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Title: There & Back
Author: MacDonald, George
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "There & Back" ***

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THERE & BACK

By George Macdonald



CONTENTS

CHAP.

       I. FATHER, CHILD, AND NURSE
      II. STEPMOTHER AND NURSE
     III. THE FLIGHT
      IV. THE BOOKBINDER AND HIS PUPIL
       V. THE MANSONS
      VI. SIMON ARMOUR
     VII. COMPARISONS
    VIII. A LOST SHOE
      IX. A HOLIDAY
       X. THE LIBRARY
      XI. ALICE
     XII. MORTGRANGE
    XIII. THE BEECH-TREE
     XIV. AGAIN THE LIBRARY
      XV. BARBARA WYLDER
     XVI. BARBARA AND RICHARD
    XVII. BARBARA AND OTHERS
   XVIII. MRS. WYLDER
     XIX. MRS. WYLDER AND BARBARA
      XX. BARBARA AND HER CRITICS
     XXI. THE PARSON’S PARABLE
    XXII. THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
   XXIII. A HUMAN GADFLY
    XXIV. RICHARD AND WINGFOLD
     XXV. WINGFOLD AND HIS WIFE
    XXVI. RICHARD AND ALICE
   XXVII. A SISTER
  XXVIII. BARBARA AND LADY ANN
    XXIX. ALICE AND BARBARA
     XXX. BARBARA THINKS
    XXXI. WINGFOLD AND BARBARA
   XXXII. THE SHOEING OF MISS BROWN
  XXXIII. RICHARD AND VIXEN
   XXXIV. BARBARA’S DUTY
    XXXV. THE PARSON’S COUNSEL
   XXXVI. LADY ANN MEDITATES
  XXXVII. LADY ANN AND RICHARD
 XXXVIII. RICHARD AND ARTHUR
   XXXIX. MR., MRS., AND MISS WYLDER
      XL. IN LONDON
     XLI. NATURE AND SUPERNATURE
    XLII. YET A LOWER DEEP
   XLIII. TO BE REDEEMED, ONE MUST REDEEM
    XLIV. A DOOR OPENED IN HEAVEN
     XLV. THE CARRIAGE
    XLVI. RICHARD’S DILEMMA
   XLVII. THE DOORS OF HARMONY AND DEATH
  XLVIII. DEATH THE DELIVERER
    XLIX. THE CAVE IN THE FIRE
       L. DUCK-FISTS
      LI. BARONET AND BLACKSMITH
     LII. UNCLE-FATHER AND AUNT-MOTHER
    LIII. MORNING
     LIV. BARBARA AT HOME
      LV. MISS BROWN
     LVI. WINGFOLD AND BARBARA
    LVII. THE BARONET’S WILL
   LVIII. THE HEIR
     LIX. WINGFOLD AND ARTHUR MANSON
      LX. RICHARD AND HIS FAMILY
     LXI. HEART TO HEART
    LXII. THE QUARREL
   LXIII. BARONET AND BLACKSMITH
    LXIV. THE BARONET’S FUNERAL
     LXV. THE PACKET
    LXVI. BARBARA’S DREAM



_NOTE._

_Some of the readers of this tale will be glad to know that the passage
with which it ends is a real dream; and that, with but three or four
changes almost too slight to require acknowledging, I have given it word
for word as the friend to whom it came set it down for me._



CHAPTER I. _FATHER, CHILD, AND NURSE._

It would be but stirring a muddy pool to inquire--not what motives
induced, but what forces compelled sir Wilton Lestrange to marry a woman
nobody knew. It is enough to say that these forces were mainly ignoble,
as manifested by their intermittent character and final cessation.
The _mésalliance_ occasioned not a little surprise, and quite as much
annoyance, among the county families,--failing, however, to remind any
that certain of their own grandmothers had been no better known to the
small world than lady Lestrange. It caused yet more surprise, though
less annoyance, in the clubs to which sir Wilton had hitherto been
indebted for help to forget his duties: they set him down as a greater
idiot than his friends had hitherto imagined him. For had he not been
dragged to the altar by a woman whose manners and breeding were hardly
on the level of a villa in St. John’s Wood? Did any one know whence she
sprang, or even the name which sir Wilton had displaced with his own?
But sir Wilton himself was not proud of his lady; and if the thing had
been any business of theirs, it would have made no difference to him; he
would none the less have let them pine in their ignorance. Did not his
mother, a lady less dignified than eccentric, out of pure curiosity beg
enlightenment concerning her origin, and receive for answer from the
high-minded baronet, “Madam, the woman is my wife!”--after which the
prudent dowager asked no more questions, but treated her daughter-in-law
with neither better nor worse than civility. Sir Wilton, in fact, soon
came to owe his wife a grudge that he had married her, and none the
less that at the time he felt himself of a generosity more than human in
bestowing upon her his name. Creation itself, had he ever thought of it,
would have seemed to him a small thing beside such a gift!

That Robina Armour, after experience of his first advances, should have
at last consented to marry sir Wilton Lestrange, was in no sense in her
favour, although after a fashion she was in love with him--in love, that
is, with the gentleman of her own imagining whom she saw in the baronet;
while the baronet, on his part, was what he called in love with what he
called _the woman_. As he was overcome by her beauty, so was she by
his rank--an idol at whose clay feet is cast many a spiritual
birthright--and as mean a deity as any of man’s device. But the
blacksmith’s daughter was in many respects, notwithstanding, a woman
of good sense, with much real refinement, and a genuine regard for
rectitude. Although sir Wilton had never loved her with what was best
in him, it was not in spite of what was best in him that he fell in love
with her. Had his better nature been awake, it would have justified the
bond, and been strengthened by it.

Lady Lestrange’s father was a good blacksmith, occasionally drunk in
his youth, but persistently sober now in his middle age; a long-headed
fellow, with reach and quality in the prudence which had long ceased to
appear to him the highest of virtues. At one period he had accounted it
the prime duty of existence to take care of oneself; and so much of this
belief had he communicated to his younger daughter, that she deported
herself so that sir Wilton married her--with the result that, when Death
knocked at her door, she welcomed him to her heart. The first cry of her
child, it is true, made her recall the welcome, but she had to go with
him, notwithstanding, when the child was but an hour old.

Not one of her husband’s family was in the house when she died. Sir
Wilton himself was in town, and had been for the last six months,
preferring London and his club to Mortgrange and his wife. When a
telegram informed him that she was in danger, he did go home, but when
he arrived, she had been an hour gone, and he congratulated himself that
he had taken the second train.

There had been betwixt them no approach to union. When what sir Wilton
called love had evaporated, he returned to his mire, with a resentful
feeling that the handsome woman--his superior in everything that belongs
to humanity--had bewitched him to his undoing. The truth was, she had
ceased to charm him. The fault was not in her; it lay in the dulled eye
of the swiftly deteriorating man, which grew less and less capable
of seeing things as they were, and transmitted falser and falser
impressions of them. The light that was in him was darkness. The woman
that might have made a man of him, had there been the stuff, passed from
him an unprized gift, a thing to which he made Hades welcome.

It was decent, however, not to parade his relief. He retired to the
library, lit a cigar, and sat down to wish the unpleasant fuss of the
funeral over, and the house rid of a disagreeable presence. Had the
woman died of a disease to which he might himself one day have to
succumb, her death might, as he sat there, have chanced to raise for an
instant the watery ghost of an emotion; but, coming as it did, he had no
sympathetic interest in her death any more than in herself. Lolling in
the easiest of chairs, he revolved the turns of last night’s play, until
it occurred to him that he might soon by a second marriage take amends
of his neighbours for their disapprobation of his first. So pleasant was
the thought that, brooding upon it, he fell asleep.

He woke, looked, rubbed his eyes, stared, rubbed them again, and stared.
A woman stood in front of him--one he had surely seen!--no, he had never
seen her anywhere! What an odd, inquiring, searching expression in her
two hideous black eyes! And what was that in her arms--something wrapt
in a blanket?

The message in the telegram recurred to him: there must have been a
child! The bundle must be the child! Confound the creature! What did it
want?

“Go away,” he said; “this is not the nursery!”

“I thought you might like to look at the baby, sir!” the woman replied.

Sir Wilton stared at the blanket.

“It might comfort you, I thought!” she went on, with a look he felt
to be strange. Her eyes were hard and dry, red with recent tears, and
glowing with suppressed fire.

Sir Wilton was courteous to most women, especially such as had no claim
upon him, but cherished respect for none. It was odd therefore that
he should now feel embarrassed. From some cause the machinery of his
self-content had possibly got out of gear; anyhow no answer came ready.
He had not the smallest wish to see the child, but was yet, perhaps,
unwilling to appear brutal. In the meantime, the woman, with gentle,
moth-like touch, was parting and turning back the folds of the
blanket, until from behind it dawned a tiny human face, whose angel was
suppliant, it may be, for the baptism of a father’s first gaze.

The woman held out the child to sir Wilton, as if expecting him to take
it. He started to his feet, driving the chair a yard behind him, stuck
his hands in his pockets, and, with a face of disgust, cried--

“Great God! take the creature away.”

But he could not lift his eyes from the face nested in the blanket. It
seemed to fascinate him. The woman’s eyes flared, but she did not speak.

“Uglier than sin!” he half hissed, half growled. “--I suppose the animal
is mine, but you needn’t bring it so close to me! Take it away--and keep
it away. I will send for it when I want it--which won’t be in a hurry!
My God! How hideous a thing may be, and yet human!”

“He is as God made him!” remarked the nurse, quietly for very wrath.

“Or the devil!” suggested his father.

Then the woman looked like a tigress. She opened her mouth, but closed
it again with a snap.

“I may say what I like of my own!” said the father. “Tell me the goblin
is none of mine, and I will be as respectful to him as you please. Prove
it, and I will give you fifty pounds. He’s hideous! He’s damnably ugly!
Deny it if you can.”

The woman held her peace. She could not, even to herself, call him a
child pleasant to look at. She gazed on him for a moment with pitiful,
protective eyes, then covered his face as if he were dead, but she did
not move.

“Why don’t you go?” said the baronet.

Instead of replying, she began, as by a suddenly confirmed resolve,
to remove the coverings at the other end of the bundle, and presently
disclosed the baby’s feet. The baronet gazed wondering. To what might
not assurance be about to subject him? She took one of the little feet
in a hard but gentle hand, and spreading out “the pink, five-beaded
baby-toes,” displayed what even the inexperience of the baronet
could not but recognize as remarkable: between every pair of toes was
stretched a thin delicate membrane. She laid the foot down, took up the
other, and showed the same peculiarity. The child was web-footed, as
distinctly as any properly constituted duckling! Then she lifted, one
after the other, the tiny hands, beautiful to any eye that understood,
and showed between the middle and third finger of each, the same sort of
membrane rising half-way to the points of them.

“I see!” said the baronet, with a laugh that was not nice, having in it
no merriment, “the creature is a monster!--Well, if you think I am to
blame, I can only protest you are mistaken. _I_ am not web-footed! The
duckness must come from the other side.”

“I hope you will remember, sir Wilton!”

“Remember? What do you mean? Take the monster away.”

The woman rearranged the coverings of the little crooked legs.

“Won’t you look at your lady before they put her in her coffin?” she
said when she had done.

“What good would that do her? She’s past caring!--No, I won’t: why
should I? Such sights are not pleasant.”

“The coffin’s a lonely chamber, sir Wilton; lonely to lie all day and
all night in!”

“No lonelier for one than for another!” he replied, with an involuntary
recoil from his own words. For the one thing a man must believe--yet
hardly believes--is, that he shall one day die. “She’ll be better
without me, anyhow!”

“You are heartless, sir Wilton!”

“Mind your own business. If I choose to be heartless, I may have my
reasons. Take the child away.”

Still she did not move. The baby, young as he was, had thrown the
blanket from his face, and the father’s eyes were fixed on it: while he
gazed the nurse would not stir. He seemed fascinated by its ugliness.
Without absolute deformity, the child was indeed as unsightly as infant
well could be.

“My God!” he said again--for he had a trick of crying out as if he had
a God--“the little brute hates me! Take it away, woman. Take it away
before I strangle it! I can’t answer for myself if it keeps on looking
at me!”

With a glance whose mingled anger and scorn the father did not see, the
nurse turned and went.

He kept staring after her till the door shut, then fell back into his
chair, exclaiming once more, “My God!”--What or whom he meant by the
word, it were hard to say.

“Is it possible,” he said to himself, “that the fine woman I
married--for she _was_ a fine woman, a deuced fine woman!--should have
died to present the world with such a travesty! It’s like nothing human!
It’s an affront to the family! Ah! the strain _will_ show! They say your
sins will find you out! It was a sin to marry the woman! Damned fool I
was! But she bewitched me! I _was_ bewitched!--Curse the little monster!
I shan’t breathe again till I’m out of the house! Where was the doctor?
He ought to have seen to it! Hang it all, I’ll go abroad!”

Ugly as the child was, however, to many an eye the first thing evident
in him would have been his strong likeness to his father--whose
features were perfect, though at the moment, and at many a moment, their
expression was other than attractive. Sir Wilton disliked children,
and the dislike was mutual. Never did child run to him; never was child
unwilling to leave him. Escaping from his grasp, he would turn and look
back, like Christian emerging from the Valley of the Shadow, as if to
weigh the peril he had been in.

As tenderly as if he had been the loveliest of God’s children, the woman
bore her charge up staircases, and through corridors and passages, to
the remote nursery, where, in a cradle whose gay furniture contrasted
sadly with the countenance of the child and the fierceness of her
own eyes, she gently laid him down. But long after he was asleep, she
continued to bend over him, as if with difficulty restraining herself
from clasping him again to her bosom.

Jane Tuke had been married four or five years, but had no children, and
the lack seemed to have intensified her maternity. Elder sister to lady
Lestrange, she had gone gladly to receive her child in her arms, and had
watched and waited for it with an expectation far stronger than that of
the mother; for so thorough was lady Lestrange’s disappointment in
her husband, that she regarded the advent of his child almost with
indifference. Jane had an absolute passion for children. She had married
a quarter for faith, a quarter for love, and a whole half for hope. This
divinely inexplicable child-passion is as unintelligible to those
devoid of it, as its absence is marvellous to those possessed by it. Its
presence is its justification, its being its sole explanation, itself
its highest reason. Surely on those who cherish it, the shadow of the
love-creative God must rest more than on some other women! Unpleasing as
was the infant, to know him her own would have made the world a paradise
to Jane. Her heart burned with divine indignation at the wrongs already
heaped upon him. Hardly born, he was persecuted! Ugly! he was _not_
ugly! Was he not come straight from the fountain of life, from the
Father of children? That such a father as she had left in the library
should repudiate him was well! She loved to think of his rejection.
She brooded with delight, in the midst of her wrath, on every word of
disgust that had fallen from his unfatherly lips. The more her baby was
rejected, the more he was hers! He belonged to her, and her only, for
she only loved him! She could say with _France_ in _King Lear_, “Be
it lawful I take up what’s cast away!” To her the despised one was the
essence of all riches. The joy of a miser is less than the joy of a
mother, as gold is less than a live soul, as greed is less than love.
No vision of jewels ever gave such a longing as this woman longed with
after the child of her dead sister.

The body that bore was laid in the earth, the thing born was left upon
it. The mother had but come, exposed her infant on the rough shore
of time, and forsaken him in his nakedness. There he lay, not knowing
whence he came, or whither he was going, urged to live by a hunger
and thirst he had not invented, and did not understand. His mother had
helplessly forsaken him, but the God in another woman had taken him up:
there was a soul to love him, two arms to carry him, and a strong heart
to shelter him.

Sir Wilton returned to London, and there enjoyed himself--not much,
but a little the more that no woman sat at Mortgrange with a right to
complain that he took his pleasure without her. He lived the life of the
human animals frequenting the society of their kind from a gregarious
instinct, and for common yet opposing self-ends. He had begun to assume
the staidness, if not dullness, of the animal whose first youth has
departed, but he was only less frolicsome, not more human. He was
settling down to what he had made himself; no virtue could claim a share
in the diminished rampancy of his vices. What a society is that which
will regard as reformed the man whom assuaging fires have left an
exhausted slag--a thing for which as yet no use is known, who suggests
no promise of change or growth, gives no poorest hint of hope concerning
his fate!

With the first unrecognized sense of approaching age, a certain habit
of his race began to affect him, and the idea of a quieter life, with a
woman whose possession would make him envied, grew mildly attractive. A
brilliant marriage in another county would, besides, avenge him on
the narrow-minded of his own, who had despised his first choice! With
judicial family-eye he surveyed the eligible women of his acquaintance.
It was, no doubt, to his disadvantage that already an heir lay “mewling
and puking in the nurse’s arms;” for a woman who might willingly be
mother to the inheritor of such a property as his, might not find
attractive the notion of her first being her husband’s second son. But
slips between cups and lips were not always on the wrong side! Such
a moon-calf as Robina’s son could not with justice represent the
handsomest man and one of the handsomest women of their time. The heir
that fate had palmed upon him might very well be doomed to go the way so
many infants went!

He spread the report that the boy was sickly. A notion that he was not
likely to live prevailed about Mortgrange, which, however originated,
was nourished doubtless by the fact that he was so seldom seen. In
reality, however, there was not a healthier child in all England than
Richard Lestrange.

Sir Wilton’s relations took as little interest in the heir as himself,
and there was no inducement for any of them to visit Mortgrange; the
aunt-mother, therefore, had her own way with him. She was not liked in
the house. The servants said she cared only for the little toad of a
baronet, and would do nothing for her comfort. They had, however, just a
shadow of respect for her: if she encouraged no familiarity, she did not
meddle, and was independent of their aid. Even the milking of the cow
which had been, through her persistence, set apart for the child, she
did herself. She sought no influence in the house, and was nothing loved
and little heeded.

Sir Wilton had not again seen his heir, who was now almost a year old,
when the rumour reached Mortgrange that the baronet was about to be
married.

Naturally, the news was disquieting to Jane. The hope, however, was left
her, that the stepmother might care as little for the child as did the
father, and that so, for some years at least, he might be left to her.
It was a terrible thought to the loving woman that they might be parted;
a more terrible thought that her baby might become a man like his
father. Of all horrors to a decent woman, a bad man must be the worst!
If by her death she could have left the child her hatred of evil, Jane
would have willingly died: she loved her husband, but her sister’s boy
was in danger!



CHAPTER II. _STEPMOTHER AND NURSE._

The rumour of sir Wilton’s marriage was, as rumour seldom is, correct.
Before the year was out, lady Ann Hardy, sister to the earl of Torpavy,
representing an old family with a drop or two of very bad blood in
it, became lady Ann Lestrange How much love there may have been in the
affair, it is unnecessary to inquire, seeing the baronet was what he
was, and the lady understood the _what_ pretty well. She might have
preferred a husband not so much what sir Wilton was, but she was
nine-and-twenty, and her brother was poor. She said to herself, I
suppose, that she might as well as another undertake his reform: some
one must! and married him. She had not much of a trousseau, but was
gorgeously attired for the wedding. It is true she had to return to the
earl three-fourths of the jewels she wore; but they were family jewels,
and why should she not have some good of them? She started with fifty
pounds of her own in her pocket, and a demeanour in her person equal
to fifty millions. When they arrived at Mortgrange, the moon was indeed
still in the sky, but the honey-pot, to judge by the appearance of the
twain, was empty: twain they were, and twain would be. The man wore a
look of careless all-rightness, tinged with an expression of indifferent
triumph: he had what he wanted; what his lady might think of her side
of the bargain, he neither thought nor cared. As to the woman, let her
reflections be what they might, not a soul would come to the knowledge
of them. Whatever it was to others, her pale, handsome face was never
false to herself, never betrayed what she was thinking, never broke
the shallow surface of its frozen dignity. Will any man ever know how a
woman of ordinary decency feels after selling herself? I find the thing
hardly safe to ponder. No trace, no shadow of disappointment clouded the
countenance of lady Ann that sultry summer afternoon as she drove up the
treeless avenue. The education she had received--and education in
the worst sense it was! for it had brought out the worst in her--had
rendered her less than human. The form of her earthly presence had
been trained to a fashionable perfection; her nature had not been left
unaided in its reversion toward the vague animal type from which it was
developed: in the curve of her thin lips as they prepared to smile,
one could discern the veiled snarl and bite. Her eyes were grey, her
eyebrows dark; her complexion was a clear fair, her nose perfect, except
for a sharp pinch at the end of the bone; her nostrils were thin but
motionless; her chin was defective, and her throat as slender as
her horrible waist; her hands and feet were large even for “her tall
personage.”

After his lady had had a cup of tea, sir Wilton, for something to
do, proposed taking her over the house, which was old, and worthy of
inspection. In their progress they came to a door at the end of a long
and rather tortuous passage. Sir Wilton did not know how the room was
occupied, or he would doubtless have passed it by; but as its windows
gave a fine view of the park, he opened the door, and lady Ann entered.
Sudden displeasure shortened her first step; pride or something worse
lengthened the next, as she bore down on a woman too much occupied with
a child on her knee to look up at the sound of her entrance. When,
a moment after, she did look up, the dreaded stepmother was looking
straight down on her baby. Their eyes encountered. Jane met an icy
stare, and lady Ann a gaze of defiance--an expression by this time
almost fixed on the face of the nurse, for in her spirit she heard every
unspoken remark on her child. Not a word did the lady utter, but to
Jane, her eyes, her very breath seemed to say with scorn, “Is _that_ the
heir?” Sir Wilton did not venture a single look: he was ashamed of his
son, and already a little afraid of his wife, whom he had once seen
close her rather large teeth in a notable way. As she turned toward the
window, however, he stole a glance at his offspring: the creature was
not quite so ugly as before--not quite so repulsive as he had pictured
him! But, good heavens! he was on the lap of the same woman whose
fierceness had upset him almost as much as his child’s ugliness! He
walked to the window after his wife. She gazed for a moment, turned with
indifference, and left the room. Her husband followed her. A glance of
fear, dislike, and defiance, went after them from Jane.

Stronger contrast than those two women it would be hard to find. Jane’s
countenance was almost coarse, but its rugged outline was almost grand.
Her hair grew low down on her forehead, and she had deep-set eyes. Her
complexion was rough, her nose large and thick. Her mouth was large
also, but, when unaffected by her now almost habitual antagonism, the
curve of her lip was sweet, and occasionally humorous. Her chin was
strong, and the total of her face what we call masculine; but when
she silently regarded her child, it grew beautiful with the radiant
tenderness of protection.

Her visitors left the door open behind them; Jane rose and shut it,
sat down again, and gazed motionless at the infant. Perhaps he vaguely
understood the sorrow and dread of her countenance, for he pulled a long
face of his own, and was about to cry. Jane clasped him to her bosom in
an agony: she felt certain she would not long be permitted to hold him
there. In the silent speech of my lady’s mouth, her jealous love saw the
doom of her darling. What precise doom she dared not ask herself; it
was more than enough that she, indubitably his guardian as if sent from
heaven to shield him, must abandon him to his natural enemy, one who
looked upon him as the adversary of her own children. It was a thought
not to be thought, an idea for which there should be no place in her
bosom! Unfathomable as the love between man and woman is the love of
woman to child.

She spent a wakeful night. From the decree of banishment sure to go
forth against her, there was no appeal! Go she must! Yet her heart cried
out that he was her own. In the same lap his mother had lain before him!
She had carried her by day, and at night folded her in the same arms,
herself but six years old--old enough to remember yet the richness
unspeakable of her new possession. Never had come difference betwixt
them until Robina began to give ear to sir Wilton, whom Jane could not
endure. When she responded, as she did at once, to her sister’s cry for
her help, she made her promise that no one should understand who she
was, but that she should in the house be taken for and treated as a
hired nurse. Why Jane stipulated thus, it were hard to say, but so
careful were they both, that no one at Mortgrange suspected the nurse
as personally interested in the ugly heir left in her charge! No one
dreamed that the child’s aunt had forsaken her husband to nurse him, and
was living _for_ him day and night. She, in her turn, had promised her
sister never to leave him, and this pledge strengthened the bond of
her passion. The only question was _how_ she was to be faithful to her
pledge, _how_ to carry matters when she was turned away. With those
thin, close-pressed lips in her mind’s eye, she could not count on
remaining where she was beyond a few days.

She was not only a woman capable of making up her mind, but a woman of
resource, with the advantage of having foreseen and often pondered the
possibility of that which was now imminent. The same night, silent above
the sleep of her darling, she sat at work with needle and scissors far
into the morning, remodelling an old print dress. For nights after, she
was similarly occupied, though not a scrap or sign of the labour was
visible in the morning.

The crisis anticipated came within a fortnight. Lady Ann did not show
herself a second time in the nursery, but sending for Jane, informed her
that an experienced nurse was on her way from London to take charge
of the child, and her services would not be required after the next
morning.

“For, of course,” concluded her ladyship, “I could not expect a woman of
your years to take an under-nurse’s place!”

“Please your ladyship, I will gladly,” said Jane, eager to avoid or at
least postpone the necessity forcing itself upon her.

“I intend you to go--and _at once_,” replied her ladyship; “--that is,
the moment Mrs. Thornycroft arrives. The housekeeper will take care that
you have your month’s wages in lieu of warning.”

“Very well, my lady!--Please, your ladyship, when may I come and see the
child?”

“Not at all. There is no necessity.”

“Never, my lady?”

“Decidedly.”

“Then at least I may ask why you send me away so suddenly!”

“I told you that I want a properly qualified nurse to take your place.
My wish is to have the child more immediately under my own eye than
would be agreeable if you kept your place. I hope I speak plainly!”

“Quite, my lady.”

“And let me, for your own sake, recommend you to behave more
respectfully when you find another place.”

What she was doing lady Ann was incapable of knowing. A woman
love-brooding over a child is at the gate of heaven; to take her child
from her is to turn her away from more than paradise.

Jane went in silence, seeming to accept the inevitable, too proud to
wipe away the tear whose rising she could not help--a tear not for
herself, nor yet for the child, but for the dead mother in whose place
she left such a woman. She walked slowly back to the nursery, where her
charge was asleep, closed the door, sat down by the cot, and sat for a
while without moving. Then her countenance began to change, and slowly
went on changing, until at last, as through a mist of troubled emotion,
out upon the strong, rugged face broke, with strange suggestion of a
sunset, the glow of resolve and justified desire. A maid more friendly
than the rest brought her some tea, but Jane said nothing of what had
occurred. When the child awoke, she fed him, and played with him a long
time--till he was thoroughly tired, when she undressed him, and laying
him down, set about preparing his evening meal. No one could have
perceived in her any difference, except indeed it were a subdued
excitement in her glowing eyes. When it was ready, she went to her box,
took from it a small bottle, and poured a few dark-coloured drops into
the food.

“God forgive me! it’s but this once!” she murmured.

The child seemed not quite to relish his supper, but did not refuse it,
and was presently asleep in her arms. She laid him down, took a book,
and began to read.



CHAPTER III. _THE FLIGHT._

She read until every sound had died in the house, every sound from
garret to cellar, except the ticking of clock, and the tinkling cracks
of sinking fires and cooling grates. In the regnant silence she rose,
laid aside her book, softly opened the door, and stepped as softly into
the narrow passage. A moment or two she listened, then stole on tiptoe
to the main corridor, and again listened. She went next to the head of
the great stair, and once more stood and listened. Then she crept
down to the drawing-room, saw that there was no light in the library,
billiard-room, or smoking-room, and with stealthy feet returned to
the nursery. There she closed the door she had left open, and took the
child. He lay in her arms like one dead. She removed everything he wore,
and dressed him in the garments which for the last fortnight she had
been making for him from clothes of her own. When she had done, he
looked like any cottager’s child; there was nothing in his face to
contradict his attire. She regarded the result for a moment with a
triumph of satisfaction, laid him down, and proceeded to put away the
clothes he had worn.

Over the top of the door was a small cupboard in the wall, into which
she had never looked until the day before, when she opened it and found
it empty. She placed a table under it, and a chair on the table, climbed
up, laid in it everything she had taken off the child, locked the door
of it, put the key in her pocket, and got down. Then she took the cloak
and hood he had hitherto worn out of doors, laid them down beside
the wardrobe, and lifting the end of it with a strength worthy of the
blacksmith’s daughter, pushed them with her foot into the hollow between
the bottom of the wardrobe and the floor of the room. This done, she
looked at the timepiece on the mantelshelf, saw it was one o’clock,
and sat down to recover her breath. But the next moment she was on her
knees, sobbing. By and by she rose, wiped the hot tears from her eyes,
and went carefully about the room, gathering up this and that, and
putting it into her box. Then having locked it, she stuffed a number of
small pieces of paper into the lock, using a crochet-needle to get them
well among the wards. Lastly, she put on a dress she had never worn at
Mortgrange, took up the child, who was still in a dead sleep, wrapped
him in an old shawl, and stole with him from the room.

Like those of a thief--or murderess rather, her scared eyes looked
on this side and that, as she crept to a narrow stair that led to the
kitchen. She knew every turn and every opening in this part of the
house: for weeks she had been occupied, both intellect and imagination,
with the daring idea she was now carrying into effect.

She reached the one door that might yield a safe exit, unlocked it
noiselessly, and stood in a little paved yard with a pump, whence
another door in an ivy-covered wall opened into the kitchen-garden. The
moon shone large and clear, but the shadow of the house protected her.
It was the month of August, warm and still. If only it had been dark!
Outside the door she was still in the shadow. For the first time in her
life she loved the darkness. Along the wall she stole as if clinging to
it. Yet another door led into a shrubbery surrounding the cottage of the
head-gardener, whence a back-road led to a gate, over which she could
climb, so to reach the highway, along whose honest, unshadowed spaces
she must walk miles and miles before she could even hope herself safe.

She stood at length in the broad moonlight, on the white, far-reaching
road. Her heart beat so fast as almost to stifle her. She dared not look
down at the child, lest some one should see her and look also! The moon
herself had an aspect of suspicion! Why did she keep staring so? For an
instant she wished herself back in the nursery. But she knew it would
only be to do it all over again: it _had_ to be done! Leave the child
of her sister where he was counted in the way! with those who hated him!
where his helpless life was in danger! She could not!

But, while she thought, she did not stand. Softly, with great strides
she went stalking along the road. She knew the country: she was not many
miles from her father’s forge, whence at moments she seemed to hear the
ring of his hammer through the still night.

She kept to the road for three or four miles, then turned aside on a
great moor stretching far to the south: daybreak was coming fast; she
must find some cottage or natural shelter, lest the light should betray
her. When the sun had made his round, and yielded his place to the
friendly night, she would start afresh! In her bundle she had enough for
the baby; for herself, she could hold out many hours unfed. A few more
miles from Mortgrange, and no one would know her, neither from any
possible description could they be suspected in the garments they wore!
Her object in hiding their usual attire had been, that it might be taken
for granted they had gone away in it.

She did not slacken her pace till she had walked five miles more. Then
she stood a moment, and gazed about her. The great heath was all around,
solitary as the heaven out of which the solitary moon, with no child
to comfort her, was enviously watching them. But she would not stop to
rest, save for the briefest breathing space! On and on she went until
moorland miles five more, as near as she could judge, were behind her.
Then at length she sat down upon a stone, and a timid flutter of
safety stirred in her bosom, followed by a gush of love victorious. Her
treasure! her treasure! Not once on the long way had she looked at him.
Now she folded back the shawl, and gazed as not even a lover could have
gazed on the sleeping countenance of his rescued bride. The passion of
no other possession could have equalled the intensity of her
conscious _having_. Not one created being had a right to the child but
herself!--yet any moment he might be taken from her by a cold-hearted,
cruel stepmother, and given to a hired woman! She started to her feet,
and hurried on. The boy was no light weight, and she had things to carry
besides, which her love said he could not do without; yet before seven
o’clock she had cleared some sixteen miles, in a line from Mortgrange as
straight as she could keep.

She thought she must now be near a village whose name she knew; but she
dared not show herself lest some advertisement might reach it after
she was gone, and lead to the discovery of the route she had taken.
She turned aside therefore into an old quarry, there to spend the day,
unvisited of human soul. The child was now awake, but still drowsy. She
gave him a little food, and ate the crust she had saved from her tea the
night before. During the long hours she slept a good deal by fits, and
when the evening came, was quite fit to resume her tramp. To her joy it
came cloudy, giving her courage to enter a little shop she saw on the
outskirts of the village, and buy some milk and some bread. From this
point she kept the road: she might now avail herself of help from cart
or wagon. She was not without money, but feared the railway.

It is needless to follow her wanderings, always toward London, where was
her husband, and her home. A weary, but happy, and almost no longer an
anxious woman, she reached at length a certain populous suburb, and was
soon in the arms of her husband.



CHAPTER IV. _THE BOOKBINDER AND HIS PUPIL._

It was the middle of the day before they were missed. Their absence
caused for a time no commotion; the servants said nurse must have taken
the child for his usual walk. But when the nurse from London came,
and, after renewed search and inquiry, nothing was heard of them, their
disappearance could no longer be kept from lady Ann. She sent to inform
her husband.

Sir Wilton asked a question or two of her messenger, said the thing must
be seen to, finished his cigar, threw the stump in the fire, and went to
his wife; when at once they began to discuss, not the steps to be taken
for the recovery of the child, but the woman’s motive for stealing him.
The lady insisted it was revenge for having been turned away, and that
she would, as soon as she reached a suitable place, put an end to his
life: she had seen murder in her eyes! The father opined there was
no such danger: he remembered, though he did not mention it, the
peculiarity of the woman’s behaviour when first he saw her. There was
no limit, he said, to the unnatural fancies of women; some were
disgustingly fond of children, even other women’s children. Plain as the
infant was, he did not doubt she had taken a fancy to him, and therefore
declined to part with him. The element of revenge might, he allowed,
have a share in the deed; but that would be satisfied with leaving them
in doubt of his fate. For his part, he made her welcome to him! To this
lady Ann gave no answer: she was not easily shocked, and could, without
consternation, have regarded his disappearance as final. But something
must at least appear to be done! Unpleasant things might be said, and
uncertainty was full of annoyance!

“You must be careful, sir Wilton,” she remarked. “Nobody thinks you
believe the child your own.”

Sir Wilton laughed.

“I never had a doubt on the subject. I wish I had: he’s not to my
credit. If we never hear of him again, the better for the next!”

“That is true!” rejoined lady Ann. “But what if, after we had forgotten
all about him, he were to turn up again?”

“That would be unpleasant--and is indeed a reason why we should look
for him. Better find him than live in doubt! Besides, the world would be
uncharitable enough to hint that you had made away with him: it’s what
ought to have been done when first he appeared. I give you my word,
Ann, he was a positive monster! The object was actually
web-footed!--web-footed like any frog!”

“You must let the police know,” said the lady.

“That the child is web-footed? No, I think not!” yawned sir Wilton.

He got up, went out, and ordered a groom to ride hard to the village--as
hard as he could go--and let the police understand what had occurred.
Within the hour a constable appeared, come to inquire when last the
fugitives were seen, and what they wore--the answer to which latter
question set the police looking for persons very different in appearance
from Jane and her nursling. Nothing was heard of them, and the inquiry,
never prosecuted with any vigour, was by degrees dropped entirely.

John Tuke had grumbled greatly at his wife’s desertion of him for
grandees who would never thank her; but he gave in to the prolongation
of her absence with a better grace, when he learned how the motherless
baby was regarded by his own people. The humanity of the man rose in
defence of the injured. He felt also that, in espousing the cause of his
wife’s nephew, scorned by his baronet father, he was taking the part
of his own down-trodden class. He was greatly perplexed, however, as to
what end the thing was to have. Must he live without his wife till the
boy was sent to school?

He was in bed and fast asleep, when suddenly opening his eyes, he saw
beside him the wife he had not seen for twelve months, with the stolen
child in her arms. When he heard how the stepmother had treated her, and
how the babe was likely to fare among its gentle kin, he was filled with
fresh indignation; but, while thoroughly appreciating and approving his
wife’s decision and energy, he saw to what the deed exposed them, and
augured frightful consequences to the discovery that seemed almost
certain. But when he understood the precautions she had taken, and
bethought himself how often the police fail, he had better hopes of
escape. One thing he never dreamed of--and that was, restoring the
child. Often at night he would lie wondering how far, in case of their
being tried for kidnapping, the defence would reach, that his wife was
the child’s aunt; and whether the fact that she was none the less a poor
woman standing up against the rich, would not render that or any plea
unavailing. Jane was, and long remained, serenely hopeful.

When she left for Mortgrange, they had agreed that her husband should
say she was gone to her father’s; and as nobody where they lived knew
who or where her father was, nobody had the end of any clue. For some
time after her return she did not show herself, leaving it to her
husband to say she had come back with her baby. Then she began to appear
with the child, and so managed her references to her absence, that no
one dreamed of his not being her own, or imagined that she had left
her husband for other reason than to be tended at her old home in her
confinement. After a few years, even the fact of his not having been
born in that house was forgotten; and Richard Lestrange grew up as the
son of John Tuke, the bookbinder. Not in any mind was there a doubt as
to his parentage.

They lived on the very bank of the Thames, in a poor part of a populous,
busy, thriving suburb, far from fashionable, yet not without inhabitants
of refinement. Had not art and literature sent out a few suckers into
it, there would have been no place in it for John Tuke. For, more than
liking his trade, being indeed fond of it, he would not work for the
booksellers, but used his talent to the satisfaction of known customers,
of whom he had now not a few, for his reputation had spread beyond the
near neighbourhood. But while he worked cheaper, quality considered,
than many binders, even carefully superintending that most important yet
most neglected part of the handicraft, the sewing, he never undertook
cheap work. Never, indeed, without persuasion on the part of his
employer and expostulation on his own, did he consent to _half-bind_
a book. Hence it comes to be confessed, that, when _carte blanche_ was
given him, he would not infrequently expend upon a book an amount of
labour and a value of material quite out of proportion to the importance
of the book. Still, being a thoroughly conscientious workman, who never
hurried the forwarding, never cut from a margin a hair’s breadth more
than was necessary, and hated finger-marks on the whiteness of a page,
he was well known as such, and had plenty of work--had often, indeed, to
refuse what was offered him, hence was able to decline all such jobs as
would give him no pleasure, and grew more fastidious as he grew older
in regard to the quality of the work he would undertake. He had never
employed a journeyman, and would never take more than two apprentices at
a time.

As Richard Lestrange grew, his chief pleasure was to be in the shop with
his uncle, and watch him at his varying work. I think his knowledge of
books as things led him the sooner to desire them as realities, for to
read he learned with avidity. When he was old enough to go to school,
his adopted father spared nothing he could spend to make him fit for
his future; wisely resolved, however, that he should know nothing of his
rights until he was of an age to understand them--except, indeed, sir
Wilton should die before that age arrived, when his cause would be too
much prejudiced by farther postponement of claim. Heartily they hoped
that their secret might remain a secret until their nephew should be
capable of protecting them from any untoward consequence of their well
intended crime.

Happily there was in the place, and near enough for the boy to attend it
easily, a good day-school upon an old foundation, whose fees were within
his father’s means. Richard proved a fair student and became a great
reader. But he took such an intelligent and practical interest in the
work he saw going on at home, that he began, while yet a mere child, to
use paste and paper of his own accord. First he made manuscript-books
for his work at school, and for the copying of such verses as he took
a fancy to in his reading. Then inside the covers of some of these he
would make pockets for papers; and so advanced to small portfolios and
pocket-books, of which he would make presents to his companions, and
sometimes, when more ambitiously successful, to a master. In their
construction he used bits of coloured paper and scraps of leather,
chiefly morocco, which his father willingly made over to him, watching
his progress with an interest quite paternal, and showing a workman’s
wisdom in this, that only when he saw him in a real difficulty would he
come to his aid--as, for instance, when first he struggled with a piece
of leather too thick for the bonds of paste, and must be taught how to
pare it to the necessary flexibility and compliance.

To become able to _make_ something is, I think, necessary to thorough
development. I would rather have son of mine a carpenter, a watchmaker,
a wood-carver, a shoemaker, a jeweller, a blacksmith, a bookbinder,
than I would have him earn his bread as a clerk in a counting-house.
Not merely is the cultivation of operant faculty a better education in
faculty, but it brings the man nearer to every thing operant; humanity
unfolds itself to him the readier; its ways and thoughts and modes of
being grow the clearer to both intellect and heart. The poetry of
life, the inner side of that nature which comes from him who, on the
Sabbath-days even, “worketh hitherto,” rises nearer the surface to
meet the eyes of the man who _makes._ What advantage the carpenter of
Nazareth gathered from his bench, is the inheritance of every workman,
in proportion as he does divine, that is, honest work.

Perceiving the faculty of the boy, his father--so let us call John Tuke
for the present--naturally thought it well to make him a gift of his
trade: it would always be a possession! “Whatever turn things may take,”
 he would remark to his wife, “the boy will have his bread in his hands.
And say what they will, the man who can gather his food off his own
bench, or screw it out of his own press, must be a freer man than he who
but for his inheritance would have to beg, steal, or die of hunger. And
who knows how long the world may permit idlers to fare of its best!”

For, after a fashion of his own, Tuke was a philosopher and a
politician. But his politics were those of the philosopher, not of the
politician.

Richard, with his great love of reading, and therefore of books, was
delighted to learn the craft which is their attendant and servitor. When
too young yet to wield the hammer without danger both to himself and the
book under it, he began to sew, and in a few weeks was able to bring
the sheets together entirely to the satisfaction of his father. From the
first he set him to do that essential part of the work in the best way,
that is, to sew every sheet round every cord: it is only when one can
perfectly work after the perfect rule, that he may be trusted with
variations and exceptions.

He went on teaching him until the boy could, he confessed, do almost
everything better than himself--went on until he had taught him every
delicacy, every secret of the craft. Richard developed a positive genius
for the work, seeming almost to learn it by intuition. A pocket-book,
with which he presented his father on his fiftieth birthday, brought out
his unqualified praise.

In the process he gradually revealed a predilection for a rarer use of
his faculty--a use more nice, while less distinguished, and not much
favoured by his father. It had its prime source deeper than the art
of book-binding--in the love of books themselves, not as leaves to be
bound, but as utterances to be heard. Certain dealers in old books
have loved some of them so as to refuse to part with them on any
terms; Richard, unable to possess more than a very few, manifested
his veneration for them in another and nearer fashion, running, as was
natural and healthy, in the lines of his calling.

For many months in diligent attendance at certain of the evening-classes
at King’s College, he had developed a true insight into and sympathy
with what is best in our literature--chiefly in that of the sixteenth
century: from this grew an almost peculiar regard for old books. With
three or four shillings weekly at his disposal, he laid himself out to
discover and buy such volumes as, in themselves of value, were in so bad
a condition as to be of little worth from the mere bookseller’s point
of view: with these for his first patients he opened a hospital, or
angel-asylum, for the lodging, restorative treatment, and systematic
invigoration of decayed volumes. Love and power combined made him look
on the dilapidated, slow-wasting abodes of human thought and delight
with a healing compassion--almost with a passion of healing. The worse
gnawed of the tooth of insect-time, the farther down any choice book in
the steep decline of years, the more intent was Richard on having
it. More and more skillful he grew, not only in rebinding such whose
clothing was past repair, but in restoring the tone of their very
constitution; and in so mending the ancient and beggarly garments of
others that they reassumed a venerable respectability. Through love,
he passed from an artisan to an artist. His reverence for the inner
reality, the book itself, in itself beyond time and decay, had roused
in him a child-like regard for its body, for its broken inclosure and
default of manifestation. He would espy the beauty of an old binding
through any amount of abrasion and laceration. To his eyes almost any
old binding was better for its book than any new one.

His father came to regard with wonder and admiration the redeeming
faculty of his son, whereby he would reinstate in strength and ripe
dignity a volume which he would have taken to pieces, and redressed like
an age-worn woman in a fashionable gown. So far did his son’s superior
taste work upon his, that at length, if he opened a new binding, however
sombre, and saw a time-browned paper and old type within, the sight
would give him the shock of a discord.

But Tuke was in many things no other than a man of this world, and
sorely he doubted if such labour would ever have its counterpoise in
money. It paid better, because it was much easier, to reclothe than to
restore! to destroy and replace than to renew! When he had watched many
times for minutes together his son’s delicate manipulation--in which he
patched without pauperizing, and subaided without humiliating--and at
last contemplating the finished result, he concluded him possessed of
a quite original faculty for book-healing.--“But alas,” he thought,
“genius seldom gets beyond board-wages!” It did not occur to him
that genius least requires more than board-wages. He encouraged him,
nevertheless, though mildly, in the pursuit of this neglected branch of
the binding-art.

As the days went on, and their love for their nephew grew with his
deserts, the uncle and aunt shrank more and more from the thought, which
every year compelled them to think the oftener, that the day was drawing
nigh when they must volunteer the confession that he was not their
child.

When he was about seventeen, Richard settled down to work with his
father, occasionally assisting him, but in general occupied with his
own special branch, in which Tuke, through his long connection with
book-lovers possessing small cherished libraries, was able to bring him
almost as many jobs as he could undertake. The fact that a volume could
be so repaired, stimulated the purchase of shabby books; and part of
what was saved on the price of a good copy was laid out on the amendment
of the poor one. But however much the youth delighted in it, he could
not but find the work fidgety and tiring; whence ensued the advantage
that he left it the oftener for a ramble, or a solitary hour on the
river. He had but few companions, his guardians, wisely or not, being
more fastidious about his associates than if he had been their very son.
His uncle, of strong socialistic opinions, and wont to dilate on human
equality--as if the thing that ought to be, and must one day come, could
be furthered by the assertion of its present existence--was, like the
holders of even higher theories, not a little apt to forget the practice
necessarily involved: this son of a baronet, seeing that he was the
son also of his wife’s sister, was not to be brought up like one of the
many!

Ugliness in infancy is a promise, though perhaps a doubtful one, of
beauty in manhood; and in Richard’s case the promise was fulfilled:
hardly a hint was left of the baby-face which had repelled his father.
He was now a handsome well-grown youth, with dark-brown hair, dark-green
eyes, broad shoulders, and a little stoop which made his aunt uneasy:
she would have had him join a volunteer corps, but he declared he had
not the time. He accepted her encouragement, however, to forsake his
work as often as he felt inclined. He had good health; what was better,
a good temper; and what was better still, a willing heart toward his
neighbour. A certain over-hanging of his brows was--especially when he
contracted them, as, in perplexity or endeavour, he not infrequently
did--called a scowl by such as did not love him; but it was of shallow
insignificance, and probably the trick of some ancestor.

Before long, his thinking began to take form in verse-making. It matters
little to my narrative whether he produced anything of original value or
not; utterance aids growth, which is the prime necessity of human as
of all other life. Not seldom, bent over his work, he would be evolving
some musical fashion of words--with no relaxation, however, of the sharp
attention and delicate handling required by the nature of that work. It
is the privilege of some kinds of labour, that they are compatible with
thoughts of higher things. At the book-keeper’s desk, the clerk must
think of nothing but his work; he is chained to it as the galley-slave
to his oar; the shoemaker may be poet or mystic, or both; the ploughman
may turn a good furrow and a good verse together; Richard could at once
use hands and thoughts. It troubled his protectors that they could not
send him to college, but they comforted themselves that it would not be
too late when he returned to his natural position in society. They
had no plan in their minds, no date settled at which to initiate his
restoration. All they had determined was, that he must at least be a
grown man, capable of looking after his own affairs, when the first step
for it was taken.

John Tuke was one of those who acknowledge in some measure the claims of
their neighbour, but assert ignorance of any one who must be worshipped.
And in truth, the God presented to him by his teachers was one with
little claim on human devotion. The religious system brought to bear on
his youth had operated but feebly on his conscience, and not at all
on his affections. It had, however, so wrought upon his apprehensions,
that, when afterward persuaded there was no ground for agonizing
anticipation, he welcomed the conviction as in itself a redemption for
all men; “for, surely,” he argued, “fear is the worst of evils!” The
very approach of such a relief predisposed him to receive whatever
teaching might follow from the same source; and soon he believed
himself satisfied that the notion of religion--of duty toward an unseen
maker--was but an old-wives’-fable; and that, as to the hereafter, a
mere cessation of consciousness was the only reasonable expectation. The
testimony of his senses, although negative, he accepted as stronger
on that side than any amount of what could, he said, be but the purest
assertion on the other. Why should he heed an old book? why one more
than another? The world was around him: some things he must believe;
other things no man could! One thing was clear: every man was bound to
give his neighbour fair-play! He would press nothing upon Richard as to
God or no God! he would not be dogmatic! he only wanted to make a man
of him! And was he not so far successful? argued John. Was not Richard
growing up a diligent, honest fellow, loving books, and leading a good
life; whereas, had he been left to his father, he could not have escaped
being arrogant and unjust, despising the poor of his own flesh, and
caring only to please himself! In the midst of such superior causes
of satisfaction, it also pleased Tuke to reflect that the trade he had
taught his nephew was a clean one, which, while it rendered him superior
to any shrewd trick fortune might play him, would not make his hands
unlike those of a gentleman.

His aunt, however, kept wishing that Richard were better “set up,” and
looked more like his grandfather the blacksmith, whose trade she could
not help regarding as manlier than that of her husband. Hence she
had long cherished the desire that he should spend some time with her
father. But John would not hear of it. He would get working at the
forge, he said, and ruin his hands for the delicate art in which he was
now unapproachable.

For in certain less socialistic moods, John would insist on regarding
bookbinding, in all and any of its branches, not as a trade, but an art.



CHAPTER V. _THE MANSONS._

At school, Richard had been friendly with a boy of gentle nature, not
many years older than himself. The boy had stood his friend in more
than one difficulty, and Richard heartily loved him. But he had suddenly
disappeared from the school, and so from Richard’s ken: for years he had
not seen him. One evening, as he was carrying home a book, he met this
Arthur Manson, looking worn and sad. He would have avoided Richard, but
he stopped him, and presently the old friendship was dominant. Arthur
told him his story. He had had to leave school because of the sudden
cessation, from what cause he did not know, of a certain annuity his
mother had till then enjoyed--rendering it imperative that he should
earn his own living, and contribute to her support, for although she
still had a little money, it was not nearly enough. His sister was at
work with a dressmaker, but as yet earning next to nothing. His mother
was a lady, he said, and had never done any work. He was himself in a
counting-house in the City, with a salary of forty pounds. He told him
where they lived, and Richard promised to go and see him, which he did
the next Sunday.

His friend’s mother lived in a little house of two floors, one of a long
row lately built. The furniture was much too large, and it was difficult
to move in the tiny drawing-room. It showed a feeble attempt at
decoration, which made it look the poorer. Accustomed to his mother’s
care of her things, Richard perceived a difference: these were much
finer but neglected, and looked as if they felt it. At their evening
meal, however, the tea was good, and the bread and butter were of the
best.

The mother was a handsome middle-aged woman--not so old, Richard somehow
imagined, as she looked. She was stout and florid, with plenty of black,
rather coarse hair, and seemed to Richard to have the carriage of a
lady, but not speech equal to her manners. She was polite to him, but
not apparently interested in her son’s friend. Yet several times he
found her gazing at him with an expression that puzzled him. He had,
however, too clear a conscience to be troubled by any scrutiny. All
the evening Arthur’s face wore the same look of depression, and Richard
wondered what could be amiss. He learned afterward that the mother was
so self-indulgent, and took so little care to make the money go as far
as it could, that he had not merely to toil from morning to night at
uncongenial labour, but could never have the least recreation, and was
always too tired when he came home to understand any book he attempted
to read. Richard learned also that he had no greatcoat, and went to
the City in the winter with only a shabby comforter in addition to the
clothes he had worn all the summer. But it was not Arthur who told him
this.

The girl was a graceful little creature, with the same sad look her
brother had, but not the same depression. She seemed more delicate,
and less capable of labour; yet her hours were longer than his, and her
confinement greater. Alice had to sit the whole day plying her needle,
while Arthur was occasionally sent out to collect money. But her
mistress was a kind-hearted woman, and not having a fashionable
_clientèle_, had not yet become indifferent to the well-being of her
work-women. She even paid a crippled girl a trifle for reading to them,
stipulating only that she should read fast, for she found the rate of
their working greatly influenced by the rate of the reading. Life, if
harder, was therefore not quite so uninteresting to Alice as to Arthur,
and that might be why she seemed to have more vitality. Like her mother
she had a quantity of hair, as dark as hers, but finer; dark eyes, not
without meaning; irregular but very pleasing and delicate features; and
an unusually white rather than pale complexion, with a sort of sallow
glow under the diaphanous skin. There was not a little piquancy in the
expression of her countenance, and Richard felt it strangely attractive.

The youths found they had still tastes in common, although Arthur had
neither time nor strength to follow them. Richard spoke of some book he
had been reading. Arthur was interested, but Alice so much that Richard
offered to lend it her: it was the first time she had heard a book
spoken of in such a tone--one of suppressed feeling, almost veneration.

The mother did not join in their talk, and left them soon--her daughter
said to go to church.

“She always goes by herself,” Alice added. “She sees we are too tired to
go.”

They sat a long time with no light but that of the fire. Arthur seemed
to gather courage, and confessed the hopeless monotony of his life. He
complained of no privation, only of want of interest in his work.

“Do _you_ like your work?” he asked Richard.

“Indeed I do!” Richard answered. “I would sooner handle an old book than
a bunch of bank-notes!”

“I don’t doubt it,” returned Arthur. “To me your workshop seems a
paradise.”

“Why don’t you take up the trade, then? Come to us and I will teach you.
I do not think my father would object.”

“I learn nothing where I am!” continued Arthur.

“Our boat is not over-manned,” resumed Richard. “Say you will come, and
I will speak to my father.”

“I wish I could! But how are we to live while I am learning?--No; I must
grind away till--”

He stopped short, and gave a sigh.

“Till when, Arty?” asked his sister.

“Till death set me free,” he answered.

“You wouldn’t leave me behind, Arty!” said Alice; and rising, she put
her arm round his neck.

“I wouldn’t if I could help it,” he replied.

“It’s a cowardly thing to want to die,” said Richard.

“I think so sometimes.”

“There’s your mother!”

“Yes,” responded Arthur, but without emotion.

“And how should I get on without you, Arty?” said his sister.

“Not very well, Ally. But it wouldn’t be for long. We should soon meet.”

“Who told you that?” said Richard almost rudely.

“Don’t you think we shall know each other afterwards?” asked Arthur,
with an expression of weary rather than sad surprise.

“I would be a little surer of it before I talked so coolly of leaving a
sister like that! I only wish _I_ had one to care for!”

A faint flush rose on the pale face of the girl, and as swiftly faded.

“Do you think, then, that this life is only a dream?” she said,
looking up at Richard with something in her great eyes that he did not
understand.

“Anyhow,” he answered, “I would bear a good deal rather than run the
risk of going so fast asleep as to stop dreaming it. A man can die any
time,” he continued, “but he can’t dream when he pleases! I would wait!
One can’t tell when things may take a turn! There are many chances on
the cards!”

“That’s true,” replied Arthur; but plainly the very chances were a
weariness to him.

“If Arthur had enough to eat, and time to read, and a little amusement,
he would be as brave as you are, Mr. Tuke!” said Alice. “--But you can’t
mean to say there will be no more of anything for us after this world!
To think I should never see Arty again, would make me die before my
time! I should be so miserable I would hardly care to keep him as long
as I might. We must die some day, and what odds whether it be a few days
sooner, or a few days later, if we’re never going to meet again?”

“The best way is not to think about it,” returned Richard. “Why should
you? Look at the butterflies! They take what comes, and don’t grumble at
their sunshine because there’s only one day of it.”

“But when there’s no sunshine that day?” suggested Alice.

“Well, when they lie crumpled in the rain, they’re none the worse that
they didn’t think about it beforehand! We must make the best of what we
have!”

“It’s not worth making the best of,” cried Alice indignantly, “if that’s
all!”

My reader may well wonder at Richard: how could he be a lover of our
best literature and talk as he did? or rather, talking as he did,
how could he love it? But he had come to love it while yet under the
influence of what his aunt taught him, poor as was her teaching. Then
his heart and imagination were more in the ascendency. Now he had begun
to admire the intellectual qualities of that literature more, and its
imaginative less; for he had begun to think truth attainable through the
forces of the brain, sole and supreme.

In matters of conduct, John Tuke and his wife were well agreed;
in matters of opinion, they differed greatly. Jane went to church
regularly, listened without interest, and accepted without question;
had her husband gone, he would have listened with the interest of utter
dissent. When Jane learned that her husband no longer “believed in the
Bible,” she was seized with terror lest he should die without repentance
and be lost. Thereupon followed fear for herself: was not an atheist
a horribly wicked man?--and she could not feel that John was horribly
wicked! She tried her hardest, but could not; and concluded therefore
that his unbelief must be affecting her. She prayed him to say nothing
against the Bible to Richard--at least before he arrived at years
of discretion. This John promised; but subtle effluences are subtle
influences.

John Tuke did right so far as he knew--at least he thought he did--and
refused to believe in any kind of God; Jane did right, she thought, as
far as she knew--and never imagined God cared about her: let him who has
a mind to it, show the value of the difference!

Tuke was a thinking man;--that is, set a going in any direction that
interested him, he could take a few steps forward without assistance.
But he could start in no direction of himself. At a small club to which
he belonged, he had been brought in contact with certain ideas new to
him, and finding himself able to grasp them, felt at once as if they
must be true. Certain other ideas, new to him, coming self-suggested in
their train, he began immediately to imagine himself a thinker, able to
generate notions to which the people around him were unequal. He began
to grow self-confident, and so to despise. Taking courage then to deny
things he had never believed, had only not thought about, and finding
he thereby gave offence, he chose to imagine himself a martyr for the
truth. He did not see that a denial involving no assertion, cannot
witness to any truth; nor did he perceive that denial in his case meant
nothing more than non-acceptance of things asserted. Had he put his
position logically, it would have been this: I never knew such things;
I do not like the notion of them; therefore I deny them: they do not
exist. But no man really denies a thing which he knows only by the
words that stand for it. When John Tuke denied the God in his notion, he
denied only a God that could have no existence.

A man will be judged, however, by his truth toward what he professes to
believe; and John was far truer to his perception of the duty of man to
man than are ninety-nine out of the hundred of so-called Christians to
the things they profess to believe. How many men would be immeasurably
better, if they would but truly believe, that is, act upon, the smallest
part of what they untruly profess to believe, even if they cast aside
all the rest. John cast aside an allegiance to God which had never been
more than a mockery, and set about delivering his race from the fear of
a person who did not exist. For, true enough, there was no God of the
kind John denied; only, what if, in delivering his kind from the tyranny
of a false God, he aided in hiding from them the love of a true God--of
a God that did and ought to exist? There are other passions besides
fear, and precious as fear is hateful. If there be a God and one has
never sought him, it will be small consolation to remember that he
could not get proof of his existence. Is a child not to seek his father,
because he cannot prove he is alive?

The aunt continued to take the boy to church, and expose him, for it was
little more she did, to a teaching she could not herself either supply
or supplement. It was the business of the church to teach Christianity!
her part was to accept it, and bring the child where he also might
listen and accept! But what she accepted as Christianity, is another
question; and whether the acceptance of anything makes a Christian, is
another still.

How much of Christianity a child may or may not learn by going to
church, it is impossible to say; but certainly Richard did not learn
anything that drew his heart to Jesus of Nazareth, or caught him in
any heavenly breeze, or even the smallest of celestial whirlwinds! He
learned nothing even that made unwelcome such remarks as his father
would now and then let fall concerning the clergy and the way they
followed their trade; while the grin, full of conscious superiority,
with which he unconsciously accompanied them, found its reflection in
the honourable but not yet humble mind, beginning to be aware of its own
faculty, and not aware that the religion presented in his aunt’s
church, a religion neither honourable nor elevating, was but the dullest
travesty of the religion of St. Paul. Richard had, besides, read several
books which, had his uncle been _careful_ of the promise he had given
his wife, he would have intentionally removed instead of unintentionally
leaving about.

In the position Richard had just taken toward his new friends, he was
not a little influenced by the desire to show himself untrammelled by
prevailing notions, and capable of thinking for himself; but this was
far from all that made him speak as he did. Many young fellows are as
ready to deny as Richard, but not many feel as strongly that life rests
upon what we know, that knowledge must pass into action. The denial of
every falsehood under the sun would not generate one throb of life.

Richard told his adoptive parents where he had been, and asked if
he might invite his new friends for the next Sunday. They made no
objection, and when Arthur and Alice came, received them kindly. Richard
took Arthur to the shop, and showed him the job he was engaged upon at
the time, lauding his department as affording more satisfaction than
mere binding.

“For,” he said, “the thing that is not, may continue not to be; but the
thing that is, should be as it was meant to be. Where it is not such,
there is an evil that wants remedy. It may be that the sole remedy is
binding, but that involves destruction, therefore is a poor thing beside
renovation.”

The argument came from a well of human pity in himself, deeper than
Richard knew. But both the pity he felt and the _truth_ in what he said
came from a source eternal of which he yet knew nothing.

“It would be much easier,” continued Richard, “to make that volume
look new, but how much more delightful to send it out with a revived
assertion of its ancient self!”

Some natures have a better chance of disclosing the original in them,
that they have not been to college, and set to think in other people’s
grooves, instead of those grooves that were scored in themselves long
before the glacial era.

“For my part,” said Arthur, “I feel like a book that needs to be fresh
printed, not to say fresh bound! I don’t feel why I am what I am. I
would part with it all, except just being the same man!”

While the youths were having their talk, Alice was in Jane’s bedroom,
undergoing an examination, the end and object of which it was impossible
she should suspect. Caught by a certain look in her sweet face,
reminding her of a look that was anything but sweet, Jane had set
herself to learn from her what she might as to her people and history.

“Is your father alive, my dear?” she asked, with her keen black eyes on
Alice’s face.

That grew red, and for a moment the girl did not answer. Jane pursued
her catechizing.

“What was his trade or profession?” she inquired.

The girl said nothing, and the merciless questioner went on.

“Tell me something about him, dear. Do you remember him? Or did he die
when you were quite a child?”

“I do not remember him,” answered Alice. “I do not know if I ever saw
him.”

“Did your mother never tell you what he was like?”

“She told me once he was very handsome--the handsomest man she ever
saw--but cruel--so cruel! she said.--I don’t want to talk about him,
please, ma’am!” concluded Alice, the tears running down her cheeks.

“I’m sorry, my dear, to hurt you, but I’m not doing it from curiosity.
You have a look so like a man I once knew,--and your brother has
something of the same!--that in fact I am bound to learn what I can
about you.”

“What sort was the man we put you in mind of?” asked Alice, with a
feeble attempt at a smile. “Not a _very_ bad man, I hope!”

“Well, not very good--as you ask me.--He was what people call a
gentleman!”

“Was that all?”

“What do you mean?”

“I thought he was a nobleman!”

“Oh!--well, he wasn’t that; he was a baronet.”

Alice gave a little cry.

“Do tell me something about him,” she said. “What do you know about
him?”

“More than I choose to tell. We will forget him now, if you please!”

There was in her voice a tone of displeasure, which Alice took to
be with herself. She was in consequence both troubled and perplexed.
Neither made any more inquiries. Jane took her guest back to the
sitting-room.

The moment her brother came from the workshop, Alice said to him--

“Are you ready, Arthur? We had better be moving!”

Arthur was a gentle creature, and seldom opposed her; he seemed only
surprised a little, and asked if she was ill. But Richard, who had all
the week been looking forward to a talk with Alice, and wanted to show
her his little library, was much disappointed, and begged her to change
her mind. She insisted, however, and he put on his hat to walk with
them.

But his aunt called him, and whispered that she would be particularly
obliged to him if he would go to church with her that evening. He
expostulated, saying he did not care to go to church; but as she
insisted, he yielded, though not with the best grace.

Before another Sunday, there came, doubtless by his aunt’s management,
an invitation to spend a few weeks with his grandfather, the blacksmith.

Richard was not altogether pleased, for he did not like leaving his
work; but his aunt again prevailed with him, and he agreed to go. In
this, as in most things, he showed her a deference such as few young men
show their mothers. Her influence came, I presume, through the strong
impression of purpose she had made on him.

His uncle objected to his going, and grumbled a good deal. As the
brewer looks down on the baker, so the bookbinder looked down on the
blacksmith.

He said the people Richard would see about his grandfather, were not
fit company for the heir of Mortgrange! But he knew the necessity of his
going somewhere for a while, and gave in.



CHAPTER VI. _SIMON ARMOUR_.

Simon Armour was past only the agility, not the strength of his youth,
and in his feats of might and skill he cherished pride. Without being
offensively conceited, he regarded himself--and well might--as the
superior of any baronet such as his daughter’s husband, and desired of
him no recognition of the relationship. All he looked for from any man,
whether he stood above or beneath his own plane, was proper pay for
good work, and natural human respect. Some of the surrounding gentry,
possibly not uninfluenced, in sentiment at least, by the growing
radicalism of the age, enjoyed the free, jolly, but unpresuming carriage
of the stalwart old man, to whom, if indeed on his head the almond-tree
was already in blossom, the grasshopper was certainly not yet a burden:
he could still ply a sledge-hammer in each hand. “My lord,” came from
his lips in a clear, ringing tone of good-fellowship, which the nobleman
who occasionally stopped at his forge to give him some direction about
the shoeing of this or that horse, liked well to hear, and felt the
friendlier for--though I doubt if he would have welcomed it from a
younger man.

Besides his daughter Jane and her husband, he alone was aware of the
real parentage of the lad who passed as their son; and he knew that, if
he lived long enough, an hour would call him to stand up for the rights
of his grandson. Perhaps it was partly in view of this, that he had
for years been an abstainer from strong drink; but I am inclined to
attribute the fact chiefly to his having found the love of it gaining
upon him. “Damn the drink!” he had been more than once overheard to say,
“it shall know which of us is master!” And when Simon had made up his
mind to a thing, the thing was--not indeed as good, but almost as sure
as done. The smallest of small beer was now his strongest drink.

He was a hard-featured, good-looking, white-haired man of sixty,
with piercing eyes of quite cerulean blue, and a rough voice with an
undertone of music in it. There was music, indeed, all through him.
In the roughest part of his history it was his habit to go to
church--mainly, I may say entirely, for the organ, but his behaviour
was never other than reverent. How much he understood, may be left
a question somewhat dependent on how much there may have been to
understand; but he had a few ideas in religion which were very much his
own, and which, especially some with regard to certain of the lessons
from the Old Testament, would have considerably astonished some parsons,
and considerably pleased others. He was a big, broad-shouldered man,
with the brawniest arms, and eyes so bright and scintillant that one
might fancy they caught and kept for their own use the sparks that flew
from his hammer. His face was red, with a great but short white beard,
suggesting the sun in a clean morning-fog.

A rickety omnibus carried Richard from the railway-station some five
miles to the smithy. When the old man heard it stop, he threw down his
hammer, strode hastily to the door, met his grandson with a gripe that
left a black mark and an ache, and catching up his portmanteau, set it
down inside.

“I’ll go with you in a moment, lad!” he said, and seizing with a long
pair of pincers the horse-shoe that lay in process on the anvil, he
thrust it into the fire, blew a great roaring blast from the bellows,
plucked out the shoe glowing white, and fell upon it as if it were a
devil. Having thus cowed it a bit, he grew calm, and more deliberately
shaped it to an invisible idea. His grandson was delighted with the
mingling of determination, intent, and power, with certainty of result,
manifest in every blow. In two minutes he had the shoe on the end of a
long hooked rod, and was hanging it beside others on a row of nails in a
beam. Then he turned and said--

“There, lad! that’s off the anvil--and off my mind! Now I’m for you!”

“Grandfather,” said Richard, “I shouldn’t like to have you for an
enemy!”

“Why not, you rascal! Do you think I would take unfair advantage of
you?”

“No, that I don’t! But you’ve got awful arms and hands!”

“They’ve done a job or two in their day, lad!” he answered; “but I’m
getting old now! I can’t do what I thought nothing of once. Well, no man
was made to last for ever--no more than a horse-shoe! There’d be no work
for the Maker if he did!”

“I’m glad to see we’re of one mind, grandfather!” said Richard.

“Well, why shouldn’t we--if so be we’re in the right mind!--Yes; we
must be o’ one mind if we’re o’ the right mind! The year or two I may be
ahead o’ you in gettin’ at it, goes for nothing: I started sooner!--But
what may be the mind you speak of, sonny?”

The look of keen question the old man threw on him, woke a doubt in
Richard whether he might not have misunderstood his grandfather.

“I think,” he answered, “if a man was made to last for ever, the world
would get tired of him. When a horse or a dog has done his work, he’s
content--and so is his master.”

“Nay, but I bean’t! I bean’t content to lose the old horse as I’ve shod
mayhap for twenty years--no, not if I bean’t his master!”

“There’s no help for it, though!”

“None as I knows on. I’d be main glad to hear any news on the subjec’ as
you can supply!--No, I ain’t content; I’m sorry!”

“Why don’t the parsons say the old horse’ll rise again?”

“‘Cause the parsons knows nought about it. How should they?”

“They say we’re going to rise again.”

“Why shouldn’t they? I guess I’ll be up as soon as I may! I don’t want
no night to lie longer than rest my bones!”

“I mistook what you meant, grandfather. I thought, when you said you
weren’t made to last for ever, that you meant there was an end of you!”

“Well, so you might, and small blame to you! It’s a wrong way of
speaking we all have. But you’ve set me thinking--whether by mistake
or not, where’s the matter! I never thought what come o’ the old horse,
a’ter all his four shoes takes to shinin’ at oncet! For the old smith
when he drops his hammer--I have thought about _him_. Lord!--to think o’
that anvil never ringin’ no more to this here fist o’ mine!”

While they talked, the blacksmith had put off his thick apron of
hide; and now, catching up Richard’s portmanteau as if it had been a
hand-basket, he led the way to a cottage not far from the forge, in
a lane that here turned out of the high road. It was a humble place
enough--one story and a wide attic. The front was almost covered with
jasmine, rising from a little garden filled with cottage flowers. Behind
was a larger garden, full of cabbages and gooseberry-bushes.

A girl came to the door, with a kind, blushing face, and hands as red
as her cheeks--a great-niece of the old smith. He passed her and led the
way into a room half kitchen, half parlour.

“Here you are, lad--_at_ home, I hope! Sech as it is, an’ as much as
it’s mine, it’s yours, an’ I hope you’ll make it so.”

He deposited the portmanteau, glanced quickly round, saw that Jessie had
not followed them, and said--

“You’ll keep your good news till I’ve turned it over!”

“What good news, grandfather?”

“The good news that them as is close pared, has no call to look out
for the hoof to grow. I’m not saying you’re wrong, lad--not _yet_; but
everybody mightn’t think your news so good as to be worth a special
messenger! So till you’re quite sure of it--”

“I _am_ quite sure of it, grandfather!”

“I’m not; and having charge of the girl there, I’ll ha’ no dish served
i’ my house as I don’t think wholesome!”

“You’re right there, grandfather! You may trust me!” answered Richard
respectfully.

The blacksmith had spoken with a decision that was imperative. His red
face shone out of his white beard, and his eyes sparkled out of his red
face; his head gave a nod, and his jaws a snap.

They had tea, with bread and butter and marmalade, and much talk about
John and Jane Tuke, in which the old man said oftener, “your aunt,” and
“your uncle,” than “your father” or “your mother;” but Richard put it
down to the confusion that often accompanies age. When the bookbinding
came up, Richard was surprised to discover that the blacksmith was
far from looking upon their trade as superior to his own. It was plain
indeed that he regarded bookbinding as a quite inferior and scarce manly
employment. To the blacksmith, bookbinding and tailoring were much the
same--fit only for women. Richard did not relish this. He endeavoured
to make his grandfather see the dignity of the work, insisting that its
difficulty was the greater because of the less strength required in it:
the strength itself had, he said, in certain of its operations, to be
pared to the requisite fineness, to be modified with extreme accuracy;
while in others, all the strength a man had was necessary, and
especially in a shop like theirs, where everything was done by hand. But
the fine work, he said, tired one much the most.

“Fine work!” echoed the smith with contempt. “There came a gentleman
here to be shod t’other day from the Hall, who was a great traveller;
and he told me he seen in Japan a blacksmith with a sprig of may on the
anvil before him, an’ him a-copyin’ to the life them blossoms in hard
iron with his one hammer! What say you to that, lad?”

“Wonderful! But that same man couldn’t do the heavy work you think
nothing of, grandfather!”

“Nay, for that I don’t know. I know I couldn’t do his!”

“Then we’ll allow that fine work may be a manly thing as well as hard
work. But I do wish I could shoe a horse!”

“What’s to hinder you?”

“Will you let me learn, grandfather?”

“Learn! I’ll learn you myself. _You’ll_ soon learn. It’s not as if you
was a bumpkin to teach! The man as can do anything, can do everything.”

“Come along then, grandfather! I want to let you see that though my
hands may catch a blister or two, they’re not the less fit for hard work
that they can do fine. I’ll be safe to shoe a horse before many days are
over. Only you must have a little patience with me.”

“Nay, lad, I’ll have a great patience with you. Before many days are
over, make the shoe you may, and make it well; but to shoe a horse as
the horse ought to be shod, that comes by God’s grace.”

They went back to the smithy, and there, the very day of his arrival,
more to Simon’s delight than he cared to show, the soft-handed
bookbinder began to wield a hammer, and compel the stubborn iron. So
deft and persevering was he, that, ere they went from the forge that
same night, he could not only bend the iron to a proper curve round the
beak of the anvil, but had punched the holes in half a dozen shoes. At
last he confessed himself weary; and when his grandfather saw the state
of his hands, blistered and swollen so that he could not close them, he
was able no longer to restrain his satisfaction.

“Come!” he cried; “you’re a man after all, bookbinder! In six months I
should have you a thorough blacksmith.”

“I wouldn’t undertake to make a bookbinder of you, grandfather, in the
time!” returned Richard.

“Tit for tat, sonny, and it’s fair!” said Simon. “I should leave the
devil his mark on your white pages.--How much of them do you rend now,
as you stick them together?”

“Not a word as I stick them together. But many are brought me to be
doctored and mended up, and from some of them I take part of my pay in
reading them--books, I mean, that I wouldn’t otherwise find it easy to
lay my hands upon--scarce books, you know.”

“You would like to go to Oxford, wouldn’t ye, lad--and lay in a stock to
last your life out?”

“You might as well think to lay victuals into you for a lifetime,
grandfather! But I should like to lay in a stock of the tools to be got
at Oxford! It would be grand to be able to pick the lock of any door I
wanted to see the other side of.”

“I’ll put you up to pick any lock you ever saw, or are likely to see,”
 returned Armour. “I served my time to a locksmith. We didn’t hit it off
always, and so hit one another--as often almost as the anvil. So when I
was out of my time, and couldn’t get locksmith’s work except in a large
forge, I knew better than take it: for I couldn’t help getting into
rows, and was afraid of doing somebody a mischief when my blood was
up. So I started for myself as a general blacksmith-in a small way, of
course. But my right hand ‘ain’t forgot its cunning in locks! I’ll teach
you to pick the cunningest lock in the world--whether made in Italy or
in China.”

“The lock I was thinking of,” said Richard, “was that of the tree of
knowledge.”

“I’ve heerd,” returned Simon, with more humour than accuracy, “as that
was a raither pecooliar lock. How it was kep’ red hot all the time
without coal and bellows, I don’t seem to see!”

“Ah!” said Richard, “you mean the flaming sword that turned every way?”

“I reckon I do!”

“You don’t say you believe that story, grandfather?”

“I don’t say what I believe or what I don’t believe. The flamin’ iron as
I’ve had to do with, has both kep’ me out o’ knowledge, an’ led me into
knowledge! I’ll turn the tale over again! You see, lad, when I was
a boy, I thought everything my mother said and my father did,
old-fashioned, and a bit ignorant-like; but when I was a man, I saw
that, if I had started right off from where they set me down, I would
ha’ been farther ahead. To honour your father an’ mother don’t mean to
stick by their chimbley-corner all your life, but to start from their
front door and go foret. I went by the back door, like the fool I was,
to get into the front road, and had a long round to make.”

“I shan’t do so with my father. He don’t read much, but he thinks. He’s
got a head, my father!”

“There was fathers afore yours, lad! You needn’t scorn yer gran’ther for
your father!”

“Scorn you, grandfather! God forbid!--or, at least,--”

“You don’t see what I’m drivin’ at, sonny!--When an old tale comes to
me from the far-away time, I don’t pitch it into the road, any more’n I
would an old key or an old shoe--a horse-shoe, I mean: it was something
once, and it may be something again! I hang the one up, and turn the
other over. An’ if you be strong set on throwin’ either away, lad, I
misdoubt me you an’ me won’t blaze together like _one_ flamin’ sword!”

Richard held his peace. The old man had already somehow impressed him.
If he had not, like his father, bid good-bye to superstition, there was
in him a power that was not in his father--a power like that he found in
his favourite books.

“Mind what he says, and do what he tells you, and you’ll get on
splendid!” his mother had said as he came away.

“Don’t be afraid of him, but speak up: he’ll like you the better for
it,” his father had counselled. “I should never have married your mother
if I’d been afraid of him.”

Richard, trying to follow both counsels, got on with his grandfather
better than fairly.



CHAPTER VII. _COMPARISONS._

All things belong to every man who yields his selfishness, which is his
one impoverishment, and draws near to his wealth, which is humanity--not
humanity in the abstract, but the humanity of friends and neighbours and
all men. Selfishness, I repeat, whether in the form of vanity or greed,
is our poverty. John Tuke, being a clever man without a spark of genius,
worshipped _faculty_ as he called it--worshipped it where he was most
familiar with it--that is, in his own mind and its operations, in his
own hands and their handiwork. His natural atmosphere, however, was,
happily, goodwill and kindliness: else the scorn of helplessness which
sprang from his worship, would have supplied the other pole to his
selfishness.

He even cherished unconsciously the feeling that his faculty was a
merit. He took the credit of his individual humanity, as if the good
working of his brain, the thing he most admired, was attributable to his
own will and forethought. The idea had never arisen in that brain, that
he was in the world by no creative intent of his own. Nothing had as yet
suggested to him that, after all, if he was clever, he could not help
it. It had not occurred to him that there was a stage in his history
antecedent to his consciousness--a stage in which his pleasure with
regard to the next could not have been appealed to, or his consent
asked--a stage, for any satisfaction concerning which, his resultant
consciousness must repose on a creative will, answerable to itself
for his existence. A man’s patent of manhood is, that he can call upon
God--not the God of any theology, right or wrong, but the God out of
whose heart he came, and in whose heart he is. This is his highest
power--that which constitutes his original likeness to God. Had any one
tried to wake this idea in Tuke, he would have mocked at the sound
of it, never seeing it. The words which represented it he would have
thought he understood, but he would never have laid hold of the idea.
He found himself what he found himself, and was content with the find;
therefore asked no questions as to whence he came--was to himself
consequently as if he had come from nowhere--which made it easy for him
to imagine that he was going nowhither. He had never reflected that
he had not made himself, and that therefore there might be a power
somewhere that had called him into being, and had a word to say to
him on the matter. The region where he began to be, had never, in
speculation or mirage any more than in direct vision, lifted itself
above the horizon-line of his consciousness. An ordinarily well-behaved
man, with a vague narrow regard for his moral nature, and an admiration
of intellectual humanity in the abstract, he thought of himself as
exceptionally worthy, and as having neighbours mostly inferior. In
relation to Richard, he was specially pleased with himself: had he not,
for the sake of the youth, put himself in the danger of the law!

With not much more introspection than his uncle, but with a keener
conscience and quicker observation, Richard had early remarked that,
notwithstanding her assiduity in church-going, his mother did not seem
the happier for her religion: there was a cloud, or seeming cloud, on
her forehead--a something that implied the lack of clear weather within.
Had he known more he might have attributed it to anxiety about his
own future, and the bearing her deed might have upon it. He might have
argued that she dreaded the opposition she foresaw to the claim of
her nephew; and felt that if her act should have despoiled him of his
inheritance, life would be worthless to her. But in truth the cause of
her habitual gloom was much deeper. She had from her mother inherited a
heavy sense of responsibility, but not the confidence in whose strength
her mother had borne it. She had, that is, an oppressive sense of the
claims of a supernal power, but no feeling of the relationship which
gives those claims, no knowledge of the loving help offered with
the presentation of the claims. Where she might have rejoiced in the
correlative claims bestowed upon her, she nourished only complaint. That
God had made her, she could not sometimes help feeling a liberty he had
taken. How could she help it, not knowing him, or the love that gave him
both the power and the right to create! She had no window to let in the
perpendicular light of heaven; all the light she had was the horizontal
light of duty--invaluable, but, ever accompanied by its own shadow of
failure, giving neither joy nor hope nor strength. Her husband’s sense
of duty was neither so strong nor so uneasy.

She had not attempted to teach Richard more, in the way of religion,
than the saying of certain prayers, a ceremony of questionable
character; but the boy, dearly loving his mother, and saddened by her
lack of spirits, had put things together--amongst the rest, that she was
always gloomiest on a Sunday--and concluded that religion was the cause
of her misery. This made him ready to welcome the merest hint of its
falsehood. Well might the doctrine be false that made such a good woman
miserable! He had no opportunity of learning what any vital, that is,
_obedient_ believer in the lord of religion, might have to say. Nothing
he did hear would, without the reflex of his mother’s unhappiness, have
waked in him interest enough for hate: what was there about the heap of
ashes he heard called the means of grace, to set him searching in it for
seeds of truth! If we consider, then, the dullness of the prophecy, the
evident suffering of his mother, and the equally evident though silent
contempt of his father, we need not wonder that Richard grew up in
what seemed to him a conviction that religion was worse than a thing of
nought, was an evil phantom, with a terrible power to blight; a miasm
that had steamed up from the foul marshes of the world, before man was
at home in it, or yet acquainted with the beneficent laws of Nature.
It was not merely a hopeless task to pray to a power which could not be
entreated, because it did not exist; to believe in what was not, must
be ruinous to the nature that so believed! He would give the lie no
quarter! The best thing to do for his fellow, the first thing to be done
before anything else could be done, was to deliver him from this dragon
called Faith--the more fearful that it had no life, but owed its being
and strength to the falsehood of cowards! Had he known more of the
working of what is falsely called religion, he would have been yet more
eager to destroy it. But he knew something of the tares only; he knew
nothing of the wheat among the tares; knew nothing of the wintry gleams
of comfort shed on thousands of hearts by the most poverty-stricken
belief in the merest and faultiest silhouette of a God. What a mission
it would be, he thought, to deliver human hearts from the vampyre that,
sucking away the very essence of life, kept fanning its unconscious
victims with the promise of a dreary existence beyond the grave, secured
by self-immolation on the desolate altar of an unlovable God, who yet
called himself _Love_! Was it not a high emprise to rescue men from the
incubus of such a misimagined divinity?

From the first dawn of consciousness, the young Lestrange had loved his
kind. He gathered the chief joy of his life from a true relation to the
life around him. Perhaps the cause of the early manifestation of this
bent in him, was the longing of his mother in her loneliness after a
love that grew the move precious as it seemed farther away. She had
parted with those who always loved her, for the love of a man who never
loved her! But left to think and think, she had come at last to see that
her loss was her best gain. For, with the loss of their presence, she
began to know and prize the simplicities of human affection; from lack
of love began to lift up her heart to Love himself, the father of all
our loves.

Richard’s love was not such as makes of another the mirror wherein to
realize self; he loved his kind objectively, and was ready to suffer for
it. At school he was the champion of the oppressed. Almost always one
or other of the little boys would be under his protection; and more than
once, for the sake of a weaker he had got severely beaten. But having
set himself to learn the art of self-defence, his favour alone became
shelter; and successful coverture aroused in him yet more the natural
passion of protection. It became his pride as well as delight to be
a saviour to his kind. His championship now sought extension to his
mother, and to all sufferers from usurping creeds.

His grandfather found him, as he said, a chip of the old block; and
rejoiced that Nature had granted his humble blood so potent a part
in this compound of gentle and plebeian; for Richard showed himself a
worthy workman! Simon Armour declared there was nothing the fellow could
not do; and said to himself there never was such a baronet in the old
Hall as his boy Dick would make. If only, he said, all the breeds worn
out with breeding-in, would revert to the old blood of Tubal Cain, they
might recover his lease of life. The day was coming, he said to himself,
when there would be a sight to see at Mortgrange--a baronet that could
shoe a horse better than any smith in the land! If his people then would
not stand up for a landlord able to thrash every man-jack of them, and
win his bread with his own hands, they deserved to become the tenants of
a London grocer or American money-dealer! For his part, the French might
have another try! _He_ would not lift hammer against them!

By right of inheritance, Richard’s muscles grew sinewy and hard, and
speedily was he capable of handling a hammer and persuading iron to the
full satisfaction of his teacher. When it came to such heavy work as
required power and skill at once, the difference between the two men was
very evident: where the whole strength is tasked, skill finds itself in
the lurch; but Simon understood what could not be at once, as well as
what would be at length. Neither was he disappointed, for, in far less
than half the time an ordinary apprentice would have taken, Richard
could hold alternate swing with the blacksmith or his man, as, blow
for blow, they pierced a block of metal to form the nave of a wheel. In
ringing a wheel, he soon excelled; and his grandfather’s smithy being
the place for all kinds of blacksmith-work, Richard had learned the
trade before he left. For, as his fortnight’s holiday drew to an end,
he heard from his parents that, as he was doing so well, they would like
him to stay longer.

One reason for this their wish was, that he might become thoroughly
attached to his grandfather: they desired to secure the prejudice of the
future baronet for his own people. At the same time, by developing
in him the workman, they thought to give him a better chance against
further dishonouring and degrading his race, than his wretched father
had ever had: the breed of Lestranges must, they said, be searched
back for generations to find an honest man in it. A landlord above the
selfishness, and free from the prejudices of his class, would be a new
thing in the county-histories!

At the end of six weeks, Richard could shoe a sound horse as well as his
grandfather himself. The old man had taken pains he would not have spent
on an ordinary apprentice: it was worth doing, he said; and the return
was great. Richard had made, not merely wonderful, but wonderfully
steady progress. Not once had he touched the quick in driving those
perfect nails through the rind of the marvellous hoof. From the first he
disapproved of the mode of shoeing in use, and was certain a better must
one day be discovered--one, namely, that would leave the natural motions
of hoof and leg unimpeded; but in the meantime he shod as did other
blacksmiths, and gave thorough satisfaction.



CHAPTER VIII. _A LOST SHOE._

It was now late in the autumn. Several houses in the neighbourhood were
full of visitors, and parties on horseback frequently passed the door of
the smithy--well known to not a few of the horses.

One evening, as the sun was going down red and large, with a gorgeous
attendance of clouds, for the day had been wet but cleared in the
afternoon, a small mounted company came pretty fast along the lane,
which was deep in mud. They were no sooner upon the hard road by the
smithy, than one of the ladies discovered her mare had lost a hind shoe.

“She couldn’t have pulled it off in a more convenient spot!” said a
handsome young fellow, as he dismounted and gave his horse to a groom.
“I’ll take you down, Bab! Old Simon will have a shoe on Miss Brown in no
time!”

Richard followed his grandfather to the door. A little girl, as she
seemed to him, was sliding, with her hand on the young man’s shoulder,
from the back of the huge mare. She was the daintiest little thing,
as lovely as she was tiny, with clear, pale, regular features, under a
quantity of dark-brown hair. But that she was not a child, he saw the
moment she was down; and he soon discovered that, not her beauty, but
her heavenly vivacity, was the more captivating thing in her. At once
her very soul seemed to go out to meet whatever object claimed her
attention. She must know all about everything, and come into relations
with every live thing! As she stood by the side of the great brown
creature from which she had dismounted--huge indeed, but carrying its
bulk with a grand grace--her head reaching but half-way up the slope of
its shoulder, she laid her cheek against it caressingly. So small and so
bright, the little lady looked a very diamond of life.

A new shoe had to be forged; those already half-made were for
work-horses. Partly from pride in his skill, Simon left the task to his
grandson, and stood talking to the young man. Little thought Richard, as
he turned the shoe on the anvil’s beak, that he was his half-brother!
He was a handsome youth, not so tall as Richard, and with more
delicate features. His face was pale, and wore a rather serious, but
self-satisfied look. He talked to the old blacksmith, however, without
the slightest assumption: like others in the neighbourhood, he regarded
him as odd and privileged. There were more ladies and gentlemen, but
Richard, absorbed in his shoe, heeded none of the company.

He was not more absorbed, however, than the girl who stood beside him:
she watched every point in the making of it. Heedless of the flying
sparks, she gazed as if she meant to make the next shoe herself. Had
Richard not been too busy even to glance at her, he might have noticed,
now and then, an involuntary sympathetic motion, imitatively responsive
to one of his, invariably recurrent when he changed the position of the
glowing iron. Her mind seemed working in company with his hands; she was
all the time doing the thing herself; Richard’s activity was not merely
reflected, but lived in her. When he carried the half-forged iron, to
apply it for one tentative instant to the mare’s hoof, Barbara followed
him. The mare fidgeted. But her little mistress, who, noiseless and
swift as a moth, was already at her head, spoke to her, breathed in her
nostril, and in a moment made her forget what was happening in such a
far-off province of her being as a hind foot. When Richard, back at
the forge, was placing the shoe again in the fire, to his surprise her
little gloved hand alighted beside his own on the lever of the bellows,
powerfully helping him to blow. When once again the shoe was on the
anvil, there again she stood watching--and watched until he had shaped
the shoe to his intent.

Old Simon did not move to interfere: the hoof required no special
attention. Almost every horse-hoof in a large circuit of miles was known
to him--as well, he would remark, as the nail of his own thumb.

When Richard took up the foot, in order to prepare it for the reception
of its new armour, again the mare was fidgety; and again the lady
distracted her attention, comforting and soothing her while Richard
trimmed the hoof a little.

“I say, my man,” cried Mr. Lestrange, “mind what you’re about there
with your paring! I don’t want that mare lamed.--She’s much too good for
‘prentice hands to learn upon, Simon!”

“Keep your mind easy, sir,” answered the blacksmith. “That lad’s ain’t
‘prentice hands. He knows what he’s about as well as I do myself!”

“He’s young!”

“Younger, perhaps, than you think, sir!--but he knows his work.”

It was a pretty picture--the girl peeping round under the neck of the
great creature she was caressing, to see how the smith was getting on,
whose back, alas! hid his hands from her. Just as he finished driving
his second nail, the nervous animal gave her foot a jerk, and the point
of the nail, through the hoof and projecting a little, tore his hand, so
that the blood ran to the ground in a sudden rivulet.

“Hey! that don’t look much like proper shoeing!” cried the young man. “I
hope to goodness that’s not the mare!”

“She’s all right,” answered Richard, rearranging the animal’s foot.

But Simon saw the blood, and sprang to his side.

“What the devil are you about, making a fool of me, Dick!” he cried.
“Get out of the way.”

“It was my fault,” said the sweetest voice from under the neck of the
mare, to the top of which a tiny hand was trying to reach. “My feather
must have tickled her nose!”

She caught a glimpse of the blood, and turned white.

“I am so sorry!” she said, almost tearfully. “I hope you’re not much
hurt, Richard!”

Nothing seemed to escape her; she had already learned his name!

“It’s not worth being sorry about, miss!” returned Richard, with a
laugh. “The mare meant no harm!”

“That I’m sure she didn’t--poor Miss Brown!” answered the girl, patting
the mare’s neck. “But I wish it had been _my_ hand instead!”

“God forbid!” cried Richard. “That _would_ have been a calamity!”

“It wouldn’t have been half so great a one. My hand is--well, not of
_much_ use. Yours can shoe a horse!”

“Yours would have been spoiled; mine will shoe as well as before!” said
Richard.

It did not occur to the lady that the youth spoke better than might have
been expected of a country smith. She was one of the elect few that meet
every one on the common human ground, that never fear and never hurt.
Her childish size and look harmonized with the childlike in her style,
but she affected nothing. She would have spoken in the same way to
prince or poet-laureate, and would have pleased either as much as the
blacksmith. At the same time she did have pleasure in knowing that
her frankness pleased. She could not help being aware that she was a
favourite, and she wanted to be; but she wanted nothing more than to be
a favourite. She desired it with old Betty, sir Wilton’s dairymaid, just
as much as with Mr. Lestrange, sir Wilton’s heir; and everybody showed
her favour, for she showed everybody grace.

The old smith was finishing the shoeing, and the mare, well used to him,
and with more faith in him, stood perfectly quiet. Richard, a little
annoyed, had withdrawn, and scarce thinking what he did, had taken a
rod of iron, thrust it into the fire, and begun to blow. The little lady
approached him softly.

“I’m _so_ sorry!” she said.

“I shall be sorry too, if you think of it any more, miss!” answered
Richard. “Then there will be two sorry where there needn’t be one!”

She looked up at him with a curious, interested, puzzled look, which
seemed to say, “What a nice smith you are!”

The youth’s manners had a certain--what shall I call it?--not polish,
but rhythm, which came of, or at least was nourished by his love of
the finer elements in literature. His friendly converse with books, and
through them with certain of the dead who still speak, fell in with yet
deeper influences, helping to set him in right atomic position toward
other human atoms. His breed also contributed something. Happily for
Richard, a man is not born only of his father or his grandfather;
mothers have a share in the form of his being; ancestors innumerable,
men and women, leave their traces in him. But what I have ventured to
call the rhythm of his manner came of his love of verse, and of the true
material of verse.

His hand kept on bleeding, and for a moment he was tempted, by bravado
as well as kindness, to use the cautery so nigh, and prove to the girl
how little he set by what troubled her; but he saw at once it would
shock her, and took, instead, a handkerchief from his pocket to bind it
with. Instantly the little lady was at his service, and he yielded to
her ministration with a pleasure hitherto unknown to him. She took the
handkerchief from his hand, but immediately gave it him again, saying,
“It is too black!” and drawing her own from her pocket, deftly bound up
his wound with it. Speech abandoned Richard. All present looked on in
silence. Certain of the company had seen her the day before tie up
the leg of a wounded dog, and had admired her for it; but this
was different! She was handling the hand of a human being--man--a
workman!--black and hard with labour! There was no necessity: the man
was not in the least danger! It was nothing but a scratch! She was
forgetting what was due to herself--and to them! Thus they thought, but
thus they dared not speak. They knew her, and feared what she might say
in reply. The mare was shod ere the handkerchief was tied to the lady’s
mind, and Simon stood, hammer in hand, looking on like the rest in
silence, but with a curious smile.

