vital point, his pride, and making
a sacrifice of principles that he held only second to those of the
Christian Religion. She did not even think it necessary to tell him that
she had left this command behind her; but when she heard him praise the
determination of the friend with whom they stayed, not to submit to
the dictation of the rabble, she had not the heart to tell him of the
mistake she had committed, and which it was by that time too late to
remedy. That mistake, and, still more, her unfortunate reticence, had
caused the quarrel, destined never to be healed, betwixt her husband and
his friend. They both forgave her, but she could not forgive herself. It
seemed to her that she could never do enough to shew how sorry she was
for her grievous fault. We have said how she made up so far as was in
her power, in love and duty to Sir Robert, for the loss of his friend;
but to that friend himself, self-exiled from her roof, and out of the
reach, as it were, of reparation, how was she to atone for the wrong
she had inadvertently done him? When the quarrel first took place, the
doctor's wrath was quite unquenchable; he would listen to nothing
except an apology--a debt which Sir Robert (although he certainly
owed it) most resolutely refused to pay. The doctor, who had hitherto
confined his Whiggism to after-dinner eloquence, and coarse but biting
epigrams, which had earned him the reputation of a philosopher with
those of his own party, thereupon became an active political partisan,
and not only voted at election-time, but canvassed with might and main
against the Lisgard interest; nay, he even composed, as we have ventured
to hint, satirical ballads against the paternal rule of that respectable
family.

But although neither sex nor age was spared in those savage days, not
one word did the vengeful doctor breathe about my Lady; nay, it was
on record that when some too uncompromising apostle of Liberty had
reflected upon her humble extraction in the presence of that friend
estranged, he had risen to his full height of five feet eight, and
levelled the slanderer to the earth. Perhaps my Lady did not esteem him
the less upon that account; but certain it was that the first visit she
paid after Sir Robert's death was to the doctor's house, taking
with her, it was said, from her husband's dying lips, a message of
affectionate reconciliation. The baronet had never brought himself to
alter the words in his will by which he had appointed his tried and
loving friend, Bartholomew Haldane, trustee for his children; and of
course the doctor accepted his trust. He never could be induced to
visit the Abbey, although his oath no longer forbade it; but the Lisgard
children were his constant guests, and his only son, Arthur Haldane, was
as another brother to them, and almost as another son to my Lady. His
nature was grave and serious, like Sir Richard's, but very tender
withal, and she felt that she could confide in him what she could not
have confided to the rigid young baronet, although he was her own flesh
and blood; nevertheless, or perhaps for that very reason, when she took
Arthur's arm that April morning, upon pretence of shewing him
some alterations that were proposed to be made at a place in the
Abbey-grounds called the "Watersmeet," she thought it necessary to
preface what she was going to say to him with an explanation.

"My dear Arthur," said she, when they had got out of view of the
house, "you will think it cruel that I have brought you away from the
society of that charming young lady, Miss Aynton, to chat with an old
woman like me, who have boys of my own to take counsel with; but the
fact is, I have inveigled you hither to get an opinion from you which I
could scarcely ask of your learned brother."

This was conferring a brevet rank upon Sir Richard, who had not yet been
called to the Bar, although he was reading for it; while Arthur had been
in practice for some years.

"My dear Lady Lisgard," returned the other smiling, "I must, for
my professional credit's sake, enter my protest against what you say
about Miss Aynton, as irrelevant, and travelling out of the record,
but besides that, it is a delusion which I should be sorry to see you
entertain. Miss Aynton is nothing whatever to me; although, indeed, if
she were, I would rather chat with you than with any young lady (save
one) in Christendom."

The young barrister's tone was so unnecessarily earnest and
impressive, that one so acute as Lady Lisgard could scarcely have failed
to see that he courted inquiry concerning such excess of zeal. She
either saw it not, however, or refused to see it; and he was far too
delicate by nature to press it upon her attention. "And now, _ma
mère_," continued he, taking her hand in his affectionately, "in
what way can I be of use to you?"

"By your good sense, and by your good feeling, Arthur. I need the
aid of your talents and your virtues, too, dear boy; I want your best
advice, and then your promise that you will never disclose that I have
asked it."

"You shall have both those, ma mère. As the pashas say to the sultan
when there is nothing to fear: 'I bring you my head;' as for my
heart--that has been devoted to you these many years."



CHAPTER VIII. AT THE WATERSMEET.

|LADY LISGARD and her young friend had by this time arrived at the
Waters-meet, a lovely spot, where the river branched into two streams,
the one still pursuing its course through the Lisgard property, and
the other escaping under a sort of swing palisade--which prevented the
passage of boats--into public life. The way had lain for some time along
a broad beech-walk, paved with an exquisite checker-work of light and
shade; but they now came upon an open spot on which a rustic bench
was placed for those who would admire at leisure what was called the
home-view. The prospect from this seat was remarkable, since it took
in all that was best worth seeing at Mirk, without laying under
contribution anything, with the exception of the church, that was not
the property of the family. Two sides of the Abbey, an irregular but
very picturesque structure, could from here be seen, at a distance not
so great as to lose the bolder features of the architecture, or to mass
the ivy which Time had hung about the southern front; the sloping
lawn, with its marble fountain, and alcove of trellis-work, which the
spring-time had but sparely clothed with leaf; the boat-house, with its
carved and gilded roof--all these, backed by a living wall of stately
woods, made up a charming picture. The Park lay across the stream,
which, although both broad and deep, was only used by pleasure-boats;
and above the one-arched bridge which linked it with the hither bank
beyond the lawn, stood up the gray church tower. Gazing upon this view,
not as one who had seen it a thousand times before, and might behold it
as often again, but with eyes that had a strange yearning and regret in
them, Lady Lisgard thus addressed her companion.

"I want to speak to you about my Walter, Arthur. A mother, alas!
cannot know her son as his friend knows him; and you, I believe, are
Walter's truest friend"----

"One moment, Lady Lisgard," interrupted the young man gravely;
"everybody is Walter's friend, but some are his flatterers. I must
tell you at once that he is displeased with me at present because I am
not one of those."

"Yes; you have warned him of some danger, and he is piqued because he
thinks that is treating him as a child."

"Since you know that, _ma mère_, you know all that is necessary to
be said. Go on."

"What is the bond, Arthur, that links my Walter to this person Derrick?
I pray you, do not hesitate to tell me. There is more depends upon your
answer than you can possibly guess."

"Really, Lady Lisgard," returned the young man hesitatingly, "you
ask a difficult thing, and, in truth, a delicate. There are some things,
as you say, which a son does not tell his mother, and far less wishes to
have told to her by another. Women and men take such different views of
the same matter. If men are vicious--which I do not deny--in their love
of horse-racing, for instance, women reprobate it in an exaggerated
way."

"Horse-racing!" murmured Lady Lisgard, clasping her hands. "Does
my Walter bet? Is he a gambler?"

"I did not say that," answered the young man with irritation. "If
you insist upon making me a tale-bearer, Lady Lisgard, do not at least
heighten the colour of my scandals."

"I beg your pardon, Arthur; I was wrong. Perhaps this eagerness
to suspect the worst is the cause of that distrust which the young
entertain of the old. And yet _he_ might have told me all, and been sure
of forgiveness."

"Doubtless, _ma mère_; but then we don't tell our mothers all. How,
pray, be reasonable, and assure yourself that Walter is no worse than
other young men, because he makes up a book upon the Derby."

"_You_ do not do so, Arthur. Why should Walter?"

"_I_ do not, _ma mère_, because my taste does not lie in that
direction. My vices--and I have plenty--are of another sort. I unsettle
my mind with heterodox publications. I entertain opinions which are
subversive of the principles of good government as believed in by your
Ladyship's family. You know in what sort of faith I have been brought
up. Moreover, I live in town among a slow, hard-working set, who have
neither time nor inclination for going to race-courses; and, indeed, I
am now getting a little practice at the bar myself. If I were a handsome
young swell in a regiment of Light Dragoons, then, instead of publishing
that amusing work upon the _Law of Entail_, which, with a totally
inexcusable pang, I saw lying upon your library-table to-day _uncut_,
I should without doubt be making a betting-book. Having no call towards
that sort of employment, however, I am very severe upon it. I term it
waste of time, loss of money, &c.; and in the case of your son, I have
even been so foolish as to remonstrate with him on that very account--an
interference which, I fear, has cost me his friendship."

"Has he lost money through this man Derrick, think you?"

"Not yet, or they would not be upon such good terms. A turf friendship
ceases at the first bad bet. The fact is, it was about his imtimacy
with this drunken fellow that I ventured to speak; it increases the
misunderstanding already unhappily existing between your sons; for you
know what a dislike Sir Richard has shewn for this person, while for
Walter himself I believe him to be a most dangerous acquaintance."

"Dangerous?" inquired my Lady hurriedly--"how mean you
dangerous?"

"He is bad company for any young man, and he has acquaintances who are
worse. Walter is 'hail-fellow-well-met' with everybody, and may find
himself one day so deeply involved with these folks, that extrication
may not be easy. He has plenty of wits, and well knows how to take care
of himself in a general way; but all his great advantages are useless to
him among this particular class. His genial wit, his graceful ways, his
tenderness of heart--nay, even his high spirits, all go for nothing with
such vulgar good-for-naughts, whom, in my opinion, he will be lucky not
to find downright cheats and scoundrels."

"Is this man Derrick, then," inquired my Lady, gazing fixedly upon
the dark swirling stream, "irredeemably base and vicious?"

"No, not so," answered the young man frankly; "he has the lees of
good still left in him, without which, indeed, he would be less harmful.
Walter was taken from the first with his openness and candour--which are
so great that he seems quite lost to the sense of shame--and with his
lavish generosity, which is probably the result of rapid fortunemaking.
He made five thousand pounds or so, it seems, in a few weeks at
gold-digging, and I should think he was in a fair way to spend it in
almost as short a period."

"Perhaps he may have been spoilt by that mode of life," observed
Lady Lisgard pitifully.

"I speak as I find, ma mère," said the young man, shrugging his
shoulders. "It is nothing to us if this man may have been a good boy at
one time. You may charitably suppose, if you like, that he has been
crossed in love, or unfortunately married------ Ah! that reminds you, I
see, of his _tendresse_ for Mistress Forest. Since it moves you so
deeply, you must look that matter in the face, Lady Lisgard, and very
soon, if you wish to keep Mary. If something about this fellow pleases
Walter, you need not wonder that it has fascinated your waiting-maid."

"Is it this fancy of his, then, think you, which alone keeps him here
at Mirk?" asked my Lady, who had started for a moment as though stung,
but was now once more looking thoughtfully at the river.

"No. Being totally without anchorage in the world, the cable-strand
of a partnership in a race-horse at present at Chifney's stables here
holds him to the place where he can be near his property. His pecuniary
affairs are, as I understand, bound up in that fourfooted creature, and
beyond them he has nothing to look to. You who have all things settled
about you, Lady Lisgard, with home, children, and friends, and from whom
so many interests radiate, are doubtless unable to picture to yourself
such a state of things. But if this man should marry Mistress Forest,
and still keep his share in _Menelaus_, I should not be surprised if he
were to take up his residence at Mirk altogether."

"God in his mercy forbid!" ejaculated my Lady, clasping her hands.

"My dear Lady Lisgard!" cried the young man, in alarm at her
emotion, "I am afraid I must have said something very foolish, to have
frightened you about this fellow thus. After all, there is no harm done,
and I may have been very wrong--as my mind misgives me, I have been very
officious--in anticipating any harm."

"No, no," cried my Lady, rocking herself to and fro; "your good
sense has only told you Truth. Do not--do not forsake me, Arthur. I look
to you not only for warning, but for succour. Are you sure that you have
told me all? Is there no other reason besides those you have mentioned
why this man, having lain in wait, and entrapped my Walter, should sit
down before this house, and, as it were, besiege it thus?"

"Well, Lady Lisgard," returned the young man gravely, "there is, I
fear, another reason; but it is one I am very loath to speak of-----
Are you cold, _ma mère?_ I fear it is too early for this sitting by the
river."

"No, Arthur, I am not cold. Why should you hesitate to tell me
anything about this--this stranger?"

"Because, Lady Lisgard, I respect you as though you were indeed my
mother--as you have shewn towards me always a mother's love; and this
matter in some sort concerns yourself."

"_Myself?_" whispered my Lady hoarsely. "No, not myself, good
Arthur. What can there be in common between this man--whom I have never
seen--and me?"

"Ay, there it is," replied the young man quietly. "It would have
been far better had you not shut yourself up, as you have done these
three months, expressly to avoid this fellow--by that means making him
think himself of consequence."

"Who says I have done that?" asked my Lady vehemently, "Who dares
to say it? Why should I fear him? Why should I think about him well or
ill? What is he to me, or I to him?"

"Ay, what indeed, _ma mère!_ All this arises from giving ourselves
such airs, and carrying matters with so high a hand: you have nothing
but Sir Richard's pride to thank for it, to which I must say, in this
instance, you have injudiciously, and, most unlike yourself, succumbed.
It was a harsh measure, surely, to forbid this man your house, when
coming, as you knew he would, upon a lawful errand of courtship; but to
serve the landlord of an inn with notice of ejectment if a certain guest
should not remove himself--which your eldest son has caused to be done
with Steve--is a most monstrous exercise of authority. No wonder this
Derrick was greatly irritated; any man so treated would be: but, in the
present case, Sir Richard has made the unhappiest mistake. He is dealing
with one who is to the full as obstinate as himself; and (what makes
the odds overwhelmingly against him) a man entirely reckless and
unprincipled. Your son does not understand how any one can be proud who
is not a gentleman. Now, this fellow is possessed of a very devil of
pride. He is come from an outlying colony, where there is conventional
respect for nothing; and where every man does pretty much what is right
in his own eyes. He has been lucky there; raised by a freak of fortune,
and not by plodding industry (although he has doubtless worked hard
too), to comparative wealth, he is by no means inclined to consider
people his superiors. A beggar on horseback if you will, he is still
_mounted_, and may ride in Rotten Row itself if it pleases him. He
resents, of course, being thus meddled with; he is one of that class
who would deem it a great liberty in the law should it punish his
actual transgressions--who would think it hard to be smitten for his
faults--but to be interfered with in a harmless avocation, such as
lovemaking, or to be dictated to as to where he is to reside, stirs his
bile, I can imagine, pretty considerably. It is my belief that he
would have got tired of Mirk and Mary too before this, and wandered off
somewhere else, scattering his bank-notes on the way, poor devil, like
the hare in a school-boy's paper chase, but for this unjustifiable
attempt on the part of Sir Richard to curtail his liberties. I am sure,
also, that Walter was at first inclined to patronise this man, for the
very reason that his brother had exhibited towards him such uncalled-for
animosity."

