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Title: Red Spider, Volume 2 (of 2)
Author: Baring-Gould, S. (Sabine)
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 "Red Spider, Volume 2 (of 2)" ***

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***



                              *RED SPIDER*


                                   BY
                          SABINE BARING-GOULD


               THE AUTHOR OF ’JOHN HERRING’ ’MEHALAH’ &c.


                             IN TWO VOLUMES
                                VOL. II.



                                 London
                      CHATTO & WINDUS, PICCADILLY
                                  1887

                [_The right of translation is reserved_]



                               *CONTENTS*

                                  *OF*

                          *THE SECOND VOLUME.*


CHAPTER

    XIX. A DEAD DOG
     XX. A FIVE-POUND NOTE
    XXI. REFUSED
   XXII. THE HAYSEL
  XXIII. A BRAWL
   XXIV. THE HAND OF GLORY
    XXV. THE HARE HUNT
   XXVI. BITTER MEDICINE
  XXVII. AFTER SWEETNESS
 XXVIII. A FIRST STEP
   XXIX. A BLOW
    XXX. YES!
   XXXI. THE NEW MISTRESS
  XXXII. THE CHINA DOG
 XXXIII. AMONG THE GORSE
  XXXIV. THE VISITATION
   XXXV. A WARNING
  XXXVI. A SETTLEMENT
 XXXVII. A BOWL OF BROTH
XXXVIII. THE LOOK-OUT STONE



                             *RED SPIDER.*



                             *CHAPTER XIX.*

                             *A DEAD DOG.*


The second night of watch proved unavailing, for the best of good
reasons, that the watch was not kept.  Oliver Luxmore sat up, but,
finding the night chilly outside the house, attempted to keep watch with
a pipe of tobacco and a jug and glass of cider posset within.  The
consequence was that he went to sleep over the fire.  During that same
night another of the lambs was worried.  Mischief had also been done at
Swaddledown, as the family heard during the day.  There a ewe had been
killed, overrun, thrown into a grip (dyke by hedge) whence it could not
rise, and where it had been torn, and had died.

’We must not ask your father to watch again,’ said Hillary, with the
corners of his mouth twitching.  ’We believe what he says now when he
tells us he is very shortsighted. I will come to-night and the night
after, if need be, till I earn my guinea.  The rascal has been here
twice and has escaped.  He shall not succeed the third time.  I will
take a nap by day and be lively as an owl at night.’

The maids at Chimsworthy joked the lad about his visits to the cottage;
he did not go there after the dog, but after Kate.  A guinea! What was a
guinea to the heir of Chimsworthy? A young man cares more for girls’
hearts than for money.  He did not contradict them, he turned aside
their banter with banter.  But the lively conversation of Kate had lost
its charm for him.  He exchanged jests with her, but took less pleasure
than heretofore in doing so.  That night and the next he spent at his
post watching for the lamb-killer.  Honor gave him her company.  He was
surprised at himself for becoming serious, still more that the
conversation and society of the grave Honor should afford him so much
pleasure. In her company everything assumed a new aspect, was seen
through coloured glass.

Honor herself was changed during these still night watches.  A softness,
inbred in her, but to which she was unable to yield during the day,
manifested itself in her manner, her speech, her appearance, a bloom as
that on the plum.  Her inner heart unfolded like a night-flower, and
poured forth fragrance.  Thoughts that had long dwelt and worked in her
mind, but to which she had never given words, found expression at last.
Her real mind, her great, pure, deep soul, had been as a fountain sealed
to her father and sister Kate; they could not have understood her
thoughts; she knew this without acknowledging it other than by
instinctive silence.  But now she had beside her a companion,
sympathetic, intelligent; and the night that veiled their faces and the
working of their emotions allowed them to speak with frankness.  Banter
died away on Hillary’s lips, he respected her and her thoughts too
highly to treat either lightly.  Though he could not fully understand
her he could not withhold his reverence.  He saw the nobility of her
character, her self-devotion made beautiful by its unconsciousness, her
directness of purpose, her thoroughness, and her clear simplicity
running through her life like a sparkling river.  Her nature was the
reverse of his own. He treated life as a holiday, and its duties as
annoyances; she looked to the duties as constituting life, and to
pleasures as accidents. He became dissatisfied with himself without
feeling resentment towards Honor for inspiring the feeling.  With all
his frivolity and self-conceit there was good stuff in Hillary.  It was
evidence of this that he now appreciated Honor.  At night, under the
dark heavens strewn with stars, or with the moon rising as a globe of
gold over Dartmoor, these two young people sat on the bench, with
potato-sacks over their shoulders sheltering them from the dew, or at
the hearth suffused by the glow of the peat embers, and talked with
muffled voices as if in church.

The second, the third night, during which Hillary watched, passed
uneventfully.  Each night, or morning rather, as Hillary left, the
pressure of his hand clasping that of Honor became warmer.  After he was
gone, the girl sat musing for some minutes, listening to his dying steps
as he passed along the lane homewards. Then she sighed, shook her head,
as though to shake off some dream that tole over her, and went to bed.

Hillary’s determined watching was not, however, destined to remain
fruitless.  Early on the fourth night, after he had been at his post an
hour, the bleating and scampering of the sheep showed that their enemy
was at hand.

In another moment both saw a dark animal dash across the field in
pursuit.  Hillary fired, and the creature fell over.

’Bring a lantern, Honor,’ he shouted.  ’Let us see whose dog it is.’

She ran indoors.  Her father and Kate had been roused by the report.

When she returned with the lantern to the field, ’You were right,
Honor,’ said Hillary, ’this is Uncle Taverner’s Rover.  Poor fellow, we
were friends once, when I was allowed at Langford.  Now he and his
master have fallen to bad ways.  I have put the seal on my misdoings,
and Uncle Taverner will never forgive me for having shot his dog.’

’Well, perhaps you will recover your wits now,’ said Kate.

’Wits! why?’

’Wits—you have been dull enough lately. Perhaps as the dog went
sheep-killing, your wits went wool-gathering.  They have been dead, or
not at home.’

’Go home, Larry,’ said Honor; ’and take our best thanks to warm you.’

Hillary, however, seemed ill-disposed to go. He hung about the kitchen
pretending that his fingers wanted warming, or considering what was to
be done with the carcass of the dog. What he really desired was a
further chat with Honor.  But Kate would not allow him to be alone with
her sister, though unsuspicious of the state of his feelings, and
indifferent to them herself.  She was like a mosquito that buzzes about
a sleep-drunk man, threatening him, rousing him, settling, and stabbing,
and escaping before his hand can chastise.  The more she plied him with
her jokes, the more dispirited he became, and incapable of repartee.

’Well,’ said he at length, ’I suppose it is time for all to go to bed.
You have all seen enough of the dead dog.’

’And we of the live lion,’ said Kate.

He went hesitatingly to the door, then came back, tied the dog’s hind
feet together, and slung the body over his back on his gun. Then he went
back to the door.

Kate said something to Honor, gave Larry a nod, and went away to bed.

Honor accompanied him to the door, to fasten it after him.

’I wish Rover had not come for a couple of hours,’ he said, as he held
out his hand.

’You have won your guinea, and must be content,’ she answered with a
smile.

’Do you suppose I care for the guinea, except that I may share it with
you?’ he asked. ’I’ll tell you what we will do with it, break it in
half, and each keep a half.’

’Then it will be of no good to either,’ answered Honor.  ’You told me
yourself that the money was a consideration to you, as you were
empty-pocketed.’

’I forgot all about the guinea after the first night in the pleasure of
being with you.  I would give the guinea to be allowed to come here
again to-morrow night.  Confound old Rover for being in such a hurry for
his dose of lead.’

’What is that about lead?’ called Kate from the steps of the stairs.  ’I
think, Larry, the lead has got into your brains, and into your feet.’

Honor shook her head, and tried to withdraw her hand from that of the
young man; but he would not release it.  ’No, Larry, no, that cannot
be.’

’May I not come again?’

’No, Larry, on no account,’ she said gravely.

’But, Honor, if I come down the lane, and you hear the owls call very
loud under the bank, you will open the door and slip out. You will bring
the potato-sacks, and let us have a talk again on the bench with them
over our shoulders?’

’No, I will not—indeed I will not.  I pray you, if you have any thought
for me, do not try this.  Good-night, Larry—you are a brother to me.’

She wrenched her hand from his, and shut the door.  He heard her bolt
it.  Then he went down the steps and walked away, ill pleased.  But
after he had gone some distance, he turned, and saw the cottage door
open, and Honor standing in it, her dark figure against the fire glow.
Had she relented and changed her mind?  He came back.  Then the door was
shut and barred again.  He was offended, and, to disguise his confusion,
whistled a merry air, and whistled it so loud as that Honor might hear
it and understand that her refusal gave him no concern.

Hillary had not reached the end of the lane before he stumbled against
Charles.

’Hallo!’ exclaimed the latter.  ’What are you doing here at this time o’
night?  Got your gun, eh?  And game too, eh?  Poaching on Langford.  A
common poacher.  I’ll report you.  Not hare-hunting yet?  Take care how
you do that.  I’ll break your neck if you come near Langford after that
game.’

’What you have been doing is clear enough,’ said Hillary, stepping
aside.  ’You have been at the "Ring of Bells," drinking.’

’What if I have?  No harm in that, if I have money to pay my score.
Nothing against that, have you?’

’Nothing at all; but I doubt your having the money.  A week ago you were
reduced to a brass token.’

’You think yourself cock of the walk, do you?’ said Charles, insolently,
’because you are heir to Chimsworthy?  What is Chimsworthy to Coombe
Park?  Come!  I bet now you’ve naught but coppers in your pocket. Hands
in and see which can make the most show.’

As he spoke, he thrust forth his palm, and Hillary heard the chink of
money, and the sound of coins falling on the stones.

’If you had money at the fair-time,’ said Hillary, coldly, ’all I can
say is that you behaved infamously.’

’I had no money then.’

’How you have got it since, I do not know,’ said Hillary.

’That is no concern of yours, Master Larry,’ answered Charles, roughly.
’You will live to see me Squire at Coombe Park; and when I’m there,
curse me if I don’t offer you the place of game-keeper to keep off
rogues. An old poacher is the best keeper.’

’You cur!’ exclaimed Hillary, blazing up. ’This is my game.’  He swung
the dead dog about, and struck Charles on the cheek with the carcass so
violently as to knock him into the hedge.  ’This is my game.  Your
master’s dog, which has been worrying and killing your father’s lambs
whilst you have been boozing in a tavern.’

’By George!’ swore Charles, with difficulty picking himself up.  ’I’ll
break your cursed neck, I will.’

But Larry had gone on his way by the time Charles had regained
equilibrium.

’This is the second time he’s struck me down,’ said Charles, and next
moment a great stone passed Larry, then another struck the dead dog on
his back with sufficient force to have stunned him had it struck his
head.

He turned and shouted angrily, ’You tipsy blackguard, heave another, and
I’ll shoot. The gun is loaded.’

’And, by George!  I’ll break your neck!’ yelled Charles after him.



                             *CHAPTER XX.*

                          *A FIVE-POUND NOTE.*


No sooner had Hillary got the guinea for shooting the sheep-killer than
he went to the cottage and offered half to Honor Luxmore.  She refused
it, and would by no persuasion be induced to accept it.

’No, Larry, no—a thousand times no. You redeemed my cloak, and will not
let me pay you for that.  I will not touch a farthing of this
well-earned prize.’

Then Larry went to Tavistock and expended part of the money in the
purchase of a handsome silk kerchief, white with sprigs of lilac, and
slips of moss-rose on it.  He returned in the carrier’s van instead of
waiting for his father, who remained to drink with other farmers.  This
entailed the walking up of the hills.  When he got out for this object,
he left his parcel on the seat.  On his return he found the women within
sniggering.

’Don’t y’ be offended at us now,’ said one. ’But it is just so.  Your
parcel came open of herself wi’ the jolting of the Vivid, and us
couldn’t help seeing what was inside.  Us can’t be expected to sit wi’
our eyes shut.  ’Taint in reason nor in nature.  I must say this—’tis a
pretty kerchief, and Kate Luxmore will look like a real leddy in it o’
Sunday, to be sure.’

Then the rest of the women laughed.

Hillary coloured, and was annoyed.  The parcel had not come open of
itself.  The women’s inquisitive fingers had opened it, and their
curious eyes had examined the contents. They had rushed to the
conclusion that the kerchief was intended for Kate—Larry was much about
with the maiden, they were always teasing each other, laughing together,
and Hillary had been several evenings to the carrier’s cottage guarding
the lambs and sheep.

The young man did not disabuse them of their error.  He was vexed that
they should suppose him caught by the rattle Kate, instead of by the
reliable Honor; it showed him that they supposed him less sensible than
he was. But he thought with satisfaction of the surprise of the gossips
on Sunday, when they saw the kerchief about the neck of the elder
sister, instead of that of Kate.

In this expectation, however, he was disappointed.  Next day, he went to
the cottage at an hour when he was sure to find Honor there alone, and,
with radiant face and sparkling eyes, unfolded the paper, and offered
his present to the girl.

Honor was more startled than pleased—at least, it seemed so—and at first
absolutely declined the kerchief.  ’No, Larry, I thank you for your kind
thought, but I must not accept it.  I am sorry that you have spent your
money—the kerchief is very pretty; but I cannot wear it.’

’How wrong-headed and haughty you are, Honor!  Why will you not take
it?’  The blood made his face dark, he was offended and angry.  He had
never made a girl a present before, and this, his first, was rejected.
’It gave me a vast deal of pleasure buying it.  I turned over a score,
and couldn’t well choose which would look best on your shoulders.  You
have given me good advice; and here is my return, as an assurance that I
will observe it.’

’I am not wrong-headed and haughty, Larry,’ answered Honor, gently.
’But see! in spite of what I said, in spite of my better judgment,
rather than wound you, I will take the handkerchief.  Indeed, indeed,
dear Larry, I am not unthankful and ungracious, though I may seem so.
And now I will only take it as a pledge that you have laid my words to
heart.  Let it mean that, and that only.  But, Larry, the women in the
van saw it.  I cannot wear it just now, certainly not on Sunday next.
You know yourself what conclusions they would draw, and we must not
deceive them into taking us to be what we are not, and never can be, to
each other.’

’Why not, Honor?’

Instead of answering, she said with a smile, ’My brother, Larry, this I
will undertake. When I see that you have become a man of deeds and not
of words, then I will throw the kerchief round my neck and wear it at
church. It shall be a token to you of my approval. Will that content
you?’

He tried his utmost to obtain a further concession.  She was resolute.
She did not wish to be ungracious, but she was determined to give him no
encouragement.  She had thought out her position, and resolved on her
course.  She knew that her way was chalked for her.  She must be mother
to all her little sisters and brothers, till they were grown up and had
dispersed.  There was no saying what her father might do were she away.
He might marry again, and a stepmother would ill-treat or neglect the
little ones.  If she were to marry, it could be on one understanding
only, that she brought the family with her to the husband’s house—and to
that no man would consent.  It would be unfair to burden a young man
thus. Her father, moreover, was not a man to be left. What Charles had
become, without a firm hand over him, that might Oliver Luxmore also
become, even if he did not marry.  His dispositions were not bad, but
his character was infirm.  No! it was impossible for her to contemplate
marriage.  Kate might, but not she.  The line of duty lay clear before
her as a white road in summer heat, and she had not even the wish to
desert it.  It was right for her to nip Larry’s growing liking for
herself, at once and in the bud.

After Larry had gone, she folded and put away his present among her few
valuables. She valued it, as the first warm breath of spring is valued.
She said nothing to Kate or the others about it.  Her heart was lighter,
and she sang over her work.  The little offering was a token that
through the troubled sky the sun was about to shine.

A day or two after, Charles lounged in, and seated himself by the fire.
She was pleased to see him.  He was at honest work with Mr. Langford,
earning an honest wage. She said as much.  Charles laughed
contemptuously.  ’Ninepence,’ he said, ’ninepence a day.  What is
ninepence?’

’It is more than you had as a soldier.’

’But as a soldier I had the uniform and the position.  Now I am a
day-labourer—I, a Luxmore, the young squire with ninepence and lodging
and meat.’

’Well, Charles, it is a beginning.’

’Beginning at ninepence.  As Mrs. Veale says, "One can’t stand upon
coppers and keep out of the dirt."  What is the meat and drink? The
cider cuts one’s throat as it goes down, and the food is insufficient
and indigestible. If I had not a friend to forage for me, I should be
badly off.’

’If you keep this place a twelvemonth, you will get a better situation
next year.’

’Keep at Langford a twelvemonth!’ exclaimed Charles.  ’Not if I know it.
It won’t do.  Never mind why.  I say it won’t do.’

Then he began working his heel in a hole of the floor where the slate
was broken.

’You know Mrs. Veale?’ he asked, without looking at his sister.

’Yes, Charles.  That is, I have seen her, and have even spoken to her,
but—know her—that is more than I profess.  She is not a person I am like
to know.’

’You had better not,’ said Charles.  ’She don’t love you.  When I
mention your name her face turns green.  She’d ill-wish you if she
could.’

’I have never done her an injury,’ said Honor.

’That may be.  Hate is like love, it pitches at random, as Mrs. Veale
says.  You may laugh, Honor, but that same woman is in love with me.’

’Nonsense!’  Honor did not laugh, she was too shocked to laugh.

’What is there nonsensical in that?  I tell you she is.  She cooks me
better food than for the rest of the men, and she favours me in many
ways.’

’She cannot be such a fool.’

’There is no folly in fancying me,’ said Charles, sharply.  ’I have good
looks, have seen the world, and compare with the louts here as wheat
with rye.  Many a woman has lost her heart to a younger man than
herself.’

’Charles, you must be plain and rough with her if this be so—though I
can scarce believe it.’

’No one forces you to believe it.  But don’t you think I’m going to make
Mrs. Veale your sister-in-law.  I’m too wide-awake for that.  She is
ugly, and—she’s a bad un. Yes,’ musingly, ’she is a bad un.’

Then he worked his heel more vigorously in the hole.  ’Take care what
you are about, Charles, you are breaking the slate, and making what was
bad, worse.’

’I wish I had Mrs. Veale’s heart under that there stone,’ said Charles,
viciously.  ’I’d grind my heel into it till I’d worked through it. You
don’t know how uncomfortable she makes me.’

’Well, keep her at arm’s length.’

’I can’t do it.  She won’t let me.  She runs after me as a cat after a
milk-maid.’

’Surely, Charles, you can just put a stop to that.’

’I suppose I must.’

He continued, in spite of remonstrance, grinding through the broken
slate into the earth.  His face was hot and red.  He put his elbow up,
and wiped his brow on his sleeve.

’It is cursed warm here,’ he said at last.

’Then keep away from the fire.  I’m glad you have come to see me,
Charles; I always wish you well.’

’Oh, for the matter of that I only came here to be out of the way of
Mrs. Veale.’

Then Honor laughed.  ’Really, Charles, this is childish.’

’It is not kind of you to laugh,’ said he, sulkily; ’you do not know
what it is to have your head turned, and to feel yourself pulled about
and drawn along against your will.  It is like "oranges and lemons," as
we played at school, when you are on the weakest side.’

’Whither can Mrs. Veale draw you?  Not to the altar rails, surely.’

’Oh no! not to the altar-rails.  Mrs. Veale is a bad un.’

His manner puzzled Honor.  She was convinced he was not telling her
everything.

’What is it, Charles?’ she said; ’you may give me your confidence.  Tell
me all that troubles you.  What is behind?  I know you are keeping back
something from me.  If I can advise and help you, I will do so.  I am
your nearest sister.’  Then she put her arms round his neck and kissed
him.

’Don’t do that’ said he, roughly.  ’I hate scenes, sisterly affection
and motherly counsel, and all that sort of batter-pudding without egg
and sugar.  I reckon I am outgrown that long ago.  I have been a soldier
and know the world. If you think to pin me to your apron, as you have
pinned father, you are mightily mistaken. No; I will tell you no more,
only this—don’t be surprised if I leave Langford.  Ninepence a day is
not enough to hold me.’

’Oh, Charles, I entreat you to stay.  You have regular work there and
regular pay.  As for Mrs. Veale——’

’Curse Mrs. Veale!’ interrupted Charles, and with a stamp of his
iron-shod heel he broke the corners of the slate slab.  Then he stood
up.

’Look here, Honor.  I mustn’t forget a message.  Old Langford wants to
see my father mighty particular, and he is to come up to the house to
have a talk with him.  He told me so himself, and indeed sent me here.
Father is to come up this evening, as he is not at home now.  You will
remember to send him, Honor?’

’Yes,’ she answered, bending her face over her work, ’yes, I shall not
forget, Charles.’

Her brother had not the faintest suspicion that his master was a suitor
for Honor’s hand. Mrs. Veale knew it, but she did not tell him. She had
reasons for not doing so.

’Ninepence per diem!’ muttered the young man, standing in the doorway.
’That makes fourpence for ale, and fourpence for baccy, and a penny for
clothing.  T’aint reasonable.  I won’t stand it.  I reckon I’ll be off.’

Then, after a moment of irresolution, he came back into the middle of
the room, and, taking Honor’s head between his hands, said in an altered
tone, as he kissed her, ’After all, you are a good girl.  Don’t be angry
if I spoke sharp.  I’m that ruffled I don’t know what I say, or what I
do.  You mayn’t be a proper Luxmore in spirit—that is, not like father
and me—but you are hard-working, and so I forgive you in a Christian
spirit.  As Mrs. Veale says, even the Chosen People must have Gibeonites
to hew wood and draw water for them.  After I am gone, look under the
china dog on the mantel-shelf.’

Then he went hastily away.

Honor shuddered.  His breath smelt of brandy.

Half an hour later, Oliver Luxmore came in.  Then Honor told him that
Charles had been to the house with a message for him from Mr. Langford.
Oliver rubbed his head and looked forlorn.  He knew as well as his
daughter what this meant.

’I suppose,’ said he, in a timid, questioning tone.  ’I suppose, Honor,
you have not thought better of what we was discussing together? No doubt
Mr. Langford is impatient for his answer.’

’No doubt,’ answered the girl.

’You haven’t reconsidered your difficulty in the matter?  It seems to
me—but then I am nobody, though your father—it seems to me that if there
be no prior attachment, as folks call it—and you assure me there is
none—there can’t be great hardship in taking him.  Riches and lands are
not bad things; and, Honor, it is worth considering that in this world
we never can have everything we desire.  Providence always mixes the
portions we are given to sup.’

’Yes, father, that is true.  I am content with that put to my lips.  It
is sweet, for I have your love, and the love of all my brothers and
sisters.  Charles has been here, and he kissed me as he never kissed me
before.  That makes nine lumps of sugar in my cup.  If there be a little
bitterness, what then?’

’Well, Honor, you must decide.  We cannot drive you, and you count our
wishes as nought.’

He was seated, rubbing his hands, then his hair, and turning his head
from side to side in a feeble, forlorn, irresolute manner.  Honor was
sorry for his disappointment, but not inclined to yield.

’Father dear, consider.  If I did take Mr. Langford, he would not
receive you and all the darlings into Lansford house as well—and I will
not be parted from you.  Who takes me takes all the hive.  I am the
queen-bee.’

’I will ask,’ said the carrier, breathing freer.  ’I can but ask.  He
can but refuse; besides, it will look better, putting the refusal on his
hands.  It may be that he will not object.  There be a lot o’ rooms, for
sure, at Langford he makes no use of; and I dare say he might
accommodate us.  There be one, I know, full o’ apples, and another of
onions, and I dare say he keeps wool in a third.’

Honor, who was standing by the fire, started, and said hastily, with
shaking voice, ’You misunderstand me, father.  On no account will I take
him.  No—on no conditions whatever.’  Her hand was on the mantelshelf,
and as it shook with her emotion she touched and knocked over a china
dog spotted red, a rude chimney ornament.  A piece of folded paper fell
at her feet.  She stooped and picked it up.  It was a five-pound note.

She looked at it at first without perceiving what it was, as her mind
was occupied.  But presently she saw what it was that she held, and then
she looked at it with perplexity, and after a moment with uneasiness,
and changed colour.

’Father!’ she said, ’here is a five-pound note of the Exeter and
Plymouth Bank, left by Charles.  What does it mean?  How can he have got
it?  Before he parted from me, he said something about looking under the
china dog, but I gave no heed to his words; his breath smelt of spirits,
and I thought he spoke away from his meaning.  His manner was odd.
Father! wherever can Charles have got the money?  Oh, father!  I hope
all is right.’

She put her hand to her heart; a qualm of fear came over her.

’Right!  Of course it is right,’ said the carrier.  ’Five pounds!  Why
that will come in handy.  It will go towards the cost of the horse if
you persist.  As for these lambs, he ought to pay me for them, but I
don’t like to press it, as I hear he won’t allow it was his dog killed
them, and he swears Hillary shot Rover out of spite, and lays the
lamb-killing on the dog unjustly.  Well, Honor, I suppose you must have
your own way; but it is hard on Charles and me, who work as slaves—we
who by rights should be squires.’



                             *CHAPTER XXI.*

                               *REFUSED!*


The carrier walked slowly and reluctantly to Langford.  He was
uncomfortable with the answer he had to take to Taverner Langford.
Oliver was a kindly man, ready to oblige any one, shrinking from nothing
so sensitively as from a rough word and an angry mood. ’It would have
saved a lot of trouble,’ said he to himself, ’if Honor had given way.  I
shouldn’t have been so out of countenance now—and it does seem an
ungrateful thing after the loan of the horse.’

He found Langford in his parlour at his desk.  The old man spun round on
his seat.

’Ah, ha!’ said he, ’come at my call, father-in-law.  Well—when is the
wedding to be?’

The carrier stood stupidly looking at him, rubbing his hands together
and shifting from foot to foot.  ’The wedding!’

’Yes, man, the wedding; when is it to be?’

’The wedding!’ repeated Oliver, looking through the window for help.
’I’m sure I don’t know.’

’You must find that out.  I’m impatient to be married.  Ha, ha! what
faces the Nanspians will pull, father and son, when they see me lead
from church a blooming, blushing bride.’

’Well, now,’ said the carrier, wiping the perspiration from his brow,
’I’m sorry to have to say it, but Honor don’t see it in the proper
light.’

’What—refuses me?’

’Not exactly refuses, but begs off.’

’Begs off!’ repeated Taverner, incredulously. He could hardly have been
more disconcerted if he had heard that all his cattle were dying and his
stacks blazing.  ’Begs off!’ he again exclaimed; ’then how about my
horse?’

The carrier scratched his head and sighed.

’Do you suppose that I gave you the horse?’ said Taverner.  ’You can
hardly have been such a fool as that.  I am not one to give a cow here,
and a sheep there, and a horse to a third, just because there are so
many needy persons wanting them.  You must return me the horse and pay
me ten shillings a week for the hire during the time you have had him,
unless Honor becomes my wife.’

’I will pay you for the horse,’ said Luxmore, faintly.

’Whence will you get the money?  Do you think I am a fool?’ asked
Langford, angrily.  His pride was hurt.  His eyes flashed and his skin
became of a livid complexion. He, the wealthiest man in Bratton
Clovelly; he, the representative of the most respectable family
there—one as old as the parish itself; he, the parson’s churchwarden,
and the elder of the Methodist chapel—he had been refused by a
poverty-stricken carrier’s daughter.  The insult was unendurable.  He
stood up to leave the room, but when he had his hand on the latch he
turned and came back.  In the first access of wrath he had resolved to
crush the carrier.  He could do it.  He had but to take back his horse,
and the Vivid was reduced to a stationary condition.  Luxmore might
offer to buy the horse, but he could not do it.  He knew how poor he
was.  Moreover, he could cut his business away from him at any moment by
setting up the cripple as carrier.

But he thought better of it.  Of what avail to him if Luxmore were
ruined?  He desired to revenge himself on the Nanspians.  The carrier
was too small game to be hunted down, he was set on the humiliation of
much bigger men than he.  His envy and hatred of the Nanspians had by no
means abated, and the killing of his dog Rover by young Hillary had
excited it to frenzy.  That his dog was a sheep-killer would not excuse
Larry’s act.  He did not allow that Rover was the culprit.  His nephew
had shot the dog out of malice, and had feigned as an excuse that he had
caught the dog pursuing lambs.

The wealthy yeoman might certainly, without difficulty, have found
another girl less hard to please than Honor.  All girls would not have
thought with her.  His money would have weighed with them.  He could not
understand his refusal.  ’What is the matter with the girl?’ he said
surlily.  ’I thought her too wise to be in love.  She has not set her
heart on any boyish jackanapes, has she?’

’Honor?  Oh no!  Honor has no sweetheart,’ said the father.  ’It
certainly is not that, Mr. Langford.’

’Then what is it?  What possible objection can she make?  I’m not a
beardless boy and a rosy-faced beauty, that is true.’

’No, Mr. Langford, I am sure she has not a word against your age and
personal appearance.  Indeed, a young girl generally prefers as a
husband one to whom she can look up, who is her superior in every way.’

’I am that.  What is it, then?’

’Well, Mr. Langford,’ said the carrier, drawing the back of his hand
across his lips, ’I think it is about this.  She don’t like to desert me
and the children.  She promised her mother to stand by us, and Honor is
so conscientious that what she has promised she will stick to.’

’Oh,’ said Taverner, somewhat mollified to find that neither his age nor
lack of beauty was objected to, ’that is it, is it?’