As she took her hands from his, the young blacksmith looked thankfulness
into her eyes--which sparkled and shone with the pleasure of human
fellowship, and without the least shyness returned his gaze.

“There! Good-bye! I am so sorry! I hope your hand will be well soon!”
 she said, and at once followed her mare, which the smith’s man was
leading with caution through the door of the smithy, rather too low for
Miss Brown.

Lestrange helped her to the saddle in silence, and before Richard
realized that she was gone, he heard the merriment of the party mingling
with the clang of their horses’ hoofs, as they went swinging down the
road. The fairy had set them all laughing already!

The instant they were gone, Simon showed a strange concern over the
insignificant wound: he had been hasty with Richard, and unfair to him!
Had he driven his nail one hair’s-breadth too near the quick, Miss Brown
would have made the smithy tight for them! He seemed anxious to show,
without actual confession, that he knew he had spoken angrily, and
was sorry for it. He could not have shod the mare better himself, he
said--but why the deuce did he let her tear his hand! It was not likely
to gather, though, seeing Richard drank water! He must do nothing for
a day or two! To-morrow being Saturday, they would have a holiday
together, and leave the work to George!



CHAPTER IX. _A HOLIDAY._

Richard was willing enough, and it only remained to settle what they
would do with their holiday. Suppressing a chuckle, Simon proposed that
they should have a walk, and a look at Mortgrange: it was a place well
worth seeing! “And then,” he added, giving his grandson a poke, “we can
ask after the mare, and learn how her new shoe fits.” They had known him
there, he said, the last thirty years, and would let them have the run
of the place, for sir Wilton and his lady were from home. Richard had
never--to his knowledge--heard of Mortgrange, for Simon had hitherto
avoided even mentioning the place; but he was ready to go wherever his
grandfather pleased. Jessie would have company of her own, Simon said,
with a nod and a wink: they need not trouble themselves about her!

So the next day, as soon us they had had their breakfast, they set out
to walk the four or five miles that, by the road, lay between them and
Mortgrange. It was a fine frosty morning. Not a few yellow leaves were
still hanging, and the sun was warm and bright. It was one of those days
near the death of the year, that make us wonder why the heart of man
should revive and feel strong, while nature is falling into her dreary
trance. Richard was dressed in a tradesman’s Sunday clothes, but
tradesman as he was, and was proud to be, he did not altogether look
one. He was in high spirits--for no reason but that his spirits were
high. He was happy because he was happy--“like any other body!” he would
have said: where was the wonder such a fine day, with a pleasant walk
before him, and his jolly grandfather for company! That he could not
make one hair white or black, one hour blessed or miserable, did not
occur to him. Yet he believed that joy or sorrow determined whether life
was or was not worth living! He had never said to himself, “Here I am,
and cannot help being, and yet can order nothing! Even to-day I am happy
only because I cannot help it!” He had indeed begun to learn that a man
has his duty to mind before his happiness, and that was much; but he
had not yet been tried in the matter of doing his duty when unhappy. How
would he feel then? Would he think duty without happiness worth living
for? He was happy now, and that was enough! The putting forth of their
strength and skill doubtless makes many men feel happy--so long as they
are in health; but how when they come to feel that that health is nowise
in their power? While they have it, it seems a part of their being
inalienable; when they have lost it, a thing irrecoverable. Richard took
the thing that came, asked no questions, returned no thanks. He found
himself here:--whence he came he did not care; whither he went he did
not inquire. The present was enough, for the present was good; when the
present was no longer good, why, then,--!

There are those to whom the present cannot be good save as a mode of
the infinite. In such their divine origin asserts itself. Once known for
what it is, the poorest present is a phial holding the elixir of life.

On their way Simon talked about the place they were going to see, and
said its present owner was an elderly man, not very robust, with a
second wife, who looked as if she had not a drop of warm blood, and yet
as if she might live for ever.

“That was their son that came with the little lady,” he said.

“And the little lady was their daughter, I suppose!” rejoined Richard,
with an odd quiver somewhere near his heart.

“She’s an Australian, they say,” answered his grandfather; “--no
relation, I fancy.”

“Is Mortgrange a grand place?” asked Richard.

“It’s a fine house and a great estate,” answered Simon. “More might be
made of it, no doubt; and I hope one day more will be made of it.”

“What do you mean by that, grandfather?”

“That I hope the son will make a better landlord than the father.”

They came to a great iron gate, standing open, without any lodge.

“We’re in luck!” said the blacksmith. “This will save us a long round!
Somebody must have rode out, and been too lazy to shut it! We’d better
leave it as we find it, though! Or say we bring the two halves together
without snapping the locks! I know the locks; I put ‘em both on
myself.--See now what a piece of work that gate is! All done with the
hand! None o’ your beastly casting there! Up to _your_ work, that, I’m
thinking, lad!”

“Indeed it is! Those gates are worth reducing, for plates to stamp the
covers of a right precious volume with!”

Simon misunderstood, and was on the point of flaring up, but what
Richard followed with quieted him.

“I could almost give up bookbinding to work a pair of gates like those!”
 he said.

“I believe you, my boy!” returned his grandfather. “Come and live with
me, and you shall!”

“But who would buy them when I had worked them?”

“If nobody had the sense, we’d put ‘em up before the cottage!”

“Like a door-lock on a prayer-book!”

“No matter! They would be worth the worth of themselves!”

“You would have to make the wall so high, there would be no light in the
house!” persisted Richard.

“Tut, man! did you never hear of a joke? All I say is, that if you’ll
come and work with me--I don’t need to slave more than I like; I’ve got
a few pounds in the bank!--if you’ll work, I’ll teach you. Leave me
to find a fit place for what comes of it! They do most things at the
foundries now, but there’s a market yet for hammer-work--if it be good
enough, and not too dear; for them as knows a good thing when they sees
it, ain’t generally got much money to buy things. It’s my opinion the
only way to learn the worth of a thing, is to have to go without it.”

“Few people fancy iron gates, I fear.”

“More might fancy them if they were to be had good,” returned the old
man.

The gate had admitted them to a long winding road, with clumps of trees
here and there on the borders of it. The road was apparently not much
used, for it was more than sprinkled with grass all over. A ploughed
field was on one side, and a wild heathy expanse, dotted with fir-trees,
on the other. Suddenly on the side of the field, gradually on that of
the heath, the ground changed to the green sward of a park.

“A grand place for thinking!” said Richard to himself.

But in truth Richard had hardly yet begun to think. He only followed the
things that came to him; he never said to things, _Come;_ neither, when
they came, did he keep them, and make them walk up and down before him
till he saw what they were; he did not search out their pedigree, get
them to give an account of themselves, show what they could do, or,
in short, be themselves to him. He had written a few verses--not bad
verses, but with feeling only, not thought in them. For instance, he had
addressed an ode to the allegorical personage called Liberty, in which
he bepraised her until, had she been indeed a woman, she must have been
ashamed: she was the one essential of life! the one glory of existence!
he was no man who would not die for her! But what was the thing he thus
glorified? Liberty to go where you pleased, do what you liked, say what
you chose!--that was all. Of inward liberty, of freedom from mental
or spiritual oppression, from passion, from prejudice, from envy, from
jealousy, from selfishness, from unfairness, from ambition, from false
admiration, from the power of public opinion, from any motive energy
save that of love and truth--a freedom of which outward freedom is
scarce the shadow--of such liberty, for all the good books he had read,
for all the good poems he had admired, Richard had not yet begun to
dream, not to say _think_. Then again, he would write about love, and he
had never been in love in his life! All he knew of love was the pleasure
of imagining himself the object of a tall, dark-eyed, long-haired,
devoted woman’s admiration. He had never even thought whether he was
worthy of being loved. He was indeed more worthy of love than many to
whom it is freely given; but he knew no more about it, I say, than a
chicken in the shell knows of the blue sky. The shabby spinster, living
with her cousin the baker in the house opposite, knew a hundred times
better than he what the word _love_ meant: she had a history, he had
none.

I will not describe the house of Mortgrange. It seemed to Richard the
oldest house he had ever seen, and it moved him strangely. He said to
himself the man must be happy who called such a house his own, lived in
it, and did what he liked with it. The road they had taken brought them
to the back of the Hall, as the people on the estate called the house.
The blacksmith went to a side-door, and asked if he and his grandson
might have a look at the place: he had heard the baronet was from home!
The man said he would see; and returning presently, invited them to walk
in.

Knowing his grandson’s passion, Simon’s main thought in taking him was
to see him in the library, with its ten thousand volumes: it would be
such a joke to watch him pondering, admiring, coveting his own! As soon,
therefore, as they were in the great hall, he asked the servant whether
they might not see the library. The man left them again, once more to
make inquiry.

It was a grand old hall where they stood, fitter for the house of a
great noble than a mere baronet; but then the family was older than any
noble family in the county, and the poor baronetcy, granted to a
foolish ancestor, on carpet considerations, by the needy hand of the
dominie-king, was no great feather in the cap of the Lestranges. The
house itself was older than any baronetcy, for no part of it was later
than the time of Elizabeth. It was of fine stone, and of great size. The
hall was nearly sixty feet in height, with three windows on one side,
and a great one at the end. They were thirty feet from the floor, had
round heads, and looked like church-windows. The other side was blank.
Mid-height along the end opposite the great window ran a gallery.

To the sudden terror of Richard, who stood absorbed in the stateliness
of the place, an organ in the gallery burst out playing. He looked
up trembling, but could see only the tops of the pipes. As the sounds
rolled along the roof, reverberated from the solid walls, and crept
about the corners, it seemed to him that the soul of the place was
throbbing in his ears the words of a poem centuries old, which he had
read a day or two before leaving London:--

“Erthe owte of erthe es wondirly wroghte, Erthe hase getyn one erthe a
dignyte of noghte, Erthe appone erthe hase sett alle his thoghte, How
that erthe appone erthe may be heghe broghte.”

As he listened, his eyes settled upon a suit of armour in position: it
became to him a man benighted, lost, forgotten in the cold; the bones
were all dusted out of him by the wintry winds; only the shell of him
was left.

“Mr. Lestrange is in the library, and will see Mr. Armour,” said the
voice of the servant.

An election was at hand, and at such a time certain persons are more
courteous than usual.



CHAPTER X. _THE LIBRARY_.

Simon and Richard followed the man through a narrow door in the thick
wall, across a wide passage, and then along a narrow one. A door was
thrown open, and they stepped into a sombre room. The floor of the hall
was of great echoing slabs of stone, but now their feet sank in the deep
silence of a soft carpet.

Here a new awe, dwelling, however, in an air of homeliness, awoke in
Richard. Around him, from floor to ceiling, was ranged a whole army of
books, mostly in fine old bindings; in spite of open window and great
fire and huge chimney, the large lofty room was redolent of them. Their
odour, however, was not altogether pleasing to Richard, whose practised
organ detected in it the signs of a blamable degree of decay. The faint
effluvia of decomposing paper, leather, paste, and glue, were to Richard
as the air of an ill-ventilated ward in the nostrils of a physician. He
sniffed and made an involuntary grimace: he had not seen Mr. Lestrange,
who was close to him, half hidden by a bookcase that stood out from the
wall.

“Good morning, Armour!” said Lestrange. “Your young man does not seem to
relish books!”

“In a grand place like this, sir,” remarked Richard, taking answer
upon himself, “such a library as I never saw, except, of course, at
the British Museum, it makes a man sorry to discover indications of
neglect.”

“What do you mean?” returned Lestrange in displeasure.

Richard’s remark was the more offensive that his superior style issued
in a comparatively common tone. Neither was there anything in the
appearance of the place to justify it.

“I beg your pardon, sir,” he said, fearing he had been rude, “but I am a
bookbinder!”

“Well?” rejoined Lestrange, taking him now for a sneaking tradesman on
the track of a big job.

“I know at once the condition of an old book by the smell of it,”
 pursued Richard. “The moment I came in, I knew there must be some
here in a bad way--not in their clothes merely, but in their bodies as
well--the paper of them, I mean. Whether a man has what they call a soul
or not, a book certainly has: the paper and print are the body, and
the binding is the clothes. A gentleman I know--but he’s a mystic--goes
farther, and says the paper is the body, the print the soul, and the
meaning the spirit.”

A pretty fellow to be an atheist! my reader may well think.

Mr. Lestrange stared. He must be a local preacher, this blacksmith, this
bookbinder, or whatever he was!

“I am sorry you think the books hypocrites,” he said. “They look all
right!” he added, casting his eyes over the shelves before him.

“Would you mind me taking down one or two?” asked Richard. “My hands are
rather black, but the colour is ingrain, as Spenser might say.”

“Do so, by all means,” answered Lestrange, curious to see how far the
fellow could support with proof the accuracy of his scent.

Richard moved three paces, and took down a volume--one of a set,
the original edition in quarto of “The Decline and Fall,” bound in
russia-leather.

“I thought so!” he said; “going!--going!--Look at the joints of
this Gibbon, sir. That’s always the way with russia--now-a-days, at
least!--Smell that, grandfather! Isn’t it sweet? But there’s no stay in
it! Smell that joint! The leather’s stone-dead!--It’s the rarest thing
to see a volume bound in russia, of which the joints are not broken, or
at least cracking. These joints, you see, are gone to powder! All russia
does--sooner or later, whatever be the cause.--Just put that joint to
your nose, sir! That’s part of what you smell so strong in the room.”

He held out the book to him, but Lestrange drew back: it was not fit his
nose should stoop to the request of a tradesman!

Richard replaced the book, and took down one after another of the same
set.

“Every one, you see, sir,” he said, “going the same way! Dust to dust!”

“If they’re _all_ going that way,” remarked the young man, “it would
cost every stick on the estate to rebind them!”

“I should be sorry to rebind any of them. An old binding is like an old
picture! Just look at this French binding! It’s very dingy, and a good
deal broken, but you never see anything like that nowadays--as mellow
as modest, and as rich as roses! Here’s one says the same thing as your
grand hall out there, only in a piping voice.”

Lestrange was not exactly stuck-up; he had feared the fellow was
bumptious, and felt there was no knowing what he might say next, but
by this time had ceased to imagine his dignity in danger. The young
blacksmith’s admiration of the books and of the hall pleased him, and he
became more cordial.

“Do you say _all_ russia-leather behaves in the same fashion?” he asked.

“Yes, now. I fancy it did not some years ago. There may be some change
in the preparation of the leather. I don’t know. It is a great pity!
Russia is lovely to the eye--and to the nostrils.--May I take a look at
some of the _old_ books, sir?”

“What do you call an _old_ book?”

“One not later, say, than the time of James the First.--Have you a first
folio, sir?”

Lestrange was thinking of his coming baronetcy.

“First folio?” he answered absently. “I dare say you will find a good
many first folios on the shelves!”

“I mean the folio Shakespeare of 1623. There are, of course, many folios
much scarcer! I saw one the other day that the booksellers themselves
gave eight hundred guineas for!”

“What was it?” asked Lestrange carelessly.

“It was a wonderful copy--unique as to condition--of Gower’s _Confessio
Amantis;_--not a _very_ interesting book, though I do not doubt
Shakespeare was fond of it. You see Shakespeare could hear the stones
preaching!”

“By Jove, a man may hear the sticks do that any Sunday!”

“True enough, sir, ha-ha!”

“Have you read Gower, then?”

“A good deal of him.”

“Was it that same precious copy you read him in?”

“It was; but I hadn’t time for more than about the half. I must finish
on another edition, I fear.”

“How did you get hold of a book of such value?”

“The booksellers who bought it, asked me to take it into my hospital. It
wanted just a little, a very little patching. The copy in the museum is
not to compare to it.”

“You say it was not interesting?”

“Not _very_ interesting, I said, sir.”

“Why did you read so much of it, then?”

“When a book is hard to come at, you are the more ready to read it when
you have the chance.”

“I suppose that’s why one borrows his neighbour’s books and don’t read
his own! I seldom take one down from those shelves.”

Richard felt as if a wall was broken down between them.

All the time they talked, old Simon stood beside, pleased to note how
well his grandson could hold up the ball with the young squire, but
saying nothing. If the matter had been hoof of horse, cow, or ass,
he would not have been silent: he knew hoofs better than Richard knew
books.

Richard took down a small folio, the back of which looked much too soft
and loose. Opening it, he found what he expected--a wreck. It was hardly
fit to be called any more a book. The clothes had forsaken the body, or
rather the body had decayed away from the clothes.

“Now, look here!” he said. “Here is Cowley’s Poems--in such a state that
I doubt if anything would ever make a book of it again. I thought by the
back all was wrong inside! See how the leaves have come away singly: the
paper itself is rotten! I doubt if there is any way to make paper so far
gone as this hold together. I know a good deal can be done, and I must
learn what is known. I shan’t be master of my trade till I know all that
can be done now to stop such a book from crumbling into dust! Then I may
find out something more!”

“Well, for that one, I don’t think it matters: Cowley ain’t much!” said
Lestrange, throwing the volume on a table. “I remember once taking down
the book, and trying to read some of it: I could not; it’s the dullest
rubbish ever written.”

“It’s not so bad as that, sir!” answered Richard, and taking up the book
he turned the leaves with light, practiced hand. “He was counted the
greatest poet of his day, and no age loves dullness! Listen a moment,
sir; I will read only one stanza.”

He had found the “Hymn to the Light,” and read:--

“First born of _Chaos_, who so fair didst come From the old Negro’s
darksome womb! Which when it saw the lovely Child, The melancholy Mass
put on kind looks and smil’d.”

“I don’t see much in that!” said Lestrange, as Richard closed the book,
and glanced up expectant.

Richard was silent for an instant.

“At any rate,” he returned, “it is necessary to the understanding of our
history, that we should know the kind of thing admired and called good
at any given time of it: so our lecturer at King’s used to tell us.”

“At King’s!” cried Lestrange.

“King’s college, London, I mean,” said Richard. “They have evening
classes there, to which a man can go after his day’s work. My father
always took care I should have time for anything I wanted to do. I go
still when I am at home--not always, but when the lecturer takes up any
special subject I want to know more about.”

“You’ll be an author yourself some day, I suppose!”

“There’s little hope or fear of that, sir! But I can’t bear not to know
what’s in my very hands. I can’t be content with the outsides of the
books I bind. It seems a shame to come so near light and never see it
shine. If I were a tailor, I should learn anatomy. I know one tailor
who is as familiar with the human form as any sculptor in London--more,
perhaps!”

Lestrange began to feel uncomfortable. If he let this prodigy go on
talking and asking questions, he would find out how little he knew about
anything! But Richard was no prodigy. He was only a youth capable of
interest in everything, with the stimulus of not finding the fountains
of knowledge at his very door, and the aid of having to work all day at
some pleasant task, nearly associated with higher things that he loved
better. He did know a good deal for his age, but not so very much for
his opportunity, his advantages being great. Most men who learn would
learn more, I suspect, if they had work to do, and difficulty in the
way of learning. Those counted high among Richard’s advantages. He
was, besides, considerably attracted by the mechanics of literature--a
department little cultivated by those who have most need of what grows
in it.

Further talk followed. Lestrange grew interested in the phenomenon of
a blacksmith that bound books and read them. He began to dream of
patronage and responsive devotion. What a thing it would be for him,
in after years, with the cares of property and parliament combining to
curtail his leisure, to have such a man at his beck, able to gather the
information he desired, and to reduce, tabulate, and embody it so as
to render his chief the best-informed man in the House! while at other
times he would manage for him his troublesome tenants, and upon occasion
shoe his wife’s favourite horse! He could also depend upon him to
provide, from the rich stores of his memory, suitable quotations when he
wished to make a speech! Lestrange had never thought whether the wish to
_appear_ might not indicate the duty to _be_; had never seen that, until
he _was_, to desire to _appear_ was to cherish the soul of a sneak. He
had no notion of anything but the look; no notion that, having made a
good speech, he would deserve an atom the less praise for it that he
could not have made it without his secretary. Did any one think the less
of clearing a five-barred gate, he would have answered, that it could
not be done without a horse? Where was the difference? A man you paid to
be your secretary, still more a man whose education to be your secretary
you had paid for--was he not yours in a way at least analogous to that
in which a horse was yours? He could break away from you more easily,
no doubt, but a man knew better than a horse on which side his bread was
buttered!

“I think, squire, I’ll go and have a pipe with the coachman!” said the
blacksmith at length.

“As you please, Armour,” answered Lestrange. “I will take care of
your--nephew, is he?”

“My grandson, sir--from London.”

“All right! There’s good stuff in the breed, Armour!--I will bring him
to you.”

Richard went on taking down book after book, and showing his host how
much they required attention.

“And you could set all right for--?--for how much?” asked Lestrange.

“That no one could say. It would, however, cost little more than time
and skill. The material would not come to much. Only, where the paper
itself is in decay, I do not know about that. I have learned nothing in
that department yet.”

“For generations none of us have cared about books--that must be why
they have gone so to the bad!--the books, I mean,” he added with a
laugh. “There was a bishop, and I think there was a poet, somewhere
in the family; but my father--hm!--I doubt if he would care to lay out
money on the library!”

“Tell him,” suggested Richard, “that it is a very valuable library--at
least so it appears to me from the little I have seen of it; but I am
sure of this, that it is rapidly sinking in value. After another twenty
years of neglect it would not fetch half the price it might easily be
brought up to now.”

“I don’t know that that would weigh much with him. So long as he sees
the shelves full, and the book-backs all right, he won’t want anything
better. He cares only how things look.”

“But the whole look of the library is growing worse--gradually, it is
true, and in a measure it can’t be helped--but faster than you would
think, and faster than it ought. The backs, which, from a library point
of view, are the faces of the books, may, up to a certain moment, look
well, and after that go much more rapidly. I fear damp is getting at
these from somewhere!”

“Would you undertake to set all right, if my father made you a
reasonable offer?”

“I would--provided I found no injury beyond the scope of my experience.”

Richard spoke in book-fashion: he was speaking about books, and to a
social superior! he was not really pompous.

“Well, if my father should come to see the thing as I do, I will let you
know. Then will be the time for a definite understanding!”

“The best way would be that I should come and work for a set time: by
the progress I made, and what I cost, you could judge.”

Lestrange rang the bell, and ordered the attendant to take the young man
to his grandfather.

The two wandered together over the grounds, and Richard saw much to
admire and wonder at, but nothing to approach the hall or the library.

On their way home, Simon, to his grandson’s surprise, declared himself
in favour of his working at the Mortgrange library. But the idea
tickled his fancy so much, that Richard wondered at the oddity of his
grandfather’s behaviour.



CHAPTER XI. _ALICE._

Soon after his visit to Mortgrange, the young bookbinder went home,
recalled at last by his parents. John Tuke was shocked with the hardness
and blackness of his hands, and called his wife’s attention to them.
She, however, perhaps from nearer alliance with the smithy, professed to
regard their condition as by no means a serious matter. She could not,
nevertheless, quite conceal her regret, for she was proud of her boy’s
hands.

Richard supposed of course that his father’s annoyance came only from
the fear that his touch would be no longer sufficiently delicate for
certain parts of his work; and certainly, when he looked at them, he
thought the points of his fingers were broader than before, and was a
little anxious lest they should have lost something of their cunning.
He did not know that mechanical faculty, for fine work as well as rough,
goes in general with square-pointed fingers. Delicately tapered fingers,
whatever they may indicate in the way of artistic invention, are not
the fingers of the painter or the sculptor. The finest fingers of the
tapering kind I have ever seen, were those of a distinguished chemist of
the last generation. Eager to satisfy both his father and himself, that
the hands of the bookmender had not degenerated more than his skill
could counteract, Richard selected, from a few that were waiting his
return, the book worthiest of his labour, set to work, and by a thorough
success quickly effected his purpose.

He was now, however, anxious, before doing anything else, to learn all
that was known for the restoration and repair of the insides of books.
In this an old-bookseller, a friend of his father, was able to give
him no little help, putting him up to wrinkles not a few. Richard was
surprised to see how, with a penknife, on a bit of glass, he would pare
the edge of a scrap of paper to half the thickness, in order to place
two such edges together, and join them without a scar. He taught him how
to clean letterpress and engravings from ferruginous, fungous, and other
kinds of spots. He made him acquainted with a process which considerably
strengthened paper that had become weak in its cohesion; and when
Richard would make further experiment, he supplied him with valueless
letterpress to work upon. His time was thus more than ever occupied. For
many weeks he scarcely even read.

It was not long, however, before he bethought him that he must see
Arthur. He went the same evening to call on him, but found other people
in the house, who could tell him nothing about the family that had left.
His aunt said she had seen Alice once, and knew they were going, but did
not know where they were gone. Richard would have inquired at the house
in the City where Arthur was employed, but he did not know even the name
of the firm. Once, from the top of an omnibus, he saw him--in the same
shabby old comforter, looking feebler and paler and more depressed than
ever; but when he got down, he had lost sight of him, and though he ran
hither and thither, looking up this street and that, he recovered no
glimpse of him. The selfish mother and the wasting children came back to
him vividly as he walked sadly home.

He had counted Alice the nicest girl he had ever seen, but since going
to the country had not thought much about her; and now, since seeing
the fairy-like lady with the big brown mare, he had a higher idea of
the feminine. But although therefore he would not have thought the pale,
sweet-faced dressmaker quite so pleasing as before, he would, because
of the sad look into which her countenance always settled, have felt her
quite as interesting.

Richard had not yet arrived at any readiness to fall in love. It is well
when this readiness is delayed until the individuality is sufficiently
developed to have its own demands. I venture to think one cause of
unhappiness in marriages is, that each person’s peculiar self, was not,
at the time of engagement, sufficiently grown for a natural selection
of the suitable, that is, the _correspondent;_ and that the development
which follows is in most cases the development of what is reciprocally
non-correspondent, and works for separation and not approximation.
The only thing to overcome this or any other disjunctive power, is
development in the highest sense, that is, development of the highest
and deepest in us--which can come only by doing right. The man who is
growing to be one with his own nature, that is, one with God who is
the _naturing_ nature, is coming nearer and nearer to every one of his
fellow-beings. This may seem a long way round to love, but it is the
only road by which we can arrive at true love of any kind; and he who
does not walk in it, will one day find himself on the verge of a gulf of
hate.

Individuality, forestalled by indifference, had no chance of keeping sir
Wilton and lady Ann apart, but certainly had done nothing to bring
them together. Where all is selfishness on both sides, what other
correspondences may exist will hardly come into play. The loss of the
unloved heir had perhaps done a little to approximate them; but they
speedily ceased to hold any communication of ideas on the matter.
As they did nothing to recover him, so they seemed to take almost no
thought as to his existence or non-existence. If he were alive, neither
father nor stepmother had the least desire to discover him. Answering
honestly, each would have chosen that he should remain unheard of. As to
the possibility of his dying in want, or being brought up in wickedness,
that did not trouble either of them. His stepmother did not think
the more tenderly of another woman’s child that she cared for her own
children only because they were hers. If you could have got the idea
into the pinched soul of lady Ann, that the human race is one family,
it would but have enhanced her general dislike, her feeble enmity to
humanity. When she did or said anything to displease him, sir Wilton
would sometimes hint at a new advertisement, but she did not much heed
the threat. On the whole, however, they had got on better than might
have been expected, partly in virtue of her sharp tongue and her thick
skin, which combination of the offensive and defensive put sir Wilton
at a disadvantage: however sharp his retort might be, she never felt it,
but went on; and harping does not always mean such pleasant music,
that you want to keep the harper awake. She had brought him four
children--Arthur, the one whose acquaintance Richard had made, a younger
brother who promised foully, and two girls--the elder common in feature
and slow in wits, but with eyes and a heart; the younger clever and
malicious.

One stormy winter night, as Richard was returning from a house in Park
Crescent, to which he had carried home a valuable book restored to
strength and some degree of aged beauty, from one of the narrow openings
on the east side of Regent Street, came a girl, fighting with the
wind and a weak-ribbed umbrella, and ran buffeted against him,
notwithstanding his endeavour to leave her room. The collision was very
slight, but she looked up and begged his pardon. It was Alice. Before he
could speak, she gave a cry, and went from him in blind haste as fast
as she could go; but with the fierce wind, her perturbation, and the
unruliness of the umbrella, which she was vainly trying to close that
she might run the better, she struck full against a lamp-post, and stood
like one stunned and on the point of falling. Richard, however, was
close behind her, and put an arm round her. She did not resist; she was
indeed but half-conscious. The same moment he saw a cab and hailed it.
The man heard and came. Richard lifted her into it, and got in after
her. But Alice came to herself, got up, and leaning out of the cab on
the street side, tried to open the door. Richard caught her, drew her
back, and made her sit down again.

“Richard! Richard!” she cried, as she yielded to his superior strength,
and burst into tears, “where are you taking me?”

“Wherever you like, Alice. You shall tell the cabman yourself. What is
the matter with you? Don’t be angry with me. It is not my fault that
I have not been to see you and Arthur. You went away, and nobody could
tell me where to find you! Give the cabman your address, Alice.”

“I’m not going home,” sobbed Alice.

“Where are you going, then? I will go with you. You’re not fit to go
anywhere alone! I’m afraid you’re badly hurt!”

“No, no! Do let me out. Indeed, indeed, you must!”

“Well, then, I won’t! You’ll drop down and be left to the police! It’s
horrible to think of you out in such a night! Come home with me. If you
are in any trouble, my mother will help you.”

Here Alice, who had yielded to the pressure with which Richard held her,
broke from him, and pushed him away. Richard put his other arm across,
and laid hold of the door of the cab, telling the man to get up on his
box, and have a little patience. He obeyed, and Richard turned again to
Alice.

“Richard,” she said, “your mother would kill me!”

“Nonsense!” he rejoined; “what a fancy! My mother!”

“I’ve seen her since you went. She made me promise--”

But there Alice stopped, and Richard could get from her nothing but
entreaties to be let out.

“If you don’t,” she said at last, growing desperate, “I will scream.”

“Let me take you at least, then, a little nearer where you want to go,”
 pleaded Richard.

“No! no I set me down.”

“Tell me where you live.”

“I daren’t.”

“I must see my old friend, Arthur! and why shouldn’t I see his sister?
My father and mother ain’t tyrants! They know what that would make of
me! They let me go where I please, or give a good reason why I should
not.”

“Oh, they’ll do that fast enough!” returned Alice, in a tone of mingled
despair and scorn. “But,” she added immediately, “the worst of it is,
they’ll be in the right. Let me out, Richard, or I shall hate you!”

But with the word she dropped her head on his shoulder, and sobbed as if
her heart would sob its last.

He made repeated attempts to soothe her, but, as he made them, he felt
them foolish, for he saw that nothing would alter her determination to
be set down.

“Must I leave you, then, on this very spot?” he said.

“Yes, yes! here--here!” she answered, and rose with apparent eagerness
to get away from him.

He got out, and turned to her, but she did not accept his offered help.

“Won’t you shake hands with me?” he said. “I did not mean to offend
you!”

She answered nothing, but hurried away a step or two, then turned and
lifted her arms as if to embrace him, but turned again instantly, and
fled away among the shadows of the wildly flickering lamps. By the time
he had paid the cabman, he saw it would be useless to follow, for she
was out of sight.

The wide street was almost deserted; its lamps shuddered flaring and
streaming and darkening in the fierce gusts of the wind. A vague army of
evil things seemed to start up and come crowding between him and Alice.
He turned homeward, with a sense of loss and a great sadness at his
heart, unable even to speculate as to the cause of Alice’s behaviour.
All he knew was, that his mother had something to do with it. For the
first time since childhood, he felt angry with his mother.

“She fancies,” he said to himself, “that I am in love with the girl,
and she thinks her not good enough for me! I’m not in love with her;
but _any_ good girl I cared for, I should count good enough! When my
mother’s turn comes, off she goes to the rest of the social tyrants that
look down on a brother because he can do twenty things they can’t!
If the world went out of gear, would _they_ make it go! I’ll be fair
whatever I be! It’ll be my mother’s own fault if I fall in love with
Alice! She has made me pity her with all my heart--the poor, white
thing!--so thin and pinched, and such big eyes! It would be just bliss
to have a creature like that to trust you, so that you could comfort
her! What can my mother have said to her? She has made her awfully
miserable, anyhow! Perhaps her mother drinks!--What if she do! Alice
don’t!”

He was determined to have some explanation from his mother. But she
foiled him. The moment she saw what he meant, she turned away, listened
in silence, and spoke with a decision that savoured of anger.

“They’re not people your father and I will have you know,” she said,
without looking at him.

“But why, mother?” asked Richard.

“We’re not bound to explain everything to you, Richard. It ought to be
enough that we _have_ a good reason.”

“If it be a good reason, why shouldn’t I know it, mother?” he persisted.
“Good things don’t require to be hidden.”

“That’s very true; they do not.”

“Then why hide this one?”

“Because it is not good.”

“You said it was a good reason!”

“So it is.”

“Good and not good! How can that be?” said Richard, with a great lack of
logic. By this time he ought to have been able to see that the worst of
facts may be the best of reasons.

His mother held her peace, knowing she was right, but not knowing how to
answer what she thought his cleverness.

“I mean to go and see them, mother,” he said.

“You’ll repent it, Richard. The woman is not respectable!”

“She won’t bite me!”

“There’s worse than biting!”

“I allow,” pursued Richard, “she may take a drop too much; her nose does
look a little suspicious! But if she ain’t what she should be, it’s hard
lines Arthur and Alice should suffer for the sins of their mother.”

“The Bible says the sins of the fathers are visited on the children.”

“The Bible! If the Bible says what ain’t right, are we to do it?”

“Richard, I’ll have no such word spoken again in my house!” exclaimed
his mother.

“Are you going to turn me out, mother, because I say we should not do
what is wrong, whoever tells us to?”

“No, Richard! You said the Bible said what was wrong; and that’s
blasphemy!”

“Didn’t you say, mother, that the Bible said we ought to visit the sins
of the fathers on the children?”

“God forbid!” cried the poor woman, driven almost to distraction; “I
said nothing of the kind! That would be awful! What the Bible says is,
that God does so.”

“Well, if God chooses, we must leave him to do as he chooses--not do
likewise!”

“Surely, surely, Richard! If _he_ does it, he knows what he’s about, and
we don’t.”

“All right, mother! Then tell me where Arthur and Alice are gone. I want
to go and see them.”

“I don’t know. In fact, I took care not to know, that I mightn’t be able
to tell you.”

“But why?”

“Never mind why. I don’t know where they are, and couldn’t tell you if I
would.”

Richard turned angrily away, and went to his room, weary and annoyed. In
the morning his mother said to him--

“Richard, I can’t bear there should be any misunderstanding between you
and me! The moment you are one and twenty, ask me and I will tell you
why I would not have you knowing those people. Believe me, I was right
to stop it, for fear of what might follow.”

“If you are afraid of my falling in love with a girl you don’t think
good enough for me, you have taken the wrong way to keep me from
thinking about her, mother. You remember the costermonger whose family
quarrelled with him for marrying beneath him? If a girl be a good girl,
she is good for me, whether she be the daughter of the cats’-meat-man
or of a royal duke! I know that’s not the way people who call themselves
Christians think! They want, of course, to keep up the selfishness of
the breed!”

It was horribly rude, and Jane burst into tears. Richard’s heart
softened. It is well our hearts are sometimes in advance of our
consciences--we are so slow to recognize injustice in defence of the
right! Richard’s wrong to his mother was a lack of faith in her. Where
he did not understand and she would not explain, he did not even give
her the benefit of the doubt. He treated her just as many of us, calling
ourselves Christians, treat the Father--not in words, perhaps, or even
in definite thoughts, but in feelings and actions.

“You will be sorry for this one day, Richard!” she sobbed. “Whatever I
do is from care over you!”

“To wrong another for my sake, never can be any good to me. If money
wrong-got be a curse, so is any good wrong-got.”

“You won’t trust me, Richard! My own father is a blacksmith: why should
I look down upon a dressmaker?”

“That’s just what I think, mother!--Why?”

“I don’t!” returned Mrs. Tuke--and there she paused: another step might
bring her to the edge of the gulf!

Richard looked at her moodily for a moment, then turned away to the
workshop; where, after his ill success with his mother, he was hardly
less disinclined to challenge his father than before, for he knew him
inexpugnable.



CHAPTER XII. _MORTGRANGE._

In the spring came a letter from young Lestrange, through Simon Armour,
asking Richard upon what terms he would undertake the work wanted in the
library.

He handed the letter to his father, and they held a consultation.

“There’s this to be considered,” said the bookbinder, “that, if you go
there, you lose your connection here--in a measure, at least. Therefore
you cannot do the work at the same rate as in your own shop.”

“On the other hand, I should have my keep.”

“That is true, and of course is something; but I think it may fairly
be held to do no more than make up for the advantages of living in
London--your classes, for instance.”

“Anyhow I must be paid so much a month, and do what I can in the time. I
couldn’t charge by the individual job in a man’s own house!--The thing
I am afraid of is, that, not knowing the niceties of the work, they may
fancy I don’t do enough.”

“In the other way they would fancy you charged too much, and that would
come to the same thing!--But they will at least discover that you keep
to your hours and stick to your work!--We must calculate by what the
best hands in the trade get a week!”

The terms they concluded to ask appeared to Lestrange reasonable. He
proposed then that Richard should bind himself for not less than a year,
while Lestrange reserved the right of giving him a month’s notice; and
these points being willingly assented to by Richard, an agreement was
drawn up and signed--much to the satisfaction of Simon Armour, whose
first thought was that the work would not be too hard for Richard to
want a little exercise at the forge after hours. Richard, however, well
as he liked the anvil, was not so sure about this: there might be books
to read after he had done his day’s duty by their garments! He had half
laid out for himself a plan of study in his leisure time, he said.

It was a lovely evening when he arrived at Mortgrange from his
grandfather’s. He was shown to his new quarters in the old mansion by
the housekeeper, an elderly, worthy creature, with the air of a hostess.
She liked the young man; the honest friendliness of his carriage pleased
her. He was handsome too, though not strikingly so, and his expression
was better than any handsomeness, inspiring the honest with confidence,
and giving little hope to the designing. His brave outlook, not bold
so much as fearless, and his ready smile, seemed those of a man more
prepared than eager to do his part in the world. He was well set up,
and of good figure, for the slight roundness of his shoulders had almost
disappeared. The poise of his head, and the proportions of his limbs,
left nothing to be desired. His foster-parents had encouraged him in
every manly exercise, for they were wise enough to have regard to the
impression he must make at first sight: they would have it easy to
believe that he might be what they were about to swear he was. Nor had
his sojourn with his grandfather been the least factor in the result
that he sat down to his work as lightly as a gentleman to his dinner,
turned from it as if he had been playing a game instead of earning his
bread, and altogether gave the impression of being a painter or sculptor
rather than a tradesman. There was that in his bearing which suggested a
will rather than necessity to labour.

“Here is your room, young man,” said Mrs. Locke.

It was a large, rather neglected chamber, at the end of a long passage
on the second floor--the very room out of which one midnight he had been
borne in terror, twenty years before, by the woman he called his mother.

“And I hope you will find yourself comfortable,” continued the old lady,
in a tone that implied--“You ought to be!”--“If you want anything, or
have anything to complain of, let me know,” she added. “--I thought it
better not to put you in the servant’s quarters!”

“Thank you, ma’am,” said Richard. “This is a beautiful room for me! Do
you know, ma’am, where I’m to work?”

“I have not been informed,” she answered, as she left the room. “Mr.
Lestrange will see to that.”

Richard went to the window. Before him spread an extensive but somewhat
bare park, for the trees in it were rather few. Some of them, however,
were grand ones: many had been cut down, but a few of the finest left.
A sea of grass lay in every direction, with islands of clumps and
thickets, and vague shores of hedge and wood and ploughed field. On the
grass were cattle and sheep and fallow deer. On this side, nothing came
between the park and the house.

The day was late in the spring; summer was close at hand. There had been
rain all the morning and afternoon, but the clouds were clearing away as
now the sun went down. Everything was wet, but the undried tears of
the day flashed in the sunset. Nature looked a child whose gladness had
come, but who could not stop crying: so heartily had she gone in for
sorrow, that her mind was shaped to weeping. Most of the clouds, late
so dark and sullen, were putting on garments of light, as if resolved to
forgive and forget, and leave no doubt of it. But the sun did not look
satisfied with his day’s work. Slant across the world to Richard’s
window came the last of his vanishing rays, blinding him as he brooded,
and obliterating all between them in a throbbing splendour; yet somehow
the sun seemed sad, as if atonement had come too late. The edge extreme
of the glory vanished; a moment’s cloud followed; and then, when the
radiance of him who was gone grew rosy and golden above his grave,
Richard began to see much that his presence had been hiding. But the
revelation did not linger long. The clouds closed on the twilight, the
world grew almost dismal, and the sadness crept into Richard; or was it
not rather that his own hidden sadness rose up to meet the sadness
of the world? Yet, even as he became aware of it, something in him
recognised it as a thing foreign to the human heart: “We were not made
for this!” he said. “--We are not here, I mean,” he corrected himself,
“--we have not sprung into being in order to be sad! There is no reason
in sadness! There is cause enough, man at least knows, but essential
reason at the heart of its existence there is none!--Whence, then, comes
this mistake, this sadness?” he went on with himself. “Why should there
be so much of it in the world? Is it that, as for all other good things,
a man must put forth his will for joy? It is plain a man must assert
what is highest in him, else he cannot lay hold of the best: must a man
will to be glad, else deserve to be sorrowful?” He began to whistle.
“I will be glad!” he said, “even in the midst of a world of rain!--Yet
again, why should the mere look of a rainy night make it needful for me
to assert joy and resist sadness?--After all, what is there to be merry
about, in this best of possible worlds? I like going to the theatre; but
if I don’t like the play, am I to be pleased all the same, sit it out
with smiles, and applaud at the end?--I don’t see what there is to make
me miserable, and I don’t see what there is to make me glad!”

Would it have cast any light either on Richard’s gloom or his
perplexity, had he been told that, in the place where he stood staring
out on the gray, formless twilight, his mother had often sought refuge,
and tasted the comfort of an assuagement of splendour. She had not
appropriated the room, and it was some time before the household knew
that she was in the way of going there: it was awkwardly situated in a
remote part of the house and rarely used--which made its attraction for
lady Lestrange. But the faithful sister did not forget where she had
once found her on her knees weeping, and chose it for herself and her
charge when she was gone.

In a few minutes Richard arrived at the conclusion that he would be all
right as soon as he got among the wine-bins of the library. He did not
reflect how little of a man is he whose sense of well-being is at the
mercy of a Scotch mist or a cloudy twilight. Neither did he put to
himself the question whether the mending of the old leather bottles
in which lie stored the varied wines of the human spirit, ought to
be labour and gladness enough for the soul of a man. It is a poor
substitute for food that helps us to forget the want of it. But how can
we wonder when he would have no father, and claimed the black Negation,
the grandmother of Chaos, as his mother! Yet was it the presence all the
time of that father he refused that made it possible for him to drink
the water of any poorest little well of salvation that sprang in the
field of his life; and such a well was his work among books.



CHAPTER XIII. _THE BEECH-TREE_.

He went to bed, and after a dreamless night, rose to find the world
overflowed with bliss. The sun was at his best, and every water-drop on
the grass was shining all the colours of the rainbow. Surely the gems
that are dug from the earth have their prototype in the dew-drops that
lie on its surface. One might in a moment of sweet maundering imagine
Nature hiding those sunless dew-drops of the mines in the darkness of a
sweet sorrow that the youth of the morning must be so evanescent.

The whole world lay before Richard his inheritance. The sunlight gave it
him, a gift from the height of his heaven. What was it to Richard that
the park, its trees, its grass, its dew-drops, its cattle, its shadows,
belonged to sir Wilton! He never even thought of the fact! He felt them
his own! Was the soft, clear, fresh, damp air, with all the unreachable
soul of it, not his, because it was sir Wilton’s?

The highest property, as Dante tells us, increases to each by the
sharing of it with others. But the common mind does not care for such
property. Was not the blue, uplifted, hoping sky, that spoke to the sky
inside Richard--was not that sir Wilton’s? Yes, indeed; for were it not
sir Wilton’s, it could not be Richard’s. But sir Wilton did not claim
it, because he did not care for it, heard no sound of the speech it
uttered. Happy would it have been for sir Wilton, that anything he
called his, was his as it was Richard’s! He could not prevent Richard
from possessing Mortgrange in a way he himself did not and would not
possess it. But neither yet were they Richard’s in the full eternal way.
Nature was a noble lady whose long visit made him glad; she was not yet
at her own home in his house. There were things in the world that might
come in and drive her out. Say rather, there was yet no chamber in that
house in which she could take up her dwelling all night.

The setting sun had made Richard sad; his resurrection made him blessed!
He dressed in haste, and went to find his way from the house.

Arrived in the park, and walking in cool delight on the wet grass, he
began to think about the men and the races whom the greed of other men
and races had pinched and shouldered and squeezed from the world. He
thought of the men who, by preventing others and refusing to let them
share, imagine to increase the length and breadth and depth of their own
possessing; and thus by degrees he fell into a retributive mood. What
should, what could, what would be done with such men?

“As they refuse their neighbours ground to stand upon,” he said to
himself, “as the very cubic space they cannot disrobe them of they
begrudge them because it measures from what they count their land, I
should like to know how high their possession goes! Is there any law
that lays that down? To what point above him can the landowner complain
of trespass in the gliding or hovering balloon? When hawking comes in
again, as it will one day, by the law of revival, at what height will
another man’s falcon be an intruder on him who stands gazing up from
his corn? Were I a power in the universe, I would cram the air over
the heads of such incarnate greeds with clouds of souls! The sun should
reach them only through the vapours of other life than theirs, inimical
to them because of their selfishness. I would set the dead burrowing
beneath them, so that the land they boast should heave under their feet
with the writhing of the bodies they drove from the surface into the
deeps. They should have but a carpet, wallowing in the waves of a
continuous live earthquake. I know I am thinking like a fool; but surely
at least there ought to be some set season for Truth and Justice to
return to the forsaken earth! Are we for ever to bear without hope the
presence of the cruel, the vulgar self-souled, the neighbour-crushing
rich? Are the wicked the favourites of Nature, that they flourish like
a green bay-tree? Doubtless it is right to forgive--but how to be able?
Nobody has ever done me any harm yet; I have nothing to complain of;
it cannot be revenge in me that longs for something, call it God, or
Nature, or Justice, that will repay!--God it cannot be; but something
sure there must be to which vengeance belongs!”

He might have gone further in his thinking, and perhaps come to ask what
satisfaction there could be in any vengeance, so long as the evil-doer
remained unhumbled by the perception and the shame of his doing, was
neither sorry for it nor turned away from it--in a word, did not repent;
but there came an interruption.

He was walking slowly along, unheeding where he went, when he heard
a sound that made him look up. Then he saw that he was under a great
beech, and the sound seemed to come from somewhere in the top of
it--a sound like the pleased cooing of a dove. He looked hard into the
branches and their wilderness of fresh leaves, but could descry nothing.
Then came a little laugh, and with a preparatory rustling and rustling
in its passage, a book--a small folio--fell plump at his feet.

“Will you please put it in the library!” said a voice he had heard
before--long before, it seemed--but had not forgotten.

“I will bring it to you--at least I would, if I could see where you
are!” answered Richard, gazing with yet keener search into the thick
mass of leaf-cloud over his head.

“No, no; I don’t want more of it. I can’t see you, and don’t know who
you are; but please take the book, and lay it on the middle table in the
library. It may be hurt, and I don’t want to come down just yet.”

“Very well, miss!” answered Richard; “I will.--The fall from such a
height, and through all those branches, must have done it quite enough
harm already!”

“Oh!--I never thought of that!” said the voice.

Richard took up the book, and walked away with it, pondering.

“Is it possible,” he said to himself, “that the little lady, whose
big mare I shod last year, is up there in that tree? It must be her
voice!--I cannot, surely, be mistaken!--But how on earth, or rather how
in heaven, did she get up? Yet why shouldn’t she climb as well as any
other? It must be as easy as riding that huge mare. And then she’s not
like other ladies! She’s not of the ordinary breed of this planet! Which
of them would have spoken to a blacksmith-lad as she spoke to me! Who
but herself would have tied up a scratch in a working man’s hand!”

He was right so far: she could climb as no other in that county, no
other, perhaps, in England, man or boy or girl, could climb. She was
like a squirrel at climbing; and for the last few mornings, the weather
having grown decidedly summery, had gone before breakfast to say her
prayers in that tree.

Richard carried the book to the house--it was Pope’s Letters--found his
way to the library, and laid it where she said, hoping she would come
to seek it, and that he might then be present. Would she recognize the
fellow that shod her mare? he wondered.

He could do nothing till he knew where he was to work, and therefore,
after breakfast in the servants’ hall, he asked one of the men to let
him know when Mr. Lestrange would see him, and went to his room.

Richard had not yet become aware of any moral pressure. The duty of
aspiration or self-conquest, had never in any shape been forced upon
him, and his conscience had not made him acquainted with it. What is
called a good conscience is often but a dull one that gives no trouble
when it ought to bark loudest; but Richard’s was not of that sort, and
yet was very much at ease. I may say for him that he had done nothing he
knew to be bad at the moment; and very little that he had to be ashamed
of afterwards, either at school or since he left it. Partly through the
care of his parents, he had never got into what is called bad company,
had formed no undesirable intimacies. He had a natural cleanliness, a
natural sense of the becoming, which did much to keep him from evil: he
could not consent to regard himself with disgust, and he would have been
easily disgusted with himself. If he did not, as I have indicated,
set himself with any conscious effort to rise above himself, he did do
something against sinking below himself. The books he chose were almost
all of the better sort. He had instinctively laid aside some in which he
recognized a degrading influence.

But here let me remark that it depends partly on the degree of a man’s
moral development, whether this or that book will be to him degrading
or otherwise. A book which one man ought to scorn, may be of elevating
tendency to another, because it is a little above his present moral
condition. A book which to enjoy would harm a more delicate mind, may
_perhaps_ benefit the nature that would have chosen a coarser book
still. We cannot determine the operation of energies, when we do not
know on what moral level they are at work. The dead may be left to bury
their dead; it would be sad to see an angel haunting a charnel-house.

I have been led into this digression through the desire to give
an approximate idea of the good, rather vacant, unselfish, and yet
self-contented, if not self-satisfied condition of Richard’s being.

He got out a manuscript-book in which he was in the habit of setting
down whatever came to him, and wrote for some time, happily making more
than one spot of ink on the toilet-cover, which served to open the eyes
of Mrs. Locke to her mistake in thinking a workman would not want a
writing-table; so that before the next evening he found in his chamber
everything comfortable for writing, as well as for sleeping and
dressing.

He was interrupted by the entrance of a servant with the message that
Mr. Lestrange was in the morning-room, and wished to see him.

He followed the man and found Lestrange at the breakfast-table, with
a tall young woman, very ordinary-looking, except for her large, soft,
dark eyes, and the little lady whose mare he had shod, and whose voice
he had that morning heard from the tree-top.

He advanced half-way to the table, and stood.

“Ah, there you are!” said Lestrange, glancing up, and immediately
reverting to his plate. “We’ve got to set to work, haven’t we?”

He had, I presume, found the ladies not uninterested in the restoration
that was about to be initiated, and had therefore sent for Richard while
breakfast was going on.

The fledgling baronet, except for his too favourable opinion of himself,
in which he was unlike only a very few, and an amount of assumption not
small toward his supposed inferiors, was not a disagreeable human, and
now spoke pleasantly.

“Yes, sir,” answered Richard. “Shall I wait outside until you have done
breakfast?”

He feared the servant might have made a mistake.

“I sent for you,” replied Lestrange curtly.

“Very well, sir. I have not yet learned whether the tools I sent on
have been delivered, but there will be plenty to do in the way of
preparation.--May I ask if you have settled where I am to work, sir?”

“Ah! I had not thought of that!”

“It seems to me, sir, that the library itself would suit best; that is,
if I might have a good-sized kitchen-table in it, and roll up half the
carpet. When I had to beat a book I could take it into the passage, or
just outside the window. Nothing else would make any dust.”

Lestrange had been thinking how to have the binder under his eye, and
yet not seem to watch a fellow so much above his notion of a working
man; the family made very little use of the library, and Richard’s
proposal seemed just the thing. He would be sure to stick to his work
where some one might any moment be coming in!

“I don’t see any difficulty,” he answered.

“I should want a little fire for my glue-pot and polishing-iron. There
will be gilding and lettering too, though I hope not much--title-pieces
to replace, and a touch here and there to give to the tooling! No man
with any reverence in him would meddle much with such delicate, lovely
old things as many of these gildings! He would not dare more than just
touch them!”

The little lady sat eating her toast, but losing no word that was said.
She knew from his voice the young man was the same to whom she had
called out of the beech-tree; but now she seemed to recognize him as the
blacksmith whose hand she had bound up: what could a blacksmith do in a
library? She was puzzled.

Richard noted that she was dressed in some green stuff, which perhaps
was the cause of his having been unable to discover her in the tree! Her
great eyes--they were bigger than those of the tall lady--every now and
then looked up at him with a renewed question, to which they seemed to
find no answer. They were big blue eyes--very dark for blue, and rather
too round for perfection; but their roundness was at one with the
prevailing expression of her face, which was innocent daring, inquiry,
and confidence. The paleness of it was a healthy paleness, with just
an inclination to freckle. Her dark, half-scorched-looking hair was so
abundant and rebellious, that it had to be all over compelled with gold
pins. Its manipulation had neither beginning, middle, nor end. She ate
daintily enough, but as if she meant to have a breakfast that should
last her till luncheon--when plainly the active little furnace of her
life would want fresh fuel. But it was of another kind of fuel she was
thinking now. In the man who stood there, so independent, yet so free
from self-assertion, she saw a prospect of learning something. She was
hungry after knowing, but, though fond of reading, was very ignorant of
books. She thought like a poet, but had never read a real poem. She was
full of imagination, but very imperfectly knew what the word meant.
She had never in her life read a work of genuine imagination--not even
_Undine_, not even _The Ugly Duckling_.



CHAPTER XIV. _THE LIBRARY_.

After some talk, it was settled that Richard should work in the large
oriel of the library. Mrs. Locke was called, and the necessary orders
were given. Employer and workman were both anxious, the one to see, the
other to make a commencement. In a few minutes Richard had looked out as
many of the books in most need of attention as would keep him, turning
from the one to the other, as each required time in the press or to dry,
thoroughly employed.

“There is a volume here I should like to know your mind about, sir,”
 he said, after looking at one of them a moment or two, “--the first
collected edition of Spenser’s works, actually bound up with Sir John
Harrington’s translation of Ariosto! If it were a good, or even an old
binding, I should have said nothing.”

“It don’t seem in a bad way.”

“No, but the one book is so unworthy of the other!”

“What would you propose?”

“I would separate them; put the Spenser in plain calf, and make the
present cover, with a new back, do for Sir John; it is a good enough
coat for him.”

“Very well. Do as you think best.”

“I should like to send them both to my father.”

“But you have undertaken everything!”

“I am quite ready, sir; but in that case these must wait. My faculty is
best laid out on mending, and I must do some good work in that first.
I don’t know that I’m quite up to my father in binding. I mentioned him
because if he were to help me with those that must be bound, I should
have the more time for what often takes longer. You may trust my father,
sir; he does not want to make a fortune.”

“I will try him then,” answered the cautious heir. “At least I will send
him the books, and learn what he would charge.”

He had more of the ordinary tradesman in him than Richard and his uncle
put together.

“I will put the prices on them, and engage that my father will charge no
more,” said Richard.

Lestrange was content on hearing them, and Richard set to work with the
other volumes.

The bookbinder, always busy, soon began to be respected in the house,
and before long had gained several indulgences--among the rest, to have
a table for himself in the library, at which, when work-hours were over,
he might read or write when he pleased. As his labours went on, the
_bookscape_ began to revive, and continued slowly putting on an
autumnal radiance of light and colour. Dingy and broken backs gradually
disappeared. Pamphlets and magazines, such as, from knowledge or
inquiry, Richard thought worth the expense, were sent off to his father
to be bound. But I must continue my narrative from a point long before
his work began to make much of a show.

A few valuable books, much injured by time and rough usage,--among
the rest a quarto of _The Merry Wives_--he had pulled apart, and was
treating with certain solutions, in preparation for binding them, when
Lestrange came in one morning, accompanied by the curate of the parish.
His eyes fell on a loose title-page which he happened to know.

“What on earth are you doing?” he cried. “You will destroy that book! By
Jove!--You little know what you’re about!”

“I do know what I am about, sir. I shall do the book nothing but good,”
 answered Richard. “It could not have lasted many years without what I am
doing.”

“Leave it alone,” said Lestrange. “I must ask some one. The treatment is
too dangerous.”

“Excuse me, sir; the treatment is by no means dangerous. After this
bath, I shall take it through one of thin size, to help the paper to
hold together. The book has suffered much, both from damp and insects.”

“No matter!” answered Lestrange imperiously. “I will not have you meddle
further with that volume.--Would you believe it, Hardy,” he went
on, turning to the curate, “it is that translation of Ovid he is
experimenting upon!”

“I beg your pardon, I am not experimenting,” said Richard.

“I hardly think it is such a very rare book!” replied the curate. “I
believe it _could_ be replaced!”

“Ah, you don’t know, I see! I thought I had shown you!” returned
Lestrange excitedly. “Look there!”

He pointed to the title-page, which was lying on the table.

“I see!” said Hardy. “It is a first edition--in black letter--of Arthur
Golding’s Ovid!”

“But you don’t look! Why don’t you look? Have you no eyes for that faded
ink just under the title?”

“Why! What’s this? _Gul. Shaksper!_--Is it possible!”

“You find it hard to believe your eyes, and well you may!--There, Tuke!
I told you you didn’t know what you were doing!”

“I always examine the title-page of a book,” answered Richard. “You must
allow me to do as I see fit, Mr. Lestrange, or I give up the job.”

“You undertook to work for a year, if required!”

“I did not undertake to receive orders as to my mode of working. I care
for books far too much for that. Besides, I have my character to see to!
I warn you that if I do not go on with that volume, it will be ruined.”

“You don’t consider the money you risk!--That name makes the book worth
hundreds at least.”

“It is the greatest of names! Only that name was not written by him who
owned it!”

“What do you know about it!” said Lestrange rudely.

“Are you an expert?” asked the curate.

“By no means,” answered Richard; “but I have been a good deal with
old books, and my impression is you have got there one of the Ireland
forgeries!”

“I believe it to be quite genuine!” said Lestrange.

“If it be, there is the more reason in what I am doing, sir.”

Lestrange turned abruptly to the curate, saying--“Come along, Hardy! I
can’t bear to see the butchery!”

“Depend on it,” returned the curate laughing, “the surgeon knows his
knife!--You _know_ what you’re about, don’t you, Mr. Tuke?”

“If I did not, sir, I wouldn’t meddle with a book like that, forgery or
no forgery! You should see the quantities of old print I’ve destroyed
in learning how to save such books!--This is no vile body to experiment
upon!”

“Mr. Lestrange, you may trust that man!” said the curate.



CHAPTER XV. _BARBARA WYLDER._

It was the height of the season, and sir Wilton and lady Ann were in
London--I cannot say _enjoying themselves_, for I doubt if either of
them ever enjoyed self, or anything else. Their daughters were at home,
in the care of the governess. Theodora had been out a year or two, but
preferred Mortgrange to London. She was one of the few girls--perhaps
not very few--who imagine themselves uglier than they are. Miss
Malliver, the governess, was a lady of uncertain age, for whom lady
Ann had an uncertain liking. The younger girl, her pupil, was named
Victoria, but commonly called Vic, and not uncommonly Vixen. The younger
boy was at school, where they were constantly threatening to send him
home. He had been already dismissed from Eton.

In their elder son, Arthur, his parents had as perfect a confidence as
such parents could have in any son.

The little lady that rode the great mare, and sat in the beech-tree,
was at present their guest--as she often was, in a fluctuating or
intermittent fashion. She lived in the neighbourhood, but was more
at Mortgrange than at home; one consequence of which was, that, as
would-be-clever Miss Malliver phrased it, the house was very much B.
Wyldered. Nor was that the first house the little lady had bewildered,
for she was indeed an importation from a new colony rather startling
to sedate old England. Her father, a younger son, had unexpectedly
succeeded to the family-property, a few miles from Mortgrange. He was
supposed to have made a fortune in New Zealand, where Barbara was born
and brought up. They had been home nearly two years, and she was almost
eighteen. Absurd rumours were abroad concerning their wealth, but there
were no great signs of wealth about the place. Wylder Hall was kept up,
and its life went on in good style, it is true, but mainly because the
old servants perpetuated the customs of the house.

The squire was said to have shared in some of the roughest phases of
colonial life. Whether he was better or worse for falling in love with
the money of an older colonist, and marrying his daughter, it is certain
that, for a time at least, he grew a shade or two more respectable.
Far from being a woman of refinement, she had more character and more
strength than he, and brought him, not indeed into the highways of
wisdom, but into certain by-paths of prudence.

Upon his return to his native country, they were everywhere received;
but had it not been for their reported wealth, I doubt if the ladies of
the county, after some experience of her manners and speech, which were
at times very rough, would have continued to call on Mrs. Wylder.

But everybody liked Barbara; and nobody could think how such a flower
should have come of two such plants. She seemed to regard every one as
of her own family. People were her property--hers to love! And her brain
was as active as her heart, and constantly with it. She wanted to know
what people thought and felt and imagined; what everything was; how a
thing was done, and how it ought to be done. She seemed to understand
what the animals were thinking, and what the flowers were feeling. She
had from infancy spent the greater part of her life, both night and day,
in the open air; and, having no companion, had sought the acquaintance
of every live thing she saw--often to the disgust of her mother, and
occasionally to the annoyance of her father. She was a child of the
whole world, as the naiad is the child of the river, and the oread
of the mountain. She could sit a horse’s bare back even better than a
saddle, could guide him almost as well with a halter as with a bridle,
and in general control him without either, though she had ridden more
than one horse with terrible bit and spurs. She did not remember the
time when she could not swim, and she tried her own running against
every new horse, to find what he could do. Some highland girl might
perhaps have beaten her, up hill, but I doubt it. She was so small that
she looked fragile, but she had nerves such as few men can boast,
and muscles like steel. It never occurred to her not to say what she
thought, believed, or felt; she would show favour or dislike with equal
readiness; and give the reason for anything she did as willingly as do
the thing. She was a special favourite at Mortgrange. Not only did she
bewitch the _blasé_ man of the world, sir Wilton, but the cold eye of
his lady would gleam a faint gleam at the thought of her dowry. Her
father “prospected” a little for something higher than a mere baronetcy,
but he had in no way interfered. Of herself, divine little savage, she
would never have thought of love until she fell in love: a flower cannot
know its own blossom until it comes. It did not yet interest her,
and until it did, certainly marriage never would. Thus was she
healthier-minded than any one born of society-parents, and brought up
under the influences of nurse-morality, can well be. When she came to
England, it was hard to teach her the ways of the so-called civilized.
Servants would sometimes be out searching for her after midnight,
perhaps to find her strayed beyond the park, out upon the solitary
heath. She knew most of the stars, not by their astronomical names
indeed, but by names she had herself given them. She had tales of her
own, fashioned in part from the wild myths of the aborigines, to account
for the special relations of such as made a group. She would weave the
travels of the planets into the steady history of the motionless stars.
Waning and waxing moons had a special and strange influence upon her.
She would dart out of doors the moment she saw the new moon, and give
a wild cry of joy if the old moon was in her arms. Any moon in a gusty
night, with a scud of torn clouds, would wake in her an ecstasy. Her old
nurse, who had come with her--a strange creature, of what mingled blood
no one knew--told of her that she was sometimes seized with such a
longing for the ocean, that she would lie for hours ere she went to
sleep, moaning with the very moan of its pebble-margined waves. When “in
the bush,” she would upon occasion wander about from morning to night.
No trouble able to keep her still had ever yet laid hold of her. But
she had grown neither coarse nor unfeeling through lack of human
intercourse. Nature was to her what she was to Wordsworth’s Lucy, and
made her a lady of her own.

As to what is commonly called education, she had not had the best. Since
coming to England, she had had governesses, but none fit for the office.
Not merely had no one of them that rare gift, the teaching genius--the
faculty of waking hunger and thirst; that would have mattered little,
for Barbara needed no such rousing; she was eager to know, and yet more
eager to understand; but not one of those teachers knew enough to answer
a quarter of Barbara’s questions, or was even capable of perceiving that
those she could not answer, pointed to anything worth knowing.

Among fashionable girls, affecting a free and easy, or even rough style,
Barbara was notable for a sweet, unconscious, graceful daring, never for
even a playful rudeness. Nothing she ever did or said or attempted could
be called rough, while yet she would say things to make a vulgar duchess
stare. Had she been affected, she would have drawn fools and repelled
men; real, she charmed alike men and fools.

She had read few books worth reading--had read a few which one would
not have chosen she should read, for she grasped at anything a passer-by
might have left. Of books properly so called, she knew nothing,
therefore had not a notion which to read now she might choose. She
imagined them all attractive--but at the first assay turned from
the burlesque with a kind of loathing. This made some of her new
acquaintance, not refined enough to understand the peculiarity, as it
seemed to them, set her down as stupid.

As to religion, she had never been taught any. But from before her
earliest recollection she had had the feeling of a Presence. For this
feeling she never thought of attempting to account, neither would have
recognized it as what I have called it. The sky over her head brought
it; a sweep of the earth away from her feet would bring it; any horizon
far or near called it up, perhaps most keenly of all. In England she
often sorely missed her horizon, and in cities was even unhappy for lack
of one. If she could have crystallized, and then formulated her feeling,
she would have said she felt lonely, that something or somebody had
gone away. Had she been a pagan, it would have been her gods that had
forsaken her. Without a horizon she felt as if the wind had forgotten
her, the sky did not know her. Often indeed even the farthest horizon
could not prevent her from feeling that she had come to a dead country;
that things here did not mean anything; that the life was out of them.
Was the world so crowded with men and their works as to shut out from
her the Presence? When she went to church, nothing received her, nothing
came near her, nothing brought her any message. Something was done, she
supposed, that ought to be done--something she had no inclination to
dispute, no interest in questioning; a certain good power called God,
required from people, in return for the gift of existence, the attention
of going to church; therefore she went sometimes. She had no idea of
ever having done wrong, no feeling that God was pleased or displeased
with her, or had any occasion to be either. She did not know that it was
God that came near her in her horse, in her dog, in the people about
her who so often disappointed her. He came nearer in a thunderstorm,
a moonlit night, a sweet wind--anything that woke the sense of the old
freedom of her childhood. She felt the presence then, but never knew it
a presence.

Neither did she know that there was a place where the very essence, of
that whose loss made her sad was always waiting her--a place called in
a certain old book “thy closet.” She did not know that there opened the
one horizon--infinitely far, yet near as her own heart. But He is there
for them that seek him, not for those who do not look for him. Till they
do, all he can do is to make them feel the want of him. Barbara had not
begun to seek him. She did not know there was anybody to seek: she
only missed him without knowing what she missed. The blind, almost
meaningless reverence for the name of God, which somehow she learned at
church, had not led her in any way to associate him with her sense of
loss and need.

Her father’s desire was to see her so married as to raise his influence
in the county. He was proud of her--selfishly proud. Was she not his?
Was he not “the author of her being”? If he did not quite imagine he had
created her, he certainly never thought of any one but himself as having
to do with her existence. All the credit in it was his! He forgot even
what share her mother might claim; not to mention what in her might
belong to the Sum of Things, the insensate Pan. A self-glorious man is
the biggest fool in the world.

Her mother, too, was proud of her--loved her indeed after a careless
fashion--was even in a sort obliged to her for having come to her. But
she did not care for her enough to interfere with her. Notwithstanding
the mother’s coarseness, her outbursts of temper, her intolerance of
opposition, she and her daughter had never yet come into collision. The
reason did not entirely lie in the sweetness of the daughter, but partly
in the fact that the mother had two children besides, one of whom she
loved far more, and the other far less.

Barbara had no pride. She spoke in the same tone to lord and tradesman.
She had been the champion of the blacks in her own country, and in
England looked lovingly on the gypsies in their little tents on the
windy downs.



CHAPTER XVI. _BARBARA AND RICHARD_.

Hardly had Lestrange left the room, when Barbara entered, noiseless as
a moth, which creature she somehow resembled at times: one observant
friend came to see that she resembled all swift, gay, and gentle
creatures in turn. She was in the same green dress which had favoured
her concealment in the beech, and in which Richard had seen her
afterward at the breakfast-table, but of which he had not since caught
a glimmer. Her blue eyes--at times they seemed black, but they were
blue--settled upon Richard the moment she entered, and resting on him
seemed to lead her up to the table where he was at work.

“What have you done to make Arthur so angry?” she said, her manner as if
they had known each other all their lives.

“What I am doing now, miss--making this book last a hundred years
longer.”

“Why should you, if he doesn’t want you to do it? The book is his!”

“He will be pleased enough by and by. It’s only that he thinks I can’t,
and is afraid I shall ruin it.”

“Hadn’t you better leave it then?”

“That would be to ruin it. I have gone too far for that.”

“Why should you want to make it last so long? They are always printing
books over again, and a new book is much nicer than an old one.”

“So some people think; but others would much rather read a book in its
first shape. And then books get so changed by printers and editors, that
it is absolutely necessary to have copies of them as they were at first.
You see this little book, miss? It don’t look much, does it?”

“It looks miserable--and so dirty!”

“By the time I have done with it, it will be worth fifty, perhaps a
hundred pounds--I don’t know exactly. It is a play of Shakespeare’s us
published in his lifetime.”

“But they print better and more correctly now, don’t they?”

“Yes; but us I said, they often change things.”

“How is that?”

“Sometimes they will change a word, thinking it ought to be another;
sometimes they will alter a passage because they do not understand it,
putting it all wrong, and throwing aside a great meaning for a small
one: the change of a letter may alter the whole idea. But they often
do it just by blundering. Shall I tell you an instance that came to
my knowledge yesterday? It is but a trifle, yet is worth telling.--Of
course you know the _Idylls of the King_?”

“No, I don’t Why do you say ‘of course’?”

“Because I thought every English lady read Tennyson.”

“Ah, but I was born in New Zealand!--Tell me the blunder, though.”

“There was one thing in _The Pausing of Arthur_--that’s the name of one
of the Idylls--which I never could understand:--how sir Bedivere could
throw a sword with both hands, and make it go in the way Tennyson says
it went.”

“But who was sir Bedivere?”

“You must read the poem to know that, Miss. He was one of the knights of
king Arthur’s Round Table.”

“I don’t know anything about king Arthur.”

“I will repeat us much of the poem as is necessary to make you
understand about the misprint.”

“_Do--please_.”

     “Then quickly rose sir Bedivere, and ran,
     And, leaping down the ridges lightly, plunged
     Among the bulrush beds, and clutch’d the sword,
     And strongly wheeled and threw it. The great brand
     Made lightnings in the splendour of the moon,
     And flashing round and round, and whirl’d in an arch,
     Shot like a streamer of the northern morn,
     Seen where the moving isles of winter shock
     By night, with noises of the northern sea.
     So flashed and fell the brand Excalibur.”

“What does _the brand Excalibur_--is that it?--what does it mean? They
put a brand on the cattle in the bush.”

“_Brand_ means a sword, and _Excalibur_ was the name of this sword. They
seem to have baptized their swords in those days!”

“There’s nothing about _both hands_!”

“True; that comes a little lower down, where sir Bedivere tells king
Arthur what he has done. He says--

“‘Then with both hands I flung him, wheeling him’.

“--Now do you think anybody could do that, and make it go flashing round
and round in an arch?”

Barbara thought for a moment, then said--

“No, certainly not. To make it go like that, you would have to take it
in one hand, and swing it round your head--and then you couldn’t without
a string tied to it. Or perhaps it was a sabre, and he was so strong he
could send it like a boomerang!”

“No; it was a straight, big, heavy sword.--How then do you think
Tennyson came to describe the thing so?”

“Because he didn’t know better--or didn’t think enough about it.”

“There is more than that in it, I fancy: he was misled by a printer’s
blunder, I suspect. Some months ago I found the passage which Tennyson
seems to follow, in a cheap reprint of sir Thomas Malory’s History of
King Arthur--then just out, and could not make sense of it. Yesterday I
found here this long little book, evidently the edition from which the
other was printed--and printed correctly too. In both issues, this is
what the knight is made to say:

“‘Then sir Bedivere departed, and went to the sword, and lightly took it
up and went to the water’s side, and there he bound the girdle about the
belts. And then he threw the sword into the water as far as he might.’”

“Well,” said Barbara, “you have not made me any wiser! You said the new
one was printed correctly from that old one!”

“But I did not say the old one, as you call it, was itself printed
correctly from the much older one! Look here now,” continued
Richard--and mounting the library-steps, he took down another small
volume, very like the former, “--here is another edition, of nearly the
same date: let me read what is printed there:--

“‘Then sir Bedivere departed, and went to the sword, and lightly took it
up, and went to the water side, and there he bound the girdle about the
hilt. And then he threw the sword into the water as far as he might.’

“Now, most likely the copy from which both of these editions were
printed, had the word _hilts_, for then they always spoke of the
_hilts_, not _hilt_ of a sword; and the one printer modernized it into
_hilt_, and the other, perhaps mistaking the dim print, for _hilts_
printed _belts_. To tie the girdle about the _belts_ must simply be
nonsense. But to tie the girdle to the hilts of the sword, would just
give the knight what you said he would want--something long to swing it
round his head with, and throw it like a stone, and the sling with it.”

“I understand.”

“You see then how the printer’s blunder, which might not appear to
matter much, has come to matter a great deal, for it has, it seems to
me, caused a fault-spot in the loveliest poem!”

During this conversation Richard’s work had scarcely relaxed; but now
that a pause came it seemed to gather diligence.

“Why do you spend your time patching up books?” said Barbara.

“Because they are worth patching up; and because I earn my bread by
patching them.”

“But you seem to care most for what is inside them!”

“If I did not, I should never have taken to mending, I should have
been content with binding them. New covers make more show, and are much
easier put on than patches.”

Another pause followed.

“What a lot you know!” said Barbara.

“Very little,” answered Richard.

“Then where am I!” she returned.

“Perhaps ladies don’t need books! I don’t know about ladies.”

“I think they don’t care about them. I never hear them talk as you
do--as if books were their friends. But why should they? Books are only
books!”

“You would not say that if once you knew them!”

“I wish you would make me know them, then!”

“There are books, and you can read, miss!”

“Ah, but I can’t read as you read! I understand that much! I was born
where there ain’t any books. I can shoot and fish and run and ride and
swim, and all that kind of thing. I never had to fight. I think I could
shoe a horse, if any one would give me a lesson or two.”

“I will, with pleasure, miss.”

“Oh, thank you. That will be jolly! But how is it you can do
everything?”

“I can only do one or two things. I can shoe a horse, but I never had
the chance of riding one.”

“Teach me to shoe Miss Brown, and I will teach you to ride her. How is
your hand?”

“Quite well, thank you.”

“I would rather learn to read, though--the right way, I mean--the way
that makes one book talk to another.”

“That would be better than shoeing Miss Brown; but I will teach you
both, if you care to learn.”

“Thank you indeed! When shall we begin?”

“When you please.”

“Now?”

“I cannot before six o’clock. I must do first what I am paid to
do!--What kind of reading do you like best?”

“I don’t know any best. I used to read the papers to papa, but now I
don’t even do that. I hope I never may.”

“Where do you live, miss, when you’re at home?” asked Richard, all the
time busy with the quarto.

“Don’t you know?”

“I don’t even know who you are, miss!”

“I am Barbara Wylder. I live at Wylder Hall, a few miles from here.--I
don’t know the distance exactly, because I always go across country:
that way reminds me a little of home. My father was the third son, and
never expected to have the Hall. He went out to New Zealand, and married
my mother, and made a fortune--at least people say so: he never tells me
anything. They don’t care much for me: I’m not a boy!”

“Have you any brothers?”

“I have one,” she answered sadly. “I had two, but my mother’s favourite
is gone, and my father’s is left, and mamma can’t get over it. They were
twins, but they did not love each other. How could they? My father and
mother don’t love each other, so each loved one of the twins and hated
the other.”

She mentioned the dismal fact with a strange nonchalance--as if the
thing could no more be helped, and needed no more be wondered at, than a
rainy day. Yet the sigh she gave indicated trouble because of it.

Richard held his peace, rather astonished, both that a lady should talk
to him in such an easy way, and that she should tell him the saddest
family secrets. But she seemed quite unaware of doing anything strange,
and after a brief pause resumed.

“Yes, they had long been tired of each other,” she said, us if she had
been reflecting anew on the matter, “but the quarrelling came all of
taking sides about the twins! At least I do not remember any of it
before that. They were both fine children, and they could not agree
which was the finer, but, as the boys grew, quarrelled more and more
about them. They would be at it whole evenings, each asserting the
merits of one of the twins, and neither listening to a word about the
other. Each was determined not to be convinced, and each called the
other obstinate.”

“Were the twins older or younger than you, miss?” asked Richard.

“They were three years younger than me. But when I look back it seems
as if I had been born into the bickering. It always looked as natural
as the grassy slopes outside the door. I thought it was a consequence
of twins, that all parents with twins went on so. When my father’s next
older brother fell ill, and there seemed a possibility of his succeeding
to the property, the thing grew worse; now it was which of them should
be heir to it. Waking in the middle of the night, I would hear them
going on at it. Then which was the elder, no one could tell. My mother
had again and again, before they began to quarrel, confessed she did not
know. I don’t think I ever saw either of my parents do a kindness to the
other, or to the child favoured by the other. So from the first the boys
understood that they were enemies, and acted accordingly. Each always
wanted everything for himself. They scowled at each other long before
they could talk. Their games, always games of rivalry and strife, would
for a minute or two make them a little less hostile, but the moment the
game ceased, they began to scowl again. They were both kind to me, and
I loved them both, and naturally tried to make them love each other;
but it was of no use. It seemed their calling to rival and obstruct one
another. When they came to blows, as they frequently did, my father and
mother would almost come to blows too, each at once taking the usual
side. I would run away then, put a piece of bread in my pocket, and get
on a horse. Nobody ever missed me.”

“Did you never lose your way?” asked Richard: he must say something, he
felt so embarrassed.

“My horse always knew the way home. I have often been out all night,
though; and how peaceful it was to be alone with Widow Wind, as I used
to call the night I--I don’t know why now; I suppose I once knew.”

Something in this way she ran on with her story, but I fail to approach
the charm of her telling. Her narrative was almost childish in its
utterance, but childlike in its insight. What could have moved her so to
confide in a stranger and a workman? In truth, she needed little moving;
her nature was to trust everybody; but there were not many to whom she
could talk. Miss Brown helped her with no response; to her parents she
had no impulse to speak; the young people she met stared at the least
allusion to the wild ways of her past life, making her feel she was not
one of them. Even Arthur Lestrange had more than once looked awkward at
a remark she happened to make! So, instead of confiding in any of them,
that is, letting her heart go in search of theirs, she had taken to
amusing them, and in this succeeded so thoroughly as to be an immense
favourite--which, however, did not make her happy, did not light up the
world within her. Hence it was no great wonder that, being such as she
was, she should feel drawn to Richard. He was the first man she had even
begun to respect. In her humility she found him every way her superior.
It was wonderful to her that he should know so much about books, the way
people made them, what they meant, and how mistakes got into them, and
went from one generation to another: they were his very friends! She
thought it was his love for books that had made him a bookbinder, as
indeed it was his love for them that had made him a book-mender. Her
heart and mind were free from many social prejudices. She knew that
people looked down upon men who did things with their hands; but she had
done so many things herself with her hands, and been so much obliged to
others who could do things with their hands better than she, that
she felt the superiority of such whose hands were their own perfect
servants, and ready to help others as well.

One of the things by which she wounded the sense of propriety in
those about her was, that she would talk of some things that, in their
judgment, ought to be kept secret. Now Barbara could understand keeping
a great joy secret, but a misery was not a nice thing to cuddle up and
hide; of a misery she must get rid, and if talking about it was any
relief, why not talk? She soon found, however, that it was no relief to
talk to Arthur or his sister; and from the commonplace governess, she
recoiled. The bookbinder was different; he was a man; he was not what
people called a gentleman; he was a man like the men in the Bible, who
spoke out what they meant! The others were empty; Richard was full of
man! As regarded her father and mother, she could betray no secret of
theirs; everybody about them knew the things she talked of; and had they
been secrets, neither would have cared a pin what a working man might
know or think of them! Did they not quarrel in the presence of the very
cat! Then Richard was such a gentlemanly workman! Of course he could not
be a gentleman in England, but there must be, certainly there ought
to be somewhere the place in which Richard, just as he was, would be a
gentleman! She was sure he would not laugh at her behind her back, and
she was not sure that Arthur, or Theodora even, would not. More than
all, he was ready to open for her the door into the rich chamber of his
own knowledge! Must a man be a workman to know about books? What then if
a workman was a better and greater kind of man than a gentleman? In her
own country, it did not matter so much about books, for there one had
so many friends! Why read about the beauties of Nature, where she was at
home with her always! What did any one want with poetry who could be
out as long as she pleased with the old night, and the stars gray with
glory, and the wind wandering everywhere and knowing all things! Here
it was different! Here she could not do without books! Where the things
themselves were not, she wanted help to think about them! And that help
was in books, and Richard could teach her how to get at it!

It was indeed amazing that one who had read so little should have so
good, although so imperfect a notion of what books could do. Just so
much a few cheap novels had sufficed to reveal to her! But then Barbara
was herself a world of uncrystallized poetry. What is feeling but poetry
in a gaseous condition? What is fine thought but poetry in a fluid
condition? What is thought solidified, but fine prose; thought
crystallized, but verse?

“Here,” she would say, but later than the period of which I am now
writing, “where the weather is often so stupid that it won’t do
anything, won’t be weather at all; will neither blow, nor rain, nor
freeze, nor shine, you need books to make a world inside you--to take
you away, as by the spell of a magician or on the wings of an eagle,
from the walls and the nothingness, into a world where one either finds
everything or wants nothing.” She had yet to learn that books themselves
are but weak ministers, that the spirit dwelling in them must lead back
to him who gave it or die; that they are but windows, which, if they
look not out on the eternal spaces, will themselves be blotted out by
the darkness.

To end her story, she told Richard that, since their coming to this
country, her mother’s favourite had died. She nearly went mad, she said,
and had never been like herself again. For not only had her opposition
to her husband deepened into hate, but--here, to Richard’s amusement
when he found on what the reverential change was attendant, Barbara
lowered her voice--she really and actually hated God also. “Isn’t it
awful?” Barbara said; but meeting no response in the honest eyes of
Richard, she dropped hers, and went on.

“I have heard her say the wildest and wickedest things, careless whether
any one was near. I think she must at times be out of her mind! One day
not long ago I saw her shake her fist as high as she could reach
above her head, looking up with an expression of rage and reproach and
defiance that was terrible. Had we been in New Zealand, I should not
have wondered so much: there are devils going about there. Nobody knows
of any here, but it was here they got into my mother, and made her defy
God. She does it straight out in church. That is why I always sit in
the poor seats, and not in the little gallery that belongs to my
father.--Have you ever been to our church, Mr. Tuke?”

Richard told her he never went to church except when his mother wanted
him to go with her.

“My mother goes twice every Sunday; but what do you think she is doing
all the time? The gallery has curtains about it, but she never allows
those in front to be drawn, and anybody in the opposite gallery can see
into it quite well, and the clergyman when he is in the pulpit: she lies
there on a couch, in a nest of pillows, reading a novel, a yellow
French one generally, just as if she were in her own room! She knows the
clergyman sees her, and that is why she does it.”

“She disapproves of the whole thing!” said Richard.

“She used to like church well enough.”

“She must mean to protest, else why should she go? Has she any quarrel
with the clergyman?”

“None that I know of.”

“What then do you think she means by going and not joining in? Why is
she present and not taking part?”

“I believe she does it just to let God know she is not pleased with him.
She thinks he has treated her cruelly and tyrannically, and she will not
pretend to worship him. She wants to show him how bitterly she feels the
way he has turned against her. She used to say prayers to him; she will
do so no more! and she goes to church that he may see she won’t.”

The absurdity of the thing struck Richard sharply, but he feared to hurt
the girl and lose her confidence.

“Her behaviour is only a kind of insolent prayer!” he said. “--Has the
clergyman ever spoken to her about it?”

“I don’t think he has. He spoke to me, but when I said he ought to speak
to her, he did not seem to see it. _I_ should speak to her fast enough
if it were _my_ church!”

“I dare say he thinks her mind is affected, and fears to make her
worse,” said Richard. “But he might, I think, persuade her that, as she
is not on good terms with the person who lives in the church, she ought
to stay away.”

Barbara looked at him with doubtful inquiry, but Richard went on.

“What sort of a man is the clergyman?” he asked.

“I don’t know. He seems always thinking about things, and never finding
out. I suppose he is stupid!”

“That does not necessarily follow,” said Richard with a smile,
reflecting how hard it would be for the man to answer one of a thousand
questions he might put to him in connection with his trade. “Your poor
mother must be very unhappy!” he added.

“She may well be! I am no comfort to her. She never heeds me; or she
tells me to go and amuse myself--she is busy. My father has his twin,
and poor mamma has nobody!”



CHAPTER XVII. _BARBARA AND OTHERS._

At this point, Barbara’s friend came into the room, and they went away
together.

Theodora, so named by her mother because she was born on a Sunday, was a
very different girl from Barbara. Nominally friends, neither understood
the other. Theodora was the best of the family, but that did not suffice
to make her interesting. She was short, stout, rather clumsy, with an
honest, thick-featured face, and entirely without guile. Even when she
saw it, she could not believe it there. She had not much sympathy, but
was very kind. She never hesitated to do what she was sure was right;
but then, except for rules, many of them far from right themselves, she
would have been almost always in doubt. Anything in the shape of a rule,
she received as an angel from heaven. If all the rules she obeyed had
been right, and she had seen the right in them, she would have been
making rapid progress; as it was, her progress was very slow. How
Barbara and she managed to entertain each other, I find it hard to
think; but all forms of innocent humanity must have much in common. A
contrast, nevertheless, the two must have presented to any power able to
read them. Barbara was like a heath of thyme and wild roses and sudden
winds; Theodora like a Dutch garden without its flowers. They never
quarrelled. I suspect they did not come near enough to quarrel.

Barbara left Richard almost bewitched, and considerably perplexed. He
had never seen anything like her. No more had most people that met her.
She seemed of another nature from his, a sort of sylph or salamander,
yet, in simplest human fashion, she had come quite close to him. She had
indeed brought to bear upon him, without knowing it, that humbling and
elevating power which ideal womankind has always had, and will eternally
have upon genuine manhood. There was an airiness about her, yet a
reality, a lightness, yet a force, a readiness, a life, such as he could
never have imagined. She was a revelation unrevealed--a presence lovely
but incredible, suggesting facts and relations which the commonplace in
him said could not exist. The vision was, to use a favourite but pagan
phrase, “too good to be true.” Richard’s knowledge of girls was small
indeed, but he had now enough to make his first comparison: Alice was
like China, Barbara like Venetian glass. He thought there was something
in Alice if he could only get at it: he feared there was nothing in
Barbara to get at. For one thing, how could she have such parents and
take it so lightly!

There were certainly few things yet in flower in Barbara’s garden, but
there was a multitude of precious things on the way to unfold themselves
to any one that might love her enough to give them a true welcome. She
was nearly as far out of Richard’s understanding as beyond that of the
good Theodora. The consequence was that he felt himself full beside her
emptiness. He was no coxcomb, neither dreamed of presenting himself for
her admiration; but he pictured the delight of opening the eyes of this
child-woman to the many doors of treasure-houses that stood in her own
wall.

Only those who haunt the slopes of literature, know that marvels lie
in the grass for the hand that will gather them. Multitudes who count
themselves readers know no more of the books they read than the crowds
that visit the Academy exhibitions know of the pictures they gaze upon.
Yet are the realms of literature free as air, freer even than those of
music. The man whose literary judgment and sympathy I prized beyond that
of the world beside, was a clerk in the Bank of England. The man who
by the spell of his words can set me in the heart of soft-stealing
twilight--nay, rather, can set the very heart of the dying day in
me--was a Lancashire weaver. And dainty, bird-moth-like Barbara had
begun to suspect the existence of something hers yet beyond her in
books, of an unknown world which lay at her very door. In that same
world the bookbinder passed much of his time, and it was neither in
pride nor in presumption that he desired to share it with Barbara. It is
the home-born impulse of every true heart to give of its best, to infect
with its own joy; and the thought of giving grandly to a woman, to a
lady, might well fill the soul of a working man with a hitherto unnamed
ecstasy. Another might have compared it to the housing of a strayed
angel with frozen feathers, lost on the wintry wilds of this far-out,
border world; but Richard did not believe in those celestial birds; and
had he believed, a woman would yet have been to him, and rightly, more
than any angel. What he did think of was the huntsman and the little
lady in The Flight of the Duchess.

He began to ponder how to treat her--how to begin to open doors for
her--what door to open first. Should it be of prose or of verse? He
must have more talk with her ere he could tell! He must try her with
something!

He had time to ponder, for she did not anew swim into his ken for three
days. He wondered whether he had displeased her, but could think of
nothing he had said or done amiss. He must be very careful not to offend
her with the least roughness in word or manner, lest he should so
lose the chance of helping her! It was the main part of his creed, as
gathered from his adoptive father, that a man must do something for his
neighbour: Miss Wylder was his neighbour; what better thing could he do
for her than make her free of the greatest joy he knew?

Barbara had quite as much liberty as was good. Her mother sat in a
darkened room, and took morphia; her father, to occupy his leisure, had
begun to repair an old house on the estate with his own hands. Nobody
heeded Barbara; she did as she pleased, going and coming as in the
colony. A favourite with all about the place, she had never to use
authority. Every one, for very love, was at her service. Whatever
preposterous thing, at whatever unearthly moment, she might have wanted,
it would have been ready--her mare at midnight, her breakfast at noon,
a cow in the library to draw from. There was little regularity in the
house; every one wanted to do what was right in his own eyes; but every
one was ready to see right with the eyes of Barbara.

Home was, nevertheless, as one may well believe, a terribly dull place
to her; and as, for some occult reason, Theodora Lestrange had taken
a fancy to her, as sir Wilton was charmed with her, and lady Ann--for
reasons--had little to say against her, she was at Mortgrange as much
as she pleased--never too much even for Arthur, whose propriety, rather
insular, a little provincial, and sometimes pedantic, she would shock
twenty times a day; for he was fascinated by her grace and playfulness,
though he declared he would as soon think of marrying a humming-bird as
Barbara. He tried for a while to throw his net over her, for he would
fain have tamed her to come at his call: but he soon arrived at the
conclusion that nothing but the troubles of life would tame her, and
then it would be a pity. She was a fine creature, he said, but hardly
human; and for his part he preferred a woman to a fay!

But such was the report of her riches, that sir Wilton and lady Ann were
both ready to welcome her as a daughter-in-law. Sir Wilton was delighted
with her gaiety and the sharp readiness of her clever retort. All he
regretted in her lack of an English education was that her speech was
not quite that of a lady--on which point sir Wilton had not always been
so fastidious. For the rest, intellectual development was of so little
interest to him that he never suspected Barbara of having more than
a usual share of intellect to develop. She was just the wife for the
future baronet, he was once heard to say--though how he came once to say
it I cannot think, for never before had he betrayed a consciousness that
he would not be the present baronet for ever and ever. So long as he did
not feel the approach of death, he would never think of dying, and then
he would do his best to forget it. He seemed sometimes to grudge his son
the dainty little wife Barbara would make him: “The rascal will be the
envy of the clubs!” he said.



CHAPTER XVIII. _MRS. WYLDER_.

Mr. Wylder was lord of the manor, and chief land-owner, though his
family had never been the most influential, in the parish next that in
which lay Mortgrange. He was not much fitted for an English squire. He
wished to stand well with his neighbours, but lacked the geniality
which is the very body, the outside expression of humanity. Proud of his
family, he had the peculiar fault of the Goth--that of arrogance, with
its accompanying incapacity for putting oneself in the place of another.
Mr. Wylder possessed a huge inability of conceiving the manner in which
what he did or said must affect the person to whom he did or said it.
So entirely was he thus disqualified for social interchange, that
he remained supremely satisfied in his consequent isolation, hardly
recognized it, and never doubted himself a perfect gentleman. Had any
diffidence enabled him to perceive the reflection of himself in the
mirroring minds of those around him, his self-opinion might have been
troubled; but when he did begin to discover that the neighbours did
not desire his company, he set it down to stupid prejudice against him
because he had been so long absent from the country. He did not hunt,
and when he went out shooting, which was seldom, he went alone, or with
a game-keeper only. In fact he was so careless, that most men who had
once shot with him, ever after gave him a wide berth when they saw him
with a gun in his hand. On one occasion he shot his wife’s twin in
the calf of the leg; which, however, made her think no worse of
his shooting, for she could never be persuaded he had not done it
intentionally.

For a short time before leaving Australasia, the family had spent money
in one of its larger cities, and had been a good deal followed;
but neither there nor in England did they find that wealth could do
everything. A few other qualities, not by any means of the highest
order, are required by nearly all social agglomerations, and with
some of these Mrs. Wylder was as scantily equipped as her husband with
others.

Resenting the indifference of his neighbours, and not caring to remove
it, Mr. Wylder betook himself to the exercise of certain constructive
faculties, not unfrequently developed in circumstances in which a man
has to be his own Jack-of-all-trades: finding a certain old manor-house
which he had haunted as a boy, chiefly for the sake of its attendant
goose-berries and apples, unoccupied and fallen into decay, he set about
restoring it with his own hands. But it had not occurred to him that,
although even in England it is not necessary, as they did at Lagado, in
building to begin with the roof, in England especially is it necessary
in repairing to begin with the roof. While the floors were rotting
away, he would be busy panelling the walls, regardless of a drop falling
steadily in the middle of the bench at which he was working.