"This may be all very true," said my Lady sighing, but at the same
time not without a certain air of relief; "but I cannot understand how
it affects _me_, Arthur."

"Well, you see, my dear Lady Lisgard, although Sir Richard issues
these foolish edicts, it is you who are responsible for them; and I have
no doubt this Derrick has been told as much. At least, I hear, that
over his cups he has declared he will never leave Mirk till he has had
a sight of this Queen of all the Roosias (as he terms you), who holds
herself so---- Pardon me, _ma mère;_ I was wrong to repeat this
fellow's impertinence. Heaven help us! Why, my Lady has fainted!"

Arthur Haldane spoke the truth. For the moment, Lady Lisgard's mind
was freed from all its anxieties, of whatever nature they might be.
The young man sprang down the bank, and dipping his handkerchief in
the stream, applied its wet folds to her forehead. Gradual and slow
the lifeblood flowed again, and with it thought, although confused and
tangled.

"Save me, save my Walter!" murmured she. "Tell him I will die
first. He shall never look upon my face."

"He never shall, _ma mère_ said the young man soothingly, while he
chafed my Lady's stiffened fingers.

"Keep him away!" cried she, endeavouring to rise; "he is tearing
off my wedding-ring. Help! help!"

"No, no, it is not he; it is I, Arthur Haldane--a well-meaning fool,
but who has worked a deal of mischief. I have told you all I know, and
I wish my tongue had been cut out first. It makes my heart bleed to see
you thus distressed."

"Then give me comfort, Arthur," groaned my Lady; "you have warned
me well, but what is the use of warning without advice. How shall I make
him cease to persecute us? Gold will not buy him. I have heard of such
a man, who, being bribed, cried but the more 'Give, give;' as
the whirlpool swallows ship after ship, and yet gapes for more---for
navies."

"Bribe him? No, Heaven forbid! That, indeed, would be the very way to
keep him what he is--to make that chronic which is now, let us hope, but
a passing ailment. But I would take care, if I were you, that nothing
further he done to irritate him. He may-revenge himself--I only say he
_may_--by doing Walter some ill turn. And, above all, you must persuade
Mistress Forest to give him his _congé_. If once you get her to say
'No,' of her own freewill, he will soon tire of haunting the Abbey;
while, if his race-horse does not do the great things expected of
him--and what race-horse ever did?--he will soon tire of Mirk itself."

My Lady shook her head.

"Come, ma mère, there is no need for despondency about this
fellow's going--nor, indeed, for much apprehension if he stays--and,
moreover, I really think the matter lies in your own hands; at all
events, you have more influence over your waiting-maid than any one
else, and my advice is that you speak to her at once."

"Yes, I will speak to her," said Lady Lisgard mechanically. "Thank
you, good Arthur, much." She rose from her seat, and, heaving a deep
sigh as she turned from the fair home-scene, was about to saunter to the
beech-walk, when the young man laid his hand upon her arm. It was the
lightest touch, but, like that of an enchanter's wand, it seemed
to remove all trace of selfish trouble, and in its place to evoke the
tenderest sympathy for another.

"You wish to speak to me upon your own account, dear boy; and, alas! I
know the subject you would choose."

"_Alas, ma mère!_ why _alas?_ I want to talk to you about your
Letty."

"Not now, not now," cried Lady Lisgard. "Spare me, dear Arthur,
for this time; I feel so unhinged and woe-stricken, I can give you
neither 'Yea nor 'Nay.'"

"I hoped that you would not have thought of 'Nay,' dear Lady
Lisgard," said the young man pathetically. "I did not look for the
same cruel arguments of difference of station and the like from _you_ as
from--others. I shall have a home to offer your daughter such as will
be wanting in no comfort, although it may not be one so fair as yonder
Abbey. My professional prospects are, I am glad to say"----

"It is not _that_, dear boy," broke in Lady Lisgard hastily. "You
should know me better than to suppose so, Arthur; yet I cannot, nay,
I dare not tell you what it is. It may be you will hear the truth
some day, though never from these lips; it may be--I pray Heaven for
that--that you will never need to hear it. But for the present, press
me for no reply; for when you ask to be my daughter's husband, Arthur
Haldane, you know not what you ask."

"That is what Sir Richard says," replied the young man bitterly.
"The Lisgards are such an ancient race, their blood so pure, their
scutcheon"------

"Spare me, spare me, Arthur!" cried my Lady earnestly. "Give me
only time, and I will do my best. If I have said anything to wound you,
ah! forgive it for the sake of those old times, which you may think of
some day, boy, not without tears, when I shall be to you but a memory.
Think then--whatever's said--'Well, she was always kind to me; and
when I wooed her daughter (you will own) she was kind too, although I
did not think so then.'" My Lady's face was hidden in her hands,
but through the fair white fingers, as though the diamonds in her rings
had started from their sockets, oozed the large tears.

"Dear Lady Lisgard, good, kind friend, ma mère," exclaimed the
young man, deeply moved, "what sorrow is it which overwhelms you thus?
I pray you, let me share it. I am young and strong, and I love you and
yours, and there is help in me. Come, let me try."

"No, Arthur, no," answered my Lady gravely, as she once more arose,
and re-entered the beech-walk. "I must bear my own burden--that
is only right and fitting. Heaven knows I am willing to suffer to
the uttermost, if I be only permitted to suffer alone. It is when the
innocent suffer for us that the burden galls the most. No; you can do
nothing for me but keep silence about all that we have spoken of to-day.
Not to do so, would be to do me a grievous hurt. You have passed your
word, Arthur Haldane--remember that."

"Yes, ma mère," replied the young man sighing. "The Haldanes
always keep their promises, you know."



CHAPTER IX. IN THE LIBRARY.

|OF all the pleasant rooms--and they were many--that were to be found at
Mirk Abbey, the Library was by far the most charming. An architect might
have said that the rest of the house had been somewhat sacrificed to
it; a bookworm might have wished it gloomier and more retired; but for
a lover of literature who was also a judge of beauty, it was well-nigh
perfect. It was upon the first floor, and occupied the space of at least
three reception-rooms.

Long as it was, its excessive breadth might have been objected to, but
that the effect of this was diminished to exactly the right proportions
by huge double bookcases, which jutted out at right angles from the
walls; thus the place was broken up, as it were, into a number of little
studies, closed in upon three sides, but open, of course, towards what
in a church would be called the aisle. This aisle, still a broad space,
was set alternately with flower-vases and statues of white marble,
though none of these were so tall as to hide from one standing at the
door the view of the huge painted window at the southern end. In
summer-time, this window was swung back, and all the garden scents and
drowsy sounds--the level sweep of the scythe upon the lawn, and the
murmur of the bees in the limes--were suffered to enter in. In winter,
being closed, what light there was came glowing through the pictured
panes, or through small windows far above the level of the eye, so that,
in that well-warmed room, you could not tell that it _was_ winter.

And yet this stately apartment was seldom used in either season. Letty
would sometimes take a Godly book from that part of the place marked in
dull gold _Devotional_, but always carried it away to read in her own
chamber; and Sir Richard now and then would refresh himself in the
topographical department by taking down the _History of Wheatshire_,
where all the Family Seats were duly pictured, and the linked sweetness
of' the genealogy of the owners long drawn out; but the Lisgards were
not a reading race. Moreover, when they did read, it was chiefly out of
modern books temporarily supplied by Mr Mudie, or works most glorious to
behold as to their bindings, and without which no lady's drawing-room
can be said to be complete, but which happily are rarely seen in
libraries. My Lady herself had a goodly store of books in her own
boudoir, including most of the French and English classics, all
presented to her at divers times by her late husband, and all read, if
not for her own pleasure, then for his; she therefore visited the
Library more rarely than any one except Walter, who would as soon have
thought of visiting the laundry. The last time she had gone thither was
just after Miss Aynton's first arrival, when she had taken that young
lady to see some curious missals there deposited, containing certain
initial letters which Rose was desit was, its excessive breadth might
have been objected to, but
that the effect of this was diminished to exactly the right proportions
by huge double bookcases, which jutted out at right angles from the
walls; thus the place was broken up, as it were, into a number of little
studies, closed in upon three sides, but open, of course, towards what
in a church would be called the aisle. This aisle, still a broad space,
was set alternately with flower-vases and statues of white marble,
though none of these were so tall as to hide from one standing at
the door the view of the huge painted window at the southern end. In
summer-time, this window was swung back, and all the garden scents and
drowsy sounds--the level sweep of the scythe upon the lawn, and the
murmur of the bees in the limes--were suffered to enter in. In winter,
being closed, what light there was came glowing through the pictured
panes, or through small windows far above the level of the eye, so that,
in that well-warmed room, you could not tell that it _was_ winter.

And yet this stately apartment was seldom used in either season. Letty
would sometimes take a Godly book from that part of the place marked in
dull gold _Devotional_, but always carried it away to read in her own
chamber; and Sir Richard now and then would refresh himself in the
topographical department by taking down the _History of Wheatshire_,
where all the Family Seats were duly pictured, and the linked sweetness
of' the genealogy of the owners long drawn out; but the Lisgards were
not a reading race. Moreover, when they did read, it was chiefly out of
modern books temporarily supplied by Mr Mudie, or works most glorious to
behold as to their bindings, and without which no lady's drawing-room
can be said to be complete, but which happily are rarely seen in
libraries. My Lady herself had a goodly store of books in her own boudoir, including
most of the French and English classics, all presented to her at divers
times by her late husband, and all read, if not for her own pleasure,
then for his; she therefore visited the Library more rarely than any one
except Walter, who would as soon have thought of visiting the laundry.
The last time she had gone thither was just after Miss Aynton's first
arrival, when she had taken that young lady to see some curious missals
there deposited, containing certain initial letters which Rose was
desirous of copying.

She enters it now alone upon her return from that interview with Arthur
Haldane at the Watersmeet--on a very different errand. She is no longer
the kind of somewhat stately hostess, doing her young guest a pleasure,
and at the same time perhaps taking a pardonable pride in shewing her
the gem of the Abbey--its Library--for the first time. All pride, all
stateliness, seem to have departed from that anxious face; her figure,
however, is erect as of old, and her step as firm, as she closes the
door of the vast room behind her, and walks towards its southern end.
She looks neither to left nor right, for she is in search of none of
those volumes which line the Library on either side. The place for which
she is bound is in a far corner next the window, but very indirectly
lighted by it; a small "study," where, if such a thing as dust were
permitted to accumulate at the Abbey at all, it would certainly lie;
and where it did lie; a spot unvisited for years, ever since it had
been determined that Sir Richard's profession should be the Law, when
certain books were taken from it, and carried up to town to stock his
chambers; for over this little literary den was written Legal. Truly, as
the phrase goes, "it was not a place for a lady," that dusky little
chamber, lined with its bulky, calf-bound volumes, mostly in series,
and often as not connected with one another by that emblem of their
contents, a spider's web. What could my Lady have come hither to
cull from such unpromising books? Is it possible that, unmindful of the
proverb, that he who is his own lawyer has got a fool for his client,
she can be in search of legal advice gratis? It is plain that she is
in doubt, alas, even where to find the information of which she is in
search. Her soft white hand wanders from tome to tome, and drags down
one after another from its dusty shelf, until she has peopled the
sunbeams anew with motes; but her large gray eyes find nothing to arrest
them as they wander over the arid pages, although they grow weary with
their task.

At last, however, they seem to have been more fortunate. For the first
time, my Lady takes her seat beside the slanting desk, and with her head
supported by her hands, like one who is in need of all her wits, she
reads on patiently enough. She cons the matter over twice or thrice,
then sighs, and putting a thin slip of paper in the book to mark the
place, returns it to its shelf, and pursues her search as before. Out of
several score of volumes, four only seem to have served her purpose, and
even from them it is evident that she has gleaned no comfort, but rather
confirmation of some fear. Her face is more hopeless than it was a while
ago; her sigh--and she sighs deep and often--has despair in it, as
well as sorrow. From her wearied eyes, as she gazes upon the opened
casement--through which comes a dreamy music in the flutter of the young
leaves on a neighbouring elm, and the silver leap of the fountain on the
lawn--tear follows tear, although she knows it not, and glides down the
new-made furrows in her cheeks.

The luncheon gong was beaten an hour ago, and then was taken out into
the garden for her especial behoof, and beaten again; but my Lady heard
it not. She has neither eyes nor ears for the present at all. She is
thinking of some Future more dark and terrible than death itself, a day
of dishonour and disgrace, that is creeping slowly but surely upon her
and hers. The young leaves babble of it already, and the fountain with
its talking water, and every whispering breath of April wind; and now
she listens to them; and now she tries in vain to think and think;
and now she listens to them perforce again. They are comforters these
mysterious voices, and do but pretend to prattle of her woes, in order
that they may woo her to oblivion; for presently the tired arms can no
more bear the burden of that piteous face, but sink down on the desk,
and on those soft and rounded cushions droops the careworn head; and the
eyelids that have scarce shut throughout the livelong night, nor through
many a night before, are closed in slumber. The bee-music, the falling
water, and the lullaby of the April leaves, through Nature's kindly
hands, have given my Lady a nepenthe draught; and, thanks to it, she has
forgotten her woes; nay, more, it has substituted for them joys borrowed
from the unreturning Past, which, while we tarry in Dreamland, are as
real as any.

My Lady is once more a fisherman's daughter, upon the banks of Blea.
The river that flows beside her father's door is almost as salt as
the sea itself, and twice a day the sea itself comes up and fills the
creeks, and sets afloat the boats and colliers that lie sideways on the
oozy beach. When it retires, she longs to be taken with it, for ere
that tide can reach the open sea, it must needs pass by the port of
Bleamouth, where her lover Ralph dwells. Young as she is, she has been
wooed by others, and they better matches than this roving sailor, who,
although he has saved a little money, does not know, says her father,
how to keep it; and when that is gone, how will he keep himself save by
going to sea again; much more, then, how will he keep wife Lucy and a
household? But these wise sayings are naught in Lucy's ears, in which
love whispers always its smooth prophecies, and Ralph's rich laugh
dispels the old man's forebodings, or plays upon them as though they
were the very strings of mirth.

