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

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


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

Title: Sister Gertrude - A Tale of the West Riding
Author: Sykes, Daniel Frederick Edward
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Sister Gertrude - A Tale of the West Riding" ***

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



Sister Gertrude. by D. F. E. Sykes, LL.B.

Sister Gertrude,

A Tale of the

West Riding.

BY

D. F. E. SYKES, LL.B.

Author of “The History of Huddersfield,”

“The History of the Colne Valley,”

“Ben o’ Bill’s, the Luddite,”

“Tom Pinder, Foundling,”

Etc., Etc.

SIXTH THOUSAND.

WORKER PRESS, 47, MARKET STREET, HUDDERSFIELD.

About the author.

D F E Sykes was a gifted scholar, solicitor, local politician and
newspaper proprietor. He listed his own patrimony as ‘Fred o’ Ned’s o’
Ben o’ Billy’s o’ the Knowle’ a reference to Holme village above
Slaithwaite in the Colne Valley. As the grandson of a clothier, his
association with the woollen trade would be a valuable source of
material for his novels, but also the cause of his downfall when, in
1883, he became involved in a bitter dispute between the weavers and
the mill owners.

When he was declared bankrupt in 1885 and no longer able to practise as
a solicitor he left the area and travelled abroad to Ireland and Canada.
On his return to England he struggled with alcoholism and was prosecuted
by the NSPCC for child neglect. Eventually he was drawn back to
Huddersfield and became an active member of the Temperance Movement. He
took to researching local history and writing, at first in a local
newspaper, then books such as ‘The History of Huddersfield and its
Vicinity’. He also wrote four novels. It was not until the 1911
Census, after some 20 years as a writer, that he finally states his
profession as ‘author’.

In later life he lived with his wife, the daughter of a Lincolnshire
vicar, at Ainsley House, Marsden. He died of a heart attack following an
operation at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary on 5th June 1920 and was
buried in the graveyard of St Bartholomew’s in Marsden.

Introduction.

In all of Sykes’ novels he draws heavily on his own life experiences
though none more so than in this, his third, semi-autobiographical
novel. The Edward Beaumont of the novel is indeed Sykes; his solicitors
practice and early political aspirations are featured along with his
romance of the daughter of a Lincolnshire vicar. From newspaper articles
we can also confirm that he was a councillor and a potential
parliamentary candidate for the West Staffordshire constituency; his
embroilment with the weavers dispute, bankruptcy and his dependency on
alcohol are also well documented. He is however selective in what he
chooses to reveal about himself and uses artistic licence to make the
book more readable. He does give us an insight into his ideas, opinions
and aspirations and the turmoil he must have endured before turning his
life around. It is a salutary lesson in how a talented man can be
destroyed for his convictions and his struggle, with support, to regain
his self-respect.

SISTER GERTRUDE.

CHAPTER I.

It was a summer evening of the early eighties, and market-day in the
ancient manufacturing town of Huddersfield, in the West Riding. The town
is called a manufacturing town in the geographies, and its name may be
found therein among the leading centres of the great cloth industry. As
a matter of fact, though, to be sure, there are still some few mills in
the lower quarters and outskirts of the town, and hard by the inky river
that runs through it, the cloth for which Huddersfield is noted is
manufactured for the most part in the adjacent villages, and the town
itself is its central mart. On market-days the manufacturers of the
rural districts, if rural is a term to be applied with any propriety to
clusters of mills situate on lofty steeps, betake themselves to the
town, attend the Cloth Market, or may be seen in their town warehouses
or at the corners of the streets converging on the Cloth Hall, dine
heavily at the market ordinary of their favourite hostelry, see their
bankers and their lawyers, and not uncommonly, in the late afternoon,
join their buxom wives or comely daughters at an accustomed rendezvous,
assist in the weekly household shopping of their frugal dames, and by
them are driven home in that outward and visible sign of commercial
prosperity and social respectability, the family gig or trap. By the
time the worthy owner of mill and loom is seated at his ample board,
surrounded by his Lares and Penates, consuming the home-fed ham and
domestic muffin, and quaffing his fragrant Souchong, his mill hands,
male and female, donned in their second-best, have in their turn betaken
themselves townwards to see the sights, and indulge the mild dissipation
of strolling the streets, gazing in the shop-windows, making a modest
purchase—it is then that the Phyllis of the loom buys for Corydon the
meerschaum pipe he is afraid to smoke except on Sundays, and that
Corydon wastes his substance on sweet-meats for the ripe lips of his
charmer. Or maybe Phyllis and Corydon, amorously-linked, seek the
pit-door of the town theatre to suck oranges and furtive peppermints,
whilst the buskined villain struts upon the none too ample stage and
declaims his stilted speech.

It was, then, about eight of the evening of a certain Summer market-day
when two young men, arm in arm, lounged leisurely past the Market Place,
and stopped for no other reason than to see why others had stopped, for
a small and shifting crowd had gathered round the base of the Market
Cross, and were giving, some a rapt and sustained attention, others but
the brief hearing of a soon-sated curiosity to a speaker standing upon
the Cross’s pedestal. The audience were, for the most part, of young
and little heedful holiday-makers, who took the speaking as part of
their outing, and one of the many wonderful things to be heard of
market-days, and to be mused upon at leisure, amid the clack of the loom
and the hum of the revolving wheels, or discussed in the interchange of
feminine experiences for which the all too brief dinner-hour avails.

There was, however, a fringe of the more serious-minded, who listened to
the speaker with solemn attention, and regarded her with respectful
appreciation. These, one may surmise, were in their several homes
Sunday-school teachers or chapel members themselves, with some
experience of spiritual exhorting, and feeling under some compulsion to
lend their countenance, if only, by the way, even to an unauthorised
Evangelist. Nearer to the speaker stood a body of men and women, some
with cymbals or other instruments of music or of noise, wearing the
scarlet tunic and German-band cap, or the close-fitting serge costume
and coal-scuttle bonnet by which the gentler soldiers of the Salvation
Army seek to conceal what fairness of feature it has pleased the good
God to give them.

These militant believers served not only as a body-guard of the central
figure of the gathering, but as a chorus; a stalwart, rugged-featured
soldier, whose secular calling was the ungentle craft of a butcher,
evoking an occasional subdued note from the drum he beat o’ nights to
the praise and glory of God; whilst a neat and modest maiden, once the
slattern scullery-maid of the Red Lion, gently tinkled a tambourine,
that served also as a collection-box for stray coppers earnestly
entreated; and their brethren of both sexes punctuated the address of
their leader by fervent “Amens,” “Glorys,” and “Hallelujahs,”
ejaculated at frequent intervals and interspersed with as little regard
to their appropriateness to the spoken word as a ’prentice compositor
displays in the sprinkling of his commas in the printed line.

The speaker, to whom all faces were turned, was young and of a rare
beauty. Her features were of Grecian cast, her eye of a soft, dark
violet hue, her lips of that Cupid arch so seldom seen, her complexion
pure, and suffused now with the glow of health or excitement, and her
wealth of rippling hair was of dark chestnut hue, just touched by the
parting rays of the westerning sun as it declined behind the roofs of
the Bank on the opposite side of New Street, off which the Market Place
stood. Her dress was of blue serge, fitting closely to a form of just
proportions and unrelieved by any kind of ornament, unless a small cross
of chased silver suspended round the neck might deserve the term. The
hand, which was occasionally moved to emphasise a sentence or point a
remark, was white and soft and well-formed. The voice in which she spoke
was soft, sweet, pure, musical, almost caressing; her diction the chaste
speech of education and refinement.

_“Que diable, fait-elle dans cette galère?”_ muttered Edward
Beaumont to his companion, as the two young men above-mentioned lingered
on the fringe of the crowd.

“Oh! it’s one of that Salvation Army lot,” replied his friend, Sam
Storth. “Come along, Beaumont. The usual thing, you know: hell and
brimstone, blood and fire, and a collection.”

“Poachers on the preserves of the Church, eh, Sam? Well, you’ll
admit the saint is pretty enough for a sinner. Let us listen.”

Sam Storth shrugged his shoulders, stretched his little legs apart,
thrust his hands into his trousers’ pockets, yawned drearily, and
fixed his big and bulging eyes upon the speaker, eyeing her beauty with
the calmly critical survey he was wont to bestow upon the Coryphées of
the local ballet. Edward Beaumont, whom two or three of the more
respectably clad of the audience recognised and saluted, turned to the
speaker with respectful and serious attention, already repenting of his
jesting allusion to her good looks.

“Dear friends,” the girl was saying, as Beaumont and Storth joined
the crowd, “believe me, we plead with you for your good. I cannot
think it right so many of you should lead the lives you do. Some of you,
I fear, live very far apart from Christ, living only, as it were, that
you may continue to live. All your efforts, all your anxieties, are
summed up in that—to continue to live. If you can live honestly you
are the more content, because you do not like the risks of dishonesty.
If you are unhappily compelled to live meanly, meagrely, you put up with
it as best you may, hoping, for a turn of your luck. If you are not so
compelled how do you show your gratitude to the Almighty giver and
disposer? By faring sumptuously every day, caring only for raiment and
fine linen, for dainty dishes, good cheer, soft living. Perhaps you are
of the foolish ones that cannot be quite happy without the envy of your
neighbours. Then you spend your money upon vanities that give you no
real pleasure, except the poor delight of making someone jealous of your
good fortune. You work very hard to get more money than you have any
need for to buy luxuries that are hurtful to you body and soul. You are
really very foolish so to waste this precious life in vain strivings.
How much of the misery and poverty of this world are caused because one
man conceives he cannot be happy till he has amassed a large fortune. It
does not seem to matter to him that the price of his wealth is the
abject misery of many whom in church on Sundays he calls his brothers.
So have I seen a greedy pig snouting in the trough long after he has
eaten his fill, and pushing aside some half-starved weakling of the same
litter. The vaunted brotherhood of man is like that. Do you think that
you have solved all problems when you have spoken glibly of supply and
demand, or this new doctrine of the survival of the fittest? Methinks I
see one of your sleek manufacturers, an alderman, maybe, perhaps a
magistrate. He is well clad, housed sumptuously; he has money always at
command, enough and to spare. I can fancy how sweet to him must be that
smooth saying, ‘the survival of the fittest.’ Pshaw! The man
mistakes a letter. He means the survival of the fattest. Do you think
Jesus Christ died for the survival of the fittest, for the sacred law of
supply and demand? It seems to me that the fittest do not survive. They
are _too_ fit, and the world crucifies them. That is the world’s way
of dealing with the fittest. No! Jesus taught a very different doctrine,
and His teaching will square with that of neither your Huxleys nor your
Spencers, and still less will it square with your consecrated supply and
demand. You have tried to carry on the world with theories of men’s
devising. Are you satisfied with the result? Does Dives enjoy his dinner
the more because he has perforce heard the moans of Lazarus at his gate?
Is anybody who has a head to think and eyes to see and a heart to feel
content with things as they now are? Oh, no! They tell me you people in
Huddersfield are great Radicals and are going to set everything right by
Act of Parliament. Well, you have tried Parliament tinkering a many
centuries. Is the world so very much better for your Acts of Parliament?
Don’t you think it is time to try a little of Christ’s doctrine? And
Christ’s doctrine means what? In a word, Christ’s doctrine is Christ
living. But you profess Christ on Sunday. Where do you put Him on
Monday? On the shelf with the Family Bible. He is too sacred a Being,
you think, perhaps, for the mill, the warehouse, the shop.

“Christ, I think, meant that the lives of the people should be more
joyous, more free from carking care, from grinding poverty. I cannot
think Christ meant the world should always have its Dives and always its
Lazarus. Surely there is a happy board of solid comfort midway between
the insolent ostentation and sinful waste of the rich man’s table, and
the floor on which the dogs fight for the fallen crumbs. Let us find
that happy mean, and there will be more of the brotherhood of man and
more kinship with Christ.

“But you tell me that a working-man has only one use for good
wages—to spend his superfluity in drink. I know full well how prone so
many are to besot themselves with drink. But you—” and here the
speaker looked full at Beaumont and the other well-dressed men, now not
a few, who stood on the skirts of the growing gathering, “you who have
never known want can scarcely credit me if I tell you that the most part
of the fearful, sickening drunkenness of the people comes not from too
much money, but from too little. When people are stupefied by drink they
forget for a time their hunger, their rags, their mean, despicable
condition, their empty, dirty homes, their squalid courts, their unkempt
children, their slattern wives, in a word, they lose their real selves
and become for an hour or two _your_ equals. A drunken man is only
dreaming with his eyes open, and when the waking life is so cold, so
bare, so unlovely, do you wonder that men love to dream?

“Do I then excuse drunkenness? God forbid. Nay, rather do I plead with
all that they should quit the accursed thing and not purchase for
themselves that Fool’s Paradise, so costly, and from which they awake
to find the world still harder. But I am here to-night to plead with all
who may hear me, rich or poor, high or low, master or man, to try to
live in all things the Christ-life. There are miserable sinners enough
besides the poor drunkard. I daresay some of you have stopped to listen
just on purpose to hear the faults and vices of the very poor and very
lost denounced. It is soothing, no doubt, to see other people soundly
trounced, to hear vices _we_ haven’t got, and imagine we are never
likely to have, scathingly lashed. But I think we’ll let the _poor_
sinner have a rest to-night. There are sins in high as well as in low
places, and first and foremost I count the sin and folly of setting all
your heart and all your mind on the mad haste to be rich, caring to
stand well with the world, to have the seat of honour at the feast, to
surround yourself with all the garb and trappings of wealth—in a word,
to get on. It is a mean and paltry ambition. Who are you that you should
want to thrust yourself head and shoulders above your fellows? When the
final judgment comes, what will it avail you to have piled up riches and
be driven to church in a carriage and pair.

“I tell you, there are a few other matters that will have to be
inquired into there—”

“Oh! come along, Beaumont,” said Storth, “we’ve had about enough
of this bally rot. Canting humbug, I call it. Chuck the girl a bob, and
let’s slide,” and he flung the silver coin towards the tambourine of
Happy Sal and moved away. Beaumont flung no coin, but, raising his hat,
followed his companion.

“I’d have liked to hear the end of it, Storth,” he said. “The
young lady, for she’s that you can see with half an eye, has tackled a
big subject. I fancy that’s not the usual kind of Salvation Army
harangue. If it is, I think I must hunt up their barracks.”

“A lot of blooming nonsense, I call it. That is so far as I could
understand what the dickens the girl was driving at. But I say, though,
if she’s a fair sample of Salvation Army lasses, I think I’ll put in
an hour or two at the Barracks myself. Face like a Mary Magdalene,
hasn’t she? ’Spose that’s about the time of day with her, eh,
Beaumont?”

“You’ll have to read faces better than that, Sam, or you’ll never
be any good in Court,” said Beaumont. “Do you believe in anything or
anybody? Is there no good thing under the sun?”

“Believe in anything or anybody? Rather. Not many bodies, but a good
many things. I believe in Sam Storth. I’ve a very great respect for
him too, and mean to do him well. I believe in a good dinner, and if
somebody else is fool enough to pay for it, that won’t spoil my
appetite, you bet. I believe in good wine, and it won’t break my heart
if it comes out of your or any other fellow’s cellar, and if I can’t
get good wine at your expense, I’ll be thankful for good beer at my
own. There’s a very good tap of it at the Royal, let me tell you. And
I believe in good clothes, and I’d rather drive than walk. Third-class
riding’s better than first-class walking, let me tell you. And I like
a good play, not Shakespeare, you know, nor anything classic, but
something you can take easy, with plenty of leg in it, don’t you know!
And I like a pretty girl, too, but not enough to chuck myself away on
one, and I like a coin or two in an old stocking, for I’ve an eye for
a rainy day, and don’t mean to be out in the wet when it comes. There,
that’s about my _credo_, Beaumont, and if I can only get a fair share
of what I want, there isn’t a heartier singer of the doxology in
church than yours truly.”

“You’re a Sybarite, Sam, a frankly brutal sensualist. Well, I give
you credit for making no pretences. You aren’t a hypocrite anyway.”

“It isn’t worth while with you, Beaumont. There’s nothing to be
got out of you by make-believe. But I can pull a long face and snivel
and turn up the whites of my eyes and groan on occasion. It’s in the
family, you know. But I’m not paid for doing it. My uncle is. That’s
all the difference. But here we are at the club. Don’t think I’ll go
in just yet. I’ll do a half-time at the theatre. So long.”

Beaumont entered the reading-room of the club. There was no library in
this feeble imitation of a London club. He took up the current number of
the “Nineteenth Century Review.” He had to cut its leaves. The
members of the club, manufacturers, merchants, and the larger
shopkeepers preferred to have their monthlies boiled down for them by
Mr. Stead in the “Review of Reviews.” But Edward could not
concentrate his mind on the weighty problems discussed by the sages of
the century. His thoughts wandered to the scene in the Market Place.

“Which is right,” he mused, “that girl or Sam? The girl, of
course. But am I any better, _au fond_, than Storth, the epicurean
little beast? Is there any difference between us, except that he is
honest with himself? I spend my leisure in political agitation, and
rather plume myself on being a Town Councillor and Vice-President of the
Liberal Two Hundred at twenty-four, and would rather any day wag my
tongue on a public platform for nothing than earn a couple of guineas by
exercising the same useful member in the County Court or Police Court.
But do I really care for the political reforms for which I agitate, and
am I really indignant at the wrongs about which I wax eloquent? How much
of my wrath against the House of Lords, I wonder, arises from the fact
that I am not myself the ‘tenth transmitter of a foolish face?’ When
I thunder against the iniquity of a restricted franchise, is it not,
perhaps, mainly because it tickles my ears to hear the answering
plaudits of the great unfranchised? Sam Storth likes soft living, and
says so, and in that he is honest. I like _monstrari digito et diceri
hic Niger est_. But I call my liking public spirit, intelligent
Liberalism, and look to be, and indeed am, patted on the back for it by
others and myself. His liking I call sensuality and scorn. But aren’t
his ways and my ways equally a self-gratification in different forms?
Now, that girl does really seem to care for people. I’ll be bound she
feels like a sister to the poor wretches of the slums. There’s a screw
loose with you somewhere, Edward, my boy. What’s the matter with you?
That girl’s got religion. She believes in Christ. Curious; but I’ll
bet she does. What a facility women have for accepting myths for facts.
The clear, cold light of science is a grand thing, but I sometimes feel
inclined to say, ‘Hang the clear, cold light of science.’ Heigho!
the ‘Nineteenth’s’ deadly dull, and the ‘Contemporary’ attain
a deeper depth of Bœotian opacity. I wonder if I can cut in at a
rubber.” And Beaumont threw his magazine aside and ascended to the
higher regions of the Club, where two or three rooms were set aside for
the devotees of whist, nap and poker.

Edward Beaumont and Sam Storth, though both solicitors, and partners in
the practice of a much and perhaps undeservedly abused profession, were
in almost every particular in which men may be compared or contrasted as
dissimilar as two men may well be. Beaumont was a native of
Huddersfield, and his family connections with the town and district were
numerous and intricate. The Beaumonts of that vicinity are a numerous
progeny, and may be found in every calling, in every trade and every
craft. The Squire of White Meadows is a Beaumont, and traces an unbroken
line of descent from one of the most intrepid of the Crusaders, whose
effigy may be seen to this day in the small, time-worn church on the
ancestral domain. The Beaumonts, or de Bellomontes, were, aforetime,
lords of the manor of Huddersfield itself, but that position passed from
them many centuries ago. Whether or no our Edward Beaumont was of the
Beaumonts of White Meadows is a matter which Edward himself affected to
regard as of absolutely no importance. His father had been, like
himself, a solicitor, and had founded the present firm of Beaumont and
Storth. His grandfather had been a cloth manufacturer, and as to his
great grandfather, Edward declared that he, too, had been either a cloth
manufacturer of the smallest, or, more likely, a handloom weaver of a
saving disposition. As in Huddersfield it is quite exceptional for
anyone to be able to refer to a grandfather at all, Edward could very
well afford to affect indifference on the score of his great
grand-sire’s status.

If looks go for anything Beaumont might certainly have pretended to
aristocratic lineage. He was tall above the ordinary, and well
proportioned, his frame well-knit and active, his features regular, his
hair abundant, of the hue of the raven, and with the natural sheen of
perfect health. His eyes, well shaped, were dark and full of fire and
expression. He had a well-formed mouth, mobile lips, of that fullness
that may betoken either the orator, the poet, or the sensualist, a
rounded, dimpled chin, the long White hand commonly supposed to be
indicative of gentle birth. But the tips of the fingers were square
rather than finely pointed, a trait which a palmist had assured him
indicated stubborness of character or resoluteness of will, but which
Edward asserted more probably suggested that one of his female ancestors
had been engaged in the manual exercise of “twisting,” one of the
many processes of cloth manufacture, and one eminently calculated to
stub the fingers of the artist.

Edward Beaumont had been carefully educated, and had taken to books like
a duck to water. His natural aptitude and facility of apprehension made
his studies easy to him, and though no one who knows what is properly
implied in the term scholarship, would have called him a scholar, he had
taken a fair degree at his University, at that time a somewhat uncommon
attainment in the lower branch of the legal profession, and could no
doubt hold his own indifferent will among other educated gentlemen. He
was reputed to be a sound and careful lawyer, when he could be induced
to take the necessary trouble, but none questioned that he was always a
ready one, and it is not, therefore, surprising that he preferred the
change and excitement and rivalry of the Courts to the more prosaic and
monotonous and retired, if also more profitable, exercise of the dreary
art of conveyancing. The same alertness of mind and nimbleness of speech
that served him well in the forum inclined him to the political
platform, and already he was a warm favourite of the working-classes at
the meetings under the auspices of the Liberal Party with which the
adults of the West Riding beguile the tedium of the winter months.
Edward was wont to declare that he had imbibed Radicalism with his
mother’s milk, and certain it is he could point with equal truth and
pride to more than one of his relations who had suffered in the popular
cause. His partner Sam Storth, used to complain that Edward’s
political engagements took him a great deal away from the office, and if
Edward laughingly pleaded that his public appearances were a capital
advertisement of the firm, his more sagacious partner retorted that
Edward’s “clap-trap clientèle,” as he was pleased to stigmatise
it, wasn’t worth half the time it took to attend to it, and that for
every decent client Beaumont’s Radicalism attracted it frightened a
dozen better ones away.

“Depend upon it, Beaumont,” he said one day, “Leatham’s is the
right tip.”

Now, Mr. Leatham was the respected member for Huddersfield, and sat, of
course, in the Liberal interest.

“Expound, most sapient Sam,” said Edward.

“Why, somebody said to him the other day, ‘How is it you never take
your seat on the Borough Bench when you’re in town?’ _‘Pas si
bete,’_ replied Leatham; ‘every time I fine a man or send one down I
make at least one enemy, and they count at elections.’ So it is with
your informal spouting, Beaumont. You make a lot of admirers, perhaps,
among a lot of greasy, dirty, unwashed mill-hands, who shout themselves
hoarse about a policy they don’t understand, and they bring you a
dirty, greasy guinea or so if they get into trouble with an equally
dirty, greasy mill-girl. But who prepares the conveyances and mortgages
and settlements for the big-pots? We don’t, anyhow. Why! Leatham
himself takes his work to that sheaf of parchment skins, old
Heatherington, who has consistently voted against him ever since he
first contested the borough. Politics don’t pay, Beaumont, at least,
not your sort.”

“Ah! well, Sam, suppose we say I like ’em. I think they’re my only
serious dissipation. You know I don’t go in much for beer and
skittles, and am bored at a ballet. Supposing we call politics my little
vice. You don’t want them all yourself, Sam.”

Certainly no one could with justice accuse Sam Storth of having any
enthusiasms political or otherwise. He called himself a Conservative,
and plumed himself on his gentility, and had undoubtedly an uncle in
holy orders, to whom, on occasion, he would casually allude. He chose
his associates, so far as he could, among the _jeunesse doree_ of the
wealthy manufacturers and merchants of the town, who patronised a Bond
Street tailor—“can’t get a decent cut in the country, don’t you
know,”—were much concerned about the fit of their boots and the
colour of their ties and gloves; affected a languid drawl, crawled on
the sunny side of New Street of a Saturday morning, found life a
“doosid bore,” avoided a reference to the paternal mill or
counting-house themselves, and thought any such reference by others
uncommon bad form; held commissions in the Yeomanry or Volunteers and
were rigorous in the use of their pseudo… military titles in season
and out of season; had a club of their own, from which the retailer of
the goods their fathers manufactured were jealously excluded; and, in a
word, were as innocent a set of sucking young snobs, without knowing it,
as one could well wish to encounter. As Storth had lived much in London
before condescending upon Huddersfield, he was rather a favourite at
this club, though he had to surmount a certain amount of prejudice
arising from his connection with that low Radical chap, Beaumont.

In person, the junior partner of the firm of Beaumont and Storth was
small, stout and stodgy, with a broad, flat nose, and eyes that a
disparaging critic had likened to boiled onions. In address he was
suavely deferential to the verge of obsequiousness to the local
magnates, who liked the implied homage of his voice and look, and voted
him a sensible young fellow who knew his place. In revenge for his own
lackeydom he bullied and swore at his clerks and the waiters and the
billiard-markers who ministered to his needs, and they, too, no doubt,
had their opinion of Mr. Sam Storth. He was careful in his dress,
without being an exquisite, took in the “Daily Telegraph” and
“Bell’s Life,” affected a patriotic interest in the national
sport, and played a very judicious hand at whist and other games, as the
young nabobs of the club knew to their cost. He had the reputation, in a
darkly, mysterious way, of being somewhat of a Lothario among the women,
and it was known that he had access to the green-room of the local
theatre. But if, indeed, Sam were a sad dog, of which this veracious
history alleges nothing, he was a very discreet sad dog, and never
imperilled his reputation by any open indiscretion. He was careful, too,
to attend church every Sunday morning, and uttered the responses with
that modulated fervour that is the hall-mark of good breeding, having
neither the perfunctoriness of custom or inattention nor the warmth of
spiritual exaltation.

How two men so diverse as Edward Beaumont and Sam Storth came to be
partners in the same business had puzzled many, but the explanation was
simple enough. Beaumont had been in want of a managing clerk, and a
mutual acquaintance had recommended Storth as a safe chamber-man, and a
safe chamber-man or desk-lawyer Storth proved himself to be. He made no
pretence of knowing more law than had sufficed to satisfy the not very
exacting examiners of Carey Street; but he had a very considerable
endowment of the not very common faculty called common-sense.

“Law, sir,” was Storth’s favourite axiom, delivered oracularly,
“law is the embodiment of common-sense,” and though the reader can
scarcely be expected to believe it, Common law is largely common-sense.
At all events with common-sense and a tincture of technicalities and a
very considerable knowledge of the shady side of human nature, and a
very small opinion of that nature in the general. Storth’s did very
well the kind of work that Beaumont wanted him for, and left that
somewhat fastidious young gentleman free to lift his voice in the courts
without being harassed by the petty details of a lawyer’s practice.
Beaumont thought Sam a soulless little animal, but shrewd and steady;
Storth thought Beaumont a stuck-up enthusiast with a bee in his bonnet,
but a good hand with a brief, and as they saw very little of each other
except business hours, there was little friction in the busy office of
the well-established and prosperous firm of Beaumont and Storth.

But if there was no friction there was no cordiality between the
partners. Beaumont’s attitude to Storth was almost of good-humoured
contempt. Storth retaliated with undisguised scorn for his partner’s
unpracticability and want of worldly wisdom.

“What do you want sitting in the Town Council?” he grumbled at
times. “There’s no honour in it. Why, hang it, the barber fellow
that shaves me sits on the Town Council.”

“And a very good councillor he makes, too. Why not? Does he shave you
any the worse for being on the Council. I’m sure his opinion on
matters municipal is none the worse for his being a barber. Shaving is
really, if you think of the matter dispassionately, a most reputable
occupation. The profession of a barber, you cannot call it a trade, is
an ancient and an honourable one. It was formerly, as you know connected
with the profession of a surgeon. Probably the barbers cut the surgeons,
and that led to a split. But if you reflect you will see that most
exceptional qualities are required by a good barber. Sobriety is
indispensable cleanliness, which everyone knows to be nearer to
godliness than many people attain, some degree of polish and a pleasing
loquacity and an intelligent acquaintance with the topics of the day.
People trust their barber more than their lawyer, for would you offer
your bared throat to anyone armed with a deadly weapon, unless you had
the supremest confidence in him? Surely we can confide the gas-pipes and
water-pipes of a town to a man to whom we entrust our own wind-pipes. I
protest your barber is a most inestimable profession brother.”

“Oh! dry up,” said Storth, “you aren’t in court now. Beaumont, I
say again, you get neither profit nor _kudos_ from being in the Council,
and it takes up a lot of your time. But that’s a small matter. Do you
think, now, it will add to your professional or social status or do you
or the office a blessed scintilla of good, to take the chair for that
fellow Bradlaugh, as I see you are advertised to do?”