’Yes, sir,’ answered the carrier, sheepishly; ’you see there are six
little uns; then comes Kate, and then Charles, and then I.  That makes
nine of us Honor has to care for.  And,’ he said more eagerly, heaving a
sigh of relief, ’you see, she didn’t think it quite a fair thing to
saddle you with us all, with Pattie and Joe, Willie, Martha, Charity,
Temperance, Kate, Charles, and myself.  It does make a lot when you come
to consider.’

It did certainly, as Taverner admitted.  He had no intention whatever of
incumbering himself with Honor’s relations, if he did marry her.  He
took a turn up and down the room, with his heavy dark brows knit and his
thin lips screwed together.  Oliver watched his face, and thought that
it was a very ugly and ill-tempered face.

’It does Honor some credit having such delicacy of feeling,’ suggested
he.  ’I very much doubt how you could accommodate us all in this house.’

’I do not see how I could possibly do it,’ said Taverner, sharply.

’And Honor couldn’t think to tear herself away from us.  I suppose you
wouldn’t consider the possibility of coming to us?’

’No, I would not.’

Taverner Langford was perplexed.  He entirely accepted Oliver’s
explanation.  It was quite reasonable that Honor should refuse him out
of a high sense of duty; it was not conceivable that she should decline
alliance with him on any other grounds.  Now, although Taverner had not
hitherto found time or courage to marry, he was by no means insensible
to female beauty. He had long observed the stately, upright daughter of
the carrier, with her beautiful abundant auburn hair and clear brown
eyes. He had observed her more than she supposed, and he had seen how
hard-working, self-devoted she was, how economical, how clean in her own
person and in her house.  Such a woman as that would be more agreeable
in the house than Mrs. Veale.  He would have to pay her no wage for one
thing, her pleasant face and voice would be a relief after the sour
visage and grating tones of the housekeeper.  He knew perfectly that
Mrs. Veale had had designs on him from the moment she had entered his
house. She had flattered, slaved; she had assumed an amount of authority
in the house hardly consistent with her position.  Langford had not
resisted her encroachments; he allowed her to cherish hopes of securing
him in the end, as a means of ensuring her fidelity to his interests. He
chuckled to himself at the thought of the rage and disappointment that
would consume her when he announced that he was about to be married.

He was a suspicious man, and he mistrusted every woman, but he
mistrusted Honor less than any woman or man he knew.  He had observed no
other with half the attention he had devoted to her, and he had never
seen in her the smallest tokens of frivolity and indifference to duty.
If she was so scrupulous in the discharge of her obligations to father
and sisters, how dependable she would be in her own house, when working
and saving for husband and children of her own.

She was no idler, she was no talker, and Taverner hated idleness and
gossip.  Of what other girl in Bratton Clovelly could as much be said?
No, he would trust his house and happiness to no other than Honor
Luxmore.

Taverner dearly loved money, but he loved mastery better.  A wife with a
fortune of her own would have felt some independence, but a wife who
brought him nothing would not be disposed to assert herself.  She would
look up to him as the exclusive author of her happiness, and never
venture to contradict him, never have a will of her own.

’If that be her only objection, it may be circumvented,’ said Langford,
’if not got over. I thought, perhaps, she declined my hand from some
other cause.’

’What other cause could there be?’ asked Oliver.

’To be sure there is no other that should govern a rational creature;
but few women are rational.  I have done something for you already, for
you have my horse.  I have done a good deal for Charles also; I pay him
ninepence a day and give him his food.  It is quite possible that I may
do a vast deal for the rest of you.  But of course that depends.  I’m
not likely to take you up and make much of you unless you are connected
with me by marriage. You can judge for yourself.  Should I be likely to
leave you all unprovided for if Honor were Mrs. Langford?  Of course I
would not allow it to be said that my wife’s relations were in need.’

These words of Taverner Langford made Oliver’s pulse beat fast.

’And then,’ continued the yeoman, ’who can say but that I might give you
a hand to help you into Coombe Park.’

Luxmore’s eye kindled, and his cheeks became dappled with fiery spots.
Here was a prospect! but it was like the prospect of the Promised Land
to Moses on Pisgah if Honor proved unyielding.

’You are the girl’s father,’ said Langford. ’Hoity-toity!  I have no
patience with a man who allows his daughter to give herself airs. He
knows what is best for her, and must decide.  Make her give way.’

Oliver would have laughed aloud at the idea of his forcing his
daughter’s will into compliance with his own, had not the case been so
serious.

’Look here, Mr. Langford,’ he said.  ’I’ll do what I can.  I’ll tell
Honor the liberal offer you have made; and I trust she’ll see it aright
and be thankful.’  He stood up.  ’Before I go,’ he said, producing the
five-pound note, ’I’d just like to reduce my debt to you for the horse,
if you please.’

’How much?’ asked Taverner.

’Five pounds,’ answered the carrier.  ’If I kept it by me I should spend
it, so I thought best to bring it straight to you.  You’ll give me a
slip o’ paper as a receipt.’

Langford took out his pocket-book, folded the note, and put it in the
pocket of the book; then made a pencil entry.  I always,’ said he,
’enter every note I receive with its number. Comes useful at times for
reference.  To be sure, you shall have a receipt.’



                            *CHAPTER XXII.*

                             *THE HAYSEL.*


Hillary became impatient.  He made no way with Honor; if any change in
his position had taken place, he had gone back.  In spite of her
entreaty, he went to the cottage down the lane hooting like an owl, but
she did not answer the call.  Then he plucked up courage and went in on
the chance of getting a word with her alone, but he went in vain.
Oliver Luxmore was glad to see him, chatted with him, and offered him a
place at their supper-board, or a drink of cider.  He defended himself
against the sallies of Kate.  He spoke now and then to Honor, and was
answered in friendly tone; but that was all.  If by chance he met her
during the day in the lane or on the down, and she could not escape him,
she would not stay to talk, she pleaded work. Hillary was disappointed,
and, what was more, offended.  His vanity was hurt, and vanity in a
young man is his most sensitive fibre.  No other girl in the parish
would treat his advances as did Honor.  The other girls laid themselves
out to catch him, Honor shrank from him.  He knew that she liked him, he
was angry because she did not love him.

Hillary’s nature, though sound, was marred by his bringing up.  He had
been spoiled by flattery and indulgence.  His father’s boasting, the
great expectations held out to him, the consciousness of vigour, health,
and good looks, combined to make Larry consider himself the very finest
young fellow, not in Bratton only, but in all England.  Self-conceit is
like mercury, when it touches gold it renders it dull, and a strong fire
is needed to expel the alloy and restore the gold to its proper
brilliancy.

Mortified in his self-consequence, stung by Honor’s indifference, after
a few attempts and failures Hillary changed his tactics.  He resolved to
show Honor, if she did not meet him, he could turn elsewhere.
Unfortunately, Kate was at hand to serve his purpose.  Kate did not
particularly care for Larry.  She had a fancy for Samuel Voaden, the
farmer’s son at Swaddledown; but of this Honor neither knew nor
suspected anything.  Kate was pleased to see Hillary whenever he came,
as she was glad to have a butt for her jokes, and with feminine
ingenuity used him to throw dust in the eyes of her father, sister, and
companions to obscure their perception of her attachment for Sam Voaden.

At first Hillary was in a bad temper, disinclined for conversation, and
unable to retaliate upon Kate; but by degrees his old cheerfulness
returned, and he received and replied to her banter with what readiness
he possessed.

One day he came into the cottage with a hay-fork over his shoulder.
’You maidens,’ he said, ’come along to the hay-field.  We want help
badly.  Bring the little ones and let them romp and eat cake.  Whilst
the sun shines we must make hay.’

Honor, without a word, rose and folded her work.

’If you can toss hay as you can toss chaff,’ said the young man
addressing Kate, ’you will be useful indeed.’

’Larry, it is reported that your uncle Langford will not save hay till
it has been rained on well.  "If it be too good," he argues, "the cows
will eat too much of it."  Your wit is ricked like Langford’s hay; it is
weak and washed out.  A little goes a long way with those who taste it.’

A happy and merry party in the hay field, women and girls tossing the
hay into cocks, and the men with the waggon collecting it and carrying
it home.  The air was fragrant with the scent.  In a corner under a
hedge were a barrel of cider, and blue and white musts, and a basketful
of saffron-cake.  Whoever was thirsty went to the cider cask, whoever
was hungry helped himself to the plum loaf.  The field rang with
laughter, and occasional screams, as a man twisted a cord of hay, cast
the loop round a girl’s neck, drew her head towards him and kissed her
face.  That is called ’the making of sweet hay.’

Honor worked steadily.  No one ventured to make ’sweet hay’ with her,
and Kate was too much on the alert, though one or two young men slyly
crept towards her with twisted bands. The little ones were building
themselves nests of hay, and burying one another, and jumping over
haycocks, and chasing each other with bands, to catch and kiss, in
imitation of their elders.  Hillary turned in his work and looked at
Honor and Kate, hoping that the former would commend his diligence, and
that the latter would give him occasion for a joke.  But Honor was too
much engrossed in her raking, and had too little idea of necessary work
being lauded as a virtue; and the latter was looking at Samuel Voaden,
who had come over from Swaddledown to help his neighbour—the haysel at
home being over.

When the half-laden waggon drew up near where Honor was raking, Hillary
said to her in a low tone, ’I have been working ever since the dew was
off the grass.’

’I suppose so, Larry,’

’I have been working very hard.’

’Of course you have, Larry.’

’And I am very hot.’

’I do not doubt it.’

’How cool you are, Honor!’

’I—cool!’ she looked at him with surprise.  ’On the contrary, I am very
warm.’  She had no perception that he pleaded for praise.

’Larry,’ said Kate, ’you were right to press us into service.  It will
rain to-morrow.’

’How do you know that?’

’Because you are working to-day.’

Quick as thought, he threw some hay strands round her head, and kissed
both her rosy cheeks.

Kate drew herself away, angry at his impudence, especially angry at his
kissing her before Samuel Voaden.  She threw down her pitchfork
(’heable’ in the local dialect), and folding her arms, said with a frown
and a pout, ’Do the rest yourself.  I will work for you no more.’

’Oh, Kate, do not take offence.  I went naturally where was the sweetest
hay.’

In her anger she looked prettier than when in good humour.  She glanced
round out of the corners of her eyes, and saw to her satisfaction that
Samuel was on the further side of the waggon, unconscious of what had
taken place. Hillary was humble, he made ample apology, and offered
lavish flattery.  Kate maintained, or affected to maintain, her anger
for some time, and forced Larry to redouble his efforts to regain her
favour.  Her fair hair, fine as silk just wound from a cocoon, was
ruffled over her brow, and her brow was pearled with heat-drops. She was
a slender girl, with a long neck and the prettiest shoulders in the
world. She wore a light gown, frilled about the throat and bosom and
sleeves, tucked up at the side, showing a blue petticoat and white
stockings. She picked up the ’heable’ with a sigh, and then stood
leaning on it, with the sleeves fallen back, exposing her delicate arms
as far as the rosy elbows.

It was not possible for Kate to remain long angry with Larry, he was so
good-natured, so full of fuss, so coaxing; he paid such pretty
compliments, his eyes were so roguish, his face so handsome—besides,
Samuel was on the other side of the waggon, seeing, hearing nothing.

The dimples formed in her cheeks, the contraction of lips and brows gave
way, the angry sparkle disappeared from her blue eyes, and then her
clear laugh announced that she was pacified.  Hillary, knowing he had
conquered, audacious in his pride of conquest, put his arm round her
waist, stooped, and kissed the bare arm nearest him that rested on the
pitchfork, then he sprang aside as she attempted to box his ears.

Honor was hard by and had seen both kisses, and had heard every word
that had passed.  She continued her work as though unconscious.  For a
moment, a pang of jealousy contracted her bosom, but she hastily
mastered it.  She knew that she could not, must not regard Hillary in
any other light than as a brother, and yet she was unable to see her
sister supplanting her in his affections without some natural qualms.
But Honor was unselfish, and she hid her suffering.  Kate as little
suspected the state of her sister’s heart as Honor suspected Kate’s
liking for Sam Voaden.  And now, all at once, an idea shot through
Honor’s mind which crimsoned her face.  How she had misread Hillary’s
manner when they were together watching for the lamb-killer!  She had
fancied then that his heart was drawing towards her, and the thought had
filled her with unutterable happiness.  Now she saw his demeanour in
another aspect.  He really loved Kate, and his affection for her was
only a reflection of his love for the younger sister.  He had sought to
gain her esteem, to forward his suit with Kate.  When this thought
occurred to Honor, she hid her face, humbled and distressed at having
been deluded by self-conceit.  She made it clear to herself now that
Hillary had thought only of Kate.  Her sister had said nothing to her
about Hillary—but was that wonderful, as he had not declared himself?  A
transient gleam had lightened her soul.  It was over. Work was Honor’s
lot in life, perhaps sorrow, not love.

’The last load is carried, and in good order. Where is the dance to be?’
asked Samuel Voaden, coming into sight as the waggon moved on.

’In the barn,’ answered Hillary.

’Kate,’ said Hillary, ’give me the first dance.’

’And me the second,’ pleaded Samuel.

When Combe wrote and Rowlandson illustrated the ’Tour of Doctor Syntax,’
a dance was the necessary complement of a harvest whether of corn or
hay—especially of the latter, as then the barn was empty.  The Reverend
Doctor Syntax thought it not derogatory to his office to play the fiddle
on such occasions. Moreover, half a century ago, the village fiddler was
invited into any cottage, when, at the sound of his instrument, lads and
maidens would assemble, dance for a couple of hours and disperse before
darkness settled in.  The denunciation of dancing as a deadly sin by the
Methodists has caused it to fall into desuetude.  Morality has not been
bettered thereby.  The young people who formerly met by daylight on the
cottage floor, now meet, after chapel, in the dark, in hedge corners.

Hillary and Samuel had engaged Kate. Neither had thought of Honor,
though she stood by, raking the fragrant hay.

’Up, up!’ shouted both young men. ’Kate, you must ride on the last
load.’

The waggon moved away, with Kate mounted on the sweet contents, and with
the young men running at the side.  Honor remained alone, looking after
them, resting on her rake, and, in spite of her efforts, the tears
filled her eyes.

But she did not give way to her emotion.

Honor called the children, when the last load left the field, and led
them home.  She was hot and tired, and her heart ached, but she was
content with herself.  She had conquered the rising movement of
jealousy, and was ready to accept Hillary as her sister’s acknowledged
lover.

Kate followed her.  An hour later the dance in the barn would begin.
The lads and maidens went home to smarten up, and wash off the dust and
stain of labour, and the barn had to be decorated with green branches,
and the candles lit.

Kate went upstairs at once to dress.  Honor remained below to hear the
children’s prayers, and get the youngest ready for bed.  Then she went
up to the room she shared with Kate, carrying little Temperance in her
arms.

’Oh, Honor, bundle them all in.  What a time you have been!  We shall be
late; and I have promised to open the dance with Larry.’

’I am not going, Kate.’

’Not going!  Of course you are going.’

’No, I am not.  Father is not home, and will want his supper.  Besides,
I cannot leave the house with all the little ones in it unprotected.’

’There are no ogres hereabouts that eat children,’ said Kate, hastily.
’We can manage. This is nonsense; you must come.’

’I do not care to, Kate.  Sit down in that chair, and I will dress your
hair.  It is tossed like a haycock.’

Kate seated herself, and Honor combed and brushed her sister’s hair,
then put a blue riband through it; and took the kerchief from her box,
and drew it over Kate’s shoulders, and pinned it in place.

’Oh, Honor!  What a lovely silk kerchief! Where did you get this?  How
long have you had it?  Why have you not shown it me before?’

’It is for you, dearest Kate; I am glad you like it.’

Kate stood up, looked at herself in the glass, and then threw her arms
round her sister and kissed her.

’You are a darling,’ exclaimed Kate.  ’Always thinking of others, never
giving yourself anything.  Let me remain at home—do you go instead of
me.’

Honor shook her head.  She was pleased to see Kate’s delight, but there
was an undercurrent of sadness in her soul.  She was adorning her sister
for Hillary.

Kate did not press Honor to go instead of her, though she was
sufficiently good-hearted to have taken her sister’s place without
becoming ill-tempered, had Honor accepted the offer.

’Do I look very nice?’ asked Kate, with the irresistible dimples coming
into her cheeks. ’I wonder what Larry will say when he sees me with this
blue ribbon, and this pretty kerchief.’

’And I—’ said Honor slowly, not without effort, ’I also wonder.’



                            *CHAPTER XXIII.*

                               *A BRAWL.*


When Kate came to the barn, she found it decorated with green boughs.
There were no windows, only the great barn door, consequently the sides
were dark; but here four lanterns had been hung, diffusing a dull yellow
light.  The threshing-floor was in the middle, planked; on either side
the barn was slated, so that the dancing was to be in the middle. Forms
were placed on the slate flooring for those who rested or looked on.  On
a table sat the fiddler with a jug of cider near him.

The season of the year was that of Barnaby bright, when, as the old saw
says, there is all day and no night.  The sun did not set till past
eight, and then left the north-west full of silver light.  The
hedgerows, as Kate passed between them, streamed forth the fragrance
from the honeysuckle which was wreathed about them in masses of flower,
apricot-yellow, and pink. Where the incense of the eglantine ceased to
fill the air it was burdened with the sweetness of white clover that
flowered thickly over the broad green patches of grass by the road-side.

Hillary was awaiting Kate to open the dance with her.  He had gone to
the gate to meet her; he recognised his kerchief at once; he was
surprised and hurt.  Why was Honor not there?  Kate came with her little
brother Joe holding her hand, Joe had begged permission to attend the
dance.  Why had Honor made over Larry’s present to her sister?  It was a
slight, an intentional slight.  Larry bit his lips and frowned; his
heart beat fast with angry emotion.  He approached Kate with an
ungracious air, and led her to the dance without a pleasant word.

Kate was unquestionably the prettiest girl present.  She held her fair
head erect, in consciousness of superiority.  Her hair was abundant,
full of natural wave and curl, and the sky-blue ribbon in it seemed to
hold it together, and to be the only restraining power that prevented it
breaking loose and enveloping her from head to foot in the most
beautiful gloss silk. Her complexion was that of the wild rose,
heightened by her rapid walk and by excitement; her eyes were blue as
the forget-me-not.

The evening sun shone in at the barn door, as yellow, but purer and
brighter than the lantern light.  Had there been a painter present he
would have seized the occasion to paint the pretty scene—the old barn
with oaken timbers, its great double doors open, from under a penthouse
roof leaning forward to cover the laden wains as they were being
unpacked of their corn-sheaves; the depths of the barn dark as night,
illumined feebly by the pendent lanterns; and the midst, the threshing
floor, crowded with dancers, who flickered in the saffron glow of the
setting sun.

Kate noticed that Hillary, whilst he danced with her, observed the
kerchief intently.

’Is it not pretty?’ she asked innocently. ’Honor gave it me.  She had
kept it for me in her box ever since the Revel, and not told me that she
had it; nor did I see her buy it then.  Honor is so good, so kind.’

Hillary said nothing in reply, but his humour was not improved.  His
mind wandered from his partner.

’When is Honor coming?’ he asked abruptly.

’She is not coming at all.’

’Why not?’

’Father is not home, and will want his supper when he does return.’

’Honor must do all the drudging whilst others dance,’ he said peevishly.

’I offered to stay and let her come, but she would not hear of it.’

Hillary danced badly; he lost step.  He excused himself; but Kate was
dissatisfied with her partner, he was dull, and she was displeased to
see that Sam Voaden was dancing and laughing and enjoying himself with
some one else.

’You are a clumsy partner,’ she said, ’and dance like old Diamond when
backing against a load going down hill.’

’Honor gave you that kerchief?  What did she say when she gave it you?’

’Nothing.’

He said no more, and led her to a bench in the side of the barn.

’What! tired already, Larry?  I am not.’

’I am,’ he answered sulkily.

Directly, Sam Voaden came to her, and was received with smiles.

’Larry Nanspian came left leg foremost out of bed this morning,’ she
said.  ’He is as out of tune as Piper’s fiddle.’

Kate was in great request that evening. The lads pressed about her,
proud to circle round the floor with the graceful pretty girl; but she
gave the preference to Samuel Voaden. Hillary asked her to dance with
him in ’The Triumph,’ but she told him sharply she would reserve her
hand for him in the Dumps, and he did not ask her again.

The girls present looked at Kate with envy. They were unable to dispute
her beauty; but her charm of manner and lively wit made her even more
acceptable to the lads than her good looks.  She was perfectly conscious
of the envy and admiration she excited, and as much gratified with one
as with the other.

Samuel Voaden was infatuated.  He pressed his attentions, and Kate
received them with pleasure.  As she danced past Larry she cast him
glances of contemptuous pity.

Hillary was angry with Honor, angry with Kate, angry with himself.  The
spoiled prince was cast aside by two girls—a common carrier’s daughters.
He was as irritated against Kate now as he was previously against Honor.
When he heard Kate laugh, he winced, suspecting that she was joking
about him. His eyes followed the kerchief, and his heart grew bitter
within him.  He made no attempt to be amusing.  He had nothing to say to
any one.  He let the dances go on without seeking partners.  He stood
lounging against the barn door, with a sprig of honeysuckle in his
mouth, and his hands behind his back.

The sun was set, a cool grey light suffused the meadow, the stackyard,
the barn, the groups who stood about, and the dancers within.

A dog ventured in at the door, and he kicked it out.

The dog snarled and barked, and he nearly quarrelled with young Voaden
because the latter objected to his dog being kicked.

Then, all at once, his mood changed.  It occurred to him that very
probably Honor stayed away just for the purpose of showing him she did
not care for him.  If that were so, he would let her know that he was
not to be put out of heart by her slights.  He would not afford her the
gratification of hearing through her sister that he was dispirited and
unhappy. Then he dashed into the midst of the girls, snatched a partner,
and thenceforth danced and laughed and was uproariously merry.

At ten o’clock the dancing was over. Country folk kept early hours then;
the cider barrel was run out, the basket of cakes emptied, and the
tallow lights in the lanterns burnt down to a flicker in a flood of
melted grease.

The young men prepared to escort their partners home.

Hillary saw that Samuel was going with Kate.  He was exasperated to the
last degree.  He did not care particularly for Kate, but he did care
that it should not be talked of in the village that Sam Voaden had
plucked her away from under his very nose.  Gossip gave her to him as a
sweetheart, and gossip would make merry over his discomfiture.  Besides,
he wanted an excuse for going to the cottage and having an explanation
with Honor about the kerchief.

As Voaden’s dog passed in front of him at a call from his master, Larry
kicked it.

’Leave my dog alone, will you!’ shouted Samuel.  ’That is the second
time you have kicked Punch.  The dog don’t hurt you, why should you hurt
him?’

’I shall kick the brute if I choose,’ said Hillary.  ’It has no right
here in the barn.’

’What harm has Punch done?  And now, what is against his leaving?’

’You had no right to bring the dog here. It has been in the plantation
after young game.’

’Punch is wrong whether in the barn or out of it.  The guinea you got
for shooting Rover has given you a set against dogs seemingly,’ said
young Voaden.

’The dog took your lambs at Swaddledown, and you were too much a
lie-a-bed to stop it,’ sneered Hillary.

’Some folk,’ answered Samuel, ’have everything in such first-rate order
at home they can spare time to help their neighbours.’

’No more!’ exclaimed Kate; ’you shall not quarrel.’

Hillary looked round.  Near him were two women who had been in the van
when he returned from Tavistock with the kerchief. They, no doubt,
recognised it over Kate’s shoulders.  They made sure it was his
love-token to her, and, wearing it, she was about to affront him in
their eyes.  His wounded vanity made him blind to what he said or did.

’Here, Kate,’ he said, thrusting himself forward, ’I am going to take
you home.  You cannot go with Samuel.  His cursed Punch is an
ill-conditioned brute, and will kill your chickens.’

’Nonsense,’ laughed Kate, ’our chickens are all under cover.’

’I’ll fight you,’ said Hillary, turning to Samuel.  ’Kate was engaged to
me for the Tank,[1] and you carried her off without asking leave.  I
will not be insulted by you on my father’s land, and under my own roof.
If you are a man you will fight me.’


[1] An old country dance.


’Nonsense, Larry,’ answered Samuel, good-humouredly, ’I’ll not quarrel
with you.  It takes two to make a quarrel, as it takes two to kiss.’

’You are afraid, that is why.’

’I am not afraid of you, Larry,’ said Samuel. ’You are as touchy this
evening as if whipped with nettles.’

’Come with me, Kate,’ exclaimed Hillary. ’You have known me longer than
Voaden. If he chooses to take you, he must fight me first.’

’I will not fight you, Larry,’ answered the young Swaddledown farmer;
’but I don’t object to a fling with you, if you will wrestle.’

’Very well; throw off your coat.’

The young men removed their jackets, waistcoats, and the handkerchiefs
from their throats.  They were both fine fellows—well-built and strong.
Those who had been dancing surrounded them in a ring, men and maids.

’Cornish fashion, not Devon,’ said Samuel.

’Ay, ay!’ shouted the bystanders, ’Cornish wrestle now.’

’Right—Cornish,’ answered Hillary.

The difference between Devon and Cornish wrestling consists in this,
that in a Devon wrestle kicking is admissible; but then, as a protection
to their shins, the antagonists have their legs wreathed with haybands
(_vulgo_ skillibegs).  As the legs were on this occasion unprotected,
Devon wrestling was inadmissible.  Both fashions were in vogue near the
Tamar, and every young man would wrestle one way or the other as decided
beforehand.

The opponents fixed each other with their eyes, and stood breathless,
and every voice was hushed.  Instantaneously, as moved by one impulse,
they sprang at each other, and were writhing, tossing, coiling in each
other’s embrace. Neither could make the other budge from his ground, or
throw him, exerting his utmost strength and skill.  The haymakers stood
silent, looking on appreciatively—the girls a little frightened, the men
relishingly, relishing it more than the dance.  Not one of the lads at
that moment had a thought to cast at his partner.  Their hands twitched,
their feet moved, they bent, threw themselves back, swung aside,
responsive to the movements of the wrestlers.

The antagonists gasped, snorted, as with set teeth and closed lips they
drew long inspirations through their nostrils.  Their sweat poured in
streams from their brows.

Simultaneously, moved by one impulse, they let go their hold, and stood
quivering and wiping their brows, with labouring breasts; then, with a
shout, closed again.

’Ho!’ a general exclamation.  In the first grapple Hillary had slipped,
and gone down on one knee.  Immediately Samuel let go.

’There!’ said he, holding out his hand. ’We have had enough.  Strike
palms, old boy.’

’No,’ gasped Hillary, blazing with anger and shame.  ’I was not flung.
I slipped on the dockleaf there.  I will not allow myself beaten.  Come
on again.’

’I will not do so,’ answered Samuel.  ’If you have not had enough, I
have.’

’You shall go on.  You are a coward to sneak out now when an accident
gave you advantage.’

’Very well, then,’ said Samuel; ’but you have lost your temper, and I’ll
have no more than this round with you.’

The young men were very equally matched. They grappled once more,
twisted, doubled, gasped; the ground was torn up under their feet.  As
the feet twirled and flew, it was hard to say how many were on the
ground at once, and whose they were.

Samuel suddenly caught his antagonist over the arms, and pushed them to
his side.

’He’ll have Larry down! he will, by George!’ shouted several.  ’Well
done, Samuel!  Go it, Samuel Voaden!’

’Ha!’ shouted Sam, starting back.  ’Who goes against rules?  You
kicked.’

’You lie!  I did not,’

’You did! you did, Larry,’ shouted three or four of the spectators.  It
was true; in his excitement Larry had forgotten that he and his opponent
were without skillibegs and wrestling in Cornish fashion, and he had
kicked; but in good faith he had denied doing it, for he was unconscious
of his actions, so blinded and bemuzzed was he with anger,
disappointment, and shame.

’I’ll not wrestle any more,’ said Samuel, ’if you don’t wrestle fair.
No—I won’t at all. You are in a white fury.  So—if it’s unfair in you to
kick, it is unfair in me to take advantage of your temper.’

’It is not done.  One or other must go down.’

Then Kate pushed forward.  ’Neither of you shall attend me home,’ she
said; ’I am going with little Joe only.’

Whether this would have ended the affray is doubtful.  Another
interruption was more successful.  Suddenly a loud blast of a horn, then
a yelping as of dogs, then another blast—and through the yard before the
barn, breaking the ring, sweeping between the combatants, passed a
strange figure—a man wearing a black bull’s hide, with long brown paper
ears on his head; the hide was fastened about his waist, and the tail
trailed behind.  He was followed by a dozen boys barking, baying,
yelping, and after them hobbled Tom Crout blowing aorn.

’It’s no good,’ said the lame fellow, halting in the broken ring; ’I
can’t follow the hare, Mr. Larry Nanspian; the hunt is waiting for you.
On wi’ a green coat, and mount your piebald, and take my horn.  I wish I
could follow; but it’s un-possible.  Whew! you hare! Heigh!  Piper,
stay, will you, and start fair.’

’I’ll have nothing to do with it,’ said Hillary, still panting.

’That is right, Larry,’ said Kate in his ear, ’You oughtn’t.  Honor said
as much, and that she hoped you would keep out of it.’

’Did she!’ said Hillary, angrily; ’then I’ll go in for it.’

’Larry, old chap,’ exclaimed Voaden, patting him on the shoulder, ’I
wasn’t the better man, nor was you.  You slipped on the dockleaf, and
that don’t reckon as a fall.  We’ll have another bout some other day, if
you wish it.  Now let us have the lark of the Hare Hunt.’