As handsome and stout-hearted a lad he is as ever was fitted to make his
own way through the world; able enough to thrust to left and right all
jostling compeers, and by no means one to lack or to let those dear
to him lack, while bread is to be got by sweat of brow. A smile comes
o'er my Lady's face, and makes it young again, the while she dreams;
for now she sees his signals in the coming boat, and now himself, and
now he leaps ashore, and clasps her with his stalwart arm, and now her
fingers play with the dark locks that curl above his tanned and manly
brow. 'Tis more than half a lifetime back--but she knows not that--and
the colour comes again to the wan cheek as though it were a maiden's,
and once more love awakens in her widowed heart. He speaks; but ere his
tongue can shape the words, a sense of doubt begins to perplex and pain
her. She is a girl, and yet a woman in the vale of years; a fisher's
daughter though a lady bred, with all the circumstances of rank and
wealth about her; the voice is her lover's voice, and yet sounds
strangely like another's; she is on the borderland 'twixt waking
and sleeping, where, as in a dissolving view, the coming and the passing
pictures interlace and exchange features, and the Dream and the Reality
struggle together for life. Some one is speaking, however, that
is certain, and the voice, as no woman can doubt, is tremulous and
love-laden.

"And yet, Rose--for I may call you Rose, may I not?--beautiful as
these pictures are, I do not think they are more exquisite than those
which you have painted yourself."

"You flatter me, Sir Richard," returned a second voice, with which
my Lady was no better acquainted than with the first; for although she
could not but be aware of who the speakers were, since they addressed
one another by their names, she did not recognise her own son's
speech, so changed it was from its ordinary polite but icy tones; while
Rose Aynton's, upon the other hand, generally so quiet and submissive,
were tinged with a mocking bitterness. If Sir Richard Lisgard was really
about to lay his fortune at the feet of this penniless girl, it seemed
strange indeed that she should reply to him in so unnatural a key.
That the delirious joy that might well be at her heart should not be
altogether repressible, was to be expected, and that her tongue should
falter in endeavouring to conceal her triumph; but there was that in
the young girl's accents different from anything that could be thus
explained. Instead of trembling and hesitation in her speech, there was
sheer scorn. Perhaps my Lady should have come forth at once from where
she sat an involuntary eavesdropper; but it must be allowed that the
temptation to remain was very great. Moreover, there were reasons why
she could not explain her own presence in that particular portion of the
Library; and again, should she disclose herself, the young people would
feel no less uncomfortable than though they should even discover at last
that their interview had not been so solitary as they imagined, for how
did she know what had occurred while she was sleeping, and how should
she persuade Miss Rose, even if her word was sufficient for Richard,
that she _had_ been sleeping during that critical period? True, if it
was certain that the offer about to be made would be accepted, as
indeed there was every likelihood that it would be, it was highly
expedient--for various reasons known to my Lady--that she should step
forward, and prevent matters from going further; but so strange did the
girl's voice strike upon her experienced ear, that Lady Lisgard waited
in hopes of she scarce knew what--some almost miracle that might make
her personal interposition unnecessary. At the same time her curiosity
became so excessive during the protracted pause that followed Rose's
"You flatter me," that she ventured to peer round the corner of the
recess wherein she sat, which was now far more in shade than when she
had entered it at noon.

They were standing not very far from her--those two unconscious young
people--in front of a huge portfolio, which leant against a statue of
Cupid and Psyche. The old, old tale of love which the sculpture typified
was evidently being anew repeated by one at least of the living pair.
Sir Richard, who had been turning over the pictures, kept his hand
mechanically on one of them, but his eyes were fixed with a winning
softness; which even his mother had never seen in them before, upon his
fair companion. Through one of the small western windows, the last gleam
of the dying sun had found its way, and rested upon his crisp brown
curls; his manly face glowed in a golden haze, while in his eyes there
beamed a light that no sun can give, and mellower than the rays of moon
or star.

"I do not flatter you, sweet Rose," he said; "I love you."
She too had one hand upon the picture, and but for it, it seemed for
a moment as though she would have fallen, so deadly pale she grew the
while he spoke. Her eyelids quivered, and then slowly sank like two
white rose-leaves on her cheek; while her unoccupied hand fell from her
pale lips, and hung down by her side quite motionless.

"She cannot give him nay," thought Lady Lisgard; "the girl is
overcome with her great joy."

"Why do you not speak, dear Rose?" continued Sir Richard; "or may
I take your silence for consent, and thus set loving seal"-----

He moved towards her, and round her dainty waist had placed his arm,
when she sprang from him like a frightened fawn, who, although so
seeming tame that it will hover nigh, and even follow one, darts off in
terror when we strive to caress it.

"No, Sir Richard, no," cried she; "I cannot marry you--I dare not;
and I will not. You are much too proud and arrogant for me."

"But not _to_ you, Rose," pleaded the young man earnestly. "You
shall be my mistress, I your servant always. If I have ever been proud
to you, I pray you to forgive it. I do beseech your pardon. It seemed
at first that I was right to be so. You do not understand how one like
me----"

"So well born and so rich," interrupted the young girl quietly,
looking up into his face with steady gaze. "Yes, I understand that
well, Sir Richard; and I, on the other hand, a dependent girl, so
inferior to the sort of bride that you had a right to look for; it was
well to keep me at a respectful distance."

"No, not so, Rose," cried the other hastily; "I swear that you
are inferior to no woman whom I have ever seen. But I did not wish-----I
thought, at first, that it would not be for your happiness"----

"And your first thought was right, Sir Richard," broke in the other
bitterly. "When you said to yourself, I will not encourage this young
girl to think it possible that she should ever be the mistress of Mirk
Abbey, you were wise. You did right to hold yourself aloof, to behave
with studied stiffness and formality, to let me know though I might
worship your exalted station, and admire your handsome face"----

"Rose! Rose!"

"Ay, it is Rose now, but it was Miss Aynton then," continued she,
beating her foot upon the floor. "You determined, I say, within
yourself that I should never so forget our relative positions as to
misconstrue any attentions you might please to pay me; you held yourself
so high, and stooped so condescendingly when you did stoop, that, upon
my part at least, you resolved to nip the young beginnings of love, if
such there should be, in their very bud. And, Sir Richard Lisgard, you
succeeded."

She rose to her full height, and pointed at him with her white hand
contemptuously; her swan-like bosom moved, with rapid ebb and flow,
in angry scorn; her curling lips gave wormwood to her words. And yet,
although he felt her biting speech, the young man thought he had never
seen her half so beautiful, half so worthy to be his wife.

"It is you who are proud now, Rose," returned he, speaking with
effort. "I did not think that I could ever have heard such words from
a woman's lips, and yet have sought to woo her. It is your turn
to play the tyrant; but though, by Heaven, you look every inch a
queen"----

"I thank you, sir," interrupted the girl coldly; "but you need say
no more. There is no necessity to offer me that one more chance which
your generosity suggests to you. However incomprehensible and audacious,
coming from these humble lips, may such an answer sound, Sir Richard
Lisgard is refused."

"Rose, dear Rose," cried the young man passionately; "if this be
punishment, do not push it, I pray you, further than I can bear. There
is something in your face in such ill accordance with your speech,
that I cannot yet despair. Is it not possible, sweet girl, that at some
future time--not now, but when you have seen how humble and devoted I
can be, that you may teach your heart to love me?"

"No." A full and rounded word, without a flaw of doubt to mar its
clearness; a sentence irreversible; a judgment against which he felt
there could be no appeal.

"But look you, Rose," continued the baronet huskily; "it is said
that the true love grows after marriage. Suppose I am content to wed you
on that chance, as in very truth I am. Look you, the scene is fair you
behold through yonder window, and all that you see is mine. The Abbey,
too, is mine, or will be so at my mother's death." [A shadow of pain
flits across my Lady's face, to hear her son speak thus so lightly of
that loss, to please a girl whom he has not known six months, and who
does not even love him.] "I have broad acres, girl, fields, farms--a
goodly rent-roll. My wife--the Lady Lisgard--will have more than enough
of wealth to maintain her high position. Rose! have you no ambition?"

Miss Aynton here again grew strangely agitated; once more her cheeks
grew pale, and her limbs trembled beneath her.

"Wretched girl! can she indeed be going to sell herself?" thought my
Lady.

"There is nothing," pursued the wooer, perceiving his advantage,
"which will be out of your reach. You will mix with those same
persons to whose society you have been already accustomed, but in a very
different relation towards them; you will be their equal in station,
and they will be compelled to acknowledge that superiority in all other
respects which they have refused to see in you while a mere dependent on
your aunt's caprice. You will be enabled, I do not say to repay scorn
for scorn--for your sweet nature is incapable of such revenge--but
to extend to those who have wounded you forgiveness; to return each
kindness fiftyfold."

"Sir Richard Lisgard," replied the young girl, speaking slowly, but
with great distinctness, "my answer has been given you already. It
is true that your last arguments moved me, but not for the reason you
imagine. I can marry you neither for love nor for money. You pique
yourself, I think, on being a gentleman; being so, you will cease to
press me further. I am conscious of the honour you have done me in this
matter, and I thank you; but I decline your offer."

The young man bowed, but without speaking. His features, which had
softened to an extraordinary degree throughout their interview, began to
assume a look even haughtier than before; his pride was all the greater
since he had forced himself to stoop in vain.

"I have only one thing, then, to request, Miss Aynton," said he
after a long silence. "I trust that you will not permit what has just
occurred to curtail your stay at Mirk. It is understood that you are to
remain here until after the celebration of--of my majority." He could
scarcely get the word out, poor fellow: he had looked forward so to her
loving sympathy upon that proud occasion, which now seemed emptied of
all its happy auguries.

"Do not fear, Sir Richard," returned the girl with pity; "no one
shall know that the heir of Mirk has met with this disappointment. I
will remain here, since you wish it. Your behaviour towards me needs no
alteration to conceal the fact that you have ever been my lover."

He had once more so reinstated himself in his proof-armour of pride,
that the young baronet was not even aware that this last shaft had any
barb.

"I thank you, Miss Aynton," said he frigidly; "if at any time
it should be within my power to do you or yours a service, please to
command me to the uttermost."

He bowed, and strode away; she heard him close the door, neither softly
nor in anger, and then his measured step upon the carpetless oaken stair
without.

"I have not broken his heart, that's certain," muttered Rose
Aynton, with a crooked smile; "the lover was lost in the patron soon
indeed."



CHAPTER X. MISS ROSE AYNTON "COPIES OUT."

|FOR some minutes there was a total silence in the vast apartment, very
oppressive to at least one of the two persons present, "How long did
this proud girl intend to remain and keep her a prisoner?" thought my
Lady. She was rejoiced that Miss Aynton had refused her son, but at the
same time angry with her for having done so. Rose must surely have had
some motive for it far deeper than the mere revenging herself upon him
for fancied slights. And yet Letty, who was in the girl's confidence,
seemed certain that she had no accepted lover--no previous engagement,
such as alone seemed a sufficient reason for rejecting so advantageous
a proposal. Perhaps she was even now repenting with tears the
determination which had earned for her so dearly-bought a triumph. My
Lady ventured to look forth once more. Yes, the poor girl was doubtless
crying bitterly. Her face was hidden in her hands, but there was a
convulsive movement of the round white shoulders that told its tale
of inward grief. "Poor thing, poor thing!" My Lady's kind heart
yearned towards her now that she was sorry for her treatment of her son.
Perhaps--not knowing Sir Richard as his mother knew him--she might
even now make some hopeless endeavour to win him back to her. If she
succeeded, that would be the worst thing that could possibly happen; and
if she failed--as was almost certain--then she would have to suffer all
this pain over again. Was it not my Lady's duty, then, to do her best
to spare this unhappy motherless girl such bitter disappointment and
humiliation, and to comfort her all she could under her present trouble?
At all events, after some such manner Lady Lisgard reasoned She did not
stop to think of herself at all--of the imputation of eaves-dropping
to which she must necessarily expose herself--but stepped forth at once
from the recess, and walked quietly to where Rose was standing. Her
footsteps made no noise upon the thick matting that was laid down the
centre of the polished floor. As she approached the unconscious girl,
she was compelled to acknowledge to herself, for the first time, how
strikingly attractive a young woman Miss Aynton was. She had certainly
not the beauty of my Lady's own daughter Letty, nor was she so tall,
or perhaps so graceful; but her figure, although it was one likely to
get coarse in time, was really perfect; her head, exquisitely set
on well-shaped shoulders, was small, but bore such a profusion of
black-brown hair as would have furnished half-a-dozen ordinary young
ladies with _chignons_; her hands and arms were plump and white. Her
eyes--Lady Lisgard thought that she had never seen such wondrous eyes
as those which flashed upon her now in sudden recognition, then terror,
then rage--not a trace of tears in them, and all the white face cold and
still, not puckered up with woe, as she had expected to see it.

"So you have been a spectator, Lady Lisgard, of the late love-scene,
have you?" said Rose Aynton in a low and suppressed tone. "That was
very generous and like a gentlewoman--in one's hostess, too."

"Hush, Rose; do not say things that you may afterwards be sorry for. I
will tell you how it happened."

"Nay, do not trouble yourself, my Lady; I can guess. You knew Sir
Richard had made an appointment with me here, and you wished to hear
with what rapturous gratitude the penniless girl would consent to be his
bride. I hope you _did_ hear, madam, since you took such trouble."

"Yes, Rose; I did hear. Your cruel words shall not rob you of my
sympathy. I am sorry for my son, of course; but I am sorry for you also.
I had been worried, vexed by many things of which it is not necessary
to tell you; I came hither for solitude, and wearied out by many a
sleepless night--nights of care, girl, such as I trust you may never
know--I fell asleep in yonder recess. I never heard you enter the room
at all. I woke up while you were speaking, but scarcely knew whether I
ought to reveal myself or not. I heard you reject poor Richard; then,
when he had gone, I thought that you repented having done so. I was
moved at seeing you look so white and still. I felt for you, Rose,
with all my heart, and came out, when I might as easily have remained
concealed, to try to comfort you. My poor dear girl!"