“That fellow Bradlaugh, as you are pleased to call him, is worth
half-a-dozen such respectabilities as either you or I, Sam. In mere
ability as a lawyer he is worth a round dozen of us lumped together. But
he is more than that, he is a very fair scholar, though entirely
self-educated. He has done more for his brains and with his brains than
many do who have had hundreds of pounds spent upon their education by
fond parents. He has not only brains but a conscience; he might have
earned a fat living as a lawyer or a parson. He has not only a
conscience but a character, and a good one, too, and besides all that,
he’s the elected member for Northampton, has as much right legally to
sit for that borough as Churchill has for Woodstock, and a great deal
better right morally.”

“The man’s an atheist,” said Storth.

“I don’t know that he is; but even so, that’s his concern and
Northampton’s. What are you, Sam? What, indeed, is anyone of us that
we should throw stones at such a man as Bradlaugh?”

“Well, I call myself a Christian and I rather flatter myself I am one,
at least, an indifferent one,” replied Sam. “I don’t set up for a
saint, of course.”

“I should think not, indeed.” replied Beaumont, smiling, as he
recalled certain gossip that had floated from the _coulisses_ of the
theatre to the club. “I Suppose you fancy yourself what we may call a
so-so Christian. So are we all, so-so Christians. Why, man alive, I’d
guarantee to empty any church in Christendom simply by preaching
Christianity in it. I mean the pure, unadulterated article, as Jesus of
Nazareth is reported to have preached it, not as it is watered down to
suit the weak stomachs of your latter-day saints, or more likely to
square with our conceptions of social necessity.”

“Look here, Beaumont;” Storth said, stretching his arms lazily and
yawning long and loud, “I’m not going to be drawn into an argument
on theology with you. I’d almost said another member of our
illustrious family attends to that department. But I don’t think
you’d catch the Rev. Jacob arguing about it, either. He’s far too
downy for that. It pays better to treat matters you’re paid to believe
as beyond question, and a man who questions them as a moral leper. Now,
I don’t say you’re a moral leper any more than I say I’m a saint.
But I do say that, from a business point of view, it’s just as bad to
be thought one as to be one; worse, in fact, for you get damned as a
sinner without the fun of the sin.”

“Oh, Sam, you’re just incorrigible. I’ve said in my haste you
believe in nothing. But you do believe in Mrs. Grundy.”

“I do,” said Storth, devoutly. “Great is the Grundy of the British
Philistine.”

“Hang the fellow, with his affectation of being so superior to another
fellow,” he added to himself. “Mind you don’t carry your head so
high in the clouds, Master Edward, that you trip and fall over a very
little obstacle, and if that obstacle’s Sam Storth thank your own
infernal folly. I’ll back common-sense against ideals any day, and if
you’ll allow me the one. You’re welcome to my share of the other.”

CHAPTER II.

The morning after the meeting in the Market Place Edward Beaumont was
seated in a capacious easy chair in his own room in the office in Queen
Street, smoking a well-seasoned meerschaum pipe, and reading the
“Leeds Mercury” of the day. Edward felt a sort of proprietorship in
the winged messenger from the fact, which he regarded with satisfaction,
that his great-grandfather had purchased the first issue of the paper a
hundred years before, and the subscription to that journal had been
piously continued in the family down to his own day, though he flattered
himself he had considerably overpast the cautious Liberalism but
slightly differentiated from Whiggery, of the “Mercury.” He had
skimmed the local news, pshaw’d over the leading articles, and was
enjoying the London Letter from our Own Correspondent, usually
attributed to a rising publicist, when Storth bustled into the room.

“There’s not much for Petty Sessions this morning, Beaumont; a
couple of assaults, a profane and obscene, and a bastardy; but there’s
one case you’ll have to put all you know into. You remember that girl
we heard last night in the Market Place?”

“The Salvation Army girl?”

“That’s the party. Well, she’s in my room now.”

“What’s the trouble?”

“Well, here’s the brief. It seems she was staying in Matt Duskin’s
Lodging House last night.”

“In Matt Duskin’s Lodging House in Kirkgate?”

“Nowhere else, as I’m a sinner, and a lively time of it she must
have had before they settled down for the night and went to bed.”

“I should imagine the lively time for a lodger at Matt’s comes after
he gets into bed,” said Beaumont, smiling. “The place must be alive
with vermin. But what’s the case?”

“You remember Pat Sullivan that’s been in trouble with the police so
often and that they’re so afraid of? They say it took three of them to
get him to the station last night. Well, he’s about half-killed
another of Duskin’s select assortment of lodgers, and all Kirkgate and
his wife will be in Court this morning to see the last of Sullivan for a
few months anyway. He’s sure to be sent down. Ward will work for a
committal without the option, and the constables on that beat will do
their nightly prowl all the more serenely when they know Pat’s
comfortably snoring on a plank bed in Wakefield gaol.”

“Miss—the Salvation Army girl’s in your room, you say. What’s
she got to do with it?”

“There’s her and Sullivan’s wife in tears and a shawl and
half-a-dozen more of the quality. They say Pat didn’t begin it. But
it’ll be no good. Pat’s booked this journey, you bet. Anyhow,
here’s your brief, and it’s about time you were off to Court.”

“I think I’ll speak to the Young lady first. Ask her to come here,
will you, Sam?”

When the speaker of the previous evening entered the large low room,
with its walls lined with many rows of calf-bound volumes of statutes,
reports, and precedents, its lettered pigeon-holes, its ponderous safe,
and japanned deed boxes, it was evident she had lost for a time the calm
serenity that had distinguished her at the Market Cross. Her face was
pale, and her eyes looked as though they had lately wept. Her expression
was anxious, and her manner agitated. As Beaumont rose from his chair
he returned the respectful bow with which he greeted her, and took with
some trembling the chair he placed for her. She waited for him to speak.

“Mr. Storth tells me you will be a witness in the case in which
Sullivan is charged with assault, Miss——. I beg your pardon, I
don’t think Storth told me your name.”

A crimson flush suffused the fair and beautiful features.

“I am called Sister Gertrude in the Army.”

“H’m; I’m afraid the clerk will ask for your full name. I
understand this is a serious case, and he may think it necessary to take
depositions.”

“My name is Gertrude Fairfax, but, if possible, I prefer that my
surname should not appear. There are reasons.”

“Fairfax is a name both known and honoured in Yorkshire,” said
Edward, with a courteous inclination towards the lady; “but I should
not take you for a native of our county.”

“Oh, no! my home is in Staffordshire, but my address is at the
headquarters of the Army in London.”

“Very well, Sister, I think we can manage that your name may not
appear. I’ll speak to the reporter; he’ll work the oracle for a
drink,” he mentally added.

“And now Miss——I beg your pardon, Sister Gertrude—would you mind
telling me what you know about this wretched business. You belong to the
Salvation Army, I perceive.”

“Yes; I am a soldier in the Army, not an officer, and last night,
after our meeting at the Market Cross, a poor frightened woman spoke to
me. She was in great trouble, but almost afraid to address me. You see,
she is a Catholic and the Catholics never care to do anything their
priest might not like. She said she was living an awful life. Her
husband, the man they are to try to-day, she said, is a good, true man,
and a loving husband, but for the drink, and then he is like one
possessed. She said he earned good wages, under the Corporation, I
fancy, as a navvy; but he spent so much in drink they were always in
sore straits, and now had broken up their home and were living in vile
lodgings. I was moved by Nellie’s story, and asked how I could help
her. She begged me to go speak with her husband, plead and pray with him
to give up the drink. Of course I went….

“Oh! yes. Why should I fear? No one would injure me, and if they did,
what matter? So she took me to the lodging-house in which they live. Her
husband, Pat, was in a long room, where there were several men and women
and some children. At first the man was very surly, would not speak to
me. But he is Irish, from the county Cork; and I happen to have spent
some time with friends in the neighbourhood of Cork, between the city
and Queenstown, on the Lea. But perhaps you don’t know the Lea?”

“Only the lines:
       ‘…those bells of Shandon,
   That sound so grand on,
       The pleasant waters of the river Lea,’”
confessed Edward.

“Ah! you read Father Prout,” said the girl, and looked at the grim
law books as though to say they did not look suggestive of the warblings
of a poet. “Well, when he got to speak of his home in the ould
country, and the good mother he had left in the village he was born in,
and of the days of boyhood, I led him on to speak of the glad
springtime, when he courted Ellen as a sweet colleen, as he called her,
and so the man was melted, and he heard me patiently. Then I asked Mr.
Duskin if I might say a few words to the others, and offer a prayer, and
as he didn’t say me nay, why I did.”

“Was this man, what’s his name, the complainant, I mean, there
then?”

“Oh, no! I was just about to leave, for it was near eleven o’clock,
and I feared the friends with whom I stayed would be anxious about
me.”

“Oh! you weren’t staying at Duskin’s yourself, then? Mr. Storth
must have misunderstood you.”

“Oh, no! I was saying a few parting words to one or two of the women,
who seemed glad that I should speak to them. Then the door was thrust
open violently, and the man Graham almost fell into the room. He was
very much under the influence of drink. One of the women was his wife,
and he accused me of wanting to make a Black Protestant of her, and
threatened me. But I did not mind him, for he was not himself and was
moving to the door. But he stood in my way, and made as though to
prevent my going, and Ellen came between us, and made to push him on one
side, and he called her a foul name and struck her in the face. Then
Patrick Sullivan jumped to his feet with a wild cry, and before one
could think or speak the two men were fighting, and then it seemed as
though all the house began to scream and shout and yell and swear, and
the street filled even at that late hour, and then the police came and
seized Sullivan. Graham was on the floor with a nasty wound in his head,
and poor Ellen almost in hysterics blaming herself bitterly for taking
me to the house at all.”

“You are sure Graham struck Nelly?”

“Oh, yes! And now this morning what could I do but come with the poor
woman to see her through the trouble. I had much ado to prevent her
pawning her wedding-ring to pay your fee, but we managed without
that.”

“Oh! Nelly had her wedding-ring? Then Pat hadn’t been drinking long.
It’s the last thing that goes. When that’s gone the husband starts
working again. It’s the last thing in and the first thing out.”

“Can you get Sullivan off, Mr. Beaumont? If it is only a question of a
fine, perhaps that can be arranged.”

“In the same way, I supose as my fee was arranged?”

“Well, yes; that way or some other. But I hope he may not be sent to
prison. Perhaps he may turn over a new leaf, and give up the drink and
mend his ways. I’m sure there’s much more of good than bad in him,
and prison will only foster the bad and dwarf the good.”

“Oh! we’ll pull him through, Sister Gertrude, if you tell the Bench
your story as you have told it to me. I’m sure, if you will permit me
to say so, you behaved very pluckily in going unprotected to that horrid
hole. But I’m afraid you wasted your time in trying to save Pat
Sullivan. He’s always in trouble with the police.”

“That’s why my time was _not_ wasted. Society has been trying to
deal with such lost creatures as Sullivan for centuries by its police,
always its police. I think perhaps a little human sympathy and gentle
entreating may do what your police cannot do. That is why I wear this
uniform.”

Beaumont bowed silently. He had had his own opinion of ecstatic young
ladies who take to Slumming as a diversion; but Sister Gertrude did not
harmonise with his preconceived ideas. He would have liked to ask many
questions, but he resented prying inquisitiveness in his own affairs,
and was careful to respect the reserve of others. He looked at his
watch.

“Jove! we must be off. May I have the pleasure of showing you the way
to Court?”

“Thank you. Nelly will be waiting for me. I will go with her.”

As Beaumont entered the Court and made his way to the solicitors’
well, he glanced at the Bench and noted with satisfaction that the
Mayor, Thomas Hoyleham, presided. Mr. Hoyleham was a weak, worthy man of
venerable appearance, with a long, flowing, white beard, and of pallid,
bloodless complexion. He was a draper by trade, and one of the pillars
of the Independent Church at Lowfield. He had signalised his accession
to the Chief Magistracy by treating the members of the Town Council to a
Temperance Banquet, zoedone, phospherade, and other effervescent and
phosphorescent cordials supplanting the wines of France and Spain; much
to the discontent of his guests.

Beaumont, however, had tossed off a bumper of the beady and gaseous
compound with a flourish to the health of the Mayor, and whilst
questioning convictions that forced a man to prefer zoedone to
champagne, vowed he admired the Mayor’s pluck and consistency, and
protested that it was worth while to run the risk of being poisoned to
sit at table with a man of principle. Of course, this sentiment had
reached the Mayor’s ears, and had not only greatly comforted him and
sustained him in presence of the rueful countenances of his guests, but
had led him ever after to entertain a high opinion of Beaumont’s
discrimination. And though he mourned over the young councillor's
infidelity, he was not without hopes some Christian Church might win him
to its bosom, and lost no opportunity of speaking a word in season to
his young colleague; and had even ventured to give him a Temperance
Tract in an apologetic manner, assuring him that the passages marked by
the Mayor’s own hand were not to be taken by Edward as offensively
personal. Beaumont had taken all in good part, and when ribald members
of the Council poked fun at the old gentleman, and called him an old
woman, only fit to sit behind the urn at a tea-party, Beaumont had
stoutly declared that beneath the mild and deferential, almost
shrinking, manner of Mr. Hoyleham, lay a rare staunchness and fidelity
to the right as he conceived it.

The case against Patrick Sullivan was not taken till the charge-sheet
was cleared of all others. Mr. Ward the Chief Constable, was determined
to have that redoubtable breaker of the law and terror of the police
safe under lock and key for so long a spell as the law could ensure, and
he, of course, had heard only the version of the fracas given by the
police and by Graham. The strong, most damaging point against Pat was
his resistance of the police in the discharge of their duty. It was an
article of faith with the Borough Bench that the police must be
supported, and it was equally a matter of faith with those who had been
summoned before it, or who expected to be, and with their witnesses,
that the sworn testimony of one policeman would be taken before that of
all Kirkgate put together. Sullivan was looked upon as a doomed man, as
good as done for, and his sympathisers only found consolation in the
resolve to make the place too hot to hold the complainant. With these
sympathisers the back benches of the Court were crowded. They were
there, male and female, some scores of them, in all states of dress and
undress and all degrees of cleanliness and sobriety. They were all to a
man and also woman known to the police, and most of them had stood in
the very dock now tenanted by the redoubtable Sullivan, and those who
had not looked forward to their appearance in that unenviable rectangle
as a natural and inevitable incident in their career. Needless to say,
the sympathies of this section of the audience in Court were entirely
with the prisoner, and when Edward entered with a light and springing
step and bright smiling face, a subdued murmur ran through their ranks.

“Och! it’s himself has the cometherin’ way wid ’im,” whispered
a shawled and frowsy nymph of the pavement to another lady of the same
nationality and facility of affection. “Fwat an eye’s in de face of
’im; ’t would melt a stone, an’ the tongue of him for Blarney most
wonderful.”

The chief witness against Sullivan was, of course, the aggrieved Graham,
who appeared in the box, his head all swathed in bandages and plasters.
He told a piteous tale. He was a homeless, inoffensive man that lodged
at Duskin’s, and wouldn’t harm a fly, so he said. He had been
refreshing himself after the labours of the day at the house of a
friend, and at an early hour had sought his humble lodgings and his
virtuous couch. But he had no sooner entered the door of that sacred
spot—where peace should reign, whatever broils disturb the
street—than that cowardly brute, as strong as an ox and as raging as a
lion, had leaped upon him, beaten down his feeble defence, and left him
senseless on the ground. His wounds were there for their Worships and
all the world to see, and so forth.

Unfortunately for Graham, Beaumont had a memory and Graham an unwary
tongue. Looking at Beaumont’s face as he rose to cross examine the
witness, one would have read there nothing but compassion and sympathy
with the complainant in his great and unmerited wrongs. Sister Gertrude
confided to Ellen, when all was over, that her heart failed her at that
moment, for she feared the plausible rogue’s canting tongue had
imposed on their chosen champion. “He is so young, you know,” But
Ellen had smiled superior.

“Let me see, Graham,” Edward began, in an insinuating voice, “I think
you did not tell us your age.”

“Forty-four, your honour, if I live till Christmas.”

“And what trade may you be?”

“A mason, sorr.”

“May I feel your hands?”

“’Deed, they’re too dirty, sir.”

“Oh, never mind. His Worship might tell you lawyers are used to dirt.
But, indeed, they are dirty, and soft, too; very soft. Where do you
work?”

“’Deed, sorr, just at the time present I’m out of a job.”

“But the building trade’s very brisk just now, I believe?”

“’Deed, sorr, I couldn't say.”

“What, not know the state of the labour market in your own trade!
Where did you work last?”

“At Mr. Whitwam’s, sorr.”

“You live in Huddersfield, I think?”

“Yes, sorr.”

“This how long?”

“This twenty years and more, sorr” answered Graham, with alacrity,
apparently relieved to get away from the subject of his occupation.

“Off and on, or all on?”

“Straight on, sorr, twenty year an’ more I’ve lived in this
town.”

“And never out of it this twenty years?”

“Not a day, sorr. If I have may I be——”

“Oh, quite so. Then may I ask how long it is since you worked for Mr.
Whitwam?”

After much evasion it appeared that it was ten years since the witness
had worked for Mr. Whitwam or anyone else.

“Made your fortune at thirty, you lucky man, and retired from
business, is that it?”

His clothes answered for him.

“Then may I ask how you’ve lived since you gave up working?”

“Hadn’t he a license to hawk, sure?”

“A pedlar, eh? In other words, a licensed mendicant. Let me see your
license.”

After much fumbling in the inner creases of the rag that served him as a
vest, the witness produced a soiled, tattered document that Beaumont
handled gingerly.

“Dated seven years ago and long out of date. That won’t do, my man.
Well what else have you done?”

“Arrah! odd jobs, an’ maybe, a copper or two from a friend or a
Christian lady of the town or the praste. God bless them.”

“Now, turn up the sleeve of your arm, higher, let’s see your
muscles, man.”

A brawny, muscular arm was bared to view.

“An arm, your Worships will observe” said Edward, “that hasn’t
done a stroke of honest work these ten years back.”

“You’re a married man, I think, Graham?”

“’Deed, I am, sorr, worse luck.”

“Where’s your wife?”

Graham couldn’t say, but when his memory was assisted he confessed she
had left him years ago, but not before he had been convicted three or
four times in that very Court of aggravated assault upon her.

“You didn’t strike Pat Sullivan last night, you say?”

“Not a strike, sorr!”

“Striking a woman’s more in your line, I suppose. Perhaps you’ll
have their Worships believe you never beat your wife. Who was the friend
you had been spending the night with?”

Then it transpired that the friend was the genial host of the “Spotted
Dog,” and that before visiting that popular house of entertainment
Graham had favoured the “Brindled Cow” with his company, and when
somebody in the crowd at the back called out “Wheatsheaf,” to the
great indignation of half-a-dozen constables, who all called out
“Silence in Court,” and glared angrily at a very small boy who began to
whimper, Mr. Graham confessed to having had a glass, or maybe, two,
’deed, he wouldn’t swear not three, at the “Wheatsheaf.”

But at this the confusion of the witness was so great that Beaumont knew
it to be more damaging than any evidence, and magnanimously forbore to
press the question.

“Hadn’t we better get to last night?” suggested Mr. Mayor, mildly.

“I agree with your Worship. But it was desirable that we should know
who this injured innocent is that comes here with his whimpering,
whining story. And now, Graham, you know Nelly Sullivan?”

“Sure he did, bad cess to her for a squalling, meddling woman!”

“What made you strike Nelly Sullivan when you returned to your
lodgings last night?”

Of course he hadn’t struck Nelly. “Was he the man to lift his hand
against any woman?”

“Bar your wife, Graham,” reminded Beaumont.

“That was different. He hadn’t come there to talk about his wife. He
swore before God and all His saints on the blessed book he’d never
lifted so much as his little finger ’gainst Nelly Sullivan; strike him
dead, if he had!”

“Well, we’ll see what others have to say about it,” concluded
Edward, as he sat down.

“You’ve settled the assault on Graham, but what about resisting the
police?” whispered Storth, to his partner; “that’ll settle his
hash you’ll see.”

The constables who had arrested Pat and carried him to the cells
certainly bore speaking marks of that hero’s prowess, and their story
lost nothing in the telling. They told it with that unswerving
consistency which distinguishes the British policeman before “their
Washups.” They had certain things to say, those and no more. For the
time being the sum total of human knowledge was contained in just that.
They knew neither more nor less than what they went into the box to
swear to. For anything they knew Sullivan might have been provoked
beyond endurance by Graham, but when they appeared he ought to have
become as a bleating lamb. That was the official view, that, too, it was
clear, was the view of the Bench.

“We must support the police, you know,” was the most sacred tenet of
the magisterial mind.

“I shall not occupy your Worship’s time by making a speech,” said
Edward briefly. “I shall show you that Sullivan at the time the police
appeared was smarting under the sense of a cowardly blow given by that
wretched man Graham to his wife. When the police rushed in it was Graham
they ought to have seized, not my client. But give a dog a bad name and
hang him. But it is a most unfortunate thing that the police should have
interfered and put poor Pat to his trial at the very time when there was
some likelihood of his becoming a teetotaller and entirely amending his
ways.”

The Mayor pricked up his ears.

“Eh, eh? What’s that you say, Mr. Beaumont—a teetotaller?”

“Yes, your Worship, incredible as it may seem. Sullivan had yielded to
the persuasion a young lady, who will give her evidence before you, and
whose influence, I verily believe, was in a fair way to accomplish what
your Worships can do neither by fine nor imprisonment. You shall hear
the lady’s story. She is known in the Salvation Army as Sister
Gertrude, and as many ladies of very good social position and education
are engaged in this good work under these assumed titles, I shall ask
the Bench to allow the witness to be sworn in that name.

A hush fell upon the Court when Gertrude Fairfax entered the box, a
thrill passed through it when her clear but sweet and soft voice spoke.
Very quietly, almost timidly, with nothing of the self-assurance and
glib loquacity one hears in so many of the public women speakers and
that takes the bloom off their womanhood, she told to the Bench, with
little prompting from Edward, the story with which we are already
acquainted. Insensibly there arose before the minds of all who heard her
the picture of this pure, delicately-nurtured maiden, seated in a vile
den, surrounded by rough men, and slattern, vicious women, speaking to
them words of loving counsel and pleading with them for their good; of
Pat Sullivan, at first resentful, then subsiding into sulky silence,
then interested, then touched, and at length moved to promise of
amendment, the forgotten tenderness for his wife revived, the angel
within the man rescued from the death of sensuality and self-indulgence.
As she told her simple tale, women in the body of the Court sobbed
aloud, and even the stolid policemen looked human. The Mayor, an
emotional man, furtively used his handkerchief.

Then, when Beaumont adroitly threw in the remark:

“You are not, I believe, a paid officer in the Army, Sister Gertrude;
why should you concern yourself about the reformation of Patrick
Sullivan?”

The witness paused for one short moment, and then, with utmost
naturalness and naiveté, not as one quoting, but as speaking from her
own heart, said quietly:

“Wist ye not that I must be about Father’s business?”

“That is the case for the defence, Sir,” Said Beaumont, with a bow
to the Bench.

“We cannot convict upon such testimony,” said the Mayor, after
consulting his colleagues. “We only hope this will be a warning to
Sullivan. He shall go scot free this time, may God help him to be a
better man.”

“The Clerk ought to say ‘Amen,’” muttered Sam Storth, “and
then the thing would be complete. We’d turn the Court into a church
and dedicate it to St. Barabbas.”

“That was a narrow squeak for Master Sullivan,” said Beaumont to
Sister Gertrude. He found her waiting at the Court door, as he passed
out of it at the rising of the Court—to thank him, she said.
“There’s nothing to thank me for. It’s you they’ve to thank.
I’m afraid, if you are returning to Duskin’s Lodging House, you
won’t find Pat there cultivating the domestic virtues. He’ll be
celebrating his victory over the allied forces of the brutal and bloody
Sassenach in his national beverage at the ‘Wheatsheaf.’ The police
will keep a sharper eye on him than ever now, and I hope he won’t give
them another chance yet awhile. We can’t hope for a Thomas Hoyleham
and a Sister Gertrude in conjunction every day in the planetary system
of police administration. However, sufficient for the day’s the evil
thereof.”

“I hope better things for Pat and Nelly, Mr. Beaumont. I know how
difficult it will be for him and Nelly to struggle out of their present
surroundings; but I have faith.”

“Yes, you may have faith, Miss Fairfax; but I fear the surroundings
will be stronger than your faith. I suppose environment has a lot to say
to it. See! I don’t like the idea of Sullivan going and making a mess
of it again after the way you’ve tried to save him. Can’t you get
him and Nelly out of Duskin’s?”

“It would be a help, of course. But environment isn’t everything,
Mr. Beaumont.”

They were walking slowly on the New Street now, and many turned to cast
an envious and admiring glance at the well-known young lawyer and the
beautiful, graceful figure that moved, _dea certe_, by his side.

“Perhaps not. But it must be difficult to cultivate the domestic
virtues—that was what we called them, I think?—at such a hole as
Duskin’s. I’ll tell you what I’ll do. Tell Nelly to find a small
house somewhere near Sullivan’s work, and if you don’t mind getting
them some furniture into it—you can go to Oldfield and tell him to
send the bill in to me. We’ll give poor Pat a chance, anyway; but
I’m afraid the sticks will find their way back to Oldfield before the
month’s over. And now, good-bye, Miss Fairfax,” and Beaumont hurried
away to avoid the thanks his companion was beginning to express.

CHAPTER III.

It was the beginning of the Long Vacation, and Edward Beaumont was
asking himself how he should spend his holiday. Sam Storth had already
elected for Scotland, and had amused his partner by appearing at the
office in a tweed shooting suit, knicker-bockers and ribbed stockings
and stout boots complete. Sam was breaking his suit in, so that by the
time he reached the land of cakes it might be subtly suggestive of
honourable service on the moors.

“I don’t suppose you could hit a haystack if you tried, Sam,”
Edward had commented, with an amused smile. “Practising in a shooting
gallery at Huddersfield Fair at three shots a penny must be rather
different from popping at grouse on their native heath.”

“Well, I’m not going to pop at grouse on their native heath or
anywhere else. When I tackle that toothsome bird give me a knife and
fork, and I’m your man. But a fellow can’t go to Scotland, even if
he doesn’t get further North than Princess Street in Auld
Reekie—that’s the correct name for the town, isn’t it?—in a
frock-coat and top hat. But here’s a letter for you marked
‘Private.’ I’d nearly opened it with the office letters.”

Beaumont looked at the envelope. There was a crest and motto on the
flap. “_Forliter et leniter_, a lion rampant air scraping, I call it.
What rot this heraldic tomfoolery is? Who the deuce can it be from?”

“Better open it and see,” suggested Storth. Beaumont read the letter
rapidly, then more carefully, and finally handed it to his partner.

“Read it up, Sam. Who in the name of all that’s ecclesiastical is
Hugh St. Clair, Archdeacon?”

                                                         “The Vicarage,
                                                          Caistorholm,
                                                           Lincs.
                                                         August 10, 188

   “DEAR SIR,—
   I am strongly recommended by my esteemed friend, Mr. Fortescue, to
   seek your advice and professional assistance in a somewhat
   complicated matter in which I am very seriously concerned.
   Unfortunately, the absence of the Bishop on the Continent has thrown
   an unusual stress of diocesan work upon me, and I cannot very well
   pay a visit to Yorkshire at this juncture. Moreover, if you should
   be disposed to undertake the protection of my interests, the matter
   is such as to render a visit by you—probably, indeed, many visits—to
   this neighbourhood, indispensable. May I suggest, then, that you
   should accept the modest hospitality of the Vicarage for a few days.
   If you can come, I hope you can come at a very early day. You will
   find the route by Doncaster a convenient one, and if you will
   apprize me of the time of your arrival, I will send the carriage to
   meet your train. Believe me, Mr. Fortescue has spoken to me of you
   in such terms that I hope your many engagements will not preclude
   you from giving your valued time and attention to the affair in
   which I hope to have the benefit of your advice.
                                                    Yours faithfully,
                                                       HUGH ST. CLAIR,
                                                          Archdeacon.”

“Who’s ‘my friend Mr. Fortescue’?” queried Beaumont. “Never
heard of him in my life that I can remember. Tell you what, Sam, seems
to me this letter’s missed its way. St. Clairs and Fortescues and
crests and mottoes aren’t much in our line, eh? Memorandum heads from
Plover Mills, Telephone address No.—is more our form. Yet here it is
as plain as a pike-staff, ‘Edward Beaumont, Esq., solicitor,
Huddersfield.’”

“I fancy I’ve heard my reverend relative talk of a Fortescue he knew
at Cambridge. I daresay that’s the way it’s worked round. Anyhow,
assuming the letter’s for you, what do you mean to do? Go, of
course.”

“Well, no, Sam, I think not. You see, Archdeacons and I don’t
assimilate somehow. Who was it that wondered how the old augurs and
haruspices kept their faces when they saw each other? Well, I’m that
way with parsons. Not that I ever came across a live Archdeacon. But I
suppose he’ll be a cleric, double distilled. I think you’d better
write and offer your own valuable services. Besides, it looks like
chamber business, and that’s your department, you know.”