Hillary considered a moment, and wiped his face.  He had fallen in the
general estimation.  He had been sulky, he had provoked Sam, and the
wrestle had not turned to his credit.  Here was a chance offered of
taking the lead once more.  If he did not act the huntsman, Sam would.

’All right, Crout,’ said he, ’give me the horn; I’ll have my horse round
directly, and the green coat on.’

’Do not, do not, Larry,’ entreated Kate.

’Tell Honor I’m not pinned to her apron,’ answered the young man, and
ran into the house.



                            *CHAPTER XXIV.*

                          *THE HAND OF GLORY.*


The reader may have been puzzled by the hints made by Larry to Honor,
and by Charles to Mrs. Veale, of a threatened hare hunt, and he may have
wondered why such a threat should have disturbed Honor and angered the
housekeeper.  There are plenty of hares on Broadbury Moor; there have
been hare hunts there as long as men could remember; frequently, all
through the winter.  An ordinary hare hunt would not have stirred much
feeling in women’s bosoms.  The menaced hare hunt was something very
different.  A stag and a hare hunt are the rude means employed by a
village community for maintaining either its standard of morals or
expressing its disapprobation of petticoat rule.  The stag hunt is by no
means an institution of the past, it flourishes to the present day; and
where the magistrates have interfered, this interference has stimulated
it to larger proportions.  The hare hunt, now extinct, was intended to
ridicule the man who submitted to a rough woman’s tongue.

The stag hunt takes place either on the wedding-night of a man who has
married a girl of light character, or when a wife is suspected of having
played her husband false. The hare hunt more properly satirised the
relations between Taverner Langford and Mrs. Veale.  In not a few cases,
especially with a stag hunt, there is gross injustice done.  It cannot
be otherwise: the Vehm-Gericht is self-constituted, sits in the tavern,
and passes its sentence without summons and hearing of the accused.
There is no defence and no appeal from the court.  The infliction of the
sentence confers an indelible stain, and generally drives those who have
been thus branded out of the neighbourhood.  Petty spite and private
grudges are sometimes so revenged; and a marriage in a well-conducted
family, which has held itself above the rest in a parish, is made an
occasion for one of these outrages, whereby the envy of the unsuccessful
and disreputable finds a vent.

There probably would have been no hare hunt near Langford had not the
quarrel between Langford and Nanspian agitated the whole parish, and
given occasion for a frolic which would not have been adventured had the
brothers-in-law been combined.

’Well, Mr. Charles,’ said Mrs. Veale, ’what have you done with the
five-pound note I let you have?  Is it all spent?’

’I gave it to my father and sister,’ answered Charles.  ’I’ve occasioned
them some expense, and I thought I’d make it up to them whilst I could.’

’That was mighty liberal of you,’ sneered Mrs. Veale.

’I am liberal, pretty free-handed with my money.  It comes of my blood.’

’Ah!’ said the housekeeper, ’and I reckon now you’ll be wanting more.’

’I could do with more,’ replied young Luxmore, ’but I will not trouble
you.’

’Oh! it’s no trouble,’ said Mrs. Veale, ’I know very well that lending
to you is safe as putting into the Bank of England.  You must have your
own some day, and when you’re squire you won’t see me want.’

’Rely on me, I will deal most generously with you.  I shall not forget
your kindness, Mrs. Veale.’

’But,’ said the woman slyly, eyeing him, ’I can’t find you as much as
you require.  You can’t spin more out of me than my own weight, as the
silkworm said.  I’ve put aside my little savings.  But as you see, the
master don’t pay freely.  He gives you only ninepence, and me——’ she
shrugged her shoulders.

’If I were in your place,’ she went on, after a pause, ’I should be
tempted to borrow a hundred or so, and go to Physick the lawyer with it,
and say, help me to Coombe Park, and when I’ve that, I’ll give you a
hundred more.’

’Who’d lend me the money?  You have not so much.’

’No, I have not so much.’

’What other person would trust me?’

’The money might be had.’

’Others don’t see my prospects as you do.’

’I’d be inclined to borrow wi’out asking,’ said the housekeeper
cautiously.  She was as one feeling her way; she kept her eyes on
Charles as she talked.  Charles started.  He knew her meaning.

’How dare you suggest such a thing!’ he said in a low tone, looking at
her uneasily. ’Curse you!  Don’t wink at me with your white lashes that
way, you make me uneasy.’

’I only suggested it,’ said Mrs. Veale, turning her head aside.  ’I
reckon no harm would be done.  The master don’t know how much he has in
his box.  We had it out t’other day between us, and counted.  There be
over a thousand pounds there.  Do y’ think he counts it every week?  Not
he.  Who’d know?  The money would be put back, and wi’ interest, six,
seven, ten per cent., if you liked, when you’d got Coombe Park.’

’Have done,’ said Luxmore with nervous irritation; ’I’m no thief, and
never could become one.’

’Who asked you to be one?  Not I.  I said as how you might become his
banker for a hundred pounds.  The bank gives but three per cent., and
you would give nine.  Who’d be the loser?  Not master.  He’d gain nine
pounds without knowing it—and wouldn’t he crow!’

Charles Luxmore caught his hat and stood up.

’Where be you going to?’ asked Mrs. Veale.

’I cannot stand this,’ he said in an agitated voice.  ’You torment me.
You put notions into me that won’t let me sleep, that make me miserable.
I shall go.’

’Whither?  To the Ring o’ Bells.  There be no one there to-night, all be
away to Chimsworthy at the Haysel.  You sit down again, and I will give
you some cherry cordial.’

He obeyed sulkily.

’You can’t go to dance at Chimsworthy, because you be here at Langford,
and there’s no dancing and merry-making here.  But wait till you’re at
Coombe Park, and then you’ll have junketings and harvest-homes and
dances when you will.  That’ll be a rare life.’

He said nothing, but thrust his hands into his pockets, and looked
moodily before him.

’Shall I tell you now who’ll find you the money?’

He did not speak.

’Wellon will.’

’What?’ he looked up in surprise.

’Ay! old Wellon as was gibbeted, he will.’

Charles laughed contemptuously.  ’You are talking folly.  I always
thought you mad.’

’Did you ever hear of the Hand of Glory?’

’No, never.’

’I wonder what became of Wellon’s hand—the hand that throttled Mary
Rundle, and stuck the knife into the heart of Jane, and brought down
their aunt wi’ a blow of the fist. That hand was a mighty hand.’

’Wellon was hung in chains, and fell to dust.’

’But not the hand.  Such a hand as that was too precious.  Did you never
hear it was cut off, and the body swung for years without it?’

’No, I did not.’

’It was so.’

’What good was it to anyone?’

’It was worth pounds and pounds.’

’As a curiosity?’

’No, as a Hand of Glory.  It were washed in mother’s milk to a child
base-born, and smoked in the reek of gallows-wood, and then laid with
tamarisk from the sea, and vervain, and rue, and bog-bean.’

’Well, what then?’

’Why, then, sure it’s a Hand of Glory.’  She paused, then struck her
hand across her forehead, ’and grass off the graves of them as it
killed—I forgot to say that was added.’

’What can such a hand do?’

’Everything.  If I had it here and set it up on the mantelshelf, and set
a light to the fingers, all would flame blue, and then every soul in the
house would sleep except us two, and we might ransack the whole place
and none would stir or hinder or see.  And if we let the hand flame on,
they would lie asleep till we were far away beyond their reach.’

’If you had this Hand of Glory, I wouldn’t help you to use it,’ said
Charles, writhing on his seat.

’That is not all,’ Mrs. Veale went on, standing by a little tea-table
with her hand on it, the other against her side.  ’That hand has
wonderful powers of itself.  It is as a thing alive, though dead and dry
as leather.  If you say certain words it begins to run about on its
fingers like a rat.  Maybe you’re sitting over the fire of nights, and
hear something stirring, and see a brown thing scuttling over the floor
and you think it is a rat.  It is not.  It is the dead man’s hand.
Perhaps you hear a scratching on the wall, and look round, and see a
great black spider—a monstrous spider going about, running over and over
the wainscot, and touching and twitching at the bell wires.  It is not a
spider, it is the murderer’s hand.  It hasn’t eyes, it goes by the feel,
till it comes to gold, and then, at the touch the dark skin becomes
light and shines as the tail of a glowworm, and it picks and gathers by
its own light.  I reckon, if that hand o’ Wellon’s were in the oven
behind the parlour-grate, it would make such a light that you’d see what
was on every guinea, whether the man and horse or the spade, and you
could read every note as well as if you had the daylight.  Then the
ring-finger and the little finger close over what money the hand has
been bidden fetch, and it runs away on the thumb and other two—and then,
if you will, it’s spiderlike with a bag behind.’

’I don’t believe a word of it,’ said Charles, but his words were more
confident than his tone.

’You see,’ Mrs. Veale went on, ’there is this about it, you tell the
hand to go and fetch the money, but you don’t say whither it is to go,
and you do not know.  You get the money and can swear you have robbed no
one.  I reckon, mostly the money is found by the hand in old cairns and
ruins.  I’ve been told there’s a table of gold in Broadbury Castle that
only comes to the top on Midsummer night for an hour, and then sinks
again.  Folks far away see a great light on Broadbury, and say we be
swaling (burning gorse) up here; but it is no such thing; it is the gold
table coming up, and shining like fire, and the clouds above reflecting
its light.’

’Pity the hand don’t break off bits of the gold table,’ said Charles
sarcastically; but his face was mottled with fear; Mrs. Veale’s stories
frightened him.

’Yes, ’tis a pity,’ she said.  ’Maybe it will some day.’

’Pray what do you say to the hand to make it run your errands?’

’Ah!’ she continued, without answering his question.  ’There be other
things the Hand of Glory can do.  It will go if you send it to some
person—bolts and locks will not keep it out, and it will catch the end
of the bedclothes, and scramble up, and pass itself over the eyes of the
sleeper, and make him sleep like a dead man, and it will dive under the
clothes and lay its fingers on the heart; then there will come aches and
spasms there, or it will creep down the thighs and pinch and pat, and
that brings rheumatic pains.  I’ve heard of one hand thus sent as went
down under the bedclothes to the bottom of the sleeper’s foot, and there
it closed up all the fingers but one, and with that it bored and bored,
working itself about like a gimblet, and then gangrene set in, and the
man touched thus was dead in three days.’

’It is a mighty fortunate thing you’ve not the hand of old Wellon,’
growled Charles.

’I have got it,’ answered Mrs. Veale.

Charles looked at her with staring eyes.

’You shall see it,’ she said.

’I do not want to.  I will not!’ he exclaimed, shuddering.

’Wellon’s hand will fetch you a hundred pounds, and we will not ask
whence it comes,’ said Mrs. Veale.

’I will not have it, I will not touch it!’  He spoke in a hoarse,
horrified whisper.

’You shall come with me, and I will show you where I keep it, and
perhaps you will find the hand closed; and when I say, Hand of Glory!
open!  Hand of Glory! give up! then you will see the fingers unclose,
and the glittering gold coins will be in the brown palm.’

’I will not touch them.’

’No harm in your looking at them.  Come with me.’

She stood before him with her firm mouth set, and her blinking eyes on
him.  He tried to resist.  He settled himself more comfortably into his
seat.  But his efforts to oppose her will were in vain.  He uttered a
curse, drew his hands out of his pocket, put his hat on his head.

’Go on,’ he said surlily; ’but I tell y’ I won’t go without the lantern.
Where is it?’

’In Wellon’s Cairn.’

’I will not go,’ said Charles, drawing back, and all colour leaving his
cheek.

’Then I’ll send the hand after you.  Come.’

’I’ll take the lantern.’

’As you like, but hide the light till we get to the hill.  There it
don’t matter if folks see a flame dancing about the mound.  They will
keep their distance—Come on, after me.’



                             *CHAPTER XXV.*

                            *THE HARE HUNT.*


Directly Mrs. Veale, followed by Charles, came outside the house the
former turned and said, with a chuckle, ’You want a lantern, do y’, a
summer night such as this?’

The sky was full of twilight, every thorn tree and holly bush was
visible on the hedges, every pebble in the yard.

’I’m not going to Wellon’s Cairn without,’ said Luxmore, sulkily.  ’I
don’t want to go at all; and I won’t go _there_ without light.’

’Very well.  I will wait at the gate for you.’

He went into the stable, where was a horn-sided tin lantern, and took it
down from its crook, then went back into the kitchen and lighted the
candle at the fire.

’I’ve a mind not to go,’ he muttered. ’What does the woman want with me,
pulling me, driving me, this way and that?  If I’d been told I was to be
subjected to this sort of persecution, I wouldn’t have come here.  It’s
not to be endured for ninepence.  Ninepence! It would be bad at eighteen
pence.  I wish I was in Afghanistan.  Cawbul, Ghuznee, Candahar don’t
astonish her.  She ain’t open-mouthed at them, but sets my hair on end
with her Hand of Glory, and talks of how money is to be got.  I know
what she is after; she wants me to run away with her and the cash box.
I won’t do it—not with her, for certain; not with the cash box if I can
help it.  I don’t believe a word about a Hand of Glory.  I’m curious to
know how she’ll get out of it, now she’s promised to show it me.’

He started, and swore.

’Gorr!’ he said; ’it’s only a rat behind the wainscot; I thought it was
the hand creeping after me.  I suppose I must go.  For certain, Mrs.
Veale is a bad un.  But; what is that? The shadow of my own hand on the
wall, naught else.’

He threw over him a cloak he wore in wet weather, and hid the lantern
under it.

’For sure,’ he said, ’folks would think it queer if they saw me going
out such a summer night as this with a lantern; but I won’t go to
Wellon’s Cairn without, that is certain.’

’Well,’ said Mrs. Veale; ’so you have come at last!’

’Yes, I have come.  Where is the master? I’ve not seen him about.’

’He never said nothing to no one, and went off to Holsworthy to-day.’

’When will he be back?’

’Not to-morrow; there’s a fair there; the day after, perhaps.’

A heavy black cloud hung in the sky, stretching apparently above
Broadbury. Below it the silvery light flowed from behind the horizon.
To the east, although it was night, the range of Dartmoor was visible,
bathed in the soft reflection from the north-western sky. The tumulus
upon which Wellon had been executed was not far out on the heath. Mrs.
Veale led the way with firm tread; Charles followed with growing
reluctance.  A great white owl whisked by.  The glowworms were shining
mysteriously under tufts of grass.  As they pushed through the heather
they disturbed large moths.  A rabbit dashed past.

’Hush!’ whispered Charles.  ’I’m sure I heard a horn.’

’Ah!’ answered Mrs. Veale, ’Squire Arscott rides the downs at night,
they say, and has this hundred years.’

’I don’t care to go any further,’ said the young man.

’You shall come on.  I am going to show you the Hand of Glory.’

He was powerless to resist.  As his father had fallen under the
authority of Honor, so the strong over-mastering will of this woman
domineered Charles, and made him do what she would.  He felt his
subjection, his powerlessness.  He saw the precipice to which she was
leading him, and knew that he could not escape.

’I wish I had never come to Langford,’ he muttered to himself.  ’It’s
Honor’s doing. If I go wrong, she is to blame.  She sent me here, and
all for ninepence.’  Then, stepping forward beside the housekeeper, ’I
say, Mrs. Veale, how do you manage to stow anything away in a mound?’

’Easy, if the mound be not solid,’ she replied.  ’There is a sort of
stone coffin in the middle, made of pieces of granite set on end, and
others laid on top.  When the treasure-seekers dug into the hill, they
came as far as one of the stones, and they stove it in, but found
nothing, or, if they found aught, they carried it away.  Then, I reckon,
they put the stone back, or the earth fell down and covered all up, and
the heather bushes grew over it all. But I looked one day about there
for a place where I could hide things.  I thought as the master had his
secret place, I’d have mine too; and I knew no place could be safer than
where old Wellon hung, as folk don’t like to come too near it—leastways
in the dark.  Well, then, I found a little hole, as might have been made
by a rabbit, and I cleared it out; and there I found the gap and the
stone coffin.  I crept in, it were not over big, but wi’ a light I could
see about.  I thought at first I’d come on Wellon’s bones, but no bones
were there, nothing at all but a rabbit nest, and some white snail
shells.  After that I made up the entrance again, just as it was, and no
one would know it was there.  But I can find it; there is a bunch of
heath by it, and some rushes, and how rushes came to grow there beats
me.’

’So you keep Wellon’s hand in there, do you?’

’Yes, I do.’

’How did you manage to get it?’

’I will not tell you.’

’I do not believe you have it; I don’t believe but what you told me a
parcel of lies about the Hand of Glory.  I’ve been to Afghanistan, and
Cabul, and the Bombay Presidency, and never heard of such a thing.  It
is not in reason.  If a dead hand can move, why has not my finger that
was cut off in battle come back to me?’

’Shall I send the Hand after it?’

The suggestion made Charles uneasy.  He looked about him, as afraid to
see the black hand running on the grass, leaping the tufts of furze,
carrying his dead finger, to drop it at his feet.

’What are you muttering?’ asked he, sharply.

’I’m only repeating, Hand of Glory! Hand of Light!  Fetch, fetch!  Run
and bring——’

’I’ll strike you down if you go on with your devilry, you hag,’ said
Charles, angrily.

’We are at the place.’

They entered the cutting made by the treasure-seekers, the gap in which
Honor had often sat in the sun, unconscious of the stone kistvaen hidden
behind her, indifferent to the terrors of the haunted hill, whilst the
sun blazed on it.

’The night is much darker than it was,’ said Charles uneasily, as he
looked about him.

It was as he said.  The black mass of cloud had spread and covered the
sky, cutting off the light except from the horizon.

’I don’t like the looks of the cloud,’ said Charles.  ’There will be
rain before long, and there’s thunder aloft for certain.’

’What is that to you?  Are you afraid of a shower?  You have your cloak.
Bring out the lantern.  It matters not who sees the light now.  If
anyone does see it, he’ll say it’s a corpse-candle on its travels.’

’What is a corpse-candle?’

’Don’t you know?’  She gave a short, dry laugh.  ’It’s a light that
travels by night along a road, and comes to the door of the house out of
which a corpse will be brought in a day or two.’

’Does no one carry the candle?’

’It travels by itself.’  Then she said, ’Give me the light.’

’I will not let it out of my hand,’ answered Charles, looking about him
timorously.  ’I don’t think anyone will see the light, down in this
hole.’

’Hold the lantern where I show you—there.’

He did as required.  It gave a poor, sickly light, but sufficient to
show where the woman wanted to work.  She began to scratch away the
earth with her hands, and Charles, watching her, thought she worked as a
rabbit or hare might with its front paws.  Presently she said:

’There is the hole, look in.’

He saw a dark opening, but had no desire to peer into it.  Indeed, he
drew back.

’How can I see, if you take away the lantern?’ asked Mrs. Veale.  ’Put
your arm in and you will find the hand.’

He drew still further away.  ’I will not. I have seen enough.  I know of
this hiding-place. That suffices.  I will go home.’

The horror came over him lest she should force him to put his hand into
the stone coffin, and that there, in the blackness and mystery of the
Interior, the dead hand of the murderer would make a leap and clasp his.

’I have had enough of this,’ he said, and a shiver ran through him, ’I
will go home. Curse me!  I’m not going to be mixed up with all this
devilry and witchery if I can help it.’

’Perhaps the hand is gone,’ said Mrs. Veale.

’Oh!  I hope so.’

’I sent it after your finger.’

’Indeed, may it be long on its travels.’  He was reassured.  It was not
pleasant to think of so close proximity to the murderer’s embalmed,
still active hand.  He suspected that Mrs. Veale was attempting to
wriggle out of her undertaking.  ’Indeed—I thought I was to see the
hand, and now the hand is not here.’

’I cannot say.  Anyhow, the money is here.’

’What money?’

’That for which you asked.’

’I asked for none.’

’You desired a hundred pounds for the purpose of getting back Coombe
Park.  Put in your hand and take it.’

’I will not.’

His courage was returning, as he thought he saw evasion of her promise
in the woman.

’For the matter of that, if this Hand of Glory can fetch money, it might
as well fetch more than that.’

’How much?’

’A hundred is not over much.  Two hundred—a thousand.’

’Say a thousand.’

’So I do.’

’Put in your hand.  It is there.’

’Hark!’

’Put in your hand.’

’I will not.’

’Then you fool! you coward!  I must take it for you!’ she hissed in her
husky voice.  She stooped, and thrust both her hands and arms deep into
the kistvaen.

’Hush!’ whispered Charles, as he laid his hand on her shoulder, and
covered the light with a flap of his mantle.  She remained still for a
minute with her arms buried in the crave. There was certainly a sound, a
tramp of many feet, and the fall of horses’ hoofs, heard, then not
heard, as they went over road or turf.

’There,’ whispered Mrs. Veale, and drew a box from the hole and placed
it on Charles’s lap.  As she did so, the mantleflap fell from the
lantern, and the light shone over the box. Charles at once recognised
Taverner Langford’s cash box, with the letter padlock.

’Ebal,’ whispered Mrs. Veale.  ’A thousand pounds are yours.’

At that instant, loud and startling, close to the cairn sounded the
blast of a horn, instantly responded to by the baying and yelping of
dogs, by shouts, and screams, and cheers, and a tramp of rushing feet,
and a crack of whips.

The suddenness of the uproar, its unexpectedness, its weirdness, coming
on Charles’s overwrought nerves, at the same moment that he saw himself
unwillingly involved in a robbery, completely overcame him; he uttered a
cry of horror, sprang to his feet, upset the money box, and leaped out
of the cutting, swinging the lantern, with his wide mantle flapping
about him.  His foot tripped and he fell; he picked himself up and
bounded into the road against a horse with rider, who was in the act of
blowing a horn.

Charles was too frightened and bewildered to remember anything about the
hare hunt. He did not know where he was, what he was doing, against whom
he had flung himself. The horse plunged, bounded aside, and cast his
rider from his back.  Charles stood with one hand to his head looking
vacantly at the road and the prostrate figure in it.  In another moment
Mrs. Veale was at his elbow.  ’What have you done?’ she gasped, ’You
fool! what have you done?’

Charles had sufficiently recovered himself to understand what had taken
place.

’It is the hare hunt,’ he said.  ’Do you hear them?  The dogs!  This
is—my God! it is Larry Nanspian.  He is dead.  I said I would break his
neck, and I have done it.  But I did not mean it.  I did not intend to
frighten the horse.  I—I’—and he burst into tears.

’You are a fool,’ said Mrs. Veale angrily. ’What do you mean staying
here?’  She took the horn from the prostrate Larry and blew it. ’Don’t
let them turn and find you here by his dead body.  If you will not go, I
must, though I had no hand in killing him.’  She snatched the lantern
from his hand and extinguished it. ’That ever I had to do with such an
one as you!  Be off, as you value your neck; do not stay.  Be off!  If
you threatened Larry and have fulfilled your threat, who will believe
that this was accident?’

Charles, who had been overcome by weakness for a moment, was nerved
again by fear.

’Take his head,’ said Mrs. Veale, ’lay him on the turf, among the dark
gorse, where he mayn’t be seen all at once, and that will give you more
time to get off.’

’I cannot take his head,’ said Charles, trembling.

’Then take his heels.  Do as I bid,’ ordered the housekeeper.  She bent
and raised Larry.

’Sure enough,’ she said, ’his neck is broken. He’ll never speak another
word.’

Charles let go his hold of the feet.  ’I will not touch him,’ he said.
’I will not stay.  I wish I’d never come to Langford.  It was all
Honor’s fault forcing me.  I must go.’

’Yes, go,’ said Mrs. Veale, ’and go along Broadbury, where you will meet
no man, and no footmarks will be left by which you may be traced.’  Mrs.
Veale, unassisted, dragged the senseless body out of the rough road over
the turf.

’Is he dead? is he really dead?’ asked Charles.

’Go!’ said Mrs. Veale, ’or I shall have the chance of your hand to make
into a better Hand of Glory than that of Wellon.’



                            *CHAPTER XXVI.*

                           *BITTER MEDICINE.*


The hare and hounds ran some distance before they perceived that they
were not pursued by the huntsman and that the horn had ceased to cheer
them on.  Then little Piper, the cattle-jobber, clothed in the black
ox-hide, stopped panting, turned, and said, ’Where be the hunter to?  I
don’t hear his horse nor his horn.’  The dogs halted.  They were boys
and young men with blackened faces.  Piper’s face was also covered with
soot.  His appearance was diabolical, with the long ears on his head,
his white eyes peering about from under them, a bladder under his chin,
and the black hide enveloping him.  According to the traditional usage
on such occasions, the hunt ends with the stag or hare, one or the
other, being fagged out, and thrown at the door of the house whose
inmates’ conduct has occasioned the stag or hare hunt.  Then the hunter
stands astride over the animal, if a stag, and with a knife slits the
bladder that is distended with bullock’s blood, and which is thus poured
out before the offender’s door.  If, however, the hunt be that of a hare
the pretence is—or was—made of knocking it on the head.  It may seem
incredible to our readers that such savage proceedings should still
survive in our midst, yet it is so, and they will not be readily
abolished.[1]


[1] The author once tore down with his own hands the following bill
affixed to a wall at four cross roads:—

’NOTICE!—ON THURSDAY NIGHT THE RED HUNTER’S PACK OF STAG HOUNDS WILL
MEET AT ... INN, AND WILL RUN TO GROUND A FAMOUS STAG.  GENTLEMEN ARE
REQUESTED TO ATTEND.’

The police were communicated with, but were unable to interfere as no
breach of the peace was committed.


Not suspecting anything, the hare and the pack turned and ran back along
the road they had traversed, yelping, shouting, hooting, blowing through
their half-closed hands, leaping, some lads riding on the backs of
others, one in a white female ragged gown running about and before the
hare, flapping the arms and hooting like an owl.

Would Taverner Langford come forth, worked to fury by the insult?
Several were armed with sticks in the event of an affray with him and
his men.  Would he hide behind a hedge and fire at them out of his
trumpet-mouthed blunderbuss that hung over the kitchen mantel-piece in
Langford?  If he did that, they had legs and could run beyond range.
They did not know that he was away at Holsworthy.

The road to that town lay over the back of Broadbury and passed not
another house in the parish.

The wild chase swept over the moor, past Wellon’s Cairn, past Langford,
then turned and went back again.

’I’ll tell you what it be,’ said Piper, halting and confronting his
pursuers.  ’Larry Nanspian have thought better of it, and gone home.
T’es his uncle, you know, we’m making same of, and p’raps he’s ’shamed
to go on in it.’

’He should have thought of that before,’ said one of the dogs.  ’Us
ain’t a going to have our hunt spoiled for the lack of a hunter.’

’Why didn’t he say so in proper time?’ argued a second.

’Heigh! there’s his horse!’ shouted a third, and ran over the moor
towards the piebald, which, having recovered from its alarm, was quietly
browsing on the sweet, fine moor grass.

’Sure eneaf it be,’ said Piper; ’then Larry can’t be far off.’

Another shout.

’He’s been thrown.  He is lying here by the roadside.’

Then there was a rush of the pack to the spot indicated, and in a moment
the insensible lad was in the arms of Piper, surrounded by an eager
throng.

’Get along, you fellows,’ shouted the hare. ’you’ll give him no
breathing room.’

’Ah! and where’ll he think himself, I wonder, when he opens his eyes and
sees he is in the hands of one with black face and long ears, and tail
and hairy body?  I reckon he won’t suppose he’s in Abraham’s bosom.’

’What’ll he take you for either, in your black faces?’ retorted Piper.
’Not angels of light, sure-ly.’  Then old Crout hobbled up. He had
followed far in the rear, as best he could with his lame leg and stick.

’What be the matter, now?’ he asked. ’What, Larry Nanspian throwed?
Some o’ you lads run for a gate.  Us mun’ carry ’n home on that.  There
may be bones abroke, mussy knows.’

’I reckon we can’t take ’n into Langford,’ suggested Sam Voaden.

’Likely, eh?’ sneered Piper.  ’You Sam, get a gate for the lad.  He must
be carried home at once, and send for a doctor.’

He was obeyed; and in a few minutes a procession was formed, conveying
Larry from the moor.

’He groaned as we lifted ’n,’ said Sam Voaden.

’So he’s got life in him yet.’

’His hand ain’t cold, what I may call dead cold,’ said another.

’You go for’ard, Piper,’ said Tom Crout. ’that he mayn’t see you and be
frightened if he do open his eyes.’

Then the cattle-jobber walked first, holding the long cow’s tail over
his arm, lest those who followed should tread on it and be tripped up.
Sam Voaden and three other young men raised the gate on their shoulders,
and walked easily under it.  Behind came the hounds, careful not to
present their blackened faces to the opening eyes of their unconscious
friend; and, lastly, Tom Crout mounted on the piebald. One of the boys
had found the horn, and unable to resist the temptation to try his
breath on it, blew a faint blast.

’Shut up, will you?’ shouted Piper, turning. ’Who is that braying?
You’ll be making Larry fancy he hears the last trump, and he’ll jump off
the gate and hurt himself again.’

Larry Nanspian had not broken his neck nor fractured his skull.  He was
much bruised, strained, and his right arm and collar-bone were broken.
His insensibility proceeded from concussion of the brain; but even this
was not serious, for he gradually recovered his consciousness as he was
being carried homewards. Too dazed at first to know where he was, what
had happened, and how he came to be out and lying on a gate, he did not
speak or stir.  Indeed, he felt unwilling to make an effort, a sense of
exhaustion overmastered him, and every movement caused him pain.  He lay
with his face to the night sky, watching the dark cloud, listening to
the voices of his bearers, and picking with the fingers of his left hand
at a mossy gate bar under him.  At first he did not hear what words were
passing about him, he was aware only of voices speaking: the first
connected sentence he was able to follow was this:—

’’Twould be a bad job if Larry were killed.’

