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´╗┐Title: Index of the Project Gutenberg Works of Thomas Hardy
Author: Hardy, Thomas
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 "Index of the Project Gutenberg Works of Thomas Hardy" ***

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



THOMAS HARDY



CONTENTS

 ##  FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD

##  TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES

##  RETURN OF THE NATIVE

##  THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE

##  JUDE THE OBSCURE

##  A PAIR OF BLUE EYES

##  THE WOODLANDERS

##  SATIRES OF CIRCUMSTANCE

THE ROMANTIC ADVENTURES OF A MILKMAID

##  DESPERATE REMEDIES

TWO ON A TOWER

##  POEMS OF THE PAST AND THE PRESENT

##  MOMENTS OF VISION and VERSES

##  A LAODICEAN

##  THE WELL-BELOVED

THE DYNASTS

##  LATE LYRICS AND EARLIER

##  LIFE'S LITTLE IRONIES

##  A GROUP OF NOBLE DAMES

##  WESSEX TALES

##  A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES

##  THE HAND OF ETHELBERTA



TABLES OF CONTENTS OF VOLUMES



FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD By Thomas Hardy



CONTENTS


Preface 	I.   	Description of Farmer Oak\x97An Incident 	II.   	Night\x97The
Flock\x97An Interior\x97Another Interior 	III.   	A Girl on
Horseback\x97Conversation 	IV.   	Gabriel's Resolve\x97The Visit\x97The Mistake
V.   	Departure of Bathsheba\x97A Pastoral Tragedy 	VI.   	The Fair\x97The
Journey\x97The Fire 	VII.   	Recognition\x97A Timid Girl 	VIII.   	The
Malthouse\x97The Chat\x97News 	IX.   	The Homestead\x97A Visitor\x97Half-Confidences
X.   	Mistress and Men 	XI.   	Outside the Barracks\x97Snow\x97A Meeting 	XII.
Farmers\x97A Rule\x97An Exception 	XIII.   	Sortes Sanctorum\x97The Valentine
XIV.   	Effect of the Letter\x97Sunrise 	XV.   	A Morning Meeting\x97The
Letter Again 	XVI.   	All Saints' and All Souls' 	XVII.   	In the
Market-Place 	XVIII.   	Boldwood in Meditation\x97Regret 	XIX.   	The
Sheep-Washing\x97The Offer 	XX.   	Perplexity\x97Grinding the Shears\x97A Quarrel
XXI.   	Troubles in the Fold\x97A Message 	XXII.   	The Great Barn and the
Sheep-Shearers 	XXIII.   	Eventide\x97A Second Declaration 	XXIV.   	The
Same Night\x97The Fir Plantation 	XXV.   	The New Acquaintance Described
XXVI.   	Scene on the Verge of the Hay-Mead 	XXVII.   	Hiving the Bees
XXVIII.   	The Hollow Amid the Ferns 	XXIX.   	Particulars of a Twilight
Walk 	XXX.   	Hot Cheeks and Tearful Eyes 	XXXI.   	Blame\x97Fury 	XXXII.
Night\x97Horses Tramping 	XXXIII.   	In the Sun\x97A Harbinger 	XXXIV.   	Home
Again\x97A Trickster 	XXXV.   	At an Upper Window 	XXXVI.   	Wealth in
Jeopardy\x97The Revel 	XXXVII.   	The Storm\x97The Two Together 	XXXVIII.
Rain\x97One Solitary Meets Another 	XXXIX.   	Coming Home\x97A Cry 	XL.   	On
Casterbridge Highway 	XLI.   	Suspicion\x97Fanny Is Sent For 	XLII.
Joseph and His Burden\x97Buck's Head 	XLIII.   	Fanny's Revenge 	XLIV.
Under a Tree\x97Reaction 	XLV.   	Troy's Romanticism 	XLVI.   	The
Gurgoyle: Its Doings 	XLVII.   	Adventures by the Shore 	XLVIII.
Doubts Arise\x97Doubts Linger 	XLIX.   	Oak's Advancement\x97A Great Hope 	L.
The Sheep Fair\x97Troy Touches His Wife's Hand 	LI.   	Bathsheba Talks with
Her Outrider 	LII.   	Converging Courses 	LIII.   	Concurritur\x97Horae
Momento 	LIV.   	After the Shock 	LV.   	The March Following\x97"Bathsheba
Boldwood" 	LVI.   	Beauty in Loneliness\x97After All 	LVII.   	A Foggy
Night and Morning\x97Conclusion



TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES A Pure Woman Faithfully presented by Thomas
Hardy



CONTENTS


Phase the First:  The Maiden Chapter I Chapter II Chapter III Chapter IV
Chapter V Chapter VI Chapter VII Chapter VIII Chapter IX Chapter X
Chapter XI Phase the Second:  Maiden No More Chapter XII Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV Chapter XV Phase the Third:  The Rally Chapter XVI Chapter
XVII Chapter XVIII Chapter XIX Chapter XX Chapter XXI Chapter XXII
Chapter XXIII Chapter XXIV Phase the Fourth:  The Consequence Chapter
XXV Chapter XXVI Chapter XXVII Chapter XXVIII Chapter XXIX Chapter XXX
Chapter XXXI Chapter XXXII Chapter XXXIII Chapter XXXIV Phase the Fifth:
The Woman Pays Chapter XXXV Chapter XXXVI Chapter XXXVII Chapter XXXVIII
Chapter XXXIX Chapter XL Chapter XLI Chapter XLII Chapter XLIII Chapter
XLIV Phase the Sixth:  The Convert Chapter XLV Chapter XLVI Chapter
XLVII Chapter XLVIII Chapter XLIX Chapter L Chapter LI Chapter LII Phase
the Seventh:  Fulfilment Chapter LIII Chapter LIV Chapter LV Chapter LVI
Chapter LVII Chapter LVIII Chapter LIX



THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE by Thomas Hardy



CONTENTS


PREFACE


BOOK ONE \x97 THE THREE WOMEN

1\x97A Face on Which Time Makes but Little Impression

2\x97Humanity Appears upon the Scene, Hand in Hand with Trouble

3\x97The Custom of the Country

4\x97The Halt on the Turnpike Road

5\x97Perplexity among Honest People

6\x97The Figure against the Sky

7\x97Queen of Night

8\x97Those Who Are Found Where There Is Said to Be Nobody

9\x97Love Leads a Shrewd Man into Strategy

10\x97A Desperate Attempt at Persuasion

11\x97The Dishonesty of an Honest Woman


BOOK TWO \x97 THE ARRIVAL

1\x97Tidings of the Comer

2\x97The People at Blooms-End Make Ready

3\x97How a Little Sound Produced a Great Dream

4\x97Eustacia Is Led on to an Adventure

5\x97Through the Moonlight

6\x97The Two Stand Face to Face

7\x97A Coalition between Beauty and Oddness

8\x97Firmness Is Discovered in a Gentle Heart


BOOK THREE \x97 THE FASCINATION

1\x97\x93My Mind to Me a Kingdom Is\x94

2\x97The New Course Causes Disappointment

3\x97The First Act in a Timeworn Drama

4\x97An Hour of Bliss and Many Hours of Sadness

5\x97Sharp Words Are Spoken, and a Crisis Ensues

6\x97Yeobright Goes, and the Breach Is Complete

7\x97The Morning and the Evening of a Day

8\x97A New Force Disturbs the Current


BOOK FOUR \x97 THE CLOSED DOOR

1\x97The Rencounter by the Pool

2\x97He Is Set upon by Adversities but He Sings a Song

3\x97She Goes Out to Battle against Depression

4\x97Rough Coercion Is Employed

5\x97The Journey across the Heath

6\x97A Conjuncture, and Its Result upon the Pedestrian

7\x97The Tragic Meeting of Two Old Friends

8\x97Eustacia Hears of Good Fortune, and Beholds Evil


BOOK FIVE \x97 THE DISCOVERY

1\x97\x93Wherefore Is Light Given to Him That Is in Misery\x94

2\x97A Lurid Light Breaks in upon a Darkened Understanding

3\x97Eustacia Dresses Herself on a Black Morning

4\x97The Ministrations of a Half-forgotten One

5\x97An Old Move Inadvertently Repeated

6\x97Thomasin Argues with Her Cousin, and He Writes a Letter

7\x97The Night of the Sixth of November

8\x97Rain, Darkness, and Anxious Wanderers

9\x97Sights and Sounds Draw the Wanderers Together


BOOK SIX \x97 AFTERCOURSES

1\x97The Inevitable Movement Onward

2\x97Thomasin Walks in a Green Place by the Roman Road

3\x97The Serious Discourse of Clym with His Cousin

4\x97Cheerfulness Again Asserts Itself at Blooms-End, and Clym Finds His



THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE by Thomas Hardy



CHAPTERS


1.

2.

3.

4.

5.


6.

7.

8.

9.

10.


11.

12.

13.

14.

15.


16.

17.

18.

19.

20.


21.

22.

23.

24.

25.


26.

27.

28.

29.

30.


31.

32.

33.

34.

35.


36.

37.

38.

39.

40.


41.

42.

43.

44.

45.



JUDE THE OBSCURE By Thomas Hardy CONTENTS PART FIRST At Marygreen
Chapter I Chapter II Chapter III Chapter IV Chapter V Chapter VI Chapter
VII Chapter VIII Chapter IX Chapter X Chapter XI

PART SECOND At Christminster Chapter I Chapter II Chapter III Chapter IV
Chapter V Chapter VI Chapter VII

PART THIRD At Melchester Chapter I Chapter II Chapter III Chapter IV
Chapter V Chapter VI Chapter VII Chapter VIII Chapter IX Chapter X

PART FOURTH At Shaston Chapter I Chapter II Chapter III Chapter IV
Chapter V Chapter VI

PART FIFTH At Aldbrickham and Elsewhere Chapter I Chapter II Chapter III
Chapter IV Chapter V Chapter VI Chapter VII Chapter VIII

PART SIXTH At Christminster Again Chapter I Chapter II Chapter III
Chapter IV Chapter V Chapter VI Chapter VII Chapter VIII Chapter IX
Chapter X Chapter XI



A PAIR OF BLUE EYES by Thomas Hardy



CONTENTS


PREFACE

Chapter I -- 'A fair vestal, throned in the west'

Chapter II -- 'Twas on the evening of a winter's day.'

Chapter III -- 'Melodious birds sing madrigals'

Chapter IV -- 'Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap.'

Chapter V -- 'Bosom'd high in tufted trees.'

Chapter VI -- 'Fare thee weel awhile!'

Chapter VII -- 'No more of me you knew, my love!'

Chapter VIII -- 'Allen-a-Dale is no baron or lord.'

Chapter IX -- 'Her father did fume'

Chapter X -- 'Beneath the shelter of an aged tree.'

Chapter XI -- 'Journeys end in lovers meeting.'

Chapter XII -- 'Adieu! she cries, and waved her lily hand.'

Chapter XIII -- 'He set in order many proverbs.'

Chapter XIV -- 'We frolic while 'tis May.'

Chapter XV -- 'A wandering voice.'

Chapter XVI -- 'Then fancy shapes-as fancy can.'

Chapter XVII -- 'Her welcome, spoke in faltering phrase.'

Chapter XVIII -- 'He heard her musical pants.'

Chapter XIX -- 'Love was in the next degree.'

Chapter XX -- 'A distant dearness in the hill.'

Chapter XXI -- 'On thy cold grey stones, O sea!'

Chapter XXII -- 'A woman's way.'

Chapter XXIII -- 'Should auld acquaintance be forgot?'

Chapter XXIV -- 'Breeze, bird, and flower confess the hour.'

Chapter XXV -- Mine own familiar friend.'

Chapter XXVI -- 'To that last nothing under earth.'

Chapter XXVII -- 'How should I greet thee?'

Chapter XXVIII -- 'I lull a fancy, trouble-tost.'

Chapter XXIX -- 'Care, thou canker.'

Chapter XXX -- 'Vassal unto Love.'

Chapter XXXI -- 'A worm i' the bud.'

Chapter XXXII -- 'Had I wist before I kist'

Chapter XXXIII -- 'O daughter of Babylon, wasted with misery.'

Chapter XXXIV -- 'Yea, happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou
hast served us.'

Chapter XXXV -- 'And wilt thou leave me thus?-say nay-say nay!'

Chapter XXXVI -- 'The pennie's the jewel that beautifies a'.'

Chapter XXXVII -- 'After many days.'

Chapter XXXVIII -- 'Jealousy is cruel as the grave.'

Chapter XXXIX -- 'Each to the loved one's side.'

Chapter XL -- 'Welcome, proud lady.'



THE WOODLANDERS By Thomas Hardy



CONTENTS

CHAPTER I 	CHAPTER II 	CHAPTER III 	CHAPTER IV CHAPTER V 	CHAPTER VI
CHAPTER VII 	CHAPTER VIII CHAPTER IX 	CHAPTER X 	CHAPTER XI 	CHAPTER XII
CHAPTER XIII 	CHAPTER XIV 	CHAPTER XV 	CHAPTER XVI CHAPTER XVII 	CHAPTER
XVIII 	CHAPTER XIX 	CHAPTER XX CHAPTER XXI 	CHAPTER XXII 	CHAPTER XXIII
CHAPTER XXIV CHAPTER XXV 	CHAPTER XXVI 	CHAPTER XXVII 	CHAPTER XXVIII
CHAPTER XXIX 	CHAPTER XXX 	CHAPTER XXXI 	CHAPTER XXXII CHAPTER XXXIII
CHAPTER XXXIV 	CHAPTER XXXV 	CHAPTER XXXVI CHAPTER XXXVII 	CHAPTER
XXXVIII 	CHAPTER XXXIX 	CHAPTER XL CHAPTER XLI 	CHAPTER XLII 	CHAPTER
XLIII 	CHAPTER XLIV CHAPTER XLV 	CHAPTER XLVI 	CHAPTER XLVII 	CHAPTER
XLVIII



SATIRES OF CIRCUMSTANCE LYRICS AND REVERIES WITH MISCELLANEOUS PIECES By
Thomas Hardy CONTENTS

Lyrics and Reveries\x97


PAGE



In Front of the Landscape


3



Channel Firing


7



The Convergence of the Twain


9



The Ghost of the Past


12



After the Visit


14



To Meet, or Otherwise


16



The Difference


18



The Sun on the Bookcase


19



\x93When I set out for Lyonnesse\x94


20



A Thunderstorm in Town


21



The Torn Letter


22



Beyond the Last Lamp


25



The Face at the Casement


27



Lost Love


30



\x93My spirit will not haunt the mound\x94


31



Wessex Heights


32



In Death divided


35



p. viThe Place on the Map


37



Where the Picnic was


39



The Schreckhorn


41



A Singer asleep


42



A Plaint to Man


45



God\x92s Funeral


47



Spectres that grieve


52



\x93Ah, are you digging on my grave?\x94


54

Satires of Circumstance\x97



I.


At Tea


59



II.


In Church


60



III.


By her Aunt\x92s Grave


61



IV.


In the Room of the Bride-elect


62



V.


At the Watering-place


63



VI.


In the Cemetery


64



VII.


Outside the Window


65



VIII.


In the Study


66



IX.


At the Altar-rail


67



X.


In the Nuptial Chamber


68



XI.


In the Restaurant


69



XII.


At the Draper\x92s


70



XIII.


On the Death-bed


71



XIV.


Over the Coffin


72



XV.


In the Moonlight


73

p. viiLyrics and Reveries (continued)\x97



Self-unconscious


77



The Discovery


80



Tolerance


81



Before and after Summer


82



At Day-close in November


83



The Year\x92s Awakening


84



Under the Waterfall


85



The Spell of the Rose


88



St. Launce\x92s revisited


90

Poems of 1912\x9613\x96



The Going


95



Your Last Drive


97



The Walk


99



Rain on a Grace


100



\x93I found her out there\x94


102



Without Ceremony


104



Lament


105



The Haunter


107



The Voice


109



His Visitor


110



A Circular


112



A Dream or No


113



After a Journey


115



A Death-ray recalled


117



p. viiiBeeny Cliff


119



At Castle Boterel


121



Places


123



The Phantom Horsewoman


125

Miscellaneous Pieces\x97



The Wistful Lady


129



The Woman in the Rye


131



The Cheval-Glass


132



The Re-enactment


134



Her Secret


140



\x93She charged me\x94


141



The Newcomer\x92s Wife


142



A Conversation at Dawn


143



A King\x92s Soliloquy


152



The Coronation


154



Aquae Sulis


157



Seventy-four and Twenty


160



The Elopement


161



\x93I rose up as my custom is\x94


163



A Week


165



Had you wept


167



Bereft, she thinks she dreams


169



In the British Museum


170



In the Servants\x92 Quarters


172



The Obliterate Tomb


175



p. ix\x93Regret not me\x94


183



The Recalcitrants


185



Starlings on the Roof


186



The Moon looks in


187



The Sweet Hussy


188



The Telegram


189



The Moth-signal


191



Seen by the Waits


193



The Two Soldiers


194



The Death of Regret


195



In the Days of Crinoline


197



The Roman Gravemounds


199



The Workbox


201



The Sacrilege


203



The Abbey Mason


210



The Jubilee of a Magazine


222



The Satin Shoes


224



Exeunt Omnes


227



A Poet


228

Postscript\x97



\x93Men who march away\x94


229



DESPERATE REMEDIES By Thomas Hardy



CONTENTS


PREFATORY NOTE

I.   THE EVENTS OF THIRTY YEARS

II.   THE EVENTS OF A FORTNIGHT

III.   THE EVENTS OF EIGHT DAYS

IV.   THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY

V.   THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY

VI.   THE EVENTS OF TWELVE HOURS

VII.   THE EVENTS OF EIGHTEEN DAYS

VIII.   THE EVENTS OF EIGHTEEN DAYS

IX.   THE EVENTS OF TEN WEEKS

X.   THE EVENTS OF A DAY AND NIGHT

XI.   THE EVENTS OF FIVE DAYS

XII.   THE EVENTS OF TEN MONTHS

XIII.   THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY

XIV.   THE EVENTS OF FIVE WEEKS

XV.   THE EVENTS OF THREE WEEKS

XVI.   THE EVENTS OF ONE WEEK

XVII.   THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY

XVIII.     THE EVENTS OF THREE DAYS

XIX.   THE EVENTS OF A DAY AND NIGHT

XX.   THE EVENTS OF THREE HOURS

XXI.   THE EVENTS OF EIGHTEEN HOURS


SEQUEL



POEMS OF THE PAST AND THE PRESENT By Thomas Hardy CONTENTS



PAGE

V.R.  1819\x961901


231

WAR POEMS\x97



Embarcation


235



Departure


237



The Colonel\x92s Soliloquy


239



The Going of the Battery


242



At the War Office


245



A Christmas Ghost-Story


247



The Dead Drummer


249



A Wife in London


251



The Souls of the Slain


253



Song of the Soldiers\x92 Wives


260



The Sick God


263

POEMS OF PILGRIMAGE\x97



Genoa and the Mediterranean


269



Shelley\x92s Skylark


272



In the Old Theatre, Fiesole


274



Rome: on the Palatine


276



,, Building a New Street in the Ancient Quarter


278



,, The Vatican: Sala Delle Muse


280



,, At the Pyramid of Cestius


283



Lausanne: In Gibbon\x92s Old Garden


286



Zermatt: To the Matterhorn


288



The Bridge of Lodi


290



On an Invitation to the United States


295

p. xiiMISCELLANEOUS POEMS\x97



The Mother Mourns


299



\x93I said to Love\x94


305



A Commonplace Day


307



At a Lunar Eclipse


310



The Lacking Sense


312



To Life


316



Doom and She


318



The Problem


321



The Subalterns


323



The Sleep-worker


325



The Bullfinches


327



God-Forgotten


329



The Bedridden Peasant to an Unknowing God


333



By the Earth\x92s Corpse


336



Mute Opinion


339



To an Unborn Pauper Child


341



To Flowers from Italy in Winter


344



On a Fine Morning


346



To Lizbie Browne


348



Song of Hope


352



The Well-Beloved


354



Her Reproach


358



The Inconsistent


360



A Broken Appointment


362



\x93Between us now\x94


364



\x93How great my Grief\x94


366



\x93I need not go\x94


367



The Coquette, and After


369



p. xiiiA Spot


371



Long Plighted


373



The Widow


375



At a Hasty Wedding


378



The Dream-Follower


379



His Immortality


380



The To-be-Forgotten


382



Wives in the Sere


385



The Superseded


387



An August Midnight


389



The Caged Thrush Freed and Home Again


391



Birds at Winter Nightfall


393



The Puzzled Game-Birds


394



Winter in Durnover Field


395



The Last Chrysanthemum


397



The Darkling Thrush


399



The Comet at Yalbury or Yell\x92ham


402



Mad Judy


403



A Wasted Illness


405



A Man


408



The Dame of Athelhall


412



The Seasons of her Year


416



The Milkmaid


418



The Levelled Churchyard


420



The Ruined Maid


422



The Respectable Burgher on \x93the Higher Criticism\x94


425



Architectural Masks


428



The Tenant-for-Life


430



p. xivThe King\x92s Experiment


432



The Tree: an Old Man\x92s Story


435



Her Late Husband


439



The Self-Unseeing


441



De Profundis i.


443



De Profundis ii.


445



De Profundis iii.


448



The Church-Builder


451



The Lost Pyx: a Medi\xE6val Legend


457



Tess\x92s Lament


462



The Supplanter: A Tale


465

IMITATIONS, Etc.\x97



Sapphic Fragment


473



Catullus: xxxi


474



After Schiller


476



Song: From Heine


477



From Victor Hugo


479



Cardinal Bembo\x92s Epitaph on Raphael


480

RETROSPECT\x97



\x93I have Lived with Shades\x94


483



Memory and I


486



?G?OS?O.  T?O


489



MOMENTS OF VISION AND MISCELLANEOUS VERSES By Thomas Hardy CONTENTS



PAGE

Moments of Vision


1

The Voice of Things


2

\x93Why be at pains?\x94


3

\x93We sat at the window\x94


4

Afternoon Service at Mellstock


5

At the Wicket-gate


6

In a Museum


7

Apostrophe to an Old Psalm Tune


8

At the Word \x93Farewell\x94


11

First Sight of Her and After


13

The Rival


14

Heredity


15

\x93You were the sort that men forget\x94


16

She, I, and They


17

Near Lanivet, 1872


18

Joys of Memory


20

To the Moon


21

Copying Architecture in an Old Minster


22

p. viTo Shakespeare


24

Quid hic agis?


27

On a Midsummer Eve


30

Timing Her


31

Before Knowledge


34

The Blinded Bird


35

\x93The wind blew words\x94


36

The Faded Face


37

The Riddle


38

The Duel


39

At Mayfair Lodgings


42

To my Father\x92s Violin


44

The Statue of Liberty


47

The Background and the Figure


50

The Change


51

Sitting on the Bridge


54

The Young Churchwarden


56

\x93I travel as a phantom now\x94


57

Lines to a Movement in Mozart\x92s E-flat Symphony


58

\x93In the seventies\x94


60

The Pedigree


62

This Heart.  A Woman\x92s Dream


65

Where they lived


68

The Occultation


69

Life laughs Onward


70

The Peace-offering


71

p. vii\x93Something tapped\x94


72

The Wound


73

A Merrymaking in Question


74

\x93I said and sang her excellence\x94


75

A January Night.  1879


77

A Kiss


78

The Announcement


79

The Oxen


80

The Tresses


81

The Photograph


82

On a Heath


84

An Anniversary


85

\x93By the Runic Stone\x94


87

The Pink Frock


88

Transformations


89

In her Precincts


90

The Last Signal


91

The House of Silence


93

Great Things


95

The Chimes


97

The Figure in the Scene


98

\x93Why did I sketch\x94


99

Conjecture


100

The Blow


101

Love the Monopolist


103

At Middle-field Gate in February


105

p. viiiThe Youth who carried a Light


106

The Head above the Fog


108

Overlooking the River Stour


109

The Musical Box


111

On Sturminster Foot-bridge


113

Royal Sponsors


114

Old Furniture


116

A Thought in Two Moods


118

The Last Performance


119

\x93You on the tower\x94


120

The Interloper


122

Logs on the Hearth


124

The Sunshade


126

The Ageing House


128

The Caged Goldfinch


129

At Madame Tussaud\x92s in Victorian Years


130

The Ballet


132

The Five Students


133

The Wind\x92s Prophecy


135

During Wind and Rain


137

He prefers her Earthly


139

The Dolls


140

Molly gone


141

A Backward Spring


143

Looking Across


144

At a Seaside Town in 1869


146

p. ixThe Glimpse


149

The Pedestrian


151

\x93Who\x92s in the next room?\x94


153

At a Country Fair


155

The Memorial Brass: 186-


156

Her Love-birds


158

Paying Calls


160

The Upper Birch-Leaves


161

\x93It never looks like summer\x94


162

Everything comes


163

The Man with a Past


164

He fears his Good Fortune


166

He wonders about Himself


167

Jubilate


168

He revisits his First School


171

\x93I thought, my heart\x94


173

Fragment


174

Midnight on the Great Western


176

Honeymoon Time at an Inn


177

The Robin


181

\x93I rose and went to Rou\x92tor town\x94


183

The Nettles


184

In a Waiting-room


185

The Clock-winder


187

Old Excursions


189

The Masked Face


191

p. xIn a Whispering Gallery


192

The Something that saved Him


193

The Enemy\x92s Portrait


195

Imaginings


197

On the Doorstep


198

Signs and Tokens


199

Paths of Former Time


201

The Clock of the Years


203

At the Piano


205

The Shadow on the Stone


206

In the Garden


208

The Tree and the Lady


209

An Upbraiding


211

The Young Glass-stainer


212

Looking at a Picture on an Anniversary


213

The Choirmaster\x92s Burial


215

The Man who forgot


217

While drawing in a Churchyard


219

\x93For Life I had never cared greatly\x94


221

Poems of War and Patriotism\x97



\x93Men who march away\x94 (Song of the Soldiers)


225



His Country


227



England to Germany in 1914


229



On the Belgian Expatriation


230



p. xiAn Appeal to America on behalf of the Belgian Destitute


231



The Pity of It


232



In Time of Wars and Tumults


233



In Time of \x93the Breaking of nations\x94


234



Cry of the Homeless


235



Before Marching and After


237



\x93Often when warring\x94


239



Then and Now


240



A Call to National Service


242



The Dead and the Living One


243



A New Year\x92s Eve in War Time


246



\x93I met a man\x94


248



\x93I looked up from my writing\x94


250

Finale\x97



The Coming of the End


255



Afterwards


257



A LAODICEAN: A STORY OF TO-DAY By Thomas Hardy



CONTENTS

PREFACE. BOOK THE FIRST. 	GEORGE SOMERSET. BOOK THE SECOND. 	DARE AND
HAVILL. BOOK THE THIRD. 	DE STANCY. BOOK THE FOURTH.    	SOMERSET, DARE
AND DE STANCY. BOOK THE FIFTH. 	DE STANCY AND PAULA. BOOK THE SIXTH.
PAULA.



THE WELL-BELOVED A SKETCH OF A TEMPERAMENT By Thomas Hardy



CONTENTS


PREFACE

PART FIRST \x97 A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY.

1. I.   A SUPPOSITITIOUS PRESENTMENT OF HER

1. II.   THE INCARNATION IS ASSUMED TO BE TRUE

1. III.   THE APPOINTMENT

1. IV.   A LONELY PEDESTRIAN

1. V.   A CHARGE

1. VI.   ON THE BRINK

1. VII.   HER EARLIER INCARNATIONS

1. VIII.     'TOO LIKE THE LIGHTNING\x92

1. IX.   FAMILIAR PHENOMENA IN THE DISTANCE



PART SECOND \x97 A YOUNG MAN OF FORTY

2. I.   THE OLD PHANTOM BECOMES DISTINCT

2. II.   SHE DRAWS CLOSE AND SATISFIES

2. III.   SHE BECOMES AN INACCESSIBLE GHOST

2. IV.   SHE THREATENS TO RESUME CORPOREAL SUBSTANCE

2. V.   THE RESUMPTION TAKES PLACE

2. VI.   THE PAST SHINES IN THE PRESENT

2. VII.   THE NEW BECOMES ESTABLISHED

2. VIII.   HIS OWN SOUL CONFRONTS HIM

2. IX.   JUXTAPOSITIONS

2. X.   SHE FAILS TO VANISH STILL

2. XI.   THE IMAGE PERSISTS

2. XII.   A GRILLE DESCENDS BETWEEN

2. XIII.     SHE IS ENSHROUDED FROM SIGHT



PART THIRD \x97 A YOUNG MAN OF SIXTY

3. I.   SHE RETURNS FOR THE NEW SEASON

3. II.   MISGIVINGS ON THE RE-EMBODIMENT

3. III.   THE RENEWED IMAGE BURNS ITSELF IN

3. IV.   A DASH FOR THE LAST INCARNATION

3. V.   ON THE VERGE OF POSSESSION

3. VI.   THE WELL-BELOVED IS\x97WHERE?

3. VII.   AN OLD TABERNACLE IN A NEW ASPECT

3. VIII.     'ALAS FOR THIS GREY SHADOW, ONCE A MAN!\x92



LATE LYRICS AND EARLIER WITH MANY OTHER VERSES By Thomas Hardy CONTENTS



PAGE

Apology


v

Weathers


1

The maid of Keinton Mandeville


3

Summer Schemes


5

Epeisodia


6

Faintheart in a Railway Train


8

At Moonrise and Onwards


9

The Garden Seat


11

Barth\xE9l\xE9mon at Vauxhall


12

\x93I sometimes think\x94


14

Jezreel


15

A Jog-trot Pair


17

\x93The Curtains now are drawn\x94


19

\x93According to the Mighty Working\x94


21

\x93I was not He\x94


22

The West-of-Wessex Girl


23

Welcome Home


25

Going and Staying


26

Read by Moonlight


27

At a house in Hampstead


28

A Woman\x92s Fancy


30

p. xxHer Song


33

A Wet August


35

The Dissemblers


36

To a Lady playing and singing in the Morning


37

\x93A Man was drawing near to me\x94


38

The Strange House


40

\x93As \x92twere To-night\x94


42

The Contretemps


43

A Gentleman\x92s Epitaph on Himself and a Lady


46

The Old Gown


48

A Night in November


50

A Duettist to her Pianoforte


51

\x93Where Three Roads joined\x94


53

\x93And There was a Great Calm\x94


55

Haunting Fingers


59

The Woman I Met


63

\x93If it\x92s ever Spring again\x94


67

The Two Houses


68

On Stinsford Hill at Midnight


72

The Fallow Deer at the Lonely House


74

The Selfsame Song


75

The Wanderer


76

A Wife comes back


78

A Young Man\x92s Exhortation


81

At Lulworth Cove a Century Back


83

A Bygone Occasion


85

Two Serenades


86

p. xxiThe Wedding Morning


89

End of the Year 1912


90

The Chimes play \x93Life\x92s a Bumper!\x94


91

\x93I worked no Wile to meet You\x94


93

At the Railway Station, Upway


95

Side by Side


96

Dream of the City Shopwoman


98

A Maiden\x92s Pledge


100

The Child and the Sage


101

Mismet


103

An Autumn Rain-scene


105

Meditations on a Holiday


107

An Experience


111

The Beauty


113

The Collector cleans his Picture


114

The Wood Fire


117

Saying Good-bye


119

On the Tune called The Old-hundred-and-fourth


121

The Opportunity


123

Evelyn G. of Christminster


124

The Rift


126

Voices from Things growing


127

On the Way


130

\x93She did not turn\x94


132

Growth in May


133

The Children and Sir Nameless


134

At the Royal Academy


136

Her Temple


138

p. xxiiA Two-years\x92 Idyll


139

By Henstridge Cross at the Year\x92s End


141

Penance


143

\x93I look in her Face\x94


145

After the War


146

\x93If you had known\x94


148

The Chapel-Organist


150

Fetching Her


157

\x93Could I but will\x94


159

She revisits alone the Church of her Marriage


161

At the Entering of the New Year


163

They would not come


165

After a Romantic Day


167

The Two Wives


168

\x93I knew a Lady\x94


170

A House with a History


171

A Procession of Dead Days


173

He follows Himself


176

The Singing Woman


178

Without, not within Her


179

\x93O I won\x92t lead a Homely Life\x94


180

In the Small Hours


181

The Little Old Table


183

Vagg Hollow


184

The Dream is\x97which?


186

The Country Wedding


187

First or Last


190

Lonely Days


191

p. xxiii\x93What did it mean?\x94


194

At the Dinner-table


196

The Marble Tablet


198

The Master and the Leaves


199

Last Words to a Dumb Friend


201

A Drizzling Easter morning


204

On One who lived and died where He was born


205

The Second Night


207

She who saw not


210

The Old Workman


212

The Sailor\x92s Mother


214

Outside the Casement


216

The Passer-by


218

\x93I was the Midmost\x94


220

A Sound in the Night


221

On a Discovered Curl of Hair


226

An Old Likeness


227

Her Apotheosis


229

\x93Sacred to the Memory\x94


230

To a Well-named Dwelling


231

The Whipper-in


232

A Military Appointment


234

The Milestone by the Rabbit-burrow


236

The Lament of the Looking-glass


237

Cross-currents


238

The Old Neighbour and the New


240

The Chosen


241

The Inscription


244

p. xxivThe Marble-streeted Town


251

A Woman driving


252

A Woman\x92s Trust


254

Best Times


256

The Casual Acquaintance


258

Intra Sepulchrum


260

The Whitewashed Wall


262

Just the Same


264

The Last Time


265

The Seven Times


266

The Sun\x92s Last Look on the Country Girl


269

In a London Flat


270

Drawing Details in an Old Church


272

Rake-hell muses


273

The Colour


277

Murmurs in the Gloom


279

Epitaph


281

An Ancient to Ancients


282

After reading psalms xxxix., xl.


285

Surview


287



LIFE'S LITTLE IRONIES And a set of tales with some colloquial sketches
entitled: A FEW CRUSTED CHARACTERS By Thomas Hardy

CONTENTS

THE SON'S VETO

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III


FOR CONSCIENCE' SAKE

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III


A TRAGEDY OF TWO AMBITIONS

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V


ON THE WESTERN CIRCUIT

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI


TO PLEASE HIS WIFE

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III


THE MELANCHOLY HUSSAR OF THE GERMAN LEGION

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V


THE FIDDLER OF THE REELS


A TRADITION OF EIGHTEEN HUNDRED AND FOUR



A FEW CRUSTED CHARACTERS

TONY KYTES, THE ARCH-DECEIVER

THE HISTORY OF THE HARDCOMES

THE SUPERSTITIOUS MAN'S STORY

ANDREY SATCHEL AND THE PARSON AND CLERK

OLD ANDREY'S EXPERIENCE AS A MUSICIAN

ABSENT-MINDEDNESS IN A PARISH CHOIR

THE WINTERS AND THE PALMLEYS

INCIDENT IN THE LIFE OF MR. GEORGE CROOKHILL

NETTY SARGENT'S COPYHOLD



A GROUP OF NOBLE DAMES

That is to say: The First Countess Of Wessex; Barbara Of The Hose Of
Grebe; The Marchioness Of Stonehenge; Lady Mottifont Squire Petrick's
Lady; The Lady Icenway Anna, Lady Baxby; The Lady Penelope; The Duchess
Of Hamptonshire; And The Honourable Laura

'. . . Store of Ladies, whose bright eyes Rain influence.'-L'Allegro.

With a map of wessex By Thomas Hardy

CONTENTS

PREFACE

DAME THE FIRST-THE FIRST COUNTESS OF WESSEX

DAME THE SECOND-BARBARA OF THE HOUSE OF GREBE

DAME THE THIRD-THE MARCHIONESS OF STONEHENGE

DAME THE FOURTH-LADY MOTTISFONT

DAME THE FIFTH-THE LADY ICENWAY

DAME THE SIXTH-SQUIRE PETRICK'S LADY

DAME THE SEVENTH-ANNA, LADY BAXBY

DAME THE EIGHTH-THE LADY PENELOPE

DAME THE NINTH-THE DUCHESS OF HAMPTONSHIRE

DAME THE TENTH-THE HONOURABLE LAURA



WESSEX TALES

By Thomas Hardy

CONTENTS

PREFACE


AN IMAGINATIVE WOMAN

THE THREE STRANGERS


THE WITHERED ARM

CHAPTER I-A LORN MILKMAID

CHAPTER II-THE YOUNG WIFE

CHAPTER III-A VISION

CHAPTER IV-A SUGGESTION

CHAPTER V-CONJUROR TRENDLE

CHAPTER VI-A SECOND ATTEMPT

CHAPTER VII-A RIDE

VIII-A WATER-SIDE HERMIT

IX-A RENCOUNTER


FELLOW-TOWNSMEN

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

VII

VIII

IX


INTERLOPERS AT THE KNAP

I

II

III

IV

V


THE DISTRACTED PREACHER

I-HOW HIS COLD WAS CURED

II-HOW HE SAW TWO OTHER MEN

III-THE MYSTERIOUS GREATCOAT

IV-AT THE TIME OF THE NEW MOON

V-HOW THEY WENT TO LULSTEAD COVE

VI-THE GREAT SEARCH AT NETHER-MOYNTON

VII-THE WALK TO WARM'ELL CROSS AND AFTERWARDS



A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES By Thomas Hardy



CONTENTS

PREFATORY NOTE


A CHANGED MAN

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII


THE WAITING SUPPER

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII


ALICIA'S DIARY

CHAPTER I.-SHE MISSES HER SISTER

CHAPTER II.-NEWS INTERESTING AND SERIOUS

CHAPTER III.-HER GLOOM LIGHTENS A LITTLE

CHAPTER IV.-SHE BEHOLDS THE ATTRACTIVE STRANGER

CHAPTER V.-HER SITUATION IS A TRYING ONE

CHAPTER VI.-HER INGENUITY INSTIGATES HER

CHAPTER VII.-A SURPRISE AWAITS HER

CHAPTER VIII.-SHE TRAVELS IN PURSUIT

CHAPTER IX.-SHE WITNESSES THE END

CHAPTER X.-SHE ADDS A NOTE LONG AFTER


THE GRAVE BY THE HANDPOST


ENTER A DRAGOON


A TRYST AT AN ANCIENT EARTH WORK


WHAT THE SHEPHERD SAW


A COMMITTEE-MAN OF 'THE TERROR'


MASTER JOHN HORSELEIGH, KNIGHT


THE DUKE'S REAPPEARANCE-A FAMILY TRADITION


A MERE INTERLUDE

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII



THE HAND OF ETHELBERTA-A COMEDY IN CHAPTERS By Thomas Hardy

"Vitae post-scenia celant."-Lucretius.

CONTENTS

PREFACE

1. A STREET IN ANGLEBURY-A HEATH NEAR IT-INSIDE THE 'RED LION' INN

2. CHRISTOPHER'S HOUSE-SANDBOURNE TOWN-SANDBOURNE MOOR

3. SANDBOURNE MOOR (continued)

4. SANDBOURNE PIER-ROAD TO WYNDWAY-BALL-ROOM IN WYNDWAY HOUSE

5. AT THE WINDOW-THE ROAD HOME

6. THE SHORE BY WYNDWAY

7. THE DINING-ROOM OF A TOWN HOUSE-THE BUTLER'S PANTRY

8. CHRISTOPHER'S LODGINGS-THE GROUNDS ABOUT ROOKINGTON

9. A LADY'S DRAWING-ROOMS-ETHELBERTA'S DRESSING-ROOM

10. LADY PETHERWIN'S HOUSE

11. SANDBOURNE AND ITS NEIGHBOURHOOD-SOME LONDON STREETS

12. ARROWTHORNE PARK AND LODGE

13. THE LODGE (continued)-THE COPSE BEHIND

14. A TURNPIKE ROAD

15. AN INNER ROOM AT THE LODGE

16. A LARGE PUBLIC HALL

17. ETHELBERTA'S HOUSE

18. NEAR SANDBOURNE-LONDON STREETS-ETHELBERTA'S

19. ETHELBERTA'S DRAWING-ROOM

20. THE NEIGHBOURHOOD OF THE HALL-THE ROAD HOME

21. A STREET-NEIGH'S ROOMS-CHRISTOPHER'S ROOMS

22. ETHELBERTA'S HOUSE

23. ETHELBERTA'S HOUSE (continued)

24. ETHELBERTA'S HOUSE (continued)-THE BRITISH MUSEUM

25. THE ROYAL ACADEMY-THE FARNFIELD ESTATE

26. ETHELBERTA'S DRAWING-ROOM

27. MRS. BELMAINE'S-CRIPPLEGATE CHURCH

28. ETHELBERTA'S-MR. CHICKEREL'S ROOM

29. ETHELBERTA'S DRESSING-ROOM-MR. DONCASTLE'S HOUSE

30. ON THE HOUSETOP

31. KNOLLSEA-A LOFTY DOWN-A RUINED CASTLE

32. A ROOM IN ENCKWORTH COURT

33. THE ENGLISH CHANNEL-NORMANDY

34. THE H\xD4TEL BEAU S\xC9JOUR AND SPOTS NEAR IT

35. THE HOTEL (continued), AND THE QUAY IN FRONT

36. THE HOUSE IN TOWN

37. KNOLLSEA-AN ORNAMENTAL VILLA

38. ENCKWORTH COURT

39. KNOLLSEA-MELCHESTER

40. MELCHESTER (continued)

41. WORKSHOPS-AN INN-THE STREET

42. THE DONCASTLES' RESIDENCE, AND OUTSIDE THE SAME

43. THE RAILWAY-THE SEA-THE SHORE BEYOND

44. SANDBOURNE-A LONELY HEATH-THE 'RED LION'-THE HIGHWAY

45. KNOLLSEA-THE ROAD THENCE-ENCKWORTH

46. ENCKWORTH (continued)-THE ANGLEBURY HIGHWAY

47. ENCKWORTH AND ITS PRECINCTS-MELCHESTER

SEQUEL. ANGLEBURY-ENCKWORTH-SANDBOURNE



LIFE'S LITTLE IRONIES And a set of tales with some colloquial sketches
entitled: A FEW CRUSTED CHARACTERS By Thomas Hardy

CONTENTS

THE SON'S VETO

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III


FOR CONSCIENCE' SAKE

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III


A TRAGEDY OF TWO AMBITIONS

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V


ON THE WESTERN CIRCUIT

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI


TO PLEASE HIS WIFE

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III


THE MELANCHOLY HUSSAR OF THE GERMAN LEGION

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V


THE FIDDLER OF THE REELS


A TRADITION OF EIGHTEEN HUNDRED AND FOUR



A FEW CRUSTED CHARACTERS

TONY KYTES, THE ARCH-DECEIVER

THE HISTORY OF THE HARDCOMES

THE SUPERSTITIOUS MAN'S STORY

ANDREY SATCHEL AND THE PARSON AND CLERK

OLD ANDREY'S EXPERIENCE AS A MUSICIAN

ABSENT-MINDEDNESS IN A PARISH CHOIR

THE WINTERS AND THE PALMLEYS

INCIDENT IN THE LIFE OF MR. GEORGE CROOKHILL

NETTY SARGENT'S COPYHOLD



THE SON'S VETO



CHAPTER I

To the eyes of a man viewing it from behind, the nut-brown hair was a
wonder and a mystery. Under the black beaver hat, surmounted by its tuft
of black feathers, the long locks, braided and twisted and coiled like
the rushes of a basket, composed a rare, if somewhat barbaric, example
of ingenious art. One could understand such weavings and coilings being
wrought to last intact for a year, or even a calendar month; but that
they should be all demolished regularly at bedtime, after a single day
of permanence, seemed a reckless waste of successful fabrication.

And she had done it all herself, poor thing. She had no maid, and it was
almost the only accomplishment she could boast of. Hence the unstinted
pains.

She was a young invalid lady-not so very much of an invalid-sitting in a
wheeled chair, which had been pulled up in the front part of a green
enclosure, close to a bandstand, where a concert was going on, during a
warm June afternoon. It had place in one of the minor parks or private
gardens that are to be found in the suburbs of London, and was the
effort of a local association to raise money for some charity. There are
worlds within worlds in the great city, and though nobody outside the
immediate district had ever heard of the charity, or the band, or the
garden, the enclosure was filled with an interested audience
sufficiently informed on all these.

As the strains proceeded many of the listeners observed the chaired
lady, whose back hair, by reason of her prominent position, so
challenged inspection. Her face was not easily discernible, but the
aforesaid cunning tress-weavings, the white ear and poll, and the curve
of a cheek which was neither flaccid nor sallow, were signals that led
to the expectation of good beauty in front. Such expectations are not
infrequently disappointed as soon as the disclosure comes; and in the
present case, when the lady, by a turn of the head, at length revealed
herself, she was not so handsome as the people behind her had supposed,
and even hoped-they did not know why.

For one thing (alas! the commonness of this complaint), she was less
young than they had fancied her to be. Yet attractive her face
unquestionably was, and not at all sickly. The revelation of its details
came each time she turned to talk to a boy of twelve or thirteen who
stood beside her, and the shape of whose hat and jacket implied that he
belonged to a well-known public school. The immediate bystanders could
hear that he called her 'Mother.'

When the end of the recital was reached, and the audience withdrew, many
chose to find their way out by passing at her elbow. Almost all turned
their heads to take a full and near look at the interesting woman, who
remained stationary in the chair till the way should be clear enough for
her to be wheeled out without obstruction. As if she expected their
glances, and did not mind gratifying their curiosity, she met the eyes
of several of her observers by lifting her own, showing these to be
soft, brown, and affectionate orbs, a little plaintive in their regard.

She was conducted out of the gardens, and passed along the pavement till
she disappeared from view, the schoolboy walking beside her. To
inquiries made by some persons who watched her away, the answer came
that she was the second wife of the incumbent of a neighbouring parish,
and that she was lame. She was generally believed to be a woman with a
story-an innocent one, but a story of some sort or other.

In conversing with her on their way home the boy who walked at her elbow
said that he hoped his father had not missed them.

'He have been so comfortable these last few hours that I am sure he
cannot have missed us,' she replied.

'Has, dear mother-not have!' exclaimed the public-school boy, with an
impatient fastidiousness that was almost harsh. 'Surely you know that by
this time!'

His mother hastily adopted the correction, and did not resent his making
it, or retaliate, as she might well have done, by bidding him to wipe
that crumby mouth of his, whose condition had been caused by
surreptitious attempts to eat a piece of cake without taking it out of
the pocket wherein it lay concealed. After this the pretty woman and the
boy went onward in silence.

That question of grammar bore upon her history, and she fell into
reverie, of a somewhat sad kind to all appearance. It might have been
assumed that she was wondering if she had done wisely in shaping her
life as she had shaped it, to bring out such a result as this.

In a remote nook in North Wessex, forty miles from London, near the
thriving county-town of Aldbrickham, there stood a pretty village with
its church and parsonage, which she knew well enough, but her son had
never seen. It was her native village, Gaymead, and the first event
bearing upon her present situation had occurred at that place when she
was only a girl of nineteen.

How well she remembered it, that first act in her little tragi-comedy,
the death of her reverend husband's first wife. It happened on a spring
evening, and she who now and for many years had filled that first wife's
place was then parlour-maid in the parson's house.

When everything had been done that could be done, and the death was
announced, she had gone out in the dusk to visit her parents, who were
living in the same village, to tell them the sad news. As she opened the
white swing-gate and looked towards the trees which rose westward,
shutting out the pale light of the evening sky, she discerned, without
much surprise, the figure of a man standing in the hedge, though she
roguishly exclaimed as a matter of form, 'Oh, Sam, how you frightened
me!'

He was a young gardener of her acquaintance. She told him the
particulars of the late event, and they stood silent, these two young
people, in that elevated, calmly philosophic mind which is engendered
when a tragedy has happened close at hand, and has not happened to the
philosophers themselves. But it had its bearing upon their relations.

'And will you stay on now at the Vicarage, just the same?' asked he.

She had hardly thought of that. 'Oh, yes-I suppose!' she said.
'Everything will be just as usual, I imagine?'

He walked beside her towards her mother's. Presently his arm stole round
her waist. She gently removed it; but he placed it there again, and she
yielded the point. 'You see, dear Sophy, you don't know that you'll stay
on; you may want a home; and I shall be ready to offer one some day,
though I may not be ready just yet.

'Why, Sam, how can you be so fast! I've never even said I liked 'ee; and
it is all your own doing, coming after me!'

'Still, it is nonsense to say I am not to have a try at you like the
rest.' He stooped to kiss her a farewell, for they had reached her
mother's door.

'No, Sam; you sha'n't!' she cried, putting her hand over his mouth. 'You
ought to be more serious on such a night as this.' And she bade him
adieu without allowing him to kiss her or to come indoors.

The vicar just left a widower was at this time a man about forty years
of age, of good family, and childless. He had led a secluded existence
in this college living, partly because there were no resident
landowners; and his loss now intensified his habit of withdrawal from
outward observation. He was still less seen than heretofore, kept
himself still less in time with the rhythm and racket of the movements
called progress in the world without. For many months after his wife's
decease the economy of his household remained as before; the cook, the
housemaid, the parlour-maid, and the man out-of-doors performed their
duties or left them undone, just as Nature prompted them-the vicar knew
not which. It was then represented to him that his servants seemed to
have nothing to do in his small family of one. He was struck with the
truth of this representation, and decided to cut down his establishment.
But he was forestalled by Sophy, the parlour-maid, who said one evening
that she wished to leave him.

'And why?' said the parson.

'Sam Hobson has asked me to marry him, sir.'

'Well-do you want to marry?'

'Not much. But it would be a home for me. And we have heard that one of
us will have to leave.'

A day or two after she said: 'I don't want to leave just yet, sir, if
you don't wish it. Sam and I have quarrelled.'

He looked up at her. He had hardly ever observed her before, though he
had been frequently conscious of her soft presence in the room. What a
kitten-like, flexuous, tender creature she was! She was the only one of
the servants with whom he came into immediate and continuous relation.
What should he do if Sophy were gone?

Sophy did not go, but one of the others did, and things went on quietly
again.

When Mr. Twycott, the vicar, was ill, Sophy brought up his meals to him,
and she had no sooner left the room one day than he heard a noise on the
stairs. She had slipped down with the tray, and so twisted her foot that
she could not stand. The village surgeon was called in; the vicar got
better, but Sophy was incapacitated for a long time; and she was
informed that she must never again walk much or engage in any occupation
which required her to stand long on her feet. As soon as she was
comparatively well she spoke to him alone. Since she was forbidden to
walk and bustle about, and, indeed, could not do so, it became her duty
to leave. She could very well work at something sitting down, and she
had an aunt a seamstress.

The parson had been very greatly moved by what she had suffered on his
account, and he exclaimed, 'No, Sophy; lame or not lame, I cannot let
you go. You must never leave me again!'

He came close to her, and, though she could never exactly tell how it
happened, she became conscious of his lips upon her cheek. He then asked
her to marry him. Sophy did not exactly love him, but she had a respect
for him which almost amounted to veneration. Even if she had wished to
get away from him she hardly dared refuse a personage so reverend and
august in her eyes, and she assented forthwith to be his wife.

Thus it happened that one fine morning, when the doors of the church
were naturally open for ventilation, and the singing birds fluttered in
and alighted on the tie-beams of the roof, there was a marriage-service
at the communion-rails, which hardly a soul knew of. The parson and a
neighbouring curate had entered at one door, and Sophy at another,
followed by two necessary persons, whereupon in a short time there
emerged a newly-made husband and wife.

Mr. Twycott knew perfectly well that he had committed social suicide by
this step, despite Sophy's spotless character, and he had taken his
measures accordingly. An exchange of livings had been arranged with an
acquaintance who was incumbent of a church in the south of London, and
as soon as possible the couple removed thither, abandoning their pretty
country home, with trees and shrubs and glebe, for a narrow, dusty house
in a long, straight street, and their fine peal of bells for the
wretchedest one-tongued clangour that ever tortured mortal ears. It was
all on her account. They were, however, away from every one who had
known her former position; and also under less observation from without
than they would have had to put up with in any country parish.

Sophy the woman was as charming a partner as a man could possess, though
Sophy the lady had her deficiencies. She showed a natural aptitude for
little domestic refinements, so far as related to things and manners;
but in what is called culture she was less intuitive. She had now been
married more than fourteen years, and her husband had taken much trouble
with her education; but she still held confused ideas on the use of
'was' and 'were,' which did not beget a respect for her among the few
acquaintances she made. Her great grief in this relation was that her
only child, on whose education no expense had been and would be spared,
was now old enough to perceive these deficiencies in his mother, and not
only to see them but to feel irritated at their existence.

Thus she lived on in the city, and wasted hours in braiding her
beautiful hair, till her once apple cheeks waned to pink of the very
faintest. Her foot had never regained its natural strength after the
accident, and she was mostly obliged to avoid walking altogether. Her
husband had grown to like London for its freedom and its domestic
privacy; but he was twenty years his Sophy's senior, and had latterly
been seized with a serious illness. On this day, however, he had seemed
to be well enough to justify her accompanying her son Randolph to the
concert.



CHAPTER II

The next time we get a glimpse of her is when she appears in the
mournful attire of a widow.

Mr. Twycott had never rallied, and now lay in a well-packed cemetery to
the south of the great city, where, if all the dead it contained had
stood erect and alive, not one would have known him or recognized his
name. The boy had dutifully followed him to the grave, and was now again
at school.

Throughout these changes Sophy had been treated like the child she was
in nature though not in years. She was left with no control over
anything that had been her husband's beyond her modest personal income.
In his anxiety lest her inexperience should be overreached he had
safeguarded with trustees all he possibly could. The completion of the
boy's course at the public school, to be followed in due time by Oxford
and ordination, had been all previsioned and arranged, and she really
had nothing to occupy her in the world but to eat and drink, and make a
business of indolence, and go on weaving and coiling the nut-brown hair,
merely keeping a home open for the son whenever he came to her during
vacations.

Foreseeing his probable decease long years before her, her husband in
his lifetime had purchased for her use a semi-detached villa in the same
long, straight road whereon the church and parsonage faced, which was to
be hers as long as she chose to live in it. Here she now resided,
looking out upon the fragment of lawn in front, and through the railings
at the ever-flowing traffic; or, bending forward over the window-sill on
the first floor, stretching her eyes far up and down the vista of sooty
trees, hazy air, and drab house-fa\xE7ades, along which echoed the noises
common to a suburban main thoroughfare.

Somehow, her boy, with his aristocratic school-knowledge, his grammars,
and his aversions, was losing those wide infantine sympathies, extending
as far as to the sun and moon themselves, with which he, like other
children, had been born, and which his mother, a child of nature
herself, had loved in him; he was reducing their compass to a population
of a few thousand wealthy and titled people, the mere veneer of a
thousand million or so of others who did not interest him at all. He
drifted further and further away from her. Sophy's milieu being a suburb
of minor tradesmen and under-clerks, and her almost only companions the
two servants of her own house, it was not surprising that after her
husband's death she soon lost the little artificial tastes she had
acquired from him, and became-in her son's eyes-a mother whose mistakes
and origin it was his painful lot as a gentleman to blush for. As yet he
was far from being man enough-if he ever would be-to rate these sins of
hers at their true infinitesimal value beside the yearning fondness that
welled up and remained penned in her heart till it should be more fully
accepted by him, or by some other person or thing. If he had lived at
home with her he would have had all of it; but he seemed to require so
very little in present circumstances, and it remained stored.

Her life became insupportably dreary; she could not take walks, and had
no interest in going for drives, or, indeed, in travelling anywhere.
Nearly two years passed without an event, and still she looked on that
suburban road, thinking of the village in which she had been born, and
whither she would have gone back-O how gladly!-even to work in the
fields.

Taking no exercise, she often could not sleep, and would rise in the
night or early morning and look out upon the then vacant thoroughfare,
where the lamps stood like sentinels waiting for some procession to go
by. An approximation to such a procession was indeed made early every
morning about one o'clock, when the country vehicles passed up with
loads of vegetables for Covent Garden market. She often saw them
creeping along at this silent and dusky hour-waggon after waggon,
bearing green bastions of cabbages nodding to their fall, yet never
falling, walls of baskets enclosing masses of beans and peas, pyramids
of snow-white turnips, swaying howdahs of mixed produce-creeping along
behind aged night-horses, who seemed ever patiently wondering between
their hollow coughs why they had always to work at that still hour when
all other sentient creatures were privileged to rest. Wrapped in a
cloak, it was soothing to watch and sympathize with them when depression
and nervousness hindered sleep, and to see how the fresh green-stuff
brightened to life as it came opposite the lamp, and how the sweating
animals steamed and shone with their miles of travel.

They had an interest, almost a charm, for Sophy, these semirural people
and vehicles moving in an urban atmosphere, leading a life quite
distinct from that of the daytime toilers on the same road. One morning
a man who accompanied a waggon-load of potatoes gazed rather hard at the
house-fronts as he passed, and with a curious emotion she thought his
form was familiar to her. She looked out for him again. His being an
old-fashioned conveyance, with a yellow front, it was easily
recognizable, and on the third night after she saw it a second time. The
man alongside was, as she had fancied, Sam Hobson, formerly gardener at
Gaymead, who would at one time have married her.

She had occasionally thought of him, and wondered if life in a cottage
with him would not have been a happier lot than the life she had
accepted. She had not thought of him passionately, but her now dismal
situation lent an interest to his resurrection-a tender interest which
it is impossible to exaggerate. She went back to bed, and began
thinking. When did these market-gardeners, who travelled up to town so
regularly at one or two in the morning, come back? She dimly recollected
seeing their empty waggons, hardly noticeable amid the ordinary day-
traffic, passing down at some hour before noon.

It was only April, but that morning, after breakfast, she had the window
opened, and sat looking out, the feeble sun shining full upon her. She
affected to sew, but her eyes never left the street. Between ten and
eleven the desired waggon, now unladen, reappeared on its return
journey. But Sam was not looking round him then, and drove on in a
reverie.

'Sam!' cried she.

Turning with a start, his face lighted up. He called to him a little boy
to hold the horse, alighted, and came and stood under her window.

'I can't come down easily, Sam, or I would!' she said. 'Did you know I
lived here?'

'Well, Mrs. Twycott, I knew you lived along here somewhere. I have often
looked out for 'ee.'

He briefly explained his own presence on the scene. He had long since
given up his gardening in the village near Aldbrickham, and was now
manager at a market-gardener's on the south side of London, it being
part of his duty to go up to Covent Garden with waggon-loads of produce
two or three times a week. In answer to her curious inquiry, he admitted
that he had come to this particular district because he had seen in the
Aldbrickham paper, a year or two before, the announcement of the death
in South London of the aforetime vicar of Gaymead, which had revived an
interest in her dwelling-place that he could not extinguish, leading him
to hover about the locality till his present post had been secured.

They spoke of their native village in dear old North Wessex, the spots
in which they had played together as children. She tried to feel that
she was a dignified personage now, that she must not be too confidential
with Sam. But she could not keep it up, and the tears hanging in her
eyes were indicated in her voice.

'You are not happy, Mrs. Twycott, I'm afraid?' he said.

'O, of course not! I lost my husband only the year before last.'

'Ah! I meant in another way. You'd like to be home again?'

'This is my home-for life. The house belongs to me. But I understand'-
She let it out then. 'Yes, Sam. I long for home-our home! I should like
to be there, and never leave it, and die there.' But she remembered
herself. 'That's only a momentary feeling. I have a son, you know, a
dear boy. He's at school now.'

'Somewhere handy, I suppose? I see there's lots on 'em along this road.'

'O no! Not in one of these wretched holes! At a public school-one of the
most distinguished in England.'

'Chok' it all! of course! I forget, ma'am, that you've been a lady for
so many years.'

'No, I am not a lady,' she said sadly. 'I never shall be. But he's a
gentleman, and that-makes it-O how difficult for me!'



CHAPTER III

The acquaintance thus oddly reopened proceeded apace. She often looked
out to get a few words with him, by night or by day. Her sorrow was that
she could not accompany her one old friend on foot a little way, and
talk more freely than she could do while he paused before the house. One
night, at the beginning of June, when she was again on the watch after
an absence of some days from the window, he entered the gate and said
softly, 'Now, wouldn't some air do you good? I've only half a load this
morning. Why not ride up to Covent Garden with me? There's a nice seat
on the cabbages, where I've spread a sack. You can be home again in a
cab before anybody is up.'

She refused at first, and then, trembling with excitement, hastily
finished her dressing, and wrapped herself up in cloak and veil,
afterwards sidling downstairs by the aid of the handrail, in a way she
could adopt on an emergency. When she had opened the door she found Sam
on the step, and he lifted her bodily on his strong arm across the
little forecourt into his vehicle. Not a soul was visible or audible in
the infinite length of the straight, flat highway, with its ever-waiting
lamps converging to points in each direction. The air was fresh as
country air at this hour, and the stars shone, except to the north-
eastward, where there was a whitish light-the dawn. Sam carefully placed
her in the seat, and drove on.

They talked as they had talked in old days, Sam pulling himself up now
and then, when he thought himself too familiar. More than once she said
with misgiving that she wondered if she ought to have indulged in the
freak. 'But I am so lonely in my house,' she added, 'and this makes me
so happy!'

'You must come again, dear Mrs. Twycott. There is no time o' day for
taking the air like this.'

It grew lighter and lighter. The sparrows became busy in the streets,
and the city waxed denser around them. When they approached the river it
was day, and on the bridge they beheld the full blaze of morning
sunlight in the direction of St. Paul's, the river glistening towards
it, and not a craft stirring.

Near Covent Garden he put her into a cab, and they parted, looking into
each other's faces like the very old friends they were. She reached home
without adventure, limped to the door, and let herself in with her
latch-key unseen.

The air and Sam's presence had revived her: her cheeks were quite pink-
almost beautiful. She had something to live for in addition to her son.
A woman of pure instincts, she knew there had been nothing really wrong
in the journey, but supposed it conventionally to be very wrong indeed.

Soon, however, she gave way to the temptation of going with him again,
and on this occasion their conversation was distinctly tender, and Sam
said he never should forget her, notwithstanding that she had served him
rather badly at one time. After much hesitation he told her of a plan it
was in his power to carry out, and one he should like to take in hand,
since he did not care for London work: it was to set up as a master
greengrocer down at Aldbrickham, the county-town of their native place.
He knew of an opening-a shop kept by aged people who wished to retire.

'And why don't you do it, then, Sam?' she asked with a slight
heartsinking.

'Because I'm not sure if-you'd join me. I know you wouldn't-couldn't!
Such a lady as ye've been so long, you couldn't be a wife to a man like
me.'

'I hardly suppose I could!' she assented, also frightened at the idea.

'If you could,' he said eagerly, 'you'd on'y have to sit in the back
parlour and look through the glass partition when I was away sometimes-
just to keep an eye on things. The lameness wouldn't hinder that . . .
I'd keep you as genteel as ever I could, dear Sophy-if I might think of
it!' he pleaded.

'Sam, I'll be frank,' she said, putting her hand on his. 'If it were
only myself I would do it, and gladly, though everything I possess would
be lost to me by marrying again.'

'I don't mind that! It's more independent.'

'That's good of you, dear, dear Sam. But there's something else. I have
a son . . . I almost fancy when I am miserable sometimes that he is not
really mine, but one I hold in trust for my late husband. He seems to
belong so little to me personally, so entirely to his dead father. He is
so much educated and I so little that I do not feel dignified enough to
be his mother . . . Well, he would have to be told.'

'Yes. Unquestionably.' Sam saw her thought and her fear. 'Still, you can
do as you like, Sophy-Mrs. Twycott,' he added. 'It is not you who are
the child, but he.'

'Ah, you don't know! Sam, if I could, I would marry you, some day. But
you must wait a while, and let me think.'

It was enough for him, and he was blithe at their parting. Not so she.
To tell Randolph seemed impossible. She could wait till he had gone up
to Oxford, when what she did would affect his life but little. But would
he ever tolerate the idea? And if not, could she defy him?

She had not told him a word when the yearly cricket-match came on at
Lord's between the public schools, though Sam had already gone back to
Aldbrickham. Mrs. Twycott felt stronger than usual: she went to the
match with Randolph, and was able to leave her chair and walk about
occasionally. The bright idea occurred to her that she could casually
broach the subject while moving round among the spectators, when the
boy's spirits were high with interest in the game, and he would weigh
domestic matters as feathers in the scale beside the day's victory. They
promenaded under the lurid July sun, this pair, so wide apart, yet so
near, and Sophy saw the large proportion of boys like her own, in their
broad white collars and dwarf hats, and all around the rows of great
coaches under which was jumbled the d\xE9bris of luxurious luncheons;
bones, pie-crusts, champagne-bottles, glasses, plates, napkins, and the
family silver; while on the coaches sat the proud fathers and mothers;
but never a poor mother like her. If Randolph had not appertained to
these, had not centred all his interests in them, had not cared
exclusively for the class they belonged to, how happy would things have
been! A great huzza at some small performance with the bat burst from
the multitude of relatives, and Randolph jumped wildly into the air to
see what had happened. Sophy fetched up the sentence that had been
already shaped; but she could not get it out. The occasion was, perhaps,
an inopportune one. The contrast between her story and the display of
fashion to which Randolph had grown to regard himself as akin would be
fatal. She awaited a better time.

It was on an evening when they were alone in their plain suburban
residence, where life was not blue but brown, that she ultimately broke
silence, qualifying her announcement of a probable second marriage by
assuring him that it would not take place for a long time to come, when
he would be living quite independently of her.

The boy thought the idea a very reasonable one, and asked if she had
chosen anybody? She hesitated; and he seemed to have a misgiving. He
hoped his stepfather would be a gentleman? he said.

'Not what you call a gentleman,' she answered timidly. 'He'll be much as
I was before I knew your father;' and by degrees she acquainted him with
the whole. The youth's face remained fixed for a moment; then he
flushed, leant on the table, and burst into passionate tears.

His mother went up to him, kissed all of his face that she could get at,
and patted his back as if he were still the baby he once had been,
crying herself the while. When he had somewhat recovered from his
paroxysm he went hastily to his own room and fastened the door.

Parleyings were attempted through the keyhole, outside which she waited
and listened. It was long before he would reply, and when he did it was
to say sternly at her from within: 'I am ashamed of you! It will ruin
me! A miserable boor! a churl! a clown! It will degrade me in the eyes
of all the gentlemen of England!'

'Say no more-perhaps I am wrong! I will struggle against it!' she cried
miserably.

Before Randolph left her that summer a letter arrived from Sam to inform
her that he had been unexpectedly fortunate in obtaining the shop. He
was in possession; it was the largest in the town, combining fruit with
vegetables, and he thought it would form a home worthy even of her some
day. Might he not run up to town to see her?

She met him by stealth, and said he must still wait for her final
answer. The autumn dragged on, and when Randolph was home at Christmas
for the holidays she broached the matter again. But the young gentleman
was inexorable.

It was dropped for months; renewed again; abandoned under his
repugnance; again attempted; and thus the gentle creature reasoned and
pleaded till four or five long years had passed. Then the faithful Sam
revived his suit with some peremptoriness. Sophy's son, now an
undergraduate, was down from Oxford one Easter, when she again opened
the subject. As soon as he was ordained, she argued, he would have a
home of his own, wherein she, with her bad grammar and her ignorance,
would be an encumbrance to him. Better obliterate her as much as
possible.

He showed a more manly anger now, but would not agree. She on her side
was more persistent, and he had doubts whether she could be trusted in
his absence. But by indignation and contempt for her taste he completely
maintained his ascendency; and finally taking her before a little cross
and altar that he had erected in his bedroom for his private devotions,
there bade her kneel, and swear that she would not wed Samuel Hobson
without his consent. 'I owe this to my father!' he said.

The poor woman swore, thinking he would soften as soon as he was
ordained and in full swing of clerical work. But he did not. His
education had by this time sufficiently ousted his humanity to keep him
quite firm; though his mother might have led an idyllic life with her
faithful fruiterer and greengrocer, and nobody have been anything the
worse in the world.

Her lameness became more confirmed as time went on, and she seldom or
never left the house in the long southern thoroughfare, where she seemed
to be pining her heart away. 'Why mayn't I say to Sam that I'll marry
him? Why mayn't I?' she would murmur plaintively to herself when nobody
was near.

Some four years after this date a middle-aged man was standing at the
door of the largest fruiterer's shop in Aldbrickham. He was the
proprietor, but to-day, instead of his usual business attire, he wore a
neat suit of black; and his window was partly shuttered. From the
railway-station a funeral procession was seen approaching: it passed his
door and went out of the town towards the village of Gaymead. The man,
whose eyes were wet, held his hat in his hand as the vehicles moved by;
while from the mourning coach a young smooth-shaven priest in a high
waistcoat looked black as a cloud at the shop keeper standing there.

December 1891.



FOR CONSCIENCE' SAKE



CHAPTER I

Whether the utilitarian or the intuitive theory of the moral sense be
upheld, it is beyond question that there are a few subtle-souled persons
with whom the absolute gratuitousness of an act of reparation is an
inducement to perform it; while exhortation as to its necessity would
breed excuses for leaving it undone. The case of Mr. Millborne and Mrs.
Frankland particularly illustrated this, and perhaps something more.

There were few figures better known to the local crossing-sweeper than
Mr. Millborne's, in his daily comings and goings along a familiar and
quiet London street, where he lived inside the door marked eleven,
though not as householder. In age he was fifty at least, and his habits
were as regular as those of a person can be who has no occupation but
the study of how to keep himself employed. He turned almost always to
the right on getting to the end of his street, then he went onward down
Bond Street to his club, whence he returned by precisely the same course
about six o'clock, on foot; or, if he went to dine, later on in a cab.
He was known to be a man of some means, though apparently not wealthy.
Being a bachelor he seemed to prefer his present mode of living as a
lodger in Mrs. Towney's best rooms, with the use of furniture which he
had bought ten times over in rent during his tenancy, to having a house
of his own.

None among his acquaintance tried to know him well, for his manner and
moods did not excite curiosity or deep friendship. He was not a man who
seemed to have anything on his mind, anything to conceal, anything to
impart. From his casual remarks it was generally understood that he was
country-born, a native of some place in Wessex; that he had come to
London as a young man in a banking-house, and had risen to a post of
responsibility; when, by the death of his father, who had been fortunate
in his investments, the son succeeded to an income which led him to
retire from a business life somewhat early.

One evening, when he had been unwell for several days, Doctor Bindon
came in, after dinner, from the adjoining medical quarter, and smoked
with him over the fire. The patient's ailment was not such as to require
much thought, and they talked together on indifferent subjects.