The clergyman of the parish, one Thomas Wingfold, a man who loved his
fellow, and would fain give him of the best he had, a man who was a
Christian first, which means a man, and then a churchman, had now, for
almost three years, often puzzled brain and heart together to find what
could be done for these his new parishioners--from the world’s point of
view the first, yet in reality as insignificant as any he had; and not
yet did he know how to get near them. He had not yet seen a glimmer of
religion in the man, and had seen more than a glimmer of something else
in the woman. Between him and either of them their common humanity had
not yet shown a spark. What he had seen of the girl he liked, but he had
not seen much.

It was a fine frosty day in February, about twelve o’clock, when Mr.
Wingfold walked up the avenue of Scotch firs to call on Mrs. Wylder. He
was dressed like any country gentleman in a tweed suit, carried a rather
strong stick, and wore a soft felt hat, looking altogether more of a
squire than a clergyman--for which his parishioners mostly liked him the
better. Pious people in general seem to regard religion as a necessary
accompaniment of life; to Wingfold it was life itself; with him religion
must be all, or could be nothing. He did not accept the good news of
God; he strained it to his heart, and was jubilant over it. He was a
rather square-looking man, with projecting brows, and a grizzled beard.
The upper part of his face would look dark while a smile was hovering
about his mouth; at another time his mouth would look solemn, almost
severe, while a radiance, as from some white cloud nobody could see,
illuminated his forehead. He generally walked with his eyes on the
ground, but would every now and then straighten his back, and gaze away
to the horizon, as if looking for the far-off sails of help. He was
noted among his farmers for his common sense, as they called it, and
among the gentry for a certain frankness of speech, which most of them
liked.

He rang the door-bell of the Hall, and asked if Mrs. Wylder was at home.
The man hesitated, looked in the clergyman’s face, and smiling oddly,
answered, “Yes, sir.”

“Only you don’t think she will care to see me!”

“Well, you know, sir,--”

“I do. Go up, and announce me.”

The man led the way, and Mr. Wingfold followed. He opened the door of
a room on the first floor, and announced him. Mr. Wingfold entered
immediately, that there might be no time for words with the man and a
message of refusal.

Discouragement encountered him on the threshold. The lady sat by a
blazing fire, with her back to a window through which the frosty sun
of February was sending lovely prophecies of the summer. She was in a
gorgeous dressing-gown, her plentiful black hair twisted carelessly, but
with a show of defiance, round her head. She was almost a young woman
still, with a hardness of expression that belonged neither to youth nor
age. She sat sideways to the door, so that without turning her head
she must have seen the parson enter, but she did not move a visible
hair’s-breadth. Her feet, in silk stockings and shabby slippers,
continued perched on the fender. She made no sign of greeting when the
parson came in front of her, but a scowl dark as night settled on her
low forehead and black eyebrows, and her face shortened and spread out.
Wingfold approached her with the air of a man who knew himself unwelcome
but did not much mind--for he had not to care about himself.

“Good morning, Mrs. Wylder!” he said. “What a lovely morning it is!”

“Is it? I know nothing about it. You have a brutal climate!”

He knew she regarded him as the objectionable agent of a more
objectionable Heaven.

“You would not dislike it so much if you met it out of doors. A walk on
a day like this, now,--”

“Pray who authorized you to come and offer me advice I Have I concealed
from you, Mr. Wingfold, that your presence gives me no pleasure?”

“You certainly have not! You have been quite honest with me. I did not
come in the hope of pleasing you--though I wish I could.”

“Then perhaps you will explain why you are here!”

“There are visits that must be made, even with the certainty of giving
annoyance!” answered Wingfold, rather cheerfully.

“That means you consider yourself justified in forcing your way into my
room, before I am dressed, with the simple intention of making yourself
disagreeable!”

“If I were here on my own business, you might well blame me! But what
would you say to one of your men who told you he dared not go your
message for fear of the lightning?”

“I would tell him he was a coward, and to go about his business.”

“That, then, is what I don’t want to be told!”

“And for fear of being told it, you dare me!”

“Well--you may put it so;--yes.”

“I don’t like you the worse for your courage. There’s more than one man
would face half a dozen bush-rangers rather than a woman I know!”

“I believe it. But it makes no extravagant demand on my courage. I am
not afraid of _you_. I owe you nothing--except any service worth doing
for you!”

“Let that blind down: the sun’s putting the fire out.”

“It’s a pity to put the sun out in such a brutal climate. He does the
fire no harm.”

“Don’t tell _me_!”

“Science says he does not.”

“He puts the fire out, I tell you!”

“I do not think so.”

“I’ve seen it with my own eyes. God knows which is the greater
humbug--Science or Religion!--Are you going to pull that blind down?”
 Wingfold lowered the blind.

“Now look here!” said Mrs. Wylder. “You’re not afraid of me, and I’m not
afraid of you!--It’s a low trade, is yours.”

“What is my trade?”

“What is your trade?--Why, to talk goody! and read goody! and pray
goody! and be goody, goody!--Ugh!”

“I’m not doing much of that sort at this moment, any way!” rejoined
Wingfold with a laugh.

“You know this is not the place for it!”

“Would you mind telling me which is the place to read a French novel
in?”

“Church: there!”

“What would you do if I were to insist on reading a chapter of the Bible
here?”

“Look!” she answered, and rising, snatched a saloon-pistol from the
chimney-piece, and took deliberate aim at him.

Wingfold looked straight down the throat of the thick barrel, and did
not budge.

“--I would shoot you with that,” she went on, holding the weapon as I
have said. “It would kill you, for I can shoot, and should hit you in
the eye, not on the head. I shouldn’t mind being hanged for it. Nothing
matters now!”

She flung the heavy weapon from her, gave a great cry, not like an
hysterical woman, but an enraged animal, stuffed her handkerchief into
her mouth, pulled it out again, and began tearing at it with her teeth.
The pistol fell in the middle of the room. Wingfold went and picked it
up.

“I should deserve it if I did,” he said quietly, as he laid the pistol
on the table. “--But you don’t fight fair, Mrs. Wylder; for you know
I can’t take a pistol with me into the pulpit and shoot you. It is
cowardly of you to take advantage of that.”

“Well! I like the assurance of you! Do I read so as to annoy any one?”

“Yes, you do. You daren’t read aloud, because you would be put out of
the church if you did; but you annoy as many of the congregation as can
see you, and you annoy me. Why should you behave in that house as if it
were your own, and yet shoot me if I behaved so in yours? Is it fair? Is
it polite? Is it acting like a lady?”

“It _is_ my house--at least it is my pew, and I will do in it what I
please.--Look here, Mr. Wingfold: I don’t want to lose my temper with
you, but I tell you that pew is mine, as much as the chair you’re not
ashamed to sit upon at this moment! And let me tell you, after the way
_I_‘ve been treated, my behaviour don’t splash much. When he’s brought a
woman to my pass, I don’t see God Almighty can complain of her manners!”

“Well, thinking of him as you do, I don’t wonder you are rude!”

“What! You won’t curry favour with him?--You hold by fair play? Come
now! I call that downright pluck!”

“I fear you mistake me a little.”

“Of course I do! I might have known that! When you think a parson begins
to speak like a man, you may be sure you mistake him!”

“You wouldn’t behave to a friend of your own according to what another
person thought of him, would you?”

“No, by Jove, I wouldn’t!”

“Then you won’t expect me to do so!”

“I should think not! Of course you stick by the church!”

“Never mind the church. She’s not my mistress, though I am her servant.
God is my master, and I tell you he is as good and fair as goodness and
fairness can be goodness and fairness!”

“What! Will you drive me mad! I wish he would serve you as he’s done
me--then we should hear another tune--rather! You call it good--you
call it fair, to take from a poor creature he made himself, the one only
thing she cared for?”

“Which was the cause of a strife that made of a family in which he
wanted to live, a very hell upon earth!”

“You dare!” she cried, starting to her feet.

Wingfold did not move.

“Mrs. Wylder,” he said, “_dare_ is a word that needn’t be used again
between you and me. If you dare tell God that he is a devil, I may well
dare tell you that you know nothing about him, and that I do!”

“Say on your honour, then, if he had treated you as he has done
me--taken from you the light of your eyes, would you count it fair?
Speak like the man you are.”

_“I know I should.”_

“I don’t believe you. And I won’t worship him.”

“Why, who wants you to worship him? You must be a very different person
before he will care much for your worship! You _can’t_ worship him while
you think him what you do. He is something quite different. You don’t
know him to love, and you don’t know him to worship.”

“Why, bless my soul! ain’t it your business--ain’t you always making
people say their prayers?”

“It is my business to help my brothers and sisters to know God, and
worship him in spirit and in truth--because he is altogether and
perfectly true and loving and fair. Do you think he would have you
worship a being such as you take him to be. If your son is in good
company in the other world, he must be greatly troubled at the way you
treat God--at your unfairness to him. But your bad example may, for
anything I know, have sent him where he has not yet begun to learn
anything!”

“God have mercy!--will the man tell me to my face that my boy is in
hell?”

“What would you have? Would you have him with the being you think so
unjust that you hate him all the week, and openly insult him on Sunday?”

“You are a bad man, a hard-hearted brute, a devil, to say such things
about my blessed boy! Oh my God! to think that the very day he was taken
ill, I struck him! Why did he let me do it? To think that that very day
he killed him, when he ought to have killed me!--killed him that I might
never be able to tell him I was sorry!”

“If he had not taken him then, would you ever have been sorry you struck
him!”

She burst into outcry and weeping, mingled with such imprecation, that
Wingfold thought it one of those cases of possession in which nothing
but prayer is of use. But the soul and the demon were so united, so
entirely of one mind, that there was no room for prayer to get between
them. He sat quiet, lifted up his heart, and waited. By and by there
came a lull, and the redeemable woman appeared, emerging from the smoke
of the fury.

“Oh my Harry! my Harry!” she cried. “To take him from my very bosom! He
will never love me again! God _shall_ know what I think of it! No mother
could but hate him if he served her so!”

“Apparently you don’t want the boy back in your bosom again!”

“None of your fooling of me now!” she answered, drawing herself up,
and drying her eyes. “I can stand a good deal, but I won’t stand that!
What’s gone is gone! He’s dead, and the dead lie in no bosom but that of
the grave! They go, and return never more!”

“But you will die too!”

“What do you mean by that? You _will_ be talking! As if I didn’t know
I’d got to die, one day or another! What’s that to me and Harry!”

“Then you think we’re all going to cease and go out, like the clouds
that are carried away and broken up by the wind?”

“I know nothing about it, and I don’t care. Nothing’s anything to me but
Harry, and I shall never see my Harry again!--Heaven! Bah! What’s heaven
without Harry!”

“Nothing, of course! But don’t you ever think of seeing him again?”

“What’s the use! It’s all a mockery! Where’s the good of meeting when
we shan’t be human beings any more? If we’re nothing but ghosts--if he’s
never to know me--if I’m never to feel him in my arms--ugh! it’s all
humbug! If he ever meant to give me back my Harry, why did he take him
from me? If he didn’t mean me to rage at losing him, why did he give him
to me?”

“He gave you his brother at the same time, and you refused to love him:
what if he took the one away until you should have learned to love the
other?”

“I can’t love him; I won’t love him! He has his father to love him! He
don’t want my love! I haven’t got it to give him! Harry took it with
him! I hate Peter!--What are you doing there--laughing in your sleeve?
Did you never see a woman cry?”

“I’ve seen many a woman cry, but never without my heart crying with her.
You come to my church, and behave so badly I can scarce keep from crying
for you. It half choked me last Sunday, to see you lying there with that
horrid book in your hand, and the words of Christ in your ears!”

“I didn’t heed them. It wasn’t a horrid book!”

“It _was_ a horrid book. You left it behind you, and I took it with me.
I laid it on my study-table, and went out again. When I came home to
dinner, my wife brought it to me and said, ‘Oh, Tom, how can you read
such books?’ ‘My dear,’ I answered, ‘I don’t know what is in the book; I
haven’t read a word of it.’”

“And then you told her where you found it?”

“I did not.”

“What did you do with it?”

“I said to her, ‘If it’s a bad book, here goes!’ and threw it in the
fire.”

“Then I’m not to know the end of the story! But I can send to London for
another copy! I’m much obliged to you, Mr. Wingfold, for destroying my
property!--But you didn’t tell her where you found it?”

“I did not. She never asked me.”

Mrs. Wylder was silent. She seemed a little ashamed, perhaps a little
softened. Wingfold bade her good-morning. She did not answer him.



CHAPTER XIX. _MRS. WYLDER AND BARBARA._

To make all this quite credible to a doubting reader, it would be
necessary to tell Mrs. Wylder’s history from girlhood. She had had a
very defective education, and what there was of it was all for show.
Then she was married far too young, and to a man unworthy of any good
woman. She indeed was not a good woman, but she was capable of being
made worse; and in the bush, where she passed years not a few, and in
cities afterward, she met women and men more lawless yet than herself or
her husband. Overbearing where her likings were concerned, and full of
a certain generosity where but her interests were in question, the
slackness of the social bonds in the colonies had favoured her abnormal
development. It is difficult to say how much man or woman is the worse
for doing, when freed from restraint, what he or she would have been
glad to do before, but for the restraint. Many who go to the colonies,
and there to the dogs, only show themselves such as they dared not
appear at home: they step on a steeper slope, and arrive, not at the
pit, for they were in that already, but at the bottom of it, so much the
faster. There were, however, in Mrs. Wylder, lovely rudimentary remnants
of a good breed. She inherited feelings which gave her a certain
intermittent and fugitive dignity, of some service to others in her
wilder times, and to herself when she came into contact with an older
civilisation. She would occasionally do a right generous thing--not
seldom give with a freedom and judge with a liberality which were mainly
rooted in carelessness.

She had much confidence in her daughter; and it said well for the mother
that, with all her experience, she yet had this confidence--and none
the less that she had never taken pains to instruct her in what was
becoming. The most she had done in this way was once to snatch from her
hand and throw in the fire a novel she had herself, a moment before,
finished with unquestioning acceptance. If she had found her behaving
like some of her acquaintance to whose conduct she did not give a second
thought, for her friends might do as they pleased so long as they did
not offend _her_, she would certainly, in some of her moods at least,
have killed her.

While compelled, from lack of service, to employ herself in house
affairs, she neither ate nor drank more than seemed good for her; but as
soon as she had but to live and be served, she began to counterbalance
_ennui_ with self-indulgence, and continued to do so until the death of
her boy, ever after which she had sought refuge from grief in narcotics.
Possibly she would not have behaved as she did in church, but that her
nervous being was a very sponge for morphia. Born to be a strong woman,
she was a slave to her impulses, and, one of the weakest of her kind,
went into a rage at the least show of opposition.

Scarcely had Mr. Wingfold left the room, when in came Barbara in her
riding-habit, with the glow of joyous motion upon her face, for she had
just ridden from Mortgrange.

“How do you do, mamma?” she said, but did not come within a couple of
yards of her. “I’ve had such a ride--as straight as any crow could fly,
between the two stations! I never could hit the line before. But I got a
country-fellow to point me out a landmark or two, and here I am in just
half the time I should have taken by the road! Such jumps!”

“You’re a madcap!” said her mother. “You’ll be brought home on a shutter
some day! Mark my words, Bab! You’ll see!--or at least I shall; you’ll
be past seeing! But it don’t matter; it’s what we’re made for! Die or be
killed, it’s all one! I don’t care!”

“I do though, mamma! I don’t want to be killed just yet--and I don’t
mean to be! But I must have a second horse! I begin to suspect Miss
Brown of treating me like a child. She takes care of me! I mean to let
her see what _I_ can do if _she’s_ up to it!”

“You’ll do nothing of the kind! I’ll have her shot if you go after any
of your old pranks! And, while I think of it, Bab--your father has set
his heart on your marrying Mr. Lestrange: I can see it perfectly, and I
won’t have it! If I hear of anything of that sort between you, I’ll set
a heavy foot on it.--How long have you been there this time?”

“A week.--But why shouldn’t I marry Mr. Lestrange if I like?”

“Because your father has set his heart on it, I tell you! Isn’t that
enough, you tiresome little wretch? I _will not_ have it--not if you
break your heart over it!--There!”

Barbara burst out in a laugh that rang like a bronze bell.

“Break my heart for Mr. Lestrange! There’s not a man in the world I
would break my little finger for! But my heart! that is too funny! You
needn’t be uneasy, mamma; I don’t like Arthur Lestrange one bit, and
I wouldn’t marry him if you and papa too wanted me. Oh, such a proper
young man! He doesn’t think me fit company for his sister!”

“He said so! and you didn’t give him a cut over the eyes with your whip?
My God!”

“Gracious, no! He never says anything half so amusing! He’s scorchingly
polite! I would sooner fall in love with the bookbinder!”

“The bookbinder? Who’s that? You mean the tutor, I suppose! I’m not up
to the slang of this old brute of a country!”

“No, mamma; there is a man binding--or mending rather, the books in the
library. He’s going to teach me to shoe Miss Brown! Papa wouldn’t like
me to marry a blacksmith--I mean a bookbinder--would he?”

“Certainly not.”

“Then you would, mamma?” said Bab demurely, with two catherine-wheels of
fun in her downcast eyes.

“If you go to do anything mad now, I’ll--”

“Don’t strain your innocent invention, mammy! I think I’ll take Mr.
Lestrange! Better anger one than both of you!”

“Tease me any more with your nonsense, and I’ll set your father on you!
Be off with you!”



CHAPTER XX. _BARBARA AND HER CRITICS._

While the two talked in the same pulverous fashion, the words came very
differently from the two mouths. In the speech of the mother was more
than a tone of the vulgarity of a conscious right to lay down the
law, of the rudeness born of feeling above obedience and incapable of
error--a rudeness identical with that of the typical vulgar duchess;
the daughter’s tone was playful, but dainty in its playfulness, and not
without a certain unconscious dignity; her lawlessness was the freedom
of the bird that cannot trespass, not that of the quadruped forcing its
way. Her almost baby-like cheeks, her musical voice clear of any strain
of sorrow, her quick relations with the whole world of things, her
grace, more child-like than womanly, whether she stood or sat or moved
about, all indicated a simple, fearless, true and trusting nature.
Everybody at Mortgrange liked her; nearly everybody at Mortgrange
had some different fault to find with her; all agreed that she wanted
taming--except sir Wilton, who allowed the wildness, but would not hear
of the taming. The hour of the morning or the night at which she would
not go wandering alone about the park, or even outside it, had not yet
been discovered.

“Why don’t you look better after your friend, Theo?” said her father
one day when Barbara’s chair was empty at dinner--with his cold incisive
voice, a little rasping now that the clutch of age’s hand was beginning
to close on his throat.

“She doesn’t mind me, papa,” Theodora answered. “Do say something to
her, mamma!”

“‘Tis not my business to reform other people’s children,” lady Ann
returned.

“I find her exceedingly original!” remarked the baronet.

“In her manners, certainly,” responded his lady.

“I find them perfect. Their very audacity renders them faultless. And
the charm is that she does not even suspect herself audacious.”

“That is her charm, I confess,” responded Arthur; “but it is a dangerous
one, and may one day cause her to be sadly misunderstood.”

“A London drawing-room is your high court of parliament, Arthur!” said
his father.

“Miss Wylder, with all her sweetness,” remarked Miss Malliver, “has not
an idea of social distinction. She cannot understand why she should not
talk to any farmer’s man or dairymaid she happens to meet! It is not her
talking to them I mind so much as the familiar way she does it. If they
take liberties, it will be her own fault. Any groom might be pardoned
for fancying she thought him as good as herself!”

“But she does,” answered Theodora. “Yesterday, I found her talking to
the bookbinder as familiarly as if he had been Arthur!”

This was hardly correct, for Barbara talked to the bookbinder with a
deference she never showed Lestrange.

“She lacks self-respect!” said lady Ann. “But we must deal with her
gently, and try to do her good. I think myself there is not much amiss
with her beyond love of her own way. Her dislike of restraint certainly
does not befit a communicant!”

Lady Ann was an unfaltering church-goer, rigidly decorous in rendering
what she imagined God, and knew the clergyman expected, and as rank a
mammon-worshipper as any in the land.

“But I so far agree with sir Wilton,” she went on, “as to grant that
her manners have in them the germ of possible distinction; and I _think_
they will come to be all, or nearly all, that could be desired. We ought
at least to give her the advantage of any doubt, and do what we can to
lead her in the right direction.”

“It’s a fine thing to go to church and have your wits sharpened!” said
the baronet, with an ungenial laugh.

Sir Wilton regarded lady Ann as the coldest-blooded and most selfish
woman in creation, and certainly she was not less selfish and was
colder-blooded than he. Full of his own importance as any Pharisee--as
full as he could be without making himself ridiculous, he resented the
slight regard she showed to that importance. He believed himself wise
in human nature, when in truth he was only quick to read in another what
lay within the limited range of his own consciousness. Of the noble in
humanity he knew next to nothing. To him all men were only selfish. The
cause, though by no means the logical ground of this his belief, was his
own ingrained selfishness. With his hazy yet keen cold eye, he was
quick to see in another, and prompt to lay to his charge, the faults he
pardoned in himself. He had some power over himself, for he very seldom
went into a rage; but he kept his temper like a devil, and was coldly
cruel. His wife had tamed him a good deal, without in the least
reforming him. He would have hated her quite, but for the sort of
respect she roused in him by surpassing him in his own kind. He cringed
to her with a sneer. It was long since he had learned from her society
to remember, with the nearest approach to compunction of which his
moth-eaten heart was capable, the woman who had forsaken her own rank to
brave the perils of his, and had sunk frozen to death by the cold of his
contact. For some years he felt far more friendly to the offspring of
the high-born lady than to that of the blacksmith’s daughter; but as
time went on, and the memory of the more plebeian infant’s ugliness
faded, he began to think how jolly it would be--how it would serve out
her ladyship and her brood of icicles, if after all the blacksmith’s
grandson turned up to oust the earl’s. He grinned as he lay awake in the
night, picturing to himself how the woman in the next room would take
it. Him and his son together her ladyship might find almost too much for
her! But for many years he had indulged in no allusion to the possible
improbable, allowing her ladyship to refer to Arthur as the heir without
hinting at the uncertainty of his position.

Lady Ann, from dwelling on what she counted the shame of his origin,
had got so far toward persuading herself that the vanished child was
base-born, that she scarcely doubted the possibility, were he to appear,
of proving his claim false, and originated by conspiracy. Unable
to learn from her husband when and where the baby was baptized, she
concluded that he had never been baptized, and that there was no record
of his birth. As the years went by, and nothing was heard of him, she
grew more and more confident. Now and then a fear would cross her, but
she always succeeded in stifling it--without, however, arriving at such
a degree of certainty, that the thought of the child had no share in
her regard for the wealthy Barbara, her encouragement of her general
relations with the family, and her connivance at her frequent and
prolonged visits during the absence of herself and sir Wilton.

She was now returned, and had found everything as she left it, with the
insignificant difference that the bay-window of the library was occupied
by a man at work repairing the books. She had resumed the reins of the
family-coach, and now went on to play the part of a good providence, and
drive the said coach to the top of the hill.

Sir Wilton, I have said, liked Barbara. She amused him, and amusement
was the nearest to sunshine his soul was capable of reaching. All
his weather else was gray, with a touch of the lurid on the western
horizon--of which he was not weather-wise enough to take heed. He had
been at school with Barbara’s father, but did not like her any better
for that. In youth they had not been friends, except in a way that
brought their _interests_ too much in collision for their friendship to
last. It had ended in a quiet hate, each knowing too well how much the
other knew to dare an open quarrel. But all that was many years away,
and Tom Wylder had been long abroad and almost forgotten. Sir Wilton,
notwithstanding, admired the forgivingness of his own disposition when
he found himself wondering how Tom Wylder would regard an alliance with
his old rival. Doubtless he would like his daughter to be _my lady_, but
he might be looking for a loftier title than his son could give her!

Sir Wilton was incapable, however, of taking any active interest in the
matter. The well-being of his family, when he himself should be out of
the way, did not much affect him. Nothing but his lower nature had ever
roused him to action of any kind. How far the idea of betterment had
ever shown itself to him, God only knows. Apparently, he was a child
of the evil one, whom nothing but the furnace could cleanse. Almost the
only thing he could now imagine giving him vivid pleasure, was to see
his wife thoroughly annoyed.

All he had ever had of the manners of a gentleman, remained with him. He
was courteous to ladies, never swore in their presence--except sometimes
in a mutter at his wife, and could upon occasion show a kindness that
cost him nothing. Humanity was not all dead out of him; neither was
there a purely human thought in him. On Barbara he smiled his sweetest
smile: it owed most of its sweetness to the dentist.



CHAPTER XXI. _THE PARSON’S PARABLE._

Mr. Wingfold went as he had come, thoughtful even to trouble. What was
to be done for the woman? What was his part, as parson of the parish,
with regard to her behaviour in church? Was it or was it not his part to
take public notice of what she intended, if not as a defiance to God, at
least as an open expression of her bitter resentment of his dealing with
her? The creator’s discipline did not suit his creature’s taste, and she
would let him know it: whether it suited her necessities, she did not
ask or care; she knew nothing of her necessities--only of her desires.
Had she had a suspicion that she was an eternal creature, poor as well
as miserable, blind and naked as well as bereaved and angry, she might
have allowed some room for God to show himself right. But she was
ignorant of herself as any savage. Was Wingfold to take her insolence in
church as a thing done to himself, which he must endure with patience?
or, putting himself out of the question, and regarding her conduct only
as a protest against the ways of God with her, must he leave reproof as
well as vengeance to the Lord? Was it his business, or was it not, to
rebuke her, and make his rebuke as open as her offence? It troubled him
almost beyond bearing to think that some of his flock might imagine that
the great lady of the parish was allowed to behave herself unseemly,
where another would be exposed to shame. But how abhorrent to him was a
public contention in the church, and on the Lord’s day! Mrs. Wylder
was just the woman to challenge forcible expulsion, and make the
circumstances of it as flagrant as possible! She might even use both
pistol and whip! What better opportunity could she find for giving point
to her appeal against God! A man might, in the rage of disappointment,
cry out that there could be no God where baffle met the holiest
instinct--that blundering chance must rule; he might, illogical with
grief, declare that as God could treat him so, he would believe in him
no longer; or he might assert that an evil being, not a good, was at
the heart of life--a devil and not a God, for he was one who created and
forgot, or who remembered and did not care--who quickened exposure
but gave no shield! called from the void a being filled with doorless
avenues to pain, and abandoned him to incarnate cruelty, that he might
make him sport with the wildness of his dismay! but here was a woman
who did not say that God was not, or that he was not good, but with
passionate self-party-spirit cried out, “He is against me! he sides
with my husband! He is not my friend, but his: I will let him know how
I resent his unfairness!” Whether God was good or bad she did not
care--that was not a point she was concerned in; all she heeded was how
he behaved to her--whether he took part with her husband or herself.
He had torn from her the desire of her heart and left her desolate: she
would worship him no longer! She had been brought up to believe there
was a God, and had never doubted his existence: with her whole will and
passion she opposed that which she called God. She had never learned to
yield when wrong, and now she was sure she was right. Though hopeless
she resisted. She cried out against God, but believed him by his own
act helpless to deliver her, for what could he do against the grave?
Powerless for her as unfriendly toward her, why should she worship him?
Why should she pay court to one who neither would nor could give her
what she wanted? What was he God for? Was _she_ to go to his house, and
carry herself courteously, as if he were her friend! She would not! And
that there might be no mistake as to how she regarded him, she would
sit in her pew and read her novel, while the friends of God said their
prayers to him! If she annoyed them, so much the better, for the surer
she might hope that _he_ was annoyed!

It may seem to some incredibly terrible that one should believe in God
and defy him! But do none of us, who say also we believe in God, and who
are far from defying him, ever behave like Mrs. Wylder? It is one thing
to believe in a God; it is quite another to believe in God! Every time
we grumble at our fate, every time we are displeased, hurt, resentful
at this or that which comes to us, every time we do not receive the
suffering sent us, “with both hands,” as William Law says, we are of the
same spirit with this half-crazy woman. In some fashion, and that a
real one, she must have believed in the God against whom she urged her
complaint; and it is rather to her praise that, like Job, she did it
openly, and not with mere base grumblings in her heart at her fireside.
It is mean to believe half-way, to believe in words, and in action deny.
One of four gates stands open to us: to deny the existence of God, and
say we can do without him; to acknowledge his existence, but say he is
not good, and act as true men resisting a tyrant; to say, “I would there
were a God,” and be miserable because there is none; or to say there
must be a God, and he must be perfect in goodness or he could not be,
and give ourselves up to him heart and soul and hands and history.

But what was parson Wingfold to do in the matter? Was he to allow the
simple sheep of his flock to think him afraid of the squire’s lady? or
was he to venture an uproar in the church on a Sunday morning? His
wife and he had often talked the thing over, but had arrived at no
conclusion. He went to her now, and told her all that had passed.

“Isn’t it time to do something?” she said.

“Indeed I think so--but what?” he answered. “I wish you would show me
what I ought to do! Let me see it, and I will do it.” She was silent for
a moment.

“Couldn’t you preach at her?” she said, with a laugh in which was an odd
mingling of doubt and merriment.

“I have always thought that a mean thing, and have never done it--except
by dwelling on broadest principles. That an evil principle has an
advocate present, is no reason for sparing it: what am I there for? But
to preach that the many may turn on the one--that I never could do!”

“This case is different from any other. The wrong is done continuously,
in the very eyes of the congregation, and for the sake of its being
seen,” Mrs. Wingfold answered. “Neither would you be the assailant;
you would but accept, not give the challenge. For I don’t know how many
Sundays, she has been pitting her position in the pew against yours in
the pulpit! Believing it out of your power to do anything, she flaunts
her French novel in your face; and those that can’t see her, see her
yellow novel in your eyes, and think about her and you, instead of the
things you are saying to them! For the sake of the work given you, for
the sake of your influence with the people, you must do something!”

“It is God she defies, not me.”

“I think she defies you to say an honest word on his behalf. Your
silence must seem to her an acknowledgment that she is right.”

“That cannot be, after what I have said to her more than once in her own
house.”

“Then at least she must think that either you have no authority to drive
from the little temple one of the cows of Bashan, or are afraid of her
horns.”

“Quite right, Nelly!” cried the rector; “you are quite right. Only you
don’t give me a hint what to do!”

“Am I not saying as plain as I can that you must preach at her?”

“H’m! I didn’t expect that of you!”

“No; for if you could have expected it of me, you would have thought of
it yourself! But just think! A public scandal requires public treatment.
You will not be dragging her before the people; she has put herself
there! She is brazen, and must be treated as brazen--set in the full
glare of opinion. And I think, if I were a clergyman, I should know how
to do it!”

Wingfold was silent. She must be right! Something glimmered before
him--something possible--he could not see plainly what.

“It is all very well to make such a clamour about her boy,”
 continued his wife, “but every one knows that she quarrelled with him
dreadfully--that for days at a time they would be cat and dog with each
other. Her animal instinct lasted it out, and she did not come to hate
him; but I can’t help thinking it must have been in a great measure
because her husband favoured the other that she took up this one with
such passion. I have been told she would abuse him in language not fit
to repeat, the little wretch answering her back, and choking with rage
that he could not tear her.”

“Who told you?” asked the parson.

“I would rather not say.”

“Are you sure it is not mere gossip?”

“Quite sure. To be gossip, a thing must go through two mouths at least,
and I had it first-mouth. I tell it you because I think it worth your
knowing.”

The next Sunday morning, there lay the lady as usual, only her novel was
a red one. When the parson went into the pulpit, he cast one glance on
the gallery to his right, then spoke thus:--

“My friends, I will follow the example of our Lord, and speak to you
to-day in a parable. The Lord said there are things better spoken in
parables, because of the eyes that will not see, and the ears that will
not hear.

“There was once a mother left alone with her little boy--the only
creature in the world or out of it that she cared for. She was a good
mother to him, as good a mother as you can think, never overbearing or
unkind. She never thought of herself, but always of the desire of her
heart, the apple of her eye, her son born of her own body. It was not
because of any return he could make her that she loved him. It was not
to make him feel how good she was, that she did everything for him.
It was not to give him reasons for loving _her_, but because she loved
_him_, and because he needed her. He was a delicate child, requiring
every care she could lavish upon him, and she did lavish it. Oh, how
she loved him! She would sit with the child on her lap from morning till
night, gazing on him; she always went to sleep with him in her bosom--as
close to her as ever he could lie. When she woke in the dark night, her
first movement was to strain him closer, her next to listen if he was
breathing--for he might have died and been lost! When he looked up at
her with eyes of satisfaction, she felt all her care repaid.

“The years went on, and the child grew, and the mother loved him more
and more. But he did not love her as she loved him. He soon began to
care for the things she gave him, but he did not learn to love the
mother who gave them. Now the whole good of things is to be the
messengers of love--to carry love from the one heart to the other heart;
and when these messengers are fetched instead of sent, grasped at, that
is, by a greedy, ungiving hand, they never reach the heart, but block up
the path of love, and divide heart from heart; so that the greedy heart
forgets the love of the giving heart more and more, and all by the
things it gives. That is the way generosity fares with the ungenerous.
The boy would be very pleasant to his mother so long as he thought to
get something from her; but when he had got what he wanted, he would
forget her until he wanted something more.

“There came at last a day when she said to him, ‘Dear boy, I want you to
go and fetch me some medicine, for I feel very poorly, and am afraid
I am going to be ill!’ He mounted his pony, and rode away to get the
medicine. Now his mother had told him to be very careful, because the
medicine was dangerous, and he must not open the bottle that held it.
But when he had it, he said to himself, ‘I dare say it is something very
nice, and mother does not want me to have any of it!’ So he opened the
bottle and tasted what was in it, and it burned him terribly. Then he
was furious with his mother, and said she had told him not to open the
bottle just to make him do it, and vowed he would not go back to her!
He threw the bottle from him, and turned, and rode another way, until
he found himself alone in a wild forest, where was nothing to eat,
and nothing to shelter him from the cold night, and the wind that blew
through the trees, and made strange noises. He dismounted, afraid to
ride in the dark, and before he knew, his pony was gone. Then he began
to be miserably frightened, and to wish he had not run away. But still
he blamed his mother, who might have known, he said, that he would open
the bottle.

“The mother got very uneasy about her boy, and went out to look for
him. The neighbours too, though he was not a nice boy, and none but his
mother liked him, went out also, for they would gladly find him and take
him home to her; and they came at last to the wood, with their torches
and lanterns.

“The boy was lying under a tree, and saw the lights, and heard the
voices, and knew it was his mother come. Then the old wickedness rose up
fresh in his heart, and he said to himself: ‘She shall have trouble yet
before she finds me! Am I to come and go as she pleases!’ He lay very
still; and when he saw them coming near, crept farther, and again lay
still. Thus he went on doing, and so avoided his saviours. He heard one
say there were wolves in the wood, for that was the sound of them; but
he was just the kind of boy that will not believe, but thinks every
one has a purpose of his own in saying this or that. So he slipped and
slipped away until at length all despaired of finding him, and left the
wood.

“Suddenly he knew that he was again alone. He gave a great shriek, but
no one heard it. He stood quaking and listening. Presently his pony came
rushing past him, with two or three wolves behind him. He started to
his feet and began to run, wild to get out of the wood. But he could not
find the way, and ran about this way and that until utter despair came
down upon him, and all he could do was to lie still as a mouse lest the
wolves should hear him.

“And as he lay he began at last to think that he was a wicked child;
that his mother had done everything to make him good, and he would not
be good; and now he was lost, and the wolves alone would find him!
He sank at last into a stupor, and lay motionless, with death and the
wolves after him.

“He came to himself in the arms of a strange woman, who had taken him
up, and was carrying him home.

“The name of the woman was Sorrow--a wandering woman, a kind of gypsy,
always going about the world, and picking up lost things. Nobody likes
her, hardly anybody is civil to her; but when she has set anybody down
and is gone, there is often a look of affection and wonder and gratitude
sent after her. For all that, however, very few are glad to be found by
her again.

“Sorrow carried him weeping home to his mother. His mother came out, and
took him in her arms. Sorrow made her courtesy, and went away. The boy
clung to his mother’s neck, and said he was sorry. In the midst of her
joy his mother wept bitterly, for he had nearly broken her heart. She
could not get the wolves out of her mind.

“But, alas! the boy forgot all, and was worse than ever. He grew more
and more cruel to his mother, and mocked at every word she said to him;
so that--”

There came a cry from the gallery. The congregation started in sudden
terror to their feet. The rector stopped, and turning to the right,
stood gazing. In the front of the squire’s pew stood Mrs. Wylder, white,
and speechless with rage. For a moment she stood shaking her fist at the
preacher. Then, in a hoarse broken voice, came the words--

“It’s a lie. My boy was never cruel to me. It’s a wicked lie.”

She could say no more, but stood and glared, hate in her fierce eyes,
and torture in her colourless face.

“Madam, you have betrayed yourself,” said the rector solemnly. “If your
son behaved well to you, it makes it the worse in you to behave ill to
your Father. From Sunday to Sunday you insult him with rude behaviour. I
tell you so in the face of this congregation, which knows it as well
as I. Hitherto I have held my tongue--from no fear of the rich, from
no desire to spare them deserved disgrace in the eyes of the poor, but
because I shrank from making the house of God a place of contention.
Madam, you have behaved shamefully, and I do my duty in rebuking you.”

The whole congregation were on their feet, staring at her. A moment she
stood, and would have brazened out the stare. But she felt the eyes
of the motionless hundreds blazing upon her, and the culprit soul grew
naked in the presence of judging souls. Her nerve gave way; she turned
her back, left the pew, and fled from the church by the squire’s door,
into the grounds of Wylder Hall.

Happily Barbara was not in the church that morning.

The next Sunday the squire’s pew was empty. The red volume lay open on
its face upon the floor of it.

Wingfold’s dear plot had palled. He had rough-hewed his end, but the
divinity had shaped it. When the squire came to know what had taken
place, he made his first call on the rector. He said nothing about his
wife, but plainly wished it understood that he bore him no ill will for
what he had done.



CHAPTER XXII. _THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER._

The rector had often wished his wife could in some natural way get hold
of Miss Wylder; he suspected something exceptionally fine in her:
how else could she, with such a father and such a mother, have such a
countenance? There must be a third factor in the affair, and one worth
knowing--namely herself! That she seemed to avoid being reckoned among
church-goers might be a point in her favour! What reports reached him of
her wild ways, mingled with exaggerated stories of her lawlessness, did
not shock him: what was true in them might spring from mere exuberance
of life, whose joy was her only law--and yet a real law to her!

He had had no opportunity of learning either how peculiar the girl was,
or how capable. She was not yet up to his teaching; she had to have
other water to drink first, and was now approaching a source that might
have caused him anxiety for her, had he ever so little believed in
chance. But a shepherd is none the less a true shepherd that he leaves
plenty of liberty to the lamb to pick its own food. That its best
instincts may not be to the taste either of its natural guardians or the
public, is nothing against those instincts. Without appearing to their
guardians both strange and headstrong, some sheep would never get near
the food necessary to keep them alive. Confined to the provender even
their shepherds would have them contented withal, many would die.
Sometimes, to escape from the arid wastes of “society,” haunted with the
cries of its spiritual greengrocers, and find the pasture on which their
souls can live, they have to die, and climb the grassy slopes of the
heavenly hills.

Barbara had as yet had no experience of pain--or of more at least than
came from sympathy with suffering--a sympathy which, though ready, could
hardly be deep in one who had never had a headache herself. To all dumb
suffering things, she was very gentle and pitiful; but her pity was like
that of a child over her doll.

She was always glad to get away from home. While her father was paying
his long-delayed visit to the rector, she was flying over hedge and
ditch and rail, in a line for that gate of Mortgrange which Simon Armour
and his grandson found open when first the former took the latter to see
the place: Barbara had a key to it.

She went with swift gliding step, like that of a red Indian, into the
library. Richard was piecing the broken cords of a great old folio--the
more easily that they were double--in order to re-attach the loosened
sheets and the hanging board, and so get the book ready for a new cover.
She carried in her hand something yet more sorely in need of mending--a
pigeon with a broken wing, which she had seen lying in the park, and had
dismounted to take. It kept opening and shutting its eyes, and she knew
that nothing could be done for it; but the mute appeal of the dying
thing had gone to her heart, and she wanted sympathy, whether for it or
for herself she could hardly have distinguished. How she came to wake
a little more just then, I cannot tell, but the fact is a joint in her
history. The jar to the pigeon’s life affected her as a catastrophe.
She felt that there a crisis had come: a living conscious thing could
do nothing for its own life, and lay helpless. Say rather--seemed so to
lie. Oh, surely it is in reason that not a sparrow should fall to the
ground without the Father! To whom but the father of the children that
bemoan its fate, should the children carry his sparrow? But Barbara was
carrying her pigeon where was no help for the heart of either.

“Ah, poor thing,” said Richard, “I fear we can do nothing for it! But it
will be at rest soon! It is fast going.”

“Ah! but where?” said Barbara, to whom that moment came the question for
the first time.

“Nowhere,” answered Richard.

“How can that be? If I were going, I should be going somewhere! I
couldn’t go nowhere if I tried ever so. I don’t like you to say it is
going nowhere! Poor little thing! I won’t let you go nowhere!”

“Well!” returned Richard, a little bewildered, “what would you have me
say? You know what I mean! It is going not to be, that is all.”

“That is all! How would _you_ like to be told you were going
nowhere--going not to be--that was all?”

Richard saw that to declare abruptly his belief that he was himself as
much going nowhere as any pigeon that ever died, would probably be to
close the door between them. At the same time, if he left her to imagine
that he expected life for himself, but not for the animals, she must
think him selfish! Unwilling therefore to answer, he took refuge in his
genuine sympathy with suffering.

“Is it not strange,” he said, and would have taken from her hands the
wounded bird, but she would not part with it, “that men should take
pleasure in killing--especially a creature like that, so full of
innocent content? It seems to me the greatest pity to stop such a life!”

As he spoke there came upon him the dim sense of a foaming reef of
argument ahead--such as this: “Then there ought to be no death! And what
ought not to be, cannot be! But there is death: what then is death? If
it be a stopping of life, then that is which cannot be. But it may be
only a change in the form of life that looks like a stopping, and is
not! If Death be stronger than Life, so that he stops life, how then was
Life able so to flout him, that he, the thing that was not, arose from
the antenatal sepulchre on which Death sat throned in impotent negation
of entity, unable to preclude existence, and yet able to annihilate it?
Life alone is: nothingness is not; Death cannot destroy; he is not the
antagonist, not the opposite of life.” Some such argument Richard, I
say, saw vaguely through the gloom ahead, and began to beat to windward.

“Did you ever notice,” he said, “in _The Rime of the Ancient Mariner_,
the point at which the dead bird falls from the neck of the man?”

It was a point, however, at which neither he nor Barbara was capable of
seeing the depth of the poem. Richard thought it was the new-born love
of beauty that freed the mariner; he did not see that it was the love of
life, the new-born sympathy with life.

“I don’t even know what you are talking of,” answered Barbara. “Do tell
me. It sounds like something wonderful! Is it a story?”

“Yes--a wonderful story.”

Richard had not attempted to understand Coleridge’s philosophy, taking
it for quite obsolete; and it was but doubtfully that he had made
trial of his poems. Happily choosing _Christabel_, however, for a
tasting-piece, he was immediately enchanted and absorbed; and never
again had he been so keenly aware of disappointment as when he came to
the end, and found, as an Irishman might say, that it was not there: a
lump gathered in his throat; he flung the book from him, and it was a
week before he could open it again.

The next poem he tried was _The Rime of the Ancient Mariner_, which
he read with almost equal delight, bewitched with many an individual
phrase, with the melody unique of many a stanza, with the strangeness
of its speech, with the loveliness of its real, and the wildness of
its invented pictures. But he had not yet discovered, or even begun to
foresee the marvel of its whole. A man must know something of repentance
before he can understand _The Rime of the Ancient Mariner_.

The volume containing it had come into his hands as one of a set his
father had to bind. It belonged to a worshipper of Coleridge, who had
possessed himself of every edition of every book he had written, or had
had a share in writing. There he read first the final form of _The Rime_
as it appeared in the _Sibylline Leaves_ of 1817: when he came to
look at that in the _Lyrical Ballads_, published in 1798, he found
differences many and great between the two. He found also in the set an
edition with a form of the poem differing considerably from the last as
well as the first. He had brought together and compared all these forms
of the poem, noting every minutest variation--a mode of study which, in
the case of a masterpiece, richly repays the student. It was no wonder,
therefore, that Richard had almost every word of it on the very tip of
his tongue.

He began to repeat the ballad, and went on, never for a moment
intermitting his work. Without the least attempt at what is called
recitation, of which happily he knew nothing, he made both sense and
music tell, saying it as if he were for the hundredth time reading it
aloud for his own delight. If his pronunciation was cockneyish, it was
but a little so.

The very first stanza took hold of Barbara. She sat down by Richard’s
table, softly laid the dying bird in her lap, and listened with round
eyes and parted lips, her rapt soul sitting in her ears.

But Richard had not gone far before he hesitated, his memory perplexed
between the differing editions.

“Have you forgotten it? I am _so_ sorry!” said Barbara. “It _is_
wonderful--not like anything I ever heard, or saw, or tasted before. It
smells like a New Zealand flower called--” Here she said a word Richard
had never heard, and could never remember. “I don’t wonder at your
liking books, if you find things in them of that sort!”

“I’ve not exactly forgotten it,” answered Richard; “but I’ve copied out
different editions for comparison, and they’ve got a little mixed in my
head.”

“But surely the printers, with all their blunders and changes, can’t
keep you from seeing what the author wrote!”

“The editions I mean are those of the author himself. He kept making
changes, some of them very great changes. Not many people know the poem
as Coleridge first published it.”

“Coleridge! Who was he?”

“The man that wrote the poem.”

“Oh! He altered it afterwards?”

“Yes, very much.”

“Did he make it better?”

“Much better.”

“Then why should you care any more for the first way of it?”

“Just because it is different. A thing not so good may have a different
goodness. A man may not be so good as another man, and yet have some
good things in him the other has not. That implies that not every change
he made was for the better. And where he has put a better phrase, or
passage, the former may yet be good. So you see a new form may be much
better, and yet the old form remain much too good to be parted with.
In any case it is intensely interesting to see how and why he changed
a thing or its shape, and to ponder wherein it is for the better or the
worse. That is to take it like a study in natural history. In that we
learn how an animal grows different to meet a difference in the supply
of its needs; in the varying editions of a poem we see how it alters to
meet a new requirement of the poet’s mind. I don’t mean the cases are
parallel, but they correspond somehow. If I were a schoolmaster, I
should make my pupils compare different forms of the same poem, and find
out why the poet made the changes. That would do far more for them, I
think, than comparing poets with each other. The better poets are--that
is, the more original they are--the less there is in them to compare.”

“But I want to hear the rest of the story. Never mind the differences in
the telling of it.”

“I’m afraid I can’t get into the current of it now.”

“You can look at the book! It must be somewhere among all these!”

“No doubt. But I haven’t time to look for it now.”

“It won’t take you a minute to find it.”

“I must not leave my work.”

“It wouldn’t cost you more than one tiny minute!” pleaded Barbara like a
child.

“Let me explain to you, miss:--I find the only way to be _sure_ I
don’t cheat, is to know I haven’t stopped an instant to do anything for
myself. Sometimes I have stopped for a while; and then when I wanted
to make up the time, I couldn’t be quite sure how much I owed, and that
made me give more than I needed--which I didn’t like when I would gladly
have been doing something else. When the time is my own, it is of far
more value to me for the insides than to my employer for the outsides
of the books. So you see, for my own sake as well as his, I cannot stop
till my time is up.”

“That _is_ being honest!”

“Who can consent to be dishonest! It is the meanest thing to undertake
work and then imagine you show spirit by shirking what you can of it.
There’s a lot of fellows like that! I would as soon pick a pocket as
undertake and not do!”

Barbara begged no more.

“But I can talk while I work, miss,” Richard went on; “and I will try
again to remember.”

“Please, please do.”

Richard thought a little, and presently resuming the poem, went on to
the end of the first part. As he finished the last stanza--

     God save thee, ancient Mariner,
       From the fiends that plague thee thus!--
     Why look’st thou so?--With my cross-bow
       I shot the _Albatross!_’”--

“Ah!” cried Barbara, “I see now what made you think of the poem!”--and
she looked down at the throbbing bird in her lap.

It opened its dark eyes once more--with a reeling, pitiful look at her,
Barbara thought--quivered a little, and lay still. She burst into tears.

Richard dropped his work, and made a step toward her.

“Never mind,” she said. “One has got to cry _so_ much, and I may as well
cry for the bird! I’m all right now, thank you! Please go on. The bird
is dead, and I’m glad. I will let it lie a little, and then bury it. If
it be anywhere, perhaps it will one day know me, and then it will love
me. Please go on with the poem. It will make me forget. I’m not bound to
remember, am I--where I’m not to blame, I mean, and cannot help?”

“Certainly not!” acquiesced Richard, and began the second part.

“I see! I see!” cried Barbara, wiping her eyes. “They were cross with
him for killing the bird, not because they loved the beautiful creature,
but because it was unlucky to kill him! And then when nothing but good
came, they said it was quite right to kill him, and told lies of him,
and said he was a bad bird, and brought the fog and mist!--I wonder
what’s coming to them!--That’s not the end, is it? It can’t be!”

“No; it’s not nearly done yet. It’s only beginning.”

“I’m so glad! Do go on.”

She was eager as any child. Coleridge could not have desired a better
listener.

“I know! _I_ know!” she said presently. “_We_ were caught in a calm as
we came home! My father is fond of the sea, and brought us round the
Cape in a sailing-vessel. It was horrid. It lasted only three days, but
I felt as if I should die. It wasn’t long enough, I suppose, to draw out
the creeping things.”

“Perhaps it wasn’t near enough to the equator for them,” answered
Richard, and went on:--

     “Ah! well a-day! what evil looks
       Had I from old and young;
     Instead of the cross, the Albatross
       About my neck was hung.”

“Poor man! And in such weather!” exclaimed Barbara. “And such a huge
creature! I see! They thought now the killing of the bird had brought
the calm, and they would have their revenge! A bad set, those sailors!
People that deserve punishment always want to punish. Do go on.”

When the skeleton-ship came, her eyes grew with listening like those of
one in a trance.

“What a horrid, live dead woman!” she said. “Her whiteness is worse than
any blackness. But I wish he had told us what Death was like!”

“In the first edition,” returned Richard, much delighted that she missed
what constructive symmetry required, “there _is_ a description of Death.
I doubt if you would like it, though. You don’t like horrid things?”

“I do--if they should be horrid, and are horrid enough.”

“Coleridge thought afterwards it was better to leave it out!”

“Tell it me, anyhow.”

     “His bones were black with many a crack,
       All black and bare, I ween;
     Jet-black and bare, save where with rust,
     Of mouldy damps and charnel crust,
       They were patched with purple and green.

“--There! What do you think of that?”

“_He_ is nothing like so horrid as the woman!”

“She is more horrid in the first edition.”

“How?”

     “_Her_ lips are red, _her_ looks are free,
       _Her_ locks are yellow as gold;
     Her skin is as white as leprosy,
     And she is far liker Death than he;
       Her flesh makes the still air cold.”

“I do think that is worse. Tell me again how the other goes.”

     “The Night-Mare _Life-in-death_ was she,
       Who thicks man’s blood with cold.”

“Yes, the other is worse! I can hardly tell why, except it be that you
get at the sense of it easier. What does the Nightmare Life-in-Death
mean?”

“I don’t know. I can’t quite get at it.”

How should he? Richard was too close to the awful phantom to know that
this was her portrait.

“There’s another dreadful stanza in the first edition,” he went on. “It
is repeated in the second, but left out in the last. I fancy the poet
let himself be overpersuaded to omit it. The poem was not actually
printed without it until after his death: he had only put it in the
_errata_, to be omitted.--When the woman whistles with joy at having won
the ancient Mariner,

“‘A gust of wind sterte up behind,’

“--as if, like the sailors, she had whistled for it:--

     “‘A gust of wind sterte up behind,
     And whistled through his bones;
     Through the holes of his eyes and the hole of his mouth,
     Half whistles and half groans;’

“and the spectre-bark is blown along by this breath coming out of the
bosom of the skeleton.”

“I think it was a great mistake to leave that verse out!” said Barbara.
“There is no nasty horror in it! There _is_ a little in the description
of Death!”

“I think with you,” returned Richard, more and more astonished at
the insight of a girl who had read next to nothing. “Our lecturer at
King’s,” he went on, “pointed out to us, in this part, what some call a
blunder.”

“What is it?”

“I will give you the verses again; and you see if you can pick it out.”

“Do, please.”

“--Till clombe above the eastern bar The horned Moon, with one bright
star Within the nether tip.”

“I never saw a star there! But I see nothing wrong.”

“Which is the nearest to us of the heavenly bodies?”

“The moon, I suppose.”

“Certainly:--how, then, could a star come between us and it? For if the
star were within the tip of the moon, it must be between us and the dark
part of the moon!”

“I see! How stupid of me! But let me think!--If the star were just on
the edge of the moon, between the horns, it would almost look as if it
were within the tips--might it not?”

“That’s the best that can be said for it anyhow,--except indeed that the
poor ignorant sailor might, in the midst of such horrors, well make the
blunder.--By the way, in the first edition it stood as you have just
said: the line was,

“‘Almost within the tips.’”

“What did he change it to?”

“He made it--

“‘Within the nether tip.’”

“Why did he change it?”

“You would see that at the first glance, if you were used to riming.”

“Are you a poet, then, as well as a blacksmith and a bookbinder?”

“Too much of a poet, I hope, to imagine myself more than a whittler of
reeds!” answered Richard.

He was not sorry, however, to let Barbara know him for a poor relation
of the high family of poets. In truth, what best enabled him to
understand their work, was the humble work of the same sort he did
himself.

She did not understand what he meant by a _whittler of reeds_, but she
rightly took what he said for a humble affirmative.

“I begin to be frightened at you!” she rejoined, half meaning it. “Who
knows what else you may not be!”

“I am little enough of anything,” answered Richard, “but nothing that I
do not wish to be more of.”

A short silence followed.

“You have not told me yet why he changed that line!” resumed Barbara.

“Better wait until I can show it you in the book: then you will see at
once.”

“Please, go on then. I don’t know anything about the poem yet! I don’t
know why it was written!”

“You like some dreams, though they have no reason in them, don’t you?”

“Yes; but then I suppose there is reason in the poem!”

“There is, indeed!” said Richard, and went on.

But presently she stopped him.

“One thing I should like to know before we go further,” she said; “--why
they all fell down except the ancient Mariner.”

“You remember that Death and the woman were casting dice?”

“Yes.”

“It is not very clear, but this is how I understand the thing:--They
diced for the crew, one by one; Death won every one till they came to
the last, the ancient Mariner himself, and the woman, a sort of live
Death, wins him. That is why she cries, ‘I’ve won, I’ve won!’ and
whistles thrice--though she has won only one out of two hundred. I
should think she was used to Death having more than she, else she
wouldn’t have been so pleased. Perhaps she seldom got one!”

“Yes, I see all that. But things oughtn’t to go by the casting of dice.
Money may, for that does not signify, but not the souls and bodies
of men. It should not be the way in a poem any more than in the open
world.--Let me think!--I have it!--They were not good men, those
sailors! They first blamed, and then justified, and then again blamed
and cruelly punished the poor mariner, who had done wrong certainly, but
was doubtless even then sorry for it. He was cruel to a bird he did not
know, and they were cruel to a man they did know! So they are taken,
and he is left--to come well out of it at last, I hope.--Yes, it’s all
right! Now you can go on.”

She said nothing as he showed her the deck strewn so thick with the dead
bodies, whose cursing eyes all looked one way; but when the heavenly
contrast came:--

  The moving Moon went up the sky,
    And nowhere did abide:
  Softly she was going up,
    And a star or two beside;--

she gave a deep sigh of delight, and said--

“Ah, don’t I know her, the beauty! Isn’t it just many a time she has
made me sick with the love of her, and her peace, and her ways of
looking, and walking, and talking--for talk she does to those that can
listen hard! I dare say, in this old country where she’s been about so
long, you will think it silly to make so much of her; but you don’t know
here what it is to have her night after night for your one companion!
She never grows a downright friend, though--a friend you’ve got at the
heart of! She always looks at you as if she were saying--‘Yes, yes; I
know what you are thinking! but I have that in me you can never know,
and I can never tell! It will go down with me to the grave of the great
universe, and no one will ever know it! It is so lovely!--and oh, so
sad!’”

She was silent. Richard could not answer. He saw her far away like
the moon she spoke of. She was growing to him a marvel and a mystery.
Something strange seemed befalling him. Was she weaving a spell about
his soul? Was she fettering him for her slave? Was she one of the wild,
bewildering creatures of ancient lonely belief, that are the souls of
the loveliest things, but can detach themselves from them, and wander
out in garments more immediately their own? Was she salamander or sylph,
naiad or undine, oread or dryad?--But then she had such a head, and they
were all rather silly!

When the ballad told how silvery were the sea-snakes in the moonlight,
and how gorgeously varied in the red shadow, Richard looked for her to
show delight in the play of their colours; but, though the sweet strong
little mouth smiled, her brows looked more puzzled than pleased--which
was a thing noteworthy.

Any marvel in Nature, however new, Barbara would have welcomed with
bare delight; she would have asked neither the why, nor the how, nor the
final cause of the phenomenon--as if, being natural, it must be right,
and she needed not trouble herself; but here, in this poem, a world
born of the imagination of a man, she wanted to know about everything,
whether it was, or would be, or ought to be just so--whether, in a word,
every fact was souled with a reason, as it ought to be. Perhaps she
demanded such satisfaction too soon; perhaps she ought to have waited
for the whole, and, having found that a harmonious thing, then first
have inquired into the truth of its parts; but so it was: she must
know as she went, that she might know when she arrived! But in this she
revealed a genuine artistic faculty--that she gave herself up to the
poet, and allowed him to inspire her, yet _would_ have reason from him.

Richard went on:--

     “O happy living things! No tongue
     Their beauty might declare;
     A spring of love gushed from my heart,
     And I blessed them unaware!
     Sure my kind saint took pity on me,
     And I blessed them unaware.

“The self-same moment I could pray; And from my neck so free The
Albatross fell off, and sank Like lead into the sea.”

Barbara jumped up, clapping her hands with delight.

“I knew something was going to happen!” she cried. “I knew it was coming
all right!”

“You have not heard the end yet! You don’t know what may be coming!”
 protested Richard.

“Nothing _can_ go wrong now! The man’s love is awake, and he will
be sorrier and sorrier for what he did! Instead of saying, ‘The
wrigglesome, slimy things!’ he blesses them; and because he is going to
be a friend to the other creatures in the house, and live on good terms
with them, the body he had killed tumbles from his neck; the bad deed
is gone down into the depth of the great sea, and he is able to say his
prayers again;--no, not that exactly; it must be something better than
saying prayers now!”--She paused a moment, then added, “It must be
something I think I don’t know yet!” and sat down.

Richard heard and admired: he thought that as she had perceived there
was something better than saying prayers, she would pray no more!

“Go on; go on,” she said. “But if you like to stop, I shan’t mind. I
have no fear now. It’s all going right, and must soon come all right!”

“O sleep! It is a gentle thing,”

said Richard, going on.

“There it is!” she interrupted. “I knew it was all coming right! He can
sleep now!”

     “O sleep! It is a gentle thing,
     Beloved from pole to pole!
     To Mary queen the praise be given!
     She sent the gentle deep from Heaven,
     That slid into my soul.”

Some one was in the room, the door of which had been open all the time.
The sky was so cloudy, and the twilight so far advanced, that neither of
them, Barbara absorbed in the poem and Richard in the last of his day’s
work, had heard any one enter.

“Why don’t you ring for a lamp?” said Lestrange.

“There is no occasion; I have just done,” answered Richard.

“You cannot surely see in this light!” said Arthur, who was
short-sighted. “You certainly were not at your work when I came into the
room!”

He thought Richard had caught up the piece of leather he was paring, in
order to deceive him.

“Indeed, sir, I was.”

“You were not. You were reading!”

“I was not reading, sir. I was busy with the last of my day’s work.”

“Do not tell me you were not reading: I heard you!”

“You did hear me, sir; but you did not hear me reading,” rejoined
Richard, growing angry with the tone of the young man, and with his
unreadiness to believe him.

Many workmen, having told a lie, would have been more indignant at
not being believed, than was Richard speaking the truth; still, he was
growing angry.

“You must have a wonderful memory, then!” said Lestrange. “But, excuse
me, we don’t care to hear your voice in the house.”

The same moment, he either discovered, or pretended to discover,
Barbara’s presence.

“I beg your pardon, Miss Wylder!” he said. “I did not know he was
amusing you! I did not see you were in the room!”

“I suppose,” returned Barbara--and it savoured of the savage Lestrange
sometimes called her--“you will be ordering the nightingales not to sing
in _your_ apple-trees next!”

“I don’t understand you!”

“Neither do you understand Mr. Tuke, or you would not speak to him that
way!”

She rose and walked to the door, but turned as she went, and added--

“He was repeating the loveliest poem I ever heard--_The Rime of the
Ancient Mariner_.--I didn’t know there could be such a poem!” she added
simply.

“It is not one I care about. But you need not take it second-hand from
Tuke: I will lend it you.”

“Thank you!” said Barbara, in a tone which was not of gratitude, and
left the room.

Lestrange stood for a moment, but finding nothing suitable to say,
turned and followed her, while Richard bit his lip to keep himself
silent. He knew, if he spoke, there would be an end; and he did not want
this to be his last sight of the wonderful creature!

Barbara went to the door with the intention of going to the stables for
Miss Brown and galloping straight home. But she bethought herself that
so she might seem to be ashamed. She was not Arthur’s guest! He had
been insolent to her friend, who had done more for her already than ever
Arthur was likely to do, but that was no reason why she should run
away from him--just the contrary! She _would_ like to punish him for it
somehow!--not shoot him, for she would not kill a pigeon, and to kill a
man would be worse, though he wasn’t so nice as a pigeon!--but she would
like--yes, she _would_ like to give him just three good cuts across the
shoulders with her new riding-whip! What right had he to speak so to
his superior! By being a _true_ workman, Mr. Tuke was a gentleman! Could
Arthur Lestrange have talked like that? Could he have spoken the poetry
like that? The bookbinder was worth a hundred of him! Could Arthur shoe
a horse? What if the working man were to turn out the real lord of the
creation, and the gentleman have to black his boots! There was something
like it in the gospel!

She did not know that in general the working man is as foolish and unfit
as the rich man; that he only wants to be rich, and trample on his own
past. The working man _may_ perish like the two hundred of the crew, and
the rich man _may_ be saved like the Ancient Mariner!

It is the poor man that gives the rich man all the pull on him, by
cherishing the same feelings as the rich man concerning riches, by
fancying the rich man because of his riches the greater man, and longing
to be rich like him. A man that can _do_ things is greater than any man
who only _has_ things. True, a rich man can get mighty things done, but
he does not do them. He may be much the greater for willing them to be
done, but he is not the greater for the actual doing of them.

“At any rate,” said Barbara to herself, “I like this working man better
than that gentleman!”

Richard stood for a while boiling with indignation. He would have cared
less if he had been sure he had answered him properly, but he could not
remember what he had said.

The clock struck the hour that ended his workday. Instead of sitting
down to read, he set out for the smithy. It was not a week since he had
seen his grandfather, but he wanted motion, and desired a human face
that belonged to him. It was rather dark when he reached it, but the old
man had not yet dropped work. The sparks were flying wild about his gray
head as Richard drew near.

“Can I help you, grandfather?” he said.

“No, no, lad; your hands are too soft by this time--with your bits of
brass wheels, and scraps of leather, and needles, and paste! No, no,
lad;--thou cannot help the old man to-night.--But you’re not in earnest,
are you?” he added, looking up suddenly. “You ‘ain’t left your place?”

“No, but my day’s work being over, why shouldn’t I help you to get yours
over! When first I came you expected me to do so!”

“Look here, lad!--as a man gets older he comes to think more of fair
play, and less of his rights: it seems to me that not your time only,
but your strength as well belongs to the man who hires you; and if you
weary yourself helping me, who have no claim, you cannot do so much or
so good work for your master!--Do you see sense in that?”

“Indeed I do! I think you are quite right.”

“It is strange,” Simon went on, “how age makes you more particular! The
thing I would have done without thinking when I was young, I think
twice of now. Is that what we were sent here for--to grow honest, I
wonder?--Depend upon it,” he resumed after a moment’s silence, “there’s
a somewhere where the thing’s taken notice of! There’s a somebody as
thinks about it!”

After more talk, and a cup of tea at the cottage, Richard set out for
the lodgeless gate, already mentioned more than once, to which the
housekeeper had lent him a key.

He had not got far into the park, when to his surprise he perceived, a
little way off on the grass, a small figure gliding swiftly toward him
through the dusk rather than the light of the moon, which, but just
above the horizon, sent little of her radiance to the spot. It was
Barbara.

“I have been watching for you ever so long!” she said. “They told me you
had gone out, and I thought you might come home this way.”

“I wish I had known! I wouldn’t have kept you waiting,” returned
Richard.

“I want the rest of the poem,” she said. “It was horrid to have Arthur
interrupt us! He was abominably rude too.”

“He certainly had no right to speak to me as he did. And if he had
confessed himself wrong, or merely said he had made a mistake, I should
have thought no more about it. I hope it is not true you are going to
marry him, miss!--because--”

“If I thought one of the family said so, I would sleep in the park
to-night. I would not enter the house again. When I marry, it will be
a gentleman; and Mr. Lestrange is not a gentleman--at least he did not
behave like one to-day. Come, tell me the rest of the poem. We have
plenty of time here.”

The young bookbinder was perplexed. He had not much knowledge of the
world, but he could not bear the thought of the servants learning that
they were in the park together. At the same time he saw that he must not
even hint at imprudence. Her will was not by him to be scanned! She must
be allowed to know best! A single tone of hesitation would be an insult!
He must take care of her without seeming to do so! If they walked
gently, they would finish the poem as they came near the house: there he
would leave her, and return by the lodge-gate.

“Where did we leave off?” he said.

His brief silence had seemed to Barbara but a moment spent in recalling.

“We left off at the place where the bird fell from his neck--no, just
after that, where he falls asleep, as well he might, after it was gone.”

The moon was now peeping, in little spots of light, through the higher
foliage, and casting a doubtful, ghostly sediment of shine around them.
The night was warm. Glow-worms lay here and there, brooding out green
light in the bosom of the thick soft grass. There was no wind save what
the swift wing of a bat, sweeping close to their heads, would now and
then awake. The creature came and vanished like an undefined sense of
evil at hand. But it was only Richard who thought that; nothing such
crossed the starry clearness of Barbara’s soul. Her skirt made a buttony
noise with the heads of the rib-grass. Her red cloak was dark in the
moonlight. She threw back the hood, and coming out of its shadow like
another moon from a cloud, walked the earth with bare head. Her hands
too were bare, and glimmered in the night-gleam. He saw the rings on the
small fingers shimmer and shine: she was as fond of colour and flash
as lord St. Albans! Higher and higher rose the moon. Her light on the
grass-blades wove them into a carpet with its weft of faint moonbeams.
The small dull mirrors of the evergreen leaves glinted in the thickets,
as the two went by, like the bits of ill-polished glass in an Indian
tapestry. The moon was everywhere, filling all the hollow over-world,
and for ever alighting on their heads. Far away they saw the house,
a remote something, scarce existent in the dreaming night, the
gracious-ghastly poem, and the mingling, harmonizing moon. It was much
too far away to give them an anxious thought, and for long it seemed,
like death, to be coming no nearer; but they were moving toward it
all the time, and it was even growing a move insistent fact. Thus they
walked at once in the two blended worlds of the moonlight and the tale,
while Richard half-chanted the music-speech of the most musical of
poets, telling of the roaring wind that the mariner did not feel, of the
flags of electric light, of the dances of the wan stars, of the sighing
of the sails, of the star-dogged moon, and the torrent-like falls of the
lightning down the mountainous cloud--for so Barbara, who had seen two
or three tropical thunder-storms, explained to Richard the lightning
which

     “fell with never a jag,
     A river steep and wide;”

--until that groan arose from the dead men, and the bodies heaved
themselves up on their feet, and began to work the ropes, and worked on
till sunrise, and the mariner knew that not the old souls but angels had
entered into them, by their gathering about the mast, and sending such a
strange lovely hymn through their dead throats up to the sun.

When Richard repeated the stanza--

     “It ceased; yet still the sails made on
     A pleasant noise till noon,
     A noise like of a hidden brook
     In the leafy month of June,
     That to the sleeping woods all night
     Singeth a quiet tune;”

Barbara uttered a prolonged “Oh!” and again was silent, listening to the
talk of the elemental spirits, feeling the very wind of home that blew
on the mariner, seeing the lighthouse, and the hill, and the weathercock
on the church-spire, and the white bay, and the shining seraphs with
the crimson shadows, and the sinking ship, and the hermit that made the
mariner tell his story as he was telling it now.

But when Richard came to the words--

     “He prayeth well, who loveth well
     Both man and bird and beast.
     He prayeth best, who loveth best
     All things both great and small,
     For the dear God who loveth us,
     He made and loveth all,”

she clapped her hands together; and when he ended them, she cried out--

“I was sure of it! I knew something would come to tie it all up together
into one bundle! That’s it! That’s it! The love of everything is
the garden-bed out of which grow the roses of prayer!--But what am
I saying!” she added, checking herself; “I love everything, at least
everything that comes near me, and I never pray!”

“Of course not! Why should you?” said Richard.

“Why should I not?”

“You would if it were reasonable!”

“I will, then! To love all the creatures and not have a word to say to
the God that made them for loving them before-hand--is that reasonable?”

“No, if a God did make them.”

“They could not make themselves!”

“No; nothing could make itself.”

“Then somebody must have made them!”

“Who?”

“Why, the one that could and did--who else?”

“We know nothing about such a somebody. All we know is, that there they
are, and we have got to love them!”

“Ah!” she said, and looked up into the wide sky, where now the
“wandering moon” was alone,

     Like one that had been led astray
     Through the heaven’s wide pathless way,

and gazed as if she searched for the Somebody. “I should like to see the
one that made that!” she said at last. “Think of knowing the very
person that made that poor pigeon, and has got it now!--and made Miss
Brown--and the wind! I must find him! He can’t have made me and not care
when I ask him to speak to me! You say he is nowhere! I don’t believe
there is any nowhere, so he can’t be there! Some people may be content
with things; I shall get tired of them, I know, if I don’t get behind
them! A thing is nothing without what things it! A gift is nothing
without what gives it! Oh, dear! I know what I mean, but I can’t say
it!”

“You don’t know what you mean, but you do say it!” thought Richard.

He was nowise repelled by her enthusiasm, for there was in it nothing
assailant, nothing too absurdly superstitious. He did not care to answer
her.

They went walking toward the house and were silent. The moon went on
with her silentness: she never stops being silent. When they felt near
the house, they fell to walking slower, but neither knew it. Barbara
spoke again:

“Just fancy!” she said, “--if God were all the time at our backs, giving
us one lovely thing after another, trying to make us look round and
see who it was that was so good to us! Imagine him standing there, and
wondering when his little one would look round, and see him, and burst
out laughing--no, not laughing--yes, laughing--laughing with delight--or
crying, I don’t know which! If I had him to love as I should love one
like that, I think I should break my heart with loving him--I should
love him to the killing of me! What! all the colours and all the shapes,
and all the lights, and all the shadows, and the moon, and the wind, and
the water!--and all the creatures--and the people that one would love so
if they would let you!--and all--”

“And all the pain, and the dying, and the disease, and the wrongs, and
the cruelty!” interposed Richard.

She was silent. After a moment or two she said--

“I think I will go in now. I feel rather cold. I think there must be a
fog, though I can’t see it.”

She gave a little shiver. He looked in her face. Was it the moon, or
was it something in her thoughts that made the sweet countenance look
so gray? Could his mere suggestion of the reverse, the wrong side of the
web of creation, have done it? Surely not!

“I think I want some one to say _must_ to me!” she said, after another
pause. “I feel as if--”

There she stopped. Richard said nothing. Some instinct told him he might
blunder.

He stood still. Barbara went on a few steps, then turned and said--

“Are you not going in?”

“Not just yet,” he answered. “Please to remember that if I can do
anything for you,--”

“You are very kind. I am much obliged to you. If you know another
rime,--But I think I shall have to give up poetry.”

“It will be hard to find another so good,” returned Richard.

“Good-night,” she said.

“Good-night, miss!” answered Richard, and walked away, with a loss at
his heart. The poem has already ceased to please her! He had made the
lovely lady more thoughtful, and less happy than before!

“She has been taught to believe in a God,” he said to himself. “She
is afraid he will be angry with her, because, in her company, I dared
question his existence! A generous God--isn’t he! If he be anywhere, why
don’t he let us see him? How can he expect us to believe in him, if he
never shows himself? But if he did, why should I worship him for
being, or for making me? If I didn’t want him, and I don’t, I certainly
shouldn’t worship him because I saw him. I couldn’t. If Nature is cruel,
as she certainly is, and he made her, then he is cruel too! There cannot
be such a God, or, if there be, it cannot be right to worship him!”

He did not reflect that if he had wanted him, he would not have waited
to see him before he worshipped him.

But Barbara was saying to herself--

“What if he has shown himself to me some time--one of those nights,
perhaps, when I was out till the sun rose--and I didn’t know him!--How
frightful if there should be nobody at all up there--nobody anywhere all
round!”

She stared into the milky, star-sapphire-like blue, as if, out of the
sweetly veiled terror-gulf, she would, by very gazing, draw the living
face of God.

Verily the God that knows _how not_ to reveal himself, must also know
how _best_ to reveal himself! If there be a calling child, there must be
an answering father!



CHAPTER XXIII. _A HUMAN GADFLY_.

From so early an age had Richard been accustomed to despise a certain
form he called God, which stood in the gallery of his imagination,
carved at by the hands of successive generations of sculptors, some
hard, some feeble, some clever, some stupid, all conventional and devoid
of prophetic imagination, that his antagonism had long taken the shape
of an angry hostility to the notion of any God whatever. Richard could
see a thing to be false, that is, he could deny, but he was not yet
capable either of discovering or receiving what was true, because he had
not yet set himself to know the truth. To oppose, to refuse, to deny, is
not _to know the truth_, is not _to be true_ any more than it is to be
false. Whatever good may lie in the destroying of the false, the best
hammer of the iconoclast will not serve withal to carve the celestial
form of the Real; and when the iconoclast becomes the bigot of negation,
and declares the non-existence of any form worthy of worship, because he
has destroyed so many unworthy, he passes into a fool. That he has never
conceived a deity such as he could worship, is a poor ground to any but
the man himself for saying such cannot exist; and to him it is but a
ground lightly vaulted over the vacuity self-importance. Such a divine
form may yet stand in the adytum of this or that man whom he and the
world count an idiot.

Into the workshop of Richard’s mind was now introduced, by this one
disclosure of the mind of Barbara, a new idea of divinity, vague indeed
as new, but one with which he found himself compelled to have some
dealing. One of the best services true man can do a neighbour, is to
persuade him--I speak in a parable--to house his children for a while,
that he may know what they are: the children of another may be the
saving of his children and his whole house. Alas for the man the
children of whose brain are the curse of the household into which they
are received! But from Barbara’s house Richard had taken into his a
vital protoplasmic idea that must work, and would never cease to work
until the house itself was all divine--the idea, namely, of a being to
call God, who was a delight to think of, a being concerning whom the
great negation was that of everything Richard had hitherto associated
with the word God. The one door to admit this formal notion was hard to
open; and when admitted, the figure was not easy to set up so that it
could be looked at. The human niche where the idea of a God must stand,
was in Richard’s house occupied by the most hideous falsity. On the
pedestal crouched the goblin of a Japanese teapot.

It was not pleasant to Richard to imagine any one with rights over him.
It may be that some persist in calling up the false idea of such a one
hitherto presented to them, in order to avoid feeling obligation to
believe in him. For the notion of a God is one from which naturally
a thoughtful man must feel more or less recoil while as yet he knows
nothing of the being himself, or of the nature of his creative rights,
the rights of perfect, self-refusing, devoted fatherhood. It is one
thing to seem to know with the brain, quite another to know with the
heart. But even in the hope-lighted countenance of Barbara, even in the
tones in which she suggested the presence of a soul that meant and was
all that the beautiful world hinted and seemed, Richard could not fail
to meet something of the true idea of a God.

Naturally also, his notion of the God in whom he felt that Barbara was
at least ready to believe, assumed something of the look of Barbara who
was being drawn toward him; so that now the graces of the world, all its
lovely impacts upon his senses, began to be mixed up in his mind with
Barbara and her God. Barbara was beginning to infect him with--shall
I call it the superstition of a God? Whatever it may be called, it was
very far from being religion yet. The fact was only this--that the idea
of a God worth believing in, was coming a little nearer to him, was
becoming to him a little more thinkable.

He began to feel his heart drawn at times, in some strange, tenderer
fashion, hitherto unknown to him, to the blue of the sky, especially
in the first sweetness of a summer morning. His soul would now and then
seem to go out of him, in a passion of embrace, to the simplest flower:
the flower would be, for a moment, just its self to him. He would spread
out his arms to the wind, now when it met him in its strength, now when
it but kissed his face. He never consented with himself that it was one
force in all the forms that drew him--that perhaps it was the very God,
the All in all about him. Neither did he question much with himself as
to how the development, rather than change, had begun. Whether God did
this, or was this, or it was only the possessing Barbara that cast her
light out of his eyes on the things he saw and felt, he scarcely asked;
but fully he recognised the fact that Nature was more alive than she
ever had been to him who had always loved her.

The thought of Barbara went on growing dear to him. He never pondered
anything but the girl herself, cherished no dreams of her becoming more
to him, of her ever being nearer than away there; just to know her was
now, and henceforward ever would be the gladness of his life. If that
life was but for a season; if the very core of life was decay; if life
was because nobody could help its being; if it died because no one could
keep it from dying; yet were there two facts fit almost to embalm the
body of this living death: Barbara, and the world which was the body
of Barbara! So life carried the day, if but the day, and the heart of
Richard rejoiced in the midst of perishings. Only, the night was coming
in which no man can rejoice.

Was he then presuming to be in love with Barbara? I do not care to meet
the question. If I knew what the mysterious word, _love_, meant, I might
be able to answer it, but what should I thus gain or give? I know he
loved her. I know that a divine power of truth and beauty had laid hold
upon him, and was working in him as the powers of God alone can work
in man, for they are the same by which he lives and moves and has his
being, and to life are more than meat and drink, than sun and air.

Instead of blaming as a matter of course the person who does not believe
in a God, we should think first whether his notional God is a God that
ought, or a God that ought not to be believed in. Perhaps he only is to
be blamed who, by inattention to duty, has become less able to believe
in a God than he was once: because he did not obey the true voice,
whencesoever it came, God may have to let him taste what it would be
to have no God. For aught I know, a man may have been born of so many
generations of unbelief, that now, at this moment, he cannot believe;
that now, at this moment, he has no notion of a God at all, and cannot
care whether there be a God or not; but he can mind what he knows he
ought to mind. That will, that alone can clear the moral atmosphere, and
make it possible for the true idea of a God to be born into it.

For some time Richard saw little of Barbara.

The heads of the house did not interfere with him. Lady Ann would now
and then sail through the room like an iceberg; sir Wilton would come
in, give a glance at the shelves and a grin, and walk out again with a
more or less gouty gait; so much was about all their contact. Arthur was
a little ashamed of having spoken to him as he did, and had again become
in a manner friendly. He had seen several decaying masses, among the
rest the Golding of their difference, become books in his hands, and
again he had grown sufficiently interested in the workman to feel in him
something more than the workman. He was on the way to perceive that, in
certain insignificant things, such as imagination, reading, insight, and
general faculty, not to mention conscience, generosity, and goodness
of heart, Richard was out of sight before the ruck of gentlemen. He
saw already that in some things, thought a good deal of at his college,
Richard was more capable than himself. He found in him too what seemed
to him a rare notion of art. In truth Richard’s advance in this region
was as yet but small, for he was guided only by his limited efforts in
verse; none the less, however, was he far ahead of Arthur, who saw only
what was shown him. In literature Arthur had already learned something
from Richard, and knew it. He had, indeed, without knowing it, begun to
look up to him.

Richard also had discovered good in Arthur--among other things a careful
regard to his word, and to his father’s tenantry. There was of course,
in a scanty nature like his, a good deal of the lord bountiful mingled
with his behaviour to his social inferiors on the property: he posed to
himself as a condescending landlord.

The only one in the house who gave Richard trouble, was the child
Victoria. The way she always took to show her liking, was to annoy its
object. Never was name less fitting than hers: there was no victory in
her. She could but fly about like veriest mosquito. Richard let her come
and go unheeded, except when her proximity to his work made him anxious.
But the little vixen would not consent to be naught any smallest while.
She would rather be abused than remain unnoticed. When she found that
her standing and staring procured no attention from the bookbinder, she
would begin to handle his tools, and ask what this and that was for,
giving, like a woman of fashion, no heed to any answer he accorded her.
Learning thus, that is, by experiment, how to annoy him, she did not let
opportunity lack. When school was over in the morning, and she could
go where she pleased, she went often to the library; and as no one
willingly asked where she was, the chief pleasure of her acquaintance
lying in the assurance that she was nowhere at hand, Richard had to
endure many things from her; and things that do not seem worth enduring,
are not unfrequently the hardest to endure.

The behaviour of the child grew worse and worse. She would more than
touch everything, and that thing the most persistently which Richard was
most anxious to have let alone, causing him no little trouble at times
to set right what she had injured. Worst of all was her persecution when
she found him using gold-leaf. She would come behind him and blow the
film away just as he had got it flat on his cushion, or laid on the spot
where his tool was about to fix a portion of it. Her mischief was not
even irradiated by childish laughter; there was never any sign of
frolic on her monkey face, except the steely glitter of her sharp, black
bead-eyes, might be supposed to contain some sprinkle of fun in its
malice. Expostulation was not of the slightest use, and sometimes it was
all Richard could do to keep his hands off her. Now she would look as
stolid as if she did not understand a word he said; now pucker up her
face into a most unpleasant grin of derision and contemptuous defiance.

One day when he happened to be using the polishing-iron, Vixen, as her
brothers called her, came in, and began to play with the paste. Richard
turned with the iron in his hand, which he had just taken from the
brasier. He was rubbing it bright and clean, and she noted this, but had
not seen him take it from the fire: she caught at it, to spoil it with
her pasty fingers. As quickly she let it go, but did not cry, though her
eyes filled. Richard saw, and his heart gave way. He caught the little
hand so swift to do evil, and would have soothed its pain. She pulled
it from him, crying, “You nasty man! How dare you!” and ran to the door,
where she turned and made a hideous face at him. The same moment, by a
neighbouring door that opened from another passage, in came Barbara, and
before Vixen was well aware of her presence, had dealt her such a box on
the ear that she burst into a storm of wrathful weeping.

“You’re a brute, Bab,” she cried. “I’ll tell mamma!”

“Do, you little wretch!” returned Barbara, whose flushed face looked
lovely childlike in its indignation beside the furious phiz of the
tormenting imp.

The monkey-creature left the room, sobbing; and Barbara turned and was
gone before Richard could thank her.

He heard no more of the matter, and for some time had no farther trouble
with Victoria.

Barbara had the kindest of hearts, but there was nothing _soft_ about
her She held it a sin to spoil any animal, not to say a child. For she
had a strong feeling, initiated possibly by her black nurse, that the
animals went on living after death, whence she counted it a shame not to
teach them; and held that, if a sharp cut would make child or dog behave
properly, the woman was no lover of either who would spare it.



CHAPTER XXIV. _RICHARD AND WINGFOLD_.

Barbara had more than once or twice heard Mr. Wingfold preach, but had
not once listened, or oven waked to the fact that she had not listened.
Unaccustomed in childhood to any special regard of the Sunday, she had
neither pleasant nor unpleasant associations with church-going; but
she liked a good many things better, and as she always did as she liked
except she saw reason to the contrary, she had hitherto gone to church
rather seldom. She might perhaps have sooner learned to go regularly but
for her mother’s extraordinary behaviour there: certainly she could not
sit in the same pew with her reading her novel. Since Mr. Wingfold had
taken the part of the prophet Nathan, and rebuked her, she had indeed
ceased to go to church, but Barbara, as I have said, was as yet only now
and then drawn thitherward.

Mr. Wingfold was almost as different from the clergyman of Richard’s
idea, as was Richard’s imagined God from any believable idea of God. The
two men had never yet met, for what should bring a working-man and the
clergyman of the next parish together? But one morning--he often went
for a walk in the early morning--Richard saw before him, in the middle
of a field-path, seated on a stile and stopping his way, the back of a
man in a gray suit, evidently enjoying, like himself, the hour before
sunrise. He knew somehow that he was not a working-man, but he did not
suspect him one of the obnoxious class which lives by fooling itself and
others. Wingfold heard Richard’s step, looked round, knew him at once
an artisan of some sort, and saw in him signs of purpose and character
strong for his years.

“Jolly morning!” he said.

“It is indeed, sir!” answered Richard.

“I like a walk in the morning better than at any other time of the day!”
 said Wingfold.

“Well, sir, I do so too, though I can’t tell why. I’ve often tried, but
I haven’t yet found out what makes the morning so different.”

“Come!” thought the clergyman; “here’s something I haven’t met with too
much of!”

Richard remarked to himself that, whoever the gentleman was, he was
certainly not stuck-up. They might have parted late the night before,
instead of meeting now for the first time!

“Are you a married man?” asked Wingfold.

“No, sir,” answered Richard, surprised that a stranger should put the
question.

“If you had been,” Wingfold went on, “I should have been surer of your
seeing what I mean when I say, that to be out before sunrise is like
looking at your best friend asleep--that is, before her sun, her
thought, namely, is up. Watching her face then, you see it come to life,
grow radiant with sunrise.”

“But,” rejoined Richard, “I have seen a person asleep whose face made it
quite evident that thought was awake! It was shining through!”

“Shining through, certainly,” said Wingfold, “not up. I doubt indeed if
during any sleep, thought is quite in abeyance.”

“Not when we are dead asleep, sir?--so dead that when we wake we don’t
remember anything?”

“If thought in such a case must be _proved,_ it will have to go for
non-existent. Yet, when you reflect that sometimes you discover that you
must, a few minutes before, wide awake, have done something which
you have no recollection of having done, and which, but for the fact
remaining evident to your sight, you would not believe you had done, you
must feel doubtful as to the loss of consciousness in sleep.”

“Yes; that must give us pause!”

“Hamlet!” said the clergyman to himself. “That’s good! You may have read
from top to bottom of a page, perhaps,” he went on, “without being able
to recall a word: would you say no thought had passed through your mind
in the process?--that the words had suggested nothing as you read them?”

“No, sir; I should be inclined to say that I forgot as fast as I read;
that, as I read, I seemed to know the thing I read, but the process of
forgetting kept pace for pace alongside the process of reading.”

“I quite agree with you.--Now I wonder whether you will agree with me in
what I am going to suggest next!”

“I can’t tell that, sir,” said Richard--somewhat unnecessarily; but
Wingfold was pleased to find him cautious.

“I think,” the parson continued, “that what I want in order to be able
afterward to recollect a thing, is to be not merely conscious of the
thing when it comes, but at the same moment conscious of myself. To
remember, I must be self-conscious as well as thing-conscious.”

“There I cannot quite follow you.”

“When I learn the meaning of a word, I know the word; but when I say
to myself, ‘I know the word,’ there comes a reflection of the word back
from the mirror of my mind, making a second impression, and after that I
am at least not so likely to forget it.”

“I think I can follow you so far,” said Richard.

“When, then,” pursued the parson, “I think about the impression that the
word makes upon me, how it is affecting me with the knowledge of itself,
then I am what I should call self-conscious of the word--conscious not
only that I know the word, but that I know the phenomena of knowing the
word--conscious of what I am as regards my knowing of the word.”

“I understand so far, sir--at least I think I do.”

“Then you will allow that a word with its reflection and mental impact
thus operated upon by the mind is not so likely to be forgotten as one
understood only in the first immediate way?”

“Certainly, sir.”

“Well, then--mind I am only suggesting; I am not proclaiming a fact,
still less laying down a law; I am not half sure enough about it for
that--so it is with our dreams. We see, or hear, and are conscious that
we do, in our dreams; our consciousness shines through our sleeping
features to the eyes that love us; but when we wake we have forgotten
everything. There was thought there, but not thought that could be
remembered. When, however, you have once said to yourself in a dream,
‘I think I am dreaming;’ you always, I venture to suspect, remember that
experience when you wake from it!”

“I daresay you do, sir. But there are many dreams we never suspect to
be dreams while we are dreaming them, which yet we remember all the same
when we come awake!”

“Yes, surely; and many people have such memories as hold every word
and every fact presented to them. But I was not meaning to discuss the
phenomena of sleep; I only meant to support my simile that to see the
world before the sun is up, is like looking on the sleeping face of
a friend. There is thought in the sleeping face of your friend, and
thought in the twilight face of nature; but the face awake with thought,
is the world awake with sunlight.”

“There I cannot go with you, sir,” said Richard, who, for all the
impression Barbara had made upon him, had not yet thought of the world
as in any sense alive; it was to him but an aggregate of laws and
results, the great dissecting-room of creation, the happy hunting
ground of the goddess who calls herself Science, though she can claim to
understand as yet no single fact.

“Why?” asked Wingfold.

“Because I cannot receive the simile at all. I cannot allow expression
of thought where no thought is.”

Here a certain look on the face of the young workman helped the parson
toward understanding the position he meant to take, “Ah!” he answered,
“I see I mistook you! I understand now! Sleep she or wake she, you will
not allow thought on the face of Nature! Am I right?”

“That is what I would say, sir,” answered Richard.

“We must look at that!” returned Wingfold. “That would be scanned!--You
would conceive the world as a sort of machine that goes for certain
purposes--like a clock, for instance, whose duty it is to tell the time
of the day?--Do I represent you truly?”

“So far, sir. Only one machine may have many uses!”

“True! A clock may do more for us than tell the time! It may tell
how fast it is going, and wake solemn thought. But if you came upon a
machine that constantly waked in you--not thoughts only, but the most
delicate and indescribable feelings--what would you say then? Would you
allow thought there?”

“Surely not that the machine was thinking!”

“Certainly not. But would you allow thought concerned in it? Would you
allow that thought must have preceded and occasioned its existence?
Would you allow that thought therefore must yet be interested in its
power to produce thought, and might, if it chose, minister to the
continuance or enlargement of the power it had originated?”

“Perhaps I should be compelled to allow that much in regard to a clock
even!--Are we coming to the Paley-argument, sir?” said Richard.

“I think not,” answered Wingfold. “My argument seems to me one of my
own. It is not drawn from design but from operation: where a thing wakes
thought and feeling, I say, must not thought and feeling be somewhere
concerned in its origin?”

“Might not the thought and feeling come by association, as in the case
of the clock suggesting the flight of time?”

“I think our associations can hardly be so multiform, or so delicate, as
to have a share in bringing to us half of the thoughts and feelings that
nature wakes in us. If they have such a share, they must have reference
either to a fore-existence, or to relations hidden in our being, over
which we have no control; and equally in such case are the thoughts
and feelings waked in us, not by us. I do not want to argue; I am only
suggesting that, if the world moves thought and feeling in those that
regard it, thought and feeling are somehow concerned in the world. Even
to wake old feelings, there must be a likeness to them in what wakes
them, else how could it wake them? In a word, feeling must have put
itself into the shape that awakes feeling. Then there is feeling in the
thing that bears that shape, although itself it does not feel. Therefore
I think it may be said that there is more thought, or, rather, more
expression of thought, in the face of the world when the sun is up, than
when he is not--as there is more thought in a face awake than in a face
asleep.--Ah, there is the sun! and there are things that ought never to
be talked about in their presence! To talk of some things even behind
their backs will keep them away!”

Richard neither understood his last words, nor knew that he did not
understand them. But he did understand that it was better to watch the
sunrise than to talk of it.

Up came the child of heaven, conquering in the truth, in the might
of essential being. It was no argument, but the presence of God that
silenced the racked heart of Job. The men stood lost in the swift
changes of his attendant colours--from red to gold, from the human to
the divine--as he ran to the horizon from beneath, and came up with a
rush, eternally silent. With a moan of delight Richard turned to his
gazing companion, when he beheld that on his face which made him turn
from him again: he had seen what was not there for human eyes! The
radiance of Wingfold’s countenance, the human radiance that met the
solar shine, surpassed even that which the moon and the sky and the
sleeping earth brought out that night upon the face of Barbara! The one
was the waking, the other but the sweetly dreaming world.

Richard refused to let any emotion, primary or reflex, influence his
opinions; they must be determined by fact and severe logical outline.
Whatever was not to him definite--that is, was not by him formally
conceivable, must not be put in the category of things to be believed;
but he had not a notion how many things he accepted unquestioning, which
were yet of this order; and not being only a thing that thought, but a
thing as well that was thought, he could not help being more influenced
by such a sight than he would have chosen to be, and the fact that he
was so influenced remained. Happily, the choice whether we shall be
influenced is not given us; happily, too, the choice whether we shall
obey an influence _is_ given us.

Without a word, Richard lifted his hat to the stranger, and walked on,
leaving him where he stood, but taking with him a germ of new feeling,
which would enlarge and divide and so multiply. When he got to the next
stile, he looked back, and saw him seated as at first, but now reading.



CHAPTER XXV. _WING FOLD AND HIS WIFE_.

Thomas Wingfold closed his book, replaced it in his pocket, got down
from the stile, turned his face toward home, crossed field after field,
and arrived just in time to meet his wife as she came down the stair to
breakfast.