’Bad job for him, yes,’ was the reply.

’What do y’ mean by that?’ asked Sam Voaden.  He recognised Sam’s voice
at once, and he felt the movement of Sam’s shoulder tilting the fore end
of the gate as he turned his head to ask the question.

’O, I mean naught but what everyone says. A bad job for any chap to die;
but I don’t reckon the loss would be great to Chimsworthy. Some chance,
then, of the farm going to proper hands.  Larry ain’t much, and never
will be, but for larks and big talk.  I say that Chimsworthy is a
disgrace to the parish; and what is more there is sure to be a smash
there unless there comes an alteration.  Alteration there would never be
under Larry.’

’I’ve heard tell that the old man has borrowed a sight of money from
Taverner Langford, and now he’s bound to pay it off, and can’t do it.’

’Not like to, the way he’s gone on; sowing brag brings brambles.’

’You see,’ said Voaden, ’they always reckoned on getting Langford, some
day, when the old fellow died.’

’And what a mighty big fool Larry is to aggravate his uncle.  Instead of
keeping good terms with the old gentleman he goes out o’ his road to
offend him.’

’I say it’s regular un-decent his being out to-night hunting the hare
before his own uncle’s door.’

’I say so, too.  It weren’t my place to say naught, but I thought it,
and so did every proper chap.’

’It is an ill bird that fouls its own nest.’

’Does his father know what’s he’s been after?’

’No, of course not; old Nanspian would ha’ taken a stick to his back, if
he’d heard he was in for such things.’

’I know that however bad an uncle might use me, I’d never have nothing
to do with a hare hunt that concerned him—no, nor an aunt neither.’

’Larry was always a sort of a giddy chap.’

’He’s a bit o’ a fool, or he wouldn’t have come into this.’

’Maybe this will shake what little sense he has out of his head.’

’I’ll tell y’ what.  If Larry had been in the army—he’d have turned out
as great a blackguard as Charles Luxmore.’

’The girls have spoiled Larry, they make so much of him.’

’Make much of him!  They like to make sport of him, but there’s not one
of them cares a farthing for him, not if they’ve any sense. They know
fast enough what Chimsworthy and idleness are coming too.  Why, there
was Kate Luxmore.  Everyone thought she and Larry were keeping company
and would make a pair; but this evening, you saw, directly she had a
chance of Sam, she shook him off, and quite right too.’

’Never mind me and Kate,’ said Sam, turning his head again.

’But us do mind, and us think as Kate be a sensible maiden, and us
thought her a fool before to take up wi’ Larry Nanspian.’

This conversation was not pleasant for the young man laid on the gate to
hear, and it took from him the desire to speak and allow his bearers to
know he was awake, and had heard their criticism on his character and
conduct. The judgment passed on him was not altogether just, but there
was sufficient justice in it to humble him.  Yes, he had acted most
improperly in allowing himself to be drawn into taking part in the hare
hunt.  No—he was not, he could never have become such a blackguard as
Charles Luxmore.

’Halt!’ commanded Piper, and the convoy stood still.

’We can’t go like this to Chimsworthy,’ said the little cattle-jobber;
’it’ll give the old man another stroke.  Let us stop at the Luxmores’
cottage, and wash our faces, and put off these things, and send on word
that we’re coming; the old fellow mustn’t be dropt down on wi’ bad news
too sudden.’

’Right!  Honor shall be sent on to break the news.’

Honor!  Larry felt the blood mount to his brow.  She had herself
dissuaded him from having anything to do with this wretched affair which
had ended so disastrously to himself, and when Kate advised him to keep
away from it because Honor disapproved, he had sent her an insolent
defiance.  Now he was to be laid before her door, bruised and broken,
because he had disobeyed her warning.  He tried to lift himself to
protest—but sank back.  No—he thought—it serves me right.

The party descended the rough lane from Broadbury, and had to move more
slowly and with greater precaution.  The bearers had to look to their
steps and talk less.  Larry’s thoughts turned to Honor.  Now he had
found out how true were her words.  What she had said to him gently, was
said now roughly, woundingly.  She had but spoken to him the wholesome
truth which was patent to everyone but himself, but she had spoken it so
as to inflict no pain.  She had tried to humble him, but with so pitiful
a hand, that he could have kissed the hand, and asked it to continue its
work.  But he had not taken her advice, he had not learned her lesson,
and he was now called to suffer the consequences.  Those nights spent
beside Honor under the clear night sky—how happy they had been!  How her
influence had fallen over him like dew, and he had felt that it was well
with him to his heart’s core. How utterly different she was from the
other girls of Bratton.  They flattered him.  She rebuked him.  They
pressed their attentions on him.  She shrank from his notice.  He could
recall all she had said.  Her words stood out in his recollection like
the stars in the night heavens—but he had not directed his course by
them.

Now, as the young men carried him down the lane, he knew every tree he
passed, and that he was nearing Honor, step by step.  He desired to see
her, yet feared her reproachful eye.



                            *CHAPTER XXVII.*

                           *AFTER SWEETNESS.*


Oliver Luxmire had returned home before Kate came from the dance, and
had eaten his supper, and gone to bed.  Her father had been a cause of
distress to Honor of late.  He said, indeed, no more about Taverner’s
suit, but he could not forget it, and he was continually grumbling over
the difficulties of his position, his poverty, the hardships of his
having to be a carrier, when he ought to be a gentleman, and might be a
squire if certain persons would put out a little finger to help him to
his rights.

His careless good humour had given place to peevish discontent.  By
nature he was kind and considerate, but his disappointment had, at least
temporarily, embittered his mood.  He threw out oblique reproaches which
hurt Honor, for she felt that they were aimed at her.  He complained
that times were altered, children were without filial affection, they
begrudged their parents the repose that was their due in the evening of
their days.  He was getting on in years, and was forced to slave for the
support of a family, when his family—at least the elder of them—ought to
be maintaining him.  He wished that the Thrustle were as deep as the
Tamar, and he would throw himself in and so end his sorrows.  His
children—his ungrateful children—must not be surprised if some day he
did not return.  There was no saying, on occasions, when a waterspout
broke, the Thrustle was so full of water that a man might drown himself
in it.

In vain did Honor attempt to turn his thoughts into pleasanter channels.
He found a morbid pleasure in being absorbed in the contemplation of his
sores.  He became churlish towards Honor and refused to be cheered.  She
had fine speeches on her tongue, but he was a man who preferred deeds to
words.  A girl of words and not of deeds was like a garden full of
weeds.  When the weeds began to grow, like the heavens thick with snow,
when the snow began to fall—and so on—and so on—he had forgotten the
rest of the jingle.

Now for the first time, dimly, was Honor conscious of a moral
resemblance between her father and Charles.  What Charles had become,
her father might become.  The elements of character were in germ in him
that had developed in the son.  As likenesses in a family come out at
unexpected moments, that had never before been noticed, so was it with
the psychical features of these two.  Honor saw Charles in her father,
and the sight distressed her.

Oliver Luxmore did not venture to say out openly what he desired, but
his hints, his insinuations, his grumblings, were significant; they
pierced as barbed steel, they bruised as blows.  Till recently, Oliver
had recognised his daughter’s moral superiority, and had submitted.  Now
his eye was jaundiced.  He thought her steadfastness of purpose to be
doggedness, her resistance to his wishes to be the result of self-will,
and his respect for her faded.

Although Honor made no complaint, no defence, she suffered acutely.  She
had surrendered Larry because her duty tied her to the home that needed
her.  Was it necessary for her to make a farther sacrifice—a supreme
sacrifice for the sake of her father?  She had no faith in the verbal
promises of Taverner Langford, to stand by and assist her brothers and
sisters, but it was in her power to exact from him a written undertaking
which he would be unable to shake off.  Suppose she were to marry
Langford—what then?  Then—the dark cloud would lift and roll away. There
would be no more struggle to make both ends meet, no more patching and
darning of old clothes, no more limiting of the amount of bread dealt
out to each child.  Her father’s temper would mend.  He would recover
his kindly humour, and play with the little ones, and joke with the
neighbours, and be affectionate towards her.  There would be no more
need for him to travel with a waggon in all weathers to market, but he
would spend his last years in comfort, cared for by his children,
instead of exhausting himself for them.

However bright such a prospect might appear, Honor could not reconcile
herself to it. Her feminine instincts revolted against the price she
must pay to obtain it.

That evening Oliver Luxmore ate his supper in sulky silence, and went to
bed without wishing Honor a good night.  When Kate arrived, she found
her sister in tears.

’Honor!’ exclaimed the eager, lively girl, ’what is the matter?  You
have been crying—because you could not go to the dance.’

’No, dear Kate, not at all.’

’Honor! what is the meaning of this? Marianne Spry tells me she saw the
silk kerchief you gave me before to-day.’

’Well, why not?’

’But, Honor, I do not understand.  Mrs. Spry says that Larry bought
it—bought it at Tavistock after he had killed the dog that worried our
lambs—after he had got the guinea, and she believes he bought it with
that money.’

’Well, Kate!’  Honor stooped over her needlework.

’Well, Honor!’—Kate paused and looked hard at her.  ’How is it that
Larry bought it, and you had it in your chest?  That is what I want to
know.’

’Larry gave it me.’

’Oh—ho!  He gave it you!’

’Yes, I sat up with him when he was watching for the lamb-killer; he is
grateful for that trifling trouble I took.’

’But, Honor!  Marianne Spry said that she and others chaffed Larry in
the van about the kerchief he had bought for me—and it was _not_ for
me.’

Honor said nothing; she worked very diligently with her fingers by the
poor light of the tallow candle on the table.  Kate stooped to get sight
of her face, and saw that her cheek was red.

’Honor, dear!  The kerchief was not for me.  Why did you make me wear
it?’

’Because, Kate—because you are the right person to wear his present.’

’I—why I?’ asked Kate impetuously.

Honor looked up, looked steadfastly into her sister’s eyes.

’Because Larry loves you, and you love him.’

’I can answer for myself that I do not,’ Kate vehemently.  ’And I don’t
fancy he is much in love with me.  No, Honor, he was in a queer mood
this evening, and what made him queer was that you were not in the barn,
and had decked me out in the kerchief he gave you to wear.  I could not
make it out at the time, but now I see it all.’  Then Kate laughed
gaily.  ’I don’t suppose you care very much for him, he’s a Merry Andrew
and a scatterbrain, but I do believe he has a liking for you, Honor, and
I believe there is no one in the world could make a fine good man of
Larry but you.’  Then the impulsive girl threw her arms round her
sister.  ’There!’ she exclaimed, ’I’m glad you don’t care for Larry,
because he is not worthy of you—no, there’s not a lad that is—except,
maybe Samuel Voaden, and him I won’t spare even to you.’

’Oh, Kate!’

So the sisters sat on, and the generous, warm-hearted Kate told all her
secret to her sister.

When girls talk of the affairs of the heart, time flies with them.
Their father and brothers and sisters were asleep, and they sat on late.
Kate was happy to confide in her sister.

All at once Kate started, and held her finger to her ear.

’I hear something.  Honor, what is it? I hope these hare-hunters be not
coming this way.’

She had not told Honor Larry’s message.

’I hear feet,’ answered the elder.  ’Do not go to the door, Kate.  It is
very late.’

The tramp of feet ceased, the two girls with beating hearts heard steps
ascend to their door, then a rap at it.  Honor went at once to open.
Kate hung back.  She suspected the hare-hunters, but was afraid of the
black faces, and she could not understand the halt and summons.

’Don’t y’ be frightened, Honor,’ said a voice through the door, ’us want
y’ out here a bit, if you don’t mind.’  Honor unbolted, and the
blackfaced, white-eyed, long-eared, skin-clothed Piper stood before her,
holding the black cow tail in his hand.

’Don’t y’ be scared.  I’m only the hare.  I won’t touch a hair of your
head.’

’What do you want, Mr. Piper?’ asked Honor without trepidation.

’Well, it is this.  There’s been an accident, and Master Larry Nanspian
hev fallen on his head off his horse and hurted himself bad.’

Honor began to tremble, and caught the door with one hand and the
door-post with the other.

’Now do y’ take it easy.  He ain’t dead, only hurt.  Us don’t want to go
right on end carrying him into Chimsworthy, all of us dressed as we are.
First place, it might frighten Master Nanspian, second place, he
mightn’t like the larks Larry has been on.  So us thought if you would
let us clean our faces, and take off our skins and other things, and cut
the green coat off the back of Larry, here; and then, you’d be so good
as run on to Chimsworthy and prepare the old gentleman, you’d be—well,
you’d be yourself—I couldn’t put it better.’

Honor had recovered her composure.

’I will do what you wish,’ she said, and her voice was firm, though low.

’You see,’ Piper went on.  ’It’s a bit ockerd like; I reckon the old man
wouldn’t be satisfied that Larry were mixed up in a hare-hunt that made
game of Taverner Langford, his own wife’s brother; and I don’t say that
Larry acted right in being in it.  Howsomever, he has been, and is now
the worse for it.  Will you please to bring the candle and let us see
how bad he be.’

Honor took the tin candlestick with the tallow dip, and descended the
steps, holding it.

The four bearers set the gate upon the ground, and Honor held the candle
aloft that the light might fall on Larry.  But a soft wind was blowing,
and it drove the flame on one side, making the long wick glow and then
carrying it away in sparks.

’Mr. Piper, go into the cottage and ask my sister Kate to give you my
scissors.  I will remove the coat.  Go all of you, either to the well a
few steps down the lane, or into our kitchen, and wait.  Kate will give
you towel and soap.  Leave me with Larry.  I must deal very gently with
him, and I had rather you were none of you by.’

’You’re right,’ said Piper.  ’Us had better have white faces and get
clear of horses and other gear before he sees us.’

’We must be quick,’ said Sam Voaden. ’Larry must be got home as fast as
may be.’

Then they ran, some to the well in the bank, some—Sam, of course—into
the cottage, and left Honor for a moment or two beside the prostrate
man, kneeling, holding the guttering candle with one hand, and screening
the flame from the wind with the other.

Then Larry opened his eyes, and looked long and earnestly into her face.
He said nothing.  He did not stir a finger; but his eyes spoke.

’Larry!’ she breathed.  Her heart spoke in her voice, ’Larry, are you
much hurt?’

He slightly moved his head.

’Much, Larry? where?’

’In my pride, Honor,’ he answered.

She looked at him with surprise: at first hardly comprehending his
meaning.

Then Kate came down the steps with the scissors.

’O Honor!  How dreadful!  I told him not to go!  I told him you
disapproved!  And now he is punished.  O Honor! is he badly injured? He
is not killed?’

’No, Kate, he is not killed.  How far hurt I cannot tell.  Larry! you
must let me move you.  I may hurt you a little——’

’You cannot hurt me,’ he said.  ’I have hurt myself.’

’O Honor!’ exclaimed Kate.  ’If he can speak he is not so bad.  Shall I
help?’

’No, Kate,’ answered Honor, ’go back to the cottage and give the young
men what they want to clean their faces; those at the well also.  I can
manage Larry by myself.’

She stooped over him.

’Larry! you must let me raise you a little bit.  Tell me truly, are any
bones broken?’

’I do not know, Honor.  I feel as if I could not move.  I am full of
pain, full in all my limbs, but most full in my heart.’

She began to cut up the seams of the sleeves.

’I cannot move my right arm,’ he said.  ’I suppose there is some
breakage there.’

’Yes,’ she said gravely, ’I can feel a bone is broken.’

’If that be all it does not matter,’ he said more cheerfully, ’but I
want to say to you, Honor, something whilst no one is by.’

’What is it?’

’I have done very wrong in many ways.  I have been a fool, and I shall
never be anything else unless you——’

’Never mind that now,’ she hastily interrupted him.  ’We must think only
at present of your aching joints and broken bones.’

Then Oliver Luxmore’s voice was heard calling, and asking what was the
matter?  Who were in the house?  He had been roused from his sleep and
was alarmed.  Kate ran up the stairs to pacify him, and when he knew the
circumstances he hastily dressed.

An altercation broke out at the well.  There was not room for all to get
at the water.  One came running up with streaming face to Honor, ’Am I
clean?’ he asked.  ’How is Larry? Not so bad hurt after all, is he?’
Then he went up the steps into the cottage to consult his fellows as to
the condition of his face, and to wipe it.

Honor removed the coat in pieces.

’Thank you,’ said Larry.  ’The candle is out?’

’Yes, the wind has made it out (extinguished it).’

’My left hand is sound.  Come on that side.’

She did as he asked.

’And this,’ he said, ’is the side where my heart is.  Honor, I’m very
sorry I did not follow your advice.  I am sorry now for many things.  I
want you to forgive me.’

’I have nothing to forgive.’

’Lean over me.  I want to whisper.  I don’t want the fellows to hear.’

She stooped with her face near his.  Then he raised his uninjured arm,
put it round her neck, and drew her cheek to his lips, and kissed her.
’Honor! dear Honor!  I love no one! no one in the world but you!  And I
love you more than words can say.’

Did she kiss him?  She did not know herself. A light, then a darkness,
were before her eyes.  What time passed then?  A second or a century?
She did not know.  A sudden widening of the world to infinity, a loss of
all limitations—time, space—an unconsciousness of distinction, joy,
pain, day, night, a loss of identity—was it she herself, or another?

Then a wakening as from a trance, with tingling veins, and dazed eyes,
and whirling brain, and fluttering heart, and voice uncontrolled, as
from the cottage door, down the steps, and from the well, up the lane
came simultaneously the rabble of boys and men.

’Well, how is he?’  ’Have you got the coat off?’  ’Can he speak?’  ’Any
bones broke?’

Honor could not answer the questions; she heard them, but had no voice
wherewith to speak.

’Raise the gate again,’ said Piper.  ’Sam, are you ready?  Why are you
behind?  We must get on.’

’Honor,’ said Larry in a low voice, ’walk by the side of me.  Hold my
hand.’

’He is better,’ said one of the young men; ’he can speak.  He knows
Honor.’

’Yes, he is better,’ she said, ’but he has his right arm broken, and he
is much shaken and bruised.  Let me walk beside him, I can stay the gate
and ease him as you carry him over the ruts and stones.’  So she walked
at his side with her hand in his.  In a few minutes the party had
arrived at the granite gates of Chimsworthy.

’Stay here,’ ordered Piper.  ’Now, Honor Luxmore, will you go on up the
avenue and tell the old gentleman?  Us’ll come after with Master Larry
in ten minutes.’

’I will go,’ said Honor, disengaging her hand.

’How are you now?’ asked Piper, coming up to the young man.

’Better,’ he said, ’better than ever before.’



                           *CHAPTER XXVIII.*

                            *A FIRST STEP.*


For the next two days and nights Larry was in great pain.  His arm and
collar-bone had been set, but strains are more painful than breakages,
and the young fellow in his fall had managed to bruise and sprain his
muscles as well as fracture his bones.  He could not sleep; he could not
move in bed; every turn, even the slightest, caused him agony.  The
doctor enjoined perfect rest.  Through the two long sleepless nights his
mind was active, and the train of thought that had begun as he was being
carried from Broadbury continued to move in his brain. What different
nights were these to those spent by him on the bench with Honor!  He
considered what she had said to him, and he knew that what she had said
was right.  How careless of his best interests he had been!  How
regardless of his duties!  How neglectful of his proper self-respect!
Of course she was right. His father never had properly managed the farm,
and since his stroke he had paid it less attention than before.  He, the
son and heir, ought to have devoted himself to the work of the farm, and
made that his main object, not to amuse himself.

His father came up to his room several times a day to enquire how he
was.

’There’s Physick coming here,’ said the old man, ’and I want you to use
your hand when he comes.’

’I have only my left.’

’Well, the left must do.  If you can’t sign your name, you can make a
cross and that will suffice.’

’What do you want me to sign, father?’

’The mortgage.  Physick will find the money, and then we shall pay off
Taverner Langford, and have done.’

Larry sighed.  He remembered what Honor had said.  He was helping to
burden, not to relieve, the property.

’Can’t it be helped, father?  I’d rather not, if the money could be
raised any other way.’

’But that is impossible without a sale.’

’Why did Uncle Taverner lend the money?’

’We were behind in a score of things.’

’Is it all gone, father?’

’Gone! of course it is.  Now I’m wanting more, and I must raise double
what Taverner lends me, half to pay him off, and half to meet present
demands.’

’How is this?’

’Bad times.  Things will come round some day.’

’How long have they been bad?’

’Ever since your mother died.  That was a bad day for us.’  The old man
sat rubbing his chin.  ’The next bad day was when I quarrelled with
Taverner, or rather, when Taverner quarrelled with me.  ’Tis a pity.  I
made up his orchard with my new grafts; and a more beautiful lot of
apple-trees are not to be seen—and he for to cut them.  Shameful.’

’What was the quarrel about, father?’

’I’ve told you afore.  A red spider. Taverner tried to sloke (draw) her
away, when she was running straight as a line into my pocket.  But I
reckon he can’t keep you for ever out of Langford.  He may live for ten
or twelve years out of wicked spite, but he is not immortal, and
Langford will come to you in the end.  Then you can clear off the
mortgages.—I reckon I shall be gone then.’

’Don’t say that, father.’

’I know I shall.  When Taverner sloked that spider away he carried off
my health, and I were took with the stroke immediately.  I’ve not been
myself since.’  He continued rubbing his chin.  ’And now comes this
mortgage, and you laid up in bed as you never was before. It all comes
o’ sloking away the spider.’

’Father,’ said Larry earnestly, but timorously: ’I wish you would let me
bring another here.’

’Another what?’

’Red Spider.’

’What do you mean?’

’Honor Luxmore.’

The old man looked puzzled, then gradually an idea of his son’s meaning
crept into his head.

’I thought,’ said he slowly, ’I thought it was t’other maid.’

’No, dear father, I love Honor.  Let me bring her here, let her be nay
wife, and I’m sure she will bring luck to this house.’

Hillary senior continued rubbing his chin. ’Her mayn’t have money,’ he
mused, ’but her’s good up and down the backbone; as a money-spinner is
all redness and naught else, so is Honor all goodness and not a speck of
black in her.’

’It is so indeed, father.’

’I’m better pleased than if it were Kate.’

’I never really thought of Kate.’

’Well, you was sly about it then.  All folks said that Kate had stolen
your fancy. Well now.  Honor mayn’t be a money-bringer, I reckon she’s
got nothing—Oliver be poor as rushy land—but she may spin it.  There’s
no saying.’

’Say yes, father.’

’Her’s a red spider that Taverner won’t try to sloke away,’ chuckled old
Nanspian. Then he continued musing.  He was an altered man of late, not
ready with his thoughts, quick of motion, lively of tongue as before.
He took time to come to a decision, and drifted in his ideas from one
matter to another.  ’Things haven’t gone quite right since Blandina
died, they haven’t—though I don’t allow that to others. I’ve had five
years of wool heamed (laid) up. I said I’d not sell with wool so low,
and it has been sorry down ever since, and now it’s risen a penny and I
tried to sell—the worm is in it and the staple is spoiled, and it won’t
fetch any price.  Then there be the maidens.  They’ve let the thunder
get into the milk and turn it sour, and wasted the Lord knows how much
butter, because they were lazy and wouldn’t leave their beds in time at
five o’clock, and make before the sun is hot.  If you’d a good wife,
her’d mend all that.  And Honor! well, no one has other than a good word
for her. I’m main pleased wi’ your choice, Larry. Yes, I be.’

’Oh, father!  Thank you! thank you!’

’It’s not for me to go into the maidens’ room and rake them out of bed
at half-past three in the mornings.  I put it to you, Larry. Folks would
say it was ondecent.  And if I don’t, the butter ain’t made, the thunder
gets in the pans, and I lose many pounds.  I reckon Honor Luxmore would
do that.  I’ve been racking my brains as you rack cider, how to get over
the difficulty, and it was all dark before me, but now I see daylight at
last.  Honor will rake the maids out o’ their beds, and I needn’t
interfere.  You’ll be quick about it, won’t you, Larry, before the
blazing hot summer weather sets in, with thunder in the air, and spoils
the milk.’

He passed his hand through his grey hair. ’I had a bell put up in their
bedroom, and a wire brought along to mine, and a handle nigh my bed,
that I might ring them up in the mornings early.  It cost me nigh on
thirty shillings did that bell.  The hanger had to come all the way from
Tavistock, and it took him two days to put up, and there were a lot of
cranks to it.  Well, it was just so much money thrown away.  What do y’
think the maidens contrived?  Why, they stuffed an old worsted stocking
into the bell and tied it round the clapper; I might pull the rope as if
I were pealing a triple bob major, and not a sound came out of the bell,
because of the stocking. Well, I wouldn’t go into the maidens’ room and
see what was the matter, and so I sent to Tavistock for the bell-hanger
out again, and he charged me three shillings for himself, and
half-a-crown for his man, and ten shillings for the hire of a trap, and
all he did was to remove the stocking.  Next night the maidens tied up
the clapper with the fellow stocking.  If Honor were here she’d put all
that to rights, wouldn’t she?’

’I’m sure of it, father.’

’You be sharp and get well,’ continued the old man, ’then we’ll have it
all over, and save pounds of butter.’  He stood up.  ’I mustn’t shake
hands wi’ you, Larry, but I’m main pleased.  Honor’s good through and
through as a money-spinner is scarlet.’

Larry was fain to smile, in spite of his pain.  This was like his
father.  The old man went on vehemently, hotly for some new fancy, and
in a few weeks tired of it, and did nothing more about it.

Next day Physick the lawyer came, and brought the mortgage and the
money.  The signatures were appended, a cross for Larry, and the money
received.

’Now,’ said the old man, ’I’d like you, Mr. Physick, to go over to
Langford and pay the sum I owe to my brother-in-law.  I can’t go myself.
He’s spoken that insolent to me, and that too before the whole of
Coryndon’s Charity, that I can never set foot over his drexil
(threshold) again.  So I’d wish you to go for me, and bring me my note
of hand back all square.’

’I will go as well,’ said Larry, who was up, able to walk about, but
without his jacket, because of his bandaged bones and arm strapped back.

’You!’ exclaimed his father.  ’Why should you go?’

’I wish it,’ answered the lad.  ’I’ll tell you the reason after.’

’You’d better not go out yet.’

’Why not?  Mr. Physick will drive me there and back in his gig.  I shall
not be shaken.  The gig has springs.’

’I reckon there’s a certain cottage the rogue will want to get out at on
the way. Don’t let him, Mr. Physick, or he won’t be home for hours.’

Although the gig had springs Larry suffered in it, and was glad to
descend with Mr. Physick at Langford.

Taverner Langford had returned home but an hour before; he had been to
the fair at Holsworthy, and thence had gone into Bideford about a
contract for young bullocks.  He had just finished his dinner of bread
and cheese, washed down with water, when Mrs. Veale opened the parlour
door, and without a word showed in Mr. Physick and Larry.

Langford greeted the lawyer with a nod. ’Please to take a chair.’  He
stared at Hillary with surprise, and said nothing to him.

’We’ve come to pay you the loan you called in,’ said Physick.

’Right,’ answered Taverner, ’I was expecting the money, though
why?—grapes of thorns and figs of thistles is against nature as well as
Scripture.’  Then he eyed his nephew furtively. He saw that he was
looking pale and worn, that his arm was bandaged, and he was without a
jacket.  He saw that the lad moved stiffly when he walked.  ’You may sit
down,’ he said gruffly.  Larry took the back of an armchair with his
left hand and drew it to him, then slowly let himself down into it. All
his movements, and the twitching of the muscles in his face, showed he
was in pain. His uncle watched him and saw this, but he asked no
questions.

When the money had been counted, and the release handed over, and
Physick had indulged in some desultory talk, and disparagement of water,
which he saw that Taverner was drinking, he rose to leave.  Langford was
not in a conversationable mood, his dark brows were knit.

Then Larry stood up, and came towards the table, against which he stayed
himself with his hand.

’I beg your pardon, Uncle Taverner,’ he said in a voice somewhat
tremulous, whilst colour came into and spotted his brow.  ’I came here,
though I thought you would not care to see me.’

’I don’t mind when I see your back,’ interrupted Langford surlily, ’your
father insulted me grossly.’

’I have come, Uncle Taverner——’

’Ah!  I suppose your father has sent you. He wants to patch up the
quarrel; you may go back and tell him it is too late.  I won’t make it
up.  It is of no use.  I have nothing to lose by estrangement.  You and
he are the losers, and that to a heavy amount, as you shall learn some
day.’

’I have not come with any message from my father.’

’You’ve come for yourself, have you? You think that Langford would be a
fine farm for the growth of wild oats?  You shan’t try it.’

’I came here of my own accord,’ said the young man.  ’My father knows
nothing of my purpose.  I have come to tell you that I am very sorry for
what I did,—what I did, I dare say you have not heard, as you have been
away.  You shall hear from me.’

’What have you done?  Some foolery, I warrant.’

’Yes, uncle, something worse than foolery. The night you were away, and
when we did not know but you were at Langford, there was a hare hunt
before your doors.’

’What!’ almost screamed the old man.

Physick was unable to restrain a laugh.

’There was a hare hunt, and I was in it. I took a principal part.  I was
thrown from my horse, and picked up unconscious, and the thing came to
an end, it went no further.  I have been badly hurt.  I might have been
killed.’

’And pray how came that about?’ asked the old man quivering with anger.
’A light from heaven—struck you to the ground, like Saul when breathing
out threatenings and slaughters against the Elect?  And now you’re a
converted character, eh? and so think I’ll take you back into favour,
and let you have Langford?’