'I am a lonely man, Bindon-a lonely man,' Millborne took occasion to
say, shaking his head gloomily. 'You don't know such loneliness as mine
. . . And the older I get the more I am dissatisfied with myself. And
to-day I have been, through an accident, more than usually haunted by
what, above all other events of my life, causes that dissatisfaction-the
recollection of an unfulfilled promise made twenty years ago. In
ordinary affairs I have always been considered a man of my word and
perhaps it is on that account that a particular vow I once made, and did
not keep, comes back to me with a magnitude out of all proportion (I
daresay) to its real gravity, especially at this time of day. You know
the discomfort caused at night by the half-sleeping sense that a door or
window has been left unfastened, or in the day by the remembrance of
unanswered letters. So does that promise haunt me from time to time, and
has done to-day particularly.'

There was a pause, and they smoked on. Millborne's eyes, though fixed on
the fire, were really regarding attentively a town in the West of
England.

'Yes,' he continued, 'I have never quite forgotten it, though during the
busy years of my life it was shelved and buried under the pressure of my
pursuits. And, as I say, to-day in particular, an incident in the law-
report of a somewhat similar kind has brought it back again vividly.
However, what it was I can tell you in a few words, though no doubt you,
as a man of the world, will smile at the thinness of my skin when you
hear it . . . I came up to town at one-and-twenty, from Toneborough, in
Outer Wessex, where I was born, and where, before I left, I had won the
heart of a young woman of my own age. I promised her marriage, took
advantage of my promise, and-am a bachelor.'

'The old story.'

The other nodded.

'I left the place, and thought at the time I had done a very clever
thing in getting so easily out of an entanglement. But I have lived long
enough for that promise to return to bother me-to be honest, not
altogether as a pricking of the conscience, but as a dissatisfaction
with myself as a specimen of the heap of flesh called humanity. If I
were to ask you to lend me fifty pounds, which I would repay you next
midsummer, and I did not repay you, I should consider myself a shabby
sort of fellow, especially if you wanted the money badly. Yet I promised
that girl just as distinctly; and then coolly broke my word, as if doing
so were rather smart conduct than a mean action, for which the poor
victim herself, encumbered with a child, and not I, had really to pay
the penalty, in spite of certain pecuniary aid that was given. There,
that's the retrospective trouble that I am always unearthing; and you
may hardly believe that though so many years have elapsed, and it is all
gone by and done with, and she must be getting on for an old woman now,
as I am for an old man, it really often destroys my sense of self-
respect still.'

'O, I can understand it. All depends upon the temperament. Thousands of
men would have forgotten all about it; so would you, perhaps, if you had
married and had a family. Did she ever marry?'

'I don't think so. O no-she never did. She left Toneborough, and later
on appeared under another name at Exonbury, in the next county, where
she was not known. It is very seldom that I go down into that part of
the country, but in passing through Exonbury, on one occasion, I learnt
that she was quite a settled resident there, as a teacher of music, or
something of the kind. That much I casually heard when I was there two
or three years ago. But I have never set eyes on her since our original
acquaintance, and should not know her if I met her.'

'Did the child live?' asked the doctor.

'For several years, certainly,' replied his friend. 'I cannot say if she
is living now. It was a little girl. She might be married by this time
as far as years go.'

'And the mother-was she a decent, worthy young woman?'

'O yes; a sensible, quiet girl, neither attractive nor unattractive to
the ordinary observer; simply commonplace. Her position at the time of
our acquaintance was not so good as mine. My father was a solicitor, as
I think I have told you. She was a young girl in a music-shop; and it
was represented to me that it would be beneath my position to marry her.
Hence the result.'

'Well, all I can say is that after twenty years it is probably too late
to think of mending such a matter. It has doubtless by this time mended
itself. You had better dismiss it from your mind as an evil past your
control. Of course, if mother and daughter are alive, or either, you
might settle something upon them, if you were inclined, and had it to
spare.'

'Well, I haven't much to spare; and I have relations in narrow
circumstances-perhaps narrower than theirs. But that is not the point.
Were I ever so rich I feel I could not rectify the past by money. I did
not promise to enrich her. On the contrary, I told her it would probably
be dire poverty for both of us. But I did promise to make her my wife.'

'Then find her and do it,' said the doctor jocularly as he rose to
leave.

'Ah, Bindon. That, of course, is the obvious jest. But I haven't the
slightest desire for marriage; I am quite content to live as I have
lived. I am a bachelor by nature, and instinct, and habit, and
everything. Besides, though I respect her still (for she was not an atom
to blame), I haven't any shadow of love for her. In my mind she exists
as one of those women you think well of, but find uninteresting. It
would be purely with the idea of putting wrong right that I should hunt
her up, and propose to do it off-hand.'

'You don't think of it seriously?' said his surprised friend.

'I sometimes think that I would, if it were practicable; simply, as I
say, to recover my sense of being a man of honour.'

'I wish you luck in the enterprise,' said Doctor Bindon. 'You'll soon be
out of that chair, and then you can put your impulse to the test. But-
after twenty years of silence-I should say, don't!'



CHAPTER II

The doctor's advice remained counterpoised, in Millborne's mind, by the
aforesaid mood of seriousness and sense of principle, approximating
often to religious sentiment, which had been evolving itself in his
breast for months, and even years.

The feeling, however, had no immediate effect upon Mr. Millborne's
actions. He soon got over his trifling illness, and was vexed with
himself for having, in a moment of impulse, confided such a case of
conscience to anybody.

But the force which had prompted it, though latent, remained with him
and ultimately grew stronger. The upshot was that about four months
after the date of his illness and disclosure, Millborne found himself on
a mild spring morning at Paddington Station, in a train that was
starting for the west. His many intermittent thoughts on his broken
promise from time to time, in those hours when loneliness brought him
face to face with his own personality, had at last resulted in this
course.

The decisive stimulus had been given when, a day or two earlier, on
looking into a Post-Office Directory, he learnt that the woman he had
not met for twenty years was still living on at Exonbury under the name
she had assumed when, a year or two after her disappearance from her
native town and his, she had returned from abroad as a young widow with
a child, and taken up her residence at the former city. Her condition
was apparently but little changed, and her daughter seemed to be with
her, their names standing in the Directory as 'Mrs. Leonora Frankland
and Miss Frankland, Teachers of Music and Dancing.'

Mr. Millborne reached Exonbury in the afternoon, and his first business,
before even taking his luggage into the town, was to find the house
occupied by the teachers. Standing in a central and open place it was
not difficult to discover, a well-burnished brass doorplate bearing
their names prominently. He hesitated to enter without further
knowledge, and ultimately took lodgings over a toyshop opposite,
securing a sitting-room which faced a similar drawing or sitting-room at
the Franklands', where the dancing lessons were given. Installed here he
was enabled to make indirectly, and without suspicion, inquiries and
observations on the character of the ladies over the way, which he did
with much deliberateness.

He learnt that the widow, Mrs. Frankland, with her one daughter,
Frances, was of cheerful and excellent repute, energetic and painstaking
with her pupils, of whom she had a good many, and in whose tuition her
daughter assisted her. She was quite a recognized townswoman, and though
the dancing branch of her profession was perhaps a trifle worldly, she
was really a serious-minded lady who, being obliged to live by what she
knew how to teach, balanced matters by lending a hand at charitable
bazaars, assisting at sacred concerts, and giving musical recitations in
aid of funds for bewildering happy savages, and other such enthusiasms
of this enlightened country. Her daughter was one of the foremost of the
bevy of young women who decorated the churches at Easter and Christmas,
was organist in one of those edifices, and had subscribed to the
testimonial of a silver broth-basin that was presented to the Reverend
Mr. Walker as a token of gratitude for his faithful and arduous
intonations of six months as sub-precentor in the Cathedral. Altogether
mother and daughter appeared to be a typical and innocent pair among the
genteel citizens of Exonbury.

As a natural and simple way of advertising their profession they allowed
the windows of the music-room to be a little open, so that you had the
pleasure of hearing all along the street at any hour between sunrise and
sunset fragmentary gems of classical music as interpreted by the young
people of twelve or fourteen who took lessons there. But it was said
that Mrs. Frankland made most of her income by letting out pianos on
hire, and by selling them as agent for the makers.

The report pleased Millborne; it was highly creditable, and far better
than he had hoped. He was curious to get a view of the two women who led
such blameless lives.

He had not long to wait to gain a glimpse of Leonora. It was when she
was standing on her own doorstep, opening her parasol, on the morning
after his arrival. She was thin, though not gaunt; and a good, well-
wearing, thoughtful face had taken the place of the one which had
temporarily attracted him in the days of his nonage. She wore black, and
it became her in her character of widow. The daughter next appeared; she
was a smoothed and rounded copy of her mother, with the same decision in
her mien that Leonora had, and a bounding gait in which he traced a
faint resemblance to his own at her age.

For the first time he absolutely made up his mind to call on them. But
his antecedent step was to send Leonora a note the next morning, stating
his proposal to visit her, and suggesting the evening as the time,
because she seemed to be so greatly occupied in her professional
capacity during the day. He purposely worded his note in such a form as
not to require an answer from her which would be possibly awkward to
write.

No answer came. Naturally he should not have been surprised at this; and
yet he felt a little checked, even though she had only refrained from
volunteering a reply that was not demanded.

At eight, the hour fixed by himself, he crossed over and was passively
admitted by the servant. Mrs. Frankland, as she called herself, received
him in the large music-and-dancing room on the first-floor front, and
not in any private little parlour as he had expected. This cast a
distressingly business-like colour over their first meeting after so
many years of severance. The woman he had wronged stood before him,
well-dressed, even to his metropolitan eyes, and her manner as she came
up to him was dignified even to hardness. She certainly was not glad to
see him. But what could he expect after a neglect of twenty years!

'How do you do, Mr. Millborne?' she said cheerfully, as to any chance
caller. 'I am obliged to receive you here because my daughter has a
friend downstairs.'

'Your daughter-and mine.'

'Ah-yes, yes,' she replied hastily, as if the addition had escaped her
memory. 'But perhaps the less said about that the better, in fairness to
me. You will consider me a widow, please.'

'Certainly, Leonora . . . ' He could not get on, her manner was so cold
and indifferent. The expected scene of sad reproach, subdued to delicacy
by the run of years, was absent altogether. He was obliged to come to
the point without preamble.

'You are quite free, Leonora-I mean as to marriage? There is nobody who
has your promise, or-'

'O yes; quite free, Mr. Millborne,' she said, somewhat surprised.

'Then I will tell you why I have come. Twenty years ago I promised to
make you my wife; and I am here to fulfil that promise. Heaven forgive
my tardiness!'

Her surprise was increased, but she was not agitated. She seemed to
become gloomy, disapproving. 'I could not entertain such an idea at this
time of life,' she said after a moment or two. 'It would complicate
matters too greatly. I have a very fair income, and require no help of
any sort. I have no wish to marry . . . What could have induced you to
come on such an errand now? It seems quite extraordinary, if I may say
so!'

'It must-I daresay it does,' Millborne replied vaguely; 'and I must tell
you that impulse-I mean in the sense of passion-has little to do with
it. I wish to marry you, Leonora; I much desire to marry you. But it is
an affair of conscience, a case of fulfilment. I promised you, and it
was dishonourable of me to go away. I want to remove that sense of
dishonour before I die. No doubt we might get to love each other as
warmly as we did in old times?'

She dubiously shook her head. 'I appreciate your motives, Mr. Millborne;
but you must consider my position; and you will see that, short of the
personal wish to marry, which I don't feel, there is no reason why I
should change my state, even though by so doing I should ease your
conscience. My position in this town is a respected one; I have built it
up by my own hard labours, and, in short, I don't wish to alter it. My
daughter, too, is just on the verge of an engagement to be married, to a
young man who will make her an excellent husband. It will be in every
way a desirable match for her. He is downstairs now.'

'Does she know-anything about me?'

'O no, no; God forbid! Her father is dead and buried to her. So that,
you see, things are going on smoothly, and I don't want to disturb their
progress.'

He nodded. 'Very well,' he said, and rose to go. At the door, however,
he came back again.

'Still, Leonora,' he urged, 'I have come on purpose; and I don't see
what disturbance would be caused. You would simply marry an old friend.
Won't you reconsider? It is no more than right that we should be united,
remembering the girl.'

She shook her head, and patted with her foot nervously.

'Well, I won't detain you,' he added. 'I shall not be leaving Exonbury
yet. You will allow me to see you again?'

'Yes; I don't mind,' she said reluctantly.

The obstacles he had encountered, though they did not reanimate his dead
passion for Leonora, did certainly make it appear indispensable to his
peace of mind to overcome her coldness. He called frequently. The first
meeting with the daughter was a trying ordeal, though he did not feel
drawn towards her as he had expected to be; she did not excite his
sympathies. Her mother confided to Frances the errand of 'her old
friend,' which was viewed by the daughter with strong disfavour. His
desire being thus uncongenial to both, for a long time Millborne made
not the least impression upon Mrs. Frankland. His attentions pestered
her rather than pleased her. He was surprised at her firmness, and it
was only when he hinted at moral reasons for their union that she was
ever shaken. 'Strictly speaking,' he would say, 'we ought, as honest
persons, to marry; and that's the truth of it, Leonora.'

'I have looked at it in that light,' she said quickly. 'It struck me at
the very first. But I don't see the force of the argument. I totally
deny that after this interval of time I am bound to marry you for
honour's sake. I would have married you, as you know well enough, at the
proper time. But what is the use of remedies now?'

They were standing at the window. A scantly-whiskered young man, in
clerical attire, called at the door below. Leonora flushed with
interest.

'Who is he?' said Mr. Millborne.

'My Frances's lover. I am so sorry-she is not at home! Ah! they have
told him where she is, and he has gone to find her . . . I hope that
suit will prosper, at any rate!'

'Why shouldn't it?'

'Well, he cannot marry yet; and Frances sees but little of him now he
has left Exonbury. He was formerly doing duty here, but now he is curate
of St. John's, Ivell, fifty miles up the line. There is a tacit
agreement between them, but-there have been friends of his who object,
because of our vocation. However, he sees the absurdity of such an
objection as that, and is not influenced by it.'

'Your marriage with me would help the match, instead of hindering it, as
you have said.'

'Do you think it would?'

'It certainly would, by taking you out of this business altogether.'

By chance he had found the way to move her somewhat, and he followed it
up. This view was imparted to Mrs. Frankland's daughter, and it led her
to soften her opposition. Millborne, who had given up his lodging in
Exonbury, journeyed to and fro regularly, till at last he overcame her
negations, and she expressed a reluctant assent.

They were married at the nearest church; and the goodwill-whatever that
was-of the music-and-dancing connection was sold to a successor only too
ready to jump into the place, the Millbornes having decided to live in
London.



CHAPTER III

Millborne was a householder in his old district, though not in his old
street, and Mrs. Millborne and their daughter had turned themselves into
Londoners. Frances was well reconciled to the removal by her lover's
satisfaction at the change. It suited him better to travel from Ivell a
hundred miles to see her in London, where he frequently had other
engagements, than fifty in the opposite direction where nothing but
herself required his presence. So here they were, furnished up to the
attics, in one of the small but popular streets of the West district, in
a house whose front, till lately of the complexion of a chimney-sweep,
had been scraped to show to the surprised wayfarer the bright yellow and
red brick that had lain lurking beneath the soot of fifty years.

The social lift that the two women had derived from the alliance was
considerable; but when the exhilaration which accompanies a first
residence in London, the sensation of standing on a pivot of the world,
had passed, their lives promised to be somewhat duller than when, at
despised Exonbury, they had enjoyed a nodding acquaintance with three-
fourths of the town. Mr. Millborne did not criticise his wife; he could
not. Whatever defects of hardness and acidity his original treatment and
the lapse of years might have developed in her, his sense of a realized
idea, of a re-established self-satisfaction, was always thrown into the
scale on her side, and out-weighed all objections.

It was about a month after their settlement in town that the household
decided to spend a week at a watering-place in the Isle of Wight, and
while there the Reverend Percival Cope (the young curate aforesaid) came
to see them, Frances in particular. No formal engagement of the young
pair had been announced as yet, but it was clear that their mutual
understanding could not end in anything but marriage without grievous
disappointment to one of the parties at least. Not that Frances was
sentimental. She was rather of the imperious sort, indeed; and, to say
all, the young girl had not fulfilled her father's expectations of her.
But he hoped and worked for her welfare as sincerely as any father could
do.

Mr. Cope was introduced to the new head of the family, and stayed with
them in the Island two or three days. On the last day of his visit they
decided to venture on a two hours' sail in one of the small yachts which
lay there for hire. The trip had not progressed far before all, except
the curate, found that sailing in a breeze did not quite agree with
them; but as he seemed to enjoy the experience, the other three bore
their condition as well as they could without grimace or complaint, till
the young man, observing their discomfort, gave immediate directions to
tack about. On the way back to port they sat silent, facing each other.

Nausea in such circumstances, like midnight watching, fatigue, trouble,
fright, has this marked effect upon the countenance, that it often
brings out strongly the divergences of the individual from the norm of
his race, accentuating superficial peculiarities to radical
distinctions. Unexpected physiognomies will uncover themselves at these
times in well-known faces; the aspect becomes invested with the spectral
presence of entombed and forgotten ancestors; and family lineaments of
special or exclusive cast, which in ordinary moments are masked by a
stereotyped expression and mien, start up with crude insistence to the
view.

Frances, sitting beside her mother's husband, with Mr. Cope opposite,
was naturally enough much regarded by the curate during the tedious sail
home; at first with sympathetic smiles. Then, as the middle-aged father
and his child grew each gray-faced, as the pretty blush of Frances
disintegrated into spotty stains, and the soft rotundities of her
features diverged from their familiar and reposeful beauty into
elemental lines, Cope was gradually struck with the resemblance between
a pair in their discomfort who in their ease presented nothing to the
eye in common. Mr. Millborne and Frances in their indisposition were
strangely, startlingly alike.

The inexplicable fact absorbed Cope's attention quite. He forgot to
smile at Frances, to hold her hand; and when they touched the shore he
remained sitting for some moments like a man in a trance.

As they went homeward, and recovered their complexions and contours, the
similarities one by one disappeared, and Frances and Mr. Millborne were
again masked by the commonplace differences of sex and age. It was as
if, during the voyage, a mysterious veil had been lifted, temporarily
revealing a strange pantomime of the past.

During the evening he said to her casually: 'Is your step-father a
cousin of your mother, dear Frances?'

'Oh, no,' said she. 'There is no relationship. He was only an old friend
of hers. Why did you suppose such a thing?'

He did not explain, and the next morning started to resume his duties at
Ivell.

Cope was an honest young fellow, and shrewd withal. At home in his quiet
rooms in St. Peter's Street, Ivell, he pondered long and unpleasantly on
the revelations of the cruise. The tale it told was distinct enough, and
for the first time his position was an uncomfortable one. He had met the
Franklands at Exonbury as parishioners, had been attracted by Frances,
and had floated thus far into an engagement which was indefinite only
because of his inability to marry just yet. The Franklands' past had
apparently contained mysteries, and it did not coincide with his
judgment to marry into a family whose mystery was of the sort suggested.
So he sat and sighed, between his reluctance to lose Frances and his
natural dislike of forming a connection with people whose antecedents
would not bear the strictest investigation.

A passionate lover of the old-fashioned sort might possibly never have
halted to weigh these doubts; but though he was in the church Cope's
affections were fastidious-distinctly tempered with the alloys of the
century's decadence. He delayed writing to Frances for some while,
simply because he could not tune himself up to enthusiasm when worried
by suspicions of such a kind.

Meanwhile the Millbornes had returned to London, and Frances was growing
anxious. In talking to her mother of Cope she had innocently alluded to
his curious inquiry if her mother and her step-father were connected by
any tie of cousinship. Mrs. Millborne made her repeat the words. Frances
did so, and watched with inquisitive eyes their effect upon her elder.

'What is there so startling in his inquiry then?' she asked. 'Can it
have anything to do with his not writing to me?'

Her mother flinched, but did not inform her, and Frances also was now
drawn within the atmosphere of suspicion. That night when standing by
chance outside the chamber of her parents she heard for the first time
their voices engaged in a sharp altercation.

The apple of discord had, indeed, been dropped into the house of the
Millbornes. The scene within the chamber-door was Mrs. Millborne
standing before her dressing-table, looking across to her husband in the
dressing-room adjoining, where he was sitting down, his eyes fixed on
the floor.

'Why did you come and disturb my life a second time?' she harshly asked.
'Why did you pester me with your conscience, till I was driven to accept
you to get rid of your importunity? Frances and I were doing well: the
one desire of my life was that she should marry that good young man. And
now the match is broken off by your cruel interference! Why did you show
yourself in my world again, and raise this scandal upon my hard-won
respectability-won by such weary years of labour as none will ever
know!' She bent her face upon the table and wept passionately.

There was no reply from Mr. Millborne. Frances lay awake nearly all that
night, and when at breakfast-time the next morning still no letter
appeared from Mr. Cope, she entreated her mother to go to Ivell and see
if the young man were ill.

Mrs. Millborne went, returning the same day. Frances, anxious and
haggard, met her at the station.

Was all well? Her mother could not say it was; though he was not ill.

One thing she had found out, that it was a mistake to hunt up a man when
his inclinations were to hold aloof. Returning with her mother in the
cab Frances insisted upon knowing what the mystery was which plainly had
alienated her lover. The precise words which had been spoken at the
interview with him that day at Ivell Mrs. Millborne could not be induced
to repeat; but thus far she admitted, that the estrangement was
fundamentally owing to Mr. Millborne having sought her out and married
her.

'And why did he seek you out-and why were you obliged to marry him?'
asked the distressed girl. Then the evidences pieced themselves together
in her acute mind, and, her colour gradually rising, she asked her
mother if what they pointed to was indeed the fact. Her mother admitted
that it was.

A flush of mortification succeeded to the flush of shame upon the young
woman's face. How could a scrupulously correct clergyman and lover like
Mr. Cope ask her to be his wife after this discovery of her irregular
birth? She covered her eyes with her hands in a silent despair.

In the presence of Mr. Millborne they at first suppressed their anguish.
But by and by their feelings got the better of them, and when he was
asleep in his chair after dinner Mrs. Millborne's irritation broke out.
The embittered Frances joined her in reproaching the man who had come as
the spectre to their intended feast of Hymen, and turned its promise to
ghastly failure.

'Why were you so weak, mother, as to admit such an enemy to your house-
one so obviously your evil genius-much less accept him as a husband,
after so long? If you had only told me all, I could have advised you
better! But I suppose I have no right to reproach him, bitter as I feel,
and even though he has blighted my life for ever!'

'Frances, I did hold out; I saw it was a mistake to have any more to say
to a man who had been such an unmitigated curse to me! But he would not
listen; he kept on about his conscience and mine, till I was bewildered,
and said Yes! . . . Bringing us away from a quiet town where we were
known and respected-what an ill-considered thing it was! O the content
of those days! We had society there, people in our own position, who did
not expect more of us than we expected of them. Here, where there is so
much, there is nothing! He said London society was so bright and
brilliant that it would be like a new world. It may be to those who are
in it; but what is that to us two lonely women; we only see it flashing
past! . . . O the fool, the fool that I was!'

Now Millborne was not so soundly asleep as to prevent his hearing these
animadversions that were almost execrations, and many more of the same
sort. As there was no peace for him at home, he went again to his club,
where, since his reunion with Leonora, he had seldom if ever been seen.
But the shadow of the troubles in his household interfered with his
comfort here also; he could not, as formerly, settle down into his
favourite chair with the evening paper, reposeful in the celibate's
sense that where he was his world's centre had its fixture. His world
was now an ellipse, with a dual centrality, of which his own was not the
major.

The young curate of Ivell still held aloof, tantalizing Frances by his
elusiveness. Plainly he was waiting upon events. Millborne bore the
reproaches of his wife and daughter almost in silence; but by degrees he
grew meditative, as if revolving a new idea. The bitter cry about
blighting their existence at length became so impassioned that one day
Millborne calmly proposed to return again to the country; not
necessarily to Exonbury, but, if they were willing, to a little old
manor-house which he had found was to be let, standing a mile from Mr.
Cope's town of Ivell.

They were surprised, and, despite their view of him as the bringer of
ill, were disposed to accede. 'Though I suppose,' said Mrs. Millborne to
him, 'it will end in Mr. Cope's asking you flatly about the past, and
your being compelled to tell him; which may dash all my hopes for
Frances. She gets more and more like you every day, particularly when
she is in a bad temper. People will see you together, and notice it; and
I don't know what may come of it!'

'I don't think they will see us together,' he said; but he entered into
no argument when she insisted otherwise. The removal was eventually
resolved on; the town-house was disposed of; and again came the invasion
by furniture-men and vans, till all the movables and servants were
whisked away. He sent his wife and daughter to an hotel while this was
going on, taking two or three journeys himself to Ivell to superintend
the refixing, and the improvement of the grounds. When all was done he
returned to them in town.

The house was ready for their reception, he told them, and there only
remained the journey. He accompanied them and their personal luggage to
the station only, having, he said, to remain in town a short time on
business with his lawyer. They went, dubious and discontented-for the
much-loved Cope had made no sign.

'If we were going down to live here alone,' said Mrs Millborne to her
daughter in the train; 'and there was no intrusive tell-tale presence! .
. . But let it be!'

The house was a lovely little place in a grove of elms, and they liked
it much. The first person to call upon them as new residents was Mr.
Cope. He was delighted to find that they had come so near, and (though
he did not say this) meant to live in such excellent style. He had not,
however, resumed the manner of a lover.

'Your father spoils all!' murmured Mrs. Millborne.

But three days later she received a letter from her husband, which
caused her no small degree of astonishment. It was written from
Boulogne.

It began with a long explanation of settlements of his property, in
which he had been engaged since their departure. The chief feature in
the business was that Mrs. Millborne found herself the absolute owner of
a comfortable sum in personal estate, and Frances of a life-interest in
a larger sum, the principal to be afterwards divided amongst her
children if she had any. The remainder of his letter ran as hereunder:-

'I have learnt that there are some derelictions of duty which cannot be
blotted out by tardy accomplishment. Our evil actions do not remain
isolated in the past, waiting only to be reversed: like locomotive
plants they spread and re-root, till to destroy the original stem has no
material effect in killing them. I made a mistake in searching you out;
I admit it; whatever the remedy may be in such cases it is not marriage,
and the best thing for you and me is that you do not see me more. You
had better not seek me, for you will not be likely to find me: you are
well provided for, and we may do ourselves more harm than good by
meeting again.

'F. M.'

Millborne, in short, disappeared from that day forward. But a searching
inquiry would have revealed that, soon after the Millbornes went to
Ivell, an Englishman, who did not give the name of Millborne, took up
his residence in Brussels; a man who might have been recognized by Mrs.
Millborne if she had met him. One afternoon in the ensuing summer, when
this gentleman was looking over the English papers, he saw the
announcement of Miss Frances Frankland's marriage. She had become the
Reverend Mrs. Cope.

'Thank God!' said the gentleman.

But his momentary satisfaction was far from being happiness. As he
formerly had been weighted with a bad conscience, so now was he burdened
with the heavy thought which oppressed Antigone, that by honourable
observance of a rite he had obtained for himself the reward of
dishonourable laxity. Occasionally he had to be helped to his lodgings
by his servant from the Cercle he frequented, through having imbibed a
little too much liquor to be able to take care of himself. But he was
harmless, and even when he had been drinking said little.

March 1891.



A TRAGEDY OF TWO AMBITIONS



CHAPTER I

The shouts of the village-boys came in at the window, accompanied by
broken laughter from loungers at the inn-door; but the brothers
Halborough worked on.

They were sitting in a bedroom of the master-millwright's house, engaged
in the untutored reading of Greek and Latin. It was no tale of Homeric
blows and knocks, Argonautic voyaging, or Theban family woe that
inflamed their imaginations and spurred them onward. They were plodding
away at the Greek Testament, immersed in a chapter of the idiomatic and
difficult Epistle to the Hebrews.

The Dog-day sun in its decline reached the low ceiling with slanting
sides, and the shadows of the great goat's-willow swayed and
interchanged upon the walls like a spectral army manoeuvring. The open
casement which admitted the remoter sounds now brought the voice of some
one close at hand. It was their sister, a pretty girl of fourteen, who
stood in the court below.

'I can see the tops of your heads! What's the use of staying up there? I
like you not to go out with the street-boys; but do come and play with
me!'

They treated her as an inadequate interlocutor, and put her off with
some slight word. She went away disappointed. Presently there was a dull
noise of heavy footsteps at the side of the house, and one of the
brothers sat up. 'I fancy I hear him coming,' he murmured, his eyes on
the window.

A man in the light drab clothes of an old-fashioned country tradesman
approached from round the corner, reeling as he came. The elder son
flushed with anger, rose from his books, and descended the stairs. The
younger sat on, till, after the lapse of a few minutes, his brother re-
entered the room.

'Did Rosa see him?'

'No.'

'Nor anybody?'

'No.'

'What have you done with him?'

'He's in the straw-shed. I got him in with some trouble, and he has
fallen asleep. I thought this would be the explanation of his absence!
No stones dressed for Miller Kench, the great wheel of the saw-mills
waiting for new float-boards, even the poor folk not able to get their
waggons wheeled.'

'What is the use of poring over this!' said the younger, shutting up
Donnegan's Lexicon with a slap. 'O if we had only been able to keep
mother's nine hundred pounds, what we could have done!'

'How well she had estimated the sum necessary! Four hundred and fifty
each, she thought. And I have no doubt that we could have done it on
that, with care.'

This loss of the nine hundred pounds was the sharp thorn of their crown.
It was a sum which their mother had amassed with great exertion and
self-denial, by adding to a chance legacy such other small amounts as
she could lay hands on from time to time; and she had intended with the
hoard to indulge the dear wish of her heart-that of sending her sons,
Joshua and Cornelius, to one of the Universities, having been informed
that from four hundred to four hundred and fifty each might carry them
through their terms with such great economy as she knew she could trust
them to practise. But she had died a year or two before this time, worn
out by too keen a strain towards these ends; and the money, coming
unreservedly into the hands of their father, had been nearly dissipated.
With its exhaustion went all opportunity and hope of a university degree
for the sons.

'It drives me mad when I think of it,' said Joshua, the elder. 'And here
we work and work in our own bungling way, and the utmost we can hope for
is a term of years as national schoolmasters, and possible admission to
a Theological college, and ordination as despised licentiates.'

The anger of the elder was reflected as simple sadness in the face of
the other. 'We can preach the Gospel as well without a hood on our
surplices as with one,' he said with feeble consolation.

'Preach the Gospel-true,' said Joshua with a slight pursing of mouth.
'But we can't rise!'

'Let us make the best of it, and grind on.'

The other was silent, and they drearily bent over their books again.

The cause of all this gloom, the millwright Halborough, now snoring in
the shed, had been a thriving master-machinist, notwithstanding his free
and careless disposition, till a taste for a more than adequate quantity
of strong liquor took hold of him; since when his habits had interfered
with his business sadly. Already millers went elsewhere for their gear,
and only one set of hands was now kept going, though there were formerly
two. Already he found a difficulty in meeting his men at the week's end,
and though they had been reduced in number there was barely enough work
to do for those who remained.

The sun dropped lower and vanished, the shouts of the village children
ceased to resound, darkness cloaked the students' bedroom, and all the
scene outwardly breathed peace. None knew of the fevered youthful
ambitions that throbbed in two breasts within the quiet creeper-covered
walls of the millwright's house.

In a few months the brothers left the village of their birth to enter
themselves as students in a training college for schoolmasters; first
having placed their young sister Rosa under as efficient a tuition at a
fashionable watering-place as the means at their disposal could command.



CHAPTER II

A man in semi-clerical dress was walking along the road which led from
the railway-station into a provincial town. As he walked he read
persistently, only looking up once now and then to see that he was
keeping on the foot track and to avoid other passengers. At those
moments, whoever had known the former students at the millwright's would
have perceived that one of them, Joshua Halborough, was the peripatetic
reader here.

What had been simple force in the youth's face was energized judgment in
the man's. His character was gradually writing itself out in his
countenance. That he was watching his own career with deeper and deeper
interest, that he continually 'heard his days before him,' and cared to
hear little else, might have been hazarded from what was seen there. His
ambitions were, in truth, passionate, yet controlled; so that the germs
of many more plans than ever blossomed to maturity had place in him; and
forward visions were kept purposely in twilight, to avoid distraction.

Events so far had been encouraging. Shortly after assuming the
mastership of his first school he had obtained an introduction to the
Bishop of a diocese far from his native county, who had looked upon him
as a promising young man and taken him in hand. He was now in the second
year of his residence at the theological college of the cathedral-town,
and would soon be presented for ordination.

He entered the town, turned into a back street, and then into a yard,
keeping his book before him till he set foot under the arch of the
latter place. Round the arch was written 'National School,' and the
stonework of the jambs was worn away as nothing but boys and the waves
of ocean will wear it. He was soon amid the sing-song accents of the
scholars.

His brother Cornelius, who was the schoolmaster here, laid down the
pointer with which he was directing attention to the Capes of Europe,
and came forward.

'That's his brother Jos!' whispered one of the sixth standard boys.
'He's going to be a pa'son, he's now at college.'

'Corney is going to be one too, when he's saved enough money,' said
another.

After greeting his brother, whom he had not seen for several months, the
junior began to explain his system of teaching geography.

But Halborough the elder took no interest in the subject. 'How about
your own studies?' he asked. 'Did you get the books I sent?'

Cornelius had received them, and he related what he was doing.

'Mind you work in the morning. What time do you get up?'

The younger replied: 'Half-past five.'

'Half-past four is not a minute too soon this time of the year. There is
no time like the morning for construing. I don't know why, but when I
feel even too dreary to read a novel I can translate-there is something
mechanical about it I suppose. Now, Cornelius, you are rather
behindhand, and have some heavy reading before you if you mean to get
out of this next Christmas.'

'I am afraid I have.'

'We must soon sound the Bishop. I am sure you will get a title without
difficulty when he has heard all. The sub-dean, the principal of my
college, says that the best plan will be for you to come there when his
lordship is present at an examination, and he'll get you a personal
interview with him. Mind you make a good impression upon him. I found in
my case that that was everything and doctrine almost nothing. You'll do
for a deacon, Corney, if not for a priest.'

The younger remained thoughtful. 'Have you heard from Rosa lately?' he
asked; 'I had a letter this morning.'

'Yes. The little minx writes rather too often. She is homesick-though
Brussels must be an attractive place enough. But she must make the most
of her time over there. I thought a year would be enough for her, after
that high-class school at Sandbourne, but I have decided to give her
two, and make a good job of it, expensive as the establishment is.'

Their two rather harsh faces had softened directly they began to speak
of their sister, whom they loved more ambitiously than they loved
themselves.

'But where is the money to come from, Joshua?'

'I have already got it.' He looked round, and finding that some boys
were near withdrew a few steps. 'I have borrowed it at five per cent.
from the farmer who used to occupy the farm next our field. You remember
him.'

'But about paying him?'

'I shall pay him by degrees out of my stipend. No, Cornelius, it was no
use to do the thing by halves. She promises to be a most attractive, not
to say beautiful, girl. I have seen that for years; and if her face is
not her fortune, her face and her brains together will be, if I observe
and contrive aright. That she should be, every inch of her, an
accomplished and refined woman, was indispensable for the fulfilment of
her destiny, and for moving onwards and upwards with us; and she'll do
it, you will see. I'd half starve myself rather than take her away from
that school now.'

They looked round the school they were in. To Cornelius it was natural
and familiar enough, but to Joshua, with his limited human sympathies,
who had just dropped in from a superior sort of place, the sight jarred
unpleasantly, as being that of something he had left behind. 'I shall be
glad when you are out of this,' he said, 'and in your pulpit, and well
through your first sermon.'

'You may as well say inducted into my fat living, while you are about
it.'

'Ah, well-don't think lightly of the Church. There's a fine work for any
man of energy in the Church, as you'll find,' he said fervidly.
'Torrents of infidelity to be stemmed, new views of old subjects to be
expounded, truths in spirit to be substituted for truths in the letter .
. . ' He lapsed into reverie with the vision of his career, persuading
himself that it was ardour for Christianity which spurred him on, and
not pride of place. He had shouldered a body of doctrine, and was
prepared to defend it tooth and nail, solely for the honour and glory
that warriors win.

'If the Church is elastic, and stretches to the shape of the time,
she'll last, I suppose,' said Cornelius. 'If not-. Only think, I bought
a copy of Paley's Evidences, best edition, broad margins, excellent
preservation, at a bookstall the other day for-ninepence; and I thought
that at this rate Christianity must be in rather a bad way.'

'No, no!' said the other almost, angrily. 'It only shows that such
defences are no longer necessary. Men's eyes can see the truth without
extraneous assistance. Besides, we are in for Christianity, and must
stick to her whether or no. I am just now going right through Pusey's
Library of the Fathers.'

'You'll be a bishop, Joshua, before you have done!'

'Ah!' said the other bitterly, shaking his head. 'Perhaps I might have
been-I might have been! But where is my D.D. or LL.D.; and how be a
bishop without that kind of appendage? Archbishop Tillotson was the son
of a Sowerby clothier, but he was sent to Clare College. To hail Oxford
or Cambridge as alma mater is not for me-for us! My God! when I think of
what we should have been-what fair promise has been blighted by that
cursed, worthless-'

'Hush, hush! . . . But I feel it, too, as much as you. I have seen it
more forcibly lately. You would have obtained your degree long before
this time-possibly fellowship-and I should have been on my way to mine.'

'Don't talk of it,' said the other. 'We must do the best we can.'

They looked out of the window sadly, through the dusty panes, so high up
that only the sky was visible. By degrees the haunting trouble loomed
again, and Cornelius broke the silence with a whisper: 'He has called on
me!'

The living pulses died on Joshua's face, which grew arid as a
cIRONlinker. 'When was that?' he asked quickly.

'Last week.'

'How did he get here-so many miles?'

'Came by railway. He came to ask for money.'

'Ah!'

'He says he will call on you.'

Joshua replied resignedly. The theme of their conversation spoilt his
buoyancy for that afternoon. He returned in the evening, Cornelius
accompanying him to the station; but he did not read in the train which
took him back to the Fountall Theological College, as he had done on the
way out. That ineradicable trouble still remained as a squalid spot in
the expanse of his life. He sat with the other students in the cathedral
choir next day; and the recollection of the trouble obscured the purple
splendour thrown by the panes upon the floor.

It was afternoon. All was as still in the Close as a cathedral-green can
be between the Sunday services, and the incessant cawing of the rooks
was the only sound. Joshua Halborough had finished his ascetic lunch,
and had gone into the library, where he stood for a few moments looking
out of the large window facing the green. He saw walking slowly across
it a man in a fustian coat and a battered white hat with a much- ruffled
nap, having upon his arm a tall gipsy-woman wearing long brass earrings.
The man was staring quizzically at the west front of the cathedral, and
Halborough recognized in him the form and features of his father. Who
the woman was he knew not. Almost as soon as Joshua became conscious of
these things, the sub-dean, who was also the principal of the college,
and of whom the young man stood in more awe than of the Bishop himself,
emerged from the gate and entered a path across the Close. The pair met
the dignitary, and to Joshua's horror his father turned and addressed
the sub-dean.

What passed between them he could not tell. But as he stood in a cold
sweat he saw his father place his hand familiarly on the sub-dean's
shoulder; the shrinking response of the latter, and his quick
withdrawal, told his feeling. The woman seemed to say nothing, but when
the sub-dean had passed by they came on towards the college gate.

Halborough flew along the corridor and out at a side door, so as to
intercept them before they could reach the front entrance, for which
they were making. He caught them behind a clump of laurel.

'By Jerry, here's the very chap! Well, you're a fine fellow, Jos, never
to send your father as much as a twist o' baccy on such an occasion, and
to leave him to travel all these miles to find ye out!'

'First, who is this?' said Joshua Halborough with pale dignity, waving
his hand towards the buxom woman with the great earrings.

'Dammy, the mis'ess! Your step-mother! Didn't you know I'd married? She
helped me home from market one night, and we came to terms, and struck
the bargain. Didn't we, Selinar?'

'Oi, by the great Lord an' we did!' simpered the lady.

'Well, what sort of a place is this you are living in?' asked the
millwright. 'A kind of house-of-correction, apparently?'

Joshua listened abstractedly, his features set to resignation. Sick at
heart he was going to ask them if they were in want of any necessary,
any meal, when his father cut him short by saying, 'Why, we've called to
ask ye to come round and take pot-luck with us at the Cock-and-Bottle,
where we've put up for the day, on our way to see mis'ess's friends at
Binegar Fair, where they'll be lying under canvas for a night or two. As
for the victuals at the Cock I can't testify to 'em at all; but for the
drink, they've the rarest drop of Old Tom that I've tasted for many a
year.'

'Thanks; but I am a teetotaller; and I have lunched,' said Joshua, who
could fully believe his father's testimony to the gin, from the odour of
his breath. 'You see we have to observe regular habits here; and I
couldn't be seen at the Cock-and-Bottle just now.'

'O dammy, then don't come, your reverence. Perhaps you won't mind
standing treat for those who can be seen there?'

'Not a penny,' said the younger firmly. 'You've had enough already.'

'Thank you for nothing. By the bye, who was that spindle-legged, shoe-
buckled parson feller we met by now? He seemed to think we should poison
him!'

Joshua remarked coldly that it was the principal of his college,
guardedly inquiring, 'Did you tell him whom you were come to see?'

His father did not reply. He and his strapping gipsy wife-if she were
his wife-stayed no longer, and disappeared in the direction of the High
Street. Joshua Halborough went back to the library. Determined as was
his nature, he wept hot tears upon the books, and was immeasurably more
wretched that afternoon than the unwelcome millwright. In the evening he
sat down and wrote a letter to his brother, in which, after stating what
had happened, and expatiating upon this new disgrace in the gipsy wife,
he propounded a plan for raising money sufficient to induce the couple
to emigrate to Canada. 'It is our only chance,' he said. 'The case as it
stands is maddening. For a successful painter, sculptor, musician,
author, who takes society by storm, it is no drawback, it is sometimes
even a romantic recommendation, to hail from outcasts and profligates.
But for a clergyman of the Church of England! Cornelius, it is fatal! To
succeed in the Church, people must believe in you, first of all, as a
gentleman, secondly as a man of means, thirdly as a scholar, fourthly as
a preacher, fifthly, perhaps, as a Christian,-but always first as a
gentleman, with all their heart and soul and strength. I would have
faced the fact of being a small machinist's son, and have taken my
chance, if he'd been in any sense respectable and decent. The essence of
Christianity is humility, and by the help of God I would have brazened
it out. But this terrible vagabondage and disreputable connection! If he
does not accept my terms and leave the country, it will extinguish us
and kill me. For how can we live, and relinquish our high aim, and bring
down our dear sister Rosa to the level of a gipsy's step-daughter?'



CHAPTER III

There was excitement in the parish of Narrobourne one day. The
congregation had just come out from morning service, and the whole
conversation was of the new curate, Mr. Halborough, who had officiated
for the first time, in the absence of the rector.

Never before had the feeling of the villagers approached a level which
could be called excitement on such a matter as this. The droning which
had been the rule in that quiet old place for a century seemed ended at
last. They repeated the text to each other as a refrain: 'O Lord, be
thou my helper!' Not within living memory till to-day had the subject of
the sermon formed the topic of conversation from the church door to
church-yard gate, to the exclusion of personal remarks on those who had
been present, and on the week's news in general.

The thrilling periods of the preacher hung about their minds all that
day. The parish being steeped in indifferentism, it happened that when
the youths and maidens, middle-aged and old people, who had attended
church that morning, recurred as by a fascination to what Halborough had
said, they did so more or less indirectly, and even with the subterfuge
of a light laugh that was not real, so great was their shyness under the
novelty of their sensations.

What was more curious than that these unconventional villagers should
have been excited by a preacher of a new school after forty years of
familiarity with the old hand who had had charge of their souls, was the
effect of Halborough's address upon the occupants of the manor-house
pew, including the owner of the estate. These thought they knew how to
discount the mere sensational sermon, how to minimize flash oratory to
its bare proportions; but they had yielded like the rest of the assembly
to the charm of the newcomer.

Mr. Fellmer, the landowner, was a young widower, whose mother, still in
the prime of life, had returned to her old position in the family
mansion since the death of her son's wife in the year after her
marriage, at the birth of a fragile little girl. From the date of his
loss to the present time, Fellmer had led an inactive existence in the
seclusion of the parish; a lack of motive seemed to leave him listless.
He had gladly reinstated his mother in the gloomy house, and his main
occupation now lay in stewarding his estate, which was not large. Mrs.
Fellmer, who had sat beside him under Halborough this morning, was a
cheerful, straightforward woman, who did her marketing and her alms-
giving in person, was fond of old-fashioned flowers, and walked about
the village on very wet days visiting the parishioners. These, the only
two great ones of Narrobourne, were impressed by Joshua's eloquence as
much as the cottagers.

Halborough had been briefly introduced to them on his arrival some days
before, and, their interest being kindled, they waited a few moments
till he came out of the vestry, to walk down the churchyard-path with
him. Mrs. Fellmer spoke warmly of the sermon, of the good fortune of the
parish in his advent, and hoped he had found comfortable quarters.

Halborough, faintly flushing, said that he had obtained very fair
lodgings in the roomy house of a farmer, whom he named.

She feared he would find it very lonely, especially in the evenings, and
hoped they would see a good deal of him. When would he dine with them?
Could he not come that day-it must be so dull for him the first Sunday
evening in country lodgings?

Halborough replied that it would give him much pleasure, but that he
feared he must decline. 'I am not altogether alone,' he said. 'My
sister, who has just returned from Brussels, and who felt, as you do,
that I should be rather dismal by myself, has accompanied me hither to
stay a few days till she has put my rooms in order and set me going. She
was too fatigued to come to church, and is waiting for me now at the
farm.'

'Oh, but bring your sister-that will be still better! I shall be
delighted to know her. How I wish I had been aware! Do tell her, please,
that we had no idea of her presence.'

Halborough assured Mrs. Fellmer that he would certainly bear the
message; but as to her coming he was not so sure. The real truth was,
however, that the matter would be decided by him, Rosa having an almost
filial respect for his wishes. But he was uncertain as to the state of
her wardrobe, and had determined that she should not enter the manor-
house at a disadvantage that evening, when there would probably be
plenty of opportunities in the future of her doing so becomingly.

He walked to the farm in long strides. This, then, was the outcome of
his first morning's work as curate here. Things had gone fairly well
with him. He had been ordained; he was in a comfortable parish, where he
would exercise almost sole supervision, the rector being infirm. He had
made a deep impression at starting, and the absence of a hood seemed to
have done him no harm. Moreover, by considerable persuasion and payment,
his father and the dark woman had been shipped off to Canada, where they
were not likely to interfere greatly with his interests.

Rosa came out to meet him. 'Ah! you should have gone to church like a
good girl,' he said.

'Yes-I wished I had afterwards. But I do so hate church as a rule that
even your preaching was underestimated in my mind. It was too bad of
me!'

The girl who spoke thus playfully was fair, tall, and sylph-like, in a
muslin dress, and with just the coquettish d\xE9sinvolture which an English
girl brings home from abroad, and loses again after a few months of
native life. Joshua was the reverse of playful; the world was too
important a concern for him to indulge in light moods. He told her in
decided, practical phraseology of the invitation.

'Now, Rosa, we must go-that's settled-if you've a dress that can be made
fit to wear all on the hop like this. You didn't, of course, think of
bringing an evening dress to such an out-of-the-way place?'

But Rosa had come from the wrong city to be caught napping in those
matters. 'Yes, I did,' said she. 'One never knows what may turn up.'

'Well done! Then off we go at seven.'

The evening drew on, and at dusk they started on foot, Rosa pulling up
the edge of her skirt under her cloak out of the way of the dews, so
that it formed a great wind-bag all round her, and carrying her satin
shoes under her arm. Joshua would not let her wait till she got indoors
before changing them, as she proposed, but insisted on her performing
that operation under a tree, so that they might enter as if they had not
walked. He was nervously formal about such trifles, while Rosa took the
whole proceeding-walk, dressing, dinner, and all-as a pastime. To Joshua
it was a serious step in life.

A more unexpected kind of person for a curate's sister was never
presented at a dinner. The surprise of Mrs. Fellmer was unconcealed. She
had looked forward to a Dorcas, or Martha, or Rhoda at the outside, and
a shade of misgiving crossed her face. It was possible that, had the
young lady accompanied her brother to church, there would have been no
dining at Narrobourne House that day.

Not so with the young widower, her son. He resembled a sleeper who had
awaked in a summer noon expecting to find it only dawn. He could
scarcely help stretching his arms and yawning in their faces, so strong
was his sense of being suddenly aroused to an unforeseen thing. When
they had sat down to table he at first talked to Rosa somewhat with the
air of a ruler in the land; but the woman lurking in the acquaintance
soon brought him to his level, and the girl from Brussels saw him
looking at her mouth, her hands, her contour, as if he could not quite
comprehend how they got created: then he dropped into the more
satisfactory stage which discerns no particulars.

He talked but little; she said much. The homeliness of the Fellmers, to
her view, though they were regarded with such awe down here, quite
disembarrassed her. The squire had become so unpractised, had dropped so
far into the shade during the last year or so of his life, that he had
almost forgotten what the world contained till this evening reminded
him. His mother, after her first moments of doubt, appeared to think
that he must be left to his own guidance, and gave her attention to
Joshua.

With all his foresight and doggedness of aim, the result of that dinner
exceeded Halborough's expectations. In weaving his ambitions he had
viewed his sister Rosa as a slight, bright thing to be helped into
notice by his abilities; but it now began to dawn upon him that the
physical gifts of nature to her might do more for them both than
nature's intellectual gifts to himself. While he was patiently boring
the tunnel Rosa seemed about to fly over the mountain.

He wrote the next day to his brother, now occupying his own old rooms in
the theological college, telling him exultingly of the unanticipated
d\xE9but of Rosa at the manor-house. The next post brought him a reply of
congratulation, dashed with the counteracting intelligence that his
father did not like Canada-that his wife had deserted him, which made
him feel so dreary that he thought of returning home.

In his recent satisfaction at his own successes Joshua Halborough had
well-nigh forgotten his chronic trouble-latterly screened by distance.
But it now returned upon him; he saw more in this brief announcement
than his brother seemed to see. It was the cloud no bigger than a man's
hand.



CHAPTER IV

The following December, a day or two before Christmas, Mrs. Fellmer and
her son were walking up and down the broad gravel path which bordered
the east front of the house. Till within the last half-hour the morning
had been a drizzling one, and they had just emerged for a short turn
before luncheon.

'You see, dear mother,' the son was saying, 'it is the peculiarity of my
position which makes her appear to me in such a desirable light. When
you consider how I have been crippled at starting, how my life has been
maimed; that I feel anything like publicity distasteful, that I have ye
no political ambition, and that my chief aim and hope lie in the
education of the little thing Annie has left me, you must see how
desirable a wife like Miss Halborough would be, to prevent my becoming a
mere vegetable.'

'If you adore her, I suppose you must have her!' replied his mother with
dry indirectness. 'But you'll find that she will not be content to live
on here as you do, giving her whole mind to a young child.'

'That's just where we differ. Her very disqualification, that of being a
nobody, as you call it, is her recommendation in my eyes. Her lack of
influential connections limits her ambition. From what I know of her, a
life in this place is all that she would wish for. She would never care
to go outside the park-gates if it were necessary to stay within.'

'Being in love with her, Albert, and meaning to marry her, you invent
your practical reasons to make the case respectable. Well, do as you
will; I have no authority over you, so why should you consult me? You
mean to propose on this very occasion, no doubt. Don't you, now?'

'By no means. I am merely revolving the idea in my mind. If on further
acquaintance she turns out to be as good as she has hitherto seemed-
well, I shall see. Admit, now, that you like her.'

'I readily admit it. She is very captivating at first sight. But as a
stepmother to your child! You seem mighty anxious, Albert, to get rid of
me!'

'Not at all. And I am not so reckless as you think. I don't make up my
mind in a hurry. But the thought having occurred to me, I mention it to
you at once, mother. If you dislike it, say so.'

'I don't say anything. I will try to make the best of it if you are
determined. When does she come?'

'To-morrow.'

All this time there were great preparations in train at the curate's,
who was now a householder. Rosa, whose two or three weeks' stay on two
occasions earlier in the year had so affected the squire, was coming
again, and at the same time her younger brother Cornelius, to make up a
family party. Rosa, who journeyed from the Midlands, could not arrive
till late in the evening, but Cornelius was to get there in the
afternoon, Joshua going out to meet him in his walk across the fields
from the railway.

Everything being ready in Joshua's modest abode he started on his way,
his heart buoyant and thankful, if ever it was in his life. He was of
such good report himself that his brother's path into holy orders
promised to be unexpectedly easy; and he longed to compare experiences
with him, even though there was on hand a more exciting matter still.
From his youth he had held that, in old-fashioned country places, the
Church conferred social prestige up to a certain point at a cheaper
price than any other profession or pursuit; and events seemed to be
proving him right.

He had walked about half an hour when he saw Cornelius coming along the
path; and in a few minutes the two brothers met. The experiences of
Cornelius had been less immediately interesting than those of Joshua,
but his personal position was satisfactory, and there was nothing to
account for the singularly subdued manner that he exhibited, which at
first Joshua set down to the fatigue of over-study; and he proceeded to
the subject of Rosa's arrival in the evening, and the probable
consequences of this her third visit. 'Before next Easter she'll be his
wife, my boy,' said Joshua with grave exultation.

Cornelius shook his head. 'She comes too late!' he returned.

'What do you mean?'

'Look here.' He produced the Fountall paper, and placed his finger on a
paragraph, which Joshua read. It appeared under the report of Petty
Sessions, and was a commonplace case of disorderly conduct, in which a
man was sent to prison for seven days for breaking windows in that town.

'Well?' said Joshua.

'It happened during an evening that I was in the street; and the
offender is our father.'

'Not-how-I sent him more money on his promising to stay in Canada?'

'He is home, safe enough.' Cornelius in the same gloomy tone gave the
remainder of his information. He had witnessed the scene, unobserved of
his father, and had heard him say that he was on his way to see his
daughter, who was going to marry a rich gentleman. The only good fortune
attending the untoward incident was that the millwright's name had been
printed as Joshua Alborough.

'Beaten! We are to be beaten on the eve of our expected victory!' said
the elder brother. 'How did he guess that Rosa was likely to marry? Good
Heaven Cornelius, you seem doomed to bring bad news always, do you not!'

'I do,' said Cornelius. 'Poor Rosa!'

It was almost in tears, so great was their heart-sickness and shame,
that the brothers walked the remainder of the way to Joshua's dwelling.
In the evening they set out to meet Rosa, bringing her to the village in
a fly; and when she had come into the house, and was sitting down with
them, they almost forgot their secret anxiety in contemplating her, who
knew nothing about it.

Next day the Fellmers came, and the two or three days after that were a
lively time. That the squire was yielding to his impulses-making up his
mind-there could be no doubt. On Sunday Cornelius read the lessons, and
Joshua preached. Mrs. Fellmer was quite maternal towards Rosa, and it
appeared that she had decided to welcome the inevitable with a good
grace. The pretty girl was to spend yet another afternoon with the elder
lady, superintending some parish treat at the house in observance of
Christmas, and afterwards to stay on to dinner, her brothers to fetch
her in the evening. They were also invited to dine, but they could not
accept owing to an engagement.

The engagement was of a sombre sort. They were going to meet their
father, who would that day be released from Fountall Gaol, and try to
persuade him to keep away from Narrobourne. Every exertion was to be
made to get him back to Canada, to his old home in the Midlands-
anywhere, so that he would not impinge disastrously upon their courses,
and blast their sister's prospects of the auspicious marriage which was
just then hanging in the balance.

As soon as Rosa had been fetched away by her friends at the manor-house
her brothers started on their expedition, without waiting for dinner or
tea. Cornelius, to whom the millwright always addressed his letters when
he wrote any, drew from his pocket and re-read as he walked the curt
note which had led to this journey being undertaken; it was despatched
by their father the night before, immediately upon his liberation, and
stated that he was setting out for Narrobourne at the moment of writing;
that having no money he would be obliged to walk all the way; that he
calculated on passing through the intervening town of Ivell about six on
the following day, where he should sup at the Castle Inn, and where he
hoped they would meet him with a carriage-and-pair, or some other such
conveyance, that he might not disgrace them by arriving like a tramp.

'That sounds as if he gave a thought to our position,' said Cornelius.

Joshua knew the satire that lurked in the paternal words, and said
nothing. Silence prevailed during the greater part of their journey. The
lamps were lighted in Ivell when they entered the streets, and
Cornelius, who was quite unknown in this neighbourhood, and who,
moreover, was not in clerical attire, decided that he should be the one
to call at the Castle Inn. Here, in answer to his inquiry under the
darkness of the archway, they told him that such a man as he had
described left the house about a quarter of an hour earlier, after
making a meal in the kitchen-settle. He was rather the worse for liquor.

'Then,' said Joshua, when Cornelius joined him outside with this
intelligence, 'we must have met and passed him! And now that I think of
it, we did meet some one who was unsteady in his gait, under the trees
on the other side of Hendford Hill, where it was too dark to see him.'

They rapidly retraced their steps; but for a long stretch of the way
home could discern nobody. When, however, they had gone about three-
quarters of the distance, they became conscious of an irregular footfall
in front of them, and could see a whitish figure in the gloom. They
followed dubiously. The figure met another wayfarer-the single one that
had been encountered upon this lonely road-and they distinctly heard him
ask the way to Narrobourne. The stranger replied-what was quite true-
that the nearest way was by turning in at the stile by the next bridge,
and following the footpath which branched thence across the meadows.

When the brothers reached the stile they also entered the path, but did
not overtake the subject of their worry till they had crossed two or
three meads, and the lights from Narrobourne manor-house were visible
before them through the trees. Their father was no longer walking; he
was seated against the wet bank of an adjoining hedge. Observing their
forms he shouted, 'I'm going to Narrobourne; who may you be?'

They went up to him, and revealed themselves, reminding him of the plan
which he had himself proposed in his note, that they should meet him at
Ivell.

'By Jerry, I'd forgot it!' he said. 'Well, what do you want me to do?'
His tone was distinctly quarrelsome.

A long conversation followed, which became embittered at the first hint
from them that he should not come to the village. The millwright drew a
quart bottle from his pocket, and challenged them to drink if they meant
friendly and called themselves men. Neither of the two had touched
alcohol for years, but for once they thought it best to accept, so as
not to needlessly provoke him.

'What's in it?' said Joshua.

'A drop of weak gin-and-water. It won't hurt ye. Drin' from the bottle.'
Joshua did so, and his father pushed up the bottom of the vessel so as
to make him swallow a good deal in spite of himself. It went down into
his stomach like molten lead.

'Ha, ha, that's right!' said old Halborough. 'But 'twas raw spirit-ha,
ha!'

'Why should you take me in so!' said Joshua, losing his self-command,
try as he would to keep calm.

'Because you took me in, my lad, in banishing me to that cursed country
under pretence that it was for my good. You were a pair of hypocrites to
say so. It was done to get rid of me-no more nor less. But, by Jerry,
I'm a match for ye now! I'll spoil your souls for preaching. My daughter
is going to be married to the squire here. I've heard the news-I saw it
in a paper!'

'It is premature-'

'I know it is true; and I'm her father, and I shall give her away, or
there'll be a hell of a row, I can assure ye! Is that where the
gennleman lives?'

Joshua Halborough writhed in impotent despair. Fellmer had not yet
positively declared himself, his mother was hardly won round; a scene
with their father in the parish would demolish as fair a palace of hopes
as was ever builded. The millwright rose. 'If that's where the squire
lives I'm going to call. Just arrived from Canady with her fortune-ha,
ha! I wish no harm to the gennleman, and the gennleman will wish no harm
to me. But I like to take my place in the family, and stand upon my
rights, and lower people's pride!'

'You've succeeded already! Where's that woman you took with you-'

'Woman! She was my wife as lawful as the Constitution-a sight more
lawful than your mother was till some time after you were born!'

Joshua had for many years before heard whispers that his father had
cajoled his mother in their early acquaintance, and had made somewhat
tardy amends; but never from his father's lips till now. It was the last
stroke, and he could not bear it. He sank back against the hedge. 'It is
over!' he said. 'He ruins us all!'

The millwright moved on, waving his stick triumphantly, and the two
brothers stood still. They could see his drab figure stalking along the
path, and over his head the lights from the conservatory of Narrobourne
House, inside which Albert Fellmer might possibly be sitting with Rosa
at that moment, holding her hand, and asking her to share his home with
him.

The staggering whitey-brown form, advancing to put a blot on all this,
had been diminishing in the shade; and now suddenly disappeared beside a
weir. There was the noise of a flounce in the water.

'He has fallen in!' said Cornelius, starting forward to run for the
place at which his father had vanished.

Joshua, awaking from the stupefied reverie into which he had sunk,
rushed to the other's side before he had taken ten steps. 'Stop, stop,
what are you thinking of?' he whispered hoarsely, grasping Cornelius's
arm.

'Pulling him out!'

'Yes, yes-so am I. But-wait a moment-'

'But, Joshua!'

'Her life and happiness, you know-Cornelius-and your reputation and
mine-and our chance of rising together, all three-'

He clutched his brother's arm to the bone; and as they stood breathless
the splashing and floundering in the weir continued; over it they saw
the hopeful lights from the manor-house conservatory winking through the
trees as their bare branches waved to and fro.

The floundering and splashing grew weaker, and they could hear gurgling
words: 'Help-I'm drownded! Rosie-Rosie!'

'We'll go-we must save him. O Joshua!'

'Yes, yes! we must!'

Still they did not move, but waited, holding each other, each thinking
the same thought. Weights of lead seemed to be affixed to their feet,
which would no longer obey their wills. The mead became silent. Over it
they fancied they could see figures moving in the conservatory. The air
up there seemed to emit gentle kisses.

Cornelius started forward at last, and Joshua almost simultaneously. Two
or three minutes brought them to the brink of the stream. At first they
could see nothing in the water, though it was not so deep nor the night
so dark but that their father's light kerseymere coat would have been
visible if he had lain at the bottom. Joshua looked this way and that.

'He has drifted into the culvert,' he said.

Below the foot-bridge of the weir the stream suddenly narrowed to half
its width, to pass under a barrel arch or culvert constructed for
waggons to cross into the middle of the mead in haymaking time. It being
at present the season of high water the arch was full to the crown,
against which the ripples clucked every now and then. At this point he
had just caught sight of a pale object slipping under. In a moment it
was gone.

They went to the lower end, but nothing emerged. For a long time they
tried at both ends to effect some communication with the interior, but
to no purpose.

'We ought to have come sooner!' said the conscience-stricken Cornelius,
when they were quite exhausted, and dripping wet.

'I suppose we ought,' replied Joshua heavily. He perceived his father's
walking-stick on the bank; hastily picking it up he stuck it into the
mud among the sedge. Then they went on.

'Shall we-say anything about this accident?' whispered Cornelius as they
approached the door of Joshua's house.

'What's the use? It can do no good. We must wait until he is found.'

They went indoors and changed their clothes; after which they started
for the manor-house, reaching it about ten o'clock. Besides their sister
there were only three guests; an adjoining landowner and his wife, and
the infirm old rector.

Rosa, although she had parted from them so recently, grasped their hands
in an ecstatic, brimming, joyful manner, as if she had not seen them for
years. 'You look pale,' she said.

The brothers answered that they had had a long walk, and were somewhat
tired. Everybody in the room seemed charged full with some sort of
interesting knowledge: the squire's neighbour and his wife looked wisely
around; and Fellmer himself played the part of host with a preoccupied
bearing which approached fervour. They left at eleven, not accepting the
carriage offered, the distance being so short and the roads dry. The
squire came rather farther into the dark with them than he need have
done, and wished Rosa good-night in a mysterious manner, slightly apart
from the rest.

When they were walking along Joshua said, with desperate attempt at
joviality, 'Rosa, what's going on?'

'O, I-' she began between a gasp and a bound. 'He-'

'Never mind-if it disturbs you.'

She was so excited that she could not speak connectedly at first, the
practised air which she had brought home with her having disappeared.
Calming herself she added, 'I am not disturbed, and nothing has
happened. Only he said he wanted to ask me something, some day; and I
said never mind that now. He hasn't asked yet, and is coining to speak
to you about it. He would have done so to-night, only I asked him not to
be in a hurry. But he will come to-morrow, I am sure!'



CHAPTER V

It was summer-time, six months later, and mowers and haymakers were at
work in the meads. The manor-house, being opposite them, frequently
formed a peg for conversation during these operations; and the doings of
the squire, and the squire's young wife, the curate's sister-who was at
present the admired of most of them, and the interest of all-met with
their due amount of criticism.

Rosa was happy, if ever woman could be said to be so. She had not learnt
the fate of her father, and sometimes wondered-perhaps with a sense of
relief-why he did not write to her from his supposed home in Canada. Her
brother Joshua had been presented to a living in a small town, shortly
after her marriage, and Cornelius had thereupon succeeded to the vacant
curacy of Narrobourne.

These two had awaited in deep suspense the discovery of their father's
body; and yet the discovery had not been made. Every day they expected a
man or a boy to run up from the meads with the intelligence; but he had
never come. Days had accumulated to weeks and months; the wedding had
come and gone: Joshua had tolled and read himself in at his new parish;
and never a shout of amazement over the millwright's remains.

But now, in June, when they were mowing the meads, the hatches had to be
drawn and the water let out of its channels for the convenience of the
mowers. It was thus that the discovery was made. A man, stooping low
with his scythe, caught a view of the culvert lengthwise, and saw
something entangled in the recently bared weeds of its bed. A day or two
after there was an inquest; but the body was unrecognizable. Fish and
flood had been busy with the millwright; he had no watch or marked
article which could be identified; and a verdict of the accidental
drowning of a person unknown settled the matter.

As the body was found in Narrobourne parish, there it had to be buried.
Cornelius wrote to Joshua, begging him to come and read the service, or
to send some one; he himself could not do it. Rather than let in a
stranger Joshua came, and silently scanned the coroner's order handed
him by the undertaker:-

'I, Henry Giles, Coroner for the Mid-Division of Outer Wessex, do hereby
order the Burial of the Body now shown to the Inquest Jury as the Body
of an Adult Male Person Unknown . . . ,' etc.

Joshua Halborough got through the service in some way, and rejoined his
brother Cornelius at his house. Neither accepted an invitation to lunch
at their sister's; they wished to discuss parish matters together. In
the afternoon she came down, though they had already called on her, and
had not expected to see her again. Her bright eyes, brown hair, flowery
bonnet, lemon-coloured gloves, and flush beauty, were like an
irradiation into the apartment, which they in their gloom could hardly
bear.

'I forgot to tell you,' she said, 'of a curious thing which happened to
me a month or two before my marriage-something which I have thought may
have had a connection with the accident to the poor man you have buried
to-day. It was on that evening I was at the manor-house waiting for you
to fetch me; I was in the winter-garden with Albert, and we were sitting
silent together, when we fancied we heard a cry. We opened the door, and
while Albert ran to fetch his hat, leaving me standing there, the cry
was repeated, and my excited senses made me think I heard my own name.
When Albert came back all was silent, and we decided that it was only a
drunken shout, and not a cry for help. We both forgot the incident, and
it never has occurred to me till since the funeral to-day that it might
have been this stranger's cry. The name of course was only fancy, or he
might have had a wife or child with a name something like mine, poor
man!'

When she was gone the brothers were silent till Cornelius said, 'Now
mark this, Joshua. Sooner or later she'll know.'

'How?'

'From one of us. Do you think human hearts are iron-cased safes, that
you suppose we can keep this secret for ever?'

'Yes, I think they are, sometimes,' said Joshua.

'No. It will out. We shall tell.'

'What, and ruin her-kill her? Disgrace her children, and pull down the
whole auspicious house of Fellmer about our ears? No! May I-drown where
he was drowned before I do it! Never, never. Surely you can say the
same, Cornelius!'

Cornelius seemed fortified, and no more was said. For a long time after
that day he did not see Joshua, and before the next year was out a son
and heir was born to the Fellmers. The villagers rang the three bells
every evening for a week and more, and were made merry by Mr. Fellmer's
ale; and when the christening came on Joshua paid Narrobourne another
visit.

Among all the people who assembled on that day the brother clergymen
were the least interested. Their minds were haunted by a spirit in
kerseymere in the evening they walked together in the fields.

'She's all right,' said Joshua. 'But here are you doing journey-work,
Cornelius, and likely to continue at it till the end of the day, as far
as I can see. I, too, with my petty living-what am I after all? . . . To
tell the truth, the Church is a poor forlorn hope for people without
influence, particularly when their enthusiasm begins to flag. A social
regenerator has a better chance outside, where he is unhampered by dogma
and tradition. As for me, I would rather have gone on mending mills,
with my crust of bread and liberty.'

Almost automatically they had bent their steps along the margin of the
river; they now paused. They were standing on the brink of the well-
known weir. There were the hatches, there was the culvert; they could
see the pebbly bed of the stream through the pellucid water. The notes
of the church-bells were audible, still jangled by the enthusiastic
villagers.

'Why see-it was there I hid his walking-stick!' said Joshua, looking
towards the sedge. The next moment, during a passing breeze, something
flashed white on the spot to which the attention of Cornelius was drawn.

From the sedge rose a straight little silver-poplar, and it was the
leaves of this sapling which caused the flicker of whiteness.

'His walking-stick has grown!' Joshua added. 'It was a rough one-cut
from the hedge, I remember.'

At every puff of wind the tree turned white, till they could not bear to
look at it; and they walked away.

'I see him every night,' Cornelius murmured . . . 'Ah, we read our
Hebrews to little account, Jos! ?p?\xB5e??e sta????, a?s????? ?ataf????sa?.
To have endured the cross, despising the shame-there lay greatness! But
now I often feel that I should like to put an end to trouble here in
this self-same spot.'

'I have thought of it myself,' said Joshua.

'Perhaps we shall, some day,' murmured his brother. 'Perhaps,' said
Joshua moodily.

With that contingency to consider in the silence of their nights and
days they bent their steps homewards.

December 1888.



ON THE WESTERN CIRCUIT



CHAPTER I

The man who played the disturbing part in the two quiet lives hereafter
depicted-no great man, in any sense, by the way-first had knowledge of
them on an October evening, in the city of Melchester. He had been
standing in the Close, vainly endeavouring to gain amid the darkness a
glimpse of the most homogeneous pile of medi\xE6val architecture in
England, which towered and tapered from the damp and level sward in
front of him. While he stood the presence of the Cathedral walls was
revealed rather by the ear than by the eyes; he could not see them, but
they reflected sharply a roar of sound which entered the Close by a
street leading from the city square, and, falling upon the building, was
flung back upon him.

He postponed till the morrow his attempt to examine the deserted
edifice, and turned his attention to the noise. It was compounded of
steam barrel-organs, the clanging of gongs, the ringing of hand-bells,
the clack of rattles, and the undistinguishable shouts of men. A lurid
light hung in the air in the direction of the tumult. Thitherward he
went, passing under the arched gateway, along a straight street, and
into the square.