“Have you had a nice walk, Thomas?” she asked.

“Indeed I have!” he answered. “Almost from the first I was right out in
the open.”--His wife knew what he meant.--“Before the sun came up”, he
went on, “I had to go in, and come out at another door; but I was soon
very glad of it. I had met a fellow who, I think, will pluck his feet
out of the mud before long.”

“Have you asked him to the rectory?”

“No.”

“Shall I write and ask him?”

“No, my wife. For one thing, you can’t: I don’t know his name, and I
don’t know what he is, or where he lives. But we shall meet again soon.”

“Then you have made an appointment with him!”

“No, I haven’t. But there’s an undertow bringing us on to each other. It
would spoil all if he thought I threw a net for him. I do mean to catch
him if I can, but I will not move till the tide brings him into my arms.
At least, that is how the thing looks to me at present. I believe enough
not to make haste. I don’t want to throw salt on any bird’s tail, but I
do want the birds to come hopping about me, that I may tell them what I
know!”

As near as he could, Wingfold recounted the conversation he had had with
Richard.

“He was a fine-looking fellow,” he said, “--not exactly a gentleman, but
not far off it; little would make him one. He looked a man that could do
things, but I did not satisfy myself as to what might be his trade. He
showed no sign of it, or made any allusion to it. But he was more at
home in the workshop of his own mind than is at all usual with fellows
of his age.”

“It must,” said Helen, “be old Simon Armour’s grandson! I have heard of
him from several quarters; and your description would just fit him. I
know somebody that could tell you about him, but I wish I know anybody
that could tell us about her--I mean Miss Wylder.”

“I like the look of that girl!” said the parson warmly, “What makes you
think she could tell us about my new acquaintance?”

“Only an impertinent speech of that little simian, Vixen Lestrange.
I forget what she said, but it left the impression of an acquaintance
between Bab, as she called her, and some working fellow the child could
not bear.”

“The enmity of that child is praise. I wonder how the Master would have
treated her! He could not have taken her between his knees, and said
whosoever received her received him! A child-mask with a monkey inside
it will only serve a sentimental mother to talk platitudes about!”

“Don’t be too hard on the monkeys, Tom!” said his wife. “You don’t know
what they may turn out to be, after all!”

“Surely it is not too hard on the monkeys to call them monkeys!”

“No; but when the monkey has already begun to be a child!”

“There is the whole point! Has the monkey always begun to be a child
when he gets the shape of a child?--Miss Wylder is not quite so seldom
in church now, I think!”

“I saw her there last Sunday. But I’m afraid she wasn’t thinking much
about what you were saying--she sat with such a stony look in her eyes!
She did seem to come awake for one moment, though!”

“Tell me.”

“I could hardly take my eyes off her, my heart was so drawn to her.
There was a mingling of love and daring, almost defiance, in her look,
that seemed to say, ‘If you are worth it--if you are worth it--then
through fire and water!’ All at once a flash lighted up her lovely
child-face--and what do you think you were at the moment saying?--that
the flower of a plant was deeper than the root of it: that was what
roused her!”

“And I, when I found what I had said, thought within myself what a
fool I was to let out things my congregation could not possibly
understand!--But to reach one is, in the end, to reach all!”

“I must in honesty tell you, however,” pursued Mrs. Wingfold, “that the
next minute she looked as far off as before; nor did she shine up once
again that I saw.”

“I will be glad, though,” said Wingfold, “because of what you tell me!
It shows there is a window in her house that looks in my direction: some
signal may one day catch her eye! That she has a character of her own,
a real one, I strongly suspect. Her mother more than interests me. She
certainly has a fine nature. How much better is a fury than a fish! You
cannot be downright angry save in virtue of the love possible to you.
The proper person, who always does and says the correct thing--well,
I think that person is almost sure to be a liar. At the same time,
the contradictions in the human individual are bewildering, even
appalling!--Now I must go to my study, and think out a thing that’s
bothering me!--By the way,”--he always said that when he was going to
make her a certain kind of present; she knew what was coming--“here’s
something for you--if you can read it! I had just scribbled it this
morning when the young man came up. I made it last night. I was hours
awake after we went to bed!”

This is what he gave her:--

     A SONG IN THE NIGHT.

     A brown bird sang on a blossomy tree,
     Sang in the moonshine, merrily,
     Three little songs, one, two, and three,
     A song for his wife, for himself, and me.

     He sang for his wife, sang low, sang high,
     Filling the moonlight that filled the sky,
     “Thee, thee, I love thee, heart alive!
     Thee, thee, thee, and thy round eggs five!”

     He sang to himself, “What shall I do
     With this life that thrills me through and through!
     Glad is so glad that it turns to ache!
     Out with it, song, or my heart will break!”

     He sang to me, “Man, do not fear
     Though the moon goes down, and the dark is near;
     Listen my song, and rest thine eyes;
     Let the moon go down that the sun may rise!”

     I folded me up in the heart of his tune,
     And fell asleep in the sinking moon;
     I woke with the day’s first golden gleam,
     And lo, I had dreamed a precious dream!



CHAPTER XXVI. _RICHARD AND ALICE_.

One evening Richard went to see his grandfather, and asked if he would
allow him to give Miss Wylder a lesson in horseshoeing: she wanted, he
said, to be able to shoe Miss Brown--or indeed any horse. Simon laughed
heartily at the proposal: it was too great an absurdity to admit of
serious objection!

“Ah, you don’t know Miss Wylder, grandfather!” said Richard.

“Of course not! Never an old man knew anything about a girl! It’s only
the young fellows can fathom a woman! Having girls of his own blinds
a man to the nature of them! There’s going to be a law passed against
growing old! It’s an unfortunate habit the world’s got into somehow, and
the young fellows are going to put a stop to it for fear of losing their
wisdom!”

As the blacksmith spoke, he went on rasping and filing at a house-door
key, fast in a vice on his bench; and his words seemed to Richard to
fall from his mouth like the raspings from his rasp.

“Well, grandfather,” said Richard, “if Miss Wylder don’t astonish you,
she’ll astonish me!”

“Have you ever seen her drive a nail, boy?”

“Not once; but I am just as sure she will do it--and better than any
beginner you’ve seen yet!”

“Well, well, lad! we’ll see! we’ll see! She’s welcome anyhow to come and
have her try! What day shall it be?”

“That I can’t tell yet.”

“It makes me grin to think o’ them doll’s hands with a great hoof in
them!”

“They _are_ little hands--she’s little herself--but they ain’t doll’s
hands, grandfather. You should have seen her box Miss Vixen’s ears for
making a face at me! Her ears didn’t take them for doll’s hands, I’ll be
bound! The room rang again!”

“Bring her when you like, lad,” said Simon.

It was moonlight, and when Richard arrived at the lodgeless gate, he saw
inside it, a few yards away, seated on a stone, the form of a woman. He
thought the first moment, as was natural, of Barbara, but the next,
he knew that this was something strange. She sat in helpless, hopeless
attitude, with her head in her hands. A strange dismay came upon him
at the sight of her; his heart fluttered in a cage of fear. He did not
believe in ghosts. If he saw one, it would but show that sometimes when
a person died there was a shadow left that was like him! There might be
millions of ghosts, and no God the more! What are we all but spectres of
the unknown? What was death but a vanishing of the unknown? What are
the dead but vanishments! Yet he shuddered at the thought that he had
actually come upon one of the dead that are still alive, of whom, once
or twice in a long century, one is met wandering vaguely about the
world, unable to find what used to make it home. He peered through the
iron bars as into a charnel-house: one such wanderer was enough to make
the whole vault of night a gaping tomb.

Putting his key in the lock made a sharp little noise. The figure
started up, her face gleaming white in the moon, but dropped again on
her stone, unable to stand. Richard could not take his eyes off her.
While closing the gate he dared not turn his back to her. She sat
motionless as before, her head in her hands, her elbows on her knees.
He stood for a moment staring and trembling, then, with an effort of the
will that approached agony, went toward her. As he drew nearer, he began
to feel as if he had once known her. He must have seen her in London
somewhere, he thought. But why was her shadow sitting there, the lonely
hostless guest of the night’s caravansary?

He went nearer. The form remained motionless. Something reminded him of
Alice Manson.

He laid his hand on the figure. It was a woman to the touch as well as
to the eye. But not yet did she move an inch. He would have raised her
face. Then she resisted. All at once he was sure she was Alice.

“Alice!” he cried. “Good God!--sitting in the cold night!”

She made him no answer, sat stone-still.

“What shall I do for you?” he said.

“Nothing,” she answered, in a voice that might well have been that of a
spectre. “Leave me,” she added, as if with the last entreaty of despair.

“You are in trouble, Alice!” he persisted. “Why are you so far from
home? Where’s Arthur?”

“What right have _you_ to question me?” she returned, almost fiercely.

“None but that I am your brother’s friend.”

“Friend!” she echoed, in a faint far-away voice.

“You forget, Alice, that I did all I could to be your friend, and you
would not let me!”

She neither spoke nor moved. Her stillness seemed to say, “Neither will
I now.”

“Where are you going?” he asked, after a hopeless pause.

“Nowhere.”

“Why did you leave London?”

“Why should I tell you?”

“I think you will tell me!”

“I will not.”

“You know I would do anything for you!”

“I daresay!”

“You know I would!”

“I don’t.”

“Try me.”

“I will not.”

Her voice grew more and more faint and forced. Her words and it were
very unlike.

“Don’t go on like that, Alice. You’re not being reasonable,” pleaded
Richard.

“Oh, do leave me alone!”

“I won’t leave you.”

“As you please! It’s nothing to me.”

“Alice, why do you speak to me like that? Tell me what’s wrong.”

“Everything is wrong. Everybody is wrong. The whole world is wrong.”

Her voice was a little stronger. She raised herself, and looked him in
the face.

“I hope not.”

“I hope it is!”

“Why should you?”

“To think things were right would be too terrible! I say everything’s
wrong.”

“What’s to be done, then?” sighed Richard.

“I must get out of it all.”

“But how?”

“There is only one way.”

“What is that?”

“Everybody knows.”

“Alice,” cried Richard, nearly in despair like herself, “are you out of
your mind?”

“Pretty nearly.--Why shouldn’t I be? There are plenty of us!”

“Alice, if you won’t tell me what is the matter with you, if you won’t
let me help you, I will sit down by you till the morning.”

“What if I drop?”

“Then I will carry you away. The sooner you drop the better.” Her
resolution seemed to break.

“I ‘ain’t eaten a mouthful to-day,” she said.

“My poor girl! Promise me to wait till I come back. Here, put on my
coat.”

She was past resisting more, and allowed him to button his coat about
her.

But he was in great perplexity: where was he to get anything for her?
And how was she to live till he brought it! It was terrible to think of!
Alice with nothing to eat, and no refuge but a stone in the moonlight!
This was what her religion had done for Alice!

“Miss Wylder’s God!” he said to himself with contempt.

“He’s well enough for the wind and the stars and the moonlight! but for
human beings--for Alice--for creatures dying of hunger, what a mockery!
If he were there, it would be a sickness to talk of him! Beauty is
beauty, but for anything behind it--pooh!”

He stood a moment hesitating. Alice swayed on her seat, and would have
fallen. He caught her--and in the act remembered a little cottage, a hut
rather, down a lane a short way off. He took her in his arms and started
for it.

She was dreadfully thin, but a strong man cannot walk very fast carrying
a woman, however light she be, and she had half come to herself before
he reached the cottage.

“Richard, dear Richard!” she murmured at his ear, “where are you
carrying me? Are you going to kill me, or are you taking me home with
you? Do set me down. Where’s Arthur? I will let you be good to me! I
will! I can’t hold out for ever!”

She seemed to be dreaming--apparently about their meeting in
Regent-street; or perhaps she was delirious from want of food. He walked
on without attempting to answer her. Some great wrong had been done her,
and his heart sank within him; for he believed in no judgment, no final
setting right of wrongs. He knew of nothing better than that the
wronged and the wronger would cease together. Certainly, if his
creed represented fact, the best thing in existence is that it has no
essential life in it, that it cannot continue, that it must cease: the
good of living is that we must die. The hope of death is the inspiration
of Buddhism! His heart ached with pity for the girl. His help, his
tenderness expanded, and folded her in the wings of a shelter that was
not empty because his creed was false.

“She belongs to me!” he said to himself. “The world has thrown her off:
‘be it lawful I take up what’s cast away!’ Here is the one treasure, a
human being! the best thing in the world! I will cherish it. Poor girl!
she shall at least know one man a refuge!”

The cottage was a wretched place, but a labourer and his family lived
in it. He knocked many times. A sleepy voice answered at last, and
presently a sleepy-eyed man half opened the door.

“What’s the deuce of a row?” he grunted.

“Here’s a young woman half dead with hunger and cold!” said Richard.
“You must take her in or she’ll die!”

“Can’t you take her somewhere else?”

“There’s nowhere else near enough.--Come, come, let us in! You wouldn’t
have her die on your doorstep!”

“I don’ow as I see the sense o’ bringin’ her here!” answered the man
sleepily. “We ain’t out o’ the hunger-wood ourselves yet!--Wife! here’s
a chap as says he’s picked up a young ‘oman a dyin’ o’ ‘unger!--‘tain’t
likely, be it, i’ this land o’ liberty?”

“Likely enough, Giles, where the liberty’s mainly to starve!” replied a
feminine voice. “Let un bring the poor thing in. There ain’t nowhere to
put her, an’ there ain’t nothin’ to give her, but she can’t lie out in
the wide world!”

“‘Ain’t you got a drop o’ milk?” asked Richard.

“Milk!” echoed the woman; “it’s weeks an’ weeks the childer ‘ain’t
tasted of it! The wonder to me is that the cows let a poor man milk
‘em!”

Richard set Alice on her feet, but she could not stand alone; had he
taken his arm from round her, she would have fallen in a heap. But the
woman while she spoke had been getting a light, and now came to the door
with a candle-end. Her husband kept prudently in her shadow.

“Poor thing! poor thing! she be far gone!” she said, when she saw her.
“Bring her in, sir. There’s a chair she can sit upon. I’ll get her a
drop o’ tea--that’ll be better’n milk! There’s next to no work, and the
squire he be mad wi’ Giles acause o’ some rabbit or other they says he
snared--which they did say it was a hare--I don’ow: take the skin off,
an’ who’s to tell t’one from t’other! I do know I was right glad on’t
for the childer! An’ if the parson tell me my man ‘ill be damned for
hare or rabbit, an’ the childer starvin’, I’ll give him a bit o’ my
mind.--‘No, sir!’ says I; ‘God ain’t none o’ your sort!’ says I. ‘An’
p’r’aps the day may be at hand when the rich an’ the poor ‘ill have
a turn o’ a change together! Leastways there’s somethin’ like it
somewheres i’ the Bible,’ says I. ‘An’ if it be i’ the Bible,’ says
I, ‘it’s likely to be true, for the Bible do take the part o’ the
rich--mostly!’”

She was a woman who liked to hear herself talk, and so spoke as one
listening to herself. Like most people, whether they talk or not, she
got her ideas second-hand; but Richard was nowise inclined to differ
with what she said about the Bible, for he knew little more and no
better about it than she. Had parson Wingfold, who did know the Bible as
few parsons know it, heard her, he would have told her that, by search
express and minute, he had satisfied himself that there was not a word
in the Bible against the poor, although a multitude of words against the
rich. The sins of the poor are not once mentioned in the Bible, the sins
of the rich very often. The rich may think this hard, but I state the
fact, and do not much care what they think. When they come to judge
themselves and others fairly, they will understand that God is no
respecter of persons, not favouring even the poor in his cause.

Richard set Alice on the one chair, by the poor little fire the woman
was coaxing to heat the water she had put on it in a saucepan. Alice
stared at the fire, but hardly seemed to see it. The woman tried to
comfort her. Richard looked round the place: the man was in the bed
that filled one corner; a mattress in another was crowded with children;
there was no spot where she could lie down.

“I shall be back as soon’s ever I can,” he said, and left the cottage.



CHAPTER XXVII. _A SISTER_.

He hurried back over the bare, moon-white road. He had seen Miss Wylder
come that morning, and hoped to reach the house, which was not very far
off, before she should have gone to bed. Of her alone in that house did
he feel he could ask the help he needed. If she had gone home, he would
try the gardener’s wife! But he wanted a woman with wit as well as will.
He would help himself from the larder if he could not do better--but
there would be no brandy there!

Many were the thoughts that, as now he walked, now ran, passed swiftly
through his mind. It was strange, he said to himself, that this girl,
of whom he had seen so little, yet in whom he felt so great an interest,
should reappear in such dire necessity! When last he saw her, she hurt
herself in frantic escape from him: now she could not escape!

“And this is the world,” he went on, “that the priests would have you
believe ruled by the providence of an all powerful and all good being!
_My_ heart is sore for the girl--a good girl, if ever there was one,
so that I would give--yes, I think I would give my life for her! I
certainly would, rather than see her in misery! Of course I would! Any
man would, worth calling a man! When it came to the point, I should not
think twice about it! And there is _he_, sitting up there in his glory,
and looking down unmoved upon her wretchedness! I will _not_ believe in
any such God!”

Of course he was more than right in refusing to believe in such a God!
Were such a being possible, he would not be God. If there were such a
being, and all powerful, he would be _the_ one _not_ to be worshipped.
But was Richard, therefore, to believe in no God altogether different?
May a God only be such as is not to be believed in? Is it not rather
that, to be God, the being must be so good that a man is hardly to be
found able--must I say also, or willing--to believe in him? Perhaps, if
he had been as anxious to do his duty all over, out and out, as he was
where his feelings pointed to it, Richard might have had a “What if” or
two to propose to himself. Might he not for instance have said, “What
if a certain being should even now be putting in my way the honour and
gladness of helping this woman--making me his messenger to her?” What if
his soul was too impatient to listen for the next tick of the clock
of eternity, and was left therefore to declare there was no such clock
going! Ought he not even now to have been capable of thinking that
there might be a being with a design for his creatures yet better
than _merely_ to make them happy? What if, that gained, the other must
follow! Here was a man judging the eternal, who did not even know his
own name!

As he drew near the house, the question arose in his mind: if Miss
Wylder was gone to her room, what was he to do to find her? He did not
know where her room was! He knew that, when she went up the stair, at
the top of it she turned to the right--and he knew no more.

The side-gate at the lodge was yet open; so was the great door of the
house. He entered softly, and going along a wide passage, arrived at the
foot of the great staircase, which ascended with the wide sweep of
half an oval, just in time to see at the top the reflection of a candle
disappearing to the right. There were many chances against its being
Barbara’s, but with an almost despairing recklessness he darted up,
and turning, saw again the reflection of the candle from the wall of a
passage that crossed the corridor. He followed as swiftly and lightly
as he could, and at the corner all but overturned an elderly maid, whose
fright gave place to wrath when she saw who had endangered her.

“I want to see Miss Wylder!” said Richard hurriedly.

“You have no call to be in this part of the house,” returned the woman.

“I can’t stop to explain,” answered Richard. “Please tell me which is
her room.”

“Indeed I will not.”

“When she knows my business, she will be glad I came to her.”

“You may find it for yourself.”

“Will you take a message for me then?”

“I am not Miss Wylder’s maid!” she replied. “Neither is it my place to
wait on my fellow-servants.”

She turned away, tossing her head, and rounded the corner into the
corridor.

Richard looked down the passage. A light was burning at the other end of
it, and he saw there were not many doors in it. With a sudden resolve to
go straight ahead, he called out clear and plain--

“Miss Wylder!” and again, “Miss Wylder!”

A door opened and, to his delight, out peeped Barbara’s dainty little
head. She saw Richard, gave one glance in the opposite direction, and
made him a sign to come to her. He did so. She was in her dressing-gown:
it was not her candle he had followed, but its light had led him to her!

“What is it!” she said hurriedly. “Don’t speak loud: lady Ann might hear
you!”

“There’s a girl all but dying--” began Richard.

“Go to the library,” she said. “I will come to you there. I shan’t be a
minute!”

She went in, and her door closed with scarce a sound. Then first a kind
of scare fell upon Richard: one of those doors might open, and the pale,
cold face of the formidable lady look out Gorgon-like! If it was her
candle he had followed, she could hardly have put it down when he called
Miss Wylder! He ran gliding through passage and corridor, and down the
stair, noiseless and swift as a bat. Arrived in the library, he lighted
a candle, and, lest any one should enter, pretended to be looking out
books. Within five minutes Barbara was at his side.

“Now!” she said, and stood silent, waiting.

There was a solemn look on her face, and none of the smile with which
she usually greeted him. Their last interview had made her miserable for
a while, and more solemn for ever. For hours the world was black about
her, and she felt as if Richard had struck her. To say there was no
God behind the loveliness of things, was to say there was no
loveliness--nothing but a pretence of loveliness! The world was a
painted thing! a toy for a doll! a phantasm!

He told her where and in what state he had found the girl, and to what
a poor place he had been compelled to carry her, saying he feared she
would die before he could get anything for her, except Miss Wylder would
help him.

“Brandy!” she said, thinking. “Lady Ann has some in her room. The rest I
can manage!--Wait here; I will be with you in three minutes.”

She went, and Richard waited--without anxiety, for whatever Barbara
undertook seemed to those who knew her as good as done.

She reappeared in her red cloak, with a basket beneath it. Richard,
wondering, would have taken the basket from her.

“Wait till we are out of the house,” she said. “Open that bay window,
and mind you don’t make a noise. They mustn’t find it undone: we have to
get in that way again.”

Richard obeyed scrupulously. It was a French window, and issue was easy.

“What if they close the shutters?” he ventured to say.

“They don’t always. We must take our chance,” she replied.

He thought she must mean to go as far as the lodge only.

“You won’t forget, miss, to fasten the window again?” he whispered, as
he closed it softly behind them.

“We must always risk something!” she answered. “Come along!”

“Please give me the basket,” said Richard.

She gave it him; and the next moment he found her leading to the way
through the park toward the lodgeless gate.

They had walked a good many minutes, and Barbara had not said a word.

“How good of you, miss, to come!” ventured Richard.

“To come!” she returned. “What else did you expect? Did you not want me
to come?”

“I never thought of your coming! I only thought you would get the right
things for me--if you could!”

“You don’t think I would leave the poor girl to the mercy of a man
who would tell her there was nobody anywhere to help her out of her
troubles!”

“I don’t think I should have told her that; I might have told her there
was nobody to bring worse trouble upon her!”

“What comfort would that be, when the trouble was come--and as strong as
she could bear!”

Richard was silent a moment, then in pure self-defence answered--

“A man must neither take nor give the comfort of a lie!”

“Tell me honestly then,” said Barbara, “--for I do believe you are an
honest man--tell me, are you _sure_ there is no God? Have you gone all
through the universe looking for him, and failed to find him? Is there
no possible chance that there may be a God!”

“I do not believe there is.”

“But are you sure there is not? Do you know it, so that you have a right
to say it?”

Richard hesitated.

“I cannot say,” he answered, “that I know it as I know a proposition in
Euclid, or as I know that I must not do what is wrong.”

“Then what right have you to go and make people miserable by saying
there is no God--as if you, being an honest man, knew it, and would not
say it if you did not know it? You take away the only comfort left the
unhappy! Of course you have a right to say you don’t believe it--but
only that! And I would think twice before I said even that, where all
the certainty was that it would make people miserable!”

“I don’t know anybody it would make miserable,” said Richard.

“It would make me dead miserable,” returned Barbara.

“I know many it would redeem from misery,” rejoined Richard. “To
believe in a cruel being ready to pounce upon them is enough to make the
strongest miserable.”

“The cruel being that made the world, you mean?”

“Yes--if the world was made.”

“If one believes in any God, it must be the same God that made this
lovely night--and the gladness it would give me, if you did not take it
from me!”

Richard was silent for a moment.

“How can I take it from you?” he said, “if you think what I say is not
true?”

“You make me fear lest it should be true; and then farewell to all
joy in life--not only for want of some one to love right heartily, but
because there is no refuge from the evils that are all about us. I have
no quarrel with you if you say these evils are brought upon us by an
evil being, who lives to make men miserable; there you leave room to
believe also in one fighting against him, to whom we can go for help!
The God our parson believes in he calls ‘God, our saviour.’ To take away
the notion of any kind of God, is to make life too dreary to live!”

“Yours is the old doctrine of the Magians,” remarked Richard.

“Well?”

“I could accept it easily beside what people believe now.”

“What do they believe?”

“They believe in the God of the Bible, who makes pets of a few of
his creatures, and sends all the rest into eternal torment. Would you
comfort people with the good news of a God like that?”

“Such a God is not to be believed in! Deny him all you can. But because
there cannot be an evil God, what right have you to say there cannot be
a good one? That is to reason backward! The very notion of a night like
this having no meaning in it--no God in it who intends it to look just
so, is enough to make _me_ miserable. But I will _not_ believe it! I
shall hate you if you make me believe it!”

“The Bible says there is an evil being behind it!”

“I don’t know much about the Bible, but I don’t believe it says that.”

“Of course it _calls_ him good, but it says he does certain things which
we know to be bad.”

“You make too much of the Bible, if it says such things. Throw it out
of the window and have done with it. But how dare you tell me there is
nobody greater than me to account for me! You make of me a creature that
was not worth being made; a mere ooze from nothing, like the scum on
the pond, there because it cannot help it. If I have no God to be my
justification, my being becomes loathsome to me. I don’t know how I
came to be, where I came from, or where I am going to; and you say there
_can_ be nobody that knows; you tell me there is no help; that I must
die in the dark I came out of; that there is no love about me knowing
what it loves. Even if I found myself alive and awake and happy after I
was dead, what comfort would there be if there was no God? How should I
ever grow better?--how get rid of the wrong things in myself?--If life
has no better thing for this poor woman, be kind and let her die and
have done with it. Why keep her in such a hopeless existence as you
believe in? You can have but little regard for her surely! I beg of you
don’t say _that thing_ to her, for you don’t _know_ it.”

Richard was again silent for a while; then he said--

“I had no intention of saying anything of the sort, but I promise
because you wish it.”

“Thank you! thank you!”

“I promise too,” added Richard, “that I will not say anything more of
that kind until I have thought a good deal more about it.”

“Thank you again heartily!” said Barbara. “I am sure of one thing--that
you cannot have ground for not hoping! Is not hope all we have got? He
is the very butcher of humanity who kills its hope! It is hope we live
by!”

“But if it be a false hope?”

“A false hope cannot do so much harm as a false fear!”

“The false fear is just what I oppose. The Bible tells people--”

“There you are back to the book you don’t believe in! And because you
don’t believe in the book that makes people afraid, you insist there can
be no such thing as the gladness my heart cries out for! If you want to
make people happy, why don’t you preach a good God instead of no God?”

“I will think about what you say,” replied Richard.

“Mind,” said Barbara, “I don’t pretend to know anything! I only say I
have a right to hope. And for the Bible, I must have a better look at
it! A man who, being a good man, wants to comfort us poor women, whom
men knock about so, by taking from us the idea of a living God that
cares for us, cannot be so wise but that he may be wrong about a book!
Have you read it all through now, Mr. Tuke--so that you are sure it says
what you say it says?”

“I have not,” answered Richard; “but everybody knows what it says!”

“Well, I don’t! Nobody has taken the trouble to tell me, and I haven’t
read it.--But I’ll just give you a little bit of my life to look at.
I was with my father and mother for a while in Sydney, and there a
terrible lie was told about me, and everybody believed it, and nobody
would speak to me. Somehow people are always ready to believe lies--even
people who would not tell lies! We had to leave Sydney in consequence,
and to this day everybody in Sydney believes me a wicked, ugly
girl!--Now I know I am not! See--I can hold my face to the stars! It was
trying to help a poor creature that nobody would do anything for, that
got the lie said of me. I thought my first business was to take care of
my neighbour, and I did it, and that’s what came of it!”

“And you believe in a God that would let that come to you for doing
what was good?” said Richard, with an indignation that exploded in all
directions.

“Stop! stop! the thing’s not over yet! The world is not done with yet!
What if there be a God who loves me, and cares as little what people
say about me, because he knows the truth, as I care about it because _I_
know the truth!--But that is not what I wanted to say; this is it: if
such lies were told, and believed, about an innocent girl trying to do
her duty, why may not people have told lies about God, and other people
believed them? The same thing may hold with the book. Perhaps it does
not speak such lies about God, but stupid or lying people have said that
it speaks them, and other people have believed those, and said it again.
I hope with all my heart you are saying what is false when you say there
is no God; but that is not nearly so bad as saying there is a God who is
not good. I can’t think anybody believing in a God like that, would have
been able to write a book about him that so many good people care to
read.”

Richard was thoroughly silenced now. I do not mean that he was at all
convinced, but how could he find much to say with that appeal of Barbara
to her own sore experience echoing in his heart! And they were just at
the door of the cottage. He knocked, and receiving no answer, opened the
door, and they went in.

There was light enough from the glow of a mere remnant of fire in a
corner, to see, on a stool by its side, the good woman of the house fast
asleep, with her head against the wall. Her husband was snoring in bed.
The children lay still as death on their mattress upon the floor. Alice
sat on the one chair, her head fallen back, and her face as white
as human face could be; but when they listened, they could hear her
breathing. Beside the pale, worn, vanishing girl, Barbara looked the
incarnation of concentrated life and energy. Her cheeks were flushed
with the rapid walk, and her eyes were still flashing with the thoughts
that had been rising in her, and the words that had been going from her.
For a moment she stood radiant with the tender glow of an infinite pity,
as she looked down on the death-like girl; then, with a sigh in which
trembled the very luxury of service, she put her arm under the poor
back-fallen head, and lifted it gently up. With the motion, Alice’s eyes
opened, like those of certain wonderful dolls, but they did not seem to
have so much life in them.

“Quick!” said Barbara; “give me a little brandy in the cup.”

Richard made haste, and Barbara put the cup to Alice’s lips.

“Dear, take a little brandy; it will revive you,” she said.

Alice came to her windows and looked, and saw the face of an angel
bending over her. She obeyed the heavenly vision, and drank what it
offered. It made her cough, and their hostess started to her feet as if
dreading censure; but a smile and a greeting from Barbara reassured her.
She thanked her for her hospitality as if Alice had been her sister, and
slipping money into her hand, coaxingly begged her to make up the fire a
little, that she might warm some soup.

Almost at once upon her tasting the soup, a little colour began to come
in Alice’s cheek. Barbara was feeding her, and a feeble smile flickered
over the thin face every time it looked up in Barbara’s. Richard stood
gazing, and saw that hope in God could not much have lessened one
woman’s tenderness. He had scarcely seen tenderness in his mother; and
certainly he had seen little hope. She was thoroughly kind to him,
and he knew she would have died for her husband; but he had seen no
sweetness in their intercourse, neither could remember any sweetness to
himself. The hot spring of his aunt’s love to him was no geyser, and he
never knew in this world how hot it was. Hence was it to Richard more
than a gracious sight, it was a revelation to him, as he watched
the electric play of the love that passed from the strong, tender,
child-like girl to the delicate, weary, starved creature to whom she was
ministering.

At length Barbara thought it better she should have no more food for the
present, when naturally the question arose, what was to be done next.
The saviours went out into the night to have a free talk, and a little
fresh air--sorely wanted in the cottage.

Richard then told Barbara that, if she did not disapprove, he would take
Alice to his grandfather: he was certain he would receive her cordially,
and both he and Jessie would do what they could for her. But he did not
know of any vehicle he could get to carry her, except his grandfather’s
pony-cart, and that was four miles away!

“All right!” said Barbara. “I will stay with her, in and out, till you
come.”

“But how will you get home after?”

“As I came, of course. Don’t trouble yourself about me; I can look after
myself.”

“But if they should have fastened the library-window?”

“Then I will take refuge with mother Night. There will be room enough in
the park. Perhaps I may go to roost in that beech-tree. Don’t you think
about me. I shall come to no harm. Go at once and fetch the pony-cart.”

Richard set off running, and came to his grandfather’s while it was yet
unreviving night; but he had little difficulty in rousing the old man.
He told him all he knew about Alice, as well as the plight in which he
had found her. Simon looked grave when he heard how his daughter had
come between Richard and his friends. He hurried on his clothes, put
the pony to, and got into the cart: he would himself fetch the girl! In
another moment they were spinning along the gray road.

When they reached the hut, there was Barbara standing sentry near the
door. She went and talked to Simon. Richard got down and went in. He
found Alice wide awake, staring into the fire, with a look that brought
a great rush of pity into his heart afresh. Remembering how the girl
had shrunk from him before, he feared himself unfit to help, and knew
himself unable to comfort her. For the first time he vaguely felt that
there might be troubles needing a hand which neither man nor woman could
hold out. Their kind hostess had crept into bed beside her husband,
and was snoring as loud as he. Without a word he wrapped Alice in the
blanket he had brought, and taking her once more in his arms, carried
her to the cart. Leaning down from his perch, the sturdy old man
received her in his, placed her comfortably beside him, put his arm
round her, and with a nod to Barbara, and never a word to his grandson,
drove away. Richard knew his rugged goodness too well to mind how he
treated him, and was confident in him for Alice, as one to do not less
but more than he promised. He was thus free to walk home with Barbara,
glad at heart to know Alice in harbour, but a little anxious until Miss
Wylder should be safe shut in her chamber.



CHAPTER XXVIII. _BARBARA AND LADY ANN._

As they went, neither said much. Both seemed to avoid the subject of
their conversation as they came. They talked of poetry and fiction, and
did not differ. Though Barbara there also had precious insights, happily
she had no opinions.

When they reached a certain point, Richard drew back, and, from a coign
of vantage, saw Barbara try the study-window and fail. He then followed
her as she went round to the door, and, still covertly, saw her ring the
bell. The door was opened with what seemed to him a portentous celerity,
and she disappeared. He turned away into the park, and wandered about,
revolving many things, till by slow gradations the sky’s gray idea
unfolded to a brilliant conviction, and, lo, there was the morning,
not to be controverted! But he took care to let the house not only
come awake, but come to its senses, before he sought admission. When
it seemed well astir, he rang the bell; and when the door, after some
delay, was opened, he went straight to the library, and was fairly at
work by five o’clock.

He saw nothing of Barbara all day, or indeed of any of the family except
Vixen, who looked in, made a face at him, and went away, leaving the
door open. At eight o’clock he had his breakfast, and at nine he was
again in the library; so that by lunch-time he had been seven of his
eight hours at work, and by half-past two found himself free to go to
his grandfather’s and inquire after Alice.

On his way to the road through the park, he met Arthur Lestrange.
Richard touched his hat as was his wont, and would have passed, but,
with no friendly expression on his countenance, Arthur stopped.

“Where are you going, Tuke?” he said.

“I am going to my grandfather’s, sir,” answered Richard.

“Excuse me, but your day’s work is not over by many hours yet.”

Richard found his temper growing troublesome, but tried hard to keep it
in hand.

“If you remember, sir,” he said, “our agreement mentioned no hour for
beginning or leaving off work.”

“That is true, but you undertook to give me eight hours of your day!”

“Yes, sir. I was at work by five o’clock this morning, and have given
you more than eight hours.”

“Hm!” said Arthur.

“I am quite as anxious,” pursued Richard, “to fulfill my engagement, as
you can be to have it fulfilled.”

Arthur said nothing.

“Ask Thomas, who let me in this morning,” resumed Richard, “whether I
was not at work in the library by five o’clock.”

It went a good deal against the grain with Richard to appeal to any
witness for corroboration: he was proud of being a man of his word;
but although not greatly anxious to keep his temporary position, he
was anxious the compact should not be broken through anything he did or
said.

“Let you in?” exclaimed Arthur; “--let you in before five o’clock in the
morning? Then you were out all night!”

“I was.”

“That cannot be permitted.”

“I am surely right in believing that, when my work is over, I am my own
master! I had something to do that must be done. My grandfather knows
all I was about!”

“Oh, yes, I remember! old Simon Armour, the blacksmith!” returned
Arthur. “But,” he went on, plainly softening a little, “you ought not to
work for him while you are in my employment.”

“I know that, sir; and if I wanted, my grandfather would not let me.
While my work is yours, it is all yours, sir.”

With that he turned, and left Arthur where he stood a little relieved,
though now annoyed as well that a man in his employment should not
have waited to be dismissed. Hastening to the smithy, he found his
grandfather putting off his apron to go home for a cup of tea.

“Oh, there you are!” he said. “I thought we should be catching sight of
you before long!”

“How’s Alice, grandfather? You might be sure I should want to know!”

“She’s been asleep all day, the best thing for her!”

“I hope, grandfather,” said Richard, for Simon’s tone troubled him a
little, “you are not vexed with me! I assure you I had nothing to do
with her coming down here--that I know of. You would not have had me
leave her sitting there, out on that stone in the moonlight, all night
long, a ghost before her time without a grave to go to? She would have
been dead before the morning! She must have been! I am certain _you_
would not have left her there!”

“God forbid, lad! If you thought me out of temper with you, it was a
mistake. I confess the thing does bother me, but I’m not blaming _you_.
You acted like a Christian.”

Richard hardly relished the mode of his grandfather’s approbation. A
man ought to do the right thing because he was a man, not because he
was something else than a man! He had yet to learn that a man and a
Christian are precisely and entirely the same thing; that a being who is
not a Christian is not a man. I perfectly know how absurd this must seem
to many, but such do not see what I see. No one, however strong he may
feel his obligations, will ever be man enough to fulfill them except he
be a Christian--that is, one who, like Christ, cares first for the will
of the Father. One who thinks he can meet his obligations now, can have
no idea what is required of him in virtue of his being what he is--no
idea of what his own nature requires of him. So much is required that
nothing more could be required. Let him ask himself whether he is
doing what he requires of himself. If he answer, “I can do it without
Christianity anyway,” I reply, “Do it; try to do it, and I know where
the honest endeavour will bring you. Don’t try to do it, and you are not
man enough to be worth reasoning with.”

Simon and his grandson had not yet turned the corner, when Richard heard
a snort he knew: there, sure enough, stood Miss Brown, hitched to the
garden-paling, peaceable but impatient.

“Miss Wylder here!” said Richard.

“Yes, lad! She’s been here an hour and more. Jessie came and told me,
but I knew it: I heard the mare, and knew the sound of my own shoes on
her!--I doubt if she’ll stand it much longer though!” he added, as she
pawed the road. “Well, she’s a fine creature!”

“Yes, she’s a good mare!”

“I don’t mean the mare! I mean the mistress!”

“Miss Wylder is just noble!” said Richard. “But I’m afraid she got into
trouble last night!”

“It don’t sound much like it!” returned the old man, as Barbara’s
musical, bird-like laugh came from the cottage. “She ain’t breaking her
heart!--Alice, as you call her, must be doing well, or missie wouldn’t
be laughing like that!”

As they entered, Barbara came gliding down the perpendicular stair in
front of them, her face yet radiant with the shadow of the laugh they
had heard.

“Good morning, Mr. Armour!” she said. “--I did not expect to see you so
soon again, Mr. Tuke. Will you put me up!”

Richard released Miss Brown, got her into position, and gave his hand to
Barbara’s foot, as he had seen Mr. Lestrange do. But lifting, he nearly
threw her over Miss Brown’s back. She burst into her lovely laugh,
clutched at a pommel, and held fast.

“I’m not quite ready to go to heaven all at once!” she said.

“I thought you were!” answered Richard. “But indeed I beg your pardon! I
might have known how light you must be!”

“I am very heavy for my size!”

“May I walk a little way alongside of you, miss?”

“You have a right; I have offered you my company more than once,”
 answered Barbara.

They walked a little way in silence.

“Why is there no way to the heaven you believe in, but the terrible gate
of death?” asked Richard at length. “If a God of love, as you say your
God is, made the world, and could not--for want of room, I suppose--let
his creatures live on in it, he would surely have thought of some better
way out of it than such a ghastly one!”

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Barbara was her readiness. Very
seldom had one to wait for her answer.

“This morning,” she said, “for the first time with me on her back at
least, Miss Brown refused a jump--and I grant the place _looked_ ugly!
But I gave her a little sharp persuasion, and she took it beautifully,
coming away as proud of herself as possible.--If there be a God, he must
know as much better than you and I, as I know better than Miss Brown.
One who never did anything we couldn’t understand, couldn’t be God. How
else could he make things?”

“Yes, if they are made!”

“If I were you, I would be quite sure first, before I said they were
not. You won’t assert anything you are not sure of; don’t deny anything
either. Good-bye.--Go, Miss Brown!”

She was more peremptory than usual, but he liked it--rather. He felt she
had some right to speak to him so: positive as he had hitherto been, he
was not really sure of anything!

The fact was, Barbara had been irritated that morning, and had got over
the irritation, but not quite over the excitement of it. She thought
Miss Brown should never again set hoof within the gates of Mortgrange.

After breakfast, lady Ann had sent for her to her dressing-room, and
Barbara had gone, prepared to hear of something to her disadvantage. The
same woman who had been so uncivil to Richard, had watched and seen them
go out together. She fastened the library window behind them, and went
and told lady Ann, who requested her to mind her own business.

When Barbara rang the bell, not caring much--for a night in the park was
of little consequence to her--the door was immediately opened, but only
a little way, by some one without a light, whose face or even person
she could not distinguish, for the door was quite in shadow. It closed
again, and she was left darkling, to find her way to her room as best
she might. She stood for a moment.

“Who is it?” she said.

No one answered. She heard neither footstep nor sound of garments.
Carefully feeling her way, she got to the foot of the great stair, and
in another minute was in her room.

When Barbara entered lady Ann’s dressing-room, she greeted her with less
than her usual frigidity.

“Good morning, my love! You were late last night!” she said.

“I thought I was rather early,” answered Barbara, laughing.

“May I ask where you were?” said her ladyship, with her habitual
composure.

“About a mile and a half from here, at that little cottage in
Burrow-lane.”

“How did you come to be there--and for so long? You were hours away!”

Even lady Ann could not prevent a little surprise in her tone as she
said the words.

“Mr. Tuke came and told me----”

“I beg your pardon, but do I know Mr. Tuke?”

“The bookbinder, at work in the library.”

“Wouldn’t your mother be rather astonished at your having secrets with a
working-man?”

“Secrets, lady Ann!” exclaimed Barbara. “Your ladyship forgets herself!”

Lady Ann looked up with a languid stare in the fresh young face, rosy
with anger.

“Was I not in the act,” pursued the girl, “of telling you all about it?
You dare accuse me of such a thing! I only wish you would carry that
tale of me to my mother!”

“I am not accustomed to be addressed in this style, Barbara!” drawled
lady Ann, without either raising or quickening her voice.

“Then it is time you began, if you are accustomed to speak to girls as
you have just spoken to me! I am not accustomed to be told that I have
a secret with any man--or woman either! I don’t know which I should like
worse! I have no secrets. I hate them.”

“Compose yourself, my child. You need not be afraid of _me_!” said lady
Ann. “I am not your enemy.”

She thought Barbara’s anger came from fear, for she regarded herself
as a formidable person. But for victory she rested mainly on her
imperturbability.

“Look me in the face, lady Ann, and tell yourself whether I am afraid
of you!” answered Barbara, the very soul of indignation flashing in her
eyes. “I fear no enemy.”

Lady Ann found she had a new sort of creature to deal with.

“That I am your friend, you will not doubt when I tell you it was I who
let you in last night! I did not wish your absence or the hour of
your return to be known. My visitors must not be remarked upon by my
servants!”

“Then why did you not speak to me?”

“I wished to give you a lesson.”

“You thought to frighten _me_, as if I were a doughy, half-baked English
girl! Allow me to ask how you were aware I was out.”

Lady Ann was not ready with her answer. She wanted to establish a
protective claim on the girl--to have a secret with, and so a hold upon
her.

“If the servants do not know,” Barbara went on, “would you mind saying
how your ladyship came to know? Have the servants up, and I will tell
the whole thing before them all--and prove what I say too.”

“Calm yourself, Miss Wylder. You will scarcely do yourself justice in
English society, if you give way to such temper. As you wish the whole
house to know what you were about, pray begin with me, and explain the
thing to me.”

“Mr. Tuke told me he had found a young woman almost dead with hunger and
cold by the way-side, and carried her to a cottage. I came to you,
as you well remember, and begged a little brandy. Then I went to the
larder, and got some soup. She would certainly have been dead before the
morning, if we had not taken them to her.”

“Why did you not tell me what you wanted the brandy for?”

“Because you would have tried to prevent me from going.”

“Of course I should have had the poor creature attended to!--I confess I
should have sent a more suitable person.”

“I thought myself the most suitable person in the house.”

“Why?”

“Because the thing came to me to get done, and I had to go; and because
I knew I should be kinder to her than any one you could send. I know too
well what servants are, to trust them with the poor!”

“You may be far too kind to such people!”

“Yes, if one hasn’t common sense. But this girl you couldn’t be too kind
to.”

“It is just as I feared: she has taken you in quite! Those tramps are
all the same!”

“The same as other people--yes; that is, as different from each other as
your ladyship and I.”

Lady Ann found Barbara too much for her, and changed her attack.

“But how came you to be so long? As you have just said, Burrow-lane
can’t be more than a mile and a half from here!”

“We could not leave her at the cottage; it was not a fit place for her.
Mr. Tuke had to go to his grandfather’s--four miles--and I had to stay
with her till he came back. Old Simon came himself in his spring-cart,
and took her away.”

“Was there no woman at the cottage?”

“Yes, but worn out with work and children. Her night’s rest was of more
consequence to her than ten nights’ waking would be to me.”

“Thank you, Barbara! I was certain I should not prove mistaken in you!
But I hope such a necessity will not often occur.”

“I hope not; but when it does, I hope I may be at hand.”

“I was certain it was some mission of mercy that had led you into the
danger. A girl in your position must beware of being peculiar, even in
goodness. There are more important things in the world than a little
suffering!”

“Yes; your duty to your neighbour is more important.”

“Not than your duty to yourself, Barbara!” said lady Ann, in such a
gently severe tone of righteous reproof, that Barbara’s furnace of a
heart made the little pot that held her temper nearly boil over.

“Lady Ann,” she said, unconsciously drawing herself up to her full
little height, “I am sorry I gave you the trouble of sitting up to open
the door for me. _That_ at least shall not happen again. Good morning.”

“There is nothing to be annoyed at, Barbara. I am quite pleased with
what you have told me. I say only it was unwise of you not to let me
know.”

“It may not have been wise for my own sake, but it was for the woman’s.”

“There is no occasion to say more about the woman; I am quite satisfied
with you, Barbara!” said lady Ann, looking up with an icy smile, her
last Parthian arrow.

“But I am not satisfied with you, lady Ann,” rejoined Barbara. “I have
submitted to be catechized because the thing took place while I was your
guest; but if such a thing were to happen again, I should do just the
same; therefore I have no right, understanding perfectly how much it
would displease you, to remain your guest. I ought, perhaps, to have
gone home instead of returning to you, but I thought that would be
uncivil, and look as if I were ashamed. My mother would never have
treated me as you have done! You may think her a strange woman, but her
heart is as big as her head--much bigger when it is full!”

It was not right of Barbara to get so angry, and answer lady Ann so
petulantly, for she knew her pretty well by this time, and yet was often
her guest. That it was impossible for such a girl to feel respect
for such a woman, if it accounts for her bearing to her, condemns the
familiarity that gave occasion to that bearing. At the same time, but
for lady Ann’s superiority in age, Barbara would have spoken her mind
with yet greater freedom. Her rank made no halo about her in Barbara’s
eyes.

Lady Ann took no more trouble to appease her: the foolish girl would,
she judged, be ashamed of herself soon, and accept the favour she knew
to be undeserved! Lady Ann understood Barbara no more than lady Ann
understood the real woman underlying lady Ann. She was not afraid of
losing Barbara, for she believed her parents could not but be strongly
in favour of an alliance with her family. She knew nothing of the
personal opposition between Mr. and Mrs. Wylder: she never opposed sir
Wilton except it was worth her while to do so; and sir Wilton never
opposed her at all--openly. It gave lady Ann no more pleasure to
go against her husband, than to comply with his wishes; and she had
anything but an adequate notion of the pleasure it gave sir Wilton to
see any desire of hers frustrated.

Barbara went to the stable, where man and boy had always his service in
his right hand ready for her--got Miss Brown saddled, and was away from
Mortgrange before Richard, early as he had begun, was half-way through
his morning’s work.

She went to see Alice almost every day from that afternoon; and as no
one could resist Barbara, Alice’s reserve, buttressed and bastioned
as it was with pain, soon began to yield before the live sympathy that
assailed it. They became fast friends.



CHAPTER XXIX. _ALICE AND BARBARA_.

It was weeks before Alice was able to leave her bed: she had been
utterly exhausted.

On a lovely summer morning she woke to a sense of returning health. She
had been lying like a waste shore, at low spring-tide, covered with dry
seaweeds, withered jelly-fishes, and a multitudinous life that gasped
for the ocean: at last, at last, the cool, washing throb of the great
sea of bliss, whose fountain is the heart of God, had stolen upon her
consciousness, and she knew that she lived. She lay in a neat little
curtained bed, in a room with a sloping roof on both sides, covered,
not with tiles or slates, but with warm thatch, thick and sound. Ivy was
creeping through the chinks of the ill-fitting window-frame; but through
the little dormer window itself the sun shone freely, and made shadows
of shivering ivy-leaves upon the deal floor. It was a very humble room,
and Alice had been used to much better furniture--but neither to room
nor furniture so clean. There was a wholesomeness and purity everywhere
about her, very welcome to the lady-eyes with which Alice was born;
for it is God that makes ladies, not stupid society and its mawkish
distinctions. One brief moment she felt as if she had gained the haven
of her rest, for she lay at peace, and nothing gnawed. But suddenly a
pang shot through her heart, and she knew that some harassing thought
was at hand: pain was her portion, and had but to define itself to grow
sharp. She rose on her elbow to receive the enemy. He came; she fell
back with a fainting heart and a writhing will. She had left love and
misery behind her to seek help, and she had not found it! she had but
lost sight of those for whom she sought the help! She could not tell how
long it was since she had seen her mother and Arthur: she lay covered
with kindness by people she had never before seen; and how they were
faring, she could but conjecture, and conjecture had in it no comfort!

Alice had little education beyond what life had given her; but life is
the truest of all teachers, however little the results of her teaching
may be valued by school-enthusiasts. She did not put the letter H in its
place except occasionally, but she knew how to send a selfish thought
back to its place. She did not know one creed from another, but she
loved what she saw to be good. She knew nothing of the Norman conquest,
but she knew much of self-conquest. She could make her breakfast off dry
bread, that her mother might have hot coffee and the best of butter. She
wore very shabby frocks, but she would not put bad work into the seams
of a rich lady’s dress. She stooped as she walked, and there was a lack
of accord between her big beautiful eyes and the way she put her feet
down; but it was the same thing that made her eyes so large, and her
feet so heavy; and if she could not trip lightly along the street, she
could lay very tender hands on her mother’s head when it ached with
drinking. She had suffered much at the hands of great ladies, yet she
had but to see Barbara to love her.

As she lay with her heart warming in that sunshine in which every heart
must one day flash like the truest of diamonds, she heard the sound of
a horse’s hoofs on the road. Her angel came to Alice with no flapping of
great wings, or lighting of soft-poised heavenly feet on wooden floor,
but with the sounds of ringing iron shoes and snorting breath, to be
followed by a girl’s feet on the stair, whose herald was the smell,
now of rosiest roses, now of whitest lilies, in the chamber of her sad
sister. Well might Alice have sung, “How beautiful are the feet!” At the
music of those mounting feet, death and fear slunk from the room, and
Alice knew there was salvation in the world. What evil _can_ there be
for which there is _no_ help in another honest human soul! What sorrow
is there from which a man may not be some covert, some shadow! Alas for
the true soul which cannot itself save, when it has no notion where help
is to be found!

“Well, how are you to-day, little one?” said Barbara, sitting down on
the edge of the bed.

Alice was older and taller than Barbara, but Barbara never thought about
height or age: strong herself, she took the maternal relation to all
weakness.

“Ever so much better, miss!” answered Alice.

“Now, none of that!” returned the little lady, “or I walk out of the
room! My name is Barbara, and we are friends--except you think it cheeky
of me to call you Alice!”

Alice stretched out her thin arms, folded them gently around Barbara,
and burst into weeping, which was not all bitter.

“Will you let me tell you everything?” she cried.

“What am I here for?” returned Barbara, deep in her embrace. “Only
don’t think I’m asking you to tell me anything. Tell me whatever you
like--whatever will help me to know you--not a thing more.”

Alice lay silent for an instant, then said--

“I wish you would ask me some question! I don’t know how to begin!”

Without a moment’s hesitation, Barbara said in response--

“What do you do all day in London?”

“Sew, sew, sit and sew, from morning to night,” answered Alice. “No
sooner one thing out of your hands, than another in them, so that you
never feel, for all you do, that you’ve done anything! The world is just
as greedy of your work as before. I sometimes wish,” she went on, with
a laugh that had a touch of real merriment in it, “that ladies were
made with hair like a cat, I am so tired of the everlasting bodice and
skirt!--Only what would become of us then! It would only be more hunger
for less weariness!--It’s a downright dreary life, miss!”

“Have a care!” said Barbara solemnly, and Alice laughed.

“You see,” she said, and paused a moment as if trying to say _Barbara_,
“I’m used to think of ladies as if they were a different creation from
us, and it seems rude to call you--_Barbara_!”

She spoke the name with such a lingering sweetness as made its owner
thrill with a new pleasure.

“It seems,” she went on, “like presuming to--to--to stroke an angel’s
feathers!”

“And much I’d give for the angel,” cried Barbara, “that wouldn’t like
having his feathers stroked by a girl like you! He might fly for me, and
go--where he’d have them singed!”

“Then I _will_ call you Barbara; and I will answer _any_ question you
like to put to me!”

“And your mother, I daresay, is rather trying when you come home?”
 said Barbara, resuming her examination, and speaking from experience.
“Mothers are--a good deal!”

“Well, you see, miss--Barbara, my mother wasn’t used to a hard life like
us, and Artie--that’s my brother--and I have to do our best to keep her
from feeling it; but we don’t succeed very well--not as we should like
to, that is. Neither of us gets much for our day’s work, and we can’t do
for her as we would. Poor mamma likes to have things nice; and now that
the money she used to have is gone--I don’t know how it went: she had it
in some bank, and somebody speculated with it, I suppose!--anyhow, it’s
gone, and the thing can’t be done. Artie grows thinner and thinner, and
it’s no use! Oh, miss, I know I shall lose him! and when I think of it,
the whole world seems to die and leave me in a brick-field!”

She wept a moment, very quietly, but very bitterly.

“I know he does his very best,” she resumed, “but she won’t see it! She
thinks he might do more for her! and I’m sure he’s dying!”

“Send him to me,” said Barbara; “I’ll make him well for you.”

“I wish I could, miss--I mean _Barbara!_--Oh, ain’t there a lot of nice
things that can’t ever be done!”

“Does your mother do nothing to help?”

“She don’t know how; she ‘ain’t learned anything like us. She was
brought up a lady. I remember her saying once she ought to ‘a’ been a
real lady, a lady they say _my lady_ to!”

“Indeed! How was it then that she is not?”

“I don’t know. There are things we don’t dare ask mamma about. If she
had been proud of them, she would have told us without asking.”

“What was your father, Alice?”

The girl hesitated.

“He was a baronet, Barbara.--But perhaps you would rather I said _miss_
again!”

“Don’t be foolish, child!” Barbara returned peremptorily.

“I suppose my mother meant that he promised to marry her, but never did.
They say gentlemen think no harm of making such promises--without even
meaning to keep them!--I don’t know!--I’ve got no time to think about
such things,--only--”

“Only you’re forced!” supplemented Barbara. “I’ve been forced to think
about them too--just once. They’re not nice to think about! but so
long as there’s snakes, it’s better to know the sort of grass they lie
in!--Did he take your mother’s money and spend it?”

“Oh, no, not that! He was a gentleman, a baronet, you know, and they
don’t do such things!”

“Don’t they!” said Barbara. “I don’t know what things _gentlemen_ don’t
do!--But what happened to the money? There may be some way of getting it
back!”

“There’s no hope of that! I’ll tell you how I think it was: my father
didn’t care to marry my mother, for he wanted a great lady; so he said
good-bye to her, and she didn’t mind, for he was a selfish man, she
said. So she took the money, for of course she had to bring us up, and
couldn’t do it without--and what they call invested it. That means, you
know, that somebody took charge of it. So it’s all gone, and she gets no
interest on it, and the shops won’t trust us a ha’penny more. We can’t
always pay down for the kind of thing she likes, and must take what we
can pay for, or go without; and she thinks we might do better for her if
we would, and we don’t know how. The other day--I don’t like to tell
it of her, even to you, Barbara, but I’m afraid she had been taking too
much, for she went to Mrs. Harman and took me away, and said I could get
much better wages, and she didn’t give me half what my work was worth.
I cried, for I couldn’t help it, I was that weak and broken-like, for I
had had no breakfast that morning--at least not to speak of, and I got
up to go, for I couldn’t say a word, and wanted my mother out of the
place. But Mrs. Harman--she _is_ a kind woman!--she interfered, and said
my mother had no right to take me away, and I must finish my month. So
I sat down again, and my mother was forced to go. But when she was gone,
Mrs. Harman said to me, ‘The best thing after all,’ says she, ‘that you
can do, Ally, is to let your mother have her way. You just stop at home
till she gets you a place where they’ll pay you better than I do! She’ll
find out the sooner that there isn’t a better place to be had, for it’s
a slack time now, and everybody has too many hands! When her pride’s
come down a bit, you come and see whether I’m able to take you on
again.’ Now wasn’t that good of her?”

“M-m-m!” said Barbara. “It was a slack time!--So you went home to your
mother?”

“Yes--and it was just as Mrs. Harman said: there wasn’t a stitch wanted!
I went from place to place, asking--I nearly killed myself walking
about: walking’s harder for one not used to it than sitting ever so
long! So I went back to Mrs. Harman, and told her. She said she couldn’t
have me just then, but she’d keep her eye on me. I went home nearly out
of my mind. Artie was growing worse and worse, and I had nothing to do.
It’s a mercy it was warm weather; for when you haven’t much to eat, the
cold is worse than the heat. Then in summer you can walk on the shady
side, but in winter there ain’t no sunny side. At last, one night as I
lay awake, I made up my mind I would go and see whether my father was
as hard-hearted as people said. Perhaps he would help us over a week or
two; and if I hadn’t got work by that time, we should at least be abler
to bear the hunger! So the next day, without a word to mother or Artie,
I set out and came down here.”

“And you didn’t see sir Wilton?”

“La, miss! who told you? Did I let out the name?”

“No, you didn’t; but, though there are a good many baronets, they don’t
exactly crowd a neighbourhood! What did he say to you?”

“I ‘ain’t seen him yet, miss,--Barbara, I mean! I went up to the lodge,
and the woman looked me all over, curious like, from head to foot; and
then she said sir Wilton wasn’t at home, nor likely to be.”

“What a lie!” exclaimed Barbara.

“You know him then, Barbara?”

“Yes; but never mind. I must ask all my questions first, and then it
will be your turn. What did you do next?”

“I went away, but I don’t know what I did. How I came to be sitting
on that stone inside that gate, I can’t tell. I think I must have gone
searching for a place to die in. Then Richard came. I tried hard to keep
him from knowing me, but I couldn’t.”

“You knew that Richard was there?”

“Where, miss?”

“At the baronet’s place--Mortgrange.”

“Lord, miss! Then they’ve acknowledged him!”

“I don’t know what you mean by that. He’s there mending their books.”

“Then I oughtn’t to have spoken. But it don’t matter--to you, Barbara!
No; I knew nothing about him being there, or anywhere else, for I’d lost
sight of him. It was a mere chance he found me. I didn’t know him till
he spoke to me. I heard his step, but I didn’t look up. When I saw who
it was, I tried to make him leave me--indeed I did, but he would take
me! He carried me all the way to the cottage where you found me.”

“Why didn’t you want him to know you? What have you against him?”

“Not a thing, miss! He would be a brother to me if I would let him. It’s
a strange story, and I’m not quite sure if I ought to tell it.”

“Are you bound in any way not to tell it?”

“No. _She_ didn’t tell me about it.”

“You mean your mother?”

“No; I mean his mother.”

“I am getting bewildered!” said Barbara.

“No wonder, miss! You’ll be more bewildered yet when I tell you all!”
 She was silent. Barbara saw she was feeling faint.

“What a brute I am to make you talk!” she cried, and ran to fetch her a
cup of milk, which she made her drink slowly.

“I must tell you _everything_!” said Alice, after lying a moment or two
silent.

“You shall to-morrow,” said Barbara.

“No; I must now, please! I must tell you about Richard!”

“Have you known him a long time?”

“I call him Richard,” said Alice, “because my brother does. They were at
school together. But it is only of late--not a year ago, that I began to
know him. He came to see Arthur once, and then I went with Arthur to
see him and his people. But his mother behaved very strangely to me, and
asked me a great many questions that I thought she had no business to
ask me. Before that, I had noticed that she kept looking from Arthur to
Richard, and from Richard to Arthur, in the oddest way; I couldn’t make
it out. Then she asked me to go to her bedroom with her, and there she
told me. She was very rough to me, I thought, but I must say the tears
were in her own eyes! She said she could _not_ have Richard keeping
company with us, for she knew what my mother was, and who my father was,
and we were not respectable people, and it would never do. If she heard
of Richard going to our house once again, she would have to do something
we shouldn’t like. Then she cried quite, and said she was sorry to hurt
me, for I seemed a good girl, and it wasn’t my fault, but she couldn’t
help it; the thing would be a mischief. And there she stopped as if she
had said too much already. You may be sure I thought myself ill-used,
and Arthur worse; for we both liked Richard, though my mother didn’t
think him at all our equal, or fit to be a companion to Arthur; for
Arthur was a clerk, while Richard worked with his hands. Arthur said
he worked with his hands too, and turned out far poorer work than
Richard--stupid figures instead of beautiful books; and I said I worked
with my needle quite as hard as Richard with his tools; but it had no
effect on my mother: her ways of looking at things are not the same
as ours, because she was born a lady. Why don’t a lady _have_ ladies,
Barbara?”

“Never you mind, Alice! Every good woman will be a lady one day--I am
sure of that! It was cruel to treat you so! How anybody belonging to
Richard could do it, I can’t think; he’s so gentle and good himself!”

“He’s the kindest and best of--of men, and I love him,” said Alice
earnestly. “But I must tell you, Barbara--I must make you understand
that I have a right to love him. When I told poor Arthur, as we went
home that night, that he wasn’t to see any more of Richard, he could not
help crying. I saw it, though he tried to hide it. Of course I didn’t
let him know I saw him cry. Men are ashamed of crying. I ain’t a bit.
For Richard was the only schoolfellow ever was a friend to Artie. He
once fought a big fellow that used to torment him! By the time we got
home, I was boiling over with rage, and told mamma all about it. Angry
as I was, her anger frightened mine out of me. ‘The insolent woman!’ she
cried. ‘But I’ll soon have a rod in pickle for her! I’ll have my revenge
of her--that you shall soon see! My children weren’t good enough for her
tradesman-fellow, weren’t they! She said that, did she? She ain’t the
only one has got eyes in her head! Didn’t you see me look at him as
sharp as she did at you? If ever face told tale without meaning to tell
it, that’s the face of the young man you call Richard! He’s a Lestrange,
as sure’s there’s a God in heaven! He’s got the mark as plain as sir
Wilton himself!--not a feature the same, I grant, but Lestrange is writ
in every one of them! I’ll take my oath who was _his_ father!--And there
she goes as mim and as prim--!’ ‘No, mamma,’ I said, ‘that she does not.
She looks as fierce as a lioness!’ I said. ‘What’s her name?’ asked my
mother. ‘Tuke,’ I answered. ‘Was there ever such a name!’ she cried.
‘It’s fitter for a dog than a human being! But it’s good enough for her
anyway. What was her maiden name? Who was she? There’s the point!’ ‘But
if what you suspect be true, mamma,’ I said, ‘then she had good reason
for wishing us parted!’ ‘She ought to have come to me about it!’ said my
mother. ‘She ought to have left it to me to say what should be done! I’m
not married to a dirty tradesman!’ I’m not telling you exactly what she
said, miss, because when she loses her temper, poor mamma don’t always
speak quite like a lady, though of course she _is_ one, all the same! I
said no more, but I thought how kindly Richard always looked at me, and
my heart grew big inside me to think that Artie and I had him for our
own brother. Nobody could touch that! He had notions I didn’t like--for,
do you know, Barbara, he believes we just go out like a candle that can
never again be lighted any more. He thinks there’s no life after this
one! He can’t have loved anybody much, I fear, to be able to think that!
You don’t agree with him, I’m certain, miss! But I thought, if he was my
brother, I might be able to help change his mind about it. I thought
I would be so good to him that he wouldn’t like me to die for ever and
ever, and would come to see things differently. I had no friend, not
one, you see, miss--Barbara, I mean--except Arthur, and he never has
much to say about anything, though he’s as true as steel; and I thought
it would be bliss to have a man-friend--I mean a good man for a real
friend, and I knew Richard would be that, though he was a brother! Most
brothers are not friends to poor girls. I know three whose brothers get
all they can out of them, and don’t care how they have to slave for it,
and then spend it on treats to other girls! But I was sure Richard was
good, though he wasn’t religious! So I said to mamma that, now we knew
all about it, there could be no reason why we shouldn’t see as much of
each other as ever we liked, seeing Richard was our brother. But she
paid no heed to me; she sat thinking and thinking; and I read in her
face that she was not in a brown study, but trying to get at something.
It was many minutes before she spoke, but she did at last, and what she
told us is my secret, Barbara! But I’m not bound to keep it from you,
for I know you would not hurt Richard, and you have a right to know
whatever I know, for you found my life and wrapped it up in love and
gave it back to me, _dear_ Barbara!--It was not a pretty story for a
mother to tell her children--and it’s a sore grief not to be able
to think _every_thing that’s good of your mother; but it’s all past
now;--and it ain’t our fault--is it, Barbara?”

“Your fault!” cried Barbara. “What do you mean?”

“People treat us as if it were.”

“Never you mind. You’ve got a Father in heaven to see to that!”

“Thank you, Barbara! You make me so happy! Now I can tell you
all!--‘I’ve got it!’ cried my mother. ‘Bless my soul, what an ass I was
not to see through it at once! Now you just listen to me: sir Wilton was
married before he married his present wife. He never thought of
getting rid of me for the first one, you understand, for she wasn’t a
lady--though they do say she _was_ a handsome creature! She was that
low, you wouldn’t believe!--just nobody at all! Her father was--what do
you think?--a country blacksmith! And though he had me, he _would_ marry
her! Oh the men! the men! they are incomprehensible! It made me mad! To
think he wouldn’t marry me, and he would marry her, and I might have had
him myself if I’d only been as hard-hearted and stood out as long! But
the fact was, I was in love with your father! No one could help it, when
he laid himself out to make you! I couldn’t anyhow, though I tried hard.
But _she_ could! For all her beauty, she was that cold! ice was
nothing to her! He told me so himself!--Well, when her time came, she
died--never more than just saw the child, and died. I believe myself
she died of fright; for sir Wilton told me he was the ugliest child ever
came into this world! He must, said his father, have come straight from
the devil, for no one else could have made him so ugly! Well, what must
your father go and do next, but marry an earl’s daughter!--nobody too
good for him after the blacksmith’s!--and within a month or so, what
should his nurse do but walk off with the child! From that day to this,
so far as ever I’ve heard, there’s been no news of him. It’s years and
years that all the world has given him up for lost. Now, mark what I
say: I feel morally certain that this Richard, as you call him, is
that same child, and heir to all the Lestrange property! That woman,
Tuke--what a name!--she’s the nurse that carried him off; and who knows
but the man married her for the chance of what the child’s succession
might bring them! They mean to tell the fellow, when the proper time
comes, how they saved him from being murdered by his stepmother, and
carried him off at the risk of their lives! Well they knew him for a pot
of money! You may be certain they’ve got all the proofs safe! I hate the
ugly devil! What right has he to come to an estate, and have my children
looked down upon by Mrs. Bookbinder! I’ll put a spoke in her wheel,
though! I’ll have one little finger in their pie! They shan’t burn their
mouths with it--no, not they!’ I treasured every word my mother said--I
was so glad all the while to think of Richard as the head of the family.
I could not help the feeling that I belonged to the family, for was not
the same blood in Richard and in us? ‘Alice,’ my mother said, ‘mark my
words! That Richard, as you call him, is heir to the title and estate!
But if you speak one word on the subject until I give you leave, to your
Richard or to any live soul, I’ll tear your tongue out--I will!--And
you know well that what I say, I do!’ I knew well that poor mamma very
seldom did what she said, and I was not afraid of her; but I grew more
and more afraid of doing anything to interfere with Richard’s prospects.
I met him one night in Regent-street, a terrible, stormy night, and
was so fluttered at seeing him, and so frightened lest I should let
something out that might injure him, that I nearly killed myself by
running against a lamp-post in my hurry to get away from him. But to be
quite honest with you, Barbara, what I was most afraid of was, that he
would go on falling in love with me; and that, when he found out what
we were to each other, it would break his heart: I have heard of such a
thing! For you see I durst not tell him! And besides, it mightn’t be so,
after all! So I had to be cruel to him! He must have thought me a brute!
And now for him to appear, far away from everywhere, just in time to
save me from dying of cold and hunger--ain’t it wonderful?”

But Barbara sat silent. It was her turn to sit thinking and thinking.
Why had the strange story come to her ears? There must be something for
her to do in the next chapter of it!

“How much do you think Richard may know about the thing?” she asked.

“I don’t believe he has a suspicion that he is anything but the son of
the bookbinder,” Alice answered. “If Mrs. Tuke did take him, I wonder
why it really was. What do you think, Barbara? To me she does not look
at all a designing woman. She may be a daring one: I could fancy her
sticking at nothing she saw reason for! If she did it she _must_ have
done it for the sake of the child!”

“It was much too great a risk to run for any advantage to herself,”
 assented Barbara “Then they have had to provide for him all the time!
Have they any children of their own?”

“I don’t think any.”

“Then it is possible she took such a fancy to the child she was nursing,
that she could not bear to part with him. I have heard of women like
that, out with us.--But what are we to do, Alice? Is it right to leave
the thing so? Ought we not to do anything?”

“I don’t know; I can’t tell a bit!” answered Alice. “I have thought
and thought, lying alone in the night, but never could make up my
mind. Supposing you were sure it was so, there is yet the danger of
interfering with those who know all about him, and can do the best for
him; and there’s the danger of what my mother might be tempted to do
the moment any one moved in the matter. To hasten the thing might spoil
all!--Isn’t it strange, Barbara, how much your love for your mother
seems independent of her--her character?”

“I don’t know;--yes, I think you are right. There is my mother, who has
no guile in her, but is ready to burn you to ashes before you know what
she is angry about! When you trust her, and go to her for help, she
is ready to die for you. I love her with all my heart, but I can’t
say she’s an exemplary woman. I don’t think Mr. Wingfold--that’s our
clergyman--would say so either, though he professes quite an admiration
of her.”

Thereupon Barbara told Alice the story of her mother’s behaviour in
church, and how the parson had caught her.

“But nobody knows to this day,” she concluded, “whether he intended
so to catch her, or was only teaching his people by a parable, and she
caught herself in its meshes. Caught she was, anyhow, and has never
entered the church since! But she speaks very differently of the
clergyman now.”

“I feel greatly tempted sometimes,” resumed Alice, “to let Richard know;
for, surely, whatever be the projects of other people concerning him, a
man has the right to know where he came from!”

“Yes,” answered Barbara, “a man must have the right to know what other
people know about him! And yet it would be a pity to ruin the plans
of good people who had all the time been working and caring for him.
I wonder if he was in danger from lady Ann? I have heard out there of
terrible things done to get one’s way! She _is_ a death-like woman! His
nurse might well be afraid of what his stepmother might do! I can quite
fancy her making off with him in an agony of terror lost he should be
poisoned, or smothered, or buried alive! But what if they sent him away,
with a hint to the nurse that his absence might as well be permanent?
What if any search they made for him was nothing but a farce? I wish we
knew what ground there is for inquiring whether he may not be the child
that was lost--if indeed there was a child lost! I have not heard at the
house any allusion to such an occurrence.”

Much more talk ensued. The girls came to the conclusion that, for the
present, they must do nothing that might let the secret out of their
keeping. They must wait and watch: when the right thing grew plain, they
would do it!



CHAPTER XXX. _BARBARA THINKS_.

Barbara rode home with strange things in her mind. Here was a romance
brought to her very door! She was nowise hungry after romance, being
of the essence of romance her own lovely self, in the simplicity which
carried her direct to the heart of things. She was life in such relation
to life, that her very existence was natural romance. How should there
be any romance to equal that of pure being, of existence regarded and
encountered face to face, of the voyage forth from the heart of life,
and the toilsome journey, peril-beset, back to the home of that same
heart of hearts! Here was one wrapt in a strange cloud: why should she
not pass through the cloud, and join her fellow-traveller within?

Naturally then, from this time, the thoughts of Barbara rested not a
little upon the person and undeveloped history of the man with whose
being she was before linked by a greater indebtedness than any but
herself could understand. Any enlargement of relation to the unseen
world--the world, I mean, of thought and reality, region of recognizable
relation, or force--is an immeasurably more precious gift than any
costliest thing that a mortal may call his own until death, but must
then pass on to another; and Richard had thrown open to Barbara the
wealthiest regions of the literature of her race! She, on her part, had
so much influenced him, that he had at least become far less overbearing
in the presentment of his unbelief. For Barbara’s idea, call it, if you
will, her imagination of a God, was one with which none of those things
for the hate’s sake of which he had become the champion of a negation,
held fellowship; and he carried himself toward it with so much courtesy
that she had begun to hope he was slowly following her out of the
desert places, where, little as she yet knew about God, she felt life
impossible. The strongest bonds were thus in process of binding them;
and Barbara’s feeling toward Richard might very naturally develop into
one or other of the million forms to which we give the common name of
love.

As for Richard, he was already aware that his feeling toward Barbara
could be no other than love; but he knew love as only the few know it
who _give_ themselves, who cherish no hope, look for no response, dream
of no claim. To expect any return of his devotion would have seemed to
Richard the simplest absurdity. He did not even say to himself that the
thing could not be. Not therefore, however, was he to escape suffering;
the seeds of it were already sown in him plentifully, though its first
leaves are not to be distinguished from those of other plants, and it
sometimes takes long for the flower to appear. Barbara was lovely to
Richard as the Luna of a heavenly sky, descending and talking with him,
the Diana of a lower world, bound by her destiny, and without a choice,
to return to her heaven, and be once more the far, unapproachable Luna.
She shone in his eyes like a lovely mysterious gem which he might wear
for an hour, but which must presently, with its hundred-fold shadow and
shine, pass from his keeping. He knew that love was his, but he did not
know that he was Love’s. He knew he loved Barbara, but he did not know
that her exquisiteness was permeating his whole being with an endless
possession. In truth no man good and free could have kept her soul out
of his. She was so delicate, yet so strong; so steady, yet so ready; so
original, yet so infinitely responsive--what could he do but throw his
doors wide to her! what could he do but love her!

And now that Barbara believed she knew more about him than he did
himself; now that the road appeared to lie open between them, would
she escape falling in love with such a man whose hands of labour were
mastered with a head full of understanding, and whose head was
quickened by a heart in which dwelt an imagination at once receptive and
productive? Could any true woman despise the love of such a workman?

From this time, for some weeks, they saw less of each other. Without
knowing it, Barbara had, since the revelation of Alice, grown a little
shy of Richard. It came of her truthfulness, mainly. As Dante felt
ashamed of the discourteous advantage of alone possessing eyesight
in the presence of the poor souls upon the second cornice of the
purgatorial mountain, just so Barbara, without altogether defining to
herself her feeling, regarded it as unfair to Richard, as indeed taking
an advantage of him, to seek his company knowing about him more than she
seemed to know. She felt even deceitful in appearing to know of him only
what he chose to tell her, while in truth she more than suspected she
knew of him what he did not know himself. She not only knew more than
she seemed to know, but she knew more than Richard himself knew! At the
same time she felt that she had no right to tell him what she almost
believed; she ought first to be certain of it! If the conjecture were
untrue, what harm might it not, believed by him, occasion both to him
and his parents! Supposing it true, if those who had cherished him all
his life did not tell him the fact, could it be right in her, coming by
accident upon it, to acquaint him with it? Whether true or not, it must,
if believed by him, change the whole tenor of his way--might perhaps,
seeing he had no faith in God, destroy the very tone of his life;
certainly, if untrue, it would cause endless grief to the parents whom
to believe it would be to repudiate! Richard was indeed, she allowed, in
less danger of being injured by the suggestion than any other young man
she had known; but the risk, a great one, was there.

She did not now, therefore, go so often to Mortgrange. Every day she
went out for her gallop--unattended, for, accustomed to the freedom of
hundreds of leagues of wild country, the very notion of a groom behind
her was hateful--and would often find herself making for some point
whence she could see the chimneys of the house when the resolve of the
day was one of abstinence, but that resolve she never broke. If it was
not the drawing-room and Theodora, but the library and Richard; not the
hideous flowers that happily never came alive from lady Ann’s needle,
but the old books reviving to autumnal beauty under the patient, healing
touch of the craftsman, that ever drew her all the way, who can wonder!
Or who will blame her but such as lady Ann, whose kind, though slowly,
yet surely vanishes--melting, like the grimy snow of our streets, before
the sun of righteousness, and the coming kingdom.

Lady Ann and she were now on the same footing as before their
misunderstanding, if indeed their whole relation was anything better
than a misunderstanding; for what lady Ann knew of Barbara she
misunderstood, and what she did not know of Barbara was the best of her;
while what Barbara knew of lady Ann, she also misunderstood, and what
she did not know of lady Ann was the worse of her. But Barbara had told
lady Ann that she was sorry she had spoken to her as she had, and lady
Ann had received the statement as an expected apology. Their quarrel had
indeed given lady Ann no uneasiness. Daughter of one ancient house, and
mother in another, a pillar of society, a live dignity with matronly
back flat as any coffin-lid, she was of course in the right, and could
afford to await the acknowledgment of wrong due and certain from an
ill bred and ill educated chit of the colonies! For how could any one
continue indifferent to the favour of lady Ann! She was incapable of
perceiving the merit of Barbara’s apology, or appreciating the sweetness
from which it came. For the genial Barbara could not bear dissension.
She had seen enough of it to hate it. In just defence of a friend she
would fight to the last, but in any matter of her own, she was ready to
see, or even imagine herself in the wrong. Anger in its reaction always
made her feel ill, which feeling she was apt to take for a reminder from
conscience, when she would make haste to apologize.

Lady Ann’s relations with Barbara were therefore not so much restored as
unchanged. The elder lady neither sought nor avoided the younger, gave
her always the same cold welcome and farewell, yet was as much pleased
to see her as ever to see anybody. She regarded her as the merest of
butterflies, with pretty flutter and no stay--a creature of wings and
nonsense, carried hither and thither by slightest puff of inclination:
it was the judgment of a caterpillar upon a humming bird. There was more
stuff in Barbara, with all her seeming volatility, than in a wilderness
of lady Anns. The friendship between such a twain could hardly consist
in more than the absence of active disapproval.

When Barbara went into the library, she would always greet Richard as if
she had seen him but the day before, asking what piece of work he was
at now, and showing an interest in it as genuine as her interest in
himself. If there was anything in it she did not quite understand, he
must there and then explain it. So eager was she to know, that he had
not seldom to remind her that his minutes were not his own. But now and
then he would lay aside his work for a time, never forgetting to make up
for the interval afterward, and show her some process from beginning to
end. For Barbara, finding now more time on her hands, had begun to try
her repairing faculty on some of the old books in the house, hoping
one day to surprise Richard with what she had done, and this led to her
asking many and far-reaching questions in the art.

But Richard continued to give her his more important aid: he was
still her master in literature, directing her what to read and what to
meditate, and instructing her how to get her mind to rest on things. He
was the most capable of teachers, for he followed simply the results of
his own experience. Having prepared for her, with his father’s help, a
manuscript-book of hand-made paper, bound in levant morocco, the edges
gilded in the rough, he made her copy certain poems into it, attending
carefully to every point, and each minutest formality. He would not have
her copy whatever she might choose; she could not yet, he said, choose
to advantage; for she was of such a “keen clear joyance,” that, happy
over what was not the best, she would waste her love. But neither
would he altogether choose for her: from among the poems he had already
brought before her, she must take those she liked best! This, he said,
would make her choice a real one, for it would take place between
poems already known to her, with regard to which therefore she was in a
position to determine her own preference. Then the unavoidable brooding
over it caused in the copying of the one chosen, would make it grow in
her mind, and assume something of the shape it had in the author’s.

To Arthur Lestrange, who, notwithstanding the unlikeness between him
and Barbara, and notwithstanding the frequent shocks his conventional
propriety received from her divine liberty, had been for some time
falling in love with her, these interviews, which he never hesitated
to interrupt the moment he pleased, could hardly be agreeable. He never
supposed that in them anything passed of which he could have complained
had he been the girl’s affianced lover; but he did not relish the
thought that she looked to the workman and not his employer for help in
her studies. Nor was it consolation to him to be aware that he could
no more give her what the workman gave her, than he could teach her his
bookbinding--at which also the eager Barbara grasped.

At Wylder Hall no questions were ever asked as to how she had spent the
day. Her mother, although now that her twin was gone, she loved her best
in the world, never troubled her head about what she did with herself.
Although Barbara was now a little more at home than formerly, she and
her mother were scarcely together an hour in a week except at meals. She
thought Arthur Lestrange would make a good enough husband for Bab,
and, having chanced on some sign that her husband cherished hopes of a
loftier alliance, grew rather favourable to a match between them.

There was, however, a little betterment in Mrs. Wylder, and her ceasing
to go to church was only one of the indications of it. She had in her
a foundation of genuine simplicity, and was in essence a generous soul.
Any one who wondered at the combination of strange wild charm and honest
strength in the daughter, would have wondered much less had he gained
the least insight into what, beneath the ruin of earthquake and tornado,
lay buried in the soul of her mother. The best of changes is slow in
most natures, and the main question is, perhaps, whether it goes slowly
because of feebleness and instability, and consequent frequency of
relapse, or because of the root-nature, the thoroughness, and the
magnitude of what has been initiated. But Mrs. Wylder was tropical: any
real change in her would soon reach a point where it must become swift
as well as comprehensive.

Since returning to the trammels of a more civilized life, Mr. Wylder had
grown self-absorbed, and from a loud, lawless man had become a sombre,
sometimes morose person. One great cause of the change, however, was,
that the remaining twin, his favourite, had for some time shown signs of
a failing constitution. His increasing feebleness weighed heavily on his
father. He had had a tutor ever since they came to England, but now they
did little or no work together, spending their hours mostly in wandering
about the grounds, and in fitful reading of books of any sort in which
the boy could be led to take a passing interest. Barbara’s heart yearned
after him, but he was greatly attached to his nurse, and did not care
for Barbara.

The dissension between husband and wife about the twins, had its origin
mainly with the mother, but sprang from the generosity of her nature:
the twin she favoured was sickly from infancy. A woman such as Mrs.
Wylder might have been expected to shrink from the puny, suffering
creature, and give her affection and approbation to the other, as
did her husband; but it was just here that the true in her, the pure
womanly, came to the surface and then to the front: the child had an
appealing look, which, when first she saw him, went straight to the
heart of the strong mother, and afterward roused, if not enough of the
protective, yet all the defensive in her. From herself she did not, and
from death she could not save him. He died rather suddenly, and now the
strong one seemed slowly sinking. The mother did not heed him, and the
father, for very misery, could scarcely look at him: he was to him like
one dead already, only not dead enough to be buried.



CHAPTER XXXI. _WINGFOLD AND BARBARA_.

The bickerings between her father and mother had had not a little to do
with the peculiar features of Barbara’s life in the colony. As soon as
she saw a cloud rising, having learned by frequent experience what
it was sure to result in, she would creep away, mount one of the many
horses at her choice, and race from the house like a dog in terror, till
she was miles from the spot where her father and mother would by that
time be writhing in fiercest wordy warfare. What the object of their
wrangling might be, she never inquired. It was plain to her almost from
the first that nothing was gained by it beyond the silence of fatigue;
and as that silence was always fruitful of new strife, it brought a
comfort known to be but temporary. Had she not been accustomed to it
from earliest childhood, it would have been terrible to her to see human
lives going off in such a foul smoke of hell! Not a sentence was
uttered by the one but was furiously felt as a wrong by the other--to
be remorselessly met by wrong as flagrant, rousing in its turn the
indignation of injury to a pain unendurable. It is strange that the man
who most keenly feels the wrong done him, should so often be the most
insensible to the wrong he does. So dominant is the unreason of the
moment, that the injury he inflicts appears absolute justice, and the
injury he suffers absolute injustice. Yet such disputes turn seldom upon
the main point at issue between the parties; it may not even once be
mentioned, while some new trifle is fought over with all the bitterness
of the alienation that lies gnawing and biting and burning beneath.
War is raging between kingdoms for the possession of a hovel, which
possessed, the quarrel were no nearer settlement than before!

Hence it came that Barbara paid so little regard to her mother’s
challenge of the clergyman. Single combat of the sort she seemed to
seek was an experience of Barbara’s life too often recurrent to be
interesting; the thunders of its artillery, near or afar, passed over
her almost unheeded. She had indeed sufficient respect for the forms of
religion to regret that her mother should make her behaviour in church
the talk of the parish, and to be rather pleased that the clergyman
should have had the best of it in his joust of arms with her, but
further interest in the matter she scarcely took.

On a certain day, Miss Brown wanting at least one pair of new shoes, and
her mistress cherishing the idea of a lesson in shoeing her, for which
lesson arrangement had not even yet been made, Barbara, having been all
the afternoon in the house, went out toward sunset, to have a walk with
a book.

She was sauntering along a grassy road which, though within their
own park, belonged to the public, when she almost ran against a man
similarly occupied with herself, for he also was absorbed in the book
he carried. I should like to know what two books brought them thus
together! Each started back with an apology, then both burst into a
modest laugh, which renewed itself with merrier ring, when the first and
then the second attempt to pass, with all space for elbow-room, failed,
and they stood opposite each other in a hopeless mental paralysis.

“Fate is opposed to our unneighbourliness!” said Mr. Wingfold. “She
will not allow us to pass, and depart in peace! What do you say, Miss
Wylder?--shall we yield or shall we resist?” As he spoke, he held out
his hand.

Now Barbara was the last person in the world to refuse, without a
painfully good reason, any offered hand. She had never seen cause to
desire the acquaintance of a man because he was a clergyman; but neither
had she any unwillingness, because he was a clergyman, to make his
acquaintance; while to Thomas Wingfold she already felt some attraction:
the strong little hand was in his immediately, and felt comfortable in
the great honest clasp, which it returned heartily.

“I never saw you on your own feet before, Miss Wylder!” said the
clergyman.

“Nor on anybody else’s, I hope!” she returned.

“Oh, yes, indeed!--on Miss Brown’s many a time!”

“You know Miss Brown then? She is my most intimate friend!”

“I am well aware of that! Everything worth knowing in the parish, and a
good deal that is not, comes to my ears.”

“May I hope you count Miss Brown’s affairs worth hearing about, then?”

“Of course I do! Does not a lady call her friend, whose acquaintance I
have long wished to make! and do I not know that Miss Brown loves her in
return! I cannot help sometimes regretting for a moment that four-footed
friends in general are so short-lived.”

“Why only for a moment?” said Barbara.

“Because I remind myself that it must be best for them and us--best for
the friendship between us, best for us every way. But indeed I have more
to be thankful for in the relation than most people of my acquaintance,
for I sometimes drive a pony yet that is over forty!”

“Forty years of age!”

“Yes.”

“I should like to see that pony!”

“You shall see her, any day you will come to the parsonage. I will
gladly introduce her to you, but it is getting rather late to desire her
acquaintance: she does not see very well, and is not so good-tempered as
she once was. But she will soon be better.”

“How do you mean?”

“She has a process to go through out of which she will come ever so much
the better.”

“Good gracious! you’re not going to have an operation performed on
her--at _her_ age?”

“She is going to have her body stript off her!”

“Good gracious!” cried Barbara again, but with yet greater energy--then
seeing what he meant, laughed at her mistake.

“But then,” she said, with eager resumption, “you must believe there is
something to strip her body off? _I_ do! I have always thought so!”

“So have I, and so I do indeed!” answered Wingfold. “I can’t prove it. I
can’t prove anything--to my own satisfaction, that is, though I dare say
I might to the satisfaction of one who did not love the creatures enough
to be anxious about them. I don’t think you can prove anything that is
worth being anxious about.”

“Then why do you believe it?” asked Barbara, influenced by the talk of
the century.

“Because I _can_,” answered Wingfold. “To believe and to be able to
prove, have little or nothing to do with each other. To believe and to
convince have much to do with each other.”

“But,” persisted Barbara, with Richard in her mind, “how are you to be
sure of a thing you can’t prove?”

“That’s a good question, and this is my answer,” said Wingfold:--“What
you love, you already believe enough to put it to the proof of trial. My
life is such a proving; and the proof is so promising that it fills me
with the happiest hope. To prove with your brains the thing you love,
would be to deck the garments of salvation with a useless fringe. Shall
I search heaven and earth for proof that my wife is a good and lovely
woman? The signs of it are everywhere; the proofs of it nowhere.”

They walked along for a while, side by side, in silence. Which had
turned and gone with the other neither knew. Barbara was beginning
already to feel that safety which almost everybody sooner or later came
to feel in Wingfold’s company--a safety born of the sense that, in
the closest talk, he never lay in wait for a victory, but took his
companion, as one of his own people, into the end after which he was
striving.

“Then,” said Barbara at length, still thinking of Richard, “if you
believe that even the beasts are saved, you must think it very bad of a
man not to believe in a God!”

“I should think anyhow that he didn’t care much about the beasts--that
he hadn’t a heart big enough to take the beasts in!”

“But he couldn’t, you know, if he didn’t believe in God!”

“I understand; only, if he loved the poor beasts very much, and thought
what a bad time they have of it in the world, I don’t know how he could
help _hoping_ at least, that there was a God somewhere who would somehow
make up to them for it all! For my own part I don’t know how to be
content except the beasts themselves, when it is all over and the good
time come, are able to say, ‘After all, it is well worth it, bad as it
was!’”

“But what if it was just that suffering that made the man think there
could not be a God, or he would put a stop to it?”

“That looks to me very close to believing in God.”

“How do you make that out?”

“If a man believed in a God that did not heed the suffering of the
creation, one who made men and women and beasts knowing that they must
suffer, and suffer only--and went on believing so however you set him
thinking about it, I should say to him, ‘You believe in a devil, and
so are in the way to become a devil yourself.’ A thousand times rather
would I believe that there was no God, and that the misery came by
chance from which there was no escape. What I do believe is, that there
is a God who is even now doing his best to take all men and all beasts
out of the misery in which they find themselves.”

“But why did he let them come into it?”

“That the God will tell them, to their satisfaction, so soon as ever
they shall have become capable of understanding it. There must be things
so entirely beyond our capacity, that we cannot now see enough of them
to be able even to say that they are incomprehensible. There must be
millions of truths that have not yet risen above the horizon of what we
call the finite.”

“Then you would not think a person so very, very wicked, for not
believing in a God?”

“That depends on the sort of God he fancied himself asked to believe in.
Would you call a Greek philosopher wicked for not believing in Mercury
or Venus? If a man had the same notion of God that I have, or anything
like it, and did not at least desire that there might be such a God,
then I confess I should have difficulty in understanding how he could
be good. But the God offered him might not be worth believing in, might
even be such that it was a virtuous act to refuse to believe in him.”

“One thing more, Mr. Wingfold--and you must not think I am arguing
against you or against God, for if I thought there was no God, I should
just take poison:--tell me, mightn’t a man think the idea of such a God
as you believe in, too good to be true?”

“I should need to know something of his history, rightly to understand
that. Why should he be able to think anything too good to be true? Why
should a thing not be true because it was good? It seems to me, if a
thing be bad, it cannot possibly be true. If you say the thing is, I
answer it exists because of something under the badness. Badness by
itself can have no life in it. But if the man really thought as you
suggest, I would say to him, ‘You cannot _know_ such a being does not
exist: is it possible you should be content that such a being should
not exist? If such a being did exist, would you be content never to find
him, but to go on for ever and ever saying, _He can’t be! He can’t be!
He’s so good he can’t be!_ Supposing you find one day that there he is,
will your defence before him be satisfactory to yourself: “There he is
after all, but he was too good to believe in, therefore I did not try
to find him”? Will you say to him--“_If you had not been so good, if you
had been a little less good, a little worse, just a trifle bad, I could
and would have believed in you?”_’”

“But if the man could not believe there was any such being, how could he
have heart to look for him?”

“If he believed the idea of him so good, yet did not desire such a being
enough to wish that he might be, enough to feel it worth his while to
cry out, in some fashion or other, after him, then I could not help
suspecting something wrong in his will, or his moral nature somewhere;
or, perhaps, that the words he spoke were but words, and that he did
not really and truly feel that the idea of such a God was too good to
be true. In any such case his maker would not have cause to be satisfied
with him. And if his maker was not satisfied with what he had made, do
you think the man made would have cause to be satisfied with himself?”

“But if he was made so?”

“Then no good being, not to say a faithful creator, would blame him for
what he could not help. If the God had made his creature incapable of
knowing him, then of course the creature would not feel that he
needed to know him. He would be where we generally imagine the lower
animals--unable, therefore not caring to know who made him.”

“But is not that just the point? A man may say truly, ‘I don’t feel
I want to know anything about God; I do not believe I am made to
understand him; I take no interest in the thought of a God’!”

“Before I could answer you concerning such a man, I should want to know
whether he had not been doing as he knew he ought not to do, living
as he knew he ought not to live, and spoiling himself, so spoiling the
thing that God had made that, although naturally he would like to know
about God, yet now, through having by wrong-doing injured his deepest
faculty of understanding, he did not care to know anything concerning
him.”