’No, uncle.  I do not know quite what it was threw me down.  Don’t think
me mad if I say it—but it seemed to me to be old Wellon rising from the
cairn and rushing down on me, to strike me to the earth.’

Langford looked at him with amazement.

’I tell you just what happened.  I was riding in the hunt—more shame to
me—and I had the horn to my lips, and was just by the Gibbet Hill, when
my piebald stood bolt still, and shivered with fear, and all at once
there came a yellow light out of the barrow, and a great black figure
with flapping clothes about it and I remember no more.’

Langford was like the rest of his class, full of belief in the
supernatural.  Larry spoke with such earnestness of tone, his face so
fully expressed his conviction, that the old man was awed.

’I have broken my right arm and collarbone. I have suffered a great
deal, I have not slept for three nights, and this is the first day I
have been out of my bedroom.  Uncle Taverner, I made up my mind the very
first night, that I would come to you directly I was able, and tell you
that I am ashamed of myself. When the fellows were carrying me away on a
gate, and I woke up—then I knew I had done wrong.  I was warned
beforehand twice to have nothing to do with the hunt.  I heard those who
were carrying me say how bad I behaved in taking part in the game
against my own uncle.  There—uncle!  I’m very sorry, and I hope I’ll
never be such a fool and so wicked again.’

Taverner’s lips quivered, whether from suppressed rage, or from a rising
better emotion, neither Physick nor Larry knew, for they left the room,
whilst the old man stared after them with his dark brows contracted over
his keen, twinkling eyes, and he sat motionless, and without speaking.

Larry was some little while getting into the gig.  Mrs. Veale stood on
the doorsteps watching him.  All at once they heard a cry from the
inside of the house—a cry, whether of terror, or rage, or pain, could
not be told.

’What is it?’ asked Physick.  ’What’s the matter?’

’It’s master,’ said Mrs. Veale; ’something has disagreed with him, I
reckon.’



                            *CHAPTER XXIX.*

                               *A BLOW.*


Honor felt like one who has looked into the lightning.  A glimpse of
surpassing light, a vision into a heaven of fire, was succeeded by
darkness and numbness of mind.

She was unable for some while to recover her mental and moral balance.
The joy that had wrapped her soul as in flame had left a pain of fire.
What had she done?  What would come of this?  Must she go on or could
she step back?  The moment when Larry’s lips had met her cheek, and his
words of love had rushed in at her ear and boiled through her veins, had
been one in which her self-control had deserted her.

She thought over and over what had taken place.  She felt his grasp of
her hand, his arm about her neck, the pressure of his lips.  What must
follow on this?  She had not withdrawn herself from him at his touch.
She could not have done so.  The power of resistance had left her.  But
now, as her clear mind arranged duties and weighed them against passion,
she was doubtful what to do.  It was strange for her to feel need of
advice, to be forced to ask another what to do, yet now she felt that
she could not judge for herself; but she also knew of no one who could
advise her.  There was nothing for her but to wait.  Her simple faith
raised her soul to God, and she prayed for a right judgment.  She would
leave the future in His hands: events must decide her course for her.
Of one thing she was clear in her view: her duty to her father and
brothers and sisters—she must not desert them.  Whether she must wholly
surrender her happiness for them, or whether she could combine her duty
with her inclination, she could not tell; that Larry and the future must
decide.

She waited in patience.  She knew that he would come to her as soon as
he could.  She heard daily from Chimsworthy how he was. Little Joe ran
up and inquired.

She saw him drive by with Mr. Physick. Whither was he going?  To
Okehampton?  It was not the shortest road.  As he passed the cottage his
face was turned towards it, and she saw his eyes looking for her, but
the gig was not arrested.  She was in the house, and had but a glimpse
of him through the open door. Whether he had seen her or not she could
not tell.

Presently he returned.  He must have been to Langford.  She stood in the
doorway, and their eyes met.  He did not stay the horse; he could not.
He sat beside the lawyer, who was driving, and the broken right arm was
near the reins.  Physick was between him and Honor; but Larry turned his
head and looked at her as the trap went by.  How pale and thin he
seemed!  What marks of suffering were on his face!  The tears of pity
came into Honor’s eyes.

’He will come and see me soon,’ she said to herself.  ’May I have my
strength to do what is right.’  Then she seated herself at her work.

Kate was in the house, lively as a finch. Honor was always reserved: she
was now more silent than usual.  Kate’s humour was unusually lively.
Her tongue moved as nimbly as her feet and fingers, her conversation
sparkled, and her tones danced like her eyes.  When she was not talking
she was singing.  She made her jokes and laughed over them herself, as
Honor was in no laughing mood.

Oddly enough, Sam Voaden was daily in the lane.  He came round by the
cottage from Swaddledown to ask at Chimsworthy after Larry; he made two
miles out of a journey that need not have been three-quarters across the
fields.  When Sam went by he whistled very loud, and then Kate found
that the pitcher was empty and needed replenishing at the well; on such
occasions, moreover, the pitcher took a long time filling.  Kate made no
secret of her heart’s affairs to her sister.  It was in her nature to
talk, and a girl in love likes nothing better, when not with her lover,
than to talk about him.

Honor put away her needlework and got the supper-table ready, and whilst
she was putting the cold pasty on the table her father walked in.  He
was going next day to Tavistock, and had been round for commissions.

He was out of spirits, did not say much, wiped his face with his sleeve,
and complained of the weather—it was sultry, he was tired. Some of his
customers had been exacting and had worried him.  ’The pasty is heavy;
it goes against me,’ he grumbled.  ’All well for young appetites.’

’Shall I do you a bit of bacon, father?’ asked Honor.

’Rich that,’ he said discontentedly.  ’I’m fanciful in my eating.  I
can’t help it; I’m too poor to have what would suit me.  It is in my
constitution.  Those who have the constitutions of gentlefolk want the
food of gentlefolk.’  He took a little piece of pasty, but pushed it
away.  ’It makes my throat rise; look at that great hunch of suet in it,
like a horse-tooth (quartz spar) in granite.  I can’t eat anything; you
may clear away.’

Actually Oliver Luxmore had eaten supper at one of the farms; that was
why he had now no appetite; but he made occasion of his having no relish
for his food to grumble and make Honor uncomfortable.

’The fog was a hunting this morning, so we’ve had a fine day for going
nowhere, and it’s gone a fishing this evening, to let me understand it
will rain to-morrow when I go into Tavistock.  It is always so.  Bain on
market days to spoil my custom and run away with profits.’

In explanation of his words, it is necessary to say that, when the white
fog mounts the hills it is said to go hunting, when it lies along the
rivers it is said to be fishing, and these conditions of fog are weather
indications.

’I don’t know what you call that,’ said Oliver, pointing with his fork
to a piece of meat in the pasty.  ’It looks to me as if it were a goat
caterpillar got in.  I suppose you found it crawling across the lane
from one of the willow trees, and, because we’re poor and can’t afford
meat, stuck it in.’

’Father, it is wholesome; it is nothing but a bit of pig-crackling.  You
know we were given a piece of young pork by Mrs. Voaden, the other day.’

Then Oliver sprang to his feet, and Honor started back in surprise.

Without a word of salutation, with white face, and glaring eyes, with
hand extended and shaking, Taverner Langford came in at the door.

’There! there!’ he said, in a voice raised almost to a scream.  ’This is
what comes of doing a favour.  Now I am punished.’

’What is the matter, Mr. Langford?’ asked the carrier deferentially.

’What is the matter?  Everything is the matter,’ he cried.  He turned to
Honor: ’It is your doing, yours, yours.’

’What have I done?’ she asked, with composure.

’You asked me to take him in; the scoundrel, the rogue.’

’You cannot mean my brother Charles,’ said Honor, with dignity; ’or you
would not speak thus under our roof to his father and sisters.’

’Oh no, of course not, you don’t like to hear it; but that is what he
is.’

’What has Charles done?’ asked Oliver in alarm.

’Robbed me!’ shrieked Taverner, with his whole body quivering, and with
vehement action of his hands.  ’Robbed me, and run away with my money.’

He gasped for breath, his eyes glared, the sweat ran off his brow.  He
was without his hat, he had run bareheaded from Langford, and his
grizzled hair was disordered.

’He has robbed me of nigh on a thousand pounds, and he has gone away
with the money. He took occasion of my being from home; he has taken
all—all—all I had laid by.  I thought no one knew where was my bank. He
must have watched me; he found out; he has taken the box and all its
contents.’

’Charles could not, would not, do such a thing,’ said Honor, with
heaving bosom; she was more angry at the charge than alarmed.

’Could not! would not!  Where is he now?’

’I do not know.  We have not seen him for several days.’

’He has not been seen at Langford either.  As soon as I was off to
Holsworthy he bolted.  He knew he would have three days clear, perhaps
more, for getting away with the money.’

’It is impossible,’ said Honor.  ’Charles may be idle, but he is not
wicked.’

’He has robbed me,’ repeated Taverner vehemently.  ’Do you want proof?
The five pound note.’

Honor shuddered; she had forgotten that.

’Do you remember, Luxmore, you paid me a note of the Exeter and Plymouth
Bank?  Do you remember that I took the number?’

Oliver looked helplessly about the room, from Langford to Honor and
Kate.

’I ask you, whence you got that note? Come, answer me that?  You,
Luxmore, who gave you that note?’

’Charles,’ moaned the carrier, and covered his face with his hands, as
he threw himself into a chair.

’I thought as much.  Let me tell you that that note had been abstracted
from my box. I had the list of all the notes in it, but I did not go
over them till I found that I had been robbed.  Here is the note.  I did
not restore it to the box.  I kept it in iny pocket-book. I can swear—I
have my entries to prove it—that it had been stolen from me.  When I
found Charles was gone, I thought it must have been he who had robbed
me.  When I saw the number of the note agreed with one I had put into
the box a month ago, then I knew it must be he.  You brought me the
note, and he is your son.’

Kate burst into tears and wrung her hands.

Honor saw the faces of the children frightened, inclined for tears; she
sent them all upstairs to their bedrooms.

Oliver sat at the table with his forehead in his hands, and his fingers
in his hair.

None spoke.  Langford looked at the carrier, then at Honor.  Kate threw
herself into the chair by the window and wept aloud. Honor stood in the
middle of the room, with her head bent; she was deadly pale, she dared
not raise her eyes.

’What will you do?’ she asked in a low tone.

’Do!’ exclaimed Taverner; ’Oh, that is soon answered.  I send at once to
Tavistock, Launceston, and Okehampton, and communicate with the proper
authorities and have him arrested.  There are magistrates, and
constables, and laws, and prisons in England, for the detention and
chastisement of thieves and burglars.’

Oliver moaned.  ’I cannot bear the disgrace. I shall drown myself.’

’What will that avail?’ sneered Langford. ’Will it save my thousand
pounds?  Will it save Charles from transportation?  It is a pity that
there is no more hanging for robbery, or Wellon’s mound would be handy,
and the old gibbet beam in my barn would serve once more.’

The words were cruel.  Honor’s teeth clenched and her hands closed
convulsively.

Then Oliver Luxmore withdrew his hands from his face, dragged himself
towards Langford, and threw himself on the ground at his feet.

’Have pity on him, on me, on us all.  The shame will kill us, brand us.
It will kill me, it will stain my name, my children, for ever.’

’Get up,’ said Langford, roughly.  ’I’m not to be moved by men’s tears.’

But Oliver was deaf; his great absorbing agony momentarily gave dignity
to his feeble pitiful character, to him even crouching on the slate
floor.

’Spare us the dishonour,’ he pleaded.  ’I cannot bear it; this one thing
I cannot. Luxmore—thief—convict!’  He passed his hand over his brow and
raised his eyes; they were blank.  ’Luxmore, of Coombe Park—Luxmore!
Take care!’ his voice became shrill. ’Dishonour I cannot bear.  Take
care lest you drive me desperate.  Rather let us all die, I, Honor,
Kate, and the little ones, and end the name, than that it should live on
stained.’  He tried to rise, but his knees shook and gave way under him.

’You may sell all I have.  Take the van, everything.  We cannot find you
a thousand pounds.  We will all work as slaves—only—spare us the
dishonour! spare us this!’

Kate came up and cast herself at her father’s side and raised her
streaming eyes.

’Well,’ said Taverner, turning to Honor, ’do you alone not join?  Are
you too proud?’

’Mr. Langford,’ she answered, with emotion, ’you are too hard.  I pray
to God, who is merciful.’

’You are proud!  You are proud!’ he said, scowling.  ’You, Oliver
Luxmore! you, Kate! do not kneel to me.  Go, turn to her.  The fate of
Charles, the honour of your name, your happiness, that of your children,
rest with her—with her!’

He looked at her.

She did not speak; she understood his meaning.  A pang as of a sword
went through her soul.  She raised her clenched hands and put them to
her mouth, and pressed the knuckles against her teeth.  In the agony of
that moment she was near screaming.

’There!’ said Langford, pointing to her. ’Look how haughty she is.  But
she must bend. Entreat her, or command her, as you will. With her the
issue lies.  I will wait till to-morrow at ten, and take no steps for
the capture of Charles.  If before that hour I have yes, it is well.  I
pay a thousand pounds for that yes.  I shall be content.  If not, then—’
he did not finish the sentence; he went out at the door.

Then only did Honor give way.  She saw as it were a cloud of blue smoke
rising round her.  She held out her hands, grasping, but catching
nothing, and fell on the floor insensible.



                             *CHAPTER XXX.*

                                 *YES!*


Honor could not rest in her bed that night. Oliver Luxmore in the
adjoining room groaned and sighed, he was sleepless.  Kate, who shared
her bed, was awake and tossed from side to side.  Poor Kate knew that
the disgrace would separate her from Sam.  She was too generous to urge
her sister to make the costly sacrifice. Oliver felt that words would be
unavailing, the matter must be left to Honor; his best advocate was in
her own conscience.  The resolution one way or the other must be come to
by Honor unresisted, unswayed.  She lay still in her bed, but Kate knew
she did not sleep. She lay with her hands clasped as in prayer on her
heaving bosom.  Her eyes were on the little latticed window, and on a
moth dancing dreamily up and down the panes, a large black moth that
made the little diamonds of glass click at the stroke of its wings.  Her
hair over her brow was curled with the heat of her brain, the light
short hair that would not be brushed back and lie with the copper-gold
strands.  Great drops rolled off her forehead upon the pillow.
Afterwards, Kate felt that the cover was wet, and thought it was with
Honor’s tears, but she was not crying.  Her eyes were dry and burning,
but the moisture poured off her brow.  Her feet were like ice. She might
have been dead, she lay so still. Kate hardly heard her breathe.  She
held her breath and listened once, as she feared Honor was in a swoon.
She did not speak to her sister.  An indefinable consciousness that
Honor must not be disturbed, must be left alone, restrained her.  Once
she stole her hand under the bedclothes round her sister, and laid it on
her heart.  Then she knew for certain what a raging storm was awake in
that still, hardly breathing form.

That touch, unattended by word, was more than Honor could bear.  She
said nothing, but stole from bed, and put on some of her clothes. Kate
watched her through her half-closed lids, and dared not speak or
otherwise interfere. Honor went softly, barefooted down the stairs, that
creaked beneath her tread.  Her father heard the step.  He knew whose it
was.  He also would not interfere.  It was best for all—for Kate, for
Charles, for himself, for Joe, and Pattie, and Willie, and Martha, and
Charity, and little Temperance—that Honor should be wholly undisturbed.

The girl unfastened the back door, took up the little bench, cast a
potato-sack over her head, and went forth, shutting the door gently
behind her.

She carried the seat under the hedge in the paddock, where she had
watched with Larry, and placed herself on it, then rested her elbow on
her knee, and her head in her hand.  Her feet were bare, dipped in the
dewy grass; a seeded dandelion, stirred by them, shed its ripe down over
them.  She thrust the sack from her head.  She could not endure the
weight and the heat, and laid it across her shoulders; from them it
slipped unheeded.  Her arms were bare from the elbow.  The cold night
wind stroked the arm that stayed up her scorched brain.  She had prayed
that God would guide her, and the guidance had led into a way of
sorrows.  ’It is expedient that one man should die for the people,’
those words of the High Priest recurred to Honor, and she thought how
that He to whom they referred had accepted the decision.  She would have
died—died!  O how willingly, how eagerly!—for the dear ones under the
thatched roof; she would have leaped into fire, not for all, but for any
one of them, for little Temperance, for dear Charity, for Martha, for
Willie, for darling Pattie, for good, true Joe, for Kate, for her father
of course—yes, even for Charles—but this that was demanded of her was
worse than a brief spasm of pain in fire; it was a lifelong martyrdom, a
sacrifice infinitely more dreadful than of life.  The thrushes were
singing.  There was no night in the midst of June, and the birds did
without sleep, or slept in the glare of midday.  The only night was
within the girl’s soul.  There was no singing or piping there, but the
groaning of a crushed spirit.

She started.  She was touched.  She put out her hand and sighed.  The
horse that Langford had let them have was in the paddock; it had become
much attached to Honor, and the beast had come over to her, unperceived,
and was resting his head on her shoulder and rubbing it against her ear
and cheek.  She stroked the nose of the beast with her left hand without
altering her position, mechanically, and without much diversion of her
thoughts.  When poor Diamond was dying in the gravel pit, Honor had sat
by him and caressed him; now Diamond’s successor had come to comfort
Honor, as best he could, when her girlhood was dying in anguish, passing
into a womanhood of sorrow.

Chink! chink! chink! a finch was perched on the topmost twig of an alder
that swayed under its light weight in the wind, repeating its monotonous
cry, chink! chink! chink!

The cold about Honor’s feet became stronger, the dew looked whiter, as
if it were passing into frost, the breath of the horse was as steam.
High, far aloft, in the dusky sky some large bird was winging its way
from sea to sea, from the Atlantic boisterous barren coast about Bude,
to the summer, luxuriant bays of the Channel.  What bird it was Honor
could not tell.  She would not have seen it but that the winking of its
wings as they caught the light from the north attracted her attention.
Strange as it may seem, though engrossed in her own sorrows, she watched
the flap of the wings till they passed beyond range of vision.

Not a cloud was in the sky.  The stars were but dimly seen in the
silvery haze of summer twilight.  One glowworm in the hedge opposite her
shone brighter than any star, for it shone out of darkness deeper than
the depths of heaven.

One long leaf near Honor was as if it had been varnished, wet with dew,
and as the dew gathered on it, it stooped and the moisture ran to the
lanceate end, bowing it further, and forming a clear drop; then the drop
fell, and the leaf with a dancing rebound recovered its first position.
Honor’s eye rested on the leaf; as the dew formed on it, and bent it
down, so were tears forming on her soul and bowing it. The leaf shook
off the drop; would her spirit ever recover?

What wondrous sounds are heard at night! How mysterious, how
undiscoverable in origin! It seemed to Honor less still in the meadow,
under the thorn hedge, than in the cottage. Insect life was stirring all
about; the spiders were spinning, moths flitting, leaves rustling, birds
piping, the wind playing among the thorns; the field mice were running,
and the night birds watching for them on wing.

All was cool, all but Honor’s head.  Whatever sounds were heard were
pleasant, whatever movement was soothing.  Through all the intricate
life that stirred there ran a breath of peace—only not over the heaving
soul of Honor.

Poor Larry!  Honor’s thoughts were less of herself than of others.  She
was sure to the ground of her heart that he loved her.  She knew,
without riddling out the why and how, that she could have made him happy
and good at once.  There was sterling gold in him; the fire would purge
away the dross.  As in the cocoon there is an outer shell of worthless
web which must be torn away before the golden thread is discovered, so
was it with him; the outer husk of vanity and idleness and
inconsiderateness was coming away, and now all that was needed was a
tender hand to find and take hold of the end of the thread and spin off
the precious fibre.  Another hand, rough and heedless, might break and
confuse and ruin it.

But, though she knew she could have made Larry’s life right and orderly,
yet she would not undertake to do so unless she saw the other lives
committed to her trust cared for and safe.

Above all, high as the highest star, in her pure soul shone the duty
imposed on her by her mother.  If she could not combine her duty to the
dear ones under the brown thatch with the charge of Larry’s destiny, she
would not undertake the latter.

And now, most horrible gall to her womanly mind, came the knowledge that
she—she whom Larry loved and looked up to—she, she who loved the
careless lad, even she must step in between him and his uncle’s
property, that she was chosen by old Langford as the weapon of his
revenge on the Nanspians.

The Langford estate must descend to Larry should his uncle die
childless, and she——

Her breath came in a gasp.  She tore up the cold dockleaves and pressed
them to her brow to cool the burning there, to take the sting out of her
nettled brain.

There was no rest for Honor anywhere, in the meadow or in her bed—no
rest for her evermore.

She rose and went back to the house, but when she reached the door, true
to her regular habits, remembered that she had left the sack and the
bench in the field, and went back, fetched them, and put each in its
proper place. Nothing was ever left littering about by Honor.  If she
had been dying and had seen a chip on the floor, she would have striven
to rise and remove it.

In the morning the carrier and his two eldest daughters looked haggard
and pale.

The children seemed aware of trouble.  Joe was attentive and helped to
quiet and amuse the youngest, and watched his father, but especially
Honor, to read what was menaced in their faces.  He had not been at home
when Langford came, and his sister Pattie could give him but the vaguest
idea of what had occurred. All she knew was that it was a trouble
connected with Charles, who had run away.  The carrier had to be ready
early to start for Tavistock market.  Honor and Kate prepared breakfast
for him and the children, without a word passing between them on what
was uppermost in their minds.  As they were eating, the Ashbury postboy
passed down the lane and called at the steps.

The carrier went out.

’A letter for you.’

Oliver took and paid for it, then brought it in and opened it slowly
with shaking fingers. He, Honor, Kate knew that it must have reference
to their trouble.  It was in the handwriting of Charles; it bore the
Plymouth postmark.  The carrier spread it on his plate; he did not read
it aloud because Joe and the other children were present; but Honor and
Kate stood behind him and read over his shoulder without uttering a
word.

This was the letter:—

’Dear Father,—I take my pen in hand, hopping this finds you has it leafs
me, with a bad running at the noaz, and a shockin corf, gripes orful in
my innerds, and hakes all over me.  I dersay you’ve eard what I gone and
done, don’t judge me harshly, I couldn’t do otherwise, and I’m not so
bad to blame as you may suppose.  I didn’t intend delibberat to do ’t,
but I did it off-hand so to speke.  Wot’s dun can’t be undun.  It’s no
use crying over spilt milk.  Wot can’t be kured must be undured. That’s
wot Mrs. Veale would say, and her’s a bad un.  I ketched a cold with
getting wet running away, but I shall be all rite soon, please God when
I’m away on the i seez.  I’m goin to Ameri’kay which is the place to
which the flour of the British aristokracy go when its ockerd or
embarassing at ome.  As it is ockerd and embarassing to me, I’m orf, and
I hope with the Almighty’s aid to do well in the new whirld, wheer I
intend to found a new Coom Park, to which I shall invite you all to
come, when I can drive you about in a carridge and pare.  I want to know
how it is with Larry, whether he be alive or dead.  I came away in such
aste I couldn’t stay to know, but I’m very desiring to know.  Don’t rite
to me by my proper name, there may be disagreeables in my wereabout
being knone, so direct to Mr. Charles, poast resteny, Plymouth.—From
your loving sun,

’CHARLES LUXMORE.’
       of Coom Park, Esquire.

P.S.—Doan’t say nothink to nobody of were I be, wotever you do, and kiss
the kids for me. Poast anser at Tavistock or Lanson.


Oliver Luxmore refolded the letter, and put it away in his pocket
without a word.  Neither Honor nor Kate spoke or looked at each other.
It was too clear to all that Charles was guilty. The last doubt of his
guilt disappeared.

Oliver went about the horse and van. Honor did not fail to observe the
change effected in him by one night.  He seemed older by ten years—to
have tumbled down the decline of life, and been shaken by the fall. His
clothes did not appear to fit him, his walk was unsteady, his hand
shook, his eye wandered, his hair had a greyer tinge, and was lank and
moist.  Joe ran to help in the harnessing of the horse.  His father was
trying to force on the collar without turning it.  He put on the saddle
wrong, and fastened the wrong buckles.  The boy corrected his father’s
errors.  Then the man brought the van into the lane, and stood with his
hand to his forehead.

’I’ve forgotten ’em all,’ he said.  ’Whatever were the commissions I
don’t know.’  The whip was shaking in his hand as a withy by a
waterbrook.  ’I shouldn’t wonder if I never came back,’ he said, then
looked up the steps at Honor.  It was the first time he had met her eye
since Taverner Langford had left the house.  ’I shan’t know what is to
be till I come home,’ he muttered.  ’The cuckoo-clock has just called
seven, and it is three hours to ten.  I think my heart will die within
me at Tavistock.  I shan’t be home till night. However I shall bear it
and remember my commissions I do not know.  Joe shall come with me.  I
can’t think.  I can’t drive.  I can do nothing.’

Then Honor came down the steps with her scarlet cloak about her
shoulders, and her red stockings on her feet, slowly, looking deadly
pale, and with dark rings about her eyes.

’Where are you going?’ asked the carrier, ’not coming with me to
Tavistock?’

She shook her head.

’Are you—are you going to—to Langford?’ he asked.  ’To say what?’—he
held his breath.

’Yes!’



                            *CHAPTER XXXI.*

                          *THE NEW MISTRESS.*


’Halloo! where be you off to, Red Spider?’ asked Farmer Nanspian, who
was on Broadbury, when he saw Honor Luxmore in her scarlet cloak coming
over the down.  ’Stay, stay!’ he said, and put his hand to her chin to
raise her face.  ’You never come Chimsworthy road—leastways, you haven’t
yet.—Where be you going to now?’

’To Langford, sir.’

’To Langford, eh?’ his face clouded.  ’I didn’t think you was on good
terms with Mr. Langford.  Take care—take care!  I won’t have he sloke
away this Red Spider from Chimsworthy.’  Then he nodded, smiled, and
went on.  He little knew, he had no suspicion, that what he hinted at
was really menaced.

Honor went on to the old, lonely house, and asked to speak to Mr.
Langford.  She was shown into his parlour.  Taverner was about the farm.
She had some minutes to wait, and nerve herself for the interview,
before he arrived.

’Well,’ said he when he came in, ’you are in good time.  You have
brought me the answer.’

’Yes,’ she replied, looking down.

’Do I take that Yes as a reply to this question or to that I made
yesterday?’

’To both.’

’There’s not another woman in all England to whom I’d have behaved as I
have to you.’

’I hope not, sir!’

’I mean,’ said Langford, knitting his brows, and reddening, ’I mean, I
would not have foregone a thousand pounds for any other.  I would not
have spared the man who had robbed me for any other woman’s sake.’

’I have come here,’ she said, ’myself, instead of sending a message,
because I wished to speak with you in private.’

’There is no one here to overhear you. I have stopped up the keyhole;
Mrs. Veale listened, she can catch nothing now.’

’Mr. Langford, I was told by my father that you had promised to do
something for my brother and sisters.’

’Oh, do not be afraid—I will do something for them.’

’I want you to grant me one request, the only one I will ever make of
you.  Promise me some small yearly sum assured to my father, I do not
ask for much.  When I am in the house, I can manage, but it is hard work
for me to do so.  When I am gone, Kate will find it hard, and she may
not remain long there; she is a pretty girl, and has her admirers, she
is sure to marry soon—then what will become of my father and the little
ones?  I do not ask you to take them in here.  That would not be
reasonable—except so far as they can work for you, and be of use to
you—Joe will be a valuable servant, and Pattie is growing up to be neat
and active and thoughtful.’

’How many more?’ asked Langford.

’That is all,’ replied Honor quietly.  ’If I ask you to do anything for
these two it is only because they will be worth more than you will pay
them.  But I ask for my father.  It will be a loss to him, my leaving
the house.  He will not be happy.  Kate is very good, but she does not
understand thrift, and she is light-hearted.  Promise me a small sum
every year for my father and the little ones to relieve them from the
pinch of poverty, and to give them ease and happiness.’

’How many have you?’

’There are Joe, and Pattie, Willie, Martha, Charity, and Temperance.  If
I might bring Temperance with me I should be very thankful; she is but
three, and will miss me.’

’In the Proverbs of Solomon we are told that the horseleech hath three
daughters, which cry Give, give, give!  Here are more, some seven, all
wanting to suck blood.  If I marry you, I don’t marry the family.’

Honor was silent, for a moment, recovering herself; his rudeness hurt
her, angered her.

’I make a request.  I will ask nothing more.’

She looked up at him, and rested her eyes on his face.  He had been
observing her; how pale she was—how worn; and it annoyed him: it seemed
to him that it had cost her much to resolve to take him; and this was
not flattering to his pride.

’I cannot grant it,’ he said.  ’It is not reasonable.  I am not going to
be eaten out of house and home by a parcel of ravenous schoolchildren.
I want you, I do not want all your tail of brothers and sisters, and,
worst of all, your helpless father.  I know very well what will happen.
I shall be thrown to them like an old horse to Squire Impey’s pack—to
have my flesh torn off, and my bones even crunched up.  I cut this away
in the beginning; I will not have it.’

’I ask only for a small sum of money for my father.  The van barely
sustains him.  The family is so large.  I will not bring any of the
children here, except little Temperance, who is very, very dear to my
heart.’

’No, I will have none of them.’

’I may not have Temperance?’

’No, I said, none of them.  Give an inch, and an ell is taken.  Put in
the little finger and the fist follows.’