“Well, I’m not having any, thank you, Beaumont. I pass this deal.
I’ve no sort of fancy for passing a week in a country vicarage with a
parson double-distilled or diluted. I know the kind of thing; family
prayers at eight, croquet with the parsonettes till luncheon, cold
mutton and rice pudding and small beer, inspection of the village school
at three, yawn yourself to death till dinner, heavy joint, sodden
pudding, cheap claret, family prayers again at ten, no beer, no baccy,
no cards, unless its back-gammon or whist for penny points and no grog.
A washed-out archdeaconess, gushing or prim daughters, a dozen of ’em,
a cub of a son home from the local grammar-school, a noodle of a curate,
and the devil and all to pay if you wink at the chambermaid. No thank
you, Beaumont, you’re the man asked for, and ought to go. You can talk
theology till you’re black in the face, and flirt mildly with the
saintly misses, take it out of the curate generally, and perhaps shoot a
rabbit or two if you fancy yourself with a gun,” concluded Sam,
viciously.

And so it came to pass that Edward Beaumont some three days later found
himself in a market train crawling between Doncaster and Caisterholm,
marvelling at the, to him, new and unaccustomed types he saw on the
platforms or had for companions in his department—gentlemen farmers,
with a horsey look, ponderous bucolics, farmers of their thousand acres,
and slouching, sleepy peasants, with occasional glimpses of country
Hebes, with tangled, tawny locks, blooming cheeks, cherry lips, dancing
eyes of azure hue, bidding noisy farewells or boisterous greetings to
bent and wrinkled parents as they left for or returned to their rural
homes from domestic service in the colliery towns, where so many leave
their roses and their innocency. As the train crept its leisurely way
into the heart of the fen country, with its thorpes and long spires or
hoary towers, its dykes and placid streams—the majestic Trent spanned
and left many miles behind—its hazel groves, its clustered copses, its
broad expanse of teeming soil, groaning in labour of the bearded barley
and the golden wheat, Beaumont could scarcely realise that but a few
hours’ journey had borne him from the rough, brown, bare, moor-crested
hills of his home, with their streams all foul with the waste of the
dye-pans, the sky greyed by the smoke of a legion of long and lean
mill-chimneys, sallow, gaunt, eager-visaged, restless mill hands, rude
and assertive of speech, clattering everywhere with clogged feet, all
nerve, hurry, impatience, and irreverence. When he asked his
whereabouts, and was told that the Parts of Holland lay to his left, he
could have well-believed that he had slept and awoke in the flat land of
Hans and Frau and schiedam. The talk, such as there was, of his
companions for the first few miles had been of mangols and
“’tates,” of beasts and calves, of tithes and rents, of bushels
and loads, and the dreadful low prices ruling at the Corn Exchange in
Doncaster. The farmers had talked with dreamy complacency of inevitable
ruin, and seemed to be sheathing themselves in fat as they progressed
comfortably to the Bankruptcy Court. There had been a good many
clergymen travelling by the same train for short distances, and they
seemed as learned in matters agricultural as their parishioners. One,
indeed, had spoken of chemistry and scientific agriculture, and certain
classes that were spoken of for the farmers, with professors from
London, and the farmers had listened with tolerant contempt, but with
the evident conviction that nothing was to be learned from gentlemen in
London.

“I went to one o’ the classes when I was staying with my missus’
brother, Selby way. An’ if he didn’t talk of oxides an’ nitrates.
If he’d ha’ talked about poor-rates and sheep scab there’d ha’
been some sense in it.”

Edward Beaumont did not anticipate his stay at Caistorholm Vicarage
without some inward trepidation. To begin with, he did not quite know
what manner of man an Archdeacon might be. He had a vague memory that
Lord Palmerston had defined an Archdeacon to be a priest who discharged
archidiaconal functions; but that did not seem to help him much. His own
acquaintance among ministers of religion lay chiefly among the
professors of dissenting doctrines with whom his political activities
had brought him into contact on the Liberal Two Hundred and on
platforms. He bethought him of two doctors of divinity of his own town,
one a pillar of Congregationalism, a Scotchman, long, lean, ascetic, but
a scholar; the other a Boanerges of the Baptist faith, loud, blatant,
pushing, with an American degree. A week of either in the enforced
companionship of a country house would be badly paid by any fee the most
indulgent taxing-master would be likely to approve. But an Archdeacon!
That might mean anything from a prince of the Church, haughty, dignified
unconsciously patronizing, to a country vicar with a sounding title, but
differing only from an educated farmer in the necessity of preaching a
sermon a week to a sprinkling of clodhoppers and pensioners.

“Anyhow, I won’t be patronized!” resolved Edward, as he drew near
his destination. “If I find the place too much of a bore, or too much
against the grain, I can either chuck the thing altogether or send
Storth. He’s got a better stomach for spattle than I have, and if
there’s a decent inn in the place, with a respectable tap, Master Sam
will comfort himself o’ nights for the ennui of the days.”

The station at Caistorholm seemed to consist of a platform and a wooden
waiting-room, a porter’s-room, and a ticket-office. An aged
station-master received his portmanteau, and told him a carriage from
the Vicarage was waiting outside for a gent from Yorkshire. A steep
flight of wooden steps led from the top of the embankment, on which the
station stood, to the long, straight, chalky road outside—a Roman road
Edward learned later, straight as an arrow’s flight, running mile
after mile in undeviating line—“the shortest distance between two
extreme points,” ruminated Edward. A neat dogcart was at the foot of
the steps, a natty groom stood at the head of the mettlesome cob; the
aged porter, descending the steps with difficulty, placed Edward’s
portmanteau at the back of the phaeton, received a more liberal tip, as
he reflected subsequently, than he was accustomed to receive from
visitors to the Vicarage, and the mare, at a word, jumped to the collar,
and the carriage bowled away. On each side the road a broad, unfenced
ditch ran between the highway and the hedgerows that fenced the
spreading acres of potatoes, cabbage, and turnip that spread on either
side, far as the eye could reach, in one vast expanse of weary level,
unbroken save by an occasional windmill, whose great wheels turned
slowly with many a creak and groan in the warm autumn air.

“These roads must be dangerous on a dark night,” suggested Beaumont,
by way of breaking a silence that was becoming irksome.

“Not when you knows the road, sir.”

“The farmers hereabout must be a remarkably temperate sort of men!”

“’Taint the farmers, sir, it’s the hosses. Give a hoss his head if
you be o’ercome yourself, sir, an’ he’ll bring you home all right,
never fear. That’s my advice.”

“I don’t drive myself,” said Edward, smiling, “when I do I’ll
remember your advice. Though I’m more by way of giving advice than
taking it.”

“Doctor Gummidge, sir, the young ’un, he hasn’t been in these
parts above ten year or so. He take a deal aboard, he do, to be sure,
an’ he never had a spill yet that I heerd tell on. If you can’t
trust a hoss, sir, why, sell him or shoot him, that’s what I say.
That’s the Vicarage, sir, between the trees. If you’ll hold the
reins, I’ll open the gates of the drive. Woa, lass.”

A wide, well-kept carriage drive swept up between fields of what Edward
rightly surmised to be ancient glebe, in which a few sheep grazed
placidly, lifting drowsy heads to gaze unconcernedly at the high
stepping mare, a turkey, angrily suffused about the head, gobbled in
indignant protest, and a peacock, with outspread tail, strutted
resplendent. An Alderney whisked the flies from its back lazily as it
chewed its cud. A sunk fence divided the paddocks from a large lawn,
which, with flower beds of varied shape, rich in a declining bloom,
extended to the long French windows of a massive, square, two-storied
building of deep-toned, ruddy brick, about which the ivy and the
honeysuckle climbed and clustered in rich luxuriance. At the trellised
porch of the main entrance stood a tall, well-built, portly man of some
sixty years. His face was full and clean-shaven, his teeth perfect, his
hair, still abundant, snowy white. His broad shoulders, well thrown
back, enabled him to bear without loss of dignity a becoming fullness of
habit. The hand, which was extended in greeting to Edward, was plump,
white, and soft, the voice refined and mellow.

“You’re train was late, of course, Mr. Beaumont. If a train arrived
punctually at Caistorholm we should expect a revival of miracles in the
Church. You shall go to your room now, and we can have a chat in my
study before dinner. We dine early, six o’clock. I hope you won’t
find that too early for you; but you must try to put up with our country
ways.”

The ordinary dinner-hour at Huddersfield was one o’clock. At the club
or hostelries at which Beaumont was fain to dine, if he wished for ought
more than the chop or steak beyond which the culinary skill of his
landlady seldom adventured, one o’clock was the sacred hour of dinner,
and at that time the manufacturers, merchants, and professional men took
their substantial mid-day meal. To be sure, there were occasional
dinner-parties at private houses of the more pretentious of the
_nouveaux riches_ of the neighbourhood, fixed for seven o’clock, at
which the gentlemen were expected to appear arrayed in the correct
glories of evening-dress, but Edward had always complied with an
ill-grace to this sacrifice to middle-class snobbishness. He thought it
ridiculous that people who, on three hundred and sixty days of the year,
sat down at noon with healthy appetites to their Yorkshire pudding and
roast beef, with pickled cabbage and apple-pie and cheese, and a glass
of Burton to wash it down, should, on festive days, don a garb they were
not used to, and in which they felt ill at ease, dine off kickshaws they
did not care for, drink wines of which they hardly knew the names, and
which they did not honestly like—all because, instead of dining, they
were giving a dinner. However, he had brought a dress suit with him
in—_utrurmque sortem paratus_, as he reflected with satisfaction. The
library at the Vicarage was a capacious room, furnished in oak, and did
service also as a smoke-room. It was a very choice Havana that the
Archdeacon handed to his guest, as the latter joined him in the pleasant
room, and stood to admire the prospect from the long French window
giving upon the trim lawn.

“I’m afraid you won’t find many books here much to your taste; but
my daughter will perhaps be able to find you some literature of a
lighter sort.”

“I confess, Archdeacon, to a weakness for fiction. The mistress of my
choice is, of course, law; but I flirt with divinity, or, should I say,
apologetics, and I am afraid to think how many novels I read in the
year.”

“Ah! well, _dulce est desipere_. Unhappily I neglect my books too much
in these latter days. And for some time now I have been unable to
concentrate my mind even on my sermons, I suppose it is a just judgment
on me. I preach to my poor flock on the sin of covetousness and the
blessedness of contentment, and yet I have myself, though blessed by
Providence with stores above my every need, have not known to be
content, and have sought to add to my sufficiency. I say _mea culpa_
with all my heart, and I promise you, Mr. Beaumont, if you can help me
out of this coil, never again to entangle myself with concerns I do not
understand, and which have brought me hitherto only anxious days and
sleepless nights.”

“Perhaps,” suggested Edward, “’t were as well that you should
give me an outline of the matter on which you desire my assistance. I
can afterwards consider the papers in detail, for I understand the
affair is one of complexity.”

“A perfect maze, I assure you, my dear sir. I was tenth wrangler of my
year, and one would have thought I should know something about figures.
But when I try to understand the books and accounts of the Skerne Iron
Works Company, of which I am a director, I am as utterly befogged as if
I had never heard of Todhunter or Colenso.”

“Ah, well! happily I know something of book-keeping, so we may be able
to unravel the skein. Now tell me all about it.”

“What do you say to a little whisky and seltzer to your cigar—unless
you prefer a dry smoke?”

“If you will join me, Archdeacon.”

“With all my heart. We have a couple of hours before the dressing-bell
sounds. If whisky and rheumatism had been known to St. Paul, and
Timothy’s complaint had not apparently been simply stomachic, no doubt
the Pauline injunction would have been more comprehensive. But I am not
for literal interpretation, Mr. Beaumont, are you?”

“Assuredly not! We will apply the _cy pres_ doctrine. ’tis merest
equity.”

The Archdeacon looked puzzled, but passed the decanter.

“It is some five years since I acquired my shares in the Skerne Iron
Works. The concern had, according to all seeming, been a prosperous one
for years. The three brothers who owned it were most respectable men,
good churchmen, justices for the borough of G——, and, in a word,
most respectable men. When they turned their business into a company,
and sold out the greater part of their interest, I was easily persuaded
to adventure a large part of my savings in the shares of the company. I
was only getting a beggarly 4 per cent. on mortgage securities, and had
often as much difficulty and delay in getting my interest as I still
have in getting my tithes. But the Skerne shares showed 7 per cent., and
the interest was to come as punctually as quarter-day itself. So it did
for a year or so, and I congratulated myself on my prescience in making
so excellent an investment. I assured myself that my dear daughter’s
welfare was now secured, die when I might. Of course, as you know, my
income with this living dies with me. My poor wife had some three
thousand pounds of her own, which, by her will, she left to our child,
and as I was sole trustee of it, I thought I could not do better than
invest it along with my own money, and my daughter, of course, assented
to my proposal.”

“Was she of age?” asked Edward.

“H’m, well, no; not at the time.”

“Was the Skerne investment authorised by the terms of the will?”

“Really I cannot say, and I don’t see that it matters. Of course,
whatever I have is, or will be, my daughter’s some day.”

“Quite so,” assented Beaumont. “Well?”

“The shareholders made me a director,” continued the Archdeacon,
“and for a time I took quite an eager interest in the work of the
concern. It was quite delightful to drive over—it is but ten miles
from here—and see the various processes. But after the first twelve
months or so, instead of dividend warrants, I got calls, and that was
not so pleasant, you know.”

“Naturally,” agreed Edward. “What became of the three most
respectable brothers?”

“Two of them retired on the formation of the company. The elder
continued for a time as managing director; but gradually, as I have
ascertained, he, too, has almost entirely severed his connection, and
his financial interest in the works is very slender. In fact, whilst I
was eagerly acquiring more and more of the shares, Allcroft, that’s
his name, was quietly but steadily getting rid of his.”

“‘Unloading,’ I think it is called,” said Edward.

“And a very good term, too. The worst of it is, in a sense, I not only
put my own and my daughter’s money into the company, but persuaded a
number of my brother clergymen to do the same. You see, Mr. Beaumont, an
archdeacon has naturally a great deal of confidence reposed in him, and,
I’m sure I can’t tell why, my brethren credited me with an amount of
business capacity and astuteness, which it is quite clear I don’t
possess.”

“You ought to have smelt a rat when the Allcrofts unloaded. Depend
upon it, they knew what they were about.”

“Oh! they had very good reasons to give—family settlements, the
desire to retire from business, and so on.”

“You went into this thing, I suppose, largely on the advice of these
Allcrofts?”

“Entirely.”

“Well, if I had thought their advice good enough to lead me into it, I
think I should have considered their example still better to lead me
out. However, you aren’t out, so it’s no use talking about that. But
perhaps it’s not too late now. The shares will have fallen, but you
might clear at a trifling loss.”

“Rat, you mean?”

“If you like, yes. A sinking ship’s not the best quarters.”

“You forget, Mr. Beaumont, I told you many of my brother clergymen
have invested in the Skerne Iron Works through my advice and influence,
and, indeed, not a few others, widowed ladies chiefly of small means.
And I cannot leave them in the lurch. I wish you to investigate the
affairs of the Company, and to take such steps as may get me clear of it
with honour and with as little loss as may be.”

“I understand thoroughly, Archdeacon, and I shall have pleasure in
doing my best to protect both your interest and your honour.”

“And now, Mr. Beaumont, enough of business for to-day. It is time to
dress, and we shall, no doubt, find my daughter expecting us in the
drawing-room. Our neighbour, Squire Wright, is to dine with us to-day,
I think.”

Whilst the Vicar and his lawyer were in serious conference in the
library. Miss Eleanor St. Clair was whiling away the tedious quarter of
an hour before the dinner-bell with the only other guest of the evening.
She was the Archdeacon’s only child, and he a widower for some years,
and, since her mother’s death, the charge of the household had
devolved upon daughter. Perhaps that fact had given to Eleanor a
thoughtfulness and an air of authority beyond her years. Tall, raven of
hair, of pure, pale the complexion, with dark orbs, full of life and
intelligence, Eleanor moved with the easy grace of accustomed dignity.
_Incessit regina_. Related on her mother’s side to the noble house of
Yarborough, she did not forget that her grandfather was an earl, and it
is possible she was equally well aware that the coronet of a countess
would sit becomingly upon the smooth, white brow borne so proudly above
her long but rounded neck, and the white smooth shoulders her simple
costume of to-night rather hinted than revealed.

Her companion, Squire Wright, was the largest landowner, except perhaps
the noble family aforesaid, for miles around. He said, and believed,
that when Norman William came to the fens, a Wright was a Saxon Thane,
and lord of many a wide-spreading demense, and that, from that day to
this, Thoresby Manor had never been without a squire of his family
sprung in direct line from the stout old Thane, who had dealt his shrewd
knocks against the mailed warriors on Senlac’s fatal field. One felt
little disposed to question the genealogy, looking at the present
representative of the ancient line. George Wright was a well-set,
stalwart man, of some thirty summers. His hair was flaxen, and curled
closely to his head, his short beard and moustache were of flax, rudded
by the sun, his shoulders were broad, his chest deep, his cheeks full,
his eye of pale blue—a healthy, manly young Saxon, and good to look
upon. For the rest, was he not in the commission of the peace, had a
troop in the Yeomanry, riding to the annual inspection at the head of
his own tenantry, could give a good account of himself among the
partridges, and was so good a judge of a horse or a bullock that he was
one of the judges at the County Cattle Show, and if not especially
brilliant, was also not especially stupid; and if he had sowed any wild
oats had sowed them discreetly and without scandal; was regular in his
church-going, a steady supporter of the Crown, the Church, and the
finest constitution in the world, and had no silly fads. He was an easy
landlord, and, therefore, popular; his estate was unencumbered, and
there were no sisters or younger brothers to provide for, and as it was
now full time in everybody’s opinion, his own included, that he should
marry and settle down, he told himself to-night for the thousandth time,
that the country for once was right when it declared that no more
gracious nor more beautiful nor more worthy a mistress for Thoresby
Grange could be found, search where he might, than the Archdeacon’s
queenly daughter.

“We have a visitor, George, from Yorkshire. Papa thought he could not
very well do otherwise than ask him to stay at the Vicarage; though,
I’m sure, if he’s at all like that horrid Mr. Shaw, he would have
been much more at home at the ‘Marquis of Granby’ than with us.”

“And why should he be like ‘that horrid Shaw,’ Eleanor? Though
Shaw is right enough for anything I can see. What’s the matter with
Shaw, and why should your visitor be like him?”

“Mr. Shaw always smells of gin and tobacco, and our visitor, like him,
is a solicitor.”

“Phew! a solicitor, and from Yorkshire? But, then, there are no doubt
solicitors and solicitors; though I confess I don’t like the breed. No
trouble of the Archdeacon’s, I hope.”

“Something to do with the Iron Works, I fancy. Papa, I know, has been
very much troubled about them. You know I hate business, and understand
it as little as I dislike it much. Whatever could have induced papa to
meddle with those dirty works I can’t conceive.”

“Well come to that I’ve got a few shares in the Iron Works myself,
Eleanor. The Archdeacon said it would be a good thing. I’m not in very
deep, but I’m afraid your father has invested pretty considerably in
the shares. Indeed, I know he has taken over shares from people who
bought on his recommendation, and very foolishly insisted on giving them
the price they gave, though the shares are down in the market.”

“Well, I only hope this Mr. Beaumont, I think they call him, will take
some of the creases out of papa’s brow. He may smell of gin and
tobacco as much as he likes, and I’ll be monstrous civil to him, if
he’ll do that, and I expect you to be the same, sir. But here they
come.”

If either Eleanor St. Clair or Squire Wright had any idea of being
condescendingly polite to the lawyer from Yorkshire, the idea was
banished as Edward Beaumont acknowledged the Archdeacon’s introduction
to his daughter, and made his bow before his hostess. If Edward had not
mixed much in polite society—as the world counts polite society—he
knew its usages. Without being conceited, he knew himself to be as well
educated, in the broad sense of the word, as most men, and he was very
far from feeling disposed to cringe before either Church dignitary or
landed magnate. The Archdeacon, indeed, accustomed to the smooth
deference of the suave attorneys of the cathedral town who did the
business of the clergy of the county, had been surprised and pleased to
find in his guest not only a shrewd, well-informed lawyer, but a scholar
and a gentleman, who took it for granted that he would be received in
the Archdeacon’s house on the footing of any other guest.

The dinner-gong sounded as the introductions ended, and Edward with Miss
St. Clair on his arm, followed his host and the Squire into the
dining-room.

“You’ve not seen enough of our county, yet, to tell us how it
impresses you, Mr. Beaumont, and I don’t know anything of Yorkshire,
except that it is mostly moors and mills. Huddersfield, I suppose, is
all smoke and mills?”

“We’ve mills enough in and about the town, but we haven’t much to
complain about in the matter of smoke. For one thing, the surrounding
hills are so lofty, and the moors on their summits so extensive, that
the breezes sweep down the valleys or over our heads, and of a summer
day you can stand in the main street of the town and see above your head
sky as blue and as little obscured by smoke as looks down upon your fat
pastures and rustling cornfields. You must go to Sheffield for smoke,
not Huddersfield.”

“But your people,” said the Squire. “They’re a rascally set of
malcontents, I have always understood—Chartists, atheists, and
Communists.”

Edward laughed pleasantly.

“I am by way of telling our people they are the most intelligent and
the most independent in the world. I’ve no doubt, though, there are
some Chartists among them, or those who were Chartists in their youth.
As for Republicans, well, you know, we go in for practical measures up
our way and leave Utopias to the dreamers. As Pat at Donnybrook Fair, if
he sees a head he hits it; so we just hit the abuses we see.”

“But aren’t the mill-hands, generally speaking, a very godless set
of men?” asked the Archdeacon. “I have always looked on my brother
clergymen who accept livings or curacies in the West Riding more as
missionaries than incumbents, and, indeed, they tell fearful tales of
the irreverence and slackness of the common people in the manufacturing
towns. Dissent, we know, is simply rampant in the West Riding.”

“I should scarcely have regarded dissent as a sign of want of
spirituality,” said Edward, with a quiet smile. “I have always
regarded it as a rather disagreeable sign of excessive
spirituality—religion run mad.”

“But the mills, Mr. Beaumont,” interposed Miss St. Clair, who,
perhaps, thought the conversation was tending in a direction best
avoided. “One reads stories of the awful lives of the factories. It
must be so wretched to live all the weary days amid the din of the
wheels and the fluff and dirt and grease of the wool.”

“If you were to stand, Miss St. Clair, as I have often stood, of a
dark and wintry night on the ridge of one of our valleys, and looked
down upon the great mills, their windows all glowing with light, and
heard from within the deep voices of the men, and the sweet, pure,
trained notes of the women and the girls, blended in some well-known
hymn, or even taking their parts in some familiar and more complex song,
you would not think the weaver’s lot a very wretched one. Depend upon
it, there’s a lot of poetry in a mill, only we haven’t yet been
happy enough to produce a poet. But I profess it is strange to find you
commiserating our mill-hands. We in the West Riding have always thought
it was the poor hinds of the country who called for commiseration. I
don’t know that we regard Huddersfield as an Athens of the North, but
we certainly have thought of parts of Lincolnshire as a sort of Baotia.
I’m afraid we have been wasting a lot of very genuine sympathy.
Perhaps I don’t know much about Hodge. I hope to know more before I
leave Lincolnshire. May I hope Miss St. Clair will be my
instructress?”

“Confound his impudence!” thought the Squire. “Do you hunt, Mr.
Beaumont?”

“No! our’s is not a hunting district. Besides, I haven’t the time
for it.”

“You shoot, of course?”

“Oh! I’ve knocked over a grouse or a hare or two. But, to tell the
truth, I am no sportsman. When I go on the moors I’d rather lie down
in the sun and admire the view than blaze away at the birds. And as for
sport, rather badger a witness than hunt a fox, any day.”

“We can’t all badger a witness,” suggested Eleanor.

“Besides, a fox likes the run as much as the hounds do.”

“So I’ve heard,” conceded Edward; “but never from the lips of
Monsieur Reynard. I never heard of a witness enjoying badgering. But,
there, I’m no sportsman, only because I can’t get sport
conveniently—I’m no sentimentalist.”

“It’s marvellous,” said the Archdeacon, “what a lot of
‘anti-everything’ people there are. You have nothing to do nowadays
but declare you like something, and a society is sure to be formed to
put it down. There are people who won’t smoke, or drink a glass of
good wine, or honest beer, or eat flesh meat, or play a hand at whist,
or go near a racecourse, or handle a gun, or touch a cue. It is
Puritanism run mad.”

“They’re generally a set of low Radical Methodists,” opined the
Squire. “You never find such absurd fads among Church people.”

“Of course not,” agreed the Archdeacon. “All the same,” demurred
Edward, “I don’t see the connection between sound doctrine and roast
beef, or between Church polity and a hand at whist.”

“It’s a mental habit, my dear sir,” explained the cleric. “A man
begins by dissenting from the Church of his fathers, and by a natural
process begins to question their diet.”

“Depend upon it,” said Wright, with conviction, the battles of Old
England were never fought, nor its empire built, on carrots and cold
water. Look at your Frenchman.”

“I’ve known some very charming French-women,” protested Edward.

“We spent a month in Paris last autumn,” said the Archdeacon, “and
I hadn’t a decent meal all the time I was there.”

“Oh! Papa!” protested Eleanor. “The cooking is exquisite.”

“A woman doesn’t understand cooking,” declared her father. “It
is well known that if the matter had been left to Eve, we should never
have progressed beyond tea and bread and butter.”

“At any rate, Eve invented costumes,” suggested Edward. “The
Palais-Royal was founded in Eden.”

“Don’t speak disrespectfully of Eden,” said the Archdeacon.

“I don’t. ’tis there we meet the first lawyer.”

“You mean the serpent.”

“_Teste_ Coleridge,” said Beaumont. “You remember the lines, Miss
St. Clair?—

    ‘Cain and his brother Abel.’”

“I never knew before how much we have to reproach you with, Mr.
Beaumont.”

“But if there had been no lawyers there would have been
no—Archdeacons, shall we say?”

“Oh, then, we’ll forgive them for the sake of the Archdeacons. You
won’t keep me sitting by myself in the drawing-room too long, papa,”
and Miss St. Clair swept through the door which Beaumont opened. “I
declare we women have always to leave the table by the time men find
their tongues.”

“’Tis a custom more honoured in the breach than the observance,”
quoted Edward, as he bowed before her.

“Fill up your glass, Wright,” said the Archdeacon. “That
Burgundy’s all right, if you prefer it. But I’m for the
vintage—what does our Lincolnshire bard sing?—

    ‘Whose father grape grew fat
    In Lusitanian summers.’

Did you see the _Standard_ this morning, Mr. Beaumont? I see the rumour
grows more persistent that Gladstone may dissolve any day. He will go to
the country, of course, on the Extension of the Franchise?”

“And Parish Councils,” added Beaumont.

“Cursed rot,” muttered the Squire. “That man will ruin the
country. See if he don’t disestablish and disendow you, Archdeacon,
before he dies.”

“Mr. Gladstone’s a good Churchman, I always understood,” demurred
Edward.

“He’d rob his grandmother for power,” vowed the Squire.

“Perhaps Mr. Beaumont is an admirer of his?” queried his host.

“My grandfather was a Whig, my father a Liberal, and you may write me
down a——”

“‘Not an ass,’ that’s the correct quotation, I believe.”

“No! a Radical.”

“That’s worse!” said the Squire, with emphasis.

“Radical lawyers are _raræaves_ are they not, Mr. Beaumont?” asked
the Archdeacon.

“Black swans. Black enough, I suppose, Mr. Wright thinks. Well, yes,
in the country, men of my branch of the profession are generally
Conservative. I don’t know why, except it be that they have the sense
to know on which side their bread is buttered.”

“Of course,” said the Squire; “the law and the land.”

“But in my town,” said Edward, “there’s only one landlord and we
can’t all live on him. But we manage to butter our bread pretty well
all the same.”

“No more wine, Mr. Beaumont? Then we’ll see if Miss St. Clair can
give us a cup of tea.”

CHAPTER IV.