"That was very kind," returned Rose quietly. "But if I had behaved
otherwise, would you then have welcomed me as your daughter-in-law?
Please to tell me that."

"If I should say 'Yes,' you would not believe me, Rose. So why ask me
such a question. Moreover, the matter is settled now for ever. He would
be a doting lover, indeed, who would forgive such a repulse; and Richard
is the last man in all the world to do so."

"Do you think so?" answered the young girl with an incredulous
smile. "You have forgotten surely your own youth, Lady Lisgard."

"What know you of my youth, girl?" asked my Lady hastily, her pale
face flushing with emotion.

"Nay, do not be angry," returned the other coldly. "I meant
nothing, except, that when a woman is young she is very powerful. You
say that I have lost Sir Richard, and therefore you pity me. Now, I will
wager by this time to-morrow that I could win him back again."

Was this the humble and submissive girl who came to Mirk four months
ago, almost from school, and whom she had treated as a mother treats her
child? The conscious belle of a London season could not have spoken with
a greater confidence; the most practised husband-hunter with a cooler
calculation. "Come," continued Rose, "if you really are so sorry
for me, Lady Lisgard, and so distressed upon your son's account, have
I your permission to do my best to repair this common misfortune?"

My Lady could scarce conceal a shudder at the thought how nearly had
this coldblooded scheming girl become her daughter-in-law. Whatever
objections she might have had to such a match before--and they were
in themselves insuperable--seemed to have grown to twice their former
proportions.

The girl's determination and self-confidence alarmed her, too, for
that result about which she had before felt so certain. At all hazards,
she was resolved to prevent an attempt at reconciliation being made.

"No, Rose; I do not wish you to try to recover the affections of Sir
Richard."

"So, so; then we have the truth at last, Lady Lisgard. You are not
willing that I should be daughter-in-law of yours. You grudge me such
great good-fortune as to be allied with the race of Lisgards: and yet
it fell to your own lot--as I have heard--even in a more unexpected
manner."

"Miss Aynton, what I was is no affair of yours," replied my Lady with
quivering lips. "You have only to remember what I _am_."

"I do so, madam, very well. I see you held in honour by all people,
and without doubt, justly. Your position is indeed to me an object of
admiration, perhaps, I may add, even of envy. Is it not natural that it
should be so? And when your son offers to lift me from my present low
estate to place me as high, why should I hesitate to take advantage of
such a proposal? I have refused him, it is true; but now, being, as
you say, repentant, why should I not strive to recover what I have let
slip--wealth, honours, title"----

"Rose Aynton," returned my Lady, clasping the girl's white wrist,
and speaking in very earnest but broken tones, "I warn you, do not do
it. Even if you succeed, you may not win all you dream of. Strive not,
I charge you, for your own sake, to undo what has been done. I have
reasons for what I say beyond any that you can guess. If you would be
happy, do not endeavour to ally yourself with this family."

"Lady Lisgard, what _can_ you mean?" ejaculated the girl, her white
face flushed at last, her wide flashing eyes no longer hard and cynical,
and her every feature impatient for reply.

"I mean simply what I say. Seek not to be Richard's wife. If you
want money--and I know from your own lips it is not love which prompts
you--you shall have such wealth as is mine to give. I had meant it for
a different purpose; but that is no matter. Only do not seek to win
back my son; and when you leave us, I will bless you for your
forbearance--and for your silence, Rose."

"Yes, Lady Lisgard, I will say nothing of all this," returned the
girl thoughtfully after a short pause. "I promise you, too, that I
will never speak of love to Sir Richard further; and as for your offer
of a bribe, though I do not know that I have ever shewn myself so greedy
as to deserve it--I will forgive you even that."

"Thank you, thank you, Rose," answered my Lady eagerly. "I dare
say, in my haste and trouble, I may have said things to offend you, and
if so, I am very sorry. You have doubtless your troubles too."

"Yes, I have," answered the girl gravely; "and I should like to
be alone with them for a little, Lady Lisgard, unless you have anything
else to ask of me."

"Nothing, Rose--nothing; you have granted all I wished. You will be as
undisturbed here as in your own apartment; nay, even more so; for Letty
will not think of coming here to seek you out. Nobody ever comes into
the Library."

My Lady leaned forward as she spoke, and kissed the girl's smooth
brow, cold as a tablet of alabaster, then softly left the room.

Rose Aynton stood for a full minute, listening, eager and motionless as
Echo herself, before she stepped to the door, and turned the key.

"No more spying, my Lady!" ejaculated she; "my hostess has her
secrets, it seems, as well as I. It would be well if I could discover
hers before she found out mine. What could she mean by cautioning me,
for my own sake, not to ally myself with the Lisgards? She is not a fool
to think to frighten me with a mere gipsy's warning--threatening much,
but meaning nothing."

What reasons can those be against my becoming her daughter-in-law, which
are 'beyond any that I can guess?' If I could only get this proud
dame beneath my thumb, then, indeed, I might recompense myself somewhat
for having missed Sir Richard. To think that I should have lost a prize
like that through mere humility of mind! 'Yet even if you succeed,'
said she, 'you may not win all you dream of.' Those were her very
words. 'Haste and trouble' alone could never have suggested them
to her, although they may have made her indiscreet enough to utter them.
What has put my Lady in such low spirits of late, and kept her so
moped up within the Abbey walls? How came she alone here in this place,
whither, as she says, 'No one ever comes?' She must have been hidden
in yonder recess in the far corner, or we must needs have seen her, when
my love-sick swain and I were walking up and down.

Swift and noiseless, like some beautiful wild beast upon the trail,
Rose Aynton crossed the room, and scanned, with a cruel look in her dark
eyes, the little study over which was printed _Legal_.

"I never heard that my Lady was given to law," muttered she
derisively. "True, she said that she had been sent to sleep, a thing
which any one of these folios one might think would compass. But why
did she come hither to read at all? There must have been something of
interest to attract her. The books on this side do not seem to have
been touched for ages; but here--yes, some one has been to these quite
lately, for the dust has been disturbed, and here, if I mistake not,
is the dainty print of my Lady's fingers. We are getting warm, as the
children say at Hide-and-Seek. What have we here? A slip of paper for
a marker, torn cross-wise from an envelope with _Lad_ upon it. It was
surely imprudent of my Lady to use her own address for such a purpose.
_Wills!_ Ah, she has been studying the art of making wills, I dare say.
Considering Sir Richard is already so well off--and since I am not to be
his wife--it is to be hoped she will leave her money to son Walter; and
some, too, to poor dear Letty, for she is one who will never learn to
help herself in this world. It is well for her that she has not to
live by her wits. If she had been in my position, she would have been a
governess. Yes, it's all about Wills this book. And why should not
my Lady make a will, being of ripe age, and yet not old enough to
sniff that smell of the charnel-house, which renders the operation so
unpleasant a duty to the aged? I am afraid--unless, indeed, I could find
the will itself--that I have but discovered a mare's nest after
all. However, here are more book-markers; come, let us combine our
information. _Succession!_ That's only the same story. _Illegitimacy!_
Great Heaven, but this is more than I had bargained for!"

The girl stepped swiftly to the open window, and pushed the heavy folds
of hair behind her ears. "I feel my blood all rushing to my brain,
and roaring 'Ruin!'" murmured she. "If this sudden fear has any
real foundation, then indeed am I hoist with my own petard. No wonder
she warned me against alliance with her race, if what I here suspect is
true. They will need wellborn suitors themselves, she meant, to make up
for what is lacking in their blood, and mayhap money too. The will
of old Sir Robert may be disputed. The Succession--but no, I had
forgotten--there is no one to succeed save her two sons, for they have
not a relative beyond themselves in the world, these Lisgards; but the
title--that would be lost, of course. That's what she hinted when
she said I might not gain the thing I counted on, even though I won Sir
Richard. He cannot know of it; he could not be so proud if he had the
least suspicion of any blot in his own scutcheon. How he would wither
if one said to him: 'Thou Bastard!' And yet I gravely doubt whether this
discreet madam, his mother, has not one day tripped. 'What know you of
my youth, girl?' cried she a while ago, white, as I thought, with anger;
but it was fear, it seems. She comes here alone to find out for herself
by study what secret course to follow, or what hidden dangers to avoid,
having no counsellor in whom she can confide. That seems so far certain,
or she would surely ask her son himself, being a lawyer, or that wise Mr
Arthur Haldane, whom I so honestly dislike, for their advice. It may be
all this bodes as ill for Walter as for his brother; it may be that it
bodes the younger the best of fortune, and the elder the worst. That
would be a brave day, indeed, for some one, on which the proud young
baronet should sink to plain Mr Richard, and the poor captain rise to be
Sir Walter Lisgard! And, again, there may be nothing in all this, after
all. Time will doubtless shew, and it shall be my task to hurry Time's
footsteps towards the discovery."



CHAPTER XI. UP EARLY.

|IT has been justly observed that one half of the world does not know
how the other half lives. The statement is a very safe one, and might
have been made a great deal more comprehensive by the philosopher who
uttered it without risking his reputation for sagacity. We do not know
how our next-door neighbour lives, except in the sense of what he has
for dinner, which may indeed be discovered by the curious; nay, we
often know not how our own household lives, how our very sons conduct
themselves when not at meal-times and under our very eyes, what pursuits
they really follow, what hopes, what fears, what ambitions they
in secret entertain. It is well, indeed, and should be a matter of
congratulation, if we are quite cognizant of the "goings on" of our
wives and daughters. It is strange to think what a world in little lies
under the roof of any great mansion, such as Mirk Abbey. How interesting
would the genuine individual biographies--if one could only get
at them--of such a household be, from that of the mistress of the
establishment (whose troubles we are endeavouring to portray) down
to that of the under kitchen-maid, concerning whom we have "no
information," but who has doubtless her own temptations, wrongs, and
troubles also, which concern her with equal nearness, although they may
not be so genteel! It is probable that the true history of the second
gravedigger in _Hamlet_ would be to the full as interesting as what we
know of that philosophic Prince himself, though _his_ father had not
been murdered by his uncle, albeit even that may have been the case,
for aught we know. But, alas! the novelist has not the power which the
_Devil on Two Sticks_ possessed of lifting the tiles off the attics;
but has generally to content himself with such glimpses as he can obtain
through the keyholes of the first and second floors.

Taking advantage of even this moderate privilege, we are sometimes
rewarded with phenomena. Thus, it is little less than a portent to see
Captain Walter Lisgard, who is not generally addicted to early rising,
up and dressed upon a certain May morning before the clock on the great
stairs has sounded three. True, he has been out of bed once or twice
at such an hour on other occasions, but then it was because he had not
retired to rest the night before. He has done that, however, this time,
or, at all events, has exchanged his evening-dress for morning-costume.
Some people do get up at the most premature hours, even in winter, and
light their own fires, and retrim the midnight lamp to pursue literary
or scientific labours; but if Captain Lisgard has got up to study, we
will eat him. What _can_ he be about? He gropes his way down the
great staircase, where darkness is made visible by streaks of grayish
light--which is not yet dawn--struggling through cracks and crannies;
and he stumbles over the heavy rug beneath the bottom step, and swears
with involuntary emphasis. Then he listens a while, to see what will
come of that. The great clock on the hall-table ticks reprovingly:
"Don't, don't--shame, shame!" as he never heard it tick before;
and hear and there breaks forth an expostulatory creaking, as though
from moral furniture, which has no such scruples in the daytime; but his
ejaculation has aroused no living being.

Softly he turns the key of the frontdoor, softly withdraws the bolts,
and would as softly have slipped out, but that there is suddenly a
jar and a whir, and the opening door is held fast by an iron hand.
"Confound the chain!" exclaims the captain. "It is as difficult
to get out of this house as out of Newgate." Then, when all is still
quiet, he emerges upon the stone steps with an "I wonder, for my
part, how burglars are ever discovered," and takes his way towards the
village. The gates are locked at the end of the avenue, and the
porter and his wife are doubtless fast asleep, as well as fair-haired
Polly--dreaming perhaps of himself, thinks the captain with, a
half-contemptuous, half-complacent smile--but Master Walter, who is as
active as a cat, climbs the stone pillar by help of the iron hinge, and
"drops" noiselessly on to the road. He passes up the humble street,
where each cottage is quiet as the grave--two blessed hours intervening
yet between its inmates and their toil, and makes for the _Lisgard
Arms_. The inn stands on a slight elevation, so that he sees it some
time before he nears it. "Why, the place is on fire!" mutters the
captain; and certainly there is some extraordinary illumination taking
place in one of the apartments. A flood of light pours from it as from
some Pharos, as though to beckon benighted folks whither good ale is to
be found; and yet the house is always shut at eleven, in conformity with
the squire's orders.

"It's that infernal idiot Derrick himself who has done it,"
continues the captain. "That's his room, I know. Just as if he could
not have got up in the dark, as I did: a fellow that probably never had
more than a farthing-dip to light him any morning, before he went to
Cariboo. I wonder, for my part, he can dress without a valet. What a
stuck-up, vulgar dog it is! How I hate his pinchbeck ostentation, and
still worse, his dreadful familiarity! If it could only be found out
immediately after this Derby that he was a returned transport, with
five-and-twenty years or so of his sentence still unexpired, how
delightful it would be! I really think that he is least objectionable
in the evenings, when he is drunk. There is something original in his
brute-manner of swilling; a sort of over-driven-ox style about his
stagger, which would make his fortune upon any stage--where there was
room enough for the magnitude of the exhibition. Certainly, one has to
pay for the society of this sort of gentry, and still more for their
friendship. Alas, that I should have made this fortunate savage fond of
me! I wish I could feel as Valentine did with Orson, instead of being
much more like the too ingenious Frankenstein, whose monster became his
master. However, that has not come about yet--notwithstanding meddling
Mr Arthur Haldane's warnings.--Let me see, it was arranged, I think,
that I was to whistle to this animal." Master Walter drew a silver
cab-call from his pocket, and executed upon it the disconsolate cry of
one who in London streets between the closing of the night-houses and
the rising of the sun desires a Hansom. Instantly the light from the
inn began to diminish--once, twice, thrice; and then the casement
became blind and rayless like the other windows. "That beggar had
four candles lit!" ejaculated the captain with irritation. "It was
a mercy that he did not bring out the village fire-engine! Here he comes
with his eternal pipe, too. I daresay he had the imprudence to light
_that_ before he left the house, and Steve's red nose will smell
it." There are some men who always look the same no matter at what
hour you come upon them: fresh, and hearty, and strong, they have but to
duck their heads in cold water, and straightway the fatigues of a weary
day or a sleepless night are utterly obliterated. They rejoice like
giants to run their courses without any sort of preparation in the way
of food and sleep, such as the rest of mankind require. Against this
healthy animalism we protest, by calling it rude health; and to those
who are of a less powerful constitution, it is naturally an offensive
spectacle. Walter Lisgard had himself by no means a delicate
organisation; his complexion, though pale, was far from sickly; his
limbs, though models of grace rather than of strength, were of good
proportions and well knit. But he was conscious of looking heavy-eyed
and haggard, and he secretly resented the robust and florid appearance
of the unconscious individual who now joined him--a man at least
twenty-five years his senior.