’Then you will grant me an allowance for my father?’

He laughed.  ’A thousand pounds is what you have cost me.  When that
thousand pounds is made up, or repaid, then we will talk about an
allowance.  Not till then—no, no!  I may pay too dear for my bargain.  A
thousand pounds is ample.’

’That is your last word?’

’My last.’

Then Honor, looking steadily at him, said: ’Mr. Langford, it is true
that you lose money by me; but I lose what is infinitely more precious
by you.  I lose my whole life’s happiness.  When my mother was dying, I
promised her to be a mother to her darlings.  Now I am put in this
terrible position, that, to save them from a great disgrace and an
indelible stain, I must leave them.  I have spent the whole night
thinking out what was right for me to do.  If I remain with them, it is
with a shame over our whole family.  If I go, I save them from that, but
they lose my care.  One way or other there is something gone.  It cannot
be other.  I have made my choice.  I will come to you; but I have
strings from my heart to little Temperance, and Charity, and Martha, and
Willie, and Pattie, and Joe, and Kate, and father.  If they are unhappy,
uncomfortable, I shall suffer in my soul.  If ill comes to them, I shall
be in pain.  If the little ones grow up neglected, untidy, untruthful,
my heart and my head will ache night and day.  If my father is uncared
for, the distress of knowing it will be on me ever.  I shall be drawn by
a hundred nerves to my own dear ones, and not be able to do anything for
them.  You cannot understand me.  You must believe me when I say that
the loss to me is ten thousand times greater than the loss of a thousand
pounds to you. My happiness is in the well-being and well-bringing up of
my brothers and sisters.  You take all that away from me.  Did you ever
hear the tale of the widower who married again, and his new wife
neglected the children by the dead wife?—One night the father came to
the nursery door, and saw the dead woman rocking and soothing the babes.
She had come from her grave.  The crying had drawn her. She could not
sleep because they called her. I do not know that I can bear it, to be
separated from my brothers and sisters—I cannot say—if they suffered or
were neglected—I fancy nothing could withhold me from going to them.’

Taverner remained silent: her eyes seemed to burn their way into him.
She shifted her position from one foot to the other; and went on, in an
earnest tone, with a vibration in it from the strength of her emotion:
’I am bound to tell you all.  If you are to be my husband, you must know
everything.  I cannot love you. What love I have that is not taken up by
Temperance, and Charity, and Martha, and Willie, and Pattie, and Joe,
and Kate, and father, and——’ still looking frankly, earnestly at him,
’yes, and by Charles, I have given elsewhere.  I cannot help it.  It has
been taken from me in a whirlwind of fire, as Elijah was caught up into
heaven; it is gone from me; I cannot call it down again.  If you insist
on knowing to whom I gave it, I will tell you, but not now, not
yet—afterwards.  To show you, Mr. Langford, how I love my home, I had
made up my mind to give him up, to throw away all that beautiful
happiness, to forget it as one forgets a dream, because I would not be
parted from my dear ones.  I was resolved to give him up whom I love for
them, and now I am required to give them up for you whom I love not.’
She breathed heavily, her labouring heart beat.  She drew the red cloak
about her, lest the heaving bosom and bounding heart should be noticed.
Langford saw the long drops run down her brow, but there were no tears
in her eyes.

’You will never love me?’ he asked.

’I cannot say; it depends how you treat my dear ones.’

She took a long breath.

’There is one reason why my consent costs me more when given to you than
to another; but I cannot tell you that now.  I will tell you later.’

She meant that by marrying him she was widening the breach between the
uncle and nephew—that she was marrying the former for the express
purpose of depriving the latter of his inheritance.  She could not tell
Langford this now.

’I will do my duty by you to the best of my lights.  But I shall have
one duty tying me here, and seven drawing me to the little cottage in
the lane, and I feel—I feel that I shall be torn to pieces.’

Taverner Langford stood up and paced the room with his arms folded
behind his back. His head was bowed and his cheeks pale.  The girl said
no more.  She again shifted her feet, and rested both hands, under her
cloak, on the table.  Langford looked round at her; her head was bent,
her yellow-brown hair was tied in a knot behind.  As her head was
stooping, the back of her neck showed above the red cloak.  It was as
though she bent before the executioner’s axe.  He turned away.

’Sit down,’ he said.  ’Why have you been standing?  You look ill.  What
has ailed you?’

’In body nothing,’ she answered.

’Who is it?’ he asked surlily, looking out of the window, and passing
his own fingers over his face.

She slightly raised her head and eyes questioningly.

’I mean,’ he said, without turning to see her, but understanding by her
silence that she asked an explanation—’I allude to what you were saying
just now.  Who is it whom you fancy?’

’If you insist, I will tell.  If you have any pity you will spare me.
In time—before the day, you shall know.’

He passed his hand over his face again.

’This is a pleasant prospect,’ he said, but did not explain whether he
alluded to the landscape or to his marriage.  He said no more to force
further confidence from her.

’Come,’ said he, roughly, and he turned suddenly round, ’you shall see
the house. You shall be shown what I have in it, all the rooms and the
furniture, also the cowsheds, and the dairy—everything.  You shall see
what will be yours.  You would get no other man with so much as I have.’

’Not to-day, Mr Langford.  Let me go home.  I should see nothing to-day.
My eyes are full, and my heart fuller.’

’Then go,’ he said, and reseated himself at the table.

She moved towards the door.  He had his chin on his hand, and was
looking at the grate. She hesitated, holding the handle.

’Hah!’ exclaimed Langford, starting up. ’Did you hear that? a-fluttering
down the passage?  That was Mrs. Veale, trying to listen, but could hear
nothing; trying to peep, but could see nothing, because I have covered
every chink.  Come here! come here, Mrs. Veale!’

As she did not respond, he rang the bell violently, and the pale woman
came.

’Come here, Mrs. Veale! show the future mistress out of the house!  Not
by the kitchen, woman!  Unbar the great door.  Show her out, and curtsey
to her, and at the same time take your own discharge.’

’"When one comes in the other goes out," as the man said of the woman in
the weather-house,’ remarked Mrs. Veale with a sneer. She curtsied
profoundly.  ’There’s been calm heretofore.  Now comes storm.’



                            *CHAPTER XXXII.*

                            *THE CHINA DOG.*


No sooner was the scarlet cloak gone than Mrs. Veale leaned back against
the wall in the passage and laughed.  Langford had never heard her laugh
before, and the noise she made now was unpleasant.  Her face was grey,
her pale eyes glimmered in the dark passage.

’Will you be quiet?’ said Taverner angrily. ’Get along with you into the
kitchen and don’t stand gulping here like water out of a narrow-necked
bottle.’

’So!—that be the wife you’ve chosen, master!  It is ill screwing a big
foot into a small shoe; best suit your shoe to the size of your foot.’

’You have received notice to leave.  A month from to-day.’

’This is breaking the looking-glass because you don’t like your face,’
said the housekeeper. ’"Come help me on with the plough," said the ox to
the gadfly.  "With the greatest of pleasure," answered the fly, and
stung the ox.’

’Gadfly!’ shouted Taverner.  ’Sheathe your sting, please, or don’t
practise on me.’

’You marry!’ scoffed Mrs. Veale ’"I’m partial to honey," said the fox,
and upset the hive.  "You must learn how to take it," answered the
swarm, and surrounded him.’

’I’ll turn you out at once,’ said Langford, angrily.

’No, you will not,’ answered the housekeeper; ’or you will have to pay
my wage and get nothing for it.  I’ve served you faithfully all these
years, and this is my reward. I am turned away.  What has been my pay
whilst here?  What! compared with my services?  And now I am to make
room for the sister of a thief.  What will become of your earnings when
she comes?  If her brother picked a stranger, he will skin a relative.
And the rest of them!  "I am tilling for you," said the farmer to the
rabbits; "come into my field and nibble the turnips."  Love in an old
man is like a spark in a stackyard.  It burns up everything, even common
sense.’

He thrust her down the passage.  She kept her white face towards him,
and went along sliding her hands against the wall, against which she
leaned her back.

’I did suppose you had more sense than this.  I knew you were bit, but
not that you were poisoned.  I thought that you would be too wise to go
on with your courting when you found that you had been robbed by
Charles. Who that is not a fool will give the run of his house to the
man who has plundered him? Can you keep him out when you have married
his sister?  What of the young ones?  They will grow up like their
brother.  Roguery is like measles, it runs through a house.  Have not I
been faithful?  Have I taken a thread out of your clothes, or a nail
from your shoe? Have I relations to pester you for help?  Mine might
have begged, but would not have stolen; yours will have their hands in
all your pockets. Now you are everything in the house, and we are all
your slaves.  All is yours, your voice rules, your will governs.  Will
it be so when you bring a mistress home—and that Honor Luxmore?
Everyone knows her; she governs the house.’  Mrs. Veale laughed again.
’That will be a fine sight to see Master Taverner Langford under the
slipper.  "I’m seen in the half but lost in the full," said the man in
the moon.’

Langford thrust her through the kitchen door and shut it, then returned
to his parlour, where he bolted himself in, and paced the room with his
arms folded behind his back.

There was enough of truth in what Mrs. Veale had said to make him feel
uncomfortable. It was true that now he was absolute in his house; but
would he reign as independently when married?  Was not the ox inviting
the gadfly to help to draw the plough?  In going after the honey, like
the fox, was he not inviting stings?

Langford had suffered great loss from rabbits.  They came out of
Chimsworthy plantation and fell on his turnips, nibbled pieces out of
hundreds, spoiling whole rows, which when touched rotted with the first
frost. Therefore Mrs. Veale’s allusion to them went home.  Yes!—there
were a swarm of human rabbits threatening, the children from the
cottage.  They would all prey on him.  He was inviting them to do so.
’I till for you,’ said the farmer.  Confound Mrs. Veale!  Why was she so
full of saws and likenesses that cut like knives?  And Charles!—of
course he would return when he knew that he would not be prosecuted.
How could he be prosecuted when the brother-in-law of the man he had
robbed?  When he returned, how could he be kept away, how prevented from
farther rascality?  A thousand pounds gone! and he was not to punish the
man who had taken the money.  This was inviting him to come and rob him
again.  He did not think much of what Honor had said of an attachment to
some unknown person.  Taverner had never loved, and knew nothing of love
as a passion.  He regarded it as an ephemeral fancy.  Every girl thought
herself in love, got over it, and bore no scars.  It would be so with
Honor. Presently he rang for his breakfast.  Mrs. Veale came in.  She
saw he was disconcerted, but she said nothing, till the tray was on the
table, and she was leaving; then, holding the handle of the door, she
said, ’It is a pity.’

’What is a pity?’

’The hare hunt.’

’What of that?’ he asked angrily.

’That it was not put off a month, then changed to a stag hunt,’ she
replied, and went through the door quickly, lest he should knock her
down.

Mrs. Veale went to her kitchen, and seated herself by the fire.  She was
paler than usual, and her eyelids blinked nervously.  There was work to
be done that morning, but she neglected it.

Her scheme had failed.  She had endeavoured to force Charles Luxmore on
to steal of his master, thinking that this must inevitably break the
connection with the Luxmores. Taverner, she thought, could not possibly
pursue his intentions when he knew he had been robbed by Charles.  She
was disappointed. What next to attempt she knew not.  She was determined
to prevent the marriage if she could.  She had not originally intended
to steal the cash-box, nor, indeed, to rob it of any of its contents,
but she had been forced to take it, as Charles would not.  Now she was
given her dismissal, and if she left, she would take the money with her.
But she had no desire to leave without further punishment of her
ungrateful master.  She had spent fifteen years in his service.  She had
plotted and worked and had not gained any of her ends.  She had at first
resolved on making him marry her.  When she found it impossible to
achieve this, she determined to make herself so useful to him, so
indispensable, that he would in his old age fall under her power, and
then, he would leave her by his will well off.  She was now to be driven
out into the cold, after all her labour, disappointments, to make room
for a young girl. This should not be.  If she must go, she would mar the
sport behind her back.  If Taverner Langford would not take her, he
should take none other.  If she was not to be mistress in the house, no
young chit of a girl should be.

She stood up and took down from the chimney-piece a china dog blotched
red, and turning it over, removed from the inside a packet of yellow
paper.

She was so engrossed in her thoughts that she did not see that someone
had entered the kitchen by the open backdoor.

’I declare!  They’d make a pair!’

Mrs. Veale started, a shiver ran through her from head to foot.  She
turned, still quivering, and looked at the speaker.  Kate Luxmore had
entered, and stood near the table.

’Well, now,’ said Kate, ’this is curious. We’ve got a dog just like
that, with long curly ears, and turns his dear old head to the left, and
you’ve one with the same ears, and same colour, turns his head to the
right.  We’d a pair once, but Joe broke the fellow.  I reckon you’d a
pair once, but your fellow is broke. ’Tis a pity they two dogs should be
widowers and lonely.’

Mrs. Veale stared at her; Kate had never been there before.  What had
brought her there now?  Were all the Luxmores coming to make that their
home, even before the marriage?

’And what have you got there?’ pursued Kate, full of liveliness.  ’Why,
that is one of the yellow paper rat-poison packets the man sold at the
fair.  I know it.  ’Tis a queer thing you keeping the poison in the body
of the dog.  But I suppose you are right; no one would think to go there
for it.’

’What do you want here?’ asked Mrs. Veale, hastily replacing the packet
and the dog on the mantel-shelf.  ’Why have you come?  We’ve had enough
of you Luxmores already.  Your brother Charles has played us a pretty
tune, and now your sister’s like to lead a dance.’

’I have come for Honor.  Is she here?’

’She—no!  She’s been gone some time. Ain’t she home?  Perhaps she’s
walking over the land, and counting the acres that may be hers, and
prizing the fleeces of the sheep.’

’She is wanted.  As for Charles, there’s naught proved against him, and
till there is, I won’t believe it.  I’ve just had a talk with someone,
and he tells me another tale altogether.  So there—not another word
against poor Charles.  He wasn’t ever sweet on you, I can tell you.
’Tis a pity, too, about those dogs.  They’re both water-spaniels—what
intelligent eyes they have, and what lovely long curly ears!  They ought
to be a pair some day.’

’I tell you,’ said Mrs. Veale, ’your sister is not here.’

’Our dog,’ went on Kate, unabashed, ’don’t belong to father.  He is
Honor’s own.  She had the pair, till Joe knocked one of them over.  Her
mother gave it her.  ’Tis curious now that her dog should turn his
blessed nose one way, and this dog should turn his nose the other way.
It looks as if they were made for each other, which is more than is the
case with some that want to be pairing.  A mantel-shelf don’t look as
well with a spaniel in the middle as it do with one at each end.  That
is, I suppose, why your master is looking out for a wife. Well!  I think
he’d have matched better with you than with someone else whom I won’t
name.  A house with one in it is like a mantel-shelf with one odd dog on
it.  Does this chimney ornament belong to you or to the house?’

’Never mind, go your ways.  Don’t you think ever to pair them two dogs,
nor your sister and the master.  There is a third to be considered.  If
one be broken, there is no pairing.  Do y’ know what the ash said to the
axe?

    Whether coupled or counter is wisht (unlucky) for me,
      My wood makes the haft for to fell my tree.’



                           *CHAPTER XXXIII.*

                           *AMONG THE GORSE.*


’Where be you going to, Larry?’ asked his father.  ’I’ve just seen the
Red Spider running Langford way.  Take care Uncle Taverner don’t sloke
that one away as he tried to sloke t’other.’

Hearing that Honor was gone over the moor to Langford, Hillary took that
direction, and, as he had expected, encountered her as she was returning
to her cottage, before she had left the down.

’You are going to give me a quarter of an hour,’ said Larry.  ’I dare
say you may be busy, but I can’t spare you till we’ve had it out with
each other.  I’ve but one arm now that I can use, but I’ll bar the way
with that, if you attempt to escape me.’

Honor looked at him hesitatingly.  She was hardly prepared for the
inevitable trial, then. She would have liked to defer it.  But, on
second thoughts, she considered that it was best to have it over.
Sooner or later, an explanation must be made, so perhaps it would be as
well for her that day to pass through all the fires.  There on
Broadbury, when the gorse is swaled (burnt), the cattle are driven
through the flames.  They plunge and resist, but a ring of men and dogs
encloses them, armed with sharp stakes, and goad them forward, and at
last, with desperation, lowing, kicking, leaping, angry and terrified,
they plunge through the flames.  Honor thought of this familiar scene,
and that she was herself being driven on.  Sooner or later she must
enter the fire, be scorched, and pass through; she would traverse it
without further resistance at once.

’I am ready, Larry,’ she said in a low voice.

’My dear, dear Honor, what ails you? You are looking ill, and deadly
white!  What is it, Honor?’

’We all have our troubles, Larry.  You have a broken arm, and I have a
breakage somewhere, but never mind where.’

’I do mind,’ he said vehemently, ’What is amiss?’

’You told me, Larry, the night your arm was hurt, that—your pride had
sustained a fall and was broken.’

’So it was.’

’So also is mine.’

’But what has hurt you?  How is it? Explain to me all, Honor.’

She shook her head.  ’It is not my affair only.  I have others to
consider beside myself, and you must forgive me if my lips are locked.’

He put his left arm round her, to draw her to him, and kiss her.  ’I
will keep the key of those lips,’ he said, but she twisted herself from
his grasp.

’You must not do that, Larry.’

’Why not?  We understand each other. Though we did not speak, that
night, our hearts told each other everything.’

’Larry, do you remember what I said to you when we were together in the
paddock?’

’I remember every word.’

’I told you that I regarded you—as a brother.’

’I remember every word but that.’

’You have been a friend, a dear friend, ever since we were children.
You were always thoughtful towards us, my sister and me, when you
thought of nothing else.  You were always kind, and as Charles was away,
of late, I came to think of you as a brother.’

’But I, Honor, I never have and never will consent to regard you as a
sister.  I love you more dearly than brother ever loved sister. I never
had one of nay own, but I am quite sure I could not think of one in the
way I think of you.  I love you, Honor, with all my heart, and I respect
you and look up to you as the only person who can make me lead a better
life than I have led heretofore.’

Honor shook her head and sighed.  It was her way to answer by nod or
shake rather than by word.

’I have good news to tell you,’ he went on; ’my father is delighted at
the prospect, and he is nearly as impatient as I am to have your dear
self in Chimsworthy.’

’I cannot go there,’ said Honor in a tone that expressed the desolation
of her heart.

’Why not?’

She hesitated.

’Why not, Honor?  When I wish it, when my father is eager to receive
you?’

’Dear Larry,’ she said sadly, ’it can never, never be.’

’Come here,’ he exclaimed impatiently, and drew her along with him.
’What is the meaning of this?  I will understand.’  Before them for
nearly a mile lay a sheet of gold, a dense mass of unbroken gorse, in
full blaze of flower, exhaling a nectareous fragrance in the sun, that
filled the air.  So dense were the flowers that no green spines could be
seen, only various shades of orange and gold and pale yellow. Through it
a path had been reaped, for rabbit-shooters, and along this Hillary drew
her. The gorse reached to their waists.  The fragrance was intoxicating.

’Look here, Honor,’ said he, ’look at this furze.  It is like my nature.
It is said that there is not a month in the year in which it does not
blossom.  Sometimes there is only a golden speck here and there—when the
snow is on the ground, not more than a few flowers, and then one stalk
sets fire to another, as spring comes on, and the whole bush burns and
is not consumed, like that in the desert, when God spoke to Moses from
it.  It has been so with me, Honor.  I have always loved you.  Sometimes
the prickles have been too thick, and then there have been but few
tokens of love; but never, never has the bloom died away altogether.  In
my heart, Honor, love has always lived, and now it is all blazing, and
shining, and full of sweetness.’

’Larry,’ answered Honor slowly, ’look here;’ she put her hand to a gorse
bush and plucked a mass of golden bloom.

’Honor!’ he exclaimed, ’what have you done?’  She opened her hand, it
was full of blood.

’I have grasped the glorious flower,’ she said, ’and am covered with
wounds, and pierced with thorns.’

’No—no, dear Honor,’ he said, taking her hand, removing from it the
prickles, and wiping the blood away with the kerchief that bound his
broken arm.  ’There shall be no thorns in our life together.  The thorns
will all go from me when I have you to prune me. I have been wild and
rough, and I dare say I may have given you pain.  I know that I have.  I
was angry with you and behaved badly; but I was angry only because I
loved you.’  Then his pleasant sweet smile broke over his pale face, and
he said in an altered tone, ’You do not harbour anger, Honor; you
forgive, when the offender is repentant.’

She raised her eyes to him, and looked long and steadily into his.

’I forgive you for any little wrong you may have done me, heartily and
wholly.  But, O Larry!  I must wrong you in a way in which I can expect
to get no forgiveness from you.’

’That is quite impossible,’ he said, smiling.

’Larry, you cannot even dream what my meaning is.  When you know—there
will not be a flower on the furze-bush, the last gold bud of love will
fall off.’

’Never, never, Honor!’

’You do not know.’

He was perplexed.  What could stand In the way of her ready acceptance
of him, except his own former bad conduct?

’Honor,’ he said, ’I have had some sleepless nights—these have not been
altogether caused by my arm—and during the dark hours I have thought
over all my past manner of life, and I have quite resolved to break with
it.  I will no longer be idle.  I will no more boast.  I will no more
let the girls make a fool of me.  I will work hard on the farm as any
labourer—indeed, Honor, I will work harder and longer than they.  If you
mistrust me, prove me.  I deserve this trial.  My father would like you
to be his daughter-in-law at once; but I know that I do not deserve you.
In the old story, Jacob served fourteen years for Rachel, and I am not a
Jacob—I will wait, though fourteen years is more than my patience will
bear, still—dear Honor, dear heart!—I will wait.  I will wait your own
time, I will not say another word to you till you see that I am keeping
my promise, and am becoming in some little way worthy of you. I know,’
he said in a humble tone, ’that really I can never deserve you—but I
shall be happy to try and gain your approval, and, if you do not wish me
to say more of my love till I show you I am on the mend, so shall it be.
I am content.  Put on the kerchief when I am to speak again.’

He stopped, and looked at her.  She was trembling, and her eyes cast
down.  Now, at last, the tears had come, and were flowing from her eyes.
One, like a crystal, hung on her red cloak.  Knowing that he awaited an
answer, she raised her head with an effort, and looked despairingly
right and left, but saw no help anywhere, only the flare of yellow
blossom flickering through a veil of tears.

O, infinitely sweet, infinitely glorious was this sight and this
outpouring of Larry’s heart to her—but infinitely painful as
well—piercing, wounding, drawing forth blood—like the gorse.

’Larry!’ she said earnestly, ’No—no—not for one moment do I doubt your
word. I believe everything you say.  I could trust you perfectly.  I
know that with your promise would come fulfilment, but—it is not that.’

’What is it then?’

She _could_ not tell him.  The truth was too repugnant to her to think,
much less to tell—and tell to _him_.

’I cannot tell you; my father, my brothers and sisters.’

’I have thought of that, you dear true soul,’ he interrupted.  ’I know
that you will not wish to hurt them.  But, Honor, there will be no
desertion.  I have only to cut a gap through the hedge of your paddock,
and in three minutes, straight as an arrow, you can go from one house to
the other.  Round by the road is longer, but when you are at Chimsworthy
we’ll have a path between; then you can go to and fro as you like, and
the little ones will be always on the run.  You can have them all in
with you when and as long as you like; and my father will be
over-pleased if your father will come and keep him company on the
Look-out stone.  Since Uncle Taverner and he have quarrelled father has
been dull, and felt the want of some one to talk to.  So you see all
will be just right.  Everything comes as though it were fitted to be as
we are going to make it.’

Again he paused, waiting for her answer. Whilst he had been speaking she
had worked herself up to the necessary pitch of resolution to tell him
something—not all, no! all she could not tell.

’Larry! it cannot be.  I am going to marry another.’

He stood still, motionless, not even breathing, gazing at her with
stupid wonder.  What she said was impossible.  Then a puff of north-west
wind came from the far ocean, rolling over the down, gathering the
fragrance of the yellow sea, and condensing it; then poured it as a
breaking wave over the heads of those two standing in the lane cut
through the golden trees.  And with the odour came a humming, a low
thrilling music, as the wind passed through the myriad spines beneath
the foam of flower, and set them vibrating as the tongues of Æolian
harps.  The sweetness and the harmony were in the air, all around, only
not in the hearts of those two young people, standing breast deep in the
gorse-brake.  The wind passed, and all was still once more.  They stood
opposite each other, speechless.  Her hand, which he had let go, had
fallen, and the blood dropped from it.  How long they thus stood neither
knew.  He was looking at her; she had bent her head, and the sun on her
hair was more glorious than on the gorse-flowers. He would have pierced
to the depth of her soul and read it if he could, but he was baffled.
There was an impenetrable veil over it, through which he could not see.

’You do not—you have not loved me,’ he said with an effort.  This was
the meaning of her coldness, her reserve.  Then he put out his left hand
and touched her, touched her lightly on the bosom.  That light touch was
powerful as the rod of Moses on the rock in Horeb.  Her self-control
deserted her.  She clasped her hands on her breast, and bowed, and burst
into convulsive weeping, which was made worse by her efforts to arrest
it and to speak.

Hillary said nothing.  He was too dazed to ask for any explanation, too
stupefied by the unexpected declaration that cut away for ever the
ground of his happiness.

She waved her hand.  ’Leave me alone. Go, Larry, go!  I can tell you
nothing more! Let me alone!  Oh, leave me alone, Larry!’

He could not refuse to obey, her distress was so great, her entreaty so
urgent.  Silent, filled with despair, with his eyes on the ground, he
went along the straight-cut path towards the road, and nearly ran
against Kate.

’Oh! you here!’ exclaimed the lively girl, ’then Honor is not far
distant.  Where is she? What, yonder! and I have been to Langford to
look for her.  What is the matter?  Oh, fiddlesticks! you have been
making yourselves and each other miserable.  There is no occasion for
that till all is desperate, and it is not so yet. Come along, Larry,
back to Honor.  I must see her; I want to tell her something, and you
may as well be by.  You are almost one of the family.’

She made him follow her.  Honor had recovered her composure when left to
herself, unwatched, and she was able to disguise her emotions from her
sister.

’Oh, Honor!’ exclaimed Kate, ’I have something to tell you.  I think
you’ve been a fool, and too precipitate—I do indeed, and so does Sam
Voaden.  A little while ago I chanced to go down the lane after some
water, when, curiously enough, Sam was coming along it, and we had a
neighbourly word or two between us. I told Sam all about Charles, and
what Mr. Langford charged him with.’

’Kate—you never—!’ gasped Honor in dismay.

’I did.  Why not?  Where’s the hurt? Sam swore to me he’d tell no one.’

’What is this?’ asked Hillary.

’Don’t you know?’ retorted Kate.  ’What, has Honor not told you?  Faith!
there never was another girl like her for padlocking her tongue.  I’m
sure I could not keep from telling. Sam saw I was in trouble and asked
the reason, and my breast was as full as my pitcher, so it overflowed.
Well, Honor, Sam is not such a fool as some suppose.  He has more sense
than all we Luxmores put together—leastways, than we had last night.  He
says he don’t believe a word of it, and that you was to blame for acting
on it till you knew it was true.’

’It is true.  I know it is true,’ said Honor disconsolately.  ’It is no
use denying it.’

’But, as Sam said, why act on it till it is proved?  Where is Charles?
All you know is from Taverner Langford, and he is an interested party;
he may be mistaken, or he may put things wrong way on wilfully.’

’No, Kate, no!  You should not have spoken.’

’But I have spoken.  If a pitcher is full, will it not run over the
brim?  I have been over-full, and have overflowed.  That is nature, my
nature, and I can’t help it.  No hurt is done.  Sam will not talk about
it to anyone; and what he says shows more sense than is to be found in
all the nine heads that go under our cottage roof, wise as you consider
yourself, Honor.  Sam says nothing ought to be promised or done till
Charles has been seen and you have heard what account he can give of
himself.’

’His letter, Kate?’

’Well, what of his letter?  He says nothing about stealing in
it—stealing a thousand pounds. What he says may mean no more than his
running away and leaving ninepence a day for nothing.’

’I am sorry you spoke,’ said Honor.

’I am glad I spoke,’ said Kate sharply.  ’I tell you Sam’s brain is
bigger than all our nine. He saw the rights of the matter at once,
and—look here!—he promised me that he would go and find Charles if he’s
gone no further than Plymouth.’

’You told him where he was!’ exclaimed Honor, aghast.

’Of course I did.  I wasn’t going to send him off searching to Lundy
Isle or Patagonia. Well, Sam says that he’ll go and find him on certain
conditions?’

’On what conditions?’

’Never mind, they don’t concern you, they are private.  And he wants to
have a talk with Larry first; but Sam says he don’t believe Charles took
the money.  He’s too much of a Luxmore to act dishonourable, he said.’

Honor was still unconvinced.  ’Larry,’ continued Kate, ’will you go at
once to Swaddledown and see Sam?’

’Yes; but I understand nothing of what this is about.  You must explain
it to me.’

’No, Larry, go to Sam—he knows all.’


In after years, when the gorse was flowering full, Honor said to Larry,
’The honey scent always brings back to my memory _one_ day.’

’Yes,’ he replied; ’the furze is like love, thorns and flowers; but the
flowers grow, and swell, and burst, and blaze, and swallow up the
thorns, that none are seen.’