He might have searched Europe over for a greater contrast between
juxtaposed scenes. The spectacle was that of the eighth chasm of the
Inferno as to colour and flame, and, as to mirth, a development of the
Homeric heaven. A smoky glare, of the complexion of brass-filings,
ascended from the fiery tongues of innumerable naphtha lamps affixed to
booths, stalls, and other temporary erections which crowded the spacious
market-square. In front of this irradiation scores of human figures,
more or less in profile, were darting athwart and across, up, down, and
around, like gnats against a sunset.

Their motions were so rhythmical that they seemed to be moved by
machinery. And it presently appeared that they were moved by machinery
indeed; the figures being those of the patrons of swings, see-saws,
flying-leaps, above all of the three steam roundabouts which occupied
the centre of the position. It was from the latter that the din of
steam-organs came.

Throbbing humanity in full light was, on second thoughts, better than
architecture in the dark. The young man, lighting a short pipe, and
putting his hat on one side and one hand in his pocket, to throw himself
into harmony with his new environment, drew near to the largest and most
patronized of the steam circuses, as the roundabouts were called by
their owners. This was one of brilliant finish, and it was now in full
revolution. The musical instrument around which and to whose tones the
riders revolved, directed its trumpet-mouths of brass upon the young
man, and the long plate-glass mirrors set at angles, which revolved with
the machine, flashed the gyrating personages and hobby horses
kaleidoscopically into his eyes.

It could now be seen that he was unlike the majority of the crowd. A
gentlemanly young fellow, one of the species found in large towns only,
and London particularly, built on delicate lines, well, though not
fashionably dressed, he appeared to belong to the professional class; he
had nothing square or practical about his look, much that was
curvilinear and sensuous. Indeed, some would have called him a man not
altogether typical of the middle-class male of a century wherein sordid
ambition is the master-passion that seems to be taking the time-honoured
place of love.

The revolving figures passed before his eyes with an unexpected and
quiet grace in a throng whose natural movements did not suggest
gracefulness or quietude as a rule. By some contrivance there was
imparted to each of the hobby-horses a motion which was really the
triumph and perfection of roundabout inventiveness-a galloping rise and
fall, so timed that, of each pair of steeds, one was on the spring while
the other was on the pitch. The riders were quite fascinated by these
equine undulations in this most delightful holiday-game of our times.
There were riders as young as six, and as old as sixty years, with every
age between. At first it was difficult to catch a personality, but by
and by the observer's eyes centred on the prettiest girl out of the
several pretty ones revolving.

It was not that one with the light frock and light hat whom he had been
at first attracted by; no, it was the one with the black cape, grey
skirt, light gloves and-no, not even she, but the one behind her; she
with the crimson skirt, dark jacket, brown hat and brown gloves.
Unmistakably that was the prettiest girl.

Having finally selected her, this idle spectator studied her as well as
he was able during each of her brief transits across his visual field.
She was absolutely unconscious of everything save the act of riding: her
features were rapt in an ecstatic dreaminess; for the moment she did not
know her age or her history or her lineaments, much less her troubles.
He himself was full of vague latter-day glooms and popular melancholies,
and it was a refreshing sensation to behold this young thing then and
there, absolutely as happy as if she were in a Paradise.

Dreading the moment when the inexorable stoker, grimily lurking behind
the glittering rococo-work, should decide that this set of riders had
had their pennyworth, and bring the whole concern of steam-engine,
horses, mirrors, trumpets, drums, cymbals, and such-like to pause and
silence, he waited for her every reappearance, glancing indifferently
over the intervening forms, including the two plainer girls, the old
woman and child, the two youngsters, the newly-married couple, the old
man with a clay pipe, the sparkish youth with a ring, the young ladies
in the chariot, the pair of journeyman-carpenters, and others, till his
select country beauty followed on again in her place. He had never seen
a fairer product of nature, and at each round she made a deeper mark in
his sentiments. The stoppage then came, and the sighs of the riders were
audible.

He moved round to the place at which he reckoned she would alight; but
she retained her seat. The empty saddles began to refill, and she
plainly was deciding to have another turn. The young man drew up to the
side of her steed, and pleasantly asked her if she had enjoyed her ride.

'O yes!' she said, with dancing eyes. 'It has been quite unlike anything
I have ever felt in my life before!'

It was not difficult to fall into conversation with her. Unreserved-too
unreserved-by nature, she was not experienced enough to be reserved by
art, and after a little coaxing she answered his remarks readily. She
had come to live in Melchester from a village on the Great Plain, and
this was the first time that she had ever seen a steam-circus; she could
not understand how such wonderful machines were made. She had come to
the city on the invitation of Mrs. Harnham, who had taken her into her
household to train her as a servant, if she showed any aptitude. Mrs.
Harnham was a young lady who before she married had been Miss Edith
White, living in the country near the speaker's cottage; she was now
very kind to her through knowing her in childhood so well. She was even
taking the trouble to educate her. Mrs. Harnham was the only friend she
had in the world, and being without children had wished to have her near
her in preference to anybody else, though she had only lately come;
allowed her to do almost as she liked, and to have a holiday whenever
she asked for it. The husband of this kind young lady was a rich wine-
merchant of the town, but Mrs. Harnham did not care much about him. In
the daytime you could see the house from where they were talking. She,
the speaker, liked Melchester better than the lonely country, and she
was going to have a new hat for next Sunday that was to cost fifteen and
ninepence.

Then she inquired of her acquaintance where he lived, and he told her in
London, that ancient and smoky city, where everybody lived who lived at
all, and died because they could not live there. He came into Wessex two
or three times a year for professional reasons; he had arrived from
Wintoncester yesterday, and was going on into the next county in a day
or two. For one thing he did like the country better than the town, and
it was because it contained such girls as herself.

Then the pleasure-machine started again, and, to the light-hearted girl,
the figure of the handsome young man, the market-square with its lights
and crowd, the houses beyond, and the world at large, began moving round
as before, countermoving in the revolving mirrors on her right hand, she
being as it were the fixed point in an undulating, dazzling, lurid
universe, in which loomed forward most prominently of all the form of
her late interlocutor. Each time that she approached the half of her
orbit that lay nearest him they gazed at each other with smiles, and
with that unmistakable expression which means so little at the moment,
yet so often leads up to passion, heart-ache, union, disunion, devotion,
overpopulation, drudgery, content, resignation, despair.

When the horses slowed anew he stepped to her side and proposed another
heat. 'Hang the expense for once,' he said. 'I'll pay!'

She laughed till the tears came.

'Why do you laugh, dear?' said he.

'Because-you are so genteel that you must have plenty of money, and only
say that for fun!' she returned.

'Ha-ha!' laughed the young man in unison, and gallantly producing his
money she was enabled to whirl on again.

As he stood smiling there in the motley crowd, with his pipe in his
hand, and clad in the rough pea-jacket and wideawake that he had put on
for his stroll, who would have supposed him to be Charles Bradford Raye,
Esquire, stuff-gownsman, educated at Wintoncester, called to the Bar at
Lincoln's-Inn, now going the Western Circuit, merely detained in
Melchester by a small arbitration after his brethren had moved on to the
next county-town?



CHAPTER II

The square was overlooked from its remoter corner by the house of which
the young girl had spoken, a dignified residence of considerable size,
having several windows on each floor. Inside one of these, on the first
floor, the apartment being a large drawing-room, sat a lady, in
appearance from twenty-eight to thirty years of age. The blinds were
still undrawn, and the lady was absently surveying the weird scene
without, her cheek resting on her hand. The room was unlit from within,
but enough of the glare from the market-place entered it to reveal the
lady's face. She was what is called an interesting creature rather than
a handsome woman; dark-eyed, thoughtful, and with sensitive lips.

A man sauntered into the room from behind and came forward.

'O, Edith, I didn't see you,' he said. 'Why are you sitting here in the
dark?'

'I am looking at the fair,' replied the lady in a languid voice.

'Oh? Horrid nuisance every year! I wish it could be put a stop to'

'I like it.'

'H'm. There's no accounting for taste.'

For a moment he gazed from the window with her, for politeness sake, and
then went out again.

In a few minutes she rang.

'Hasn't Anna come in?' asked Mrs. Harnham.

'No m'm.'

'She ought to be in by this time. I meant her to go for ten minutes
only.'

'Shall I go and look for her, m'm?' said the house-maid alertly.

'No. It is not necessary: she is a good girl and will come soon.'

However, when the servant had gone Mrs. Harnham arose, went up to her
room, cloaked and bonneted herself, and proceeded downstairs, where she
found her husband.

'I want to see the fair,' she said; 'and I am going to look for Anna. I
have made myself responsible for her, and must see she comes to no harm.
She ought to be indoors. Will you come with me?'

'Oh, she's all right. I saw her on one of those whirligig things,
talking to her young man as I came in. But I'll go if you wish, though
I'd rather go a hundred miles the other way.'

'Then please do so. I shall come to no harm alone.'

She left the house and entered the crowd which thronged the market-
place, where she soon discovered Anna, seated on the revolving horse. As
soon as it stopped Mrs. Harnham advanced and said severely, 'Anna, how
can you be such a wild girl? You were only to be out for ten minutes.'

Anna looked blank, and the young man, who had dropped into the
background, came to her assistance.

'Please don't blame her,' he said politely. 'It is my fault that she has
stayed. She looked so graceful on the horse that I induced her to go
round again. I assure you that she has been quite safe.'

'In that case I'll leave her in your hands,' said Mrs. Harnham, turning
to retrace her steps.

But this for the moment it was not so easy to do. Something had
attracted the crowd to a spot in their rear, and the wine-merchant's
wife, caught by its sway, found herself pressed against Anna's
acquaintance without power to move away. Their faces were within a few
inches of each other, his breath fanned her cheek as well as Anna's.
They could do no other than smile at the accident; but neither spoke,
and each waited passively. Mrs. Harnham then felt a man's hand clasping
her fingers, and from the look of consciousness on the young fellow's
face she knew the hand to be his: she also knew that from the position
of the girl he had no other thought than that the imprisoned hand was
Anna's. What prompted her to refrain from undeceiving him she could
hardly tell. Not content with holding the hand, he playfully slipped two
of his fingers inside her glove, against her palm. Thus matters
continued till the pressure lessened; but several minutes passed before
the crowd thinned sufficiently to allow Mrs. Harnham to withdraw.

'How did they get to know each other, I wonder?' she mused as she
retreated. 'Anna is really very forward-and he very wicked and nice.'

She was so gently stirred with the stranger's manner and voice, with the
tenderness of his idle touch, that instead of re-entering the house she
turned back again and observed the pair from a screened nook. Really she
argued (being little less impulsive than Anna herself) it was very
excusable in Anna to encourage him, however she might have contrived to
make his acquaintance; he was so gentlemanly, so fascinating, had such
beautiful eyes. The thought that he was several years her junior
produced a reasonless sigh.

At length the couple turned from the roundabout towards the door of Mrs.
Harnham's house, and the young man could be heard saying that he would
accompany her home. Anna, then, had found a lover, apparently a very
devoted one. Mrs. Harnham was quite interested in him. When they drew
near the door of the wine-merchant's house, a comparatively deserted
spot by this time, they stood invisible for a little while in the shadow
of a wall, where they separated, Anna going on to the entrance, and her
acquaintance returning across the square.

'Anna,' said Mrs. Harnham, coming up. 'I've been looking at you! That
young man kissed you at parting I am almost sure.'

'Well,' stammered Anna; 'he said, if I didn't mind-it would do me no
harm, and, and, him a great deal of good!'

'Ah, I thought so! And he was a stranger till to-night?'

'Yes ma'am.'

'Yet I warrant you told him your name and every thing about yourself?'

'He asked me.'

'But he didn't tell you his?'

'Yes ma'am, he did!' cried Anna victoriously. 'It is Charles Bradford,
of London.'

'Well, if he's respectable, of course I've nothing to say against your
knowing him,' remarked her mistress, prepossessed, in spite of general
principles, in the young man's favour. 'But I must reconsider all that,
if he attempts to renew your acquaintance. A country-bred girl like you,
who has never lived in Melchester till this month, who had hardly ever
seen a black-coated man till you came here, to be so sharp as to capture
a young Londoner like him!'

'I didn't capture him. I didn't do anything,' said Anna, in confusion.

When she was indoors and alone Mrs. Harnham thought what a well-bred and
chivalrous young man Anna's companion had seemed. There had been a magic
in his wooing touch of her hand; and she wondered how he had come to be
attracted by the girl.

The next morning the emotional Edith Harnham went to the usual week-day
service in Melchester cathedral. In crossing the Close through the fog
she again perceived him who had interested her the previous evening,
gazing up thoughtfully at the high-piled architecture of the nave: and
as soon as she had taken her seat he entered and sat down in a stall
opposite hers.

He did not particularly heed her; but Mrs. Harnham was continually
occupying her eyes with him, and wondered more than ever what had
attracted him in her unfledged maid-servant. The mistress was almost as
unaccustomed as the maiden herself to the end-of-the-age young man, or
she might have wondered less. Raye, having looked about him awhile, left
abruptly, without regard to the service that was proceeding; and Mrs.
Harnham-lonely, impressionable creature that she was-took no further
interest in praising the Lord. She wished she had married a London man
who knew the subtleties of love-making as they were evidently known to
him who had mistakenly caressed her hand.



CHAPTER III

The calendar at Melchester had been light, occupying the court only a
few hours; and the assizes at Casterbridge, the next county-town on the
Western Circuit, having no business for Raye, he had not gone thither.
At the next town after that they did not open till the following Monday,
trials to begin on Tuesday morning. In the natural order of things Raye
would have arrived at the latter place on Monday afternoon; but it was
not till the middle of Wednesday that his gown and grey wig, curled in
tiers, in the best fashion of Assyrian bas-reliefs, were seen blowing
and bobbing behind him as he hastily walked up the High Street from his
lodgings. But though he entered the assize building there was nothing
for him to do, and sitting at the blue baize table in the well of the
court, he mended pens with a mind far away from the case in progress.
Thoughts of unpremeditated conduct, of which a week earlier he would not
have believed himself capable, threw him into a mood of dissatisfied
depression.

He had contrived to see again the pretty rural maiden Anna, the day
after the fair, had walked out of the city with her to the earthworks of
Old Melchester, and feeling a violent fancy for her, had remained in
Melchester all Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday; by persuasion obtaining
walks and meetings with the girl six or seven times during the interval;
had in brief won her, body and soul.

He supposed it must have been owing to the seclusion in which he had
lived of late in town that he had given way so unrestrainedly to a
passion for an artless creature whose inexperience had, from the first,
led her to place herself unreservedly in his hands. Much he deplored
trifling with her feelings for the sake of a passing desire; and he
could only hope that she might not live to suffer on his account.

She had begged him to come to her again; entreated him; wept. He had
promised that he would do so, and he meant to carry out that promise. He
could not desert her now. Awkward as such unintentional connections
were, the interspace of a hundred miles-which to a girl of her limited
capabilities was like a thousand-would effectually hinder this summer
fancy from greatly encumbering his life; while thought of her simple
love might do him the negative good of keeping him from idle pleasures
in town when he wished to work hard. His circuit journeys would take him
to Melchester three or four times a year; and then he could always see
her.

The pseudonym, or rather partial name, that he had given her as his
before knowing how far the acquaintance was going to carry him, had been
spoken on the spur of the moment, without any ulterior intention
whatever. He had not afterwards disturbed Anna's error, but on leaving
her he had felt bound to give her an address at a stationer's not far
from his chambers, at which she might write to him under the initials
'C. B.'

In due time Raye returned to his London abode, having called at
Melchester on his way and spent a few additional hours with his
fascinating child of nature. In town he lived monotonously every day.
Often he and his rooms were enclosed by a tawny fog from all the world
besides, and when he lighted the gas to read or write by, his situation
seemed so unnatural that he would look into the fire and think of that
trusting girl at Melchester again and again. Often, oppressed by absurd
fondness for her, he would enter the dim religious nave of the Law
Courts by the north door, elbow other juniors habited like himself, and
like him unretained; edge himself into this or that crowded court where
a sensational case was going on, just as if he were in it, though the
police officers at the door knew as well as he knew himself that he had
no more concern with the business in hand than the patient idlers at the
gallery-door outside, who had waited to enter since eight in the morning
because, like him, they belonged to the classes that live on
expectation. But he would do these things to no purpose, and think how
greatly the characters in such scenes contrasted with the pink and
breezy Anna.

An unexpected feature in that peasant maiden's conduct was that she had
not as yet written to him, though he had told her she might do so if she
wished. Surely a young creature had never before been so reticent in
such circumstances. At length he sent her a brief line, positively
requesting her to write. There was no answer by the return post, but the
day after a letter in a neat feminine hand, and bearing the Melchester
post-mark, was handed to him by the stationer.

The fact alone of its arrival was sufficient to satisfy his imaginative
sentiment. He was not anxious to open the epistle, and in truth did not
begin to read it for nearly half-an-hour, anticipating readily its terms
of passionate retrospect and tender adjuration. When at last he turned
his feet to the fireplace and unfolded the sheet, he was surprised and
pleased to find that neither extravagance nor vulgarity was there. It
was the most charming little missive he had ever received from woman. To
be sure the language was simple and the ideas were slight; but it was so
self-possessed; so purely that of a young girl who felt her womanhood to
be enough for her dignity that he read it through twice. Four sides were
filled, and a few lines written across, after the fashion of former
days; the paper, too, was common, and not of the latest shade and
surface. But what of those things? He had received letters from women
who were fairly called ladies, but never so sensible, so human a letter
as this. He could not single out any one sentence and say it was at all
remarkable or clever; the ensemble of the letter it was which won him;
and beyond the one request that he would write or come to her again soon
there was nothing to show her sense of a claim upon him.

To write again and develop a correspondence was the last thing Raye
would have preconceived as his conduct in such a situation; yet he did
send a short, encouraging line or two, signed with his pseudonym, in
which he asked for another letter, and cheeringly promised that he would
try to see her again on some near day, and would never forget how much
they had been to each other during their short acquaintance.



CHAPTER IV

To return now to the moment at which Anna, at Melchester, had received
Raye's letter.

It had been put into her own hand by the postman on his morning rounds.
She flushed down to her neck on receipt of it, and turned it over and
over. 'It is mine?' she said.

'Why, yes, can't you see it is?' said the postman, smiling as he guessed
the nature of the document and the cause of the confusion.

'O yes, of course!' replied Anna, looking at the letter, forcedly
tittering, and blushing still more.

Her look of embarrassment did not leave her with the postman's
departure. She opened the envelope, kissed its contents, put away the
letter in her pocket, and remained musing till her eyes filled with
tears.

A few minutes later she carried up a cup of tea to Mrs. Harnham in her
bed-chamber. Anna's mistress looked at her, and said: 'How dismal you
seem this morning, Anna. What's the matter?'

'I'm not dismal, I'm glad; only I-' She stopped to stifle a sob.

'Well?'

'I've got a letter-and what good is it to me, if I can't read a word in
it!'

'Why, I'll read it, child, if necessary.'

'But this is from somebody-I don't want anybody to read it but myself!'
Anna murmured.

'I shall not tell anybody. Is it from that young man?'

'I think so.' Anna slowly produced the letter, saying: 'Then will you
read it to me, ma'am?'

This was the secret of Anna's embarrassment and flutterings. She could
neither read nor write. She had grown up under the care of an aunt by
marriage, at one of the lonely hamlets on the Great Mid-Wessex Plain
where, even in days of national education, there had been no school
within a distance of two miles. Her aunt was an ignorant woman; there
had been nobody to investigate Anna's circumstances, nobody to care
about her learning the rudiments; though, as often in such cases, she
had been well fed and clothed and not unkindly treated. Since she had
come to live at Melchester with Mrs. Harnham, the latter, who took a
kindly interest in the girl, had taught her to speak correctly, in which
accomplishment Anna showed considerable readiness, as is not unusual
with the illiterate; and soon became quite fluent in the use of her
mistress's phraseology. Mrs. Harnham also insisted upon her getting a
spelling and copy book, and beginning to practise in these. Anna was
slower in this branch of her education, and meanwhile here was the
letter.

Edith Harnham's large dark eyes expressed some interest in the contents,
though, in her character of mere interpreter, she threw into her tone as
much as she could of mechanical passiveness. She read the short epistle
on to its concluding sentence, which idly requested Anna to send him a
tender answer.

'Now-you'll do it for me, won't you, dear mistress?' said Anna eagerly.
'And you'll do it as well as ever you can, please? Because I couldn't
bear him to think I am not able to do it myself. I should sink into the
earth with shame if he knew that!'

From some words in the letter Mrs. Harnham was led to ask questions, and
the answers she received confirmed her suspicions. Deep concern filled
Edith's heart at perceiving how the girl had committed her happiness to
the issue of this new-sprung attachment. She blamed herself for not
interfering in a flirtation which had resulted so seriously for the poor
little creature in her charge; though at the time of seeing the pair
together she had a feeling that it was hardly within her province to nip
young affection in the bud. However, what was done could not be undone,
and it behoved her now, as Anna's only protector, to help her as much as
she could. To Anna's eager request that she, Mrs. Harnham, should
compose and write the answer to this young London man's letter, she felt
bound to accede, to keep alive his attachment to the girl if possible;
though in other circumstances she might have suggested the cook as an
amanuensis.

A tender reply was thereupon concocted, and set down in Edith Harnham's
hand. This letter it had been which Raye had received and delighted in.
Written in the presence of Anna it certainly was, and on Anna's humble
note-paper, and in a measure indited by the young girl; but the life,
the spirit, the individuality, were Edith Harnham's.

'Won't you at least put your name yourself?' she said. 'You can manage
to write that by this time?'

'No, no,' said Anna, shrinking back. 'I should do it so bad. He'd be
ashamed of me, and never see me again!'

The note, so prettily requesting another from him, had, as we have seen,
power enough in its pages to bring one. He declared it to be such a
pleasure to hear from her that she must write every week. The same
process of manufacture was accordingly repeated by Anna and her
mistress, and continued for several weeks in succession; each letter
being penned and suggested by Edith, the girl standing by; the answer
read and commented on by Edith, Anna standing by and listening again.

Late on a winter evening, after the dispatch of the sixth letter, Mrs.
Harnham was sitting alone by the remains of her fire. Her husband had
retired to bed, and she had fallen into that fixity of musing which
takes no count of hour or temperature. The state of mind had been
brought about in Edith by a strange thing which she had done that day.
For the first time since Raye's visit Anna had gone to stay over a night
or two with her cottage friends on the Plain, and in her absence had
arrived, out of its time, a letter from Raye. To this Edith had replied
on her own responsibility, from the depths of her own heart, without
waiting for her maid's collaboration. The luxury of writing to him what
would be known to no consciousness but his was great, and she had
indulged herself therein.

Why was it a luxury?

Edith Harnham led a lonely life. Influenced by the belief of the British
parent that a bad marriage with its aversions is better than free
womanhood with its interests, dignity, and leisure, she had consented to
marry the elderly wine-merchant as a pis aller, at the age of seven-and-
twenty-some three years before this date-to find afterwards that she had
made a mistake. That contract had left her still a woman whose deeper
nature had never been stirred.

She was now clearly realizing that she had become possessed to the
bottom of her soul with the image of a man to whom she was hardly so
much as a name. From the first he had attracted her by his looks and
voice; by his tender touch; and, with these as generators, the writing
of letter after letter and the reading of their soft answers had
insensibly developed on her side an emotion which fanned his; till there
had resulted a magnetic reciprocity between the correspondents,
notwithstanding that one of them wrote in a character not her own. That
he had been able to seduce another woman in two days was his crowning
though unrecognized fascination for her as the she-animal.

They were her own impassioned and pent-up ideas-lowered to monosyllabic
phraseology in order to keep up the disguise-that Edith put into letters
signed with another name, much to the shallow Anna's delight, who,
unassisted, could not for the world have conceived such pretty fancies
for winning him, even had she been able to write them. Edith found that
it was these, her own foisted-in sentiments, to which the young
barrister mainly responded. The few sentences occasionally added from
Anna's own lips made apparently no impression upon him.

The letter-writing in her absence Anna never discovered; but on her
return the next morning she declared she wished to see her lover about
something at once, and begged Mrs. Harnham to ask him to come.

There was a strange anxiety in her manner which did not escape Mrs.
Harnham, and ultimately resolved itself into a flood of tears. Sinking
down at Edith's knees, she made confession that the result of her
relations with her lover it would soon become necessary to disclose.

Edith Harnham was generous enough to be very far from inclined to cast
Anna adrift at this conjuncture. No true woman ever is so inclined from
her own personal point of view, however prompt she may be in taking such
steps to safeguard those dear to her. Although she had written to Raye
so short a time previously, she instantly penned another Anna-note
hinting clearly though delicately the state of affairs.

Raye replied by a hasty line to say how much he was affected by her
news: he felt that he must run down to see her almost immediately.

But a week later the girl came to her mistress's room with another note,
which on being read informed her that after all he could not find time
for the journey. Anna was broken with grief; but by Mrs. Harnham's
counsel strictly refrained from hurling at him the reproaches and
bitterness customary from young women so situated. One thing was
imperative: to keep the young man's romantic interest in her alive.
Rather therefore did Edith, in the name of her prot\xE9g\xE9e, request him on
no account to be distressed about the looming event, and not to
inconvenience himself to hasten down. She desired above everything to be
no weight upon him in his career, no clog upon his high activities. She
had wished him to know what had befallen: he was to dismiss it again
from his mind. Only he must write tenderly as ever, and when he should
come again on the spring circuit it would be soon enough to discuss what
had better be done.

It may well be supposed that Anna's own feelings had not been quite in
accord with these generous expressions; but the mistress's judgment had
ruled, and Anna had acquiesced. 'All I want is that niceness you can so
well put into your letters, my dear, dear mistress, and that I can't for
the life o' me make up out of my own head; though I mean the same thing
and feel it exactly when you've written it down!'

When the letter had been sent off, and Edith Harnham was left alone, she
bowed herself on the back of her chair and wept.

'I wish it was mine-I wish it was!' she murmured. 'Yet how can I say
such a wicked thing!'



CHAPTER V

The letter moved Raye considerably when it reached him. The intelligence
itself had affected him less than her unexpected manner of treating him
in relation to it. The absence of any word of reproach, the devotion to
his interests, the self-sacrifice apparent in every line, all made up a
nobility of character that he had never dreamt of finding in womankind.

'God forgive me!' he said tremulously. 'I have been a wicked wretch. I
did not know she was such a treasure as this!'

He reassured her instantly; declaring that he would not of course desert
her, that he would provide a home for her somewhere. Meanwhile she was
to stay where she was as long as her mistress would allow her.

But a misfortune supervened in this direction. Whether an inkling of
Anna's circumstances reached the knowledge of Mrs. Harnham's husband or
not cannot be said, but the girl was compelled, in spite of Edith's
entreaties, to leave the house. By her own choice she decided to go back
for a while to the cottage on the Plain. This arrangement led to a
consultation as to how the correspondence should be carried on; and in
the girl's inability to continue personally what had been begun in her
name, and in the difficulty of their acting in concert as heretofore,
she requested Mrs. Harnham-the only well-to-do friend she had in the
world-to receive the letters and reply to them off-hand, sending them on
afterwards to herself on the Plain, where she might at least get some
neighbour to read them to her, if a trustworthy one could be met with.
Anna and her box then departed for the Plain.

Thus it befel that Edith Harnham found herself in the strange position
of having to correspond, under no supervision by the real woman, with a
man not her husband, in terms which were virtually those of a wife,
concerning a condition that was not Edith's at all; the man being one
for whom, mainly through the sympathies involved in playing this part,
she secretly cherished a predilection, subtle and imaginative truly, but
strong and absorbing. She opened each letter, read it as if intended for
herself, and replied from the promptings of her own heart and no other.

Throughout this correspondence, carried on in the girl's absence, the
high-strung Edith Harnham lived in the ecstasy of fancy; the vicarious
intimacy engendered such a flow of passionateness as was never exceeded.
For conscience' sake Edith at first sent on each of his letters to Anna,
and even rough copies of her replies; but later on these so-called
copies were much abridged, and many letters on both sides were not sent
on at all.

Though selfish, and, superficially at least, infested with the self-
indulgent vices of artificial society, there was a substratum of honesty
and fairness in Raye's character. He had really a tender regard for the
country girl, and it grew more tender than ever when he found her
apparently capable of expressing the deepest sensibilities in the
simplest words. He meditated, he wavered; and finally resolved to
consult his sister, a maiden lady much older than himself, of lively
sympathies and good intent. In making this confidence he showed her some
of the letters.

'She seems fairly educated,' Miss Raye observed. 'And bright in ideas.
She expresses herself with a taste that must be innate.'

'Yes. She writes very prettily, doesn't she, thanks to these elementary
schools?'

'One is drawn out towards her, in spite of one's self, poor thing.'

The upshot of the discussion was that though he had not been directly
advised to do it, Raye wrote, in his real name, what he would never have
decided to write on his own responsibility; namely that he could not
live without her, and would come down in the spring and shelve her
looming difficulty by marrying her.

This bold acceptance of the situation was made known to Anna by Mrs.
Harnham driving out immediately to the cottage on the Plain. Anna jumped
for joy like a little child. And poor, crude directions for answering
appropriately were given to Edith Harnham, who on her return to the city
carried them out with warm intensification.

'O!' she groaned, as she threw down the pen. 'Anna-poor good little
fool-hasn't intelligence enough to appreciate him! How should she? While
I-don't bear his child!'

It was now February. The correspondence had continued altogether for
four months; and the next letter from Raye contained incidentally a
statement of his position and prospects. He said that in offering to wed
her he had, at first, contemplated the step of retiring from a
profession which hitherto had brought him very slight emolument, and
which, to speak plainly, he had thought might be difficult of practice
after his union with her. But the unexpected mines of brightness and
warmth that her letters had disclosed to be lurking in her sweet nature
had led him to abandon that somewhat sad prospect. He felt sure that,
with her powers of development, after a little private training in the
social forms of London under his supervision, and a little help from a
governess if necessary, she would make as good a professional man's wife
as could be desired, even if he should rise to the woolsack. Many a Lord
Chancellor's wife had been less intuitively a lady than she had shown
herself to be in her lines to him.

'O-poor fellow, poor fellow!' mourned Edith Harnham.

Her distress now raged as high as her infatuation. It was she who had
wrought him to this pitch-to a marriage which meant his ruin; yet she
could not, in mercy to her maid, do anything to hinder his plan. Anna
was coming to Melchester that week, but she could hardly show the girl
this last reply from the young man; it told too much of the second
individuality that had usurped the place of the first.

Anna came, and her mistress took her into her own room for privacy. Anna
began by saying with some anxiety that she was glad the wedding was so
near.

'O Anna!' replied Mrs. Harnham. 'I think we must tell him all-that I
have been doing your writing for you?-lest he should not know it till
after you become his wife, and it might lead to dissension and
recriminations-'

'O mis'ess, dear mis'ess-please don't tell him now!' cried Anna in
distress. 'If you were to do it, perhaps he would not marry me; and what
should I do then? It would be terrible what would come to me! And I am
getting on with my writing, too. I have brought with me the copybook you
were so good as to give me, and I practise every day, and though it is
so, so hard, I shall do it well at last, I believe, if I keep on
trying.'

Edith looked at the copybook. The copies had been set by herself, and
such progress as the girl had made was in the way of grotesque facsimile
of her mistress's hand. But even if Edith's flowing caligraphy were
reproduced the inspiration would be another thing.

'You do it so beautifully,' continued Anna, 'and say all that I want to
say so much better than I could say it, that I do hope you won't leave
me in the lurch just now!'

'Very well,' replied the other. 'But I-but I thought I ought not to go
on!'

'Why?'

Her strong desire to confide her sentiments led Edith to answer truly:

'Because of its effect upon me.'

'But it can't have any!'

'Why, child?'

'Because you are married already!' said Anna with lucid simplicity.

'Of course it can't,' said her mistress hastily; yet glad, despite her
conscience, that two or three outpourings still remained to her. 'But
you must concentrate your attention on writing your name as I write it
here.'



CHAPTER VI

Soon Raye wrote about the wedding. Having decided to make the best of
what he feared was a piece of romantic folly, he had acquired more zest
for the grand experiment. He wished the ceremony to be in London, for
greater privacy. Edith Harnham would have preferred it at Melchester;
Anna was passive. His reasoning prevailed, and Mrs. Harnham threw
herself with mournful zeal into the preparations for Anna's departure.
In a last desperate feeling that she must at every hazard be in at the
death of her dream, and see once again the man who by a species of
telepathy had exercised such an influence on her, she offered to go up
with Anna and be with her through the ceremony-'to see the end of her,'
as her mistress put it with forced gaiety; an offer which the girl
gratefully accepted; for she had no other friend capable of playing the
part of companion and witness, in the presence of a gentlemanly
bridegroom, in such a way as not to hasten an opinion that he had made
an irremediable social blunder.

It was a muddy morning in March when Raye alighted from a four-wheel cab
at the door of a registry-office in the S.W. district of London, and
carefully handed down Anna and her companion Mrs. Harnham. Anna looked
attractive in the somewhat fashionable clothes which Mrs. Harnham had
helped her to buy, though not quite so attractive as, an innocent child,
she had appeared in her country gown on the back of the wooden horse at
Melchester Fair.

Mrs. Harnham had come up this morning by an early train, and a young
man-a friend of Raye's-having met them at the door, all four entered the
registry-office together. Till an hour before this time Raye had never
known the wine-merchant's wife, except at that first casual encounter,
and in the flutter of the performance before them he had little
opportunity for more than a brief acquaintance. The contract of marriage
at a registry is soon got through; but somehow, during its progress,
Raye discovered a strange and secret gravitation between himself and
Anna's friend.

The formalities of the wedding-or rather ratification of a previous
union-being concluded, the four went in one cab to Raye's lodgings,
newly taken in a new suburb in preference to a house, the rent of which
he could ill afford just then. Here Anna cut the little cake which Raye
had bought at a pastrycook's on his way home from Lincoln's Inn the
night before. But she did not do much besides. Raye's friend was obliged
to depart almost immediately, and when he had left the only ones
virtually present were Edith and Raye who exchanged ideas with much
animation. The conversation was indeed theirs only, Anna being as a
domestic animal who humbly heard but understood not. Raye seemed
startled in awakening to this fact, and began to feel dissatisfied with
her inadequacy.

At last, more disappointed than he cared to own, he said, 'Mrs. Harnham,
my darling is so flurried that she doesn't know what she is doing or
saying. I see that after this event a little quietude will be necessary
before she gives tongue to that tender philosophy which she used to
treat me to in her letters.'

They had planned to start early that afternoon for Knollsea, to spend
the few opening days of their married life there, and as the hour for
departure was drawing near Raye asked his wife if she would go to the
writing-desk in the next room and scribble a little note to his sister,
who had been unable to attend through indisposition, informing her that
the ceremony was over, thanking her for her little present, and hoping
to know her well now that she was the writer's sister as well as
Charles's.

'Say it in the pretty poetical way you know so well how to adopt,' he
added, 'for I want you particularly to win her, and both of you to be
dear friends.'

Anna looked uneasy, but departed to her task, Raye remaining to talk to
their guest. Anna was a long while absent, and her husband suddenly rose
and went to her.

He found her still bending over the writing-table, with tears brimming
up in her eyes; and he looked down upon the sheet of note-paper with
some interest, to discover with what tact she had expressed her good-
will in the delicate circumstances. To his surprise she had progressed
but a few lines, in the characters and spelling of a child of eight, and
with the ideas of a goose.

'Anna,' he said, staring; 'what's this?'

'It only means-that I can't do it any better!' she answered, through her
tears.

'Eh? Nonsense!'

'I can't!' she insisted, with miserable, sobbing hardihood. 'I-I-didn't
write those letters, Charles! I only told her what to write! And not
always that! But I am learning, O so fast, my dear, dear husband! And
you'll forgive me, won't you, for not telling you before?' She slid to
her knees, abjectly clasped his waist and laid her face against him.

He stood a few moments, raised her, abruptly turned, and shut the door
upon her, rejoining Edith in the drawing-room. She saw that something
untoward had been discovered, and their eyes remained fixed on each
other.

'Do I guess rightly?' he asked, with wan quietude. 'You were her scribe
through all this?'

'It was necessary,' said Edith.

'Did she dictate every word you ever wrote to me?'

'Not every word.'

'In fact, very little?'

'Very little.'

'You wrote a great part of those pages every week from your own
conceptions, though in her name!'

'Yes.'

'Perhaps you wrote many of the letters when you were alone, without
communication with her?'

'I did.'

He turned to the bookcase, and leant with his hand over his face; and
Edith, seeing his distress, became white as a sheet.

'You have deceived me-ruined me!' he murmured.

'O, don't say it!' she cried in her anguish, jumping up and putting her
hand on his shoulder. 'I can't bear that!'

'Delighting me deceptively! Why did you do it-why did you!'

'I began doing it in kindness to her! How could I do otherwise than try
to save such a simple girl from misery? But I admit that I continued it
for pleasure to myself.'

Raye looked up. 'Why did it give you pleasure?' he asked.

'I must not tell,' said she.

He continued to regard her, and saw that her lips suddenly began to
quiver under his scrutiny, and her eyes to fill and droop. She started
aside, and said that she must go to the station to catch the return
train: could a cab be called immediately?

But Raye went up to her, and took her unresisting hand. 'Well, to think
of such a thing as this!' he said. 'Why, you and I are friends-lovers-
devoted lovers-by correspondence!'

'Yes; I suppose.'

'More.'

'More?'

'Plainly more. It is no use bIRONlinking that. Legally I have married
her-God help us both!-in soul and spirit I have married you, and no
other woman in the world!'

'Hush!'

'But I will not hush! Why should you try to disguise the full truth,
when you have already owned half of it? Yes, it is between you and me
that the bond is-not between me and her! Now I'll say no more. But, O my
cruel one, I think I have one claim upon you!'

She did not say what, and he drew her towards him, and bent over her.
'If it was all pure invention in those letters,' he said emphatically,
'give me your cheek only. If you meant what you said, let it be lips. It
is for the first and last time, remember!'

She put up her mouth, and he kissed her long. 'You forgive me?' she said
crying.

'Yes.'

'But you are ruined!'

'What matter!' he said shrugging his shoulders. 'It serves me right!'

She withdrew, wiped her eyes, entered and bade good-bye to Anna, who had
not expected her to go so soon, and was still wrestling with the letter.
Raye followed Edith downstairs, and in three minutes she was in a hansom
driving to the Waterloo station.

He went back to his wife. 'Never mind the letter, Anna, to-day,' he said
gently. 'Put on your things. We, too, must be off shortly.'

The simple girl, upheld by the sense that she was indeed married, showed
her delight at finding that he was as kind as ever after the disclosure.
She did not know that before his eyes he beheld as it were a galley, in
which he, the fastidious urban, was chained to work for the remainder of
his life, with her, the unlettered peasant, chained to his side.

Edith travelled back to Melchester that day with a face that showed the
very stupor of grief; her lips still tingling from the desperate
pressure of his kiss. The end of her impassioned dream had come. When at
dusk she reached the Melchester station her husband was there to meet
her, but in his perfunctoriness and her preoccupation they did not see
each other, and she went out of the station alone.

She walked mechanically homewards without calling a fly. Entering, she
could not bear the silence of the house, and went up in the dark to
where Anna had slept, where she remained thinking awhile. She then
returned to the drawing-room, and not knowing what she did, crouched
down upon the floor.

'I have ruined him!' she kept repeating. 'I have ruined him; because I
would not deal treacherously towards her!'

In the course of half an hour a figure opened the door of the apartment.

'Ah-who's that?' she said, starting up, for it was dark.

'Your husband-who should it be?' said the worthy merchant.

'Ah-my husband!-I forgot I had a husband!' she whispered to herself.

'I missed you at the station,' he continued. 'Did you see Anna safely
tied up? I hope so, for 'twas time.'

'Yes-Anna is married.'

Simultaneously with Edith's journey home Anna and her husband were
sitting at the opposite windows of a second-class carriage which sped
along to Knollsea. In his hand was a pocket-book full of creased sheets
closely written over. Unfolding them one after another he read them in
silence, and sighed.

'What are you doing, dear Charles?' she said timidly from the other
window, and drew nearer to him as if he were a god.

'Reading over all those sweet letters to me signed "Anna,"' he replied
with dreary resignation.

Autumn 1891.



TO PLEASE HIS WIFE



CHAPTER I

The interior of St. James's Church, in Havenpool Town, was slowly
darkening under the close clouds of a winter afternoon. It was Sunday:
service had just ended, the face of the parson in the pulpit was buried
in his hands, and the congregation, with a cheerful sigh of release,
were rising from their knees to depart.

For the moment the stillness was so complete that the surging of the sea
could be heard outside the harbour-bar. Then it was broken by the
footsteps of the clerk going towards the west door to open it in the
usual manner for the exit of the assembly. Before, however, he had
reached the doorway, the latch was lifted from without, and the dark
figure of a man in a sailor's garb appeared against the light.

The clerk stepped aside, the sailor closed the door gently behind him,
and advanced up the nave till he stood at the chancel-step. The parson
looked up from the private little prayer which, after so many for the
parish, he quite fairly took for himself; rose to his feet, and stared
at the intruder.

'I beg your pardon, sir,' said the sailor, addressing the minister in a
voice distinctly audible to all the congregation. 'I have come here to
offer thanks for my narrow escape from shipwreck. I am given to
understand that it is a proper thing to do, if you have no objection?'

The parson, after a moment's pause, said hesitatingly, 'I have no
objection; certainly. It is usual to mention any such wish before
service, so that the proper words may be used in the General
Thanksgiving. But, if you wish, we can read from the form for use after
a storm at sea.'

'Ay, sure; I ain't particular,' said the sailor.

The clerk thereupon directed the sailor to the page in the prayer-book
where the collect of thanksgiving would be found, and the rector began
reading it, the sailor kneeling where he stood, and repeating it after
him word by word in a distinct voice. The people, who had remained agape
and motionless at the proceeding, mechanically knelt down likewise; but
they continued to regard the isolated form of the sailor who, in the
precise middle of the chancel-step, remained fixed on his knees, facing
the east, his hat beside him, his hands joined, and he quite unconscious
of his appearance in their regard.

When his thanksgiving had come to an end he rose; the people rose also,
and all went out of church together. As soon as the sailor emerged, so
that the remaining daylight fell upon his face, old inhabitants began to
recognize him as no other than Shadrach Jolliffe, a young man who had
not been seen at Havenpool for several years. A son of the town, his
parents had died when he was quite young, on which account he had early
gone to sea, in the Newfoundland trade.

He talked with this and that townsman as he walked, informing them that,
since leaving his native place years before, he had become captain and
owner of a small coasting-ketch, which had providentially been saved
from the gale as well as himself. Presently he drew near to two girls
who were going out of the churchyard in front of him; they had been
sitting in the nave at his entry, and had watched his doings with deep
interest, afterwards discussing him as they moved out of church
together. One was a slight and gentle creature, the other a tall, large-
framed, deliberative girl. Captain Jolliffe regarded the loose curls of
their hair, their backs and shoulders, down to their heels, for some
time.

'Who may them two maids be?' he whispered to his neighbour.

'The little one is Emily Hanning; the tall one Joanna Phippard.'

'Ah! I recollect 'em now, to be sure.'

He advanced to their elbow, and genially stole a gaze at them.

'Emily, you don't know me?' said the sailor, turning his beaming brown
eyes on her.

'I think I do, Mr. Jolliffe,' said Emily shyly.

The other girl looked straight at him with her dark eyes.

'The face of Miss Joanna I don't call to mind so well,' he continued.
'But I know her beginnings and kindred.'

They walked and talked together, Jolliffe narrating particulars of his
late narrow escape, till they reached the corner of Sloop Lane, in which
Emily Hanning dwelt, when, with a nod and smile, she left them. Soon the
sailor parted also from Joanna, and, having no especial errand or
appointment, turned back towards Emily's house. She lived with her
father, who called himself an accountant, the daughter, however, keeping
a little stationery-shop as a supplemental provision for the gaps of his
somewhat uncertain business. On entering Jolliffe found father and
daughter about to begin tea.

'O, I didn't know it was tea-time,' he said. 'Ay, I'll have a cup with
much pleasure.'

He remained to tea and long afterwards, telling more tales of his
seafaring life. Several neighbours called to listen, and were asked to
come in. Somehow Emily Hanning lost her heart to the sailor that Sunday
night, and in the course of a week or two there was a tender
understanding between them.

One moonlight evening in the next month Shadrach was ascending out of
the town by the long straight road eastward, to an elevated suburb where
the more fashionable houses stood-if anything near this ancient port
could be called fashionable-when he saw a figure before him whom, from
her manner of glancing back, he took to be Emily. But, on coming up, he
found she was Joanna Phippard. He gave a gallant greeting, and walked
beside her.

'Go along,' she said, 'or Emily will be jealous!'

He seemed not to like the suggestion, and remained. What was said and
what was done on that walk never could be clearly recollected by
Shadrach; but in some way or other Joanna contrived to wean him away
from her gentler and younger rival. From that week onwards, Jolliffe was
seen more and more in the wake of Joanna Phippard and less in the
company of Emily; and it was soon rumoured about the quay that old
Jolliffe's son, who had come home from sea, was going to be married to
the former young woman, to the great disappointment of the latter.

Just after this report had gone about, Joanna dressed herself for a walk
one morning, and started for Emily's house in the little cross-street.
Intelligence of the deep sorrow of her friend on account of the loss of
Shadrach had reached her ears also, and her conscience reproached her
for winning him away.

Joanna was not altogether satisfied with the sailor. She liked his
attentions, and she coveted the dignity of matrimony; but she had never
been deeply in love with Jolliffe. For one thing, she was ambitious, and
socially his position was hardly so good as her own, and there was
always the chance of an attractive woman mating considerably above her.
It had long been in her mind that she would not strongly object to give
him back again to Emily if her friend felt so very badly about him. To
this end she had written a letter of renunciation to Shadrach, which
letter she carried in her hand, intending to send it if personal
observation of Emily convinced her that her friend was suffering.

Joanna entered Sloop Lane and stepped down into the stationery-shop,
which was below the pavement level. Emily's father was never at home at
this hour of the day, and it seemed as though Emily were not at home
either, for the visitor could make nobody hear. Customers came so seldom
hither that a five minutes' absence of the proprietor counted for
little. Joanna waited in the little shop, where Emily had tastefully set
out-as women can-articles in themselves of slight value, so as to
obscure the meagreness of the stock-in-trade; till she saw a figure
pausing without the window apparently absorbed in the contemplation of
the sixpenny books, packets of paper, and prints hung on a string. It
was Captain Shadrach Jolliffe, peering in to ascertain if Emily were
there alone. Moved by an impulse of reluctance to meet him in a spot
which breathed of Emily, Joanna slipped through the door that
communicated with the parlour at the back. She had frequently done so
before, for in her friendship with Emily she had the freedom of the
house without ceremony.

Jolliffe entered the shop. Through the thin blind which screened the
glass partition she could see that he was disappointed at not finding
Emily there. He was about to go out again, when Emily's form darkened
the doorway, hastening home from some errand. At sight of Jolliffe she
started back as if she would have gone out again.

'Don't run away, Emily; don't!' said he. 'What can make ye afraid?'

'I'm not afraid, Captain Jolliffe. Only-only I saw you all of a sudden,
and-it made me jump!' Her voice showed that her heart had jumped even
more than the rest of her.

'I just called as I was passing,' he said.

'For some paper?' She hastened behind the counter.

'No, no, Emily; why do ye get behind there? Why not stay by me? You seem
to hate me.'

'I don't hate you. How can I?'

'Then come out, so that we can talk like Christians.'

Emily obeyed with a fitful laugh, till she stood again beside him in the
open part of the shop.

'There's a dear,' he said.

'You mustn't say that, Captain Jolliffe; because the words belong to
somebody else.'

'Ah! I know what you mean. But, Emily, upon my life I didn't know till
this morning that you cared one bit about me, or I should not have done
as I have done. I have the best of feelings for Joanna, but I know that
from the beginning she hasn't cared for me more than in a friendly way;
and I see now the one I ought to have asked to be my wife. You know,
Emily, when a man comes home from sea after a long voyage he's as blind
as a bat-he can't see who's who in women. They are all alike to him,
beautiful creatures, and he takes the first that comes easy, without
thinking if she loves him, or if he might not soon love another better
than her. From the first I inclined to you most, but you were so
backward and shy that I thought you didn't want me to bother 'ee, and so
I went to Joanna.'

'Don't say any more, Mr. Jolliffe, don't!' said she, choking. 'You are
going to marry Joanna next month, and it is wrong to-to-'

'O, Emily, my darling!' he cried, and clasped her little figure in his
arms before she was aware.

Joanna, behind the curtain, turned pale, tried to withdraw her eyes, but
could not.

'It is only you I love as a man ought to love the woman he is going to
marry; and I know this from what Joanna has said, that she will
willingly let me off! She wants to marry higher I know, and only said
"Yes" to me out of kindness. A fine, tall girl like her isn't the sort
for a plain sailor's wife: you be the best suited for that.'

He kissed her and kissed her again, her flexible form quivering in the
agitation of his embrace.

'I wonder-are you sure-Joanna is going to break off with you? O, are you
sure? Because-'

'I know she would not wish to make us miserable. She will release me.'

'O, I hope-I hope she will! Don't stay any longer, Captain Jolliffe!'

He lingered, however, till a customer came for a penny stick of sealing-
wax, and then he withdrew.

Green envy had overspread Joanna at the scene. She looked about for a
way of escape. To get out without Emily's knowledge of her visit was
indispensable. She crept from the parlour into the passage, and thence
to the front door of the house, where she let herself noiselessly into
the street.

The sight of that caress had reversed all her resolutions. She could not
let Shadrach go. Reaching home she burnt the letter, and told her mother
that if Captain Jolliffe called she was too unwell to see him.

Shadrach, however, did not call. He sent her a note expressing in simple
language the state of his feelings; and asked to be allowed to take
advantage of the hints she had given him that her affection, too, was
little more than friendly, by cancelling the engagement.

Looking out upon the harbour and the island beyond he waited and waited
in his lodgings for an answer that did not come. The suspense grew to be
so intolerable that after dark he went up the High Street. He could not
resist calling at Joanna's to learn his fate.

Her mother said her daughter was too unwell to see him, and to his
questioning admitted that it was in consequence of a letter received
from himself; which had distressed her deeply.

'You know what it was about, perhaps, Mrs. Phippard?' he said.

Mrs. Phippard owned that she did, adding that it put them in a very
painful position. Thereupon Shadrach, fearing that he had been guilty of
an enormity, explained that if his letter had pained Joanna it must be
owing to a misunderstanding, since he had thought it would be a relief
to her. If otherwise, he would hold himself bound by his word, and she
was to think of the letter as never having been written.

Next morning he received an oral message from the young woman, asking
him to fetch her home from a meeting that evening. This he did, and
while walking from the Town Hall to her door, with her hand in his arm,
she said:

'It is all the same as before between us, isn't it, Shadrach? Your
letter was sent in mistake?'

'It is all the same as before,' he answered, 'if you say it must be.'

'I wish it to be,' she murmured, with hard lineaments, as she thought of
Emily.

Shadrach was a religious and scrupulous man, who respected his word as
his life. Shortly afterwards the wedding took place, Jolliffe having
conveyed to Emily as gently as possible the error he had fallen into
when estimating Joanna's mood as one of indifference.



CHAPTER II

A month after the marriage Joanna's mother died, and the couple were
obliged to turn their attention to very practical matters. Now that she
was left without a parent, Joanna could not bear the notion of her
husband going to sea again, but the question was, What could he do at
home? They finally decided to take on a grocer's shop in High Street,
the goodwill and stock of which were waiting to be disposed of at that
time. Shadrach knew nothing of shopkeeping, and Joanna very little, but
they hoped to learn.

To the management of this grocery business they now devoted all their
energies, and continued to conduct it for many succeeding years, without
great success. Two sons were born to them, whom their mother loved to
idolatry, although she had never passionately loved her husband; and she
lavished upon them all her forethought and care. But the shop did not
thrive, and the large dreams she had entertained of her sons' education
and career became attenuated in the face of realities. Their schooling
was of the plainest, but, being by the sea, they grew alert in all such
nautical arts and enterprises as were attractive to their age.

The great interest of the Jolliffes' married life, outside their own
immediate household, had lain in the marriage of Emily. By one of those
odd chances which lead those that lurk in unexpected corners to be
discovered, while the obvious are passed by, the gentle girl had been
seen and loved by a thriving merchant of the town, a widower, some years
older than herself, though still in the prime of life. At first Emily
had declared that she never, never could marry any one; but Mr. Lester
had quietly persevered, and had at last won her reluctant assent. Two
children also were the fruits of this union, and, as they grew and
prospered, Emily declared that she had never supposed that she could
live to be so happy.

The worthy merchant's home, one of those large, substantial brick
mansions frequently jammed up in old-fashioned towns, faced directly on
the High Street, nearly opposite to the grocery shop of the Jolliffes,
and it now became the pain of Joanna to behold the woman whose place she
had usurped out of pure covetousness, looking down from her position of
comparative wealth upon the humble shop-window with its dusty sugar-
loaves, heaps of raisins, and canisters of tea, over which it was her
own lot to preside. The business having so dwindled, Joanna was obliged
to serve in the shop herself; and it galled and mortified her that Emily
Lester, sitting in her large drawing-room over the way, could witness
her own dancings up and down behind the counter at the beck and call of
wretched twopenny customers, whose patronage she was driven to welcome
gladly: persons to whom she was compelled to be civil in the street,
while Emily was bounding along with her children and her governess, and
conversing with the genteelest people of the town and neighbourhood.
This was what she had gained by not letting Shadrach Jolliffe, whom she
had so faintly loved, carry his affection elsewhere.

Shadrach was a good and honest man, and he had been faithful to her in
heart and in deed. Time had clipped the wings of his love for Emily in
his devotion to the mother of his boys: he had quite lived down that
impulsive earlier fancy, and Emily had become in his regard nothing more
than a friend. It was the same with Emily's feelings for him. Possibly,
had she found the least cause for jealousy, Joanna would almost have
been better satisfied. It was in the absolute acquiescence of Emily and
Shadrach in the results she herself had contrived that her discontent
found nourishment.

Shadrach was not endowed with the narrow shrewdness necessary for
developing a retail business in the face of many competitors. Did a
customer inquire if the grocer could really recommend the wondrous
substitute for eggs which a persevering bagman had forced into his
stock, he would answer that 'when you did not put eggs into a pudding it
was difficult to taste them there'; and when he was asked if his 'real
Mocha coffee' was real Mocha, he would say grimly, 'as understood in
small shops.'

One summer day, when the big brick house opposite was reflecting the
oppressive sun's heat into the shop, and nobody was present but husband
and wife, Joanna looked across at Emily's door, where a wealthy
visitor's carriage had drawn up. Traces of patronage had been visible in
Emily's manner of late.

'Shadrach, the truth is, you are not a business-man,' his wife sadly
murmured. 'You were not brought up to shopkeeping, and it is impossible
for a man to make a fortune at an occupation he has jumped into, as you
did into this.'

Jolliffe agreed with her, in this as in everything else.

'Not that I care a rope's end about making a fortune,' he said
cheerfully. 'I am happy enough, and we can rub on somehow.'

She looked again at the great house through the screen of bottled
pickles.

'Rub on-yes,' she said bitterly. 'But see how well off Emmy Lester is,
who used to be so poor! Her boys will go to College, no doubt; and think
of yours-obliged to go to the Parish School!'

Shadrach's thoughts had flown to Emily.

'Nobody,' he said good-humouredly, 'ever did Emily a better turn than
you did, Joanna, when you warned her off me and put an end to that
little simpering nonsense between us, so as to leave it in her power to
say "Aye" to Lester when he came along.' This almost maddened her.

'Don't speak of bygones!' she implored, in stern sadness. 'But think,
for the boys' and my sake, if not for your own, what are we to do to get
richer?'

'Well,' he said, becoming serious, 'to tell the truth, I have always
felt myself unfit for this business, though I've never liked to say so.
I seem to want more room for sprawling; a more open space to strike out
in than here among friends and neighbours. I could get rich as well as
any man, if I tried my own way.'

'I wish you would! What is your way?'

'To go to sea again.'

She had been the very one to keep him at home, hating the semi-widowed
existence of sailors' wives. But her ambition checked her instincts now,
and she said: 'Do you think success really lies that way?'

'I am sure it lies in no other.'

'Do you want to go, Shadrach?'

'Not for the pleasure of it, I can tell 'ee. There's no such pleasure at
sea, Joanna, as I can find in my back parlour here. To speak honest, I
have no love for the brine. I never had much. But if it comes to a
question of a fortune for you and the lads, it is another thing. That's
the only way to it for one born and bred a seafarer as I.'

'Would it take long to earn?'

'Well, that depends; perhaps not.'

The next morning Shadrach pulled from a chest of drawers the nautical
jacket he had worn during the first months of his return, brushed out
the moths, donned it, and walked down to the quay. The port still did a
fair business in the Newfoundland trade, though not so much as formerly.

It was not long after this that he invested all he possessed in
purchasing a part-ownership in a brig, of which he was appointed
captain. A few months were passed in coast-trading, during which
interval Shadrach wore off the land-rust that had accumulated upon him
in his grocery phase; and in the spring the brig sailed for
Newfoundland.

Joanna lived on at home with her sons, who were now growing up into
strong lads, and occupying themselves in various ways about the harbour
and quay.

'Never mind, let them work a little,' their fond mother said to herself.
'Our necessities compel it now, but when Shadrach comes home they will
be only seventeen and eighteen, and they shall be removed from the port,
and their education thoroughly taken in hand by a tutor; and with the
money they'll have they will perhaps be as near to gentlemen as Emmy
Lester's precious two, with their algebra and their Latin!'

The date for Shadrach's return drew near and arrived, and he did not
appear. Joanna was assured that there was no cause for anxiety, sailing-
ships being so uncertain in their coming; which assurance proved to be
well grounded, for late one wet evening, about a month after the
calculated time, the ship was announced as at hand, and presently the
slip-slop step of Shadrach as the sailor sounded in the passage, and he
entered. The boys had gone out and had missed him, and Joanna was
sitting alone.

As soon as the first emotion of reunion between the couple had passed,
Jolliffe explained the delay as owing to a small speculative contract,
which had produced good results.

'I was determined not to disappoint 'ee,' he said; 'and I think you'll
own that I haven't!'

With this he pulled out an enormous canvas bag, full and rotund as the
money-bag of the giant whom Jack slew, untied it, and shook the contents
out into her lap as she sat in her low chair by the fire. A mass of
sovereigns and guineas (there were guineas on the earth in those days)
fell into her lap with a sudden thud, weighing down her gown to the
floor.

'There!' said Shadrach complacently. 'I told 'ee, dear, I'd do it; and
have I done it or no?'

Somehow her face, after the first excitement of possession, did not
retain its glory.

'It is a lot of gold, indeed,' she said. 'And-is this all?'

'All? Why, dear Joanna, do you know you can count to three hundred in
that heap? It is a fortune!'

'Yes-yes. A fortune-judged by sea; but judged by land-'

However, she banished considerations of the money for the nonce. Soon
the boys came in, and next Sunday Shadrach returned thanks to God-this
time by the more ordinary channel of the italics in the General
Thanksgiving. But a few days after, when the question of investing the
money arose, he remarked that she did not seem so satisfied as he had
hoped.

'Well you see, Shadrach,' she answered, 'we count by hundreds; they
count by thousands' (nodding towards the other side of the Street).
'They have set up a carriage and pair since you left.'

'O, have they?'

'My dear Shadrach, you don't know how the world moves. However, we'll do
the best we can with it. But they are rich, and we are poor still!'

The greater part of a year was desultorily spent. She moved sadly about
the house and shop, and the boys were still occupying themselves in and
around the harbour.

'Joanna,' he said, one day, 'I see by your movements that it is not
enough.'

'It is not enough,' said she. 'My boys will have to live by steering the
ships that the Lesters own; and I was once above her!'

Jolliffe was not an argumentative man, and he only murmured that he
thought he would make another voyage.

He meditated for several days, and coming home from the quay one
afternoon said suddenly:

'I could do it for 'ee, dear, in one more trip, for certain, if-if-'

'Do what, Shadrach?'

'Enable 'ee to count by thousands instead of hundreds.'

'If what?'

'If I might take the boys.'

She turned pale.

'Don't say that, Shadrach,' she answered hastily.

'Why?'

'I don't like to hear it! There's danger at sea. I want them to be
something genteel, and no danger to them. I couldn't let them risk their
lives at sea. O, I couldn't ever, ever!'

'Very well, dear, it shan't be done.'

Next day, after a silence, she asked a question:

'If they were to go with you it would make a great deal of difference, I
suppose, to the profit?'

''Twould treble what I should get from the venture single-handed. Under
my eye they would be as good as two more of myself.'

Later on she said: 'Tell me more about this.'

'Well, the boys are almost as clever as master-mariners in handling a
craft, upon my life! There isn't a more cranky place in the Northern
Seas than about the sandbanks of this harbour, and they've practised
here from their infancy. And they are so steady. I couldn't get their
steadiness and their trustworthiness in half a dozen men twice their
age.'

'And is it very dangerous at sea; now, too, there are rumours of war?'
she asked uneasily.

'O, well, there be risks. Still . . . '

The idea grew and magnified, and the mother's heart was crushed and
stifled by it. Emmy was growing too patronizing; it could not be borne.
Shadrach's wife could not help nagging him about their comparative
poverty. The young men, amiable as their father, when spoken to on the
subject of a voyage of enterprise, were quite willing to embark; and
though they, like their father, had no great love for the sea, they
became quite enthusiastic when the proposal was detailed.

Everything now hung upon their mother's assent. She withheld it long,
but at last gave the word: the young men might accompany their father.
Shadrach was unusually cheerful about it: Heaven had preserved him
hitherto, and he had uttered his thanks. God would not forsake those who
were faithful to him.

All that the Jolliffes possessed in the world was put into the
enterprise. The grocery stock was pared down to the least that possibly
could afford a bare sustenance to Joanna during the absence, which was
to last through the usual 'New-f'nland spell.' How she would endure the
weary time she hardly knew, for the boys had been with her formerly; but
she nerved herself for the trial.

The ship was laden with boots and shoes, ready-made clothing, fishing-
tackle, butter, cheese, cordage, sailcloth, and many other commodities;
and was to bring back oil, furs, skins, fish, cranberries, and what else
came to hand. But much trading to other ports was to be undertaken
between the voyages out and homeward, and thereby much money made.



CHAPTER III

The brig sailed on a Monday morning in spring; but Joanna did not
witness its departure. She could not bear the sight that she had been
the means of bringing about. Knowing this, her husband told her
overnight that they were to sail some time before noon next day hence
when, awakening at five the next morning, she heard them bustling about
downstairs, she did not hasten to descend, but lay trying to nerve
herself for the parting, imagining they would leave about nine, as her
husband had done on his previous voyage. When she did descend she beheld
words chalked upon the sloping face of the bureau; but no husband or
sons. In the hastily-scrawled lines Shadrach said they had gone off thus
not to pain her by a leave-taking; and the sons had chalked under his
words: 'Good-bye, mother!'

She rushed to the quay, and looked down the harbour towards the blue rim
of the sea, but she could only see the masts and bulging sails of the
Joanna; no human figures. ''Tis I have sent them!' she said wildly, and
burst into tears. In the house the chalked 'Good-bye' nearly broke her
heart. But when she had re-entered the front room, and looked across at
Emily's, a gleam of triumph lit her thin face at her anticipated release
from the thraldom of subservience.

To do Emily Lester justice, her assumption of superiority was mainly a
figment of Joanna's brain. That the circumstances of the merchant's wife
were more luxurious than Joanna's, the former could not conceal; though
whenever the two met, which was not very often now, Emily endeavoured to
subdue the difference by every means in her power.

The first summer lapsed away; and Joanna meagrely maintained herself by
the shop, which now consisted of little more than a window and a
counter. Emily was, in truth, her only large customer; and Mrs. Lester's
kindly readiness to buy anything and everything without questioning the
quality had a sting of bitterness in it, for it was the uncritical
attitude of a patron, and almost of a donor. The long dreary winter
moved on; the face of the bureau had been turned to the wall to protect
the chalked words of farewell, for Joanna could never bring herself to
rub them out; and she often glanced at them with wet eyes. Emily's
handsome boys came home for the Christmas holidays; the University was
talked of for them; and still Joanna subsisted as it were with held
breath, like a person submerged. Only one summer more, and the 'spell'
would end. Towards the close of the time Emily called on her quondam
friend. She had heard that Joanna began to feel anxious; she had
received no letter from husband or sons for some months. Emily's silks
rustled arrogantly when, in response to Joanna's almost dumb invitation,
she squeezed through the opening of the counter and into the parlour
behind the shop.

'You are all success, and I am all the other way!' said Joanna.

'But why do you think so?' said Emily. 'They are to bring back a
fortune, I hear.'

'Ah! will they come? The doubt is more than a woman can bear. All three
in one ship-think of that! And I have not heard of them for months!'

'But the time is not up. You should not meet misfortune half-way.'

'Nothing will repay me for the grief of their absence!'

'Then why did you let them go? You were doing fairly well.'

'I made them go!' she said, turning vehemently upon Emily. 'And I'll
tell you why! I could not bear that we should be only muddling on, and
you so rich and thriving! Now I have told you, and you may hate me if
you will!'

'I shall never hate you, Joanna.'

And she proved the truth of her words afterwards. The end of autumn
came, and the brig should have been in port; but nothing like the Joanna
appeared in the channel between the sands. It was now really time to be
uneasy. Joanna Jolliffe sat by the fire, and every gust of wind caused
her a cold thrill. She had always feared and detested the sea; to her it
was a treacherous, restless, slimy creature, glorying in the griefs of
women. 'Still,' she said, 'they must come!'

She recalled to her mind that Shadrach had said before starting that if
they returned safe and sound, with success crowning their enterprise, he
would go as he had gone after his shipwreck, and kneel with his sons in
the church, and offer sincere thanks for their deliverance. She went to
church regularly morning and afternoon, and sat in the most forward pew,
nearest the chancel-step. Her eyes were mostly fixed on that step, where
Shadrach had knelt in the bloom of his young manhood: she knew to an
inch the spot which his knees had pressed twenty winters before; his
outline as he had knelt, his hat on the step beside him. God was good.
Surely her husband must kneel there again: a son on each side as he had
said; George just here, Jim just there. By long watching the spot as she
worshipped it became as if she saw the three returned ones there
kneeling; the two slim outlines of her boys, the more bulky form between
them; their hands clasped, their heads shaped against the eastern wall.
The fancy grew almost to an hallucination: she could never turn her worn
eyes to the step without seeing them there.

Nevertheless they did not come. Heaven was merciful, but it was not yet
pleased to relieve her soul. This was her purgation for the sin of
making them the slaves of her ambition. But it became more than
purgation soon, and her mood approached despair. Months had passed since
the brig had been due, but it had not returned.

Joanna was always hearing or seeing evidences of their arrival. When on
the hill behind the port, whence a view of the open Channel could be
obtained, she felt sure that a little speck on the horizon, breaking the
eternally level waste of waters southward, was the truck of the Joana's
mainmast. Or when indoors, a shout or excitement of any kind at the
corner of the Town Cellar, where the High Street joined the Quay, caused
her to spring to her feet and cry: ''Tis they!'

But it was not. The visionary forms knelt every Sunday afternoon on the
chancel-step, but not the real. Her shop had, as it were, eaten itself
hollow. In the apathy which had resulted from her loneliness and grief
she had ceased to take in the smallest supplies, and thus had sent away
her last customer.

In this strait Emily Lester tried by every means in her power to aid the
afflicted woman; but she met with constant repulses.

'I don't like you! I can't bear to see you!' Joanna would whisper
hoarsely when Emily came to her and made advances.

'But I want to help and soothe you, Joanna,' Emily would say.

'You are a lady, with a rich husband and fine sons! What can you want
with a bereaved crone like me!'

'Joanna, I want this: I want you to come and live in my house, and not
stay alone in this dismal place any longer.'

'And suppose they come and don't find me at home? You wish to separate
me and mine! No, I'll stay here. I don't like you, and I can't thank
you, whatever kindness you do me!'

However, as time went on Joanna could not afford to pay the rent of the
shop and house without an income. She was assured that all hope of the
return of Shadrach and his sons was vain, and she reluctantly consented
to accept the asylum of the Lesters' house. Here she was allotted a room
of her own on the second floor, and went and came as she chose, without
contact with the family. Her hair greyed and whitened, deep lines
channeled her forehead, and her form grew gaunt and stooping. But she
still expected the lost ones, and when she met Emily on the staircase
she would say morosely: 'I know why you've got me here! They'll come,
and be disappointed at not finding me at home, and perhaps go away
again; and then you'll be revenged for my taking Shadrach away from
'ee!'

Emily Lester bore these reproaches from the grief-stricken soul. She was
sure-all the people of Havenpool were sure-that Shadrach and his sons
could not return. For years the vessel had been given up as lost.

Nevertheless, when awakened at night by any noise, Joanna would rise
from bed and glance at the shop opposite by the light from the
flickering lamp, to make sure it was not they.

It was a damp and dark December night, six years after the departure of
the brig Joanna. The wind was from the sea, and brought up a fishy mist
which mopped the face like moist flannel. Joanna had prayed her usual
prayer for the absent ones with more fervour and confidence than she had
felt for months, and had fallen asleep about eleven. It must have been
between one and two when she suddenly started up. She had certainly
heard steps in the street, and the voices of Shadrach and her sons
calling at the door of the grocery shop. She sprang out of bed, and,
hardly knowing what clothing she dragged on herself; hastened down
Emily's large and carpeted staircase, put the candle on the hall-table,
unfastened the bolts and chain, and stepped into the street. The mist,
blowing up the street from the Quay, hindered her seeing the shop,
although it was so near; but she had crossed to it in a moment. How was
it? Nobody stood there. The wretched woman walked wildly up and down
with her bare feet-there was not a soul. She returned and knocked with
all her might at the door which had once been her own-they might have
been admitted for the night, unwilling to disturb her till the morning.

It was not till several minutes had elapsed that the young man who now
kept the shop looked out of an upper window, and saw the skeleton of
something human standing below half-dressed.

'Has anybody come?' asked the form.

'O, Mrs. Jolliffe, I didn't know it was you,' said the young man kindly,
for he was aware how her baseless expectations moved her. 'No; nobody
has come.'

June 1891.