"I suppose you have been accustomed to get up at these unearthly
hours at the gold-diggings, that you look so disagreeably wide-awake, Mr
Derrick," grumbled he. "You would very much oblige me if you would
but yawn."

"Get up! Master Walter; why, I've never been to bed," answered the
bearded man with a great guffaw. "The fact is, that I took a little
more than was good for me last night, and I did not dare lie down,
knowing that we had this business on hand so early."

"Why, one would think, by the amount of light, that you had been lying
in state, like some deceased king of the Cannibal Islands," returned
the other peevishly. "Was it your habit to use two pair of candles in
your bedroom in Cariboo?"

"Well, I never had a bedroom there, that you would call such, as I
have told you again and again, Master Walter; but I have burned twenty
candles at a time when they were selling at Antler Creek at five dollars
a pound. You imagine, I suppose, that it is only you gentlemen who live
at home at ease who have money to spend; but let me tell you that is not
the case. I will go bail for my part, for example, that I have paid more
sovereigns away in twenty-four hours than your brother, Sir Richard,
ever did in a week."

"My dear Mr Derrick, you are boastful this morning," said the
captain quietly: "it is my belief that you have taken a hair of the
dog that bit you overnight."

"Maybe I have, and maybe I haven't, Master Walter; but I shall burn
just as many candles as I like. I have worked hard enough for my money,
and, dam'me, but I'll enjoy it. Why, when I was at New Westminster,
I had my horse shod with gold, sir; and if I choose, I'll do it
here."

"You would have a perfect right so to do, Mr Derrick," returned the
other gravely; "and for my part, if your horse should cast a shoe in
my neighbourhood, I should warmly applaud your expensive tastes. But you
must have been really very rich, to do such things. Now, how much do you
think you were worth when you were at New Westminster?"

"That's tellings, captain," responded the other with a cunning
chuckle; "but when I was on Fraser River, me and my mate Blanquette,
we made"------

"Well, now, what _did_ you make?" urged the young man, as the other
hesitated.

"Well, we made nothing for the first five days," answered Derrick
drily--"nothing at all.--How far have we got to go to reach the
Measured Mile by this road?"

The two men had left the village, and were pursuing a winding chalk-road
that led, but not directly, to the Downlands at the back of Mr
Chifney's stables.

"It is a very circuitous route," returned Master Walter frankly;
"and I was in hopes it might be shortened to the fancy by hearing
you tell something of your own story. But, of course, I have no wish to
press you to tell it against your will. You have conferred obligations
upon me enough already, I am quite aware."

This was the first sentence of conciliation, not to say of civility,
that the young man had spoken, and heretofore his air had been cross or
cynical; yet no sooner did he evince this little of good-will, than
the manner of the other softened at once to a degree that was very
remarkable in so rough a man.

"Don't talk of obligations, lad, for I like you--ay, so well, that I
wish you were son of mine; not that I am fit to be the father of such as
you either; I _know_ that well."

"If I were your son, I am afraid you would have a good deal of trouble
with me, Mr Derrick," replied the young man laughing: "I am not a
good boy."

"That is true, Walter Lisgard; and yet I never saw a face that took
my liking as yours does--save once. I could not tell what drew me so
towards you, when I first met you up at the Farm yonder; but now I know
very well."

"Then it is to the similarity between myself and some other favoured
individual that I am indebted for your regard? That rather robs the
compliment of its flavour."

"Ay, my lad; but you are dear to me for your own sake also, although,
indeed, I scarce know why."

"Thank you, Mr Derrick."

"True," continued the other thoughtfully, without noticing his
companion's flippant tone, "you are like--ah, Heaven, how like you
are to one that's dead and gone! Indeed, I can refuse you nothing
while I think upon it. It is not everybody, however, lad, to whom I
would humour by telling exactly what I'm worth. While a man is merely
known as rich, he may have any sum, and be looked up to accordingly;
but when his wealth can be reckoned to a pound, he loses credit If
_Manylaws_ wins at Epsom, I shall be worth--ay, near a hundred thousand
pounds."

"I suppose no one in Cariboo ever made a sum like that by
gold-digging, eh?"

"I think no one, Master Walter. There was no claim so rich as my
mate's and mine at Snowy Creek, and it did not yield that sum. But, by
Heaven, how well I remember what it did yield. It seemed to me then that
I should never run risks any more, but live on what I had in content and
plenty; and yet here I am, this very morning"----

"My dear sir," interrupted his companion gaily, "it appears to me
that you are taking gloomy views. What is life without excitement?"

"Ay, that is very well for _you_, lad, who have something to fall back
upon, if your little schemes should miscarry. Excitement in your case is
only another name for amusement; but in mine"----

"Well, in yours, Mr Derrick?"

"Do not call me Mister; call me Ralph, lad--that is, if you are
not ashamed of me altogether.--You _are_ ashamed, I see. Well, never
mind.--Let me see, I was speaking of Cariboo, was I not? Well, success
or failure there was a question of life and death. One might be a
beggar, or one might be the king of the colony. I had known what poverty
was--and that is not merely being without money, mind. I have
lived among a savage people for months who had neither gold nor
silver--nothing to hoard and nothing to spend save shells picked up on
the sea-shore, and strung on sea-weed for a purse; and I was as poor as
they; but yet it was not poverty. But I had felt the sting of that
in many a crowded city, and I came to Cariboo to escape from it. If I
should make my thousand pounds or so, I would buy a farm, or a share in
a ship, and live a quiet respectable life to the end of my days. While
making these good resolutions, my ready money--which was also all I had
in the world--was melting fast. With the last ten pounds of it, I bought
the half of a small claim at Snowy Creek. Blanquette and I sawed our own
lumber and made our own sluices. It was no light work even for me, who
had been used to rough it. There was twelve feet of top-stripping to be
removed before we could hope to reach the pay-dirt. For the first five
days, we made nothing. I would have sold my share in the whole concern
for a couple of pounds, and begun life with that afresh; but on the
sixth day we found fourteen ounces of gold, and I was worth fifty
pounds. Then I would not have sold my chance for scarcely any sum that
you could name. I would have shot any man that had jumped into our
pit, spade in hand, just as I would have shot a dog. Your brother, Sir
Richard, may talk about the rights of property, but he never appreciated
them as I did then. On the seventh day, we found forty-five ounces; on
the eighth, sixty. The find kept on increasing, till it rose to four
hundred ounces daily, when we employed eight hands to clear away the
tailings. The whole area of the place out of which I scooped my fortune
was not eighty feet by twenty. I found for my share twelve thousand
pounds in it."

"And you brought that safe to England, did you?"

"No, lad, I did not. I spent five hundred pounds of it in
champagne--we drank it out of buckets--for one item."

"And in candles, Ralph," asked Master Walter smiling--"how much in
candles?"

"In one thing and another, dear lad, I spent four thousand pounds
before we landed in England. Even what was left would have seemed
affluence six months before----But there, what's the good of talking?
There's the rubbing-down house, is it not? and I shall soon know
whether I am going to get a second fortune, or to lose what I have."



CHAPTER XII. THE TRIAL

|THE sun had risen, and the long waste of Down stretched far and wide on
all sides; a broad and level track as smooth as any lawn, with here and
there a long but gentle slope, marked the exercising-ground used by
Mr Chifney's horses. This glistened in the early rays like a path of
silver. But fringing it on one side lay a great patch of gorse, and this
quite twinkled with green and gold from the gossamers, whose slender
fibres covered it as with a veil. The air was fresh and odorous with a
hundred pleasant scents and in the distant vale the morning mists were
lifting from field and farm, from tower and town, as at the command of
some enchanter. Nothing was heard but the occasional "tink, tink" of
a sheep-bell from the still sleeping folds. It was a scene to charm
eye and ear; but Captain Walter Lisgard of the 104th Dragoons, and
Mr Derrick from Cariboo, were persons upon whom the Dawn and its
concomitants were a good deal thrown away.

"You are sure this is the right place?" inquired the Colonist as
they reached a long low-shuttered building, half brick half wood, where
the horses were wont to be rubbed down after their gallops.

"Ay, this is it right enough," was the reply. "I dare say they are
all inside there waiting for us. It does not do to be seen at this sort
of work. Yes, here they are."

Inside the doorway of the shed in question stood Mr Tite Chifney, in
company with a gentleman of advanced years, in a white greatcoat and a
new broad-brimmed hat, somewhat resembling a bishop's.

"How are you, Lisgard?"

"How do you do, my Lord?" were the only salutations that passed
between the members of the two parties, who had met entirely upon
business.

"Come and beat the furze with me, will you, Derrick? the captain has
not his gaiters on. It is well to make quite sure that we are all alone
before we begin," said the horse-trainer. The two men accordingly
stepped into the gorse, and commenced walking through it in parallel
lines, as though in pursuit of game.

When he came to a patch of gorse a little higher and thicker than the
rest, Mr Chifney struck it violently with his foot as if for rabbits.
All of a sudden, there was a violent ejaculation from Derrick; he threw
himself down upon some crouching object, and then came a struggle and a
choking scream. "Hollo, don't kill the fellow," exclaimed Chifney
running up. "See, he's black in the face, man.--Master Walter, my
Lord---help, here, help!"

The two men who had been left in the rubbing-house came quickly forward,
but it took the combined strength of all three of them to release the
poor wretch from the powerful grasp of the Cariboo miner.

"Damn the rogue; I 'll teach him to come spying here," cried he,
nodding with his head towards a shattered telescope, upon which he had
just stamped his foot. "I'll squeeze his throat for him."

"You seem to have done that already, sir," said the man in the
broad-brim coolly; "a very little more of it, and you would probably
have had _your_ throat squeezed for you by the hangman. Poor devil, he
doesn't seem to have much beside his life belonging to him, so that it
would be hard to take that."

A wretched object, clothed in ragged black, and with wisps of straw for
shoes, wet with the dew amid which he had been lying, and shivering with
pain and fear, hear crawled to the last speaker's feet.

"Don't let 'em murder me, my Lord. They _will_ if you don't
interfere," screamed the wretched "tout," whose mission it was to
procure racing intelligence under difficulties of this sort, but who had
been fairly cowed by Derrick's rage and violence. "I swear to you
that I will never tell a soul that I have seen your lordship"----

"Quiet, fool!" interrupted the other sternly, "unless you want to
have your lying tongue cut out.--It's bad enough," whispered he to
the trainer, "that he should have seen _me_ hear; but do you think he
has seen the horses?"

"That's quite certain, my Lord," returned the trainer coolly; "and this
is a mouth as can't be shut about that matter. But he shall see nothing
more of this morning's work.--Come here, you sir."

Taking the trembling wretch by the collar, he led him to the edge of the
furze, and, having securely tied his arms and legs, enveloped his head
in a horse-cloth which he brought out of the rubbing-house. From the
same building there now emerged two horses, not in the clothes in which
exercise was generally taken, but ready in all respects for racing, and
ridden not by stable-boys as usual, but by regular jockeys.

"There is no question about it but the bay is the best-looking,
my Lord," said the trainer, in answer to something that had been
addressed to him; "but handsome is as handsome does. You would not
thank me for praising _The King_ on Epsom Downs, after he had been
beaten by an outsider such as yonder horse."

"Who rides the creature?" inquired the other sharply, and looking
contemptuously towards the clumsy black, who was no other than our old
friend _Menelaus_. "Dam'me if he don't look more fit for a hearse
than a race-course.

"Jack Withers, my Lord--a man that was with him in France, and
thoroughly understands what the horse can do; and, indeed, there is
no other that _can_ ride him as should be. That's the worst of these
foreign horses--they are so full of tricks. I've known that black stand
stock-still in his gallops, and shoot his boy off just like a rocket. He
can't abide a strange seat."

"Of course Withers rides him in the great race," observed the other
thoughtfully.

"Certainly, my Lord, just as Tom Uxbridge here will mount _The King_.
What's the good of having a trial-race unless with the same jocks as
is to ride them afterwards?--Starting from that white post, up the rise
yonder, round the fir clump, and so back again, is the Derby course to
a yard.--Master Walter and Mr Derrick, will you be so good-as to bear a
hand, and help me out with the steps?"

"Ain't the gentleman in the broad-brim going to use them as well
as me?" observed the Colonist insolently, and keeping his hands
resolutely in his pockets. "I never engaged myself to be his
body-servant, as I know on."

There being no answer to this appeal, Captain Lisgard and the trainer
once more entered the rubbing-house, and reappeared dragging with them a
movable platform upon wheels, and furnished with a flight of steps after
the manner of a pulpit. From the top of this, one might see the whole
course from end to end, and upon it the four spectators took their
station close to the starting-post.

"Now, my lads, are you both ready?" inquired the trainer of the jockeys,
who were getting their fuming horses into line. "This handkerchief will
serve for a flag, and when I drop it, let there he no false starts. One,
two, three--now off!"

As the handkerchief left his fingers, the bay and black leaped forward
as with a single impulse; the next moment each had got into his stride,
and was away like the wind.

"It is amazing how they keep together," muttered his Lordship in
an uneasy tone: "I should not have thought the Frenchman had had such
speed in him."

"It is the hill which will decide the matter, my Lord," returned the
trainer in a low tone; "the ground is rising already. There! and see,
the black draws ahead."