                            *CHAPTER XXXIV.*

                           *THE VISITATION.*


The amazement of Larry was equalled by his indignation when he heard
from Sam Voaden the whole story of the charge against Charles, and of
Honor consenting to save him at the cost of herself.  He did not share
Sam’s confidence in the groundlessness of the charge; he thought Charles
quite rascal enough to have robbed his master and bolted with the money.
Nevertheless he thought that the best thing that could be done was for
Sam to go after Charles, as he himself could not do so, on account of
his arm and collar-bone; and he urged on Voaden to use his best
endeavours, if he found Charles, which was doubtful, to persuade him to
return the money, through him, to Langford.

’When he finds that he is suspected he may do that, especially if you
threaten to hand him over to the constables should he refuse.’

’I don’t believe he ever took it,’ said Sam. ’I know Charles better than
you.’

Hillary was coming away from Swaddledown, along the road or lane to
Broadbury, when he met his uncle Taverner, in his Sunday suit, a hat on
his head, walking along lustily, with a stick in his hand.

Larry stood in the way.

’Uncle Taverner,’ he said.

’Stand aside,’ said Langford roughly.

’One word.’

’Not one!  I have nothing to do with you or yours.  Stand aside that I
may pass on.’

’I cannot; I will not!  You are in my path, not I in yours—that is, in
the path of my life’s happiness.’

Langford looked at him interrogatively.

’Uncle Langford, I must speak to you.’

’I am busy, I have to go to the church. It is the rural dean’s
visitation.  I am churchwarden.’

’I will not detain you long.’

’I will not be detained at all.’

’I must speak to you, uncle.  You are too—too cruel! you have come
between me and happiness.’

’Get along.  Don’t think anything you say will make me leave Langford to
you.’

’It is not that.  I have not given that a thought.  But, Honor——’

’What of Honor?’ asked Taverner sharply, stopping.

’I love her, uncle—I love her with my whole heart.  I always have loved
her, more or less, but now I love her as I can love no one else.’

’Oh, that is it!’ exclaimed the old man, bending his brows, and
disguising his agitation and annoyance by striking the stones out of the
road with the end of his stick.  ’A boy’s fancy, light as thistle-seed;
and a boy’s head is as full of fancies as a thistle is of seed.’

’Nothing of the sort,’ said the young man vehemently.  ’There is no one
but Honor can make me what I know I ought to become. I have never had a
mother or a sister to guide me.  I have grown up unchecked, unadvised,
and now I want my dear, dear Honor to help me to be what I should be,
and am not. Uncle! you sneer at Chimsworthy because it is full of docks,
and thistles, and rushes, but I am like that—worthy land, and none but
Honor can weed me.  Why do you come cruelly in between us, and kill her
happiness as well as mine?  Her you cannot make other than noble and
true, but me!—me, without her you will ruin.  I must have Honor!  I
cannot live without her.  Oh, uncle, uncle! what are you doing?  It is
unworthy of you to use poor Honor’s necessity to wring from her her
consent.  You know she only gives it to save her brother.  Why, because
she is generous, would you take advantage of her generosity?’

The lad pleaded with earnestness, vehemence, and with tears in his
voice.  Taverner looked at him, and thought, ’How like he is to his
mother!  This is Blandina’s face and Blandina’s voice.  He is not a
Nanspian, he is a Langford.’  But he said roughly, ’Pshaw! let me go by.
The rural dean is waiting.  Do not you mistake me for a weathercock to
be turned by every breath.  You must get over your fancy—it is a
fancy—or change it to regard for Honor as your aunt.  Do not attempt to
move me.  What is settled is settled.’

As Hillary still interposed himself between Langford and his course the
old man raised his stick.

’Come! must I strike you?’ he said angrily. ’I’ve spoken to you more
freely than you deserve.  Stand aside.  I am not to be turned from my
way by you or any other.’

He went forward headlong, striking about him with his stick, and was not
to be further stayed.  He went, as he said, to the church to meet the
rural dean, but not only because summoned—he went also to see him as
surrogate, and obtain a marriage licence.

’A Langford cannot be married by banns,’ he said.  ’And I’m not going to
have everyone in church sniggering when our names are called.’

As he went along the road, head down, muttering, the face of Hillary
haunted him—pale with sickness, refined, spiritualised by suffering, not
the suffering of the body but of the mind.  He was strangely like
Blandina in her last sickness, and there were tones in his voice of
entreaty that brought back to Langford memories of his sister and of his
mother.

He arrived at the church before the rector and the rural dean.  The
latter was taking refreshment at the parsonage a mile away.  Would
Nanspian be there?  He did not wish to meet him, but he would not be
away lest it should be said he had feared to meet him.  Nanspian was not
there.  He had forgotten all about the visitation.

’He wants a deal of reminding,’ said the clerk, who had unlocked the
church.  ’He forgets most things worse than ever since his stroke.’

Langford disengaged himself from the clerk and entered the church—a
noble building, of unusual beauty.  In the nave at his feet was a long
slate stone, and the name TAVERNER LANGFORD.  He knew very well that the
stone was there, with its inscription and the date 1635; but as he stood
looking at it an uncomfortable feeling came over him, as if he were
standing at the edge of his own grave.  He was alone in the church.  The
air was chill and damp, and smelt of decay. The dry-rot was in the pews.
The slates were speckled, showing that the church roof was the haunt of
bats, who flew about in flights when darkness set in.  If it were cold
and damp in the church, what must it be in the vault below? He knew what
was there—the dust of many Langfords, one or two old lead coffins
crushed down by their own weight.  And he knew that some day he would
lie there, and the ’Taverner Langford’ on the stone would apply to him
as well as to his ancestor.  How horrible to be there at night, with the
cold eating into him, and the smell of mildew about him, and the bats
fleeting above him!  The thought made him uneasy, and he went out of the
church into the sunlight, thinking that he would pay a woman to scour
the stone of the bat-stains which befouled it.  He had never dreamed of
doing this before, but when he considered that he must himself lie
there, he took a loathing to the bats, and an indignation at the
vault-covering stone being disfigured by them.

He walked through the coarse grass to where his sister was laid.  She
was not buried in the family vault.  Nanspian had not wished it.

The clerk came to him.

’Mr. Nanspian had a double-walled grave made,’ said the clerk, who was
also sexton. ’Folks laughed, I mind, when he ordered it, and said he was
sure to marry again—a fine lusty man like he.  But they were wrong.  He
never did.  He has bided true to her memory.’

’I would never have forgiven him had he done other,’ said Langford.

’I reckon you never forgive him, though he has not,’ said the solemn
clerk.

Langford frowned and moved his shoulders uneasily.

’The grave is cared for,’ said he in a churlish tone.

’Young Larry Nanspian sees to that,’ answered the clerk.  ’If there be
no other good in him there is that—he don’t forget what is due to his
mother, though she be dead.’

Langford put his stick to the letters on the headstone.  ’In loving
memory of Blandina Nanspian, only daughter of Moses Langford, of
Langford, gent.’  ’Oh!’ muttered Taverner, ’my father could call himself
a gentleman when he had Chimsworthy as well as Langford, but I suppose I
can’t call myself anything but yeoman on my poor farm. Blandina should
never have married, and then Chimsworthy would not have gone out of the
family.’

’But to whom would both have gone after your death, Mr. Langford?’ asked
the clerk. ’’Twould be a pity if an old ancient family like yours came
to an end, and, I reckon, some day both will be joined again, by Mr.
Larry.’

’No, no!—no, no!’ growled Taverner, and walked away.  He saw the rural
dean and the rector coming through the churchyard gate.

An hour later, Taverner was on his way home.  He had paid the fee, made
the necessary application, and would receive the licence on the morrow.
It was too late for him to draw back, even had he been inclined.
Taverner was a proud man, and he was obstinate.  He flattered himself
that when he had once resolved on a thing he always went through with
it; no dissuasion, no impediments turned him aside.  But he was not easy
in mind as he walked home.  Never before had he seen the family likeness
so strong in Larry; he had caught an occasional look of his mother in
the boy’s face before, but now that he was ill in mind and body the
likeness was striking.  Taverner still laid no great weight on Larry’s
expressed attachment for Honor; he did not know that love was not a
fiction, and was unable to conceive of it as anything more than a
passing fancy.  What really troubled the old man was the prospect of
disarrangement of his accustomed mode of life.  When he was married his
wife would claim entrance into his parlour, and would meddle with what
he had there, would use his desk, would come in and out when he was
busy, would talk when he wanted quiet. A housekeeper could be kept in
order by threat of dismissal, but a wife was tied for life. Then—how
about Larry?  He might forbid him the house, but would he keep away?
Would not he insist on seeing his old friend and companion and love,
Honor?  That would be dangerous to his own peace of mind, might threaten
his happiness.  He remembered some words of Mrs. Veale, and his blood
rushed through his head like a scalding wave.

When he came to his door Mrs. Veale was there.  She seemed to know by
instinct his purpose in going to Bratton.

’Have you got it, master?’ she asked with husky voice and fluttering
eyelids.

’Got what?’

’What you went to get—the licence.’

’It is coming by post to-morrow.  Are you satisfied?’ he asked,
sneering, and with a glance of dislike.

’A corpse-light came up the lane and danced on the doorstep last night,’
said Mrs. Veale.  ’And you are thinking of marrying! "I’d better have
left things as they were," said the man who scalded his dog to clear it
of fleas.  The spider spread for a midget and caught a hornet.  "Marry
come up," said the mote (tree-stump), "I will wed the flame;" so she
took him, embraced him, and——’  Mrs. Veale stooped to the hearth, took
up a handful of light wood-ash, and blew it in her master’s face from
her palm, then said, ’Ashes, remain.’

The ensuing night the house was disturbed. Taverner Langford was ill,
complaining of violent sickness, cramps, and burning in the throat.  He
must have a doctor sent for from Okehampton.

’Get a doctor’s foot on your floor and he leaves his shoes,’ said Mrs.
Veale.  ’No, wait till morning.  If you’re no better then we will send.’

’Go out of my room,’ shouted Taverner to the farm men and maids who had
crowded in. His calls and hammerings with the stick had roused everyone
in the house.  ’Do you think I am going to die because I’m took with
spasms?  Mrs. Veale is enough.  Let her remain.’

’I reckon I caught a chill standing in the damp church with the smell of
the vaults in my nose,’ said Taverner, sitting in his chair and
groaning.  ’I felt the cold rise.’

’It is waiting,’ remarked Mrs. Veale,

’What is waiting?’ he asked irritably.

’The corpse-candle; I see it on the doorstep. And you that should be
considering to have the bell tolled ordering a wedding peal! Those who
slide on ice must expect falls, and elephants mustn’t dance on
tight-ropes. Rabbits that burrow in bogs won’t have dry quarters.  The
fox said, "Instead of eating I shall be eaten," when, seeking a
hen-roost, he walked into a kennel.’



                            *CHAPTER XXXV.*

                              *A WARNING.*


The day was wet; a warm south-westerly wind was breathing, not blowing,
and its breath was steam, a steam that condensed into minute
water-drops.  The thatch was dripping.  The window panes were blind with
shiny films of moisture.  There had been dry weather for the haysel,
glorious weather, and now, just when wanted, the earth was bathed in a
cloud. It would be inaccurate to say that it rained. It rained only
under the eaves and beneath the trees; the earth was taking a vapour
bath.

Honor and Kate were in the cottage, basket-weaving. The children were at
school.  No wet dismays the Devonian, but east wind throws him on his
back, and he shrivels with frost.  Kate had recovered her spirits
marvellously since her interview with Sam Voaden. She had a buoyant
heart; it was like a cork in water, that might be pressed under, but
came up with a leap again.  She felt keenly for the time, but wounds
speedily healed with her. It was other with Honor; she remained
depressed, pale, thin looking, and silent.  She said nothing to her
sister about Hillary.  Kate had some glimmering idea that Honor liked
the young man, but did not suppose that there was more in her heart than
a liking.  But Kate, though she dearly loved her sister, was somewhat in
awe of her.  She never ventured to peer into her soul, and she
understood nothing of what went on there.  Honor was scrupulous,
precise, close; and Kate, though a good-hearted, true girl, was not
close, but open, not precise, but careless, and ready to stretch a point
of conscience to suit her pleasure. Kate, in the presence of Honor, was
much like an unmathematical boy set over a problem in Euclid.  She was
sure that all was very true in Honor’s mind, but also that the process
by which it arrived at its conclusions was beyond her understanding.
Honor possessed, what is the prerogative of few women, a just mind.
Forced by her position into dividing between the children who looked up
to her, obliged to consider their complaints against each other in petty
quarrels from opposite sides, and of deciding equably, she had acquired
breadth and fairness and self-restraint, against action upon impulse.
Kate was eager to take sides, and was partial; Honor never. She was
always disposed to consider that there was something to be said on the
side opposed to that first presented to her, and was cautious not to
pronounce an opinion till she had heard both sides.  This Kate could not
understand, and she regarded her sister as wanting in warmth and
enthusiasm.

’No news yet from Sam,’ said Kate.  ’That is odd.  I thought we should
have known at once about Charles.’

’How could that be?  Plymouth is a large place, and Sam Voaden will not
know where to look.  It is even possible that Charles may have sailed.’

’If he has sailed you need not be tied to old Langford—that is, not
unless you like.’

’I have passed my word.  I cannot withdraw.’

’Fiddlesticks-ends!  You only promised on condition that Mr. Langford
would not proceed against Charles.’

’He has not proceeded.’

’He can’t—if Charles is out of England.’

’But he might have done so the day he discovered his loss, before
Charles got away. I gave my word to prevent his taking immediate action,
and so Charles had time to make his escape from the country.’

’Taverner Langford had no right to ask it of you.’

’He did ask it, and I gave my word.  I cannot withdraw now.  That would
not be fair and right.’

Kate shrugged her shoulders.  ’I should pay him out in his own coin.’

’Like Charles at the circus?’

Kate coloured.  ’That was another matter altogether.  Mr. Langford had
no right to put such a price on his forbearance. Besides, I don’t
believe in Charles’s guilt. Sam does not, and, thick as some folks think
Sam, he has as much brains as are wanted to fill a large skull, and
these of first quality. Sam can see into a millstone.’

’Yes, Kate, but what is in a millstone?—the same as outside.’

’Sam says that he knows Charles is innocent.’

’What reasons does he give?’

’Oh, none at all.  I did not ask for any.  _He_ thinks it, that is
enough for me.’

’He _thinks_ it, now; he knows it, a minute ago.’

’I am quite sure that Charles never took the money.’

’Why?’

’There you are again with your "whys."  Because Sam says it.’

’Yes, dear Kate, Sam is a good-hearted fellow, who will not think badly
of anyone, and he supposes others are as straightforward as himself.’

’You have a dozen splendid reasons for thinking Charles a thief, and not
one of them convinces me.  I don’t know why, except that Sam is so
positive; but I will scratch all the silver off my looking-glass if I am
wrong. Charles did not take the money.’

Honor said no more.  It was useless arguing with Kate, and nothing was
gained if she did convince her.  The girls worked on for a few minutes
in silence; then Kate burst out with, ’After all, I do not see anything
so dreadful in becoming Mrs. Langford.  One cannot have everything.
Taverner has not the youth and looks of—say Sam Voaden, but Sam Voaden
has no money of his own, and Mr. Langford can roll in money when his
back itches. Langford is a very fine property still, and the house is
first-rate.  If I take Sam at any time—I don’t say I shall—I shall have
to put up with poverty.  If you take Taverner Langford you must put up
with ugliness.  You can’t catch herring and hake at one fishing.’  Then
she burst into a ringing laugh.

’It will be worth while marrying him only for the fun of making Larry
Nanspian call you aunt.’  Honor winced, but Kate was too tickled by the
idea to observe her sister’s face.

’When is it to be, Honor?  It is mean of you to be so secret about the
day.  I am your sister, and I ought to know.’

’I only do not tell you because you cannot keep a secret, and I wish no
one to know till all is over.  Some morning when nothing is expected,
it——’  She shivered and turned her face to the wall.

’I will not blab.  I will not, indeed, dear.’

’Some day this week.  Well, if you must know, Thursday.  Pray be secret;
you will only add to my pain, my shame, if it be known, and a crowd of
the curious be assembled to see. _He_ also wished it to be kept from
getting wind. Indeed, he insisted.’

’I don’t like a marriage without smart and bridesmaids.  Who is to be
best man?  I don’t believe old Taverner has a friend anywhere.
Why—Honor, he’ll be my brother-in-law.  That is a strange prospect.
We’ll come up to Langford and see you every day, that you may not be
dull.  What are you going to do with Mrs. Veale?  You are surely not
going to keep her!  Do you know, Honor, in the kitchen is a darling
china spaniel, just like ours yonder on the mantel-piece, and he turns
his head the opposite way to ours.  I’m really glad you are going to
marry Mr. Langford, because then the dogs will make a pair.  They look
so desolate, one here and the other there; they are ordained to keep
company.’  Honor said nothing; she let her sister rattle on without
paying heed to her tattle.

’Honor,’ said Kate, ’do you know whence Charles got the notion of
putting the five-pound note under the dog?  Guess.’

’I cannot guess.  It does not matter.’

’Yes, it does matter.  Charles got the notion from sweet Mrs. Veale.
When I was at Langford looking for you, I saw that she used the dog as a
place for putting things away that must not lie about.  If you turn one
of these china dogs on end, you will see that they are hollow.  Well,
Mrs. Veale had stuffed a packet of rat poison into the dog. You remember
the man at the Revel who sold hones and packets of poison for mice and
rats? Do you not recollect the board above his table with the picture on
it of the vermin tumbling about as if drunk, and some lying on their
backs dead?  All his packets were in yellow paper with a picture on them
in small like that on the board.  It does not seem right to let poison
lie about.  I should lock it up if I had it; but Mrs. Veale is unlike
everyone else in her appearance and in her talk, and, I suppose, in her
actions.  She keeps the yellow paper of rat-poison in the body of the
china spaniel.  I saw her take it thence, and stow it in there again.
The place is not amiss.  No one would dream of looking there for it. Who
knows?  Perhaps Mrs. Veale keeps her money in the same place.  Charles
may have seen that, and when he came here, and wanted to give us five
pounds and escape thanks, he put it under the dog.  That is reasonable,
is it not, Honor?’  Honor did not answer.

’I declare!’ exclaimed Kate impatiently. ’You have not been attending to
what I said.’

’Yes, I have, Kate.’

’What was I saying?  Tell me if you can.’

’You said that Mrs. Veale kept her money in a china dog on the
chimneypiece.’

’No, I did not.  I said she kept rat-poison there in a yellow paper.’

’Yes, Kate, so you did.  She hides the poison there lest careless hands
should get hold of it.’

’I am glad you have had the civility to listen.  You seemed to me to be
in a dream. I don’t think, after all, Honor, but for Sam, that I should
mind being in your place.  It must be an experience as charming as new
to have money at command.  After all, an old man in love is led by the
nose, and you, Honor, he must love, so you can take him about, and make
him do exactly what you want.  I almost envy you.  Where is father?’

’Gone to see Frize, the shoemaker.  I had a pair of shoes ordered from
him two months ago, and father has gone to see if they are done.  I
shall want them on Thursday.’

’Father is quite pleased at the idea of your marriage.  I know he is.
He makes sure of getting Coombe Park.  He says that Mr. Langford will
lend the money; and he expects grand days when we get our own again.
Father don’t believe any more in Charles being guilty, after I told him
Sam’s reasons.’

’What reasons?’

’Well, I mean assertions.  Does father know the day on which you are to
be married?’

’No, Kate.  Mr. Langford wished him not to be told.  Father is so
obliging, so good-natured, that if anyone were to press him to tell, he
could not keep the secret, so we thought it best not to let him know
till just at the last.’

’Won’t father be proud when you are at Langford!  Why, the van will not
contain all his self-importance.  To have his eldest daughter married
into one of the best and oldest families of the neighbourhood, to be
planted in the best house—after Squire Impey’s—in the parish!  My dear
Honor! an idea strikes me.  Shall I throw myself at Squire Impey’s head?
Father would go stark mad with pride if that were so—that is, if I
succeeded.  And if he got Coombe back, we three would rule the parish.
We might all three become feoffees of Coryndon’s Charity, and pass the
land round among us.  That would be grand!  Honor! what is to be done
with Mrs. Veale?  I cannot abide the woman.  It was a queer idea, was it
not, putting the rat-poison in the china dog?’

All at once Kate looked up.  ’My dear Honor, talk of somebody that shall
be nameless, and he is sure to appear.’  She spoke in a whisper, as Mrs.
Veale came from the steps in at the door.  She had a dark cloak thrown
over her pale cotton dress.  She stood in the doorway blinking
nervously.

Honor stood up, put her light work aside, and, with her usual courtesy
to all, went towards her.  ’Do you want me, Mrs. Veale? Will you take a
chair??

’No, I will not sit down.  So’—she looked about—’you will go from a
hovel to a mansion!  At least, so you expect.  Take care! Take care,
lest, in trying to jump into the saddle, you jump over the horse.’

Honor moved a chair towards the woman, Kate looked curiously at her.
The pale, faded creature stood looking about her in an inquisitive
manner.  ’I’ve come with a message,’ she said.  ’You are very set on
getting into Langford, eh?  Oh, Langford is a palace to this cottage.’

Honor did not answer.  She drew up her head, and made no further offer
of a seat. ’What is your message?’ she asked coldly. But Kate fired up
in her sister’s defence, and, tossing her head, said, ’Don’t you
suppose, Mrs. Veale, that Honor, or my father, or I, or Joe, or any of
us think that a prize has been drawn in your master.  Quite the other
way—he is in luck.  He don’t deserve what he has got, for Honor is a
treasure.’

’What message have you brought?’ asked Honor again.

The vindictiveness against the girl seemed to have disappeared from the
woman—at least, she did not look at Honor with the same malevolent
glance as formerly; and, indeed, she was not now so full of hate against
her as anger against Langford—the deadlier passion had obscured the
weaker.

’What is the message?’ she repeated.

’Oh, this: You and your father are to come up to Langford as soon as you
can. Lawyer Physick be there and waiting.’  Then, with quivering voice
and eyelids, and trembling hands thrust through her black cloak, ’I—I be
sent wi’ this message.  He had the face to send me!  Him that I’ve
served true, and followed as a hound these fifteen years, turns against
me now, and drives me from his door!  Look here, Miss Honor Luxmore!’
She held up her long white finger before her face.  ’I’ve knowed a man
as had a dog, and that dog wi’ ill-treatment went mad, and when the dog
were mad she bit her master, and he died.’ She blinked and quivered, and
as she quivered the water-drops flew off her cloak over the slate floor,
almost as if a poodle had shaken himself.  ’Take care!’ she said again,
’take care!  The man that kicks at me won’t spare you.  Take care, I say
again.  Be warned against him.  I’ve given you his message, but don’t
take it.  Don’t go to Langford.  Let Lawyer Physick go away.  The
licence has come.  Let it go to light a fire. Make no use of it.  Stay
where you are, and let the master find he’s been made a fool of.  Best
so!  In the hitting of nails you may hammer your knuckles.  I’ve served
him fifteen years as if I were his slave, and now he bids me pack.  "I
should have thought of my thatch before I fired my chimney," said the
man who was burnt out of house and home.’

’Go back to Langford, and say that my father and I will be there
shortly.’

’Then take the consequences.’  Mrs. Veale’s eyes for a moment glittered
like steel, then disappeared under her winking white lashes. She turned
and left the cottage, muttering, ’When the owl hoots look out for
sorrow. When the dog bays he smells death, and I am his dog—and, they
say, his blinking owl.’



                            *CHAPTER XXXVI.*

                            *A SETTLEMENT.*


Oliver Luxmore entered shortly after Mrs. Veale had left.  ’Frize
promises the shoes by Monday,’ he said.

Then Honor told him that he and she were awaited at Langford, and she
went upstairs to get herself ready.  In the corner of her room was an
old oak box, in which she kept her clothes and few treasures.  She
opened it, and took out the red cloak, her best and brightest pair of
red stockings.  Then she touched the paper that contained the kerchief
Larry had given her.  Should she wear it? No; that she could not wear,
and yet she felt as if to have it crossed over her bosom would give it
warmth and strength.  She opened the paper and looked at the white silk,
with its pretty moss-rose buds and sprigs of forget-me-not. A tear fell
from her eye on it.  She folded it up again, and put it away.

Presently she came downstairs, dressed to go with her father.  On
Sundays she wore a straw bonnet with cherry-coloured ribbons in it, but
now that the air was full of moisture she could not risk her pretty bows
in the wet. She would draw the hood of her scarlet cloak over her head.

Neither she nor her father spoke much on the way to Langford.  He was,
as Kate had said, not ill-pleased at the alliance—indeed, but for the
trouble about Charles, he would have been exultant.

Honor had been brought to accept what was best for her and for all the
family at last. Oliver had easily accepted Kate’s assertion that Charles
was innocent, but he would not maintain the innocence of Charles before
Honor, lest it should cause her to draw back from her engagement.

Even on a fine day, with the sun streaming in at the two windows,
Langford’s parlour was not cheerful.  It was panelled with deal, painted
slate-grey; the mouldings were coarse and heavy.  There were no curtains
to the windows, only blinds, no carpet on the floor, and the furniture
was stiff, the chairs and sofa covered with black horsehair.  What was
in the room was in sound condition and substantial, but tasteless.  Even
the table was bare of cover.  Till Honor entered in her scarlet cloak
there was not a speck of pure colour in the room.  She removed her
cloak, and stood in a dark gown, somewhat short, showing below it a
strip of red petticoat and her red stockings. Round her neck was a white
handkerchief, of cotton, not of silk.

Mr. Physick and Langford were at the table; they were waiting, and had
been expecting them. Both rose to receive her and her father, the first
with effusion, the latter with some embarrassment.

’What is the matter with you, sir?’ asked the carrier of Taverner
Langford.  ’You don’t look yourself to-day.’

’I’ve been unwell,’ answered the yeoman. ’I had to be down at the church
t’other day to meet the rural dean, as I’m churchwarden, and Nanspian is
too lazy to act; I heated myself with walking, and I had an encounter
with the young Merry Andrew on the way.’  He glanced at Honor, but she
neither stirred nor raised her eyes from the table.  ’Some words passed.
He was impudent, and I nigh on thrashed him.  I would have chastised
him, but that he had a broken arm.  My blood was up, and I had to stand
in the damp church, and I reckon I got a chill there.  I was taken bad
in the night, and thought I must die—burning pains and cramps, but it
passed off.  I’m better now.  It was an inflammation, but I’m getting
right again.  I have to be careful what I eat, that is all.
Slops—slops.  I wouldn’t dare touch that,’ said he, pointing to a brandy
bottle beside the lawyer.  ’It would feed the fire and kill me.’

’My opinion is that the affection is of the heart, not of the stomach,’
laughed Physick, ’and when I look at Miss Honor I’m not surprised at the
burning.  Enough to set us all in flames, eh, Langford?  Heartburn, man,
heartburn!—nothing worse than that, and now you’re going to take the
best medicine to cure that disorder.’

’Not that at all,’ said Taverner surlily.  ’I caught a chill across me
standing waiting in the church at the visitation; I felt the cold and
damp come up out of the vault to me.  I was taken ill the same night.’

’You’ve a nice house here,’ said the lively Physick, ’a little cold such
a day as this, with the drizzle against the windows, but—love will keep
it warm.  What do you think, Miss Honor, of the nest, eh?  Lined with
wool, eh? well, money is better than wool.’

Honor measured him with a haughty glance, and Physick, somewhat
disconcerted, turned to the carrier and Mr. Langford to discuss
business.

Honor remained standing, cold, composed, and resolute, but with a heart
weaker than her outward appearance betokened.  ’Come,’ said Physick,
’next to the parson I’m the most necessary workman to hammer the chain.
The parson can do something for the present, I for the future.  If you
will listen to the settlement, you won’t grumble at my part.  Little as
you may think of me, I’ve had your interests in eye.  I’ve taken care of
you.’

’You have done nothing but what I have bid you,’ said Taverner roughly.
’Oliver Luxmore and I talked it over before you, and you have written
what we decided.’

’Oh, of course, of course!’ exclaimed Physick, ’but there are two ways
of doing a thing.  A slip of the pen, a turn of expression, and all is
spoiled.  I’ve been careful, and I do consider it hard that the parson
who blesses the knot should be allowed to claim a kiss, and the lawyer
who plaits it should not be allowed even to ask for one.’ He glanced at
Taverner and Oliver and winked.

’Certainly, certainly,’ said the carrier.

’Come,’ said Langford, ’to business.  I want her’—he pointed with his
elbow at Honor—’to see what I have done.  I’m a fair man, and I want her
to see that I have dealt generously by her, and to know if she be
content.’

’I have asked you for one thing, Mr. Langford, and that you have
refused.  I must needs be content with whatever you have decided for me,
but I care for nothing else.’

’Listen, listen, Honor, before you speak,’ said Oliver Luxmore.  ’I have
considered your interests as your father, and I think you will say that
_I_ also have dealt handsomely by you.’

’You, dear father!’  She wondered what he could have done, he who had
nothing, who was in debt.

’Read,’ said Luxmore, and coughed a self-complacent, important cough.