The time passed very pleasantly at Caistorholm Vicarage. Edward rose
betimes each morning, and was often deep immersed in the intricacies of
the Skerne Iron Works Company’s accounts long before his host had
quitted his downy bed, and could with clear conscience enter into those
delights of country-life that were to him all the sweeter because
unaccustomed. The glories of the Vicarage garden were on the wane, but
its orchard was prepared to yield its juicy fruits. The fields were fast
ripening for the sickle. The great calm and hush of those pastoral
scenes stole over his senses like a young child’s sleep. There were no
revelries, but there was constant interest. The Archdeacon had suggested
a dinner-party, but Edward had been so emphatic in his declarations of
preference for quiet, the project had been abandoned. A neighbouring
vicar or rector dropped in occasionally for luncheon, and was easily
persuaded to stay for dinner. Edward had, at first, spoken rarely and
with reserve about matters social and political—doctrine was avoided
by common consent. Strange, one may pass a month in a clergyman’s
house and never hear religion discussed. Presumably the household has so
long taken fundamental dogma for granted that the possibilities of wide
divergence amounting to repudiation is not so much as thought of. Edward
saw with amaze men of unquestioned scholarship and intelligence equally
indisputably above the average grow warm and excited in discussing the
Eastward position, incense, lights, stoles, birettas, man millinery
generally. He itched to tell them that the vast bulk of those who should
be their flock didn’t care a brass farthing about genuflexions or
ecclesiastical trappings. What the human soul yearns to understand is
the Divine rule and ordinance, if rule and ordnance there be and not
blind chaos; to know if man be indeed _Imaginis Imago_, or but the last
if not the final link of a chain long drawn out with a protoplasm at one
end of it; if there is indeed and in very sooth a God our Father, who
sees and loves and can be moved by prayer, if man have in truth an
immortal spirit or is like unto the beasts that perish; if it be true
that after death comes the judgement, when the gross inequalities of
this world shall be made right and virtue shall indeed reign. Edward
knew, as any man with ears to hear may know, that the avowed scepticism
of mankind is a mere speck of dust compared with the huge mass of
practical perhaps unconscious, infidelity that pervades society. It
filled him with impatient scorn that men who should be leaders of
thought, able to give counsel and enlightenment to those who grope in
darkness, should spend the priceless years in mumbling twaddling
homilies and in agitated harassment about stage effects. He could not
interest himself in the question how far a beneficed incumbent may go on
the road to Rome without jeopardising his living. He longed to tell
these clerical traitors who let “I dare not wait upon I would,” that
in this country any man worth his salt, who had a message to give, need
not be uneasy about the forthcoming of the salt. He could go back to
Yorkshire, he reflected sardonically, and find a score of half-educated
weavers who had borne hunger and thirst, imprisonment, and stripes for
conscience sake, and were ready to do it again and glory in the doing.
But, then, hunger and thirst and imprisonment and stripes are one thing
to a man to whom hunger and thirst and oppression are the daily lot, and
quite another to a sleek, soft man who basks in the sunshine all his
days and counts himself piteously poor and an object of commiseration
on five hundred a year. “Why, don’t you all turn dissenters?” he
asked of a clerical party one evening, as they lingered over the desert.
“You all find fault with your Bishop. The poor man can apparently do
nothing right. If you were dissenting ministers you would be your own
bishops.”

“I fancy, my dear Beaumont, the dissenters have their Trust deeds.”

“Oh, Trust deeds—a fico for your Trust deeds. They talk about
driving a coach and six through an Act of Parliament—why, a regiment
of soldiers could walk through a Trust deed. ’Tis an instrument as
little resorted to for the purpose of torture in a Nonconformist church
as the thumbscrew in the Tower of London. Besides a man isn’t a
fixture in a Dissenting Church. When he has talked himself dry, or made
more enemies than friends, he can always change pulpits with another
fellow who has talked himself dry or made more enemies than friends.”

“There are our social status and influence to be considered,” said a
sucking young curate just emerged from the Bishop’s Hostel. “Our
mere position invests us with a sacred authority never wielded by a mere
dissenter.”

“Your social position is largely the result of social factors. The
Established Church draws its ministers mainly from families socially
established, and they receive not only the education and culture, but
also the social stamp of Oxford or Cambridge. The dissenting parson is
often the son of a grocer or a shoemaker, and receives a surface polish
and a surfeit of theology at a training college, but seldom loses the
smell of the ancestral shop. Your clergyman is a gentleman first, a
clergyman afterwards. Turn all your well-born scholars into Methodists,
and your half-educated social inferiors into the Church, and you would
reverse the present social positions of the established and the
nonconforming divines.”

“Then you think our present social superiority, and therefore our
greater influence for good, for, of course, it is only to be valued for
that, is a matter of birth and education.”

“Largely, but not entirely. You see, your present status is official.
You owe your posts directly or indirectly to the Crown. You are part of
the machinery of the State. And it is surprising how mere officialism
and the possession of authorised and acknowledged titles impress the
popular imagination in this country. You see it all through. Dub a man
M.A. or LL.D., and the general man will persist in thinking him a better
scholar than another who far surpasses him, but has not received the
hall-mark of a University. So put a man in uniform with epaulettes and
dub him an officer. He bears a social cachet, though he may be a
poltroon and a blackguard. It is largely an affair of clothes and names
and State-connection. You clergymen, if you really care about retaining
your social importance, would commit social suicide if you got
yourselves disestablished, even if you retain those endowments and other
fleshpots you are so concerned about, but which appear to me the element
you could most easily compensate under a system of voluntaryism.”

“Then you think, Mr. Beaumont,” asked the Rector of Fillingham,
“our policy is to let well alone?”

“Yes, if you’re let. I think if I were an incumbent with a fat
living I could swallow my bishop and make no bones about it. Remember
the dissenting parsons have their deacons, and I can conceive of nothing
more galling than for a man of principle and education to have to trim
his sails to suit the views of a coarse, uneducated deacon with all the
soul of a village tyrant, just because he happens to have more money
than some of the humbler worshippers. I should preach either him or
myself out of the conventicle.”

“Ah! he would be your bishop,” laughed the Archdeacon.

“Those dissenters are just the plague of my life,” confided one of
the country vicars from a neighbouring parish. “Just fancy, Mr.
Beaumont, there aren’t five hundred families in all my parish, and yet
there is besides mother church, a Wesleyan chapel, a Congregational and
a Baptist. It turns my modest glass of wine and my crust to gall and
ashes when I think of it.”

“Oh! I know something of the feeling, Vicar. You don’t suppose I
like to see people taking their cases to the man next door, who, I am
persuaded is not half so fine a fellow as I am. But you can’t go
begging for communicants, any more than I can go touting for clients.
Besides, what does it matter in which church a man saves his soul alive,
so long as it is saved. _Ut palata, sic judicia_ is of universal
application.”

“Ah! but can a man be saved outside the true Church?” asked the
young curate from the Bishop’s Hostel.

“That’s a question the next Roman Catholic parish priest might have
something to say about,” rejoined Edward. “Anyway, people seem
willing to risk it. Don’t you think, Archdeacon, instead of trying to
filch flocks from the folds, the shepherds of the Church could find
quite enough to do in casting their crooks about those wandering sheep
that are utterly lost in the wilderness?”

“Pray condescend to particularise, Mr. Beaumont,” begged his host.

“Well, a day or two before I came down here a vulgar case, of which I
need not trouble you with the details, gave me a glimpse of the workings
of the Salvation Army.”

“A most valuable institution, no doubt,” said the Archdeacon.

“Yes,” said Edward, “but you will pardon my saying—why a
Salvation Army at all? Here are more than half our churches and chapels
with yawning pews, and out in the street are crowds of earnest
enthusiasts following a dancing Dervish and a big drum.”

“You wouldn’t have me dancing in my cassock through Caisterholm, and
the parish clerk or verger tinkling a tambourine?”

“Well, no. But, after all, if the mountain won’t come to Mahomet,
Mahomet must go to the mountain. And that’s just General Booth’s
secret.”

“A very latitudinarian young man,” commented one vicar to another,
as they jogged home together in the still autumnal evening through the
fragrant hedgerows. “Whatever did St. Clair mean by taking advice from
a man like him. But the man may be a good lawyer for all that, and I
won’t look too closely at his Church principles if he’ll pull my
good sovereigns out of those infernal Skerne blasts.”

The Archdeacon himself, before Beaumont had been a week under his roof,
had conceived not only a high opinion of his guests’ acumen and legal
attainments, but also a warm regard for himself personally. Their very
points of difference seemed to enhance the pleasure the cleric found in
the lawyer’s society and conversation. It is true they approached
almost every subject from an entirely different point of view, and
therein lay constant danger of friction or collision. But Edward had
ever a seemly consideration for his senior in years and a ready
concession of whatever deference the Archdeacon’s ecclesiastical
dignity reasonably demanded. There is, perhaps, nothing so well designed
as practice in the Courts to develop in a man a happy blending of due
submission to authority with the respectful but unflinching assertion of
one’s own opinions. The Archdeacon declared in later years that it was
as great a pleasure to be routed in argument by Beaumont as to prevail,
for the fellow had a sweet reasonableness about him that took away the
sting of defeat, and almost persuaded the vanquished that he himself was
victor. The elder man was fond of controversy if it were not pushed too
far, of debate if it were conducted decently. It was an intellectual
treat to meet a man with the generous enthusiasm of youth and with ideas
outside the narrow range with which a country clergyman, whose only
associates are clergymen like unto himself, must, almost perforce, be
content. Though not so disputative as the man who repined because the
very wife of his bosom was ceasing to contradict him, the Archdeacon
wearied at times of speaking _ex cathedra_ Moreover, in a society drawn
almost exclusively from one’s fellows controversy lacked not only
variety of interest but variety of treatment. No doubt the smooth
serenity of a soundly Conservative orthodoxy was an excellent thing, but
the Vicar of Caistorholm confessed to himself that Beaumont’s radical
heterodoxy, if a disturbance, was one that acted as a mental tonic and
wholesome fillip. Exercise is a disturbance; but it is recommended for
the liver. Mr. St. Clair acknowledged with a sigh that, intellectually
and spiritually, life at Caistorholm might be serene, but it was
unquestionably sluggish.

“We touched on Disestablishment the other evening,” he said one day
to Edward, as they walked together in the peaceful afternoon of a mellow
autumn day about the Vicarage gardens; “I did not encourage you to
pursue the subject, because some of our friends are very sensitive on
that topic. To us clergymen, you know, the Church is as the Ark to the
Levites, not to be touched by unholy hands.”

“Well,” said Edward, smiling, “I’ve no mind to bring upon myself
the fate of Uzzah—at all events, I must avoid it whilst I am at the
Vicarage. Percz-Uzzah is not near so pretty a name as Caistorholm.”

“But though I did not think it desirable to discuss the question when
some of my friends were present who are, I fear, too apt to confound
persons and principles and to think suspiciously, if not evilly, of a
man who differs from them as widely as I know you do, I hope you will
not conclude I shrink from discussing it. Nay, I confess, I should like
to know your views on the question more at large, for then we of the
Order should at least know how we appear to the outer world and learn
the worst we have to expect.”

“To tell the truth, Mr. St. Clair, it is a question I have little at
heart. It has always seemed to me more an affair between Church and
Chapel than one that concerns the masses very largely. And, you see, if
I’m but an indifferent Churchman I’m just as bad a Chapel man.
Indeed, so far as I can see, a Chapel man is only an average
Trinitarian, plus envy, indocility, and cant. In the abstract, of
course, I certainly think the Establishment cannot be justified to-day
whatever might have been said for it, at the reformation, say. As for
your endowments, I think the nonconforming envy of them simply
contemptible, and the claim that they ought to be applied to national
education, free libraries, art galleries, etc., a mere pretence. If John
Bull wants art galleries he can afford to pay for them without taking
the coat off your back. No! I don’t feel like slapping you in the
face, Archdeacon, just to pleasure the Rev. Josiah Boanerges, who would
have no objection to be snugly endowed himself. Frankly, I don’t think
the Church will fall from any blows that may be dealt from without. Its
danger lies in the dry-rot that is silently but surely Consuming the
inner rafters and supports.”

“Dry rot, my dear Beaumont!”

“Yes, dry-rot. If I speak at all you must let me speak frankly, and
you know I do not want to wound your sensibilities. Burns, after all,
was foolish to sigh for the gift to see ourselves as others see us. It
might from ‘mony a faultie free us and sair mistake’; but it would
so rudely and so constantly shake our serenity that life would not be
worth the living. Let us change the subject, Archdeacon.”

“Well, I’ll tell you frankly enough the great danger of the Church.
You know it is a common lament that your services, in the towns, I mean,
attract the women, not the men?”

The Vicar bowed a silent assent.

“Now, how do you account for it, Mr. St. Clair?”

“I can only suggest spiritual indifference.”

“Nay, I cannot subscribe to that. Take my town. Let a good speaker be
announced to deliver an address on political or social questions he can
fill the Town Hall with men and women, mostly men, of every
grade—clergy men, dissenting ministers, lawyers, doctors,
manufacturers, merchants, shop-keepers; and working-men.”

“Yes, but that is to hear about worldly affairs, Beaumont, not
heavenly. Your lecturers deal with to-day and here. I speak of to-morrow
and there.”

“Ah! well, Archdeacon, I think you will find if a man is anxious about
setting matters right to-day and here he will not be indifferent about
to-morrow and there. But you must satisfy him there is a to-morrow and
there.”

“But that is of course.”

“To you, yes. But to how many? I don’t judge men by their
professions or their creeds. I judge them by their acts. And so judged I
conclude that for most men to-day and here are very real, to-morrow and
there are very visionary, very problematical; so distant, so uncertain,
as to be a negligible quantity.”

“Then you would have us?”

“I would have the Church remember that we live in a questioning age,
an age when the fact of an institution or an opinion being hoary with
age, so far from rendering it secure from investigation rather makes it
an object of suspicion. We have found our forefathers wrong in so many
things, and we have improved on them so much, that we have lost our
confidence in their judgment. The Church drones about things nobody
questions I mean what Matthew Arnold calls ‘right conduct,’ what you
call ‘righteousness’; it dogmatises, I mean asserts positively or
takes for granted things which an increasing number of intelligent men
are very far indeed from taking for granted. Men will no more endure
being droned to about right conduct than they will submit to having it
eternally dinned into their ears that twice two makes four. They cry you
‘granted.’ They go to Church for bread and you give them a stone.
They seek for guidance and assurance, if guidance and assurance there
may be, on matters you have made a special study, and instead of showing
them how to be sure, you only tell them that you are sure.”

“What more can we do? People don’t believe, because their hearts are
corrupt, and they don’t want to believe. If anyone wish to know the
truth let him seek it on his knees. ‘The wind bloweth where it
listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but cannot tell whither it
cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the
Spirit.’”

“Possibly,” said Edward, dryly. “We quote authorities in the Law
Courts, Mr. St. Clair; but, you see, they are of acknowledged validity
there. The suitors in our Courts are bound by the law they seek to
invoke, and submit themselves to the jurisdiction when they enter their
plaints. You see, the whole point is that, to-day, you have to deal with
honest doubters who deny the authority of your authority, and your only
answer is a _petitio principis_. But I see Miss St. Clair is ready for
her expedition to the village, and I am to have the honour of
accompanying her.”

The Archdeacon looked thoughtfully at the figures of his daughter and
guest, as, side by side, apparently in gay converse, they passed down
the Vicar’s Walk that led through orchard and paddock, past the hoary
church and mouldering churchyard into the road that led to the
straggling rows of peasants’ and small farmers’ houses, with here
and there a shop, that constitute the village of Caistorholm. He could
not fail to observe that Eleanor took pleasure in the lawyer’s
company, that her glance had been brighter, her face happier of late.
Mr. St. Clair was glad that Edward’s stay at the Vicarage should be
made pleasant to him, and that his daughter should find a visit that
might have developed into a visitation an agreeable break in the
monotony of rural life. It was, of course, eminently satisfactory that
the stranger whom he had been advised to consult and to trust in a
matter of the very gravest importance should turn out to be not only a
sound and reliable lawyer and a shrewd business man, but also a
well-educated, well-read man, with the manners of a gentleman. Mr. St.
Clair’s acquaintance with solicitors was chiefly confined to the
urbane practitioners who dealt in advowsons or were learned in
dilapidations, and with them he had permitted himself rather a
condescending affability. From the first he had recognised that he could
not patronise Beaumont, and had enjoyed the discomfiture and amazement
with which Squire Wright had retired from his attempt in that direction,
and which had so affected him that he had given the Vicarage a wide
berth ever since. But Mr. St. Clair told himself that, after all, he
knew very little about Beaumont. His old college friend, Fortescue, had
told him that he had heard the best accounts of Beaumont’s successful
conduct of a difficult and delicate matter, in which a mutual friend had
been embroiled, and on his recommendation, and not without some natural
hesitation, he had invited Edward to his home, feeling that he would
rather confide to a stranger living at a distance than to a Lincoln
lawyer the whole story of what he was now fully persuaded had been his
very foolish, nay, reckless speculations in the Skerne shares. With
Edward as a legal adviser he felt that he had more than reason to be
satisfied, and he had enjoyed his conversation and the interchange of
thought not a little. But he noticed with anything but satisfaction that
Edward had made his conversation very acceptable to the stately Eleanor,
who was not easily pleased. Not one afternoon passed but the young
people found some occasion for being together—a round of parochial
visits in which Edward carried the basket, and supplemented Eleanor’s
tracts with covert half-crowns to rheumatic and asthmatical pensioners;
a drive in Eleanor’s pony-carriage to some object of antiquarian
interest, an ancient tower or a ruined church—who does not know the
devices by which the tedium of the country is enlivened for the visitor
from the towns?

On these excursions the Archdeacon felt he could not, even privately to
his daughter, put an embargo, without giving them an importance which
they might not deserve, and even suggesting to his daughter’s mind
ideas that might never lodge there unless suggested. To be sure, the
Archdeacon might accompany the young folk on these jaunts; but the
archdeacon, like many less exalted individuals, liked to take his ease
of an afternoon, and found himself on all the better terms with himself
and mankind in general for forty winks in the armchair of his study,
after luncheon of an afternoon, when it was a matter of faith in the
household that he was meditating his next Sunday sermon, and must on no
account be disturbed.

And so it came about that if Edward spent many a long hour with the
father over the wearying and irritating concerns of the Iron Works, or
holding forth, as was his wont, upon topics of more general interest,
sometimes startling, sometimes alarming, but always interesting the
Vicar, he spent also hours that seemed neither long, tedious, nor
irritating with Eleanor St. Clair, when we may be sure the subjects of
conversation were neither law nor theology nor commerce.

“This kind of thing, Miss St. Clair, is idyllic,” said Beaumont.
“I have always had my mental picture of the Lady Bountiful of a
village. She must, of course, be beautiful, with a soft, musical, tender
voice, a heart quick to feel, and a soft and lily-white hand quick to
help. Her path is strewn beneath her feet with the heartfelt blessings
of the poor and afflicted. She moves a ministering angel among the
hovels of the destitute.”

“Ah! now, Mr. Beaumont, you are laughing at me. Surely you would have
me help the sick and needy.”

“It is the most priceless prerogative of the rich, and if I seem to
mock I hasten to cry _peccavi_. But, seriously, this kind of parochial
charity is but a dainty dilettantism, and you engage in it, Miss St.
Clair, I beg you to confess, partly because it grieves you to see
suffering without trying to relieve it and partly because it is
picturesque.”

“Then I shall confess nothing of the kind, Mr. Beaumont. It is my
simple duty to visit the sick and to do what little I can to ease their
pains.”

“There’s Stokes the cobbler laid up with the lumbago, I am told. I
went into his little shop the other day to get a trifling repair done,
and the poor old fellow was nearly doubled up with pain, and, if I’m
not very much mistaken, slowly dying of hunger. Shall we take Stokes the
cobbler on our round?”

“Stokes does not belong to us, Mr. Beaumont. Papa would not like me to
visit him. And I’m not sure that Stokes would be over civil to me.”

“He seemed a surly sort of customer, truly. I was chatting away quite
comfortably with him when I mentioned casually that I was staying at the
Vicarage. Then he seemed to shut himself up as I’ve seen a flower do
in an east wind. Is there war between him and the Vicarage?”

“As if there could be! Papa would not condescend to notice anything
such a man could say or do. All the same, it isn’t nice to be called a
whited sepulchre, and I believe that is Stokes’ mildest epithet for
papa.”

“Then he’s a dissenter, I suppose. He did not appear unctuous enough
for hat. But religion may have disagreed with him. I have observed that
with some people it acts like whey in a curd.”

“They say,” spoke Eleanor, with bated breath, “he’s a
Bradlaughite, an atheist. He talks about Tom Paine and the rights of
man.”

“And how does he live?”

“As you know, he is a cobbler. But I don’t suppose he gets much
work. It is very inconvenient. Of course, we cannot send our repairs to
him, and his being here prevents another setting up in the village.”

“It’s most inconsiderate of him,” said Beaumont, gravely. “He
ought to be made to see that he is inconveniencing the servants of the
Vicarage. No doubt, if he were told, he would go away, and make room for
a better man. Then he doesn’t get much work?”

“Very little. He seems to spend most of his time, in the summer, in
the fields; and I have heard he has a curious gift of taming birds and
animals. I fancy he ekes out a scanty livelihood that way.”

“Perhaps he has taken to birds and animals because he can’t get men
and women to have anything to do with him. A man must love something or
other.”

“What! all men?”

“Yes, I suppose so—all men. Even lawyers.”

“I know one lawyer who is very fond of something.”

“And of someone?”

“I said something, sir!”

“And that is?”

“Lecturing other people.”

“A hit, a most palpable hit, Miss St. Clair. I own my fault. But
confess I don’t pretend to be a bit better than my neighbours. But
about this Stokes, now. He interests me.”

“Of course.”

“Why of course?”

“Well, you see, Stokes would be all right if he would only take things
as he finds them. Why can’t he come to church like other people, and
be a decent member of society? Instead of that he goes on Saturday night
to the public-house and talks—oh! horrid things—blasphemy and high
treason, to the labourers. Papa says if his ricks are burned he shall
have Stokes arrested as an accessory before the fact.”

“I don’t suppose Mr. St. Clair will entrust me with the brief for
the prosecution.”

“Oh, no! If you don’t take care, sir, you’ll have enough to do to
defend yourself some fine day. But I’ve done Stokes an injustice. I
said he went to the public-house. He used to; but the Publican refused
to serve him any more.”

“Got too much to drink, I suppose. I always knew tailors were a
guzzling lot. Tailoring runs to drink, as naturally as cobbling to
atheism. I don’t know why, but cobblers are all free-thinkers and
tailors and lawyers’ clerks born tosspots.”

“Well, you’re out this time, Mr. Beaumont. The landlord—he’s
people’s warden, you know, at the church and a most respectable
man—turned Stokes out because, whenever he went of a Saturday night,
he drank only one mug of small beer in a matter of three hours, and all
the time discoursed of nothing but the evils of strong drink. He so
frightened our undergardener, who was of the company, that he turned
teetotaller, and got my maid to stitch him a piece of blue ribbon in the
lapel of his Sunday coat.”

“That was carrying the war into the enemy’s camp with a vengeance.
Well, he won’t be able to corrupt the farm labourers any longer of a
Saturday night now he’s ejected from the ‘Blue Boar.’”

“Oh! they’ve started a club, and Joseph Arch came to open it. Papa
was so upset he fled to Lincoln, and stopped a whole week at the Palace,
though he does nothing but quarrel with the dear bishop.”

“And I suppose the Vicarage set the fashion in tabooing this poor son
of St. Crispin?”

“Of course, papa cannot countenance atheism and arson”

“Clearly. But if the man’s ill, the man’s ill, and atheist or no
atheist the man’s a man. I’m sorry I didn’t know more about him
when I went to have my boot stretched. However, the other boot isn’t
very comfortable, that’s one consolation.”

They walked on in silence for a time. Then, apropos of nothing, Eleanor
said, very quietly: “The man must have some good about him or he
wouldn’t be so fond of birds and animals. I think my boot is not very
comfortable, Mr. Beaumont.”

Edward laughed gaily. “What will the Archdeacon say?”

“Oh! papa won’t mind. He’ll probably tell me I’m a goose for my
pains.”

“Ah! well; I don’t know. I think the Church makes a mistake in being
so discriminating in its charity.”

“You are a universal fault-finder, Mr. Beaumont. But I suppose that is
what makes you a Radical. It must be a very unhappy state of mind—to
be always seeing the imperfections of things.”

“Somebody must do it, Miss St. Clair. Even critics have their uses.
But when you announced so unexpectedly that your shoe pinched you, I was
wondering how Sister Gertrude would have dealt with old Stokes.”

“I didn’t know you had a sister. Do tell me about her.”

“Well you see, I haven’t, except in a very broad sense. Sister
Gertrude is the name of a young lady I met under rather interesting
circumstances. Shall I tell you about her?”

Then Edward narrated the story of the troubles of Patrick Sullivan.

“Was she very beautiful?”

“Very. It was a sort of awful beauty. You forgot the artistic delight
inspired by her perfection of form, colour, and expression, in the sense
that you gazed upon one who was superior to mere charm of person. There
seemed something like sacrilege in thinking of her as beautiful. I
suppose a devout Catholic does not let his thoughts dwell upon the
physical charms of the Madonna.”

“You cease to be critical, Mr. Beaumont, sometimes I see. And she was
a lady, you say?”

“Unquestionably, or I’m no judge.”

“But, after all, this lady only does ostentatiously and to the sound
of the drum and the tambourine what I, what we, try to do quietly and
unostentatiously. You sneer at my tracts; but as I have no gifts for
sermon-making, what can I do but take a tract?”

“Oh! I don’t find fault with the tracts, Miss St. Clair, though
they’re twaddly things.”

Miss St. Clair smiled.

“I fear they’re very goody-goody. But I don’t write them, you
know. Why don’t you write a tract yourself, Mr. Beaumont, and show the
world how it should be done?”

“Again a hit, a most palpable hit. But you see, that isn’t my
line.”

“No; your line is fault-finding. What’s that Latin papa always
quotes—_si possis, ernenda_. I forget the rest.”

“_Si non, his utere mecum_,” completed Edward. “Well, I won’t
amend your tracts, still less use them. A Radical has greater work cut
out for him. You see that hind labouring in the field yonder, Miss St.
Clair? Now, I think I know the kind of life that man leads. He toils
like a slave year in and year out for a wretched twelve shillings a
week. He lives on fat bacon and cabbage and coarse bread. His thatched
cottage is small, dark, unwholesome. There is a cesspool at his very
door and a dunghill under his window. His great dissipation is a quart
of beer and a big drunk at harvest time. He can scarcely read, and if he
could read he has no literature but a Bible, of which only very small
portions are intelligible to him for want of other knowledge, and, of
course, your tracts. When he is old, and rheumatism wracks his bones,
and he is past work, he and his dame must either be burdens on their
children, who will be no better off than he is now, or go to the Union
Workhouse. And this kind of thing has been going on for generation after
generation, and all the suggestion the Church, or Sister Gertrude I
suppose for that matter, has to make, takes the form of a bottle of
medicine, a roll of flannel, and a tract or a sermon.”

Edward spoke warmly indignantly.

“And you?” said Miss St. Clair.

“I—nay, not I. Say We. We, Radicals I mean, would tell that man he
is a fool to be content to till the land all his life for another to
reap the harvest. We don’t think that it is one of the divinely
ordained laws of nature that there should be a Squire Wright and a
Hodge.”

“There always has been, there always will be, just as there have
always been horses and riders.”

“And hammers and anvils? Well, we Radicals think otherwise. We say
that it is better that all men should walk on their own legs than that
one should be borne in a palanquin. Some day the people will examine the
title deeds of your Squire Wrights.”

“That will be a fat day for the lawyers, Mr. Beaumont,” suggested
Eleanor mischievously.

“Nay, in the ideal state there’ll be no lawyers.”

“And clearly there’ll be no critics; there’ll be nothing to
criticise. Poor Mr. Beaumont. How unhappy you’ll be. _Quelle triste
veillesse vous vous preparez_.”

“Oh, well, imperfection will last my time, Miss St. Clair. And if I
cannot find perfection in this sweet Arcadia of yours, why I deserve to.
. . .”

“Get Sister Gertrude to find it for you in the slums. How provoking
there’s the bell, and only just time to dress for dinner.”
CHAPTER V.

The business that had taken Edward Beaumont to Caistorholm was
progressing satisfactorily, and the Archdeacon and the other
shareholders had every reason to congratulate themselves on having
invited his assistance. It had been the usual story, a large industrial
concern successfully and prosperously conducted so long as its founders
had been young, energetic, and single-eyed. When they had made their
fortunes and courted ease they had converted the business into a
company, retaining a connection with it as salaried directors. They had
put their own price on what they had to sell to the company and had not
felt called upon exactly to kill themselves by working too hard as
directors.

With a concern much over-capitalised and lax management, the natural
result had ensued; but Beaumont had seen that with some reduction of
sharemoney and better management, the situation might be saved. He had
impressed his views on the general body of shareholders without any
difficulty, and had cared not a rap for the black looks of the directors
compulsorily retired.

All this had kept him busy enough, and every post brought him letters,
copies of accounts, drafts of legal documents, and such like. One
morning, as the Vicarage party were at breakfast, and the Archdeacon had
opened the letter-bag and distributed its contents, Edward was smiling
over a petulant letter from Storth, who wanted to know if he intended to
spend the whole of the Long Vacation at Caistorholm, and if he expected
his long-suffering partner to submit to being cooped up in the office
when all the rest of the legal world was on the moors or drinking the
waters or sniffling the salt sea air.

“Poor Sam! it’s too bad, after he’d rigged himself out for the
moors. Ah, well! he must spell patience for another week anyhow,” he
reflected.

“Do Radicals dance, Mr. Beaumont?” asked Eleanor. “Yes, you’re
right, papa, it’s from the Countess.”

“Do Radicals dance? Some of them do, I believe. I know one who tries,
_et après_?”

“The Countess of Yarborough asks us to dinner for the —th, and
there’s to be dancing afterwards. It won’t be a ball, you know. Only
the house-party down with Lord Lindsey for the shooting and a few
neighbours. It will be very nice, though. Of course, we can go, papa?”

“Yes, why not? Write and accept at once, Eleanor. You’ll join us,
Beaumont?”