"Ay, the black has it!" cried Derrick with a frightful imprecation.
"I will lay fifty-pounds to ten on _Manylaws_."

"I take you, sir," said the man in the broad-brim coolly, as with
race-glass in hand he watched every movement of the horses who were now
nearing the fir-clump: "there has something happened to that big-boned
animal of yours, I fear. What is it, Chifney?"

He was about to pass the glass to the trainer, but Derrick roughly tore
it from his grasp, and applied it to his own eyes. "It's one of his
infernal jibs," exclaimed he; "and yet---- Well done, Jack Withers;
that's a five-pound note in your pocket.--Perhaps you'd like to look
again, my Lord, for their position is a little altered."

"The black is gaining fast," ejaculated Captain Lisgard, his pale
face aglow with excitement. "He has recovered all he lost by that
false step. What a pace they are coming down the hill! By Heaven, _The
King_ is beaten! Tom is using the whip."

"Just what I expected," murmured the trainer.

There was a thunder of hoofs, the smack of a whip again and again, a
flash of colour--first black, then bay--and the trial-race was over.

"In a second and a half less time than the last Derby," said his
Lordship drily, after consulting his stop-watch.

"I think I did not bring you here for nothing, my Lord," said the
trainer confidentially.

"Certainly not, Mr Chifney," returned the other bitterly: "I find
myself a poorer man than I had thought to be three minutes ago by fifty
thousand pounds. Moreover, I have made the acquaintance of one of the
greatest ruffians that I have ever met even upon a race-course. It is
altogether an excellent morning's work."

"It would have been worse for you, my Lord, if you had not come,"
answered the trainer with some stiffness; "you would not have thanked
me if you had seen this for the first time on Epsom Downs."

"Very true--very true, Mr Chifney. But you must excuse my feeling a
little annoyed by the results of this gallop. And as for this gentleman
with the beard--when he has done shaking his hands with his jockey----
Here are two five-pound notes for you, sir--the amount of my bet."

"Keep it yourself, my Lord," exclaimed Derrick, waving his hat round
and round in frantic joy. "Or stay, if you're too proud.--Here,
Jack, is a fiver for you; and here, you poor devil in the horse-cloth,
here's another for you, to heal your windpipe, which, I believe, I
squeezed a little too hard a while ago. If the race had gone agen me,
you'd never have got a shilling of compensation, so you may thank
_Manylaws_."

The trainer's hand was clapped upon the incautious gold-digger's
mouth with considerable emphasis, but it arrived too late. "The
cat was out of the bag." The tout had learned the very piece of
intelligence to obtain which he had gone through so much.

Bound and bruised, and in evil plight as he was, the fellow could not
help indulging in a sly chuckle, while his four enemies (for the jockeys
were already in the rubbing-down house attending to their panting
steeds) regarded one another with looks of blank dismay.

"You have done it now, Mr Derrick," observed the trainer
lugubriously. "We shall never get thirty to one--no, nor ten to
one--against _Menelaus_ again.--Great Heaven! why, you wouldn't kill
the man!"

The gold-digger had drawn a clasp-knife, half dagger, half cutting-tool,
from his pocket, and was quietly feeling the point of it with his thumb.
"I have done wrong," said he, "but it is a wrong which is not
without remedy. No, I am not going to murder this gentleman--at least
not now; but I have something of importance to tell him.--Look you here,
Mr Tout. I am not a respectable person any more than yourself, in a
general way; but there is probably this difference between ns--I am
a man of my word. What I _say_, I will do, I always _do_ do, at all
hazards. If a man robs another of his gold in the place where I come
from, we shoot him: it mayn't be right, but that is the principle on
which we act. You will rob me of all I have in the world if you tell
what you have seen to-day; consequently, mark me, if you do tell,
_I will kill you_. Of this you may be well assured. That is the only
satisfaction which will be left me. You have felt my fingers, but
you will in that case feel this knife. I hope I make myself well
understood---- No, Master Walter, this is not your business, but a
private matter between this person and myself. I want to take a good
look at him, so that I may know him again anywhere; alone or in company,
in England or across seas; let him be sure I shall find him out; and I
want him to take a good look at me. Mine is not the face of a man who
falters in his purpose, or who, having suffered a wrong, puts up with
it, I think, and does not revenge himself."

He knelt down, and set his bearded cheek quite close to the luckless
tout. Each looked into the other's eyes--one inquiringly, with a
half-timid, half-cunning glance; the other sternly, vengefully, like a
judge and executioner in one.

"I will never tell!" quavered the miserable wretch--"s'help me,
Heaven, I never will!"

"Yes, you will," returned Derrick coolly; "I can see that you are
a babbler born; and I don't ask impossibilities. Moreover, it is but
just that you should derive some advantage from my folly. In a week's
time, you may tell your employer what you please. In the meanwhile,
there is your five pounds. I wish to act as fairly by you as I can;
but if the odds rise or fall respecting these two horses within seven
days--as they can only do if the result of this trial gets wind--then I
shall know where to find a sheath for this knife." With these words he
cut the rope that bound the man's arms and legs, pushed the five-pound
note into his hands, and bade him be off; whereupon off he shambled.

Neither the trainer nor the man addressed as "my Lord" had stirred
or spoken a word during this interview, and Captain Lisgard had only
once made a movement as though to interrupt it. All three were well
enough pleased that the gold-digger had taken the task of imposing
silence into his own hands. In all likelihood, he was merely threatening
the fellow; and if not, they did not wish to be accessories before the
fact to--to any vengeance he might choose to inflict upon the offending
tout.

"Well, gentlemen, we have now six clear days wherein to make our
arrangements," said Derrick, "and a good deal may be done in that
time. True, but for my stupid conduct, we might have had more time
before us; but I have made what amends lies in my power."

"You believe, then, that yonder rascal will keep his word, do you?"
inquired the trainer incredulously.

"I think so, Mr Chifney. I shall certainly keep mine," returned the
other gravely.--

"Master Walter, we had better be moving home."

At these words, the party separated--like men who have each their work
to do, and are glad to be quit of their companions, in order that they
may set about it--with no more ceremony than a parting nod. The man in
the broad-brim rode away upon a shooting-pony, which awaited him in the
rubbing-down house. The jockeys paced slowly towards their stables, each
horse now clothed and visored as though it had been merely out for early
exercise; while Mr Chifney walked briskly homeward by another route.

Derrick and Captain Lisgard returned together by the way they came, and
plodded on for some time in total silence.

"You will put all your money upon the black un now, I fancy, Master
Walter?" observed the gold-digger at last, as they drew near the village.

"I have done that already," replied the young man frankly. "I was
thinking rather of hedging when the odds fall."

"Nay, do not do that, lad," rejoined the other earnestly; "the
thing is a certainty. _The King_ was the only horse that we had to fear.
On the contrary, my advice is, 'Put the Pot on.'"

"The Pot _is_ on, with all I have to put in it, Mr Derrick. You forget
that I am not an eldest son, and nobody lends money to a younger."

"Ay, true; there's that confounded stuck-up coxcomb, Sir Richard.
But look here, my lad. In this pocket-book I carry all I am worth in the
world, for in Cariboo there are no banks, and a man at my time of
life does not readily change his habits. Here are five hundred pounds
entirely at your service. Nay, I told you that I had taken a liking to
you, and I would give them to you right-away, only I suppose you are too
proud to accept them, save as a loan."

"Mr Derrick--Ralph--you are very, very kind," said the young man
hesitatingly; "but this is a large sum."

"At the present prices, it is ten thousand pounds if _Manylaws_
wins," replied the gold-digger, rubbing his hands; "and if
_Manylaws_ does not win--well, I shall not, I hope, be an importunate
creditor. I do not say: 'Do not thank me,' lad, or I like you to
smile like that. You are very, very welcome. But here we part; you to
your home and friends, and I--well, I am used to be alone. I shall
not see a friend's face again till I see yours. Good-bye, dear lad,
good-bye."

With a hearty hand-shake and more thanks, Master Walter strode gaily
away through the still slumbering village, reclimbed the avenue gate,
and let himself noiselessly in at the front-door. As he passed on tiptoe
along a gallery, on one side of which lay his sister's apartment, and
on the other that of Miss Rose Aynton's, a door opened, and an anxious
voice whispered: "What news, Walter?"

"Good news," replied he in the same cautious tone, and glided on to his
own room.



CHAPTER XIII. AT SIR ROBERT'S GRAVE.

|IT had been observed, as I have already said, that my Lady had not left
the Abbey grounds for these many weeks; but there had been one exception
to that course of conduct. She had never omitted to visit, as usual,
her late husband's grave, and to lay upon it a posy of spring-flowers,
gathered by her own hands; but she did this now in the evening, instead
of the daytime, as heretofore. It was not, however, likely that any
intruder should be found there at any hour.

Whoever of the household saw her walking in the direction of the little
church--only a stone's-throw from the servants' offices--took
great care to avoid her, or to appear, if they needs must meet her,
unconscious of her errand; and while she was there, no domestic used
the little zigzag path among the grass-grown graves that formed the
short-cut to the village. The country folk were forbidden at all times
to approach the Abbey by that way, so the sacred spot was almost as
private as though it had been an appendage of the Abbey itself, as it
had been in the old times. Mirk lay quite out of the high-road, so that
no stranger "stretching his legs," while the coach changed horses,
ever strolled into its God's-acre to spend a profitless five minutes
amid its solemn records; nor, indeed, was there anything in the
graveground, whatever might have been in the church, to attract such
persons, in the way of monument or effigy. Yet the humble graves were
all well kept; not broken or dinted in, as one too often sees them in
such places; nor did the head-stones lean this way and that, as though
they strove to wrench up the very mounds they were set to mark; nor were
the long rank grasses and the nettles permitted to overgrow the spot,
and hide it from the sun. Upon every slab, however, save one, time was
doing its work, covering with moss and lichen the gray surface, and
filling up the letters on the stones---just as in the hearts of the
survivors it was healing the sense of loss, and effacing the memory of
the departed one. The sole exception was the stone which commemorated
Sir Robert's death. His marble cross was without speck or flaw. It
stood in the western corner, in a little plot of garden-ground of its
own, and beside it was a vacant space, left there by his widow's
desire, that she might herself be laid there when God's good time
should come.

It is the evening of the day upon which Master Walter got up so early,
and my Lady has come, as usual, to her husband's tomb. Her hand
is resting on the top of it, whereon she has just hung a chaplet of
fresh-gathered flowers; but her look is fixed upon the western sky,
where the glory of the sunken sun yet lingers. It may be but a simple
faith that associates Heaven with the sky, but it is a very natural one.
My Lady's soul was longing to be at rest somewhere beyond those
quiet clouds which flecked that golden deep. Death is not so invariably
hateful to us as the divines would paint it; it has no terrors for the
Good--nay, sometimes not for the Bad either--while to the Wretched it
would often be more welcome than the dawn. "If I could only 'fall
asleep,' as is said of the saints," thought my Lady, "here, and at
this instant, how well for all would it be! Some only live for others,
they say, but the best that could possibly happen to all I love would be
that I should be laid in my grave. And some have died for others, as God
knows I would die for any one of my dear ones, and yet it would be
sin in me to die. Ah, husband, husband! thou that liest here under the
flowers and the sky, I would to Heaven that I could lie down beside thee
now, and never wake! I trust thou dost not know this thing that troubles
me, and threatens mine and thine, or thy dear heart would be wrung with
pity, although thou wert an angel and in eternal bliss. And but that the
Almighty has fixed his canon against self-slaughter---- Those were happy
days in which I first read that!" mused she, interrupting herself,
and carried involuntarily into another current of thought; "we read it
together, you and I, Robert. My new life was just beginning then; never
had pupil such a kindly teacher as thou wert. I can bear to think
of that; but of thy love, thy noble generous love, thy patient
tenderness------ Spare me, great Heaven! I did so worship this dead man,
and now I live alone; and yet I would not have him here alive, to know
what I know, to feel what I feel, to dread what I dread--no, not though
we should be permitted to live together for years, and die within the
selfsame hour, as I used to pray we might. I thank thee, merciful God,
that I am bearing this heavy cross alone; give me strength to carry it,
and suffer me to do so--if it please thee--to the end, alone. It is my
fault, husband; all mine. When you pressed me to marry you, and I said
'No,' I should have said it more firmly. We were not fit for one
another.--No, no; not that! I will not say that. You made me what I am;
a wife fit for yourself, I do believe; not good, like you--not wise,
like you--but one who was a faithful and true helpmate, and with whom
you were content. If you could make a sign to me from the earth, or in
the air, this moment, I should not be afraid but that it would be one
of love. If you, perchance, have come to know every thought in my heart
that was in your time--or if you have read it since you died--or if you
read it now--still I should not be afraid! I will endeavour to do my
duty still; but ah! how foolish are they who say we always know what
_is_ our duty! O Robert, what is mine?"

She wrung her hands in pitiful distraction, and throwing herself down by
the graveside, whispered, as though to the deaf ear beneath: "The sea
has given up its dead to shame me, and thy children, because of me. What
is there for me to do for them except to die?"

"Hollo, missus! what's wrong wi' _you?_" inquired a deep hoarse
voice. "Drunk or sober, I never could abide seeing a woman cry."

At such a time and place, the sudden and unexpected interruption might
well have sent a shudder, to any woman's heart, and it was no wonder
that my Lady trembled in every limb. But she gathered herself together
with a great effort, and drawing her thick crape veil over her face,
arose, and steadily confronted the intruder.

"Why, it's my Lady herself!" cried the new-comer
derisively--"the party as I've promised myself a good look at before
I left these diggings. And, dam'me, but now I'll have it. If I'm
anyways rude, you will please to put it down to the brandy in which I
have been drinking to the very good health of the big black horse.
Now, don't be so cursedly proud; your son and I--not Sir Richard,
for he's a---- Well, you're his mother, so I won't say what I
was agoing to about _him_; but Master Walter, he and I are great
friends.--Now, why do you wince? _He_ ain't so high and mighty but
that he can borrow money of your humble servant; but there--there's no
obligation in that, for I love the lad. He's like--like a dear friend
of mine, who was drowned in the sea, years and years ago. Lord, how you
do tremble! Why, I'm the last man in the world to hurt a woman, bless
you. My nature is altogether soft where they're concerned; and if it
were not so, there was a woman once, my Lady, drowned and dead--the same
as I was speaking of--for whose sake every woman since has been in my
eyes sort of sacred-like; that is, unless I was in drink."