“What could be done for such a man?”

“God knows--God _does_ know. I think he will make his very life a
terrible burden, so that for pure misery he will cry to him.”

“But suppose he was a man who tried to do right, who tried to help his
neighbour, who was at least so far a good man as to deny the God that
most people seem to believe in--what would you say then?”

“I would say, ‘Have patience.’ If there be a good God, he cannot be
altogether dissatisfied with such a man. Of course it is something
wanting that makes him like that, and it may be he is to blame, or it
may be he can’t help it: I do not know when any man has arrived at the
point of development at which he is capable of believing in God: the
child of a savage may be capable, and a gray-haired man of science
incapable. If such a man says, ‘The question of a God is not interesting
to me,’ I believe him; but, if he be such a man as you have last
described, I believe also that, as God is taking care of him who is the
God of patience, the time must come when something will make him want to
know whether there be a God, and whether he cannot get near him, so as
to be near him.’ I would say, ‘He is in God’s school; don’t be too much
troubled about him, as if God might overlook and forget him. He will see
to all that concerns him. He has made him, and he loves him, and he is
doing and will do his very best for him.’”

“Oh, I am so glad to hear you speak like that!” cried Barbara. “I didn’t
know clergymen were like that! I’m sure they don’t talk like that in the
pulpit!”

“Well, you know a man can’t just chat with his people in the pulpit
as he may when he has one alone to himself! For, you see, there are
hundreds there, and they are all very different, and that must make
a difference in the way he can talk to them. There are multitudes who
could not understand a word of what we have been saying to each, other!
But if a clergyman says anything in the pulpit that differs in essence
from what he says out of it, he is a false prophet, and has no business
anywhere but in the realm of falsehood.”

“Why is he in the church, then?”

“If there be any such man in the church of England, we have to ask first
how he got into it. I used to think the bishop who ordained him must be
to blame for letting such a man in. But I am told the bishops haven’t
the power to keep out any one who passes their examination, provided he
is morally decent; and if that be true, I don’t know what is to be done.
What I know is, that I have enough to do with my parish, and that to
mind my work is the best I can do to set the church right.”

“I suppose the bishops--some of them at least--would say, ‘If we do not
take the men we can get, how is the work of the church to go on?’”

“I presume that even such bishops would allow that the business of the
church is to teach men about God: that they cannot get men who know God,
is a bad argument for employing men who do not know him to teach others
about him. It is founded on utter distrust of God. I believe the only
way to set the thing right is to refuse the bad that there may be room
for God to send the good. By admitting the false they block the way for
the true. But the poor bishops have great difficulties. I am glad I am
not a bishop! My parish is nearly too much for me sometimes!”

Barbara could not help thinking how her mother alone had been almost too
much for him.

Their talk the rest of the way was lighter and more general; and to her
great joy Barbara discovered that the clergyman loved books the same way
the bookbinder loved them. But she did not mention Richard.

The parson took leave of her at a convenient issue from the park. But
before she had gone many steps he came running after her and said--

“By the way, Miss Wylder, here are some verses that may please you! We
were talking about our hopes for the animals! I heard the story they are
founded on the other day from my friend the dissenting minister of
the village. The little daughter of Dr. Doddridge, the celebrated
theologian, was overheard asking the dog if he knew who made him.
Receiving no reply, she said what you will find written there as the
text of the poem.”

He put a paper in her hand, and left her. She opened it, and found what
follows:--

DR. DODDRIDGE’S DOG.

“What! you Dr. Doddridge’s dog, and not know who made you!”

     My little dog, who blessed you
       With such white toothy-pegs?
     And who was it that dressed you
       In such a lot of legs!

     I’m sure he never told you
       Not to speak when spoken to!
     But it’s not for me to scold you:--
       Dogs bark, and pussies mew!

     I’ll tell you, little brother,
       In case you do not know:--
     One only, not another,
       Could make us two just so.

     You love me?--Quiet!--I’m proving!--
       It must be God above
     That, filled those eyes with loving!--
       He was the first to love!

     One day he’ll stop all sadness--
       Hark to the nightingale!
     Oh blessed God of gladness!--
       Come, doggie, wag your tail!

     That’s “Thank you, God!”--He gave you
       Of life this little taste;
     And with more life he’ll save you,
       Not let you go to waste!

     So we’ll live on together,
       And share our bite and sup;
     Until he says, “Come hither,”--
       And lifts us both high up!

Barbara was so much pleased with the verses that she thought them a
great deal better than they were.

Wingfold walked home thinking how, in his dull parish, where so few
seemed to care whether they were going back to be monkeys or on to be
men, he had yet found two such interesting young people as Richard and
Barbara.

He had come upon Richard again at his grandfather’s, had had a little
more talk with him, and had found him not so far from the kingdom of
heaven but that he cared to deny a false god; and he had just discovered
in Barbara, who so seldom went to church and who came of such strange
parents, one in whom the love of God was not merely innate, but keenly
alive. The heart of the one recoiled from a God that was not; the heart
of the other was drawn to a God of whom she knew little: were not the
two upon converging tracks? What to most clergymen would have seemed the
depth of a winter of unbelief, seemed to Wingfold a springtime full of
the sounds of the rising sap.

“What man,” he said to himself, “knowing the care that some men have of
their fellow-men, even to the spending of themselves for them, can doubt
that, loving the children, they must one day love the father! Who more
welcome to the heart of the eternal father, than the man who loves his
brother, whom also the unchanging father loves!”

Personally, I find the whole matter of religious teaching and observance
in general a very dull business--as dull as most secular teaching. If
salvation is anything like what are commonly considered its _means_, it
is to me a consummation devoutly to be deprecated. But no one ever found
Wingfold dull. For one thing he scarcely thought about the church, and
never mistook it for the kingdom of God. Its worldly affairs gave him no
concern, and party-spirit was loathsome to him as the very antichrist.
He was a servant of the church universal, of all that believed or ever
would believe in the Lord Christ, therefore of all men, of the whole
universe--and first, of every man, woman, and child in his own parish.
But though he was the servant of the boundless church, no church was
his master. He had no master but the one lord of life. Therefore the
so-called prosperity of the church did not interest him. He knew that
the Master works from within outward, and believed no danger possible to
the church, except from such of its nominal pastors as know nothing
of the life that works leavening from within. The will of God was all
Wingfold cared about, and if the church was not content with that, the
church was nothing to him, and might do to him as it would. He did not
spend his life for the people because he was a parson, but he was a
parson because the church of England gave him facilities for spending
his life for the people. He gave himself altogether to the Lord, and
therefore to his people. He believed in Jesus Christ as the everyday
life of the world, whose presence is just us needful in bank, or shop,
or house of lords, as at what so many of the clergy call the altar. When
the Lord is known as the heart of every joy, as well as the refuge
from every sorrow, then the altar will be known for what it is--an
ecclesiastical antique. The Father permitted but never ordained
sacrifice; in tenderness to his children he ordered the ways of their
unbelieving belief. So at least thought and said Wingfold, and if he did
not say so in the pulpit, it was not lest his fellows should regard
him as a traitor, but because so few of his people would understand. He
would spend no strength in trying to shore up the church; he sent his
life-blood through its veins, and his appeal to the Living One, for
whose judgment he waited.

The world would not perish if what is called the church did go to
pieces; a truer church, for there might well be a truer, would arise out
of her ruins. But let no one seek to destroy; let him that builds only
take heed that he build with gold and silver and precious stones, not
with wood and hay and stubble! If the church were so built, who could
harm it! if it were not in part so built, it would be as little worth
pulling down as letting stand. There is in it a far deeper and better
vitality than its blatant supporters will be able to ruin by their
advocacy, or the enviers of its valueless social position by their
assaults upon that position.

Wingfold never thought of associating the anxiety of the heiress with
the unbelief of the bookbinder. He laughed a laugh of delight when
afterward he learned their relation to each other.

The next Sunday, Barbara was at church, and never afterward willingly
missed going. She sought the friendship of Mrs. Wingfold, and found at
last a woman to whom she could heartily look up. She found in her also
a clergyman’s wife who understood her husband--not because he was
small-minded, but because she was large-hearted--and fell in thoroughly
with his modes of teaching his people, as well as his objects in regard
to them. She never sought to make one in the parish a churchman, but
tried to make every one she had to do with a scholar of Christ, a child
to his father in heaven.



CHAPTER XXXII. _THE SHOEING OF MISS BROWN_.

Two days after, on a lovely autumn evening, Barbara rode Miss Brown
across the fields, avoiding the hard road even more carefully than
usual. For Miss Brown, as I have said, was in want of shoes, and Barbara
herself was to have a hand in putting them on.

The red-faced, white-whiskered, jolly old Simon stood at the smithy door
to receive her: he had been watching for her, and had heard the gentle
trot over the few yards of road that brought her in sight. With a merry
greeting he helped her down from the great mare. It was but the sense
that his blackness was not ingrain, that kept him from taking her in
his arms like a child, and lifting her down--so small was she, and so
friendly and childlike. She would have shaken hands with him, but he
would not with her; it would make her glove, he said, as black as his
apron. Barbara pulled off her glove, and gave him her dainty little
hand, which the blacksmith took at once, being too much of a gentleman
not to know where respect becomes rudeness. He clasped the lovely loan
with the sturdy reverence of his true old heart, saying her hand should
pay her footing in the trade.

“Lord, miss, ain’t I proud to make a smith of you!” he said. “Only you
must do nothing but shoe! I can’t let you spoil your hands! You can keep
Miss Brown shod without doing that!--Here comes Dick for his part! He
might have left it to who taught him! Did he think the old man would be
rough with missie?--I dare say, now, he’s been teaching you that woman’s
work of his this long time!”

“Stop, stop, Mr. Armour!” cried Barbara. “When you see me shoe Miss
Brown, perhaps you won’t care to talk about woman’s work again!”

Richard came up, took Miss Brown in, and put her in her place. The
smith knew exactly what sort and size of shoes she wanted, and had them
already so far finished that but a touch or so was necessary to make
them an absolute fit. Barbara tucked up her skirt, and secured it with
her belt. But this would not satisfy Simon. He had a little leather
apron ready for her, and nothing would serve but she must put it on
to protect her habit. Till this was done he would not allow her touch
hammer or nail.

“Come, come, missie,” he said, “I’m king in my own shop, and you must do
as I tell you!”

Thereupon Barbara, who had stood out only for the fun of the thing, put
on the leather apron with its large bib, and set about her work.

Richard did not offer to put on the first shoe: he believed she had so
often watched the operation, that she must know perfectly what to do.
Nor was he disappointed. She proceeded like an adept. Happily Miss Brown
was very good. She was neither hungry nor thirsty; she had had just
enough exercise to make her willing to breathe a little; nothing had
gone wrong on the way to upset her delicate nerves--for, gentle and
loving as she always was, she was apt to be both apprehensive and
touchy; her digestion was all right, for she had had neither too much
corn nor too much grass; therefore she stood quite still, and if not
exactly full of faith, was yet troubled by no doubt as to the ability of
her mistress to put on her shoes for her--iron though they were, and to
be fastened with long sharp nails.

Richard was nowise astonished at Barbara’s coolness, or her courage, or
the business-like way in which she tucked the great hoof under her arm,
or even at the accurate aim which brought the right sort of blow down
on the head of nail after nail in true line with its length; but he
was astonished at the strength of her little hand, the hardness of her
muscles, covered with just fat enough to make form and movement alike
beautiful, and the knowing skill with which she twisted off the ends of
the nails: the quick turn necessary, she seemed to have by nature. In
her keen watching, she had so identified herself with the operator, that
perfect insight had supplied the place of active experience, and seemed
almost to have waked some ancient instinct that operated independent of
consciousness. The mare was shod, and well shod, without any accident;
and Richard felt no anxiety as he lifted the little lady to her back,
and saw her canter away as if she had been presented with fresh feathery
wings instead of only fresh iron shoes.

He experienced, however, not a little disappointment: he had hoped to
walk a part of her way alongside of Miss Brown. Barbara had in truth
expected he would, but a sudden shyness came upon her, and made her
start at speed the moment she was in the saddle. Simon and Richard stood
looking after her.

With a sharp scramble she turned. Richard darted forward. But nothing
was wrong with the mare. She came at a quick trot, and they were side
by side in a moment. Barbara had bethought herself that it was a pity
to get no more pleasure or profit out of the afternoon than just a
horse-shoeing!

“She’s all right!” she cried.

Richard imagined she had but started to put her handiwork to the test.
They walked back to the old man, and once more she thanked him--in such
pretty fashion as made him feel a lord of the world. Then Richard and
she moved away together in the direction of Mortgrange, and left Simon
praying God to give them to each other before he died.

They had not gone far when it became Richard’s turn to stop.

“Oh, miss,” he said, “I must go back! Neither of us has been to see
Alice, and I haven’t for more than a week! Think of her lying there,
expecting and expecting, and no one coming! It’s just the history of the
world! I must go back!”

He would not have said so much but that Barbara sat regarding him
without response of word or look, appearing not to heed him. He began to
wonder.

“Alice can’t be dead!” he thought with himself, “She was pretty well
when I saw her last!”

“She is gone,” said Barbara quietly, and the thought just discarded
returned on Richard with a sickening clearness.

He stood and stared. Barbara saw him turn white, and understood his
mistake--so terrible to one who had no hope of ever again seeing a
departed friend.

“She went home to her mother yesterday,” she said.

Richard gave a great sigh of relief.

“I thought she was dead!” he answered, “--and I had not been so good to
her as I might have been!”

“Richard,” said Barbara--it was the first time she called him by his
name--“did anybody in the world ever do all he might to make his best
friends happy?”

“No, miss, I don’t think it. There must always be something more he
might have done.”

“Then the better people become, the more lamentations, mourning,
and woe”--the words had taken hold of her at church the Sunday
before--“there must always be, because of those they shall never look
upon again, those to whom they shall never say, _I am sorry_! How comes
it that men are born into a world where there is nothing of what
they most need--consolation for the one inevitable thing, sorrow and
self-reproach?”

“There is consolation--that it will soon be over, that we go to them!”

“Go to them!” cried Barbara. “--We do not even go to look for them! We
shall not even know that we would find them if we could! We shall not
have even the consolation of suffering, of loving on in vain! The whole
thing is the most wrongful scorn, the most insulting mockery!--the
laughter of a devil at all that is noble and tender!--only there is not
even a devil to be angry with and defy!”

Barbara spoke with an indignation that made her eloquent. Richard gave
her no answer: there was no logic in what Barbara said--nothing to
reply to! Why should life not be misery? Why should there be any one who
cared? There was no ground for thinking there might be one! The proof
was all the other way! The idea was too good to be true! Richard had
said so to himself a thousand times. But was the world indeed on such a
grand scale that to believe in anything better or other than it seemed,
was to believe too much--was to believe more than, without proof which
was not to be had, Richard would care to believe? The nature of the case
grew clearer to him. As a man does not fear death while yet it seems far
away, so a man may not shrink from annihilation while yet he does not
realize what it means. To cease may well seem nothing to a man who
neither loves much, nor feels the bitterness of regret for wrong done,
the gnawing of that remorse whose mother is tenderness! He was beginning
to understand this.

The silence grew oppressive. It was as if each was dreaming of the other
dead. To break the pain of presence without communion, Richard spoke.

“Can you tell me, miss,” he said, “why Alice went away without letting
me know? She might have done that!”

“She had a good reason,” answered Barbara.

“I can’t think what it could be!” he returned. “I never was so long
without seeing her before, but surely she could not be so much offended
at that! You see, miss, I knew you went every day! and I knew I should
like that better than having any one else to come and see me! so I gave
myself no trouble. I never thought of her going for a long time yet! Did
her mother send her money?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Perhaps my grandfather lent her some! She couldn’t have any herself! I
wonder why she dislikes me so much!”

He was doubting whether she would have taken money from him, if he had
been in time to offer it. He did not like to ask Barbara if she had
helped her.--And then what was she to do when she got home?

Barbara had let him talk, delighted to look in at the windows his words
went on opening. In particular it pleased and attracted her, that he was
so unconscious of the goodness he had shown Alice. Barbara and he made a
rare conjunction of likeness. So many will do a kindness who are not yet
capable of forgetting it!

Barbara could not tell him that Alice was afraid to bid him good-bye
lest in her weakness she should render an explanation necessary. She did
not in the least doubt Richard was her brother, and her heart was full
of him. How often, as she lay alone, building her innocent and not very
wonderful castles, had she not imagined herself throwing her arms about
him, and kissing him at her will!--what if she should actually do so
when he came to bid her good-bye! Then she would have to tell him he was
her brother, and so perhaps might ruin everything! She must go without a
word!

“She is far from disliking you,” said Barbara.

“Why then did she not tell me, that I might have given her money for her
journey?”

“There was no need of that,” returned Barbara. “She is my sister now,
and a sovereign or two is nothing between us.”

“Oh, thank you! thank you, miss! Then she will have a little over when
she gets home! But I am afraid it will be long before she is able to
work again! It would be of no use to tell my mother, for somehow she
seems to have taken a great dislike to poor Alice. I am positive she
does not deserve it. My mother is the best woman I know, but she is very
stiff when she takes a dislike. Have you got her address, miss? Arthur
would take money from me, I think, but I don’t know where he is. I was
always meaning to ask her, and always forgot.”

“I will see she has everything she wants,” answered Barbara.

“Bless your lovely heart, miss!” exclaimed Richard. “But I fear nothing
much will reach them so long as their mother is alive. She eats and
drinks the flesh and blood of her children. Nobody could help seeing it.
There’s Arthur, cold, and thin, and miserable, without a greatcoat in
the bitterest weather! and Alice with hardly flesh enough for setting
to her great eyes! and Mrs. Manson well dressed, and eating the best
butter, and drinking the best bottled stout that money can buy! If only
their mother was like mine! If one of _her_ family had to starve, she
would claim it as her right. Such women as Mrs. Manson have no business
to be mothers! Why were _they_ made--if people _are_ made?”

“Perhaps they will be made something of yet!” suggested Barbara.

“If you’re right, miss, and there be a God, either he’s not so good as
you would be if you were God, or else somebody interferes, and won’t let
him do his best.”

“Shall I tell you what our clergyman said to me the other day?” returned
Barbara.

“Yes, if you please, miss. I don’t mind what _you_ say, because the God
you would have me believe in, is like yourself; and if he be, and be
like you, he will set everything tight as soon as ever he can.”

“What Mr. Wingfold said was this--that it was not fair, when a man had
made something for a purpose, to say it was not good before we knew what
his purpose with it was. ‘I don’t like,’ he said, ‘even my wife to look
at my verses before they’re finished! God can’t hide away his work till
it is finished, as I do my verses, and we ought to take care what we
say about it. God wants to do something better with people than people
think.’”

“Is he a poet?” said Richard. “But when I think how he looked at the
sunrise--of course he is! That man don’t talk a bit like a clergyman,
miss; he talks just like any other man--only better than I ever heard
man talk before. I couldn’t help liking him from the first, and wishing
I might meet him again! But I think I could put him a question or two
yet that would puzzle him!”

“I don’t know,” answered Barbara; “but one thing I am sure of, that, if
you did puzzle him, he would say he was puzzled, and must have time to
think it over!”

“That is to behave like a man!--and after all, clergymen are men, and
there must be good men among them!--But do you think, miss, you could
get Arthur’s address from Alice? The office is not where it used to be.”

“I dare say I could.”

“You see, miss, I shall have to go back to London.”

There was a tone and tremble in his words, to which, not to the words
themselves, Barbara made reply.

“Will anyone dare to say,” she rejoined, “that we shall not meet again?”

“The sort of God you believe in, miss, would not say it,” he answered;
“but the sort of God my mother believes in would.”

“I know nothing about other people’s Gods,” rejoined Barbara. “Indeed,”
 she added, “I know very little about my own; but I mean to know more:
Mr. Wingfold will teach me!”

“Take care he don’t overpersuade you, miss. You have been very good to
me, and I couldn’t bear you to be made a fool of. Only _he_ can’t be
just like the rest!”

“He will persuade me of nothing that doesn’t seem to me true--be certain
of that, Richard. And if it please God to part us, I will pray and keep
on praying to him to let us meet again. If I have been good to you, you
have been much better to me!”

Richard was not elated. He only thought, “How kind of her!”



CHAPTER XXXIII. _RICHARD AND VIXEN_.

Barbara turned her mare across the road, and sent her at the hedge. Miss
Brown cleared it like a stag, and took a bee-line along the grass for
Wylder Hall. Richard stood astonished. A moment before she was close
beside him, and now she was nearly out of his sight! The angel that
ascended from the presence of Manoah could scarcely have more amazed the
Danite. Though Richard could shoe a horse, he could no more have stuck
to Miss Brown over that hedge than he could have ascended with
the angel. He watched till she vanished, and then watched for her
reappearance at a point of hope beyond. Only when he knew that distance
and intervention rendered it impossible he should see her more, did he
turn and take his way to Mortgrange.

He was as much in love with Barbara as a man could be who indulged no
hope whatever of marrying her--who was not even tempted to build the
humblest castle for her in the air of possibility. But so far was his
love from causing in him any kind of selfish absorption, that his
heart was much troubled at Alice’s leaving him without a farewell. Her
behaviour woke in him his first sense of the inexplicable: he little
thought of its being but the first visible vapour of a mystery that
involved both his past and his future. All he knew was, that the sister
of his friend had, in a stormy night in London, fled from him as from
a wild beast; and that now, on a quiet morning in the country, she was
gone from his grandfather’s house without a word of farewell to him who
had called him to her aid.

“There must be a reason for everything,” he said to himself, “but some
reasons are hard to find!”

The next day in the forenoon, Richard was busy as usual in the library.
Doors and windows were shut against draughts, for he was working with
gold-leaf on the tooling of an ancient binding. A door opened, and in
came the goblin of the house. Perceiving what Richard was about, she
came bounding, lithe as a cat, and making a willful wind with her
pinafore, blew away the leaf he was dividing on the cushion, and knocked
a book of gold-leaf to the floor. The book-mender felt very angry, but
put an extra guard on himself, caught her in a firm grasp, and proceeded
to expel her. She threw herself on the floor, and began to scream.
Richard took her up, laid her down in the hall, and closed and locked
the door by which she had entered. Vixen lay where he laid her, and went
on screaming. By and by her screaming ceased, and a few moments after,
the handle of the door was tried. Richard took no notice. Then came a
peremptory knock. Richard called out, “Who’s there?” but no answer came
except a repetition of the knock, to which he paid no heed. The knock
was twice repeated, but Richard went on with his work, and gave no sign.
Suddenly another door, which he had not thought of securing, burst open,
and in sailed Miss Malliver, the governess, tall and slight, with the
dignity she put on for her inferiors, to whom she was as insolent as to
those above her she was cringing. True superiority she was incapable of
perceiving; real inferiority would have been hard to find.

“Man!” she exclaimed, the moment her wrath would allow her to speak,
“what do you mean by your insolence?”

“If you allude to my putting the child out of the room,” answered
Richard, “I mean that she is rude, and that I will not be annoyed with
her!”

“You shall be turned out of the house!”

“In the meantime,” rejoined Richard, who had a not unnatural repugnance
to Miss Malliver, and was now thoroughly angry, “I will turn you too out
of the room, and for the same reason.”

Richard felt, with every true gentleman, that the workman has a claim to
politeness as real as that of any gentleman. The man who cannot see it
is a cad.

“I dare you!” cried Miss Malliver, giving the rein to her innate
coarseness.

Before he blames Richard, my reader must think how he might himself
have behaved, had he been brought up among the people. I would have
him reflect also that the woman who presumes on her sex, undermines its
claim. Richard laid the tool he was using quietly aside, and approached
her deliberately. Trusting, like king Claudius, in the divinity that
hedged her, and not believing he would presume to touch her, the woman
kept her ground defiantly until his hands were on the point of seizing
her. Then she uttered a shriek, and fled. Richard closed the door behind
her, made it also fast, and returned to his work.

But he was not to be left in peace. Another hand came to the door, and
a voice demanding entrance followed the foiled attempt to open it. He
recognized the voice as lady Ann’s, and made haste to admit her. But her
ladyship stood motionless on the door-mat, erect and cool. Anger itself
could not warm her, for that she was angry was plain only from the
steely sparkle in her grey eyes.

“You forget yourself! You must leave the house!” she said.

“I have done nothing, my lady,” answered Richard, “but what it was
necessary to do. I did not hurt the child in the least.”

“That is not the point. You must leave the house.”

“I should at once obey you, my lady,” rejoined Richard, “but I am not at
liberty to do so. Sir Wilton has the command of my time till the month
of May. I am bound to be at his orders, whether I choose or not, except
he tell me to go.”

Lady Ann stood speechless, and stared at him with her icicle-eyes.
Richard turned away to his work. Lady Ann entered, and shut the door
behind her. Richard would have had to search long to discover the cause
of her peculiar behaviour. It was this: in his anger, he had flashed
on her a look which she knew but could not identify, and which somehow
frightened her. She must shape and identify the reminiscence! Familiar
enough with the expression of her husband’s face when he was out of
temper, she had yet failed to identify with it that look on the face
of his son. Had she known Richard’s mother, she would probably have
recognized him at once; for there was more of her as well as of his
father in his expression when he was angry: there must have been a good
many wrathful passages between the two! In the face of their child the
expression of the mother so modified that of the father, that lady Ann
could not isolate and verify it. She must therefore go on talking
to him, keeping to the point, but not pushing it so as to bring the
interview to an end too speedily for her purpose!

“Mr.----,--I don’t know your name,” she resumed, “--no respectable house
could harbour such behaviour. I grant sir Wilton is partly to blame, for
he ought not to have allowed the library to be turned into a workshop.
That however makes no difference. This kind of thing cannot continue!”

Richard went on with his work, and made no reply. Lady Ann looked in
vain for a revival of the expression that had struck her. For a
moment she thought of summoning Miss Malliver to do what she would
not condescend to do herself, namely, enrage him, that she might have
another chance with the suggested likeness; but something warned her not
to risk--she did not know what. At the same time the resemblance might
be to no person at all, but to some animal, or even perhaps, some piece
of furniture or china!

“You must not imagine yourself of importance in the house,” she resumed,
“because a friend of the family happens to be interested in the kind of
thing you do--very neatly, I allow, but--”

She stopped short. At this allusion to Barbara, Richard’s rage boiled up
with the swelling heave in a full caldron on a great furnace. Lady Ann
turned pale, pale even for her, murmured something inaudible, put her
hand to her forehead, and left the room.

Richard’s wrath fell. He thought with himself, “I have frightened her!
Perhaps they will leave me alone now!” He closed the door she had left
open behind her, unlocked the other, and fell once more to his work.

For the time the disturbance was over. When Miss Malliver and Vixen,
lingering near, saw lady Ann walk past, holding her hand to her
forehead, they also turned pale with fear: what a terrible man he must
be who had silenced my lady in her own house, and had his own way with
her! Vixen dared not go near him again for a long time.

But lady Ann’s perturbation did not last. She said to herself that she
was a fool to imagine such an absurdity. She remembered to have heard,
though at the time it had no interest for her, that the bookbinder had
relatives in the neighbourhood. Such a likeness might meet her at any
turn: the kind of thing was of constant occurrence about estates! It
improved the breed of the lower orders, and was no business of hers! A
child had certainly been lost, with a claim to the succession; but was
she therefore to be appalled at every resemblance to her husband that
happened to turn up! As to that particular child, she would not believe
that he was alive! He could not be! That, after so many years, she, an
earl’s daughter, would have to give way to a woman lower than a peasant,
was preposterous!

It must be remembered that she knew nothing of the relation of the nurse
to the child she had stolen, knew of no source whence light could fall
upon their disappearance. Old Simon himself knew nothing of the affair
till years after the feeble search for the child had ceased. Lady
Ann had a strong hope that his birth had not been registered: she had
searched for it--with what object I will not speculate, but had not
found it. She was capable of a good deal in some directions, for she
came of as low a breed as her husband, with more cunning, and less open
defiance in it; there was not much she would have blenched at, with
society on her side, and a good chance of foiling in safety the low-born
woman who had “popped” her child “in between the” heritage “and” her
“hopes.” It might be wrong, but it would be for the sake of right! Ought
not imposture to be frustrated, however legalized? Would it not be both
intrusion and imposture for a man of low origin to possess the ancient
lands of Mortgrange, ousting a child of her family, born of her person,
and bred in the brightest beams of the sun social?

I can well imagine her coming to reason thus. For the present,
unnecessary as she was determined to think it, she yet resolved to do
all that was left her to do: she would watch; and while she watched,
would take care that the young man was subjected to no annoyance, lest
in his wrath his countenance should suggest to another, as to herself,
the question of his origin!

Thus it came that Richard heard nothing more of his threatened expulsion
from Mortgrange.



CHAPTER XXXIV. _BARBARA’S DUTY_.

The same afternoon appeared Barbara--as none knew when she might not
appear--before the front windows of the house, perched upon her huge yet
gracious Miss Brown. Arthur was in general upon the outlook for her, but
to-day he was not, being more vexed with her than usual for withholding
the encouragement he desired, and indeed imagined he deserved--not
exactly from vanity, yet no less from an overweening sense of his own
worth.

It is an odd delusion to which young men are subject, that, because they
admire, perhaps even love a woman, they have a claim on her love. Arthur
was confident that he loved Barbara as never man had loved, as never
woman had desired to be loved, and counted it not merely unjust but
cruel of her to show him no kindness that savoured of like attraction.
He did not know or suspect that a fortnight of the London season would
go far to make him forget her. He was not a bad sort of fellow, had no
vice, was neither snob nor cad; his worst fault was pride in himself
because of his family--pride in everything he had been born to, and in a
good deal he fancied he had been born to, in which his having was small
enough. He was not jealous of Barbara’s pleasure in Richard’s company.
The slightest probe of such a feeling toward a man so infinitely beneath
him, he would have felt degrading. To think of the two together would
have been to insult both Barbara and himself; to think of himself and
the bookbinder for one briefest moment of comparison, would have been to
insult all the Lestranges that ever lived. Tuke had no _raison d’être_
but work for the library that would one day be Arthur’s, and by its
excellence add to the honour of Mortgrange! He forgot that Richard had
opened his eyes to its merit, and imagined himself the discoverer of its
value: did he not pay the man for his work? and is not what a man pays
for his own? Does not the purchaser of a patent purchase also the credit
of the invention? That the workman in the library knew as much more than
he about the insides as about the outsides of the books, gave him no
dignity in his eyes: none but a university-man at least must gain honour
by knowledge! The fact, however, did make him more friendly; and after
he got used to Richard he seldom stiffened his jelly to remind him that
their intercourse was by the sufferance of a humane spirit. Barbara’s
behaviour to him had done nothing to humble him; for humiliation is at
best but a poisoned and poisonous humility.

Little Vixen ran out to Barbara, and made herself less unpleasant
than usual: the monkey was preparing her, by what blandishment she was
mistress of, to receive a complaint against the man in the library
which would injure him in her favour. Might Vixen but see motion and
commotion, turmoil and passion around her, she did not care how it
arose, or which of the persons involved got the worse in it. She
accompanied Barbara to the stable, and as they walked back together,
gave her such an account of what had taken place, that Barbara,
distrusting the child, yet felt anxious. She knew the spirit of Richard,
knew that he would never show her ladyship the false respect a tradesman
too often shows, and feared lest he should have to leave the house. She
must give lady Ann the opportunity of saying what she might please on
the matter!

It must be remembered that Barbara was under no pledge of secrecy to
Alice or any one; she was free to do what might seem for the best--that
is, for the good of Richard. It was the part of every neighbour to take
care of a blind man, particularly when there was special ground for
caution unknown to him.

“I am sorry to find you so poorly, dear lady Ann,” she said, with her
quick sympathy for suffering.

Vixen had told her that the horrid man had made her mamma quite ill; and
Barbara found her with her boudoir darkened, and a cup of green tea on a
Japanese table by the side of the couch on which she lay.

“It is only one of my headaches, child!” returned lady Ann. “Do not let
it disturb you.”

“I am afraid, from what Victoria tells me, that something must have
occurred to annoy you seriously!”

“Nothing at all worth mentioning. He is an odd person, that workman of
yours!”

“He is peculiar,” granted Barbara, doubtful of her own honesty because
of the different sense in which she used the word from that in which it
would be taken; “but I am certain he would not willingly vex any one.”

“Children will be troublesome!” drawled her ladyship.

“Particularly Victoria,” returned Barbara. “Mr. Tuke cannot bear to have
his work put in jeopardy!”

“Very excusable in him.”

Barbara was surprised at her consideration, and thought she must somehow
be pleased with Richard.

“It would astonish you to hear him talk sometimes,” she said. “There
is something remarkable about the young man. He must have a history
somewhere!”

She had been thinking whether it was fair to sir Wilton and his family
to conceal the momentous fact she alone of their friends knew: were they
not those, next to Richard himself, most concerned in it? Should lady
Ann be allowed to go on regarding the property as the inheritance of her
son, when at any instant it might be swept from his hold? Had they not a
right to some preparation for the change? If there was another son,
and he the heir, ought she not at least to know that there was such a
person? She had resolved, that very morning, to give lady Ann a hint of
the danger to which she was exposed.

But there was another reflection, more potent yet, that urged Barbara to
speak. Since learning Alice’s secret, she had found herself more swiftly
drawn toward Richard, nor could she escape the thought that he might one
day ask her to be his wife: it would be painful then to know that she
had made progress in his regard by being imagined his superior, when she
knew she was not! Incapable of laying a snare, was she not submitting to
the advantage of an ignorance? The misconception she was thus risking
in the future, had already often prevented her from going to Mortgrange.
Richard, she was certain, knew her better than ever to misjudge her, but
she shrank from the suspicion of any one that she had hidden what
she knew for the sake of securing Richard’s preference before their
relations were altered--when, on a level with the choice of society, he
might well think differently of her.

Barbara was one of those to whom concealment is a positive pain. She had
a natural hatred, most healthy and Christian, to all secrets as such;
and to take any advantage of one would have seemed to her a loathsome
thing. She constantly wanted to say all that was in her, and when she
must not, she suffered.

“He may have good blood in him on one side,” suggested lady Ann. “He
was rude to me, but I dare say it was the child’s fault. He seems
intelligent!”

“He is more than intelligent. I suspect him of being a genius.”

“I should have thought him a tradesman all over!”

“But wouldn’t genius by and by make a gentleman of him?”

“Not in the least. It might make him grow to look like one.”

“Isn’t that the same? Isn’t it all in the look?”

“By no means. A man must _be_ a gentleman or he is nothing! A gentleman
would rather not have been born than not be a gentleman!” said lady Ann.

She spoke to an ignorant person from the colonies, where they could not
be supposed to understand such things, and never suspected the danger
she and her false importance were in with the little colonial girl.

“But if his parents were gentlefolk?” suggested Barbara.

“Birth predetermines style, both in body and mind, I grant,” said
lady Ann; “education and society must do their parts to make any man a
gentleman; and where all has been done, I must confess to having seen
remarkable failures. Bad blood must of course have got in somehow.”

“I wish I knew what makes a gentleman!” sighed Barbara. “I have all my
life been trying to understand the thing.--Tell me, lady Ann--to be a
gentleman, must a man be a good man?”

“I am sorry to say,” she answered, “it is not in the least necessary.”

“Then a gentleman may do bad things, and be a gentleman still?”

“Yes--that is, _some_ bad things.”

“Do you mean--not _many_ bad things?”

“No; I mean certain kinds of bad things.”

“Such as cheating at cards?”

“No. If he were found doing that, he would be expelled from any club in
London.”

“May he tell lies, then?”

“Certainly not! It is a very ungentlemanly thing to tell lies.”

“Then, if a man tells a lie, he is not a gentleman?”

“I do not say that; I say that to tell lies is ungentlemanly?”

“Does that mean that he may tell _some_ lies, and yet be a gentleman?”

Lady Ann was afraid to go on. She saw that to go on answering the girl
from the colonies, with her troublesome freedom of thought and question,
might land her in a bog of contradictions.

“How many lies may a gentleman tell in a day?” pursued the
straight-going Barbara.

“Not any,” answered lady Ann.

“Does the same rule hold for ladies?”

“Y--e--s----I should say so,” replied her ladyship--with hesitation, for
she suspected being slowly driven into some snare. She knew she was not
careful enough to speak the truth--so much she confessed to herself,
the fact being that, to serve any purpose she thought worth gaining, she
would lie without a scruple--taking care, however, to keep the lie as
like the truth as consisted with success, in order that, if she were
found out, it might seem she had mistaken.

Barbara noted the uncertainty of the sound her ladyship’s trumpet
gave, and began to be assured that the laws of society were no firm
stepping-stones, and that society itself was a morass, where one must
spend her life in jumping from hump to hump, or be swallowed up.

She had been wondering how far, if Richard proved heir to a baronetcy,
his education and manners would decree him no gentleman; but it was
useless to seek light from lady Ann. As they talked, however, the
feeling came and grew upon her, that she was not herself acting like
a lady, in going so much to her house, and being received by her as a
friend, when all the time she knew something she did not know, something
it was important for her to know, something she had a right and a claim
to know. She would herself hate to live on what was not her own, as lady
Ann would be left to do when sir Wilton died, if the truth about Richard
remained undisclosed! It was very unfair to leave them unwarned for this
reason besides, that so the fact might at last find them, for lack of
preparation, without resource!

“I want to talk to you about something, lady Ann,” she said. “You can’t
but know that a son of sir Wilton’s was stolen when he was a baby, and
never found!”

It was the first time for many years that lady Ann had heard the thing
alluded to except once or twice by her husband. Her heart seemed to make
a somersault, but not a visible muscle moved. What could the girl be
hinting at? Were there reports about? She must let her talk!--the more
freely the better!

“Every one knows that!” she answered. “It is but too true. It happened
after my marriage. I was in the house at the time.--What of it, child?
There can be little hope of his turning up now--after twenty years!”

“I believe he has turned up. I believe I know him.”

Lady Ann jumped to the most natural, most mistaken conclusion.

“It’s the bookbinder!” she said to herself. “He has been telling her
a pack of lies! His being in the house is part of the plot. It must be
nipped in the bud! If it be no lie, if he be the very man, it must be
nipped all the same! Good heavens! if Arthur should _not_ marry her--or
someone--before it is known!”

“It may be so,” she answered quietly, “but it hardly interests me. I
don’t like talking of such things to a girl, but innocence cannot always
be spared in this wicked world. The child you speak of was born in this
house, and stolen out of it; but his mother was a low woman; she was not
the wife of sir Wilton.”

“Everybody believed her his wife!” faltered Barbara.

“Very possibly! Very likely! She may even have thought so herself! Such
people are so ignorant!” said lady Ann with the utmost coolness. “He may
even have married her after the child was born for anything I know.”

“Sir Wilton must have made her believe she was his wife!” cried Barbara,
her blood rising at the thought of such a wrong done to Richard’s
mother.

“Possibly,” admitted lady Ann with a smile.

“Then a baronet may tell lies, though a gentleman may not!” said
Barbara, as if speaking to herself.

Lady Ann was not indignant. She had hesitated to say a lady might lie,
but did not hesitate to lie the moment the temptation came, nor for that
would doubt herself a lady! She knew perfectly that the woman was the
wife of her husband as much as she herself was, and that she died giving
birth to the heir. She had no hope that any lie she could tell would
keep that child out of the property if he were alive and her husband
wished him to have it; but a lie well told to Barbara might help to keep
her for Arthur.

“Gentlemen think they _may_ tell lies to women!” she returned with
calmness, and just a tinge of regret.

“How are they gentlemen then?” cried Barbara; “or where is the good of
being a gentleman? Is it that he knows better how to lie to a woman? A
knight used to be every woman’s castle of refuge; a gentleman now, it
seems, is a pitfall in the bush!”

“It is a matter they settle among themselves,” answered lady Ann,
confused between her desire to appear moral, and to gain her lie credit.

“I think I shall not call myself a lady!” said Barbara, after a moment’s
silence. “I prefer being a woman! I wonder whether in heaven they say a
_woman_ or a _lady!_”

“I suppose they are all sorts there as well as here,” answered lady Ann.

“How will the ladies do without gentlemen?” suggested Barbara.

“Why without gentlemen? There will be as many surely of the one sex as
of the other!”

“No,” said Barbara, “that cannot be! Gentlemen tell lies, and I am sure
no lie is told in heaven!”

“All gentlemen do not tell lies!” returned lady Ann, herself at the
moment full of lying.

“But all gentlemen _may_ lie!” persisted Barbara, “so there can be no
gentlemen in heaven.”

“I am sorry I had to mention the thing,” returned lady Ann, “but I was
afraid your sweet romantic nature might cherish an interest where was
nothing on which to ground it. Of course I know whence the report you
allude to comes! _Any_ man, bookbinder or blacksmith, may put in a
claim. He will find plenty to back him. They will very likely get up
a bubble-company, for speculation on his chance! His own class will be
sure to take his part! Now that those that ought to know better have
taught them to combine, the lower orders stick at nothing to annoy their
superiors! But, thank heaven, the estate is _not_ entailed!”

“If you imagine Mr. Tuke told me he was heir to Mortgrange, lady Ann,
you are mistaken. He does not know himself that he is even supposed to
be.”

“Are you sure of that? Who then told you? Is it likely his friends have
got him into the house, under the eye of his pretended father, and he
himself know nothing of the manoeuvre?”

“How do you know it was he I meant, lady Ann?”

“You told me so yourself.”

“No; that I did not! I _know_ I didn’t, lady Ann! What made you fix on
him?”

Lady Ann saw she had committed herself.

“If you did not tell me,” she rejoined, “your peculiar behaviour to the
man must have led me to the conclusion!”

“I have never concealed my interest in Mr. Tuke, but--”

“You certainly have not!” interrupted her ladyship, who both suffered in
temper and lost in prudence from annoyance at her own blunder.

“Pray, hear me out, lady Ann. What I want to say is, that my friendship
for Mr. Tuke had begun long before I learned the fact concerning which I
thought I ought to warn you.”

“Friendship!--ah, well!--scarcely decorous!--but as to what you call
_fact_, I would counsel a little caution. I repeat that, if the man
be the son of that woman, which may be difficult to prove, it is of
no consequence to any one; sir Wilton was never married to his
mother--_properly_ married, I mean. I am sorry he should have been born
out of wedlock--it is anything but proper; at the same time I cannot be
sorry that he will never come between my Arthur and the succession.”

Here lady Ann saw a sudden radiance light up the face of Barbara, and
change its expression, from that of a lady rightfully angry and a little
scornful, to that of a child-angel. Entirely concerned hitherto with
Richard’s loss and pain, if what lady Ann said should be true, it now
first occurred to her what she herself would gain if indeed he was not
the heir: no one could think she had been his friend because he
was going to be a rich man! If he was the wronged man her ladyship
represented him--and her ladyship ought to know--she might behave to
him as she pleased without suspicion of low motive! Little she knew what
motives such persons as lady Ann were capable of attributing--as little
how incapable they were of understanding any generous motive!

Barbara had an insuperable, a divine love of justice. She would have
scorned the thought of forsaking a friend because the very mode of his
earthly being was an ante-natal wrong to him. The righteousness that
makes a man visit the sins of a father upon his children, is the
righteousness of a devil, not the righteousness of God. When God visits
the sins of a father on his children, it is to deliver the child from
his own sins through yielding to inherited temptation. Barbara rejoiced
that she was free to approach Richard, and make some amends to him for
the ass-judgment of the world. I do not know that she said to herself,
“Now I may love him as I please!” but her thought went in that
direction.

It did not take lady Ann long to interpret the glow on Barbara’s face
to her own satisfaction. The report she had heard and believed, had kept
Barbara back from encouraging Arthur, and made her pursue her unpleasant
intimacy with the bookbinder! the sudden change on her countenance
indicated the relief of finding that Arthur, and not this man, was
indeed the heir! How could she but prefer her Arthur to a man smelling
of leather and glue, a man without the manners or education of a
gentleman! He might know a few things that gentlemen did not care to
know, but even those he got only out of books! He could not do one of
the many things her Arthur did! He could neither ride, nor shoot, nor
dress, nor dance! He was tall, but he was clumsy! No doubt he was a sort
of vulgar-handsome, but when out of temper, was ugly enough!

That lady Ann condescended to such comparison, was enough to show that
she believed the story at least half. The girl remaining silent.

“You will oblige me, dear Barbara,” she said, “by not alluding to this
report! It might raise doubt where it could not do serious harm!”

“There are others who not only know but believe it,” answered Barbara.

“Who are they?”

“I do not feel at liberty to tell their names. I thought you had a right
to know what was said, but I have no right to mention where I heard it.”

Lady Ann grew thoughtful again, and as she thought grew convinced that
Barbara had not spoken the truth, and that it was Richard who had told
her: it is so easy for those who lie to believe that another is lying!
It is impossible indeed for such to imagine that another, with what they
would count strong reason for lying, would not lie. Gain is the crucial
question for vile souls of any rank. She believed also, for they that
lie doom themselves to believe lies as well as disbelieve truths, that
Richard had got into the house in order to learn things that might serve
in the establishing of his claim.

“It will be much better you should keep silent concerning the report,”
 she said. “I do not want the question stirred. If the young man, any
young man, I mean, should claim the heirship, we must meet the thing as
it ought to be met; till then, promise me you will be silent.”

She would fain have time to think, for she feared in some way
compromising herself. And in any case, the longer the crisis could be
postponed, the better for her prospects in the issue!

“I will not promise anything,” answered Barbara. “I dread promising.”

“Why?” asked lady Ann, raising her eyebrows.

“Because promises have to be kept, and that is sometimes very difficult;
and because sometimes you find you ought not to have made them, and yet
you must keep them. It is a horrid thing to have to keep a promise you
don’t like keeping, especially if it hurts anybody.”

“But if you ought to make the promise?” suggested lady Ann.

“Then you must make it. But where there is no _ought_, I think it wrong
to bind yourself. What right have you, when you don’t know what may
be wanted of you, to tie your own hands and feet? There may come an
earthquake or a fire!”

“Does friendship demand nothing? You are our guest!”

It was not in lying only that lady Ann was not a lady.

“One’s friends may have conflicting interests!” said Barbara.

Lady Ann was convinced that Richard was at the root of the affair, and
she hated him. What if he _were_ the heir, and it could be proved! The
thought was sickening. It was with the utmost strain that she kept up
her apparent indifference before the mocking imp honest Barbara seemed
to her. For heaven is the devil’s hell, and the true are the devils of
it. How was she to assure herself concerning the fellow? how discover
what he was, what he knew, and how much he could prove? She could not
even think, with that little savage sitting there, staring out of her
wide eyes!

“My sweet Barbara,” she said, “I am so much obliged to you for letting
me know! I will not ask any promise from you. Only you must not
heedlessly bring trouble upon us. If the thing were talked about, some
unprincipled lawyer would be sure to take it up, and there would be
another claimant-case, with the people in a hubbub, and thousands of
ignorant honest folk duped of their money to enrich the rascality. I
heard a distinguished judge once say, that, even if the claimant _were_
the real sir Roger, he had no right to the property, having so long
neglected the duties of it as to make it impossible to be certain of his
identity. Such people put the country to enormous expense, and are never
of any service to it. It is a wrong to all classes when a man without
education succeeds to property. For one thing he will always side with
the tenants against the land. And what service can any such man render
his country in parliament? Without a suitable training there can be no
genuine right.”

She was on the point of adding--“And then are the hopes and services and
just expectations of a lifetime to go for nothing?” but checked herself
and was silent.

To all this Barbara had been paying little heed. She was revolving
whether she ought to tell Richard what she had just heard. Neither
then nor as she rode home, however, could she come to a conclusion. If
Richard was not the heir, why should she trouble him? But he might be
the heir, and what then? She must seek counsel! But of whom? Not of her
mother! As certainly not of her father! She had no ground for trusting
the judgment of either.

Having got rid of Miss Brown, she walked to the parsonage.

But she did not find there such a readiness to give advice as she had
expected.

“The thing is not my business,” said Wingfold.

“Not!” returned the impetuous Barbara. “I thought you were so much
interested in the young man! He told me the other day that he had
seen you again, and had a long talk with you, and that you thought
the popular idea of the inspiration of the scriptures the greatest
nonsense!”

“Did he tell you that I said it was much nearer the truth after all than
the fancy that the Bible had no claim beyond any other book?”

“Yes, he did.”

“That’s all right!--Tell me then, Miss Wylder: are you interested in the
young man because he is possibly heir to a baronetcy?”

“Certainly not!” answered Barbara with indignation.

“Then why should I be?” pursued the parson. “What is it to me? I am not
a county-magistrate even!”

“I cannot understand you, Mr. Wingfold!” protested Barbara, “You say you
are there not for yourself but for the people, yet you will not move to
see right done!”

“I would move a long way to see that Mr. Tuke cared to do right: that is
my business. It is not much to me, and nothing to my business, whether
Mr. Tuke be rich or poor, a baronet or a bookbinder; it is everything to
me whether Mr. Tuke will be an honest fellow or not.”

“But if he should prove to have a right to the property?”

“Then he ought to have the property. But it is not my business to
discover or to enforce the right. My business is to help the young man
to make little of the matter, whether he find himself the lawful heir,
or a much injured man through his deceived mother.--Tell me whose
servant I am.”

“You are the servant of Jesus Christ.”

“--Who said the servant must be as his master.--Do you remember how he
did when a man came asking him to see justice done between him and his
brother?--He said, ‘Man, who made me a judge and a divider over you?
Take heed and beware of covetousness.’--It may be _your_ business to see
about it; I don’t know; I scarcely think it is. My advice would be
to keep quiet yet a while, and see what will come. There appears no
occasion for hurry. The universe does not hang on the question of
Richard’s rights. Will it be much whether your friend go into the other
world as late heir, or even late owner of Mortgrange, or as the son of
Tuke, the bookbinder? Will the dead be moved from beneath to meet the
young baronet at his coming? Will the bookbinder go out into dry places,
seeking rest and finding none?”



CHAPTER XXXV. _THE PARSON’S COUNSEL_.

It was a happy thing for both Richard and Barbara, that Barbara was now
under another influence besides Richard’s. The more she saw of Mr. and
Mrs. Wingfold, the more she felt that she had come into a region of
reality and life. Both of them understood what a rare creature she was,
and spoke as freely before her as if she had been a sister of their own
age and standing. Barbara on her side knew no restraint with them, but
spoke in like freedom, both of her past life, and the present state
of things at home--which was indeed no secret, being manifest to the
servants, and therefore known to all the county, in forms more or less
correct, as it had been to all the colony before they left it. She
talked almost as freely of Richard, and of the great desire she had to
get him to believe in God.

“It was a dangerous relation between two such young people!” some of my
readers will remark.--Yes, I answer--dangerous, as every true thing
is dangerous to him or her who is not true; as every good thing is
dangerous to him or her who is not good. Nothing is so dangerous as
religious sentiment without truth in the inward parts. Certain attempts
at what is called conversion, are but writhings of the passion of
self-recommendation; gapings of the greed of power over others;
swellings of the ambition to propagate one’s own creed, and proselytize
victoriously; hungerings to see self reflected in another convinced. In
such efforts lie dangers as vulgar as the minds that make them, and love
the excitement of them. But genuine love is far beyond such grovelling
delights; and the peril of such a relation is in inverse proportion to
the reality of those concerned.

Barbara was one who, so far as human eyes could see, had never required
conversion. She had but to go on, recognize, and do. She turned to
the light by a holy will as well as holy instinct. She needed much
instruction, and might yet have fierce battles to fight, but to convert
such as Barbara must be to turn them the wrong way; for the whole
energy of her being was in the direction of what is right--that is,
righteousness. She needed but to be told a good thing--I do not say
_told that a thing was good_--and at once she received it--that is,
obeyed it, the _only_ way of receiving a truth. She did the thing
immediately demanded upon every reception of light, every expansion of
true knowledge. She was essentially _of_ the truth; and therefore, when
she came into relation with a soul such as Wingfold, a soul so much more
developed than herself, so much farther advanced in the knowledge of
realities as having come through difficulties unknown and indeed at
present unknowable to Barbara, she met one of her own house, and her
life was fed from his, and began to grow faster. For he taught her to
know the eternal man who bore witness to his father in the face of his
perverse children, to know that his heart was the heart of a child in
truth and love, and the heart of a God in courage and patience; and
Barbara became his slave for very love, his blessed child, the inheritor
of his universe. Happily her life had not been loaded to the ground with
the degrading doctrines of those that cower before a God whose justice
may well be satisfied with the blood of the innocent, seeing it consists
but in the punishing of the guilty. She had indeed heard nothing of that
brood of lies until the unbelieving Richard--ah, not far from believing
he who but rejected such a God!--gave her to know that such things were
believed. From the whole swarm she was protected--shame that it should
have to be said!--by pure lack of what is generally regarded as _a
religious education_, such being the mother of more tears and madness
in humble souls, and more presumption in the proud and selfish, than
perhaps any other influence out of whose darkness God brings light.
Neither ascetic nor mystic nor doctrinist of any sort, caring nothing
for church or chapel, of observance of any kind as observance, she
believed in God, and was now ready to die for Jesus Christ, in the
eternal gladness that there was such a person as God and such a person
as Jesus Christ. Their being was to her the full and only pledge of
every bliss, every childlike delight. She believed in the God of the
whole earth, not in a puritanical God. She never imagined it could be
wrong to dance: merry almost in her very nature, she now held it a duty
to be glad. Fond of sweets, she would have thought it wrong to refuse
what God meant her to like; but she had far more pleasure in giving than
in receiving them. She got into a little habit of thanking God for Miss
Brown every time she felt herself on her back. She saw, the moment she
heard it, that whatever was not of faith was sin: “The idea,” she said,
“of taking a thing from God without thinking love back to him for it!”
 She shuddered at the thought of unnecessarily hurting, yet would punish
sharply. She would whip her dog when he deserved it, but sat up all
night with him once when he was ill. She understood something of the
ways of God with men.

Wingfold never sought to moderate her ardour for the good of her
workman-friend; he only sought to strengthen her in the truth.

One day, when they were all three sitting together in the twilight
before the lamp was lit--for Helen Wingfold was one of those happy women
able to let their hands lie in their laps--he said to his pupil,

“Now, pray, Miss Wylder, don’t try by argument to convince the young man
of anything. That were no good, even if you succeeded. Opinion is all
that can result from argument, and his opinion concerning God, even if
you got it set right, would not be knowledge of God, and would be worth
nothing; while, if a man knows God, his opinion is either right, or on
the nearest way to be right. The notion in Richard’s brain of the God he
denies, is but another form of the Moloch of the Ammonites. There never
was, and never could be such a God. He in whom I believe is the God that
says, ‘This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.’ It is as if
he said--‘Look at that man: I am just such! No other likeness of me is a
true likeness. Heed my son: heed nobody else. Know him and you know me,
and then we are one for ever.’ Talk to Richard of the God you love, the
beautiful, the strong, the true, the patient, the forgiving, the loving;
the one childlike, eternal power and Godhead, who would die himself and
kill you rather than have you false and mean and selfish. Let him feel
God through your enthusiasm for him. You can’t prove to him that there
is any God. A God that could be proved, would not be worth proving. Make
his thoughts dwell on such a God as he must feel would be worth having.
Wake the notion of a God such as will draw him to wish there were such a
God. There are many religious people who will tell you there is no such
God as I mean; but God will love you for believing that he is as
good and true as you can think. Throw the notions of any who tell you
otherwise to the winds of hell, ‘God is just!’ said a carping theologian
to me the other day. ‘Yes,’ I answered, ‘and he cannot be pleased that
you should call that justice which is injustice, and attribute it
to him!’ There are many who must die in ignorance of their Father in
heaven, because they will not of their own selves judge what is right.
Such never get beyond the weak and beggarly elements. Set in Richard’s
eye a God worth believing in, a God like the son of God, and he will go
and look if haply such a God may be found; he will call upon him, and
the God who is will hear and answer him. What good would it be, what
could it bring but the more condemnation, that a man should be sure
there was a God, if he did not cry to him? But although a man may
never doubt and never cry, I cannot imagine any man sure there is a God
without his first having cried to him. God is God to us not that we may
say _he is_, but _that we may know him_; and when we know him, then we
are with him, at home, at the heart of the universe, the heirs of all
things. All this is foolishness, I know, to the dull soul that cares
only for the things that admit of being proved. The unprovable mystery
out of which come the things provable, has for them no interest, they
say, because it is unprovable: they take for granted that therefore it
is unknowable. Would they be content it should be unknowable if things
were all as they should be within them? When the eyes of those who have
made themselves at home in the world of the senses and care for no other
are opened, I imagine them saying--‘Yes, He was after all; but none the
less were you fools to believe in him, for you had no proof!’ Then I
seem to hear the children laugh and say, ‘We had himself, and did not
want it.’ That the unprovable is necessarily the unknowable, a thousand
beliefs deny. ‘You cannot prove to me that you have a father!’ says the
blind sage, reasoning with the little child. ‘Why should I prove it?’
answers the child. ‘I am sitting on his knee! If I could prove it, that
would not make you see him; that would not make you happy like me! You
do not care about my father, or you would not stand there disputing; you
would feel about until you found him!’ If a thing be true in itself, it
is not capable of proof; and that man is in the higher condition who
is able to believe it. In proportion as a man is a fool he is unable to
believe what in itself is true. If intellect be the highest power,
then the men of proof are the wisest; if there be something deeper than
intellect, causing and including it, if there be a creative power of
which our intellect is but a faint reflex, then the child of that power,
the one who acknowledges and loves and obeys that power, will be the
one to understand it. If a man say, ‘I cannot believe; I was not made to
believe what I could not prove;’ I reply, Do you really say, ‘It is not
true,’ because you have no proof? Ask yourself whether you do not turn
from the idea because you prefer it should not be true. You accept a
thousand things without proof, and a thousand things may be perfectly
true, and have no proof. But if you cannot be sure, why therefore do
you turn away? Is the thing assuredly false? Then you ought of course
to turn away. Can you prove it false? You cannot. Again, why do you turn
away? That a thing is not assuredly true, cannot be reason for turning
from it, else farewell to all theory and all scientific research! Is the
thing less good, less desirable, less worth believing, in itself, that
you cannot thus satisfy yourself concerning it? The very chance that
_such_ a thing may be true, the very fact that it cannot be disproved,
is large reason for an honest, and continuous, and unending search.
Do you hold any door in your nature open for the possibility of a God
having a claim on you? The truth is, as I hinted before, that you are
not drawn to the idea, do not like it; and it is therefore you turn
away, and not because you have no proof.--If the man then shifted
his ground and said, ‘He seemed to me not a good being, and I said
therefore, he _cannot_ exist;’ I should reply, There you were right. But
a thing that cannot be, cannot render impossible a thing that can
be--a thing against whose existence there are no such arguments as have
rightly shown that the other cannot be. In right logical balance you
must admit that a creative being who is good _may_ exist. But the final
question is always this: Have you acted, or rather, are you acting
according to the conscience which is the one guide to truth, to all that
is!”

“But,” said Barbara, “perhaps the man would say that we see such
suffering in the world, that the being who made it, if there be one,
cannot possibly be both strong and good, otherwise he would not allow
it.”

“Say then, that he might be both strong and good, and have some reason
for allowing, or even causing it, which those who suffer will themselves
one day justify, ready for the sake of it to go through all the
suffering again. Less than that would not satisfy me. If he say, ‘What
reason could justify the infliction of such suffering?’ then tell him
what I am now going to tell you.

“A year ago,” continued Wingfold, “my little boy displeased me horribly.
I will not tell you what he did: when the boy grows up, he will find it
as impossible to understand how he could have done the thing, as I
find it now. People say, ‘Children will be children!’ but I see little
consolation in that. Children must be children, and ought to be good
children. They are made to be good children, just as much as men are
made to be good men. All I will say is, that he did a mean thing. You
see his mother can hardly keep from crying now at the thought of it.
Thank God, she was of one mind with me. I took him, and, bent on making
him feel, if not how horrid the thing was in itself--for what imperfect
being can ever know the full horror of evil!--at least how horrid I
thought it, broke out in strong language. I told him I must whip him;
that I could not bear doing it, but rather than he should be a damned,
mean, contemptible little rascal, I would kill him and be hanged for it.
I dare say it sounds very improper, but--”

“Not in the least!” cried Barbara. “_I_ like a man to curse what is bad,
and go down on his knees to what is good.”

“Well, what do you think the little fellow said?--‘Don’t kill me, papa,’
he cried. ‘I will be good. Don’t, please, be hanged for my naughtiness!
Whip me, and that will make me good.’”

“And then you couldn’t do it?” asked Barbara anxiously.

“I cried,” said Wingfold, and almost cried again as he said it. “I’m not
much in the habit of crying--I don’t look like it, do I?--but I couldn’t
help it. The child took out his little pocket-handkerchief and dried my
eyes, and then prepared himself for the whipping. And I whipped him as
I never did before, and I hope in God shall never have to do again. The
moment it was over, while my heart was like to burst, he flung his arms
round my neck and began kissing me. ‘I will never make you cry again,
papa!’ he said.--He has kept his word, and since then I have never
wondered at the suffering in the world. I have puzzled my metaphysical
brains to the last gasp about the origin of evil--I don’t do that now,
for I seem to understand it--but, since then, I have never troubled
myself about the origin of suffering. I don’t like pain a whit better
than another, and I don’t bear it nearly so well as Helen, but I vex
neither my brain nor my heart as to God’s sending it. I knew after
whipping my boy, that the tears the Lord wept over Jerusalem were not
wept by him only, but by the Father as well. Whoever says God cannot
suffer, I say he does not understand. God _can_ weep, and weeps more
painful tears than ours; for he is God, and we are his little ones. That
boy’s trouble was over with the punishment, but my heart is sore yet.

“It comes to this, that the suffering you see around you, hurts God more
than it hurts you, or the man upon whom it falls; but he hates things
that most men think little of, and will send any suffering upon them
rather than have them continue indifferent to them. Men may say, ‘We
don’t want suffering! we don’t want to be good!’ but God says, ‘I know
my own obligations! and you shall not be contemptible wretches, if there
be any resource in the Godhead.’ I know well that almost all the mothers
in my congregation would, hearing what I have just told you, call me
a cruel father. They would rather have me a weak one, loving my child
less. They would rather their child should be foul in the soul than be
made clean through suffering! I know they would! But I know also that
they do not see how ugly is evil. And that again is because they are not
clean enough themselves to value rightness above rubies! Tell the tale
your own way to your workman-friend, and may God help him to understand
it! The God who strikes, is the God whose son wept over Jerusalem.”

“I am so glad you whipt the darling!” said Barbara, scarcely able to
speak. “I shall love him more than ever.”

“You should see how he loves his father!” said Helen. “His father is all
his talk when we are alone together. He sees more of me than of him now,
but by and by his father will take him about with him.”

“And then,” said Barbara, “all his talk will be of you!”

“Yes; it is the way of the child!”

“And of the whole family in heaven and earth,” rejoined the parson.

Barbara rose.

“You’ll be on the watch,” said Wingfold, “for any chance for me of
serving your mother?”

“I will,” replied Barbara.

The next morning she got on Miss Brown, and rode to the forge, where
Simon made her always welcome. It was sunshine to his heart to see her,
he said. She knew that Richard was to be there. They left Miss Brown
in the smithy, and went for a walk together, during which Barbara was
careful to follow the parson’s advice. Their talk was mostly about her
life in New Zealand. Now that she knew God more, and believed more in
him, she was more able to set forth her history. Feelings long vague had
begun to put on shapes definite and communicable. She understood herself
better, and was better able to make Richard understand her. And in
Richard, by degrees, through the sympathy of affection, was growing the
notion of a God in whom it would not be hard to believe. He ought not
to believe, and he had not believed in the supposed being hitherto
presented to him as God; now he saw the shape of a God in whom, if he
existed, he ought to believe. But he had not yet come to long that he
should exist, to desire him, or to cry out in the hope that he would
hear him. His hour was not yet come. But when the day of darkness
arrived, when he knew himself helpless, there would be in his mind
a picture of the God to whom he must cry in his trouble--a God whose
existence would then be his only need, the one desire of his soul. To
wake the sense of this eternal need, present though unrecognized under
every joy, was the final cause of every sorrow and pain against which
Richard rebelled--most naturally rebelled, knowing neither the plague
of a heart that would but could not be lord over itself, nor of a nature
hatefully imperfect and spotted, yea capable of what itself could not
but detest.

Naturally, his manners were growing more refined from his intercourse
with the gracious, brave, sympathetic, unconventional creature, so
strong yet so gentle, so capable of indignation, so full of love. He
was gradually developing the pure humanity that lay beneath the rough
artisan. He was, in a word, becoming what in the kingdom of heaven every
man must be--a gentleman, because more than a gentleman.

All this time Barbara was pulled two ways: for Richard’s sake she would
have him heir to the baronetcy; for her own she would be rid of the
shadow of having sought the baronet in the bookbinder. But more and more
the asseveration of lady Ann gained force with her--that Richard was not
the heir. She had greatly doubted her, but now she said to herself: “She
could hardly be mistaken, and she _cannot_ have lied.” The consequence
was that she grew yet more free, more at home with Richard. She
listened to all he had to tell her, learning of him with an _abandon_ of
willingness that put him upon his honour to learn of her again. And he
did learn, as I have said, a good deal--went farther than he knew in the
way of true learning.

They strolled together in the field behind the smithy, within sight
of the cottage, for an hour or so; then hearing from the smithy the
impatient stamping of Miss Brown, and fearing she might give the old man
trouble, hastened back. Richard brought out the mare. Barbara sprang on
a big stone by the door, and mounted without his help. She went straight
for Wylder Hall.

As they were walking up and down the field, Arthur Lestrange passed on
foot, saw them, and went home indignant.



CHAPTER XXXVI. _LADY ANN MEDITATES_.

It would have been difficult for Arthur himself to say whether in his
heart rage or contempt was the stronger, when he saw the lady he loved
walking in a field, turning and returning, in close talk with the
bookbinder-fellow. Never had she so walked and talked with _him_! She
preferred the bookbinder’s society to his--and made it no secret that
she did, for, although evidently desirous of having their interview
uninterrupted, they walked in full view of the high road!

What did Barbara mean by it? He could not treat her as a child and lay
the matter before Richard! If a lady showed favour to a man, the less
worthy he was, the less could he be expected to see the unfitness of the
thing. Besides, to acknowledge thus any human relation between Richard
and either of them, would be degrading. It was scorn alone that kept
Arthur from hating Richard. For Barbara, he attributed her disregard of
propriety, and the very possibility of her being interested in such a
person, to the modes of life in the half savage country where she had
been born and reared--_educated_, he remarked to himself, he could not
say. But what did she mean by it? The worst of his torment was that
the thought, unreasonable as it was, would yet come--that Richard was
a good-looking fellow, and admiration, which in any English girl would
have been rendered impossible by his vulgarity, might have a share
in her enjoyment of his shop-talk about books. The idea was simply
disgusting!

What was he to do? What could any one do? The girl was absolutely
uncontrolled: was it likely she would prove controllable? Would she
mind him, when she cared no more for his stately mother than for the
dairy-woman! How could such a bewitching creature so lack refinement!
The more he thought, the more inexplicable and self-contradictory her
conduct appeared. Such a jewelled-humming-bird to make friends with a
grubbing rook! The smell of the leather, not to mention the paste and
glue, would be enough for any properly sensitive girl! Universally
fascinating, why did she not correspond all through? Brought out in
London, she would be the belle of the season! If he did not secure her,
some poor duke would pounce on her!

But again what was he to do? Must he bring scorn on himself by appearing
jealous of a tradesman, or must he let the fellow go on casting his
greasy shadow about the place? As to her being in love with him, that
was preposterous! The notion was an insult! Yet half the attention she
gave the bookbinder would be paradise to _him_! He _must_ put a stop to
it! he must send the man away! It would be a pity for the library!
It was beginning to look beautiful, and would soon have been the most
distinguished in the county: lord Chough’s was nothing to it! But there
were other book-binders as good as he! And what did the library matter!
What did anything matter in such a difficulty!

She might take offence! She would be sure to suspect why the fellow was
sent packing! She would know she had the blame of ruining the library,
and the bookbinder as well, and would never enter the house again! He
must leave the thing alone--for the present! But he would be on his
guard! Against what, he did not plainly tell himself.

While the son was thus desiring a good riddance of the man he had
brought into the house, and to whom Barbara was so much indebted, the
mother was pondering the same thing. Should the man remain in the house
or leave it? was the question with her also;--and if leave it, on
what pretext? She was growing more and more uncomfortable at the
possibilities. The possession of the estate by one born of another
woman, and she of low origin; the subjection in which they would all be
placed to him as the head of the family--a man used to the low ways of a
trade, a man dirty and greasy, hardly in his right place at work in
the library, the grandson of a blacksmith with brawny arms and smutty
face--the ideas might well be painful to her!

Then first the thought struck her, that it must be his grandfather’s
doing that he was in the house! and there he was, at their very door,
eager to bear testimony to the bookbinder as his grandson and heir to
Mortgrange! Alas, the thing must be a fact, a horrible fact! All was
over!--But she would do battle for her rights! She would not allow that
the child was found! The thing was a conspiracy to supplant the true
heir! How ruinous were the low tastes of gentlemen! If sir Wilton had
but kept to his own rank, and made a suitable match, nothing of all this
misery would have befallen them! If her predecessor had been a lady, her
son would have been a gentleman, and there would have been nothing to
complain of! To lady Ann, her feeling had the force of a conviction,
that the son of Robina Armour could not, in the nature of things
divinely ordained, have the same rights as her son. Lady Ann’s God was
the head of the English aristocracy. There was nothing selfish that lady
Ann was not capable of wishing; there was nothing selfish she might not
by degrees become capable of doing. She could not at that moment commit
murder; neither could lady Macbeth have done so when she was a girl. The
absurd falsity of her notions as to her rights, came from lack of love
to her neighbour, and consequent insensibility to his claims. At the
same time she had not keen, she had only absorbing feelings of her
rights; there was nothing _keen_ in lady Ann; neither sense nor desire,
neither hope nor fear, neither joy nor sorrow, neither love nor hate.
Beyond her own order, beyond indeed her own circle in that order, the
universe hardly existed. An age-long process of degeneration had been
going on in her race, and she was the result: she was well born and well
bred for feeling nothing. There is something fearful in the thought that
through the generations the body may go on perfecting, while the heart
goes on degenerating; that, while the animal beauty is growing complete
in the magic of proportion, the indescribable marvel that can even give
charm to ugliness, is as steadily vanishing. Such a woman, like Branca
d’Oria in the Inferno, is already damned, and only seems to live. Lady
Ann was indeed born capable of less than most; but had she attempted
to do the little she could, one would not have been where she was;
she would have beep toiling up the hill of truth, with a success to be
measured, like the widow’s mite, by what she had not.

All her thoughts were now occupied with the _rights_ of her son, and
through him of the family. Sir Wilton had been for some time ailing, and
when he went, they would be at the mercy of any other heir than Arthur,
just as miserably whether he were the true heir or an impostor; the one
was as bad as the other from her point of view! For the right, lady Ann
cared nothing, except to have it or to avoid it. The law of the land was
to be respected no doubt, but your own family--most of all when land was
concerned--was worthier still!

It were better to rid the place of the bookbinder--but how? As to
whether he was the legal heir or not, she would rather remain ignorant,
only that, assured on the point, she would better understand how to deal
with his pretension! But she could not consult sir Wilton, because
she suspected him of a lingering regard for the dead wife which would
naturally influence his feeling for the live son--if live he were: no
doubt he had enjoyed the company of the low-born woman more than
hers, for she, a woman of society, knew what was right! She had reason
therefore to fear him prejudiced for any pretender! Arthur and he got on
quite as well as could be expected of father and son--their differences
never came to much; but on the other hand sir Wilton had a demoniacal
pleasure in frustrating! To make a man he disliked furious, was honey
and nuts to sir Wilton; and she knew a woman whose disappointment would
be dearer to him than that of all his enemies together! It was better
therefore that he should have no hint, and especially from her, of what
was in the air!

Lady Ann thought herself a good woman because she never felt interest
enough to be spiteful like sir Wilton; yet, very strangely, not knowing
in herself what repentance meant, she judged him capable of doing her
the wrong of atoning to his first wife for his neglect of her, by being
good to her child! Thinking over her talk with Barbara, she could
not, after all, feel certain that Richard knew, or that he had incited
Barbara to take his part. But in any case it was better to get rid of
him! It was dangerous to have him in the house! He might be spending
his nights in trumping up evidence! At any moment he might appeal to sir
Wilton as his father! But at the worst, he would be unable to prove the
thing right off, and if her husband would but act like a man, they might
impede the attempt beyond the possibility of its success!

One comfort was, that, she was all but confident, the child was not
already baptized when stolen from Mortgrange; neither were such as would
steal children likely to have them baptized; therefore the God who would
not allow the unbaptized to lie in his part of the cemetery, would never
favour his succession to the title and estate of Mortgrange! The fact
must have its weight with Providence!--whom lady Ann always regarded us
a good churchman: he would never take the part of one that had not
been baptized! Besides, the fellow was sure to turn out a socialist,
or anarchist, or positivist, or radical, or something worse! She would
dispute his identity to the last, and assert his imposture beyond it!
Her duty to society demanded that she should not give in!

Suddenly she remembered the description her husband had given her of
the ugliness of the infant: this man was decidedly handsome! Then she
remembered that sir Wilton had told her of a membrane between certain of
his fingers--horrible creature: she must examine the impostor!

Arthur was very moody at dinner: his mother feared some echo of the same
report as caused her own anxiety had reached him, and took the first
opportunity of questioning him. But neither of lady Ann’s sons had
learned such faith in their mother as to tell her their troubles. Arthur
would confess to none. She in her turn was far too prudent to disclose
what was in her mind: the folly of his youth might take the turn of
an unthinking generosity! the notion of an elder brother might even be
welcome to him!

In another generation no questions would be asked! Many estates were in
illegal possession! There was a claim superior to the legal! Theirs was
a _moral_ claim!



CHAPTER XXXVII. _LADY ANN AND RICHARD_.

The same afternoon, Richard was mending the torn title of a black-letter
copy of Fox’s Book of Martyrs. Vixen had forgotten her former fright,
and her evil courage had returned. Opening the door of the library so
softly that Richard heard nothing, she stole up behind him, and gave
his elbow a great push just as, with the sharpest of penknives, he
was paring the edge of a piece of old paper, to patch the title. The
pen-knife slid along the bit of glass he was paring upon, and cut his
other hand. The blood spouted, and some of it fell upon the title, which
made Richard angry: it was an irremediable catastrophe, for the paper
was too weak to bear any washing. He laid hold of the child, meaning
once more to carry her from the room, and secure the door. Then first
Vixen saw what she had done, and was seized with horror--not because she
had hurt “the bear,” but because of the blood, the sight of which she
could not endure. It was a hereditary weakness on sir Wilton’s side. One
of the strongest men of his family used to faint at the least glimpse of
blood. There was a tradition to account for it, not old or thin enough
to cast no shadow, therefore seldom alluded to. It was not, therefore,
an ordinary childish dismay, but a deep-seated congenital terror, that
made Vixen give one wavering scream, and drop on the floor. Richard
thought she was pretending a faint in mockery of what she had done, but
when he took her up, he saw that she was insensible. He laid her on
a couch, rang the bell, and asked the man to take the child to her
governess. The man saw blood on the child’s dress, and when he reached
the schoolroom with her, informed the governess that she had had an
accident in the library. Miss Malliver, with one of her accomplished
shrieks, dispatched him to tell lady Ann. Coming to herself in a few
minutes, Vixen told a confused story of how the bear had frightened her.
Lady Ann, learning that the blood was not that of her child, came to the
conclusion that Richard had played upon her peculiarity to get rid of
her, for Vixen, incapable of truth, did not tell that she was herself
the cause of the wound whence the blood had made its appearance. Miss
Malliver, who would hardly have been sorry had Vixen’s throat been cut,
rose in wrath, and would have swooped down the stair upon Richard.

“Leave him to me, Malliver,” said lady Ann, and rising, went down the
stair. But the moment she entered the library, and saw Richard’s hand
tied up in his handkerchief, she bethought herself of the happy chance
of satisfaction as to whether or not he was web-fingered: the absence of
the peculiarity would indeed prove nothing, but the presence of it would
be a warning of the worst danger: he might have had it removed, but
could not have contrived to put it there!

“What have you done to yourself, Mr. Tuke?” she said, making a motion
to take the wounded hand, from which at the same time she shrank with
inward disgust.

“Nothing of any consequence, my lady,” answered Richard, who had risen,
and stood before her. “I was using a very sharp knife, and it went into
my hand. I hope Miss Victoria is better?”

“There is nothing much the matter with her,” answered her ladyship. “The
sight of blood always makes her faint.”

“It is a horrid sight, my lady!” rejoined Richard, wondering at her
ladyship’s affability, and ready to meet any kindness. “When I was at
school, I was terribly affected by it. One boy used to provoke me to
fight him, and contrive that I should make his nose bleed--after which
he could do what he liked with me. But I set myself to overcome the
weakness, and succeeded.”

Lady Ann listened in silence, too intent on his hands to remark at the
moment how the fact he mentioned bore on the question that absorbed her.

“Would you mind showing me the wound?” she said. “I am something of a
surgeon.”

To her disappointment, he persisted that it was nothing. Because of
the peculiarity she would gladly have missed in them, he did not like
showing his hands. His mother had begged him not to meddle with the
oddity until she gave her consent, promising a good reason for the
request when the right time should arrive; but he was sensitive about
it--probably from having been teased because of it. His comfort was,
that a few slits of a sharp knife would make him like other people.

Lady Ann was foiled, therefore the more eager: why should the man be so
unwilling to show his hands?

“Your work must be very interesting!” she said.

“I am fond of it, my lady,” he answered. “If I had a fortune left me,
I should find it hard to drop it. There is nothing like work--and
books--for enjoying life!”

“I daresay you are right.--But go on with your work. I have heard so
much about it from Miss Wylder that I should like to see you at it.”

“I am sorry, my lady, but I shall be fit for next to nothing for a day
or two because of this hand. I dare not attempt going on with what I am
now doing.”

“Is it so very painful? You ought to have it seen to. I will send for
Mr. Hurst.”

As she spoke, she turned to go to the bell. Richard had tried to
interrupt her, but she would not listen. He now assured her that it was
his work not his hand that he was thinking of; and said that, if Mr.
Lestrange had no objection, he would take a short holiday.

“Then you would like to go home!” said her ladyship, thinking it would
be so easy then to write and tell him not to come back--if only Arthur
could be got to do it.

“I should like to go to my grandfather’s for a few days,” answered
Richard.

This was by no means what lady Ann desired, but she did not see how to
oppose it.

“Well, perhaps you had better go,” she said.

“If you please, my lady,” rejoined Richard, “I must see Mr. Lestrange
first. I cannot go without his permission.”

“I will speak to my son about it,” answered lady Ann, and went away,
feeling that Richard would be a dangerous enemy. She did not hate him:
she only regarded him as what might possibly prove an adverse force to
be encountered and frustrated because of her family, and because of the
right way of things--that those, namely, who had nothing should be kept
from getting anything. In the meantime the only thing clear was, that he
had better be got out of the neighbourhood! It was well sir Wilton had
hardly seen the young man: if there was anything about him capable of
rousing old memories, it were well it should not have the chance! Sir
Wilton was not fond of books, and it could be no great pleasure to him
to have the library set to rights; he was annoyed at being kept out of
it, for he liked to smoke his cigar there, and shuddered at the presence
of a working man except in the open air: she was certain he would feel
nowise aggrieved if the design were abandoned midway! The only person
she feared would oppose Tuke’s departure, was Arthur.



CHAPTER XXXVIII. _RICHARD AND ARTHUR_.

She went to find him, told him what had happened to the young man, and,
feeling her way, proposed that he should go to his grandfather’s for
a few days. Arthur started. Send him where he and Barbara would be
constantly meeting! Must he for ever imagine them walking up and down
that field, among the dandelions and daisies! He had discovered, he
believed, all that was between them, but was not therewith satisfied:
she had found out, he said to himself, that the fellow was an infidel,
did not believe in God, or a resurrection--was so low that he did not
care to live for ever, and she was trying to convert him. Arthur would
rather he remained unconverted than that _she_ should be the means of
converting him. Nor indeed would he be much injured by having the growth
of such a faith as Arthur’s prevented in him: Arthur prided himself in
showing due respect to _the Deity_ by allowing that he existed. But the
fellow was too clever by half, he said, and would be much too much for
her. Any theory wild enough would be attractive to her, who never cared
a pin-head what the rest of the world believed! She had indeed a strong
tendency to pantheism, for she expected the animals to rise again--a
most unpleasant notion! Doubtless it was she that sought his company; a
fellow like that _could_ not presume to seek hers! He was only laughing
at her all the time! What could an animal like him care about the
animals: he had not even a dog to love! He would _not_ have him go to
his grandfather’s! he would a thousand times rather give up the library!
There should be no more bookbinding at Mortgrange! He would send the
books to London to him! It would be degrading to allow personal feeling
to affect his behaviour to such a fellow; he should have the work all
the same, but not at Mortgrange!

So he answered his mother that he was rather tired of him, and thought
they had had enough of him; the work seemed likely to be spun out _ad
infinitum_, and this was a good opportunity for getting rid of him. He
was sorry, for it was the best way for the books, but he could send them
to him in London, and have them done there! The man, he understood, had
been making himself disagreeable too, and he did not want to quarrel
with him! He was a radical, and thought himself as good as anybody: it
was much best to let him go. He had at first liked him, and had perhaps
shown it more than was good for the fellow, so that he had come to
presume upon it, setting it down to some merit in himself. Happily
he had retained the right of putting an end to the engagement when he
pleased!

This was far better than lady Ann had expected. Arthur went at once to
Richard, and speaking, as he thought, unconcernedly, told him they found
it inconvenient to have the library used as a workshop any longer, and
must make a change.

Richard was glad to hear it, thinking he meant to give him another room,
and said he could work just as well anywhere else: he wanted only a dry
room with a fire-place! Arthur told him he had arranged for what would
be more agreeable to both parties, namely, that he should do the work at
home. It would cost more, but he was prepared for that. He might go
as soon as he pleased, and they would arrange by letter how the books
should be sent--so many at a time!

Richard spied something more under his dismissal than the affair
with Miss Vixen; but he was too proud to ask for an explanation:
Mr. Lestrange was in the right of their compact. He felt aggrieved
notwithstanding, and was sorry to go away from the library. He would
never again have the chance of restoring such a library! He did not once
think of it from the point of gain: he could always make his living!
It was to him a genuine pleasure to cause any worthy volume look as it
ought to look; and to make a whole straggling library of books
wasted and worn, put on the complexion, uniform, and discipline of
a well-conditioned company of the host of heaven, was at least an
honourable task! For what are books, I venture to say, but an army-corps
of the lord of hosts, at whose command are troops of all natures, after
the various regions of his indwelling! Even the letter is something,
for the dry bones of books are every hour coming alive to the reader in
whose spirit is blowing the better spirit. Richard himself was one of
such, though he did not yet know there was a better spirit. Then again,
there were not a few of the books with which individually he was sorry
to part. He had also had fine opportunity for study, of which he was
making good use, and the loss of it troubled him. He had read some
books he would hardly otherwise have been able to read, and had largely
extended his acquaintance with titles.

He was sorry too not to see more of Mr. Wingfold. He was a clergyman,
it was true, but not the least like any other clergyman he had seen!
Richard had indeed known nothing of any other clergyman out of the
pulpit; and I fear most clergymen are less human, therefore less divine,
in the pulpit than out of it! Many who out of the pulpit appear men, are
in it little better than hawkers of old garments, the worse for their
new patches. Of the forces in action for the renovation of the world,
the sale of such old clothes is one of the least potent. They do,
however, serve a little, I think, even as the rags of a Neapolitan for
the olives of Italy, as a sort of manure for the young olives of the
garden of God.

But his far worst sorrow was leaving Miss Wylder. That was a pain, a
keen pain in his heart. For, that a woman is miles above him, as a star
is above a marsh-light, is no reason why a man should not love her. Nay,
is it not the best of reasons for loving her? The higher in soul, and
the lowlier in position he is, the more imperative and unavoidable is it
that he should love her; and the absence of any thought in the direction
of marriage leaves but the wider room for the love infinite. In a
man capable of loving in such fashion, there are no bounds to the
possibilities, no limit to the growth of love. Richard thought his
soul was full, but a live soul can never be full; it is always growing
larger, and is always being filled.

“Like one that hath been stunned,” he went about his preparations for
departure.

“You will go by the first train in the morning,” said Arthur, happening
to meet him in the stable-yard, whither Richard had gone to look if Miss
Brown was in her usual stall. “I have told Robert to take you and your
tools to the station in the spring-cart.”

“Thank you, sir,” returned Richard; “I shall not require the cart.
I leave the house to-night, and shall send for my things to-morrow
morning. I have them almost ready now.”

“You cannot go to London to-night!”

“I am aware of that, sir.”

“Then where are you going? I wish to know.”

“That is my business, sir.”

“You have no cause to show temper,” said Arthur coldly.

“I should not have shown it, sir, had you not presumed to give me orders
after dismissing me,” answered Richard.

“I have not dismissed you; I mean to employ you still, only in London
instead of here,” said Arthur.

“That is a matter for fresh arrangement with my father,” rejoined
Richard, and left him.

Arthur felt a shadow cross him--almost like fear: he had but driven
Richard to his grandfather’s, and had made an enemy of him! Nor could
he feel satisfied with himself; he could not get rid of the thought
that what he had done was not quite the thing for a gentleman to do.
His trouble was not that he had wronged Richard, but that he had wronged
himself, had not acted like his ideal of himself. He did not think
of what was right, but of what befitted a gentleman. Such a man is in
danger of doing many things unbefitting a gentleman. For the measure of
a gentleman is not a man’s ideal of himself.

His uneasiness grew as day after day went by, and Barbara did not appear
at Mortgrange. He was not aware that Richard saw no more of her than
himself. He knew that he was at his grandfather’s; he had himself seen
him at work at the anvil; but he did not know that the hope in which he
lingered there was vain.

Richard waited a week, but no Barbara came to the smithy. He could not
endure the thought of going away without seeing her once more. He must
once thank her for what she had done for him! He must let her know why
he had left Mortgrange.

He would go and say good-bye to the clergyman: from him he might hear
something of her!

Wingfold caught sight of him approaching the house, and himself opened
the door to him. Taking him to his study, he made him sit down, and
offered him a pipe.

“Thank you, sir; I don’t smoke,” said Richard.

“Then don’t learn. You are better without it,” answered Wingfold, and
put down his own pipe.

“I came,” said Richard, “to thank you for your kindness to me, and to
ask about Miss Wylder. Not having seen her for a long time, I was afraid
she might be ill. I am going away.”

There was a tremor in Richard’s voice, of which he was not himself
aware. Wingfold noted it, pitied the youth because of the fuel he had
stored for suffering, and admired him for his straightforwardness.

“I am sorry to say you are not likely to see Miss Wylder,” he answered.
“Her mother is ill.”

“I hardly thought to see her, sir. Is her mother very ill?”

“Yes, very ill,” answered Wingfold.

“With anything infectious?”

“No. Her complaint is as little infectious as complaint could be; it is
just exhaustion--absolute prostration, mental and nervous. She is too
weak to think, and can’t even feed herself. I fear her daughter will be
worn out waiting on her. She devotes herself to her mother with a spirit
and energy I never but once knew equalled. She never seems tired, never
out of spirits. I heard a lady say she couldn’t have much feeling to
look cheerful when her mother was in such a state; but the lady was
stupid. She would wait on her own mother almost as devotedly as Miss
Wylder, but with such a lugubrious countenance that her patient might
well seek refuge from it in the grave. But it is no wonder she should
be in good spirits: it is the first time in her life, she says, that
she has been allowed to be of any use to her mother! Then she is not
suffering pain, and that makes a great difference. But more than all,
her mother has grown so tender to her, and so grateful, following her
constantly about the room with her eyes, that the girl says she feels in
a paradise of which her mother is the tutelar divinity, raying out bliss
as she lies in bed! Also her father is kinder to her mother. Little
signs of tenderness pass between them--a thing she has never known
before! How could she be other than happy!--But what is this you tell me
about going away? The library cannot be finished!”

Wingfold had dilated on the worth of Miss Wylder, and let Richard know
of her happiness, out of genuine sympathy. He knew that, next to the
worship of God, the true _worship_ of a fellow-creature, in the old
meaning of the word, is the most potent thing for deliverance.

“No, sir,” answered Richard; “the library is left in mid ocean of decay.
I don’t know why they have dismissed me. The only thing clear is, that
they want to be rid of me. What I have done I can’t think. There is a
little girl of the family--”

Here he told how Vixen had from the first behaved to him, and what
things had happened in consequence, the last more particularly.

“But,” he concluded, “I do not think it can be that. I _should_ like to
know what it is.”

“Then wait,” said Wingfold. “If we only wait long enough, every reason
will come out. You know I believe we are not going to stop, but are
meant to go on and on for ever; and I believe the business of eternity
is to bring grand hidden things out into the light; and with them will
come of necessity many other things as well, even some, I daresay, that
we count trifles.--But I am sorry you’re going.”

“I don’t see why you should be, sir!” answered Richard, his look taking
from the words their seeming rudeness.

“Because I like you, and feel sure we should understand each other if
only we had time,” replied the parson. “It’s a grand thing to come
upon one who knows what you mean. It’s so much of heaven before you
get there.--If you think I’m talking shop, I can’t help it--and I don’t
care, so long as you believe I mean it. I would not have you think it
the Reverend Thomas and not Thomas himself that was saying it.”

“I should never say you talked shop, sir; and I don’t think you would
say I was talking shop if I expatiated on the beauties of a Grolier
binding! You would see I was not talking from love of gain, but love of
beauty!”

“Thank you. You are a fair man, and that is even more than an honest
man! I don’t speak from love of religion; I don’t know that I do love
religion.”

“I don’t understand you now, sir.”

“Look here: I am very fond of a well-bound book; I should like all my
new books bound in levant morocco; but I don’t _care_ about it; I could
do well enough without any binding at all.”

“Of course you could, sir! and so could I, or any man that cared for the
books themselves.”

“Very well! I don’t care about religion much, but I could not live
without my Father in heaven. I don’t believe anybody can live without
him.”

“I see,” said Richard.

He thought he saw, but he did not see, and could not help smiling in his
heart as he said to himself, “_I_ have lived a good many years without
him!”

Wingfold saw the shadow of the smile, and blamed himself for having
spoken too soon.

“When do you go?” he asked.

“I think I shall go to-morrow. I am at my grandfather’s.”

“If I can be of use to you, let me know.”

“I will, sir; and I thank you heartily. There’s nothing a man is so
grateful for as friendliness.”

“The obligation is mutual,” said Wingfold.



CHAPTER XXXIX. _MR., MRS., AND MISS WYLDER_.

A new experience had come to Mrs. Wylder. Her passion over the death
of her son; her constant and prolonged contention with her husband; her
protest against him whom she called the Almighty; the public consequence
of the same; these, and the reaction from all these, had resulted in
a sudden sinking of the vital forces, so that she who had been like a
burning fiery furnace, was now like a heap of cooling ashes on a hearth,
with the daylight coming in. She had not only never known what illness
was, she did not even know what it was to feel unfit. Her consciousness
of health was so clear, so unmixed, so unencountered, that she had never
had a conception, a thought, a notion of what even that health was.
Power and strength had so constantly seemed part of her known self, that
she never thought of them: they were never far enough from her to be
seen by her; she did not suspect them as other than herself, or dream
that they could be disjoined from her. She could think only in the
person of a strong woman; she was aware only of the being of a strong
woman. Even after she had been some time helpless in bed, as often as
she thought of anything she would like to do, it was the act of trying
to get up and do it that made her aware afresh that she was no more
the woman corresponding to her consciousness of herself. For her
consciousness had never yet presented her as she really was, but always
through the conditional and non-essential, so that by accidents only was
she characterized to herself. Now she was too feeble even to care for
the loss of her strength; her weakness went too deep to be felt as an
oppression, for it met with no antagonism. Her inability to move was now
no prison, and her attendant was no slave with tardy feet, but an angel
of God.

For her Bab was now the mother’s one delight. Her love for her lost twin
had been in great part favouritism, partisanship, defence, opposition;
her love for Barbara was all tenderness and no pride. In her self-lack
she clung to her--as lordly dame, who had taken her castle for part of
herself, and impregnable, but, its walls crumbling under the shot of
the enemy, found herself defenceless before her captors, might turn and
clasp her little maid, suppliant for protection. Good is it that we are
not what we seem to ourselves “in our hours of ease,” for then we should
never seek the Father! The loss of all that the world counts _first
things_ is a thousandfold repaid in the mere waking to higher need. It
proves the presence of the divine in the lower good, that its loss is
so potent. A man may send his gaze over the clear heaven, and suspect no
God; when the stifling cloud comes down, folds itself about him, shuts
from him the expanse of the universe, he begins to long for a hand, a
sign, some shadow of presence. Mrs. Wylder had not got so far as this
yet, but she had sought refuge in love; and what is the love of
child, or mother, or dog, but the love of God, shining through another
being--which is a being just because he shines through it. This was the
one important result of her illness, that, finding refuge in the love
of her daughter, she loved her daughter. The next point in her eternal
growth would be to love the God who made the child she loved, and whose
love shone upon her through the child. By nature she was a strong woman
whom passion made weak. It sucked at her will till first it hardened it
to a more selfish determination, then pulped it to a helpless obstinacy.
The persistence that goes with inclination has its force only from the
weakness of pride and the mean worship of self; it is the opposite
of that free will which is the reflex of the divine will, and the
ministering servant-power to all freedom, which resists and subdues the
self of inclination, and is obedient only to the self of duty. Where the
temple of God has no windows, earthquake must rend the roof, that the
sunlight may enter. Barbara’s mother lay broken on her couch that the
spirit of the daughter might enter the soul of her mother--and with it
the spirit of him who, in the heart of her daughter, made her that which
she was.