THE MELANCHOLY HUSSAR OF THE GERMAN LEGION



CHAPTER I

Here stretch the downs, high and breezy and green, absolutely unchanged
since those eventful days. A plough has never disturbed the turf, and
the sod that was uppermost then is uppermost now. Here stood the camp;
here are distinct traces of the banks thrown up for the horses of the
cavalry, and spots where the midden-heaps lay are still to be observed.
At night, when I walk across the lonely place, it is impossible to avoid
hearing, amid the scourings of the wind over the grass-bents and
thistles, the old trumpet and bugle calls, the rattle of the halters; to
help seeing rows of spectral tents and the impedimenta of the soldiery.
From within the canvases come guttural syllables of foreign tongues, and
broken songs of the fatherland; for they were mainly regiments of the
King's German Legion that slept round the tent-poles hereabout at that
time.

It was nearly ninety years ago. The British uniform of the period, with
its immense epaulettes, queer cocked-hat, breeches, gaiters, ponderous
cartridge-box, buckled shoes, and what not, would look strange and
barbarous now. Ideas have changed; invention has followed invention.
Soldiers were monumental objects then. A divinity still hedged kings
here and there; and war was considered a glorious thing.

Secluded old manor-houses and hamlets lie in the ravines and hollows
among these hills, where a stranger had hardly ever been seen till the
King chose to take the baths yearly at the sea-side watering-place a few
miles to the south; as a consequence of which battalions descended in a
cloud upon the open country around. Is it necessary to add that the
echoes of many characteristic tales, dating from that picturesque time,
still linger about here in more or less fragmentary form, to be caught
by the attentive ear? Some of them I have repeated; most of them I have
forgotten; one I have never repeated, and assuredly can never forget.

Phyllis told me the story with her own lips. She was then an old lady of
seventy-five, and her auditor a lad of fifteen. She enjoined silence as
to her share in the incident, till she should be 'dead, buried, and
forgotten.' Her life was prolonged twelve years after the day of her
narration, and she has now been dead nearly twenty. The oblivion which
in her modesty and humility she courted for herself has only partially
fallen on her, with the unfortunate result of inflicting an injustice
upon her memory; since such fragments of her story as got abroad at the
time, and have been kept alive ever since, are precisely those which are
most unfavourable to her character.

It all began with the arrival of the York Hussars, one of the foreign
regiments above alluded to. Before that day scarcely a soul had been
seen near her father's house for weeks. When a noise like the brushing
skirt of a visitor was heard on the doorstep, it proved to be a scudding
leaf; when a carriage seemed to be nearing the door, it was her father
grinding his sickle on the stone in the garden for his favourite
relaxation of trimming the box-tree borders to the plots. A sound like
luggage thrown down from the coach was a gun far away at sea; and what
looked like a tall man by the gate at dusk was a yew bush cut into a
quaint and attenuated shape. There is no such solitude in country places
now as there was in those old days.

Yet all the while King George and his court were at his favourite sea-
side resort, not more than five miles off.

The daughter's seclusion was great, but beyond the seclusion of the girl
lay the seclusion of the father. If her social condition was twilight,
his was darkness. Yet he enjoyed his darkness, while her twilight
oppressed her. Dr. Grove had been a professional man whose taste for
lonely meditation over metaphysical questions had diminished his
practice till it no longer paid him to keep it going; after which he had
relinquished it and hired at a nominal rent the small, dilapidated, half
farm half manor-house of this obscure inland nook, to make a sufficiency
of an income which in a town would have been inadequate for their
maintenance. He stayed in his garden the greater part of the day,
growing more and more irritable with the lapse of time, and the
increasing perception that he had wasted his life in the pursuit of
illusions. He saw his friends less and less frequently. Phyllis became
so shy that if she met a stranger anywhere in her short rambles she felt
ashamed at his gaze, walked awkwardly, and blushed to her shoulders.

Yet Phyllis was discovered even here by an admirer, and her hand most
unexpectedly asked in marriage.

The King, as aforesaid, was at the neighbouring town, where he had taken
up his abode at Gloucester Lodge and his presence in the town naturally
brought many county people thither. Among these idlers-many of whom
professed to have connections and interests with the Court-was one
Humphrey Gould, a bachelor; a personage neither young nor old; neither
good-looking nor positively plain. Too steady-going to be 'a buck' (as
fast and unmarried men were then called), he was an approximately
fashionable man of a mild type. This bachelor of thirty found his way to
the village on the down: beheld Phyllis; made her father's acquaintance
in order to make hers; and by some means or other she sufficiently
inflamed his heart to lead him in that direction almost daily; till he
became engaged to marry her.

As he was of an old local family, some of whose members were held in
respect in the county, Phyllis, in bringing him to her feet, had
accomplished what was considered a brilliant move for one in her
constrained position. How she had done it was not quite known to Phyllis
herself. In those days unequal marriages were regarded rather as a
violation of the laws of nature than as a mere infringement of
convention, the more modern view, and hence when Phyllis, of the
watering-place bourgeoisie, was chosen by such a gentlemanly fellow, it
was as if she were going to be taken to heaven, though perhaps the
uninformed would have seen no great difference in the respective
positions of the pair, the said Gould being as poor as a crow.

This pecuniary condition was his excuse-probably a true one-for
postponing their union, and as the winter drew nearer, and the King
departed for the season, Mr. Humphrey Gould set out for Bath, promising
to return to Phyllis in a few weeks. The winter arrived, the date of his
promise passed, yet Gould postponed his coming, on the ground that he
could not very easily leave his father in the city of their sojourn, the
elder having no other relative near him. Phyllis, though lonely in the
extreme, was content. The man who had asked her in marriage was a
desirable husband for her in many ways; her father highly approved of
his suit; but this neglect of her was awkward, if not painful, for
Phyllis. Love him in the true sense of the word she assured me she never
did, but she had a genuine regard for him; admired a certain methodical
and dogged way in which he sometimes took his pleasure; valued his
knowledge of what the Court was doing, had done, or was about to do; and
she was not without a feeling of pride that he had chosen her when he
might have exercised a more ambitious choice.

But he did not come; and the spring developed. His letters were regular
though formal; and it is not to be wondered that the uncertainty of her
position, IRONlinked with the fact that there was not much passion in
her thoughts of Humphrey, bred an indescribable dreariness in the heart
of Phyllis Grove. The spring was soon summer, and the summer brought the
King; but still no Humphrey Gould. All this while the engagement by
letter was maintained intact.

At this point of time a golden radiance flashed in upon the lives of
people here, and charged all youthful thought with emotional interest.
This radiance was the aforesaid York Hussars.



CHAPTER II

The present generation has probably but a very dim notion of the
celebrated York Hussars of ninety years ago. They were one of the
regiments of the King's German Legion, and (though they somewhat
degenerated later on) their brilliant uniform, their splendid horses,
and above all, their foreign air and mustachios (rare appendages then),
drew crowds of admirers of both sexes wherever they went. These with
other regiments had come to encamp on the downs and pastures, because of
the presence of the King in the neighbouring town.

The spot was high and airy, and the view extensive, commanding the Isle
of Portland in front, and reaching to St. Aldhelm's Head eastward, and
almost to the Start on the west.

Phyllis, though not precisely a girl of the village, was as interested
as any of them in this military investment. Her father's home stood
somewhat apart, and on the highest point of ground to which the lane
ascended, so that it was almost level with the top of the church tower
in the lower part of the parish. Immediately from the outside of the
garden-wall the grass spread away to a great distance, and it was
crossed by a path which came close to the wall. Ever since her childhood
it had been Phyllis's pleasure to clamber up this fence and sit on the
top-a feat not so difficult as it may seem, the walls in this district
being built of rubble, without mortar, so that there were plenty of
crevices for small toes.

She was sitting up here one day, listlessly surveying the pasture
without, when her attention was arrested by a solitary figure walking
along the path. It was one of the renowned German Hussars, and he moved
onward with his eyes on the ground, and with the manner of one who
wished to escape company. His head would probably have been bent like
his eyes but for his stiff neck-gear. On nearer view she perceived that
his face was marked with deep sadness. Without observing her, he
advanced by the footpath till it brought him almost immediately under
the wall.

Phyllis was much surprised to see a fine, tall soldier in such a mood as
this. Her theory of the military, and of the York Hussars in particular
(derived entirely from hearsay, for she had never talked to a soldier in
her life), was that their hearts were as gay as their accoutrements.

At this moment the Hussar lifted his eyes and noticed her on her perch,
the white muslin neckerchief which covered her shoulders and neck where
left bare by her low gown, and her white raiment in general, showing
conspicuously in the bright sunlight of this summer day. He blushed a
little at the suddenness of the encounter, and without halting a moment
from his pace passed on.

All that day the foreigner's face haunted Phyllis; its aspect was so
striking, so handsome, and his eyes were so blue, and sad, and
abstracted. It was perhaps only natural that on some following day at
the same hour she should look over that wall again, and wait till he had
passed a second time. On this occasion he was reading a letter, and at
the sight of her his manner was that of one who had half expected or
hoped to discover her. He almost stopped, smiled, and made a courteous
salute. The end of the meeting was that they exchanged a few words. She
asked him what he was reading, and he readily informed her that he was
re-perusing letters from his mother in Germany; he did not get them
often, he said, and was forced to read the old ones a great many times.
This was all that passed at the present interview, but others of the
same kind followed.

Phyllis used to say that his English, though not good, was quite
intelligible to her, so that their acquaintance was never hindered by
difficulties of speech. Whenever the subject became too delicate,
subtle, or tender, for such words of English as were at his command, the
eyes no doubt helped out the tongue, and-though this was later on-the
lips helped out the eyes. In short this acquaintance, unguardedly made,
and rash enough on her part, developed and ripened. Like Desdemona, she
pitied him, and learnt his history.

His name was Matth\xE4us Tina, and Saarbr\xFCck his native town, where his
mother was still living. His age was twenty-two, and he had already
risen to the grade of corporal, though he had not long been in the army.
Phyllis used to assert that no such refined or well-educated young man
could have been found in the ranks of the purely English regiments, some
of these foreign soldiers having rather the graceful manner and presence
of our native officers than of our rank and file.

She by degrees learnt from her foreign friend a circumstance about
himself and his comrades which Phyllis would least have expected of the
York Hussars. So far from being as gay as its uniform, the regiment was
pervaded by a dreadful melancholy, a chronic home-sickness, which
depressed many of the men to such an extent that they could hardly
attend to their drill. The worst sufferers were the younger soldiers who
had not been over here long. They hated England and English life; they
took no interest whatever in King George and his island kingdom, and
they only wished to be out of it and never to see it any more. Their
bodies were here, but their hearts and minds were always far away in
their dear fatherland, of which-brave men and stoical as they were in
many ways-they would speak with tears in their eyes. One of the worst of
the sufferers from this home-woe, as he called it in his own tongue, was
Matth\xE4us Tina, whose dreamy musing nature felt the gloom of exile still
more intensely from the fact that he had left a lonely mother at home
with nobody to cheer her.

Though Phyllis, touched by all this, and interested in his history, did
not disdain her soldier's acquaintance, she declined (according to her
own account, at least) to permit the young man to overstep the line of
mere friendship for a long while-as long, indeed, as she considered
herself likely to become the possession of another; though it is
probable that she had lost her heart to Matth\xE4us before she was herself
aware. The stone wall of necessity made anything like intimacy
difficult; and he had never ventured to come, or to ask to come, inside
the garden, so that all their conversation had been overtly conducted
across this boundary.



CHAPTER III

But news reached the village from a friend of Phyllis's father
concerning Mr. Humphrey Gould, her remarkably cool and patient
betrothed. This gentleman had been heard to say in Bath that he
considered his overtures to Miss Phyllis Grove to have reached only the
stage of a half-understanding; and in view of his enforced absence on
his father's account, who was too great an invalid now to attend to his
affairs, he thought it best that there should be no definite promise as
yet on either side. He was not sure, indeed, that he might not cast his
eyes elsewhere.

This account-though only a piece of hearsay, and as such entitled to no
absolute credit-tallied so well with the infrequency of his letters and
their lack of warmth, that Phyllis did not doubt its truth for one
moment; and from that hour she felt herself free to bestow her heart as
she should choose. Not so her father; he declared the whole story to be
a fabrication. He had known Mr. Gould's family from his boyhood; and if
there was one proverb which expressed the matrimonial aspect of that
family well, it was 'Love me little, love me long.' Humphrey was an
honourable man, who would not think of treating his engagement so
lightly. 'Do you wait in patience,' he said; 'all will be right enough
in time.'

From these words Phyllis at first imagined that her father was in
correspondence with Mr. Gould; and her heart sank within her; for in
spite of her original intentions she had been relieved to hear that her
engagement had come to nothing. But she presently learnt that her father
had heard no more of Humphrey Gould than she herself had done; while he
would not write and address her affianced directly on the subject, lest
it should be deemed an imputation on that bachelor's honour.

'You want an excuse for encouraging one or other of those foreign
fellows to flatter you with his unmeaning attentions,' her father
exclaimed, his mood having of late been a very unkind one towards her.
'I see more than I say. Don't you ever set foot outside that garden-
fence without my permission. If you want to see the camp I'll take you
myself some Sunday afternoon.'

Phyllis had not the smallest intention of disobeying him in her actions,
but she assumed herself to be independent with respect to her feelings.
She no longer checked her fancy for the Hussar, though she was far from
regarding him as her lover in the serious sense in which an Englishman
might have been regarded as such. The young foreign soldier was almost
an ideal being to her, with none of the appurtenances of an ordinary
house-dweller; one who had descended she knew not whence, and would
disappear she knew not whither; the subject of a fascinating dream-no
more.

They met continually now-mostly at dusk-during the brief interval
between the going down of the sun and the minute at which the last
trumpet-call summoned him to his tent. Perhaps her manner had become
less restrained latterly; at any rate that of the Hussar was so; he had
grown more tender every day, and at parting after these hurried
interviews she reached down her hand from the top of the wall that he
might press it. One evening he held it so long that she exclaimed, 'The
wall is white, and somebody in the field may see your shape against it!'

He lingered so long that night that it was with the greatest difficulty
that he could run across the intervening stretch of ground and enter the
camp in time. On the next occasion of his awaiting her she did not
appear in her usual place at the usual hour. His disappointment was
unspeakably keen; he remained staring blankly at the spot, like a man in
a trance. The trumpets and tattoo sounded, and still he did not go.

She had been delayed purely by an accident. When she arrived she was
anxious because of the lateness of the hour, having heard as well as he
the sounds denoting the closing of the camp. She implored him to leave
immediately.

'No,' he said gloomily. 'I shall not go in yet-the moment you come-I
have thought of your coming all day.'

'But you may be disgraced at being after time?'

'I don't mind that. I should have disappeared from the world some time
ago if it had not been for two persons-my beloved, here, and my mother
in Saarbr\xFCck. I hate the army. I care more for a minute of your company
than for all the promotion in the world.'

Thus he stayed and talked to her, and told her interesting details of
his native place, and incidents of his childhood, till she was in a
simmer of distress at his recklessness in remaining. It was only because
she insisted on bidding him good-night and leaving the wall that he
returned to his quarters.

The next time that she saw him he was without the stripes that had
adorned his sleeve. He had been broken to the level of private for his
lateness that night; and as Phyllis considered herself to be the cause
of his disgrace her sorrow was great. But the position was now reversed;
it was his turn to cheer her.

'Don't grieve, meine Liebliche!' he said. 'I have got a remedy for
whatever comes. First, even supposing I regain my stripes, would your
father allow you to marry a non-commissioned officer in the York
Hussars?'

She flushed. This practical step had not been in her mind in relation to
such an unrealistic person as he was; and a moment's reflection was
enough for it. 'My father would not-certainly would not,' she answered
unflinchingly. 'It cannot be thought of! My dear friend, please do
forget me: I fear I am ruining you and your prospects!'

'Not at all!' said he. 'You are giving this country of yours just
sufficient interest to me to make me care to keep alive in it. If my
dear land were here also, and my old parent, with you, I could be happy
as I am, and would do my best as a soldier. But it is not so. And now
listen. This is my plan. That you go with me to my own country, and be
my wife there, and live there with my mother and me. I am not a
Hanoverian, as you know, though I entered the army as such; my country
is by the Saar, and is at peace with France, and if I were once in it I
should be free.'

'But how get there?' she asked. Phyllis had been rather amazed than
shocked at his proposition. Her position in her father's house was
growing irksome and painful in the extreme; his parental affection
seemed to be quite dried up. She was not a native of the village, like
all the joyous girls around her; and in some way Matth\xE4us Tina had
infected her with his own passionate longing for his country, and
mother, and home.

'But how?' she repeated, finding that he did not answer. 'Will you buy
your discharge?'

'Ah, no,' he said. 'That's impossible in these times. No; I came here
against my will; why should I not escape? Now is the time, as we shall
soon be striking camp, and I might see you no more. This is my scheme. I
will ask you to meet me on the highway two miles off; on some calm night
next week that may be appointed. There will be nothing unbecoming in it,
or to cause you shame; you will not fly alone with me, for I will bring
with me my devoted young friend Christoph, an Alsatian, who has lately
joined the regiment, and who has agreed to assist in this enterprise. We
shall have come from yonder harbour, where we shall have examined the
boats, and found one suited to our purpose. Christoph has already a
chart of the Channel, and we will then go to the harbour, and at
midnight cut the boat from her moorings, and row away round the point
out of sight; and by the next morning we are on the coast of France,
near Cherbourg. The rest is easy, for I have saved money for the land
journey, and can get a change of clothes. I will write to my mother, who
will meet us on the way.'

He added details in reply to her inquiries, which left no doubt in
Phyllis's mind of the feasibility of the undertaking. But its magnitude
almost appalled her; and it is questionable if she would ever have gone
further in the wild adventure if, on entering the house that night, her
father had not accosted her in the most significant terms.

'How about the York Hussars?' he said.

'They are still at the camp; but they are soon going away, I believe.'

'It is useless for you to attempt to cloak your actions in that way. You
have been meeting one of those fellows; you have been seen walking with
him-foreign barbarians, not much better than the French themselves! I
have made up my mind-don't speak a word till I have done, please!-I have
made up my mind that you shall stay here no longer while they are on the
spot. You shall go to your aunt's.'

It was useless for her to protest that she had never taken a walk with
any soldier or man under the sun except himself. Her protestations were
feeble, too, for though he was not literally correct in his assertion,
he was virtually only half in error.

The house of her father's sister was a prison to Phyllis. She had quite
recently undergone experience of its gloom; and when her father went on
to direct her to pack what would be necessary for her to take, her heart
died within her. In after years she never attempted to excuse her
conduct during this week of agitation; but the result of her self-
communing was that she decided to join in the scheme of her lover and
his friend, and fly to the country which he had coloured with such
lovely hues in her imagination. She always said that the one feature in
his proposal which overcame her hesitation was the obvious purity and
straightforwardness of his intentions. He showed himself to be so
virtuous and kind; he treated her with a respect to which she had never
before been accustomed; and she was braced to the obvious risks of the
voyage by her confidence in him.



CHAPTER IV

It was on a soft, dark evening of the following week that they engaged
in the adventure. Tina was to meet her at a point in the highway at
which the lane to the village branched off. Christoph was to go ahead of
them to the harbour where the boat lay, row it round the Nothe-or Look-
out as it was called in those days-and pick them up on the other side of
the promontory, which they were to reach by crossing the harbour-bridge
on foot, and climbing over the Look-out hill.

As soon as her father had ascended to his room she left the house, and,
bundle in hand, proceeded at a trot along the lane. At such an hour not
a soul was afoot anywhere in the village, and she reached the junction
of the lane with the highway unobserved. Here she took up her position
in the obscurity formed by the angle of a fence, whence she could
discern every one who approached along the turnpike-road, without being
herself seen.

She had not remained thus waiting for her lover longer than a minute-
though from the tension of her nerves the lapse of even that short time
was trying-when, instead of the expected footsteps, the stage-coach
could be heard descending the hill. She knew that Tina would not show
himself till the road was clear, and waited impatiently for the coach to
pass. Nearing the corner where she was it slackened speed, and, instead
of going by as usual, drew up within a few yards of her. A passenger
alighted, and she heard his voice. It was Humphrey Gould's.

He had brought a friend with him, and luggage. The luggage was deposited
on the grass, and the coach went on its route to the royal watering-
place.

'I wonder where that young man is with the horse and trap?' said her
former admirer to his companion. 'I hope we shan't have to wait here
long. I told him half-past nine o'clock precisely.'

'Have you got her present safe?'

'Phyllis's? O, yes. It is in this trunk. I hope it will please her.'

'Of course it will. What woman would not be pleased with such a handsome
peace-offering?'

'Well-she deserves it. I've treated her rather badly. But she has been
in my mind these last two days much more than I should care to confess
to everybody. Ah, well; I'll say no more about that. It cannot be that
she is so bad as they make out. I am quite sure that a girl of her good
wit would know better than to get entangled with any of those Hanoverian
soldiers. I won't believe it of her, and there's an end on't.'

More words in the same strain were casually dropped as the two men
waited; words which revealed to her, as by a sudden illumination, the
enormity of her conduct. The conversation was at length cut off by the
arrival of the man with the vehicle. The luggage was placed in it, and
they mounted, and were driven on in the direction from which she had
just come.

Phyllis was so conscience-stricken that she was at first inclined to
follow them; but a moment's reflection led her to feel that it would
only be bare justice to Matth\xE4us to wait till he arrived, and explain
candidly that she had changed her mind-difficult as the struggle would
be when she stood face to face with him. She bitterly reproached herself
for having believed reports which represented Humphrey Gould as false to
his engagement, when, from what she now heard from his own lips, she
gathered that he had been living full of trust in her. But she knew well
enough who had won her love. Without him her life seemed a dreary
prospect, yet the more she looked at his proposal the more she feared to
accept it-so wild as it was, so vague, so venturesome. She had promised
Humphrey Gould, and it was only his assumed faithlessness which had led
her to treat that promise as nought. His solicitude in bringing her
these gifts touched her; her promise must be kept, and esteem must take
the place of love. She would preserve her self- respect. She would stay
at home, and marry him, and suffer.

Phyllis had thus braced herself to an exceptional fortitude when, a few
minutes later, the outline of Matth\xE4us Tina appeared behind a field-
gate, over which he lightly leapt as she stepped forward. There was no
evading it, he pressed her to his breast.

'It is the first and last time!' she wildly thought as she stood
encircled by his arms.

How Phyllis got through the terrible ordeal of that night she could
never clearly recollect. She always attributed her success in carrying
out her resolve to her lover's honour, for as soon as she declared to
him in feeble words that she had changed her mind, and felt that she
could not, dared not, fly with him, he forbore to urge her, grieved as
he was at her decision. Unscrupulous pressure on his part, seeing how
romantically she had become attached to him, would no doubt have turned
the balance in his favour. But he did nothing to tempt her unduly or
unfairly.

On her side, fearing for his safety, she begged him to remain. This, he
declared, could not be. 'I cannot break faith with my friend,' said he.
Had he stood alone he would have abandoned his plan. But Christoph, with
the boat and compass and chart, was waiting on the shore; the tide would
soon turn; his mother had been warned of his coming; go he must.

Many precious minutes were lost while he tarried, unable to tear himself
away. Phyllis held to her resolve, though it cost her many a bitter
pang. At last they parted, and he went down the hill. Before his
footsteps had quite died away she felt a desire to behold at least his
outline once more, and running noiselessly after him regained view of
his diminishing figure. For one moment she was sufficiently excited to
be on the point of rushing forward and IRONlinking her fate with his.
But she could not. The courage which at the critical instant failed
Cleopatra of Egypt could scarcely be expected of Phyllis Grove.

A dark shape, similar to his own, joined him in the highway. It was
Christoph, his friend. She could see no more; they had hastened on in
the direction of the town and harbour, four miles ahead. With a feeling
akin to despair she turned and slowly pursued her way homeward.

Tattoo sounded in the camp; but there was no camp for her now. It was as
dead as the camp of the Assyrians after the passage of the Destroying
Angel.

She noiselessly entered the house, seeing nobody, and went to bed.
Grief, which kept her awake at first, ultimately wrapped her in a heavy
sleep. The next morning her father met her at the foot of the stairs.

'Mr. Gould is come!' he said triumphantly.

Humphrey was staying at the inn, and had already called to inquire for
her. He had brought her a present of a very handsome looking-glass in a
frame of repouss\xE9 silverwork, which her father held in his hand. He had
promised to call again in the course of an hour, to ask Phyllis to walk
with him.

Pretty mirrors were rarer in country-houses at that day than they are
now, and the one before her won Phyllis's admiration. She looked into
it, saw how heavy her eyes were, and endeavoured to brighten them. She
was in that wretched state of mind which leads a woman to move
mechanically onward in what she conceives to be her allotted path. Mr.
Humphrey had, in his undemonstrative way, been adhering all along to the
old understanding; it was for her to do the same, and to say not a word
of her own lapse. She put on her bonnet and tippet, and when he arrived
at the hour named she was at the door awaiting him.



CHAPTER V

Phyllis thanked him for his beautiful gift; but the talking was soon
entirely on Humphrey's side as they walked along. He told her of the
latest movements of the world of fashion-a subject which she willingly
discussed to the exclusion of anything more personal-and his measured
language helped to still her disquieted heart and brain. Had not her own
sadness been what it was she must have observed his embarrassment. At
last he abruptly changed the subject.

'I am glad you are pleased with my little present,' he said. 'The truth
is that I brought it to propitiate 'ee, and to get you to help me out of
a mighty difficulty.'

It was inconceivable to Phyllis that this independent bachelor-whom she
admired in some respects-could have a difficulty.

'Phyllis-I'll tell you my secret at once; for I have a monstrous secret
to confide before I can ask your counsel. The case is, then, that I am
married: yes, I have privately married a dear young belle; and if you
knew her, and I hope you will, you would say everything in her praise.
But she is not quite the one that my father would have chose for me-you
know the paternal idea as well as I-and I have kept it secret. There
will be a terrible noise, no doubt; but I think that with your help I
may get over it. If you would only do me this good turn-when I have told
my father, I mean-say that you never could have married me, you know, or
something of that sort-'pon my life it will help to smooth the way
vastly. I am so anxious to win him round to my point of view, and not to
cause any estrangement.'

What Phyllis replied she scarcely knew, or how she counselled him as to
his unexpected situation. Yet the relief that his announcement brought
her was perceptible. To have confided her trouble in return was what her
aching heart longed to do; and had Humphrey been a woman she would
instantly have poured out her tale. But to him she feared to confess;
and there was a real reason for silence, till a sufficient time had
elapsed to allow her lover and his comrade to get out of harm's way.

As soon as she reached home again she sought a solitary place, and spent
the time in half regretting that she had not gone away, and in dreaming
over the meetings with Matth\xE4us Tina from their beginning to their end.
In his own country, amongst his own countrywomen, he would possibly soon
forget her, even to her very name.

Her listlessness was such that she did not go out of the house for
several days. There came a morning which broke in fog and mist, behind
which the dawn could be discerned in greenish grey; and the outlines of
the tents, and the rows of horses at the ropes. The smoke from the
canteen fires drooped heavily.

The spot at the bottom of the garden where she had been accustomed to
climb the wall to meet Matth\xE4us, was the only inch of English ground in
which she took any interest; and in spite of the disagreeable haze
prevailing she walked out there till she reached the well-known corner.
Every blade of grass was weighted with little liquid globes, and slugs
and snails had crept out upon the plots. She could hear the usual faint
noises from the camp, and in the other direction the trot of farmers on
the road to the town, for it was market-day. She observed that her
frequent visits to this corner had quite trodden down the grass in the
angle of the wall, and left marks of garden soil on the stepping-stones
by which she had mounted to look over the top. Seldom having gone there
till dusk, she had not considered that her traces might be visible by
day. Perhaps it was these which had revealed her trysts to her father.

While she paused in melancholy regard, she fancied that the customary
sounds from the tents were changing their character. Indifferent as
Phyllis was to camp doings now, she mounted by the steps to the old
place. What she beheld at first awed and perplexed her; then she stood
rigid, her fingers hooked to the wall, her eyes staring out of her head,
and her face as if hardened to stone.

On the open green stretching before her all the regiments in the camp
were drawn up in line, in the mid-front of which two empty coffins lay
on the ground. The unwonted sounds which she had noticed came from an
advancing procession. It consisted of the band of the York Hussars
playing a dead march; next two soldiers of that regiment in a mourning
coach, guarded on each side, and accompanied by two priests. Behind came
a crowd of rustics who had been attracted by the event. The melancholy
procession marched along the front of the line, returned to the centre,
and halted beside the coffins, where the two condemned men were
blindfolded, and each placed kneeling on his coffin; a few minutes pause
was now given, while they prayed.

A firing-party of twenty-four men stood ready with levelled carbines.
The commanding officer, who had his sword drawn, waved it through some
cuts of the sword-exercise till he reached the downward stroke, whereat
the firing-party discharged their volley. The two victims fell, one upon
his face across his coffin, the other backwards.

As the volley resounded there arose a shriek from the wall of Dr.
Grove's garden, and some one fell down inside; but nobody among the
spectators without noticed it at the time. The two executed Hussars were
Matth\xE4us Tina and his friend Christoph. The soldiers on guard placed the
bodies in the coffins almost instantly; but the colonel of the regiment,
an Englishman, rode up and exclaimed in a stern voice: 'Turn them out-as
an example to the men!'

The coffins were lifted endwise, and the dead Germans flung out upon
their faces on the grass. Then all the regiments wheeled in sections,
and marched past the spot in slow time. When the survey was over the
corpses were again coffined, and borne away.

Meanwhile Dr. Grove, attracted by the noise of the volley, had rushed
out into his garden, where he saw his wretched daughter lying motionless
against the wall. She was taken indoors, but it was long before she
recovered consciousness; and for weeks they despaired of her reason.

It transpired that the luckless deserters from the York Hussars had cut
the boat from her moorings in the adjacent harbour, according to their
plan, and, with two other comrades who were smarting under ill-treatment
from their colonel, had sailed in safety across the Channel. But
mistaking their bearings they steered into Jersey, thinking that island
the French coast. Here they were perceived to be deserters, and
delivered up to the authorities. Matth\xE4us and Christoph interceded for
the other two at the court-martial, saying that it was entirely by the
former's representations that these were induced to go. Their sentence
was accordingly commuted to flogging, the death punishment being
reserved for their leaders.

The visitor to the well-known old Georgian watering-place, who may care
to ramble to the neighbouring village under the hills, and examine the
register of burials, will there find two entries in these words:-

'Matth:-Tina (Corpl.) in His Majesty's Regmt. of York Hussars, and Shot
for Desertion, was Buried June 30th, 1801, aged 22 years. Born in the
town of Sarrbruk, Germany.

'Christoph Bless, belonging to His Majesty's Regmt. of York Hussars, who
was Shot for Desertion, was Buried June 30th, 1801, aged 22 years. Born
at Lothaargen, Alsatia.'

Their graves were dug at the back of the little church, near the wall.
There is no memorial to mark the spot, but Phyllis pointed it out to me.
While she lived she used to keep their mounds neat; but now they are
overgrown with nettles, and sunk nearly flat. The older villagers,
however, who know of the episode from their parents, still recollect the
place where the soldiers lie. Phyllis lies near.

October 1889.



THE FIDDLER OF THE REELS

'Talking of Exhibitions, World's Fairs, and what not,' said the old
gentleman, 'I would not go round the corner to see a dozen of them
nowadays. The only exhibition that ever made, or ever will make, any
impression upon my imagination was the first of the series, the parent
of them all, and now a thing of old times-the Great Exhibition of 1851,
in Hyde Park, London. None of the younger generation can realize the
sense of novelty it produced in us who were then in our prime. A noun
substantive went so far as to become an adjective in honour of the
occasion. It was "exhibition" hat, "exhibition" razor-strop,
"exhibition" watch; nay, even "exhibition" weather, "exhibition"
spirits, sweethearts, babies, wives-for the time.

'For South Wessex, the year formed in many ways an extraordinary
chronological frontier or transit-line, at which there occurred what one
might call a precipice in Time. As in a geological "fault," we had
presented to us a sudden bringing of ancient and modern into absolute
contact, such as probably in no other single year since the Conquest was
ever witnessed in this part of the country.'

These observations led us onward to talk of the different personages,
gentle and simple, who lived and moved within our narrow and peaceful
horizon at that time; and of three people in particular, whose queer
little history was oddly touched at points by the Exhibition, more
concerned with it than that of anybody else who dwelt in those outlying
shades of the world, Stickleford, Mellstock, and Egdon. First in
prominence among these three came Wat Ollamoor-if that were his real
name-whom the seniors in our party had known well.

He was a woman's man, they said,-supremely so-externally little else. To
men he was not attractive; perhaps a little repulsive at times.
Musician, dandy, and company-man in practice; veterinary surgeon in
theory, he lodged awhile in Mellstock village, coming from nobody knew
where; though some said his first appearance in this neighbourhood had
been as fiddle-player in a show at Greenhill Fair.

Many a worthy villager envied him his power over unsophisticated
maidenhood-a power which seemed sometimes to have a touch of the weird
and wizardly in it. Personally he was not ill-favoured, though rather
un-English, his complexion being a rich olive, his rank hair dark and
rather clammy-made still clammier by secret ointments, which, when he
came fresh to a party, caused him to smell like 'boys'-love'
(southernwood) steeped in lamp-oil. On occasion he wore curls-a double
row-running almost horizontally around his head. But as these were
sometimes noticeably absent, it was concluded that they were not
altogether of Nature's making. By girls whose love for him had turned to
hatred he had been nicknamed 'Mop,' from this abundance of hair, which
was long enough to rest upon his shoulders; as time passed the name more
and more prevailed.

His fiddling possibly had the most to do with the fascination he
exercised, for, to speak fairly, it could claim for itself a most
peculiar and personal quality, like that in a moving preacher. There
were tones in it which bred the immediate conviction that indolence and
averseness to systematic application were all that lay between 'Mop' and
the career of a second Paganini.

While playing he invariably closed his eyes; using no notes, and, as it
were, allowing the violin to wander on at will into the most plaintive
passages ever heard by rustic man. There was a certain lingual character
in the supplicatory expressions he produced, which would well nigh have
drawn an ache from the heart of a gate-post. He could make any child in
the parish, who was at all sensitive to music, burst into tears in a few
minutes by simply fiddling one of the old dance-tunes he almost entirely
affected-country jigs, reels, and 'Favourite Quick Steps' of the last
century-some mutilated remains of which even now reappear as nameless
phantoms in new quadrilles and gallops, where they are recognized only
by the curious, or by such old-fashioned and far- between people as have
been thrown with men like Wat Ollamoor in their early life.

His date was a little later than that of the old Mellstock quire-band
which comprised the Dewys, Mail, and the rest-in fact, he did not rise
above the horizon thereabout till those well-known musicians were
disbanded as ecclesiastical functionaries. In their honest love of
thoroughness they despised the new man's style. Theophilus Dewy (Reuben
the tranter's younger brother) used to say there was no 'plumness' in
it-no bowing, no solidity-it was all fantastical. And probably this was
true. Anyhow, Mop had, very obviously, never bowed a note of church-
music from his birth; he never once sat in the gallery of Mellstock
church where the others had tuned their venerable psalmody so many
hundreds of times; had never, in all likelihood, entered a church at
all. All were devil's tunes in his repertory. 'He could no more play the
Wold Hundredth to his true time than he could play the brazen serpent,'
the tranter would say. (The brazen serpent was supposed in Mellstock to
be a musical instrument particularly hard to blow.)

Occasionally Mop could produce the aforesaid moving effect upon the
souls of grown-up persons, especially young women of fragile and
responsive organization. Such an one was Car'line Aspent. Though she was
already engaged to be married before she met him, Car'line, of them all,
was the most influenced by Mop Ollamoor's heart-stealing melodies, to
her discomfort, nay, positive pain and ultimate injury. She was a
pretty, invocating, weak-mouthed girl, whose chief defect as a companion
with her sex was a tendency to peevishness now and then. At this time
she was not a resident in Mellstock parish where Mop lodged, but lived
some miles off at Stickleford, farther down the river.

How and where she first made acquaintance with him and his fiddling is
not truly known, but the story was that it either began or was developed
on one spring evening, when, in passing through Lower Mellstock, she
chanced to pause on the bridge near his house to rest herself, and
languidly leaned over the parapet. Mop was standing on his door-step, as
was his custom, spinning the insidious thread of semi- and demi-semi-
quavers from the E string of his fiddle for the benefit of passers-by,
and laughing as the tears rolled down the cheeks of the little children
hanging around him. Car'line pretended to be engrossed with the rippling
of the stream under the arches, but in reality she was listening, as he
knew. Presently the aching of the heart seized her simultaneously with a
wild desire to glide airily in the mazes of an infinite dance. To shake
off the fascination she resolved to go on, although it would be
necessary to pass him as he played. On stealthily glancing ahead at the
performer, she found to her relief that his eyes were closed in
abandonment to instrumentation, and she strode on boldly. But when
closer her step grew timid, her tread convulsed itself more and more
accordantly with the time of the melody, till she very nearly danced
along. Gaining another glance at him when immediately opposite, she saw
that one of his eyes was open, quizzing her as he smiled at her
emotional state. Her gait could not divest itself of its compelled
capers till she had gone a long way past the house; and Car'line was
unable to shake off the strange infatuation for hours.

After that day, whenever there was to be in the neighbourhood a dance to
which she could get an invitation, and where Mop Ollamoor was to be the
musician, Car'line contrived to be present, though it sometimes involved
a walk of several miles; for he did not play so often in Stickleford as
elsewhere.

The next evidences of his influence over her were singular enough, and
it would require a neurologist to fully explain them. She would be
sitting quietly, any evening after dark, in the house of her father, the
parish clerk, which stood in the middle of Stickleford village street,
this being the highroad between Lower Mellstock and Moreford, five miles
eastward. Here, without a moment's warning, and in the midst of a
general conversation between her father, sister, and the young man
before alluded to, who devotedly wooed her in ignorance of her
infatuation, she would start from her seat in the chimney-corner as if
she had received a galvanic shock, and spring convulsively towards the
ceiling; then she would burst into tears, and it was not till some half-
hour had passed that she grew calm as usual. Her father, knowing her
hysterical tendencies, was always excessively anxious about this trait
in his youngest girl, and feared the attack to be a species of epileptic
fit. Not so her sister Julia. Julia had found out what was the cause. At
the moment before the jumping, only an exceptionally sensitive ear
situated in the chimney-nook could have caught from down the flue the
beat of a man's footstep along the highway without. But it was in that
footfall, for which she had been waiting, that the origin of Car'line's
involuntary springing lay. The pedestrian was Mop Ollamoor, as the girl
well knew; but his business that way was not to visit her; he sought
another woman whom he spoke of as his Intended, and who lived at
Moreford, two miles farther on. On one, and only one, occasion did it
happen that Car'line could not control her utterance; it was when her
sister alone chanced to be present. 'Oh-oh-oh-!' she cried. 'He's going
to her, and not coming to me!'

To do the fiddler justice he had not at first thought greatly of, or
spoken much to, this girl of impressionable mould. But he had soon found
out her secret, and could not resist a little by-play with her too
easily hurt heart, as an interlude between his more serious performances
at Moreford. The two became well acquainted, though only by stealth,
hardly a soul in Stickleford except her sister, and her lover Ned
Hipcroft, being aware of the attachment. Her father disapproved of her
coldness to Ned; her sister, too, hoped she might get over this nervous
passion for a man of whom so little was known. The ultimate result was
that Car'line's manly and simple wooer Edward found his suit becoming
practically hopeless. He was a respectable mechanic, in a far sounder
position than Mop the nominal horse-doctor; but when, before leaving
her, Ned put his flat and final question, would she marry him, then and
there, now or never, it was with little expectation of obtaining more
than the negative she gave him. Though her father supported him and her
sister supported him, he could not play the fiddle so as to draw your
soul out of your body like a spider's thread, as Mop did, till you felt
as limp as withy-wind and yearned for something to cling to. Indeed,
Hipcroft had not the slightest ear for music; could not sing two notes
in tune, much less play them.

The No he had expected and got from her, in spite of a preliminary
encouragement, gave Ned a new start in life. It had been uttered in such
a tone of sad entreaty that he resolved to persecute her no more; she
should not even be distressed by a sight of his form in the distant
perspective of the street and lane. He left the place, and his natural
course was to London.

The railway to South Wessex was in process of construction, but it was
not as yet opened for traffic; and Hipcroft reached the capital by a six
days' trudge on foot, as many a better man had done before him. He was
one of the last of the artisan class who used that now extinct method of
travel to the great centres of labour, so customary then from time
immemorial.

In London he lived and worked regularly at his trade. More fortunate
than many, his disinterested willingness recommended him from the first.
During the ensuing four years he was never out of employment. He neither
advanced nor receded in the modern sense; he improved as a workman, but
he did not shift one jot in social position. About his love for Car'line
he maintained a rigid silence. No doubt he often thought of her; but
being always occupied, and having no relations at Stickleford, he held
no communication with that part of the country, and showed no desire to
return. In his quiet lodging in Lambeth he moved about after working-
hours with the facility of a woman, doing his own cooking, attending to
his stocking-heels, and shaping himself by degrees to a life-long
bachelorhood. For this conduct one is bound to advance the canonical
reason that time could not efface from his heart the image of little
Car'line Aspent-and it may be in part true; but there was also the
inference that his was a nature not greatly dependent upon the
ministrations of the other sex for its comforts.

The fourth year of his residence as a mechanic in London was the year of
the Hyde-Park Exhibition already mentioned, and at the construction of
this huge glass-house, then unexampled in the world's history, he worked
daily. It was an era of great hope and activity among the nations and
industries. Though Hipcroft was, in his small way, a central man in the
movement, he plodded on with his usual outward placidity. Yet for him,
too, the year was destined to have its surprises, for when the bustle of
getting the building ready for the opening day was past, the ceremonies
had been witnessed, and people were flocking thither from all parts of
the globe, he received a letter from Car'line. Till that day the silence
of four years between himself and Stickleford had never been broken.

She informed her old lover, in an uncertain penmanship which suggested a
trembling hand, of the trouble she had been put to in ascertaining his
address, and then broached the subject which had prompted her to write.
Four years ago, she said with the greatest delicacy of which she was
capable, she had been so foolish as to refuse him. Her wilful wrong-
headedness had since been a grief to her many times, and of late
particularly. As for Mr. Ollamoor, he had been absent almost as long as
Ned-she did not know where. She would gladly marry Ned now if he were to
ask her again, and be a tender little wife to him till her life's end.

A tide of warm feeling must have surged through Ned Hipcroft's frame on
receipt of this news, if we may judge by the issue. Unquestionably he
loved her still, even if not to the exclusion of every other happiness.
This from his Car'line, she who had been dead to him these many years,
alive to him again as of old, was in itself a pleasant, gratifying
thing. Ned had grown so resigned to, or satisfied with, his lonely lot,
that he probably would not have shown much jubilation at anything.
Still, a certain ardour of preoccupation, after his first surprise,
revealed how deeply her confession of faith in him had stirred him.
Measured and methodical in his ways, he did not answer the letter that
day, nor the next, nor the next. He was having 'a good think.' When he
did answer it, there was a great deal of sound reasoning mixed in with
the unmistakable tenderness of his reply; but the tenderness itself was
sufficient to reveal that he was pleased with her straightforward
frankness; that the anchorage she had once obtained in his heart was
renewable, if it had not been continuously firm.

He told her-and as he wrote his lips twitched humorously over the few
gentle words of raillery he indited among the rest of his sentences-that
it was all very well for her to come round at this time of day. Why
wouldn't she have him when he wanted her? She had no doubt learned that
he was not married, but suppose his affections had since been fixed on
another? She ought to beg his pardon. Still, he was not the man to
forget her. But considering how he had been used, and what he had
suffered, she could not quite expect him to go down to Stickleford and
fetch her. But if she would come to him, and say she was sorry, as was
only fair; why, yes, he would marry her, knowing what a good little
woman she was at the core. He added that the request for her to come to
him was a less one to make than it would have been when he first left
Stickleford, or even a few months ago; for the new railway into South
Wessex was now open, and there had just begun to be run wonderfully
contrived special trains, called excursion-trains, on account of the
Great Exhibition; so that she could come up easily alone.

She said in her reply how good it was of him to treat her so generously,
after her hot and cold treatment of him; that though she felt frightened
at the magnitude of the journey, and was never as yet in a railway-
train, having only seen one pass at a distance, she embraced his offer
with all her heart; and would, indeed, own to him how sorry she was, and
beg his pardon, and try to be a good wife always, and make up for lost
time.

The remaining details of when and where were soon settled, Car'line
informing him, for her ready identification in the crowd, that she would
be wearing 'my new sprigged-laylock cotton gown,' and Ned gaily
responding that, having married her the morning after her arrival, he
would make a day of it by taking her to the Exhibition. One early summer
afternoon, accordingly, he came from his place of work, and hastened
towards Waterloo Station to meet her. It was as wet and chilly as an
English June day can occasionally be, but as he waited on the platform
in the drizzle he glowed inwardly, and seemed to have something to live
for again.

The 'excursion-train'-an absolutely new departure in the history of
travel-was still a novelty on the Wessex line, and probably everywhere.
Crowds of people had flocked to all the stations on the way up to
witness the unwonted sight of so long a train's passage, even where they
did not take advantage of the opportunity it offered. The seats for the
humbler class of travellers in these early experiments in steam-
locomotion, were open trucks, without any protection whatever from the
wind and rain; and damp weather having set in with the afternoon, the
unfortunate occupants of these vehicles were, on the train drawing up at
the London terminus, found to be in a pitiable condition from their long
journey; blue-faced, stiff-necked, sneezing, rain-beaten, chilled to the
marrow, many of the men being hatless; in fact, they resembled people
who had been out all night in an open boat on a rough sea, rather than
inland excursionists for pleasure. The women had in some degree
protected themselves by turning up the skirts of their gowns over their
heads, but as by this arrangement they were additionally exposed about
the hips, they were all more or less in a sorry plight.

In the bustle and crush of alighting forms of both sexes which followed
the entry of the huge concatenation into the station, Ned Hipcroft soon
discerned the slim little figure his eye was in search of, in the
sprigged lilac, as described. She came up to him with a frightened
smile-still pretty, though so damp, weather-beaten, and shivering from
long exposure to the wind.

'O Ned!' she sputtered, 'I-I-' He clasped her in his arms and kissed
her, whereupon she burst into a flood of tears.

'You are wet, my poor dear! I hope you'll not get cold,' he said. And
surveying her and her multifarious surrounding packages, he noticed that
by the hand she led a toddling child-a little girl of three or so-whose
hood was as clammy and tender face as blue as those of the other
travellers.

'Who is this-somebody you know?' asked Ned curiously.

'Yes, Ned. She's mine.'

'Yours?'

'Yes-my own!'

'Your own child?'

'Yes!'

'Well-as God's in-'

'Ned, I didn't name it in my letter, because, you see, it would have
been so hard to explain! I thought that when we met I could tell you how
she happened to be born, so much better than in writing! I hope you'll
excuse it this once, dear Ned, and not scold me, now I've come so many,
many miles!'

'This means Mr. Mop Ollamoor, I reckon!' said Hipcroft, gazing palely at
them from the distance of the yard or two to which he had withdrawn with
a start.

Car'line gasped. 'But he's been gone away for years!' she supplicated.
'And I never had a young man before! And I was so onlucky to be catched
the first time, though some of the girls down there go on like
anything!'

Ned remained in silence, pondering.

'You'll forgive me, dear Ned?' she added, beginning to sob outright. 'I
haven't taken 'ee in after all, because-because you can pack us back
again, if you want to; though 'tis hundreds o' miles, and so wet, and
night a-coming on, and I with no money!'

'What the devil can I do!' Hipcroft groaned.

A more pitiable picture than the pair of helpless creatures presented
was never seen on a rainy day, as they stood on the great, gaunt,
puddled platform, a whiff of drizzle blowing under the roof upon them
now and then; the pretty attire in which they had started from
Stickleford in the early morning bemuddled and sodden, weariness on
their faces, and fear of him in their eyes; for the child began to look
as if she thought she too had done some wrong, remaining in an appalled
silence till the tears rolled down her chubby cheeks.

'What's the matter, my little maid?' said Ned mechanically.

'I do want to go home!' she let out, in tones that told of a bursting
heart. 'And my totties be cold, an' I shan't have no bread an' butter no
more!'

'I don't know what to say to it all!' declared Ned, his own eye moist as
he turned and walked a few steps with his head down; then regarded them
again point blank. From the child escaped troubled breaths and silently
welling tears.

'Want some bread and butter, do 'ee?' he said, with factitious hardness.

'Ye-e-s!'

'Well, I daresay I can get 'ee a bit! Naturally, you must want some. And
you, too, for that matter, Car'line.'

'I do feel a little hungered. But I can keep it off,' she murmured.

'Folk shouldn't do that,' he said gruffly. . . . 'There come along!' he
caught up the child, as he added, 'You must bide here to-night, anyhow,
I s'pose! What can you do otherwise? I'll get 'ee some tea and victuals;
and as for this job, I'm sure I don't know what to say! This is the way
out.'

They pursued their way, without speaking, to Ned's lodgings, which were
not far off. There he dried them and made them comfortable, and prepared
tea; they thankfully sat down. The ready-made household of which he
suddenly found himself the head imparted a cosy aspect to his room, and
a paternal one to himself. Presently he turned to the child and kissed
her now blooming cheeks; and, looking wistfully at Car'line, kissed her
also.

'I don't see how I can send 'ee back all them miles,' he growled, 'now
you've come all the way o' purpose to join me. But you must trust me,
Car'line, and show you've real faith in me. Well, do you feel better
now, my little woman?'

The child nodded, her mouth being otherwise occupied.

'I did trust you, Ned, in coming; and I shall always!'

Thus, without any definite agreement to forgive her, he tacitly
acquiesced in the fate that Heaven had sent him; and on the day of their
marriage (which was not quite so soon as he had expected it could be, on
account of the time necessary for banns) he took her to the Exhibition
when they came back from church, as he had promised. While standing near
a large mirror in one of the courts devoted to furniture, Car'line
started, for in the glass appeared the reflection of a form exactly
resembling Mop Ollamoor's-so exactly, that it seemed impossible to
believe anybody but that artist in person to be the original. On passing
round the objects which hemmed in Ned, her, and the child from a direct
view, no Mop was to be seen. Whether he were really in London or not at
that time was never known; and Car'line always stoutly denied that her
readiness to go and meet Ned in town arose from any rumour that Mop had
also gone thither; which denial there was no reasonable ground for
doubting.

And then the year glided away, and the Exhibition folded itself up and
became a thing of the past. The park trees that had been enclosed for
six months were again exposed to the winds and storms, and the sod grew
green anew. Ned found that Car'line resolved herself into a very good
wife and companion, though she had made herself what is called cheap to
him; but in that she was like another domestic article, a cheap tea-pot,
which often brews better tea than a dear one. One autumn Hipcroft found
himself with but little work to do, and a prospect of less for the
winter. Both being country born and bred, they fancied they would like
to live again in their natural atmosphere. It was accordingly decided
between them that they should leave the pent-up London lodging, and that
Ned should seek out employment near his native place, his wife and her
daughter staying with Car'line's father during the search for occupation
and an abode of their own.

Tinglings of pleasure pervaded Car'line's spasmodic little frame as she
journeyed down with Ned to the place she had left two or three years
before, in silence and under a cloud. To return to where she had once
been despised, a smiling London wife with a distinct London accent, was
a triumph which the world did not witness every day.

The train did not stop at the petty roadside station that lay nearest to
Stickleford, and the trio went on to Casterbridge. Ned thought it a good
opportunity to make a few preliminary inquiries for employment at
workshops in the borough where he had been known; and feeling cold from
her journey, and it being dry underfoot and only dusk as yet, with a
moon on the point of rising, Car'line and her little girl walked on
toward Stickleford, leaving Ned to follow at a quicker pace, and pick
her up at a certain half-way house, widely known as an inn.

The woman and child pursued the well-remembered way comfortably enough,
though they were both becoming wearied. In the course of three miles
they had passed Heedless-William's Pond, the familiar landmark by
Bloom's End, and were drawing near the Quiet Woman Inn, a lone roadside
hostel on the lower verge of the Egdon Heath, since and for many years
abolished. In stepping up towards it Car'line heard more voices within
than had formerly been customary at such an hour, and she learned that
an auction of fat stock had been held near the spot that afternoon. The
child would be the better for a rest as well as herself, she thought,
and she entered.

The guests and customers overflowed into the passage, and Car'line had
no sooner crossed the threshold than a man whom she remembered by sight
came forward with glass and mug in his hands towards a friend leaning
against the wall; but, seeing her, very gallantly offered her a drink of
the liquor, which was gin-and-beer hot, pouring her out a tumblerful and
saying, in a moment or two: 'Surely, 'tis little Car'line Aspent that
was-down at Stickleford?'

She assented, and, though she did not exactly want this beverage, she
drank it since it was offered, and her entertainer begged her to come in
farther and sit down. Once within the room she found that all the
persons present were seated close against the walls, and there being a
chair vacant she did the same. An explanation of their position occurred
the next moment. In the opposite corner stood Mop, rosining his bow and
looking just the same as ever. The company had cleared the middle of the
room for dancing, and they were about to dance again. As she wore a veil
to keep off the wind she did not think he had recognized her, or could
possibly guess the identity of the child; and to her satisfied surprise
she found that she could confront him quite calmly-mistress of herself
in the dignity her London life had given her. Before she had quite
emptied her glass the dance was called, the dancers formed in two lines,
the music sounded, and the figure began.

Then matters changed for Car'line. A tremor quickened itself to life in
her, and her hand so shook that she could hardly set down her glass. It
was not the dance nor the dancers, but the notes of that old violin
which thrilled the London wife, these having still all the witchery that
she had so well known of yore, and under which she had used to lose her
power of independent will. How it all came back! There was the fiddling
figure against the wall; the large, oily, mop-like head of him, and
beneath the mop the face with closed eyes.

After the first moments of paralyzed reverie the familiar tune in the
familiar rendering made her laugh and shed tears simultaneously. Then a
man at the bottom of the dance, whose partner had dropped away,
stretched out his hand and beckoned to her to take the place. She did
not want to dance; she entreated by signs to be left where she was, but
she was entreating of the tune and its player rather than of the dancing
man. The saltatory tendency which the fiddler and his cunning instrument
had ever been able to start in her was seizing Car'line just as it had
done in earlier years, possibly assisted by the gin-and-beer hot. Tired
as she was she grasped her little girl by the hand, and plunging in at
the bottom of the figure, whirled about with the rest. She found that
her companions were mostly people of the neighbouring hamlets and farms-
Bloom's End, Mellstock, Lewgate, and elsewhere; and by degrees she was
recognized as she convulsively danced on, wishing that Mop would cease
and let her heart rest from the aching he caused, and her feet also.

After long and many minutes the dance ended, when she was urged to
fortify herself with more gin-and-beer; which she did, feeling very weak
and overpowered with hysteric emotion. She refrained from unveiling, to
keep Mop in ignorance of her presence, if possible. Several of the
guests having left, Car'line hastily wiped her lips and also turned to
go; but, according to the account of some who remained, at that very
moment a five-handed reel was proposed, in which two or three begged her
to join.

She declined on the plea of being tired and having to walk to
Stickleford, when Mop began aggressively tweedling 'My Fancy-Lad,' in D
major, as the air to which the reel was to be footed. He must have
recognized her, though she did not know it, for it was the strain of all
seductive strains which she was least able to resist-the one he had
played when she was leaning over the bridge at the date of their first
acquaintance. Car'line stepped despairingly into the middle of the room
with the other four.

Reels were resorted to hereabouts at this time by the more robust
spirits, for the reduction of superfluous energy which the ordinary
figure-dances were not powerful enough to exhaust. As everybody knows,
or does not know, the five reelers stood in the form of a cross, the
reel being performed by each line of three alternately, the persons who
successively came to the middle place dancing in both directions.
Car'line soon found herself in this place, the axis of the whole
performance, and could not get out of it, the tune turning into the
first part without giving her opportunity. And now she began to suspect
that Mop did know her, and was doing this on purpose, though whenever
she stole a glance at him his closed eyes betokened obliviousness to
everything outside his own brain. She continued to wend her way through
the figure of 8 that was formed by her course, the fiddler introducing
into his notes the wild and agonizing sweetness of a living voice in one
too highly wrought; its pathos running high and running low in endless
variation, projecting through her nerves excruciating spasms, a sort of
blissful torture. The room swam, the tune was endless; and in about a
quarter of an hour the only other woman in the figure dropped out
exhausted, and sank panting on a bench.

The reel instantly resolved itself into a four-handed one. Car'line
would have given anything to leave off; but she had, or fancied she had,
no power, while Mop played such tunes; and thus another ten minutes
slipped by, a haze of dust now clouding the candles, the floor being of
stone, sanded. Then another dancer fell out-one of the men-and went into
the passage, in a frantic search for liquor. To turn the figure into a
three-handed reel was the work of a second, Mop modulating at the same
time into 'The Fairy Dance,' as better suited to the contracted
movement, and no less one of those foods of love which, as manufactured
by his bow, had always intoxicated her.

In a reel for three there was no rest whatever, and four or five minutes
were enough to make her remaining two partners, now thoroughly blown,
stamp their last bar and, like their predecessors, limp off into the
next room to get something to drink. Car'line, half-stifled inside her
veil, was left dancing alone, the apartment now being empty of everybody
save herself, Mop, and their little girl.

She flung up the veil, and cast her eyes upon him, as if imploring him
to withdraw himself and his acoustic magnetism from the atmosphere. Mop
opened one of his own orbs, as though for the first time, fixed it
peeringly upon her, and smiling dreamily, threw into his strains the
reserve of expression which he could not afford to waste on a big and
noisy dance. Crowds of little chromatic subtleties, capable of drawing
tears from a statue, proceeded straightway from the ancient fiddle, as
if it were dying of the emotion which had been pent up within it ever
since its banishment from some Italian city where it first took shape
and sound. There was that in the look of Mop's one dark eye which said:
'You cannot leave off, dear, whether you would or no!' and it bred in
her a paroxysm of desperation that defied him to tire her down.

She thus continued to dance alone, defiantly as she thought, but in
truth slavishly and abjectly, subject to every wave of the melody, and
probed by the gimlet-like gaze of her fascinator's open eye; keeping up
at the same time a feeble smile in his face, as a feint to signify it
was still her own pleasure which led her on. A terrified embarrassment
as to what she could say to him if she were to leave off, had its
unrecognized share in keeping her going. The child, who was beginning to
be distressed by the strange situation, came up and said: 'Stop, mother,
stop, and let's go home!' as she seized Car'line's hand.

Suddenly Car'line sank staggering to the floor; and rolling over on her
face, prone she remained. Mop's fiddle thereupon emitted an elfin shriek
of finality; stepping quickly down from the nine-gallon beer-cask which
had formed his rostrum, he went to the little girl, who disconsolately
bent over her mother.

The guests who had gone into the back-room for liquor and change of air,
hearing something unusual, trooped back hitherward, where they
endeavoured to revive poor, weak Car'line by blowing her with the
bellows and opening the window. Ned, her husband, who had been detained
in Casterbridge, as aforesaid, came along the road at this juncture, and
hearing excited voices through the open casement, and to his great
surprise, the mention of his wife's name, he entered amid the rest upon
the scene. Car'line was now in convulsions, weeping violently, and for a
long time nothing could be done with her. While he was sending for a
cart to take her onward to Stickleford Hipcroft anxiously inquired how
it had all happened; and then the assembly explained that a fiddler
formerly known in the locality had lately revisited his old haunts, and
had taken upon himself without invitation to play that evening at the
inn.

Ned demanded the fiddler's name, and they said Ollamoor.

'Ah!' exclaimed Ned, looking round him. 'Where is he, and where-where's
my little girl?'

Ollamoor had disappeared, and so had the child. Hipcroft was in ordinary
a quiet and tractable fellow, but a determination which was to be feared
settled in his face now. 'Blast him!' he cried. 'I'll beat his skull in
for'n, if I swing for it to-morrow!'

He had rushed to the poker which lay on the hearth, and hastened down
the passage, the people following. Outside the house, on the other side
of the highway, a mass of dark heath-land rose sullenly upward to its
not easily accessible interior, a ravined plateau, whereon jutted into
the sky, at the distance of a couple of miles, the fir-woods of Mistover
backed by the Yalbury coppices-a place of Dantesque gloom at this hour,
which would have afforded secure hiding for a battery of artillery, much
less a man and a child.

Some other men plunged thitherward with him, and more went along the
road. They were gone about twenty minutes altogether, returning without
result to the inn. Ned sat down in the settle, and clasped his forehead
with his hands.

'Well-what a fool the man is, and hev been all these years, if he thinks
the child his, as a' do seem to!' they whispered. 'And everybody else
knowing otherwise!'

'No, I don't think 'tis mine!' cried Ned hoarsely, as he looked up from
his hands. 'But she is mine, all the same! Ha'n't I nussed her? Ha'n't I
fed her and teached her? Ha'n't I played wi' her? O, little Carry-gone
with that rogue-gone!'

'You ha'n't lost your mis'ess, anyhow,' they said to console him. 'She's
throwed up the sperrits, and she is feeling better, and she's more to
'ee than a child that isn't yours.'

'She isn't! She's not so particular much to me, especially now she's
lost the little maid! But Carry's everything!'

'Well, ver' like you'll find her to-morrow.'

'Ah-but shall I? Yet he can't hurt her-surely he can't! Well-how's
Car'line now? I am ready. Is the cart here?'

She was lifted into the vehicle, and they sadly lumbered on toward
Stickleford. Next day she was calmer; but the fits were still upon her;
and her will seemed shattered. For the child she appeared to show
singularly little anxiety, though Ned was nearly distracted. It was
nevertheless quite expected that the impish Mop would restore the lost
one after a freak of a day or two; but time went on, and neither he nor
she could be heard of, and Hipcroft murmured that perhaps he was
exercising upon her some unholy musical charm, as he had done upon
Car'line herself. Weeks passed, and still they could obtain no clue
either to the fiddler's whereabouts or the girl's; and how he could have
induced her to go with him remained a mystery.

Then Ned, who had obtained only temporary employment in the
neighbourhood, took a sudden hatred toward his native district, and a
rumour reaching his ears through the police that a somewhat similar man
and child had been seen at a fair near London, he playing a violin, she
dancing on stilts, a new interest in the capital took possession of
Hipcroft with an intensity which would scarcely allow him time to pack
before returning thither.

He did not, however, find the lost one, though he made it the entire
business of his over-hours to stand about in by-streets in the hope of
discovering her, and would start up in the night, saying, 'That rascal's
torturing her to maintain him!' To which his wife would answer
peevishly, 'Don't 'ee raft yourself so, Ned! You prevent my getting a
bit o' rest! He won't hurt her!' and fall asleep again.

That Carry and her father had emigrated to America was the general
opinion; Mop, no doubt, finding the girl a highly desirable companion
when he had trained her to keep him by her earnings as a dancer. There,
for that matter, they may be performing in some capacity now, though he
must be an old scamp verging on threescore-and-ten, and she a woman of
four-and-forty.

May 1893.



A TRADITION OF EIGHTEEN HUNDRED AND FOUR

The widely discussed possibility of an invasion of England through a
Channel tunnel has more than once recalled old Solomon Selby's story to
my mind.

The occasion on which I numbered myself among his audience was one
evening when he was sitting in the yawning chimney-corner of the inn-
kitchen, with some others who had gathered there, and I entered for
shelter from the rain. Withdrawing the stem of his pipe from the dental
notch in which it habitually rested, he leaned back in the recess behind
him and smiled into the fire. The smile was neither mirthful nor sad,
not precisely humorous nor altogether thoughtful. We who knew him
recognized it in a moment: it was his narrative smile. Breaking off our
few desultory remarks we drew up closer, and he thus began:-

'My father, as you mid know, was a shepherd all his life, and lived out
by the Cove four miles yonder, where I was born and lived likewise, till
I moved here shortly afore I was married. The cottage that first knew me
stood on the top of the down, near the sea; there was no house within a
mile and a half of it; it was built o' purpose for the farm-shepherd,
and had no other use. They tell me that it is now pulled down, but that
you can see where it stood by the mounds of earth and a few broken
bricks that are still lying about. It was a bleak and dreary place in
winter-time, but in summer it was well enough, though the garden never
came to much, because we could not get up a good shelter for the
vegetables and currant bushes; and where there is much wind they don't
thrive.

'Of all the years of my growing up the ones that bide clearest in my
mind were eighteen hundred and three, four, and five. This was for two
reasons: I had just then grown to an age when a child's eyes and ears
take in and note down everything about him, and there was more at that
date to bear in mind than there ever has been since with me. It was, as
I need hardly tell ye, the time after the first peace, when Bonaparte
was scheming his descent upon England. He had crossed the great Alp
mountains, fought in Egypt, drubbed the Turks, the Austrians, and the
Proossians, and now thought he'd have a slap at us. On the other side of
the Channel, scarce out of sight and hail of a man standing on our
English shore, the French army of a hundred and sixty thousand men and
fifteen thousand horses had been brought together from all parts, and
were drilling every day. Bonaparte had been three years a-making his
preparations; and to ferry these soldiers and cannon and horses across
he had contrived a couple of thousand flat-bottomed boats. These boats
were small things, but wonderfully built. A good few of 'em were so made
as to have a little stable on board each for the two horses that were to
haul the cannon carried at the stern. To get in order all these, and
other things required, he had assembled there five or six thousand
fellows that worked at trades-carpenters, blacksmiths, wheelwrights,
saddlers, and what not. O 'twas a curious time!

'Every morning Neighbour Boney would muster his multitude of soldiers on
the beach, draw 'em up in line, practise 'em in the manoeuvre of
embarking, horses and all, till they could do it without a single hitch.
My father drove a flock of ewes up into Sussex that year, and as he went
along the drover's track over the high downs thereabout he could see
this drilling actually going on-the accoutrements of the rank and file
glittering in the sun like silver. It was thought and always said by my
uncle Job, sergeant of foot (who used to know all about these matters),
that Bonaparte meant to cross with oars on a calm night. The grand query
with us was, Where would my gentleman land? Many of the common people
thought it would be at Dover; others, who knew how unlikely it was that
any skilful general would make a business of landing just where he was
expected, said he'd go either east into the River Thames, or west'ard to
some convenient place, most likely one of the little bays inside the
Isle of Portland, between the Beal and St. Alban's Head-and for choice
the three-quarter-round Cove, screened from every mortal eye, that
seemed made o' purpose, out by where we lived, and which I've climmed up
with two tubs of brandy across my shoulders on scores o' dark nights in
my younger days. Some had heard that a part o' the French fleet would
sail right round Scotland, and come up the Channel to a suitable haven.
However, there was much doubt upon the matter; and no wonder, for after-
years proved that Bonaparte himself could hardly make up his mind upon
that great and very particular point, where to land. His uncertainty
came about in this wise, that he could get no news as to where and how
our troops lay in waiting, and that his knowledge of possible places
where flat-bottomed boats might be quietly run ashore, and the men they
brought marshalled in order, was dim to the last degree. Being flat-
bottomed, they didn't require a harbour for unshipping their cargo of
men, but a good shelving beach away from sight, and with a fair open
road toward London. How the question posed that great Corsican tyrant
(as we used to call him), what pains he took to settle it, and, above
all, what a risk he ran on one particular night in trying to do so, were
known only to one man here and there; and certainly to no maker of
newspapers or printer of books, or my account o't would not have had so
many heads shaken over it as it has by gentry who only believe what they
see in printed lines.

'The flocks my father had charge of fed all about the downs near our
house, overlooking the sea and shore each way for miles. In winter and
early spring father was up a deal at nights, watching and tending the
lambing. Often he'd go to bed early, and turn out at twelve or one; and
on the other hand, he'd sometimes stay up till twelve or one, and then
turn in to bed. As soon as I was old enough I used to help him, mostly
in the way of keeping an eye upon the ewes while he was gone home to
rest. This is what I was doing in a particular month in either the year
four or five-I can't certainly fix which, but it was long before I was
took away from the sheepkeeping to be bound prentice to a trade. Every
night at that time I was at the fold, about half a mile, or it may be a
little more, from our cottage, and no living thing at all with me but
the ewes and young lambs. Afeard? No; I was never afeard of being alone
at these times; for I had been reared in such an out-step place that the
lack o' human beings at night made me less fearful than the sight of
'em. Directly I saw a man's shape after dark in a lonely place I was
frightened out of my senses.

'One day in that month we were surprised by a visit from my uncle Job,
the sergeant in the Sixty-first foot, then in camp on the downs above
King George's watering-place, several miles to the west yonder. Uncle
Job dropped in about dusk, and went up with my father to the fold for an
hour or two. Then he came home, had a drop to drink from the tub of
sperrits that the smugglers kept us in for housing their liquor when
they'd made a run, and for burning 'em off when there was danger. After
that he stretched himself out on the settle to sleep. I went to bed: at
one o'clock father came home, and waking me to go and take his place,
according to custom, went to bed himself. On my way out of the house I
passed Uncle Job on the settle. He opened his eyes, and upon my telling
him where I was going he said it was a shame that such a youngster as I
should go up there all alone; and when he had fastened up his stock and
waist-belt he set off along with me, taking a drop from the sperrit-tub
in a little flat bottle that stood in the corner-cupboard.

'By and by we drew up to the fold, saw that all was right, and then, to
keep ourselves warm, curled up in a heap of straw that lay inside the
thatched hurdles we had set up to break the stroke of the wind when
there was any. To-night, however, there was none. It was one of those
very still nights when, if you stand on the high hills anywhere within
two or three miles of the sea, you can hear the rise and fall of the
tide along the shore, coming and going every few moments like a sort of
great snore of the sleeping world. Over the lower ground there was a bit
of a mist, but on the hill where we lay the air was clear, and the moon,
then in her last quarter, flung a fairly good light on the grass and
scattered straw.

'While we lay there Uncle Job amused me by telling me strange stories of
the wars he had served in and the wounds he had got. He had already
fought the French in the Low Countries, and hoped to fight 'em again.
His stories lasted so long that at last I was hardly sure that I was not
a soldier myself, and had seen such service as he told of. The wonders
of his tales quite bewildered my mind, till I fell asleep and dreamed of
battle, smoke, and flying soldiers, all of a kind with the doings he had
been bringing up to me.

'How long my nap lasted I am not prepared to say. But some faint sounds
over and above the rustle of the ewes in the straw, the bleat of the
lambs, and the tinkle of the sheep-bell brought me to my waking senses.
Uncle Job was still beside me; but he too had fallen asleep. I looked
out from the straw, and saw what it was that had aroused me. Two men, in
boat-cloaks, cocked hats, and swords, stood by the hurdles about twenty
yards off.

'I turned my ear thitherward to catch what they were saying, but though
I heard every word o't, not one did I understand. They spoke in a tongue
that was not ours-in French, as I afterward found. But if I could not
gain the meaning of a word, I was shrewd boy enough to find out a deal
of the talkers' business. By the light o' the moon I could see that one
of 'em carried a roll of paper in his hand, while every moment he spoke
quick to his comrade, and pointed right and left with the other hand to
spots along the shore. There was no doubt that he was explaining to the
second gentleman the shapes and features of the coast. What happened
soon after made this still clearer to me.