“If——”

“Oh! there’s neither if nor but in it. Lady Yarborough will be
delighted to see you, and you’ll get on well with young Lindsey,
that’s her son, you know. He’s been at Heidelburgh lately, studying
philosophy. Said Oxford was decadent and obstructive. I’m sure I
don’t know what’s come over all the young fellows now-a-days.”

“The sportsmen aren’t content with pheasants and partridges and
hares as their fathers were, they go to the Alleghanies and Central
Africa for big game, and the scholars, I suppose, think they’re
entitled to follow suit and try farther afield for fresh ideas,”
suggested Eleanor.

“Anyhow, I don’t know what to make of young Lindsey. When I talked
with him last he didn’t seem to know his own mind. But he’ll have to
make it up one way or another before the next election. Richardson says
he’s tired of playing warming-pan for him, and, of course, it’s out
of the question that anyone but a Yarborough or his nominee should sit
for this division. But Lindsey will be getting married before long, no
doubt, and that will take the nonsense out of him. Say we’re bringing
a friend, Eleanor.”

Norton Towers, the ancestral home of the Yarboroughs is a large and
rambling structure in various styles of architecture, built originally
in the Wars of the Roses, but added to and altered many times. It stands
pleasantly and picturesquely on a rising stretch of knoll, Some eight
miles distant from Caistorholm The noble family, whose principal seat it
is, has for many generations been of paramount consideration and
influence in Lincolnshire. The founder of the family is commonly
supposed to have been a Venetian adventurer, one of the many merchant
princes of the Adriatic’s queen, who, settling in London, became Lord
Mayor under the second Richard. Then, in time, the family withdrew from
commerce, acquired by prudent purchases and equally prudent marriages
considerable estates in Lincolnshire, and became in time as racy of the
soil as though not a trace of Italian blood intermingled with the blue
blood their alliances had incorporated.

In the Civil War the heir of the house had a narrow escape of perishing
on Cavendish Bog at the hand of Oliver himself, then a captain of Horse
in the Parliamentary forces not yet known to fame, though marked by the
observant. The Royalist soldier was borne from the field with Oliver’s
bullet in his sword-arm, and that and the fever that supervened had like
to have finished him, and gave him a distaste for further adventures of
the kind. When the Commonwealth came the family compounded for past
offences by a smart money-fine, and accepted with what grace they might
the Roundhead régime. Cromwell bore no malice, perhaps remembering
Cavendish Bog, and the Yarboroughs, though but sullenly acquiescent in
the new order of things, and indifferent psalm-singers, kept themselves
clear of the plots against the Protector’s life and rule.

When the glorious Restoration came the Lincolnshire lord was welcomed at
Whitehall, perhaps because, having made few sacrifices for the Stuarts,
Charles felt he owed the family nothing, and they wanted nothing from
him. The Court of the second James smelt too much of incense for the
stomach of the Earl, and he kept to his hunting and farming in the Fens,
and had no difficulty in wearing the Orange favours when James fled the
country. Since that time the Yarboroughs had been consistent Whigs, but
they did not conceive that their Whiggery compelled them to quarrel with
their neighbours. They had made no bones about Catholic emancipation,
and, indeed, were on friendly terms with not a few of the Catholic
families to be found in Lincolnshire. They had supported Jack Russell
and his Reform Bill, had made a wry face over Household Suffrage, and
now the Earl, who cared little for politics, but thought Lord Granville
an ideal Foreign Secretary, was counted a friend of Mr. Gladstone,
thinking that his dangerous political proclivities would be finally
corrected by his admirable High Church principles.

But it was whispered in the county that the heir and hope of the family
had returned from the Continent tainted with rank heresies of every
kind. This was the Lord Lindsey, whom marriage was expected to sober.

“I don’t suppose we shall see the Earl,” said the Archdeacon, as
the carriage rapidly traversed the distance between the Vicarage and the
Towers. “He is a great invalid and seldom shows at the dinner table.
Like the Speaker of the House he takes his homely chop when his guests
are dining. I shall go to him in his room and smoke my cigar with him
whilst you young folk are romping. Wright will, no doubt, be invited,
and he’ll find you some partners.”

Edward had not much confidence in any help likely to be vouchsafed by
the master of Thorsby Manor.

Some thirty guests gathered in the drawing room a few minutes before the
clanging of the dinner-gong, and a sparkling, blue-eyed damsel of some
twenty summers fell to Edward’s lot. He would have preferred to take
down Miss St. Clair, but Miss Edith des Forges left him no leisure to
indulge regrets.

“You’re staying at Caistorholme Vicarage, Eleanor St. Clair tells
me. I stayed there three years ago, just after I left school. Eleanor
and I were at school together. Mrs. St. Clair was alive then, poor dear.
I flirted outrageously with the Archdeacon, and she wasn’t a bit
jealous. It’s such fun flirting with a parson, don’t you know.”

“Can’t say, I’m sure. I’ll take your opinion, Miss des Forges.
Are you an authority on flirting?”

“Well, pretty fair. I ought to be. Practice makes perfect. Don’t you
think Eleanor simply beautiful? Don’t look at her. She is looking at
us. I’m sure that stupid George Wright is boring her to death. But I
suppose she’ll have to get used to it.”

“Ah! Why?”

“How long have you been at the Vicarage?”

“A fortnight.”

“And you don’t know why?”

“’Pon my word I don’t.”

“And you a lawyer! and Eleanor said you were so awfully clever. I
quite quaked when the Countess sent me down with you. Are you very
clever, Mr. Beaumont?”

“You must find out, Miss des Forges.”

“Do you know, I’ve never talked to a Solicitor before. I’ve wanted
to meet a real live Solicitor this ever so long.”

“Question of marriage settlement, I suppose?”

“Nonsense. Anybody that takes me will have to take me just as I am
without one stiver. Not much of a bargain, am I?”

“I should say cheap at any price.”

“That’s what Charlie says.”

“And who’s Charlie?”

“Ah! that’s why I wanted to meet a solicitor. Charlie’s my cousin
and awfully nice. Just ask Eleanor.”

“I’ll be content with your opinion.”

“But perhaps you know him. He’s in the Temple, Paper Buildings.
Isn’t it ridiculous? Paper Buildings! I’ve heard of men of straw.”

“There are a good many Charlies in Paper Buildings, Miss des Forges. I
suppose your cousin is a barrister?”

“That’s just what he is—a what d’ye call it barrister, short,
no, not short.”

“Briefless, perhaps?”

“How clever of you to guess it. Eleanor must be right. And he’s
delightfully poor, and gives luncheon to us girls in his chambers when
we go up to town, and takes us down the river. He’s awfully good; but
he’s only had one brief, and then the wretched people went and settled
out of Court, as Charlie calls it. I think it was a conspiracy. I’d
settle ’em,” and Miss des Forgess glared vindictively across the
table, to the great discomfiture of the curate of an adjoining village,
who blushed distressedly.

“Quite possibly,” agreed Edward. “So your cousin’s one chance of
distinction was taken from him. Never mind, he may have another brief
some day.”

Miss des Forges shook her head dolefully.

“Charlie says not. He writes for the papers and magazines now and
lives on air. Tell me, how do barristers get on—at first, you know.
What gives them the start?”

“There are three ways never known to fail.”

“Oh! do tell one. How I wish Charlie were here!”

“Well, first, he can write a book, not a book likely to run through
the fictional monthlies, you know, but a sound, solid, substantial book,
say, on Estovers.”

“What’s Estovers? It sounds like something to eat. Charlie could
manage that.”

“You’d better ask your cousin to tell you all about Estovers. It
will help him to write the book.”

“And how long will that take?”

“Oh! not long. Say, ten or fifteen years for it to be written and get
known.”

The sunshine faded from the bright face of Miss des Forges.

“As well say a lifetime,” she pouted. “And what’s another
way—a short way, you understand, Mr. Beaumont?”

“Well, there’s huggery.”

“Heavens, what a name! Now, pray, Mr. Beaumont, what is huggery, It
sounds like a crime of the Middle Ages.”

“Well, it has a smack of the Middle Ages. You’ve heard of ‘the
rich attorney’s elderly ugly daughter’?”

Miss des Forges nodded.

“Well, that’s huggery.”

“Then that won’t do at all, sir, and you ought to know it.”

“Perhaps I do, Miss des Forges. But don’t be angry. There’s still
another way.”

“Oh, yes! the third—and what is that?”

“A miracle!”

“Oh! you stupid. And Eleanor praised you ever so much.”

“Well, you haven’t told me your cousin’s name yet. There may be
still another, but it isn’t recorded in the books.”

“And the heart of a certain young barrister in the Temple, sighing
like hundreds of other young fellows for the chance so long a-coming,
was made glad within a week from the dinner at the Temple by receipt of
a ponderous parcel, bearing the Caistorholm postmark.”

“And may I post it with my own hands, Mr. Beaumont?”

“Come over to Caistorholm the day after tomorrow. The brief shall be
ready then.”

And if the saucy lips of Miss des Forges were pressed just above the
words, “With you, Mr. Dryasdust, Q.C.,” was ever brief better
endorsed.

“I think you owe me a dance to-night, Miss des Forges.”

“A dozen, if you like. But Eleanor will want some. Oh! do just cut in
and shake that stupid George Wright out of his self-centred serenity.
Estovers was the word, wasn’t it? Write it me down on a slip of paper,
and I’ll give you any dance you ask for in exchange for it.”

“You found a lot to talk about with Mr. Beaumont, Ethel,” said Miss
St. Clair to the vivacious girl, as they awaited the gentlemen in the
drawing-room. “He talks politics chiefly to me. But you wouldn’t
look so radiant on politics. What was it all about?”

“Oh! huggery!” said Ethel, gaily, and Miss St. Clair wondered
mightily.

Edward was standing later in the evening gazing on the pretty scene
musingly. The large drawing-room was brilliantly lighted. The huge,
candelabras, with their crystal pendants cunningly cut, broke and
reflected the soft lights of tapers of purest wax. The mirrors, posed
with art, reflected the shifting scene. There was the soft frou-frou of
sweeping trains, the low hum of broken converse, the rippling music of
maiden voices, and the dreamy strains of a Danubian waltz. Edward,
though dancing sufficiently well, well enough, as he thought, for a man,
was no votary of the graceful art; the party, happily, was a
well-balanced one—there was no need for him to dance from mere
complaisance. His mind carried him to a festive gathering he had
recently attended in Yorkshire. The son of an acquaintance and
client—a large manufacturer—had come of age and a treat was given to
the millhands. After their own repast in the house the guests of the
millowner had adjourned willingly enough to the vast weaving shed in
which the “hands” held their revel. The bare, whitewashed walls had
been hung with gay festoons and appropriate devices. The Linthwaite
Brass Band, victor in historic contests, discoursed sweet music. The
employees danced not ungracefully. Instead of languourous movement,
swimming smoothly to a dying strain, there was the grigging romp of
lusty lads and lasses. The couples in the quadrilles had no sort of
notion of the challenge, the equivoque, the alluring and the feigned
retreat the movements symbolise. But the music caught their feet, the
unwonted excitement stirred their young blood, and their cheeks mantled
and eyes glowed with the unrestrained and undisguised rapture of the
fleeting hour. There was the rude and rustic humour of the looms, the
lively sally, the broad retort, and the ringing laugh. Was it not as
good in its way, mused Edward, as the veiled innuendo, the sneer in
silky tones, the languid smile of an earl’s drawing-room—and was not
that way a better way?

“Are you so soon tired of dancing—shall I find you a partner?”
asked a voice at his elbow, as Edward started out of his reverie and
came back from the weaving shed to the gilded saloon. He did not know
the young man who had addressed him, a youth of medium height, with
features none too classical, but with a smooth and lofty brow, dreamy
eyes, a nascent moustache of brown down upon the upper lip. The
complexion was pale to pallor, the small white hand that caressed the
lips’ adorning was thin and delicate, the figure frail and almost
effeminate.

“You don’t know me, Mr. Beaumont. I didn’t get the chance of an
introduction before dinner. I took in Miss St. Clair—stunning
creature, isn’t she?—and she told me all about you. If you aren’t
dancing for a while let us slip off to my den and have a cigarette.
I’m Lindsay, Lord Lindsay, you know.”

Then Beaumont knew he was speaking to the heir of the house.

“We must slip out quietly, or my mother ’ll collar us. Keep your eye
on me, and hook it when we near the door. I’ll pilot you.”

The manœuver was executed.

“Take that chair; you can lose yourself in it. Try this smoke. Seltzer
or soda. Mix your own liquor. Ain’t this a cozy little hole? This is
my hermitage. What were you thinking of when I spoke to you? You looked
miles away.”

“So I was. I was wondering, I think, whether I’d rather be a
Lifeguardsman or a power-loom weaver, and contrasting that six feet two
of quintessential boredom, Captain Bouverie, I think his name is, with a
shuttle-thrower of my native valley.”

“Ah! yes. You’re Yorkshire, aren’t you? Any relation of Beaumont,
of White Meadows? I met him once at Baden.”

“I can’t say I am and I can’t say I’m not. I’ve heard my
mother say there’s some distant connection, but it is of the remotest.
If we are of the same blood, it’s about run itself out by this
time.”

“But you know Beaumont, of White Meadows. Plunges a lot at the tables,
they say. Great friend of the Prince.”

“So I have heard. But I don’t know much about him. I’ve spoken
once or twice on the same platform and probably shall again.”

“Beaumont’s a Liberal, isn’t he? Then you’re a Liberal, too.
I’m glad of that. I’m to go into the House at the next Election. I
suppose we’ll all have to talk extension of the suffrage to the
counties?”

“That won’t be a very difficult matter in my district. I pity the
poor devil of a candidate who has to address a lot of unenfranchised
weavers and tell them they’re not fit to have the franchise enjoyed by
their mates who work in the same shed, but happen to live the other side
of an inky stream you could hop over, but that divides the county from
the borough. It’s preposterous!”

“Of course it is. But how do your manufacturers like the idea?”

“Like it! Why shouldn’t they like it? If they don’t they’ll have
to lump it, that’s all. It’s sure to come. If not from Gladstone
then from Salisbury.”

“Do you know, Beaumont, I never saw a weaver in my life, not to talk
to, that is. I should awfully like to.”

“Well, come up to Yorkshire. I’ll take you the round of the mills.
But if you want to see the genuine article you must drop the Lord and
come as plain Lindsay. They’ll think you’re home spun. We make
lindseys our way.”

“Do you mean the hands would fawn? I shouldn’t like that.”

“No, they wouldn’t fawn. But you’d be seized on by the masters.
They’d ‘my lord’ up hill and down dale. The ‘hands’ would try
to equalise matters by being as unapproachable as they knew how, and
that’s saying something I can tell you.”

“But I should like that.”

“I don’t think you would. But, anyway, you wouldn’t see them just
as they are. To do that plain Lindsay’s the ticket.”

“Our farmers don’t take half kindly to enfranchising Hodge.”

“That’s because your farmer is only a step removed from Hodge.
Intellectually, I should imagine there isn’t much difference between
the farmer and the hind nor between the hind and his sheep.”

“Oh! come; we’re not so bad as that. Anyway, I tell you household
suffrage for the counties is a bitter pill. Our clergy pull a sour face
over it. It will take a lot of gilding to make it go down. I’m not
sure I shall be returned, and I shall be the first Lindsay to be
rejected since good old Noll’s days.”

“Oh! come to the West Riding and we’ll console you. We dearly love a
lord.”

“Young Fitzwilliam didn’t find it so.”

“Ah! he was weighted by a banker.”

“But, seriously, do you think the people will be any better off when
they get the vote?”

“That depends.”

“On how they use it? Not for revolution, I hope.”

“For reform, I hope. For revolution if they cannot get reform.”

“You don’t stick at tries.”

“No; three acres and a cow is my minimum, and that is to be only
typical of inroads in other directions.”

“A leveller you?”

“No! a diffuser.”

“That’s a bitter word. I must throw that at the Archdeacon. He moans
over my dangerous principles. He must rend himself over yours. How do
you get on with him?”

“Oh! I change the subject when he winces.”

“See much of Wright these days?”

“Enough.”

“I suppose it’s a settled thing between the Manor and the Vicarage.
She is too good for him.”

“He hasn’t got her yet.”

Lord Lindsay stole a glance out of the corner of his eyes.

“Phew! sets the wind in that corner. Well, time’s up. That’s a
waltz they’re starting and I’m booked.”

When Lord Lindsay and Beaumont reentered the drawing-room Edward sought
Eleanor St. Clair to claim the dance she had promised him. He was
received with gay rebuke.

“This is the way you fulfil your trust, Mr. Beaumont. Papa makes his
bow to the Countess and sidles off incontinent to the sanctum of the
Earl. I have no doubt he is at this moment smoking a cigar and
discoursing learnedly on the virtues of the Earl’s very particular and
precious Madeira to which my lord, they say, is indebted for his very
particular and precious gout. It’s a mercy if the wine is so very
particular and precious, or I should have papa prostrate with the gout,
and from all accounts that would be as bad for me as for him. Deprived
of my natural protector I rely, of course, on a certain cavalier from
Yorkshire, and, lo! he, too, has vanished, spirited away by Lord Lindsay
to his own secret cave, there to demolish institutions, or was it only
reputations?”

“As I was being spirited away I caught a vision of a radiant being
threading the mazes of the Lancers on the arm of a dashing son of Mars,
and looking in need neither of protection nor consolation.”

“I am a woman and therefore can dissemble, Mr. Beaumont; but see, the
sets are filling.”

“Do you really want to dance every dance? See how brightly the moon
shines above the trees, and the air is still and warm without. Will you
not show me the view from the Terrace. It must be lovely at this hour,
stretched beneath the harvest moon.”

“Papa will miss me should he tear himself away from the Earl and the
Madeira.”

“He will miss me, too, and know you are in safe keeping.”

“H’m, perhaps. Well, it is hot within.”

“Adjust my wrap, so. Now, your arm, and you shall see as sweet a vista
as ever eyes gazed upon—the Axholme winding through the shorn fields
with the moon upon its bosom.”

In silence, side by side, they drank into their souls the solemn beauty
of the darkling scene. The music of the instruments floated through the
casement and fell with mellowed cadence on their ears. An owl hooted
from the ivy that clung about the ancient towers; the river beneath them
coiled sinuously almost at the Castle base, and the full moon with
harvest beam played upon the rich treasures of the ripened grain.

“We have nothing to equal this in my part of the country. ’Tis an
idyll. It breathes the spirit of peace, the gospel of content. Sure
everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.”

“That’s the first Christian sentiment I have ever heard you utter,
sir.”

“Miss St. Clair,” said Edward very gravely, “I had a purpose in
asking you to forego the dance and bear me company a while where I could
say to you that of which my heart is full. And now I seek in vain for
words to tell you what I would. Miss St. Clair, Eleanor, I have presumed
to love you. How great is that presuming none can know so acutely as
myself. But I love you. To-morrow I must return to Yorkshire and I could
not go, my love untold. Perhaps I ought to have spoken first to the
Archdeacon, to your father; but it is not so we woo in my class. I can
offer you nothing but my love to make my suit more pleasing in your
ears. Unless your own heart, fair Eleanor, should be my mediator, I must
sue as one without hope. Say, Eleanor, that I do not speak too
presumptuously, can I hope the love I offer you, the life I would
dedicate to you are not spurned as worthless and unfit.”

“Not spurned, Mr. Beaumont—surely not spurned!” said Eleanor, in a
voice so low, ’twas scarce a whisper.

“I will not win you, Eleanor, by false pretences. Though my profession
is an honourable one, and my social position respectable, it does not
equal yours. I number no Earls and no Countesses among my friends, and
the great mansions do not receive me as a guest. But I am young, the
world is all before me, and for your sweet sake I feel I could greatly
dare and perhaps greatly do. Give me your glove, Eleanor, to wear in the
fray and it shall not be soiled in the dust of the lists.”

“I do not fear, Mr. Beaumont, nay, let me say I do not tremble,
Edward, lest you should lack courage and high endeavour. ’Tis for
myself I tremble. I had looked to spend my life, if not by my father’s
side, at least near him. I had schooled myself to anticipate without
other yearnings the serene uneventful round of a village life. But you
have touched my soul to fiercer longings, you have opened my eyes to a
wider vision. I do not fear poverty, and there can be no meanness in the
life that contents you. But it is all so strange, so unreal, you know me
so little. You lure me to a nobler and a grander life, and I dread lest
the past of my upbringing may fetter my limbs and keep my feet from
those giddier heights you would tread.”

“If you can love me, Eleanor, as I love you, your soul will grow into
my own. We shall have one heart, one hope, one life. Say, oh! Eleanor,
can such bliss be mine!” He stole his arm round her waist, the proud
head drooped upon his shoulder, and upon the lips that breathed “I
love you true!” he pressed the kindling kiss.

It was only with a qualified satisfaction that Archdeacon St. Clair
received Edward’s formal proposal for his daughter’s hand.

“I had other views for her, Beaumont, other views. And I have had them
so long that they seem part of my life, part of the natural order of
things. Everything was going just as I wished till—till you came.
Eleanor would make an ideal chatelaine, and I had hoped to see her
established almost at my Vicarage gates.”

“At Thoresby Manor in effect?”

“Well, yes. I’ve no doubt the Squire took the thing as settled.”

“It doesn’t do, Archdeacon, to take a woman’s hand for granted. I
haven’t much experience of the sex, but I fancy a lady does not care
to be regarded as to be had for the asking. A woman likes to be wooed
before she is won.”

“Well, it seems you have both wooed and won. There’s one comfort, I
shan’t have to explain all about those confounded Skerne Iron Works in
which Eleanor’s fortune is invested. You’ll have to take it in
shares instead of cash.”

“I want neither the shares nor the cash. I want Eleanor.”

“I don’t see it’s much use coming to me now. Eleanor’s her own
mistress. Well, Beaumont, you know I like you. Of course, I think your
opinions are horrid, but you’ll wear out of them, just as young men of
poetical fancies wear out of long hair and Byron collars. But, frankly,
and though it’s a nasty thing to say to a fellow in my own house, I
aspired higher for my only daughter than a provincial attorney.”

Edward winced and flushed.

“A provincial attorney may rise to the Woolsack, Archdeacon St. Clair.
He is not more remote from it than a curate from a mitre.”

“Now, you’re huffed, and I don’t wish you to be. You may thank
your stars you haven’t Eleanor’s mother to deal with instead of me.
You’d have heard a great deal about her grandfather, the Earl. I know
I did.”

“Well, he’s dead and buried now, Archdeacon.”

“All the same, I am ambitious for my child. I should not like to think
of her settling down to the somewhat vulgar mediocrity of your
manufacturing middle-classes. And, what’s more, Beaumont, Eleanor
won’t like it. Depend on it. She will not like your bejewelled dames
sprung from the loom, with good hearts, maybe, and excellent principles,
but lax notions about the letter H. She may not think so now. No doubt
she’ll think that for life and eternity you will be all in all. But it
won’t do. She’ll miss the kind of society she has been used to, and
I don’t think she’s the sort of girl to find her compensation in the
nursery and household idolatry. You must go into Parliament, Beaumont.
With your ability you can count on a Junior Lordship, at least. That is,
if you shred some of your impracticabilities and vote the party ticket,
as I think they phrase it in America. And, of course, you’ll do
that.”

“I have thought of Parliament, sir, but as a remote possibility.
Something to crown my days, not to begin them on. But I should not run
well in official harness.”

“Oh, we won’t insist on that. After all, an M.P.’s an M.P., if
he’s but a Radical member. I don’t like that Labouchere, though
he’s an amusing fellow, and of good family, too. Well, go into
Parliament, and then come to me for my blessing.”

“And meanwhile, sir?”

“Meanwhile? meanwhile? Why, if Eleanor St. Clair has said she will
have you, have you she will, and I don’t and won’t withhold my
consent from your engagement. But I ask you not to press for an early
marriage. Win your spurs, Edward, and then we’ll set the wedding bells
ringing. You’re both young, and waiting will try you and do you good.
Now, admit I’m reasonable.”

“I don’t say you’re not. So hey! for Westminster and my bride.”

“What did papa say to you, Edward?” asked Eleanor when he sought her
to tell her the issue of the dreaded interview. “Wasn’t he awfully
cross?”

“Not a bit of it. I can bring a ring for the prettiest hand in the
world the next time I come down. But I’m to get into Parliament before
I bring the plain gold loop.”

Eleanor’s eyes sparkled.

“Did papa really say that?”

Edward nodded.

“Oh! won’t that be glorious! And I can go up to town for the season.
Shall we be so very poor, Edward? Shall we have to live in a garret when
we go to London, and shall I have to sit in the Ladies’ Gallery in a
print frock whilst you make your maiden speech in fustian.”

“Not so bad as that, Eleanor mine. But I’m not in yet. Can you wait;
will you wait?”

“Wait, you know I will wait, sir. Besides, we shan’t have to wait
long. You’re sure to be elected as soon as you try. I wish there was
an election to-morrow. I’ll canvas for you, Edward!”

“And bribe the electors as the Duchess bribed for Fox?”

“Are Yorkshiremen _very_ fond of kisses, sir?”

“What should you say?”

“Well, yes. Pretty fair. There, that will do. Oh! I am so happy.
Edward Beaumont, M.P. You’ll be Sir Edward in no time and a Peer
before your first twinge of the gout.”

“They don’t make Peers of men whose greatest worldly wealth is a
beautiful wife. At least, they don’t now-a-days.”

“Of course, I’m joking, Edward. Isn’t papa thoughtful? I don’t
suppose you’d have thought of it yourself.”

“I don’t suppose I should,” conceded Edward. “I thought only of
you.”

CHAPTER VI.

_Dulce est desipere in loco_—a Latin tag that assures us we may on
occasions pleasantly unbend. Edward Beaumont, as we have seen, was
dreaming love’s young dream, than which we are all convinced there is
nothing sweeter in this brief life of ours, and seeing visions of a
glorious future rounded by the woolsack, and I know not what other
suggestions of a lively imagination. Sam Storth, the partner whom he was
fool enough to at the same time trust implicitly and regard with a sort
of good-humoured contempt, was essaying the gentle art, _desipere in
loco_, after a fashion of his own, in a word, combining business with
pleasure. The Long Vacation, beloved of lawyers of ample means, bemoaned
by those members of the junior bar to whom briefs—briefs lightly
“marked” at that—are as angels’ visits, few and far between, was
now dragging its weary course—and Mr. Storth had time enough and to
spare on his hands. He would have liked to don that much-prized
shooting-jacket and those knickerbockers that so fittingly displayed a
calf whose proportions Sam surveyed with a proper pride, and to which he
rightly conceived the costume of the courts failed to do adequate
justice. But here was he doomed to the treadmill, whilst his partner
dangled at the petticoats of an Archdeacon’s daughter, and had the
confounded impudence to stretch his legs under an earl’s mahogany.

“There’s Beaumont,” the irate junior partner thus unburthened
himself, “doing the la-di-da in baronial halls, whilst I’m expected
to moil and toil trying to find work for a set of idle clerks in the
deadest season of the legal year. How Beaumont, with the principles he
professes can cheek to make himself so very much at home, as I’m sure
from his letters he has done, in _gremio ecclesiae_, in the very bosom
of the Church, or, what is more scandalous still, of the Church’s
daughter, passes my comprehension. But I suppose Beaumont’s not such a
fool as a fellow’d take him to be by his talk. These Radicals are all
alike. They rail against aristocrats, but give me a Radical for
kow-towing to a duke; they gibe at the Church as by law established, but
trust ’em to be uncommon deferential to a bishop; they declaim against
pensions and annuities, but wouldn’t they just like a soft job
themselves. Oh, no, I don’t think. There’s Beaumont, whose
grandfather, I verily believe, used to wear clogs and a blue smock, and
take his twopenny-ha’penny pieces to market on a donkey’s back,
quaffing the vintages of Burgundy in the baronial halls aforesaid,
whilst I, forsooth, whose father was a——”

“Was a what?” queried the fair damsel to whom Master Sam had opened
the floodgates of his eloquence.

“Well, he wasn’t a damned poverty-knocker anyway,” said Charles
hurriedly; “whilst I, as I was saying, must content myself with a
tankard of bitter in a——”

“In a what, sir?” asked the lady, tartly.

“In a place that I much refer to baronial halls,” quoth Sam
gallantly.

The place so honoured was the snug of the Royal Albert in Huddersfield,
and the lady to whom Mr. Storth was confiding his grievances was Miss
Amelia Wrigley, the very comely daughter of the landlord of that
old-established hostelry, a lady not only well-dowered by Nature with a
good figure, a pleasing face, and a sprightly wit, but reputed to be
likely in the years to come to be well-dowered by the worthy but gouty
sire, whose ales and liquors Mr. Storth so vastly appreciated.