It was painfully evident to my Lady that the person who was speaking to
her was in the unhappy condition he had just referred to, for he lurched
from side to side until he had bethought him of steadying himself by the
marble cross; but there was a sort of pathos in his voice, too, which
was not the mere maudlin tenderness of the drunkard. If he had not been
drunk, he might not have been tender, but there was evidently genuine
feeling in the man, which seemed to deepen as he went on. "Now, though
you do not speak, I know you're sorry for me. If I should lift your
veil--there, I'm not agoing to do it--I am sure you would have a tear
for a poor fellow who has been knocked about the world for three parts
of his life, and has not made a single friend--not one, not one; and if
he went back home, who would not see a face he knew--it is so long ago
that he was there--and who needs a woman's voice to comfort him if
ever a man did."

"What's all this to me, sir?" asked my Lady in low and broken
tones. "I wish to be left alone here--by this grave."

"What--is--all--this--to you?" returned the man with vindictive
deliberation, "Have you no heart, then, you proud woman, like your
eldest son?" Then once more altering his manner, he continued: "Now,
do not be angry with me, or you may be sorry for it, but rather pity me.
This grave contains what is dear to you, it seems; but you have those
alive who love you also! Now, I have not even a grave. The only creature
on earth who ever loved _me_--and I loved her too, ah how dearly, though
I could not keep even then from drink--she lies buried beneath the
stormy waves. I cannot come, as you can, to this tomb, and say: 'Here
she sleeps,' and weep over it, and be sorry for my sins, for I know
not where, in all the waste of ocean, her bones may lie. So, for many
years I never looked upon the sea without the sense that I was looking
upon one great grave. Am I speaking truth or not?"

He stopped and clutched her by the arm, and fiercely bade her tell him
if she believed his words or no.

"I do believe you, sir," returned my Lady firmly. "Beneath your
bronzed and bearded face, I see your woes at work, and I am sorry for
you."

"Thank you, Lady; you have a pleasant and kind voice, with music in it
such as I have not heard for many a day. You are sorry for me, but you
know not half my woes; I have never told them to any human ear; although
at times, when I have been all alone--upon the treeless prairie, not
knowing whether I was on the right track or lost, or on the mountain-top
in strange and savage lands, and chiefly when a solitary man on
shipboard, keeping watch while others slept--then have I spoken of these
things aloud, and asked of Heaven why it used me so. But now--as some
black cloud will overpass a mighty plain, and never shed a drop, but
presently, on coming on a little valley fenced with round green hills,
will straight, dissolve in rain, so I, who have been so silent for so
long, am moved to speak by you. What magic is this you bear about you,
woman? Let me see your face."

"There is no need for that, sir," answered my Lady, stepping back,
and motioning with her arm with dignity. "The magic of which you speak
lies only in a feeling heart and an attentive ear. If it is any comfort
to you to tell your story, I will gladly listen to it."

"Yes, it seems to be a comfort," replied the other thoughtfully,
"although I never cared to speak of it before. You see me, Lady, now, a
brawling, drunken wretch--upon whose reckless soul there may be murder,
to-morrow or next day, as like as not--but anyhow a broken man. I was
not always thus. When I was young, I was a hopeful and hard-working lad
enough--only a little thoughtless. I was honest, too, notwithstanding
that the law and I fell out; but I was fond of jovial company and good
liquor, and what I got at sea--for I had a smack of my own at
Bleamouth--that I spent very quickly on shore. If I had had a wife, or
even a mother, I think it might have been different; but I had no
relations, or at least none who were my friends. I could not bear
advice, and much less interference and dictation, and so, you see, I was
alone in the world--until I met with Lucy Meade---- You shiver, my Lady.
Am I keeping you too long in the night-air?"

Lady Lisgard shook her head, and murmured: "No; go on."

"'Tis thirty years ago this very year--that's many thousand days,
and tens of thousand leagues have I sailed since then--and yet, I swear,
it seems but yesterday I crossed those water-meadows with my gun--for I
was after moorfowl--and came upon her cottage on the Blea. White-walled,
white-roofed--for in those parts they paint them so--it nestled under
a rocky hill, crested with heather; and in front the river ran, swollen
with recent rains, through a broad weedy flat, and so, between the
rounded sand-hills, to the sea. Before the cottage was a porch with
honeysuckles trained upon it, and one full-flowering fuchsia upon either
side. Then, as I drew near, I saw her sitting in the porch mending her
father's net. Ah, Heaven, I see her now!"

The speaker paused and sighed; but looking out into the viewless air,
as if upon some picture hung in space, he did not mark my Lady start
and clasp her hands, as though some dreadful thing had come upon her
suddenly, against which none could help her but only God alone.

"It is a story, Lady Lisgard, that you doubtless know," continued
the man, "for even among lords and ladies love will come. I asked
her for a drink of water, and she brought me with it Hope, Resolve,
Repentance--I know not what. From that moment forth, I lived my life
anew. Then the next day, and the next, I sought the cottage; and when I
had won my way with Lucy--that was her name, my Lady--did I tell you?--I
pleaded my cause with the old fisherman, her father--her mother being
already ours--but for a long time in vain.

"She was his only child, his only prop and stay, and he was proud of
her, as well he might have been, for she was gentle of speech as you
yourself or any lady born, and scholarly and wise beyond her humble
state, and, young as she was, already had had many a suitor; but she had
never loved but me. 'Tis like enough you cannot fancy that; but then
my former self was not like this." He pointed to his heart with a
scornful gesture, as though something loathsome had taken the place of
what had wont to be there.

"Besides, the fairest, purest creature upon earth was she, and she took
all things for pure. Not that there was much against me either, except
that I loved good liquor; besides, I only drank for pleasure then, and
now---- But let that be. Well, we were married. We lived with the old
couple at the cottage, as Lucy wished, partly for their sakes, partly,
as I have often thought since then, for mine--that I might be kept out
of bad company, such as there was plenty of at Bleamouth at that time
--poachers, smugglers, and idlers of all sorts. But this was done too
late. I have said that the Law and I fell out: that was for poaching
--and Curse the law, say I, which rich men make for the poor perforce to
break. I never poached after I married, but before that time I had shot
a hare or two; and once--but months ago--there had been a fray with
keepers, and I had clubbed my gun, and struck my hardest, like the rest.
There had been broken bones on both sides, but the matter had blown
over, as I thought, when all of a sudden I received certain news that I
was marked for one of the offenders, and that men were coming to take me
from my Lucy's arms to jail. I told her this, for I had kept nothing
from her all along, and I knew that she had courage, or she would never
have married such a man as me; but I forgot, in my selfish roughness,
that it is one thing to be brave in things that concern one's self,
and another to be able to bear to see others suffer. 'Ah, Heaven!'
exclaimed she, 'but this will kill my father! To have his honest house
entered by men in search of felons, and to see his daughter's husband
with the gyves upon him--that will be his death, I know.' The auld
wife said so likewise.

"They were right, I think, for when we came to break the thing to him,
and warn him of what might happen, although all was said to excuse what
I had done, and to soften the consequences that might come of it, he
raved like one distracted. 'Let him leave my cottage!' cried
he; 'he has worked mischief enough already; he has robbed me of my
daughter's love, and now he would take from me my good name. Let him
leave this honest roof!' 'But where he goes, I must go, father,'
replied Lucy, with her arms about the old man's neck; and in the end
he was brought to see that it must be so. So I changed my name to that
of Derrick, which I bear now, and fled from home to a great seaport, and
there, on board an emigrant-ship bound for the other side of the world,
took passage not only for myself and wife, but for her parents. It was
agreed that all were to begin life again in a strange land, so that I,
too, might begin it once more with that fair start which I had lost in
my own country. Thus the poor old man and his wife were torn from the
comfortable home that had sheltered them for half a century, and forced
in their old age to cross the seas. No, not to cross them: would to
Heaven they might have been suffered so to do! It was ordained that I,
who had thus far caused their wretchedness, should also be the means of
their death. A most terrible storm overtook us at midnight, while yet
in sight of lights on English land, and in the midst of it our vessel
sprung a leak. I knew that I had a brave woman for my wife, but then I
found she was a heroine; I knew my Lucy was good as she was fair, but
then she proved herself an angel. There were men on board who screamed
and wailed like children. She never uttered a cry or shed a tear. She
felt that she was going to heaven with all she loved (for she always
thought the best of every one), and therefore death had no terrors for
her. But I--I felt myself a murderer. I did what I could to save the two
old people, and got them into the only boat that left the ship; but it
had not parted from us twice its length, before it capsized before our
eyes. Lucy had refused to leave me, and when the vessel began to sink,
I lashed her to a spar, and then myself; and so for a little time we
floated. But the great waves drenched us through and through, and dashed
upon us so that we had hardly time to breathe. The spar was not large
enough for both our weights, which sank it too low in the water; and
so I secretly unloosed the cords that fastened me, and clambered to my
Lucy's side, and kissed her cold wet cheek, and whispered: 'Fare
well, Lucy.'"

Here the speaker paused, and covered his rough face. My Lady, too, was
deeply moved. For near a minute, neither spoke. Then the man resumed:
"I slipped into the sea, and struck out aimlessly enough, but with
the instinct of a swimmer. Fool that I was to wish to live!" Again he
paused; but this time, to mutter an execration.

"And did not all your care and unselfish love suffice to save her?"
asked the listener tenderly.

"No, Lady. She was drowned. I never expected otherwise in such a sea.
The whole ship's company were lost, except myself. When nearly spent,
I came upon a huge piece of the wreck, and held on to it till daylight,
when I found myself at sea. I would to God that it had not been so! I
was nearer Heaven at that time than I have ever been since, and I ought
to have perished then, when all which made life precious had already
gone: it would have been far better to have died with her, than to live
without her. But I did live. After two days and three nights of hunger
and thirst, a vessel picked me up, a sodden mass of rags, half-dead and
half-mad. They nursed me and made me well--it was a cruel kindness--and
after many days, I was able to tell them what had happened. 'Ay,
then,' said they, 'the pilot was right who came to us off Falmouth.
It was the _North Star_ that went to pieces in the storm; you are the
sole survivor, man, of all on board. Nothing came on shore that
night, or could have come on such a coast as that, save spars and
corpses.'"

There was silence for a minute's space: the strong man's chest
laboured in vain to give him breath for utterance; in vain his horny
hand dashed the big tears from his brown cheeks; they still rained on.

"Alas, poor man!" said my Lady, in a broken and pitiful voice, "I
feel for you from my very soul. And when you found your three-weeks'
bride was dead--I think you said you had married her but three
weeks--what then became of _you?_"

"What matters?" asked the man half-angrily, "It mattered nothing even to
myself. The vessel took me--it was all one to me whither she was
bound--to New South Wales. And in the New World I did indeed begin a new
life--but it was a far worse one than in the old, I was reckless,
hopeless already, and I was not long in becoming Godless. When that is
said, a man's history is the same, wherever he lives, whatever he does,
and however he ends."

He stamped his foot upon the ground, as though he would keep down some
rising demon, and his voice once more resumed the hoarseness it had
exchanged for something almost plaintive throughout his story.

"Ralph, Ralph," began my Lady reprovingly, and touching his rough
sailor's sleeve with her gloved hand----

"And how the devil should you know my name is Ralph?" interrupted
the other in blank amazement.

"My maid, Mary Forest, told me it was Ralph," returned my Lady
calmly.

"Did she? Well, that's no reason why _you_ should call me by it.
However, since you seem to feel so unexpected an interest in your humble
servant, I will make bold to ask a favour of you." His manner was
rough and defiant as ever now, like that of a sturdy vagrant soliciting
alms of a defenceless woman.

"You are angry with yourself," said my Lady quietly, "for having
given way to feelings which do you honour; that is a base sort of regret
indeed. You try to persuade yourself that I have affected a sympathy
which I did not feel, but you do not succeed. I cannot but be interested
in one who, with all his faults, has certainly in the hour of death and
danger behaved nobly, and who must, I feel assured, have the seeds of
good in him yet, despite his wild and despairing talk."

"No, woman, I have not," returned the man with vehemence. "Dismiss
that from your mind at once. Ralph Derrick is no hypocrite, whatever he
is, and he tells you now that he is a lost man, in the sense which such
as you understand it. I don't know why I have spoken to you as I have
done just now--some springs of feeling that I had deemed were quite
dried up flowed at your voice as they have not done these thirty
years--but don't imagine that I am soft-hearted. I am not a bad fellow
when I'm sober, and not put out; but then I'm seldom sober, and
I'm very easily put out. Your son, Sir Richard, has put me out, for
one. I should be sorry for him if he and I had much to do with one
another.--But there, you need not turn so pale; for, for your sake--and
for Master Walter's sake, who has got my Lucy's eyes, and look, and
voice, God bless him--Sir Richard is safe from me; albeit I have let fly
a bullet before now at men who have wronged me less than he has done--an
insolent young devil! It was a man like him, one of your landowners,
forsooth, whose persecution drove me from my native shore, and
drowned my wife and the old couple. Damn all such tyrants, says Ralph
Derrick"----

It was difficult to associate the depressed and solemn speaker of a
few minutes back with this passionate and lawless man, his huge fingers
opening and shutting in nervous excitement, his eyeballs suffused with
blood, and each hair of his vast beard, as it seemed, bristling with
vengeful fury.

"You were saying that you wished to ask a favour of me, Mr Derrick?"
interposed my Lady quietly. "What is it I can do for you?"

"Well, you can do this," returned he roughly: "you can cease to
set your waiting-maid, Mary, against me, as you have hitherto done. I
am not a bad match for her, as she knows, in point of money; and if she
finds herself able to put up with little starts of temper, and not to
grudge me a drop o' drink at times, why, what is that to you?"

"Have you told her, may I ask, of what you have been telling _me_, Mr
Derrick?"

"Yes; at least I told her I was a widower; I never felt a call to tell
her more; she would not understand, look you. She asked me what this
leaden locket was I wear about my neck, with this poor broken piece of
stick in it, and something withered clinging to it still, and I told her
it was a charm against the ague. Now, you--I'll wager you can tell me
what it holds."

"No, not I. How should _I_ know?" inquired my Lady hurriedly.