'All this time I had not waked Uncle Job, but now I began to be afeared
that they might light upon us, because uncle breathed so heavily
through's nose. I put my mouth to his ear and whispered, "Uncle Job."

'"What is it, my boy?" he said, just as if he hadn't been asleep at all.

'"Hush!" says I. "Two French generals-"

'"French?" says he.

'"Yes," says I. "Come to see where to land their army!"

'I pointed 'em out; but I could say no more, for the pair were coming at
that moment much nearer to where we lay. As soon as they got as near as
eight or ten yards, the officer with a roll in his hand stooped down to
a slanting hurdle, unfastened his roll upon it, and spread it out. Then
suddenly he sprung a dark lantern open on the paper, and showed it to be
a map.

'"What be they looking at?" I whispered to Uncle Job.

'"A chart of the Channel," says the sergeant (knowing about such
things).

'The other French officer now stooped likewise, and over the map they
had a long consultation, as they pointed here and there on the paper,
and then hither and thither at places along the shore beneath us. I
noticed that the manner of one officer was very respectful toward the
other, who seemed much his superior, the second in rank calling him by a
sort of title that I did not know the sense of. The head one, on the
other hand, was quite familiar with his friend, and more than once
clapped him on the shoulder.

'Uncle Job had watched as well as I, but though the map had been in the
lantern-light, their faces had always been in shade. But when they rose
from stooping over the chart the light flashed upward, and fell smart
upon one of 'em's features. No sooner had this happened than Uncle Job
gasped, and sank down as if he'd been in a fit.

'"What is it-what is it, Uncle Job?" said I.

'"O good God!" says he, under the straw.

'"What?" says I.

'"Boney!" he groaned out.

'"Who?" says I.

'"Bonaparty," he said. "The Corsican ogre. O that I had got but my new-
flinted firelock, that there man should die! But I haven't got my new-
flinted firelock, and that there man must live. So lie low, as you value
your life!"

'I did lie low, as you mid suppose. But I couldn't help peeping. And
then I too, lad as I was, knew that it was the face of Bonaparte. Not
know Boney? I should think I did know Boney. I should have known him by
half the light o' that lantern. If I had seen a picture of his features
once, I had seen it a hundred times. There was his bullet head, his
short neck, his round yaller cheeks and chin, his gloomy face, and his
great glowing eyes. He took off his hat to blow himself a bit, and there
was the forelock in the middle of his forehead, as in all the draughts
of him. In moving, his cloak fell a little open, and I could see for a
moment his white-fronted jacket and one of his epaulets.

'But none of this lasted long. In a minute he and his general had rolled
up the map, shut the lantern, and turned to go down toward the shore.

'Then Uncle Job came to himself a bit. "Slipped across in the night-
time to see how to put his men ashore," he said. "The like o' that man's
coolness eyes will never again see! Nephew, I must act in this, and
immediate, or England's lost!"

'When they were over the brow, we crope out, and went some little way to
look after them. Half-way down they were joined by two others, and six
or seven minutes brought them to the shore. Then, from behind a rock, a
boat came out into the weak moonlight of the Cove, and they jumped in;
it put off instantly, and vanished in a few minutes between the two
rocks that stand at the mouth of the Cove as we all know. We climmed
back to where we had been before, and I could see, a little way out, a
larger vessel, though still not very large. The little boat drew up
alongside, was made fast at the stern as I suppose, for the largest
sailed away, and we saw no more.

'My uncle Job told his officers as soon as he got back to camp; but what
they thought of it I never heard-neither did he. Boney's army never
came, and a good job for me; for the Cove below my father's house was
where he meant to land, as this secret visit showed. We coast-folk
should have been cut down one and all, and I should not have sat here to
tell this tale.'

We who listened to old Selby that night have been familiar with his
simple grave-stone for these ten years past. Thanks to the incredulity
of the age his tale has been seldom repeated. But if anything short of
the direct testimony of his own eyes could persuade an auditor that
Bonaparte had examined these shores for himself with a view to a
practicable landing-place, it would have been Solomon Selby's manner of
narrating the adventure which befell him on the down.

Christmas 1882.



A FEW CRUSTED CHARACTERS

It is a Saturday afternoon of blue and yellow autumn time, and the scene
is the High Street of a well-known market-town. A large carrier's van
stands in the quadrangular fore-court of the White Hart Inn, upon the
sides of its spacious tilt being painted, in weather-beaten letters:
'Burthen, Carrier to Longpuddle.' These vans, so numerous hereabout, are
a respectable, if somewhat lumbering, class of conveyance, much resorted
to by decent travellers not overstocked with money, the better among
them roughly corresponding to the old French diligences.

The present one is timed to leave the town at four in the afternoon
precisely, and it is now half-past three by the clock in the turret at
the top of the street. In a few seconds errand-boys from the shops begin
to arrive with packages, which they fling into the vehicle, and turn
away whistling, and care for the packages no more. At twenty minutes to
four an elderly woman places her basket upon the shafts, slowly mounts,
takes up a seat inside, and folds her hands and her lips. She has
secured her corner for the journey, though there is as yet no sign of a
horse being put in, nor of a carrier. At the three-quarters, two other
women arrive, in whom the first recognizes the postmistress of Upper
Longpuddle and the registrar's wife, they recognizing her as the aged
groceress of the same village. At five minutes to the hour there
approach Mr. Profitt, the schoolmaster, in a soft felt hat, and
Christopher Twink, the master-thatcher; and as the hour strikes there
rapidly drop in the parish clerk and his wife, the seedsman and his aged
father, the registrar; also Mr. Day, the world-ignored local landscape-
painter, an elderly man who resides in his native place, and has never
sold a picture outside it, though his pretensions to art have been nobly
supported by his fellow-villagers, whose confidence in his genius has
been as remarkable as the outer neglect of it, leading them to buy his
paintings so extensively (at the price of a few shillings each, it is
true) that every dwelling in the parish exhibits three or four of those
admired productions on its walls.

Burthen, the carrier, is by this time seen bustling round the vehicle;
the horses are put in, the proprietor arranges the reins and springs up
into his seat as if he were used to it-which he is.

'Is everybody here?' he asks preparatorily over his shoulder to the
passengers within.

As those who were not there did not reply in the negative the muster was
assumed to be complete, and after a few hitches and hindrances the van
with its human freight was got under way. It jogged on at an easy pace
till it reached the bridge which formed the last outpost of the town.
The carrier pulled up suddenly.

'Bless my soul!' he said, 'I've forgot the curate!'

All who could do so gazed from the little back window of the van, but
the curate was not in sight.

'Now I wonder where that there man is?' continued the carrier.

'Poor man, he ought to have a living at his time of life.'

'And he ought to be punctual,' said the carrier. '"Four o'clock sharp is
my time for starting," I said to 'en. And he said, "I'll be there." Now
he's not here, and as a serious old church-minister he ought to be as
good as his word. Perhaps Mr. Flaxton knows, being in the same line of
life?' He turned to the parish clerk.

'I was talking an immense deal with him, that's true, half an hour ago,'
replied that ecclesiastic, as one of whom it was no erroneous
supposition that he should be on intimate terms with another of the
cloth. 'But he didn't say he would be late.'

The discussion was cut off by the appearance round the corner of the van
of rays from the curate's spectacles, followed hastily by his face and a
few white whiskers, and the swinging tails of his long gaunt coat.
Nobody reproached him, seeing how he was reproaching himself; and he
entered breathlessly and took his seat.

'Now be we all here?' said the carrier again. They started a second
time, and moved on till they were about three hundred yards out of the
town, and had nearly reached the second bridge, behind which, as every
native remembers, the road takes a turn and travellers by this highway
disappear finally from the view of gazing burghers.

'Well, as I'm alive!' cried the postmistress from the interior of the
conveyance, peering through the little square back-window along the road
townward.

'What?' said the carrier.

'A man hailing us!'

Another sudden stoppage. 'Somebody else?' the carrier asked.

'Ay, sure!' All waited silently, while those who could gaze out did so.

'Now, who can that be?' Burthen continued. 'I just put it to ye,
neighbours, can any man keep time with such hindrances? Bain't we full
a'ready? Who in the world can the man be?'

'He's a sort of gentleman,' said the schoolmaster, his position
commanding the road more comfortably than that of his comrades.

The stranger, who had been holding up his umbrella to attract their
notice, was walking forward leisurely enough, now that he found, by
their stopping, that it had been secured. His clothes were decidedly not
of a local cut, though it was difficult to point out any particular mark
of difference. In his left hand he carried a small leather travelling
bag. As soon as he had overtaken the van he glanced at the inscription
on its side, as if to assure himself that he had hailed the right
conveyance, and asked if they had room.

The carrier replied that though they were pretty well laden he supposed
they could carry one more, whereupon the stranger mounted, and took the
seat cleared for him within. And then the horses made another move, this
time for good, and swung along with their burden of fourteen souls all
told.

'You bain't one of these parts, sir?' said the carrier. 'I could tell
that as far as I could see 'ee.'

'Yes, I am one of these parts,' said the stranger.

'Oh? H'm.'

The silence which followed seemed to imply a doubt of the truth of the
new-comer's assertion. 'I was speaking of Upper Longpuddle more
particular,' continued the carrier hardily, 'and I think I know most
faces of that valley.'

'I was born at Longpuddle, and nursed at Longpuddle, and my father and
grandfather before me,' said the passenger quietly.

'Why, to be sure,' said the aged groceress in the background, 'it isn't
John Lackland's son-never-it can't be-he who went to foreign parts five-
and-thirty years ago with his wife and family? Yet-what do I hear?-
that's his father's voice!'

'That's the man,' replied the stranger. 'John Lackland was my father,
and I am John Lackland's son. Five-and-thirty years ago, when I was a
boy of eleven, my parents emigrated across the seas, taking me and my
sister with them. Kytes's boy Tony was the one who drove us and our
belongings to Casterbridge on the morning we left; and his was the last
Longpuddle face I saw. We sailed the same week across the ocean, and
there we've been ever since, and there I've left those I went with-all
three.'

'Alive or dead?'

'Dead,' he replied in a low voice. 'And I have come back to the old
place, having nourished a thought-not a definite intention, but just a
thought-that I should like to return here in a year or two, to spend the
remainder of my days.'

'Married man, Mr. Lackland?'

'No.'

'And have the world used 'ee well, sir-or rather John, knowing 'ee as a
child? In these rich new countries that we hear of so much, you've got
rich with the rest?'

'I am not very rich,' Mr. Lackland said. 'Even in new countries, you
know, there are failures. The race is not always to the swift, nor the
battle to the strong; and even if it sometimes is, you may be neither
swift nor strong. However, that's enough about me. Now, having answered
your inquiries, you must answer mine; for being in London, I have come
down here entirely to discover what Longpuddle is looking like, and who
are living there. That was why I preferred a seat in your van to hiring
a carriage for driving across.'

'Well, as for Longpuddle, we rub on there much as usual. Old figures
have dropped out o' their frames, so to speak it, and new ones have been
put in their places. You mentioned Tony Kytes as having been the one to
drive your family and your goods to Casterbridge in his father's waggon
when you left. Tony is, I believe, living still, but not at Longpuddle.
He went away and settled at Lewgate, near Mellstock, after his marriage.
Ah, Tony was a sort o' man!'

'His character had hardly come out when I knew him.'

'No. But 'twas well enough, as far as that goes-except as to women. I
shall never forget his courting-never!'

The returned villager waited silently, and the carrier went on:-



TONY KYTES, THE ARCH-DECEIVER

'I shall never forget Tony's face. 'Twas a little, round, firm, tight
face, with a seam here and there left by the smallpox, but not enough to
hurt his looks in a woman's eye, though he'd had it badish when he was a
boy. So very serious looking and unsmiling 'a was, that young man, that
it really seemed as if he couldn't laugh at all without great pain to
his conscience. He looked very hard at a small speck in your eye when
talking to 'ee. And there was no more sign of a whisker or beard on Tony
Kytes's face than on the palm of my hand. He used to sing "The Tailor's
Breeches" with a religious manner, as if it were a hymn:-

'"O the petticoats went off, and the breeches they went on!"

and all the rest of the scandalous stuff. He was quite the women's
favourite, and in return for their likings he loved 'em in shoals.

'But in course of time Tony got fixed down to one in particular, Milly
Richards, a nice, light, small, tender little thing; and it was soon
said that they were engaged to be married. One Saturday he had been to
market to do business for his father, and was driving home the waggon in
the afternoon. When he reached the foot of the very hill we shall be
going over in ten minutes who should he see waiting for him at the top
but Unity Sallet, a handsome girl, one of the young women he'd been very
tender toward before he'd got engaged to Milly.

'As soon as Tony came up to her she said, "My dear Tony, will you give
me a lift home?"

'"That I will, darling," said Tony. "You don't suppose I could refuse
'ee?"

'She smiled a smile, and up she hopped, and on drove Tony.

'"Tony," she says, in a sort of tender chide, "why did ye desert me for
that other one? In what is she better than I? I should have made 'ee a
finer wife, and a more loving one too. 'Tisn't girls that are so easily
won at first that are the best. Think how long we've known each other-
ever since we were children almost-now haven't we, Tony?"

'"Yes, that we have," says Tony, a-struck with the truth o't.

'"And you've never seen anything in me to complain of, have ye, Tony?
Now tell the truth to me?"

'"I never have, upon my life," says Tony.

'"And-can you say I'm not pretty, Tony? Now look at me!"

'He let his eyes light upon her for a long while. "I really can't," says
he. "In fact, I never knowed you was so pretty before!"

'"Prettier than she?"

'What Tony would have said to that nobody knows, for before he could
speak, what should he see ahead, over the hedge past the turning, but a
feather he knew well-the feather in Milly's hat-she to whom he had been
thinking of putting the question as to giving out the banns that very
week.

'"Unity," says he, as mild as he could, "here's Milly coming. Now I
shall catch it mightily if she sees 'ee riding here with me; and if you
get down she'll be turning the corner in a moment, and, seeing 'ee in
the road, she'll know we've been coming on together. Now, dearest Unity,
will ye, to avoid all unpleasantness, which I know ye can't bear any
more than I, will ye lie down in the back part of the waggon, and let me
cover you over with the tarpaulin till Milly has passed? It will all be
done in a minute. Do!-and I'll think over what we've said; and perhaps I
shall put a loving question to you after all, instead of to Milly.
'Tisn't true that it is all settled between her and me."

'Well, Unity Sallet agreed, and lay down at the back end of the waggon,
and Tony covered her over, so that the waggon seemed to be empty but for
the loose tarpaulin; and then he drove on to meet Milly.

'"My dear Tony!" cries Milly, looking up with a little pout at him as he
came near. "How long you've been coming home! Just as if I didn't live
at Upper Longpuddle at all! And I've come to meet you as you asked me to
do, and to ride back with you, and talk over our future home-since you
asked me, and I promised. But I shouldn't have come else, Mr. Tony!"

'"Ay, my dear, I did ask ye-to be sure I did, now I think of it-but I
had quite forgot it. To ride back with me, did you say, dear Milly?"

'"Well, of course! What can I do else? Surely you don't want me to walk,
now I've come all this way?"

'"O no, no! I was thinking you might be going on to town to meet your
mother. I saw her there-and she looked as if she might be expecting
'ee."

'"O no; she's just home. She came across the fields, and so got back
before you."

'"Ah! I didn't know that," says Tony. And there was no help for it but
to take her up beside him.

'They talked on very pleasantly, and looked at the trees, and beasts,
and birds, and insects, and at the ploughmen at work in the fields, till
presently who should they see looking out of the upper window of a house
that stood beside the road they were following, but Hannah Jolliver,
another young beauty of the place at that time, and the very first woman
that Tony had fallen in love with-before Milly and before Unity, in
fact-the one that he had almost arranged to marry instead of Milly. She
was a much more dashing girl than Milly Richards, though he'd not
thought much of her of late. The house Hannah was looking from was her
aunt's.

'"My dear Milly-my coming wife, as I may call 'ee," says Tony in his
modest way, and not so loud that Unity could overhear, "I see a young
woman alooking out of window, who I think may accost me. The fact is,
Milly, she had a notion that I was wishing to marry her, and since she's
discovered I've promised another, and a prettier than she, I'm rather
afeard of her temper if she sees us together. Now, Milly, would you do
me a favour-my coming wife, as I may say?"

'"Certainly, dearest Tony," says she.

'"Then would ye creep under the empty sacks just here in the front of
the waggon, and hide there out of sight till we've passed the house? She
hasn't seen us yet. You see, we ought to live in peace and good- will
since 'tis almost Christmas, and 'twill prevent angry passions rising,
which we always should do."

'"I don't mind, to oblige you, Tony," Milly said; and though she didn't
care much about doing it, she crept under, and crouched down just behind
the seat, Unity being snug at the other end. So they drove on till they
got near the road-side cottage. Hannah had soon seen him coming, and
waited at the window, looking down upon him. She tossed her head a
little disdainful and smiled off-hand.

'"Well, aren't you going to be civil enough to ask me to ride home with
you!" she says, seeing that he was for driving past with a nod and a
smile.

'"Ah, to be sure! What was I thinking of?" said Tony, in a flutter. "But
you seem as if you was staying at your aunt's?"

'"No, I am not," she said. "Don't you see I have my bonnet and jacket
on? I have only called to see her on my way home. How can you be so
stupid, Tony?"

'"In that case-ah-of course you must come along wi' me," says Tony,
feeling a dim sort of sweat rising up inside his clothes. And he reined
in the horse, and waited till she'd come downstairs, and then helped her
up beside him. He drove on again, his face as long as a face that was a
round one by nature well could be.

'Hannah looked round sideways into his eyes. "This is nice, isn't it,
Tony?" she says. "I like riding with you."

'Tony looked back into her eyes. "And I with you," he said after a
while. In short, having considered her, he warmed up, and the more he
looked at her the more he liked her, till he couldn't for the life of
him think why he had ever said a word about marriage to Milly or Unity
while Hannah Jolliver was in question. So they sat a little closer and
closer, their feet upon the foot-board and their shoulders touching, and
Tony thought over and over again how handsome Hannah was. He spoke
tenderer and tenderer, and called her "dear Hannah" in a whisper at
last.

'"You've settled it with Milly by this time, I suppose," said she.

'"N-no, not exactly."

'"What? How low you talk, Tony."

'"Yes-I've a kind of hoarseness. I said, not exactly."

'"I suppose you mean to?"

'"Well, as to that-" His eyes rested on her face, and hers on his. He
wondered how he could have been such a fool as not to follow up Hannah.
"My sweet Hannah!" he bursts out, taking her hand, not being really able
to help it, and forgetting Milly and Unity, and all the world besides.
"Settled it? I don't think I have!"

'"Hark!" says Hannah.

'"What?" says Tony, letting go her hand.

'"Surely I heard a sort of little screaming squeak under those sacks?
Why, you've been carrying corn, and there's mice in this waggon, I
declare!" She began to haul up the tails of her gown.

'"Oh no; 'tis the axle," said Tony in an assuring way. "It do go like
that sometimes in dry weather."

'"Perhaps it was . . . Well, now, to be quite honest, dear Tony, do you
like her better than me? Because-because, although I've held off so
independent, I'll own at last that I do like 'ee, Tony, to tell the
truth; and I wouldn't say no if you asked me-you know what."

'Tony was so won over by this pretty offering mood of a girl who had
been quite the reverse (Hannah had a backward way with her at times, if
you can mind) that he just glanced behind, and then whispered very soft,
"I haven't quite promised her, and I think I can get out of it, and ask
you that question you speak of."

'"Throw over Milly?-all to marry me! How delightful!" broke out Hannah,
quite loud, clapping her hands.

'At this there was a real squeak-an angry, spiteful squeak, and
afterward a long moan, as if something had broke its heart, and a
movement of the empty sacks.

'"Something's there!" said Hannah, starting up.

'"It's nothing, really," says Tony in a soothing voice, and praying
inwardly for a way out of this. "I wouldn't tell 'ee at first, because I
wouldn't frighten 'ee. But, Hannah, I've really a couple of ferrets in a
bag under there, for rabbiting, and they quarrel sometimes. I don't wish
it knowed, as 'twould be called poaching. Oh, they can't get out, bless
ye-you are quite safe! And-and-what a fine day it is, isn't it, Hannah,
for this time of year? Be you going to market next Saturday? How is your
aunt now?" And so on, says Tony, to keep her from talking any more about
love in Milly's hearing.

'But he found his work cut out for him, and wondering again how he
should get out of this ticklish business, he looked about for a chance.
Nearing home he saw his father in a field not far off, holding up his
hand as if he wished to speak to Tony.

'"Would you mind taking the reins a moment, Hannah," he said, much
relieved, "while I go and find out what father wants?"

'She consented, and away he hastened into the field, only too glad to
get breathing time. He found that his father was looking at him with
rather a stern eye.

'"Come, come, Tony," says old Mr. Kytes, as soon as his son was
alongside him, "this won't do, you know."

'"What?" says Tony.

'"Why, if you mean to marry Milly Richards, do it, and there's an end
o't. But don't go driving about the country with Jolliver's daughter and
making a scandal. I won't have such things done."

'"I only asked her-that is, she asked me, to ride home."

'"She? Why, now, if it had been Milly, 'twould have been quite proper;
but you and Hannah Jolliver going about by yourselves-"

'"Milly's there too, father."

'"Milly? Where?"

'"Under the corn-sacks! Yes, the truth is, father, I've got rather into
a nunny-watch, I'm afeard! Unity Sallet is there too-yes, at the other
end, under the tarpaulin. All three are in that waggon, and what to do
with 'em I know no more than the dead! The best plan is, as I'm
thinking, to speak out loud and plain to one of 'em before the rest, and
that will settle it; not but what 'twill cause 'em to kick up a bit of a
miff, for certain. Now which would you marry, father, if you was in my
place?"

'"Whichever of 'em did not ask to ride with thee."

'"That was Milly, I'm bound to say, as she only mounted by my
invitation. But Milly-"

"Then stick to Milly, she's the best . . . But look at that!"

'His father pointed toward the waggon. "She can't hold that horse in.
You shouldn't have left the reins in her hands. Run on and take the
horse's head, or there'll be some accident to them maids!"

'Tony's horse, in fact, in spite of Hannah's tugging at the reins, had
started on his way at a brisk walking pace, being very anxious to get
back to the stable, for he had had a long day out. Without another word
Tony rushed away from his father to overtake the horse.

'Now of all things that could have happened to wean him from Milly there
was nothing so powerful as his father's recommending her. No; it could
not be Milly, after all. Hannah must be the one, since he could not
marry all three. This he thought while running after the waggon. But
queer things were happening inside it.

'It was, of course, Milly who had screamed under the sack-bags, being
obliged to let off her bitter rage and shame in that way at what Tony
was saying, and never daring to show, for very pride and dread o' being
laughed at, that she was in hiding. She became more and more restless,
and in twisting herself about, what did she see but another woman's foot
and white stocking close to her head. It quite frightened her, not
knowing that Unity Sallet was in the waggon likewise. But after the
fright was over she determined to get to the bottom of all this, and she
crept and crept along the bed of the waggon, under the tarpaulin, like a
snake, when lo and behold she came face to face with Unity.

'"Well, if this isn't disgraceful!" says Milly in a raging whisper to
Unity.

'"'Tis," says Unity, "to see you hiding in a young man's waggon like
this, and no great character belonging to either of ye!"

'"Mind what you are saying!" replied Milly, getting louder. "I am
engaged to be married to him, and haven't I a right to be here? What
right have you, I should like to know? What has he been promising you? A
pretty lot of nonsense, I expect! But what Tony says to other women is
all mere wind, and no concern to me!"

'"Don't you be too sure!" says Unity. "He's going to have Hannah, and
not you, nor me either; I could hear that."

'Now at these strange voices sounding from under the cloth Hannah was
thunderstruck a'most into a swound; and it was just at this time that
the horse moved on. Hannah tugged away wildly, not knowing what she was
doing; and as the quarrel rose louder and louder Hannah got so horrified
that she let go the reins altogether. The horse went on at his own pace,
and coming to the corner where we turn round to drop down the hill to
Lower Longpuddle he turned too quick, the off wheels went up the bank,
the waggon rose sideways till it was quite on edge upon the near axles,
and out rolled the three maidens into the road in a heap.

'When Tony came up, frightened and breathless, he was relieved enough to
see that neither of his darlings was hurt, beyond a few scratches from
the brambles of the hedge. But he was rather alarmed when he heard how
they were going on at one another.

'"Don't ye quarrel, my dears-don't ye!" says he, taking off his hat out
of respect to 'em. And then he would have kissed them all round, as fair
and square as a man could, but they were in too much of a taking to let
him, and screeched and sobbed till they was quite spent.

'"Now I'll speak out honest, because I ought to," says Tony, as soon as
he could get heard. "And this is the truth," says he. "I've asked Hannah
to be mine, and she is willing, and we are going to put up the banns
next-"

'Tony had not noticed that Hannah's father was coming up behind, nor had
he noticed that Hannah's face was beginning to bleed from the scratch of
a bramble. Hannah had seen her father, and had run to him, crying worse
than ever.

'"My daughter is not willing, sir!" says Mr. Jolliver hot and strong.
"Be you willing, Hannah? I ask ye to have spirit enough to refuse him,
if yer virtue is left to 'ee and you run no risk?"

'"She's as sound as a bell for me, that I'll swear!" says Tony, flaring
up. "And so's the others, come to that, though you may think it an
onusual thing in me!"

'"I have spirit, and I do refuse him!" says Hannah, partly because her
father was there, and partly, too, in a tantrum because of the
discovery, and the scratch on her face. "Little did I think when I was
so soft with him just now that I was talking to such a false deceiver!"

'"What, you won't have me, Hannah?" says Tony, his jaw hanging down like
a dead man's.

'"Never-I would sooner marry no-nobody at all!" she gasped out, though
with her heart in her throat, for she would not have refused Tony if he
had asked her quietly, and her father had not been there, and her face
had not been scratched by the bramble. And having said that, away she
walked upon her father's arm, thinking and hoping he would ask her
again.

'Tony didn't know what to say next. Milly was sobbing her heart out; but
as his father had strongly recommended her he couldn't feel inclined
that way. So he turned to Unity.

'"Well, will you, Unity dear, be mine?" he says.

'"Take her leavings? Not I!" says Unity. "I'd scorn it!" And away walks
Unity Sallet likewise, though she looked back when she'd gone some way,
to see if he was following her.

'So there at last were left Milly and Tony by themselves, she crying in
watery streams, and Tony looking like a tree struck by lightning.

'"Well, Milly," he says at last, going up to her, "it do seem as if fate
had ordained that it should be you and I, or nobody. And what must be
must be, I suppose. Hey, Milly?"

'"If you like, Tony. You didn't really mean what you said to them?"

'"Not a word of it!" declares Tony, bringing down his fist upon his
palm.

'And then he kissed her, and put the waggon to rights, and they mounted
together; and their banns were put up the very next Sunday. I was not
able to go to their wedding, but it was a rare party they had, by all
account. Everybody in Longpuddle was there almost; you among the rest, I
think, Mr. Flaxton?' The speaker turned to the parish clerk.

'I was,' said Mr. Flaxton. 'And that party was the cause of a very
curious change in some other people's affairs; I mean in Steve
Hardcome's and his cousin James's.'

'Ah! the Hardcomes,' said the stranger. 'How familiar that name is to
me! What of them?'

The clerk cleared his throat and began:-



THE HISTORY OF THE HARDCOMES

'Yes, Tony's was the very best wedding-randy that ever I was at; and
I've been at a good many, as you may suppose'-turning to the newly-
arrived one-'having as a church-officer, the privilege to attend all
christening, wedding, and funeral parties-such being our Wessex custom.

''Twas on a frosty night in Christmas week, and among the folk invited
were the said Hardcomes o' Climmerston-Steve and James-first cousins,
both of them small farmers, just entering into business on their own
account. With them came, as a matter of course, their intended wives,
two young women of the neighbourhood, both very pretty and sprightly
maidens, and numbers of friends from Abbot's-Cernel, and Weatherbury,
and Mellstock, and I don't know where-a regular houseful.

'The kitchen was cleared of furniture for dancing, and the old folk
played at "Put" and "All-fours" in the parlour, though at last they gave
that up to join in the dance. The top of the figure was by the large
front window of the room, and there were so many couples that the lower
part of the figure reached through the door at the back, and into the
darkness of the out-house; in fact, you couldn't see the end of the row
at all, and 'twas never known exactly how long that dance was, the
lowest couples being lost among the faggots and brushwood in the out-
house.

'When we had danced a few hours, and the crowns of we taller men were
swelling into lumps with bumping the beams of the ceiling, the first
fiddler laid down his fiddle-bow, and said he should play no more, for
he wished to dance. And in another hour the second fiddler laid down
his, and said he wanted to dance too; so there was only the third
fiddler left, and he was a' old, veteran man, very weak in the wrist.
However, he managed to keep up a faltering tweedle-dee; but there being
no chair in the room, and his knees being as weak as his wrists, he was
obliged to sit upon as much of the little corner-table as projected
beyond the corner-cupboard fixed over it, which was not a very wide seat
for a man advanced in years.

'Among those who danced most continually were the two engaged couples,
as was natural to their situation. Each pair was very well matched, and
very unlike the other. James Hardcome's intended was called Emily Darth,
and both she and James were gentle, nice-minded, in-door people, fond of
a quiet life. Steve and his chosen, named Olive Pawle, were different;
they were of a more bustling nature, fond of racketing about and seeing
what was going on in the world. The two couples had arranged to get
married on the same day, and that not long thence; Tony's wedding being
a sort of stimulant, as is often the case; I've noticed it
professionally many times.

'They danced with such a will as only young people in that stage of
courtship can dance; and it happened that as the evening wore on James
had for his partner Stephen's plighted one, Olive, at the same time that
Stephen was dancing with James's Emily. It was noticed that in spite o'
the exchange the young men seemed to enjoy the dance no less than
before. By and by they were treading another tune in the same changed
order as we had noticed earlier, and though at first each one had held
the other's mistress strictly at half-arm's length, lest there should be
shown any objection to too close quarters by the lady's proper man, as
time passed there was a little more closeness between 'em; and presently
a little more closeness still.

'The later it got the more did each of the two cousins dance with the
wrong young girl, and the tighter did he hold her to his side as he
whirled her round; and, what was very remarkable, neither seemed to mind
what the other was doing. The party began to draw towards its end, and I
saw no more that night, being one of the first to leave, on account of
my morning's business. But I learnt the rest of it from those that knew.

'After finishing a particularly warming dance with the changed partners,
as I've mentioned, the two young men looked at one another, and in a
moment or two went out into the porch together.

'"James," says Steve, "what were you thinking of when you were dancing
with my Olive?"

'"Well," said James, "perhaps what you were thinking of when you were
dancing with my Emily."

'"I was thinking," said Steve, with some hesitation, "that I wouldn't
mind changing for good and all!"

'"It was what I was feeling likewise," said James.

'"I willingly agree to it, if you think we could manage it."

'"So do I. But what would the girls say?"

'"'Tis my belief," said Steve, "that they wouldn't particularly object.
Your Emily clung as close to me as if she already belonged to me, dear
girl."

'"And your Olive to me," says James. "I could feel her heart beating
like a clock."

'Well, they agreed to put it to the girls when they were all four
walking home together. And they did so. When they parted that night the
exchange was decided on-all having been done under the hot excitement of
that evening's dancing. Thus it happened that on the following Sunday
morning, when the people were sitting in church with mouths wide open to
hear the names published as they had expected, there was no small
amazement to hear them coupled the wrong way, as it seemed. The
congregation whispered, and thought the parson had made a mistake; till
they discovered that his reading of the names was verily the true way.
As they had decided, so they were married, each one to the other's
original property.

'Well, the two couples lived on for a year or two ordinarily enough,
till the time came when these young people began to grow a little less
warm to their respective spouses, as is the rule of married life; and
the two cousins wondered more and more in their hearts what had made 'em
so mad at the last moment to marry crosswise as they did, when they
might have married straight, as was planned by nature, and as they had
fallen in love. 'Twas Tony's party that had done it, plain enough, and
they half wished they had never gone there. James, being a quiet,
fireside, perusing man, felt at times a wide gap between himself and
Olive, his wife, who loved riding and driving and out-door jaunts to a
degree; while Steve, who was always knocking about hither and thither,
had a very domestic wife, who worked samplers, and made hearthrugs,
scarcely ever wished to cross the threshold, and only drove out with him
to please him.

'However, they said very little about this mismating to any of their
acquaintances, though sometimes Steve would look at James's wife and
sigh, and James would look at Steve's wife and do the same. Indeed, at
last the two men were frank enough towards each other not to mind
mentioning it quietly to themselves, in a long-faced, sorry-smiling,
whimsical sort of way, and would shake their heads together over their
foolishness in upsetting a well-considered choice on the strength of an
hour's fancy in the whirl and wildness of a dance. Still, they were
sensible and honest young fellows enough, and did their best to make
shift with their lot as they had arranged it, and not to repine at what
could not now be altered or mended.

'So things remained till one fine summer day they went for their yearly
little outing together, as they had made it their custom to do for a
long while past. This year they chose Budmouth-Regis as the place to
spend their holiday in; and off they went in their best clothes at nine
o'clock in the morning.

'When they had reached Budmouth-Regis they walked two and two along the
shore-their new boots going squeakity-squash upon the clammy velvet
sands. I can seem to see 'em now! Then they looked at the ships in the
harbour; and then went up to the Look-out; and then had dinner at an
inn; and then again walked two and two, squeakity-squash, upon the
velvet sands. As evening drew on they sat on one of the public seats
upon the Esplanade, and listened to the band; and then they said "What
shall we do next?"

'"Of all things," said Olive (Mrs. James Hardcome, that is), "I should
like to row in the bay! We could listen to the music from the water as
well as from here, and have the fun of rowing besides."

'"The very thing; so should I," says Stephen, his tastes being always
like hers.

Here the clerk turned to the curate.

'But you, sir, know the rest of the strange particulars of that strange
evening of their lives better than anybody else, having had much of it
from their own lips, which I had not; and perhaps you'll oblige the
gentleman?'

'Certainly, if it is wished,' said the curate. And he took up the
clerk's tale:-

'Stephen's wife hated the sea, except from land, and couldn't bear the
thought of going into a boat. James, too, disliked the water, and said
that for his part he would much sooner stay on and listen to the band in
the seat they occupied, though he did not wish to stand in his wife's
way if she desired a row. The end of the discussion was that James and
his cousin's wife Emily agreed to remain where they were sitting and
enjoy the music, while they watched the other two hire a boat just
beneath, and take their water-excursion of half an hour or so, till they
should choose to come back and join the sitters on the Esplanade; when
they would all start homeward together.

'Nothing could have pleased the other two restless ones better than this
arrangement; and Emily and James watched them go down to the boatman
below and choose one of the little yellow skiffs, and walk carefully out
upon the little plank that was laid on trestles to enable them to get
alongside the craft. They saw Stephen hand Olive in, and take his seat
facing her; when they were settled they waved their hands to the couple
watching them, and then Stephen took the pair of sculls and pulled off
to the tune beat by the band, she steering through the other boats
skimming about, for the sea was as smooth as glass that evening, and
pleasure-seekers were rowing everywhere.

'"How pretty they look moving on, don't they?" said Emily to James (as
I've been assured). "They both enjoy it equally. In everything their
likings are the same."

'"That's true," said James.

'"They would have made a handsome pair if they had married," said she.

'"Yes," said he. "'Tis a pity we should have parted 'em"

'"Don't talk of that, James," said she. "For better or for worse we
decided to do as we did, and there's an end of it."

'They sat on after that without speaking, side by side, and the band
played as before; the people strolled up and down; and Stephen and Olive
shrank smaller and smaller as they shot straight out to sea. The two on
shore used to relate how they saw Stephen stop rowing a moment, and take
off his coat to get at his work better; but James's wife sat quite still
in the stern, holding the tiller-ropes by which she steered the boat.
When they had got very small indeed she turned her head to shore.

'"She is waving her handkerchief to us," said Stephen's wife, who
thereupon pulled out her own, and waved it as a return signal.

'The boat's course had been a little awry while Mrs. James neglected her
steering to wave her handkerchief to her husband and Mrs. Stephen; but
now the light skiff went straight onward again, and they could soon see
nothing more of the two figures it contained than Olive's light mantle
and Stephen's white shirt sleeves behind.

'The two on the shore talked on. "'Twas very curious-our changing
partners at Tony Kytes's wedding," Emily declared. "Tony was of a fickle
nature by all account, and it really seemed as if his character had
infected us that night. Which of you two was it that first proposed not
to marry as we were engaged?"

'"H'm-I can't remember at this moment," says James. "We talked it over,
you know; and no sooner said than done."

'"'Twas the dancing," said she. "People get quite crazy sometimes in a
dance."

'"They do," he owned.

'"James-do you think they care for one another still?" asks Mrs.
Stephen.

'James Hardcome mused and admitted that perhaps a little tender feeling
might flicker up in their hearts for a moment now and then. "Still,
nothing of any account," he said.

'"I sometimes think that Olive is in Steve's mind a good deal," murmurs
Mrs. Stephen; "particularly when she pleases his fancy by riding past
our window at a gallop on one of the draught-horses . . . I never could
do anything of that sort; I could never get over my fear of a horse."

'"And I am no horseman, though I pretend to be on her account," murmured
James Hardcome. "But isn't it almost time for them to turn and sweep
round to the shore, as the other boating folk have done? I wonder what
Olive means by steering away straight to the horizon like that? She has
hardly swerved from a direct line seaward since they started."

'"No doubt they are talking, and don't think of where they are going,"
suggests Stephen's wife.

'"Perhaps so," said James. "I didn't know Steve could row like that."

'"O yes," says she. "He often comes here on business, and generally has
a pull round the bay."

'"I can hardly see the boat or them," says James again; "and it is
getting dark."

'The heedless pair afloat now formed a mere speck in the films of the
coming night, which thickened apace, till it completely swallowed up
their distant shapes. They had disappeared while still following the
same straight course away from the world of land-livers, as if they were
intending to drop over the sea-edge into space, and never return to
earth again.

'The two on the shore continued to sit on, punctually abiding by their
agreement to remain on the same spot till the others returned. The
Esplanade lamps were lit one by one, the bandsmen folded up their stands
and departed, the yachts in the bay hung out their riding lights, and
the little boats came back to shore one after another, their hirers
walking on to the sands by the plank they had climbed to go afloat; but
among these Stephen and Olive did not appear.

'"What a time they are!" said Emily. "I am getting quite chilly. I did
not expect to have to sit so long in the evening air."

'Thereupon James Hardcome said that he did not require his overcoat, and
insisted on lending it to her.

'He wrapped it round Emily's shoulders.

'"Thank you, James," she said. "How cold Olive must be in that thin
jacket!"

'He said he was thinking so too. "Well, they are sure to be quite close
at hand by this time, though we can't see 'em. The boats are not all in
yet. Some of the rowers are fond of paddling along the shore to finish
out their hour of hiring."

'"Shall we walk by the edge of the water," said she, "to see if we can
discover them?"

'He assented, reminding her that they must not lose sight of the seat,
lest the belated pair should return and miss them, and be vexed that
they had not kept the appointment.

'They walked a sentry beat up and down the sands immediately opposite
the seat; and still the others did not come. James Hardcome at last went
to the boatman, thinking that after all his wife and cousin might have
come in under shadow of the dusk without being perceived, and might have
forgotten the appointment at the bench.

'"All in?" asked James.

'"All but one boat," said the lessor. "I can't think where that couple
is keeping to. They might run foul of something or other in the dark."

'Again Stephen's wife and Olive's husband waited, with more and more
anxiety. But no little yellow boat returned. Was it possible they could
have landed further down the Esplanade?

'"It may have been done to escape paying," said the boat-owner. "But
they didn't look like people who would do that."

'James Hardcome knew that he could found no hope on such a reason as
that. But now, remembering what had been casually discussed between
Steve and himself about their wives from time to time, he admitted for
the first time the possibility that their old tenderness had been
revived by their face-to-face position more strongly than either had
anticipated at starting-the excursion having been so obviously
undertaken for the pleasure of the performance only,-and that they had
landed at some steps he knew of further down toward the pier, to be
longer alone together.

'Still he disliked to harbour the thought, and would not mention its
existence to his companion. He merely said to her, "Let us walk further
on."

'They did so, and lingered between the boat-stage and the pier till
Stephen Hardcome's wife was uneasy, and was obliged to accept James's
offered arm. Thus the night advanced. Emily was presently so worn out by
fatigue that James felt it necessary to conduct her home; there was,
too, a remote chance that the truants had landed in the harbour on the
other side of the town, or elsewhere, and hastened home in some
unexpected way, in the belief that their consorts would not have waited
so long.

'However, he left a direction in the town that a lookout should be kept,
though this was arranged privately, the bare possibility of an elopement
being enough to make him reticent; and, full of misgivings, the two
remaining ones hastened to catch the last train out of Budmouth-Regis;
and when they got to Casterbridge drove back to Upper Longpuddle.'

'Along this very road as we do now,' remarked the parish clerk.

'To be sure-along this very road,' said the curate. 'However, Stephen
and Olive were not at their homes; neither had entered the village since
leaving it in the morning. Emily and James Hardcome went to their
respective dwellings to snatch a hasty night's rest, and at daylight the
next morning they drove again to Casterbridge and entered the Budmouth
train, the line being just opened.

'Nothing had been heard of the couple there during this brief absence.
In the course of a few hours some young men testified to having seen
such a man and woman rowing in a frail hired craft, the head of the boat
kept straight to sea; they had sat looking in each other's faces as if
they were in a dream, with no consciousness of what they were doing, or
whither they were steering. It was not till late that day that more
tidings reached James's ears. The boat had been found drifting bottom
upward a long way from land. In the evening the sea rose somewhat, and a
cry spread through the town that two bodies were cast ashore in
Lullstead Bay, several miles to the eastward. They were brought to
Budmouth, and inspection revealed them to be the missing pair. It was
said that they had been found tightly locked in each other's arms, his
lips upon hers, their features still wrapt in the same calm and dream-
like repose which had been observed in their demeanour as they had
glided along.

'Neither James nor Emily questioned the original motives of the
unfortunate man and woman in putting to sea. They were both above
suspicion as to intention. Whatever their mutual feelings might have led
them on to, underhand behaviour was foreign to the nature of either.
Conjecture pictured that they might have fallen into tender reverie
while gazing each into a pair of eyes that had formerly flashed for him
and her alone, and, unwilling to avow what their mutual sentiments were,
they had continued thus, oblivious of time and space, till darkness
suddenly overtook them far from land. But nothing was truly known. It
had been their destiny to die thus. The two halves, intended by Nature
to make the perfect whole, had failed in that result during their lives,
though "in their death they were not divided." Their bodies were brought
home, and buried on one day. I remember that, on looking round the
churchyard while reading the service, I observed nearly all the parish
at their funeral.'

'It was so, sir,' said the clerk.

'The remaining two,' continued the curate (whose voice had grown husky
while relating the lovers' sad fate), 'were a more thoughtful and far-
seeing, though less romantic, couple than the first. They were now
mutually bereft of a companion, and found themselves by this accident in
a position to fulfil their destiny according to Nature's plan and their
own original and calmly-formed intention. James Hardcome took Emily to
wife in the course of a year and a half; and the marriage proved in
every respect a happy one. I solemnized the service, Hardcome having
told me, when he came to give notice of the proposed wedding, the story
of his first wife's loss almost word for word as I have told it to you.'

'And are they living in Longpuddle still?' asked the new-comer.

'O no, sir,' interposed the clerk. 'James has been dead these dozen
years, and his mis'ess about six or seven. They had no children. William
Privett used to be their odd man till he died.'

'Ah-William Privett! He dead too?-dear me!' said the other. 'All passed
away!'

'Yes, sir. William was much older than I. He'd ha' been over eighty if
he had lived till now.'

'There was something very strange about William's death-very strange
indeed!' sighed a melancholy man in the back of the van. It was the
seedsman's father, who had hitherto kept silence.

'And what might that have been?' asked Mr. Lackland.



THE SUPERSTITIOUS MAN'S STORY

'William, as you may know, was a curious, silent man; you could feel
when he came near 'ee; and if he was in the house or anywhere behind
your back without your seeing him, there seemed to be something clammy
in the air, as if a cellar door was opened close by your elbow. Well,
one Sunday, at a time that William was in very good health to all
appearance, the bell that was ringing for church went very heavy all of
a sudden; the sexton, who told me o't, said he'd not known the bell go
so heavy in his hand for years-it was just as if the gudgeons wanted
oiling. That was on the Sunday, as I say. During the week after, it
chanced that William's wife was staying up late one night to finish her
ironing, she doing the washing for Mr. and Mrs. Hardcome. Her husband
had finished his supper and gone to bed as usual some hour or two
before. While she ironed she heard him coming down stairs; he stopped to
put on his boots at the stair-foot, where he always left them, and then
came on into the living-room where she was ironing, passing through it
towards the door, this being the only way from the staircase to the
outside of the house. No word was said on either side, William not being
a man given to much speaking, and his wife being occupied with her work.
He went out and closed the door behind him. As her husband had now and
then gone out in this way at night before when unwell, or unable to
sleep for want of a pipe, she took no particular notice, and continued
at her ironing. This she finished shortly after, and as he had not come
in she waited awhile for him, putting away the irons and things, and
preparing the table for his breakfast in the morning. Still he did not
return, but supposing him not far off, and wanting to get to bed
herself, tired as she was, she left the door unbarred and went to the
stairs, after writing on the back of the door with chalk: Mind and do
the door (because he was a forgetful man).

'To her great surprise, and I might say alarm, on reaching the foot of
the stairs his boots were standing there as they always stood when he
had gone to rest; going up to their chamber she found him in bed
sleeping as sound as a rock. How he could have got back again without
her seeing or hearing him was beyond her comprehension. It could only
have been by passing behind her very quietly while she was bumping with
the iron. But this notion did not satisfy her: it was surely impossible
that she should not have seen him come in through a room so small. She
could not unravel the mystery, and felt very queer and uncomfortable
about it. However, she would not disturb him to question him then, and
went to bed herself.

'He rose and left for his work very early the next morning, before she
was awake, and she waited his return to breakfast with much anxiety for
an explanation, for thinking over the matter by daylight made it seem
only the more startling. When he came in to the meal he said, before she
could put her question, "What's the meaning of them words chalked on the
door?"

'She told him, and asked him about his going out the night before.
William declared that he had never left the bedroom after entering it,
having in fact undressed, lain down, and fallen asleep directly, never
once waking till the clock struck five, and he rose up to go to his
labour.

'Betty Privett was as certain in her own mind that he did go out as she
was of her own existence, and was little less certain that he did not
return. She felt too disturbed to argue with him, and let the subject
drop as though she must have been mistaken. When she was walking down
Longpuddle street later in the day she met Jim Weedle's daughter Nancy,
and said, "Well, Nancy, you do look sleepy to-day!"

'"Yes, Mrs. Privett," says Nancy. "Now don't tell anybody, but I don't
mind letting you know what the reason o't is. Last night, being Old
Midsummer Eve, some of us went to church porch, and didn't get home till
near one."

'"Did ye?" says Mrs. Privett. "Old Midsummer yesterday was it? Faith I
didn't think whe'r 'twas Midsummer or Michaelmas; I'd too much work to
do."

'"Yes. And we were frightened enough, I can tell 'ee, by what we saw."

'"What did ye see?"

'(You may not remember, sir, having gone off to foreign parts so young,
that on Midsummer Night it is believed hereabout that the faint shapes
of all the folk in the parish who are going to be at death's door within
the year can be seen entering the church. Those who get over their
illness come out again after a while; those that are doomed to die do
not return.)

'"What did you see?" asked William's wife.

'"Well," says Nancy, backwardly-"we needn't tell what we saw, or who we
saw."

'"You saw my husband," says Betty Privett, in a quiet way.

'"Well, since you put it so," says Nancy, hanging fire, "we-thought we
did see him; but it was darkish, and we was frightened, and of course it
might not have been he."

'"Nancy, you needn't mind letting it out, though 'tis kept back in
kindness. And he didn't come out of church again: I know it as well as
you."

'Nancy did not answer yes or no to that, and no more was said. But three
days after, William Privett was mowing with John Chiles in Mr.
Hardcome's meadow, and in the heat of the day they sat down to eat their
bit o' nunch under a tree, and empty their flagon. Afterwards both of
'em fell asleep as they sat. John Chiles was the first to wake, and as
he looked towards his fellow-mower he saw one of those great white
miller's-souls as we call 'em-that is to say, a miller-moth-come from
William's open mouth while he slept, and fly straight away. John thought
it odd enough, as William had worked in a mill for several years when he
was a boy. He then looked at the sun, and found by the place o't that
they had slept a long while, and as William did not wake, John called to
him and said it was high time to begin work again. He took no notice,
and then John went up and shook him, and found he was dead.

'Now on that very day old Philip Hookhorn was down at Longpuddle Spring
dipping up a pitcher of water; and as he turned away, who should he see
coming down to the spring on the other side but William, looking very
pale and odd. This surprised Philip Hookhorn very much, for years before
that time William's little son-his only child-had been drowned in that
spring while at play there, and this had so preyed upon William's mind
that he'd never been seen near the spring afterwards, and had been known
to go half a mile out of his way to avoid the place. On inquiry, it was
found that William in body could not have stood by the spring, being in
the mead two miles off; and it also came out that the time at which he
was seen at the spring was the very time when he died.'

'A rather melancholy story,' observed the emigrant, after a minute's
silence.

'Yes, yes. Well, we must take ups and downs together,' said the
seedsman's father.

'You don't know, Mr. Lackland, I suppose, what a rum start that was
between Andrey Satchel and Jane Vallens and the pa'son and clerk o'
Scrimpton?' said the master-thatcher, a man with a spark of subdued
liveliness in his eye, who had hitherto kept his attention mainly upon
small objects a long way ahead, as he sat in front of the van with his
feet outside. 'Theirs was a queerer experience of a pa'son and clerk
than some folks get, and may cheer 'ee up a little after this dampness
that's been flung over yer soul.'

The returned one replied that he knew nothing of the history, and should
be happy to hear it, quite recollecting the personality of the man
Satchel.

'Ah no; this Andrey Satchel is the son of the Satchel that you knew;
this one has not been married more than two or three years, and 'twas at
the time o' the wedding that the accident happened that I could tell 'ee
of, or anybody else here, for that matter.'

'No, no; you must tell it, neighbour, if anybody,' said several; a
request in which Mr. Lackland joined, adding that the Satchel family was
one he had known well before leaving home.

'I'll just mention, as you be a stranger,' whispered the carrier to
Lackland, 'that Christopher's stories will bear pruning.'

The emigrant nodded.

'Well, I can soon tell it,' said the master-thatcher, schooling himself
to a tone of actuality. 'Though as it has more to do with the pa'son and
clerk than with Andrey himself, it ought to be told by a better
churchman than I.'



ANDREY SATCHEL AND THE PARSON AND CLERK

'It all arose, you must know, from Andrey being fond of a drop of drink
at that time-though he's a sober enough man now by all account, so much
the better for him. Jane, his bride, you see, was somewhat older than
Andrey; how much older I don't pretend to say; she was not one of our
parish, and the register alone may be able to tell that. But, at any
rate, her being a little ahead of her young man in mortal years, coupled
with other bodily circumstances-'

('Ah, poor thing!' sighed the women.)

'-made her very anxious to get the thing done before he changed his
mind; and 'twas with a joyful countenance (they say) that she, with
Andrey and his brother and sister-in-law, marched off to church one
November morning as soon as 'twas day a'most, to be made one with Andrey
for the rest of her life. He had left our place long before it was
light, and the folks that were up all waved their lanterns at him, and
flung up their hats as he went.

'The church of her parish was a mile and more from the houses, and, as
it was a wonderful fine day for the time of year, the plan was that as
soon as they were married they would make out a holiday by driving
straight off to Port Bredy, to see the ships and the sea and the sojers,
instead of coming back to a meal at the house of the distant relation
she lived wi', and moping about there all the afternoon.

'Well, some folks noticed that Andrey walked with rather wambling steps
to church that morning; the truth o't was that his nearest neighbour's
child had been christened the day before, and Andrey, having stood
godfather, had stayed all night keeping up the christening, for he had
said to himself, "Not if I live to be thousand shall I again be made a
godfather one day, and a husband the next, and perhaps a father the
next, and therefore I'll make the most of the blessing." So that when he
started from home in the morning he had not been in bed at all. The
result was, as I say, that when he and his bride-to-he walked up the
church to get married, the pa'son (who was a very strict man inside the
church, whatever he was outside) looked hard at Andrey, and said, very
sharp:

'"How's this, my man? You are in liquor. And so early, too. I'm ashamed
of you!"

'"Well, that's true, sir," says Andrey. "But I can walk straight enough
for practical purposes. I can walk a chalk line," he says (meaning no
offence), "as well as some other folk: and-" (getting hotter)-"I reckon
that if you, Pa'son Billy Toogood, had kept up a christening all night
so thoroughly as I have done, you wouldn't be able to stand at all; d\x97-
me if you would!"

'This answer made Pa'son Billy-as they used to call him-rather spitish,
not to say hot, for he was a warm-tempered man if provoked, and he said,
very decidedly: "Well, I cannot marry you in this state; and I will not!
Go home and get sober!" And he slapped the book together like a rat-
trap.

'Then the bride burst out crying as if her heart would break, for very
fear that she would lose Andrey after all her hard work to get him, and
begged and implored the pa'son to go on with the ceremony. But no.

'"I won't be a party to your solemnizing matrimony with a tipsy man,"
says Mr. Toogood. "It is not right and decent. I am sorry for you, my
young woman, but you'd better go home again. I wonder how you could
think of bringing him here drunk like this!"

'"But if-if he don't come drunk he won't come at all, sir!" she says,
through her sobs.

'"I can't help that," says the pa'son; and plead as she might, it did
not move him. Then she tried him another way.

'"Well, then, if you'll go home, sir, and leave us here, and come back
to the church in an hour or two, I'll undertake to say that he shall be
as sober as a judge," she cries. "We'll bide here, with your permission;
for if he once goes out of this here church unmarried, all Van Amburgh's
horses won't drag him back again!"

'"Very well," says the parson. "I'll give you two hours, and then I'll
return."

'"And please, sir, lock the door, so that we can't escape!" says she.

'"Yes," says the parson.

'"And let nobody know that we are here."

'The pa'son then took off his clane white surplice, and went away; and
the others consulted upon the best means for keeping the matter a
secret, which it was not a very hard thing to do, the place being so
lonely, and the hour so early. The witnesses, Andrey's brother and
brother's wife, neither one o' which cared about Andrey's marrying Jane,
and had come rather against their will, said they couldn't wait two
hours in that hole of a place, wishing to get home to Longpuddle before
dinner-time. They were altogether so crusty that the clerk said there
was no difficulty in their doing as they wished. They could go home as
if their brother's wedding had actually taken place and the married
couple had gone onward for their day's pleasure jaunt to Port Bredy as
intended, he, the clerk, and any casual passer-by would act as witnesses
when the pa'son came back.

'This was agreed to, and away Andrey's relations went, nothing loath,
and the clerk shut the church door and prepared to lock in the couple.
The bride went up and whispered to him, with her eyes a-streaming still.

'"My dear good clerk," she says, "if we bide here in the church, folk
may see us through the winders, and find out what has happened; and
'twould cause such a talk and scandal that I never should get over it:
and perhaps, too, dear Andrey might try to get out and leave me! Will ye
lock us up in the tower, my dear good clerk?" she says. "I'll tole him
in there if you will."

'The clerk had no objection to do this to oblige the poor young woman,
and they toled Andrey into the tower, and the clerk locked 'em both up
straightway, and then went home, to return at the end of the two hours.

'Pa'son Toogood had not been long in his house after leaving the church
when he saw a gentleman in pink and top-boots ride past his windows, and
with a sudden flash of heat he called to mind that the hounds met that
day just on the edge of his parish. The pa'son was one who dearly loved
sport, and much he longed to be there.

'In short, except o' Sundays and at tide-times in the week, Pa'son Billy
was the life o' the Hunt. 'Tis true that he was poor, and that he rode
all of a heap, and that his black mare was rat-tailed and old, and his
tops older, and all over of one colour, whitey-brown, and full o'
cracks. But he'd been in at the death of three thousand foxes. And-being
a bachelor man-every time he went to bed in summer he used to open the
bed at bottom and crawl up head foremost, to mind 'em of the coming
winter and the good sport he'd have, and the foxes going to earth. And
whenever there was a christening at the Squire's, and he had dinner
there afterwards, as he always did, he never failed to christen the
chiel over again in a bottle of port wine.

'Now the clerk was the parson's groom and gardener and jineral manager,
and had just got back to his work in the garden when he, too, saw the
hunting man pass, and presently saw lots more of 'em, noblemen and
gentry, and then he saw the hounds, the huntsman, Jim Treadhedge, the
whipper-in, and I don't know who besides. The clerk loved going to cover
as frantical as the pa'son, so much so that whenever he saw or heard the
pack he could no more rule his feelings than if they were the winds of
heaven. He might be bedding, or he might be sowing-all was forgot. So he
throws down his spade and rushes in to the pa'son, who was by this time
as frantical to go as he.

'"That there mare of yours, sir, do want exercise bad, very bad, this
morning!" the clerk says, all of a tremble. "Don't ye think I'd better
trot her round the downs for an hour, sir?"

'"To be sure, she does want exercise badly. I'll trot her round myself,"
says the parson.

'"Oh-you'll trot her yerself? Well, there's the cob, sir. Really that
cob is getting oncontrollable through biding in a stable so long! If you
wouldn't mind my putting on the saddle-"

'"Very well. Take him out, certainly," says the pa'son, never caring
what the clerk did so long as he himself could get off immediately. So,
scrambling into his riding-boots and breeches as quick as he could, he
rode off towards the meet, intending to be back in an hour. No sooner
was he gone than the clerk mounted the cob, and was off after him. When
the pa'son got to the meet, he found a lot of friends, and was as jolly
as he could be: the hounds found a'most as soon as they threw off, and
there was great excitement. So, forgetting that he had meant to go back
at once, away rides the pa'son with the rest o' the hunt, all across the
fallow ground that lies between Lippet Wood and Green's Copse; and as he
galloped he looked behind for a moment, and there was the clerk close to
his heels.

'"Ha, ha, clerk-you here?" he says.

'"Yes, sir, here be I," says t'other.

'"Fine exercise for the horses!"

'"Ay, sir-hee, hee!" says the clerk.

'So they went on and on, into Green's Copse, then across to Higher
Jirton; then on across this very turnpike-road to Climmerston Ridge,
then away towards Yalbury Wood: up hill and down dale, like the very
wind, the clerk close to the pa'son, and the pa'son not far from the
hounds. Never was there a finer run knowed with that pack than they had
that day; and neither pa'son nor clerk thought one word about the
unmarried couple locked up in the church tower waiting to get j'ined.

'"These hosses of yours, sir, will be much improved by this!" says the
clerk as he rode along, just a neck behind the pa'son. "'Twas a happy
thought of your reverent mind to bring 'em out to-day. Why, it may be
frosty in a day or two, and then the poor things mid not be able to
leave the stable for weeks."

'"They may not, they may not, it is true. A merciful man is merciful to
his beast," says the pa'son.

'"Hee, hee!" says the clerk, glancing sly into the pa'son's eye.

'"Ha, ha!" says the pa'son, a-glancing back into the clerk's. "Halloo!"
he shouts, as he sees the fox break cover at that moment.

'"Halloo!" cries the clerk. "There he goes! Why, dammy, there's two
foxes-"

'"Hush, clerk, hush! Don't let me hear that word again! Remember our
calling."

'"True, sir, true. But really, good sport do carry away a man so, that
he's apt to forget his high persuasion!" And the next minute the corner
of the clerk's eye shot again into the corner of the pa'son's, and the
pa'son's back again to the clerk's. "Hee, hee!" said the clerk.

'"Ha, ha!" said Pa'son Toogood.

'"Ah, sir," says the clerk again, "this is better than crying Amen to
your Ever-and-ever on a winter's morning!"

'"Yes, indeed, clerk! To everything there's a season," says Pa'son
Toogood, quite pat, for he was a learned Christian man when he liked,
and had chapter and ve'se at his tongue's end, as a pa'son should.

'At last, late in the day, the hunting came to an end by the fox running
into a' old woman's cottage, under her table, and up the clock-case. The
pa'son and clerk were among the first in at the death, their faces a-
staring in at the old woman's winder, and the clock striking as he'd
never been heard to strik' before. Then came the question of finding
their way home.

'Neither the pa'son nor the clerk knowed how they were going to do this,
for their beasts were wellnigh tired down to the ground. But they
started back-along as well as they could, though they were so done up
that they could only drag along at a' amble, and not much of that at a
time.

'"We shall never, never get there!" groaned Mr. Toogood, quite bowed
down.

'"Never!" groans the clerk. "'Tis a judgment upon us for our
iniquities!"

'"I fear it is," murmurs the pa'son.

'Well, 'twas quite dark afore they entered the pa'sonage gate, having
crept into the parish as quiet as if they'd stole a hammer, little
wishing their congregation to know what they'd been up to all day long.
And as they were so dog-tired, and so anxious about the horses, never
once did they think of the unmarried couple. As soon as ever the horses
had been stabled and fed, and the pa'son and clerk had had a bit and a
sup theirselves, they went to bed.

'Next morning when Pa'son Toogood was at breakfast, thinking of the
glorious sport he'd had the day before, the clerk came in a hurry to the
door and asked to see him.

'"It has just come into my mind, sir, that we've forgot all about the
couple that we was to have married yesterday!"

'The half-chawed victuals dropped from the pa'son's mouth as if he'd
been shot. "Bless my soul," says he, "so we have! How very awkward!"

'"It is, sir; very. Perhaps we've ruined the 'ooman!"

'"Ah-to be sure-I remember! She ought to have been married before."

'"If anything has happened to her up in that there tower, and no doctor
or nuss-"

('Ah-poor thing!' sighed the women.)

'"-'twill be a quarter-sessions matter for us, not to speak of the
disgrace to the Church!"

'"Good God, clerk, don't drive me wild!" says the pa'son. "Why the hell
didn't I marry 'em, drunk or sober!" (Pa'sons used to cuss in them days
like plain honest men.) "Have you been to the church to see what
happened to them, or inquired in the village?"

'"Not I, sir! It only came into my head a moment ago, and I always like
to be second to you in church matters. You could have knocked me down
with a sparrer's feather when I thought o't, sir; I assure 'ee you
could!"

'Well, the parson jumped up from his breakfast, and together they went
off to the church.

'"It is not at all likely that they are there now," says Mr. Toogood, as
they went; "and indeed I hope they are not. They be pretty sure to have
'scaped and gone home."

'However, they opened the church-hatch, entered the churchyard, and
looking up at the tower, there they seed a little small white face at
the belfry-winder, and a little small hand waving. 'Twas the bride.

'"God my life, clerk," says Mr. Toogood, "I don't know how to face 'em!"
And he sank down upon a tombstone. "How I wish I hadn't been so cussed
particular!"

'"Yes-'twas a pity we didn't finish it when we'd begun," the clerk said.
"Still, since the feelings of your holy priestcraft wouldn't let ye, the
couple must put up with it."

'"True, clerk, true! Does she look as if anything premature had took
place?"

'"I can't see her no lower down than her arm-pits, sir."

'"Well-how do her face look?"

'"It do look mighty white!"

'"Well, we must know the worst! Dear me, how the small of my back do
ache from that ride yesterday! . . . But to more godly business!"

'They went on into the church, and unlocked the tower stairs, and
immediately poor Jane and Andrey busted out like starved mice from a
cupboard, Andrey limp and sober enough now, and his bride pale and cold,
but otherwise as usual.

'"What," says the pa'son, with a great breath of relief, "you haven't
been here ever since?"

'"Yes, we have, sir!" says the bride, sinking down upon a seat in her
weakness. "Not a morsel, wet or dry, have we had since! It was
impossible to get out without help, and here we've stayed!"

'"But why didn't you shout, good souls?" said the pa'son.

'"She wouldn't let me," says Andrey.

'"Because we were so ashamed at what had led to it," sobs Jane. "We felt
that if it were noised abroad it would cling to us all our lives! Once
or twice Andrey had a good mind to toll the bell, but then he said: "No;
I'll starve first. I won't bring disgrace on my name and yours, my
dear." And so we waited and waited, and walked round and round; but
never did you come till now!"

'"To my regret!" says the parson. "Now, then, we will soon get it over."

'"I-I should like some victuals," said Andrey, "'twould gie me courage
if it is only a crust o' bread and a' onion; for I am that leery that I
can feel my stomach rubbing against my backbone."

'"I think we had better get it done," said the bride, a bit anxious in
manner; "since we are all here convenient, too!"

'Andrey gave way about the victuals, and the clerk called in a second
witness who wouldn't be likely to gossip about it, and soon the knot was
tied, and the bride looked smiling and calm forthwith, and Andrey limper
than ever.

'"Now," said Pa'son Toogood, "you two must come to my house, and have a
good lining put to your insides before you go a step further."

'They were very glad of the offer, and went out of the churchyard by one
path while the pa'son and clerk went out by the other, and so did not
attract notice, it being still early. They entered the rectory as if
they'd just come back from their trip to Port Bredy; and then they
knocked in the victuals and drink till they could hold no more.

'It was a long while before the story of what they had gone through was
known, but it was talked of in time, and they themselves laugh over it
now; though what Jane got for her pains was no great bargain after all.
'Tis true she saved her name.'

'Was that the same Andrey who went to the squire's house as one of the
Christmas fiddlers?' asked the seedsman.

'No, no,' replied Mr. Profitt, the schoolmaster. 'It was his father did
that. Ay, it was all owing to his being such a man for eating and
drinking.' Finding that he had the ear of the audience, the schoolmaster
continued without delay:-



OLD ANDREY'S EXPERIENCE AS A MUSICIAN

'I was one of the choir-boys at that time, and we and the players were
to appear at the manor-house as usual that Christmas week, to play and
sing in the hall to the squire's people and visitors (among 'em being
the archdeacon, Lord and Lady Baxby, and I don't know who); afterwards
going, as we always did, to have a good supper in the servants' hall.
Andrew knew this was the custom, and meeting us when we were starting to
go, he said to us: "Lord, how I should like to join in that meal of
beef, and turkey, and plum-pudding, and ale, that you happy ones be
going to just now! One more or less will make no difference to the
squire. I am too old to pass as a singing boy, and too bearded to pass
as a singing girl; can ye lend me a fiddle, neighbours, that I may come
with ye as a bandsman?"

'Well, we didn't like to be hard upon him, and lent him an old one,
though Andrew knew no more of music than the Cerne Giant; and armed with
the instrument he walked up to the squire's house with the others of us
at the time appointed, and went in boldly, his fiddle under his arm. He
made himself as natural as he could in opening the music-books and
moving the candles to the best points for throwing light upon the notes;
and all went well till we had played and sung "While shepherds watch,"
and "Star, arise," and "Hark the glad sound." Then the squire's mother,
a tall gruff old lady, who was much interested in church-music, said
quite unexpectedly to Andrew: "My man, I see you don't play your
instrument with the rest. How is that?"

'Every one of the choir was ready to sink into the earth with concern at
the fix Andrew was in. We could see that he had fallen into a cold
sweat, and how he would get out of it we did not know.

'"I've had a misfortune, mem," he says, bowing as meek as a child.
"Coming along the road I fell down and broke my bow."

'"Oh, I am sorry to hear that," says she. "Can't it be mended?"

'"Oh no, mem," says Andrew. "'Twas broke all to splinters."

'"I'll see what I can do for you," says she.

'And then it seemed all over, and we played "Rejoice, ye drowsy mortals
all," in D and two sharps. But no sooner had we got through it than she
says to Andrew,

'"I've sent up into the attic, where we have some old musical
instruments, and found a bow for you." And she hands the bow to poor
wretched Andrew, who didn't even know which end to take hold of. "Now we
shall have the full accompaniment," says she.

'Andrew's face looked as if it were made of rotten apple as he stood in
the circle of players in front of his book; for if there was one person
in the parish that everybody was afraid of, 'twas this hook-nosed old
lady. However, by keeping a little behind the next man he managed to
make pretence of beginning, sawing away with his bow without letting it
touch the strings, so that it looked as if he were driving into the tune
with heart and soul. 'Tis a question if he wouldn't have got through all
right if one of the squire's visitors (no other than the archdeacon)
hadn't noticed that he held the fiddle upside down, the nut under his
chin, and the tail-piece in his hand; and they began to crowd round him,
thinking 'twas some new way of performing.

'This revealed everything; the squire's mother had Andrew turned out of
the house as a vile impostor, and there was great interruption to the
harmony of the proceedings, the squire declaring he should have notice
to leave his cottage that day fortnight. However, when we got to the
servants' hall there sat Andrew, who had been let in at the back door by
the orders of the squire's wife, after being turned out at the front by
the orders of the squire, and nothing more was heard about his leaving
his cottage. But Andrew never performed in public as a musician after
that night; and now he's dead and gone, poor man, as we all shall be!'

'I had quite forgotten the old choir, with their fiddles and bass-
viols,' said the home-comer, musingly. 'Are they still going on the same
as of old?'

'Bless the man!' said Christopher Twink, the master-thatcher; 'why,
they've been done away with these twenty year. A young teetotaler plays
the organ in church now, and plays it very well; though 'tis not quite
such good music as in old times, because the organ is one of them that
go with a winch, and the young teetotaler says he can't always throw the
proper feeling into the tune without wellnigh working his arms off.'

'Why did they make the change, then?'

'Well, partly because of fashion, partly because the old musicians got
into a sort of scrape. A terrible scrape 'twas too-wasn't it, John? I
shall never forget it-never! They lost their character as officers of
the church as complete as if they'd never had any character at all.'

'That was very bad for them.'

'Yes.' The master-thatcher attentively regarded past times as if they
lay about a mile off, and went on:-



ABSENT-MINDEDNESS IN A PARISH CHOIR

'It happened on Sunday after Christmas-the last Sunday ever they played
in Longpuddle church gallery, as it turned out, though they didn't know
it then. As you may know, sir, the players formed a very good band-
almost as good as the Mellstock parish players that were led by the
Dewys; and that's saying a great deal. There was Nicholas Puddingcome,
the leader, with the first fiddle; there was Timothy Thomas, the bass-
viol man; John Biles, the tenor fiddler; Dan'l Hornhead, with the
serpent; Robert Dowdle, with the clarionet; and Mr. Nicks, with the
oboe-all sound and powerful musicians, and strong-winded men-they that
blowed. For that reason they were very much in demand Christmas week for
little reels and dancing parties; for they could turn a jig or a
hornpipe out of hand as well as ever they could turn out a psalm, and
perhaps better, not to speak irreverent. In short, one half-hour they
could be playing a Christmas carol in the squire's hall to the ladies
and gentlemen, and drinking tea and coffee with 'em as modest as saints;
and the next, at The Tinker's Arms, blazing away like wild horses with
the "Dashing White Sergeant" to nine couple of dancers and more, and
swallowing rum-and-cider hot as flame.