Now, Miss Amelia Wrigley was not only of a good figure, a pleasing face,
and a sprightly wit, and with those promising prospects that are a
mighty agreeable adjunct to personal charms; she was also fully aware of
her own value. She knew to the decimal of an inch how far it was prudent
to permit the thirsty youths who frequented the Royal Albert Hotel to go
in their amorous advances. Of course, she must not be too frigid, and
there were occasions when it was politic to be diplomatically hard of
hearing. The ingenious Hebe who ministers to the pleasures of
manufacturers, flushed by the frequent “friendly glasses”
inseparable from the conduct of business on market-day, must affect not
to hear many an innuendo that crapulous youth seems to think he may
safely utter in the presence of a barmaid, though he would soundly
trounce the fellow who should utter the like in the hearing of his
sister in the domestic drawing-room. Poor Hebe’s face may glow with
outraged modesty, her eyes may flash her indignation and resentment, but
business requires that she should smile and smirk and say smooth things.
Miss Amelia Wrigley was declared by many a young buck of Huddersfield to
be “too stand-offish” for his taste, which required that a girl
should be able “to give a joke and take a joke, don’t you know”;
though the kind of joke required by this predilection to be given and
taken was not defined with that precision beloved of the mathematician.
But it may be put down to Mr. Sam Storth’s credit that this
stand-offishness of the fair Amelia was very far from diminishing that
lady’s attractiveness in his eyes.

“I like a larky girl as well as any man,” he confided to his
partner, “and when I’m in for fun I don’t want to have to do with
a condemned iceberg; but fun’s one thing and matrimony’s another and
don’t you forget it. And when I place a lady at the head of my
mahogany, I don’t want to think that every doddering idiot in
Huddersfield that can sport a flash ring and chain has blown a cloud of
cigarette smoke in her face and drawled out ‘Another special, Millie,
my angel, and a smile with it.’ You don’t ‘Millie’ Amelia
Wrigley, I can tell you.”

From which profound observation it may be inferred that in the
conversation of which we have heard but a part, and of which, by your
leave, good reader, we will take the liberty to hear more, Mr. Sam
Storth could not boast of that self-assurance and complacency that
usually marked his intercourse with the ladies he honoured with his
acquaintance. In some mysterious way the talk had drifted, as talk
between a young man and maid will drift, to the perilous subject of
liking, of love, of the choice of a lover and so forth.

“I used to think I wasn’t a marrying man, Miss Amelia—I may call
you that mayn’t I?—Miss Wrigley’s so formal, so cold, between
friends, don’t you think?—not a marrying man by a long chalk. Seen
so much billing and cooing in my time, and then a chain that can’t
very well be broken with a cat at one end of it and a dog at the other.
I always draw the line at that particular service in the Prayer Book
that so appropriately begins with “dearly beloved” and ends with
“amazement! But”—with a sigh that was intended to be sentimental,
and a glance that was unmistakeably amorous—“but a man never knows
his fate. How true it is that man proposes but God disposes.”

“Then man shouldn’t propose,” suggested the lady.

“Oh, do be serious, Miss Amelia, or may say I Amelia?”

“Certainly you may not say Amelia, Storth, at least not to me. Why
should you?”

“Because, because oh! hang it Amelia, I mean Miss Amelia, you make it
confounded difficult for a fellow. Jove! Isn’t it hot?”—and Mr.
Storth mopped his troubled and moist brow with a vast bandana. “I
think, if you don’t mind, I’ll have another pint of bitter, with a
top on.”

Miss Wrigley rose, and, moving with stately ease to the pumps, drew a
large tankard of the foaming beverage.

“I never knew such a man as you for beer, Mr. Storth.”

“Safer than whisky, my dear. I mean Miss Amelia; but I was
saying——”

“Yes; you were saying.”

“Well, lately, ever since I came to know you in fact, I’ve been
thinking of settling down. I’m not a sentimental young fool, as you
know. This isn’t calf love, in fact, I never had any such tommyrot to
bother me as calf-love. It’s the genuine article, warranted 18 carat
and entered A1 at Lloyd’s. I’ve met my fate at last. A lady, young,
and yet not too young; I do hate your simpering schoolgirl-misses, just
out of short frocks, and long what-do-you-call-’ems, with the crochet
frills on; tall, a good figure, handsome, of good intelligence and
education and manners—by Jove, the manners of a duchess.”

“Oh! so you’ve met such a lady at last, have you, Mr. Storth, and
deigned to approve of her figure, face, mind, and manners, and all.”

“Why, you know I have, Amelia. Ain’t I telling you so?”

“Meaning me, I suppose?” queried the lady, with much composure.

“Why, of course I mean you. You don’t think I’m such a confounded
ass as to sit here half the afternoon talking about another girl. I may
be ten or twenty different kinds of fool, but I’m not such a fool as
all that comes to. Of course I mean you.”

“I’m sure I’m vastly obliged to you,” commented the lady.
“You’ve assured me, somewhat obliquely, to be sure, that I’ve a
fine figure, a passable face, an intelligent mind, and the manners of a
duchess, I think you were so flattering as to observe; and you’ve also
assured me, also somewhat obliquely, but ’twill pass, that I’m your
fate. You’ve said nothing, by the way, about my heart, Mr. Storth,
nor, now I come to think of it, unless very, very obliquely, about your
own.”

“Oh! that’s of course,” declared Sam, with considerable vigour.

“Exactly, that’s, as you say, of course. So I’ve a good figure, a
fair face, an intelligent mind, the manners of a duchess. I never met a
duchess, but I presume the comparison is meant as complimentary; all
these, and, to boot, a heart that’s, as you say, of course. Now, pray,
Mr. Storth, what do you offer in exchange for all this?”

“What do I offer? I? Why, surely you can’t misunderstand me, you
cannot fail to know that all this time I’ve been offering MYSELF!”

“I see ‘myself,’ in large capitals, I suppose.” Sam Storth
looked, as he doubtless felt, somewhat nonplussed by this reception of
what he assured himself was an uncommonly handsome offer.

“Yourself!” continued the object of his well-regulated affections;
“h’m, yourself. That’s so comprehensive as to be a trifling vague.
You were good enough to enter into detailed particulars, quite a bill of
quantities, or particular invoice of what should be included in the
self, the other self besides yourself, on which you would deign to
lavish the treasures of your heart. Cannot you be a little more precise
as to what is included in YOURSELF? What’s to be the _quid pro quo_
for my good figure, my fair face, my excellent understanding and my
manners of a duchess? Is it to be _par example your_ good figure?”

Now, it has been said that Mr. Storth, however excellent a lawyer, was
no Adonis.

He winced and sate silent.

“_Your_ fair face?”

Again Mr. Storth winced and found no words.

“_Your_ excellent understanding? _Your_ manners? I suppose they should
be ducal to match mine?”

“Oh, hang it all, Miss Wrigley! I think you’re piling it on a bit
too thick. I don’t set up for a beauty, though I’ve had my
successes,” Sam added, in parenthesis.

“So I understand. In the _coulisses_ of the music-hall.”

“And I don’t set up for a saint. But that’s all over now. But
you’ve beauty and goodness enough for the pair of us, and if I’m
neither an Adonis nor a saint I’m not generally looked upon as a fool.
I’m a gentleman by profession, I’ve a good business, and I’m
making enough to keep a wife, and if that isn’t good enough, why, I
can’t help it, and there’s an end on’t.”

“Ah! now you’re talking sense. You’re making, you say, a good
income. But as what? As the junior partner of Mr. Edward Beaumont; the
man who does the leavings of his work, takes the cases he doesn’t
think important enough to attend to himself, and does the drudgery he
thinks beneath his high and mightiness.”

“Oh, damn Edward Beaumont!” broke in Storth, hotly.

“With all the pleasure in life,” pursued the lady serenely,
“though perhaps it isn’t quite in harmony with ducal manners to say
so in the presence of a lady. But that’s the position you offer
me—the wife of a junior partner, whose senior is, I understand, the
guest of an Archdeacon, and is, you imagine, basking in the smiles of
the Archdeacon’s daughter. I suppose I should be expected to take up
the _role_ of a junior partner’s wife, to receive an occasional
invitation to dinner when no one else in particular was invited, to be
on visiting terms with the managing clerk and his lady, and to be humbly
thankful when my partner’s wife acknowledged me in New Street. No
thank you, Mr. Storth, it isn’t good enough.”

“Is that your final word?” asked Storth, savagely.

“No, it isn’t, and you needn’t glare at me like that. I’m not in
the witness box, and, if I were, I shouldn’t be afraid of _you_. It
isn’t my final word. If you want me you must win me.”

“How?” interjected Sam, eagerly.

“Only show me how.”

“Cease to be a junior partner, and if, in doing so, you humble your
Mr. Edward Beaumont to the dust, I shall be none the less pleased on
that account. Make a position that is your own. I know you’ve brains.
Perhaps not of the highest order, but still good enough for the work you
have to do. Use them to lift you up from the shadow by which you are now
obscured, the shadow of another man’s personality. And then come to
me. And, meanwhile, don’t forget what I said about your precious Mr.
Edward Beaumont.”

“Then it’s a promise, Amelia?” asked Storth eagerly, his face lit
up with the joy of triumph.”

“It’s what I think you lawyers would call a conditional promise. You
keep your part of the bargain, Sam, and I’ll keep mine. There,
that’ll do. I’m not fond of those demonstrations, and I don’t like
the smell of beer. You’ll have to take to claret—some day.”

“And that day isn’t far off, you bet, Amelia. I’m not too fond of
Mr. Edward Beaumont, as you call him, myself; and I’ll be no more
sorry than yourself to see my lord taught a lesson he badly needs. Well
what is it, Ainley?”—this to one of the clerks of his firm who was
heard inquiring if Mr. Storth was about.

“Mr. Schofield would like to see you, sir.”

“Pat as the heft to the blade,” exclaimed Storth. “I’ll tell you
some day what I mean,” he added, as he hastily drained his pewter,
wiped his lips and nodded his adieus to Miss Wrigley.

Mr. William Schofield, the client whom Mr. Storth found nervously
awaiting him, was a man of some sixty years of age, of middle stature,
with hard, one might say, harsh features, his face clean shaven save for
a ragged, grizzled fringe of hair that ran down the sides of the cheeks
and under the chin, leaving unadorned the close lips, and exposed the
few yellow front teeth advancing years had left; eyes bright, keen and
greedy. Mr. Schofield had been, as he would have told you with pride, a
hard worker all his life. He had known the hardships in his youth of the
unreformed, uncoerced Factory System. As a boy, not yet in his teens, he
had been a “billy piecener,” walking miles to the mill in all sorts
of weather, in winter time long before sunrise, he had worked his
fourteen and fifteen hours a day for a beggarly wage of a few shillings
weekly, subsisting for the most part on water porridge, which he often
had to eat cold. What education he had he had picked up in the Sunday
School attached to the Golcar Baptist Chapel. There he had learned to
read, to write, and to “sum,” so that by the aid of a ready-reckoner
he could make out an invoice.

Despite, or perhaps because of, his early disadvantages he had
prospered. He had by the time he was forty years old become a small
lindsey manufacturer. He worked hard six days a week, and he could
scarce be said to rest on the seventh, for he was a deacon of the chapel
in whose Sunday school he had learned the rudiments. He had worked hard
and he had lived hard, denying himself almost necessary food and fuel
and clothing, “clamming,” so it was said by the envious, himself and
his wife, that he might put more and more of his earnings into his
business. He had no pleasures, unless the hearing of the non-elect
vigorously damned every Sunday by a Predestinarian preacher be a
pleasure, and excepting always that: great and all-sufficing joy of
adding shilling by shilling to his store. He had no children, and when
he reflected that unless he left his money to the chapel it should in
the natural course go to a spendthrift nephew he often consoled himself
by the thought that the nephew could not have more pleasure in
dissipating his patrimony than the uncle had in hoarding it. He cared
neither for literature nor arts. He never read anything but the Bible,
the Baptist Magazine, and the Leeds Mercury. He called himself a
Liberal, but his Liberalism was not based so much on a desire for the
betterment of the condition of the many as upon resentment of the
privileges of the few. And Edward Beaumont was his solicitor, as Edward
Beaumont’s father before him had been.

“Howd’ye do, Mr. Schofield? Fine day, isn’t it? Glad to see you
looking so fit, ’pon my word you look younger every time you give us a
call.” It was one of Mr. Sam Storth’s most cherished maxims that
politeness—to the people to whom it is worth while to be
polite—costs nothing.

“Well, I’m nobbut so-so, Mr. Storth, nobbut so-so, a plaguy lot o’
rheumatiz these days, but aw reckon aw mun expect to feel th’ years
creepin ower me, tho aw’m nobbut a lad yet in a manner o’
speakin’, that is, wheer some come; but it wer’ Mr. Beaumont aw
wer’ wantin’ to see. Aw reckon yo’n know nowt abaat that bit o’
brass o’ mine, if yo can call a matter o’ three thousand paand a bit
o’ brass at Edward’s father ligged aat at interest for me. I’d
better wait and see hissen.”

“But Mr. Beaumont’s away, down in Lincolnshire, and I can’t quite
say when he’ll be back. Perhaps you can tell me what it is you want to
know and I may be able to give you the information you require. Let me
see, you’re the mortgagee of Midgley’s mill, aren’t you?”

“Aye, that’s me. Yo’ see, it’s abaat ten yer sin’ aw, put th’ brass
aat. It were i’ Edward’s father’s time an’ he made th’ writins for me.
It wer’ a seet o’ eggs to put i’ one basket—three thaasand paand,
awmost th’ savin’s o’ my lifetime—but Midgley were doin’ well then an’
th’ rate o’ interest, five per cent., were temptin’. But aw’d never ony
bother abaat th’ interest till just abaat th’ time th’ owd man, tho’ he
woren’t so owd to be sure, Edward’s father aw mean, took an’,
died, and Edward stepped into his shoin. That were afore yo’ came to
th’ office, so happen yo’ won’t know th’ ins an’ th’ outs on
it. Then owd Midgley went dahn th’ slot, banked tha’ knows. Awst
nivver forget that market-day, when th’ news came to th’ market.
Aw’ were eitin’ a fourpenny plate o’ meat pie at Morton’s, when
somebody axed me if aw’d heerd owd Tommy Midgley had done a bank. It
welly choked me, an’ aw’d to struggle hard to finish th’ pie, but
aw couldn’t fashion to put it i’ mi pocket-hanker. Aw come up
straight to see Mr. Edward, an’ he made nowt but fun o’ me. He axed
me if aw’d forgotten th’ mortgage. As aw’m a miserable sinner it
had clean slipped my mind. He tried to sell th’ mill under th’
mortgage, but th’ highest bid wouldn’t have paid me off. Trade were
very bad just then, an’ folk failin’ reet an’ left. Midgley’s
mill were just a white elephant. But Mr. Edward came out like a
gentleman an’ he said as how his father had advised th’ loan he’d
take th’ responsibility on his showders till things mended. An’
aw’ve had my cheque reg’lar ivery half-year ever sin for th’
interest less th’ income-tax.”

“Ah! I see,” said Storth; “this is all new to me. You see this was, as
you say, before I came into the office, and it appears to have been a
private arrangement between you and Mr. Beaumont. A merely verbal
arrangement, I understand. You’ve only Mr. Beaumont’s word.”

“That’s all. It’s good enough, isn’t it?”

“Oh, quite so. But we’re all mortal, you know, and I like black and
white myself in business. Who’s running the mill now?”

“Aw couldn’t reetly say for sure. But aw yer it’s let off, or part
on it is, shoose ha’, i’ room an’ power. Aw nivver bothered my yed
abaat it, as long as th’ interest cam’ to hand. But it’s a week
o’er due, an’ aw’ve been expectin’ it by ivery post, so aw thowt
aw’d better call in an’ see abaat it. Yo’ won’t charge me owt
for that, will yo’?” he asked, as a sudden fear seized him.

“No, no, by no means—mortgagor’s costs. Make your mind easy. I’ve no
doubt it will be all right when Mr. Beaumont returns. Still...,” and
Mr. Storth fingered the seal on his watch-chain, and puckered his
brow and pursed his lips and slowly shook his head.

“Still, what?” asked Mr. Schofield, sharply. “There’s nowt
wrong, is there?”

“Wrong? No, no, of course not, at least…. well, well. No writing,
you say, only Mr. Beaumont’s word; and, of course, Mr. Beaumont’s
the soul of honour. You know what the poet says: “So are we all, all
honourable men.” Still, three thousand pounds is a tidy bit.”

“Yo’d ’ave thowt so if yo’d had to addle it an’ nip an’
scrat for it same as I had.”

“A very tidy bit. You have the deeds, of course?”

“They’re at the bank.”

“You’ve overdrawn on them, I suppose.”

“Then you suppose wrang, young man, aw dunnot lend money at five per
cent. to borrow brass fra’ the bank at six. That’s noan th’ way we
mak’ money i’ Golcar. Th’ writin’s are nobbut theer for safety.
Aw can fot ’em aat ony day aw like. What are yo’ axin’ for, if aw
may mak’ so bowd?”

“I’m not only asking, Mr. Schofield, I’m thinking. You read the
local papers, of course?”

“Aw see th’ Weekly Examiner ivery week. Me an’ a neighbour join at
it. What for?”

“Well, of course, you’ve read any time this last few weeks that
there’s great unrest in the industrial world. There was the strike at
Martin’s, of Lindley, not so long ago; there’s just been trouble at
Taylor and Littlewood’s, at Newsome, and I know for a fact that the
textile workers have formed a very strong and formidable union that
embraces not only Huddersfield, but the valleys of the Colne and the
Holme. In fact, Mr. Beaumont was fool enough to draw up the rules of the
union and make no charge.”

“That’s more nor he’d do for me, aw rekon. What sud he do that
for?”

“Oh, you know, he’s all for the rights of labour.”

“Rights o’ fiddlesticks. What’s a man want more nor plenty o’
wark an’ overtime? But what’s all this to do wi’ my brass?”

“Not much, perhaps. Only, you see, I don’t think, from what I saw of
that exceedingly amiable gentleman, Albert Clough, the weavers’
secretary, when he came to consult Beaumont about the draft of the new
rules—a cut-throat lace, if I ever saw one—that this new union’s
going to be idle very long.”

“Well, what’s that to me?”

“Nothing—perhaps; perhaps a great deal; perhaps a matter of that
tidy little bit of a three thousand pounds of yours.”

Mr. Schofield’s face sicklied over with the pale cast of a mortal
fear. His hands became cold and clammy, his heart sank within him.

“Good God! how can that be? Isn’t there th’ writin’s?”

“Oh, don’t alarm yourself unnecessarily, Mr. Schofield. It may be
all right. The late Mr. Beaumont was a very cautious man, I’ve always
understood. Still, as you say, there wasn’t a very spirited bidding
when the mill was put up before, and if there should be a general
strike, or what comes to much the same thing in the long run, a general
lockout, mill property will be a drug on the market.”

“Still, aw’ve Mr. Beaumont’s word.”

Mr. Storth shrugged his shoulders.

“Exactly. Well, Mr. Beaumont’s away. Lord only knows when he’ll be
back. It’s the Long Vacation, you know. Meanwhile, tho’ it’s very
irregular, I’ll let you have my own cheque, on my private account, for
the interest. Doubtless Beaumont will see me all right. All the same,
I’m glad my little bit isn’t out on mill property and I’ll take
precious good care it never is. Of course, it was all right to have your
money out in a good round sum when you were up to your eyes in business,
and hadn’t time to look after things. But if I were a man of your
years, with a fair amount of leisure and settled in my native village,
do you know the kind of investment I should fancy?”

“Let’s be knowing, sir, if yo’ don’t mind.”

“I’d lend a hundred here and a hundred there on good cottage
property—property that I could walk past every day of my life. I
should have the satisfaction of knowing I’d helped some hard-working
man to become the owner of his own dwelling.”

“Wi’ me on th’ top of it.”

“Exactly, with you on the top of it, as a sort of ballast; and if you
like to devote your retired leisure to serving your native village on
the Local Board, or on the Board of Guardians, why you could serve your
own interests at the same time by keeping the rates down . . . .”

“Them poor rates is a scandal,” interposed Mr. Schofield with
conviction.

“Keeping the rates down and consequently the value of property up; and
with three thousand pounds out in small sums take it you’ve thirty
voters at least you can rely on any time you like to put up for
office.”

“Aw winnot say but aw had thowt o’ th’ Local Board, an’
happen’ th’ Guardians. But nob’dy’s axed me to stand.”

Mr. Storth smiled indulgently.

“Oh, that’s easily managed when the time comes. Let me see, what’s
the formula? ‘Yielding to the urgent solicitations of a large and
influential body of my fellow townsmen I have consented to allow myself
to be nominated as a candidate for your suffrages at the forthcoming
election. If elected, etc.’ But we’re jumping a little before we get
to the stile, eh? You haven’t got these thirty nice snug mortgages
yet, have you?”

“No; but aw sooin can have. Just yo’ call in that brass i’ double
quick time.”

“No need to be precipitate. I’ll speak to Mr. Beaumont about it when
he returns. All the same, there’s no need to let the grass grow under
your feet. If you’ll make yourself comfortable with a newspaper in the
waiting-room for half-an-hour, I’ll draw up the formal notice of
withdrawal of the money—we shall have sufficient particulars in the
Deed Book, I’ve no doubt, and you can sign it, leaving the date open;
and if Mr. Beaumont concurs in my view, the notice can go without
troubling you again.”

But a few days after the consultation, at which we have been privileged
to assist, Edward Beaumont returned to Yorkshire and the duties there
awaiting him.

“Morning, Sam,” he exclaimed, as he grasped his partner’s chubby
hand. “I’m a bit overdue, I fear. The fact is, I didn’t come
straight on from Lincolnshire. I had to take a run up to town.”

“Did you go to see Russell about those Iron Works, those blasted
Blasting Works, as I’ve been tempted to call them. It’ll end in
Chancery, I suppose.”

“Not if I can help it; and I didn’t go to town to see Russell.”
Now, Mr. Russell, of Bedford Row, was the London agent of the firm of
Beaumont, Son, and Storth. “You’ll never guess whom I went to see,
and why. The fact is, I put in a good bit of time at the Reform Club.”

“Well, I don’t doubt they do you very well at the Reform Club. Never
been beyond its august portals myself, but on general principles I
should argue a _cordon bleu_ for a _chef_ and a cellar second only to an
Emperor’s. Your true reformer who recommends vegetarianism and total
abstinence, high thinking and low feeding to the general, takes uncommon
good care to have the best of everything for himself.”

“Well, I only sampled a cigar and a whiskey and soda. Leatham took me
to interview the Junior Whip.”

Now Mr. Leatham was the Liberal member for Huddersfield.

“And what the deuce did you want with the Liberal Whip, if I may make
so free?”

“Why, what the deuce, to borrow your phrase, do people want with
Liberal Whips?”

“Can’t say. No use for ’em myself, and I should have thought you
hadn’t. But I can make a shrewd guess what the Junior Liberal Whip
wanted with Mr. Edward Beaumont, and that’s a subscription to the
party fund. Well, go ahead with your tale.”

“Well, it seems I was just the sort of man the party’s looking for.
There’s to be a vacancy soon in one of the West Staffordshire
Divisions—Staveley Hill’s the sitting member, a blue of the blues,
you know—and the party our party, want a man well up on the Land
Question to fight the seat. Now, I do rather fancy myself on the Land
Question.”

“I don’t think you know a turnip from a mangel wurzel, if that’s
what you call being well up on the Land Question.”

“Don’t be a fool, Sam. You know that’s nothing to do with the
question. And the long and short of it is I’ve promised to step into
the breach, and uncommon glad of the chance, too. Why, man, it’s an
honour to be permitted to carry the banner of Land Reform right up to
the entrenchments of feudalism.”

“Oh, you can keep that sort of talk for the free and independent. Have
you counted the cost? There hasn’t been a Liberal member for a county
constituency in the whole length and breadth of Staffordshire since the
days of Simon de Montfort, I imagine. The Southern Division’s an
awfully scattered one and almost purely agricultural.”

“There’s the mining district right in the heart of it,” broke in
Beaumont.

“True; and the miners haven’t a vote. They’ll crowd round your
meetings, and carry you shoulder high, shout themselves harse, and wring
the hands off you in their grimy fists, and sing ‘See the conquering
hero comes’ till you feel you can’t fail to head the poll. And when
the polling day comes, where are they? No more use than a row of
skittles. And while they’re roaring, your quiet comfortable farmer
draws up in his gig from his quiet comfortable farm, has a quiet and
comfortable glass at his favourite hostelry, and then quietly and
comfortably pills you in the polling-booth. Do you think the farmer is
such an insensate ass as to fall out with the vicar and the squire and
his relations, just to oblige Mr. Edward Beaumont, charm he never so
wisely?”

“Well, commend me to you for a Job’s comforter, Sam. It will be a
hard fight, I know, but, as the Whip put it, it will give me a chance to
show the stuff I’m made of, to win my spurs; and what can a man want
more? Anyway, I’ve passed my word, and I’m off to Wolverhampton in
next to no time to meet the election agent and arrange for a series of
meetings all over the Division. And I want you to cut off for your
holidays and come back as fit as a fiddle, for I expect during the next
few months you’ll have to do more than your share of the office
work.”

“Well, ‘who will to Cupar, maun to Cupar.’ Whom God wants to ruin,
He first turns mad; and if ever a man was qualifying for a lunatic
asylum, that man’s yourself, Beaumont. Don’t say I haven’t warned
you. You’ll think of what I say someday or my name’s not Sam Storth.
You’ll spend a lot of money.”…

“I don’t care if it costs every penny I have in the world.”

“You needn’t care. It _will_ cost every penny you have in the world,
and more to boot, unless you’ve stumbled across a gold mine in the
fens.”

“Better than a gold mine, my boy. The grandest, divinest
creature——”

“Exactly. I guessed there was a woman at the bottom of it. But for
electioneering purposes give me the gold mine. Well, just run through
these papers with me and then I’m off. My name’s Walker, and my
address the Highlands for the next six weeks.”

At the door Storth turned, as if on an afterthought.

“Oh, by-the-bye, Beaumont, I had a man here the other day, a William
Schofield, of Golcar. He’d got some maggot in his head about a
mortgage, and was in mortal terror about some overdue interest. He told
me the amount and I gave him my cheque for it. I suppose it was all
right?”

“Quite right. If you’ll wait a moment I’ll write you a cheque for
the money. It’s a private account, you know. I’d forgotten the
interest was due. How quickly half-years slip away when you’ve money
to pay at the end of them. I think I’ve had more bother about that
loan of Schofield’s than all the rest of the business put together.”

“Ah! I didn’t quite get the hang of the matter from the old
gentleman. But I sized him up to be just the sort to talk enough about
his interest, if he didn’t get it, to shake the credit of the Bank of
England, so I just, as I say, calmed him down with a piece of stamped
paper with my name in the corner.”

“Well, I’d better tell you all about it. It seems he lent three
thousand pounds to Midgley, of Almondbury, on the security of Plover
Mill, and some adjacent cottages, in the mill-yard, I expect. That was
in my father’s time; and the strange thing about it is I’ve never
been able to find any valuer’s certificate as to the value of the
property at the time of the loan, though from what I know of my
father’s way of doing business I’m as certain there was one as I am
that the sun’s in the heavens. To make matters worse, soon after my
father’s death, poor old Midgley went smash and the mill has never
been wholly occupied since, and the rents from the cottages hardly pay a
clerk’s wages for collecting. However, I told Schofield I’d pay the
interest myself, and so I must, I fear, for the sake of the dear old
dad’s memory. It’s a bit of a pull though.”

“But what about the principal? Three thousand pounds isn’t exactly a
flea-bite, and it would about kill Schofield to lose it.”

“I suppose I’ll have to take it on my own shoulders. I’ve always
put off taking over the property, subject to the mortgage, though
Midgley’s trustee is willing enough to transfer the equity to me. I
hoped to get a good tenant, but things seem to go from bad to worse out
Almondbury way. Still, the thing’s got to be done. They can’t go on
in this slip-shod way. Just attend to the matter, Sam, when you come
back. Put it on a business footing. I’ll take over the whole thing,
lock, stock, and barrel, with Schofield’s mortgage on the top of
it.”

“All right; I’ll see to it between now and next interest-day No
hurry. I think you’re rather a fool though.”

“Well, you see, it wasn’t your father, Sam. If only that confounded
valuer’s certificate would turn up; but that’s past praying for, I
fear, and I don’t know who the valuer was and, what’s more, when I
tried to find out, some time ago, by inquiring among the auctioneers and
estate agents, nary a one of them had any recollection of making a
valuation.”

“All right, Beaumont, I’ll put things to ship-shape. Well, I
shan’t see you again before I start, so ta-ta. Hope biz. will brighten
up before I come back. It’s been as dull as ditch-water this month
back.”

Mr. Storth returned to his own room and began to set to rights, as he
styled it, the heterogeneous mass of papers that accumulate about a busy
lawyer’s desk and pigeon-holes and drawers. He was routing out the
contents of a deep recess, lettered XYZ, a receptacle apparently for
odds and ends of documents that could find no other home, reading the
endorsements, tearing up some, transferring others to their appropriate
resting-place, when he chanced upon a document bearing no
endorsement—an omission not a little irritating to the methodic mind.

“If I knew the clerk who’s responsible for this I’d give him a
piece of my mind,” muttered Mr. Storth, vindictively, as he opened the
folded paper and set about ascertaining its nature, with a view to duly
marking its date and character upon its back. He read a few lines and
then whistled softly.

“Well, I’m jiggered! The missing certificate! ‘Can recommend an
advance of £3,000 (three thousand) to £3,500 (three thousand five
hundred pounds).’ Now, what shall I do with this precious bit of
paper? What a load the finding of this will take off Beaumont’s mind!
I’ve a good mind to pop it in the fire. I know a young lady who would
say that’s what I ought to do. Shall I? No; hanged if I play it as low
as that, not even to pleasure Miss Amelia Wrigley.”