Her illness had lasted a month, when one day her husband, at Barbara’s
prayer coming to see her, she feebly put out her hand asking for his,
and for a moment the divine child in the man opened its heavenly eyes.
He took the offered hand kindly, faltered a gentle-sounding commonplace
or two, and left her happier, with a strange little bird fluttering in
his own bosom. There are eggs of all the heavenly birds in our bosoms,
and the history of man is the incubation and hatching of these eggs.

She began to recover, but the recovery was a long one. As soon as she
thought her well enough, Barbara told her that Mr. Wingfold had been to
inquire after her almost every day, and asked whether she would not like
to see him. Mrs. Wylder was in a quiescent condition, non-combatant,
involving no real betterment, occasioned only by the absence of impulse.
But such a condition gives opportunity for the good, the gentle, the
loving, to be felt, and so recognized. The sufferer resembles a child
that has not been tempted, whose trial is yet to come. With recovery,
fresh claim will be put in by the powers of good. This claim will be
resisted by old habit, resuming its force in the return of physical
and psychical health,--and then comes the tug of war. For no one can be
saved, as he who knows his master would be saved, without the will
being supreme in the matter, without the choosing to fulfill all
righteousness, to resist the wrong, to do the right. Wingfold never
built much on bed-repentance. The aphorism of the devil sick and the
devil well, is only too true. But he welcomed the fresh opportunity for
a beginning. He knew that pain and sickness do rub some dirt from the
windows toward the infinite, and that things of the old unknown world
whence we came, do sometimes look in at them, a moment now, and a moment
then, waking new old things that lie in every child born into the world.
I seem to see the great marshes where the souls go wandering about after
the bog-fires; a kiss blown from the walls of the city comes wavering
down among them; it flits hither and thither with the dead-lights; it
finds a soul with a spot on which it can alight; it settles there; and
kisses it alive. God is the God of patience, and waits and waits for the
child who keeps him waiting and will not open the door.

Wingfold went to see her, but took good care to press nothing upon her.
He let her give him the lead. She spoke of her weakness, and the parson
drew out her moan. She praised her Barbara, and the parson praised her
again in words that opened the mother’s eyes to new beauties in her
daughter. She mentioned her weariness, and the parson spoke of the
fields and the soft wind and the yellow shine of the butter-cups in the
grass. Her heart was gently drawn to the man whose eyes were so keen,
whose voice was so mellow and strong, and whose words were so lovely
sweet, saying the things that were in her own heart, but would not come
out.

One day he proposed to read something, and she consented. I will not
say what he read, for I would avoid waking controversy as to fitness. He
thought he knew what he was about. The good in a _true_ book, he would
say, is the best protection against what may not be so good in it; its
wrong as well as its right may wake the conscience: the thoughts of
a book accuse and excuse one another. In saying so, he took the true
reader for granted; to an untrue reader the truth itself is untrue. The
general sense of honour, he would say, has been stimulated not a little
by the story of the treachery of Jael. Nor was it any wonder he should
succeed in interesting Mrs. Wylder, for she had a strong brain as well
as a big heart. More than half her faults came of an indignant sense
of wrong. She had passionately loved her husband once, but he had soon
ceased even the show of returning her affection,

     And to be wroth with one we love
     Doth work like madness in the brain.

After a fierce struggle against the lessons life would have her taught,
a struggle continued to her fortieth year, she was now at length a pupil
in another school, where the schoolroom was her bed, the book of Quiet
her first study, her two attendants a clergyman and her own daughter,
and her one teacher, God himself. In that schoolroom, the world began to
open to her a little. Among men who could, without seeming to aim at it,
make another think, I have not met the equal of Wingfold. His mode was
that of the open-hearted apostle, who took men by guile. He called out
the thoughts lurking in their souls, and set them dealing with those
thoughts, not with him: they were slow to discover that he was a divine
musician, playing upon the holy strings of their hearts; they thought
the tunes came alive in their own air--as indeed they did, only another
hand woke them. To work thus, he had to lay bare not a little of his
own feeling, but where it was brotherly to show feeling, he counted it
unchristian to hide it. Feeling by itself, however, that came and went
without correspondent action, he counted not only weak and mawkish, but
tending to the devilish.

Barbara was happy all day long. Life seemed about to blossom into a
great flower of scarlet and gold. She had learned from the parson that
the bookbinder was gone, but was at the time too busy and too anxious to
question him as to the cause of his going. Till her mother was well, it
was enough to know that Richard had wanted to see her, doubtless to tell
her all about it. She often thought of him, what he had done for her,
and what she had tried to do for him, and was certain he would one
day believe in God. She did not suspect any quarrel with the people at
Mortgrange. She thought perhaps the secret concerning him had come out,
and he did not choose to remain in a house the head of which, if lady
Ann’s tale was true, had so bitterly wronged his mother. As soon as she
was able she would go and hear of him from his grandfather! There was
no hurry! She would certainly see him again before long! And he would be
sure to write! It did not occur to her that a man in his position would
hardly venture to approach her again, without some renewed approach on
her part; and for a long time she was nowise uneasy.

The hope alive in Wingfold made him a true consoler; and the very
sight of him was a strength to Barbara. She regarded him with profound
reverence, and his wife as most enviable of women: could she not learn
from his mouth the rights of a thing, the instant she opened hers to ask
them? Barbara did not know how much the sympathy, directness, and dear
common sense of Helen, had helped to keep awake, support, and nourish
the insight of her husband. She did not know, good and powerful as
Wingfold must have been had he never married, how much wiser, more
useful, and more aspiring he had grown because Helen was Helen, and his
wife, sent as certainly as ever angel in the old time. The one fault
she had in the eyes of her husband was, that she was so indignant with
affectation or humbug of any sort, as hardly to give the better thing
that might coexist with it, the needful chance.

So long as evil comes to the front, it appears an interminable,
unconquerable thing. But all the time there may be a change, positive
as inexplicable, at the very door. How is it that a child begins to
be good? Upon what fulcrum rests the knife-edge of alteration? As
undistinguishable is the moment in which the turn takes place; equally
perplexing to keenest investigation the part of the being in which the
renovation commences. Who shall analyze repentance, as a force, or as a
phenomenon! You cannot see it coming! Before you know, there it is, and
the man is no more what he was; his life is upon other lines! The wind
hath blown. We saw not whence it came, or whither it went, but the
new birth is there. It began in the spiritual infinitesimal, where all
beginnings are. The change was begun in Mrs. Wylder. But the tug of her
war was to come.

Lady Ann had not once been to see her since first calling when she
arrived. Naturally she did not take to her. In the eyes of lady
Ann, Mrs. Wylder was insufferable--a vulgar, arrogant, fierce woman,
purse-proud and ignorant. But a keen moral eye would have perceived lady
Ann vastly inferior to Mrs. Wylder in everything right-womanly. Lady
Ann was the superior by the changeless dignity of her carriage, but her
self-assured pre-eminence was offensive, and her drawling deliberation
far more objectionable than Mrs. Wylder’s abrupt movements, or the
rough and ready speech that accompanied her eager dart at the gist of
a matter. Even the look that would kill a man if it could, never roused
such hate as sprang to meet the icy stare of her passionless ladyship.
Many a man with no admiration of the florid, would have sought refuge
in Mrs. Wylder’s plump face, vivid with an irritable humanity, from the
moveless pallor of lady Ann’s delicately formed cheek, and the pinched
thinness of her fine, poverty-stricken nose. Oh those pinched nostrils,
the very outcry of inward meanness! will they ever open to the full tide
of a surging breath? What vital interweaving of gladness and grief will
at length make strong and brave and unselfish the heart that sent out
those nostrils? Less than a divine shame will never make it the heart of
a fearless, bountiful, redeeming woman.

Mrs. Wylder was nowise annoyed that lady Ann did not call a second time.
She did not care enough to mind, and preferred not seeing her. They had
in common as near nothing as humanity permitted. “Stuck-up kangaroo!”
 she cried her.

“I’ll lay you my best sapphire,” she said to her daughter, in the
hearing of Wingfold, whose presence she had forgotten, “that for the
last three hundred years not a woman of her family has suckled her own
young!”

Neither mother nor daughter had shown the least deference to lady Ann’s
exalted position. The first movement of her dislike to Mrs. Wylder was
caused by her laughing and talking as unrestrainedly in her presence as
in that of the doctor’s wife, who happened to be in the room when lady
Ann entered. But now that danger, not to say ruin, appeared in the
distance, she must, for the sake of her son, wronged by his father’s
having married another woman before his mother, neglect no chance!
Arthur had been to Wylder Hall repeatedly, but Barbara had not seen him!
She must go herself, and pay some court to the young heiress! She
was anxious also to learn whether any chagrin was concerned in her
continuous absence from Mortgrange.

Barbara received her heartily, and they talked a little, lady Ann
imagining herself very pleasing: she rarely condescended to make herself
agreeable, and measured her success by her exertion. She found Barbara
in such good spirits that she pronounced her heartless--not to her son,
or to any but herself, who would not have come near her but for the
money to be got with her. She begged her, notwithstanding, for the sake
of her complexion, to leave her mother an hour or two now and then, and
ride over to Mortgrange. Incessant watching would injure her health, and
health was essential to beauty! Barbara protested that nothing ever hurt
her; that she was the only person she knew fit to be a nurse, because
she was never ill. When her ladyship, for once oblivious of her manners,
grew importunate, Barbara flatly refused.

“You must pardon me, lady Ann,” she said; “I cannot, and I will not
leave my mother.”

Then lady Ann thought it might be wise to make a little more of the
mother to whom she seemed so devoted. She had imagined the daughter
of the coarse woman must feel toward her as she did, and suspected a
coarser grain in the daughter than she had supposed, because she was not
disgusted with her mother. She did not know that eyes of love see the
true being where other eyes see only its shadow; and shadows differ a
good deal from their bodies.

But meeting Mr. Wylder in the avenue as she returned, and stopping her
carriage to speak to him, lady Ann changed her mind, and resolved to
curry favour with the husband instead of the wife. For hitherto she
had scarcely seen Mr. Wylder, and knew about him only by unfavourable
hearsay; but she was charmed with him now, and drew from him a promise
to go and dine at Mortgrange.

Bab went singing back to her mother, who was never so ill that she did
not like to hear her voice. She could not always bear it in the room,
but outside she was never tired of it. So Bab went about the house
singing like a mavis. But she never passed a servant, male or female,
without ceasing her song to say a kind word; and her mother, who, now
that she had got on a little, lay listening with her keenest of ears,
knew by the checks and changes of Bab’s song, something of what was
going on in the house. If one asked Bab what made her so happy, she
would answer that she had nothing to make her unhappy; and there was
more philosophy in the answer than may at first appear. For certainly
the normal condition of humanity is happiness, and the thing that should
be enough to make us happy, is simply the absence of anything to make us
unhappy.

“Everything,” she would answer another time, “is making me happy.”

“I think I _am_ happiness,” she said once.

How could she _naturally_ be other than happy, seeing she came of
happiness! “Il lieto fattore,” says Dante; “whose happy-making sight,”
 says Milton.

Mr. Wylder went and dined with sir Wilton and lady Ann. The latter did
her poor best to please him, and was successful. It had always been an
annoyance to Mr. Wylder that his wife was not a lady. In the bush he did
not feel it; but now he saw, as well as knew, wherein she was inferior,
and did not see wherein she excelled. It was the more consolation to
him that lady Ann praised his daughter, her beauty, her manners, her
wit--praised her for everything, in short, that she thought hers, and
for some things she thought were not hers. But she hinted that it would
be of the greatest benefit to Barbara to have the next season in London.
The girl had met nobody, and might, in her ignorance and innocence,
being such an eager, impetuous, warm-hearted creature, with her powers
of discrimination of course but little cultivated, make unsuitable
friendships that would lead to entanglement; while, well chaperoned, she
might become one of the first ladies in the county. She took care to let
her father know at the same time, or think he knew, that, although her
son would be only a baronet, he would be rich, for the estates were in
excellent condition and free of encumbrance; and hinted that there was
now a fine chance of enlarging the property, neighbouring land being in
the market at a low price.

Mr. Wylder had indeed hoped for a higher match, but lady Ann, being
an earl’s daughter, had influence with him. The remaining twin was so
delicate that it was very doubtful if he would succeed: if he did
not, and land could be had between to connect the two properties of
Mortgrange and Wylder, the estate would be far the finest in the county;
when, as lady Ann hinted, means might be used to draw down the favour of
Providence in the form of a patent of nobility.

To lady Ann, London was the centre of love-making, and Arthur, she said
to herself, would show to better advantage there than in the country.
The place where she had herself been nearest to falling in love, was a
ball-room: the heat apparently had half thawed her.

Mr. Wylder thought lady Ann was right, and the best thing for Barbara
would be to go to London: lady Ann would present her at court, and she
would doubtless be the belle of the season. Her chance would be none the
worse of making a better match than with Arthur Lestrange.

It may seem odd that a like reflection did not occur to lady Ann: far
more eligible men than her son might well be drawn to such a bit of
sunshine as Barbara; but just what in Barbara was most attractive, lady
Ann was least capable of appreciating.



CHAPTER XL.


_IN LONDON_.

It was into the first of the London fogs of the season that Richard,
after a slow parliamentary journey, got out of his third-class carriage,
at the great dim station. He took his portmanteau in one hand, and his
bag of tools in the other, and went to look for an omnibus. How terribly
dull the streets were! and how terribly dull and commonplace all inside
him! Into the far dark, the splendour of life, Barbara, had vanished!
Various memories of her, now this look, now that, now this attire, now
that--a certain button half torn from her riding habit--the feeling of
her foot in his hand as he lifted her to Miss Brown’s back--would enter
his heart like the proclamation of a queen on a progress through her
dominions. The way she drove the nails into her mare’s hoof; the way
she would put her hand on his shoulder as she slid from the saddle; the
commanding love with which she spoke to the great animal, and the
way Miss Brown received it; the sweet coaxing respect she showed his
blacksmith-grandfather; the tone of her voice when she said _God_;--a
thousand attendant shadows glided in her queen-procession, one after the
other in single file, through his brain, and his heart, and his every
power. He forgot the omnibus, and went tramping through the dreary
streets with his portmanteau and a small bag of tools--he had sent home
his heavier things before--thinking ever of Barbara, and not scorning
himself for thinking of her, for he thought of her as true lady herself
would never scorn to be thought of by honest man. No genuine unselfish
feeling is to be despised either by its subject or its object. That
Barbara was lovely, was no reason why Richard should not love her! that
she was rich, was no reason why he should forget her! She came into his
life as a star ascends above the horizon of the world: the world cannot
say to it, “Go down, star.” Yea, Richard’s star raised him as she rose.
In her presence he was at once rebuked and uplifted. She was a power
within him. He could not believe in God, but neither could he think
belief in such a God as she believed in, degrading. He said to himself
that everything depended on the kind of God believed in; and that the
kind of God depended on the kind of woman. He wondered how many ideas
of God there might be, for every one who believed in him must have a
different idea. “Some of them must be nearer right than others!” he said
to himself--nor perceived that he was beginning to entertain the notion
of a real God. For he saw that the notions of the best men and women
must be convergent, and was not far from thinking that such lines must
point to some object, rather than an empty centre: the idea of the best
men and women must be a believable idea, might be a true idea, might
therefore be a real existence. He had not yet come to consider the fact,
that the best of men said he knew God; that God was like himself, only
greater; that whoever would do what he told him should know that God,
and know that he spoke the truth concerning him; that he had come from
him to witness of him that he was truth and love. Richard had indeed
started on a path pointing thitherward, but as yet all concerning the
one necessary entity was vaguest speculation with him. He did feel,
however, that to give in to Barbara altogether, would not make him
a believer such as Barbara. On the other hand, he was yet far from
perceiving that no man is a believer, let him give his body to be
burned, except he give his will, his life to the Master. No man is a
believer with whom he and his father are not first; no man, in a word,
who does not obey him, that is, who does not do what he said, and says.
It seems preposterous that such definition should be necessary; but
thousands talk about him for one that believes in him; thousands will do
what the priests and scribes say he commands, for one who will search to
find what he says that he may do it--who will take his orders from
the Lord himself, and not from other men claiming either knowledge or
authority. A man must come up to the Master, hearken to his word, and
do as he says. Then he will come to know God, and to know that he knows
him.

When he stopped thinking of Barbara, all was dreary about Richard. But
he did not once say to himself, “She does not love me!” did not once
ask, “Does she love me?” He said, “She cares for me; she is good to me!
I wish I believed as she does, that I might hope to meet her again in
the house of the one Father!”

It was Saturday night, and he had to go through a weekly market, a
hurrying, pushing, loitering, jostling crowd, gathered thick about the
butchers’ and fishmongers’ shops, the greengrocers’ barrows, and the
trays upon wheels with things laid out for sale. Suddenly a face flashed
upon him, and disappeared. He was not sure that it was Alice’s, but it
suggested Alice so strongly that he turned and tried to overtake it.
Impeded by his luggage, however, which caught upon hundreds of legs, he
soon saw the attempt hopeless. Then with pain he remembered that he had
not her address, and did not know how to communicate with her. He
longed to learn why she had left him without a word, what her repeated
avoidance of him meant; far more he desired to know where she was
that he might help her, and how she fared. But Barbara was her friend!
Barbara knew her address! He would ask her to send it him! He hardly
thought she would, for she was in the secret of Alice’s behaviour, but,
joy to think, it would be a reason for writing to her! His heart gave a
bound in his bosom. Who could tell but she might please to send him the
fan-wind of a letter now and then, keeping the door, just a chink of it,
open between them, that the voice of her slave might reach her on the
throne of her loveliness! He walked the rest of the way with a gladder
heart; he was no longer without a future; there was something to do, and
something to wait for! Days are dreary unto death which wrap no hope in
their misty folds.

His uncle and aunt received him with more warmth than he had ever known
them show. They were in good spirits about him, for they had all the
time been receiving news of him and Barbara, with not a word of Alice,
from old Simon. Jane’s heart swelled with the ambition that her boy
should as a working-man gain the love of a well born girl, and reward
her by making her _my lady_.

I do not think Mrs. Tuke could have loved a son of her own body more
than this son of her sister; but she was constantly haunted with a vague
uneasiness about the possible consequences to herself and her husband
of what she had done, and the obstacles that might rise to prevent his
restoration; and this uneasiness had its share both in repressing the
show of her love, and in making her go to church so regularly. Her
pleasure in going was not great, but she was not the less troubled that
Richard did not care about going. She was still in the land of bullocks
and goats; she went to church with the idea that she was doing something
for God in going. It is always the way. Until a man knows God, he seeks
to obey him by doing things he neither commands nor cares about; while
the things for the sake of which he sent his son, the man regards as of
little or no consequence. What the son says about them, he takes as a
matter of course for him to say, and for himself to neglect.

Mrs. Tuke noted, the next day, that, as often almost as he was still,
a shadow settled on Richard’s face, and he looked lost and sad: but it
only occurred to her that of course he must miss Barbara, never that
he cherished no hope such as she would have counted hope. She took it
almost as an omen of final success when in the evening he asked her if
she would not like him to go to church with her. He felt as if in church
he would be nearer Barbara, for he knew that now she went often. But
alas, while there he sat, he felt himself drifting farther and farther
from her! The foolish utterances of the parson made him deeply regret
that he had gone. While he believed, or at least was willing to believe,
that they misrepresented Christianity, they awoke all his old feelings
of instinctive repulsion, and overclouded his discrimination. Almost as
little could he endure the unnature as the untruth of what he heard. It
had no ring of reality, no spark of divine fire, no appealing radiance
of common sense, little of any verity at all. There was in it, as nearly
as possible, nothing at all to mediate between mind and mind, between
truth and belief, between God and his children. The clergyman was not a
hypocrite--far from it! He was in some measure even a devout man. But in
his whole presentation of God and our relation to him, there was neither
thought nor phrase germane to sunrise or sunset, to the firmament or the
wind or the grass or the trees; nothing that came to the human soul as
having a reality true as that of the world but higher; as holding with
the life lived in it, with the hopes and necessities of the heart and
mind. If “the hope of the glory of God” must be fashioned in like sort,
then were the whole affair of creation and redemption both dull and
desperate. There was no glow, no enthusiasm in the man--neither
could there be, with the notions he held. His God suggested a police
magistrate--and not a just one.

Richard would gladly have left the place, and wandered up and down in
the drizzle until, the service over, his mother should appear; but for
her sake he sat out the misery.

“The man,” he said to himself, “does not give us one peg on which to
hang the love of God that he tells us we ought to feel! Love a God like
that! If he were as good as my mother, I would love him! But we have all
to look out to protect ourselves from him! Mr. Parson, there’s no such
being as you jabber about! It puzzles me to think what my mother gets
from you.”

He had written his letter to Barbara, and when they came out he posted
it. A long, long time of waiting followed; but no waiting brought any
answer. Lady Ann had dropped a hint, and Mr. Wylder had picked it up, a
hint delicate, but forcible enough to make him do what he had never done
before--keep an outlook on the letters that came for his daughter.
When Richard’s arrived, it did not look to him that of a gentleman.
The writing was good, but precise; it was sealed with red wax, but the
impression was sunk: a proper seal had not been used! Especially where
his own family was concerned, Mr. Wylder was not the most delicate of
men! he opened the letter, and in it found what he called a rigmarole of
poetry and theology! “Confound the fellow!” he said to himself. Lady Ann
did well to warn him! There should be no more of this! The scatter-brain
took after her mother! He would give it her hot!

But he neither gave it her hot, nor gave her the letter; he did not say
a word. He feared the little girl he pretended to protect, and knew that
if he entered the lists with her, she would be too much for him. But he
did not understand that the mean in him dared not confront the noble in
his child. So Richard’s letter only had it hot; it went into the fire,
and Bab never read the petition of her poor friend.

The next morning Richard went to the shop, and fell to the first
job that came to his hand. He acquainted his father with Lestrange’s
proposal in regard to the library: Mr. Tuke would have him accept it.

“You shall have all it brings,” he said.

“I don’t want the money!” returned Richard.

“But I want the honour of the thing,” replied his uncle. “You answered
the young gentleman sharply: you had better let me write!”

Richard made no objection. He would gladly keep the door open to any
place where the shadow of Barbara might fall, and was willing therefore
to pocket the offence of his causeless dismissal. But no notice was
taken of Tuke’s letter, and a gulf of negation seemed to yawn between
the houses.

Thus was initiated a dreary time for Richard. Now first he began to know
what unhappiness was. The seeming loveless weather that hung over the
earth and filled the air, was in joyless harmony with his feelings.
But had his trouble fallen in a more genial season, it would have been
worse. He had never been with Barbara in the winter, and it did not seem
so unnatural to be without her now. Had it been summer, all the forms of
earth and air would have brought to him the face and voice and motion
of Barbara; and yet the soul would have been gone from them. The world
would have been worse dead then than now in the winter. Barbara had been
the soul of it--more than a sun to it.

He could not, however, dead as the world seemed, remain a moment indoors
after his work was done. Whatever sort the weather, out he must go,
often on the Thames, heedless of cold or wind or rain. His mother grew
anxious about him, attributed his unrest to despair, and feared she
might have to tell him her secret. She recoiled from setting free
what she had kept in prison for so many years. In her own mind she had
settled his coming of age as the term of his humiliation, and she would
gladly keep to it. She shrunk from losing him, from breaking up the
happiness that lay in seeing him about the house. But that her husband
had insisted on accustoming themselves to live without him, she would
hardly have consented to his late absence. She shrunk also from the
measures necessary to reinstate him, and from the commotion those
measures must occasion. It was so much easier to go on as they were
doing! and delay could not prejudice his right! In fact, most of the
things that made her take the baby, were present still, making her
desire to keep the youth. A day would come when she must part with him,
but that day was not yet! She dreaded uncaging her secret, because of
the change it must work, whether immediate action were taken or not. She
never suspected that anyone knew or surmised it but herself, or that she
had to beware of any tongue but her own.

Her husband left the matter entirely to her. It was her business, he
said, from the first, and he would let it be hers to the last.



CHAPTER XLI. _NATURE AND SUPERNATURE._

But Richard soon began to recover both from the separation and from his
disappointment in regard to his letter. He was satisfied that whatever
might be the cause of her silence, it came from no fault in Barbara.
Nothing ever shook his faith in her.

And soon he found that he looked now upon the world with eyes from
which a veil had been withdrawn. Barbara gone, mother Earth came nigh
to comfort her child. He had always delighted in the beauty of the
world--in what shows of earth and air were to be seen in London. The
sunset that filled as with a glowing curtain the end of some street
where he walked, would go on glowing in his heart when it left the
street. Even in winter he would now and then go out to see the sunrise,
and see it; and from the street might now and then, at rare times, he
beheld a dappling and streaking, a mottling and massing of clouds on
the blue. The fog of the London valley, and the smoke of the London
chimneys, did not _always_, any more than the cares and sorrows and
sins of its souls, blot out its heaven as if it had never looked on the
earth. But he had learned much since he went to the country; he had gone
nearer to Nature, and seen that in her lap she carried many more things
than he knew of; and now that Barbara was gone, the memories of Nature
came nearer to him: he remembered her and was glad. Soon he began to
find that, both as regards Nature and those whom we love, absence is,
for very nearness, often better than presence itself. He had been
used to think and talk of Nature either as an abstraction, or as the
personification of a force that knew nothing, and cared for nothing, was
nobody, was nothing; now it gradually came to him, and gained upon him
ere he knew, first that the things about him wore meanings, and held
them up to him, then that something was thinking, something was meaning
the things themselves, and so moving thoughts in him, that came and went
unforeseen, unbidden. Thoughts clothed in things were everywhere about
him, over his head, under his feet, and in his heart; and as often
as anything brought him pleasure, either through memory or in present
vision, it brought Barbara too; and she seemed their maker, when she was
but one of the fair company, the lady of the land. Everything beautiful
turned his face to the more beautiful, more precious, diviner Barbara.
With each new sense of loveliness, she floated up from where she lay,
ever ready to rise, in the ocean of his heart. She was the dweller of
his everywhere!

He knew that Barbara did not make these things; it only seemed as if she
made them because she was the better joy of them: did not the fact show
how the fiction of a God might have sprung up in the minds that had no
Barbara to look like the maker of the loveliness? But Barbara was there
already, known and loved. The mind did not invent Barbara. And again,
why should the mind want anyone to look like a maker, an indweller, an
_ingeniuer_--to use a word of Shakespeare’s invention? Yet again, why
should the thought of Barbara _suggest_ a soul, that is, a causing,
informing presence, to these things? Was there a meaning in them? How
did they come to have that meaning? Could it be that, having come out of
nothing--the mind of man, and all the things, out of the same nothing,
they responded enough to each other for the man to find his own reflex
wherever he pleased to look for it? Only, if man and Nature came both
out of nothing, why should they not be nothing to each other? why
should not man be nothing to himself? As it was, one nothing, having no
thought, meant the same the other nothing meant, having thought!--and
hence came all the beauty of the world! And once again, if these things
meant nothing but what the mind put into them--its own thought, namely,
of them--they did not really mean anything, they were only imagined to
mean it; and why should he, if but for a moment, imagine Barbara at the
root of nothing? And why should he not, seeing she was herself nothing?
Or was he to consent to be fooled, and act as if there was something
where he knew there was nothing?

The truth of Richard’s love appeared in this that he was more able now
to see the other side of a thing, to start objection to his own idea
from the side of one who thought differently.

“If I feel,” he would say to himself, “as if these things meant
something, and conclude that they only mean _me,_ being the body to me,
who am the soul of them; and still more if I conclude that the sum of
them is the blind cause of me; then, when I grow sick of myself, finding
no comfort, no stay in myself for myself, and know that I need another,
say _another self,_ then the seeming sympathy that Nature offers me,
is the merest mockery! It is only my own self--myself gone behind and
peeping round a corner, grinning back sympathy at me from its sickening
death-mask! Why should man need another if he came from nothing? But
he came from a father and mother: man needed the woman: will not
that explain the thing? No; for even the relation itself needs to be
comforted and sustained and defended!”

Why was there so much, and most of all in himself, for which, as Richard
was beginning to understand, even a Barbara could not suffice? Why also
did her sufficiency depend so much on her faith in an all-sufficient?
And why was there so often such a gulf betwixt the two that seemed made
for each other? Ah! they were made for each other only in the general!
For the individual, Nature did not care; she had no time! Then how
was it that he cared for Nature? If Nature meant anything, was an
intelligence, a sort of God, why should he, the individual, who loved as
an individual, was a blessing or curse to himself as an individual--why
should he care anything for one who loved only in the general? Could
a man love in general? Yes; he himself loved his kind and sought to
deliver them from superstition. But that was because he could think
of them as a multitude of individuals. If he had never loved father,
mother, or friend, would he have loved in the general? Would crowds of
men and women have _awaked_ love in him? If so, then the bigger crowd
must always move the greater love! No; it is from the individual we
go to the many. Love that was only in the general, that cared for the
nation, the race, and let the individual perish, could not be love. He
would be no God who cared only for a world or a race. The live conscious
individual man could not love or worship him! And if no individual
worshipped, where would be the worship of the crowd? Still less could a
vague creator of masses, that knew nothing of individuals, being himself
not individual, be worthy to be called God! Demon be might be--never
God! But if God were a person, an individual, and so loved the
individual!--ah, then indeed!--Barbara believed that such a God lived
all about and in us! Mr. Wingfold said he was too great to prove, too
near to see, but the greater and the nearer, the more fit to be loved!
There were things against it! Nature herself seemed against it, for,
lovely us she was, she did awful things! Could Nature have come from one
source, and God be another source from which came man? He was too near
Nature, too much at home with her, to believe it. Could it be one Nature
that made all the lovely things, and another Nature that decreed their
fate? That also he could not believe: they and their fate must be from
one hand, or heart, or will! He could but hope there might be some way
of reconciling the terrible dissonance between Nature and Barbara’s God!
If there was such a way, if their contradiction was only in seeming,
then the very depth of their unity might be the cause of their seeming
discord!

Something in this way the mind of Richard felt and thought and saw and
doubted and speculated. Then he would turn to the ancient story--still
because “Barbara said.”

The God Barbara believed in was like Jesus Christ!--not at all like the
God his mother believed in! Jesus was one that could be loved: he
could not have come to reveal such a God as his mother’s, for he was
no revelation of that kind of a God! He was gentle, and cared for the
individual! And he said he loved the Father! But he was his son, and a
good son might love a bad father. Yes, but could a bad God have a good
son? No; the son of God must be the revelation of his father; such as
the Son is, just such and no other must the Father be; there cannot but
be harmony between the beings of the two!

In very truth there must appear schism in Nature, yea schism in God
himself, until we see that the ruling Father and the suffering Son are
of one mind, one love, one purpose; that in the Father the Son rules,
in the Son the Father suffers; that with the Son the other children must
suffer and rise to rule. To Richard’s eyes there was schism everywhere;
no harmony, no right, no concord, no peace! And yet all science pointed
to harmony, all imagination thirsted for it, all conscience commanded
it! all music asserted and prophesied it! all progress was built on the
notion of it! all love, the only thing yielding worth to existence, was
a partial realization of it! So that the schism came even to this, that
harmony itself was divided against itself, asserting that the thing that
was not, and could not be, yet ought to be! Nothing but harmony has a
real, a true, an essential being; yet here were thousands of undeniable
things which seemed to exist in very virtue of their lack of harmony!
There were shocks and recoils in every part of every thinking soul,
in every part of the object-world! And yet in certain blissful pauses,
unlooked for, uncaused by man, certain sudden silences of the world, an
eternal harmony would for one moment manifest itself behind the seething
conflicting discords that fill the atmosphere of the soul--straightway
to vanish again, it is true, but into the heart of Hope that saves
men. If harmony was not at one with itself in its harmony, neither was
discord at one with itself in its discordancy! Now and then all nature
seemed on the point of breaking into a smile, and saying, “Ah, children!
if you but knew what I know!” Why did she not say what she knew? Why
should she hide the thing that would make her children blessed?

The thought, half way to an answer, did not come to Richard then: What
if we are not yet able to understand her secret--therefore not able to
see it although it lies open before us? What if the difficulty lies in
us! What if Nature is doing her best to reveal! What if God is working
to make us know--if we would but let him--as fast as ever he can!
There is one thing that will not be pictured, cannot be made notionally
present to the mind by any effort of the imagination--one thing that
requires the purest faith: a man’s own ignorance and incapacity. It is
impossible to think of the object of our ignorance, how then realize the
ignorance whose very centre is a blank, a negation! When a man knows,
then first he gets a glimpse of his ignorance as it vanishes. Ignorance,
I say, cannot be the object of knowledge. We must _believe_ ourselves
ignorant. And for that we must be humble of heart. When our world seems
clear to the horizon, when the constellations beyond look plainest, when
we seem to be understanding all within our scope, then have we yet to
believe that, unseen, formally unsuspected, beyond, lies that which may
wither up many forms of our belief, and must modify every true form
in which we hold the truth. For God is infinite, and we are his little
ones, and his truth is eternally better than the best shape in which we
see it. Jesus is perfect, but is our idea of him perfect? One thing only
is changeless truth in us, and that is--obedient faith in him and his
father. Even that has to grow--but with a growth which is not change.
That there is a greater life than that we feel--yea, a life that causes
us, and is absolutely and primarily essential to us--of this truth we
have a glimpse; but no man will arrive at the peace of it by struggling
with the roots of his nature to understand them, for those roots go down
and out, out and down infinitely into the infinite. It is by acting upon
what he sees and knows, hearkening to every whisper, obeying every hint
of the good, following whatever seems light, that the man will at length
arrive. Thus obedient, instead of burying himself in the darkness about
its roots, he climbs to the tree-top of his being; and looking out
thence on the eternal world in which its roots vanish and from which it
draws its nourishment, he will behold and understand at least enough to
give him rest--and how much more, let his Hope of the glory of God stand
at its window and tell him. For in his climbing, the man will, somewhere
in his progress upward, the progress of obedience, of accordance to the
law of things, awake to know that the same spirit is in him that is
in the things he beholds; and that his will, his individuality, his
consciousness, as it infolds, so it must find the spirit, that root of
himself, which is infinitely more than himself, that “one God and Father
of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” When He is
known, then all is well. Then is being, and in it the growth of being,
laid open to him. God is the world, the atmosphere, the element, the
substance, the essence of his life. In him he lives and moves and has
his being. Now he lives indeed; for his Origin is his, and this rounds
his being to eternity. God himself is his, as nothing else could be his.
The serpent of doubt is gagged with his own tail, and becomes the symbol
of the eternal.

Dissatisfaction is but the reverse of the medal of life. So long as a
man is satisfied, he seeks nothing; when a fresh gulf is opened in his
being, he must rise and find wherewithal to fill it. Our history is the
opening of such gulfs, and the search for what will fill them.

But Richard was far yet from having his head above the cloudy region of
moods and in the blue air of the unchangeable. As the days went by and
brought him no word from Barbara, the darkness again began to gather
around him. There are as many changes in a lover’s weather as in that
of England. The sad consolations of nature by degrees forsook him;
they grew all sadness and no consolation. The winter of his soul wept
steadily upon him, laden with frost and death. He went back to his stern
denial of a God. He thought he had no need of any God, because he had no
hope in any.

Strangely, but in accordance with his nature, while he denied God, he
denied him resentfully. “If there were a God,” he said, “why should I
pray to him? He has taken from me the one good his world held for me!”
 Not an hour would he postpone judgment of him; not one century would he
give the God of patience to justify himself to his impatient child!
He lost his love of reading. A book was to him like a grinning
death’s-head. He ministered to it no longer with his mind, but only with
his hands. He hated the very look of poetry. The straggling lines of it
were loathsome to his eyes. Where, in such a world as he now lived
in, could live a God worth being? Where indeed? Richard made his own
weather, and it was bad enough. Happily, there is no law compelling a
man to keep up the weather or the world he has made. Never will any man
devise or develop mood or world fit to dwell in. He must inhabit a world
that inhabits him, a world that envelops and informs every thought and
imagination of his heart.

In Richard’s world, the one true, the one divine thing was its misery,
for its misery was its need of God.



CHAPTER XLII. _YET A LOWER DEEP._

But while thus Richard suffered, scarce knew, and cared nothing, how the
days went and came, he did his best to conceal his suffering from his
father and mother, and succeeded wonderfully. As if in reward for this
unselfishness, it flashed into his mind what a selfish fellow he was:
his trouble had made him forget Alice and Arthur! he must find them!

He knew the street where the firm employing Arthur used to have its
offices; but it had removed to other quarters. He went to the old
address, and learned the new one. The next day he told his father he
would like to have a holiday. His father making no objection, he walked
into the city. There he found the place, but not Arthur. He had not been
there for a week, they said. No one seemed to know where he lived; but
Richard, regardless of rebuffs, went on inquiring, until at length he
found a carman who lived in the same street. He set out for it at once.

After a long walk he came to it, a wretched street enough, in
Pentonville, with its numbers here obliterated, there repeated, and
altogether so confused, that for some time he could not discover
the house. Coming at length to one of the dingiest, whose number was
illegible, but whose door stood open, he walked in, and up to the second
floor, where he knocked at the first door on the landing. The feeble
sound of what was hardly a voice answered. He went in. There sat Arthur,
muffled in an old rug, before a wretched fire, in the dirtiest, rustiest
grate he had ever seen. He held out a pallid hand, and greeted him with
a sunless smile, but did not speak.

“My poor, dear fellow!” said Richard; “what is the matter with you? Why
didn’t you let me know?”

The tears came in Arthur’s eyes, and he struggled to answer him, but his
voice was gone. To Richard he seemed horribly ill--probably dying.
He took a piece of paper from his pocket, and a pencil-conversation
followed.

“What is the matter with you?”

“Only a bad cold.”

“Where is Alice?”

“At the shop. She will be back at eight o’clock.”

“Where is your mother?”

“I do not know; she is out.”

“Tell me anything I can do for you.”

“What does it matter! I do not know anything. It will soon be over.”

“And this,” reflected Richard, “is the fate of one who believes in a
God!” But the thought followed close, “I wish I were going too!” And
then came the suggestion, “What if some one cares for him, and is taking
him away because he cares for him! What if there be a good time waiting
him! What if death be the way to something better! What if God be going
to surprise us with something splendid! What if there come a glorious
evening after the sad morning and fog-sodden night! What if Arthur’s
dying be in reality a waking up to a better sunshine than ours! We see
only one side of the thing: he may see the other! What if God could not
manage to ripen our life without suffering! If only there were a God
that tried to do his best for us, finding great difficulties, but
encountering them for the sake of his children!”--“How dearly I should
love such a God!” thought Richard. He would hold by him to the last! He
would do his best to help him! He would fight for him! He would die for
him!

His hour was not yet come to know that there is indeed such a God, doing
his best for us in great difficulties, with enemies almost too much for
him--the falsehood, namely, the unfilialness of his children, so many of
whom will not be true, priding themselves on the good he has created in
them, while they refuse to make it their own by obeying it when they are
disinclined.

If even he might but hope that with his last sigh Arthur would awake to
a consciousness justifying his existence, let him be the creation of
a living power or the helpless product of a senseless, formless
Ens-non-ens, he would be content! For then they might one day meet
again--somewhere--somewhen, somehow; together encounter afresh the
troubles and dissatisfactions of life, and perhaps work out for
themselves a world more endurable!

But with that came the thought of Barbara.

“No!” he said to himself, “let us all die--die utterly! Why should we
grumble at our poor life when it means nothing, is so short, and gives
such a sure and certain hope of nothing more! Who would prolong it in
such a world, with which every soul confesses itself disappointed, of
which every heart cries that it cannot have been made for us! When they
grow old, men always say they have found life a delusion, and would not
live it again. From the first, things have been moving toward the worse;
life has been growing more dreary; men are more miserable now than when
they were savage: how can we tell that the world was not started at its
best, to go down hill for ever and ever, with a God to urge its evil
pace, for surely there is none to stop it! What if the world be the
hate-contrivance of a being whose delight it is to watch its shuddering
descent into the gulf of extinction, its agonized slide into the red
foam of the lake of fire!”

But he must do something for the friend by whose side he had sat
speechless for minutes!

“I will come and see you again soon, Arthur,” he said; “I must go now.
Would you mind the loan of a few shillings? It is all I happen to have
about me!”

Arthur shook his head, and wrote,

“Money is of no use--not the least.”

“Don’t you fancy anything that might do you good?”

“I can’t get out to get anything.”

“Your mother would get it for you!”

He shook his head.

“But there’s Alice!”

Arthur gave a great sigh, and said nothing. Richard laid the shillings
on the chimneypiece, and proceeded to make up the fire before he went.
He could see no sort of coal-scuttle, no fuel of any kind. With a heavy
heart he left him, and went down into the street, wondering what he
could do.

As he drew near the public-house that chiefly poisoned the
neighbourhood, it opened its hell-jaws, and cast out a woman in frowzy
black, wiping her mouth under her veil with a dirty pocket-handkerchief.
She had a swollen red face, betokening the presence of much drink,
walked erect, and went perfectly straight, but looked as if, were she to
relax the least of her state, she would stagger. As she passed Richard,
he recognized her. It was Mrs. Manson. Without a thought he stopped to
speak to her. The same moment he saw that, although not dead drunk, she
could by no tropical contortion be said to be sober.

She started, and gave a snort of indignation.

“You here!” she cried. “What the big devil do you want--coming here to
insult your betters! You the son of the bookbinder! You’re no more
John Tuke’s son than I am. You’re the son of that precious rascal,
my husband! Go to sir Wilton; don’t come to me! You’re a base-born
wretch,--Oh yes, run to your mother! Tell her what I say! Tell her she
was lucky to get hold of her tradesman.”

She had told her son and daughter that Richard was the missing heir; and
in what she now said she may have meant only to reflect on the humble
birth of his mother and abuse his aunt, but it does not matter much what
a drunkard means. At the same time the poison of asps may come from the
lips of a drunkard as from those of a sober liar. As the woman staggered
away, Richard gave a stagger too, and seemed to himself to go reeling
along the street. He sat down on a doorstep to recover himself, but
for a long way after resuming his walk went like one half stunned. His
brain, nevertheless, seemed to go on working of itself. The wretched
woman’s statement glowed in him with a lurid light. It seemed to explain
so much! He had often felt that his father, though always just, did
not greatly care for him. Then there was his mother’s strangeness--the
hardness of her religion, the gloom that at times took possession of her
whole being, her bursts of tenderness, and her occasional irritability!
His mother! That his mother should--should have made him an outcast! The
thought was sickening! It was horrible! Perhaps the woman lied! But
no; something questionable in the background of his life had been
unrecognizably showing from the first of his memory! All was clear now!
His mother’s cruel breach with Alice, and her determination that there
should be no intercourse between the families, was explained: had Alice
and he fallen in love with each other, she would have had to tell the
truth to part them! He _must_ know the truth! He would ask his mother
straight out, the moment he got home! But how _could_ he ask her! How
could any son go to his mother with such a question! Whatever the answer
to it, he dared not! There was but one alternative left him--either to
kill himself, or to smother his suffering, and let the miserable world
go on! Why should he add to its misery by making his own mother more
miserable? Such a question from her son would go through her heart like
the claws of a lynx! How could she answer it! How could he look upon her
shame! Had she not had trouble enough already, poor mother! It would be
hard if her God assailed her on all sides--beset her behind and before!
Poor mother indeed, if her son was no better than her God! He must be a
better son to her than he had been! The child of her hurt must heal her!
Must he as well as his father be cruel to her! But alas, what help was
in him! What comfort could a heart of pain yield! what soothing stream
flow from a well of sorrow! Truly his mother needed a new God!

But even this horror held its germ of comfort: he had his brother
Arthur, his sister Alice, to care and provide for! They should not die!
He had now the right to compel them to accept his aid!

He thought and thought, and saw that, in order to help them, to do his
duty by them, he must make a change in his business relations with Mr.
Tuke: he must have the command of his earnings! He could do nothing
for his brother and sister as things were! To ask for money would wake
inquiry, and he dared not let his mother know that he went to see them!
If he did, she would be compelled to speak out, and that was a torture
he would rather see her die than suffer. He must have money concerning
which no questions would be asked!

Poor, poor creatures! Oh, that terrible mother! It was good to know that
his mother was not like _her_!

The first thing then was, to ask his father to take him as a journeyman,
and give him journeyman’s wages. His work, he knew, was worth much more,
but that would be enough; his father was welcome to the rest. Out of his
wages he would pay his share of the housekeeping, and do as he pleased
with what was left. Buying no more books, he would have a nice little
weekly sum free for Alice and Arthur. To see his brother and sister half
starved was unendurable! he would himself starve first! But how was his
money to reach them in the shape of food? That greedy, drunken mother
of them swallowed everything! Like old Saturn she devoured her children;
she ate and drank them to death! Sport of a low consuming passion,
thought Richard, what matter whether she came of God or devil or nothing
at all! Redemption, salvation from an evil self, had as yet no greater
part in Richard’s theories than in Mrs. Manson’s thoughts. The sole
good, the sole satisfaction in life the woman knew, was to eat and
drink, if not what she pleased, at least what she liked. If there were
an eternity in front, thought Richard, and she had her way in it, she
would go on for ever eating and drinking, craving and filling, to all
the ages unsatisfied: he would _not_ have his hard-earned money go to
fill her insatiable maw! It was not his part in life to make her drunk
and comfortable! Wherever he came from, he could not be in the world for
that! So what was he to do?

He seemed now to understand why Barbara had not written. She had known
him as the son of honest tradespeople, and had no pride to make her
despise him; but learning from Alice that he was base-born, she might
well wish to drop him! It might not be altogether fair of Barbara--for
how was he to blame? Almost as little was she to blame, brought up to
count such as he disgraced from their birth! Doubtless her religion
should have raised her above the cruel and false prejudice, for she said
it taught her to be fair, insisted that she should be just! But with
all the world against him, how could one girl stand up for him! True he
needed fair play just so much the more; but that was the way things
went in this best of possible worlds! No two things in it, meant to go
together, fitted! He fought hard for Barbara, strained his strength with
himself to be content beforehand with whatever she might do, or think,
or say. One thing only he could not bear--to think less of Barbara! That
would kill him, paralyze his very soul!--of a man make him a machine, a
beast outright at best! In all the world, Barbara was likest the God she
believed in: if she--the idea of her, that was, were taken from him,
he must despair! He could stand losing herself, he said, but not the
thought of her! Let him keep that! Let him keep that! He would revel in
that, and defy all the evil gods in the great universe!

With his heart like a stone in his bosom, he reached the house, a home
to him no more! and by effort supreme--in which, to be honest, for
Richard was not yet a hero, he was aided by the consciousness of doing
a thing of praise--managed to demean himself rather better than of late.
The surges of the sea of troubles rose to overwhelm him; his courage
rose to brave them: let them do their worst! he would be a man still!
True, his courage had a cry at the heart of it; but there was not
a little of the stoic in Richard, and if it was not the stoicism of
Epictetus or of Marcus Aurelius, there was yet some timely, transient
help in it. He was doing the best he could without God; and sure the
Father was pleased to see the effort of his child! To suffer in patience
was a step toward himself. No doubt self was potent in the patience,
and not the best self, for that forgets itself--yet the better self, the
self that chooses what good it knows.

The same night he laid his request for fixed wages before his father,
who agreed to it at once. He believed it no small matter in education
that a youth should have money at his disposal; and his wife agreed,
with a pang, to what he counted a reasonable sum for Richard’s board.
But she would not hear of his paying for his lodging; that was more than
the mother heart could bear: it would be like yielding that he was not
her very own child!

The trouble remained, that a long week must elapse before he could touch
any wages, and he dared not borrow for fear of questions: there was no
help!

At night, the moment his head was on the pillow, the strain of his
stoicism gave way. Then first he felt alone, utterly alone; and the
loneliness went into his soul, and settled there, a fearful entity. The
strong stoic, the righteous unbeliever burst into a passion of tears.
Sure they were the gift of the God he did not know!--say rather, of
the God he knew a little, without knowing that he knew him--and they
somewhat cooled his burning heart. But the fog of a fresh despair
streamed up from the rain, and its clouds closed down upon him. What was
left him to live for! what to keep his heart beating! what to make
life a living thing! Sunned and showered too much, it was faded and
colourless! Why must he live on, as in a poor dream, without even the
interest of danger!--for where life is worth nothing, danger is gone,
and danger is the last interest of life! All was gray! Nothing was, but
the damp and chill of the grave! No cloak of insanest belief, of dullest
mistake, would henceforth hide any more the dreary nakedness of the
skeleton, life! The world lay in clearest, barest, coldest light, its
hopeless deceit and its misery all revealed! It was well that a grumous
fog pervaded the air, each atom a spike in a vesicle of darkness! it was
well that no summer noon was blazing about the world! At least there
was no mockery now! the world was not pretending to be happy! was not
helping the demon of laughter to jeer at the misery of men! Oh, the
hellish thing, life! Oh this devilish thing, existence!--a mask with no
face behind it! a look with no soul that looked!--a bubble blown out of
lies with the breath of a liar! Words! words! words! Lies! lies! lies!

All of a sudden he was crying, as if with a loud voice from the bottom
of his heart, though never a sound rose through his throat, “Oh thou who
didst make me, if thou art anywhere, if there be such a one as I cry
to, unmake me again; undo that which thou hast done; tear asunder and
scatter that which thou hast put together! Be merciful for once, and
kill me. Let me cease to exist--rather, let me cease to die. Will not
plenty of my kind remain to satisfy thy soul with torment!”

Up towered a surge of shame at his poltroonery; he prayed for his
own solitary release, and abandoned his fellows to the maker of their
misery!

“No!” he cried aloud, “I will not! I will not pray for that! I will not
fare better than my fellows!--Oh God, pity--if thou hast any pity, or
if pity can be born of any prayer--pity thy creatures! If thou art
anywhere, speak to me, and let me hear thee. If thou art God, if thou
livest, and carest that I suffer, and wouldst help me if thou couldst,
then I will live, and bear, and wait; only let me know that thou art,
and art good, and not cruel. If I had but a friend that would stand by
me, and talk to me a little, and help me! I have no one, no one, God, to
speak to! and if thou wilt not hear, then there is nothing! Oh, be! be!
God, I pray thee, exist! Thou knowest my desolation--for surely thou art
desolate, with no honest heart to love thee!”

He thought of Barbara, and ceased: _she_ loved God!

A silence came down upon his soul. Ere it passed he was asleep, and knew
no more till the morning waked him--to sorrow indeed, but from a dream
of hope.

On a few-keyed finger-board, yet with multitudinous change, life struck
every interval betwixt keen sorrow, lethargic gloom, and grayest hope,
and the days passed and passed.



CHAPTER XLIII. _TO BE REDEEMED, ONE MUST REDEEM_.

The moment he received his wages from his father at the end of the week,
Richard set out for Everilda street, Clerkenwell, a little anxious at
the thought of encountering the dreadful mother, but hoping she would be
out of the way.

When he reached the place, he found no one at home. He could not go back
with his mission unaccomplished, and hung about, keeping a sharp watch
on each end of the street, and on the approaches to it that he passed in
walking to and fro.

He had not waited long before Arthur appeared, stooping like an aged
man, and moving slowly He was in the same shabby muffler as of old. His
face brightened when he saw his friend, but a fit of coughing prevented
him for some time from returning his salutation.

“When did you have your dinner?” asked Richard.

“I had something to eat in the middle of the day,” he answered feebly;
“and when Alice comes, she will perhaps bring something with her; but we
don’t care much about eating.--We’ve got out of the way of it somehow!”
 he added with an unreal laugh.

“It’s no wonder you can’t get rid of your cold!” returned Richard. “Come
along, and have something to eat.”

“I can’t have Ally come home and not find me!” objected Arthur.

“You shall put something in your pocket for her!” suggested Richard.

He seemed to yield; but his every motion was full of indecision. Richard
took his arm.

“Do you know any place near,” he asked, “where we could get some
supper?”

“No, I’m afraid I don’t,” answered Arthur.

“Then you go in and rest, while I go and see,” returned Richard.

He searched for some time, but came upon no place where a man could even
sit down. At last he found a coffee-shop, and went to fetch Arthur.

He found him stretched on his bed, but he rose at once to accompany
him--with the more difficulty that he had yielded to his weariness and
lain down. They managed however to reach their goal, and the sight of
food waking a little hunger, the poor fellow did pretty well for one
who looked so ill. As he ate he revived, and by and by began to talk a
little: he had never been much of a talker--had never had food enough
for talking.

“It’s very good of you, Richard!” he said. “I suppose you know all about
it!”

“I don’t. What is it? Anything new?”

“No, nothing! It’s all so miserable!”

“It’s not all miserable,” answered Richard, “so long as we are
brothers!”

The tears came in Arthur’s eyes. Their mother had repented telling them
the truth about Richard, and pretended to have discovered that, while
sir Wilton was indeed Richard’s father, Mrs. Tuke was after all his
mother.

“Yes, that is good,” he said, “though it be only in misfortune! But I
am a wretched creature, and no good to anybody; you are a strong man,
Richard; I shall never be worth calling your brother!”

“You can do one great thing for me.”

“What is that?”

“Live and grow well.”

“I wish I could; but that is just what I can’t do. I’m on my way home.”

“I would gladly go with you!”

“Why?”

Richard made no answer, and silence followed. Arthur got up.

“Ally will be home,” he said, “and thinking me too ill to get along!”

“Let’s go then!” said Richard.

When they entered Everilda street, they saw Alice on the door-step,
looking anxiously up and down. The moment she caught sight of them, she
ran away along the street. Richard would have followed her, but Arthur
held him, and said,

“Never mind her to-night, Richard! She don’t know that you know. I will
tell her; and when you come again, you will find her different. Go now,
and come as soon as you can--at least, I mean, as soon as you like.”

“I will come to-morrow,” answered Richard. “Do you want me to go now?”

“It would be better for Alice. I will go to the end of the street, and
she will see me from where she is hiding, and come. She always does.”

“Is she in the way of hiding then?”

“Yes, when my mother is--”

“Well, good-bye!” said Richard. “But where shall I find you to-morrow!”

They arranged their meeting, and parted.

The next day, they found a better place for their meal. Richard thought
it better not to go quite home with Arthur, but, having learned from him
where Alice worked, and at what hour she left, went the following night
to wait for her not far from the shop.

At last she came along, looking very thin and pale, but she shone up
when she saw him, and joined him without the least hesitation.

“How do you think Arthur is?” he asked.

“I’ve not seen him so well for ever so long,” she answered. “But that is
not saying much!” she added with a sigh.

They walked along together. With a taste of happiness, say once a
week, Alice would have been a merry girl. She was so content to be with
Richard that she never heeded where he was taking her. But when she
found him going into a shop with a ham in the window, she drew back.

“No, Richard,” she said; “I can’t let you feed me and Arthur too! Indeed
I can’t! It would be downright robbery!”

“Nonsense!” returned Richard; “I want some supper, and you must keep me
company!”

“You must excuse me!” she insisted. “It’s all right for Arthur: he’s
ill; but for _me_, I couldn’t look myself in the face in the glass if I
let you feed _me_--a strong girl, fit for anything!”

“Now look here!” said Richard; “I must come to the point, and you must
be reasonable! Ain’t you my sister?--and don’t I know you haven’t enough
to eat?”

“Who told you that?”

“No one. Any fool could see it with half an eye!”

“Artie has been telling tales!”

“Not one! Just listen to me. I earn so much a week now, and after paying
for everything, have something over to spend as I please. If you refuse
me for a brother, say so, and I will leave you alone: why should a man
tear his heart out looking on where he can’t help!”

She stood motionless, and made him no answer.

“Look here!” he said; “there is the money for our supper: if you will
not go with me and eat it, I will throw it in the street.”

With her ingrained feeling of the preciousness of money Alice did not
believe him.

“Oh, no, Richard! you would never do that!” she said.

The same instant the coins rang faintly from the middle of the street,
and a cab passed over them. Alice gave a cry as of bodily pain, and
started to pick them up. Richard held her fast.

“It’s your supper, Richard!” she almost shrieked, and struggled to get
away after the money.

“Yes,” he answered; “and yours goes after it, except you come in and
share it with me!”

As he spoke he showed her his hand with shillings in it.

She turned and entered the shop. Richard ordered a good meal.

Alice stopped in the middle of her supper, laid down her knife and fork,
and burst out crying.

“What _is_ the matter?” said Richard, alarmed.

“I can’t bear to think of that money! I must go and look for it!” sobbed
Alice.

Richard laughed, the first time for days.

“Alice,” he said, “the money was well spent: I got my own way with it!”

As she ate and drank, a little colour rose in her face, and on Richard
fell a shadow of the joy of his creator, beholding his work, and seeing
it good.



CHAPTER XLIV. _A DOOR OPENED IN HEAVEN_.

Some men hunt their fellows to prey upon them, and fill their own greedy
maws; Richard hunted and caught his brother and sister that he might
feed them with the labour of his hands. I fear there was therefore a
little more for the mother to guzzle, but it is of small consequence
whether those that go down the hill arrive at the foot a week sooner or
later. To Arthur and Alice, their new-found brother, strong and loving,
was as an angel from high heaven. It was no fault in Richard that he did
not find a correspondent comfort in them. It did in truth comfort him
to see them improve in looks and in strength; but they had not many
thoughts to share with him--had little coin for spiritual commerce. Even
their religion, like that of most who claim any, had little shape or
colour. What there was of it was genuine, which made it infinitely
precious, but it was much too weak to pass over to the help of another.
Divine aid, however, of a different sort, was waiting for him.

Hitherto he had heard little or no music. The little was from
the church-organ, and his not unjustifiable prejudice against its
surroundings, had disinclined him to listen when it spoke. The intellect
of the youth had come to the front, and the higher powers to which
art is ministrant, had remained much undeveloped, shut in darkened
palace-rooms, where a ray of genial impulse not often entered. For the
highest of those powers, the imagination, without which no discovery of
any grandeur is made even in the realms of science, dwells in the halls
of aspiration, outlook, desire, and hope, and round the windows and
filling the air of these, hung the dry dust-cloud of Richard’s negation.
But when Love, with her attendant Sorrow, came, they opened wide all the
doors and windows of them to what might enter. Hitherto all his poetry,
even what he produced, had come to Richard at second-hand, that is, from
the inspiration of books; its flowers were of the moon, not of the sun;
they sprang under the pale reflex light of other souls: for genuine life
of any and every sort, the immediate inspiration of the Almighty is the
one essential, and for that, Sorrow and Love now made a way.

First of all, the lower winds and sidelong rays of art, all from the
father of lights, crept in, able now to work for his perfect will. For
when a man has once begun to live, then have the thoughts and feelings
of other men, and every art in which those thoughts or feelings are
embodied by them, a sevenfold power for the strengthening and rousing
of the divine nature in him. And as the divine nature is roused, the
diviner nature, the immediate God, enters to possess it.

A gentleman who employed Richard, happened one day, in conversation with
him as he pursued his work, to start the subject of music, and made a
remark which, notwithstanding Richard’s ignorance, found sufficient way
into his mind to make him think over what little experience he had had
of sweet sounds, ere he made his reply. When made, it revealed in
truth his ignorance, but his modesty as well, and his capacity for
understanding--with the result that the gentleman, who was not only a
lover of music but a believer in it, said to him in return things which
roused in him such a desire to put them to the test for verification or
disapproval, that he went the next Monday night to the popular concert
at St. James’s Hall. In the crowd that waited more than an hour at the
door of the orchestra to secure a shilling-place, there was not one that
knew so little of music as he; but there never had been in it one whose
ignorance was more worthy of destruction. The first throbbing flash of
the violins cleft his soul as lightning cleaves a dark cloud, and set
his body shivering as with its thunder--and lo, a door was opened in
heaven! and, like the writhings of a cloud in the grasp of a heavenly
wind, all the discords of spirit-pain were breaking up, changing, and
solving themselves into the song of the violins! After that, he went
every Monday night to the same concert-room. It was his church, the
mount of his ascension, the place whence he soared--no, but was lifted
up to what was as yet his highest consciousness of being. All that was
best and simplest in him came wide awake as he sat and listened. What
fact did the music prove? None whatever. Yet would not the logic of all
science have persuaded Richard that the sea of mood and mystic response,
tossing his soul hither and thither on its radiant waters, as, deep unto
deep, it answered the marching array of live waves, fashioned one by one
out of the still air, marshalled and ranked and driven on in symmetric
relation and order by those strange creative powers with their curious
symbols, throned at their godlike labour--that the answer of his soul,
I say, was but an illusion, the babble of a sleeping child in reply to
a question never put. If it was an illusion, how came it that such
illusion was possible? If an illusion, whence its peculiar bliss--a
bliss aroused by law imperative that ruled its factors, yet bore scant
resemblance to the bliss? What he felt, he knew that he felt, and
knew that he had never caused it, never commanded its presence, never
foreseen its arrival, never known of its possible existence. The feeling
was _in him_, but had been waked by some power _beyond him_, for he was
not himself even present at its origin! The voice of that power was a
voice all sweetness and persuading, yet a voice of creation, calling
up a world of splendour and delight, the beams of whose chambers were
indeed laid upon the waters, but had there a foundation the less lively
earth could not afford. For the very essence of the creative voice,
working wildest delirium of content, was law that could not be broken,
the very law of the thought of God himself. Law is life, for God is law,
and God is life. Law is the root and the stalk of life, beauty is the
flower of life, and joy is its odour; but life itself is love. The
flower and its odour are given unto men; the root and stalk they may
search into if they will; the giver of life they must know, or they
cannot live with his life, they cannot share in the life eternal.

One night, after many another such, he sat entranced, listening to the
song of a violin, alone and perfect, soaring and sailing the empyrean
unconvoyed,--and Barbara in his heart was listening with him. He had
given up hope of seeing her again in this world, but not all hope of
seeing her again somewhere; and her image had not grown less dear, I
should rather say less precious to him. The song, like a heavenly lark,
folded its wings while yet high in the air, and ceased: its nest was
somewhere up in the blue. Should I say rather that one after one the
singing birds flitted from the strings, those telegraph wires betwixt
the seen and the unseen, and now the last lingerer was gone? All was
over, and the world was still. But the face of Barbara kept shining from
the depths of Richard’s soul, as if she stood behind him, and her face
looked up reflected from its ethereal ocean.

All at once he was aware that his bodily eyes were resting on the bodily
face of Barbara. It was as if his strong imagining of her had made her
be. His heart gave a great bound--and stood still, as if for eternity.
But the blood surged back to his brain, and he knew that together they
had been listening to the same enchanting spell, had been aloft together
in the same aether of delight: heaven is high and deep, and its lower
air is music; in the upper regions the music may pass, who knows,
merging unlost, into something endlessly better! He had felt, without
knowing it, the power of her presence; it had been ruling his thoughts!
He gazed and gazed, never taking his eyes from her but for the joy of
seeing her afresh, for the comfort of their return to their home. She
was so far off that he could gaze at will, and thus was distance a
blessing. Not seldom does removal bring the parted nearer. It is not
death alone that makes “far-distant images draw nigh,” but distance
itself is an angel of God, mediating the propinquity of souls. As he
gazed he became aware that she saw him, and that she knew that he saw
her. How he knew it he could not have told. There was no change on her
face, no sign of recognition, but he knew that she saw and knew. In his
modesty he neither perceived nor imagined more. His heart received no
thrill from the pleasure that throbbed in the heart of the lovely lady
at sight of the poor sorrowful workman; neither did she in her modesty
perceive on what a throne of gems she sat in his heart. She saw that his
cheek was pale and thin, and that his eyes were larger and brighter; she
little thought how the fierce sun of agony had ripened his soul since
they parted.

For the rest of the concert, the music had sunk to a soft delight,
and took the second place; the delight of seeing dulled his delight in
hearing. All the rainbow claspings and weavings of strange accords, all
the wing-wafts of out-dreaming melody, seemed to him to come flickering
and floating from one creative centre--the face, and specially the eyes
of Barbara; yet the music and Barbara seemed one. The form of it that
entered by his eyes met that which entered by his ears, and they were
one ere he noted a difference. Barbara was the music, and the music was
Barbara. He saw her with his ears; he heard her with his eyes. But
as the last sonata sank to its death, suddenly the face and the tones
parted company, and he knew that his eyes and her face must part next,
and the same moment her face was already far away. She had left him; she
was looking for her fan, and preparing to go.

He was not far from the door. He hurried softly out, plunged into the
open air as into a great cool river, went round the house, and took his
stand at one of the doors, where he waited like one watching the flow
of a river of gravel for the shine of a diamond. But the flow sank to
threads and drops, and the diamond never shone.

He walked home, nevertheless, as if he had seen an end of sorrow: how
much had been given him that night, for ever to have and to hold! Such
an hour went far to redeem the hateful thing, life! A much worse world
would be more than endurable, with its black and gray once or twice in
a century crossed by such a band of gold! Who would not plunge through
ages of vapour for one flash of such a star! Who would not dig to the
centre for one glimpse of a gem of such exhaustless fire! “But, alas,
how many for whom no golden threads are woven into the web of life!”
 he said to himself as he thought of Alice and Arthur--but straightway
answered himself, saying, “Who dares assert it? The secret of a man’s
life is with himself; who can speak for another!” He had himself been
miserable, and was now content--oh, how much more than content--that he
had been miserable! He was even strong to be miserable again! What might
not fall to the lot of the rest, every one of them, ere God, if there
were a God, had done with them! Who invented music? Some one must have
made the delight of it possible! With his own share in its joy he had
had nothing to do! Was Chance its grand inventor, its great ingenieur?
Why or how should Chance love loveliness that was not, and make it be,
that others might love it? Could it be a deaf God, or a being that did
not care and would not listen, that invented music? No; music did not
come of itself, neither could the source of it be devoid of music!



CHAPTER XLV. _THE CARRIAGE_.

Before the next Monday, he had learned the outlets of the hall, and the
relations of its divisions to its doors. But he fared no better, for
whether again he mistook the door or not, he did not see Barbara come
out. He had been with her, however, through all the concert; there was
reason to hope she would be often present, and every time there would
be a chance of his getting near her! The following Monday, nevertheless,
she was not in the house: had she been, he said to himself, his eyes
would of themselves have found her.

A fortnight passed, and Richard had not again seen Barbara. He began to
think she must have gone home. A gentleman was with her the first night,
whom he took for her father; the second, Arthur Lestrange was by her
side: neither of them had he seen since.

Then the thought suggested itself that she might have come to London
to prepare for her marriage with Mr. Lestrange. She must of course be
married some day! He had always taken that for granted, but now, for
the first time somehow, the thought came near enough to burn. He did not
attempt to analyze his feelings; he was too miserable to care for his
feelings. The thought was as terrible as if it had been quite new. It
was not a live thought before; now it was alive and until now he had not
known misery. That Barbara should die, seemed nothing beside it! Death
was no evil! Whether there was a world beyond it or not, it was the one
friend of the race! In death at last, outworn, tortured humanity would
find repose!--or if not, what followed could not, at worst, be worse
than what went before! It must be better, for the one misery of miseries
would be to live in the same world with Barbara married: She was out of
sight of him, far as princess or queen--or angel, if there were such a
being; but the thought that she should marry a common, outside man, who
knew no more what things were precious than the lowest fellow in the
slums, was a pain he could neither stifle nor endure. Could a woman like
Barbara for an instant entertain the notion? If she loved a man worthy
of her, then--he thought, as so many have for a moment thought--he
could bear the torture of it! But for such patience in prospect men are
generally indebted to the fact that the man is not likely to appear, or,
at least, has not yet come in sight. In vain he persuaded himself that
Barbara would no more listen to such a suitor, than a man could
ever show himself on the level of her love. That Barbara would marry
Lestrange grew more and more likely as he regarded the idea. Mortgrange
and Wylder Hall were conveniently near, and he had heard his grandfather
suppose that Barbara must one day inherit the latter! The thought was a
growing torment. His heart sank into a draw-well of misery, out of which
the rope of thinking could draw up nothing but suicide. But as often as
the bucket rose thus laden, Richard cast its content from him. It was
cowardly to hide one’s head in the sand of death. So long as he was able
to stand, why should he lie down? If a morrow was on the way, why not
see what the morrow would bring? why not look the apparition in the
face, though for him it brought no dawn!

Once more the loud complaint against life awoke and raged. What an evil,
what a wrong was life! Who had dared force the thing upon him? What
being, potent in ill, had presumed to call him from the blessed regions
of negation, the solemn quiet of being and knowing nothing, and compel
him to live without, nay against his will, in misery such as only an
imagination keen to look upon suffering, could have embodied or even
invented? Alas, there was no help! If he lifted his hand against
the life he hated, he might but rush into a region of torture more
exquisite! For might not the life-compelling tyrant, offended that he
should desire to cease, fix him in eternal beholding of his love and his
hate folded in one--to sicken, yet never faint, in aeonian pain, such
as life essential only could feel! He rebelled against the highest as if
the highest were the lowest--as if the power that _could_ create a heart
for bliss, might gloat on its sufferings.

Again and again he would take the side of God against himself: but
always there was the undeniable, the inexplicable misery! Whence came
it? It could not come from himself, for he hated it? and if God did not
cause, yet he could prevent it! Then he remembered how blessed he had
been but a few days before; how ready to justify God; how willing
to believe he had reason in all he did: alas for his nature, for his
humanity! clothed in his own joy, he was generous to trust God with the
bliss of others; the cold blast of the world once again swept over him,
and he stood complaining against him more bitterly than ever.

It is a notable argument, surely, against the existence of God, that
they who believe in him, believe in him so wretchedly! So many carry
themselves to him like peevish children! Richard half believed in God,
only to complain of him altogether! Were it not better to deny him
altogether, saying that such things being, he cannot be, than to murmur
and rebel as against one high and hard?

But I bethink me: is it not better to complain if one but complain to
God himself? Does he not then draw nigh to God with what truth is in
him? And will he not then fare as Job, to whom God drew nigh in return,
and set his heart at rest?

For him who complains and comes not near, who shall plead?--The Son of
the Father, saying, “They know not what they do.”

He began to wonder whether even an all-mighty and all-good God would be
able to contrive such a world as no somebody in it would ever complain
of. What if he had plans too large for the vision of men to take in, and
they were uncomfortable to their own blame, because, not seeing them,
they would trust him for nothing? He knew unworthy men full of complaint
against an economy that would not let them live like demons, and be
blessed as seraphs! Why should not a man at least wait and see what
the possible being was about to do with him, perhaps for him, before he
accused or denied him? At worst he would be no worse for the waiting!

His thinking was stopped by a sudden flood of self-contempt. Was Barbara
to live alone that he might think of her in peace! He was a selfish,
disgraceful, degraded animal, deserving all he suffered, and ten times
more! What did it matter whether _he_ was happy or not, if it was well
with her! Was he a man, and could he not endure! Here was a possible
nobility! here a whole world wherein to be divine! A man was free to
sacrifice his happiness: for him, he had nothing but his crowned sorrow;
he would sacrifice that! Had anyone ever sacrificed his sorrow to his
love? Would it not be a new and strange sacrifice? To know that he
suffered would make her a little unhappy: for her sake he would _not_ be
unhappy! He would at least for her sake fight with his grief; he would
live to love her still, if never more to look on her face. In after
eternal years, if ever once more they met, he would tell her how for her
sake he had lived in peace, and neither died nor gone mad! Yea, for her
sake, he would still seek her God, if haply he might find him! Was there
not a possible hope that he would justify to him, even in his heart,
his ways with men, and his ways with himself among his fellows? What if
there was a way so much higher than ours, as to include all the seeming
right and seeming wrong in one radiance of righteousness! The idea was
scarce conceivable; it was not one he could illustrate to himself; but,
as a thought transcending flesh and blood, better and truer than what
_we_ are able to think of as truth, he would try to hold by it! Things
that we are right in thinking bad, must be bad to God as well as to us;
but may there not be things so far above us, that we cannot take them
in, and they seem bad because they are so far above us in goodness that
we see them partially and untruly? There must be room in his wisdom
for us to mistake! He would try to trust! He would say, “If thou art my
father, be my father, and comfort thy child. Perhaps thou hast some way!
Perhaps things are not as thou wouldst have them, and thou art doing
what can be done to set them right! If thou art indeed true to thy own,
it were hard not to be believed--hard that one of thine own should
not trust thee, should not give thee time to make things clear, should
behave to thee as if thou wouldst not explain, when it is that we are
unable to understand!”

He was thinking with himself thus, as he walked home, late one Monday
night, from the concert, to which had come none of the singing birds
of his own forests to meet and make merry with the song-birds of the
violins. Like a chaos of music without form and void, the sweet sounds
had stormed and billowed against him, and he had left the door of his
late paradise hardly in better mood than if it had been the church of
the Rev. Theodore Gosport, who for the traditions of men made the word
of God of small effect!

He was walking westward, with his eyes on the ground, along the broad
pavement on the house-side of Piccadilly, lost half in misery, half
in thought, when he was stopped by a little crowd about an awning
that stretched across the footway. The same instant rose a murmur of
admiration, and down the steps from the door came tripping, the very
Allegra of motion, the same Barbara to whose mould his being seemed to
have shaped itself. He stood silent as death, but something made her
cast a look on him, and she saw the large eyes of his suffering fixed on
her. She gave a short musical cry, and turning darted through the crowd,
leaving her escort at the foot of the steps.

“Richard!” she cried, and catching hold of his hand, laid her other hand
on his shoulder--then suddenly became aware of the gazing faces, not all
pleasant to look upon, that came crowding closer about them.

She pulled him toward a brougham that stood at the curbstone.

“Jump in,” she whispered. Then turning to the gentleman, who in a
bewildered way fancied she had caught a prodigal brother in the crowd,
“Good-night, Mr. Cleveland,” she said: “thank you!”

One moment Richard hesitated; but he saw that neither place nor time
allowed anything but obedience, and when she turned again, he was
already seated.

“Home!” she said to the coachman as she got in, for she had no
attendant.

“I must talk fast,” she began, “and so must you; we have not far to go
together.--Why did you not write to me?”

“I did write.”

“Did you!” exclaimed Barbara.

“I did indeed.”

“Then what could you think of me?”

“I thought nothing you would not like me to think. I was sure there was
an explanation!”

“That of course! You knew that!--But how ill you look!”

“It is from not seeing you any more at the concerts,” answered Richard.

“Tell me your address, and I will write to you. But do not write to me.
When shall you be at the hall again?”

“Next Monday. I am there every Monday.”

“I shall be there, and will take your answer from your hand in the crush
as I come out by the Regent-street door.”

She pulled the coachman’s string.

“Now you must go,” she said. “Thank God I have seen you! Tell me when
you write if you know anything of Alice.”

She gave him her hand. He got out, closed the door, took off his hat,
and stood for minutes uncovered in the cold clear night, hardly sure
whether he had indeed been side by side with Barbara, or in a heavenly
trance.



CHAPTER XLVI. _RICHARD’S DILEMMA._

He turned and walked home--but with a heart how different! The world was
folded in winter and night, but in his heart the sun was shining, and
it made a wonder and a warmth at the heart of every crystal of the frost
that spangled and feathered and jewel-crusted rail and tree! The misty
moon was dreaming of spring, and almond blossoms, and nightingales.--But
did Barbara know about him? Had Alice told the terrible secret! If
she knew, and did not withdraw her friendship, he could bear
anything--almost anything! But he would be happy now, would keep happy
as long as he could, and try to be happy when he could not! She was with
him all the way home. Every step was a delight. Foot lingered behind
foot as he came; now each was eager to pass the other.

He slept a happy sleep, and in the morning was better than for many
a day--so much better that his mother, who had been watching him with
uneasiness, and wondering whether she ought not to bring matters to a
crisis, began to feel at rest about him. She had not a suspicion of what
now troubled him the most! A little knowledge is not, but the largest
half-knowledge is a dangerous thing! He knew who was his father, but he
did not know who was not his mother; and from this half-knowledge rose
the thickest of the cloud that yet overshadowed him. He had been proud
that he came of such good people as his father and mother, but it was
not the notion of shame to himself that greatly troubled him; it was
the new feeling about his mother. He did not think of her as one to be
blamed, but as one too trusting, and so deceived; he never felt unready
to stand up for her. What troubled him was that she must always know
that unspoken-of something between her and her son, that his mother must
feel shame before him. He could not bear to think of it. If only she
would say something to him, that he might tell her she was his own
precious mother, whatever had befallen her! that for her sake he could
spurn the father that begot him! Already had come this good of Mrs.
Manson’s lie, that Richard felt far more the goodness of his mother to
him, and loved her the better that he believed himself her shame. It is
true that his love increased upon a false idea, but the growth gained
by his character could not be lost, and so his love would not grow
less--for no love, that is loved, gave God’s, can clothe warm enough
the being around whom it gathers. And when he learned the facts of the
story, he would not find that he had given his aunt more love than she
deserved at his heart.

As soon as the next day’s work was over, Richard sat down to write to
Barbara. But he had no sooner taken the pen in his fingers, than he
became doubtful: what was he to say? He could not open his heart about
any of the things that troubled him most! Putting aside the recurrent
dread of her own marriage, how could he mention his mother’s wrong and
his own shame to a girl so young? She must be aware that such things
were, but how was he, a huge common fellow, to draw near her loveliness
with such a tale in his mouth! It would be a wrong to his own class, to
his own education! for would it not show the tradesman, or the artisan,
whichever they called him, as coarse, and unlit for the company of his
social superiors? It would go to prove that in no sense could one of
his nurture be regarded as a gentleman! And were there no such reason
against it, how could he, even to Barbara, speak of his mother’s hidden
pain, of his mother’s humiliation! It would be treachery! He would be as
a spy that had hid himself in a holy place! The thing she could not tell
him, how could he tell anyone! On the other hand, if he did not let her
know the sad fact, would he not be receiving and cherishing Barbara’s
friendship on false pretences? He was not what he now seemed to her--and
to be other to Barbara than he seemed, was too terrible! Still and
again, he was bound to do her the justice of believing that she would
not regard him differently because of what he could not help, and would
justify his silence for his mother’s sake. She would, in her great
righteousness, be the first to cry out upon the social rule that visited
the sins of the fathers on the mothers and children, and not on the
fathers themselves! If then disclosure would make no difference to
Barbara, he might, he concluded, let the thing rest--for the time at
least--assured of her sisterly sympathy. And with that he bethought
him that she had asked news of Alice, and it seemed to him strange.
For Alice had not told him that, unable to keep the money she sent from
falling into the hands of her mother and going in drink, unwilling to
expose her mother, and incapable of letting Barbara spend her money
so, she had contrived to have her remittances returned, as if they had
changed their dwelling, and their new address was unknown.

He wrote therefore what he thought would set her at ease about them; and
then, after thinking and thinking, yielded to the dread lest his heart
should make him say things he ought not, and ended with a little poem
that had come to him a night or two before.

This was the poem:

     If there lie a still, pure sorrow
     At the heart of everything,
     If never shall dawn a morrow
     With healing upon its wing,
     Then down I kneel to my sorrow,
     And say, Thou art my king!
     From old pale joy I borrow
     A withered song to sing!
     And with heart entire and thorough,
     To a calm despair I cling,
     And, freedman of old king Sorrow,
     Away Hope’s fetters fling!

That was all--and not much, either as poetry, or as consolation to one
that loved him; but sometimes, like that ghastly shroud of Icelandic
fable, the poem will rise and wrap itself around the poet.

As Richard closed his envelope, he remembered, with a pang of
self-reproach, that the hour of his usual meeting with Alice was past,
and that Arthur too was in danger of going to bed hungry, for his custom
was to put her brother’s supper in Alice’s handbag. He set out at once
for Clerkenwell--on foot notwithstanding his haste, for he was hoarding
every penny to get new clothes for Arthur, who was not only much in want
of them for warmth, but in risk of losing his situation because of his
shabby appearance.

His anxiety to reach the house before the mother came in, spurred him to
his best speed. He halted two minutes on the way to buy some slices of
ham and some rolls, and ran on again. It was a frosty night, but by the
time he reached Everilda-street, he was far from cold. He was rewarded
by finding his brother and sister at home, alone, and not too hungry.

He had just time to empty his pockets, and receive a kiss from Alice in
return, when they heard the uncertain step of their mother coming up the
stair, stopping now and then, and again resuming the ascent. Alice went
to watch which door she would turn to when she reached the top, that
Richard might go out by the other, for the two rooms communicated. But
just as she was entering Arthur’s room, Mrs. Manson changed her mind,
and turned to the other door, so that Richard was caught in the very act
of making his exit. She flew at him, seized him by the hair, and began
to pull and cuff him, abusing him as the true son of his father, who
did everything on the sly, and never looked an honest woman in the face.
Richard said never a word, but let her tug and revile till there was no
more strength in her, when she let him go, and dropped into a chair.

The three went half-way down the stair together.

“Don’t mind her,” said Alice with a great sob. “I hope she didn’t hurt
you much, Richard!”

“Not a bit,” answered Richard.

“Poor mother!” sighed Arthur; “she’s not in her right mind! We’re in
constant terror lest she drop down dead!”

“She’s not a very good mother to you!” said Richard.

“No, but that has nothing to do with loving her,” answered Alice; “and
to think of her dying like that, and going straight to the bad place!
Oh, Richard, what _shall_ I do! It turns me crazy to think of it!”

The door above them opened, and the fierce voice of the mother fell upon
them; but it was broken by a fit of hiccupping, and she went in again,
slamming the door behind her.



CHAPTER XLVII. _THE DOORS OF HARMONY AND DEATH_.

That night Richard could not rest. His brain wrought unceasingly.

He had caught cold and was feverish. After his hot haste to reach his
brother and sister, he had stood on the stair till his temperature sank
low. When at length he slept, he kept starting awake from troublous
dreams, and this went on through the night. In the morning he felt
better, and rose and set to his work, shivering occasionally. All the
week he was unwell, and coughed, but thought the attack an ordinary
cold. When Sunday came, he kept his bed, in the hope of getting rid of
it; but the next day he was worse. He insisted on getting up, however:
he must not seem to be ill, for he was determined, if he could stand,
to go to the concert! What with weariness and shortness of breath and
sleepiness, however, it was all he could do to stick to his work. But
he held on till the evening, when, watching his opportunity, he slipped
from the house and made his way, with the help of an omnibus, to the
hall.

It was dire work waiting till the door to the orchestra was opened.
The air was cold, his lungs heavily oppressed, and his languor almost
overpowering. But Paradise was within that closed door, and he was
passing through the pains of death to enter into bliss! When at length
it seemed to yield to his prayers, he almost fell in the rush, but the
good-humoured crowd itself succoured the pale youth, and helped him in:
to look at him was to see that he was ill!

The moment the music began, he forgot every discomfort. For, with the
first chord of the violins, as if ushered in and companied by the angels
themselves of the sweet sounds, Barbara came flitting down the centre of
the wide space toward her usual seat. The rows of faces that filled the
area were but the waves on which floated the presence of Barbara; the
music was the natural element of her being; it flowed from her as from
its fountain, radiated from her like odour. It fashioned around her a
nimbus of sound, like that made by the light issuing from the blessed
ones, as beheld by Dante, which revealed their presence but hid them in
its radiance, as the moth is hid in the silk of its cocoon. Richard felt
entirely well. The warmth entered into him, and met the warmth generated
in him. All was peace and hope and bliss, quaintest mingling of
expectation and fruition. Even Arthur Lestrange beside Barbara could not
blast his joy. He saw him occasionally offer some small attention; he
saw her carelessly accept or refuse it. Barbara gazed at him anxiously,
he thought; but he did not know he looked ill; he had forgotten himself.

When the concert was over, he hastened from the orchestra. The moment
he issued, the cold wind seized and threatened to strangle him, but he
conquered in the struggle, and reached the human torrent debouching in
Regent-street. Against it he made gradual way, until he stood near the
inner door of the hall. In a minute or two he saw her come, slowly with
the crowd, her hand on Arthur’s arm, her eyes anxiously searching for
Richard. The moment they found him, her course took a drift toward him,
and her face grew white as his, for she saw more plainly that he was
ill. They edged nearer and nearer; their hands met through the crowd;
their letters were exchanged, and without a word they parted. As Barbara
reached the door, she turned one moment to look for him, and he saw a
depth of care angelic in her eyes. Arthur turned too and saw him,
but Richard was so changed he did not recognize him, and thought the
suffering look of a stranger had roused the sympathy of his companion.

How he got home, Richard could not have told. Ere he reached the house,
he was too ill to know anything except that he had something precious in
his possession. He managed to get to bed--not to leave it for weeks. A
severe attack of pneumonia had prostrated him, and he knew nothing of
his condition or surroundings. He had not even opened his letter. He
remembered at intervals that he had a precious thing somewhere, but
could not recall what it was.

When he came to himself after many days, it was with a wonderful delight
of possession, though whether the object possessed was a thing, or a
thought, or a feeling, or a person, he could not distinguish.

“Where is it?” he said, nor knew that he spoke till he heard his own
voice.

“Under your pillow,” answered his mother.

He turned his eyes, and saw her face as he had never seen it
before--pale, and full of yearning love and anxious joy. There was a
gentleness and depth in its expression that was new to him. The divine
motherhood had come nearer the surface in her boy’s illness.

Partly from her anxiety about what she had done and what she had yet to
do, the show of her love had, as the boy grew up, gradually retired; her
love burned more, and shone less. If Jane Tuke had been able to let her
love appear in such forms as suited its strength, I doubt whether the
teaching of his father would have had much power upon Richard; certainly
he would have been otherwise impressed by the faith of his mother. He
would have been prejudiced in favour of the God she believed in, and
would have sought hard to account for the ways attributed to him. None
the less would it have been through much denial and much suffering that
he arrived at anything worth calling faith; while the danger would have
been great of his drifting about in such indifference as does not care
that God should be righteous, and is ready to call anything just which
men in office declare God does, without concern whether it be right or
wrong, or whether he really does it or not--without concern indeed about
anything at all that is God’s. He would have had phantoms innumerable
against him. He would have supposed the Bible said things about God
which it does not say, things which, if it did say them, ought to be
enough to make any honest man reject the notion of its authority as an
indivisible whole. He would have had to encounter all the wrong notions
of God, dropped on the highway of the universe, by the nations that went
before in the march of humanity. He would have found it much harder to
work out his salvation, to force his freedom from the false forms given
to truth by interpreters of little faith, for they would have seemed
born in him because loved into him.

“What did you say, mother dear?” he returned, all astray, seeming to
have once known several things, but now to know nothing at all.

“It is under your pillow, Richard,” she said again, very tenderly.

“What is it, mother? Something seems strange. I don’t know what to ask
you. Tell me what it means.”

“You have been very ill, my boy; that is what it means.”

“Have I been out of my mind?”

“You have been wandering with the fever, nothing more.”

“I have been thinking so many things, and they all seemed real!--And you
have been nursing me all the long time?”

“Who should have been nursing you, Richard? Do you think I would let any
one else nurse my own child? Didn’t I nurse the--”

She stopped; she had been on the point of saying--“the mother that bore
you?” Her love of her dead sister was one with her love of that sister’s
living child.

He lay silent for a time, thinking, or rather trying to think, for he
felt like one vainly endeavouring to get the focus of a stereoscopic
picture. His mind kept going away from him. He knew himself able
to think, yet he could not think. It was a revelation to him of our
helplessness with our own being, of our absolute ignorance of the modes
in which our nature works--of what it is, and what we can and cannot do
with it.

“Shall I get it for you, dear?” said his mother.

The morning after the concert, he had taken Barbara’s letter from under
his pillow, and would not let it out of his hand. His mother, fearing
he would wear it to pieces, once and again tried to remove it; but the
moment she touched it, he would cry out and strike; and when in his
restless turning he dropped it, he showed himself so miserable that
she could not but put it in his hand again, when he would lie perfectly
quiet for a while. Dreaming of Barbara however, I fancy, he at length
forgot her letter, and his mother again put it under his pillow. With
the Lord, we shall forget even the gospel of John.

She drew out the crumpled, frayed envelope, and gave it him. The moment
he touched it, everything came back to him.

“Now I remember, mother!” he cried. “Thank you, mother! I will try to be
a better boy to you. I am sorry I ever vexed you.”

“You never vexed me, Richard!” said the mother-heart; “--or if ever you
did, I’ve forgotten it. And now that God has given you back to us, we
must see whether we can’t do something better for you!”

Richard was so weary that he did not care to ask what she meant, and in
a moment was asleep, with the letter in his hand.

When at length he was able to read it, it caused him not a little
pleasure, and some dismay. He read that her father was determined she
should marry Mr. Lestrange; but her mother was against it; and there was
as much dissension at home as ever. She believed lady Ann had talked
her father into it, for he had not always favoured the idea. There was
indeed greater reason now why both lady Ann and her father should desire
it, for there was every likelihood of her being left sole heir to the
property, as her brother could not, the doctors said, live many months.
She was sure her mother was trying to do right, and she herself did all
she could to please her father, but nothing less than her consent to his
plans for what he called her settlement in life, would satisfy him, and
that she could not give.

She hoped Richard was not forgetting the things they had such talks
about in the old days. If it were not for those things, she could not
now bear life, or rightly take her part in it. She was almost never
alone, and now in constant danger of interruption, so that he must not
wonder if her letter broke off abruptly, for she might be wanted any
moment. She was leading, or rather being led, a busy life of nothing at
all--a life not worth living. Her father, set on, she had no doubt, by
lady Ann, had brought her up to town while yet her mother was unable to
accompany them, so that she had had to go where, and do what lady Ann
pleased. But her mother had at last, exerting herself even beyond her
strength, come up to stand by her girl, as she said: she would have no
lady Ann interfering with her! She had herself married a man she had not
learned to respect, and she was determined her girl should make her own
choice--or keep as she was, if she pleased! She was not going to hold
her child down for them to bury in money!--And with this the letter
broke off.

Barbara’s openness about her parents was in harmony with her simplicity
and straightforwardness. She was proud of her mother and the way she put
things, therefore told all to Richard.

He had a bad night, with delirious dreams, and for some days made little
progress. His anxiety to be well, that he might see Barbara, and learn
how things were going with her; also that he might again see Alice and
Arthur, for whom he feared much, retarded his recovery.

“If the woman is drinking herself to death,” he said to himself, “I
wish she would be quick about it! In this world she is doing no good to
herself, and much harm to others!” But it would be the ruin, he said to
himself, of all hope in the care and love of God, to believe that she
could be allowed to live a moment longer than it was well she should
live. Then he thought how wise must be a God who, to work out his
intent, would take all the conduct, good and bad, all the endeavours of
all his children, in all their contrarieties, and out of them bring the
right thing. If he knew such a God, one to trust in absolutely, he would
lie still without one movement of fear, he would go to sleep without
one throb of anxiety about any he loved! The perfect Love would not fail
because one of his children was sick! He would try to be quiet, if only
in the hope that there was a perfect heart of hearts, thinking love to
and into and about all its creatures. If there was such a splendour, he
would either make him well, and send him out again to do for Alice and
Arthur what he could, or he would let him die and go where all he loved
would come after him--where he might perhaps help to prepare a place for
them!

If matter be all, then must all illness be blinding; if spirit be the
deeper and be the causer, then some sicknesses may well be openers of
windows into the unseen. It is true that in one mood we are ready to
doubt the conclusions of another mood; but there is a power of judging
between the moods themselves, with a perception of their character and
nature, and the comparative clarity of insight in each; and he who is
able to judge the moods, may well judge the judgments of the moods.

One of the benefits of illness is, that either from general weakness,
or from the brain’s being cast into quiescence, habits are broken for
a time, and more simple, childlike, and natural modes of thought and
feeling, modes more approximate to primary and original modes, come
into action, whereby the right thing has a better chance. A man’s
self-stereotyped thinking is unfavourable to revelation, whether through
his fellows, or direct from the divine. If there be a divine quarter,
those must be opener to its influences who are not frozen in their
own dullness, cased in their own habits, bound by their own pride to
foregone conclusions, or shut up in the completeness of human error,
theorizing beyond their knowledge and power.

Having thus in a measure given himself up, Richard began to grow better.
It is a joy to think that a man may, while anything but sure about God,
yet come into correlation with him! How else should we be saved at all?
For God alone is our salvation; to know him is salvation. He is in us
all the time, else we could never move to seek him. It is true that only
by perfect faith in him can we be saved, for nothing but perfect faith
in him is salvation; there is no good but him, and not to be one with
that good by perfect obedience, is to be unsaved; but one better thought
concerning him, the poorest desire to draw near him, is an approach to
him. Very unsure of him we may be: how should we be sure of what we do
not yet know? but the unsureness does not nullify the approach. A man
may not be sure that the sun is risen, may not be sure that the sun will
ever rise, yet has he the good of what light there is. Richard was fed
from the heart of God without knowing that he was indeed partaking of
the spirit of God. He had been partaking of the body of God all his
life. The world had been feeding him with its beauty and essential
truth, with the sweetness of its air, and the vastness of its vault
of freedom. But now he had begun, in the words of St. Peter, to be a
partaker of the divine nature.

It was a long time before he was strong again--in fact he never would
be so strong again in this world. His mother took him to the seaside,
where, in a warm secluded bay on the south coast, he was wrapt closer,
shall I not say, in the garments of the creating and reviving God. He
was again a child, and drew nearer to the heart of his mother than he
had ever drawn before. Believing he knew her sad secret, he set himself
to meet her every wish--which was always some form of anxiety about
himself. He spoke so gently to her, that she felt she had never until
now had him her very child. How little men think, alas, of the duty that
lies in _tone_! But Richard was started on a voyage of self-discovery.
He had begun to learn that regions he had thought wholesome, productive
portions of his world, were a _terra incognita_ of swamps and sandy
hills, haunted with creeping and stinging things. When a man finds he
is not what he thought, that he has been talking fine things, and but
imagining he belonged to their world, he is on the way to discover that
he is not up to his duty in the smallest thing. When, for very despair,
it seems impossible to go on, then he begins to know that he needs more
than himself; that there is none good but God; that, if he can gain no
help from the perfect source of his being, that being ought not to have
been given him; and that, if he does not cry for help to the father
of his spirit, the more pleasant existence is, the less he deserves it
should continue. Richard was beginning to feel in his deepest nature,
where alone it can be felt, his need of God, not merely to comfort him
in his sorrows, and so render life possible and worth living, but to
make him such that he could bear to regard himself; to make him such
that he could righteously consent to be. The only thing that can
reassure a man in respect of the mere fact of his existence, is to know
himself started on the way to grow better, with the hope of help from
the source of his being: how should he by himself better that which he
was powerless to create? All betterment must be radical: of the roots of
his being he knows nothing. His existence is God’s; his betterment must
be God’s too!--God’s through honest exercise by man of that which is
highest in man--his own will, God’s best handiwork. By actively willing
the will of God, and doing what of it lies to his doing, the man takes
the share offered him in his own making, in his own becoming. In willing
actively and operatively to be that which he was made in order to be, he
becomes creative--so far as a man may. In this kind also he becomes like
his Father in heaven.