'Well, this Christmas they'd been out to one rattling randy after
another every night, and had got next to no sleep at all. Then came the
Sunday after Christmas, their fatal day. 'Twas so mortal cold that year
that they could hardly sit in the gallery; for though the congregation
down in the body of the church had a stove to keep off the frost, the
players in the gallery had nothing at all. So Nicholas said at morning
service, when 'twas freezing an inch an hour, "Please the Lord I won't
stand this numbing weather no longer: this afternoon we'll have
something in our insides to make us warm, if it cost a king's ransom."

'So he brought a gallon of hot brandy and beer, ready mixed, to church
with him in the afternoon, and by keeping the jar well wrapped up in
Timothy Thomas's bass-viol bag it kept drinkably warm till they wanted
it, which was just a thimbleful in the Absolution, and another after the
Creed, and the remainder at the beginning o' the sermon. When they'd had
the last pull they felt quite comfortable and warm, and as the sermon
went on-most unfortunately for 'em it was a long one that afternoon-they
fell asleep, every man jack of 'em; and there they slept on as sound as
rocks.

''Twas a very dark afternoon, and by the end of the sermon all you could
see of the inside of the church were the pa'son's two candles alongside
of him in the pulpit, and his spaking face behind 'em. The sermon being
ended at last, the pa'son gie'd out the Evening Hymn. But no choir set
about sounding up the tune, and the people began to turn their heads to
learn the reason why, and then Levi Limpet, a boy who sat in the
gallery, nudged Timothy and Nicholas, and said, "Begin! begin!"

'"Hey? what?" says Nicholas, starting up; and the church being so dark
and his head so muddled he thought he was at the party they had played
at all the night before, and away he went, bow and fiddle, at "The Devil
among the Tailors," the favourite jig of our neighbourhood at that time.
The rest of the band, being in the same state of mind and nothing
doubting, followed their leader with all their strength, according to
custom. They poured out that there tune till the lower bass notes of
"The Devil among the Tailors" made the cobwebs in the roof shiver like
ghosts; then Nicholas, seeing nobody moved, shouted out as he scraped
(in his usual commanding way at dances when the folk didn't know the
figures), "Top couples cross hands! And when I make the fiddle squeak at
the end, every man kiss his pardner under the mistletoe!"

'The boy Levi was so frightened that he bolted down the gallery stairs
and out homeward like lightning. The pa'son's hair fairly stood on end
when he heard the evil tune raging through the church, and thinking the
choir had gone crazy he held up his hand and said: "Stop, stop, stop!
Stop, stop! What's this?" But they didn't hear'n for the noise of their
own playing, and the more he called the louder they played.

'Then the folks came out of their pews, wondering down to the ground,
and saying: "What do they mean by such wickedness! We shall be consumed
like Sodom and Gomorrah!"

'Then the squire came out of his pew lined wi' green baize, where lots
of lords and ladies visiting at the house were worshipping along with
him, and went and stood in front of the gallery, and shook his fist in
the musicians' faces, saying, "What! In this reverent edifice! What!"

'And at last they heard'n through their playing, and stopped.

'"Never such an insulting, disgraceful thing-never!" says the squire,
who couldn't rule his passion.

'"Never!" says the pa'son, who had come down and stood beside him.

'"Not if the Angels of Heaven," says the squire (he was a wickedish man,
the squire was, though now for once he happened to be on the Lord's
side)-"not if the Angels of Heaven come down," he says, "shall one of
you villanous players ever sound a note in this church again; for the
insult to me, and my family, and my visitors, and God Almighty, that
you've a-perpetrated this afternoon!"

'Then the unfortunate church band came to their senses, and remembered
where they were; and 'twas a sight to see Nicholas Pudding come and
Timothy Thomas and John Biles creep down the gallery stairs with their
fiddles under their arms, and poor Dan'l Hornhead with his serpent, and
Robert Dowdle with his clarionet, all looking as little as ninepins; and
out they went. The pa'son might have forgi'ed 'em when he learned the
truth o't, but the squire would not. That very week he sent for a
barrel-organ that would play two-and-twenty new psalm-tunes, so exact
and particular that, however sinful inclined you was, you could play
nothing but psalm-tunes whatsomever. He had a really respectable man to
turn the winch, as I said, and the old players played no more.'

'And, of course, my old acquaintance, the annuitant, Mrs. Winter, who
always seemed to have something on her mind, is dead and gone?' said the
home-comer, after a long silence.

Nobody in the van seemed to recollect the name.

'O yes, she must be dead long since: she was seventy when I as a child
knew her,' he added.

'I can recollect Mrs. Winter very well, if nobody else can,' said the
aged groceress. 'Yes, she's been dead these five-and-twenty year at
least. You knew what it was upon her mind, sir, that gave her that
hollow-eyed look, I suppose?'

'It had something to do with a son of hers, I think I once was told. But
I was too young to know particulars.'

The groceress sighed as she conjured up a vision of days long past.
'Yes,' she murmured, 'it had all to do with a son.' Finding that the van
was still in a listening mood, she spoke on:-



THE WINTERS AND THE PALMLEYS

'To go back to the beginning-if one must-there were two women in the
parish when I was a child, who were to a certain extent rivals in good
looks. Never mind particulars, but in consequence of this they were at
daggers-drawn, and they did not love each other any better when one of
them tempted the other's lover away from her and married him. He was a
young man of the name of Winter, and in due time they had a son.

'The other woman did not marry for many years: but when she was about
thirty a quiet man named Palmley asked her to be his wife, and she
accepted him. You don't mind when the Palmleys were Longpuddle folk, but
I do well. She had a son also, who was, of course, nine or ten years
younger than the son of the first. The child proved to be of rather weak
intellect, though his mother loved him as the apple of her eye.

'This woman's husband died when the child was eight years old, and left
his widow and boy in poverty. Her former rival, also a widow now, but
fairly well provided for, offered for pity's sake to take the child as
errand-boy, small as he was, her own son, Jack, being hard upon
seventeen. Her poor neighbour could do no better than let the child go
there. And to the richer woman's house little Palmley straightway went.

'Well, in some way or other-how, it was never exactly known-the thriving
woman, Mrs. Winter, sent the little boy with a message to the next
village one December day, much against his will. It was getting dark,
and the child prayed to be allowed not to go, because he would be afraid
coming home. But the mistress insisted, more out of thoughtlessness than
cruelty, and the child went. On his way back he had to pass through
Yalbury Wood, and something came out from behind a tree and frightened
him into fits. The child was quite ruined by it; he became quite a
drivelling idiot, and soon afterward died.

'Then the other woman had nothing left to live for, and vowed vengeance
against that rival who had first won away her lover, and now had been
the cause of her bereavement. This last affliction was certainly not
intended by her thriving acquaintance, though it must be owned that when
it was done she seemed but little concerned. Whatever vengeance poor
Mrs. Palmley felt, she had no opportunity of carrying it out, and time
might have softened her feelings into forgetfulness of her supposed
wrongs as she dragged on her lonely life. So matters stood when, a year
after the death of the child, Mrs. Palmley's niece, who had been born
and bred in the city of Exonbury, came to live with her.

'This young woman-Miss Harriet Palmley-was a proud and handsome girl,
very well brought up, and more stylish and genteel than the people of
our village, as was natural, considering where she came from. She
regarded herself as much above Mrs. Winter and her son in position as
Mrs. Winter and her son considered themselves above poor Mrs. Palmley.
But love is an unceremonious thing, and what in the world should happen
but that young Jack Winter must fall wofully and wildly in love with
Harriet Palmley almost as soon as he saw her.

'She, being better educated than he, and caring nothing for the village
notion of his mother's superiority to her aunt, did not give him much
encouragement. But Longpuddle being no very large world, the two could
not help seeing a good deal of each other while she was staying there,
and, disdainful young woman as she was, she did seem to take a little
pleasure in his attentions and advances.

'One day when they were picking apples together, he asked her to marry
him. She had not expected anything so practical as that at so early a
time, and was led by her surprise into a half-promise; at any rate she
did not absolutely refuse him, and accepted some little presents that he
made her.

'But he saw that her view of him was rather as a simple village lad than
as a young man to look up to, and he felt that he must do something bold
to secure her. So he said one day, "I am going away, to try to get into
a better position than I can get here." In two or three weeks he wished
her good-bye, and went away to Monksbury, to superintend a farm, with a
view to start as a farmer himself; and from there he wrote regularly to
her, as if their marriage were an understood thing.

'Now Harriet liked the young man's presents and the admiration of his
eyes; but on paper he was less attractive to her. Her mother had been a
school-mistress, and Harriet had besides a natural aptitude for pen-and-
ink work, in days when to be a ready writer was not such a common thing
as it is now, and when actual handwriting was valued as an
accomplishment in itself. Jack Winter's performances in the shape of
love-letters quite jarred her city nerves and her finer taste, and when
she answered one of them, in the lovely running hand that she took such
pride in, she very strictly and loftily bade him to practise with a pen
and spelling-book if he wished to please her. Whether he listened to her
request or not nobody knows, but his letters did not improve. He
ventured to tell her in his clumsy way that if her heart were more warm
towards him she would not be so nice about his handwriting and spelling;
which indeed was true enough.

'Well, in Jack's absence the weak flame that had been set alight in
Harriet's heart soon sank low, and at last went out altogether. He wrote
and wrote, and begged and prayed her to give a reason for her coldness;
and then she told him plainly that she was town born, and he was not
sufficiently well educated to please her.

'Jack Winter's want of pen-and-ink training did not make him less thin-
skinned than others; in fact, he was terribly tender and touchy about
anything. This reason that she gave for finally throwing him over
grieved him, shamed him, and mortified him more than can be told in
these times, the pride of that day in being able to write with beautiful
flourishes, and the sorrow at not being able to do so, raging so high.
Jack replied to her with an angry note, and then she hit back with smart
little stings, telling him how many words he had misspelt in his last
letter, and declaring again that this alone was sufficient justification
for any woman to put an end to an understanding with him. Her husband
must be a better scholar.

'He bore her rejection of him in silence, but his suffering was sharp-
all the sharper in being untold. She communicated with Jack no more; and
as his reason for going out into the world had been only to provide a
home worthy of her, he had no further object in planning such a home now
that she was lost to him. He therefore gave up the farming occupation by
which he had hoped to make himself a master-farmer, and left the spot to
return to his mother.

'As soon as he got back to Longpuddle he found that Harriet had already
looked wi' favour upon another lover. He was a young road-contractor,
and Jack could not but admit that his rival was both in manners and
scholarship much ahead of him. Indeed, a more sensible match for the
beauty who had been dropped into the village by fate could hardly have
been found than this man, who could offer her so much better a chance
than Jack could have done, with his uncertain future and narrow
abilities for grappling with the world. The fact was so clear to him
that he could hardly blame her.

'One day by accident Jack saw on a scrap of paper the handwriting of
Harriet's new beloved. It was flowing like a stream, well spelt, the
work of a man accustomed to the ink-bottle and the dictionary, of a man
already called in the parish a good scholar. And then it struck all of a
sudden into Jack's mind what a contrast the letters of this young man
must make to his own miserable old letters, and how ridiculous they must
make his lines appear. He groaned and wished he had never written to
her, and wondered if she had ever kept his poor performances. Possibly
she had kept them, for women are in the habit of doing that, he thought,
and whilst they were in her hands there was always a chance of his
honest, stupid love-assurances to her being joked over by Harriet with
her present lover, or by anybody who should accidentally uncover them.

'The nervous, moody young man could not bear the thought of it, and at
length decided to ask her to return them, as was proper when engagements
were broken off. He was some hours in framing, copying, and recopying
the short note in which he made his request, and having finished it he
sent it to her house. His messenger came back with the answer, by word
of mouth, that Miss Palmley bade him say she should not part with what
was hers, and wondered at his boldness in troubling her.

'Jack was much affronted at this, and determined to go for his letters
himself. He chose a time when he knew she was at home, and knocked and
went in without much ceremony; for though Harriet was so high and
mighty, Jack had small respect for her aunt, Mrs. Palmley, whose little
child had been his boot-cleaner in earlier days. Harriet was in the
room, this being the first time they had met since she had jilted him.
He asked for his letters with a stern and bitter look at her.

'At first she said he might have them for all that she cared, and took
them out of the bureau where she kept them. Then she glanced over the
outside one of the packet, and suddenly altering her mind, she told him
shortly that his request was a silly one, and slipped the letters into
her aunt's work-box, which stood open on the table, locking it, and
saying with a bantering laugh that of course she thought it best to keep
'em, since they might be useful to produce as evidence that she had good
cause for declining to marry him.

'He blazed up hot. "Give me those letters!" he said. "They are mine!"

'"No, they are not," she replied; "they are mine."

'"Whos'ever they are I want them back," says he. "I don't want to be
made sport of for my penmanship: you've another young man now! he has
your confidence, and you pour all your tales into his ear. You'll be
showing them to him!"

'"Perhaps," said my lady Harriet, with calm coolness, like the heartless
woman that she was.

'Her manner so maddened him that he made a step towards the work-box,
but she snatched it up, locked it in the bureau, and turned upon him
triumphant. For a moment he seemed to be going to wrench the key of the
bureau out of her hand; but he stopped himself, and swung round upon his
heel and went away.

'When he was out-of-doors alone, and it got night, he walked about
restless, and stinging with the sense of being beaten at all points by
her. He could not help fancying her telling her new lover or her
acquaintances of this scene with himself, and laughing with them over
those poor blotted, crooked lines of his that he had been so anxious to
obtain. As the evening passed on he worked himself into a dogged
resolution to have them back at any price, come what might.

'At the dead of night he came out of his mother's house by the back
door, and creeping through the garden hedge went along the field
adjoining till he reached the back of her aunt's dwelling. The moon
struck bright and flat upon the walls, 'twas said, and every shiny leaf
of the creepers was like a little looking-glass in the rays. From long
acquaintance Jack knew the arrangement and position of everything in
Mrs. Palmley's house as well as in his own mother's. The back window
close to him was a casement with little leaded squares, as it is to this
day, and was, as now, one of two lighting the sitting-room. The other,
being in front, was closed up with shutters, but this back one had not
even a blind, and the moonlight as it streamed in showed every article
of the furniture to him outside. To the right of the room is the
fireplace, as you may remember; to the left was the bureau at that time;
inside the bureau was Harriet's work-box, as he supposed (though it was
really her aunt's), and inside the work-box were his letters. Well, he
took out his pocket-knife, and without noise lifted the leading of one
of the panes, so that he could take out the glass, and putting his hand
through the hole he unfastened the casement, and climbed in through the
opening. All the household-that is to say, Mrs. Palmley, Harriet, and
the little maid-servant-were asleep. Jack went straight to the bureau,
so he said, hoping it might have been unfastened again-it not being kept
locked in ordinary-but Harriet had never unfastened it since she secured
her letters there the day before. Jack told afterward how he thought of
her asleep upstairs, caring nothing for him, and of the way she had made
sport of him and of his letters; and having advanced so far, he was not
to be hindered now. By forcing the large blade of his knife under the
flap of the bureau, he burst the weak lock; within was the rosewood
work-box just as she had placed it in her hurry to keep it from him.
There being no time to spare for getting the letters out of it then, he
took it under his arm, shut the bureau, and made the best of his way out
of the house, latching the casement behind him, and refixing the pane of
glass in its place.

'Winter found his way back to his mother's as he had come, and being
dog-tired, crept upstairs to bed, hiding the box till he could destroy
its contents. The next morning early he set about doing this, and
carried it to the linhay at the back of his mother's dwelling. Here by
the hearth he opened the box, and began burning one by one the letters
that had cost him so much labour to write and shame to think of, meaning
to return the box to Harriet, after repairing the slight damage he had
caused it by opening it without a key, with a note-the last she would
ever receive from him-telling her triumphantly that in refusing to
return what he had asked for she had calculated too surely upon his
submission to her whims.

'But on removing the last letter from the box he received a shock; for
underneath it, at the very bottom, lay money-several golden guineas-
"Doubtless Harriet's pocket-money," he said to himself; though it was
not, but Mrs. Palmley's. Before he had got over his qualms at this
discovery he heard footsteps coming through the house-passage to where
he was. In haste he pushed the box and what was in it under some
brushwood which lay in the linhay; but Jack had been already seen. Two
constables entered the out-house, and seized him as he knelt before the
fireplace, securing the work-box and all it contained at the same
moment. They had come to apprehend him on a charge of breaking into the
dwelling-house of Mrs. Palmley on the night preceding; and almost before
the lad knew what had happened to him they were leading him along the
lane that connects that end of the village with this turnpike-road, and
along they marched him between 'em all the way to Casterbridge jail.

'Jack's act amounted to night burglary-though he had never thought of
it-and burglary was felony, and a capital offence in those days. His
figure had been seen by some one against the bright wall as he came away
from Mrs. Palmley's back window, and the box and money were found in his
possession, while the evidence of the broken bureau-lock and tinkered
window-pane was more than enough for circumstantial detail. Whether his
protestation that he went only for his letters, which he believed to be
wrongfully kept from him, would have availed him anything if supported
by other evidence I do not know; but the one person who could have borne
it out was Harriet, and she acted entirely under the sway of her aunt.
That aunt was deadly towards Jack Winter. Mrs. Palmley's time had come.
Here was her revenge upon the woman who had first won away her lover,
and next ruined and deprived her of her heart's treasure-her little son.
When the assize week drew on, and Jack had to stand his trial, Harriet
did not appear in the case at all, which was allowed to take its course,
Mrs. Palmley testifying to the general facts of the burglary. Whether
Harriet would have come forward if Jack had appealed to her is not
known; possibly she would have done it for pity's sake; but Jack was too
proud to ask a single favour of a girl who had jilted him; and he let
her alone. The trial was a short one, and the death sentence was passed.

'The day o' young Jack's execution was a cold dusty Saturday in March.
He was so boyish and slim that they were obliged in mercy to hang him in
the heaviest fetters kept in the jail, lest his heft should not break
his neck, and they weighed so upon him that he could hardly drag himself
up to the drop. At that time the gover'ment was not strict about burying
the body of an executed person within the precincts of the prison, and
at the earnest prayer of his poor mother his body was allowed to be
brought home. All the parish waited at their cottage doors in the
evening for its arrival: I remember how, as a very little girl, I stood
by my mother's side. About eight o'clock, as we hearkened on our door-
stones in the cold bright starlight, we could hear the faint crackle of
a waggon from the direction of the turnpike-road. The noise was lost as
the waggon dropped into a hollow, then it was plain again as it lumbered
down the next long incline, and presently it entered Longpuddle. The
coffin was laid in the belfry for the night, and the next day, Sunday,
between the services, we buried him. A funeral sermon was preached the
same afternoon, the text chosen being, "He was the only son of his
mother, and she was a widow." . . . Yes, they were cruel times!

'As for Harriet, she and her lover were married in due time; but by all
account her life was no jocund one. She and her good-man found that they
could not live comfortably at Longpuddle, by reason of her connection
with Jack's misfortunes, and they settled in a distant town, and were no
more heard of by us; Mrs. Palmley, too, found it advisable to join 'em
shortly after. The dark-eyed, gaunt old Mrs. Winter, remembered by the
emigrant gentleman here, was, as you will have foreseen, the Mrs. Winter
of this story; and I can well call to mind how lonely she was, how
afraid the children were of her, and how she kept herself as a stranger
among us, though she lived so long.'

'Longpuddle has had her sad experiences as well as her sunny ones,' said
Mr. Lackland.

'Yes, yes. But I am thankful to say not many like that, though good and
bad have lived among us.'

'There was Georgy Crookhill-he was one of the shady sort, as I have
reason to know,' observed the registrar, with the manner of a man who
would like to have his say also.

'I used to hear what he was as a boy at school.'

'Well, as he began so he went on. It never got so far as a hanging
matter with him, to be sure; but he had some narrow escapes of penal
servitude; and once it was a case of the biter bit.'



INCIDENT IN THE LIFE OF MR. GEORGE CROOKHILL

'One day,' the registrar continued, 'Georgy was ambling out of
Melchester on a miserable screw, the fair being just over, when he saw
in front of him a fine-looking young farmer riding out of the town in
the same direction. He was mounted on a good strong handsome animal,
worth fifty guineas if worth a crown. When they were going up Bissett
Hill, Georgy made it his business to overtake the young farmer. They
passed the time o' day to one another; Georgy spoke of the state of the
roads, and jogged alongside the well-mounted stranger in very friendly
conversation. The farmer had not been inclined to say much to Georgy at
first, but by degrees he grew quite affable too-as friendly as Georgy
was toward him. He told Crookhill that he had been doing business at
Melchester fair, and was going on as far as Shottsford-Forum that night,
so as to reach Casterbridge market the next day. When they came to
Woodyates Inn they stopped to bait their horses, and agreed to drink
together; with this they got more friendly than ever, and on they went
again. Before they had nearly reached Shottsford it came on to rain, and
as they were now passing through the village of Trantridge, and it was
quite dark, Georgy persuaded the young farmer to go no further that
night; the rain would most likely give them a chill. For his part he had
heard that the little inn here was comfortable, and he meant to stay. At
last the young farmer agreed to put up there also; and they dismounted,
and entered, and had a good supper together, and talked over their
affairs like men who had known and proved each other a long time. When
it was the hour for retiring they went upstairs to a double-bedded room
which Georgy Crookhill had asked the landlord to let them share, so
sociable were they.

'Before they fell asleep they talked across the room about one thing and
another, running from this to that till the conversation turned upon
disguises, and changing clothes for particular ends. The farmer told
Georgy that he had often heard tales of people doing it; but Crookhill
professed to be very ignorant of all such tricks; and soon the young
farmer sank into slumber.

'Early in the morning, while the tall young farmer was still asleep (I
tell the story as 'twas told me), honest Georgy crept out of his bed by
stealth, and dressed himself in the farmer's clothes, in the pockets of
the said clothes being the farmer's money. Now though Georgy
particularly wanted the farmer's nice clothes and nice horse, owing to a
little transaction at the fair which made it desirable that he should
not be too easily recognized, his desires had their bounds: he did not
wish to take his young friend's money, at any rate more of it than was
necessary for paying his bill. This he abstracted, and leaving the
farmer's purse containing the rest on the bedroom table, went
downstairs. The inn folks had not particularly noticed the faces of
their customers, and the one or two who were up at this hour had no
thought but that Georgy was the farmer; so when he had paid the bill
very liberally, and said he must be off, no objection was made to his
getting the farmer's horse saddled for himself; and he rode away upon it
as if it were his own.

'About half an hour after the young farmer awoke, and looking across the
room saw that his friend Georgy had gone away in clothes which didn't
belong to him, and had kindly left for himself the seedy ones worn by
Georgy. At this he sat up in a deep thought for some time, instead of
hastening to give an alarm. "The money, the money is gone," he said to
himself, "and that's bad. But so are the clothes."

'He then looked upon the table and saw that the money, or most of it,
had been left behind.

'"Ha, ha, ha!" he cried, and began to dance about the room. "Ha, ha,
ha!" he said again, and made beautiful smiles to himself in the shaving
glass and in the brass candlestick; and then swung about his arms for
all the world as if he were going through the sword exercise.

'When he had dressed himself in Georgy's clothes and gone downstairs, he
did not seem to mind at all that they took him for the other; and even
when he saw that he had been left a bad horse for a good one, he was not
inclined to cry out. They told him his friend had paid the bill, at
which he seemed much pleased, and without waiting for breakfast he
mounted Georgy's horse and rode away likewise, choosing the nearest by-
lane in preference to the high-road, without knowing that Georgy had
chosen that by-lane also.

'He had not trotted more than two miles in the personal character of
Georgy Crookhill when, suddenly rounding a bend that the lane made
thereabout, he came upon a man struggling in the hands of two village
constables. It was his friend Georgy, the borrower of his clothes and
horse. But so far was the young farmer from showing any alacrity in
rushing forward to claim his property that he would have turned the poor
beast he rode into the wood adjoining, if he had not been already
perceived.

'"Help, help, help!" cried the constables. "Assistance in the name of
the Crown!"

'The young farmer could do nothing but ride forward. "What's the
matter?" he inquired, as coolly as he could.

'"A deserter-a deserter!" said they. "One who's to be tried by court-
martial and shot without parley. He deserted from the Dragoons at
Cheltenham some days ago, and was tracked; but the search-party can't
find him anywhere, and we told 'em if we met him we'd hand him on to 'em
forthwith. The day after he left the barracks the rascal met a
respectable farmer and made him drunk at an inn, and told him what a
fine soldier he would make, and coaxed him to change clothes, to see how
well a military uniform would become him. This the simple farmer did;
when our deserter said that for a joke he would leave the room and go to
the landlady, to see if she would know him in that dress. He never came
back, and Farmer Jollice found himself in soldier's clothes, the money
in his pockets gone, and, when he got to the stable, his horse gone
too."

'"A scoundrel!" says the young man in Georgy's clothes. "And is this the
wretched caitiff?" (pointing to Georgy).

'"No, no!" cries Georgy, as innocent as a babe of this matter of the
soldier's desertion. "He's the man! He was wearing Farmer Jollice's suit
o' clothes, and he slept in the same room wi' me, and brought up the
subject of changing clothes, which put it into my head to dress myself
in his suit before he was awake. He's got on mine!"

'"D'ye hear the villain?" groans the tall young man to the constables.
"Trying to get out of his crime by charging the first innocent man with
it that he sees! No, master soldier-that won't do!"

'"No, no! That won't do!" the constables chimed in. "To have the
impudence to say such as that, when we caught him in the act almost!
But, thank God, we've got the handcuffs on him at last."

'"We have, thank God," said the tall young man. "Well, I must move on.
Good luck to ye with your prisoner!" And off he went, as fast as his
poor jade would carry him.

'The constables then, with Georgy handcuffed between 'em, and leading
the horse, marched off in the other direction, toward the village where
they had been accosted by the escort of soldiers sent to bring the
deserter back, Georgy groaning: "I shall be shot, I shall be shot!" They
had not gone more than a mile before they met them.

'"Hoi, there!" says the head constable.

'"Hoi, yerself!" says the corporal in charge.

'"We've got your man," says the constable.

'"Where?" says the corporal.

'"Here, between us," said the constable. "Only you don't recognize him
out o' uniform."

'The corporal looked at Georgy hard enough; then shook his head and said
he was not the absconder.

'"But the absconder changed clothes with Farmer Jollice, and took his
horse; and this man has 'em, d'ye see!"

'"'Tis not our man," said the soldiers. "He's a tall young fellow with a
mole on his right cheek, and a military bearing, which this man
decidedly has not."

'"I told the two officers of justice that 'twas the other!" pleaded
Georgy. "But they wouldn't believe me."

'And so it became clear that the missing dragoon was the tall young
farmer, and not Georgy Crookhill-a fact which Farmer Jollice himself
corroborated when he arrived on the scene. As Georgy had only robbed the
robber, his sentence was comparatively light. The deserter from the
Dragoons was never traced: his double shift of clothing having been of
the greatest advantage to him in getting off; though he left Georgy's
horse behind him a few miles ahead, having found the poor creature more
hindrance than aid.'

The man from abroad seemed to be less interested in the questionable
characters of Longpuddle and their strange adventures than in the
ordinary inhabitants and the ordinary events, though his local fellow-
travellers preferred the former as subjects of discussion. He now for
the first time asked concerning young persons of the opposite sex-or
rather those who had been young when he left his native land. His
informants, adhering to their own opinion that the remarkable was better
worth telling than the ordinary, would not allow him to dwell upon the
simple chronicles of those who had merely come and gone. They asked him
if he remembered Netty Sargent.

'Netty Sargent-I do, just remember her. She was a young woman living
with her uncle when I left, if my childish recollection may be trusted.'

'That was the maid. She was a oneyer, if you like, sir. Not any harm in
her, you know, but up to everything. You ought to hear how she got the
copyhold of her house extended. Oughtn't he, Mr. Day?'

'He ought,' replied the world-ignored old painter.

'Tell him, Mr. Day. Nobody can do it better than you, and you know the
legal part better than some of us.'

Day apologized, and began:-



NETTY SARGENT'S COPYHOLD

'She continued to live with her uncle, in the lonely house by the copse,
just as at the time you knew her; a tall spry young woman. Ah, how well
one can remember her black hair and dancing eyes at that time, and her
sly way of screwing up her mouth when she meant to tease ye! Well, she
was hardly out of short frocks before the chaps were after her, and by
long and by late she was courted by a young man whom perhaps you did not
know-Jasper Cliff was his name-and, though she might have had many a
better fellow, he so greatly took her fancy that 'twas Jasper or nobody
for her. He was a selfish customer, always thinking less of what he was
going to do than of what he was going to gain by his doings. Jasper's
eyes might have been fixed upon Netty, but his mind was upon her uncle's
house; though he was fond of her in his way-I admit that.

'This house, built by her great-great-grandfather, with its garden and
little field, was copyhold-granted upon lives in the old way, and had
been so granted for generations. Her uncle's was the last life upon the
property; so that at his death, if there was no admittance of new lives,
it would all fall into the hands of the lord of the manor. But 'twas
easy to admit-a slight "fine," as 'twas called, of a few pounds, was
enough to entitle him to a new deed o' grant by the custom of the manor;
and the lord could not hinder it.

'Now there could be no better provision for his niece and only relative
than a sure house over her head, and Netty's uncle should have seen to
the renewal in time, owing to the peculiar custom of forfeiture by the
dropping of the last life before the new fine was paid; for the Squire
was very anxious to get hold of the house and land; and every Sunday
when the old man came into the church and passed the Squire's pew, the
Squire would say, "A little weaker in his knees, a little crookeder in
his back-and the readmittance not applied for: ha! ha! I shall be able
to make a complete clearing of that corner of the manor some day!"

''Twas extraordinary, now we look back upon it, that old Sargent should
have been so dilatory; yet some people are like it; and he put off
calling at the Squire's agent's office with the fine week after week,
saying to himself, "I shall have more time next market-day than I have
now." One unfortunate hindrance was that he didn't very well like Jasper
Cliff; and as Jasper kept urging Netty, and Netty on that account kept
urging her uncle, the old man was inclined to postpone the re- liveing
as long as he could, to spite the selfish young lover. At last old Mr.
Sargent fell ill, and then Jasper could bear it no longer: he produced
the fine-money himself, and handed it to Netty, and spoke to her
plainly.

'"You and your uncle ought to know better. You should press him more.
There's the money. If you let the house and ground slip between ye, I
won't marry; hang me if I will! For folks won't deserve a husband that
can do such things."

'The worried girl took the money and went home, and told her uncle that
it was no house no husband for her. Old Mr. Sargent pooh-poohed the
money, for the amount was not worth consideration, but he did now bestir
himself; for he saw she was bent upon marrying Jasper, and he did not
wish to make her unhappy, since she was so determined. It was much to
the Squire's annoyance that he found Sargent had moved in the matter at
last; but he could not gainsay it, and the documents were prepared (for
on this manor the copy-holders had writings with their holdings, though
on some manors they had none). Old Sargent being now too feeble to go to
the agent's house, the deed was to be brought to his house signed, and
handed over as a receipt for the money; the counterpart to be signed by
Sargent, and sent back to the Squire.

'The agent had promised to call on old Sargent for this purpose at five
o'clock, and Netty put the money into her desk to have it close at hand.
While doing this she heard a slight cry from her uncle, and turning
round, saw that he had fallen forward in his chair. She went and lifted
him, but he was unconscious; and unconscious he remained. Neither
medicine nor stimulants would bring him to himself. She had been told
that he might possibly go off in that way, and it seemed as if the end
had come. Before she had started for a doctor his face and extremities
grew quite cold and white, and she saw that help would be useless. He
was stone-dead.

'Netty's situation rose upon her distracted mind in all its seriousness.
The house, garden, and field were lost-by a few hours-and with them a
home for herself and her lover. She would not think so meanly of Jasper
as to suppose that he would adhere to the resolution declared in a
moment of impatience; but she trembled, nevertheless. Why could not her
uncle have lived a couple of hours longer, since he had lived so long?
It was now past three o'clock; at five the agent was to call, and, if
all had gone well, by ten minutes past five the house and holding would
have been securely hers for her own and Jasper's lives, these being two
of the three proposed to be added by paying the fine. How that wretched
old Squire would rejoice at getting the little tenancy into his hands!
He did not really require it, but constitutionally hated these tiny
copyholds and leaseholds and freeholds, which made islands of
independence in the fair, smooth ocean of his estates.

'Then an idea struck into the head of Netty how to accomplish her object
in spite of her uncle's negligence. It was a dull December afternoon:
and the first step in her scheme-so the story goes, and I see no reason
to doubt it-'

''Tis true as the light,' affirmed Christopher Twink. 'I was just
passing by.'

'The first step in her scheme was to fasten the outer door, to make sure
of not being interrupted. Then she set to work by placing her uncle's
small, heavy oak table before the fire; then she went to her uncle's
corpse, sitting in the chair as he had died-a stuffed arm-chair, on
casters, and rather high in the seat, so it was told me-and wheeled the
chair, uncle and all, to the table, placing him with his back toward the
window, in the attitude of bending over the said oak table, which I knew
as a boy as well as I know any piece of furniture in my own house. On
the table she laid the large family Bible open before him, and placed
his forefinger on the page; and then she opened his eyelids a bit, and
put on him his spectacles, so that from behind he appeared for all the
world as if he were reading the Scriptures. Then she unfastened the door
and sat down, and when it grew dark she lit a candle, and put it on the
table beside her uncle's book.

'Folk may well guess how the time passed with her till the agent came,
and how, when his knock sounded upon the door, she nearly started out of
her skin-at least that's as it was told me. Netty promptly went to the
door.

'"I am sorry, sir," she says, under her breath; "my uncle is not so well
to-night, and I'm afraid he can't see you."

'"H'm!-that's a pretty tale," says the steward. "So I've come all this
way about this trumpery little job for nothing!"

'"O no, sir-I hope not," says Netty. "I suppose the business of granting
the new deed can be done just the same?"

'"Done? Certainly not. He must pay the renewal money, and sign the
parchment in my presence."

'She looked dubious. "Uncle is so dreadful nervous about law business,"
says she, "that, as you know, he's put it off and put it off for years;
and now to-day really I've feared it would verily drive him out of his
mind. His poor three teeth quite chattered when I said to him that you
would be here soon with the parchment writing. He always was afraid of
agents, and folks that come for rent, and such-like."

'"Poor old fellow-I'm sorry for him. Well, the thing can't be done
unless I see him and witness his signature."

'"Suppose, sir, that you see him sign, and he don't see you looking at
him? I'd soothe his nerves by saying you weren't strict about the form
of witnessing, and didn't wish to come in. So that it was done in your
bare presence it would be sufficient, would it not? As he's such an old,
shrinking, shivering man, it would be a great considerateness on your
part if that would do?"

'"In my bare presence would do, of course-that's all I come for. But how
can I be a witness without his seeing me?"

'"Why, in this way, sir; if you'll oblige me by just stepping here." She
conducted him a few yards to the left, till they were opposite the
parlour window. The blind had been left up purposely, and the candle-
light shone out upon the garden bushes. Within the agent could see, at
the other end of the room, the back and side of the old man's head, and
his shoulders and arm, sitting with the book and candle before him, and
his spectacles on his nose, as she had placed him.

'"He's reading his Bible, as you see, sir," she says, quite in her
meekest way.

'"Yes. I thought he was a careless sort of man in matters of religion?"

'"He always was fond of his Bible," Netty assured him. "Though I think
he's nodding over it just at this moment However, that's natural in an
old man, and unwell. Now you could stand here and see him sign, couldn't
you, sir, as he's such an invalid?"

'"Very well," said the agent, lighting a cigar. "You have ready by you
the merely nominal sum you'll have to pay for the admittance, of
course?"

'"Yes," said Netty. "I'll bring it out." She fetched the cash, wrapped
in paper, and handed it to him, and when he had counted it the steward
took from his breast pocket the precious parchments and gave one to her
to be signed.

'"Uncle's hand is a little paralyzed," she said. "And what with his
being half asleep, too, really I don't know what sort of a signature
he'll be able to make."

'"Doesn't matter, so that he signs."

'"Might I hold his hand?"

'"Ay, hold his hand, my young woman-that will be near enough."

'Netty re-entered the house, and the agent continued smoking outside the
window. Now came the ticklish part of Netty's performance. The steward
saw her put the inkhorn-"horn," says I in my old-fashioned way-the
inkstand, before her uncle, and touch his elbow as to arouse him, and
speak to him, and spread out the deed; when she had pointed to show him
where to sign she dipped the pen and put it into his hand. To hold his
hand she artfully stepped behind him, so that the agent could only see a
little bit of his head, and the hand she held; but he saw the old man's
hand trace his name on the document. As soon as 'twas done she came out
to the steward with the parchment in her hand, and the steward signed as
witness by the light from the parlour window. Then he gave her the deed
signed by the Squire, and left; and next morning Netty told the
neighbours that her uncle was dead in his bed.'

'She must have undressed him and put him there.'

'She must. Oh, that girl had a nerve, I can tell ye! Well, to cut a long
story short, that's how she got back the house and field that were,
strictly speaking, gone from her; and by getting them, got her a
husband.

'Every virtue has its reward, they say. Netty had hers for her ingenious
contrivance to gain Jasper. Two years after they were married he took to
beating her-not hard, you know; just a smack or two, enough to set her
in a temper, and let out to the neighbours what she had done to win him,
and how she repented of her pains. When the old Squire was dead, and his
son came into the property, this confession of hers began to be
whispered about. But Netty was a pretty young woman, and the Squire's
son was a pretty young man at that time, and wider-minded than his
father, having no objection to little holdings; and he never took any
proceedings against her.'

There was now a lull in the discourse, and soon the van descended the
hill leading into the long straggling village. When the houses were
reached the passengers dropped off one by one, each at his or her own
door. Arrived at the inn, the returned emigrant secured a bed, and
having eaten a light meal, sallied forth upon the scene he had known so
well in his early days. Though flooded with the light of the rising
moon, none of the objects wore the attractiveness in this their real
presentation that had ever accompanied their images in the field of his
imagination when he was more than two thousand miles removed from them.
The peculiar charm attaching to an old village in an old country, as
seen by the eyes of an absolute foreigner, was lowered in his case by
magnified expectations from infantine memories. He walked on, looking at
this chimney and that old wall, till he came to the churchyard, which he
entered.

The head-stones, whitened by the moon, were easily decipherable; and now
for the first time Lackland began to feel himself amid the village
community that he had left behind him five-and-thirty years before.
Here, besides the Sallets, the Darths, the Pawles, the Privetts, the
Sargents, and others of whom he had just heard, were names he remembered
even better than those: the Jickses, and the Crosses, and the Knights,
and the Olds. Doubtless representatives of these families, or some of
them, were yet among the living; but to him they would all be as
strangers. Far from finding his heart ready-supplied with roots and
tendrils here, he perceived that in returning to this spot it would be
incumbent upon him to re-establish himself from the beginning, precisely
as though he had never known the place, nor it him. Time had not
condescended to wait his pleasure, nor local life his greeting.

The figure of Mr. Lackland was seen at the inn, and in the village
street, and in the fields and lanes about Upper Longpuddle, for a few
days after his arrival, and then, ghost-like, it silently disappeared.
He had told some of the villagers that his immediate purpose in coming
had been fulfilled by a sight of the place, and by conversation with its
inhabitants: but that his ulterior purpose-of coming to spend his latter
days among them-would probably never be carried out. It is now a dozen
or fifteen years since his visit was paid, and his face has not again
been seen.

March 1891.



A GROUP OF NOBLE DAMES

That is to say: The First Countess Of Wessex; Barbara Of The Hose Of
Grebe; The Marchioness Of Stonehenge; Lady Mottifont Squire Petrick's
Lady; The Lady Icenway Anna, Lady Baxby; The Lady Penelope; The Duchess
Of Hamptonshire; And The Honourable Laura

'. . . Store of Ladies, whose bright eyes Rain influence.'-L'Allegro.

With a map of wessex By Thomas Hardy

CONTENTS

PREFACE

DAME THE FIRST-THE FIRST COUNTESS OF WESSEX

DAME THE SECOND-BARBARA OF THE HOUSE OF GREBE

DAME THE THIRD-THE MARCHIONESS OF STONEHENGE

DAME THE FOURTH-LADY MOTTISFONT

DAME THE FIFTH-THE LADY ICENWAY

DAME THE SIXTH-SQUIRE PETRICK'S LADY

DAME THE SEVENTH-ANNA, LADY BAXBY

DAME THE EIGHTH-THE LADY PENELOPE

DAME THE NINTH-THE DUCHESS OF HAMPTONSHIRE

DAME THE TENTH-THE HONOURABLE LAURA



PREFACE

The pedigrees of our county families, arranged in diagrams on the pages
of county histories, mostly appear at first sight to be as barren of any
touch of nature as a table of logarithms. But given a clue-the faintest
tradition of what went on behind the scenes, and this dryness as of dust
may be transformed into a palpitating drama. More, the careful
comparison of dates alone-that of birth with marriage, of marriage with
death, of one marriage, birth, or death with a kindred marriage, birth,
or death-will often effect the same transformation, and anybody
practised in raising images from such genealogies finds himself
unconsciously filling into the framework the motives, passions, and
personal qualities which would appear to be the single explanation
possible of some extraordinary conjunction in times, events, and
personages that occasionally marks these reticent family records.

Out of such pedigrees and supplementary material most of the following
stories have arisen and taken shape.

I would make this preface an opportunity of expressing my sense of the
courtesy and kindness of several bright-eyed Noble Dames yet in the
flesh, who, since the first publication of these tales in periodicals,
six or seven years ago, have given me interesting comments and
conjectures on such of the narratives as they have recognized to be
connected with their own families, residences, or traditions; in which
they have shown a truly philosophic absence of prejudice in their regard
of those incidents whose relation has tended more distinctly to
dramatize than to eulogize their ancestors. The outlines they have also
given of other singular events in their family histories for use in a
second "Group of Noble Dames," will, I fear, never reach the printing-
press through me; but I shall store them up in memory of my informants'
good nature. T. H.

June 1896.



DAME THE FIRST-THE FIRST COUNTESS OF WESSEX By the Local Historian

King's-Hintock Court (said the narrator, turning over his memoranda for
reference)-King's-Hintock Court is, as we know, one of the most imposing
of the mansions that overlook our beautiful Blackmoor or Blakemore Vale.
On the particular occasion of which I have to speak this building stood,
as it had often stood before, in the perfect silence of a calm clear
night, lighted only by the cold shine of the stars. The season was
winter, in days long ago, the last century having run but little more
than a third of its length. North, south, and west, not a casement was
unfastened, not a curtain undrawn; eastward, one window on the upper
floor was open, and a girl of twelve or thirteen was leaning over the
sill. That she had not taken up the position for purposes of observation
was apparent at a glance, for she kept her eyes covered with her hands.

The room occupied by the girl was an inner one of a suite, to be reached
only by passing through a large bedchamber adjoining. From this
apartment voices in altercation were audible, everything else in the
building being so still. It was to avoid listening to these voices that
the girl had left her little cot, thrown a cloak round her head and
shoulders, and stretched into the night air.

But she could not escape the conversation, try as she would. The words
reached her in all their painfulness, one sentence in masculine tones,
those of her father, being repeated many times.

'I tell 'ee there shall be no such betrothal! I tell 'ee there sha'n't!
A child like her!'

She knew the subject of dispute to be herself. A cool feminine voice,
her mother's, replied:

'Have done with you, and be wise. He is willing to wait a good five or
six years before the marriage takes place, and there's not a man in the
county to compare with him.'

'It shall not be! He is over thirty. It is wickedness.'

'He is just thirty, and the best and finest man alive-a perfect match
for her.'

'He is poor!'

'But his father and elder brothers are made much of at Court-none so
constantly at the palace as they; and with her fortune, who knows? He
may be able to get a barony.'

'I believe you are in love with en yourself!'

'How can you insult me so, Thomas! And is it not monstrous for you to
talk of my wickedness when you have a like scheme in your own head? You
know you have. Some bumpkin of your own choosing-some petty gentleman
who lives down at that outlandish place of yours, Falls-Park-one of your
pot-companions' sons-'

There was an outburst of imprecation on the part of her husband in lieu
of further argument. As soon as he could utter a connected sentence he
said: 'You crow and you domineer, mistress, because you are heiress-
general here. You are in your own house; you are on your own land. But
let me tell 'ee that if I did come here to you instead of taking you to
me, it was done at the dictates of convenience merely. H\x97-! I'm no
beggar! Ha'n't I a place of my own? Ha'n't I an avenue as long as thine?
Ha'n't I beeches that will more than match thy oaks? I should have lived
in my own quiet house and land, contented, if you had not called me off
with your airs and graces. Faith, I'll go back there; I'll not stay with
thee longer! If it had not been for our Betty I should have gone long
ago!'

After this there were no more words; but presently, hearing the sound of
a door opening and shutting below, the girl again looked from the
window. Footsteps crunched on the gravel-walk, and a shape in a drab
greatcoat, easily distinguishable as her father, withdrew from the
house. He moved to the left, and she watched him diminish down the long
east front till he had turned the corner and vanished. He must have gone
round to the stables.

She closed the window and shrank into bed, where she cried herself to
sleep. This child, their only one, Betty, beloved ambitiously by her
mother, and with uncalculating passionateness by her father, was
frequently made wretched by such episodes as this; though she was too
young to care very deeply, for her own sake, whether her mother
betrothed her to the gentleman discussed or not.

The Squire had often gone out of the house in this manner, declaring
that he would never return, but he had always reappeared in the morning.
The present occasion, however, was different in the issue: next day she
was told that her father had ridden to his estate at Falls-Park early in
the morning on business with his agent, and might not come back for some
days.

Falls-Park was over twenty miles from King's-Hintock Court, and was
altogether a more modest centre-piece to a more modest possession than
the latter. But as Squire Dornell came in view of it that February
morning, he thought that he had been a fool ever to leave it, though it
was for the sake of the greatest heiress in Wessex. Its classic front,
of the period of the second Charles, derived from its regular features a
dignity which the great, battlemented, heterogeneous mansion of his wife
could not eclipse. Altogether he was sick at heart, and the gloom which
the densely-timbered park threw over the scene did not tend to remove
the depression of this rubicund man of eight-and-forty, who sat so
heavily upon his gelding. The child, his darling Betty: there lay the
root of his trouble. He was unhappy when near his wife, he was unhappy
when away from his little girl; and from this dilemma there was no
practicable escape. As a consequence he indulged rather freely in the
pleasures of the table, became what was called a three bottle man, and,
in his wife's estimation, less and less presentable to her polite
friends from town.

He was received by the two or three old servants who were in charge of
the lonely place, where a few rooms only were kept habitable for his use
or that of his friends when hunting; and during the morning he was made
more comfortable by the arrival of his faithful servant Tupcombe from
King's-Hintock. But after a day or two spent here in solitude he began
to feel that he had made a mistake in coming. By leaving King's-Hintock
in his anger he had thrown away his best opportunity of counteracting
his wife's preposterous notion of promising his poor little Betty's hand
to a man she had hardly seen. To protect her from such a repugnant
bargain he should have remained on the spot. He felt it almost as a
misfortune that the child would inherit so much wealth. She would be a
mark for all the adventurers in the kingdom. Had she been only the
heiress to his own unassuming little place at Falls, how much better
would have been her chances of happiness!

His wife had divined truly when she insinuated that he himself had a
lover in view for this pet child. The son of a dear deceased friend of
his, who lived not two miles from where the Squire now was, a lad a
couple of years his daughter's senior, seemed in her father's opinion
the one person in the world likely to make her happy. But as to
breathing such a scheme to either of the young people with the indecent
haste that his wife had shown, he would not dream of it; years hence
would be soon enough for that. They had already seen each other, and the
Squire fancied that he noticed a tenderness on the youth's part which
promised well. He was strongly tempted to profit by his wife's example,
and forestall her match-making by throwing the two young people together
there at Falls. The girl, though marriageable in the views of those
days, was too young to be in love, but the lad was fifteen, and already
felt an interest in her.

Still better than keeping watch over her at King's Hintock, where she
was necessarily much under her mother's influence, would it be to get
the child to stay with him at Falls for a time, under his exclusive
control. But how accomplish this without using main force? The only
possible chance was that his wife might, for appearance' sake, as she
had done before, consent to Betty paying him a day's visit, when he
might find means of detaining her till Reynard, the suitor whom his wife
favoured, had gone abroad, which he was expected to do the following
week. Squire Dornell determined to return to King's-Hintock and attempt
the enterprise. If he were refused, it was almost in him to pick up
Betty bodily and carry her off.

The journey back, vague and Quixotic as were his intentions, was
performed with a far lighter heart than his setting forth. He would see
Betty, and talk to her, come what might of his plan.

So he rode along the dead level which stretches between the hills
skirting Falls-Park and those bounding the town of Ivell, trotted
through that borough, and out by the King's-Hintock highway, till,
passing the villages he entered the mile-long drive through the park to
the Court. The drive being open, without an avenue, the Squire could
discern the north front and door of the Court a long way off, and was
himself visible from the windows on that side; for which reason he hoped
that Betty might perceive him coming, as she sometimes did on his return
from an outing, and run to the door or wave her handkerchief.

But there was no sign. He inquired for his wife as soon as he set foot
to earth.

'Mistress is away. She was called to London, sir.'

'And Mistress Betty?' said the Squire blankly.

'Gone likewise, sir, for a little change. Mistress has left a letter for
you.'

The note explained nothing, merely stating that she had posted to London
on her own affairs, and had taken the child to give her a holiday. On
the fly-leaf were some words from Betty herself to the same effect,
evidently written in a state of high jubilation at the idea of her
jaunt. Squire Dornell murmured a few expletives, and submitted to his
disappointment. How long his wife meant to stay in town she did not say;
but on investigation he found that the carriage had been packed with
sufficient luggage for a sojourn of two or three weeks.

King's-Hintock Court was in consequence as gloomy as Falls-Park had
been. He had lost all zest for hunting of late, and had hardly attended
a meet that season. Dornell read and re-read Betty's scrawl, and hunted
up some other such notes of hers to look over, this seeming to be the
only pleasure there was left for him. That they were really in London he
learnt in a few days by another letter from Mrs. Dornell, in which she
explained that they hoped to be home in about a week, and that she had
had no idea he was coming back to King's-Hintock so soon, or she would
not have gone away without telling him.

Squire Dornell wondered if, in going or returning, it had been her plan
to call at the Reynards' place near Melchester, through which city their
journey lay. It was possible that she might do this in furtherance of
her project, and the sense that his own might become the losing game was
harassing.

He did not know how to dispose of himself, till it occurred to him that,
to get rid of his intolerable heaviness, he would invite some friends to
dinner and drown his cares in grog and wine. No sooner was the carouse
decided upon than he put it in hand; those invited being mostly
neighbouring landholders, all smaller men than himself, members of the
hunt; also the doctor from Evershead, and the like-some of them
rollicking blades whose presence his wife would not have countenanced
had she been at home. 'When the cat's away-!' said the Squire.

They arrived, and there were indications in their manner that they meant
to make a night of it. Baxby of Sherton Castle was late, and they waited
a quarter of an hour for him, he being one of the liveliest of Dornell's
friends; without whose presence no such dinner as this would be
considered complete, and, it may be added, with whose presence no dinner
which included both sexes could be conducted with strict propriety. He
had just returned from London, and the Squire was anxious to talk to
him-for no definite reason; but he had lately breathed the atmosphere in
which Betty was.

At length they heard Baxby driving up to the door, whereupon the host
and the rest of his guests crossed over to the dining-room. In a moment
Baxby came hastily in at their heels, apologizing for his lateness.

'I only came back last night, you know,' he said; 'and the truth o't is,
I had as much as I could carry.' He turned to the Squire. 'Well,
Dornell-so cunning Reynard has stolen your little ewe lamb? Ha, ha!'

'What?' said Squire Dornell vacantly, across the dining-table, round
which they were all standing, the cold March sunlight streaming in upon
his full-clean shaven face.

'Surely th'st know what all the town knows?-you've had a letter by this
time?-that Stephen Reynard has married your Betty? Yes, as I'm a living
man. It was a carefully-arranged thing: they parted at once, and are not
to meet for five or six years. But, Lord, you must know!'

A thud on the floor was the only reply of the Squire. They quickly
turned. He had fallen down like a log behind the table, and lay
motionless on the oak boards.

Those at hand hastily bent over him, and the whole group were in
confusion. They found him to be quite unconscious, though puffing and
panting like a blacksmith's bellows. His face was livid, his veins
swollen, and beads of perspiration stood upon his brow.

'What's happened to him?' said several.

'An apoplectic fit,' said the doctor from Evershead, gravely.

He was only called in at the Court for small ailments, as a rule, and
felt the importance of the situation. He lifted the Squire's head,
loosened his cravat and clothing, and rang for the servants, who took
the Squire upstairs.

There he lay as if in a drugged sleep. The surgeon drew a basin-full of
blood from him, but it was nearly six o'clock before he came to himself.
The dinner was completely disorganized, and some had gone home long ago;
but two or three remained.

'Bless my soul,' Baxby kept repeating, 'I didn't know things had come to
this pass between Dornell and his lady! I thought the feast he was
spreading to-day was in honour of the event, though privately kept for
the present! His little maid married without his knowledge!'

As soon as the Squire recovered consciousness he gasped: ''Tis
abduction! 'Tis a capital felony! He can be hung! Where is Baxby? I am
very well now. What items have ye heard, Baxby?'

The bearer of the untoward news was extremely unwilling to agitate
Dornell further, and would say little more at first. But an hour after,
when the Squire had partially recovered and was sitting up, Baxby told
as much as he knew, the most important particular being that Betty's
mother was present at the marriage, and showed every mark of approval.
'Everything appeared to have been done so regularly that I, of course,
thought you knew all about it,' he said.

'I knew no more than the underground dead that such a step was in the
wind! A child not yet thirteen! How Sue hath outwitted me! Did Reynard
go up to Lon'on with 'em, d'ye know?'

'I can't say. All I know is that your lady and daughter were walking
along the street, with the footman behind 'em; that they entered a
jeweller's shop, where Reynard was standing; and that there, in the
presence o' the shopkeeper and your man, who was called in on purpose,
your Betty said to Reynard-so the story goes: 'pon my soul I don't vouch
for the truth of it-she said, "Will you marry me?" or, "I want to marry
you: will you have me-now or never?" she said.'

'What she said means nothing,' murmured the Squire, with wet eyes. 'Her
mother put the words into her mouth to avoid the serious consequences
that would attach to any suspicion of force. The words be not the
child's: she didn't dream of marriage-how should she, poor little maid!
Go on.'

'Well, be that as it will, they were all agreed apparently. They bought
the ring on the spot, and the marriage took place at the nearest church
within half-an-hour.'

A day or two later there came a letter from Mrs. Dornell to her husband,
written before she knew of his stroke. She related the circumstances of
the marriage in the gentlest manner, and gave cogent reasons and excuses
for consenting to the premature union, which was now an accomplished
fact indeed. She had no idea, till sudden pressure was put upon her,
that the contract was expected to be carried out so soon, but being
taken half unawares, she had consented, having learned that Stephen
Reynard, now their son-in-law, was becoming a great favourite at Court,
and that he would in all likelihood have a title granted him before
long. No harm could come to their dear daughter by this early marriage-
contract, seeing that her life would be continued under their own eyes,
exactly as before, for some years. In fine, she had felt that no other
such fair opportunity for a good marriage with a shrewd courtier and
wise man of the world, who was at the same time noted for his excellent
personal qualities, was within the range of probability, owing to the
rusticated lives they led at King's-Hintock. Hence she had yielded to
Stephen's solicitation, and hoped her husband would forgive her. She
wrote, in short, like a woman who, having had her way as to the deed, is
prepared to make any concession as to words and subsequent behaviour.

All this Dornell took at its true value, or rather, perhaps, at less
than its true value. As his life depended upon his not getting into a
passion, he controlled his perturbed emotions as well as he was able,
going about the house sadly and utterly unlike his former self. He took
every precaution to prevent his wife knowing of the incidents of his
sudden illness, from a sense of shame at having a heart so tender; a
ridiculous quality, no doubt, in her eyes, now that she had become so
imbued with town ideas. But rumours of his seizure somehow reached her,
and she let him know that she was about to return to nurse him. He
thereupon packed up and went off to his own place at Falls-Park.

Here he lived the life of a recluse for some time. He was still too
unwell to entertain company, or to ride to hounds or elsewhither; but
more than this, his aversion to the faces of strangers and
acquaintances, who knew by that time of the trick his wife had played
him, operated to hold him aloof.

Nothing could influence him to censure Betty for her share in the
exploit. He never once believed that she had acted voluntarily. Anxious
to know how she was getting on, he despatched the trusty servant
Tupcombe to Evershead village, close to King's-Hintock, timing his
journey so that he should reach the place under cover of dark. The
emissary arrived without notice, being out of livery, and took a seat in
the chimney-corner of the Sow-and-Acorn.

The conversation of the droppers-in was always of the nine days' wonder-
the recent marriage. The smoking listener learnt that Mrs. Dornell and
the girl had returned to King's-Hintock for a day or two, that Reynard
had set out for the Continent, and that Betty had since been packed off
to school. She did not realize her position as Reynard's child-wife-so
the story went-and though somewhat awe-stricken at first by the
ceremony, she had soon recovered her spirits on finding that her freedom
was in no way to be interfered with.

After that, formal messages began to pass between Dornell and his wife,
the latter being now as persistently conciliating as she was formerly
masterful. But her rustic, simple, blustering husband still held
personally aloof. Her wish to be reconciled-to win his forgiveness for
her stratagem-moreover, a genuine tenderness and desire to soothe his
sorrow, which welled up in her at times, brought her at last to his door
at Falls-Park one day.

They had not met since that night of altercation, before her departure
for London and his subsequent illness. She was shocked at the change in
him. His face had become expressionless, as blank as that of a puppet,
and what troubled her still more was that she found him living in one
room, and indulging freely in stimulants, in absolute disobedience to
the physician's order. The fact was obvious that he could no longer be
allowed to live thus uncouthly.

So she sympathized, and begged his pardon, and coaxed. But though after
this date there was no longer such a complete estrangement as before,
they only occasionally saw each other, Dornell for the most part making
Falls his headquarters still.

Three or four years passed thus. Then she came one day, with more
animation in her manner, and at once moved him by the simple statement
that Betty's schooling had ended; she had returned, and was grieved
because he was away. She had sent a message to him in these words: 'Ask
father to come home to his dear Betty.'

'Ah! Then she is very unhappy!' said Squire Dornell.

His wife was silent.

''Tis that accursed marriage!' continued the Squire.

Still his wife would not dispute with him. 'She is outside in the
carriage,' said Mrs. Dornell gently.

'What-Betty?'

'Yes.'

'Why didn't you tell me?' Dornell rushed out, and there was the girl
awaiting his forgiveness, for she supposed herself, no less than her
mother, to be under his displeasure.

Yes, Betty had left school, and had returned to King's-Hintock. She was
nearly seventeen, and had developed to quite a young woman. She looked
not less a member of the household for her early marriage-contract,
which she seemed, indeed, to have almost forgotten. It was like a dream
to her; that clear cold March day, the London church, with its gorgeous
pews, and green-baize linings, and the great organ in the west gallery-
so different from their own little church in the shrubbery of King's-
Hintock Court-the man of thirty, to whose face she had looked up with so
much awe, and with a sense that he was rather ugly and formidable; the
man whom, though they corresponded politely, she had never seen since;
one to whose existence she was now so indifferent that if informed of
his death, and that she would never see him more, she would merely have
replied, 'Indeed!' Betty's passions as yet still slept.

'Hast heard from thy husband lately?' said Squire Dornell, when they
were indoors, with an ironical laugh of fondness which demanded no
answer.

The girl winced, and he noticed that his wife looked appealingly at him.
As the conversation went on, and there were signs that Dornell would
express sentiments that might do harm to a position which they could not
alter, Mrs. Dornell suggested that Betty should leave the room till her
father and herself had finished their private conversation; and this
Betty obediently did.

Dornell renewed his animadversions freely. 'Did you see how the sound of
his name frightened her?' he presently added. 'If you didn't, I did.
Zounds! what a future is in store for that poor little unfortunate wench
o' mine! I tell 'ee, Sue, 'twas not a marriage at all, in morality, and
if I were a woman in such a position, I shouldn't feel it as one. She
might, without a sign of sin, love a man of her choice as well now as if
she were chained up to no other at all. There, that's my mind, and I
can't help it. Ah, Sue, my man was best! He'd ha' suited her.'

'I don't believe it,' she replied incredulously.

'You should see him; then you would. He's growing up a fine fellow, I
can tell 'ee.'

'Hush! not so loud!' she answered, rising from her seat and going to the
door of the next room, whither her daughter had betaken herself. To Mrs.
Dornell's alarm, there sat Betty in a reverie, her round eyes fixed on
vacancy, musing so deeply that she did not perceive her mother's
entrance. She had heard every word, and was digesting the new knowledge.

Her mother felt that Falls-Park was dangerous ground for a young girl of
the susceptible age, and in Betty's peculiar position, while Dornell
talked and reasoned thus. She called Betty to her, and they took leave.
The Squire would not clearly promise to return and make King's-Hintock
Court his permanent abode; but Betty's presence there, as at former
times, was sufficient to make him agree to pay them a visit soon.

All the way home Betty remained preoccupied and silent. It was too plain
to her anxious mother that Squire Dornell's free views had been a sort
of awakening to the girl.

The interval before Dornell redeemed his pledge to come and see them was
unexpectedly short. He arrived one morning about twelve o'clock, driving
his own pair of black-bays in the curricle-phaeton with yellow panels
and red wheels, just as he had used to do, and his faithful old Tupcombe
on horseback behind. A young man sat beside the Squire in the carriage,
and Mrs. Dornell's consternation could scarcely be concealed when,
abruptly entering with his companion, the Squire announced him as his
friend Phelipson of Elm-Cranlynch.

Dornell passed on to Betty in the background and tenderly kissed her.
'Sting your mother's conscience, my maid!' he whispered. 'Sting her
conscience by pretending you are struck with Phelipson, and would ha'
loved him, as your old father's choice, much more than him she has
forced upon 'ee.'

The simple-souled speaker fondly imagined that it as entirely in
obedience to this direction that Betty's eyes stole interested glances
at the frank and impulsive Phelipson that day at dinner, and he laughed
grimly within himself to see how this joke of his, as he imagined it to
be, was disturbing the peace of mind of the lady of the house. 'Now Sue
sees what a mistake she has made!' said he.

Mrs. Dornell was verily greatly alarmed, and as soon as she could speak
a word with him alone she upbraided him. 'You ought not to have brought
him here. Oh Thomas, how could you be so thoughtless! Lord, don't you
see, dear, that what is done cannot be undone, and how all this foolery
jeopardizes her happiness with her husband? Until you interfered, and
spoke in her hearing about this Phelipson, she was as patient and as
willing as a lamb, and looked forward to Mr. Reynard's return with real
pleasure. Since her visit to Falls-Park she has been monstrous close-
mouthed and busy with her own thoughts. What mischief will you do? How
will it end?'

'Own, then, that my man was best suited to her. I only brought him to
convince you.'

'Yes, yes; I do admit it. But oh! do take him back again at once! Don't
keep him here! I fear she is even attracted by him already.'

'Nonsense, Sue. 'Tis only a little trick to tease 'ee!'

Nevertheless her motherly eye was not so likely to be deceived as his,
and if Betty were really only playing at being love-struck that day, she
played at it with the perfection of a Rosalind, and would have deceived
the best professors into a belief that it was no counterfeit. The
Squire, having obtained his victory, was quite ready to take back the
too attractive youth, and early in the afternoon they set out on their
return journey.

A silent figure who rode behind them was as interested as Dornell in
that day's experiment. It was the staunch Tupcombe, who, with his eyes
on the Squire's and young Phelipson's backs, thought how well the latter
would have suited Betty, and how greatly the former had changed for the
worse during these last two or three years. He cursed his mistress as
the cause of the change.

After this memorable visit to prove his point, the lives of the Dornell
couple flowed on quietly enough for the space of a twelvemonth, the
Squire for the most part remaining at Falls, and Betty passing and
repassing between them now and then, once or twice alarming her mother
by not driving home from her father's house till midnight.

The repose of King's-Hintock was broken by the arrival of a special
messenger. Squire Dornell had had an access of gout so violent as to be
serious. He wished to see Betty again: why had she not come for so long?

Mrs. Dornell was extremely reluctant to take Betty in that direction too
frequently; but the girl was so anxious to go, her interests latterly
seeming to be so entirely bound up in Falls-Park and its neighbourhood,
that there was nothing to be done but to let her set out and accompany
her.

Squire Dornell had been impatiently awaiting her arrival. They found him
very ill and irritable. It had been his habit to take powerful medicines
to drive away his enemy, and they had failed in their effect on this
occasion.

The presence of his daughter, as usual, calmed him much, even while, as
usual too, it saddened him; for he could never forget that she had
disposed of herself for life in opposition to his wishes, though she had
secretly assured him that she would never have consented had she been as
old as she was now.

As on a former occasion, his wife wished to speak to him alone about the
girl's future, the time now drawing nigh at which Reynard was expected
to come and claim her. He would have done so already, but he had been
put off by the earnest request of the young woman herself, which
accorded with that of her parents, on the score of her youth. Reynard
had deferentially submitted to their wishes in this respect, the
understanding between them having been that he would not visit her
before she was eighteen, except by the mutual consent of all parties.
But this could not go on much longer, and there was no doubt, from the
tenor of his last letter, that he would soon take possession of her
whether or no.

To be out of the sound of this delicate discussion Betty was accordingly
sent downstairs, and they soon saw her walking away into the
shrubberies, looking very pretty in her sweeping green gown, and
flapping broad-brimmed hat overhung with a feather.

On returning to the subject, Mrs. Dornell found her husband's reluctance
to reply in the affirmative to Reynard's letter to be as great as ever.

'She is three months short of eighteen!' he exclaimed. ''Tis too soon. I
won't hear of it! If I have to keep him off sword in hand, he shall not
have her yet.'

'But, my dear Thomas,' she expostulated, 'consider if anything should
happen to you or to me, how much better it would be that she should be
settled in her home with him!'

'I say it is too soon!' he argued, the veins of his forehead beginning
to swell. 'If he gets her this side o' Candlemas I'll challenge en-I'll
take my oath on't! I'll be back to King's-Hintock in two or three days,
and I'll not lose sight of her day or night!'

She feared to agitate him further, and gave way, assuring him, in
obedience to his demand, that if Reynard should write again before he
got back, to fix a time for joining Betty, she would put the letter in
her husband's hands, and he should do as he chose. This was all that
required discussion privately, and Mrs. Dornell went to call in Betty,
hoping that she had not heard her father's loud tones.

She had certainly not done so this time. Mrs. Dornell followed the path
along which she had seen Betty wandering, but went a considerable
distance without perceiving anything of her. The Squire's wife then
turned round to proceed to the other side of the house by a short cut
across the grass, when, to her surprise and consternation, she beheld
the object of her search sitting on the horizontal bough of a cedar,
beside her being a young man, whose arm was round her waist. He moved a
little, and she recognized him as young Phelipson.

Alas, then, she was right. The so-called counterfeit love was real. What
Mrs. Dornell called her husband at that moment, for his folly in
originally throwing the young people together, it is not necessary to
mention. She decided in a moment not to let the lovers know that she had
seen them. She accordingly retreated, reached the front of the house by
another route, and called at the top of her voice from a window,
'Betty!'

For the first time since her strategic marriage of the child, Susan
Dornell doubted the wisdom of that step.

Her husband had, as it were, been assisted by destiny to make his
objection, originally trivial, a valid one. She saw the outlines of
trouble in the future. Why had Dornell interfered? Why had he insisted
upon producing his man? This, then, accounted for Betty's pleading for
postponement whenever the subject of her husband's return was broached;
this accounted for her attachment to Falls-Park. Possibly this very
meeting that she had witnessed had been arranged by letter.

Perhaps the girl's thoughts would never have strayed for a moment if her
father had not filled her head with ideas of repugnance to her early
union, on the ground that she had been coerced into it before she knew
her own mind; and she might have rushed to meet her husband with open
arms on the appointed day.

Betty at length appeared in the distance in answer to the call, and came
up pale, but looking innocent of having seen a living soul. Mrs. Dornell
groaned in spirit at such duplicity in the child of her bosom. This was
the simple creature for whose development into womanhood they had all
been so tenderly waiting-a forward minx, old enough not only to have a
lover, but to conceal his existence as adroitly as any woman of the
world! Bitterly did the Squire's lady regret that Stephen Reynard had
not been allowed to come to claim her at the time he first proposed.

The two sat beside each other almost in silence on their journey back to
King's-Hintock. Such words as were spoken came mainly from Betty, and
their formality indicated how much her mind and heart were occupied with
other things.

Mrs. Dornell was far too astute a mother to openly attack Betty on the
matter. That would be only fanning flame. The indispensable course
seemed to her to be that of keeping the treacherous girl under lock and
key till her husband came to take her off her mother's hands. That he
would disregard Dornell's opposition, and come soon, was her devout
wish.

It seemed, therefore, a fortunate coincidence that on her arrival at
King's-Hintock a letter from Reynard was put into Mrs. Dornell's hands.
It was addressed to both her and her husband, and courteously informed
them that the writer had landed at Bristol, and proposed to come on to
King's-Hintock in a few days, at last to meet and carry off his darling
Betty, if she and her parents saw no objection.

Betty had also received a letter of the same tenor. Her mother had only
to look at her face to see how the girl received the information. She
was as pale as a sheet.

'You must do your best to welcome him this time, my dear Betty,' her
mother said gently.

'But-but-I-'

'You are a woman now,' added her mother severely, 'and these
postponements must come to an end.'

'But my father-oh, I am sure he will not allow this! I am not ready. If
he could only wait a year longer-if he could only wait a few months
longer! Oh, I wish-I wish my dear father were here! I will send to him
instantly.' She broke off abruptly, and falling upon her mother's neck,
burst into tears, saying, 'O my mother, have mercy upon me-I do not love
this man, my husband!'

The agonized appeal went too straight to Mrs. Dornell's heart for her to
hear it unmoved. Yet, things having come to this pass, what could she
do? She was distracted, and for a moment was on Betty's side. Her
original thought had been to write an affirmative reply to Reynard,
allow him to come on to King's-Hintock, and keep her husband in
ignorance of the whole proceeding till he should arrive from Falls on
some fine day after his recovery, and find everything settled, and
Reynard and Betty living together in harmony. But the events of the day,
and her daughter's sudden outburst of feeling, had overthrown this
intention. Betty was sure to do as she had threatened, and communicate
instantly with her father, possibly attempt to fly to him. Moreover,
Reynard's letter was addressed to Mr. Dornell and herself conjointly,
and she could not in conscience keep it from her husband.