Mr. Storth was so absorbed in his own reflections that he did not hear a
gentle tap at his room door, did not hear the door open, did not hear
the deprecating cough by which the clerk who entered sought to attract
his attention, and only when the clerk stood by his side, and had cast a
quick glance at the document that engrossed his thoughts did he turn
swiftly round in his chair.

“That you, Barnes. What the deuce do you mean stealing into my room
like a confounded ghost? What do you want any way?” And Mr. Storth
huddled up the papers he had taken from the pigeon-hole XYZ, the long
lost, anxiously-searched certificate among them and thrust them into
that receptacle.

And though, later, Mr. Storth searched high and low for the document, he
found it not. It had again vanished.

And so had Mr. Barnes.

CHAPTER VII.

If any man prides himself on being the master and controller of his own
destiny, if he plumes himself on his own achievements, saying in his
heart: “My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this
wealth,” or this title, or this what you will, let him chasten his
self-esteem by reviewing his own career, and observing how, not once nor
twice but many times, it hath been over-ruled, shaped, fashioned,
deflected, sometimes for good and sometimes for ill, by happenings in
which he has had neither part nor parcel, in which it seemed little
likely he would and could have no concern, yet which for him and all his
future were as big with fate as if they had been specially designed by
Providence for no other purpose than to humble or exalt him, to make or
to mar him. Thus, whilst at this period we may safely conceive of Edward
Beaumont as reflecting with some complacency on the enjoyment of a
lucrative practice, anticipating the delights of a keen contest for a
seat in Parliament, with visions belike of at least a junior lordship,
and sweet imaginings of bridal veils and orange wreaths; it is none the
less true that the doings of some half-dozen not over cultured
millhands, whose very names were unknown to him, were fated to leave on
his life a mark eternity itself would perchance not suffice to efface.

It is a wild night, and the wild and blustering month of March, 1883,
and the New Street of Huddersfield is swept by a gale that comes
tearing, roaring, wuthering down the Come Valley right from Standedge
top; a wind laden with pelting rain that dashes into your face, blinds
your eyes, and makes as though to rend the very garments from your back,
whirl them sky high, and sport with them among the scurrying, glowering
clouds. It is a night on which, to quote the quaint equivoque, it is
good to have no home to go to, to be instead snugly seated in your own
ingle-nook, by a roaring fire, with slippered feet on a thick, list rug,
a pipe in your mouth, a book in your hand, the dog at your feet blinking
his honest eyes at you, the cat purring peacefully its hymn of bliss,
and the _placens uxor_, the sonsie wife, as she rocks in her chair
opposite you, breathes a sigh of profound thankfulness that the day’s
work is well-nigh done, that the bairns, God bless them, are snugly
tucked in bed, and for ten peaceful hours will cease from troubling, and
the weary mother may be at rest. It is a night on which the mind,
reposeful after a day’s toil well done, and a day’s wage well won,
would fain enjoy a peace undisturbed by thoughts of the morrow’s
harrassings.

But in Huddersfield and in all the wildly beautiful district around, nor
for master nor man, was there any hope that night of that ideal,
beatific peace. The strike, the great Weavers’ Strike, as it came to
be known, was well under weigh, and both masters and men had settled
down with the grim resolve of the northern character to see which side
could starve the other into submission. For, after all, with all the
talk and all the writing about good trade and bad trade, about high
profits and losses, about scales and rates of wages, after all the
conferences and deputations and talk of arbitration and Boards of
Conciliation, to a trial of brute strength, of sheer endurance, of
staying power, not to a determination of which side was right and which
was wrong, must the contest surely come.

It was a very pretty quarrel, as quarrels go, a quarrel to make the
cynic hug himself in glee, a quarrel to make angels weep. The masters
had agreed upon a new scale of wages to be adopted and enforced in every
mill in the district, a scale that would determine not only the plus and
minus of the employers’ balance-sheets, but that perhaps negligible
affair, the plus or minus of thousands of humble homes for miles around.
The masters declared, _ore rotundo_, with swelling voices and in good
round phrase that the new scale of wages was not a reduction, but a
readjustment; the weavers swore by all their gods that any readjustment
the scale would effect would be a transference of so many weekly
shillings from the earnings of each craftsman to the pockets of his
master.

A question, surely, this, to be settled in three minutes by a penny
ready reckoner, where and when Reason has sway. But in Huddersfield and
in the villages converging therein Reason had unfurled her glittering
wings and had fled affrighted from the scene of strife, to return only
when Passion, and Hatred, and Ignorance, and all evil imaginings and
utterings had wrought their fill of ill.

A pretty quarrel, in very sooth, a quarrel that should have shown the
veriest idiot of a workingman of how little worth are political
professions, nay, indeed, of how little worth are religious
protestations when that sorest of sore points, the pocket, is touched.
The weavers of Huddersfield and of the valleys hard by had, for years
that stretched back almost beyond count, flocked in their thousands to
shout at the hustings in the Square, or, in later days, to shout in
their noble Town Hall for banker or manufacturer or merchant who came to
them with glib, smooth speech, asseverating with tear-laden eyes that
all they asked, to make them happy, was to spend and be spent in the
workers’ cause. And now the lists are ranged for a grim conflict
between Labour and Capital, and where are ye now oh, friends of the
people? Where now is the Liberal merchant, where now the Radical
manufacturer, where now your reforming councillors and aldermen who have
risen to their paltry place and gimcrack power on the popular vote,
where now the editors of facile pen who have been so fluent in their
vows of fidelity to the people’s cause? All, all alike—Whig and
Tory, Conservative, Liberal, and Radical stand in solid phalanx,
confronting an abandoned, impassioned mob, conscious only of its wrongs
and its betrayal. The men know the masters’ scale means robbery, but
how shall they, unlettered, unskilled, with hands that can ply a shuttle
but unused to pen, with brains to think and know and feel, with tongues
little used to ordered speech, how shall they plead their cause?

Two men are seated this stormy March night in a retired room of the
Albion public-house on the Buxton Road. The room is small,
ill-ventilated, stuffy, its air laden with tobacco reek and the fumes of
stale ale. They are Albert Clough, the Weavers’ Secretary, and Allen
Rae, two men as different in character and temperament as the poles are
wide asunder, but united in a common belief in the worker’s right to a
fairer and a sweeter heritage.

Both were weavers, and both, therefore, were well aware of the effect
likely to be produced by the masters’ proposed scale upon the earnings
of themselves and their fellow-workmen. But there was little other
resemblance between the two men. Rae was a man of no small natural
ability, his forehead denoted intellectuality, his firm, close-set lips
determination and self-control. Anyone accustomed to judge character by
external indications would have no difficulty in pronouncing Rae to be
of an essentially practical turn of mind; of no great ideals or
enthusiasms; a safe guide rather than an impassioned leader. Clough, on
the other hand, was as readily assessed, or, as his acquaintances would
have phrased it, “sized up,” as a man of impulses, apt to allow his
judgment to be warped by his passions and his prejudices. And of
passions and prejudices he had his full share. He had read much, and the
literature to which he was partial consisted, for the most part, of
those books that exposed the iniquities of those in high places, men
born and nurtured in the lap of luxury. He, at all events, never
questioned the divine _dictum_ as to the possibility of a rich man
entering the kingdom of heaven. His whole attitude to the capitalist
class, as embodied for him in the Masters’ Union, was determined by a
consuming sense of the rank injustice of things, the gross iniquity that
he and his fellows should be cursed rather than born into the world,
foredoomed to moil and toil for a pittance to lead a hard life of
endless work, with long hours and paltry pay, to live a dun, colourless
existence, a life of carking care and ceaseless struggle, with the
prospect at its close, of the Workhouse, unless he should be so happy as
to drop at his loom; while other men, many of whom, he was very sure,
were neither so clever, nor so well instructed as himself, were by the
accident of birth or from positions their own hands and brains had not
won, sheltered from the storms of life, had never known and would never
know the pangs of hunger nor the hideous monotony of a life of
mechanical toil in another’s service. There was not much talk of
Socialism in those days; Socialism was vaguely supposed to be a milder
orm of Nihilism, having something to do with dynamite and secret
societies. Had there been any Socialists in Huddersfield, Clough would
have been in their midst; but his Socialism would have been based not so
much upon a divine compassion for others as upon a fierce pity for
himself.

“Have you read that leading article o’ Joe Woodhead in to-neet’s
Rag?” it was thus impolitely he referred to the “Huddersfield Daily
Examiner.”

Rae nodded.

“An’ this is th’ paper th’ working-men ha’ been fooils enough
to call th’ friend o’ freedom. By gow, Allen, it ma’es me think
what fooils we ’n bin.”

“I don’t quite see what else we could expect,” said Rae, quietly.
“Yo’ musn’t forget that behind the editorial ‘we’ there is
always a very human personality. Th’ editor o’ th’ ‘Examiner’s’ only
human, and it’s only natural he’ll look at the present crisis in th’
trade of Huddersfield from a very different standpoint to you an’ me.
Yo’ see, he started in life as a manufacturer hissen, an’ only drifted
into journalism. He’s one of the middle-class hissen. He were born into
it, he wedded into it, an’ aw should think all his friends are of it.
Look how thick he is wi’ ‘Midget’ o’ Marsden, ’at they say’s done so
much to make th’ ‘Examiner’ go in the Colne Valley. Yo’ can’t say but
what both Mr. Woodhead an’ Mr. Robinson—that’s ‘Midget,’ you know—are
good Liberals. They’re sound on questions of Church an’ State. But
this strike isn’t a question of Church an’ State; it’s a question
o’ £ s. d.”

“It’s more nor that, Allen. It’s a question o’ th’ right o’
combination; th’ right o’ th’ men to have a say in fixin’ th’
rate o’ wages they’re willin’ to work for.”

“Well, it comes to £ s. d. in the end. The masters want to put their
finished goods on the market at as little cost to themselves as they
possibly can; the men want to get as much for producing the finished
article as they possibly can. The only question is, can they starve us
into accepting their price for our labour.”

“There’s one man they’ll never starve into swallowing this new
scale. There’s another man off to America first.”

“That’s all very well for you, Albert, and may be for me, too. In
fact, when this fight’s over, end choose which way it may, it’s more
nor likely that’s th’ only course open for either on us. I don’t
fancy there’ll be a loom for either you or me long in this town or
hereabouts. We’re marked men, however others may fare. But we can’t
all clear out to th’ States, an’ none o’ us can stand clammin’
long. We haven’t really felt th’ pinch yet. We’ve only had a month
of it, and it’s just been a holiday for all o’ us. An’ th’
anxiety’s been on th’ masters’ side up to now, having to turn away
orders because they couldn’t accept ’em running th’ risk o’
losing good customers it’s cost em happen years o’ fishing an’ a
mint o’ money to cooper. That’ll hit us in the long run, but it hits
them first. And, meantime, we’ve been all right. The strike pay’s
been there to th’ minnit, an’ it’s just been a novel an’
delightful sensation to lie i’ bed as long as you like, to stroll
about th’ streets, or sit by th’ fireside, or hang about th’ pubs,
as too many of us do, an’ then to draw our strike pay without th’
trouble of addling it. But this can’t go on for ever. Th’ question
is, how long will it last, Albert, how long will it last?”

“Well, as far as I’m concerned it’ll last as long as the Union has
a meg to its back.”

“That won’t be long, as things are shaping. Yo’ see, if we’d
only a third of the men out and two-third’s working for th’
‘out’s’ to draw on we should be up another street. But th’
masters….”

“Curse ’em!” ejaculated Clough.

“Th’ masters soon saw that, an’ now yo’ may say were’re all
out, an’ we’re like that German chap’s monkey you’ll have read
on, sat afore th’ fire hilariously boiling its own tail for
breakfast.”

“You’re nobbut a Job’s comforter, Allen. Don’t yo’ believe in
th’ triumph o’ right over might, o’ principle over pelf?”

“I believe in facts, Albert, an’ facts stubborn things. Of course,
there’s no hurry yet. As I said, th’ pinch hasn’t come yet. Wait
till th’ co-op.’s an’ th’ small grocers ha’ put their foot
down, an’ won’t let as much as a pound o’ oatmeal go out o’
th’ shop till it’s paid for; wait till th’ landlord begins to
fetch th’ sticks for th’ rent; wait till the distress warrants are
out for the borough rate an’ th’ poor rate; wait till th’
pop-shops are full an’ the houses are welly empty; wait till th’
strike fund’s don an’ th’ children are cryin’ for bread—what
then Albert, what then?”

“There’s wealth enough all round for th’ taking, wealth we’n
more right to nor them ’at’s gotten it.”

“That means the treadmill. No thank you, lad.”

“Oh! what’s th’ use o’ lookin’ forrard so far? Th’ masters
’ll weaken before th’ worst comes to th’ worst. I’m all for a
policy o’ bluff; th’ weaker we get th’ bigger we mun talk.”

“That’s all right. But we must look forward to a time when it’ll
do us good to have th’ public on our side, an’ th’ only way to get
them is to show th’ people we’re right an’ th’ masters wrong. I
don’t think myself that th’ people o’ England are going to see our
Union stamped out if we’ve reason on our side—an’ I’m as sure
o’ that as that’s a pint o’ ale you’ve got in front o’ you.”

“But it isn’t,” said Albert, “it wor, but awve supped it long
sin. But how are we to get th’ public on our side? It’s easy
talking. You see for yoursen th’ ‘Examiner’s’ none likely to
take our side, an’ you may be certain sure th’ ‘Chronicle’ and
th’ ‘Weekly News’ ’ll be worse. If we hold meetings there’ll
be nobbut weavers theer, and that’s preachin’ to the converted w’
a vengeance. There’s only th’ pen left when th’ sword an’ th’
tongue are teed. An’ if it comes to writin’ there’s none o’ us
fit to howd a candle to th’ masters, to say wowt o’ th’ allies
they may have i’ th’ Press.”

“I’ve been wondering,” said Rae, slowly, “if Mr. Edward Beaumont
….”

“The very man,” cried Clough, rising so excitedly that he upset his
pewter; “th’ very man, or I’m sore mista’en. By gow, aw nivver
thowt o’ him. If we can nobbut mak’ him see th’ same way as we
see.”

“If,”, assented Rae. “But there’s no harm i’ trying.”

And thus it came about that long letters signed “Edward Beaumont”
began to appear in one of the local papers, bearing upon the one topic
that engrossed the thoughts and speech of nearly every man and woman in
Huddersfield, and in the valleys converging on that town, be those men
and women of what class, of what degree they might. For the Weavers’
Strike, as it was called, though strike it was not, if by a strike is
meant a refusal to work for the wages current at its commencement, had
assumed proportions so portentous that there was in all that great and
populous district scarce a household that was not seriously affected by
it. The combatants drawn up in conflict, of course; but not they alone.
And yet they alone, and the children of their loins, were numbered by
their thousands. But upon the textile industry of that great area
depended dozens of auxiliary trades, and every trade, wholesale and
retail, was hit and hit hard. All gloomed under this heavy pall
except, at first, the publican, and he, for a few glad weeks, felt that
the normal condition of every industry should be one of strike or
lock-out; felt it so intensely that in the exuberance of his
disinterested sympathy he placed upon his beer-stained tables hot
luncheons of fried tripe with onions, and savoury dishes of liver and
bacon. And as the men consumed these delicacies and quaffed their
measures of “Timmy,” by which fond name the brew of a local firm was
widely and appreciatively known, of what should they read, and of Edward
Beaumont. It is to be feared that these contributions to the dialectics
of the great contest were more relished by the workers than by their
employers. The letters took it for granted in the outset that the
masters were sincere in their protestations that nothing was further
from their thoughts, in insisting on the acceptance of the new scale,
than the reduction of current wages. The writer declined to believe,
with the men, that the masters’ insistence on this point was but a
Machiavellian device for a considerable lowering of rates. The masters
were, of course, honourable men, all honourable men, and they must know
how the scale of their own devising would work out. But if the men were
so obtuse that they could not see that a raising rather than a lowering
at all events and certainly no lowering, would result; why not put the
whole question to the arbitrament of one or two competent men conversant
with the intricacies of the textile trade, men able to unravel the
somewhat tangled and bewildering skein of the new scale—and let them
say, aye or nay, would it be, as the weavers so passionately persisted,
a grievous weekly diminution, not of their earnings, not of their work
and output, but of the guerdon of their toil. Never in the whole history
of industrial conflicts, the writer exclaimed, had there before been
known a case of employers being driven to lock-out their men to dragoon
them into accepting higher wages, or of men striking in resentment of
the benefits their benevolent despots were bent upon thrusting into
their unwilling hands.

And when the blue-smocked ones read these words they gaffawed over their
cups; but the masters scowled and damned the writer as a meddling
busy-body. The president of the Employers’ Association—the employers
naturally, did not have a union, merely an Association, such virtue is
there in a name, despite the poet’s dictum—Who chanced to be, not
only a large manufacturer, but also a prominent Liberal, worshipful
master of Beaumont’s Masonic Lodge, and a very desirable client to
boot, called upon that gentleman at his office, and proceeded to give
him a piece of his mind in language whose plainness left nothing to be
desired.

“Look here, brother Beaumont, I should have thought by this time
you’d learned which side your bread’s buttered on, and who spreads
the butter. You know I’m a Liberal, as good a Liberal as you are
yourself, if it comes to that; you know when there’s a fight to be
fought my cheque’s always been ready, and not a little cheque at that;
and you’re vastly mistaken if you think you’ve got a monopoly of
zeal for the working-class. But what the deuce, man alive, do you want
poking your finger into this pie for? Why, in the name of common sense,
can’t you leave us and our men to fight this battle out between us?”

“Do you think it’s a fair fight, brother Tomlinson?”

“Fair. Why not?”

“Well, I’ll tell you why not, if my opinion’s worth anything. On
your side you’ve got all the money, all the staying power, and all, or
nearly all, the educated skill to put your case plausibly before the
public. Now, what have these poor devils of weavers got? A few pounds of
reserve in the Co-op. and the Savings Bank, a few sticks of furniture,
and hands for which they can find no work to do, and so unused to
wielding the pen to state their own claim that, with the best case in
the world, if they had it, you’d have no difficulty in making it
appear the worst. They’ve been to me, I admit it, everyone by this
time knows they have. I’ve tried in every way I could to get at the
merits of the dispute, and, to tell you frankly, I don’t believe, for
a single minute, this is a question of wages at all!”

“Oh, indeed, and what is it?”

“I believe, in my heart of hearts, it’s neither more nor less than a
deliberate attempt to smash and pulverise the Weavers’ Union. That,
neither more nor less; and I think it’s a criminal shame that men like
yourself, who call themselves Liberals and the friends of Labour, should
be engaged in what is at bottom simply a conspiracy against Labour’s
most precious and hard-won right—the right of combination.”

“Oh, stow that talk! it’s good enough for electioneering and the
Town Hall platform. This is business, solid business, and business
hasn’t room for bunkum. How would _you_ like Albert Clough coming
swaggering and hectoring into your office, and telling you you didn’t
pay your clerks a proper wage?”

“I shouldn’t like anybody coming swaggering and hectoring into my
office. I shouldn’t like Albert Clough and, perhaps you won’t mind
my saying, I shouldn’t like Albert Cough’s employer.”

Mr. Tomlinson waived away the suggestion impatiently and continued:—

“Not merely saying you didn’t pay enough wage, demanding, when you
told him you paid as much as you could see your way to pay, demanding in
a truculent voice to see your ledgers and overhaul your pass-book, and
wanting to know why you kept a carriage if you couldn’t afford better
wages. D—n the man, he’ll be wanting to know what I have for dinner
next, and what my wife gives for her bonnets and her gloves.”

Edward smiled. He knew Albert Clough and Albert’s ways. But he was not
the man to make admissions that might be useful to his adversary and of
no use to himself.

“Why, Tomlinson,” he said, “if it comes to that I’ve over a
thousand men coming every day of the week into my office, not exactly
hectoring and blustering, but in a manner that is more effective, though
quieter, than any hectoring and blustering, and these thousand men and
more dictate to me every hour of my life, not what I shall pay my
clerks, but, what is more comprehensive still, what I shall sell my
goods for, in other words, what I shall charge for every act of my
business life; I can’t give a piece of advice, I can’t open my
mouth in the court, I can’t write a business letter, I can’t take a
business journey, I can’t prepare a will, an agreement, or a deed, but
these impertinent thousand odd men, meaning thereby my lords and
gentlemen of the British Parliament, tell me exactly what I may charge
and what I may not. And yet, you see, I contrive to live and look
pleasant.”

“Oh! that’s special pleading, and you know it. There’s no parallel
in the two cases.”

“Pardon me, the cases are exactly parallel. The State intervenes
between me and my client because it knows it would be a sad day for the
client if he were left to the tender mercies of the lawyer, or, as you
would put it, to the law of supply and demand on which you employers
claim to rest the rate of wages. Now the workman has nothing to help him
against you but this very right of combination and the clumsy, often
futile, boomerang-like device of a strike. A poor weapon, but better
than none at all. And yet he is to be deprived even of that.”

“But you’re ruining us, man; you’re driving the trade out of the
district and God only knows when and whether it will ever come back
again.”

“Pardon me, Tomlinson. It is not I that am doing all this. It is
rather you and your fellow employers, who have not only caused the
present crisis, but are needlessly prolonging it. Sooner or later I
suppose you’ll get your own way. I’ve no doubt that sooner or later
the men—not the best of them, for they will have been snapped up by
outside firms—will be brought to their knees. The victory will be
yours—but what a victory! Do you think things will be any pleasanter
in your mills when the men have been starved into submission, and go
back to their work beaten, sullen, and resentful, feeling every day they
live that they have been robbed and their masters are the thieves, for
that’s what it comes to in plain English. If it isn’t so, why in the
name of elemental justice and common sense don’t you agree to
arbitrate the whole matter? The men are willing, always have been
willing. I’ll go bail that if you’ll agree to that every mill shall
be running in a week, aye, and less. It is you and your Association that
stand in the way and not the men. If you are being done to death it is
_felo de se_, suicide, pure and simple; if the town is being ruined, you
and your colleagues are doing that deed most damnable.”

“By heavens! Beaumont, I’ll hear no more of this. I came to you as a
friend and as a brother mason to bring you to reason in a friendly and
brotherly way, and you as good as tell me I’m a robber and a murderer.
Well, well, if I’m to be ruined, I’ll be ruined; but I’ll take
precious good care there’s somebody tumbles before I tumble, and I
shouldn’t be surprised if his name’s Edward Beaumont. I’m not
chairman of a Banking Company for nothing. People who play at bowls must
expect rubbers. Send me my account, if you’ve got one against me, and
you can send all my papers to Ewart and Co. You’ll get your cheque,
and I fancy it’ll be a long time before you see the colour of my money
again.”

“Good morning, Mr. Tomlinson. There’s the door. You remember what I
said about hectoring and bullying?”

For long after the irate manufacturer had bounced out of his office
Beaumont sat ruminating in the chair he drew to the fire. In vain he had
tried to concentrate his thoughts upon the documents upon his desk. His
own concerns crowded out the concerns of others. He had been made
painfully sensible of late that things were not going well with him. Mr.
Tomlinson was not the only client who had demanded his account and the
transference of his papers. His best and oldest clients were deserting
him. His staff of clerks was a large and expensive one, and he had
little or no work now for them to do, and yet he shrank from discharging
so much as an office-boy. Why should they and their families suffer? At
the club, too, men looked black at him; at his Lodge his brethren
treated him coldly. He was uneasy, too, about Schofield’s mortgage.
Edward was resolved, that at any cost to himself, no cloud should rest
upon his father’s name. The expenses of his electioneering promised to
be heavy. Money seemed to flow like water from his bank into
Staffordshire, and his account was overdrawn to an unusual and
disquieting extent. The courteous manager and he were on the best of
terms, but Edward knew a manager, even a bank manager, is but a servant
of the directors—and the directors were manufacturers or merchants to
a man, and the chairman of the directors was none other than the
gentleman who had just left him in such high dudgeon and breathing
threats that could have but one meaning.

And top of all this the morning’s post had brought him a letter from
Storth.

   “DEAR BEAUMONT,—I have been thinking things over a lot since I
  started for my holidays, and I’ve come to the conclusion to try to
  stand on my own bottom, like any other tub. I know by the terms of
  our agreement you are entitled to six months’ notice of dissolution,
  but I’ve no doubt you’ll waive that, for it would be pleasant for
  neither you nor me for me to continue in the office, as it were, with
  one foot in it and the other out. What say you? My plans for the
  future are very vague. Hope things are going on smoothly at your end.
  Wretched weather here.
                                                          Yours,
  S. S.”

“Pretty cool,” reflected Edward, as he re-perused this missive.
“Anyway, I’m not going to beg him to stop on to please me. He can
cut the painter now if he likes, and I’ll write and say so. It’s a
nuisance that I must be in Stafford to-morrow night, and I wish more
than I can say I’d never gone into that electioneering campaign.
However, I’m in it and it can’t be helped. In for a penny, in for a
pound. I feel very much like having put out my leg further than I can
stride, and it’s time for the proverbial silver lining to the
cloud.”

CHAPTER VIII.

There stands, or some years ago there stood, in a noble park some five
miles to the south of the ancient town of Stafford, a large and imposing
edifice, built of a dull red brick, grown russet-hued with age, a house,
one judged, reared in the days when Anne was queen. The outer door,
stout almost as the portal of a jail, opened into a spacious hall,
cheered by the fire of a commodious grate, its walls adorned, or one had
perhaps better say furnished, by gloomy portraits of departed worthies
and their beloved spouses. Dining-room and breakfast or morning-room
opened right and left into the hall, whilst a noble staircase of oak,
dark with age, with broad, shallow steps, worn by the feet of many
generations, led to the upper storeys. In a room, on the second floor,
snug, cosy, but somewhat severely furnished, sat in the early gloom of a
wintry afternoon two maidens, both passing fair and good to look upon,
and yet of a fairness how unlike—the one dark, tall, queenly of port
and mien, and the other of slenderer form, of a gentler aspect, of a
softer gaze, the one born to sway imperious, the other to win by the
soft persuasion of tender look and soft appeal. The house is the home of
Mrs. Jane Fairfax, relict of a former burgess and mayor of the town,
whose trade—the townsfolk proudly boast—is trodden under foot by all
the world—and it is the home also of her niece, ward, and heiress,
Gertrude Fairfax.

Gertrude Fairfax and her old schoolfellow, Eleanor St. Clair, the proud
and imperious beauty who, as a girl, had ruled her classmates and sorely
tried the patience of her teachers, and to whom the gentler maiden had
yielded a ready and adoring submission when both were in short frocks
and wore their hair in a pig-tail, were in the intimate converse of
afternoon tea.

“My dearest Eleanor,” the younger girl is saying, as she hands cake
and tea to her friend reclined in the deep, soft-cushioned basket chair,
“I cannot tell you how delighted I am to see you after all these
years. Why, you had almost ceased to write, and, lo! when I could not
have dreamed of such a pleasure, with just one day’s warning, you
drop, as it were, out of the clouds. And how beautiful you are, Eleanor.
Oh! how beautiful. But you always were. Don’t you remember how we used
to call you Lady Macbeth, and vow you would wed at least an earl. You
were born to move resplendent in imperial courts, waited upon by adoring
slaves, laying their coronets at your feet.”

Eleanor laughed complacently.

“Well, if I was so born, I’m not going to fulfil my destiny. I
don’t know that courts will know much of me, unless they are some
horrid, low, fusty, musty law courts. Heigho! I shudder at the thought
of them. No! destiny’s out of it this time for me. But you, Gertrude,
you, if you like, are fulfilling your destiny. Didn’t we call you
Saint Cecilia, and the Puritan maiden, and Miss Prim, and all that? And
there you sit, I declare, dressed in a plain serge, with a plain linen
collar and cuffs, your hair confined as tight and brushed as smooth as
its inherent rebelliousness will permit, without a ribbon or a ring, and
just a cheap jet brooch at a neck you hide as though you were ashamed of
it. You might be a nun, or what is it you remind me of? I have it. You
only want a poke bonnet and a tambourine and you’re the picture of a
Salvation Army lass; but sure the prettiest and the sweetest Salvation
Army lass that ever travestied religion.”

“Well, I am a Salvation Army lass, if it comes to that; but I don’t
know, Eleanor, that I travesty religion. I try to live it, not to parody
it.”

“You, a Salvation Army lass! Angels and ministers of grace defend us!
You, Gertrude, that simply roll in money, you that live in this grand
old house, you with a maid of your own a butler like a bishop, a footman
with calves that are simply thrown away in Staffordshire, you with a
carriage and a lovely pair, and a coachman as gorgeous as the Lord
Mayor’s, you a Salvation Army lass! As the Scotch parson said: ‘Good
Lord! it’s juist rideeculous!’”

“My dear Eleanor, you forget. The house is not mine, the maid, the
groom, the coachman, and the carriage and the pair—these are not mine.
They are my dear aunt’s. Mine they never may be. Should they be
destined some day to be mine, may that day be far, far distant.”