If a reader say Richard was too young to think thus, it only proves that
_he_ could not think so at Richard’s age, and goes for little. I may be
interpreting, and rendering more definite the thoughts and feelings
that passed through him: it does not follow that I misrepresent. Many
thoughts must be made more definite in expression, else they could not
be expressed at all; many feelings are as hazy as real, and some of them
must be left to music.

He grew in graciousness and in favour with God and his mother. Often
did she meditate whether the hour was not come for the telling of her
secret, but now one thing, now another deterred her. One time she feared
the excitement in the present state of his health; another, she judged
it unfair to the husband who had behaved with such generosity, to yield
him no part in the pleasure of the communication.

Once, to comfort him when he seemed depressed, she ventured to say--

“Would you like better to go to Oxford or to Cambridge, Richard?”

He looked up with a smile.

“What makes you ask that, mammy?” he rejoined.

“Perhaps it could be managed!” she answered--leaving him to suppose his
father might send him.

“Is it because you think I shall never be able to work again?--Look at
that!” he returned, extending an arm on which the muscle had begun to
put in an appearance.

“It’s not for your strength,” she answered. “For that, you could do well
enough! But think of the dust! It’s so irritating to the lungs! And then
there’s the stooping all day long!”

“Never mind, mother; I’m quite able for it, dust and all--or at least
shall soon be. We mustn’t be anxious about others any more than about
ourselves. Doesn’t the God you believe in tell you so?”

“Don’t you believe in him then, Richard?” said his mother sadly.

“I think I do--a little--in a sort of a way--believe in God--but I hope
to believe in him ten thousand times more!”

His mother gave a sigh.

“What more would you have, mother dear?” said Richard. “A man cannot be
a saint all at once!”

“No, indeed, nor a woman either!” she answered. “I’ve been a believer
all these years, and I’m no nearer a saint than ever.”

“But you’re trying to be one, ain’t you, mammy?”

She made him no reply, and presently reverted to their former
topic--perhaps took refuge in it.

“I think it might be managed--some day!” she said. “You could go on
with your trade after, if you liked. Why shouldn’t a college-man be a
tradesman? Why shouldn’t a tradesman know as much as a gentleman?”

“Why, indeed, mother! If I thought it wouldn’t be too much for father
and you, there are not many things I should like better than going to
Oxford. You are good to me like God himself!”

“Richard!” said his mother, shocked. She thought she served God by going
to church, not by being like him in every word and look of love she gave
her boy.

The mere idea of going to college, and thus taking a step nearer to
Barbara, began immediately to better his health. It gave him many a
happy thought, many a cottage and castle in the air, with more of a
foundation than he knew. But his mother did not revert to it; and one
day suddenly the thought came to Richard that perhaps she meant to apply
to sir Wilton for the means of sending him. Castle and cottage fell in
silent ruin. His soul recoiled from the idea with loathing--as much for
his mother’s sake as his own. Having married his reputed father, she
must have no more relation, for good any more than for bad, with sir
Wilton--least of all for his sake! To her he was dead; and ought to be
as dead as disregard could make him! So, at least, thought Richard. He
was sorry he had confessed he should like to go to Oxford. If his mother
again alluded to the thing, he would tell her he had changed his mind,
and would not interrupt the exercise of his profession as surgeon to old
books.



CHAPTER XLVIII. _DEATH THE DELIVERER_.

The spring advanced; the days grew a little warmer; and at length,
partly from economic considerations, it was determined they should go
home. When they reached London, they found a great difference in the
weather: it cannot be said she owes her salubrity to her climate.
Fog and drizzle, frost and fog, were the embodiment of its unvarying
mutability. At once Richard was worse, and dared not think, for his
mother’s sake, and the labour she had spent upon him, of going to the
next popular concert, if indeed those delights had not ceased for the
season. But he ought to try, for he could do that in the middle of the
day, at least to get news of Arthur Manson. He dreaded hearing that he
was no more in this world. The cold wintry weather, and the return to
poor and spare nourishment caused by Richard’s illness, must have been
hard upon him! It was a continual sorrow to Richard that he had not been
able to get him his new clothes before he was taken ill. So the first
morning he felt it possible, he took his way to the city. There he
learned that the company had dispensed with Arthur’s services, because
his attendance had become so irregular.

“You see, sir,” said the porter, “the gov’nors they don’t think no more
of a man than they do of a horse: so long as he can hold the shafts
up an’ lean agin the collar, he’s money; when he can’t no longer, he’s
dirt!”

Sad at heart, Richard set out for Clerkenwell. He was ill able for the
journey, but Arthur was dying! He would brave the mother for the sake of
the son! He got into an omnibus which took him a good part of the way,
and walked the rest. When at length he looked up at the dreary house,
he saw the blinds of the windows drawn down. A pang of fear went through
his heart, and an infilial murmur awoke in his brain:--why was he, on
whom those poor lives almost depended, made feeble as themselves, and
incapable of helping them? After all his hoping and trusting, _could_
there be a God in the earth and things go like that? The look of things
seemed the truth of things; the seen denied the unseen. Cold and hunger
and desertion; ugly, mocking failure; heartless comfort, and hopeless
misery, made up the law of life! Moody and wretched he went up the stair
to the darkened floor.

When he knocked at the front room, that in which Alice slept with her
mother, it was opened by Alice, looking more small and forlorn than he
had yet seen her, with hollower cheeks and larger eyes, and a smile to
make an angel weep.

“Richard!” she cried, with a voice in which the very gladness sounded
like pain. A pink flush rose in her poor wasted cheeks, and she lay
still in his arms as if she had gone to live there.

He could not, for pity, speak one word.

“How ill you look!” she murmured. “I knew you must be ill! I thought you
might be dead! Oh, God _is_ good to leave you to us!” Then bursting into
tears, “How wicked of me,” she sobbed, “to feel anything like gladness,
with my mother lying there, and me not able to do anything for her, and
not knowing what’s become of her, or how things are going with her!--We
shall never see her again!”

“Don’t say that, Alice! Never say _never_ about anything except it be
bad. You can’t be _sure_, you know. You can’t be sure of anything that’s
not in your very mouth--and then sometimes you can’t swallow it!--But
how’s Arthur?”

“He’ll know all about it soon!” she answered, with a touch of
bitterness. “If he had been left me, we should have got along somehow.
He would have lain in bed, and I would have worked beside him! How I
could have worked for _him_! But he’s past hope now! He’ll never get up
again.”

“Oh God,” cried Richard in his heart, where an agony of will wrestled
with doubt, “if thou art, thou wilt hear me, and take pity on her, and
on us all!--I dare not pray, Alice,” he went on aloud, “that he may
live, but I will pray God to be with him. It would be poor kindness to
want him left with us, if he is taking him where he will be well. May I
go and see him?”

“Surely, Richard.--But mayn’t I let him know first? The surprise might
be too much for him.”

Their talk had waked him, however, and he knew his brother’s voice.
“Richard! Richard!” he cried, so loud that it startled Alice: he had not
spoken above a whisper for days. Richard opened his door, and went
in. But when he saw Arthur, he could scarcely recognize him, he was so
wasted. His eyes stood out like balls from his sunken cheeks, and the
smile with which he greeted him was all teeth, like the helpless smile
of a skull. Overcome with tenderness, the stronger that he would have
passed him in the street as one unknown, Richard stooped and kissed his
forehead, then stood speechless, holding the thin leaf of a hand that
strained his. Arthur tried to speak, but his cough came on, and his
brother begged him to be silent.

“I will go into the next room with Alice,” he said, “and come to you
again. I shall see you often now, I hope. I’ve been ill or I should have
been here fifty times.”

In the next room lay the motionless form of the unmotherly mother.
A certain something of human grace had returned to her countenance.
Richard did not like looking at her; he felt that, not loving her,
he had no right to let his eyes rest on her. But she had been sinned
against like his own mother: he must not fail her with what sympathy she
might claim!

“Don’t think hard things of her,” said Alice, as if she knew what he was
thinking. “She had not the strength of some people. I believe myself she
could not help it. She had been used to everything she wanted!”

“I pity her heartily,” answered Richard.

She threw her arms round his neck, and clung to him as if she would
never more let him go.

“But what am I to do?” she said, releasing him. “If I stay at home to
nurse Arthur, we must both die of hunger. If I go away, there is nobody
to do anything for him!”

“I wish I could stay with him!” returned Richard. “But I’ve been so long
ill that I have no money, and I don’t know when I shall have any. I have
just one shilling in my possession. Take it, dear.”

“I can’t take your last shilling, Richard!”

“There’s no fear of me,” he said; “I shall have everything I want. It
makes me ashamed to think of it. You must just creep on for a while as
best you can, while I think what to do. Only there’s the funeral!”

Alice gave a cry choked by a sob.

“There is no help!” she said in a voice of despair. “The parish is all
that is left us!”

“It don’t matter much,” rejoined Richard. “For my part I don’t care
a paring what becomes of my old clothes when I’ve done with them! You
needn’t think, whether she be anywhere or nowhere, that she cares how
her body gets put under the earth! Don’t trouble about it, Alice; it
really is nothing. I would come to the funeral, but I don’t see how I
can. I don’t know now what I shall say to my mother!--Tell Arthur I
hope to see him again soon; I must not stop now. I won’t forget you,
Alice--not for an hour, I think. Beg some one in the house to go in to
him now and then while you are away. I shall soon do something to cheer
him up a bit. Good-night, dear!”

With a heavy heart Richard went. It was all he could do to get home
before dark, having to walk all the way. His mother was much distressed
to see him so exhausted; but he managed not to tell her what he had been
about. He had some tea and went to bed, and there remained all the next
day. And while he was in bed, it came to him clear and plain what he
must do. It was certain that for a long time he could do nothing for
Arthur and Alice out of his own pocket. Even if he got to work at once,
he could not take his wages as before, seeing his parents had spent upon
him almost all they had saved!

But there was one who _ought_ to help them! Specially in such sore need
had they a right to the saving help of their own father! He would go
to his father and their father--and as the words rose in his mind, he
wondered where he had heard something like them before.

The next day he begged his father and mother to let him spend a week or
two with his grandfather.



CHAPTER XLIX. _THE CAVE IN THE FIRE_.

The day after, well wrapt from the cold, he took his place in a slow
train, and at the station was heartily welcomed by his grandfather, who
had come with his pony-cart to take him home. Settled in the room once
occupied by Alice, he felt like a usurper, a robber of the helpless:
he had left her in misery and wretchedness, and was in the heart of
the comfort that had once been hers. He had to tell himself that it was
foolish; that he was there for her sake.

He took his grandfather at once into his confidence, begging him not
to let his mother know: and Simon, who had in former days experienced
something of the hardness of his true-hearted daughter, entered into the
thing with a brooding kind of smile. He saw no reason why Richard should
not make the attempt, but shook his head at the prospect of success.
Doubtless the baronet thought he had done all that could be required of
him! He would have Richard rest a day before encountering him but when
he heard in what condition he had left Alice and her brother, he said
no more, but the next morning had his trap ready to drive him to
Mortgrange.

Richard’s heart beat fast as he entered the lodge-gate, and walked up to
the front door. After a moment’s bewilderment the servant who answered
his ring recognized him, and expressed concern that he looked so ill.
When he asked to see sir Wilton, the man, thinking he came to resume
the work so suddenly abandoned, said he was in the library, having his
morning cigar.

“Then I’ll just step in!” said Richard; and the footman gave way as to a
member of the household.

Sir Wilton, now an elderly and broken man, sat in the same chair, and in
the same attitude, as when Richard, a new-born and ugly child, had,
in the arms of his aunt, his first interview with him, nearly one and
twenty years before. The relation between them had not developed a
hair’s-breadth since that moment, and Richard, partly from the state
of his health, could not, with all the courage he could gather, help
quailing a little before the expected encounter; but he remained
outwardly quiet and seemingly cool. The sun was not shining into the
room, and it was rather dark. Sir Wilton sat with his back to the one
large bay-window, and Richard received its light on his face as he
entered. He stood an instant, hesitating. His father did not speak,
but sat looking straight at him, staring indeed as at something
portentous--much as when first he saw the ugly apparition of his infant
heir. Richard’s illness had brought out, in the pallor and emaciation
of his countenance, what likeness there was in him to his mother; and,
strange to say, at the moment when the door opened to admit him, sir
Wilton was thinking of the monstrous baby his wife had left him, and
wondering if the creature were still alive, and as hideous as twenty
years before.

It was not _very_ strange, however. Sir Wilton had been annoyed with
his wife that morning, and it was yet a bitterer thing not to be able
to hurt her in return, which, because of her cold imperturbability, was
impossible, say what he might. As often, therefore, as he sat in silent
irritation with her, the thought of his lost child never failed to
present itself. What a power over her ladyship would he not possess,
what a plough and harrow for her frozen equanimity, if only he knew
where the heir to Mortgrange was! He was damned ugly, but the uglier the
better! If he but had him, he swore he would have a merry time, with
his lady’s pride on its marrow-bones! After so many years the poor lad
might, ugly as he was, turn out presentable, and if so, then, by heaven,
that smooth-faced gentleman, Arthur, should shift for himself!

Suddenly appeared Richard, with his mother in his face; and before his
father had time to settle what the deuce it could mean, the apparition
spoke.

“I am very sorry to intrude upon you, sir Wilton,” he said, “but--”

Here he paused.

“--But you’ve got something to tell me--eh?” suggested sir Wilton. He
was on the point of adding, “If it be where you got those eyes, I may
have to ask you to sit down!” but he checked himself, and said only,
“You’d better make haste, then; for the devil is at the door in the
shape of my damned gout!”

“I came to tell you, sir Wilton,” replied Richard, plunging at once into
the middle of things, which was indeed the best way with sir Wilton,
“about a son of yours--”

“What!” cried sir Wilton, putting his hands on the arms of his chair
and leaning forward as if on the point of rising to his feet. “Where the
devil is he? What do you know about him?”

“He is lying at the point of death--dying of hunger, I may say.”

“Rubbish!” cried the baronet contemptuously. “You want to get money out
of me! But you shan’t!--not a damned penny!”

“I do want to get money from you, sir,” said Richard. “I kept the poor
fellow alive--kept him in dinners at least, him and his sister, till I
fell ill and couldn’t work.”

At the word _sister_ the baronet grew calmer. It was nothing about the
lost heir! The other sort did not matter: they were no use against the
enemy!

Richard paused. The baronet stared.

“I haven’t a penny to call my own, or I should not have come to you,”
 resumed Richard.

“I thought so! That’s your orthodox style! But you’ve come to the wrong
man!” returned sir Wilton. “I never give anything to beggars.”

He did not in the least doubt what he heard, but he scarcely knew what
he answered--wondering where he had seen the fellow, and how he came to
be so like his wife. The remembered ugliness of her infant prevented all
suggestion that this handsome fellow might be the same.

“You are the last man, sir Wilton, from whom I would ask anything for
myself,” said Richard.

“Why so?”

Richard hesitated. To let him suspect the same claim in himself, would
be fatal.

“I swear to you, sir Wilton,” he said, “by all that men count sacred,
I come only to tell you that Arthur and Alice Manson, your son and
daughter, are in dire want. Your son may be dead; he looked like it
three days ago, and had no one to attend to him; his sister had to leave
him to earn their next day’s food. Their mother lay a corpse in the
other of their two rooms.”

“Oh! she’s gone, is she! That alters the case. But what became of all
the money I gave her? It was more than her body was worth; soul she
never had any!”

“She lost it somehow, and her son and daughter starved themselves to
keep her in plenty, so that by the time she died, they were all but dead
themselves.”

“A pair of fools.”

“A good son and daughter, sir!”

“Attached to the young woman, eh?” asked the baronet, looking hard at
him.

“Very much; but hardly more than to her brother,” answered Richard.
“God knows if I had but my strength,” he cried, almost in despair, and
suddenly shooting out his long thin arms, with his two hands, wasted
white, at the ends of them, “I would work myself to the bone for them,
and not ask you for a penny!”

“I provided for their mother!--why didn’t they look after the money?
_I’m_ not accountable for _them_!”

“Ain’t you accountable for giving the poor things a mother like that,
sir?”

“By Jove, you have me there! She _was_ a bad lot--a damned liar!--Young
fellow, I don’t know who you are, but I like your pluck! There ain’t
many I’d let stand talking at me like that! I’ll give you something for
the poor creatures--that is, mind you, if you’ve told me the truth about
their mother! You’re sure she’s dead? Not a penny shall they have if
she’s alive!”

“I saw her dead, sir, with my own eyes.”

“You’re sure she wasn’t shamming?”

“She couldn’t have shammed anything so peaceful.”

The baronet laughed.

“Believe me, sir,” said Richard, “she’s dead--and by this time buried by
the parish.”

“God bless my soul! Well, it’s none of my fault!”

“She ate and drank her own children!” said Richard with a groan, for his
strength was failing him. He sank into a chair.

“I will give you a cheque,” said sir Wilton, rising, and going to a
writing-table in the window. “I will give you twenty pounds for them
in the meantime--and then we’ll see--we’ll see!--that is,” he added,
turning to Richard, “if you swear by God that you have told me nothing
but the truth!”

“I swear,” said Richard solemnly, “by all my hopes in God the saviour
of men, that I have not wittingly uttered a word that is untrue or
incorrect.”

“That’s enough. I’ll give you the cheque.”

He turned again to the table, sat down, searched for his keys, unlocked
and drew out a drawer, took from it a cheque-book, and settled
himself to write with deliberation, thinking all the time. When he had
done--“Have the goodness to come and fetch your money,” he said tartly.

“With pleasure!” answered Richard, and went up to the table.

Sir Wilton turned on his seat, and looked him in the face, full in the
eyes. Richard steadily encountered his gaze.

“What is your name?” said sir Wilton at length. “I must make the cheque
payable to you!”

“Richard Tuke, sir,” answered Richard.

“What are you?”

“A bookbinder. I was here all the summer, sir, repairing your library.”

“Oh! bless my soul!--Yes! that’s what it was! I thought I had seen you
somewhere! Why didn’t you tell me so at first?”

“It had nothing to do with my coming now, and I did not imagine it of
any interest to you, sir.”

“It would have saved me the trouble of trying to remember where I had
seen you!”

Then suddenly a light flashed across his face.

“By heaven,” he muttered, “I understand it now!--They saw it--that look
on his face!--By Jove!--But no; she never saw _her_!--She must have
heard something about him then!--They didn’t treat you well, I believe!”
 he said: “--turned you away at a moment’s notice!--I hope they took that
into consideration when they paid you?”

“I made no complaint, sir. I never asked why I was dismissed!”

“But they made it up to you--didn’t they?”

“I don’t submit to ill usage, sir.” “That’s right! I’m glad you made
them pay for it!”

“To take money for ill usage is to submit to it, it seems to me!” said
Richard.

“By Jove, there are not many would call money ill usage!--Well, it
wasn’t right, and I’ll have nothing to do with it!--Here,” he went on,
wheeling round to the table, and drawing his cheque-book toward him, “I
will give you another cheque for yourself.”

“I beg your pardon, sir,” said Richard, “but I can take nothing for
myself! Don’t you see, sir?--As soon as I was gone, you would think I
had after all come for my own sake!”

“I won’t, I promise you. I think you a very honest fellow!”

“Then, sir, please continue to think me so, and don’t offer me money!”

“Lest you should be tempted to take it?”

“No; lest I should annoy you by the use I made of it!”

“Tut, tut! I don’t care what you do with it! You can’t annoy me!”

He wrote a second cheque, blotted it, then finished the other, and held
out both to Richard.

“I can’t give you so much as the other poor beggars; you haven’t the
same claim upon me!” he said.

Richard took the cheques, looked at them, put the larger in his pocket,
walked to the fire, and placed the other in the hottest cavern of it.

“By Jove!” cried the baronet, and again stared at him: he had seen his
mother do precisely the same thing--with the same action, to the very
turn of her hand, and with the same choice of the central gulf of fire!

Richard turned to sir Wilton, and would have thanked him again on behalf
of Alice and Arthur, but something got up in his throat, and, with a
grateful look and a bend of the head, he made for the door speechless.

“I say, I say, my lad!” cried sir Wilton, and Richard stopped.

“There’s something in this,” the baronet went on, “more than I
understand! I would give a big cheque to know what is in your mind! What
does it all mean?”

Richard looked at him, but said nothing: he was in some sort fascinated
by the old man’s gaze.

“Suppose now,” said sir Wilton, “I were to tell you I would do whatever
you asked me so far as it was in my power--what would you say?”

“That I would ask you for nothing,” answered Richard.

“I make the promise; I say solemnly that I will give you whatever you
ask of me--provided I can do it honestly,” said the baronet.

“What a damned fool I am!” he thought with himself. “The devil is in me
to let the fellow walk over me like this! But I must know what it all
means! I shall find some way out of it!”

For one moment the books around him seemed to Richard to rush upon his
brain like troops to the assault of a citadel; but the next he said--

“I can ask you for nothing whatever, sir; but I thank you from my heart
for my poor friends, your children. Believe me I am grateful.”

With a lingering look at his father, he left the room.



CHAPTER L. _DUCK-FISTS_.

The godless old man was strangely moved. He rose, but instead of ringing
the bell, hobbled after Richard to the door. As he opened it, however,
he heard the hall-door close. He went to it, but by the time he reached
it, the bookbinder had turned a corner of the house, to go by a back-way
to the spot where his grandfather was waiting for him.

He found him in his cart, immovably expectant, his pony eating the grass
at the edge of the road. Before he got his head pulled up, Richard was
in the cart beside him.

“Drive on, grandfather,” he panted in triumph. “I’ve got it!”

“Got what, lad?” returned the old man, with a flash in his eyes, and a
forward strain of his neck.

“What I wanted. Money. Twenty pounds.”

“Bah! twenty pounds!” returned Simon with contempt, and a jerk of his
head the other way.

He had himself noted Richard’s likeness to his daughter, and imagined it
impossible sir Wilton should not also see it.

“But of course,” he went on, “twenty pounds will be a large sum to them,
and give them time to look about, and see what can be done. And now
I’ll tell you what, lad: if the young man is fit to be moved when you
go back, you just bring him down here--to the cottage, I mean--and it
shan’t cost him a ha’penny. I’ve a bit of a nest-egg as ain’t chalk nor
yet china; and Jessie is going to be well married; and who knows but
the place may suit him as it did his sister! You look to it when you get
home.”

“I will indeed, grandfather!--You’re a good man, grandfather: the poor
things are no blood of yours!”

“Where’s the odds o’ that!” grunted Simon. “I reckon it was your God and
mine as made ‘em!”

Richard felt in his soul that, little reason as he had to be proud of
his descent, he had at least one noble grandfather.

“You’re a good man, grandfather!” he repeated meditatively.

“Middlin’,” returned the old man, laughing. “I’m not so good by a long
chalk as my maker meant me, and I’m not so bad as the devil would have
me. But if I were the powers that be, I wouldn’t leave things as they
are! I’d have ‘em a bit straightened out afore I died!”

“That shows where you come from, Mr. Wingfold would say; for that is
just what God is always doing.”

“I know the man; I know your Mr. Wingfold! Since you went, he’s been
more than once or twice to the smithy to ask after you. He’s one o’ the
right sort, he is! He’s a man, he is!--not an old woman in breeches!
My soul! why don’t they walk and talk and look like men? Most on ‘em as
I’ve seen are no more like men than if they was drawn on the wall with
a coal! If they was all like your Mr. Wingfold now! Why, the devil
wouldn’t hare a chance! I’ve a soft heart for the clergy--always had,
though every now and then they do turn me sick!”

They were spinning along the road, half-way home, behind the little
four-legged business in the shafts, when they became aware of a quick
sharp trot behind them. Neither looked round: the blacksmith was minding
his pony and the clergy, and the twenty pounds in Richard’s heart were
making it sing a new song. What a thing is money even, with God in it.
The horseman came alongside the cart, and slackened his pace!

“Sir Wilton wants to see Mr. Tuke again,” he said. “He made a mistake in
the cheque he gave him.”

An arrow of fear shot through Richard’s heart. What did it mean? Was the
precious thing going to be taken from him? Was his hope to be destroyed
and his heart left desolate? He took the cheque from his pocket and
examined it. Simon had pulled up his pony, and they were standing in
the middle of the highway, the old man waiting his grandson’s decision.
Richard was not unaccustomed to cheques in payment of his work, and
he could see nothing amiss with the baronet’s: it was made payable to
bearer, and not crossed: Alice could take it to the bank and get the
money for it! The next moment, however, he noted that it was payable at
a branch-bank in the town of Barset, near Mortgrange. The baronet,
he concluded, had, with more care than he would have expected of him,
thought of this, and that it would cause trouble, so had sent his man
to bring him back, that he might replace the cheque with one payable in
London. His heart warmed toward his father.

“I see!” he said. “I’m sorry to give you the trouble, grandfather, but
I’m afraid we must go!”

Simon turned the pony’s head without a word, and they went trotting
briskly back to Mortgrange. Richard explained the matter as it seemed to
him.

“I’m glad to find him so considerate!” said the old man. “It’s a bad
cheese that don’t improve with age! Only men ain’t cheeses!--If I’d
brought up my girls better,--” he went on reflectively, but Richard
interrupted him.

“You ain’t going to hit my mother, grandfather!” said Richard.

“No, no, lad; I learned my manners better than that! Whatever I was
going to say, I was thinking of my own faults and no one else’s. But
it’s not possible we should be wise at the outset, and I trust the Maker
will remember it. He’ll be considerate, lad!--The Bible would call it
_merciful_, but I don’ care for parson-words! I like things that are
true to sound true, just as any common honest man would say them!”

The moment he saw that Richard was indeed gone, the baronet swore
to himself that the fellow was his own son. He was his mother all
over!--anything but ugly, and far fitter to represent the family than
the smooth-faced ape lady Ann had presented him with! But a doubt came:
his late wife had a sister somewhere, and a son of hers might have
stolen a likeness to his lady-aunt! The tradesman fellow knew of the
connection, and pretended to himself not to think much of it!

“What _are_ we coming to, by Jove!” muttered the baronet. “The pride
of the lower classes is growing portentous!--No, the fellow is none of
mine!” he concluded with a sigh.

Alas for his grip on lady Ann! The pincers had melted in his grasp, and
she was gone! It _was_ a pity! If he had been a better husband to poor
Ruby, he would have taken better care of her child, ugly as he was, and
would have had him now to plague lady Ann! But stop! there was something
odd about the child--something more than mere ugliness--something his
nurse had shown him in that very room! By Jove! what was it? It had
something to do with ducks, or geese, or swans, or pelicans! He had
mentioned the thing to his wife, he knew, and she was sure to have
remembered it! But he was not going to ask her! Very likely she had
known the fellow by it, and therefore sent him out of the house!--Yes!
yes! by Jove! that was it! He had webs between his fingers and toes!--He
might have got rid of them, no doubt, but he must see his hands!

All this passed swiftly through sir Wilton’s mind. He rang the library
bell furiously, and sent a groom after the bookbinder. They drove in at
the gate, but stopped a little way from the house. Richard ran to the
great door, found it open, and went straight to the library. There sat
the baronet as at first.

“I bethought me,” said sir Wilton the moment he entered, “that I had
given you a cheque on the branch at Barset, when it would probably suit
you better to have one on headquarters in London!”

“It was very kind of you to think of it, sir,” answered Richard.

“Kind! I don’t know about that! I’m not often accused of that weakness!”
 returned sir Wilton, rising with a grin--in which, however, there was
more of humour than ill nature.

He went to the table in the window, sat down, unlocked a drawer, took
out a cheque-book, and began to write a cheque.

“What did you say was your name?” he asked: “these cheques are all made
to order, and I should prefer your drawing the money.”

Richard gave him again the name he had always been known by.

“Tuke! What a beast of a name!” said the baronet. “How do you spell it?”

Richard’s face flushed, but he would not willingly show anger with one
who had granted the prayer of his sorest need. He spelled the name to
him as unconcernedly as he could. But the baronet had a keen ear.

“Oh, you needn’t be crusty!” he said. “I meant no harm. One has fancies
about names, you know! What did they call your mother before she was
married?”

Richard hesitated. He did not want sir Wilton to know who he was. He
felt that, the relation between them known by both, he must behave to
his father in a way he would not like. But he must, nevertheless, speak
the truth! Wherever he had not spoken the truth, he had repented, and
been ashamed, and had now come to see that to tell a lie was to step
out of the march of the ages led by the great will. “Her name, sir, was
Armour,” he said.

“Hey!” cried the baronet with a start. Yet he had all but expected it.

“Yes, sir,--Jane Armour.”

“Jane!” said his father with an accent of scorn. “--Not a bit of
it!--_Jane_!” he repeated, and muttered to himself--“What motive could
there be for misinforming the boy as to the _Christian_ name of his
mother?”

For, the moment he saw the youth again, the spell was upon him afresh,
and he felt all but certain he was his own.

Richard stood perplexed. Sir Wilton had taken his mother’s name oddly
for any supposition. He had said Mrs. Manson was a liar: might not
her assertion of a relation between them be as groundless as it was
spiteful? He had at once acknowledged the Mansons, but showed no
recognition of himself on hearing his mother’s name? There might be
nothing in Mrs. Manson’s story; he might after all be the son of John
as well as of Jane Tuke! Only, alas, then, Alice and Arthur would not
be his sister and brother! They would be God’s children all the same,
though, and he God’s child! they would still be his brother and sister,
to love and to keep.

“Here, put your name on the back there,” said the baronet, having
blotted the cheque. “I have made it payable to your order, and without
your name it is worth nothing.”

“It will be safer to endorse it at the bank, sir,” returned Richard.

“I see you know what you’re about!” grinned sir Wilton--saying to
himself, however, “The rascal will be too many for me!--But,” he
continued, “I see too you don’t know how to sign your own name! I had
better alter it to _bearer_, with my initials! Damn it! your paltry
cheque has given me more trouble than if it had been for ten thousand!
Sit down there, will you, and write your name on that sheet of paper.”

Richard knew the story of Talleyrand--how, giving his autograph to a
lady, he wrote it at the top left-hand corner of the sheet, so that she
could write above or before it, neither an order for money nor a promise
of marriage: yielding to an absurd impulse, he did the same. The baronet
burst into loud laughter, which, however, ceased abruptly: he had not
gained his end!

“What comical duck-fists you’ve got!” he cried, risking the throw. “I
once knew a man whose fingers and toes too were tied together that way!
He swam like a duck!”

“My feet are more that way than my hands,” replied Richard. “Only _some_
of my fingers have got the web between them. My mother made me promise
to put up with the monstrosity till I came of age. She seemed to think
some luck lay in it.”

“Your mother!” murmured the baronet, and kept eyeing him. “By Jove,” he
said aloud, “your mother--! Who is your mother?”

“As I told you, sir, my mother’s name is Jane Tuke!”

“Born Armour?”

“Yes, sir.”

“By heaven!” said the baronet to himself, “I see it all now! That
terrible nurse was one of the family--and carried him away because
she didn’t like the look of my lady! Don’t I wish I had had half her
insight! Perhaps she was cousin to Robina--perhaps her own sister!
Simon, the villain, will know all about it!” He sat silent for a moment.

“Hm!--Now tell me, you young rascal,” he said, “why didn’t you put in a
claim for yourself instead of those confounded Mansons?”

“Why should I, sir? I didn’t want anything. I have all I desire--except
a little more strength to work, and that is coming.”

The baronet kept gazing at him with the strangest look on his wicked,
handsome old face.

“There is something you _should_ have asked me for!” he said at length,
in a gentler tone.

“What is that, sir?”

“Your rights. You have a claim upon me before anyone else in the whole
world!--I like you, too,” he went on in yet gentler tone, with a touch
of mockery in it. Apparently he still hesitated to commit himself. “I
must do something for you!”

His son could contain himself no longer.

“I would ask nothing, I would take nothing,” he said, as calmly as
he could, though his voice trembled, and his heart throbbed with the
beginnings of love, “from a man who had wronged my mother!”

“Damn the rascal! I never wronged his mother!--Who said I wronged your
mother, you scoundrel? I’ll take my oath _she_ never did! Answer me
directly who told you so!”

His voice had risen to a roar of anger.

His son could do the dead no wrong by speaking the truth.

“Mrs. Manson told me,” he began, but was not allowed to finish the
sentence.

“Damned liar she always was!” cried the baronet--with such a fierceness
in his growl as made Richard call to mind a certain bear in the
Zoological gardens. “Then it was she that had you stolen! The beast
ought to have died on the gallows, not in her bed! Ah, she was the
one to plot, the snake! In this whole curse of a world, _she_ was the
meanest devil I ever came across, and I’ve known more than a few!”

“I know nothing about her, sir, except as the mother of Arthur, my
schoolfellow. She seemed to hate me! She said I belonged to you, and had
no right to be better off than her children!”

“How did she know you?”

“I can’t tell, sir.”

“You are like your mother, but the snake never can have set eyes on
her!--Give me that cheque. Her fry shan’t have a farthing! Let them rot
alive with their dead dam!”

He held out his hand: the second cheque lay on the table, and Richard
had the former still in his possession. He did not move, nor did sir
Wilton urge his demand.

“Did I not tell you?” he resumed. “Did I not say she was a liar? I never
did your mother a wrong--nor you neither, though I did swear at you a
bit, you were so damned ugly. I don’t blame you. You couldn’t help it!
Lord, what a display the woman made of your fingers and toes, as if the
webs were something to be proud of, and atoned for the face!--Can you
swim?”

“Fairly well, sir,” answered Richard carelessly.

“Your mother swam like a--Naiad, was it--or Nereid?--I forget--damn it!”

“I don’t know the difference in their swimming.”

“Nor any other difference, I dare say!”

“I know the one was a nymph of the sea, the other of a river.”

“Oh! you know Greek, then?”

“I wish I did, sir: I was not long enough at school. I had to learn a
trade and be independent.”

“By Jove, I wish I knew a trade and was independent! But you shall learn
Greek, my boy! There will be some good in teaching _you_! _I_ never
learned anything?--But how the deuce do you know about Naiads and
Nereids and all that bosh, if you don’t know Greek?”

“I know my Keats, sir. I had to plough with his heifer though--use my
_Lempriere_, I mean!”

“Good heavens!” said the baronet, who knew as little of Keats as any
Lap.--“I wish I had been content to take you with all your ugliness, and
bring you up myself, instead of marrying Lot’s widow!”

Richard fancied he preferred the bringing up he had had, but he said
nothing. Indeed he could make nothing of the whole business. How was
it that, if sir Wilton had done his mother no wrong, his mother was the
wife of John Tuke? He was bewildered.

“You wouldn’t like to learn Greek, then?” said his father.

“Yes, sir; indeed I should!”

“Why don’t you say so then? I never saw such a block! I say you _shall_
learn Greek!--Why do you stand there looking like a dead oyster?”

“I beg your pardon, sir! May I have the other cheque?”

“What other cheque?”

“The cheque there for my brother and sister, sir,” answered Richard,
pointing to it where the baronet had laid it, on the other side of him.

“Brother and sister!”

“The Mansons, sir,” persisted Richard.

“Oh, give them the cheque and be damned to them! But remember they’re no
brother and sister of yours, and must never be alluded to as such, or
as persons you have any knowledge of. When you’ve given them that,”--he
pointed to the cheque which still lay beside him--“you drop their
acquaintance.”

“That I cannot do, sir.”

“There’s a good beginning now! But I might have expected it!--You tell
me to my face you won’t do what I order you?”

“I can’t, sir; it wouldn’t be right.”

“Fiddlesticks!--Wouldn’t be right! What’s that to you? It’s my business.
You’ve got to do what I tell you.”

“I must go by my conscience, sir.”

“Oh, damn your conscience! Will you promise, or will you not? You’re to
have nothing to say to those young persons.”

“I will not promise.”

“Not if I promise to look after them?”

“No, sir.” His father was silent for a moment, regarding him--not all in
anger.

“Well, you’re a good-plucked one, I allow? But you’re the greatest fool,
the dullest young ass out, notwithstanding. You won’t suit me--though
you are web-footed!--Why, damn it, boy! don’t you understand yet that
I’m your father?”

“Mrs. Manson told me so, sir.”

“Oh, rot Mrs. Manson! she told you a damned lie! She told you I wronged
your mother! I tell you I married her! What a blockhead you are! Look
there, with your miserable tradesman’s-eyes: all those books will be
yours one day!--to put in the fire if you like, or mend at from morning
to night, just as you choose! You fool! Ain’t you my son, heir to
Mortgrange, and whatever I may choose to give you besides!”

Richard’s heart gave a bound as if it would leap to heaven. It was not
the land; it was not the money; it was not the books; it was not even
Barbara; it was Arthur and Alice that made it bound. But the voice of
his father went on.

“You know now, you idiot,” it said, “why you can have nothing more to do
with that cursed litter of Mansons!”

Richard’s heart rose to meet the heartlessness of his father.

“They are my brother and sister, sir!” he said.

“And what the devil does it matter to you if they are! It’s my business
that, not yours! You had nothing to do with it! You didn’t make the
Mansons!”

“No, sir; but God made us all, and says we’re to love our brethren.”

“Now don’t you come the pious over me! It won’t pay here! Mind you,
nobody heard me acknowledge you! By the mighty heavens, I will deny
knowing anything about you! You’ll have to prove to the court of
chancery that you’re my son, born in wedlock, and kidnapped in infancy:
by Jove, you’ll find it stiff! Who’ll advance you the money to carry
it there?--you can’t do it without money. Nobody; the property’s not
entailed, and who cares whether it be sir Richard or sir Arthur? What’s
the title without the property! But don’t imagine I should mind telling
a lie to keep the two together. I’m not a nice man; I don’t mind lying!
I’m a bad man!--that I know better than you or any one else, and you’ll
find it uncomfortable to differ and deal with me both at once!”

“I will not deny my own flesh and blood,” said Richard.

“Then I will deny mine, and you may go rot with them.”

“I will work for them and myself,” said Richard.

Sir Wilton glared at him. Richard made a stride to the table. The
baronet caught up the cheque. Richard darted forward to seize it. Was
his truth to his friends to be the death of them? He _would_ have the
money! It was his! He had told him to take it!

What might have followed I dare not think. Richard’s hands were out to
lay hold on his father, when happily he remembered that he had not given
him back the former cheque, and Barset was quite within reach of his
grandfather’s pony! He turned and made for the door. Sir Wilton read his
thought.

“Give me that cheque,” he cried, and hobbled to the bell.

Richard glanced at the lock of the door: there was no key in it! Besides
there were two more doors to the room! He darted out: there was the man,
far off down the passage, coming to answer the bell! He hastened to meet
him.

“Jacob,” he said, “sir Wilton rang for you: just run down with me to the
gate, and give the woman there a message for me.”

He hurried to the door, and the man, nothing doubting, followed him.

“Tell her,” said Richard as they went, “if she should see Mr. Wingfold
pass, to ask him to call at old Armour’s smithy. She does not seem to
remember me! Good day! I’m in a hurry!” He leaped into the pony-cart.

“Barset!” he cried, and the same moment they were off at speed, for
Simon saw something fresh was up.

“Drive like Jehu,” panted Richard. “Let’s see what the blessed pony can
do! Every instant is precious.”

Never asking the cause of his haste, old Simon did drive like Jehu, and
never had the pony gone with a better will: evidently he believed speed
was wanted, and knew he had it to give.

No hoofs came clamping on the road behind them. They reached the town
in safety, and Richard cashed his cheque--the more easily that Simon, a
well-known man in Barset, was seen waiting for him in his trap outside.
The eager, anxious look of Richard, and the way he clutched at the
notes, might otherwise have waked suspicion. As it was, it only waked
curiosity.

When the man whom Richard had decoyed, appeared at length before his
master, whose repeated ringing had brought the butler first; and when
sir Wilton, after much swearing on his, and bewilderment on the man’s
part, made out the trick played on him, his wrath began to evaporate in
amusement: he was outwitted and outmanoeuvred--but by his own son! and
even in the face of such an early outbreak of hostilities, he could
not help being proud of him. He burst into a half cynical laugh, and
dismissed the men--to vain speculation on the meaning of the affair.

Simon would have had Richard send the bank-notes by post, and stay with
him a week or two; but Richard must take them himself; no other way
seemed safe. Nor could he possibly rest until he had seen his mother,
and told her all. He said nothing to his grandfather of his recognition
by sir Wilton, and what followed: he feared he might take the thing in
his own hands, and go to sir Wilton.

Questioning his grandfather, he learned that Barbara was at home, but
that he had seen her only once. She had one day appeared suddenly at
the smithy door, with Miss Brown all in a foam. She asked about Richard,
wheeled her mare, and was off homeward, straight as an arrow--for he
went to the corner, and looked after her.

They were near a station at Barset, and a train was almost due. Simon
drove him there straight from the bank, and before he was home, Richard
was half-way to London.

Short as was his visit, he had got from it not merely all he had hoped,
but almost all he needed. His weakness had left him; he had twenty
pounds for his brother and sister; and his mother was cleared, though he
could not yet tell how: was he not also a little step nearer to Barbara?
True, he was disowned, but he had lived without his father hitherto, and
could very well go on to live without such a father! As long as he did
what was right, the right was on his side! As long as he gave others
their rights, he could waive his own! A fellow was not bound, he said,
to insist on his rights--at least he had not met with any he was bound
to insist upon. Borne swiftly back to London, his heart seemed rushing
in the might of its gladness to console the heaven-laden hearts of Alice
and Arthur. Twenty pounds was a great sum to carry them! He could indeed
himself earn such a sum in a little while, but how long would it not
take him to save as much! Here it was, whole and free, present and
potent, ready to be turned at once into food and warmth and hope!



CHAPTER LI


_BARONET AND BLACKSMITH_.

The more sir Wilton’s anger subsided, the more his heart turned to
Richard, and the more he regretted that he had begun by quarrelling with
him. Sir Wilton loved his ease, and was not a quarrelsome man. He could
dislike intensely, he could hate heartily, but he seldom quarrelled; and
if he could have foreseen how his son would take the demand he made upon
him, he would not at the outset have risked it. He liked Richard’s looks
and carriage. He liked also his spirit and determination, though his
first experience of them he could have wished different. He felt also
that very little would make of him a man fit to show to the world and
be proud of as his son. To his satisfaction on these grounds was added
besides a peculiar pleasure in the discovery of him which he could ask
no one to share--that it was to him as a lump of dynamite under his
wife’s lounge, of which no one knew but himself, and which he could
at any instant explode. It was sweet to know what he _could_ do! to be
aware, and alone aware, of the fool’s paradise in which my lady and her
brood lived! And already, through his own precipitation, his precious
secret was in peril!

The fact gave him not a little uneasiness. His thought was, at the
ripest moment of her frosty indifference, to make her palace of ice fly
in flinders about her. Then the delight of her perturbation! And he had
opened his hand and let his bird fly!

His father did not know Richard’s prudence. Like the fool every man
of the world is, he judged from Richard’s greatness of heart, and his
refusal to forsake his friends, that he was a careless, happy-go-lucky
sort of fellow, who would bluster and protest. As to the march he had
stolen upon him on behalf of the Mansons, he nowise resented that. When
pressed by no selfish _necessity,_ he did not care much about money; and
his son’s promptitude greatly pleased him.

“The fellow shall go to college,” he said to himself; “and I won’t give
my lady even a hint before I have him the finest gentleman and the best
scholar in the county! He shall be both! I will teach him billiards
myself! By Jove! it is more of a pleasure than at my years I had a right
to expect! To think of an old sinner like me being blessed with such a
victory over his worst enemy! It is more than I could deserve if I lived
to the age of Mephistopheles! I shouldn’t like to live so long--there’s
so little worth remembering! I wish forgetting things wiped them out!
There are things I hardly know whether I did or only wanted to do!--Damn
it, it may be all over Barset by this time, that the heir to sir
Wilton’s property has turned up!”

He rang the bell, and ordered his carriage.

“I must see the old fellow, the rascal’s grandfather!” he kept on to
himself. “I haven’t exchanged a word with him for years! And now I think
of it, I take poor Robina’s father for a very decent sort of fellow! If
he had but once hinted what he was, every soul in the parish would have
known it! I _must_ find out whether he’s in my secret! I can’t _prove_
it yet, but perhaps he can!”

Simon Armour was not astonished to see the Lestrange carriage stop at
the smithy: he thought sir Wilton had come about the cheque. He went
out, and stood in hairy arms and leather apron at the carriage door.

“Well, Armour, how are you?” said the baronet.

“Well and hearty, sir, I thank you,” answered Simon.

“I want a word with you,” said sir Wilton.

“Shall I tell the coachman to drive round to the cottage, sir?”

“No; I’ll get out and walk there with you.”

Simon opened the carriage-door, and the baronet got out.

“That grandson of yours--” he began, the moment they were in Simon’s
little parlour.

Simon started. “The old wretch knows!” he said to himself.

“--has been too much for me!” continued sir Wilton. “He got a cheque out
of me whether I would or not!”

“And got the money for it, sir!” answered the smith. “He seemed to think
the money better than the cheque!”

“I don’t blame him, by Jove! There’s decision in the fellow!--They say
his father’s a bookbinder in London!”

“Yes, sir.”

“You know better! I don’t want humbug, Armour! I’m not fond of it!”

“You told me people said his father was a bookbinder, and I said ‘Yes,
sir’!”

“You know as well as I do it’s a damned lie! The boy is mine. He belongs
neither to bookbinder nor blacksmith!”

“You’ll allow me a small share in him, I hope! I’ve done more for him
than you, sir.”

“That’s not my fault!”

“Perhaps not; but I’ve done more for him than you ever will, sir!”

“How do you make that out?”

“I’ve made him as good a shoesmith as ever drove nail! I don’t say he’s
up to his grandfather at the anvil yet, but--”

“An accomplishment no doubt, but not exactly necessary to a gentleman!”

“It’s better than dicing or card-playing!” said the blacksmith.

“You’re right there! I hope he has learned neither. I want to teach him
those things myself.--He’s not an ill-looking fellow!”

“There’s not a better lad in England, sir! If you had brought him up as
he is, you might ha’ been proud o’ your work!”

“_He_ seems proud of somebody’s work!--prouder of himself than his
prospects, by Jove!” said sir Wilton, feeling his way. “You should have
taught him not to quarrel with his bread and butter!”

“I never saw any call to teach him that. He never quarrelled with
anything at my table, sir. A man who has earned his own bread and butter
ever since he left school, is not likely to quarrel with it.”

“You don’t say _he_ has done so?”

“I do--and can prove it!--Did you tell him, sir, you were his father?”

“Of course I did!--and before I said another word, there we were
quarrelling--just as it was with me and my father!”

“He never told me!” said Simon, half to himself, and ready to feel hurt.

“He didn’t tell you?”

“No, sir.”

“Where is he?”

“Gone to London with your bounty.”

“Now, Simon Armour,” began the baronet with some truculence.

“Now, sir Wilton Lestrange!” interrupted Simon.

“What’s the matter?”

“Please to remember you are in my house!”

“Tut, tut! All I want to say is that you will spoil everything if you
encourage the rascal to keep low company!”

“You mean?”

“Those Mansons.”

“Are your children low company, sir?”

“Yes; I am sorry, but I must admit it. Their mother was low company.”

“She was in it at least, when she was in yours!” had all but escaped
Simon’s lips, but he caught the bird by the tail.--

“The children are not the mother!” he said. “I know the girl, and she is
anything but low company. She lay ill in my house here for six weeks or
more. Ask Miss Wylder.--If you want to be on good terms with your son,
don’t say a word, sir, against your daughter or her brother.”

“I like that! On good terms with my son! Ha, ha!”

“Remember, sir, he is independent of his father.”

“Independent! A beggarly bookbinder!”

“Excuse me, sir, but an honest trade is the only independence! You are
dependent on your money and your land. Where would you be without them?
And you made neither! They’re yours only in a way! We, my grandson and
I, have means of our own,” said the blacksmith, and held out his two
brawny hands. “--The thing that is beggarly,” he resumed, “is to take
all and give nothing. If your ancestors got the land by any good they
did, you did not get it by any good you did; and having got it, what
have you done in return?”

“By Jove! I didn’t know you were such a radical!” returned the baronet,
laughing.

“It is such as you, sir, that make what you call radicals. If the
landlords had used what was given them to good ends, there would be no
radicals--or not many--in the country! The landlords that look to their
land and those that are on it, earn their bread as hardly as the man
that ploughs it. But when you call it yours, and do nothing for it, I am
radical enough to think no wrong would be done if you were deprived of
it!”

“What! are you taking to the highway at your age?”

“No, sir; I have a trade I like better, and have no call to lighten you
of anything, however ill you may use it. But there are those that think
they have a right _and_ a call to take the land from landlords like you,
and I would no more leave my work to prevent them than I would to help
them.”

“Well, well! I didn’t come to talk politics; I came to ask a favour of
you.”

“What I can do for you, sir, I shall be glad to do.”

“It is merely this--that you will, for the present, say nothing about
the heir having turned up.”

“I could have laid my hand on him any moment this twenty years; and I
can tell you where to find the parish book with his baptism in it! That
I’ve not spoken proves I can hold my tongue; but I will give no pledge;
when the time comes I will speak.”

“Are you aware I could have you severely punished for concealing the
thing?”

“Fire away. I’ll take my chance. But I would advise you not to allow
the thing come into court. Words might be spoken that would hurt! I know
nothing myself, but there is one that could and would speak. Better let
sleeping dogs lie.”

“Oh, damn it! I don’t want to wake ‘em! Most old stories are best
forgotten. But what do you think: will the boy--What’s his name?”

“My father’s, sir,--Richard.”

“Will Richard, then, as you have taken upon you to call him”--

“His mother gave him the name.”

“What I want to know is, whether you think he will go and spread the
thing, or leave it to we to publish when I please.”

“Did you tell him to hold his tongue?”

“No; he didn’t give me time.”

“That’s a pity! He would have done whatever you asked him.”

“Oh! would he!”

“He would--so long as it was a right thing.”

“And who was to judge of that?”

“Why the man who had to do it or leave it, of course!--But if he didn’t
tell me, he’s not likely to go blazing it abroad!”

“You said he would go to his mother first: his mother is nowhere.”

“So say some, so say not I!”

“Never mind that. Who is it he calls his mother?”

“The woman that brought him up--and a good mother she’s been to him!”

“But who is she? You haven’t told me who she is!” cried the baronet,
beginning to grow impatient; and impatience and anger were never far
apart with him.

“No, sir, I haven’t told you; and I don’t mean to tell you till I see
fit.”

“And when, pray, will that be?”

“When I have your promise in writing that you will give her no trouble
about what is past and gone.”

“I will give you that promise--always provided she can prove that what
was past and gone is come again. I shall insist upon that!”

“Most properly, sir I You shall not have to wait for it.--And now, if
you will take me to the post-office, I will send a telegram to Richard,
warning him to hold his tongue.”

“Good! Come.”

They walked to the carriage, and Simon, displacing the footman, got up
beside the coachman. He was careful, however, to be set down before they
got within sight of the post-office.

The message he sent was--

“I know all, and will write. Say nothing but to your mother.”



CHAPTER LII. _UNCLE-FATHER AND AUNT-MOTHER_.

When Richard reached London, he went straight to Clerkenwell. There he
found Arthur, in bed and unattended, but covered up warm. Except one
number of _The Family Herald_, he had nothing to read. The room was
tidy, but very dreary. Richard asked him why he did not move into the
front room. Arthur did not explain, but Richard understood that the
mother had left so many phantasms behind her that he preferred his own
dark chamber. When Richard told him what he had done and the success he
had had, he thanked him with such a shining face that Richard saw in it
the birth of saving hope.

“And now, Arthur,” he said, “you must get better as fast as you can;
and the first minute you are able to be moved, we’ll ship you off to my
grandfather’s, where Alice was.”

“Away from Alice?”

“Yes; but you must remember there will be so much more for her to eat,
and so much more money to get things comfortable with by the time you
come back. Besides, you will grow well faster, and then perhaps we shall
find some fitter work for you than that hideous clerking!”

The flush of joy on Arthur’s cheek was a divine reward to Richard
for what he had done and suffered and sacrificed for the sake of his
brother. He made a fire, and having set on the kettle, went to buy some
things, that he might have a nice supper ready for Alice when she came
home. Next he found two clean towels, and covered the little table,
forgetting all his troubles in the gladness of ministration, and the new
life that hope gives. If only we believed in God, how we should hope!
And what would not hope do to reveal the new heavens and the new
earth--that is, to show us the real, true, and gracious aspect of those
heavens and that earth in which we now live so sadly, and are not at
home, because we do not see them as they are, do not recognize in them
the beginning of the inheritance we long for!

When Alice came in, she heard Arthur cough, and hurried up; but before
she reached the top of the second stair, she heard a laugh which, though
feeble, was of such merry enjoyment, that it filled her with wonder and
gladness. Had the fairy god-mother appeared at last? What could have
come to make Arthur laugh like that? She opened the door, and all was
explained: there sat the one joy of their life, their brother Richard,
looking much like himself again! What a healer, what a strength-giver
is joy! Will not holy joy at last drive out every disease in the world?
Will it not be the elixir of life, and drive out death? She sprang upon
him, and burst out weeping.

“Come and have supper,” he said. “I’ve been out to buy it, and haven’t
much time to help you eat it. My father and mother don’t know where I
am.”

Then he told her what he had been about. It was with a happy heart he
made his way home, for he left happy hearts behind him. He wondered that
his mother was not surprised to see him--wondered too why she looked so
troubled.

“What does this telegram mean?” she asked.

“I don’t know, mother,” he replied. “Won’t you give me a kiss first?”

She threw her arms about him. “You won’t give up saying _mother_ to me,
will you?” she pleaded, fighting with her emotion.

“It will be a bad day for me when I do!” he answered. “My mother you are
and shall be. But I don’t understand it!”

The telegram let him know that sir Wilton and his grandfather had been
in communication, and gave him hope that things might be accommodated
between him and his father.

“You’ve got your real father now, Richard!” said his mother.

But she saw an expression on his face that made her add,--

“You must respect your father, Richard--now you know him for your
father.”

“I can’t respect him, mother. He is not a good man. I can only love
him.”

“You have no right to find fault with him. He was not to blame that
I carried you away when your mother died! I was terrified at your
stepmother!”

“I don’t wonder at that, mother!--Ah, now I begin to understand it
all!--But, mother, if my father had been a good man, I don’t believe you
would hare carried me away from him!”

“Very likely not, my boy--though he did make me that angry by calling
you ugly! And I don’t believe I should have taken you at all, if that
woman hadn’t sent me away for no reason but to have a nurse of her
choosing. How could I leave my sister’s child in the power of such a
woman! Day and night, Richard, was I haunted with the sight of her cold
face hanging over you. I was certain the devil might have his way with
her when he chose: there was no love in her to prevent him. In my dreams
I saw her giving you poison, or with a pen-knife in her hand, and her
eyes shining like ice. I could _not_ bear it. I should have gone mad to
leave you there. I knew I was committing a crime in the eyes of the law;
but I felt a stronger law compelling me; and I said to myself, ‘I will
be hanged for my child, rather than my child should be murdered! I will
_not_ leave him with that woman!’ So I took you, Richard!”

“Thank you, mother, a thousand times! I am sure it was right, and every
way best for me! Oh, how much I owe you and my--uncle! I must call you
_mother_ still, but I’m afraid I shall have to call my father _uncle_!”

“It won’t hurt him, Richard; he has been a good uncle to you, but I
don’t think he would have taught you the things he did, if you had been
his very own child!”

“He has done me no harm, mother,--nothing but good,” said Richard.
“--And so you are my own mother’s sister?”

“Yes, and a good mother she would have been to you! You must not think
of her as a grim old woman like me! She was but six and twenty when you
were born and she died! She was the most beautiful woman _I_ ever saw,
Richard!--Never another woman’s hand has touched your body but hers and
mine, Richard!”

He took her hand and kissed it. Jane Tuke had never had her hand kissed
before, and would have drawn it away. The lady within was ashamed of
her rough gloves, not knowing they had won her her ladyhood. In the real
world, there are no ladies but true women. Also they only are beautiful.
All there show what they are, and the others are all more or less
deformed. Oh, what lovely ladies will walk into the next world out of
the rough cocoon of their hard-wrought bodies--not because they have
been working women, but because they have been true women. Among working
women as among countesses, there are last that shall be first, and first
that shall be last. _What kind of woman_ will be the question. Alas for
those, whether high or low or in the middle, whose business in life has
been to be ladies! What poor, mean, draggled, unangelic things will
come crawling out of the husk they are leaving behind them, which yet,
perhaps, will show a glimmer, in the whiteness of death, of what they
were meant to be, if only they had lived, had _been_, had put forth the
power that was in them as their birthright! Not a few I know will crawl
out such, except they awake from the dead, and cry for life. Perhaps one
and another in the next world will say to me, “You meant me! I know now
why you were always saying such things!” For I suspect the next world
will more plainly be a going on with this than most people think--only
it will be much better for some, and much worse for others, as the Lord
has taught us in the parable of the rich man and the beggar.

“No, Richard,” resumed his aunt, “your father was not a good man, but he
may be better now, and perhaps you will help him to be better still.”

“It’s doubtful if ever I have the chance,” returned Richard. “We’ve had
a pretty fair quarrel already!”

“He can’t take your birthright from you!” she cried.

“That may be--but what _is_ my birthright? He told me the land was not
entailed; he can leave it to anybody he likes. But I’m not going to do
what he would have me do--that is if it be wrong,” added Richard, not
willing to start the question about the Mansons. “To be a sneak would be
a fine beginning! If that’s to be a gentleman, I will be no gentleman!”

“Right you are, my son!” said Tuke, who that moment came in.

“Oh uncle!” cried Richard, starting to his feet.

“_Uncle_!--Ho! ho! What’s up now?”

“Nothing’s up, but all’s out, father!” answered Richard, putting his
hand in that of the bookbinder. “You knew, and now I know! How shall I
ever thank you for what you have done for me, and been to me, and given
me!”

“Precious little anyway, my boy! I wish it had been a great deal more.”

“Shall I tell you what you have done for me I--You made a man of me
first of all, by giving me a trade, and making me independent. Then
again, by that trade you taught me to love the very shape of a book.
Baronet or no baronet,--”

“What do you mean?”

“My father threatens to disown me.”

“He can’t take your rank from you. We’ll have you sir Richard
anyhow!--An’ I’d let ‘em see that a true baronet--”

“--is just a true man, uncle.” interposed Richard; “and that you’ve
helped to make me. It’s being independent and helping others, not being
a baronet, that will make a gentleman of me! That’s how it goes in the
true world anyhow!”

“The _true_ world! Where’s that?” rejoined Tuke, with what would have
been a sneer had there been ill-nature in it.

“And that reminds me of another precious thing you’ve given me,” Richard
went on: “You’ve taught me to think for myself!”

“Think for yourself indeed, and talk of any world but the world we’ve
got!”

“If you hadn’t taught me,” returned Richard, “to think for myself, I
should have thought just as you did. But I’ve been thinking for myself a
great deal, and I say now, that, if there be no more of it after we
die, then the whole thing is such a sell as even the dumb, deaf, blind,
heartless, headless God you seem to believe in, could not have been
guilty of!”

“Ho! ho!--that’s the good my teaching has done you? Well, we’ll have it
out by and by! In the meantime, tell us how it all came about--how you
came to know, I mean. You’re a good sort, whatever you believe or don’t
believe, and I wish you were ours in reality!”

“It’s just in reality that I am yours!” protested Richard; but his
mother broke in.

“Would you dare, John,” she cried, “to wish him ours to his loss?”

“No, no, Jane! You know me! It was but a touch of what you call the old
Adam--and I the old John! We’ve got to take care of each other! We’re
all agreed about that!”

“And you do it, father, and that’s before any agreeing about it!”

“Come and let’s have our tea!” said the mother; “and Richard shall tell
us how it worked round that the old gentleman knew him. I remember him
young enough to be no bad match for your mother, and that’s enough to
say for any man--as to looks, I mean only. There wasn’t a more beautiful
woman than my sister Robina in all England--and I’m bold to say it--not
that it wants much boldness to say the truth!”

“It wants nearly as much at this moment as I have got,” returned
Richard; for his narrative required, as an essential part of it, that he
should tell what had made him go to his father.

He had but begun when a black cloud rose on his mother’s face, and she
almost started from her seat.

“I told you, Richard, you were to have nothing to do with those
creatures!” she cried.

“Mother,” answered Richard, “was it God or the devil told me I must be
neighbour to my own brother and sister? Hasn’t my father done them wrong
enough that you should side with him and want me to carry on the wrong?
I heard the same voice that made you run away with me. You were ready to
be hanged for me; I was ready to lose my father for them. He too said I
must have done with them, and I told him I wouldn’t. That was why I got
you to put me on journeyman’s wages, uncle. They were starving, and
I had nothing to give them. What am I in the world for, if not to set
right, so far as I may, what my father has set wrong? You see I _have_
learned something of you, uncle!”

“I don’t see what,” returned Tuke.

He had been listening with a grave face, for he had his pride, and did
not relish his nephew’s being hand and glove with his base-born brother
and sister.

“Don’t you, father? Where’s your socialism? I’m only trying to carry it
out.”

“Out and away, my boy, as Samson did the gates in my mother’s old
bible!” answered John.

“If a man’s socialism don’t apply to his own flesh and blood,” resumed
Richard, “where on earth is it to begin? Must you hate your own flesh,
and go to Russia or China for somebody to be fair to? Ain’t your own
got as good a right to fair play as any, and ain’t they the readiest to
begin with? Is it selfish to help your own? It ain’t the way you’ve done
by me, uncle!”

“You mustn’t forget,” said John, “that a grave wrong is done the nation
when marriage is treated with disrespect.”

“It was my father did that! Was it Alice and Arthur that broke the
marriage-law by being born out of wedlock?”

“If you treat them like other people, you slight that law.”

“If sir Wilton Lestrange were to come into the room this minute, you
would offer him a chair; his children you would order out of the house!”

“I wouldn’t do that,” said Mrs. Tuke.

“Mother, you turned them out of the house!--I beg your pardon, mother,
but you know it was the same thing! You visited the sins of the father
on the children!”

“Bravo!” cried his uncle; “I thought you couldn’t mean the rot!”

“What rot, father?”

“That rot about God you flung at me first thing.”

“Father, it would take the life out of me to believe there was no
God; but the God I hope in is a very different person from the God my
mother’s clergy have taught her to believe in. Father, do you know Jesus
Christ!”

“I know the person you mean, my boy.”

“I know what _kind_ of person he is, and he said God was just like him,
and in the God like him, if I can find him, I will believe with all my
heart and soul--and so would you, father, if you knew him. You will say,
perhaps, he ain’t nowhere to know! but you haven’t a right to say that
until you’ve been everywhere to look; for such a God is no absurdity;
it’s nothing ridiculous to look for him. I beg your pardon, both of
you, but I’m bound to speak. Jesus Christ said we must leave father and
mother for him, because he is true; and I must speak for him what is
true, even if my own father and mother should think me rude.”

He had spoken eagerly; and man or woman who does not put truth first,
may think he ought to have held his tongue. But neither father nor
mother took offence. The mother, unspeakably relieved by what had
taken place, was even ready to allow that her favourite preacher might
“perhaps dwell too much upon the terrors of the law.”



CHAPTER LIII. _MORNING_.

The next post brought a letter from Simon Armour, saying, after his own
peculiar fashion, that it was time the thing were properly understood
between the parties concerned; but, that done, they must attend to the
baronet’s wish, and disclose nothing yet: he believed sir Wilton had his
reasons. They must therefore, as soon as possible, make it clear to
him that there was no break in the chain of their proof of Richard’s
identity. He proposed, therefore, that his daughter should pay her
father a visit, and bring Richard.

The suggestion seemed good to all concerned. Criminal as she knew
herself, Jane Tuke did not shrink from again facing sir Wilton, with the
nephew by her side whom one and twenty years before she had carried in
her arms to meet his unfatherly gaze! To her surprise she found that she
almost enjoyed the idea.

Richard cashed the post-office-order the old man sent them, and they set
out for his cottage.

The same day Simon went to Mortgrange and saw the baronet, who agreed
at once to go to the cottage to meet his sister-in-law. The moment he
entered the little parlour where they waited to receive him, he made
Mrs. Tuke a polite bow, and held out his hand.

“You are the sister of my late wife, I am told,” he said.

Jane made him a dignified courtesy, her resentment, after the lapse of
twenty years, rising fresh at sight of the man who had behaved so badly
to her sister.

“It was you that carried off the child?” said the baronet.

“Yes, sir,” answered Jane.

“I am glad I did not know where to look for him. You did me the greatest
possible favour. What these twenty years would have been like, with him
in the house, I dare not think.”

“It was for the child’s sake I did it!” said Jane.

“I am perfectly aware it was not for mine!” returned sir Wilton. “Ha!
ha! you looked as if you had come to stab me that day you brought the
little object to the library, and gave me such a scare! You presented
his fingers and toes to me as if, by Jove, I was the devil, and had
made them so on purpose!--I tell you, Richard, if that’s your name, you
rascal, you have as little idea what a preposterously ugly creature you
were, as I had that you would ever grow to be--well, half-fit to look
at! I was appalled at the sight of you! And a good thing it was! If I
had taken to you, and brought you up at home, it would scarcely have
been to your advantage. You would have been worth less than you are,
however little that may be! But it doesn’t follow you’re the least fit
to be owned to! You’re a tradesman, every inch of you--no more like a
gentleman than--well, not half so like a gentleman as your grandfather
there! By heaven, the anvil must be some sort of education! Why wasn’t
_I_ bound apprentice to my old friend Simon there! But, Richard, you
don’t look a gentleman, though your aunt looks as if she would eat me
for saying it.--Now listen to me--all of you. It’s no use your saying
I’ve acknowledged him. If I choose to say I know nothing about him,
then, as I told the rascal himself the other day, you’ll have to prove
your case, and that will take money! and when you’ve proved it, you get
nothing but the title, and much good that will do you! So you had better
make up all your minds to do as I tell you--that is, not to say one word
about the affair, but just hold your tongues.--Now none of that looking
at one another, as if I meant to do you! I’m not going to have people
say my son shows the tradesman in him! I’m not going to have the
Lestranges knock under to the Armours! I’m going to have the rascal the
gentleman I can make him!--You’re to go to college directly, sir; and
I don’t want to hear of or from you till you’ve taken your degree! You
shall have two hundred a year and pay your own fees--not a penny more
if you go on your marrow-bones for it!--You understand? You’re not to
attempt communicating with me. If there’s anything I ought to know, let
your grandfather come to me. I will see him when he pleases--or go to
him, if he prefers it, and I’m not too gouty! Only, mind, I make no
promises! If I should leave all I have to the other lot, you will
have no right to complain. With the education I will give you, and the
independence your uncle has given you, and the good sense you have on
your own hook, you’re provided for. You can be a doctor or a parson, you
know. There’s more than one living in my gift. The Reverend sir Richard
Lestrange!--it don’t sound amiss. I’m sorry I shan’t hear it. I shall
be gone where they crop one of everything--even of his good works,
the parsons say, but I shan’t be much the barer for that! It’s hard,
confounded hard, though, when they’re all a fellow has got!--Now don’t
say a word! I don’t like being contradicted!--not at all! It sends one
round on the other tack, I tell you--and there’s my gout coming! Only
mind this: if once you say who you are as long as you’re at college, or
before I give you leave, I have done with you. I won’t have any little
plan of mine forestalled for your vanity! Don’t any of you say who he
is. It will be better for him--much. If it be but hinted who he is,
he’ll be courted and flattered, and then he’ll be stuck up, and take
to spending money! But as sure as hell, if he goes beyond his
allowance--well, I’ll pay it, but it shall be his last day at Oxford. He
shall go at once into the navy--or the excise, by George!”

This expression of the baronet’s will, if not quite to the satisfaction
of every one concerned, was altogether delightful to Richard.

“May I say one word, sir?” he asked.

“Yes, if it’s not arguing.”

“I’ve not read a page of Latin since I left school, and I never knew any
Greek.”

“Oh! ah! I forgot that predicament! You must have a tutor to prepare
you!--but you shall go to Oxford with him. I will _not_ have you loafing
about here! You may remain with your grandfather till I find one, but
you’re not to come near Mortgrange.”

“I may go to London with my mother, may I not?” said Richard.

“I see nothing against that. It will be the better way.”

“If you please, sir Wilton,” said Mrs. Tuke, “I left evidence at
Mortgrange of what I should have to say.”

“What sort of evidence?”

“Things that belonged to the child and myself.”

“Where?”

“Hid in the nursery.”

“My lady had everything moved, and the room fresh-papered after you
left. I remember that distinctly.”

“Did she say nothing about finding anything?”

“Nothing.--Of course she wouldn’t!”

“I left a box of my own, with--”

“You’ll never see it again.”

“The things the child always wore when he went out, were under the
wardrobe.”

“Oblige me by saying nothing about them. I am perfectly satisfied, and
believe every word you say. I believe Richard there the child of your
sister Robina and myself; and it shall not be my fault if he don’t have
his rights! At the same time I promise nothing, and will manage things
as I see best.”

“At your pleasure, sir!” answered Mrs. Tuke.

“Should you mind, sir, if I went to see Mr. Wingfold before I go?” asked
Richard.

“Who’s he?”

“The clergyman of the next parish, sir.”

“I don’t know him--don’t want to know him!--What have you got to do with
_him_?”

“He was kind to me when I was down here before.”

“I don’t care you should have much to do with the clergy.”

“You said, sir, I might go into the church!”

“_That’s_ another thing quite! You would have the thing in your own
hands then!”

Richard was silent. There was no point to argue. The moment sir Wilton
was gone, Simon turned to his grandson.

“It was a pity you asked him about Mr. Wingfold. The only thing is you
mustn’t let out his secret. As to seeing Mr. Wingfold, or Miss Wylder
either, just do as you please.”

“No, grandfather. If I had not asked him, perhaps I might; but to ask
him, and then not do what he told me, would be a sneaking shame!”

“You’re right, my boy! Hold on that way, and you’ll never be ashamed--or
make your people ashamed either.”

For the meantime, then, Richard went to London with his mother; and so
anxious was old Simon, stimulated in part by the faithfulness of his
grandson, to do nothing that might thwart the pleasure of the tyrant,
that when first Wingfold asked after Richard, he told him he was at
home, and the next time that he was at work in the country.

Richard went on helping his uncle, and going often to see his brother
and sister. When Arthur was able for the journey, both he and Alice went
with him. At the station they were met by Simon, with an old post-chaise
he had to mend up. Having seen Arthur comfortably settled, his brother
and sister went back to London together--Alice to go into a single room,
and betake herself once more to her work, but with new courage and hope;
Richard to the book-binding till his father should have found a tutor
for him.

The Tukes were slowly becoming used, if not reconciled, to his care of
the Mansons. His mother, indignant for her deceased sister, stood out
the stiffest; the bookbinder could not fail to see that the youth was
but putting in practice the socialistic theories he had himself sought
to teach him. True, the thing came straight from the heart of Richard,
and went much farther than his uncle’s theories; but his uncle counted
it the result of his own training, and woke at last to the fact that his
theories were better than he had himself known.

With the help of the head of the college to which sir Wilton had
resolved to send his son, a tutor was at length found--happily for
Richard, one of the right sort. They went together to Oxford, and set to
work at once. It would be hard to say which of the two reaped the more
pleasure from the relation, or which, in the duplex process of teaching
and learning, gained the most. For the tutor had in Richard a pupil
of practised brain yet fresh, a live soul ready, for its own need and
nourishment, to use every truth it came near. His penetrative habit made
not a few regard him as a bore: their feeble vitality was troubled by
the energy of his; he could not let a thing go in which he descried a
principle: he must see it close! To the more experienced he was one
who had not yet learned, wisely fearful of the trampling hoof, to carry
aside his oyster with its possible pearl before he opened it. In earnest
about everything, he must work out his liberty before he could gambol.
A slave will amuse himself in his dungeon; a free man must file through
his chains and dig through his prison-walls before he can frolic.
Sunlight and air came through his open windows enough to keep Richard
alive and strong, but not enough yet to make him merry. He was too
solemn, thus, for most of those he met, but, happily, not for his tutor.
Finding Richard knew ten times as much of English literature as himself,
he became in this department his pupil’s pupil; and listening to his
occasional utterance of a religious difficulty, had new regions of
thought opened in him, to the deepening and verifying of his nature.
The result for the tutor was that he sought ordination, in the hope of
giving to others what had at length become real to himself.

Richard gained little distinction at his examinations. He did well
enough, but was too eager after real knowledge to care about appearing
to know.

He made friends, but not many familiar friends. He sorely missed
ministration: it had grown a necessity of his nature. It was well that
the habit should be broken for a time. For, laden with consciousness,
and not full of God, the soul will delight in itself as a benefactor, a
regnant giver, the centre of thanks and obligation: and will thus, with
a rampart-mound of self-satisfaction, dam out the original creative life
of its being, the recognition of which is life eternal. But it grew upon
Richard that, if there be a God, it is the one business of a man to
find him, and that, if he would find him, he must obey the voice of his
conscience.

As to the outward show of the man, Richard’s carriage was improving.
Level intercourse with men of his own age but more at home in what is
called society, influenced his manners both with and without his will,
while, all the time, he was gathering the confidence of experience. His
rowing, and the daily run to and from the boats, with other exercises
prescribed by his tutor, strengthened the shoulders whose early stoop
had threatened to return with much reading. He was fast growing more
than presentable. With the men of his year, his character more than his
faculty had influence.

Old Simon was doing his best for Arthur. He would not hear of his going
back to London, or attempting anything in the way of work beyond a
little in the garden. He was indeed nowise fit for more.

The blacksmith himself was making progress--the best parts of him
were growing fast. Age was turning the strength into channels and
mill-streams, which before, wild-foaming, had flooded the meadows.



CHAPTER LIV. _BARBARA AT HOME_.

Barbara’s brother, her father’s twin, was fast following her mother’s to
that somewhere each of us must learn for himself, no one can learn from
another. While they were in London, he was in the Isle of Wight with his
tutor. His mother and sister had several times gone to see him, but
he did not show much pleasure in their attentions, and was certainly
happier with his tutor than with any one else. Disease, however, was
making straight the path of Love. Now they were all at home at Wylder
Hall, and Death was on his way to join them. Love, however, was
watching, ready to wrest from him his sting--without which he is no more
Death, but Sleep. As the poor fellow grew weaker, his tutor became
less able to console him: and he could not look to his mother for the
tenderness he had seen her lavish on his brother. But the love of his
sister had always leaned toward him, ready, on the least opening of
the door of his heart, to show itself in the chink; and at last the
opportunity of being to him and doing for him what she could, arrived.
One day, on the lawn, he tripped and fell. The strong little Barbara
took him in her arms, and carried him to his room. When two drops of
water touch, the mere contact is not of long duration: the hearts of the
sister and the dying brother rushed into each other. After this, they
were seldom apart. A new life had waked in the very heart of death, and
grew and spread through the being of the boy. His eye became brighter,
not with fever only, but with love and content and hope; for Barbara
made him feel that nothing could part them; that they had been born into
the world for the hour when they should find one another--as now they
had found one another, to have one another to all eternity: it was an
end of their being! He would come creeping up to her as she worked or
read, and sit on a stool at her feet, asking for nothing, wishing for
nothing, content to be near her. But then Barbara’s book or work was
soon banished. He was bigger than she, but the muscles of the little
maiden were as springs of steel, informed with the tenderest, strongest
heart in all the county, and presently he would find himself lifted to
her lap, his head on her shoulder, the sweetest voice in all the world
whispering loveliest secrets in his willing ear, and her face bent over
him with the stoop of heaven over the patient, weary earth. In her arms
his poor wasting body forgot its restlessness; the fever that irritated
every nerve, burning away the dust of the world, seemed to pause and let
him grow a little cool; and the sleep that sometimes came to him there
was sweet as death. The face that had so long looked peevish, wore now a
waiting look: in heaven, every one sheltered the other, and the arms of
God were round them all!

One day the mother peeped in, and saw them seated thus. Motherhood,
strong in her, though hitherto, as regarded the boy, poisoned by her
strife with her husband, moved and woke at the sight of her natural
place occupied by her daughter.

“Let me take him, poor fellow!” she said.

Delighted that her mother should do something for him, Barbara rose with
him in her arms. The mother sat down, and Barbara laid him in her lap.
But the mother felt him lie listless and dead; no arm came creeping
feebly up to encircle her neck. One of her babies died unborn, and she
knew the moment the strange sad feeling of the time came back to her
now; she felt through all her sensitive maternal body that her child did
not care for her. Grown, through her late illness, at once weaker and
tenderer, she burst into silent weeping. He looked up; the convulsion of
her pain had roused him from a half-sleep. A tear dropped on his face.

“Don’t rain, mamma! I will be good!” he said, and held his mouth to be
kissed.

He was much too old for such baby-speech, but as he grew weaker, he had
grown younger; and it seemed now as if, in his utter helplessness, he
would go back to the bosom of his mother. She clasped him to her, and
from that moment she and Barbara shared him between them.

So for a while, Barbara had not the same room to think about Richard;
but when she did think of him, it was always in the some loving,
trusting, hoping way.

When in London, she went to all the parties to which she was expected
to go, and enjoyed them--after her own fashion. She loved her kind, and
liked their company up to a point. But often would the crowd and the
glitter, the motion and iridescence, vanish from her, and she sit there
a live soul dreaming within closed doors. She would be pacing her weary
pony through a pale land, under a globose moon, homeward; or, on the
back of one of her father’s fleet horses, sweeping eastward over the
grassy land, in the level light of the setting sun, watching the strange
herald-shadow of herself and her horse rushing away before them, ever
more distort as it fled:--like some ghastly monster, in horror at
itself, it hurried to the infinite, seeking blessed annihilation, and
ever gathering speed as the sun of its being sank, till at last it
gained the goal of its nirvana, not by its well run race, but in the
darkness of its vanished creator. Then with a sigh would Barbara come to
herself, the centre of many regards.

Arthur Lestrange found himself no nearer to her than before--farther
off indeed; for here he was but one among many that sought her. But
her behaviour to him was the same in a crowded room in London as in the
garden at Mortgrange. She spoke to him kindly, turned friendly to him
when he addressed her, and behaved so that the lying hint of lady Ann,
that they had been for some time engaged, was easily believed. A certain
self-satisfied, well-dressed idiot, said it was a pity a girl like that,
a little Amazon, who, for as innocent as she looked, could ride backward
and steer her steed straight, should marry a half-baked brick like
Lestrange: Arthur, though he was not one of the worthiest, was worth ten
of him, faultless as were his coats and neckties!

Her father had several times said to her that it was time she should
marry, but had never got nearer anything definite; for there her eyes
would flash, and her mouth close tight--compelling the reflection that
her mother had been more than enough for him, and he had better not
throw his daughter into the opposition as well. He could not, he
saw clearly, prevail with her against her liking; but it would be an
infernal pity, he thought, seeing poor Marcus must go, if she would not
have Lestrange; for the properties would marry splendidly, and then
who could tell what better title might not stand on the top of the
baronetcy!

Lady Ann would not let her hope go. She grew daily more fearful of the
cloud that hung in the future: out of it might at any moment step
the child of her enemy, the low-born woman who had dared to be lady
Lestrange before her! Then where would she and her children be! That her
Arthur would not succeed him, would be a morsel to sweeten her husband’s
death for him! It would be life in death to him to spite the woman he
had married! At one crisis in their history, he had placed in her hands
a will that left everything to her son; but he might have made ten wills
after that one! She knew she had done nothing to please him: she had in
fact never spent a thought on making life a good thing to the man she
had married. She wished she had endeavoured or might now endeavour to
make herself agreeable to him. But it was too late! Sir Wilton would
instantly imagine a rumour of the lost heir, and be on the alert for her
discomfiture! If only he had not yet made a later will! He must die one
day: why not in time to make his death of use when his life was of none!
No one would wonder he had preferred the offspring of her noble person
to the lost brat of the peasant woman!

How far over the line that separates guilt from greed, lady Ann might
not have gone had she been sure of not being found out, she herself
could not have told. The look of things is very different at night and
in the morning; the bed-chamber can shelter what would be a horror in a
court of justice; a conscience at peace in its own darkness will shudder
in the gaslight of public opinion. It is marvellous that what we call
_the public_, a mere imbecile as to judgment, should yet possess the
Godlike power of awakening the individual conscience--and that with its
own large dullness of conscience! Truly the relation of the world to
its maker cannot primarily be an intellectual one; it must be a relation
tremendously deeper! We do not, I mean, to speak after the manner of
men, come of God’s intellect, but of his imagination. He did not make us
with his hands, but loved us out of his heart.

The same week in which sir Wilton gave that will into his lady’s
keeping, he executed a second, in which he made the virtue of the former
depend on the non-appearance of the lost heir. Of this will he said
nothing to his wife. Even from the grave he would hold a shadowy yet not
impotent rod over her and her family! Lady Ann suspected something of
the sort, and spent every moment safe from his possible appearance, in
searching for some such hidden torpedo. But there was one thing of which
sir Wilton took better care than of his honour--and that was his bunch
of keys.

After the return of the Lestranges and the Wylders to their
country-homes, lady Ann, having prevailed, on Mrs. Wylder to pay her a
visit, initiated an attempt to gain her connivance in her project for
the alliance of the houses. For this purpose she opened upon her with
the same artillery she had employed against her husband. Mrs. Wylder sat
for some time quietly listening, but looking so like her daughter, that
lady Ann saw the mother’s and not the father’s was the alliance to seek.
Thereupon she plucked the tompion out of the best gun in her battery, as
she thought, and began to hint a fear that Miss Wylder had taken a fancy
to a person unworthy of her.

“Girls who have not been much in society,” she said, “are not
unfrequently the sport of strange infatuations! I have myself known
an earl’s daughter marry a baker! I do not, of course, imagine _your_
daughter guilty of the slightest impropriety,--”

Scarcely had the word left her lips, when a fury stood before
her--towered above her, eyes flashing and mouth set, as if on the point
of tearing her to pieces.

“Say the word and my Bab in the same breath again, and I’ll throttle
you, you vile woman!” cried Mrs. Wylder, and hung there like a
thunder-cloud, lightening continuously.

Lady Ann was not of a breed familiar with fear, but, for the first time
in her life, except in the presence of her mother, a far more formidable
person than herself, she did feel afraid--of what, she would have found
it hard to say, for to acknowledge the possibility of personal violence
would be almost as undignified as to threaten it!

“I did not mean to offend you,” she said, growing a little paler, but at
the same time more rigid.

“What sort of mother do you take me for? Offended, indeed! Would you be
all honey, I should like to know, if I had the assurance, to say such a
thing of one of your girls?”

“I spoke as to a mother who knew what girls are like!”

“You don’t know what my girl Bab is like!” cried Mrs. Wylder, with
something that much resembled an imprecation: the word she used would
shock thousands of mothers not comparable to her in motherhood. If
propriety were righteousness, the kingdom of heaven would be already
populous.

Lady Ann was offended, and seriously: was alliance with such a woman
permissible or sufferable? But she was silent. For once in her life
she did not know the proper thing to say. Was the woman mad, or only a
savage?

Mrs. Wylder’s eloquence required opposition. She turned away, and with a
backward glance of blazing wrath, left the room and the house.

“Home like the devil!” she said to the footman as he closed the door of
the carriage--and she disappeared in a whirlwind.

From the library sir Wilton saw her stormy exit and departure. “By
Jove!” he said to himself, “that woman must be one of the right sort!
She’s what my Ruby might have been by this time if she’d been spared! A
hundred to one, my lady was insolent to her!--said something cool about
her mad-cap girl, probably! _She’s_ the right sort, by Jove, that little
Bab! If only my Richard now, leathery fellow, would glue on to her!
There’s nothing left in this cursed world of the devil and all his
angels that I should like half so well! I’ll put him up to it, I will!
Arthur and she indeed! As if a plate of porridge like Arthur would draw
a fireflash like Bab! I’d give the whole litter of ‘em, and throw in the
dam, to call that plucky little robin my girl! I’d give my soul to have
such a girl!”

It did not occur to him that his soul for Barbara would scarcely be fair
barter.

“Dick’s well enough,” he went on, “but he’s a man, and you’ve got to
quarrel with him! I’m tired of quarrelling!”

The instant she reached home, Mrs. Wylder sent for her daughter, and
demanded, fury still blazing in her eyes, what she had been doing to
give that beast of a lady Ann a right to talk.

“Tell me first how she talked, mamma,” returned Barbara, used to her
mother’s ways, and nowise annoyed at being so addressed. “I can’t have
been doing anything very bad, for she’s been doing what she can to get
me and keep me.”

“She has?--And you never told me!”

“I didn’t think it worth telling you.--She’s been setting papa on to me
too!”

“Oh! I see! And you wouldn’t set him and me on each other! Dutiful
child! You reckoned you’d had enough of that! But I’ll have no buying
and selling of my goods behind my back! If you speak one more civil word
to that young jackanapes Lestrange, you shall hear it again on both your
ears!”

“I will not speak an uncivil word to him, mamma; he has never given me
occasion; but I shan’t break my heart if I never see him again. If you
like, I won’t once go near the place. Theodora’s the only one I care
about--and she’s as dull as she is good!”

“What did the kangaroo mean by saying you were sweet on somebody not
worthy of you?”

“I know what she meant, mother; but the man is worthy of a far better
woman than me--and I hope he’ll get her some day!”

Thereupon little Bab burst into tears, half of rage, half of dread lest
her good wish for Richard should be granted otherwise than she meant it.
For she did not at the moment desire very keenly that he should get all
he deserved, but thought she might herself just do, while she did hope
to be a better woman before the day arrived.

“Come, come, child! None of that! I don’t like it. I don’t want to cry
on the top of my rage. What is the man? Who is he? What does the woman
know about him?”

At once Barbara began, and told her mother the whole story of Richard
and herself. The mother listened. Old days and the memory of a lover,
not high in the social scale, whom she had to give up to marry Mr.
Wylder, came back upon her and her heart went with her daughter’s before
she knew what it was about; her daughter’s love and her own seemed to
mingle in one dusky shine, as if the daughter had inherited the mother’s
experience. The heart of the mother would not have her child like
herself gather but weed-flowers of sorrow among the roses in the garden
of love. She had learned this much, that the things the world prizes are
of little good to still the hearts of women But when Barbara told her
how lady Ann would have it that this same Richard, the bookbinder, was a
natural son of sir Wilton, she started to her feet, crying,

“Then the natural bookbinder shall have her, and my lady’s fool may go
to the devil! You shall have _my_ money, Bab, anyhow.”

“But, mammy dear,” said Barbara, “what will papa say?”

“Poof!” returned her mother. “I’ve known him too long to care what he
says!”

“I don’t like offending him,” returned Barbara.

“Don’t mention him again, child, or I’ll turn him loose on your
bookbinder. Am I to put my own ewe-lamb to the same torture I had
to suffer by marrying him! God forbid I When you’re happy with your
husband, perhaps you’ll think of me sometimes and say, ‘My mother did
it! She wasn’t a good woman, but she loved her Bab!’”

A passionate embrace followed. Barbara left the room with a happy heart,
and went--not to her own to brood on her love, but to her brother’s,
whose feeble voice she heard calling her. Upon him her gladness
overflowed.



CHAPTER LV. _MISS BROWN_.

The same evening Barbara rode to the smithy, in the hope of hearing some
news of Richard from his grandfather. The old man was busy at the anvil
when he heard Miss Brown’s hoofs on the road. He dropped his hammer,
flung the tongs on the forge, and leaving the iron to cool on the anvil,
went to meet her.

“How do you do, grandfather?” said Barbara, with unconscious use of the
appellation.

Simon was well pleased to be called grandfather, but too politic and too
well bred to show his pleasure.

“As well as hard work can help me to. How are you yourself, my pretty?”
 returned Simon.

“As well as nothing to do--except nursing poor Mark--will let me,” she
answered. “Please can you tell me anything about Richard yet?”

“Can you keep a secret, honey?” rejoined Simon. “I ain’t sure as
I’m keeping strict within the law, but if I didn’t think you fit, I
shouldn’t say a word.”

“Don’t tell me, if it be anything I ought to tell if I knew it.”

“If you can show me you ought to tell any one, I will release you from
your promise. But perhaps you feel you ought to tell everything to your
mother?”

“No, not other people’s secrets. But I think I won’t have it. I don’t
like secrets. I’m frightened at them.”

“Then I’ll tell you at my own risk, for you’re the right sort to trust,
promise or no promise. I only hope you will not tell without letting
me know first; because then I might have to do something else by way
of--what do they call it when you take poison, and then take something
to keep it from hurting you?--Richard’s gone to college!”

Bab slid from Miss Brown’s back, flung her arms, with the bridle on
one of them, round the blacksmith’s neck, and, heedless of Miss Brown’s
fright, jumped up, and kissed the old man for the good news.

“Miss! miss! your clean face!” cried the blacksmith.

“Oh Richard! Richard! you _will_ be happy now!” she said, her voice
trembling with buried tears. “--But will he ever shoe Miss Brown again,
grandfather?”

“Many’s the time, I trust!” answered Simon. “He’ll be proud to do it. If
not, he never was worth a smile from your sweet mouth.”

“He’ll be a great man some day!” she laughed, with a little quiver of
the sweet mouth.

“He’s a good man now, and I don’t care,” answered the smith. “As long as
son of mine can look every man in the face, I don’t care whether it be
great or small he is.”

“But, please, Mr. Armour,” said Bab timidly, “wouldn’t it be better
still if he could look God in the face?”

“You’re right there, my pretty dove!” replied the old man; “only a
body can’t say everything out in a breath!--But you’re right, you _are_
right!” he went on. “I remember well the time when I thought I had
nothing to be ashamed of; but the time came when I was ashamed of many
things, and I’d done nothing worse in the meantime either! When a man
first gets a peep inside himself, he sees things he didn’t look to
see--and they stagger him a bit! Some horses have their hoofs so shrunk
and cockled they take the queerest shoes to set them straight; an’ them
shoes is the troubles o’ this life, I take it.--Now mind, I ain’t
told you what college he’s gone to--nor whether it be at Oxford or at
Cambridge, or away in Scotland or Germany--and you don’t know! And if
you don’t feel bound to mention the name of the place, I’d be obliged
to you not to. But I will let him know that I’ve told you what sort of a
place he’s at, because he couldn’t tell you himself, being he’s bound to
hold his tongue.”

Barbara went home happy: his grandfather recognized the bond between
them! As to Richard, she had no fear of his forgetting her.

With more energy still, she went about her duties; and they seemed
to grow as she did them. As the end of Mark’s sickness approached, he
became more and more dependent upon her, and only his mother could take
her place with him. He loved his father dearly, but his father never
staid more than a moment or two in the sick-chamber. Mark at length went
away to find his twin; and his mother and Barbara wept, but not all in
sorrow.

One morning, the week after Mark’s death, Mr. Wylder desired Barbara to
go with him to his study--where indeed about as much study went on as
in a squirrel’s nest--and there, after solemn prologue as to its having
been right and natural while she was but a girl with a brother that
she should be allowed a great deal of freedom, stated that now,
circumstances being changed, such freedom could no longer be given her:
she was now sole heiress, and must do as an heir would have had to do,
namely, consult the interests of the family. In those interests, he
continued, it was necessary he should strengthen as much as possible his
influence in the county; it was time also that, for her own sake, she
should marry; and better husband or fitter son-in-law than Mr. Lestrange
could not be desired: he was both well behaved and good-looking, and
when Mortgrange was one with Wylder, would have by far the finest estate
in the county!

Filial obligation is a point upon which those parents lay the heaviest
stress who have done the least to develop the relation between them and
their children. The first duty is from the parent to the child: this
unfulfilled, the duty of the child remains untaught.

“I am sorry to go against you, papa,” said Barbara, “but I cannot marry
Mr. Lestrange!”

“Stuff and nonsense! Why not?”

“Because I do not love him.”

“Fiddlesticks! I did not love your mother when I married her!--You don’t
dislike him, I know!--Now don’t tell me you do, for I shall not believe
you!”

“He is always very kind to me, and I am sorry he should want what is not
mine to give him.”

“Not yours to give him! What do you mean by that? If it is not yours,
it is mine! Have you not learned yet, that when I make up my mind to
a thing, that thing is done! And where I have a right, I am not one to
waive it!”

Where husband and wife are not one, it is impossible for the daughter to
be one with both, or perhaps with either; and the constant and foolish
bickering to which Barbara had been a witness throughout her childhood,
had tended rather to poison than nourish respect. Whether Barbara failed
to yield as much as Mr. Wylder had a right to claim, I leave to the
judgment of my reader, reserving my own, and remarking only that, if
his judgment be founded on principles differing from mine, our judgments
cannot agree. The idea of parent must be venerated, and may cast a glow
upon the actual parent, himself nowise venerable, so that the heart of a
daughter may ache with the longing to see her father such that she could
love and worship him as she would; but when it comes to life and action,
the will of such a parent, if it diverge from what seems to the child
true and right, ought to weigh nothing. A parent is not a maker, is not
God. We must leave father and mother and all for God, that is, for what
is right, which is his very will--only let us be sure it is for God,
and not for self. If the parent has been the parent of good thoughts and
right judgments in the child, those good thoughts and right judgments
will be on the parent’s side: if he has been the parent of evil thoughts
and false judgments, they may be for him or against him, but in the end
they will work solely for division. Any general decay of filial manners
must originate with the parents.

“I am not a child. I am a woman,” said Barbara; “and I owe it to him who
made me a woman, to take care of her.”