'I will send the letter on to your father instantly,' she replied
soothingly. 'He shall act entirely as he chooses, and you know that will
not be in opposition to your wishes. He would ruin you rather than
thwart you. I only hope he may be well enough to bear the agitation of
this news. Do you agree to this?'

Poor Betty agreed, on condition that she should actually witness the
despatch of the letter. Her mother had no objection to offer to this;
but as soon as the horseman had cantered down the drive toward the
highway, Mrs. Dornell's sympathy with Betty's recalcitration began to
die out. The girl's secret affection for young Phelipson could not
possibly be condoned. Betty might communicate with him, might even try
to reach him. Ruin lay that way. Stephen Reynard must be speedily
installed in his proper place by Betty's side.

She sat down and penned a private letter to Reynard, which threw light
upon her plan.

'It is Necessary that I should now tell you,' she said, 'what I have
never Mentioned before-indeed I may have signified the Contrary-that her
Father's Objection to your joining her has not as yet been overcome. As
I personally Wish to delay you no longer-am indeed as anxious for your
Arrival as you can be yourself, having the good of my Daughter at Heart-
no course is left open to me but to assist your Cause without my
Husband's Knowledge. He, I am sorry to say, is at present ill at Falls-
Park, but I felt it my Duty to forward him your Letter. He will
therefore be like to reply with a peremptory Command to you to go back
again, for some Months, whence you came, till the Time he originally
stipulated has expir'd. My Advice is, if you get such a Letter, to take
no Notice of it, but to come on hither as you had proposed, letting me
know the Day and Hour (after dark, if possible) at which we may expect
you. Dear Betty is with me, and I warrant ye that she shall be in the
House when you arrive.'

Mrs. Dornell, having sent away this epistle unsuspected of anybody, next
took steps to prevent her daughter leaving the Court, avoiding if
possible to excite the girl's suspicions that she was under restraint.
But, as if by divination, Betty had seemed to read the husband's
approach in the aspect of her mother's face.

'He is coming!' exclaimed the maiden.

'Not for a week,' her mother assured her.

'He is then-for certain?'

'Well, yes.'

Betty hastily retired to her room, and would not be seen.

To lock her up, and hand over the key to Reynard when he should appear
in the hall, was a plan charming in its simplicity, till her mother
found, on trying the door of the girl's chamber softly, that Betty had
already locked and bolted it on the inside, and had given directions to
have her meals served where she was, by leaving them on a dumb-waiter
outside the door.

Thereupon Mrs. Dornell noiselessly sat down in her boudoir, which, as
well as her bed-chamber, was a passage-room to the girl's apartment, and
she resolved not to vacate her post night or day till her daughter's
husband should appear, to which end she too arranged to breakfast, dine,
and sup on the spot. It was impossible now that Betty should escape
without her knowledge, even if she had wished, there being no other door
to the chamber, except one admitting to a small inner dressing-room
inaccessible by any second way.

But it was plain that the young girl had no thought of escape. Her ideas
ran rather in the direction of intrenchment: she was prepared to stand a
siege, but scorned flight. This, at any rate, rendered her secure. As to
how Reynard would contrive a meeting with her coy daughter while in such
a defensive humour, that, thought her mother, must be left to his own
ingenuity to discover.

Betty had looked so wild and pale at the announcement of her husband's
approaching visit, that Mrs. Dornell, somewhat uneasy, could not leave
her to herself. She peeped through the keyhole an hour later. Betty lay
on the sofa, staring listlessly at the ceiling.

'You are looking ill, child,' cried her mother. 'You've not taken the
air lately. Come with me for a drive.'

Betty made no objection. Soon they drove through the park towards the
village, the daughter still in the strained, strung-up silence that had
fallen upon her. They left the park to return by another route, and on
the open road passed a cottage.

Betty's eye fell upon the cottage-window. Within it she saw a young girl
about her own age, whom she knew by sight, sitting in a chair and
propped by a pillow. The girl's face was covered with scales, which
glistened in the sun. She was a convalescent from smallpox-a disease
whose prevalence at that period was a terror of which we at present can
hardly form a conception.

An idea suddenly energized Betty's apathetic features. She glanced at
her mother; Mrs. Dornell had been looking in the opposite direction.
Betty said that she wished to go back to the cottage for a moment to
speak to a girl in whom she took an interest. Mrs. Dornell appeared
suspicious, but observing that the cottage had no back-door, and that
Betty could not escape without being seen, she allowed the carriage to
be stopped. Betty ran back and entered the cottage, emerging again in
about a minute, and resuming her seat in the carriage. As they drove on
she fixed her eyes upon her mother and said, 'There, I have done it
now!' Her pale face was stormy, and her eyes full of waiting tears.

'What have you done?' said Mrs. Dornell.

'Nanny Priddle is sick of the smallpox, and I saw her at the window, and
I went in and kissed her, so that I might take it; and now I shall have
it, and he won't be able to come near me!'

'Wicked girl!' cries her mother. 'Oh, what am I to do! What-bring a
distemper on yourself, and usurp the sacred prerogative of God, because
you can't palate the man you've wedded!'

The alarmed woman gave orders to drive home as rapidly as possible, and
on arriving, Betty, who was by this time also somewhat frightened at her
own enormity, was put into a bath, and fumigated, and treated in every
way that could be thought of to ward off the dreadful malady that in a
rash moment she had tried to acquire.

There was now a double reason for isolating the rebellious daughter and
wife in her own chamber, and there she accordingly remained for the rest
of the day and the days that followed; till no ill results seemed likely
to arise from her wilfulness.

Meanwhile the first letter from Reynard, announcing to Mrs. Dornell and
her husband jointly that he was coming in a few days, had sped on its
way to Falls-Park. It was directed under cover to Tupcombe, the
confidential servant, with instructions not to put it into his master's
hands till he had been refreshed by a good long sleep. Tupcombe much
regretted his commission, letters sent in this way always disturbing the
Squire; but guessing that it would be infinitely worse in the end to
withhold the news than to reveal it, he chose his time, which was early
the next morning, and delivered the missive.

The utmost effect that Mrs. Dornell had anticipated from the message was
a peremptory order from her husband to Reynard to hold aloof a few
months longer. What the Squire really did was to declare that he would
go himself and confront Reynard at Bristol, and have it out with him
there by word of mouth.

'But, master,' said Tupcombe, 'you can't. You cannot get out of bed.'

'You leave the room, Tupcombe, and don't say "can't" before me! Have
Jerry saddled in an hour.'

The long-tried Tupcombe thought his employer demented, so utterly
helpless was his appearance just then, and he went out reluctantly. No
sooner was he gone than the Squire, with great difficulty, stretched
himself over to a cabinet by the bedside, unlocked it, and took out a
small bottle. It contained a gout specific, against whose use he had
been repeatedly warned by his regular physician, but whose warning he
now cast to the winds.

He took a double dose, and waited half an hour. It seemed to produce no
effect. He then poured out a treble dose, swallowed it, leant back upon
his pillow, and waited. The miracle he anticipated had been worked at
last. It seemed as though the second draught had not only operated with
its own strength, but had kindled into power the latent forces of the
first. He put away the bottle, and rang up Tupcombe.

Less than an hour later one of the housemaids, who of course was quite
aware that the Squire's illness was serious, was surprised to hear a
bold and decided step descending the stairs from the direction of Mr.
Dornell's room, accompanied by the humming of a tune. She knew that the
doctor had not paid a visit that morning, and that it was too heavy to
be the valet or any other man-servant. Looking up, she saw Squire
Dornell fully dressed, descending toward her in his drab caped riding-
coat and boots, with the swinging easy movement of his prime. Her face
expressed her amazement.

'What the devil beest looking at?' said the Squire. 'Did you never see a
man walk out of his house before, wench?'

Resuming his humming-which was of a defiant sort-he proceeded to the
library, rang the bell, asked if the horses were ready, and directed
them to be brought round. Ten minutes later he rode away in the
direction of Bristol, Tupcombe behind him, trembling at what these
movements might portend.

They rode on through the pleasant woodlands and the monotonous straight
lanes at an equal pace. The distance traversed might have been about
fifteen miles when Tupcombe could perceive that the Squire was getting
tired-as weary as he would have been after riding three times the
distance ten years before. However, they reached Bristol without any
mishap, and put up at the Squire's accustomed inn. Dornell almost
immediately proceeded on foot to the inn which Reynard had given as his
address, it being now about four o'clock.

Reynard had already dined-for people dined early then-and he was staying
indoors. He had already received Mrs. Dornell's reply to his letter; but
before acting upon her advice and starting for King's-Hintock he made up
his mind to wait another day, that Betty's father might at least have
time to write to him if so minded. The returned traveller much desired
to obtain the Squire's assent, as well as his wife's, to the proposed
visit to his bride, that nothing might seem harsh or forced in his
method of taking his position as one of the family. But though he
anticipated some sort of objection from his father-in-law, in
consequence of Mrs. Dornell's warning, he was surprised at the
announcement of the Squire in person.

Stephen Reynard formed the completest of possible contrasts to Dornell
as they stood confronting each other in the best parlour of the Bristol
tavern. The Squire, hot-tempered, gouty, impulsive, generous, reckless;
the younger man, pale, tall, sedate, self-possessed-a man of the world,
fully bearing out at least one couplet in his epitaph, still extant in
King's-Hintock church, which places in the inventory of his good
qualities

'Engaging Manners, cultivated Mind, Adorn'd by Letters, and in Courts
refin'd.'

He was at this time about five-and-thirty, though careful living and an
even, unemotional temperament caused him to look much younger than his
years.

Squire Dornell plunged into his errand without much ceremony or preface.

'I am your humble servant, sir,' he said. 'I have read your letter writ
to my wife and myself, and considered that the best way to answer it
would be to do so in person.'

'I am vastly honoured by your visit, sir,' said Mr. Stephen Reynard,
bowing.

'Well, what's done can't be undone,' said Dornell, 'though it was mighty
early, and was no doing of mine. She's your wife; and there's an end
on't. But in brief, sir, she's too young for you to claim yet; we
mustn't reckon by years; we must reckon by nature. She's still a girl;
'tis onpolite of 'ee to come yet; next year will be full soon enough for
you to take her to you.'

Now, courteous as Reynard could be, he was a little obstinate when his
resolution had once been formed. She had been promised him by her
eighteenth birthday at latest-sooner if she were in robust health. Her
mother had fixed the time on her own judgment, without a word of
interference on his part. He had been hanging about foreign courts till
he was weary. Betty was now as woman, if she would ever be one, and
there was not, in his mind, the shadow of an excuse for putting him off
longer. Therefore, fortified as he was by the support of her mother, he
blandly but firmly told the Squire that he had been willing to waive his
rights, out of deference to her parents, to any reasonable extent, but
must now, in justice to himself and her insist on maintaining them. He
therefore, since she had not come to meet him, should proceed to King's-
Hintock in a few days to fetch her.

This announcement, in spite of the urbanity with which it was delivered,
set Dornell in a passion.

'Oh dammy, sir; you talk about rights, you do, after stealing her away,
a mere child, against my will and knowledge! If we'd begged and prayed
'ee to take her, you could say no more.'

'Upon my honour, your charge is quite baseless, sir,' said his son-in-
law. 'You must know by this time-or if you do not, it has been a
monstrous cruel injustice to me that I should have been allowed to
remain in your mind with such a stain upon my character-you must know
that I used no seductiveness or temptation of any kind. Her mother
assented; she assented. I took them at their word. That you was really
opposed to the marriage was not known to me till afterwards.'

Dornell professed to believe not a word of it. 'You sha'n't have her
till she's dree sixes full-no maid ought to be married till she's dree
sixes!-and my daughter sha'n't be treated out of nater!' So he stormed
on till Tupcombe, who had been alarmedly listening in the next room,
entered suddenly, declaring to Reynard that his master's life was in
danger if the interview were prolonged, he being subject to apoplectic
strokes at these crises. Reynard immediately said that he would be the
last to wish to injure Squire Dornell, and left the room, and as soon as
the Squire had recovered breath and equanimity, he went out of the inn,
leaning on the arm of Tupcombe.

Tupcombe was for sleeping in Bristol that night, but Dornell, whose
energy seemed as invincible as it was sudden, insisted upon mounting and
getting back as far as Falls-Park, to continue the journey to King's-
Hintock on the following day. At five they started, and took the
southern road toward the Mendip Hills. The evening was dry and windy,
and, excepting that the sun did not shine, strongly reminded Tupcombe of
the evening of that March month, nearly five years earlier, when news
had been brought to King's-Hintock Court of the child Betty's marriage
in London-news which had produced upon Dornell such a marked effect for
the worse ever since, and indirectly upon the household of which he was
the head. Before that time the winters were lively at Falls-Park, as
well as at King's-Hintock, although the Squire had ceased to make it his
regular residence. Hunting-guests and shooting-guests came and went, and
open house was kept. Tupcombe disliked the clever courtier who had put a
stop to this by taking away from the Squire the only treasure he valued.

It grew darker with their progress along the lanes, and Tupcombe
discovered from Mr. Dornell's manner of riding that his strength was
giving way; and spurring his own horse close alongside, he asked him how
he felt.

'Oh, bad; damn bad, Tupcombe! I can hardly keep my seat. I shall never
be any better, I fear! Have we passed Three-Man-Gibbet yet?'

'Not yet by a long ways, sir.'

'I wish we had. I can hardly hold on.' The Squire could not repress a
groan now and then, and Tupcombe knew he was in great pain. 'I wish I
was underground-that's the place for such fools as I! I'd gladly be
there if it were not for Mistress Betty. He's coming on to King's-
Hintock to-morrow-he won't put it off any longer; he'll set out and
reach there to-morrow night, without stopping at Falls; and he'll take
her unawares, and I want to be there before him.'

'I hope you may be well enough to do it, sir. But really-'

'I must, Tupcombe! You don't know what my trouble is; it is not so much
that she is married to this man without my agreeing-for, after all,
there's nothing to say against him, so far as I know; but that she don't
take to him at all, seems to fear him-in fact, cares nothing about him;
and if he comes forcing himself into the house upon her, why, 'twill be
rank cruelty. Would to the Lord something would happen to prevent him!'

How they reached home that night Tupcombe hardly knew. The Squire was in
such pain that he was obliged to recline upon his horse, and Tupcombe
was afraid every moment lest he would fall into the road. But they did
reach home at last, and Mr. Dornell was instantly assisted to bed.

Next morning it was obvious that he could not possibly go to King's-
Hintock for several days at least, and there on the bed he lay, cursing
his inability to proceed on an errand so personal and so delicate that
no emissary could perform it. What he wished to do was to ascertain from
Betty's own lips if her aversion to Reynard was so strong that his
presence would be positively distasteful to her. Were that the case, he
would have borne her away bodily on the saddle behind him.

But all that was hindered now, and he repeated a hundred times in
Tupcombe's hearing, and in that of the nurse and other servants, 'I wish
to God something would happen to him!'

This sentiment, reiterated by the Squire as he tossed in the agony
induced by the powerful drugs of the day before, entered sharply into
the soul of Tupcombe and of all who were attached to the house of
Dornell, as distinct from the house of his wife at King's-Hintock.
Tupcombe, who was an excitable man, was hardly less disquieted by the
thought of Reynard's return than the Squire himself was. As the week
drew on, and the afternoon advanced at which Reynard would in all
probability be passing near Falls on his way to the Court, the Squire's
feelings became acuter, and the responsive Tupcombe could hardly bear to
come near him. Having left him in the hands of the doctor, the former
went out upon the lawn, for he could hardly breathe in the contagion of
excitement caught from the employer who had virtually made him his
confidant. He had lived with the Dornells from his boyhood, had been
born under the shadow of their walls; his whole life was annexed and
welded to the life of the family in a degree which has no counterpart in
these latter days.

He was summoned indoors, and learnt that it had been decided to send for
Mrs. Dornell: her husband was in great danger. There were two or three
who could have acted as messenger, but Dornell wished Tupcombe to go,
the reason showing itself when, Tupcombe being ready to start, Squire
Dornell summoned him to his chamber and leaned down so that he could
whisper in his ear:

'Put Peggy along smart, Tupcombe, and get there before him, you know-
before him. This is the day he fixed. He has not passed Falls cross-
roads yet. If you can do that you will be able to get Betty to come-d'ye
see?-after her mother has started; she'll have a reason for not waiting
for him. Bring her by the lower road-he'll go by the upper. Your
business is to make 'em miss each other-d'ye see?-but that's a thing I
couldn't write down.'

Five minutes after, Tupcombe was astride the horse and on his way-the
way he had followed so many times since his master, a florid young
countryman, had first gone wooing to King's-Hintock Court. As soon as he
had crossed the hills in the immediate neighbourhood of the manor, the
road lay over a plain, where it ran in long straight stretches for
several miles. In the best of times, when all had been gay in the united
houses, that part of the road had seemed tedious. It was gloomy in the
extreme now that he pursued it, at night and alone, on such an errand.

He rode and brooded. If the Squire were to die, he, Tupcombe, would be
alone in the world and friendless, for he was no favourite with Mrs.
Dornell; and to find himself baffled, after all, in what he had set his
mind on, would probably kill the Squire. Thinking thus, Tupcombe stopped
his horse every now and then, and listened for the coming husband. The
time was drawing on to the moment when Reynard might be expected to pass
along this very route. He had watched the road well during the
afternoon, and had inquired of the tavern-keepers as he came up to each,
and he was convinced that the premature descent of the stranger-husband
upon his young mistress had not been made by this highway as yet.

Besides the girl's mother, Tupcombe was the only member of the household
who suspected Betty's tender feelings towards young Phelipson, so
unhappily generated on her return from school; and he could therefore
imagine, even better than her fond father, what would be her emotions on
the sudden announcement of Reynard's advent that evening at King's-
Hintock Court.

So he rode and rode, desponding and hopeful by turns. He felt assured
that, unless in the unfortunate event of the almost immediate arrival of
her son-in law at his own heels, Mrs. Dornell would not be able to
hinder Betty's departure for her father's bedside.

It was about nine o'clock that, having put twenty miles of country
behind him, he turned in at the lodge-gate nearest to Ivell and King's-
Hintock village, and pursued the long north drive-itself much like a
turnpike road-which led thence through the park to the Court. Though
there were so many trees in King's-Hintock park, few bordered the
carriage roadway; he could see it stretching ahead in the pale night
light like an unrolled deal shaving. Presently the irregular frontage of
the house came in view, of great extent, but low, except where it rose
into the outlines of a broad square tower.

As Tupcombe approached he rode aside upon the grass, to make sure, if
possible, that he was the first comer, before letting his presence be
known. The Court was dark and sleepy, in no respect as if a bridegroom
were about to arrive.

While pausing he distinctly heard the tread of a horse upon the track
behind him, and for a moment despaired of arriving in time: here,
surely, was Reynard! Pulling up closer to the densest tree at hand he
waited, and found he had retreated nothing too soon, for the second
rider avoided the gravel also, and passed quite close to him. In the
profile he recognized young Phelipson.

Before Tupcombe could think what to do, Phelipson had gone on; but not
to the door of the house. Swerving to the left, he passed round to the
east angle, where, as Tupcombe knew, were situated Betty's apartments.
Dismounting, he left the horse tethered to a hanging bough, and walked
on to the house.

Suddenly his eye caught sight of an object which explained the position
immediately. It was a ladder stretching from beneath the trees, which
there came pretty close to the house, up to a first-floor window-one
which lighted Miss Betty's rooms. Yes, it was Betty's chamber; he knew
every room in the house well.

The young horseman who had passed him, having evidently left his steed
somewhere under the trees also, was perceptible at the top of the
ladder, immediately outside Betty's window. While Tupcombe watched, a
cloaked female figure stepped timidly over the sill, and the two
cautiously descended, one before the other, the young man's arms
enclosing the young woman between his grasp of the ladder, so that she
could not fall. As soon as they reached the bottom, young Phelipson
quickly removed the ladder and hid it under the bushes. The pair
disappeared; till, in a few minutes, Tupcombe could discern a horse
emerging from a remoter part of the umbrage. The horse carried double,
the girl being on a pillion behind her lover.

Tupcombe hardly knew what to do or think; yet, though this was not
exactly the kind of flight that had been intended, she had certainly
escaped. He went back to his own animal, and rode round to the servants'
door, where he delivered the letter for Mrs. Dornell. To leave a verbal
message for Betty was now impossible.

The Court servants desired him to stay over the night, but he would not
do so, desiring to get back to the Squire as soon as possible and tell
what he had seen. Whether he ought not to have intercepted the young
people, and carried off Betty himself to her father, he did not know.
However, it was too late to think of that now, and without wetting his
lips or swallowing a crumb, Tupcombe turned his back upon King's-Hintock
Court.

It was not till he had advanced a considerable distance on his way
homeward that, halting under the lantern of a roadside-inn while the
horse was watered, there came a traveller from the opposite direction in
a hired coach; the lantern lit the stranger's face as he passed along
and dropped into the shade. Tupcombe exulted for the moment, though he
could hardly have justified his exultation. The belated traveller was
Reynard; and another had stepped in before him.

You may now be willing to know of the fortunes of Miss Betty. Left much
to herself through the intervening days, she had ample time to brood
over her desperate attempt at the stratagem of infection-thwarted,
apparently, by her mother's promptitude. In what other way to gain time
she could not think. Thus drew on the day and the hour of the evening on
which her husband was expected to announce himself.

At some period after dark, when she could not tell, a tap at the window,
twice and thrice repeated, became audible. It caused her to start up,
for the only visitant in her mind was the one whose advances she had so
feared as to risk health and life to repel them. She crept to the
window, and heard a whisper without.

'It is I-Charley,' said the voice.

Betty's face fired with excitement. She had latterly begun to doubt her
admirer's staunchness, fancying his love to be going off in mere
attentions which neither committed him nor herself very deeply. She
opened the window, saying in a joyous whisper, 'Oh Charley; I thought
you had deserted me quite!'

He assured her he had not done that, and that he had a horse in waiting,
if she would ride off with him. 'You must come quickly,' he said; 'for
Reynard's on the way!'

To throw a cloak round herself was the work of a moment, and assuring
herself that her door was locked against a surprise, she climbed over
the window-sill and descended with him as we have seen.

Her mother meanwhile, having received Tupcombe's note, found the news of
her husband's illness so serious, as to displace her thoughts of the
coming son-in-law, and she hastened to tell her daughter of the Squire's
dangerous condition, thinking it might be desirable to take her to her
father's bedside. On trying the door of the girl's room, she found it
still locked. Mrs. Dornell called, but there was no answer. Full of
misgivings, she privately fetched the old house-steward and bade him
burst open the door-an order by no means easy to execute, the joinery of
the Court being massively constructed. However, the lock sprang open at
last, and she entered Betty's chamber only to find the window unfastened
and the bird flown.

For a moment Mrs. Dornell was staggered. Then it occurred to her that
Betty might have privately obtained from Tupcombe the news of her
father's serious illness, and, fearing she might be kept back to meet
her husband, have gone off with that obstinate and biassed servitor to
Falls-Park. The more she thought it over the more probable did the
supposition appear; and binding her own head-man to secrecy as to
Betty's movements, whether as she conjectured, or otherwise, Mrs.
Dornell herself prepared to set out.

She had no suspicion how seriously her husband's malady had been
aggravated by his ride to Bristol, and thought more of Betty's affairs
than of her own. That Betty's husband should arrive by some other road
to-night, and find neither wife nor mother-in-law to receive him, and no
explanation of their absence, was possible; but never forgetting
chances, Mrs. Dornell as she journeyed kept her eyes fixed upon the
highway on the off-side, where, before she had reached the town of
Ivell, the hired coach containing Stephen Reynard flashed into the
lamplight of her own carriage.

Mrs. Dornell's coachman pulled up, in obedience to a direction she had
given him at starting; the other coach was hailed, a few words passed,
and Reynard alighted and came to Mrs. Dornell's carriage-window.

'Come inside,' says she. 'I want to speak privately to you. Why are you
so late?'

'One hindrance and another,' says he. 'I meant to be at the Court by
eight at latest. My gratitude for your letter. I hope-'

'You must not try to see Betty yet,' said she. 'There be far other and
newer reasons against your seeing her now than there were when I wrote.'

The circumstances were such that Mrs. Dornell could not possibly conceal
them entirely; nothing short of knowing some of the facts would prevent
his blindly acting in a manner which might be fatal to the future.
Moreover, there are times when deeper intriguers than Mrs. Dornell feel
that they must let out a few truths, if only in self-indulgence. So she
told so much of recent surprises as that Betty's heart had been
attracted by another image than his, and that his insisting on visiting
her now might drive the girl to desperation. 'Betty has, in fact, rushed
off to her father to avoid you,' she said. 'But if you wait she will
soon forget this young man, and you will have nothing to fear.'

As a woman and a mother she could go no further, and Betty's desperate
attempt to infect herself the week before as a means of repelling him,
together with the alarming possibility that, after all, she had not gone
to her father but to her lover, was not revealed.

'Well,' sighed the diplomatist, in a tone unexpectedly quiet, 'such
things have been known before. After all, she may prefer me to him some
day, when she reflects how very differently I might have acted than I am
going to act towards her. But I'll say no more about that now. I can
have a bed at your house for to-night?'

'To-night, certainly. And you leave to-morrow morning early?' She spoke
anxiously, for on no account did she wish him to make further
discoveries. 'My husband is so seriously ill,' she continued, 'that my
absence and Betty's on your arrival is naturally accounted for.'

He promised to leave early, and to write to her soon. 'And when I think
the time is ripe,' he said, 'I'll write to her. I may have something to
tell her that will bring her to graciousness.'

It was about one o'clock in the morning when Mrs. Dornell reached Falls-
Park. A double blow awaited her there. Betty had not arrived; her flight
had been elsewhither; and her stricken mother divined with whom. She
ascended to the bedside of her husband, where to her concern she found
that the physician had given up all hope. The Squire was sinking, and
his extreme weakness had almost changed his character, except in the
particular that his old obstinacy sustained him in a refusal to see a
clergyman. He shed tears at the least word, and sobbed at the sight of
his wife. He asked for Betty, and it was with a heavy heart that Mrs.
Dornell told him that the girl had not accompanied her.

'He is not keeping her away?'

'No, no. He is going back-he is not coming to her for some time.'

'Then what is detaining her-cruel, neglectful maid!'

'No, no, Thomas; she is- She could not come.'

'How's that?'

Somehow the solemnity of these last moments of his gave him
inquisitorial power, and the too cold wife could not conceal from him
the flight which had taken place from King's-Hintock that night.

To her amazement, the effect upon him was electrical.

'What-Betty-a trump after all? Hurrah! She's her father's own maid!
She's game! She knew he was her father's own choice! She vowed that my
man should win! Well done, Bet!-haw! haw! Hurrah!'

He had raised himself in bed by starts as he spoke, and now fell back
exhausted. He never uttered another word, and died before the dawn.
People said there had not been such an ungenteel death in a good county
family for years.

Now I will go back to the time of Betty's riding off on the pillion
behind her lover. They left the park by an obscure gate to the east, and
presently found themselves in the lonely and solitary length of the old
Roman road now called Long-Ash Lane.

By this time they were rather alarmed at their own performance, for they
were both young and inexperienced. Hence they proceeded almost in
silence till they came to a mean roadside inn which was not yet closed;
when Betty, who had held on to him with much misgiving all this while,
felt dreadfully unwell, and said she thought she would like to get down.

They accordingly dismounted from the jaded animal that had brought them,
and were shown into a small dark parlour, where they stood side by side
awkwardly, like the fugitives they were. A light was brought, and when
they were left alone Betty threw off the cloak which had enveloped her.
No sooner did young Phelipson see her face than he uttered an alarmed
exclamation.

'Why, Lord, Lord, you are sickening for the small-pox!' he cried.

'Oh-I forgot!' faltered Betty. And then she informed him that, on
hearing of her husband's approach the week before, in a desperate
attempt to keep him from her side, she had tried to imbibe the
infection-an act which till this moment she had supposed to have been
ineffectual, imagining her feverishness to be the result of her
excitement.

The effect of this discovery upon young Phelipson was overwhelming.
Better-seasoned men than he would not have been proof against it, and he
was only a little over her own age. 'And you've been holding on to me!'
he said. 'And suppose you get worse, and we both have it, what shall we
do? Won't you be a fright in a month or two, poor, poor Betty!'

In his horror he attempted to laugh, but the laugh ended in a weakly
giggle. She was more woman than girl by this time, and realized his
feeling.

'What-in trying to keep off him, I keep off you?' she said miserably.
'Do you hate me because I am going to be ugly and ill?'

'Oh-no, no!' he said soothingly. 'But I-I am thinking if it is quite
right for us to do this. You see, dear Betty, if you was not married it
would be different. You are not in honour married to him we've often
said; still you are his by law, and you can't be mine whilst he's alive.
And with this terrible sickness coming on, perhaps you had better let me
take you back, and-climb in at the window again.'

'Is this your love?' said Betty reproachfully. 'Oh, if you was sickening
for the plague itself, and going to be as ugly as the Ooser in the
church-vestry, I wouldn't-'

'No, no, you mistake, upon my soul!'

But Betty with a swollen heart had rewrapped herself and gone out of the
door. The horse was still standing there. She mounted by the help of the
upping-stock, and when he had followed her she said, 'Do not come near
me, Charley; but please lead the horse, so that if you've not caught
anything already you'll not catch it going back. After all, what keeps
off you may keep off him. Now onward.'

He did not resist her command, and back they went by the way they had
come, Betty shedding bitter tears at the retribution she had already
brought upon herself; for though she had reproached Phelipson, she was
staunch enough not to blame him in her secret heart for showing that his
love was only skin-deep. The horse was stopped in the plantation, and
they walked silently to the lawn, reaching the bushes wherein the ladder
still lay.

'Will you put it up for me?' she asked mournfully.

He re-erected the ladder without a word; but when she approached to
ascend he said, 'Good-bye, Betty!'

'Good-bye!' said she; and involuntarily turned her face towards his. He
hung back from imprinting the expected kiss: at which Betty started as
if she had received a poignant wound. She moved away so suddenly that he
hardly had time to follow her up the ladder to prevent her falling.

'Tell your mother to get the doctor at once!' he said anxiously.

She stepped in without looking behind; he descended, withdrew the
ladder, and went away.

Alone in her chamber, Betty flung herself upon her face on the bed, and
burst into shaking sobs. Yet she would not admit to herself that her
lover's conduct was unreasonable; only that her rash act of the previous
week had been wrong. No one had heard her enter, and she was too worn
out, in body and mind, to think or care about medical aid. In an hour or
so she felt yet more unwell, positively ill; and nobody coming to her at
the usual bedtime, she looked towards the door. Marks of the lock having
been forced were visible, and this made her chary of summoning a
servant. She opened the door cautiously and sallied forth downstairs.

In the dining-parlour, as it was called, the now sick and sorry Betty
was startled to see at that late hour not her mother, but a man sitting,
calmly finishing his supper. There was no servant in the room. He
turned, and she recognized her husband.

'Where's my mamma?' she demanded without preface.

'Gone to your father's. Is that-' He stopped, aghast.

'Yes, sir. This spotted object is your wife! I've done it because I
don't want you to come near me!'

He was sixteen years her senior; old enough to be compassionate. 'My
poor child, you must get to bed directly! Don't be afraid of me-I'll
carry you upstairs, and send for a doctor instantly.'

'Ah, you don't know what I am!' she cried. 'I had a lover once; but now
he's gone! 'Twasn't I who deserted him. He has deserted me; because I am
ill he wouldn't kiss me, though I wanted him to!'

'Wouldn't he? Then he was a very poor slack-twisted sort of fellow.
Betty, I've never kissed you since you stood beside me as my little
wife, twelve years and a half old! May I kiss you now?'

Though Betty by no means desired his kisses, she had enough of the
spirit of Cunigonde in Schiller's ballad to test his daring. 'If you
have courage to venture, yes sir!' said she. 'But you may die for it,
mind!'

He came up to her and imprinted a deliberate kiss full upon her mouth,
saying, 'May many others follow!'

She shook her head, and hastily withdrew, though secretly pleased at his
hardihood. The excitement had supported her for the few minutes she had
passed in his presence, and she could hardly drag herself back to her
room. Her husband summoned the servants, and, sending them to her
assistance, went off himself for a doctor.

The next morning Reynard waited at the Court till he had learnt from the
medical man that Betty's attack promised to be a very light one-or, as
it was expressed, 'very fine'; and in taking his leave sent up a note to
her:

'Now I must be Gone. I promised your Mother I would not see You yet, and
she may be anger'd if she finds me here. Promise to see me as Soon as
you are well?'

He was of all men then living one of the best able to cope with such an
untimely situation as this. A contriving, sagacious, gentle-mannered
man, a philosopher who saw that the only constant attribute of life is
change, he held that, as long as she lives, there is nothing finite in
the most impassioned attitude a woman may take up. In twelve months his
girl-wife's recent infatuation might be as distasteful to her mind as it
was now to his own. In a few years her very flesh would change-so said
the scientific;-her spirit, so much more ephemeral, was capable of
changing in one. Betty was his, and it became a mere question of means
how to effect that change.

During the day Mrs. Dornell, having closed her husband's eyes, returned
to the Court. She was truly relieved to find Betty there, even though on
a bed of sickness. The disease ran its course, and in due time Betty
became convalescent, without having suffered deeply for her rashness,
one little speck beneath her ear, and one beneath her chin, being all
the marks she retained.

The Squire's body was not brought back to King's-Hintock. Where he was
born, and where he had lived before wedding his Sue, there he had wished
to be buried. No sooner had she lost him than Mrs. Dornell, like certain
other wives, though she had never shown any great affection for him
while he lived, awoke suddenly to his many virtues, and zealously
embraced his opinion about delaying Betty's union with her husband,
which she had formerly combated strenuously. 'Poor man! how right he
was, and how wrong was I!' Eighteen was certainly the lowest age at
which Mr. Reynard should claim her child-nay, it was too low! Far too
low!

So desirous was she of honouring her lamented husband's sentiments in
this respect, that she wrote to her son-in-law suggesting that, partly
on account of Betty's sorrow for her father's loss, and out of
consideration for his known wishes for delay, Betty should not be taken
from her till her nineteenth birthday.

However much or little Stephen Reynard might have been to blame in his
marriage, the patient man now almost deserved to be pitied. First
Betty's skittishness; now her mother's remorseful volte-face: it was
enough to exasperate anybody; and he wrote to the widow in a tone which
led to a little coolness between those hitherto firm friends. However,
knowing that he had a wife not to claim but to win, and that young
Phelipson had been packed off to sea by his parents, Stephen was
complaisant to a degree, returning to London, and holding quite aloof
from Betty and her mother, who remained for the present in the country.
In town he had a mild visitation of the distemper he had taken from
Betty, and in writing to her he took care not to dwell upon its
mildness. It was now that Betty began to pity him for what she had
inflicted upon him by the kiss, and her correspondence acquired a
distinct flavour of kindness thenceforward.

Owing to his rebuffs, Reynard had grown to be truly in love with Betty
in his mild, placid, durable way-in that way which perhaps, upon the
whole, tends most generally to the woman's comfort under the institution
of marriage, if not particularly to her ecstasy. Mrs. Dornell's
exaggeration of her husband's wish for delay in their living together
was inconvenient, but he would not openly infringe it. He wrote tenderly
to Betty, and soon announced that he had a little surprise in store for
her. The secret was that the King had been graciously pleased to inform
him privately, through a relation, that His Majesty was about to offer
him a Barony. Would she like the title to be Ivell? Moreover, he had
reason for knowing that in a few years the dignity would be raised to
that of an Earl, for which creation he thought the title of Wessex would
be eminently suitable, considering the position of much of their
property. As Lady Ivell, therefore, and future Countess of Wessex, he
should beg leave to offer her his heart a third time.

He did not add, as he might have added, how greatly the consideration of
the enormous estates at King's-Hintock and elsewhere which Betty would
inherit, and her children after her, had conduced to this desirable
honour.

Whether the impending titles had really any effect upon Betty's regard
for him I cannot state, for she was one of those close characters who
never let their minds be known upon anything. That such honour was
absolutely unexpected by her from such a quarter is, however, certain;
and she could not deny that Stephen had shown her kindness, forbearance,
even magnanimity; had forgiven her for an errant passion which he might
with some reason have denounced, notwithstanding her cruel position as a
child entrapped into marriage ere able to understand its bearings.

Her mother, in her grief and remorse for the loveless life she had led
with her rough, though open-hearted, husband, made now a creed of his
merest whim; and continued to insist that, out of respect to his known
desire, her son-in-law should not reside with Betty till the girl's
father had been dead a year at least, at which time the girl would still
be under nineteen. Letters must suffice for Stephen till then.

'It is rather long for him to wait,' Betty hesitatingly said one day.

'What!' said her mother. 'From you? not to respect your dear father-'

'Of course it is quite proper,' said Betty hastily. 'I don't gainsay it.
I was but thinking that-that-'

In the long slow months of the stipulated interval her mother tended and
trained Betty carefully for her duties. Fully awake now to the many
virtues of her dear departed one, she, among other acts of pious
devotion to his memory, rebuilt the church of King's-Hintock village,
and established valuable charities in all the villages of that name, as
far as to Little-Hintock, several miles eastward.

In superintending these works, particularly that of the church-building,
her daughter Betty was her constant companion, and the incidents of
their execution were doubtless not without a soothing effect upon the
young creature's heart. She had sprung from girl to woman by a sudden
bound, and few would have recognized in the thoughtful face of Betty now
the same person who, the year before, had seemed to have absolutely no
idea whatever of responsibility, moral or other. Time passed thus till
the Squire had been nearly a year in his vault; and Mrs. Dornell was
duly asked by letter by the patient Reynard if she were willing for him
to come soon. He did not wish to take Betty away if her mother's sense
of loneliness would be too great, but would willingly live at King's-
Hintock awhile with them.

Before the widow had replied to this communication, she one day happened
to observe Betty walking on the south terrace in the full sunlight,
without hat or mantle, and was struck by her child's figure. Mrs.
Dornell called her in, and said suddenly: 'Have you seen your husband
since the time of your poor father's death?'

'Well-yes, mamma,' says Betty, colouring.

'What-against my wishes and those of your dear father! I am shocked at
your disobedience!'

'But my father said eighteen, ma'am, and you made it much longer-'

'Why, of course-out of consideration for you! When have ye seen him?'

'Well,' stammered Betty, 'in the course of his letters to me he said
that I belonged to him, and if nobody knew that we met it would make no
difference. And that I need not hurt your feelings by telling you.'

'Well?'

'So I went to Casterbridge that time you went to London about five
months ago-'

'And met him there? When did you come back?'

'Dear mamma, it grew very late, and he said it was safer not to go back
till next day, as the roads were bad; and as you were away from home-'

'I don't want to hear any more! This is your respect for your father's
memory,' groaned the widow. 'When did you meet him again?'

'Oh-not for more than a fortnight.'

'A fortnight! How many times have ye seen him altogether?'

'I'm sure, mamma, I've not seen him altogether a dozen times.'

'A dozen! And eighteen and a half years old barely!'

'Twice we met by accident,' pleaded Betty. 'Once at Abbot's-Cernel, and
another time at the Red Lion, Melchester.'

'O thou deceitful girl!' cried Mrs. Dornell. 'An accident took you to
the Red Lion whilst I was staying at the White Hart! I remember-you came
in at twelve o'clock at night and said you'd been to see the cathedral
by the light o' the moon!'

'My ever-honoured mamma, so I had! I only went to the Red Lion with him
afterwards.'

'Oh Betty, Betty! That my child should have deceived me even in my
widowed days!'

'But, my dearest mamma, you made me marry him!' says Betty with spirit,
'and of course I've to obey him more than you now!'

Mrs. Dornell sighed. 'All I have to say is, that you'd better get your
husband to join you as soon as possible,' she remarked. 'To go on
playing the maiden like this-I'm ashamed to see you!'

She wrote instantly to Stephen Reynard: 'I wash my hands of the whole
matter as between you two; though I should advise you to openly join
each other as soon as you can-if you wish to avoid scandal.'

He came, though not till the promised title had been granted, and he
could call Betty archly 'My Lady.'

People said in after years that she and her husband were very happy.
However that may be, they had a numerous family; and she became in due
course first Countess of Wessex, as he had foretold.

The little white frock in which she had been married to him at the
tender age of twelve was carefully preserved among the relics at King's-
Hintock Court, where it may still be seen by the curious-a yellowing,
pathetic testimony to the small count taken of the happiness of an
innocent child in the social strategy of those days, which might have
led, but providentially did not lead, to great unhappiness.

When the Earl died Betty wrote him an epitaph, in which she described
him as the best of husbands, fathers, and friends, and called herself
his disconsolate widow.

Such is woman; or rather (not to give offence by so sweeping an
assertion), such was Betty Dornell.

It was at a meeting of one of the Wessex Field and Antiquarian Clubs
that the foregoing story, partly told, partly read from a manuscript,
was made to do duty for the regulation papers on deformed butterflies,
fossil ox-horns, prehistoric dung-mixens, and such like, that usually
occupied the more serious attention of the members.

This Club was of an inclusive and intersocial character; to a degree,
indeed, remarkable for the part of England in which it had its being-
dear, delightful Wessex, whose statuesque dynasties are even now only
just beginning to feel the shaking of the new and strange spirit
without, like that which entered the lonely valley of Ezekiel's vision
and made the dry bones move: where the honest squires, tradesmen,
parsons, clerks, and people still praise the Lord with one voice for His
best of all possible worlds.

The present meeting, which was to extend over two days, had opened its
proceedings at the museum of the town whose buildings and environs were
to be visited by the members. Lunch had ended, and the afternoon
excursion had been about to be undertaken, when the rain came down in an
obstinate spatter, which revealed no sign of cessation. As the members
waited they grew chilly, although it was only autumn, and a fire was
lighted, which threw a cheerful shine upon the varnished skulls, urns,
penates, tesser\xE6, costumes, coats of mail, weapons, and missals,
animated the fossilized ichthyosaurus and iguanodon; while the dead eyes
of the stuffed birds-those never-absent familiars in such collections,
though murdered to extinction out of doors-flashed as they had flashed
to the rising sun above the neighbouring moors on the fatal morning when
the trigger was pulled which ended their little flight. It was then that
the historian produced his manuscript, which he had prepared, he said,
with a view to publication. His delivery of the story having concluded
as aforesaid, the speaker expressed his hope that the constraint of the
weather, and the paucity of more scientific papers, would excuse any
inappropriateness in his subject.

Several members observed that a storm-bound club could not presume to be
selective, and they were all very much obliged to him for such a curious
chapter from the domestic histories of the county.

The President looked gloomily from the window at the descending rain,
and broke a short silence by saying that though the Club had met, there
seemed little probability of its being able to visit the objects of
interest set down among the agenda.

The Treasurer observed that they had at least a roof over their heads;
and they had also a second day before them.

A sentimental member, leaning back in his chair, declared that he was in
no hurry to go out, and that nothing would please him so much as another
county story, with or without manuscript.

The Colonel added that the subject should be a lady, like the former, to
which a gentleman known as the Spark said 'Hear, hear!'

Though these had spoken in jest, a rural dean who was present observed
blandly that there was no lack of materials. Many, indeed, were the
legends and traditions of gentle and noble dames, renowned in times past
in that part of England, whose actions and passions were now, but for
men's memories, buried under the brief inscription on a tomb or an entry
of dates in a dry pedigree.

Another member, an old surgeon, a somewhat grim though sociable
personage, was quite of the speaker's opinion, and felt quite sure that
the memory of the reverend gentleman must abound with such curious tales
of fair dames, of their loves and hates, their joys and their
misfortunes, their beauty and their fate.

The parson, a trifle confused, retorted that their friend the surgeon,
the son of a surgeon, seemed to him, as a man who had seen much and
heard more during the long course of his own and his father's practice,
the member of all others most likely to be acquainted with such lore.

The bookworm, the Colonel, the historian, the Vice-president, the
churchwarden, the two curates, the gentleman-tradesman, the sentimental
member, the crimson maltster, the quiet gentleman, the man of family,
the Spark, and several others, quite agreed, and begged that he would
recall something of the kind. The old surgeon said that, though a
meeting of the Mid-Wessex Field and Antiquarian Club was the last place
at which he should have expected to be called upon in this way, he had
no objection; and the parson said he would come next. The surgeon then
reflected, and decided to relate the history of a lady named Barbara,
who lived towards the end of the last century, apologizing for his tale
as being perhaps a little too professional. The crimson maltster winked
to the Spark at hearing the nature of the apology, and the surgeon
began.



DAME THE SECOND-BARBARA OF THE HOUSE OF GREBE By the Old Surgeon

It was apparently an idea, rather than a passion, that inspired Lord
Uplandtowers' resolve to win her. Nobody ever knew when he formed it, or
whence he got his assurance of success in the face of her manifest
dislike of him. Possibly not until after that first important act of her
life which I shall presently mention. His matured and cynical doggedness
at the age of nineteen, when impulse mostly rules calculation, was
remarkable, and might have owed its existence as much to his succession
to the earldom and its accompanying local honours in childhood, as to
the family character; an elevation which jerked him into maturity, so to
speak, without his having known adolescence. He had only reached his
twelfth year when his father, the fourth Earl, died, after a course of
the Bath waters.

Nevertheless, the family character had a great deal to do with it.
Determination was hereditary in the bearers of that escutcheon;
sometimes for good, sometimes for evil.

The seats of the two families were about ten miles apart, the way
between them lying along the now old, then new, turnpike-road connecting
Havenpool and Warborne with the city of Melchester: a road which, though
only a branch from what was known as the Great Western Highway, is
probably, even at present, as it has been for the last hundred years,
one of the finest examples of a macadamized turnpike-track that can be
found in England.

The mansion of the Earl, as well as that of his neighbour, Barbara's
father, stood back about a mile from the highway, with which each was
connected by an ordinary drive and lodge. It was along this particular
highway that the young Earl drove on a certain evening at Christmastide
some twenty years before the end of the last century, to attend a ball
at Chene Manor, the home of Barbara, and her parents Sir John and Lady
Grebe. Sir John's was a baronetcy created a few years before the
breaking out of the Civil War, and his lands were even more extensive
than those of Lord Uplandtowers himself; comprising this Manor of Chene,
another on the coast near, half the Hundred of Cockdene, and well-
enclosed lands in several other parishes, notably Warborne and those
contiguous. At this time Barbara was barely seventeen, and the ball is
the first occasion on which we have any tradition of Lord Uplandtowers
attempting tender relations with her; it was early enough, God knows.

An intimate friend-one of the Drenkhards-is said to have dined with him
that day, and Lord Uplandtowers had, for a wonder, communicated to his
guest the secret design of his heart.

'You'll never get her-sure; you'll never get her!' this friend had said
at parting. 'She's not drawn to your lordship by love: and as for
thought of a good match, why, there's no more calculation in her than in
a bird.'

'We'll see,' said Lord Uplandtowers impassively.

He no doubt thought of his friend's forecast as he travelled along the
highway in his chariot; but the sculptural repose of his profile against
the vanishing daylight on his right hand would have shown his friend
that the Earl's equanimity was undisturbed. He reached the solitary
wayside tavern called Lornton Inn-the rendezvous of many a daring
poacher for operations in the adjoining forest; and he might have
observed, if he had taken the trouble, a strange post-chaise standing in
the halting-space before the inn. He duly sped past it, and half-an-
hour after through the little town of Warborne. Onward, a mile farther,
was the house of his entertainer.

At this date it was an imposing edifice-or, rather, congeries of
edifices-as extensive as the residence of the Earl himself; though far
less regular. One wing showed extreme antiquity, having huge chimneys,
whose substructures projected from the external walls like towers; and a
kitchen of vast dimensions, in which (it was said) breakfasts had been
cooked for John of Gaunt. Whilst he was yet in the forecourt he could
hear the rhythm of French horns and clarionets, the favourite
instruments of those days at such entertainments.

Entering the long parlour, in which the dance had just been opened by
Lady Grebe with a minuet-it being now seven o'clock, according to the
tradition-he was received with a welcome befitting his rank, and looked
round for Barbara. She was not dancing, and seemed to be preoccupied-
almost, indeed, as though she had been waiting for him. Barbara at this
time was a good and pretty girl, who never spoke ill of any one, and
hated other pretty women the very least possible. She did not refuse him
for the country-dance which followed, and soon after was his partner in
a second.

The evening wore on, and the horns and clarionets tootled merrily.
Barbara evinced towards her lover neither distinct preference nor
aversion; but old eyes would have seen that she pondered something.
However, after supper she pleaded a headache, and disappeared. To pass
the time of her absence, Lord Uplandtowers went into a little room
adjoining the long gallery, where some elderly ones were sitting by the
fire-for he had a phlegmatic dislike of dancing for its own sake,-and,
lifting the window-curtains, he looked out of the window into the park
and wood, dark now as a cavern. Some of the guests appeared to be
leaving even so soon as this, two lights showing themselves as turning
away from the door and sinking to nothing in the distance.

His hostess put her head into the room to look for partners for the
ladies, and Lord Uplandtowers came out. Lady Grebe informed him that
Barbara had not returned to the ball-room: she had gone to bed in sheer
necessity.

'She has been so excited over the ball all day,' her mother continued,
'that I feared she would be worn out early . . . But sure, Lord
Uplandtowers, you won't be leaving yet?'

He said that it was near twelve o'clock, and that some had already left.

'I protest nobody has gone yet,' said Lady Grebe.

To humour her he stayed till midnight, and then set out. He had made no
progress in his suit; but he had assured himself that Barbara gave no
other guest the preference, and nearly everybody in the neighbourhood
was there.

''Tis only a matter of time,' said the calm young philosopher.

The next morning he lay till near ten o'clock, and he had only just come
out upon the head of the staircase when he heard hoofs upon the gravel
without; in a few moments the door had been opened, and Sir John Grebe
met him in the hall, as he set foot on the lowest stair.

'My lord-where's Barbara-my daughter?'

Even the Earl of Uplandtowers could not repress amazement. 'What's the
matter, my dear Sir John,' says he.

The news was startling, indeed. From the Baronet's disjointed
explanation Lord Uplandtowers gathered that after his own and the other
guests' departure Sir John and Lady Grebe had gone to rest without
seeing any more of Barbara; it being understood by them that she had
retired to bed when she sent word to say that she could not join the
dancers again. Before then she had told her maid that she would dispense
with her services for this night; and there was evidence to show that
the young lady had never lain down at all, the bed remaining unpressed.
Circumstances seemed to prove that the deceitful girl had feigned
indisposition to get an excuse for leaving the ball-room, and that she
had left the house within ten minutes, presumably during the first dance
after supper.

'I saw her go,' said Lord Uplandtowers.

'The devil you did!' says Sir John.

'Yes.' And he mentioned the retreating carriage-lights, and how he was
assured by Lady Grebe that no guest had departed.

'Surely that was it!' said the father. 'But she's not gone alone, d'ye
know!'

'Ah-who is the young man?'

'I can on'y guess. My worst fear is my most likely guess. I'll say no
more. I thought-yet I would not believe-it possible that you was the
sinner. Would that you had been! But 'tis t'other, 'tis t'other, by G-
\x97! I must e'en up, and after 'em!'

'Whom do you suspect?'

Sir John would not give a name, and, stultified rather than agitated,
Lord Uplandtowers accompanied him back to Chene. He again asked upon
whom were the Baronet's suspicions directed; and the impulsive Sir John
was no match for the insistence of Uplandtowers.

He said at length, 'I fear 'tis Edmond Willowes.'

'Who's he?'

'A young fellow of Shottsford-Forum-a widow-woman's son,' the other told
him, and explained that Willowes's father, or grandfather, was the last
of the old glass-painters in that place, where (as you may know) the art
lingered on when it had died out in every other part of England.

'By G\x97- that's bad-mighty bad!' said Lord Uplandtowers, throwing himself
back in the chaise in frigid despair.

They despatched emissaries in all directions; one by the Melchester
Road, another by Shottsford-Forum, another coastwards.

But the lovers had a ten-hours' start; and it was apparent that sound
judgment had been exercised in choosing as their time of flight the
particular night when the movements of a strange carriage would not be
noticed, either in the park or on the neighbouring highway, owing to the
general press of vehicles. The chaise which had been seen waiting at
Lornton Inn was, no doubt, the one they had escaped in; and the pair of
heads which had planned so cleverly thus far had probably contrived
marriage ere now.

The fears of her parents were realized. A letter sent by special
messenger from Barbara, on the evening of that day, briefly informed
them that her lover and herself were on the way to London, and before
this communication reached her home they would be united as husband and
wife. She had taken this extreme step because she loved her dear Edmond
as she could love no other man, and because she had seen closing round
her the doom of marriage with Lord Uplandtowers, unless she put that
threatened fate out of possibility by doing as she had done. She had
well considered the step beforehand, and was prepared to live like any
other country-townsman's wife if her father repudiated her for her
action.

'D\x97- her!' said Lord Uplandtowers, as he drove homeward that night. 'D\x97-
her for a fool!'-which shows the kind of love he bore her.

Well; Sir John had already started in pursuit of them as a matter of
duty, driving like a wild man to Melchester, and thence by the direct
highway to the capital. But he soon saw that he was acting to no
purpose; and by and by, discovering that the marriage had actually taken
place, he forebore all attempts to unearth them in the City, and
returned and sat down with his lady to digest the event as best they
could.

To proceed against this Willowes for the abduction of our heiress was,
possibly, in their power; yet, when they considered the now unalterable
facts, they refrained from violent retribution. Some six weeks passed,
during which time Barbara's parents, though they keenly felt her loss,
held no communication with the truant, either for reproach or
condonation. They continued to think of the disgrace she had brought
upon herself; for, though the young man was an honest fellow, and the
son of an honest father, the latter had died so early, and his widow had
had such struggles to maintain herself; that the son was very
imperfectly educated. Moreover, his blood was, as far as they knew, of
no distinction whatever, whilst hers, through her mother, was compounded
of the best juices of ancient baronial distillation, containing
tinctures of Maundeville, and Mohun, and Syward, and Peverell, and
Culliford, and Talbot, and Plantagenet, and York, and Lancaster, and God
knows what besides, which it was a thousand pities to throw away.

The father and mother sat by the fireplace that was spanned by the four-
centred arch bearing the family shields on its haunches, and groaned
aloud-the lady more than Sir John.

'To think this should have come upon us in our old age!' said he.

'Speak for yourself!' she snapped through her sobs. 'I am only one-and-
forty! . . . Why didn't ye ride faster and overtake 'em!'

In the meantime the young married lovers, caring no more about their
blood than about ditch-water, were intensely happy-happy, that is, in
the descending scale which, as we all know, Heaven in its wisdom has
ordained for such rash cases; that is to say, the first week they were
in the seventh heaven, the second in the sixth, the third week
temperate, the fourth reflective, and so on; a lover's heart after
possession being comparable to the earth in its geologic stages, as
described to us sometimes by our worthy President; first a hot coal,
then a warm one, then a cooling cinder, then chilly-the simile shall be
pursued no further. The long and the short of it was that one day a
letter, sealed with their daughter's own little seal, came into Sir John
and Lady Grebe's hands; and, on opening it, they found it to contain an
appeal from the young couple to Sir John to forgive them for what they
had done, and they would fall on their naked knees and be most dutiful
children for evermore.

Then Sir John and his lady sat down again by the fireplace with the
four-centred arch, and consulted, and re-read the letter. Sir John
Grebe, if the truth must be told, loved his daughter's happiness far
more, poor man, than he loved his name and lineage; he recalled to his
mind all her little ways, gave vent to a sigh; and, by this time
acclimatized to the idea of the marriage, said that what was done could
not be undone, and that he supposed they must not be too harsh with her.
Perhaps Barbara and her husband were in actual need; and how could they
let their only child starve?

A slight consolation had come to them in an unexpected manner. They had
been credibly informed that an ancestor of plebeian Willowes was once
honoured with intermarriage with a scion of the aristocracy who had gone
to the dogs. In short, such is the foolishness of distinguished parents,
and sometimes of others also, that they wrote that very day to the
address Barbara had given them, informing her that she might return home
and bring her husband with her; they would not object to see him, would
not reproach her, and would endeavour to welcome both, and to discuss
with them what could best be arranged for their future.

In three or four days a rather shabby post-chaise drew up at the door of
Chene Manor-house, at sound of which the tender-hearted baronet and his
wife ran out as if to welcome a prince and princess of the blood. They
were overjoyed to see their spoilt child return safe and sound-though
she was only Mrs. Willowes, wife of Edmond Willowes of nowhere. Barbara
burst into penitential tears, and both husband and wife were contrite
enough, as well they might be, considering that they had not a guinea to
call their own.

When the four had calmed themselves, and not a word of chiding had been
uttered to the pair, they discussed the position soberly, young Willowes
sitting in the background with great modesty till invited forward by
Lady Grebe in no frigid tone.

'How handsome he is!' she said to herself. 'I don't wonder at Barbara's
craze for him.'

He was, indeed, one of the handsomest men who ever set his lips on a
maid's. A blue coat, murrey waistcoat, and breeches of drab set off a
figure that could scarcely be surpassed. He had large dark eyes, anxious
now, as they glanced from Barbara to her parents and tenderly back again
to her; observing whom, even now in her trepidation, one could see why
the sang froid of Lord Uplandtowers had been raised to more than
lukewarmness. Her fair young face (according to the tale handed down by
old women) looked out from under a gray conical hat, trimmed with white
ostrich-feathers, and her little toes peeped from a buff petticoat worn
under a puce gown. Her features were not regular: they were almost
infantine, as you may see from miniatures in possession of the family,
her mouth showing much sensitiveness, and one could be sure that her
faults would not lie on the side of bad temper unless for urgent
reasons.

Well, they discussed their state as became them, and the desire of the
young couple to gain the goodwill of those upon whom they were literally
dependent for everything induced them to agree to any temporizing
measure that was not too irksome. Therefore, having been nearly two
months united, they did not oppose Sir John's proposal that he should
furnish Edmond Willowes with funds sufficient for him to travel a year
on the Continent in the company of a tutor, the young man undertaking to
lend himself with the utmost diligence to the tutor's instructions, till
he became polished outwardly and inwardly to the degree required in the
husband of such a lady as Barbara. He was to apply himself to the study
of languages, manners, history, society, ruins, and everything else that
came under his eyes, till he should return to take his place without
blushing by Barbara's side.

'And by that time,' said worthy Sir John, 'I'll get my little place out
at Yewsholt ready for you and Barbara to occupy on your return. The
house is small and out of the way; but it will do for a young couple for
a while.'

'If 'twere no bigger than a summer-house it would do!' says Barbara.

'If 'twere no bigger than a sedan-chair!' says Willowes. 'And the more
lonely the better.'

'We can put up with the loneliness,' said Barbara, with less zest. 'Some
friends will come, no doubt.'

All this being laid down, a travelled tutor was called in-a man of many
gifts and great experience,-and on a fine morning away tutor and pupil
went. A great reason urged against Barbara accompanying her youthful
husband was that his attentions to her would naturally be such as to
prevent his zealously applying every hour of his time to learning and
seeing-an argument of wise prescience, and unanswerable. Regular days
for letter-writing were fixed, Barbara and her Edmond exchanged their
last kisses at the door, and the chaise swept under the archway into the
drive.

He wrote to her from Le Havre, as soon as he reached that port, which
was not for seven days, on account of adverse winds; he wrote from
Rouen, and from Paris; described to her his sight of the King and Court
at Versailles, and the wonderful marble-work and mirrors in that palace;
wrote next from Lyons; then, after a comparatively long interval, from
Turin, narrating his fearful adventures in crossing Mont Cenis on mules,
and how he was overtaken with a terrific snowstorm, which had well-nigh
been the end of him, and his tutor, and his guides. Then he wrote
glowingly of Italy; and Barbara could see the development of her
husband's mind reflected in his letters month by month; and she much
admired the forethought of her father in suggesting this education for
Edmond. Yet she sighed sometimes-her husband being no longer in evidence
to fortify her in her choice of him-and timidly dreaded what
mortifications might be in store for her by reason of this m\xE9salliance.
She went out very little; for on the one or two occasions on which she
had shown herself to former friends she noticed a distinct difference in
their manner, as though they should say, 'Ah, my happy swain's wife;
you're caught!'

Edmond's letters were as affectionate as ever; even more affectionate,
after a while, than hers were to him. Barbara observed this growing
coolness in herself; and like a good and honest lady was horrified and
grieved, since her only wish was to act faithfully and uprightly. It
troubled her so much that she prayed for a warmer heart, and at last
wrote to her husband to beg him, now that he was in the land of Art, to
send her his portrait, ever so small, that she might look at it all day
and every day, and never for a moment forget his features.

Willowes was nothing loth, and replied that he would do more than she
wished: he had made friends with a sculptor in Pisa, who was much
interested in him and his history; and he had commissioned this artist
to make a bust of himself in marble, which when finished he would send
her. What Barbara had wanted was something immediate; but she expressed
no objection to the delay; and in his next communication Edmund told her
that the sculptor, of his own choice, had decided to increase the bust
to a full-length statue, so anxious was he to get a specimen of his
skill introduced to the notice of the English aristocracy. It was
progressing well, and rapidly.

Meanwhile, Barbara's attention began to be occupied at home with
Yewsholt Lodge, the house that her kind-hearted father was preparing for
her residence when her husband returned. It was a small place on the
plan of a large one-a cottage built in the form of a mansion, having a
central hall with a wooden gallery running round it, and rooms no bigger
than closets to follow this introduction. It stood on a slope so
solitary, and surrounded by trees so dense, that the birds who inhabited
the boughs sang at strange hours, as if they hardly could distinguish
night from day.

During the progress of repairs at this bower Barbara frequently visited
it. Though so secluded by the dense growth, it was near the high road,
and one day while looking over the fence she saw Lord Uplandtowers
riding past. He saluted her courteously, yet with mechanical stiffness,
and did not halt. Barbara went home, and continued to pray that she
might never cease to love her husband. After that she sickened, and did
not come out of doors again for a long time.

The year of education had extended to fourteen months, and the house was
in order for Edmond's return to take up his abode there with Barbara,
when, instead of the accustomed letter for her, came one to Sir John
Grebe in the handwriting of the said tutor, informing him of a terrible
catastrophe that had occurred to them at Venice. Mr Willowes and himself
had attended the theatre one night during the Carnival of the preceding
week, to witness the Italian comedy, when, owing to the carelessness of
one of the candle-snuffers, the theatre had caught fire, and been burnt
to the ground. Few persons had lost their lives, owing to the superhuman
exertions of some of the audience in getting out the senseless
sufferers; and, among them all, he who had risked his own life the most
heroically was Mr. Willowes. In re-entering for the fifth time to save
his fellow-creatures some fiery beams had fallen upon him, and he had
been given up for lost. He was, however, by the blessing of Providence,
recovered, with the life still in him, though he was fearfully burnt;
and by almost a miracle he seemed likely to survive, his constitution
being wondrously sound. He was, of course, unable to write, but he was
receiving the attention of several skilful surgeons. Further report
would be made by the next mail or by private hand.

The tutor said nothing in detail of poor Willowes's sufferings, but as
soon as the news was broken to Barbara she realized how intense they
must have been, and her immediate instinct was to rush to his side,
though, on consideration, the journey seemed impossible to her. Her
health was by no means what it had been, and to post across Europe at
that season of the year, or to traverse the Bay of Biscay in a sailing-
craft, was an undertaking that would hardly be justified by the result.
But she was anxious to go till, on reading to the end of the letter, her
husband's tutor was found to hint very strongly against such a step if
it should be contemplated, this being also the opinion of the surgeons.
And though Willowes's comrade refrained from giving his reasons, they
disclosed themselves plainly enough in the sequel.

The truth was that the worst of the wounds resulting from the fire had
occurred to his head and face-that handsome face which had won her heart
from her,-and both the tutor and the surgeons knew that for a sensitive
young woman to see him before his wounds had healed would cause more
misery to her by the shock than happiness to him by her ministrations.

Lady Grebe blurted out what Sir John and Barbara had thought, but had
had too much delicacy to express.

'Sure, 'tis mighty hard for you, poor Barbara, that the one little gift
he had to justify your rash choice of him-his wonderful good looks-
should be taken away like this, to leave 'ee no excuse at all for your
conduct in the world's eyes . . . Well, I wish you'd married t'other-
that do I!' And the lady sighed.

'He'll soon get right again,' said her father soothingly.

Such remarks as the above were not often made; but they were frequent
enough to cause Barbara an uneasy sense of self-stultification. She
determined to hear them no longer; and the house at Yewsholt being ready
and furnished, she withdrew thither with her maids, where for the first
time she could feel mistress of a home that would be hers and her
husband's exclusively, when he came.

After long weeks Willowes had recovered sufficiently to be able to write
himself; and slowly and tenderly he enlightened her upon the full extent
of his injuries. It was a mercy, he said, that he had not lost his sight
entirely; but he was thankful to say that he still retained full vision
in one eye, though the other was dark for ever. The sparing manner in
which he meted out particulars of his condition told Barbara how
appalling had been his experience. He was grateful for her assurance
that nothing could change her; but feared she did not fully realize that
he was so sadly disfigured as to make it doubtful if she would recognize
him. However, in spite of all, his heart was as true to her as it ever
had been.

Barbara saw from his anxiety how much lay behind. She replied that she
submitted to the decrees of Fate, and would welcome him in any shape as
soon as he could come. She told him of the pretty retreat in which she
had taken up her abode, pending their joint occupation of it, and did
not reveal how much she had sighed over the information that all his
good looks were gone. Still less did she say that she felt a certain
strangeness in awaiting him, the weeks they had lived together having
been so short by comparison with the length of his absence.

Slowly drew on the time when Willowes found himself well enough to come
home. He landed at Southampton, and posted thence towards Yewsholt.
Barbara arranged to go out to meet him as far as Lornton Inn-the spot
between the Forest and the Chase at which he had waited for night on the
evening of their elopement. Thither she drove at the appointed hour in a
little pony-chaise, presented her by her father on her birthday for her
especial use in her new house; which vehicle she sent back on arriving
at the inn, the plan agreed upon being that she should perform the
return journey with her husband in his hired coach.

There was not much accommodation for a lady at this wayside tavern; but,
as it was a fine evening in early summer, she did not mind-walking about
outside, and straining her eyes along the highway for the expected one.
But each cloud of dust that enlarged in the distance and drew near was
found to disclose a conveyance other than his post-chaise. Barbara
remained till the appointment was two hours passed, and then began to
fear that owing to some adverse wind in the Channel he was not coming
that night.

While waiting she was conscious of a curious trepidation that was not
entirely solicitude, and did not amount to dread; her tense state of
incertitude bordered both on disappointment and on relief. She had lived
six or seven weeks with an imperfectly educated yet handsome husband
whom now she had not seen for seventeen months, and who was so changed
physically by an accident that she was assured she would hardly know
him. Can we wonder at her compound state of mind?

But her immediate difficulty was to get away from Lornton Inn, for her
situation was becoming embarrassing. Like too many of Barbara's actions,
this drive had been undertaken without much reflection. Expecting to
wait no more than a few minutes for her husband in his post-chaise, and
to enter it with him, she had not hesitated to isolate herself by
sending back her own little vehicle. She now found that, being so well
known in this neighbourhood, her excursion to meet her long-absent
husband was exciting great interest. She was conscious that more eyes
were watching her from the inn-windows than met her own gaze. Barbara
had decided to get home by hiring whatever kind of conveyance the tavern
afforded, when, straining her eyes for the last time over the now
darkening highway, she perceived yet another dust-cloud drawing near.
She paused; a chariot ascended to the inn, and would have passed had not
its occupant caught sight of her standing expectantly. The horses were
checked on the instant.

'You here-and alone, my dear Mrs. Willowes?' said Lord Uplandtowers,
whose carriage it was.

She explained what had brought her into this lonely situation; and, as
he was going in the direction of her own home, she accepted his offer of
a seat beside him. Their conversation was embarrassed and fragmentary at
first; but when they had driven a mile or two she was surprised to find
herself talking earnestly and warmly to him: her impulsiveness was in
truth but the natural consequence of her late existence-a somewhat
desolate one by reason of the strange marriage she had made; and there
is no more indiscreet mood than that of a woman surprised into talk who
has long been imposing upon herself a policy of reserve. Therefore her
ingenuous heart rose with a bound into her throat when, in response to
his leading questions, or rather hints, she allowed her troubles to leak
out of her. Lord Uplandtowers took her quite to her own door, although
he had driven three miles out of his way to do so; and in handing her
down she heard from him a whisper of stern reproach: 'It need not have
been thus if you had listened to me!'

She made no reply, and went indoors. There, as the evening wore away,
she regretted more and more that she had been so friendly with Lord
Uplandtowers. But he had launched himself upon her so unexpectedly: if
she had only foreseen the meeting with him, what a careful line of
conduct she would have marked out! Barbara broke into a perspiration of
disquiet when she thought of her unreserve, and, in self-chastisement,
resolved to sit up till midnight on the bare chance of Edmond's return;
directing that supper should be laid for him, improbable as his arrival
till the morrow was.

The hours went past, and there was dead silence in and round about
Yewsholt Lodge, except for the soughing of the trees; till, when it was
near upon midnight, she heard the noise of hoofs and wheels approaching
the door. Knowing that it could only be her husband, Barbara instantly
went into the hall to meet him. Yet she stood there not without a
sensation of faintness, so many were the changes since their parting!
And, owing to her casual encounter with Lord Uplandtowers, his voice and
image still remained with her, excluding Edmond, her husband, from the
inner circle of her impressions.

But she went to the door, and the next moment a figure stepped inside,
of which she knew the outline, but little besides. Her husband was
attired in a flapping black cloak and slouched hat, appearing altogether
as a foreigner, and not as the young English burgess who had left her
side. When he came forward into the light of the lamp, she perceived
with surprise, and almost with fright, that he wore a mask. At first she
had not noticed this-there being nothing in its colour which would lead
a casual observer to think he was looking on anything but a real
countenance.

He must have seen her start of dismay at the unexpectedness of his
appearance, for he said hastily: 'I did not mean to come in to you like
this-I thought you would have been in bed. How good you are, dear
Barbara!' He put his arm round her, but he did not attempt to kiss her.

'O Edmond-it is you?-it must be?' she said, with clasped hands, for
though his figure and movement were almost enough to prove it, and the
tones were not unlike the old tones, the enunciation was so altered as
to seem that of a stranger.

'I am covered like this to hide myself from the curious eyes of the inn-
servants and others,' he said, in a low voice. 'I will send back the
carriage and join you in a moment.'

'You are quite alone?'