"You _do_ know, anyway. This fellow is not the sort of man to carry
charms, you think; and all that's sacred to him in the world or out
of it hangs on his love that's drowned. This, then, must be some
token--were there not fuchsias upon either side the porch where first
they met? There, now, you have it, I can see."

"You plucked, perhaps, a piece of fuchsia when you plighted troth,"
murmured my Lady.

"Ay, when we plighted troth," answered the other mournfully; "and
breaking a twig in twain, all blossoming then, but now--see, dried to
dust--each kept a half. I have seen far up the hills in Mexico a piece
of the true Cross, that's held to be the richest possession that the
Church calls her own in those parts; well, that's not sure; it may be
or it mayn't be what they term it; but this poor twig has never been
out of my sight or reach, and so I kiss and worship this, my relic, as
no devotee can do.--Now, what would Mary Forest say to that? She is not
like my Lucy; no, indeed, no more than I am like the Ralph of those old
days; and if she were, should I be fit for her? My Lucy married to a
drunken, gambling ruffian! Tis blasphemy to think upon it. But as for
this wench, your waiting-maid, she and I are suited well enough. She
wants a husband, and is willing to take me; while I, who have been
tossed so long on the stormy billows of life, shall be glad to come to
anchor. It is you only--she told me so herself--who stand in the way."

"And would you have me, then, advise this woman--being my faithful
friend as well as my servant--to unite her fortunes with a man who, from
his own lips I learn, is hopeless, reckless, Godless, a drunkard and a
gambler"----

"Hell and Furies!" broke forth the other impatiently, "will
you dare to use what I have just now told you against myself! Beware,
beware, proud woman, how you cross a desperate man! Since my life is
worthless, as you paint it, you may be sure that I shall hold the risk
of losing it lighter than better men: there is nothing that I dare not
do to those who cross me."

"I have no fear for myself, sir, and least of all things, Ralph
Derrick, do I fear death," answered my Lady calmly. "Yet willingly I
promise that I will never breathe one syllable to human ear of what you
have said to-night."

"So far so well, my Lady. When I found you here, I was on my way to
court your waiting-woman, but she does not expect me. She has written
me her answer 'Yes' or 'No' before this, and I shall get it
to-morrow in London: it was agreed between us she should do so. I was
to have started to town this afternoon, but I overslept myself--not but
that I got up early enough, as Master Walter will witness--and missed
the train from Dalwynch. I am going thither to-night; but, in the
meantime, I thought I could come back and take a farewell kiss from
Mary, and her 'Yes' from her own lips. I will receive no other
answer, and if such should reach me, I shall know from whom it comes.
The matter is in your hands, I know; come, let us part friends."

"God forbid we should part enemies," replied my Lady fervently;
"I will wrong you in nothing, but be assured I shall do my duty at all
hazards."

"And be assured I shall have my way, Lady Lisgard, at all risks,"
returned the other grimly. "Are you too proud to take my hand at
parting?"

For a single instant, my Lady hesitated; then reaching out her fingers,
they met his own stretched out at fullest length, for the tomb lay
between them. They shook hands across Sir Robert Lisgard's grave.



CHAPTER XIV. ONCE MORE IN MY LADY'S CHAMBER.

|AS my Lady left the churchyard by the wicket-gate, she caught the
flutter of a female dress that flitted on before her, and vanished in
the regions belonging to the domestics. Was it possible that anybody
had been a witness to her late interview, or worse, a listener to
the conversation? It was in the highest degree improbable, but not
impossible. By crouching down behind the low stone wall, next Sir
Robert's tomb, a person in the Abbey grounds, without doubt, could have
overheard, and even, with caution, might have watched them. It chilled
my Lady's heart to think of it. Yet what could be more unlikely? What
servant of hers would have ventured upon such an outrage? Could Mary
Forest have so far forgotten herself, actuated by an irrepressible
curiosity to hear what her mistress and her lover could have to say to
one another at that strange time and place? It was much more probable
that some domestic about to use the short-cut through the churchyard,
had seen her coming from it, and hastened back, to avoid a meeting. At
the same time, the suspicion added to my Lady's troubles.

These were serious and pressing enough already, Heaven help her! and
yet, urgent and perilous as they were, it was not of them that she first
thought when she found herself once more in her own room. There are
no circumstances, however tremendous, which have power to quench the
susceptibilities of women: their feelings must have way, no matter
how dangerous the indulgence in them, how immediate the necessity for
action. The meshes of a net which threatened destruction to herself and
all that were dear to her were closing in around Lady Lisgard, and, calm
as she looked, she knew it well--well as the wily salmon that poises
motionless, and seemingly unconscious of his peril, in the red pool,
below which the fisherman has set the spreading snare; but my Lady turns
her back for a little upon the tide of woes that is setting in upon
her--a spring-tide that may reach Heaven knows how far--and seeks
the inland Past. It is the last time that she will ever visit it, and
therefore she cannot choose but linger there a while, and shed some
hitter tears. Her door is locked, for none must see her wishing
"Good-bye," and the windows are wide open to the air, which blows
the flame of her reading-lamp hither and thither. She needs air, poor
lady. A waft of wind that has swept some snowy steppe would have been
grateful to her throbbing brow that April night; and as for light, a
very little is enough for her purpose. Those few old letters she is
reading, taken from a secret drawer in my Lady's desk, are as familiar
to her as her prayers, and she seems to hold them almost as sacred. Yet
one is not even a letter, but only a piece of folded note-paper, torn at
the creases, and yellow--nay, yellower than mere age could possibly have
turned it. It has been damaged by seawater. Within it are two locks
of hair, quite white, and a few words in faded ink, _Frank Meade_ and
_Rachel Meade_, with a date of five-and-thirty years ago.

She takes out the silver tresses, and looking on them reverently for a
few moments, kisses them, and puts them back in the secret drawer--but
not the writing; that she holds above the lamp until it has caught fire,
and watches it until it is quite consumed, and the last spark has gone
out. Then she brings forth from the same hiding-place two letters,
evidently both by the same hand--a very unclerkly one--ill-spelled and
ill-composed, but which have been to her more dear than any written
words for a quarter of a century; for they were letters of a dead man,
written, the one when he was her accepted lover, the other after he
became her husband. They are letters of the Dead no longer; for he who
was thought to have died is still alive, and being so, has become an
enemy more terrible than any who should seek her life; one who, by
simply saying: "This is my wife," would thereby dishonour her,
disgrace her children, and even shame the memory of that righteous man
whose tomb she had just visited, and wept over with such honest tears.
And yet with tenderness, though mixed with a certain awe and shrinking,
does my Lady look upon those time-worn words, notwithstanding that the
sacredness of Death is no longer on them. The first is what is called
a love-letter, a note filled with foolish fondness, expressed with
vehemence, but without coarseness; the second a tissue of passionate
self-reproaches; the writer accusing himself of bringing a curse
upon her happy home in having married her; then stating, as though
reluctantly, certain arrangements he had made at the seaport,-from which
his communication was dated, for the passage of herself and parents by
the _North Star_. Both are signed _Ralph Gavestone_.

"So loving and so penitent," murmurs she, "Time cannot surely have
worked so ill with such a nature as he would have me believe! When he
first sang that carol to my ear, I thought it might have been an angel
singing:

               O'er the hill and o'er the vale

                   Come three kings together.

"Alas, alas! to think with what terror I heard him sing it the last
time. He may not be more changed within, perhaps, than he is without;
since, notwithstanding what he said about his looks, I knew him again
the first moment my eye lit upon him on yonder lawn. I wonder whether he
would have known _me_, supposing he had snatched away my veil. Merciful
Heaven, what a risk was that! nay, is not every moment that he remains
at Mirk a risk! What if he heard the name of Gavestone coupled with
mine? I am sure he recognised something in my voice, although I
disguised it all I could. He must never come back hither--never, never!
He must be as dead to me now as I deemed him to be before. God knows
I pity him from the bottom of my heart: and also"--here she
paused--"yes, and also that I do not love him--no, not him, although
I love the man that wrote these words. I never concealed it, no, never,
from my--Sir Robert himself. I said: 'I have no love to give you,'
all along; 'only respect, devotion, duty.' And those, Heaven knows,
I gave. If all together, and a hundred other gracious feelings added,
could have made up love, then Sir Robert would have had that; but they
can _not_. He knew it, noble heart, and was content. He knew that
in that drawer I kept these very things that came on shore with me
when----O Ralph, Ralph, Ralph!" My Lady shook with sobs; and then, in
her agony, mistaking the noise of her own passion for some interruption
from without, started up from the desk on which she had thrown herself,
and listened.

Nothing was to be heard save a faint peal of laughter from the
croquet-ground, where Walter and the two young ladies were endeavouring
to play by lantern-light--a frolic she had heard them planning at
dinner-time. Yet even that slight tidings from the world without
recalled her to the present. "I must burn all proofs," she murmured, as
though repeating some authoritative command of another rather than any
determination of her own. Then with a steady hand she took the letters,
and burned them to the last atom, reading the words with greediness, as
though, as the flame consumed them one by one, the remainder had grown
more precious, like the Sibyl's books. There was more to try her yet.
The last thing which the little drawer contained had yet to be brought
forth--a leaden locket, the facsimile of the one which Derrick had
just shewn to her in the churchyard. Within, although almost, as he had
expressed it, "dried to dust," was a tiny sprig of wood. She emptied
this into the hollow of her hand, and instantly the wind whirled all
away. My Lady uttered a low moan of anguish, then sat with the poor
token in her hand, which, worthless and vacant as it was, yet, to her
streaming eyes, held all the treasure of her youth. "Alas, alas, for
the time that is no more!" cried she. "Who could have thought that
I, with my own hand, should destroy this precious pledge? Kind Heaven,
direct me--teach me what it is right to do! Till death should part us,
did I swear to cherish him; and now, though we both live, alone he roves
the world. It may be I should win him back to his former self, and
save a soul alive. He has loved me always--always; and he loves me now,
although he deems I have lain beneath the waves these thirty years, and
although he seeks------ But that shall never he. I will tell Mary Forest
rather to her face: 'I myself am married to this man whom you would
wed.' He shall not bring another sin upon himself and shame on her,
and----Ah, Heaven help me; what is that which I should do in this sad
strait?"

It was terrible to see my Lady's look of woe, as, rising from her
chair, she paced the room, and now prayed Heaven for aid, and now stood
listening to the mirth that still broke in from out of doors by fits,
and now gazed fixedly upon the little leaden case within her hand,
as though there were some magic help in that. "Farewell, Lucy,"
murmured she; "the last words that I ever thought to hear him say,
which, having said, he dropped, to save my life, into the wave. And now
I see him storm-tossed in the sea of sin, certain to sink, without a
plank but this poor ancient love of his to which to cling, and yet I may
not stretch a finger forth to aid him. Ah me, what base return! Why did
I not cleave to him, although I thought him dead, as he to me? Why was I
not faithful to his memory, as he to mine? Why say: 'In three years'
time, Sir Robert, if your fancy still holds firm, I will be yours?'
Why not repeat that 'No' I gave him first? Then, earning my own
living as I was born to earn it, I might have lived on alone until this
day, when, meeting with my poor lost Ralph once more, I could, without
a blush of shame, cry 'Husband!' and be to him indeed the guardian
angel his love paints I was. Heaven knows, I wish it for his sake alone.
I wish for nothing for myself but Death--yes, that would be best of all,
a thousand times."

My Lady's once plump face looked pinched and worn, almost as though
the Shadow for which she sighed was really nigh; her anxious eyes, not
softened by her tears, peered timorous as a hare's to left and right,
as though the tenantless room held some one who could read her secret
soul. Then sitting down upon the sofa, with her hands clenched before
her, she stared out upon the twilight, deepening down upon the windmill
on the hill. But presently, "Forgive me these black thoughts,"
prayed she with inward shudder. "If, as they say, the place reserved
for the wicked is filled with those who have promised themselves to do
some good, and have not done it, then haply those who in their minds
revolve some deadly sin which they do not commit, may be forgiven. I
will not, with God's blessing, thus transgress again. I _know_ that
that is wrong, and prompted by the devil; but which is right and which
is wrong in this" (once more her eyes fell piteously upon the locket
in her hand)--"Lord help me in this trial."

Here Walter's ringing voice was heard upon the lawn beneath: "Never
mind pulling up the rings, Letty; they are the best burglar-trap a
householder can lay; only bring in the mallets and balls."

"My Walter!" exclaimed my Lady, starting up with haste. "Have
I forgotten _you_, then? My proud Sir Richard, too, disgraced,
dishonoured, shall men call you bastard? My sweet Letty--never, never,
never!" As though she dared not trust herself to think, she kept
repeating that sad word: then thrusting the dear token in the centre of
the wood and coals that were laid in the fireplace ready for the match,
she set all alight.

"Better for one to suffer than for three," she muttered to herself.
"The die is cast. I am My Lady still. I would my heart could melt away
like this dull lead, and weigh me down no more, and with this last relic
of the past, that every thought of it might likewise perish. It can
never he, I know. While this my life still holds--a life of lies,
a whited sepulchre--this sting will never lose its venom--never,
never!--Shade of the dead," cried she with vehemence, turning toward
the old church-tower, which stood up black against the rising moon,
"I charge you, witness what I do for you and yours! Here, in this
flame, I sacrifice not only this poor token, but the man that was my
husband; nay, who _is_, the man that I once loved, nay, whom I love now;
the man that laid his life down for my sake, with those two words, just
'Farewell, Lucy.' Great Heaven, is not this enough? Surely, now all
will go well--save for him and me. Is this too much to ask?... Forgive,
forgive: I know not what I said. Teach me to be humble, patient under
every blow, and no more vain regrets. I must act at once. What did
Arthur say? 'The matter lay in my own hands,' said he, whether this
man should stay at Mirk or not. How little did he know with what truth
he spoke! And I must speak to Mary without delay, for that I alone could
stop her marriage with this man. How true again? Well, I will do it."

Then my Lady washed her swollen eyes, and smoothed her hair, all tangled
and escaped from its sober bonds, unturned the door-key, and having
rung her bell, awaited with the lamp so placed that it threw her face in
shadow, the coming of her waiting-maid.


END OF VOL. I.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mirk Abbey, Volume 1(of 3)" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home