The settlement was simple.  It provided that in the event of Honor
becoming a widow, in accordance with a settlement made in the marriage
of Moses Langford and Blandina Hill, the father and mother of Taverner
Langford, the property should be charged to the amount of seventy-five
pounds to be levied annually, and that, in the event of issue arising
from the contemplated marriage, in accordance with the afore-mentioned
settlement the property was to go to the eldest son, charged with the
seventy-five pounds for his mother, and that every other child was, on
its coming of age, to receive one hundred pounds, to be levied out of
the estate. And it was further agreed between Taverner Langford and
Oliver Luxmore that, in the event of the latter receiving the estates of
the Luxmore family, named Coombe Park, in the parish of Bratton Clovelly
and other, he, the said Oliver Luxmore, should pay to Taverner Langford,
the husband of his daughter, the sum of five hundred pounds to be
invested in the three per cents. for the benefit of the said Honor
Langford, _alias_ Luxmore, during her lifetime, and to her sole use, and
with power of disposal by will.  This was the stipulation Oliver had
made; he insisted on this generous offer being accepted and inserted in
the marriage contract. Honor listened attentively to every word.  She
was indifferent what provision was made for herself, but she hoped
against conviction that Langford would bind himself to do something for
her father.  Instead of that her father had bound himself to pay five
hundred pounds in the improbable event of his getting Coombe Park.  Poor
father! poor father!

’You have done nothing of what I asked,’ said Honor.

’I have no wish to act ungenerously,’ answered Taverner.  ’Your request
was reasonable; however, I have acted fairly, I have promised to advance
your father a hundred pounds to assist him in the prosecuting of his
claims.’

’There,’ said Oliver Luxmore, ’you see, Honor, that your marriage is
about to help the whole family.  We shall come by our lights at last.
We shall recover Coombe Park.’

Then Taverner went to the door and called down the passage, ’Mrs. Veale!
Come here! You are wanted to witness some signatures.’

The housekeeper came, paler, more trembling than usual, with her eyes
fluttering, but with sharp malignant gleams flashing out of them from
under the white throbbing lashes.

’I be that nervous,’ she said, ’and my hand shakes so I can hardly
write.’

She stooped, and indeed her hand did tremble.  ’I’m cooking the supper,’
she said, ’you must excuse the apron.’  As she wrote she turned her head
and looked at her master.  He was not observing her, and the lawyer was
indicating the place where she was to write and was holding down the
sheet, but Honor saw the look full of deadly hate, a look that made her
heart stand still, and the thought to spring into her brain, ’That woman
ought not to remain in the house another hour, she is dangerous.’

When Mrs. Veale had done, she rose, put her hands under her apron,
curtsied, and said, ’May I make so bold as to ask if that be the
master’s will?’

’No, it is not,’ said Langford.

’Thank you, sir,’ said Mrs. Veale, curtseying again.  ’You’ll excuse the
liberty, but if it had been, I’d have said, remember I’ve served your
honour these fifteen years faithful as a dog, and now in my old age I’m
kicked out, though not past work.’

She curtsied again, and went backward out of the room into the passage.

Langford shut, slammed the door in her face.

’Is the woman a little touched here?’ asked the lawyer, pointing to his
forehead.

’Oh no, not a bit, only disappointed.  She has spent fifteen years in
laying traps for me, and I have been wise enough to avoid them all.’
Then he opened the door suddenly and saw her there, in the dark passage,
her face distorted with passion and her fist raised.

’Mrs. Veale,’ said the yeoman, ’lay the supper and have done with this
nonsense.’

’I beg your pardon,’ she said, changing her look and making another
curtsey, ’was it the marriage settlement now?  I suppose it was.  I wish
you every happiness, and health to enjoy your new condition.  Health and
happiness! I’m to leave, and that young chick to take my place.  May she
enjoy herself.  And, Mr. Langford, may you please, as long as you live,
to remember me.’

’Go along!  Lay the table, and bring in supper.’

’What will you please to take, master?’ asked the woman in an altered
tone.

’Bring me some broth.  I’ll take no solids. I’m not right yet.  For the
rest, the best you have in the house.’

Mrs. Veale laid the table.  The lawyer, Langford, the carrier, and Honor
were seated round the room, very stiffly, silent, watching the
preparations for the meal.

Presently Honor started up.  She was unaccustomed to be waited upon,
incapable of remaining idle.

’I will go help to prepare the supper,’ she said, and went into the
passage.

This passage led directly from the front door through the house to the
kitchen.  It was dark; all the light it got was from the front door, or
through the kitchen when one or other door was left open.  Originally
the front door had opened into a hall or reception room with window and
fireplace; but Taverner had battened off the passage, and converted the
old hall into a room where he kept saddles and bridles and other things
connected with the stables.  By shutting off the window by the partition
he had darkened the passage, and consequently the kitchen door had
invariably to be left open to light it.  In this dark passage stood
Honor, looking down it to the kitchen which was full of light, whilst
she pinned up the skirt of her best gown, so as not to soil it whilst
engaged in serving up the supper.  As she stood thus she saw Mrs. Veale
at the fire stirring the broth for her master in an iron saucepan.  She
put her hand to the mantelshelf, took down the china dog, and Honor saw
her remove from its inside a packet of yellow paper, empty the contents
into the pan, then burn the paper and pour the broth into a bowl. In a
moment Kate’s story of the rat poison in the body of the dog recurred to
Honor, and she stood paralysed, unable to resolve what to do.  Then she
recalled the look cast at Taverner by Mrs. Veale as she was signing the
settlement as witness.  Honor reopened the parlour door, went into the
room again she had just left, and seated herself, that she might collect
her thoughts and determine what to do.  Kate was not a reliable
authority, and it was not judicious to act on information given by her
sister without having proved it.  Honor had seen Mrs. Veale thrust the
yellow paper into the flames under the pot.  She could not therefore be
sure by examination that it was the rat-poison packet.  She remained
half in a dream whilst the supper was laid, and woke with a start when
Taverner said, ’Come to table all, and we will ask a blessing.’

Honor slowly drew towards the table; she looked round.  Mrs. Veale was
not there; before Taverner stood the steaming bowl of soup.

Langford murmured grace, then said, ’Fall to.  Oliver Luxmore, you do
the honours.  I can’t eat, I’m forced to take slops.  But I’m better,
only I must be careful.’  He put his spoon into the basin, and would
have helped himself, had not Honor snatched the bowl away and removed it
to the mantelshelf.

’You must not touch it,’ she said.  ’I am not sure—I am afraid—I would
not accuse wrongfully—it is poisoned.’



                           *CHAPTER XXXVII.*

                           *A BOWL OF BROTH.*


The words were hardly out of Honor’s mouth before the party were
surprised by a noise of voices and feet in the kitchen, and a cry as of
dismay or fear.  A moment after the tramp was in the passage the parlour
door was flung open, and Sam Voaden, Hillary Nanspian and his father,
Piper, Charles Luxmore, and Mrs. Veale came in, the latter gripped
firmly by Piper and Charles.

’Here I am,’ said young Luxmore, with his usual swagger, and with some
elation in his tone, ’here I am, come to know what the deuce you mean,
Mr. Langford, charging me—a gentleman—not to the face but behind the
back, with stealing your money?  Look here, Sam, produce the box.  There
is your cash—whether right or not I cannot say.  I have taken none of
it.  I did not remove the case.  Tell ’em where you found it, Sam.’

’I found it in Wellon’s Mound,’ said the young man appealed to.  ’I’ve
been to Plymouth after Charles.  I didn’t believe he was a thief, but
I’d hard matter to find him. Howsomedever, I did in the end, and here he
be.  He came along ready enough.  He was out of money—wanted to go to
America, but had not the means of paying his passage, and not inclined
to work it.’

’I’ve lost a finger,’ exclaimed Charles. ’How could I work, maimed as I
am?—a wounded soldier without a pension!  That is shameful of an
ungrateful country.’

’He took on badly,’ continued Sam, ’when I told him that Mr. Langford
said he had stolen his cashbox with a thousand pounds.’

’I’m a Luxmore of Coombe Park,’ said Charles, drawing himself up.  ’I’m
not one of your vulgar thieves, not I.  Mrs. Veale did her best to tempt
me to take it, but I resisted it manfully.  At last I ran away, afraid
lest she should over-persuade me and get me into trouble, when I saw she
had actually got the box.  I ran away from Mrs. Veale, and because
ninepence a day wasn’t sufficient to detain me.  I wasn’t over-sure
neither that I hadn’t, against my intention, broke the neck of Larry
Nanspian.  Now you know my reasons, and they’re good in their way.  Mrs.
Veale, there, is a reg’lar bad un.’

’As soon as Sam returned with Charles,’ said Larry, ’they came on direct
to Chimsworthy, and then Charles told us the whole tale, how Mrs. Veale
had shown him where Mr. Langford kept his money, then how she’d enticed
him out on the moor to Wellon’s Cairn, and had let him see that she had
carried off the box and had concealed it there.  Charles told us that it
was then that he ran away, and frightened my horse so that I was thrown
and injured.’

’There was nothing ungentlemanly or unsoldierlike in my cutting away,’
exclaimed Charles.  ’Adam was beguiled by Eve, and I didn’t set myself
up to be a better man than my great forefather.  I’d like to know which
of the company would like to be fondled by Mrs. Veale, and made much of,
and coaxed to run away with her?  She’s a bad un.  It wasn’t like I
should reciprocate.’

’When we had heard the story,’ continued Larry, ’I persuaded my father
and Mr. Piper, who was at our house, to come along with us and see the
whole matter cleared up.  We went immediately to Wellon’s Cairn, and
found, as Charles Luxmore said we should, a stone box or coffin, hidden
in the hill, with bushes of heather and peat over the hole.  That we
cleared away, and were able to put our hands in, and extracted from the
inside this iron case. It is yours, is it not, Mr. Langford?’

He put the cashbox on the table, taking it into his left hand from his
father.

Taverner went to it and examined it. ’Yes,’ he said slowly, ’this is the
stolen box.’

’The lock is uninjured, it is fast,’ said Charles; ’but I can tell you
how to open it. "Ebal" is the word this year, and "Onam" was last year’s
word.  Try the letters of the lock and the box will fly open.  I know;
Mrs. Veale told me.  A reg’lar bad un she be, and how she has worreted
me the time I’ve been here!—at ninepence, and Mrs. Veale not even
good-looking.’

’How about the five-pound note?’ asked Langford, looking hard at Charles
from under his contracted heavy brows.  ’You can’t deny you had that.’

’What five-pound note?—what five-pound note have I had from you?’

’The note you gave us, Charles,’ explained his father.

’Oh, that.  Did it come from your box? I did not know it; Mrs. Veale
gave it me. Now, don’t you glow’r at me that way!’  This was to the
housekeeper, who had turned her white, quivering face towards him.  ’Now
don’t you try to wriggle or shiver yourself out of my hold, for go you
don’t; as you couldn’t catch me, I’ve caught you, and to justice I’ll
bring you; a designing, harassing, sweethearting old female, you be!’
He gripped her so hard that she exclaimed with pain.  ’And to lay it on
me when I was gone!  To make out I—that am innocent as the angels in
heaven—was a thief!  And I, a Luxmore of Coombe Park, and a hero of the
Afghan War!—I, that carried off the sandal-wood gates of Somnath! I, a
thief!  I, indeed!  Mrs. Veale gave me, off and on, money when I was
short—I wasn’t very flush on ninepence a day.  A man of my position and
bringing up and military tastes can’t put up well with ninepence.  I
only accepted her money as a loan; and when she let me have a five-pound
note, I gave her a promise to pay for it when I came into my property.
How was I to know that five pound was not hers?  I suppose, by the way
you ask, it was not?’

’No,’ said Langford, ’it was not; it was taken from my box.’

’That is like her—a bad un down to the soles of her feet.  Wanted to mix
me up with it and have evidence against me.  I reckon I’ve turned the
tables on the old woman—considerably.’

’What do you say to this?’ asked Taverner, directing his keen eyes on
her face.  She was flickering so that it was impossible to catch her
eyes.  Her face was as though seen through the hot air over a kiln.

’I’ve been in your service fifteen years,’ she said, in a voice as
vibrating as the muscles of her countenance.  ’I’ve been treated by you
no better than a dog, and I’ve followed you, and been true to you as a
dog.  Whenever did I take anything from you before?  I’ve watched for
you against the mice that eat the corn, watched like an owl!’

’You acknowledge this?’

’What is the good of denying it?  Let me go, for my fifteen years’
faithful duty.’

’No, no,’ said Taverner with a hard voice. ’Not yet; I’ve something more
to ask.  Honor Luxmore, what did you say when you took my bowl of broth
from me?’  Honor drew back.

’I spoke too hastily,’ she said.  ’I spoke without knowing.’

’You said that the bowl contained poison. Why did you say that?’

’It was fancy.  Let me throw the broth away.  I am sure of nothing.’
Unlike her usual decision, Honor was now doubtful what to say and do.

’I insist on knowing.  I made a charge against your brother, and it has
proved false, because it has been gone into.  You have made a charge——’

’I have charged no one.’

’You have said that this bowl’—he took it from the shelf—’is poisoned.
Why did you say that?  No one touched it, no one mixed it, but Mrs.
Veale.  Therefore, when you said it was poisoned, you charged her with a
dreadful crime; you charged her, that is, with an attempted crime.’

’I heard my sister say that she saw a yellow packet of rat-poison in the
china dog on the shelf in the kitchen,’ said Honor nervously, ’which—I
do not mean the dog—I mean the poison, which Mrs. Veale had bought at
the Revel, and when I was in the passage just now I saw Mrs. Veale put
the contents of this packet into the broth she was stirring on the fire,
before pouring it out into the basin, in which it now is.  But,’
continued Honor, drawing a long breath, ’but Kate is not very accurate;
she sometimes thinks she sees a thing when she has only imagined it, and
she talks at random at times, just because she likes to talk.’

’It was mace,’ said Mrs. Veale.

’Follow me,’ ordered Taverner Langford, taking the basin between his
hands, and going to the door.  ’Let her go.  She will follow me.’

’I’ve followed at your heel as a dog these fifteen years,’ muttered Mrs.
Veale, ’and now you know I must follow till you kick me away.’

Charles, however, would not relinquish his hold.

’Don’t let her escape,’ entreated Charles; ’she’s a bad un, and ought to
be brought to justice for falsely charging me.’

’Open the door, will you?’ said Taverner roughly.  ’Mrs. Veale, follow
me into the harness-room’—this was the room on the other side of the
passage, the room made out of the entrance hall.

Charles drew the woman through the door, and did not relax his hold till
he had thrust her into the apartment where Langford wished to speak to
her alone.

Taverner and she were now face to face without witnesses.  The soft warm
mist had changed to rain, that now pattered against the window.  The
room was wholly unfurnished. There was not a chair in it nor a table.
Taverner had originally intended it as an office, but as he received few
visitors he had come to use the parlour as reception room and office,
and had made this apartment, cut from the hall, into a receptacle for
lumber.  A range of pegs on the wall supported old saddles and the gear
of cart-horses, and branches of beanstalks, that had been hung there to
dry for the preservation of seed.  An unpleasant, stale odour hung about
the room.  The grate had not been used for many years, and was rusty;
rain had brought the soot down the chimney, and, as there was no fender,
had spluttered it over the floor.  The window panes were dirty, and
cobwebs hung in the corners of the room from the ceiling—old cobwebs
thick with dust. Moths had eaten into the stuffing of the saddles, and,
disturbed by the current of air from the door, fluttered about.  In the
corner was a heap of sacks, with nothing in them, smelling of earth and
tar.

’I’ve served you faithful as a dog,’ said Mrs. Veale.  ’Faithful as a
dog,’ she repeated; ’watched for you, wakeful as an owl.’

’And like a dog snarl and snap at me with poisoned fangs,’ retorted Mr.
Langford.  ’Stand there!’  He pointed to a place opposite him, so that
the light from the window fell on her, and his own face was in darkness.
’Tell me the truth; what have you done to this broth?’

’If you think there’s harm in it, throw it away,’ said Mrs. Veale.

’No, I will not.  I will send it to Okehampton and have it analysed.  Do
you know what that means?  Examined whether there be anything in it but
good juice of meat and water and toast.’

’There’s mace,’ said the woman; ’I put in mace to spice it, and pepper
and salt.’

’Anything else?  What do you keep in yellow paper, and in the china
dog?’

’Mace—every cook puts mace in soup.  If you don’t like it throw it away,
and I will make you some without.’

’Mrs. Veale, so there’s nothing further in the soup?’

’Nothing.’

’You warned me that a corpse-candle was coming to the door—nay, you said
you had seen it travel up the road and dance on the step, and that same
night I was taken ill.’

’Well, did I bring the corpse-light?  It came of itself.’

’Mrs. Veale, I am not generally accounted a generous man, but I pride
myself on being a just man.  You have told me over and over again that
you have served me faithfully for fifteen years.  Well, you have had
your way. You served me in your own fashion, with your head full of your
own plans.  You wanted to catch me, but the wary bird don’t hop on the
limed twig, to use your own expressions. I don’t see that I’m much in
your debt; if you are disappointed in the failure of your plans, that’s
your look-out; you should have seen earlier that nothing was to be made
out of me.  Now I am ready to stretch a point with you.  You have robbed
me.  Fortunately for me, I’ve got my money and box back before you have
been able to make off with it.  What were you waiting for?  For my
death?  For my marriage?  Were you going to finish me because I had not
been snared by your blandishments?  I believe you intended to poison
me.’

’It’s a lie!’ said Mrs. Veale hoarsely, trembling in every limb, and
with flickering lips and eyes and nostrils and fluttering hair.

’Very well.  I am content to believe so. I can, if I choose, proceed
against you at once—have you locked up this very night for your theft.
But I am willing to deal even generously with you.  It may be I have
overlooked your many services; I may have repaid them scantily.  You may
be bitterly disappointed because I have not made you mistress of this
house, and I will allow that I didn’t keep you at arm’s length as I
should, finding you useful. Very well.  The door is open.  You shall go
away and none shall follow, on one condition.’

He looked fixedly at her, and her quivering became more violent.  She
did not ask what his condition was.  She knew.

’Finish this bowl, and convince me you were not bent on my murder.’

She put out her hands to cover her face, but they trembled so that she
could not hold them over her eyes.

’If you refuse, I shall know the whole depth of your wickedness, and you
shall only leave this room under arrest.  If you accept, the moor is
before you; go over it where you will.’

He held the bowl to her.  Then her trembling ceased—ceased as by a
sudden spasm.  She was still, set in face as if frozen; and her eyes,
that glared on her master, were like pieces of ice.  She said nothing,
but took the bowl and put it to her lips, and, with her eyes on him, she
drained it to the dregs.

Then the shivering, like a palsy, came over her again.  ’Let me go,’ she
said huskily.  ’Let none follow.  Leave me in peace.’  Langford opened
the door and went back into the parlour. Mrs. Veale stole out after him,
and those in the sitting-room heard her going down the passage like a
bird, flapping against the walls on each side.

’Where is she going?’ asked Charles. ’She is not to escape us.  She’s
such a bad un, trying to involve me.’

’I’ve forgiven her.’ answered Langford in a surly tone.  ’I mayn’t be
over generous, but I’m just.’

’And now, Taverner, one word wi’ you,’ said old Nanspian.  ’I reckon you
thought to sloke away this Red Spider, as you did the first; but there
you are mistaken.  As I’ve heard, you have tried to force her to accept
you—who are old enough to be her father—shame be to you!  But this is
your own house, and I’ll say no more on what I think.  Now, Taverner, I
venture to declare you have no more hold on the girl.  Her brother never
took your money; you were robbed by your own housekeeper.  You say
you’ve forgiven her because you are just.  What the justice is, in that,
I don’t see, but I do see one thing clear as daylight, and that is,
you’ve no right any more to insist on Honor coming here as your wife,
not unless by her free will and consent, and that, I reckon, you won’t
have, as Larry, my boy, has secured her heart.’

Langford looked at Nanspian, then at Honor and Larry; at the latter he
looked long.

’I suppose it is so,’ he said.  ’Give me the settlement.’ He tore it to
pieces.  ’I’ll have nothing more to do with women, old or young. They’re
all vexatious.’

’Hark!’  They heard a wailing cry.

’Go and see what is the matter,’ said Langford to Piper; then, turning
to Oliver, he said, ’I tear up the settlement, but I’ll not lend the
hundred pounds.’

’Larry!’ said old Nanspian, ’she shan’t be sloked away any more.  Take
the maid’s hand, and may the Lord bless and unite you.’  Then to
Langford, ’Now look y’ here, Taverner.  Us have been quarrelling long
enough, I reckon. You’ve tried your worst against us, and you’ve failed.
I’ve made the first advance on my side, and uninvited come over your
doorstep, a thing I swore I never would do.  Give me your hand,
brother-in-law, and let us forget the past, or rather let us go back to
a past before we squabbled over a little Red Spider.  You can’t help it
now; Langford and Chimsworthy will be united, but not whilst we old folk
are alive, and Honor will be a queen o’ managers.  She’ll rake the
maidens out of their beds at five o’clock in the morning to make the
butter, and——’

Piper burst into the room.  ’Mrs. Veale!’ he exclaimed.

’Well, what of Mrs. Veale?’ asked Langford sharply.

’She has run out, crying like an owl and flapping her arms, over the
moor, till she came to Wellon’s Hill.’

’Let her go,’ said Langford.

’She went right into the mound,’ continued Piper breathlessly, ’and when
I came up she had crawled into the stone coffin inside, and had only her
arm out, and she was tearing and scraping at the earth and drawing it
down over the hole by which she’d gone in—burying herself alive, and
wailing like an owl.’

’Is there any money still hid there?’ asked Langford.

’She screamed at me when I came up, "Will you not leave me alone?  I be
poisoned! I be dying!  Let me die in peace!"  Whatever shall us do?’



                           *CHAPTER XXXVIII.*

                         *THE LOOK-OUT STONE.*


One Sunday evening, a year after the events just related, Taverner
Langford and Hillary Nanspian, senior, were seated in the sun on the
Look-out stone, in friendly conversation. Nanspian was looking happier,
more hale, and prosperous than he had appeared since his stroke.  He
wore the badger-skin waistcoat, and his shirtsleeves.  The waistcoat had
been relined with brilliant crimson stuff; bright was the hue of the
lining displayed by the lappets.  Taverner Langford had not a cheerful
expression; his hair was more grizzled than it was twelve months ago,
and his face more livid.  There was, however, a gentler light in his
eyes.

’It is a great change in Larry,’ said Nanspian.  ’Though I say it, there
never was a steadier and better son.  He is at work from morning to
night, and is getting the farm into first-rate order—you’ll allow that?’

’Yes,’ answered Langford, ’I’ll allow he begins well; I hope it will
last.  As for first-rate order, that I will not admit.  "One year’s
seeds, three years’ weeds," as Mrs. Veale——’

He checked himself.

’That were a queer creature,’ observed Nanspian, taking the pipe from
his mouth, and blowing a long puff.  ’That was the queerest thing of
all, her burying herself, when she felt she was dying, in old Wellon’s
grave.’

’It was not his grave.  It was a grave of the old ancient Britons.’

’Well, it don’t matter exactly whose the grave was.  Mrs. Veale seemed
mighty set on making it her own.’  He continued puffing, looking before
him.  ’I’m not sure you acted right about her,’ he said after a while.
’I suppose you didn’t really suppose there was any poison in the broth.’

’I’m a just man,’ said Langford, ’To do as you were to be done by is my
maxim. And—it’s Gospel.’

’But you didn’t think it would kill her?’

’I don’t know what I thought.  I wasn’t sure.’

Another pause.

’Swaddledown ain’t coming to the hammer after all,’ said Nanspian.

’No, I’m glad the Voadens remain on.’

’Ah! and Sam is a good lad.  I reckon before Michaelmas he and Kate will
make a pair.  They’d have done that afore if it had been settled whether
Swaddledown would be sold, and they have to leave.’

’Kate is too giddy to be any use in a farm.’

’Oh, wait till she has responsibilities.  See how well she has managed
since Honor has been here—how she has kept the children, and made her
father comfortable.’

’The children are half their time at Chimsworthy.’

’Well, well, I like to hear their voices.’

’And you see more than you like of Luxmore.’

’Oh, no, I like to see a neighbour.  I allow I’m a bit weary of Coombe
Park; but bless you, now you and I let him have a trifle, he spends most
of his time when not in the van rambling about from one parish to
another looking at the registers, and trying to find whether his
grandfather were James, or John, or Joseph, or Jonah.  It amuses him,
and it don’t cost much.’

’He’ll never establish his claim.’

’I reckon he won’t.  But it’s an occupation, and the carrying don’t
bring him much money—just enough to keep the children alive on.’

’Have you heard of Charles lately?’

’Oh, he is on the road.  That was a fine idea, making a carrier of him
between Exeter and Launceston.  There are so many stations on the
way—there’s Tap House, and Crockernwell, and Sticklepath, and
Okehampton, and Sourton Down Inn, and Bridestowe, and Lew Down, and
Lifton; and he can talk to his heart’s content at each about what he did
in Afghanistan, and what he might be if his father could prove his claim
to Coombe Park.  Then he’s so occupied with his horses on Sundays at
Launceston that he can’t possibly get over here to see his relations,
which is a mercy.’

’I’ve been thinking,’ said Langford, ’as we’ve got Larry in for third
feoffee in Coryndon’s Charity, couldn’t we get the baby in for the
fourth now there’s a vacancy?’

’But the baby ain’t come yet, and I don’t know whether it’ll be a boy or
a maid.’

’It would be a satisfaction, and a further bond of union,’ argued
Langford.  ’The Coryndon trust land comes in very fitting with Langford
and Chimsworthy, and I thought that when you and I are gone, Larry might
absorb our feoffeeships into himself, as a snail draws in his horns, and
then there’d be only he and his son, and when he himself goes, his son
would be sole feoffee and responsible to no one. Coryndon’s land comes
in very fitly.’

’I don’t think it can be done,’ said Nanspian, shaking his head.
’There’s such a lot of ramping and roaring radicalism about.  I thought
we’d better put in Sam Voaden.  Thus it will be in the family.’

’In the Luxmore, not in ours.’

’We can’t have everything,’ argued Nanspian. Then both were silent
again.  Langford sighed.  Presently he said, ’I’m a just man, and do
like to see the property rounded shapely on all sides.  That is why I
proposed it.’

Then another pause.

Presently Hillary Nanspian drew a long pull at his pipe, and sent two
little shoots of smoke through his nostrils.  ’Taverner,’ said he, when
all the smoke was expended, ’going back to that woman, Mrs. Veale, I
don’t think you ought to have taken me up so mighty sharp about her.
After all this is sifted and said, you must allow you stood afraid of
her, and I allow that you had a right to be so.  A woman as would steal
your cashbox, and make attempts on your heart, and poison your gruel, no
man need blush and hang his head to admit that he was a bit afraid of.’

’And, Nanspian,’ said Langford with solemnity, ’you will excuse my
remarking that I think you took me up far too testily when I said you
was a long-tailed ourang-outang, for it so happens that the
ourang-outang is a _tailless_ ape.  Consequently, no offence could have
been meant, and should not ha’ been taken.’

’You don’t mean to say so?’

’It is true.  I have it in print in a Nature History, and, what is more,
I’ve got a picture of an ourang-outang, holding a torn-off bough in his
hand, and showing just enough of his back to let folks understand he’s
very like a man. Well, I’ve a mind, as the expression I used about you
was repeated in the long room of the "Ring of Bells," to have that
picture framed and hung up there.  Besides, under it stands in print,
"The ourang-outang, or _tailless_ ape."’

’You will?  Well, I always said you were a just man; now I will add
you’re generous.’  The brothers-in-law shook hands.  After a moment’s
consideration Nanspian said, ’I don’t like to be outdone in generosity
by you, much as I respect you.  If it would be any satisfaction to the
parish of Bratton Clovelly, the weather being warm, and for the quieting
of minds and setting at rest all disputes, I don’t object to bathing
once in the river Thrustle before the feoffees of Coryndon’s Charity,
excepting Larry, whom from motives of delicacy I exclude.’

’Well,’ said Langford, ’I won’t deny you’re a liberal-minded man.’

Taverner sprang to his feet, and Nanspian also rose.  Over the stile
from the lane came Honor, in her red stockings and scarlet cloak, the
latter drawn closely round her.

’Why didn’t you call us?’ said Nanspian. ’We’d have come and helped you
over.’

’You shouldn’t be climbing about now,’ said Taverner.

’Come and sit between us on the Look-out stone,’ said Nanspian.

So the two old men reseated themselves on the granite slab, with Honor
between them.

’You tried hard to sloke her away,’ remarked Nanspian, shaking his head.

’Let bygones be bygones,’ said Langford. ’She may be here at Chimsworthy
now, but she’ll be at Langford some day.  I’m proud and happy to think.’

’Ah!’ said Nanspian, ’she’s made a mighty change in Larry, and, faith,
in me also.  I’m a happier man than I was.’  He put his arm round behind
Honor.

’I may say that of myself,’ said Langford. ’I can know that Langford
will be made the most of after I’m gone.’ He put his arm round her, and
clasped that of Nanspian.

’Ah!’ said Nanspian, in his old soft, furry, pleasant voice, ’if I’d a
many score of faces in front of me, and I were addressing a political
meeting, I’d say the same as I says now. Never you argue that what we
was taught as children is gammon and superstition, it’s no such thing.
It has always been said that he who lays hold of a red spider secures
good luck, and we’ve proved it, Taverner and I, we’ve proved it.  Us
have got hold of the very best and biggest and reddest of money-spinners
between us—us don’t try to sloke her away to this side or to that.  Her
belongs ekally to Chimsworthy and to Langford, to myself and to
Taverner, and blessed if there be a chance for any man all over England
of getting such another treasure as this Red Spider which Taverner and I
be holding atween us—ekally belonging to each.’



                                THE END.



                               PRINTED BY
                SPOTTISWOODE AND CO., NEW-STREET SQUARE
                                 LONDON





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