“Mind what you say. I have rights, and will enforce them.”

“Over my person?” returned Barbara, her eyes sending out a flash that
reminded him of her mother, and made him the angrier.

“If you do not consent here and now,” he said sternly, “to marry Mr.
Lestrange--that is, if, after your mother’s insolence to lady Ann.--”

“My mother’s insolence to lady Ann!” exclaimed Barbara, drawing herself,
in her indignation, to the height of her small person: but her father
would rush to his own discomfiture.

“--if, as I say,” he went on, “he should now condescend to ask you--I
swear--”

“You had better not swear, papa!”

“--I swear you shall not have a foot of my land.”

“Oh! that is all? There you are in your right, and I have nothing to
say.”

“You insolent hussy! You won’t like it when you find it done!”

“It will be the same as if Mark had lived.”

“It’s that cursed money of your mother’s makes you impudent!”

“If you could leave me moneyless, papa, it would make no difference. A
woman that can shoe her own horse,--”

“Shoe her own horse!” cried her father.

“Yes, papa!--You couldn’t!--And I _made_ two of her shoes the last time!
Wouldn’t any woman that can do that, wouldn’t she--to save herself from
shame and disgust--to be queen over herself--wouldn’t she take a place
as house-maid or shop-girl rather than marry the man she didn’t love?”

Mr. Wylder saw he had gone too far.

“You know more than is good!” he said. “But don’t you mistake: you’re
mother’s money is settled on you, but your father is your trustee!”

“My father is a gentleman!” rejoined Barbara--not so near the truth as
she believed.

“Take you care how you push a gentleman,” rejoined her father.

“Not to love is not to marry--not if the man was a prince!” persisted
Barbara.

She went to her mother’s room, but said nothing of what had passed. She
would not heat those ovens of wrath, the bosoms of her parents.

The next morning she ran to saddle Miss Brown. To her astonishment, her
friend was not in her box, nor in any stall in the stable; neither was
any one visible of whom to ask what had become of her; for the first
time in her life, everybody had got out of Barbara’s way. In the
harness-room, however, she came upon one of the stable-boys. He was in
tears. When he saw her, he started and turned to run, looking as if he
had had a piece of Miss Brown for breakfast, but she stopped him.

“Where is Miss Brown?” she said.

“Don’ know, miss.”

“Who knows, then?”

“P’raps master, miss.”

“What are you crying for?”

“Don’ know, miss.”

“That’s not true. Boys don’t cry without knowing why?”

“Well, miss, I ain’t _sure_ what I’m crying for.”

“Speak out, man! Don’t be foolish.”

“Master give me a terrible cut, miss!”

“Did you deserve it?”

“Don’ know, miss.”

“You don’t seem to know anything this morning!”

“No, miss!”

“What did your master give you the cut for?”

“‘Cause I was cryin’.”

Here he burst into a restrained howl.

“What were you crying for?”

“Because Miss Brown was gone.”

“And you cried without knowing where she was gone?” said Barbara,
turning almost sick with apprehension.

“Yes, miss,” affirmed the miserable boy.

“Is she dead?”

“No, miss, she ain’t dead; she’s sold!”

The words were not yet out of his mouth when he turned and bolted.

“That’s my gentleman-papa!” said Barbara to herself before she could
help it. Had she been any girl but Barbara, she would have cried like
the boy.

Not once from that moment did she allude to Miss Brown in the hearing of
father or servant.

One day her mother asked her why she never rode, and she told her. The
wrath of the mother was like that of a tigress. She sprang to her feet,
and bounded to the door. But when she reached it, Barbara was between
her and the handle.

“Mother! mother dear!” she pleaded.

The mother took her by the shoulders, and thought to fling her across
the room. But she was not so strong as she had been, and she found the
little one hard as nails: she could not move her an inch.

“Get out of my way!” she cried, “I want to kill him!”

“Mammy dear, listen! It’s a month ago! I said nothing--for love-sake!”

“Love-sake! I think I hear you! Dare to tell me you love that wretch of
a father of yours! I will kill _you_ if you say you love him!”

Barbara threw her arms round her mother’s neck, and said, “Listen,
mammy: I do love him a little bit: but it wasn’t for love of him I held
my tongue.”

“Bah! Your bookbinder-fellow! What has he to do with it?”

“Nothing at all. It wasn’t for him either, it was for God’s sake I held
my peace, mammy. If _all_ his children quarrelled like you and dad, what
a house he would have! It was for God’s sake I said nothing; and you
know, mammy, you’ve made it up with God, and you mustn’t go and be
naughty again!”

The mother stood silent and still. It seemed for an instant as if the
old fever had come back, for she shivered. She turned and went to her
chair, sat down, and again was still. A minute after, her forehead
flushed like a flame, turned white, then flushed and paled again several
times. Then she gave a great sigh, and the conflict was over. She
smiled, and from that moment she also never said a word about Miss
Brown.

But in the silence of her thought, Barbara suffered, for what might not
be the fate of Miss Brown! No one but a genuine lover of animals would
believe how she suffered. In her mind’s eye she kept seeing her turn her
head with sharp-curved neck in her stall, or shoot it over the door of
her box, looking and longing for her mistress, and wondering why she did
not come to pat her, or feed her, or saddle her for the joyous gallop
across grass and green hedge; and the heart of her mistress was sore for
her. But at length one day in church, they read the psalm in which come
the words, “Thou, Lord, shalt save both man and beast!” and they went to
her soul. She reflected that if Miss Brown was in trouble, it might
be for the saving of Miss Brown: she had herself got enough good
from trouble to hope for that! For she heartily believed the animals
partakers in the redemption of Jesus Christ; and she fancied perhaps
they knew more about it than we think,--the poor things are so silent!
Anyhow she saw that the reasonable thing was to let God look after his
own; and if Miss Brown was not his, how could she _be_?

But the mother was sending all over the country to find who had Miss
Brown; and she had not inquired long before she learned that she was in
the stables at Mortgrange. There she knew she would be well treated, and
therefore told Barbara the result of her inquiries.



CHAPTER LVI. _WINGFOLD AND BARBARA_.

Barbara went yet oftener to Mr. and Mrs. Wingfold. By this time, through
Simon Armour, they knew something about Richard, but none of them all
felt at liberty to talk about him.

Barbara had now a better guide in her reading than Richard. True reader
as he had been, Wingfold’s acquaintance both with literature and its
history, that is, its relation to the development of the people, was as
much beyond the younger man’s as it ought to be. What in Barbara Richard
had begun well, Wingfold was carrying on better.

With his help she was now studying, to no little advantage, more than
one subject connected with the main interest common to her and Richard:
and she thought constantly of what Richard would say, and how she would
answer him. Hence, naturally, she had the more questions to put to her
tutor. Now Wingfold had passed through all Richard’s phases, and through
some that were only now beginning to show in him; therefore he was well
prepared to help her--although there was this difference between the
early moral conditions of the two men, that Wingfold had been prejudiced
in favour of much that he found it impossible to hold, whereas Richard
had been prejudiced against much that ought to be cast away.

Richard suffered not a little at times from his enforced silence:
what might not happen because he must not speak? But hearing nothing
discouraging from his grandfather, he comforted himself in hope. He knew
that in him he had a strong ally, and that Barbara loved the hot-hearted
blacksmith, recognizing in him a more genuine breeding, as well as a far
greater capacity, than in either sir Wilton or her father. He toiled on
doing his duty, and receiving in himself the reward of the same, with
further reward ever at the door. For there is no juster law than the
word, “To him that hath shall be given.”

“Why do I never see you on Miss Brown?” asked Wingfold one day of
Barbara.

“For a reason I think I ought not to tell you.”

“Then don’t tell me,” returned the parson.

But by a mixture of instinctive induction, and involuntary intuition, he
saw into the piece of domestic tyranny, and did what he could to make up
for it, by taking her every now and then a long walk or drive with
his wife and their little boy. He gave her strong hopeful things to
read--and in the search after such was driven to remark how little of
the hopeful there is in the English, or in any other language. The song
of hope is indeed written in men’s hearts, but few sing it. Yet it is of
all songs the sorest-needed of struggling men.

Heart and brain, Wingfold was full of both humour and pathos. In their
walks and drives, many a serious subject would give occasion to the
former, and many a merry one to the latter. Sometimes he would take
a nursery-rime for his theme, and expatiate upon it so, that at one
instant Barbara would burst into the gayest laughter, and the next
have to restrain her tears. Rarely would Wingfold enter a sick-chamber,
especially that of a cottage, with a long face and a sermon in his soul;
almost always he walked lightly in, with a cheerful look, and not seldom
an odd story on his tongue, well pleased when he could make the sufferer
laugh--better pleased sometimes when he had made him sorry. He did not
find those that laughed the readiest the hardest to make sorry. He moved
his people by infecting their hearts with the feeling in his own.

Having now for many years cared only for the will of God, he was full
of joy. For the will of the Father is the root of all his children’s
gladness, of all their laughter and merriment. The child that loves the
will of the Father, is at the heart of things; his will is _with_ the
motion of the eternal wheels; the eyes of all those wheels are opened
upon him, and he knows whence he came. Happy and fearless and hopeful,
he knows himself the child of him from whom he came, and his peace
and joy break out in light. He rises and shines. Bliss creative and
energetic there is none other, on earth or in heaven, than the will of
the Father.



CHAPTER LVII. _THE BARONET’S WILL_.

Arthur Lestrange was sharply troubled when he found he was to see no
more of Barbara. He went again and again to Wylder Hall, but neither
mother nor daughter would receive him. When he learned that Miss
Brown was for sale, he bought her for love of her mistress. All the
explanation he could get from lady Ann was, that the young woman’s
mother was impossible; she was more than half a savage.

Time’s wheels went slow thereafter at Mortgrange. Sir Wilton missed his
firstborn. Whatever annoyed him in his wife or any of her children,
fed the desire for Richard. Arthur did not please him. He had no way
distinguished himself--and some men are annoyed when their sons prove
only a little better than themselves. Percy was a poisoned thorn in his
side: he was even worse than his father. All his thoughts took refuge in
Richard.

He had become dissatisfied with his agent, and although he had never
taken an interest in business, distrust made him now look into things
a little. He called his lawyer from London, and had him make a thorough
investigation. Dismissing thereupon his agent, he would have Arthur
take charge of the estate; but the young man, with an inborn dislike to
figures, flatly refused, saying he preferred the army. Sir Wilton did
not like the army: he had been in it himself, and had left it in a
hurry--no one ever knew why.

The only comfort in the house occupied the soul of lady Ann: it was that
she heard nothing of the bookbinder fellow! She had grown so torpid,
that while Danger was not flattening his nose against the window-pane,
she was at peace. For the rest, a lawyer of her own had the will in his
keeping, and she had come upon no trace of another.

But when sir Wilton sent for his lawyer to look into his factor’s
accounts, he had a further use for him, of which his wife heard nothing:
he made him draw up another will, in which he left everything to
Richard, only son of his first wife, Robina Armour. With every
precaution for secrecy, the will was signed and witnessed, but when the
lawyer would have carried it with him, the baronet declined to give it
up. He laid it aside for a week, then had the horses put to, and drove
to find Mr. Wingfold, of whom he had heard from Richard. When he saw
him, man of the world as he was, he was impressed by the simplicity of
a clergyman without a touch of the clerical, without any look of what he
called _sanctity_--the look that comes upon a man cherishing the notion
that he is intrusted with things more sacred than God will put in the
hands of his other children. Such men, and they are many, one would like
to lay for a time in the sheet of Peter’s vision, among the four-footed
animals and creeping things, to learn that, as there is nothing common
or unclean, so is there no class more sacred than another. Never will it
be right with men, until every commonest meal is a glad recognition
of the living Saviour who gives himself, always and perfectly, to his
brothers and sisters.

The baronet begged a private interview, and told the parson he wanted
to place in his keeping a certain paper, with the understanding that he
would not open it for a year after his death, and would then act upon
the directions contained in it.

“Provided always,” Wingfold stipulated, “that they require of me nothing
unfit, impossible, or wrong.”

“I pledge myself they require nothing unworthy of the cloth,” said sir
Wilton.

“The cloth be hanged!” said Wingfold. “Do they require anything unworthy
of a man--or if you think the word means more--of a gentleman?”

“They do not,” answered the baronet.

“Then you must write another paper, stating that you have asked me to
undertake this, but that you have given me no hint of the contents of
the accompanying document. This second you must enclose with the first,
sealing the envelope with your own seal.”

Sir Wilton at once consented, and there and then did as Wingfold
desired.

“I’ve check-mated my lady at last!” he chuckled, as he drove home. “She
would have me the villain to disinherit my firstborn for her miserable
brood! She shall find my other will, and think she’s safe! Then the
thunderbolt--and Dick master! My lady’s dower won’t be much for Percy
the cad and Arthur the proper, not to mention Dorothy the cow, and Vixen
the rat!”

He always spoke as if lady Ann’s children were none of his. Her ladyship
had taught him to do so, for she always said, “_My_ children!”

That night he slept with an easier mind. He had put the deed off and
off, regarding it as his abdication; but now it was done he felt more
comfortable.

Wingfold suspected in the paper some provision for Richard, but could
imagine no reason for letting it lie unopened until a year should have
passed from the baronet’s death. Troubling himself nothing, however,
about what was not his business, he put the paper carefully aside--but
where he must see it now and then, lest it should pass from his mind,
and with sir Wilton’s permission, told his wife what he had undertaken
concerning it, that she might carry it out if he were prevented from
doing so.

Time went on. Communication grew yet less between Mr. Wylder and his
family. He had returned to certain old habits, and was spending money
pretty fast in London. Failing to make himself a god in the house, he
forsook it, and was rapidly losing this world’s chance of appreciating a
woman whose faults were to his as new wine to dirty water.

In the fourth year, Richard wrote to his father, through his grandfather
of course, informing him he had got his B.A. degree, and was waiting
further orders. The baronet was heartily pleased with the style of his
letter, and in the privacy of his own room gave way to his delight at
the thought of his wife’s approaching consternation and chagrin. At
the same time, however, he was not a little uneasy in prospect of the
denouement. For the eyes of his wife had become almost a terror to him.
Their grey ice, which had not grown clearer as it grew older, made
him shiver. Why should the stronger so often be afraid of the weaker?
Sometimes, I suppose, because conscience happens to side with the
weaker; sometimes only because the weaker is yet able to make the
stronger, especially if he be lazy and a lover of what he calls peace,
worse than uncomfortable. The baronet dared not present his son to
his wife except in the presence of at least one stranger. He wrote to
Richard, appointing a day for his appearance at Mortgrange.



CHAPTER LVIII. _THE HEIR_.

It was a lovely morning when Richard, his heart beating with a hope
whose intensity of bliss he had never imagined, stopped at the station
nearest to Mortgrange, and set out to walk there in the afternoon sun.
June folded him in her loveliness of warmth and colour. The grass
was washed with transparent gold: he saw both the gold and the green
together, but unmingled. Often had he walked the same road, a contented
tradesman; a gentleman now, with a baronet to his father, he loved,
and knew he must always love the tradesman-uncle more than the
baronet-father. He was much more than grateful to his father for his
ready reception of him, and his care of his education; but he could
not be proud of him as of his mother and his aunt and uncle and his
grandfather. He held it one of God’s greatest gifts to come of decent
people; and if in his case the decency was on one side only, it was the
more his part to stop the current of transmitted evil, and in his own
person do what he might to annihilate it!

His only anxiety was lest his father should again lay upon him the
command to cease communication with his brother and sister. He lifted up
his heart to God, and vowed that not for anything the earth could give
would he obey. The socialism he had learned from his uncle had undergone
a baptism to something infinitely higher. He prayed God to keep him
clean of heart, and able to hold by his duty. He promised God--it was
a way he had when he would bind himself to do right--that he would not
forsake his own, would not break the ties of blood for any law, custom,
prejudice, or pride of man. The vow made his heart strong and light. But
he felt there was little merit in the act, seeing he could live without
his father’s favour. He saw how much harder it would be for a poor
tradeless man like Arthur Lestrange to make such a resolve. In the face
of such a threat from his father what could he do?--where find courage
to resist? Resist he must, or be a slave, but hard indeed it would be!
Every father, thought Richard, who loved his children, ought to make
them independent of himself, that neither clog, nor net, nor hindrance
of any kind might hamper the true working of their consciences: then
would the service they rendered their parents be precious indeed! then
indeed would love be lord, and neither self, nor the fear of man, nor
the fear of fate be a law in their life!

He had not sent word to his grandfather that he was coming, and had told
his father that he would walk from the station--which suited sir Wilton,
for he felt nervous, and was anxious there should be no stir. So Richard
came to Mortgrange as quietly as a star to its place.

When he reached the gate and walked in as of old, he was challenged by
the woman who kept it: of all the servants she and lady Ann’s maid had
alone treated him with rudeness, and now she was not polite although she
did not know him. Neither was he recognized by the man who opened the
door.

Sir Wilton sat in the library expecting him. A gentleman was with him,
but he kept in the background, seemingly absorbed in the titles of a row
of books.

“There you are, you rascal!” his father was on the point of saying as
Richard came into the light of the one big bow-window, but, instead,
he gazed at him for an instant in silence. Before him was one of the
handsomest fellows his eyes had ever rested upon--broad-shouldered
and tall and straight, with a thoughtful yet keen face, of which every
feature was both fine and solid, and dark brown hair with night and
firelight in it, and a touch of the sun here and there at moments. The
situation might have been embarrassing to a more experienced man than
Richard as he waited for his father to speak; but he stood quite at his
ease, slightly bent, and motionless, neither hands nor feet giving him
any of the trouble so often caused by those outlying provinces. The
slight colour that rose in his rather thin cheeks, only softened the
beauty of a face whose outline was severe. He stood like a soldier
waiting the word of his officer.

“By Jove!” said his father; and there was another pause.

The baronet was momently growing prouder of his son. He had never had a
feeling like it before. He saw his mother in him.

“She’s looking at me straight out of his eyes!” he said to himself.

“Ain’t you going to sit down?” he said to him at last, forgetting that
he had neither shaken hands with him, nor spoken a word of welcome.

Richard moved a chair a little nearer and sat down, wondering what would
come next.

“Well, what are you going to do?” asked his father.

“I must first know your wish, sir,” he answered.

“Church won’t do?”

“No, sir.”

“Glad to hear it! You’re much too good for the church!--No offence, Mr.
Wingfold! The same applies to yourself.”

“So my uncle on the stock-exchange used to say!” answered Wingfold,
laughing, as he turned to the baronet. “He thought me good enough, I
suppose, for a priest of Mammon!”

“I’m glad you’re not offended. What do you think of that son of mine?”

“I have long thought well of him.”

At the first sound of his voice, Richard had risen, and now approached
him, his hand outstretched.

“Mr. Wingfold!” he said joyfully.

“I remember now!” returned sir Wilton; “it was from him I heard of you;
and that was what made me seek your acquaintance.--He promises fairly,
don’t you think?--Shoulders good; head well set on!”

“He looks a powerful man!” said Wingfold. “--We shall be happy to see
you, Mr. Lestrange, as soon as you care to come to us.”

“That will be to-morrow, I hope, sir,” answered Richard.

“Stop, stop!” cried sir Wilton. “We know nothing for certain yet!--By
the bye, if your stepmother don’t make you particularly welcome, you
needn’t be surprised, my boy!”

“Certainly not. I could hardly expect her to be pleased, sir!”

“Not pleased? Not pleased at what? Now, now, don’t you presume! Don’t
you take things for granted! How do you know she will have reason to
be displeased? I never promised you anything! I never told you what I
intended!--Did I ever now?”

“No, sir. You have already done far more than ever you promised. You
have given me all any man has a right to from his father. I am ready to
go to London at once, and make my own living.”

“How?”

“I don’t know yet; I should have to choose--thanks to you and my uncle!”

“In the meantime, you must be introduced to your stepmother.”

“Then--excuse me, sir Wilton--” interposed the parson, “do you wish me
to regard my old friend Richard as your son and heir?”

“As my son, yes; as my heir--that will depend--”

“On his behaviour, I presume!” Wingfold ventured.

“I say nothing of the sort!” replied the baronet testily. “Would you
have me doubt whether he will carry himself like a gentleman? The thing
depends on my pleasure. There are others besides him.”

He rose to ring the bell. Richard started up to forestall his intent.

“Now, Richard,” said his father, turning sharp upon him, “don’t be
officious. Nothing shows want of breeding more than to do a thing for a
man in his own house. It is a cursed liberty!”

“I will try to remember, sir,” answered Richard.

“Do; we shall get on the better.”

He was seized, as by the claw of a crab, with a sharp twinge of the
gout. He caught at the back of a chair, hobbled with its help to the
table, and so to his seat. Richard restrained himself and stood rigid.
The baronet turned a half humorous, half reproachful look on him.

“That’s right!” he said. “Never be officious. I wish my father had
taught me as I am teaching you!--Ever had the gout, Mr. Wingfold?”

“Never, sir Wilton.”

“Then you ought every Sunday to say, ‘Thank God that I have no gout!’”

“But if we thanked God for all the ills we don’t have, there would be no
time to thank him for any of the blessings we do have!”

“What blessings?”

“So many, I don’t know where to begin to answer you.”

“Ah, yes! you’re a clergyman! I forgot. It’s your business to thank God.
For my part, being a layman, I don’t know anything in particular I’ve
got to thank him for.”

“If I thought a layman had less to thank God for than a clergyman, I
should begin to doubt whether either had anything to thank him for. Why,
sir Wilton, I find everything a blessing! I thank God I am a poor man.
I thank him for every good book I fall in with. I thank him when a child
smiles to me. I thank him when the sun rises or the wind blows on me.
Every day I am so happy, or at least so peaceful, or at the worst so
hopeful, that my very consciousness is a thanksgiving.”

“Do you thank him for your wife, Mr. Wingfold?”

“Every day of my existence.”

The baronet stared at him a moment, then turned to his son.

“Richard,” he said, “you had better make up your mind to go into the
church! You hear Mr. Wingfold! I shouldn’t like it myself; I should have
to be at my prayers all day!”

“Ah, sir Wilton, it doesn’t take time to thank God! It only takes
eternity.”

Sir Wilton stared. He did not understand.

“Ring the bell, will you!” he said. “The fellow seems to have gone to
sleep.”

Richard obeyed, and not a word was spoken until the man appeared.

“Wilkins,” said his master, “go to my lady, and say I beg the favour of
her presence in the library for a moment.”

The man went.

“No antipathy to cats, I hope!” he added, turning to Richard.

“None, sir,” answered Richard gravely.

“That’s good! Then you won’t lie taken aback!”

In a few minutes--she seldom made her husband wait--lady Ann sailed into
the room, the servant closing the door so deftly behind her, that it
seemed without moving to have given passage to an angelic presence.

The two younger men rose.

“Mr. Wingfold you know, my lady!” said her husband.

“I have not the pleasure,” answered lady Ann, with a slight motion of
the hard bud at the top of her long stalk.

“Ah, I thought you did!--The Reverend Mr. Wingfold, lady Ann!--My wife,
Mr. Wingfold!--The other gentleman, lady Ann.--”

He paused. Lady Ann turned her eyes slowly on Richard. Wingfold saw a
slight, just perceptible start, and a settling of the jaws.

“The other gentleman,” resumed the baronet, “you do not know, but you
will soon be the best of friends.”

“I beg your pardon, sir Wilton, I do know him!--I hope,” she went on,
turning to Richard, “you will keep steadily to your work. The sooner the
books are finished, the better!”

Richard smiled, but what he was on the point of saying, his father
prevented.

“You mistake, my lady! I thought you did not know him!” said the
baronet. “That gentleman is my son, and will one day be sir Richard.”

“Oh!” returned her ladyship--without a shadow of change in her
impassivity, except Wingfold was right in fancying the slightest
movement of squint in the eye next him. She held out her hand.

“This is an unexpected--”

For once in her life her lips were truer than her heart: they did not
say _pleasure_.

Richard took her hand respectfully, sad for the woman whose winter had
no fuel, and who looked as if she would be cold to all eternity. Lady
Ann stared him in the eyes and said,--

“My favourite prayer-book has come to pieces at last: perhaps you would
bind it for me?”

“I shall be delighted,” answered Richard.

“Thank you,” she said, bowed to Wingfold, and left the room.

Sir Wilton sat like an offended turkey-cock, staring after her. “By
Jove!” he seemed to say to himself.

“There! that’s over!” he cried, coming to himself. “Ring the bell,
Richard, and let us have lunch.--Richard, _no_ gentleman could have
behaved better! I am proud of you!--It’s blood that does it!” he
murmured to himself.

As if he had himself compounded both his own blood and his boy’s in
the still-room of creation, he took all the credit of Richard’s _savoir
faire_, as he counted it. He did not know that the same thing made
Wingfold happy and Richard a gentleman! Richard had had a higher
breeding than was known to sir Wilton. At the court of courts, whence
the manners of some other courts would be swept as dust from the floors,
the baronet would hardly gain admittance!

Lady Ann went up the stair slowly and perpendicularly, a dull pain at
her heart. The cause was not so much that her son was the second son, as
that the son of the blacksmith’s daughter was--she took care to say _at
first sight_--a finer _gentleman_ than her Arthur. Rank and position,
she vaguely reflected, must not look for justice from the jealous
heavens! They always sided with the poor! Just see the party-spirit of
the Psalms! The rich and noble were hardly dealt with! Nowadays even the
church was with the radicals!

The baronet was merry over his luncheon. The servants wondered at first,
but before the soup was removed, they wondered no more: the young man
at the table, in whom not one of them had recognized the bookbinder, was
the lost heir to Mortgrange! He was worth finding, they agreed--one who
would hold his own! The house would be merrier now--thank heaven! They
liked Mr. Arthur well enough, but here was his master!

The meal was over, and the baronet always slept after lunch.

“You’ll stay to dinner, won’t you, Mr. Wingfold?” he said, rising.
“--Richard, ring the bell. Better send for Mrs. Locke at once, and
arrange with her where you will sleep.”

“Then I may choose my own room, sir?” rejoined Richard.

“Of course--but better not too near my lady’s,” answered his father with
a grim smile as he hobbled from the room.

When the housekeeper came--

“Mrs. Locke,” said Richard, “I want to see the room that used to be the
nursery--in the older time, I mean.”

“Yes, sir,” answered Mrs. Locke pleasantly, and led them up two flights
of stairs and along corridor and passage to the room Richard had before
occupied. He glanced round it, and said,

“This shall be my room. Will you kindly get it ready for me.”

She hesitated. It had certainly not been repapered, as sir Wilton
thought, and had said to Mrs. Tuke! To Mrs. Locke it seemed
uninhabitable by a gentleman.

“I will send for the painter and paper-hanger at once,” she replied,
“but it will take more than a week to get ready.”

“Pray leave it as it is,” he answered. “--You can have the floor swept
of course,” he added with a smile, seeing her look of dismay. “I will
sleep here to-night, and we can settle afterward what is to be done
to it.--There used to be a portrait,” he went on, “--over the
chimney-piece, the portrait of a lady--not well painted, I fancy, but I
liked it: what has become of it?”

Then first it began to dawn on Mrs. Locke that the young man who mended
the books and the heir to Mortgrange were the same person.

“It fell down one day, and has not been put up agin,” she answered.

“Do you know where it is?”

“I will find it, sir.”

“Do, if you please. Whose portrait is it?”

“The last lady Lestrange’s, sir.--But bless my stupid old head! it’s his
own mother’s picture he’s asking for! You’ll pardon me, sir! The thing’s
more bewildering than you’d think!--I’ll go and get it at once.”

“Thank you. Mr. Wingfold and I will wait till you bring it.”

“There ain’t anywhere for you to sit, sir!” lamented the old lady. “If
I’d only known! I’m sure, sir, I wish you joy!”

“Thank you, Mrs. Locke. We’ll sit here on the mattress.”

Richard had not forgotten how the eyes of the picture used to draw his,
and he had often since wondered whether it could be the portrait of his
mother.

In a few minutes Mrs. Locke reappeared, carrying the portrait, which had
never been put in a frame, and knotting the cord, Richard hung it again
on the old nail. It showed a well-formed face, but was very flat and
wooden. The eyes, however, were comparatively well painted; and it
seemed to Richard that he could read both sorrow and disappointment in
them, with a yearning after something she could not have.

They went out for a ramble in the park, and there Richard told his
friend as much as he knew of his story, describing as well as he
understood them the changes that had passed upon him in the matter of
religion, and making no secret of what he owed to the expostulations
and spiritual resistances of Barbara. Wingfold, after listening with
profound attention, told him he had passed through an experience in
many points like, and at the root the same as his own; adding that, long
before he was sure of anything, it had become more than possible for
him to keep going on; and that still he was but looking and hoping and
waiting for a fuller dawn of what had made his being already blessed.

They consulted whether Wingfold should act on the baronet’s careless
invitation, and concluded it better he should not stay to dinner. Then,
as there was yet time, and it was partly on Wingfold’s way, they set out
for the smithy.



CHAPTER LIX. _WINGFOLD AND ARTHUR MANSON_.

When the first delight of their meeting was abated, Simon sent to let
Arthur Manson know that his brother was there. For Arthur had all this
time been with Simon, to whom Richard, saving enough from his allowance,
had prevented him from being a burden.

He looked much better, and was enchanted to see his brother again, and
learn the good news of his recognition by his father. “I’m so glad it’s
you and not me, Richard!” he said. “It makes me feel quite safe and
happy. We shall have nothing now but fair play all round, the rest of
our lives! How happy Alice will be!”

“Is Alice still in the old place? I haven’t heard of her for some time,”
 said Richard.

“Don’t you know?” exclaimed Arthur. “She’s been at the parsonage for
months and months! Mrs. Wingfold went and fetched her away, to work for
her, and be near me. She’s as happy now as the day is long. She says
if everybody was as good as her master and mistress, there would be no
misery left in the world.”

“I don’t doubt it,” answered Richard. “--But I’ve just parted with Mr.
Wingfold, and he didn’t say a word about her!”

“When anything has to be done, Mr. Wingfold never forgets it,” said
Arthur; “but I should just like to hear all the things Mr. Wingfold did
and forgot in a month!”

“Arthur’s getting on.” thought Richard.

But he had to learn how much Wingfold had done for him. First of all he
had set himself, by talking to him and lending him books, to find out
his bent, or at least something he was capable of. But for months he
could not wake him enough to know anything of what was in him: the
poor fellow was weary almost to death. At last, however, he got him to
observe a little. Then he began to set him certain tasks; and as he
was an invalid, the first was what he called “The task of twelve
o’clock;”--which was, for a quarter of an hour from every noon during a
month, to write down what he then saw going on in the world.

The first day he had nothing to show: he had seen nothing!

“What were the clouds doing?” Mr. Wingfold asked. “What were the horses
in the fields doing?--What were the birds you saw doing?--What were the
ducks and hens doing?--Put down whatever you see any creature about.”

The next evening, he went to him again, and asked him for his paper.
Arthur handed him a folded sheet.

“Now,” said Mr. Wingfold, “I am not going to look at this for the
present. I am going to lay it in one of my drawers, and you must write
another for me to-morrow. If you are able, bring it over to me; if not,
lay it by, and do not look at it, but write another, and another--one
every day, and give them all to me the next time I come, which will
be soon. We shall go on that way for a month, and then we shall see
something!”

At the end of the month, Mr. Wingfold took all the papers, and fastened
them together in their proper order. Then they read them together, and
did indeed see something! The growth of Arthur’s observation both in
extent and quality, also the growth of his faculty for narrating what he
saw, were remarkable both to himself and his instructor. The number of
things and circumstances he was able to see by the end of the month,
compared with the number he had seen in the beginning of it, was
wonderful; while the mode of his record had changed from that of a child
to that almost of a man.

Mr. Wingfold next, as by that time the weather was quite warm, set him
“The task of six o’clock in the evening,” when the things that presented
themselves to his notice would be very different. After a fortnight, he
changed again the hour of his observation, and went on changing it.
So that at length the youth who had, twice every day, walked along
Cheapside almost without seeing that one face differed from another,
knew most of the birds and many of the insects, and could in general
tell what they were about, while the domestic animals were his familiar
friends. He delighted in the grass and the wild flowers, the sky and the
clouds and the stars, and knew, after a real, vital fashion, the world
in which he lived. He entered into the life that was going on about him,
and so in the house of God became one of the family. He had ten times
his former consciousness; his life was ten times the size it was before.
As was natural, his health had improved marvellously. There is nothing
like interest in life to quicken the vital forces--the secret of which
is, that they are left freer to work.

Richard was rejoiced with the change in him, and reckoned of what he
might learn from Arthur in the long days before them; while he in turn
would tell him many things he would now be prepared to hear. The soul
that had seemed rapidly sinking into the joyless dark, was now burning
clear as a torch of heaven.



CHAPTER LX. _RICHARD AND HIS FAMILY_.

As the dinner-hour drew nigh, Richard went to the drawing-room,
scrupulously dressed. Lady Ann gave him the coldest of polite
recognitions; Theodora was full of a gladness hard to keep within the
bounds which fear of her mother counselled; Victoria was scornful, and
as impudent as she dared be in the presence of her father; Miss Malliver
was utterly wooden, and behaved as if she had never seen him before;
Arthur was polite and superior. Things went pretty well, however.
Percy, happily, was at Woolwich, pretending to study engineering: of him
Richard had learned too much at Oxford.

Theodora and Richard were at once drawn to each other--he prejudiced in
her favour by Barbara, she proud of her new, handsome brother. She was
a plain, good-natured, good-tempered girl--with red hair, which only her
father and mother disliked, and a modest, freckled face, whose smile was
genuine and faith-inspiring. Her mother counted her stupid, accepting
the judgment of the varnished governess, who saw wonder or beauty or
value in nothing her eyes or hands could not reach. Theodora was indeed
one of those who, for lack of true teaching, or from the deliberateness
of nature, continue children longer than most, but she was not therefore
stupid. The aloe takes seven years to blossom, but when it does, its
flower may be thirty feet long. Where there is love, there is intellect:
at what period it may show itself, matters little. Richard felt he had
in her another sister--one for whom he might do something. He talked
freely, as became him at his father’s table, and the conversation did
not quite flag. If lady Ann said next to nothing, she said nearly as
much as usual, and was perfectly civil; Arthur was sullen but not rude;
Theodora’s joy made her talk as she had never talked before. A morn of
romance had dawned upon her commonplace life. Vixen gave herself to her
dinner, and but the shadow of a grimace now and then reminded Richard of
the old monkey-phiz.

Having the heart of a poet, the brain of a scientist, and the hands of a
workman--hands, that is, made for making, Richard talked so vitally that
in most families not one but all would have been interested; and indeed
Arthur too would have enjoyed listening, but that he was otherwise
occupied. That he had to look unconcerned at his own deposition, while
regarding as an intruder the man whose place he had so long in a sense
usurped, was not his sorest trial: regarding as a prig the man who
talked about things worth talking about, he could not help feeling
himself a poor creature, an empty sack, beside the son of the low-born
woman. But indeed Richard, brought face to face with life, and taught to
meet necessity with labour, had had immeasurable advantages over Arthur.

The younger insisted to himself that his brother could not have the
feelings of a gentleman; that he must have poverty-stricken ways of
looking at things. He could, it was true, find nothing in his manners,
carriage, or speech, unlike a gentleman, but the vulgarity must be
there, and he watched to find it. For he was not himself a gentleman
yet.

When they went to the drawing-room, and Richard had sung a ballad so as
almost to make lady Ann drop a scale or two from her fish-eyes, Arthur
went out of the room stung with envy, and not ashamed of it. The
thing most alien to the true idea of humanity, is the notion that
our well-being lies in surpassing our fellows. We have to rise above
ourselves, not above our neighbours; to take all the good _of_ them, not
_from_ them, and give them all our good in return. That which cannot be
freely shared, can never be possessed. Arthur went to his room with a
gnawing at his heart. Not merely must he knock under to the foundling,
but confess that the foundling could do most things better than he--was
out of sight his superior in accomplishment as well as education.--“But
let us see how he rides and shoots!” he thought.

Even Vixen, who had been saying to herself all the time of dinner, “Mean
fellow! to come like a fox and steal poor Arthur’s property!”--even
she was cowed a little by his singing, and felt for the moment in the
presence of her superior.

Sir Wilton was delighted. Here was a son to represent him!--the son of
the woman the county had declined to acknowledge! What was lady Ann’s
plebeian litter beside this high-bred, modest, self-possessed fellow! He
was worthy of his father, by Jove!

He went early to bed, and Richard was not sorry. He too retired early,
leaving the rest to talk him over.

How they did it, I do not care to put on record. Theodora said little,
for her heart had come awake with a new and lovely sense of gladness and
hope.

“If he would but fall in love with Barbara Wylder!” she thought; “--or
rather if Barbara would but fall in love with him, for nobody can help
falling in love with her, how happy I should be! they are the two I love
best in the world!--next to papa and mamma, of course!” she added, being
a loyal girl.

The next morning, Richard came upon Arthur shooting at a mark, and both
with pistols and rifle beat him thoroughly. But when Arthur began to
talk about shooting pheasants, he found in Richard a rooted dislike to
killing. This moved Arthur’s contempt.

“Keep it dark,” he said; “you’ll be laughed at if you don’t. My father
won’t like it.”

“Why must a man enjoy himself at the expense of joy?” answered Richard.
“I pass no judgment upon your sport. I merely say I don’t choose to kill
birds. What men may think of me for it, is a matter of indifference to
me. I think of them much as they think of a Frenchman or an Italian, who
shoots larks and blackbirds and thrushes and nightingales: I don’t see
the great difference!”

They strolled into the stable. There stood Miss Brown, looking over the
door of her box. She received Richard with glad recognition.

“How comes Miss Brown here?” he asked. “Where can her mistress be?”

“The mare’s at home,” answered Arthur. “I bought her.”

“Oh!” said Richard, and going into the box, lifted her foot and looked
at the shoe. Alas, Miss Brown had worn out many shoes since Barbara
drove a nail in her hoof! Had there been one of hers there, he would
have known it--by a pretty peculiarity in the turn of the point back
into the hoof which she called her mark. The mare sniffed about his head
in friendly fashion.

“She smells the smithy!” said Arthur to himself.--“Yes; your
grandfather’s work.” he remarked. “I should be sorry to see any other
man shoe horse of mine!”

“So should I!” answered Richard. “--I wonder why Miss Wylder sold Miss
Brown!” he said, after a pause.

“I am not so curious!” rejoined Arthur. “She sold her, and I bought
her.”

Neither divined that the animal stood there a sacrifice to Barbara’s
love of Richard.

Arthur had given up hope of winning Barbara, but the thought that the
bookbinder-fellow might now, as he vulgarly phrased it to himself, go in
and win, swelled his heart with a yet fiercer jealousy. “I hate him,” he
said in his heart. Yet Arthur was not a bad fellow as fellows go. He
was only a man for himself, believing every man must be for himself, and
count the man in his way his enemy. He was just a man who had not begun
to stop being a devil.

At breakfast lady Ann was almost attentive to her stepson. As it
happened they were left alone at the table. Suddenly she addressed him.

“Richard, I have one request to make of you,” she said; “I hope you will
grant it me!”

“I will if I can,” he answered; “but I must not promise without knowing
what it is.”

“You do not feel bound to please me, I know! I have the misfortune not
to be your mother!”

“I feel bound to please you where I can, and shall be more than glad to
do so.”

“It is a small thing I am going to ask. I should not have thought of
mentioning it, but for the terms you seem upon with Mr. Wingfold.”

“I hope to see him within an hour or so.”

“I thought as much!--Do you happen to remember a small person who came a
good deal about the house when you were at work here?”

“If your ladyship means Miss Wylder, I remember her perfectly.”

“It is necessary to let you know, and then I shall leave the matter
to your good sense, that Mrs. Wylder, and indeed the girl herself at
various times, has behaved to me with such rudeness, that you cannot in
ordinary decency have acquaintance with them. I mention it in case Mr.
Wingfold should want to take you to see them. They are parishioners of
his.”

“I am sorry I must disappoint you,” said Richard. Lady Ann rose with a
grey glitter in her eyes.

“Am I to understand you _intend_ calling on the Wylders?” she said.

“I have imperative reasons for calling upon them this very morning,”
 answered Richard.

“I am sorry you should so immediately show your antagonism!” said lady
Ann.

“My obligations to Miss Wylder are such that I must see her the first
possible moment.”

“Have you asked your father’s permission?”

“I have not,” answered Richard, and left the room hurriedly.

The next moment he was out of the house: lady Ann might go to his
father, and he would gladly avoid the necessity of disobeying him
the first morning after his return! He did not know how small was her
influence with her husband.

He took the path across the fields, and ran until he was out of sight of
Mortgrange.



CHAPTER LXI. _HEART TO HEART_.

When he came to the parsonage, which he had to pass on his way to the
Hall, he saw Mr. Wingfold through the open window of the drawing-room,
and turned to the door. The parson met him on the threshold.

“Welcome!” he said. “How did you get through your dinner?”

“Better than I expected,” replied Richard. “But this morning my
stepmother began feeling my mouth: she would have me promise not to call
on the Wylders. They had been rude to her, she said.”

“Come into the drawing-room. A friend of mine is there who will be glad
to see you.”

The drawing-room of the parsonage was low and dark, with its two windows
close together on the same side. At the farther end stood a lady,
seemingly occupied with an engraving on the wall. She did not move when
they entered. Wingfold led Richard up to her, then turned without a
word, and left the room. Before either knew, they were each in the
other’s arms.

Barbara was sobbing. Richard thought he had dared too much and had
frightened her.

“I couldn’t help it!” Barbara said pleadingly.

“My life has been a longing for you!” said Richard.

“I have wanted you every day!” said Barbara, and began again to sob, but
recovered herself with an effort.

“This will never do!” she cried, laughing through her tears. “I shall go
crazy with having you! And I’ve not seen you yet! Let me go, please. I
want to look at you!”

Richard released her. She lifted a blushing, tearful face to his. But
there was only joy, no pain in her tears; only delight, no shame in her
blushes. One glance at the simple, manly face before her, so full of the
trust that induces trust, would have satisfied any true woman that she
was as safe in his thoughts as in those of her mother. She gazed at him
one long silent moment.

“How splendid you are!” she cried, like a wild schoolgirl. “How good of
you to grow like that! I wish I could see you on Miss Brown!--What are
you going to do, Richard?”

While she spoke, Richard was pasturing his eyes, the two mouths of his
soul, on the heavenly meadow of her face; and she for very necessity
went on talking, that she might not cry again.

“Are you going back to the bookbinding?” she said.

“I do not know. Sir Wilton--my father hasn’t told me yet what he wants
me to do.--Wasn’t it good of him to send me to Oxford?”

“You’ve been at Oxford then all this time?--I suppose he will make
an officer of you now!--Not that I care! I am content with whatever
contents you!”

“I dare say he will hardly like me to live by my hands!” answered
Richard, laughing. “He would count it a degradation! There I shall never
be able to think like a gentleman!”

Barbara looked perplexed.

“You don’t mean to say he’s going to treat you just like one of the
rest” she exclaimed.

“I really do not know,” answered Richard; “but I think he would hardly
enjoy the thought of _Sir Richard Lestrange_ over a bookbinder’s shop in
Hammersmith or Brentford!”

“Sir Richard! You do not mean--?”

Her face grew white; her eyes fell; her hand trembled on Richard’s arm.

“What is troubling you, dearest?” he asked, in his turn perplexed.

“I can’t understand it.” she answered.

“Is it possible you do not know, Barbara?” he returned. “I thought Mr.
Wingfold must have told you!--Sir Wilton says I am his son that was
lost. Indeed there is no doubt of it.”

“Richard! Richard! believe me I didn’t know. Lady Ann told me you were
not--”

“How then should I have dared put my arms round you, Barbara?”

“Richard, I care nothing for what the world thinks! I care only for what
God thinks.”

“Then, Barbara, you would have married me, believing me base born?”

“Oh Richard! you thought it was knowing who you were that made me--!
Richard! Richard! I did not think you could have wronged me so! My
father sold Miss Brown because I would not marry your brother and be
lady Lestrange. If you had not asked me, and I had been sure it was
only because of your birth you wouldn’t, I should have found some way of
letting you know I cared no more for that than God himself does. The
god of the world is the devil. He has many names, but he’s all the same
devil, as Mr. Wingfold says.--I wonder why he never told me!--I’m glad
he didn’t. If he had, I shouldn’t be here now!”

“I am very glad too, Barbara; but it wouldn’t have made so much
difference: I was only here on my way to you! But suppose it had been
as you thought, it was one thing what you would do, and another what I
would ask you to do!”

“What I would have done was what you should have believed I would do!”

“You must just pardon me, Barbara: well as I thought I knew you, I did
not know you enough!”

“You do now?”

‘“I do.”

There came a silence.

“How long have you known this about yourself, Richard?” said Barbara.

“More than four years.”

“And you never told me!”

“My father wished it kept a secret for a time.”

“Did Mr. Wingfold know?”

“Not till yesterday.”

“Why didn’t he tell me yesterday, then?”

“I think he wouldn’t have told you if he had known all the time.”

“Why?”

“For the same reason that made him leave us together so suddenly--that
you might not be hampered by knowing it--that we might understand each
other before you knew. I see it all now! It was just like him!”

“Oh, he is a friend!” cried Barbara. “He knows what one is, and so knows
what one is thinking!”

A silent embrace followed, and then Barbara said, “You must come and see
my mother!”

“Hadn’t you better tell her first?” suggested Richard.

“She knows--knows what you didn’t know--what I’ve been thinking all the
time,” rejoined Barbara, with a rosy look of confidence into his eyes.

“She can never have been willing you should marry a tradesman--and one,
besides, who--!”

“She knew I would--and that I should have money, else she might not have
been willing. I don’t say she likes the idea, but she is determined I
shall have the man I love--if he will have me,” she added shyly.

“Did you tell her you--cared for me?”

He could not say loved yet; he felt an earthy pebble beside a celestial
sapphire!

“Of course I did, when papa wanted me to have Arthur!--not till then;
there was no occasion! I could not tell what your thoughts were, but my
own were enough for that.”

Mrs. Wylder was taken with Richard the moment she saw him; and when she
heard his story, she was overjoyed, and would scarcely listen to a word
about the uncertainty of his prospects. That her Bab should marry the
man she loved, and that the alliance should be what the world counted
respectable, was enough for her. When Richard told his father what
he had done, saying they had fallen in love with each other while yet
ignorant of his parentage, a glow of more than satisfaction warmed sir
Wilton’s consciousness. It was lovely! Lady Ann was being fooled on all
sides!

“Richard has been making good use of his morning!” he said at dinner.
“He has already proposed to Miss Wylder and been accepted! Richard is a
man of action--a practical fellow!”

Lady Ann did perhaps turn a shade paler, but she smiled. It was not such
a blow as it might have been, for she too had given up hope of securing
her for Arthur. But it was not pleasant to her that the grandchild of
the blacksmith should have Barbara’s money. Theodora was puzzled.



CHAPTER LXII. _THE QUARREL_.

For a few weeks, things went smoothly enough. Not a jar occurred in the
feeble harmony, not a questionable cloud appeared above the horizon. The
home-weather seemed to have grown settled. Lady Ann was not unfriendly.
Richard, having provided himself with tools for the purpose, bound
her prayer-book in violet velvet, with her arms cut out in gold on the
cover; and she had not seemed altogether ungrateful. Arthur showed no
active hostility, made indeed some little fight with himself to behave
as a brother ought to a brother he would rather not have found. Far from
inseparable, they were yet to be seen together about the place. Vixen
had not once made a face to his face; I will not say she had made none
at his back. Theodora and he were fast friends. Miss Malliver, now a
sort of upper slave to lady Ann, cringed to him.

Arthur readily sold him Miss Brown, and every day she carried him to
Barbara. But he took the advice of Wingfold, and was not long from home
any day, but much at hand to his father’s call, who had many things for
him to do, and was rejoiced to find him, unlike Arthur, both able and
ready. He would even send him where a domestic might have done as
well; but Richard went with hearty good will. It gladdened him to be of
service to the old man. Then a rumour reached his father’s ears, carried
to lady Ann by her elderly maid, that Richard had been seen in low
company; and he was not long in suspecting the truth of the matter.

Not once before since Richard’s return, had sir Wilton given the Mansons
a thought, never doubting his son’s residence at Oxford must have cured
him of a merely accidental inclination to such low company, and made
evident to him that recognition of such relationship as his to them
was an unheard-of impropriety, a sin against social order, a
class-treachery.

Almost every day Richard went to Wylder Hall, he had a few minutes with
Alice at the parsonage. Neither Barbara nor her lawless, great-hearted
mother, would have been pleased to have it otherwise. Barbara treated
Alice as a sister, and so did Helen Wingfold, who held that such service
as hers must be recompensed with love, and the money thrown in. Their
kindness, with her new peace of heart, and plenty of food and fresh air,
had made her strong and almost beautiful.

It was Richard’s custom to ride over in the morning, but one day it was
more convenient for him to go in the evening, and that same evening it
happened that Arthur Manson had gone to see his sister. When Richard, on
his way back from the Hall, found him at the parsonage, he proposed to
see him home: Miss Brown was a good walker, and if Arthur did not choose
to ride all the way, they would ride and walk alternately. Arthur was
delighted, and they set out in the dusk on foot, Alice going a little
way with them. Richard led Miss Brown, and Alice clung joyously to his
arm: but for Richard, she would not have known that human being ever was
or could be so happy! The western sky was a smoky red; the stars were
coming out; the wind was mild, and seemed to fill her soul with life
from the fountain of life, from God himself. For Alice had been learning
from Barbara--not to think things, but to feel realities, the reality of
real things--to see truths themselves. Often, when Mrs. Wingfold could
spare her, Barbara would take her out for a walk. Then sometimes as
they walked she would quite forget her presence, and through that very
forgetting, Alice learned much. When first she saw Barbara lost in
silent joy, and could see nothing to make her look glad, she wondered a
moment, then swiftly concluded she must be thinking of God. When she saw
her spread out her arms as if to embrace the wind that flowed to meet
them, then too she wondered, but presently began to feel what a thing
the wind was--how full of something strange and sweet. She began to
learn that nothing is dead, that there cannot be a physical abstraction,
that nothing exists for the sake of the laws of its phenomena. She did
not put it so to herself, I need hardly say; but she was, in a word,
learning to feel that the world was alive. Of the three she was the
merriest that night as they went together along the quiet road. A little
way out of the village, Richard set her on the mare, and walked by her
side, leading Miss Brown. Such was the tolerably sufficient foundation
for the report that he was seen rollicking with a common-looking lad
and a servant girl on the high road, in the immediate vicinity of Wylder
Hall.

“He is his father’s son!” reflected lady Ann.

“He’s a chip of the old block!” said sir Wilton to himself. But he did
not approve of the openness of the thing. To let such doings be seen was
low! Presently fell an ugly light on the affair.

“By Jove!” he said to himself, “it’s the damned Manson girl! I’ll lay
my life on it! The fellow is too much of a puritan to flaunt his own
foibles in the public eye; but, damn him, he don’t love his father
enough not to flaunt his! Dead and buried, the rascal hauls them out
of their graves for men to see! It’s all the damned socialism of his
mother’s relations! Otherwise the fellow would be all a father could
wish! I might have known it! The Armour blood was sure to break out!
What business has he with what his father did before he was born! He was
nowhere then, the insolent dog! He shall do as I tell him or go about
his business--go and herd with the Mansons and all the rest of them if
he likes, and be hanged to them!”

He sat in smouldering rage for a while, and then again his thoughts took
shape in words, though not in speech.

“How those fools of Wylders will squirm when I cut the rascal off with
a shilling, and settle the property on the man the little lady refused!
But Dick will never be such a fool! He cannot reconcile his puritanism
with such brazen-faced conduct! I shall never make a gentleman of him!
He will revert to the original type! It had disappeared in his mother!
What’s bred in the damned bone will never out of the damned flesh!”

Richard was at the moment walking with Mr. Wingfold in the rectory
garden. They were speaking of what the Lord meant when he said a man
must leave all for him. As soon us he entered his father’s room, he saw
that something had gone wrong with him.

“What is it, father?” he said.

“Richard, sit down,” said sir Wilton. “I must have a word with
you:--What young man and woman were you walking with two nights ago, not
far from Wylder Hall?”

“My brother and sister, sir--the Mansons.”

“My God, I thought as much!” cried the baronet, and started to his
feet--but sat down again: the fetter of his gout pulled him back. “Hold
up your right hand,” he went on--sir Wilton was a magistrate--“and swear
by God that you will never more in your life speak one word to either of
those--persons, or leave my house at once.”

“Father,” said Richard, his voice trembling a little, “I cannot obey
you. To deny my friends and relations, even at your command, would be to
forsake my Master. It would be to break the bonds that bind men, God’s
children, together.”

“Hold your cursed jargon! Bonds indeed! Is there no bond between you and
your father!”

“Believe me, father, I am very sorry, but I cannot help it. I dare
not obey you. You have been very kind to me, and I thank you from my
heart,--”

“Shut up, you young hypocrite! you have tongue enough for three!--Come,
I will give you one chance more! Drop those persons you call your
brother and sister, or I drop you.”

“You must drop me, then, father!” said Richard with a sigh.

“Will you do as I tell you?”

“No, sir. I dare not.”

“Then leave the house.”

Richard rose.

“Good-bye, sir,” he said.

“Get out of the house.”

“May I not take my tools, sir?”

“What tools, damn you!”

“I got some to bind lady Ann’s prayer-book.”

“She’s taken him in! By Jove, she’s done him, the fool! She’s been
keeping him up to it, to enrage me and get rid of him!” said the baronet
to himself.

“What do you want them for?” he asked, a little calmer.

“To work at my trade. If you turn me out, I must go back to that.”

“Damn your soul! it never was, and never will be anything but a
tradesman’s! Damn _my_ soul, if I wouldn’t rather make young Manson my
heir than you!--No, by Jove, you shall _not_ have your damned tools!
Leave the house. You cannot claim a chair-leg in it!”

Richard bowed, and went; got his hat and stick; and walked from the
house with about thirty shillings in his pocket. His heart was like a
lump of lead, but he was nowise dismayed. He was in no perplexity how to
live. Happy the man who knows his hands the gift of God, the providers
for his body! I would in especial that teachers of righteousness were
able, with St. Paul, to live by their hands! Outside the lodge-gate he
paused, and stood in the middle of the road thinking. Thus far he had
seen his way, but no farther. To which hand must he turn? Should he go
to his grandfather, or to Barbara?

He set out, plodding across the fields, for Wylder Hall. There was no
Miss Brown for him now. Miss Wylder, they told him, was in the garden.
She sat in a summer-house, reading a story. When she heard his step, she
knew, from the very sound of it, that he was discomposed. Never was such
a creature for interpreting the signs of the unseen! Her senses were as
discriminating as those of wild animals that have not only to find life
but to avoid death by the keenness of their wits. She came out, and met
him in the dim green air under a wide-spreading yew.

“What is the matter, Richard?” she said, looking in his face with
anxiety. “What has gone wrong?”

“My father has turned me out.”

“Turned you out?”

“Yes. I must swear never to speak another word to Alice or Arthur, or go
about my business. I went.”

“Of course you did!” cried Barbara, lifting her dainty chin an inch
higher.

Then, after a little pause, in which she looked with loving pride
straight into his eyes--for was he not a man after her own brave big
heart!--she resumed:

“Well, it is no worse for you than before, and ever so much better for
me!--What are you going to do, Richard?--There are so many things you
could turn to now!”

“Yes, but only one I can do well. I might get fellows to coach, but I
should have to wait too long--and then I should have to teach what
I thought worth neither the time nor the pay. I prefer to live by my
hands, and earn leisure for something else.”

“I like that,” said Barbara. “Will it take you long to get into the way
of your old work?”

“I don’t think it will,” answered Richard; “and I believe I shall do
better at it now. I was looking at some of it yesterday morning, and was
surprised I should have been pleased with it. In myself growing, I have
grown to demand better work--better both in idea and execution.”

“It is horrid to have you go,” said Barbara; “but I will think you up to
God every day, and dream about you every night, and read about you every
book. I will write to you, and you will write to me--and--and”--she was
on the point of crying, but would not--“and then the old smell of the
leather and the paste will be so nice!”

She broke into a merry laugh, and the crisis was over. They walked
together to the smithy. Fierce was the wrath of the blacksmith. But for
the presence of Barbara, he would have called his son-in-law ugly names.
His anger soon subsided, however, and he laughed at himself for spending
indignation on such a man.

“I might have known him by this time!” he said. “--But just let him come
near the smithy!” he resumed, and his eyes began to flame again. “He
shall know, if he does, what a blacksmith thinks of a baronet!--What are
you going to do, my son?”

“Go back to my work.”

“Never to that old-wife-trade?” cried the blacksmith. “Look here,
Richard!” he said, and bared his upper arm, “there’s what the anvil
does!” Then he bent his shoulders, and began to wheeze. “And there’s
what the bookbinding does!” he continued. “No, no; you turn in with me,
and we’ll show them a sight!--a gentleman that can make his living
with his own hands! The country shall see sir Wilton Lestrange’s heir
a blacksmith because he wouldn’t be a snob and deny his own flesh
and blood!--‘I saw your son to-day, sir Wilton--at the anvil with his
grandfather! What a fine fellow he do be! Lord, how he do make the
sparks fly!’--If I had him, the old sinner, he should see sparks that
came from somewhere else than the anvil!--You turn in with me, Richard,
and do work fit for a man!”

“Grandfather,” answered Richard, “I couldn’t do your work so well as my
own.”

“Yes, you could. In six weeks you’ll be a better smith than ever you’d
be a bookbinder. There’s no good or bad in that sort of soft thing! I’ll
make you a better blacksmith than myself. There! I can’t say fairer!”

“But don’t you think it better not to irritate my father more than I
must? I oughtn’t to torment him. As long as I was here he would fancy me
braving him. When I am out of sight, he may think of me again and want
to see me--as Job said his maker would.”

“I don’t remember,” said Barbara. “Tell me.”

“He says to God--I was reading it the other day--‘I wish you would hide
me in the grave till you’ve done being angry with me! Then you would
want to see again the creature you had made; you would call me, and I
would answer!’ God’s not like that, of course, but my father might be.
There is more chance of his getting over it, if I don’t trouble him with
sight or sound of me.”

“Well, perhaps you’re right!” said Simon. “Off with you to your woman’s
work! and God bless you!”



CHAPTER LXIII. _BARONET AND BLACKSMITH_.

Richard took Barbara home, and the same night started for London.
Barbara prayed him to take what money she had, but he said that by going
in the third class he would have something over, and, once there, would
begin to earn money immediately.

His aunt was almost beside herself for lack of outlet to her surprise
and delight at seeing him. When she heard his story, however, it was
plain she took part with his father, though she was too glad to have her
boy again to say so. His uncle too was sincerely glad. His work had not
been the same thing to him since Richard went; and to have him again was
what he had never hoped. He could not help a grudge that Richard should
lose his position for the sake of such as the Mansons, but he saw now
the principle involved. He saw too that, in virtue of his belief in
God as the father of all, his nephew had much the stronger sense of the
claim of man upon man.

Richard never disputed with his uncle; he but suggested, and kept
suggesting--in the firm belief that an honest mind must, sooner or
later, open its doors to every truth. He settled to his work as if he
had never been away from it, and in a fortnight or so could work faster
and better than before. Soon he had as much in his peculiar department
as he was able to do, for almost all his old employers again sought him.
His story being now no secret, they wondered he should return to his
trade, but no one thought he had chosen to be a workman because he was
not a gentleman.

But how changed was the world to him since the time that looked so far
away! With how much larger a life in his heart would he now sit in the
orchestra while the gracious forms of music filled the hall, and he
seemed to see them soaring on the pinions of the birds of God, as Dante
calls the angels, or sweeping level in dance divine, like the six-winged
serpents of Isaiah’s vision high and lifted up--all the interspaces
filled with glow-worms and little spangled snakes of coruscating sound!
He was more blessed now than even when but to lift his eyes was to see
the face of Barbara; she was in his faith and hope now as well as in his
love. He had the loveliest of letters from her. She insisted he should
not write oftener than once for her twice: his time was worth more,
she said, than twice hers. Mr. Wingfold wrote occasionally, and Richard
always answered within a week.

As soon as his son was gone, sir Wilton began to miss him. He wished,
first, that the obstinacy of the rascal had not made it necessary to
give him quite so sharp a lesson; he wished, next, that he had given him
time to see the reasonableness of his demand; and at length, as the days
and weeks passed, and not a whisper of prayer entered the ears of the
family-Baal, he began to wish that he had not sent him away. The desire
to see him grew a longing; his need of him became imperative. Arthur,
who now tried a little to do the work he had before declined, was
the poorest substitute for Richard; and his father kept thinking how
differently Richard had served him. He repented at last as much as was
possible to him, and wished he had left the rascal to take his own way.
He tried to understand how it was that, anxious always to please him,
he yet would not in such a trifle, and that with nothing to gain and
everything to lose by his obstinacy. There might be conscience in it!
his mother certainly had a conscience! But how could the fool make the
Mansons a matter of _his_ conscience? They were no business of his!

He pretended to himself that he had been born without a conscience. At
the same time he knew very well there were pigeon-holes in his memory he
preferred not searching in; knew very well he had done things which were
wrong, things he knew to be wrong when he did them. If he had ever done
a thing because he ought to do it; if he had ever abstained from doing
a thing because he ought not to do it, he would have _known_ he had
a conscience. Because he did not obey his conscience, he would rather
believe himself without one. I doubt if consciousness ever exists
without conscience, however poorly either may be developed.

Fur the first time in his life he was possessed with a good
longing--namely, for his son; a fulcrum was at length established
which might support leverage for his uplifting. He grew visibly greyer,
stooped more, and became very irritable. Twenty times a day he would be
on the point of sending for Richard, but twenty times a day his pride
checked him.

“If the rascal would make but apology enough to satisfy a Frenchman, I
would take him back!” he would say to himself over and over; “but he’s
such a chip of the old block!--so damned independent!--Well, I don’t
call it a great fault! If I had had a trade, I should have been just as
independent of my father! No, I want no apology from him! Let him just
say, ‘Mayn’t I come back, father?’ and the gold ring and the wedding
garment shall be out for him directly!”

A month after Richard’s expulsion, the baronet drove to the smithy, and
accused Simon of causing all the mischief. He must send the boy Manson
away, he said: he would settle an annuity on the beggar. That done,
Richard must make a suitable apology, and he would take him back. Simon
listened without a word. He wanted to see how far he would go.

“If you will not oblige me,” he ended, “you shall not have another
stroke of work from Mortgrange, and I will use my influence to drive you
from the county.”

Without waiting for an answer, he turned to walk from the shop. But he
did not walk. The moment he turned, Simon took him by the shoulders and
ran him right out of the smithy up to his carriage, into which, for the
footman had made haste to open the door, he would have tumbled him neck
and heels, but that, gout and all, sir Wilton managed to spring on the
step, and get in without falling. In a rage by no means unnatural, he
called to the coachman to send his lash about the ruffian’s ears. Simon
burst into a guffaw, which so startled the horses that the footman had
to run to their heads. In his haste to do so, he failed to shut the
door properly; it opened and banged, swinging this way and that, as the
horses now reared, now backed, now pulled, and the baronet, cursing and
swearing, was tossed about in his carriage like a dried-up kernel in
a nut. Simon at length, with tears of merriment running down his red
cheeks, managed, in a succession of gymnastics, to close the door.

“Home, Peterkin?” he shouted, and turning away, strode back to his
forge, whence immediately sprang upon the air the merriest tune ever
played by anvil and hammer with a horse-shoe between them--the sparks
flying about the musician like a nimbus of embodied notes. It seemed to
soothe the horses, for they started immediately without further racket.
Before the next month was over, the baronet was again in the smithy--in
a better mood this time. He made no reference to his former ignominious
dismissal--wanted only to know if Simon had heard from his grandson. The
old man answered that he had: he was well, happy, and busy. Sir Wilton
gave a grunt.

“Why didn’t he stay and help you?”

“I begged him to do so,” answered Simon, “for he is almost as good at
the anvil, and quite as good at the shoring as myself; but he said it
would annoy his father to have him so near, and he wouldn’t do it.”

His boy’s good will made the baronet fidget and swear to hide his
compunction. But his evil angel got the upper hand.

“The rascal knew,” he cried, “that nothing would annoy me so much as
have him go back to his mire like the washed sow!”

Perceiving Simon look dangerous, he turned with a hasty good-morning,
and made for his carriage, casting more than one uneasy glance over his
shoulder. But the blacksmith let him depart in peace.



CHAPTER LXIV. _THE BARONET’S FUNERAL_.

It was about a year after Richard’s return to his trade, when one
morning the doctor at Barset was roused by a groom, his horse all
speckled with foam, who, as soon as he had given his message, galloped
to the post-office, and telegraphed for a well-known London physician. A
little later, Richard received a telegram: “Father paralyzed. Will meet
first train. Wingfold.”

With sad heart he obeyed the summons, and found Wingfold at the station.

“I have just come from the house,” he said. “He is still insensible.
They tell me he came to himself once, just a little, and murmured
_Richard_, but has not spoken since.”

“Let us go to him!” said Richard.

“I fear they will try to prevent you from seeing him.”

“They shall not find it easy.”

“I have a trap outside.”

“Come along.”

They reached Mortgrange, and stopped at the lodge. Richard walked up to
the door.

“How is my father?” he asked.

“Much the same, sir, I believe.”

“Is it true that he wanted to see me?”

“I don’t know, sir.”

“Is he in his own room?”

“Yes, sir; but, I beg your pardon, sir,” said the man, “I have my lady’s
orders to admit no one!”

While he spoke, Richard passed him, and went straight to his father’s
room, which was on the ground-floor. He opened the door softly, and
entered. His father lay on the bed, with the Barset surgeon and the
London doctor standing over him. The latter looked round, saw him, and
came to him.

“I gave orders that no one should be admitted,” he said, in a low stern
tone.

“I understand my father wished to see me!” answered Richard.

“He cannot see you.”

“He may come to himself any moment!”

“He will never come to himself,” returned the doctor.

“Then why keep me out?” said Richard.

The eyes of the dying man opened, and Richard received his last look.
Sir Wilton gave one sigh, and death was past. Whether life was come, God
only, and those who watched on the other side, knew. Lady Ann came in.

“The good baronet is gone!” said the physician.

She turned away. Her eyes glided over Richard as if she had never before
seen him. He went up to the bed, and she walked from the room. When
Richard came out, he found Wingfold where he had left him, and got into
the pony-carriage beside him. The parson drove off.

“His tale is told,” said Richard, in a choking voice. “He did not speak,
and I cannot tell whether he knew me, but I had his last look, and that
is something. I would have been a good son to him if he had let me--at
least I would have tried to be.”

He sat silent, thinking what he might have done for him. Perhaps he
would not have died if he had been with him, he thought.

“It is best,” said Wingfold. “We cannot say anything would be best, but
we must say everything is best.”

“I think I understand you,” said Richard. “But oh how I would have loved
him if he would have let me!”

“And how you will love him!” said Wingfold, “for he will love you. They
are getting him ready to let you now. I think he is loving you in the
darkness. He had begun to love you long before he went. But he was the
slave of the nature he had enfeebled and corrupted. I hope endlessly for
him--though God only knows how long it may take, even after the change
is begun, to bring men like him back to their true selves.--But surely,
Richard,” he cried, bethinking himself, and pulling up his ponies, “your
right place is at Mortgrange--at least so long as what is left of your
father is lying in the house!”

“Yes, no doubt I and I did think whether I ought not to assert myself,
and remain until my father’s will was read; but I concluded it better to
avoid the possibility of anything unpleasant. I cannot of course yield
my right to be chief mourner. I think my father would not wish me to do
so.”

“I am sure he would not.--Then, till the funeral, you will stay with
us!” concluded the parson, as he drove on.

“No, I thank you,” answered Richard: “I must be at my grandfather’s. I
will go there when I have seen Barbara.”

On the day of the funeral, no one disputed Richard’s right to the place
he took, and when it was over, he joined the company assembled to hear
the late baronet’s will. It was dated ten years before, and gave the two
estates of Mortgrange and Cinqmer to his son, Arthur Lestrange There was
in it no allusion to the possible existence of a son by his first wife.
Richard rose. The lawyer rose also.

“I am sorry, sir Richard,” he said, “that we can find no later will.
There ought to have been some provision for the support of the title.”

“My father died suddenly,” answered Richard, “and did not know of my
existence until about five years ago.”

“All I can say is, I am very sorry.”

“Do not let it trouble you,” returned Richard. “It matters little to me;
I am independent.”

“I am very glad to hear it. I had imagined it otherwise.”

“A man with a good trade and a good education must be independent!”

“Ah, I understand!--But your brother will, as a matter of course--. I
shall talk to him about it. The estate is quite equal to it.”

“The estate shall not be burdened with me,” said Richard with a smile.
“I am the only one of the family able to do as he pleases.”

“But the title, sir Richard!”

“The title must look after itself. If I thought it in the smallest
degree dependent on money for its dignity, I would throw it in the dirt.
If it means anything, it means more than money, and can stand without
it. If it be an honour, please God, I shall keep it honourable. Whether
I shall set it over my shop, remains to be considered.--Good morning!”

As he left the room, a servant met him with the message that lady Ann
wished to see him in the library. Cold as ever, but not colder than
always, she poked her long white hand at him.

“This is awkward for you, Richard,” she said, “but more awkward still
for Arthur. Mortgrange is at your service until you find some employment
befitting your position. You must not forget what is due to the family.
It is a great pity you offended your father.” Richard was silent.

“He left it therefore in my hands to do as I thought fit. Sir Wilton
did not die the rich man people imagined him, but I am ready to place a
thousand pounds at your disposal.”

“I should be sorry to make the little he has left you so much less,”
 answered Richard.

“As you please,” returned her ladyship.

“I should like to have just a word with my sister Theodora,” said
Richard.

“I doubt if she will see you.--Miss Malliver, will you take Mr. Tuke to
the schoolroom, and then inquire whether Miss Lestrange is able to leave
her room. You will stay with her; she is far from well.--Perhaps you had
better go and inquire first. Mr. Tuke will wait you here.”

Miss Malliver came from somewhere, and left the room.

Richard felt very angry: was he not to see his father’s daughter except
in the presence of that woman? But he said nothing.

“There is just one thing,” resumed her ladyship, “upon which, if only
out of respect to the feelings of my late husband, I feel bound to
insist;--it is, that, while in this neighbourhood, you will be careful
as to what company you show yourself in. You will not, I trust, pretend
ignorance of my meaning, and cause me the pain of having to be more
explicit!”

Richard was struck dumb with indignation--and remained dumb from the
feeling that he could not condescend to answer her as she deserved. Ere
he had half recovered himself, she had again resumed.

“If the title were ceded to the property,” she said, as if talking to
herself, “it might be a matter for more material consideration.”

“Did your ladyship address me?” said Richard.

“If you choose to understand what I mean.--But I speak with too much
delicacy, I fear. Compensation it could be only by courtesy.--Suppose I
referred to the court of chancery my grave doubts of your story?”

“My father has acknowledged me!”

“And repudiated;--sent you from the house--left you to pursue your
trade--bequeathed you nothing! Everybody knows your father--my late
husband, I mean--would risk anything for my annoyance, though, thank
God, he dared not attempt to push injury beyond the grave!--he well knew
the danger of that! Had he really believed you his son, do you imagine
he would have left you penniless? Would he not have been rejoiced to
put you over Mr. Lestrange’s head, if only to wring the heart of his
mother?”

“The proofs that satisfied him remain.”

“The testimony, that is, of those most interested in the result--whose
very case is a confession of felony!”

“A confession, if you will, that my own aunt was the nurse that carried
me away--of which there are proofs.”

“Has any one seen those proofs?”

“My father has seen them, lady Ann.”

“You mean sir Wilton?”

“I do. He accepted them.”

“Has he left any document to that effect?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Who presented those proofs, as you call them?”

“I told sir Wilton where they had been hidden, and together we found
them.”

“Where?”

“In the room that was the nursery.”

“Which you occupied for months while working at your trade in the house,
and for weeks again before sir Wilton dismissed you!”

“Yes,” answered Richard, who saw very well what she was driving at, but
would not seem to understand before she had fully disclosed her intent.

“And where you had opportunity to place what you chose at your
leisure!--Excuse me; I am only laying before you what counsel would lay
before the court.”

“You wish me to understand, I suppose, that you regard me as an
impostor, and believe I put the things, for support of my aunt’s
evidence, where my father and I found them!”

“I do not say so. I merely endeavour to make you see how the court would
regard the affair--how much appearances would be against you. At the
same time, I confess I have all along had grave doubts of the story.
You, of course, may have been deceived as well as your father--I mean
the late baronet, my husband; but in any case, I will not admit you to
be what you call yourself, until you are declared such by the law of
the land. I will, however, make a proposal to you--and no ungenerous
one:--Pledge yourself to make no defence, if, for form’s sake, legal
proceedings should be judged desirable, and in lieu of the possible
baronetcy--for I admit the bare possibility of the case, if tried, being
given against us--I will pay you five thousand pounds. It would cost
us less to try the case, no doubt, but the thing would at best be
disagreeable.--Understand I do not speak without advice!”

“Plainly you do not!” assented Richard. “But,” he continued, “let me
place one thing before your ladyship: To do as you ask me, would be to
indorse your charge against my father, that he acknowledged me, that
is, he lied, to give you annoyance! That is enough. But I have the same
objection in respect of my uncle and aunt, of whom you propose to make
liars and conspirators!”

He turned to the door.

“You will consider it?” said her ladyship in her stateliest yet softest
tone.

“I will. I shall continue to consider it the worst insult you could
have offered my father, your late husband. Thank God, he was my mother’s
husband first!”

“What am I to understand by that?”

“Whatever your ladyship chooses, except that I will not hold any farther
communication with you on the matter.”

“Then you mean to dispute the title?”

“I decline to say what I mean or do not mean to do.”

Lady Ann rose to ring the bell.

Miss Malliver met Richard in the doorway. He turned.

“I am going to bid Theodora good-bye,” he said.

“You shall do no such thing!” cried her ladyship.

Richard flew up the stair, and, believing Miss Malliver had not gone to
his sister, went straight to her room.

The moment Theodora saw him, she sprang from the bed where she had lain
weeping, and threw herself into his arms. He was the only one who had
ever made her feel what a man might be to a woman! He told her he had
come to bid her good-bye. She looked wild.

“But you’re not going _really_--for altogether?” she said.

“My dear sister, what else can I do? Nobody here wants me!”

“Indeed, Richard, _I_ do!”

“I know you do--and the time will come when you shall have me; but you
would not have me live where I am not loved!”

“Richard!” she cried, with a burst of indignation, the first, I fancy,
she had ever felt, or at least given way to, “you are the only gentleman
in the family!”

Richard laughed, and Theodora dried her eyes. Miss Malliver was near
enough to be able to report, and the poor girl had a bad time of it in
consequence.

“I will not trouble Arthur,” said Richard. “Say good-bye to him for me,
and give him my love. Please tell him that, although all I had was my
father’s yet, as between him and me, Miss Brown is mine, and I expect
him to send her to Wylder Hall. Good-bye again to my dear sister!
I leave a bit of my heart in the house, where I know it will not be
trampled on!”

Theodora could not speak. Her only answer was another embrace, and they
parted.

Richard went to see Barbara, and found her at the parsonage.

“What an opportunity you have,” said Wingfold, “of maintaining before
the world the honour of work! The man who makes a thing exist that did
not exist, or who sets anything right that had gone wrong, must be more
worthy than he who only consumes what exists, or helps things to remain
wrong!”

“But,” suggested Barbara, with her usual keenness, “are you not now
encouraging him to seek the praise of men? To seek it for a good thing,
is the more contemptible.”

“There is little praise to be got from men for that,” said Wingfold;
“and I am sure Richard does not seek any. He would help men to see
that the man who serves his neighbour, is the man whom the Lord of the
universe honours. An idle man, or one busy only for himself, is like a
lump of refuse floating this way and that in the flux and reflux of the
sewer-tide of the world. Were Richard lord of lands it would be absurd
of him to give his life to bookbinding; that would be to desert his
neighbour on those lands; but what better can he do now than follow the
trade by which he may at once earn his living? To omit the question of
possibility,--suppose he read for the bar, would that bring him closer
to humanity? Would it be a diviner mode of life? Is it a more honourable
thing to win a cause--perhaps for the wrong man--than to preserve an old
and valuable book? Will a man rank higher in the kingdom that shall not
end, because he has again and again rendered unrighteousness triumphant?
Would Richard’s mind be as free in chambers as in the workshop to search
into truth, or as keen to suspect its covert? Would he sit closer to the
well-springs of thought and aspiration in a barrister’s library, than
among the books by which he wins his bread?”

With eternity before them, and God at the head and the heart of the
universe, Richard and Barbara did not believe in separation any more
than in death. He in London and she at Wylder Hall, they were far more
together than most unparted pairs.

Wingfold set himself to keep Barbara busy, giving her plenty to read and
plenty of work: her waiting should be no loss of time to her if he
could help it! Among other things, he set her to teach his boy where she
thought herself much too ignorant: he held, not only that to teach is
the best way to learn, but that the imperfect are the best teachers of
the imperfect. He thought this must be why the Lord seems to regard with
so much indifference the many falsehoods uttered of and for him. When
a man, he said, agonized to get into other hearts the thing dear to his
own, the false intellectual or even moral forms in which his ignorance
and the crudity of his understanding compelled him to embody it, would
not render its truth of none effect, but might, on the contrary, make
its reception possible where a truer presentation would stick fast in
the door-way.

He made Richard promise to take no important step for a year without
first letting him know. He was anxious he should have nothing to undo
because of what the packet committed to his care might contain.



CHAPTER LXV. _THE PACKET_.

The day so often in Wingfold’s thought, arrived at last--the anniversary
of the death of sir Wilton. He rose early, his mind anxious, and his
heart troubled that his mind should be anxious, and set out for London
by the first train. Arrived; he sought at once the office of sir
Wilton’s lawyer, and when at last Mr. Bell appeared, begged him to
witness the opening of the packet. Mr. Bell broke the seal himself, read
the baronet’s statement of the request he had made to Wingfold, and then
opened the enclosed packet.

“A most irregular proceeding!” he exclaimed--as well he might: his late
client had committed to the keeping of the clergyman of another parish,
the will signed and properly witnessed, which Mr. Bell had last drawn
up for him, and of which, as it was nowhere discoverable, he had not
doubted the destruction! Here it was, devising and bequeathing his whole
property, real and personal, exclusive only of certain legacies of small
account, to Richard Lestrange, formerly known as Richard Tuke, reputed
son of John and Jane Tuke, born Armour, but in reality sole son of
Wilton Arthur Lestrange, of Mortgrange and Cinqmer, Baronet, and Robina
Armour his wife, daughter of Simon Armour, Blacksmith, born in lawful
wedlock in the house of Mortgrange, in the year 18--!--and so worded,
at the request of sir Wilton, that even should the law declare him
supposititious, the property must yet be his!

“This will be a terrible blow to that proud woman!” said Mr. Bell. “You
must prepare her for the shock!”

“Prepare lady Ann!” exclaimed Wingfold. “Believe me, she is in no
danger! An earthquake would not move her.”

“I must see her lawyer at once!” said Mr. Bell, rising.

“Let me have the papers, please,” said Wingfold. “Sir Wilton did not
tell me to bring them to you. I must take them to sir Richard.”

“Then you do not wish me to move in the matter?”

“I shall advise sir Richard to put the affair in your hands; but he must
do it; I have not the power.”

“You are very right. I shall be here till five o’clock.”

“I hope to be with you long before that!”

It took Wingfold an hour to find Richard. He heard the news without a
word, but his eyes flashed, and Wingfold knew he thought of Barbara and
his mother and the Mansons. Then his face clouded.

“It will bring trouble on the rest of my father’s family!” he said.

“Not upon all of them,” returned Wingfold; “and you have it in your
power to temper the trouble. But I beg you will not be hastily generous,
and do what you may regret, finding it for the good of none.”

“I will think well before I do anything,” answered Richard. “But there
may be another will yet!”

“Of course there may! No one can tell. In the meantime we must be guided
by appearances. Come with me to Mr. Bell.”

“I must see my mother first.”

He found her ironing a shirt for him, and told her the news. She
received them quietly. So many changes had got both her and Richard into
a sober way of expecting. They went to Mr. Bell, and Richard begged him
to do what he judged necessary. Mr. Bell at once communicated with lady
Ann’s lawyer, and requested him to inform her ladyship that sir Richard
would call upon her the next day. Mr. Wingfold accompanied him to
Mortgrange. Lady Ann received them with perfect coolness.

“You are, I trust, aware of the cause of my visit, lady Ann?” said
Richard.

“I am.”

“May I ask what you propose to do?”

“That, excuse me, is my affair. It lies with me to ask you what
provision you intend making for sir Wilton’s family.”

“Allow me, lady Ann, to take the lesson you have given me, and answer,
that is my affair.”

She saw she had made a mistake.

“For my part,” she returned, “I should not object to remaining in the
house, were I but assured that my daughters should be in no danger of
meeting improper persons.”

“It would be no pleasure, lady Ann, to either of us to be so near the
other. Our ways of thinking are too much opposed. I venture to suggest
that you should occupy your jointure-house.”

“I will do as I see fit.”

“You must find another home.” Lady Ann left the room, and the next week
the house, betaking herself to her own, which was not far off, in the
park at Cinqmer, the smaller of the two estates.

The week following, Richard went to see Arthur.

“Now, Arthur!” he said, “let us be frank with each other! I am not your
enemy. I am bound to do the best I can for you all.”

“When you thought the land was yours, I had a trade to fall back upon.
Now that the land proves mine, you have no trade, or other means of
making a livelihood. If you will be a brother, you will accept what I
offer: I will make over to you for your life-time, but without power
to devise it, this estate of Cinqmer, burdened with the payment of five
hundred a year to your sister Theodora till her marriage.”

Arthur was glad of the gift, yet did not accept it graciously. The
disposition is no rare one that not only gives grudgingly, but receives
grudgingly. The man imagines he shields his independence by not seeming
pleased. To show yourself pleased is to confess obligation! Do not
manifest pleasure, do not acknowledge favour, and you keep your freedom
like a man!

“I cannot see,” said Arthur, “--of course it is very kind of you, and
all that! you wouldn’t have compliments bandied between brothers!--but
I should like to know why the land should not be mine to leave. I might
have children, you know!”

“And I might have more children!” laughed Richard. “But that has nothing
to do with it. The thing is this: the land itself I could give out and
out, but the land has the people. God did not give us the land for our
own sakes only, but for theirs too. The men and women upon it are my
brothers and sisters, and I have to see to them. Now I know that you are
liked by our people, and that you have claims to be liked by them, and
therefore believe you will consider them as well as yourself or the
land--though at the same time I shall protect them with the terms of the
deed. But suppose at your death it should go to Percy! Should I not then
feel that I had betrayed my people, a very Judas of landlords? Never
fellow-creature of mine will I put in the danger of a scoundrel like
him!”

“He is my brother!”

“And mine. I know him; I was at Oxford with him! Not one foothold shall
he ever have on land of mine! When he wants to work, let him come to
me--not till then!”

“You will not say that to my mother!”

“I will say nothing to your mother.--Do you accept my offer?”

“I will think over it.”

“Do,” said Richard, and turned to go.

“Will you not settle something on Victoria?” said Arthur.

“We shall see what she turns out by the time she is of age! I don’t want
to waste money!”

“What do you mean by wasting money?”

“Giving it where it will do no good.”

“God gives to the bad as well as the good?”

“It is one thing to give to the bad, and another to give where it will
do no good. God knows the endless result; I should know but the first
link of its chain. I must act by the knowledge granted me. God may give
money in punishment: should I dare do that?”

“Well, you’re quite beyond me!”

“Never mind, then. What you and I have to do is to be friends, and work
together. You will find I mean well!”

“I believe you do, Richard; but we don’t somehow seem to be in the same
world.”

“If we are true, that will not keep us apart. If we both work for the
good of the people, we must come together.”

“To tell you the truth, Richard, knowing you had given me the land, I
could not put up with interference. I am afraid we should quarrel, and
then I should seem ungrateful.”

“What would you say to our managing the estates together for a year or
two? Would not that be the way to understand each other?”

“Perhaps. I must think about it.”

“That is right. Only don’t let us begin with suspicion. You did me more
than one kindness not knowing I was your brother! And you sent back Miss
Brown.”

“That was mere honesty.”

“Strictly considered, it was more. My father had a right to take the
mare from me, and at his death she came into your possession. I thank
you for sending her to Barbara.”

Arthur turned away.

“My dear fellow,” said Richard, “Barbara loved me when I was a
bookbinder, and promised to marry me thinking me base-born. I am sorry,
but there is no blame to either of us. I had my bad time then, and your
good time is, I trust, coming. I did nothing to bring about the change.
I did think once whether I had not better leave all to you, and keep
to my trade; but I saw that I had no right to do so, because duties
attended the property which I was better able for than you.”

“I believe every word you say, Richard! You are nobler than I.”



CHAPTER LXVI. _BARBARA’S DREAM_.

Mr. Wylder could not well object to sir Richard Lestrange on the ground
that his daughter had loved him before she or her father knew his
position the same he was coveting for her; and within two months they
were married. Lady Ann was invited but did not go to the wedding;
Arthur, Theodora, and Victoria did; Percy was not invited.

Neither bride nor bridegroom seeing any sense in setting out on a
journey the moment they were free to be at home together, they went
straight from the church to Mortgrange.

When they entered the hall which had so moved Richard’s admiration the
first time he saw it, he stood for a moment lost in thought. When he
came to himself, Barbara had left him; but ere he had time to wonder,
such a burst of organ music filled the place as might have welcomed
one that had overcome the world. He stood entranced for a minute, then
hastened to the gallery, where he found Barbara at the instrument.

“What!” he cried in astonishment; “you, Barbara! you play like that!”

“I wanted to be worth something to you, Richard.”

“Oh Barbara, you are a queen at giving! I was well named, for you were
coming! I _am_ Richard indeed!--oh, so rich!”

In the evening they went out into the park. The moon was rising. The
sunlight was not quite gone. Her light mingled with the light that gave
it her. “Do you know that lovely passage in the Book of Baruch?” asked
Richard.

“What book is that?” returned Barbara. “It can’t be in the Bible,
surely?”

“It is in the Apocrypha--which is to me very much in the Bible! I think
I can repeat it. I haven’t a good memory, but some things stick fast.”

But in the process of recalling it, Richard’s thoughts wandered, and
Baruch was forgotten.

“This dying of Apollo in the arms of Luna,” he said, “this melting
of the radiant god into his own pale shadow, always reminds me of the
poverty-stricken, wasted and sad, yet lovely Elysium of the pagans: so
little consolation did they gather from the thought of it, that they
longed to lay their bodies, not in the deep, cool, far-off shadow of
grove or cave, but by the ringing roadside, where live feet, in two
meeting, mingling, parting tides, ever came and went; where chariots
rushed past in hot haste, or moved stately by in jubilant procession;
where at night lonely forms would steal through the city of the silent,
with but the moon to see them go, bent on ghastly conference with witch
or enchanter; and--”

“Where _are_ you going, Richard? Please take me with you. I feel as if I
were lost in a wood!”

“What I meant to say,” replied Richard, with a little laugh, “was--how
different the moonlit shadow-land of those people from the sunny realm
of the radiant Christ! Jesus rose again because he was true, and death
had no part in him. This world’s day is but the moonlight of his world.
The shadow-man, who knows neither whence he came nor whither he is
going, calls the upper world the house of the dead, being himself a
ghost that wanders in its caves, and knows neither the blowing of its
wind, the dashing of its waters, the shining of its sun, nor the glad
laughter of its inhabitants.”

They wandered along, now talking, now silent, their two hearts lying
together in a great peace.

The moon kept rising and brightening, slowly victorious over the pallid
light of the dead sun; till at last she lifted herself out of the
vaporous horizon-sea, ascended over the tree-tops, and went walking
through the unobstructed sky, mistress of the air, queen of the heavens,
lady of the eyes of men. Yet was she lady only because she beheld her
lord. She saw the light of her light, and told what she saw of him.

“When the soul of man sees God, it shines!” said Richard. They reached
at length the spot where first they met in the moonlight. With one heart
they stopped and turned, and looked each in the other’s moonlit eyes.
Barbara spoke first.

“Now,” she said, “tell me what Baruch says.”

“Ah, yes, Baruch! He was the prophet Jeremiah’s friend and amanuensis.
It was the moon made me think of him. I believe I can give you the
passage word for word, as it stands in the English Bible.

“‘But he that knoweth all things knoweth her,’--that is, Wisdom--‘and
hath found her out with his understanding: he that prepared the earth
for evermore hath filled it with four-footed beasts: he that sendeth
forth light, and it goeth, calleth it again, and it obeyeth him with
fear. The stars shined in their watches, and rejoiced: when he calleth
them, they say, Here we be; and so with cheerfulness they showed light
unto him that made them. This is our God, and there shall none other be
accounted of in comparison of him.’”

“That is beautiful!” cried Barbara. “‘They said, Here we be! And
so--’--What is it?”

“‘And so with cheerfulness they showed light unto him that made them.’”

“I will read every word of Baruch!” said Barbara. “Is there much of
him?”

“No; very little.”

A silence followed. Then again Barbara spoke, and she clung a little
closer to her husband.

“I want to tell you something that came to me one night when we were in
London,” she said. “It was a miserable time that--before I found you up
in the orchestra there! and then hell became purgatory, for there was
hope in it. I saw so many miserable things! I seemed always to come
upon the miserable things. It was as if my eyes were made only to see
miserable things--bad things and suffering everywhere. The terrible city
was full of them. I longed to help, but had to wait for you to set me
free. You had gone from my knowledge, and I was very sad, seeing nothing
around me but a waste of dreariness. I kept asking God to give me
patience, and not let me fancy myself alone. But the days were dismal,
and the balls and dinners frightful. I seemed in a world without air.
The girls were so silly, the men so inane, and the things they said so
mawkish and colourless! Their compliments sickened me so, that I was
just hungry to hide myself. But at last came what I want to tell you.

“One morning, after what seemed a long night’s dreamless sleep, I awoke;
but it was much too early to rise; so I lay thinking--or more truly,
I hope, being thought into, as Mr. Wingfold says. Many of the most
beautiful things I had read, scenes of our Lord’s life on earth, and
thoughts of the Father, came and went. I had no desire to sleep again,
or any feeling of drowsiness; but in the midst of fully conscious
thought, found myself in some other place, of which I only knew that
there was firm ground under my feet, and a soft white radiance of light
about me. The remembrance came to me afterwards, of branches of trees
spreading high overhead, through which I saw the sky: but at the time I
seemed not to take notice of what was around me. I was leaning against a
form tall and grand, clothed from the shoulders to the ground in a
black robe, full, and soft, and fine. It lay in thickly gathered
folds, touched to whiteness in the radiant light, all along the arms
encircling, without at first touching me.

“With sweet content my eyes went in and out of those manifold radiant
lines, feeling, though they were but parts of his dress, yet they were
of himself; for I knew the form to be that of the heavenly Father,
but felt no trembling fear, no sense of painful awe--only a deep, deep
worshipping, an unutterable love and confidence. ‘Oh Father!’ I said,
not aloud, but low into the folds of his garment. Scarcely had I
breathed the words, when ‘My child!’ came whispered, and I knew his head
was bent toward me, and I felt his arms close round my shoulders, and
the folds of his garment enwrap me, and with a soft sweep, fall behind
me to the ground. Delight held me still for a while, and then I looked
up to seek his face; but I could not see past his breast. His shoulders
rose far above my upreaching hands. I clasped them together, and face
and hands rested near his heart, for my head came not much above his
waist.

“And now came the most wonderful part of my dream. As I thus rested
against his heart, _I seemed to see into it_; and mine was filled with
loving wonder, and an utterly blessed feeling of home, to the very core.
I was _at home_--with my Father! I looked, as it seemed, into a space
illimitable and fathomless, and yet a warm light as from a hearth-fire
shone and played in ruddy glow, as upon confining walls. And I saw,
there gathered, all human hearts. I saw them--yet I saw no forms; they
_were_ there--and yet they _would be_ there. To my waking reason, the
words sound like nonsense, and perplex me; but the thing did not perplex
me at all. With light beyond that of faith, for it was of absolute
certainty, clear as bodily vision, but of a different nature, I saw
them. But this part of my dream, the most lovely of all, I can find no
words to describe; nor can I even recall to my own mind the half of what
I felt. I only know that something was given me then, some spiritual
apprehension, to be again withdrawn, but to be given to us all, I
believe, some day, out of his infinite love, and withdrawn no more.
Every heart that had ever ached, or longed, or wandered, I knew was
there, folded warm and soft, safe and glad. And it seemed in my dream
that to know this was the crown of all my bliss--yes, even more than
to be myself in my Father’s arms. Awake, the thought of multitude had
always oppressed my mind; it did not then. From the comfort and joy it
gave me to see them there, I seemed then first to know how my own heart
had ached for them.

“Then tears began to run from my eyes--but easily, with no pain of the
world in them. They flowed like a gentle stream--_into the heart of
God_, whose depths were open to my gaze. The blessedness of those tears
was beyond words. It was all true then! That heart was our home!

“Then I felt that I was being gently, oh, so gently, put away. The folds
of his robe which I held in my hands, were being slowly drawn from them;
and the gladness of my weeping changed to longing entreaty. ‘Oh Father!
Father!’ I cried; but I saw only his grand gracious form, all blurred
and indistinct through the veil of my blinding tears, slowly receding,
slowly fading--and I awoke.

“My tears were flowing now with the old earth-pain in them, with keenest
disappointment and longing. _To have been there and to have come back_,
was the misery. But it did not last long. The glad thought awoke that I
_had_ the dream--a precious thing never to be lost while memory
lasted; a thing which nothing but its realization could ever equal in
preciousness. I rose glad and strong, to serve with newer love, with
quicker hand and readier foot, the hearts around me.”





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