“Amen, with all my heart. Your aunt’s a dear. But to all intents and
purposes they’re yours, or will be some day, and you know it. I wish I
were as certain of heaven. And, heigho! don’t I just wish that some of
that filthy dross you Salvationists affect to despise were mine.
Money’s just thrown away on you. It’s a ridiculous waste of the good
things of life to lavish them on a girl I verily believe would just as
soon have a steel as a diamond brooch at her breast, and a slip of
velvet round her neck as a rope of pearls.”

“Sooner,” said Gertrude. “I think it’s simply sinful to spend
precious money on pearls and diamonds when so many of my sisters perish
for lack of very bread. I do not judge others, Eleanor, God forbid that
I should. It may not be sinful for others, but it would for me, seeing
as I see and thinking and feeling as I think and feel. And, indeed, it
is no sacrifice for me to be without fine apparel and costly jewels. I
take neither pride nor pleasure in them. A bit of coloured glass is to
me as beautiful as the rarest gem, and a rose or a violet more beautiful
than either. I often think people value jewels not for what they see in
them, but from a curious sense that their costliness denies them to
others. I don’t think it is an enviable frame of mind. But you
haven’t told me, dear, why you wished particularly to be in
Staffordshire just now. You hinted in your letter there was a reason. Is
it a secret?”

“It is, and it isn’t. Oh! Gertrude, I am the happiest and the most
miserable of girls. I’ve given my heart and promised my hand to nearly
the last man in the world I ought to have loved, and papa simply won’t
hear a word of our being engaged, and as for being married, it may come
off when I’m ready for one of those old-age pensions those horrid
Radicals dangle before the silly people’s eyes. But, I forgot, I’m a
Radical myself now, or I suppose I ought to be.”

“You a Radical, Gertrude! Yes, when I’m a Tory. But why must you?”

“Why, because Edward’s a Radical. Isn’t that reason enough? But I
forget. You’re but a schoolgirl yet. You know nothing of such things.
And there’s that goose of a Squire Wright—never leaves me alone,
follows me like my shadow, and the more I snub him the more he seems to
like it. He grows sleek on cruelty and positively beams under despiteful
usage.”

“And Edward is, I presume, the fortunate suitor. Edward what? Who is
he? Where did you meet him? You’ve never mentioned him in your
letters.”

“Edward Beaumont. See, this is his portrait,” and Eleanor drew a
locket from her bosom and handed it to her friend. “Isn’t he
handsome? Now don’t say yes if you don’t think so; but I’ll just
shake you if you don’t.” Gertrude Fairfax gazed long upon the face
encircled in its golden frame, and a close observer would have seen a
deeper colour suffuse her cheeks and brow only to leave them paler than
before. She clasped the locket nervously and returned it to her
companion.

“It is a good face,” she said quietly. “I have seen it before. I
know Mr. Beaumont slightly, and, Eleanor, I think you should be a very
happy girl.”

Then she told of that adventure in Huddersfield which has been already
chronicled in these veracious pages.

“And you love him, Eleanor?” she concluded, “and he loves you, and
soon the glad marriage-bells will ring and you will live happy ever
after.”

“I’m not so sure of all that, Gertrude. There’s the Archdeacon to
reckon with, and though he’s the best of fathers, he can put his foot
down when he likes, and it’s a heavy one. Then, yes, I suppose it’s
true enough, and I may as well say it, there’s Eleanor St. Clair to
reckon with. You see, Edward’s not rich, a successful attorney at the
best. That is what he is now, and if I marry now I marry what he is now,
not what he may be. And I really don’t think I could marry a poor man
of no position worth talking of. Why, I might as well marry a curate.”

“But you love him, Eleanor?”

“Oh! that’s well enough in novels. But I’ve been told on high
authority that when poverty comes in at the door, love flies out at the
window. Fancy me, Eleanor St. Clair, living in a cheap villa, with a
horrid garden patch in front and a yard for drying clothes at the back;
a slip-shod servant-maid with a sniffing nose, doing my own laundry
work, cooking my own meals and my lord’s, cold mutton and rice pudding
most days. I don’t think I could bear it for the best man living, and
that’s flat!”

“Perhaps it won’t be so bad as all that, Eleanor. Does Mr. Beaumont
know how you look at things?”

“Pretty well, I fancy, and he has more sense than to expect anything
else. Don’t you know he’s trying for Parliament? Why, bless me, I
forget to tell you. He’s to be in Stafford to-night, speaking in the
Town Hall, I’ve never heard him make a speech, so I trumped up an
invitation from my old school friend and here I am. You’ll go with me
to the Hall to-night, won’t you, dear? He mustn’t see me nor know
I’m in Stafford, but I do so want to see and hear him.”

That was a memorable meeting in the Stafford Town Hall. It was to be, so
far as possible, a county meeting. From all parts of the Southern
Division men teemed into Stafford—farmers, greatly daring, who braved
the wrath of their landlords, shop-keepers, agricultural labourers, and
the miners from Cannock Chase. An ex-Cabinet Minister was to be on the
platform, Joseph Arch, the peasant’s pride, was to speak, and the new
Radical candidate was to address the electors and non-electors. And
Edward Beaumont had resolved that that night he would deliver his soul,
let the result be what it might. He would speak not to win this
election, for that he was convinced no Radical could do and be honest,
but so speak that either he or some better man should hereafter win
elections by an emancipated electorate. He would not water down his
creed to conciliate the half-hearted or to disarm the prejudiced. The
people should know his soul, his whole soul and nothing short of it. He
knew his speech would shock, would wound, would alienate; but he had
learned his political creed amid the free, outspoken, fearless, and
enlightened citizens of the North; and that creed, or none at all, from
him the more dull and decorous Midlands should have. The chairman, a
pursy, podgy alderman of the town, gasped with horror, the ex-Cabinet
Minister grew frigid with haughty resentment, the black-clothed
citizens looked into each other’s eyes in blank dismay, but the ruddy
peasants and the grimy miners roared themselves hoarse as he warmed to
his work and spoke the convictions of his mind.

“You have heard,” he said, “from the right hon. gentleman who has
just resumed his seat that a much-needed, long-delayed measure of
electoral reform cannot much longer be denied. You met that declaration
with much cheering, and rightly so. But I wish you to ask yourselves
what use are you prepared to make of the vote when you get it? Are you
so content with your present lot that you look forward to ending your
lives as most of you have begun and so far spent them? You miners, you
stalwart sons of the soil, has the future no fairer promise for you than
the lot you and your fathers have known. To what measures are our
legislators to put their hands when Liberal, perchance a Radical, House
sits to carry into law the people’s behests? I tell you your votes
will be of no value unless you are resolved to use them as the crowbars
and the jemmies with which to force the safes of privilege and plunder,
use them not to steal what is not your own, but to regain that of which
the people have been despoiled, to win back for yourselves your own, but
that which has been so long enjoyed by others you have almost forgotten
your imprescriptible rights. Is it a law of Nature that one should spend
his toil and another enjoy its fruits? Is it an immutable decree of
heaven that there should be for ever and for aye the inordinately rich
and the abjectly poor? Is it marked down in holy Writ that Dives should
always be clad in purple and fine linen and fare sumptuously every day,
whilst Lazarus lies at his gates and the dogs lick his sores? Is it to
be endured for ever that the miner should toil in the bowels of the
earth—shut out from God’s sunshine and daring all the perils of a
sudden and awful death, whilst the mine-owner rolls lordly in his
carriage and cossets himself on partridge and champagne? Is it to be
endured that so long as this earth shall last the owners of the soil may
live in pampered luxury upon the earnings of the harassed farmer and the
sweating and sweated hind? No, by heavens, gentlemen, if I am to be your
candidate I shall stand for measures that will humble the pride of those
in high places, measures that will strip the coronetted peers of the
power they now possess to thwart the people’s will, measures that will
humble the bishop’s bench and strip the haughty hierarchy of its
ungodly privileges, measures that will give back to the people the
wealth the people earn by their sinews and their brain. A time shall
come when England shall be Merry England once more, aye, if we have to
make a holocaust of the title-deeds by which its broad acres have been
tied in parchment bonds; a time when honest toil shall be honestly
rewarded; a time when he who toils not shall see himself and be seen as
the parasite he is; a time when no man shall wield political power
merely because he chances to be ‘the tenth transmitter of a foolish
face’; a time when no man and no woman shall be poor who is willing
and able to work; a time when the Workhouse shall no longer be the only
asylum for decent poverty, a time when the wealth-winners shall be the
wealth-enjoyers. Woe in that day to the man, aye, though he boast the
blood of the Plantagenets, who owes his pride and station, his pomp and
luxury, to the rentals of common land stolen from the peasant; woe in
that day to the capitalist who grinds the faces of the poor; woe in that
day to all who sit at the feast they have not spread and quaff the
goblet they have not filled. But glad, glad that day for all who give
unstinting of brain or muscle and by honest toil add their measure to
the common wealth and win thereby the right to share to the full in the
generous bounty of Nature’s ungrudging hand. I do not come to you with
mincing gait and honeyed words. No kid-glove politician I. You know my
mind. Say, shall I be your spokesman at the people’s House?”

And that vast audience, almost to a man, sprang to feet, and thundered
back an “Aye” that shook the very walls. But the chairman paled in
his puffy cheeks and the ex-minister’s brow was dark. And even as the
cheers rolled and rolled again a messenger handed to Beaumont as,
flushed and exultant, he gazed upon the sea of faces, a message flashed
across the wires by his confidential clerk:—

“Petition in Bankruptcy against you by Bank and Schofield.”

“See, Eleanor,” whispered Gertrude Fairfax, who, seated in the
balcony beside her friend, had drunk in with enraptured ears the fervent
periods of the speaker. “See, he has had bad news. He pales, I can see
it even here. He is ghastly white. Oh! I am sure he has had some
terrible blow. And at such a moment! Cannot you go to him and comfort
him?”

But Eleanor made no sign.

CHAPTER IX.

Three years have passed; years to which in later life Edward Beaumont
looked back with loathing and with wonder, wonder that in so short a
time he should have not merely fallen from that fair place he had filled
in the eye of what was to him the world, but worse, infinitely worse,
have fallen from his purer, better, nobler self; years in which, merged,
well-nigh submerged, in London’s restless, ruthless sea, he had
struggled to keep body and soul together by the use of his pen. When
first he had come to town he could, doubtless, have obtained employment
as a managing clerk. There are hundreds of men of his profession who are
glad to earn the bread of dependence in that capacity; but a false pride
forbade him to serve as clerk, who had so recently kinged it in his own
office. So he had turned to that refuge of the educated
out-of-work—literature—to find, as thousands have found before, that
literature is, perhaps, the hardest of all professions. And yet it seems
so easy a thing to start in life as a writer; all you need is a J pen, a
few sheets of foolscap, and, yes, there’s the rub, something to write
about that people want to read about; and, given all that, he’s a
lucky man that does not find someone else has forestalled him and has
written on the same theme infinitely better than he can write himself.
Beaumont, in those days, often recalled the three ways in which,
according to the traditions of the Bar, a young barrister may rise
rapidly: by writing a book on some legal subject, by huggery—_id
est_—by marrying an attorney’s daughter, or by a miracle. For the
man who must needs write daily for his daily crust it is not easy to
write a book, certainly not easy to find an appreciative publisher; as
for huggery, or marrying an editor’s daughter editor’s daughters
look far beyond the out-at elbows penny-a-liner; and as for miracles,
well, he had never believed in them. Indeed, in these days he had ceased
to believe in anything or anybody, even in himself. It was the worst of
his misfortunes that he had lost, as it were, at one fell swoop,
everything, even the desire to succeed. If he could earn enough to keep
life within him, though why he should care even to do that he would have
been hard put to it to say, that would suffice. He who loses fortune
loses much, who loses friends loses more, but who loses courage loses
all. And Beaumont’s heart was dead within him.

It was a dark, dreary night of March. The rain beat fitfully against the
window of a bedroom in a small by-street off the Holloway Road. The room
is Edward’s sleeping room, his eating-room, and his workshop. A tiny
fire burns dully in a tiny grate and emits rather less heat than the gas
that blares with a sickly flame above Beaumont’s head. It is close
upon ten of the night, and Edward has thrown down his pen, collected the
sheets of “copy” that he hopes to turn into money if editors prove
kind on the morrow, and is now, pipe in mouth and book in hand, trying
to find a comfortable place in the rickety, horse-hair armchair, called
by his landlady in some fit of uncanny humour, an easy chair, and
trying, too, to so focus his book as to catch the rays from his solitary
gas-jet. A very different Edward this from the easy, debonair youth whom
men had envied and maidens smiled upon. His clothes are well cut, but
woefully white at the seams, his linen is frayed, his boots down at
heel, the watch he glances at is manifestly a Waterbury, its chain of
steel; and before he lights his pipe he is compelled to cut a pipeful of
unmistakeable Limerick. Upon the small table are a jug of water, a
tumbler, and a bottle labelled “Pride of the Glen.” Edward holds it
to the light and measures its contents with his eye.

“Still three-parts full. Behold the rewards of abstinence. Had I not
been frugal last night I must have been frugal to-night; but, heaven be
thanked, there are two or three hours’ quiet soaking in three-quarters
of a 3s. 6d. bottle of the ‘Pride of the Glen,’ and by that is drunk
this dingy hole will be a palace and Edward Beaumont its prince; my tea
of bread and margarine, with a bloater, will look in the retrospect a
Guildhall banquet; this very angular, grid-iron like chair will be as
cosy as a divan; the cheap prints that adorn my walls will show as the
works of Watteau and Greuze; my rags will fall away, and I shall be clad
in purple and fine linen; my whiskey will be imperial Tokay; my twist
Havanas; and, in fine, it will be Edward Beaumont and not the bottle
that will be three-parts full. It is true that tomorrow my mouth will be
parched and I shall crave for a hair of the dog that bit me, and have to
crave unless the landlord of the ‘Jolly Dogs’ is in confiding mood;
my gorge will rise at the streaky, sickly slice of bacon and the ghastly
‘shop-’un’ and the leathery bread that will be served for
breakfast; it is also true my eye ill be bleared, if not blood-shot, my
head will ache fit to split, and my hand tremble till I can scarce lift
to my lips the cup of wash-up water my landlady calls tea. All these
things I verily believe. It is doubtless also true that I am shortening
my life, true as gospel, oh! most sapient Sir Wilfrid Lawson. But is it
not written that man shall take no thought for the morrow and that
sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. Here, benign deity at 3s.
6d. the bottle! here, thou offerest three hours’ oblivion, and
they’re well purchased by tomorrow’s reckoning.”

And he poured from the bottle a generous measure of the _elixir mortis_,
puffed his pipe to a vigorous glow, and with a sigh of something like
content, set himself to the reading of his well-thumbed “Omar
Khayyam.”

  “Ah, my Beloved, fill the cup that clears

  TO-DAY of past Regrets and future Fears—

    _To-morrow?_ Why, To-morrow I may be

  Myself with Yesterday’s Sev’n Thousand years”

“Good old Omar,” the reader mutters, as he drains his goblet, and
replenishes it from bottle and jug, “good old Omar, thine is the only
true philosophy. _Carpe diem_, pluck the passing hour, let us eat and
drink for to-morrow we may die, and who cares?

  “Into this Universe, and why not knowing,

  Nor _whence_, like Water willy-nilly flowing;

    And out of it, as Wind along the Waste,

  I know not _whither_, willy-nilly blowing.

  What, without asking, hither hurried _whence?_

  And, without asking, whither hurried _hence!_

    Another and another Cup to drown

  The Memory of this Impertinence.”

“Now, talk of Impertinence, who the deuce is this coming up my stairs
at this hour of the night, and such a night? It can’t be the
printer’s devil, besides, the step’s a man’s at that. If his
thirst’s as big as himself, God help the bottle or what’s left of
it. Oh! come in, whoever you are, and be hanged to you!” and in
response to this not very pressing invitation the door opens, and in the
doorway stands, peering into the room, dazzled in the transition from
the gloomy staircase, a tall, erect figure, closely draped in a heavy
Inverness cape, sodden with the rain.

“It is Mr. Beaumont, is it not?” asks a manly, pleasant voice.
“Why, of course it is, now I can see you. How are you, Beaumont?”
and a white but strong firm hand is outstretched and grasps the hand
that not too gladly meets it.

“Denis Caird, by all that’s holy!”

“Of course, it’s Denis Caird, and glad to see you, Beaumont. Been
hunting for you everywhere this month or two back. Was up in the West
Riding lecturing, inquired about my old pupil we all prophesied such
great things from, expected to find you in the Mayor’s parlour at
least, till such times as you could follow Chamberlain’s lead heard
you’d gone under, been seen in London, made up my mind to find you by
hook or crook, and here I am and there you are. I say, what’s this,
and this?” And the speaker, who had thrown off his cape, took up the
little volume of verse, glanced at the title, and shook his head at the
tall bottle. “‘Omar Khayyam’ and a whiskey bottle; bad food for
mind, worse food for the body, my friend; the apostle of
self-indulgence, and the worst, or nearly the worst, way to gratify it.
This won’t do, Beaumont; this won’t do, my lad.”

Edward moved uneasily in his chair.

“_Dulce est_” he began.

“_Dulce est_ be hanged,” quoth his visitor.

“I’m a clergyman or I’d say something stronger than that. What’s
a young fellow like you want cooped up in a garret reading that rubbish,
beautiful rubbish, if you like, but still rubbish, and making matters
ten thousand times worse by drinking liquid damnation at three-and-six a
bottle; up here, I say, in a garret, mooning over a lot of verses and
soaking yourself with poison, when all around you there’s work to be
done, man’s work, God’s work, and none too many to do it. What’s
wrong with you, Beaumont, what’s wrong, say?”

“Everything’s wrong. You know, of course, how I came a mucker up
yonder. Well, I’ve cared for nothing since, but just to get a crust of
bread, and as much of that stuff as the money’ll run to.”

“Wasn’t there a girl in the case. Hadn’t you her to live for if
nothing and nobody else?”

“Oh! yes, there was a girl, if it comes to that. But when the smash
came she very promptly declined to permit me to ‘live for her,’ as
you put it. See, look here, you can read my letters of dismissal, if you
care to. Short and sweet, like a donkey’s gallop, I call ’em.”

And Beaumont took from a drawer and threw upon the table two letters:

                                                    “The Vicarage,
                                                      Caistorholm,
                                                       Lincs.
  February, 188

    “DEAR MR. BEAUMONT,—
I am exceedingly distressed to learn of your   misfortune. You will
do me the justice to remember that I gave only a   reluctant and
conditional assent to my daughter’s engagement to you. Of course
that must now be absolutely and finally broken. I trust the dear
girl may be given strength to bear this fearful trial, and I hope
that your future may be brighter than present prospects indicate.

                                                     Yours faithfully,

                                                      HUGH ST. CLAIR.”


                                                     “The Vicarage,
                                                      Caistorholm.

    “DEAR EDWARD,—
  Papa insists that I endorse his words. What else can I do? I am so
  sorry, but there seems no other way. And, after all, I’m sure I should
  not have made you the wife you ought to have. With best wishes,

                                                    ELEANOR ST. CLAIR.”

“Humph!” said the Rev. Denis Caird.

“There’s nothing lacking on the score of lucidity anyway. Anything
else?”

“Merely this,” said Edward, bitterly, as he handed a newspaper to
his visitor.

  “A marriage has been arranged, and will shortly be solemnised, between
  Mr. George Wright, of Thoresby Manor, Lincs, and Eleanor, only child
  of the Very Reverend Archdeacon St. Clair, of Caistorholm Vicarage,
  Lincs.”

“Ah, well!” said Mr. Denis; “there’s an end of that chapter
anyway.”

“With your permission we’ll drop these precious letters carefully
into that not very cheerful fire of yours. It’s simply mawkish
sentimentality keeping them by you to gloom over. I don’t know the
lady, but it seems to me she knew what she was talking about when she
said she wasn’t quite the kind of wife you want. A fair-weather sort
of mate isn’t quite the sort of mate for a shipwrecked mariner. And
so, because you’ve got two nasty slaps in the face from that fickle
jade, Dame Fortune, you coop yourself up in this dingy hole, read Omar
Khayyam and that rot, and drink yourself into a fool’s paradise or a
sot’s oblivion, by way of mending matters. I thought you were made of
better stuff, Beaumont, and that’s a fact. Why, man alive, if you’ve
no more backbone in you than that comes to Eleanor St. Clair’s well
rid of you, or any other decent woman for that matter.”

“Oh, yes, I’m down, jump on me,” said Beaumont, savagely.

“It’s time somebody did jump on you to some purpose. I’ve no
patience with you, man. Why, it’s just such nasty knocks as those that
test a man. Life’s a fight for the best of us, a stand-up fight,
shoulders squared, knees braced, fists clenched, lips tight-pressed, and
eyes intent and steadfast. A fight not with your fellow-man, to see
which can down the other, that’s a poor business, but with the world,
the flesh, and the devil. What sort of a fighter do you call the man
who, on the first knockout, lies grovelling in the saw-dust, bleating
for mercy? he’s not the man you put your money on. No, it’s the
little game one who never knows when he’s beaten, that takes his gruel
kindly, and is up on his feet after a breathing space, bruised and
stricken, if you like, but eager for another round, and another, and
still another, so long as he’s a leg to stand on. Now, you’ve had
your breathing space. Look on me, if you like, as the man who brushes
the saw-dust off your clothes, sponges your brow, gives you a knee, and
bucks you up generally for another set-to. I want to see you in the ring
again. Are you willing, or is it to be whiskey and Omar Khayyam, till
the inevitable end, a leap over Westminster Bridge into the Thames, or
the Workhouse? I could almost quote Scripture to you: ‘See, I have set
before thee this day life and good, death and evil. Therefore choose
life, that both thou and thy seed may live.’”

For a long time there was silence between the men. Edward leaned with
his elbows upon his knees, gazing into the dull embers of the fire, the
minister watching him anxiously. Then Beaumont rose and stretched out
his hand.

“I choose life,” he said. “Show me the way.”

“There is only one way, Beaumont. There never has been, never will be,
anyway but one. It is the _Via Crucis_—the way of the Cross. It is a
way that was before Gethsemane, though men knew it not as they may know
it now, if they but will. And you may put your foot on that way
to-night, this very moment. What are you going to do with that whiskey
bottle? You can’t carry that sort of luggage on the _Via Crucis?”_

“There’s the sink,” said Edward.

“Precisely, there’s the sink, and here goes for the sink and the
sewer and the rats. And those letters?”

“There’s the fire.”

“Exactly. Let the dead past bury its dead, or as burial is not
convenient for letters, here’s for cremation. And Omar Khayyam?”

“In with him.”

“Now we breathe a purer air. Now put on your hat and coat and come
with me to a place I wot of where you can get the juiciest steak in all
London town, with fried onions and roast potatoes and a cup of very
decent coffee, piping hot. And then we’ll talk of things, and I may be
able to put you in the way of doing a bit of useful work and earning a
modest shilling or two by doing it. And that’s something to be
thankful for in this vale of tears, I can tell you.”

CHAPTER X.

THE LAST.

Denis Caird was as good as his word, and better. He stuck to Beaumont
like a leech. In those hours of depression that always come to him who
has abandoned alcoholic stimulant—those hours in which every fibre of
the being seems to clamour for the wonted drug, the good clergyman was
to Beaumont a man and a brother, cheering him, rallying him, exhorting
him, appealing to all the better forces of his nature, and aiding him in
the bitter fight, till, after anxious months, both could feel the
victory was won.

And Beaumont got work, work to his heart’s desire, work for his pen
and work for what gift of speech he had.

“Go into the slums, go to the bottommost pit in this London hell,”
said Mr. Caird. “Go and see for yourself what the teaching of your
Omar Khayyam makes of men and women. See human beings turned into beasts
and devils by yielding to the beast and devil latent within every man
and every woman. You believe in evolution, you say. Well, what has made
men and women only a little lower than the angels? Why, nought but
myriads of years of beating down Satan under their feet, beating down
the animal basis on which the moral and the spiritual superstructure is
reared. Go, learn your lesson, and then, and not till then, with pen and
tongue preach your lesson. I’m a Socialist, you know I am. But ere
ever the masses enter into their kingdom of economic justice, ere ever
they win the full heritage of their toil, I pray and labour that they
may be worthy of that kingdom and of that heritage, that they may learn
the right use of wealth; else will all their gains be but added
curses.”

And Beaumont went into the slums, and their teaching sank deep into his
soul. And in his goings he met time after time that sweet and winsome
maiden whom he had first seen, years ago, in circumstances how
different, in his office in Huddersfield—Gertrude Fairfax, Sister
Gertrude. He saw her move, a ministering angel, among the foul purlieus,
the noxious dens, speaking to Women from whose touch Respectability
plucked its skirts, saw her indeed touch pitch without being defiled, a
serene and wholesome presence before which sin slunk abashed away, and
e’en the drunkard forbore to curse.

And seeing her thus almost daily, old memories died away, the carking
bitterness left his heart, and it was filled again with the image of a
woman whom to love was a liberal education and a holy cult in one.

The last scene of this story shall not open under the fogs nor ’mid
the slums of hideous London. Come with me, gentle reader, to that goodly
mansion by Stafford town, where dwell Mistress Jane Fairfax and her
niece Gertrude. It is the month of leafy June, the skies are blue
o’erhead, the air sweet and soft and warm, and the garden of Cromwell
House is rich in verdure and in bloom, and redolent of the choicest
perfumes distilled by that cunningest of all alchemists—Dame Nature.
There is a bower there with rustic seat, a bower all garlanded with
roses sweetly breathing, with clematis and wild convolvulus, and a
purling brook alive with darting troutlet babbles by. And there are
seated side by side the heroine of this story and Edward Beaumont.

“I have something to give you, Mr. Beaumont, that I think belongs to
you. Let me first tell you how it came to my hands. You had a clerk, had
you not, called Barnes?”

“I had.”

“Well, he came to a sad end, poor fellow. Drifted to London, took to
evil courses, and died in great straits. I was by his bed when the end
drew near. He remembered my being at your office, when you defended Pat
Sullivan. He had tried to find you. He confessed he had abstracted this
paper from your office, thinking he might make money by it, if a reward
were offered for its recovery. I promised if ever I met you to restore
it to you, and the man seemed easier for the promise.”

Beaumont wondering opened the document she handed to him.

“By Jove!” he cried, “the missing valuer’s certificate for
Midgley’s mortgage. Why, I’ve searched high and low for this. What
would I not have given for this precious bit of paper that night in
Stafford Town Hall when I got that awful telegram. You were there, you
tell me. If I’d only had this then! But it’s better as it is, much
better. Don’t you think God schemes for us better than we can scheme
for ourselves? A man need have long visions to scan the ways of God.”

“I don’t think, I know. But why do you ask that question just
now?”

“Why, you see, Gertrude, if I may call you so, if I had had this paper
I should probably have made a fight and struggled on in the law. And if
I had, it seems to stand to reason I shouldn’t have been here!”

“No; you’d have been happily married by this to Eleanor St.
Clair!”

“Who is much more happily married to George Wright, and I am free to
say what say I must before I leave for London and my work. Can’t you
guess what it is I would say, Gertrude? I’m not much of a man to offer
to any woman, but such as I am I love you, Gertrude. I’m poor, you are
rich or will be; I’m tainted, you are pure, unsullied. But, there, I
think you know me as I am. Say, Gertrude, is there in your heart any
tiny seedling of love for me that time and the warmth of my love may woo
to life and growth?”

Edward had risen and now stood before the girl to whom he pleaded, who
drooped her eyes before the ardour of his gaze, her bosom fluttering
’neath her modest dress like a prisoned bird that beats its bars, the
rich colour suffusing the pale brow and cheeks.

“I think I have loved you, Edward, since that day in the Police Court.
Oh! it nearly broke my heart when I heard how sadly you had fallen from
what I dreamed you might be, and shall from what, God willing, you may
be yet.”

“And you will help, Gertrude?”

“Aye, that I will.” And she rose and placed her hands in his and
spake to him as Ruth the Maobitish damsel, spake to Naomi, and as Edward
drew her to his breast and kissed the lips that met his he murmured:
“The Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and
me.”

And this is the end of my story, and yet but the real beginning of the
lives that were joined before God’s altar by the Rev. Denis Caird. The
wedding presents were neither costly nor numerous, but they included one
from Eleanor St Clair, now Lady Wright, for that ambitious matron never
rested till she saw her spouse a member for the Louth division, and,
once in Parliament, that gentleman wisely refrained from speech,
“never thought of thinking for himself at all, but always voted at his
party’s call”; and in due time the Premier of the day, yielding, it
was said, to the blandishments of that brilliant leader of society, Mrs.
George Wright, rewarded him with a baronetcy.

And what of Miss Amelia Wrigley and her amorous Sam? Alas! that lady
never realised her modest ambitions. Mr. Storth prospered, as indeed he
deserved to prosper, in the profession of his choice; but much beer,
added to a plethoric habit and a choleric temperament, induced an
apoplectic seizure from which he never rallied, and Miss Wrigley still
lives in maiden meditation, if not fancy free, still to be wooed and
won.

THE END.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Sister Gertrude - A Tale of the West Riding" ***

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

We also ask that you:

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

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

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

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



Home