'Quite. My companion stopped at Southampton.'

The wheels of the post-chaise rolled away as she entered the dining-
room, where the supper was spread; and presently he rejoined her there.
He had removed his cloak and hat, but the mask was still retained; and
she could now see that it was of special make, of some flexible material
like silk, coloured so as to represent flesh; it joined naturally to the
front hair, and was otherwise cleverly executed.

'Barbara-you look ill,' he said, removing his glove, and taking her
hand.

'Yes-I have been ill,' said she.

'Is this pretty little house ours?'

'O-yes.' She was hardly conscious of her words, for the hand he had
ungloved in order to take hers was contorted, and had one or two of its
fingers missing; while through the mask she discerned the twinkle of one
eye only.

'I would give anything to kiss you, dearest, now, at this moment!' he
continued, with mournful passionateness. 'But I cannot-in this guise.
The servants are abed, I suppose?'

'Yes,' said she. 'But I can call them? You will have some supper?'

He said he would have some, but that it was not necessary to call
anybody at that hour. Thereupon they approached the table, and sat down,
facing each other.

Despite Barbara's scared state of mind, it was forced upon her notice
that her husband trembled, as if he feared the impression he was
producing, or was about to produce, as much as, or more than, she. He
drew nearer, and took her hand again.

'I had this mask made at Venice,' he began, in evident embarrassment.
'My darling Barbara-my dearest wife-do you think you-will mind when I
take it off? You will not dislike me-will you?'

'O Edmond, of course I shall not mind,' said she. 'What has happened to
you is our misfortune; but I am prepared for it.'

'Are you sure you are prepared?'

'O yes! You are my husband.'

'You really feel quite confident that nothing external can affect you?'
he said again, in a voice rendered uncertain by his agitation.

'I think I am-quite,' she answered faintly.

He bent his head. 'I hope, I hope you are,' he whispered.

In the pause which followed, the ticking of the clock in the hall seemed
to grow loud; and he turned a little aside to remove the mask. She
breathlessly awaited the operation, which was one of some tediousness,
watching him one moment, averting her face the next; and when it was
done she shut her eyes at the hideous spectacle that was revealed. A
quick spasm of horror had passed through her; but though she quailed she
forced herself to regard him anew, repressing the cry that would
naturally have escaped from her ashy lips. Unable to look at him longer,
Barbara sank down on the floor beside her chair, covering her eyes.

'You cannot look at me!' he groaned in a hopeless way. 'I am too
terrible an object even for you to bear! I knew it; yet I hoped against
it. Oh, this is a bitter fate-curse the skill of those Venetian surgeons
who saved me alive! . . . Look up, Barbara,' he continued beseechingly;
'view me completely; say you loathe me, if you do loathe me, and settle
the case between us for ever!'

His unhappy wife pulled herself together for a desperate strain. He was
her Edmond; he had done her no wrong; he had suffered. A momentary
devotion to him helped her, and lifting her eyes as bidden she regarded
this human remnant, this \xE9corch\xE9, a second time. But the sight was too
much. She again involuntarily looked aside and shuddered.

'Do you think you can get used to this?' he said. 'Yes or no! Can you
bear such a thing of the charnel-house near you? Judge for yourself;
Barbara. Your Adonis, your matchless man, has come to this!'

The poor lady stood beside him motionless, save for the restlessness of
her eyes. All her natural sentiments of affection and pity were driven
clean out of her by a sort of panic; she had just the same sense of
dismay and fearfulness that she would have had in the presence of an
apparition. She could nohow fancy this to be her chosen one-the man she
had loved; he was metamorphosed to a specimen of another species. 'I do
not loathe you,' she said with trembling. 'But I am so horrified-so
overcome! Let me recover myself. Will you sup now? And while you do so
may I go to my room to-regain my old feeling for you? I will try, if I
may leave you awhile? Yes, I will try!'

Without waiting for an answer from him, and keeping her gaze carefully
averted, the frightened woman crept to the door and out of the room. She
heard him sit down to the table, as if to begin supper though, Heaven
knows, his appetite was slight enough after a reception which had
confirmed his worst surmises. When Barbara had ascended the stairs and
arrived in her chamber she sank down, and buried her face in the
coverlet of the bed.

Thus she remained for some time. The bed-chamber was over the dining-
room, and presently as she knelt Barbara heard Willowes thrust back his
chair, and rise to go into the hall. In five minutes that figure would
probably come up the stairs and confront her again; it,-this new and
terrible form, that was not her husband's. In the loneliness of this
night, with neither maid nor friend beside her, she lost all self-
control, and at the first sound of his footstep on the stairs, without
so much as flinging a cloak round her, she flew from the room, ran along
the gallery to the back staircase, which she descended, and, unlocking
the back door, let herself out. She scarcely was aware what she had done
till she found herself in the greenhouse, crouching on a flower- stand.

Here she remained, her great timid eyes strained through the glass upon
the garden without, and her skirts gathered up, in fear of the field-
mice which sometimes came there. Every moment she dreaded to hear
footsteps which she ought by law to have longed for, and a voice that
should have been as music to her soul. But Edmond Willowes came not that
way. The nights were getting short at this season, and soon the dawn
appeared, and the first rays of the sun. By daylight she had less fear
than in the dark. She thought she could meet him, and accustom herself
to the spectacle.

So the much-tried young woman unfastened the door of the hot-house, and
went back by the way she had emerged a few hours ago. Her poor husband
was probably in bed and asleep, his journey having been long; and she
made as little noise as possible in her entry. The house was just as she
had left it, and she looked about in the hall for his cloak and hat, but
she could not see them; nor did she perceive the small trunk which had
been all that he brought with him, his heavier baggage having been left
at Southampton for the road-waggon. She summoned courage to mount the
stairs; the bedroom-door was open as she had left it. She fearfully
peeped round; the bed had not been pressed. Perhaps he had lain down on
the dining-room sofa. She descended and entered; he was not there. On
the table beside his unsoiled plate lay a note, hastily written on the
leaf of a pocket-book. It was something like this:

'My ever-beloved Wife-The effect that my forbidding appearance has
produced upon you was one which I foresaw as quite possible. I hoped
against it, but foolishly so. I was aware that no human love could
survive such a catastrophe. I confess I thought yours divine; but, after
so long an absence, there could not be left sufficient warmth to
overcome the too natural first aversion. It was an experiment, and it
has failed. I do not blame you; perhaps, even, it is better so. Good-
bye. I leave England for one year. You will see me again at the
expiration of that time, if I live. Then I will ascertain your true
feeling; and, if it be against me, go away for ever. E. W.'

On recovering from her surprise, Barbara's remorse was such that she
felt herself absolutely unforgiveable. She should have regarded him as
an afflicted being, and not have been this slave to mere eyesight, like
a child. To follow him and entreat him to return was her first thought.
But on making inquiries she found that nobody had seen him: he had
silently disappeared.

More than this, to undo the scene of last night was impossible. Her
terror had been too plain, and he was a man unlikely to be coaxed back
by her efforts to do her duty. She went and confessed to her parents all
that had occurred; which, indeed, soon became known to more persons than
those of her own family.

The year passed, and he did not return; and it was doubted if he were
alive. Barbara's contrition for her unconquerable repugnance was now
such that she longed to build a church-aisle, or erect a monument, and
devote herself to deeds of charity for the remainder of her days. To
that end she made inquiry of the excellent parson under whom she sat on
Sundays, at a vertical distance of twenty feet. But he could only adjust
his wig and tap his snuff-box; for such was the lukewarm state of
religion in those days, that not an aisle, steeple, porch, east window,
Ten-Commandment board, lion-and-unicorn, or brass candlestick, was
required anywhere at all in the neighbourhood as a votive offering from
a distracted soul-the last century contrasting greatly in this respect
with the happy times in which we live, when urgent appeals for
contributions to such objects pour in by every morning's post, and
nearly all churches have been made to look like new pennies. As the poor
lady could not ease her conscience this way, she determined at least to
be charitable, and soon had the satisfaction of finding her porch
thronged every morning by the raggedest, idlest, most drunken,
hypocritical, and worthless tramps in Christendom.

But human hearts are as prone to change as the leaves of the creeper on
the wall, and in the course of time, hearing nothing of her husband,
Barbara could sit unmoved whilst her mother and friends said in her
hearing, 'Well, what has happened is for the best.' She began to think
so herself; for even now she could not summon up that lopped and
mutilated form without a shiver, though whenever her mind flew back to
her early wedded days, and the man who had stood beside her then, a
thrill of tenderness moved her, which if quickened by his living
presence might have become strong. She was young and inexperienced, and
had hardly on his late return grown out of the capricious fancies of
girlhood.

But he did not come again, and when she thought of his word that he
would return once more, if living, and how unlikely he was to break his
word, she gave him up for dead. So did her parents; so also did another
person-that man of silence, of irresistible incisiveness, of still
countenance, who was as awake as seven sentinels when he seemed to be as
sound asleep as the figures on his family monument. Lord Uplandtowers,
though not yet thirty, had chuckled like a caustic fogey of threescore
when he heard of Barbara's terror and flight at her husband's return,
and of the latter's prompt departure. He felt pretty sure, however, that
Willowes, despite his hurt feelings, would have reappeared to claim his
bright-eyed property if he had been alive at the end of the twelve
months.

As there was no husband to live with her, Barbara had relinquished the
house prepared for them by her father, and taken up her abode anew at
Chene Manor, as in the days of her girlhood. By degrees the episode with
Edmond Willowes seemed but a fevered dream, and as the months grew to
years Lord Uplandtowers' friendship with the people at Chene-which had
somewhat cooled after Barbara's elopement-revived considerably, and he
again became a frequent visitor there. He could not make the most
trivial alteration or improvement at Knollingwood Hall, where he lived,
without riding off to consult with his friend Sir John at Chene; and
thus putting himself frequently under her eyes, Barbara grew accustomed
to him, and talked to him as freely as to a brother. She even began to
look up to him as a person of authority, judgment, and prudence; and
though his severity on the bench towards poachers, smugglers, and
turnip-stealers was matter of common notoriety, she trusted that much of
what was said might be misrepresentation.

Thus they lived on till her husband's absence had stretched to years,
and there could be no longer any doubt of his death. A passionless
manner of renewing his addresses seemed no longer out of place in Lord
Uplandtowers. Barbara did not love him, but hers was essentially one of
those sweet-pea or with-wind natures which require a twig of stouter
fibre than its own to hang upon and bloom. Now, too, she was older, and
admitted to herself that a man whose ancestor had run scores of Saracens
through and through in fighting for the site of the Holy Sepulchre was a
more desirable husband, socially considered, than one who could only
claim with certainty to know that his father and grandfather were
respectable burgesses.

Sir John took occasion to inform her that she might legally consider
herself a widow; and, in brief; Lord Uplandtowers carried his point with
her, and she married him, though he could never get her to own that she
loved him as she had loved Willowes. In my childhood I knew an old lady
whose mother saw the wedding, and she said that when Lord and Lady
Uplandtowers drove away from her father's house in the evening it was in
a coach-and-four, and that my lady was dressed in green and silver, and
wore the gayest hat and feather that ever were seen; though whether it
was that the green did not suit her complexion, or otherwise, the
Countess looked pale, and the reverse of blooming. After their marriage
her husband took her to London, and she saw the gaieties of a season
there; then they returned to Knollingwood Hall, and thus a year passed
away.

Before their marriage her husband had seemed to care but little about
her inability to love him passionately. 'Only let me win you,' he had
said, 'and I will submit to all that.' But now her lack of warmth seemed
to irritate him, and he conducted himself towards her with a
resentfulness which led to her passing many hours with him in painful
silence. The heir-presumptive to the title was a remote relative, whom
Lord Uplandtowers did not exclude from the dislike he entertained
towards many persons and things besides, and he had set his mind upon a
lineal successor. He blamed her much that there was no promise of this,
and asked her what she was good for.

On a particular day in her gloomy life a letter, addressed to her as
Mrs. Willowes, reached Lady Uplandtowers from an unexpected quarter. A
sculptor in Pisa, knowing nothing of her second marriage, informed her
that the long-delayed life-size statue of Mr. Willowes, which, when her
husband left that city, he had been directed to retain till it was sent
for, was still in his studio. As his commission had not wholly been
paid, and the statue was taking up room he could ill spare, he should be
glad to have the debt cleared off, and directions where to forward the
figure. Arriving at a time when the Countess was beginning to have
little secrets (of a harmless kind, it is true) from her husband, by
reason of their growing estrangement, she replied to this letter without
saying a word to Lord Uplandtowers, sending off the balance that was
owing to the sculptor, and telling him to despatch the statue to her
without delay.

It was some weeks before it arrived at Knollingwood Hall, and, by a
singular coincidence, during the interval she received the first
absolutely conclusive tidings of her Edmond's death. It had taken place
years before, in a foreign land, about six months after their parting,
and had been induced by the sufferings he had already undergone, coupled
with much depression of spirit, which had caused him to succumb to a
slight ailment. The news was sent her in a brief and formal letter from
some relative of Willowes's in another part of England.

Her grief took the form of passionate pity for his misfortunes, and of
reproach to herself for never having been able to conquer her aversion
to his latter image by recollection of what Nature had originally made
him. The sad spectacle that had gone from earth had never been her
Edmond at all to her. O that she could have met him as he was at first!
Thus Barbara thought. It was only a few days later that a waggon with
two horses, containing an immense packing-case, was seen at breakfast-
time both by Barbara and her husband to drive round to the back of the
house, and by-and-by they were informed that a case labelled 'Sculpture'
had arrived for her ladyship.

'What can that be?' said Lord Uplandtowers.

'It is the statue of poor Edmond, which belongs to me, but has never
been sent till now,' she answered.

'Where are you going to put it?' asked he.

'I have not decided,' said the Countess. 'Anywhere, so that it will not
annoy you.'

'Oh, it won't annoy me,' says he.

When it had been unpacked in a back room of the house, they went to
examine it. The statue was a full-length figure, in the purest Carrara
marble, representing Edmond Willowes in all his original beauty, as he
had stood at parting from her when about to set out on his travels; a
specimen of manhood almost perfect in every line and contour. The work
had been carried out with absolute fidelity.

'Phoebus-Apollo, sure,' said the Earl of Uplandtowers, who had never
seen Willowes, real or represented, till now.

Barbara did not hear him. She was standing in a sort of trance before
the first husband, as if she had no consciousness of the other husband
at her side. The mutilated features of Willowes had disappeared from her
mind's eye; this perfect being was really the man she had loved, and not
that later pitiable figure; in whom love and truth should have seen this
image always, but had not done so.

It was not till Lord Uplandtowers said roughly, 'Are you going to stay
here all the morning worshipping him?' that she roused herself.

Her husband had not till now the least suspicion that Edmond Willowes
originally looked thus, and he thought how deep would have been his
jealousy years ago if Willowes had been known to him. Returning to the
Hall in the afternoon he found his wife in the gallery, whither the
statue had been brought.

She was lost in reverie before it, just as in the morning.

'What are you doing?' he asked.

She started and turned. 'I am looking at my husb\x97- my statue, to see if
it is well done,' she stammered. 'Why should I not?'

'There's no reason why,' he said. 'What are you going to do with the
monstrous thing? It can't stand here for ever.'

'I don't wish it,' she said. 'I'll find a place.'

In her boudoir there was a deep recess, and while the Earl was absent
from home for a few days in the following week, she hired joiners from
the village, who under her directions enclosed the recess with a
panelled door. Into the tabernacle thus formed she had the statue
placed, fastening the door with a lock, the key of which she kept in her
pocket.

When her husband returned he missed the statue from the gallery, and,
concluding that it had been put away out of deference to his feelings,
made no remark. Yet at moments he noticed something on his lady's face
which he had never noticed there before. He could not construe it; it
was a sort of silent ecstasy, a reserved beatification. What had become
of the statue he could not divine, and growing more and more curious,
looked about here and there for it till, thinking of her private room,
he went towards that spot. After knocking he heard the shutting of a
door, and the click of a key; but when he entered his wife was sitting
at work, on what was in those days called knotting. Lord Uplandtowers'
eye fell upon the newly-painted door where the recess had formerly been.

'You have been carpentering in my absence then, Barbara,' he said
carelessly.

'Yes, Uplandtowers.'

'Why did you go putting up such a tasteless enclosure as that-spoiling
the handsome arch of the alcove?'

'I wanted more closet-room; and I thought that as this was my own
apartment-'

'Of course,' he returned. Lord Uplandtowers knew now where the statue of
young Willowes was.

One night, or rather in the smallest hours of the morning, he missed the
Countess from his side. Not being a man of nervous imaginings he fell
asleep again before he had much considered the matter, and the next
morning had forgotten the incident. But a few nights later the same
circumstances occurred. This time he fully roused himself; but before he
had moved to search for her, she entered the chamber in her dressing-
gown, carrying a candle, which she extinguished as she approached,
deeming him asleep. He could discover from her breathing that she was
strangely moved; but not on this occasion either did he reveal that he
had seen her. Presently, when she had lain down, affecting to wake, he
asked her some trivial questions. 'Yes, Edmond,' she replied absently.

Lord Uplandtowers became convinced that she was in the habit of leaving
the chamber in this queer way more frequently than he had observed, and
he determined to watch. The next midnight he feigned deep sleep, and
shortly after perceived her stealthily rise and let herself out of the
room in the dark. He slipped on some clothing and followed. At the
farther end of the corridor, where the clash of flint and steel would be
out of the hearing of one in the bed-chamber, she struck a light. He
stepped aside into an empty room till she had lit a taper and had passed
on to her boudoir. In a minute or two he followed. Arrived at the door
of the boudoir, he beheld the door of the private recess open, and
Barbara within it, standing with her arms clasped tightly round the neck
of her Edmond, and her mouth on his. The shawl which she had thrown
round her nightclothes had slipped from her shoulders, and her long
white robe and pale face lent her the blanched appearance of a second
statue embracing the first. Between her kisses, she apostrophized it in
a low murmur of infantine tenderness:

'My only love-how could I be so cruel to you, my perfect one-so good and
true-I am ever faithful to you, despite my seeming infidelity! I always
think of you-dream of you-during the long hours of the day, and in the
night-watches! O Edmond, I am always yours!' Such words as these,
intermingled with sobs, and streaming tears, and dishevelled hair,
testified to an intensity of feeling in his wife which Lord Uplandtowers
had not dreamed of her possessing.

'Ha, ha!' says he to himself. 'This is where we evaporate-this is where
my hopes of a successor in the title dissolve-ha, ha! This must be seen
to, verily!'

Lord Uplandtowers was a subtle man when once he set himself to strategy;
though in the present instance he never thought of the simple stratagem
of constant tenderness. Nor did he enter the room and surprise his wife
as a blunderer would have done, but went back to his chamber as silently
as he had left it. When the Countess returned thither, shaken by spent
sobs and sighs, he appeared to be soundly sleeping as usual. The next
day he began his countermoves by making inquiries as to the whereabouts
of the tutor who had travelled with his wife's first husband; this
gentleman, he found, was now master of a grammar-school at no great
distance from Knollingwood. At the first convenient moment Lord
Uplandtowers went thither and obtained an interview with the said
gentleman. The schoolmaster was much gratified by a visit from such an
influential neighbour, and was ready to communicate anything that his
lordship desired to know.

After some general conversation on the school and its progress, the
visitor observed that he believed the schoolmaster had once travelled a
good deal with the unfortunate Mr. Willowes, and had been with him on
the occasion of his accident. He, Lord Uplandtowers, was interested in
knowing what had really happened at that time, and had often thought of
inquiring. And then the Earl not only heard by word of mouth as much as
he wished to know, but, their chat becoming more intimate, the
schoolmaster drew upon paper a sketch of the disfigured head, explaining
with bated breath various details in the representation.

'It was very strange and terrible!' said Lord Uplandtowers, taking the
sketch in his hand. 'Neither nose nor ears!'

A poor man in the town nearest to Knollingwood Hall, who combined the
art of sign-painting with ingenious mechanical occupations, was sent for
by Lord Uplandtowers to come to the Hall on a day in that week when the
Countess had gone on a short visit to her parents. His employer made the
man understand that the business in which his assistance was demanded
was to be considered private, and money insured the observance of this
request. The lock of the cupboard was picked, and the ingenious mechanic
and painter, assisted by the schoolmaster's sketch, which Lord
Uplandtowers had put in his pocket, set to work upon the god-like
countenance of the statue under my lord's direction. What the fire had
maimed in the original the chisel maimed in the copy. It was a fiendish
disfigurement, ruthlessly carried out, and was rendered still more
shocking by being tinted to the hues of life, as life had been after the
wreck.

Six hours after, when the workman was gone, Lord Uplandtowers looked
upon the result, and smiled grimly, and said:

'A statue should represent a man as he appeared in life, and that's as
he appeared. Ha! ha! But 'tis done to good purpose, and not idly.'

He locked the door of the closet with a skeleton key, and went his way
to fetch the Countess home.

That night she slept, but he kept awake. According to the tale, she
murmured soft words in her dream; and he knew that the tender converse
of her imaginings was held with one whom he had supplanted but in name.
At the end of her dream the Countess of Uplandtowers awoke and arose,
and then the enactment of former nights was repeated. Her husband
remained still and listened. Two strokes sounded from the clock in the
pediment without, when, leaving the chamber-door ajar, she passed along
the corridor to the other end, where, as usual, she obtained a light. So
deep was the silence that he could even from his bed hear her softly
blowing the tinder to a glow after striking the steel. She moved on into
the boudoir, and he heard, or fancied he heard, the turning of the key
in the closet-door. The next moment there came from that direction a
loud and prolonged shriek, which resounded to the farthest corners of
the house. It was repeated, and there was the noise of a heavy fall.

Lord Uplandtowers sprang out of bed. He hastened along the dark corridor
to the door of the boudoir, which stood ajar, and, by the light of the
candle within, saw his poor young Countess lying in a heap in her
nightdress on the floor of the closet. When he reached her side he found
that she had fainted, much to the relief of his fears that matters were
worse. He quickly shut up and locked in the hated image which had done
the mischief; and lifted his wife in his arms, where in a few instants
she opened her eyes. Pressing her face to his without saying a word, he
carried her back to her room, endeavouring as he went to disperse her
terrors by a laugh in her ear, oddly compounded of causticity,
predilection, and brutality.

'Ho-ho-ho!' says he. 'Frightened, dear one, hey? What a baby 'tis! Only
a joke, sure, Barbara-a splendid joke! But a baby should not go to
closets at midnight to look for the ghost of the dear departed! If it do
it must expect to be terrified at his aspect-ho-ho-ho!'

When she was in her bed-chamber, and had quite come to herself; though
her nerves were still much shaken, he spoke to her more sternly. 'Now,
my lady, answer me: do you love him-eh?'

'No-no!' she faltered, shuddering, with her expanded eyes fixed on her
husband. 'He is too terrible-no, no!'

'You are sure?'

'Quite sure!' replied the poor broken-spirited Countess. But her natural
elasticity asserted itself. Next morning he again inquired of her: 'Do
you love him now?'

She quailed under his gaze, but did not reply.

'That means that you do still, by G\x97-!' he continued.

'It means that I will not tell an untruth, and do not wish to incense my
lord,' she answered, with dignity.

'Then suppose we go and have another look at him?' As he spoke, he
suddenly took her by the wrist, and turned as if to lead her towards the
ghastly closet.

'No-no! Oh-no!' she cried, and her desperate wriggle out of his hand
revealed that the fright of the night had left more impression upon her
delicate soul than superficially appeared.

'Another dose or two, and she will be cured,' he said to himself.

It was now so generally known that the Earl and Countess were not in
accord, that he took no great trouble to disguise his deeds in relation
to this matter. During the day he ordered four men with ropes and
rollers to attend him in the boudoir. When they arrived, the closet was
open, and the upper part of the statue tied up in canvas. He had it
taken to the sleeping-chamber. What followed is more or less matter of
conjecture. The story, as told to me, goes on to say that, when Lady
Uplandtowers retired with him that night, she saw near the foot of the
heavy oak four-poster, a tall dark wardrobe, which had not stood there
before; but she did not ask what its presence meant.

'I have had a little whim,' he explained when they were in the dark.

'Have you?' says she.

'To erect a little shrine, as it may be called.'

'A little shrine?'

'Yes; to one whom we both equally adore-eh? I'll show you what it
contains.'

He pulled a cord which hung covered by the bed-curtains, and the doors
of the wardrobe slowly opened, disclosing that the shelves within had
been removed throughout, and the interior adapted to receive the ghastly
figure, which stood there as it had stood in the boudoir, but with a
wax-candle burning on each side of it to throw the cropped and distorted
features into relief. She clutched him, uttered a low scream, and buried
her head in the bedclothes. 'Oh, take it away-please take it away!' she
implored.

'All in good time namely, when you love me best,' he returned calmly.
'You don't quite yet-eh?'

'I don't know-I think-O Uplandtowers, have mercy-I cannot bear it-O, in
pity, take it away!'

'Nonsense; one gets accustomed to anything. Take another gaze.'

In short, he allowed the doors to remain unclosed at the foot of the
bed, and the wax-tapers burning; and such was the strange fascination of
the grisly exhibition that a morbid curiosity took possession of the
Countess as she lay, and, at his repeated request, she did again look
out from the coverlet, shuddered, hid her eyes, and looked again, all
the while begging him to take it away, or it would drive her out of her
senses. But he would not do so as yet, and the wardrobe was not locked
till dawn.

The scene was repeated the next night. Firm in enforcing his ferocious
correctives, he continued the treatment till the nerves of the poor lady
were quivering in agony under the virtuous tortures inflicted by her
lord, to bring her truant heart back to faithfulness.

The third night, when the scene had opened as usual, and she lay staring
with immense wild eyes at the horrid fascination, on a sudden she gave
an unnatural laugh; she laughed more and more, staring at the image,
till she literally shrieked with laughter: then there was silence, and
he found her to have become insensible. He thought she had fainted, but
soon saw that the event was worse: she was in an epileptic fit. He
started up, dismayed by the sense that, like many other subtle
personages, he had been too exacting for his own interests. Such love as
he was capable of, though rather a selfish gloating than a cherishing
solicitude, was fanned into life on the instant. He closed the wardrobe
with the pulley, clasped her in his arms, took her gently to the window,
and did all he could to restore her.

It was a long time before the Countess came to herself, and when she did
so, a considerable change seemed to have taken place in her emotions.
She flung her arms around him, and with gasps of fear abjectly kissed
him many times, at last bursting into tears. She had never wept in this
scene before.

'You'll take it away, dearest-you will!' she begged plaintively.

'If you love me.'

'I do-oh, I do!'

'And hate him, and his memory?'

'Yes-yes!'

'Thoroughly?'

'I cannot endure recollection of him!' cried the poor Countess
slavishly. 'It fills me with shame-how could I ever be so depraved! I'll
never behave badly again, Uplandtowers; and you will never put the hated
statue again before my eyes?'

He felt that he could promise with perfect safety. 'Never,' said he.

'And then I'll love you,' she returned eagerly, as if dreading lest the
scourge should be applied anew. 'And I'll never, never dream of thinking
a single thought that seems like faithlessness to my marriage vow.'

The strange thing now was that this fictitious love wrung from her by
terror took on, through mere habit of enactment, a certain quality of
reality. A servile mood of attachment to the Earl became distinctly
visible in her contemporaneously with an actual dislike for her late
husband's memory. The mood of attachment grew and continued when the
statue was removed. A permanent revulsion was operant in her, which
intensified as time wore on. How fright could have effected such a
change of idiosyncrasy learned physicians alone can say; but I believe
such cases of reactionary instinct are not unknown.

The upshot was that the cure became so permanent as to be itself a new
disease. She clung to him so tightly, that she would not willingly be
out of his sight for a moment. She would have no sitting-room apart from
his, though she could not help starting when he entered suddenly to her.
Her eyes were well-nigh always fixed upon him. If he drove out, she
wished to go with him; his slightest civilities to other women made her
frantically jealous; till at length her very fidelity became a burden to
him, absorbing his time, and curtailing his liberty, and causing him to
curse and swear. If he ever spoke sharply to her now, she did not
revenge herself by flying off to a mental world of her own; all that
affection for another, which had provided her with a resource, was now a
cold black cinder.

From that time the life of this scared and enervated lady-whose
existence might have been developed to so much higher purpose but for
the ignoble ambition of her parents and the conventions of the time-was
one of obsequious amativeness towards a perverse and cruel man. Little
personal events came to her in quick succession-half a dozen, eight,
nine, ten such events,-in brief; she bore him no less than eleven
children in the eight following years, but half of them came prematurely
into the world, or died a few days old; only one, a girl, attained to
maturity; she in after years became the wife of the Honourable Mr.
Beltonleigh, who was created Lord D'Almaine, as may be remembered.

There was no living son and heir. At length, completely worn out in mind
and body, Lady Uplandtowers was taken abroad by her husband, to try the
effect of a more genial climate upon her wasted frame. But nothing
availed to strengthen her, and she died at Florence, a few months after
her arrival in Italy.

Contrary to expectation, the Earl of Uplandtowers did not marry again.
Such affection as existed in him-strange, hard, brutal as it was-seemed
untransferable, and the title, as is known, passed at his death to his
nephew. Perhaps it may not be so generally known that, during the
enlargement of the Hall for the sixth Earl, while digging in the grounds
for the new foundations, the broken fragments of a marble statue were
unearthed. They were submitted to various antiquaries, who said that, so
far as the damaged pieces would allow them to form an opinion, the
statue seemed to be that of a mutilated Roman satyr; or if not, an
allegorical figure of Death. Only one or two old inhabitants guessed
whose statue those fragments had composed.

I should have added that, shortly after the death of the Countess, an
excellent sermon was preached by the Dean of Melchester, the subject of
which, though names were not mentioned, was unquestionably suggested by
the aforesaid events. He dwelt upon the folly of indulgence in sensuous
love for a handsome form merely; and showed that the only rational and
virtuous growths of that affection were those based upon intrinsic
worth. In the case of the tender but somewhat shallow lady whose life I
have related, there is no doubt that an infatuation for the person of
young Willowes was the chief feeling that induced her to marry him;
which was the more deplorable in that his beauty, by all tradition, was
the least of his recommendations, every report bearing out the inference
that he must have been a man of steadfast nature, bright intelligence,
and promising life.

The company thanked the old surgeon for his story, which the rural dean
declared to be a far more striking one than anything he could hope to
tell. An elderly member of the Club, who was mostly called the Bookworm,
said that a woman's natural instinct of fidelity would, indeed, send
back her heart to a man after his death in a truly wonderful manner
sometimes-if anything occurred to put before her forcibly the original
affection between them, and his original aspect in her eyes,-whatever
his inferiority may have been, social or otherwise; and then a general
conversation ensued upon the power that a woman has of seeing the actual
in the representation, the reality in the dream-a power which (according
to the sentimental member) men have no faculty of equalling.

The rural dean thought that such cases as that related by the surgeon
were rather an illustration of passion electrified back to life than of
a latent, true affection. The story had suggested that he should try to
recount to them one which he had used to hear in his youth, and which
afforded an instance of the latter and better kind of feeling, his
heroine being also a lady who had married beneath her, though he feared
his narrative would be of a much slighter kind than the surgeon's. The
Club begged him to proceed, and the parson began.



DAME THE THIRD-THE MARCHIONESS OF STONEHENGE By the Rural Dean

I would have you know, then, that a great many years ago there lived in
a classical mansion with which I used to be familiar, standing not a
hundred miles from the city of Melchester, a lady whose personal charms
were so rare and unparalleled that she was courted, flattered, and
spoilt by almost all the young noblemen and gentlemen in that part of
Wessex. For a time these attentions pleased her well. But as, in the
words of good Robert South (whose sermons might be read much more than
they are), the most passionate lover of sport, if tied to follow his
hawks and hounds every day of his life, would find the pursuit the
greatest torment and calamity, and would fly to the mines and galleys
for his recreation, so did this lofty and beautiful lady after a while
become satiated with the constant iteration of what she had in its
novelty enjoyed; and by an almost natural revulsion turned her regards
absolutely netherward, socially speaking. She perversely and
passionately centred her affection on quite a plain-looking young man of
humble birth and no position at all; though it is true that he was
gentle and delicate in nature, of good address, and guileless heart. In
short, he was the parish-clerk's son, acting as assistant to the land-
steward of her father, the Earl of Avon, with the hope of becoming some
day a land-steward himself. It should be said that perhaps the Lady
Caroline (as she was called) was a little stimulated in this passion by
the discovery that a young girl of the village already loved the young
man fondly, and that he had paid some attentions to her, though merely
of a casual and good-natured kind.

Since his occupation brought him frequently to the manor-house and its
environs, Lady Caroline could make ample opportunities of seeing and
speaking to him. She had, in Chaucer's phrase, 'all the craft of fine
loving' at her fingers' ends, and the young man, being of a readily-
kindling heart, was quick to notice the tenderness in her eyes and
voice. He could not at first believe in his good fortune, having no
understanding of her weariness of more artificial men; but a time comes
when the stupidest sees in an eye the glance of his other half; and it
came to him, who was quite the reverse of dull. As he gained confidence
accidental encounters led to encounters by design; till at length when
they were alone together there was no reserve on the matter. They
whispered tender words as other lovers do, and were as devoted a pair as
ever was seen. But not a ray or symptom of this attachment was allowed
to show itself to the outer world.

Now, as she became less and less scrupulous towards him under the
influence of her affection, and he became more and more reverential
under the influence of his, and they looked the situation in the face
together, their condition seemed intolerable in its hopelessness. That
she could ever ask to be allowed to marry him, or could hold her tongue
and quietly renounce him, was equally beyond conception. They resolved
upon a third course, possessing neither of the disadvantages of these
two: to wed secretly, and live on in outward appearance the same as
before. In this they differed from the lovers of my friend's story.

Not a soul in the parental mansion guessed, when Lady Caroline came
coolly into the hall one day after a visit to her aunt, that, during
that visit, her lover and herself had found an opportunity of uniting
themselves till death should part them. Yet such was the fact; the young
woman who rode fine horses, and drove in pony-chaises, and was saluted
deferentially by every one, and the young man who trudged about, and
directed the tree-felling, and the laying out of fish-ponds in the park,
were husband and wife.

As they had planned, so they acted to the letter for the space of a
month and more, clandestinely meeting when and where they best could do
so; both being supremely happy and content. To be sure, towards the
latter part of that month, when the first wild warmth of her love had
gone off, the Lady Caroline sometimes wondered within herself how she,
who might have chosen a peer of the realm, baronet, knight; or, if
serious-minded, a bishop or judge of the more gallant sort who prefer
young wives, could have brought herself to do a thing so rash as to make
this marriage; particularly when, in their private meetings, she
perceived that though her young husband was full of ideas, and fairly
well read, they had not a single social experience in common. It was his
custom to visit her after nightfall, in her own house, when he could
find no opportunity for an interview elsewhere; and to further this
course she would contrive to leave unfastened a window on the ground-
floor overlooking the lawn, by entering which a back stair-case was
accessible; so that he could climb up to her apartments, and gain
audience of his lady when the house was still.

One dark midnight, when he had not been able to see her during the day,
he made use of this secret method, as he had done many times before; and
when they had remained in company about an hour he declared that it was
time for him to descend.

He would have stayed longer, but that the interview had been a somewhat
painful one. What she had said to him that night had much excited and
angered him, for it had revealed a change in her; cold reason had come
to his lofty wife; she was beginning to have more anxiety about her own
position and prospects than ardour for him. Whether from the agitation
of this perception or not, he was seized with a spasm; he gasped, rose,
and in moving towards the window for air he uttered in a short thick
whisper, 'Oh, my heart!'

With his hand upon his chest he sank down to the floor before he had
gone another step. By the time that she had relighted the candle, which
had been extinguished in case any eye in the opposite grounds should
witness his egress, she found that his poor heart had ceased to beat;
and there rushed upon her mind what his cottage-friends had once told
her, that he was liable to attacks of heart-disease, one of which, the
doctor had informed them, might some day carry him off.

Accustomed as she was to doctoring the other parishioners, nothing that
she could effect upon him in that kind made any difference whatever; and
his stillness, and the increasing coldness of his feet and hands,
disclosed too surely to the affrighted young woman that her husband was
dead indeed. For more than an hour, however, she did not abandon her
efforts to restore him; when she fully realized the fact that he was a
corpse she bent over his body, distracted and bewildered as to what step
she next should take.

Her first feelings had undoubtedly been those of passionate grief at the
loss of him; her second thoughts were concern at her own position as the
daughter of an earl. 'Oh, why, why, my unfortunate husband, did you die
in my chamber at this hour!' she said piteously to the corpse. 'Why not
have died in your own cottage if you would die! Then nobody would ever
have known of our imprudent union, and no syllable would have been
breathed of how I mismated myself for love of you!'

The clock in the courtyard striking the hour of one aroused Lady
Caroline from the stupor into which she had fallen, and she stood up,
and went towards the door. To awaken and tell her mother seemed her only
way out of this terrible situation; yet when she put her hand on the key
to unlock it she withdrew herself again. It would be impossible to call
even her mother's assistance without risking a revelation to all the
world through the servants; while if she could remove the body
unassisted to a distance she might avert suspicion of their union even
now. This thought of immunity from the social consequences of her rash
act, of renewed freedom, was indubitably a relief to her, for, as has
been said, the constraint and riskiness of her position had begun to
tell upon the Lady Caroline's nerves.

She braced herself for the effort, and hastily dressed herself; and then
dressed him. Tying his dead hands together with a handkerchief; she laid
his arms round her shoulders, and bore him to the landing and down the
narrow stairs. Reaching the bottom by the window, she let his body slide
slowly over the sill till it lay on the ground without. She then climbed
over the window-sill herself, and, leaving the sash open, dragged him on
to the lawn with a rustle not louder than the rustle of a broom. There
she took a securer hold, and plunged with him under the trees.

Away from the precincts of the house she could apply herself more
vigorously to her task, which was a heavy one enough for her, robust as
she was; and the exertion and fright she had already undergone began to
tell upon her by the time she reached the corner of a beech-plantation
which intervened between the manor-house and the village. Here she was
so nearly exhausted that she feared she might have to leave him on the
spot. But she plodded on after a while, and keeping upon the grass at
every opportunity she stood at last opposite the poor young man's
garden-gate, where he lived with his father, the parish-clerk. How she
accomplished the end of her task Lady Caroline never quite knew; but, to
avoid leaving traces in the road, she carried him bodily across the
gravel, and laid him down at the door. Perfectly aware of his ways of
coming and going, she searched behind the shutter for the cottage door-
key, which she placed in his cold hand. Then she kissed his face for the
last time, and with silent little sobs bade him farewell.

Lady Caroline retraced her steps, and reached the mansion without
hindrance; and to her great relief found the window open just as she had
left it. When she had climbed in she listened attentively, fastened the
window behind her, and ascending the stairs noiselessly to her room, set
everything in order, and returned to bed.

The next morning it was speedily echoed around that the amiable and
gentle young villager had been found dead outside his father's door,
which he had apparently been in the act of unlocking when he fell. The
circumstances were sufficiently exceptional to justify an inquest, at
which syncope from heart-disease was ascertained to be beyond doubt the
explanation of his death, and no more was said about the matter then.
But, after the funeral, it was rumoured that some man who had been
returning late from a distant horse-fair had seen in the gloom of night
a person, apparently a woman, dragging a heavy body of some sort towards
the cottage-gate, which, by the light of after events, would seem to
have been the corpse of the young fellow. His clothes were thereupon
examined more particularly than at first, with the result that marks of
friction were visible upon them here and there, precisely resembling
such as would be left by dragging on the ground.

Our beautiful and ingenious Lady Caroline was now in great
consternation; and began to think that, after all, it might have been
better to honestly confess the truth. But having reached this stage
without discovery or suspicion, she determined to make another effort
towards concealment; and a bright idea struck her as a means of securing
it. I think I mentioned that, before she cast eyes on the unfortunate
steward's clerk, he had been the beloved of a certain village damsel,
the woodman's daughter, his neighbour, to whom he had paid some
attentions; and possibly he was beloved of her still. At any rate, the
Lady Caroline's influence on the estates of her father being
considerable, she resolved to seek an interview with the young girl in
furtherance of her plan to save her reputation, about which she was now
exceedingly anxious; for by this time, the fit being over, she began to
be ashamed of her mad passion for her late husband, and almost wished
she had never seen him.

In the course of her parish-visiting she lighted on the young girl
without much difficulty, and found her looking pale and sad, and wearing
a simple black gown, which she had put on out of respect for the young
man's memory, whom she had tenderly loved, though he had not loved her.

'Ah, you have lost your lover, Milly,' said Lady Caroline.

The young woman could not repress her tears. 'My lady, he was not quite
my lover,' she said. 'But I was his-and now he is dead I don't care to
live any more!'

'Can you keep a secret about him?' asks the lady; 'one in which his
honour is involved-which is known to me alone, but should be known to
you?'

The girl readily promised, and, indeed, could be safely trusted on such
a subject, so deep was her affection for the youth she mourned.

'Then meet me at his grave to-night, half-an-hour after sunset, and I
will tell it to you,' says the other.

In the dusk of that spring evening the two shadowy figures of the young
women converged upon the assistant-steward's newly-turfed mound; and at
that solemn place and hour, the one of birth and beauty unfolded her
tale: how she had loved him and married him secretly; how he had died in
her chamber; and how, to keep her secret, she had dragged him to his own
door.

'Married him, my lady!' said the rustic maiden, starting back.

'I have said so,' replied Lady Caroline. 'But it was a mad thing, and a
mistaken course. He ought to have married you. You, Milly, were
peculiarly his. But you lost him.'

'Yes,' said the poor girl; 'and for that they laughed at me. "Ha-ha, you
mid love him, Milly," they said; "but he will not love you!"'

'Victory over such unkind jeerers would be sweet,' said Lady Caroline.
'You lost him in life; but you may have him in death as if you had had
him in life; and so turn the tables upon them.'

'How?' said the breathless girl.

The young lady then unfolded her plan, which was that Milly should go
forward and declare that the young man had contracted a secret marriage
(as he truly had done); that it was with her, Milly, his sweetheart;
that he had been visiting her in her cottage on the evening of his
death; when, on finding he was a corpse, she had carried him to his
house to prevent discovery by her parents, and that she had meant to
keep the whole matter a secret till the rumours afloat had forced it
from her.

'And how shall I prove this?' said the woodman's daughter, amazed at the
boldness of the proposal.

'Quite sufficiently. You can say, if necessary, that you were married to
him at the church of St. Michael, in Bath City, in my name, as the first
that occurred to you, to escape detection. That was where he married me.
I will support you in this.'

'Oh-I don't quite like-'

'If you will do so,' said the lady peremptorily, 'I will always be your
father's friend and yours; if not, it will be otherwise. And I will give
you my wedding-ring, which you shall wear as yours.'

'Have you worn it, my lady?'

'Only at night.'

There was not much choice in the matter, and Milly consented. Then this
noble lady took from her bosom the ring she had never been able openly
to exhibit, and, grasping the young girl's hand, slipped it upon her
finger as she stood upon her lover's grave.

Milly shivered, and bowed her head, saying, 'I feel as if I had become a
corpse's bride!'

But from that moment the maiden was heart and soul in the substitution.
A blissful repose came over her spirit. It seemed to her that she had
secured in death him whom in life she had vainly idolized; and she was
almost content. After that the lady handed over to the young man's new
wife all the little mementoes and trinkets he had given herself; even to
a locket containing his hair.

The next day the girl made her so-called confession, which the simple
mourning she had already worn, without stating for whom, seemed to bear
out; and soon the story of the little romance spread through the village
and country-side, almost as far as Melchester. It was a curious
psychological fact that, having once made the avowal, Milly seemed
possessed with a spirit of ecstasy at her position. With the liberal sum
of money supplied to her by Lady Caroline she now purchased the garb of
a widow, and duly appeared at church in her weeds, her simple face
looking so sweet against its margin of crape that she was almost envied
her state by the other village-girls of her age. And when a woman's
sorrow for her beloved can maim her young life so obviously as it had
done Milly's there was, in truth, little subterfuge in the case. Her
explanation tallied so well with the details of her lover's latter
movements-those strange absences and sudden returnings, which had
occasionally puzzled his friends-that nobody supposed for a moment that
the second actor in these secret nuptials was other than she. The actual
and whole truth would indeed have seemed a preposterous assertion beside
this plausible one, by reason of the lofty demeanour of the Lady
Caroline and the unassuming habits of the late villager. There being no
inheritance in question, not a soul took the trouble to go to the city
church, forty miles off, and search the registers for marriage
signatures bearing out so humble a romance.

In a short time Milly caused a decent tombstone to be erected over her
nominal husband's grave, whereon appeared the statement that it was
placed there by his heartbroken widow, which, considering that the
payment for it came from Lady Caroline and the grief from Milly, was as
truthful as such inscriptions usually are, and only required pluralizing
to render it yet more nearly so.

The impressionable and complaisant Milly, in her character of widow,
took delight in going to his grave every day, and indulging in sorrow
which was a positive luxury to her. She placed fresh flowers on his
grave, and so keen was her emotional imaginativeness that she almost
believed herself to have been his wife indeed as she walked to and fro
in her garb of woe. One afternoon, Milly being busily engaged in this
labour of love at the grave, Lady Caroline passed outside the churchyard
wall with some of her visiting friends, who, seeing Milly there, watched
her actions with interest, remarked upon the pathos of the scene, and
upon the intense affection the young man must have felt for such a
tender creature as Milly. A strange light, as of pain, shot from the
Lady Caroline's eye, as if for the first time she begrudged to the young
girl the position she had been at such pains to transfer to her; it
showed that a slumbering affection for her husband still had life in
Lady Caroline, obscured and stifled as it was by social considerations.

An end was put to this smooth arrangement by the sudden appearance in
the churchyard one day of the Lady Caroline, when Milly had come there
on her usual errand of laying flowers. Lady Caroline had been anxiously
awaiting her behind the chancel, and her countenance was pale and
agitated.

'Milly!' she said, 'come here! I don't know how to say to you what I am
going to say. I am half dead!'

'I am sorry for your ladyship,' says Milly, wondering.

'Give me that ring!' says the lady, snatching at the girl's left hand.

Milly drew it quickly away.

'I tell you give it to me!' repeated Caroline, almost fiercely. 'Oh-but
you don't know why? I am in a grief and a trouble I did not expect!' And
Lady Caroline whispered a few words to the girl.

'O my lady!' said the thunderstruck Milly. 'What will you do?'

'You must say that your statement was a wicked lie, an invention, a
scandal, a deadly sin-that I told you to make it to screen me! That it
was I whom he married at Bath. In short, we must tell the truth, or I am
ruined-body, mind, and reputation-for ever!'

But there is a limit to the flexibility of gentle-souled women. Milly by
this time had so grown to the idea of being one flesh with this young
man, of having the right to bear his name as she bore it; had so
thoroughly come to regard him as her husband, to dream of him as her
husband, to speak of him as her husband, that she could not relinquish
him at a moment's peremptory notice.

'No, no,' she said desperately, 'I cannot, I will not give him up! Your
ladyship took him away from me alive, and gave him back to me only when
he was dead. Now I will keep him! I am truly his widow. More truly than
you, my lady! for I love him and mourn for him, and call myself by his
dear name, and your ladyship does neither!'

'I do love him!' cries Lady Caroline with flashing eyes, 'and I cling to
him, and won't let him go to such as you! How can I, when he is the
father of this poor babe that's coming to me? I must have him back
again! Milly, Milly, can't you pity and understand me, perverse girl
that you are, and the miserable plight that I am in? Oh, this
precipitancy-it is the ruin of women! Why did I not consider, and wait!
Come, give me back all that I have given you, and assure me you will
support me in confessing the truth!'

'Never, never!' persisted Milly, with woe-begone passionateness. 'Look
at this headstone! Look at my gown and bonnet of crape-this ring: listen
to the name they call me by! My character is worth as much to me as
yours is to you! After declaring my Love mine, myself his, taking his
name, making his death my own particular sorrow, how can I say it was
not so? No such dishonour for me! I will outswear you, my lady; and I
shall be believed. My story is so much the more likely that yours will
be thought false. But, O please, my lady, do not drive me to this! In
pity let me keep him!'

The poor nominal widow exhibited such anguish at a proposal which would
have been truly a bitter humiliation to her, that Lady Caroline was
warmed to pity in spite of her own condition.

'Yes, I see your position,' she answered. 'But think of mine! What can I
do? Without your support it would seem an invention to save me from
disgrace; even if I produced the register, the love of scandal in the
world is such that the multitude would slur over the fact, say it was a
fabrication, and believe your story. I do not know who were the
witnesses, or anything!'

In a few minutes these two poor young women felt, as so many in a strait
have felt before, that union was their greatest strength, even now; and
they consulted calmly together. The result of their deliberations was
that Milly went home as usual, and Lady Caroline also, the latter
confessing that very night to the Countess her mother of the marriage,
and to nobody else in the world. And, some time after, Lady Caroline and
her mother went away to London, where a little while later still they
were joined by Milly, who was supposed to have left the village to
proceed to a watering-place in the North for the benefit of her health,
at the expense of the ladies of the Manor, who had been much interested
in her state of lonely and defenceless widowhood.

Early the next year the widow Milly came home with an infant in her
arms, the family at the Manor House having meanwhile gone abroad. They
did not return from their tour till the autumn ensuing, by which time
Milly and the child had again departed from the cottage of her father
the woodman, Milly having attained to the dignity of dwelling in a
cottage of her own, many miles to the eastward of her native village; a
comfortable little allowance had moreover been settled on her and the
child for life, through the instrumentality of Lady Caroline and her
mother.

Two or three years passed away, and the Lady Caroline married a
nobleman-the Marquis of Stonehenge-considerably her senior, who had
wooed her long and phlegmatically. He was not rich, but she led a placid
life with him for many years, though there was no child of the marriage.
Meanwhile Milly's boy, as the youngster was called, and as Milly herself
considered him, grew up, and throve wonderfully, and loved her as she
deserved to be loved for her devotion to him, in whom she every day
traced more distinctly the lineaments of the man who had won her girlish
heart, and kept it even in the tomb.

She educated him as well as she could with the limited means at her
disposal, for the allowance had never been increased, Lady Caroline, or
the Marchioness of Stonehenge as she now was, seeming by degrees to care
little what had become of them. Milly became extremely ambitious on the
boy's account; she pinched herself almost of necessaries to send him to
the Grammar School in the town to which they retired, and at twenty he
enlisted in a cavalry regiment, joining it with a deliberate intent of
making the Army his profession, and not in a freak of idleness. His
exceptional attainments, his manly bearing, his steady conduct, speedily
won him promotion, which was furthered by the serious war in which this
country was at that time engaged. On his return to England after the
peace he had risen to the rank of riding-master, and was soon after
advanced another stage, and made quartermaster, though still a young
man.

His mother-his corporeal mother, that is, the Marchioness of Stonehenge-
heard tidings of this unaided progress; it reawakened her maternal
instincts, and filled her with pride. She became keenly interested in
her successful soldier-son; and as she grew older much wished to see him
again, particularly when, the Marquis dying, she was left a solitary and
childless widow. Whether or not she would have gone to him of her own
impulse I cannot say; but one day, when she was driving in an open
carriage in the outskirts of a neighbouring town, the troops lying at
the barracks hard by passed her in marching order. She eyed them
narrowly, and in the finest of the horsemen recognized her son from his
likeness to her first husband.

This sight of him doubly intensified the motherly emotions which had
lain dormant in her for so many years, and she wildly asked herself how
she could so have neglected him? Had she possessed the true courage of
affection she would have owned to her first marriage, and have reared
him as her son! What would it have mattered if she had never obtained
this precious coronet of pearls and gold leaves, by comparison with the
gain of having the love and protection of such a noble and worthy son?
These and other sad reflections cut the gloomy and solitary lady to the
heart; and she repented of her pride in disclaiming her first husband
more bitterly than she had ever repented of her infatuation in marrying
him.

Her yearning was so strong, that at length it seemed to her that she
could not live without announcing herself to him as his mother. Come
what might, she would do it: late as it was, she would have him away
from that woman whom she began to hate with the fierceness of a deserted
heart, for having taken her place as the mother of her only child. She
felt confidently enough that her son would only too gladly exchange a
cottage-mother for one who was a peeress of the realm. Being now, in her
widowhood, free to come and go as she chose, without question from
anybody, Lady Stonehenge started next day for the little town where
Milly yet lived, still in her robes of sable for the lost lover of her
youth.

'He is my son,' said the Marchioness, as soon as she was alone in the
cottage with Milly. 'You must give him back to me, now that I am in a
position in which I can defy the world's opinion. I suppose he comes to
see you continually?'

'Every month since he returned from the war, my lady. And sometimes he
stays two or three days, and takes me about seeing sights everywhere!'
She spoke with quiet triumph.

'Well, you will have to give him up,' said the Marchioness calmly. 'It
shall not be the worse for you-you may see him when you choose. I am
going to avow my first marriage, and have him with me.'

'You forget that there are two to be reckoned with, my lady. Not only
me, but himself.'

'That can be arranged. You don't suppose that he wouldn't-' But not
wishing to insult Milly by comparing their positions, she said, 'He is
my own flesh and blood, not yours.'

'Flesh and blood's nothing!' said Milly, flashing with as much scorn as
a cottager could show to a peeress, which, in this case, was not so
little as may be supposed. 'But I will agree to put it to him, and let
him settle it for himself.'

'That's all I require,' said Lady Stonehenge. 'You must ask him to come,
and I will meet him here.'

The soldier was written to, and the meeting took place. He was not so
much astonished at the disclosure of his parentage as Lady Stonehenge
had been led to expect, having known for years that there was a little
mystery about his birth. His manner towards the Marchioness, though
respectful, was less warm than she could have hoped. The alternatives as
to his choice of a mother were put before him. His answer amazed and
stupefied her.

'No, my lady,' he said. 'Thank you much, but I prefer to let things be
as they have been. My father's name is mine in any case. You see, my
lady, you cared little for me when I was weak and helpless; why should I
come to you now I am strong? She, dear devoted soul [pointing to Milly],
tended me from my birth, watched over me, nursed me when I was ill, and
deprived herself of many a little comfort to push me on. I cannot love
another mother as I love her. She is my mother, and I will always be her
son!' As he spoke he put his manly arm round Milly's neck, and kissed
her with the tenderest affection.

The agony of the poor Marchioness was pitiable. 'You kill me!' she said,
between her shaking sobs. 'Cannot you-love-me-too?'

'No, my lady. If I must say it, you were ashamed of my poor father, who
was a sincere and honest man; therefore, I am ashamed of you.'

Nothing would move him; and the suffering woman at last gasped, 'Cannot-
oh, cannot you give one kiss to me-as you did to her? It is not much-it
is all I ask-all!'

'Certainly,' he replied.

He kissed her coldly, and the painful scene came to an end. That day was
the beginning of death to the unfortunate Marchioness of Stonehenge. It
was in the perverseness of her human heart that his denial of her should
add fuel to the fire of her craving for his love. How long afterwards
she lived I do not know with any exactness, but it was no great length
of time. That anguish that is sharper than a serpent's tooth wore her
out soon. Utterly reckless of the world, its ways, and its opinions, she
allowed her story to become known; and when the welcome end supervened
(which, I grieve to say, she refused to lighten by the consolations of
religion), a broken heart was the truest phrase in which to sum up its
cause.

The rural dean having concluded, some observations upon his tale were
made in due course. The sentimental member said that Lady Caroline's
history afforded a sad instance of how an honest human affection will
become shamefaced and mean under the frost of class-division and social
prejudices. She probably deserved some pity; though her offspring,
before he grew up to man's estate, had deserved more. There was no
pathos like the pathos of childhood, when a child found itself in a
world where it was not wanted, and could not understand the reason why.
A tale by the speaker, further illustrating the same subject, though
with different results from the last, naturally followed.



DAME THE FOURTH-LADY MOTTISFONT By the Sentimental Member

Of all the romantic towns in Wessex, Wintoncester is probably the most
convenient for meditative people to live in; since there you have a
cathedral with a nave so long that it affords space in which to walk and
summon your remoter moods without continually turning on your heel, or
seeming to do more than take an afternoon stroll under cover from the
rain or sun. In an uninterrupted course of nearly three hundred steps
eastward, and again nearly three hundred steps westward amid those
magnificent tombs, you can, for instance, compare in the most leisurely
way the dry dustiness which ultimately pervades the persons of kings and
bishops with the damper dustiness that is usually the final shape of
commoners, curates, and others who take their last rest out of doors.
Then, if you are in love, you can, by sauntering in the chapels and
behind the episcopal chantries with the bright-eyed one, so steep and
mellow your ecstasy in the solemnities around, that it will assume a
rarer and finer tincture, even more grateful to the understanding, if
not to the senses, than that form of the emotion which arises from such
companionship in spots where all is life, and growth, and fecundity.

It was in this solemn place, whither they had withdrawn from the sight
of relatives on one cold day in March, that Sir Ashley Mottisfont asked
in marriage, as his second wife, Philippa, the gentle daughter of plain
Squire Okehall. Her life had been an obscure one thus far; while Sir
Ashley, though not a rich man, had a certain distinction about him; so
that everybody thought what a convenient, elevating, and, in a word,
blessed match it would be for such a supernumerary as she. Nobody
thought so more than the amiable girl herself. She had been smitten with
such affection for him that, when she walked the cathedral aisles at his
side on the before-mentioned day, she did not know that her feet touched
hard pavement; it seemed to her rather that she was floating in space.
Philippa was an ecstatic, heart-thumping maiden, and could not
understand how she had deserved to have sent to her such an illustrious
lover, such a travelled personage, such a handsome man.

When he put the question, it was in no clumsy language, such as the
ordinary bucolic county landlords were wont to use on like quivering
occasions, but as elegantly as if he had been taught it in Enfield's
Speaker. Yet he hesitated a little-for he had something to add.

'My pretty Philippa,' he said (she was not very pretty by the way), 'I
have, you must know, a little girl dependent upon me: a little waif I
found one day in a patch of wild oats [such was this worthy baronet's
humour] when I was riding home: a little nameless creature, whom I wish
to take care of till she is old enough to take care of herself; and to
educate in a plain way. She is only fifteen months old, and is at
present in the hands of a kind villager's wife in my parish. Will you
object to give some attention to the little thing in her helplessness?'

It need hardly be said that our innocent young lady, loving him so
deeply and joyfully as she did, replied that she would do all she could
for the nameless child; and, shortly afterwards, the pair were married
in the same cathedral that had echoed the whispers of his declaration,
the officiating minister being the Bishop himself; a venerable and
experienced man, so well accomplished in uniting people who had a mind
for that sort of experiment, that the couple, with some sense of
surprise, found themselves one while they were still vaguely gazing at
each other as two independent beings.

After this operation they went home to Deansleigh Park, and made a
beginning of living happily ever after. Lady Mottisfont, true to her
promise, was always running down to the village during the following
weeks to see the baby whom her husband had so mysteriously lighted on
during his ride home-concerning which interesting discovery she had her
own opinion; but being so extremely amiable and affectionate that she
could have loved stocks and stones if there had been no living creatures
to love, she uttered none of her thoughts. The little thing, who had
been christened Dorothy, took to Lady Mottisfont as if the baronet's
young wife had been her mother; and at length Philippa grew so fond of
the child that she ventured to ask her husband if she might have Dorothy
in her own home, and bring her up carefully, just as if she were her
own. To this he answered that, though remarks might be made thereon, he
had no objection; a fact which was obvious, Sir Ashley seeming rather
pleased than otherwise with the proposal.

After this they lived quietly and uneventfully for two or three years at
Sir Ashley Mottisfont's residence in that part of England, with as near
an approach to bliss as the climate of this country allows. The child
had been a godsend to Philippa, for there seemed no great probability of
her having one of her own: and she wisely regarded the possession of
Dorothy as a special kindness of Providence, and did not worry her mind
at all as to Dorothy's possible origin. Being a tender and impulsive
creature, she loved her husband without criticism, exhaustively and
religiously, and the child not much otherwise. She watched the little
foundling as if she had been her own by nature, and Dorothy became a
great solace to her when her husband was absent on pleasure or business;
and when he came home he looked pleased to see how the two had won each
other's hearts. Sir Ashley would kiss his wife, and his wife would kiss
little Dorothy, and little Dorothy would kiss Sir Ashley, and after this
triangular burst of affection Lady Mottisfont would say, 'Dear me-I
forget she is not mine!'

'What does it matter?' her husband would reply. 'Providence is fore-
knowing. He has sent us this one because he is not intending to send us
one by any other channel.'

Their life was of the simplest. Since his travels the baronet had taken
to sporting and farming; while Philippa was a pattern of domesticity.
Their pleasures were all local. They retired early to rest, and rose
with the cart-horses and whistling waggoners. They knew the names of
every bird and tree not exceptionally uncommon, and could foretell the
weather almost as well as anxious farmers and old people with corns.

One day Sir Ashley Mottisfont received a letter, which he read, and
musingly laid down on the table without remark.

'What is it, dearest?' asked his wife, glancing at the sheet.

'Oh, it is from an old lawyer at Bath whom I used to know. He reminds me
of something I said to him four or five years ago-some little time
before we were married-about Dorothy.'

'What about her?'

'It was a casual remark I made to him, when I thought you might not take
kindly to her, that if he knew a lady who was anxious to adopt a child,
and could insure a good home to Dorothy, he was to let me know.'

'But that was when you had nobody to take care of her,' she said
quickly. 'How absurd of him to write now! Does he know you are married?
He must, surely.'

'Oh yes!'

He handed her the letter. The solicitor stated that a widow-lady of
position, who did not at present wish her name to be disclosed, had
lately become a client of his while taking the waters, and had mentioned
to him that she would like a little girl to bring up as her own, if she
could be certain of finding one of good and pleasing disposition; and,
the better to insure this, she would not wish the child to be too young
for judging her qualities. He had remembered Sir Ashley's observation to
him a long while ago, and therefore brought the matter before him. It
would be an excellent home for the little girl-of that he was positive-
if she had not already found such a home.

'But it is absurd of the man to write so long after!' said Lady
Mottisfont, with a lumpiness about the back of her throat as she thought
how much Dorothy had become to her. 'I suppose it was when you first-
found her-that you told him this?'

'Exactly-it was then.'

He fell into thought, and neither Sir Ashley nor Lady Mottisfont took
the trouble to answer the lawyer's letter; and so the matter ended for
the time.

One day at dinner, on their return from a short absence in town, whither
they had gone to see what the world was doing, hear what it was saying,
and to make themselves generally fashionable after rusticating for so
long-on this occasion, I say, they learnt from some friend who had
joined them at dinner that Fernell Hall-the manorial house of the estate
next their own, which had been offered on lease by reason of the
impecuniosity of its owner-had been taken for a term by a widow lady, an
Italian Contessa, whose name I will not mention for certain reasons
which may by and by appear. Lady Mottisfont expressed her surprise and
interest at the probability of having such a neighbour. 'Though, if I
had been born in Italy, I think I should have liked to remain there,'
she said.

'She is not Italian, though her husband was,' said Sir Ashley.

'Oh, you have heard about her before now?'

'Yes; they were talking of her at Grey's the other evening. She is
English.' And then, as her husband said no more about the lady, the
friend who was dining with them told Lady Mottisfont that the Countess's
father had speculated largely in East-India Stock, in which immense
fortunes were being made at that time; through this his daughter had
found herself enormously wealthy at his death, which had occurred only a
few weeks after the death of her husband. It was supposed that the
marriage of an enterprising English speculator's daughter to a poor
foreign nobleman had been matter of arrangement merely. As soon as the
Countess's widowhood was a little further advanced she would, no doubt,
be the mark of all the schemers who came near her, for she was still
quite young. But at present she seemed to desire quiet, and avoided
society and town.

Some weeks after this time Sir Ashley Mottisfont sat looking fixedly at
his lady for many moments. He said:

'It might have been better for Dorothy if the Countess had taken her.
She is so wealthy in comparison with ourselves, and could have ushered
the girl into the great world more effectually than we ever shall be
able to do.'

'The Contessa take Dorothy?' said Lady Mottisfont with a start. 'What-
was she the lady who wished to adopt her?'

'Yes; she was staying at Bath when Lawyer Gayton wrote to me.'

'But how do you know all this, Ashley?'

He showed a little hesitation. 'Oh, I've seen her,' he says. 'You know,
she drives to the meet sometimes, though she does not ride; and she has
informed me that she was the lady who inquired of Gayton.'

'You have talked to her as well as seen her, then?'

'Oh yes, several times; everybody has.'

'Why didn't you tell me?' says his lady. 'I had quite forgotten to call
upon her. I'll go to-morrow, or soon . . . But I can't think, Ashley,
how you can say that it might have been better for Dorothy to have gone
to her; she is so much our own now that I cannot admit any such
conjectures as those, even in jest.' Her eyes reproached him so
eloquently that Sir Ashley Mottisfont did not answer.

Lady Mottisfont did not hunt any more than the Anglo-Italian Countess
did; indeed, she had become so absorbed in household matters and in
Dorothy's wellbeing that she had no mind to waste a minute on mere
enjoyments. As she had said, to talk coolly of what might have been the
best destination in days past for a child to whom they had become so
attached seemed quite barbarous, and she could not understand how her
husband should consider the point so abstractedly; for, as will probably
have been guessed, Lady Mottisfont long before this time, if she had not
done so at the very beginning, divined Sir Ashley's true relation to
Dorothy. But the baronet's wife was so discreetly meek and mild that she
never told him of her surmise, and took what Heaven had sent her without
cavil, her generosity in this respect having been bountifully rewarded
by the new life she found in her love for the little girl.

Her husband recurred to the same uncomfortable subject when, a few days
later, they were speaking of travelling abroad. He said that it was
almost a pity, if they thought of going, that they had not fallen in
with the Countess's wish. That lady had told him that she had met
Dorothy walking with her nurse, and that she had never seen a child she
liked so well.

'What-she covets her still? How impertinent of the woman!' said Lady
Mottisfont.

'She seems to do so . . . You see, dearest Philippa, the advantage to
Dorothy would have been that the Countess would have adopted her
legally, and have made her as her own daughter; while we have not done
that-we are only bringing up and educating a poor child in charity.'

'But I'll adopt her fully-make her mine legally!' cried his wife in an
anxious voice. 'How is it to be done?'

'H'm.' He did not inform her, but fell into thought; and, for reasons of
her own, his lady was restless and uneasy.

The very next day Lady Mottisfont drove to Fernell Hall to pay the
neglected call upon her neighbour. The Countess was at home, and
received her graciously. But poor Lady Mottisfont's heart died within
her as soon as she set eyes on her new acquaintance. Such wonderful
beauty, of the fully-developed kind, had never confronted her before
inside the lines of a human face. She seemed to shine with every light
and grace that woman can possess. Her finished Continental manners, her
expanded mind, her ready wit, composed a study that made the other poor
lady sick; for she, and latterly Sir Ashley himself, were rather rural
in manners, and she felt abashed by new sounds and ideas from without.
She hardly knew three words in any language but her own, while this
divine creature, though truly English, had, apparently, whatever she
wanted in the Italian and French tongues to suit every impression; which
was considered a great improvement to speech in those days, and, indeed,
is by many considered as such in these.

'How very strange it was about the little girl!' the Contessa said to
Lady Mottisfont, in her gay tones. 'I mean, that the child the lawyer
recommended should, just before then, have been adopted by you, who are
now my neighbour. How is she getting on? I must come and see her.'

'Do you still want her?' asks Lady Mottisfont suspiciously.

'Oh, I should like to have her!'

'But you can't! She's mine!' said the other greedily.

A drooping manner appeared in the Countess from that moment.

Lady Mottisfont, too, was in a wretched mood all the way home that day.
The Countess was so charming in every way that she had charmed her
gentle ladyship; how should it be possible that she had failed to charm
Sir Ashley? Moreover, she had awakened a strange thought in Philippa's
mind. As soon as she reached home she rushed to the nursery, and there,
seizing Dorothy, frantically kissed her; then, holding her at arm's
length, she gazed with a piercing inquisitiveness into the girl's
lineaments. She sighed deeply, abandoned the wondering Dorothy, and
hastened away.

She had seen there not only her husband's traits, which she had often
beheld before, but others, of the shade, shape, and expression which
characterized those of her new neighbour.

Then this poor lady perceived the whole perturbing sequence of things,
and asked herself how she could have been such a walking piece of
simplicity as not to have thought of this before. But she did not stay
long upbraiding herself for her shortsightedness, so overwhelmed was she
with misery at the spectacle of herself as an intruder between these. To
be sure she could not have foreseen such a conjuncture; but that did not
lessen her grief. The woman who had been both her husband's bliss and
his backsliding had reappeared free when he was no longer so, and she
evidently was dying to claim her own in the person of Dorothy, who had
meanwhile grown to be, to Lady Mottisfont, almost the only source of
each day's happiness, supplying her with something to watch over,
inspiring her with the sense of maternity, and so largely reflecting her
husband's nature as almost to deceive her into the pleasant belief that
she reflected her own also.

If there was a single direction in which this devoted and virtuous lady
erred, it was in the direction of over-submissiveness. When all is said
and done, and the truth told, men seldom show much self-sacrifice in
their conduct as lords and masters to helpless women bound to them for
life, and perhaps (though I say it with all uncertainty) if she had
blazed up in his face like a furze-faggot, directly he came home, she
might have helped herself a little. But God knows whether this is a true
supposition; at any rate she did no such thing; and waited and prayed
that she might never do despite to him who, she was bound to admit, had
always been tender and courteous towards her; and hoped that little
Dorothy might never be taken away.

By degrees the two households became friendly, and very seldom did a
week pass without their seeing something of each other. Try as she
might, and dangerous as she assumed the acquaintanceship to be, Lady
Mottisfont could detect no fault or flaw in her new friend. It was
obvious that Dorothy had been the magnet which had drawn the Contessa
hither, and not Sir Ashley.

Such beauty, united with such understanding and brightness, Philippa had
never before known in one of her own sex, and she tried to think
(whether she succeeded I do not know) that she did not mind the
propinquity; since a woman so rich, so fair, and with such a command of
suitors, could not desire to wreck the happiness of so inoffensive a
person as herself.

The season drew on when it was the custom for families of distinction to
go off to The Bath, and Sir Ashley Mottisfont persuaded his wife to
accompany him thither with Dorothy. Everybody of any note was there this
year. From their own part of England came many that they knew; among the
rest, Lord and Lady Purbeck, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, Sir John
Grebe, the Drenkhards, Lady Stourvale, the old Duke of Hamptonshire, the
Bishop of Melchester, the Dean of Exonbury, and other lesser lights of
Court, pulpit, and field. Thither also came the fair Contessa, whom, as
soon as Philippa saw how much she was sought after by younger men, she
could not conscientiously suspect of renewed designs upon Sir Ashley.

But the Countess had finer opportunities than ever with Dorothy; for
Lady Mottisfont was often indisposed, and even at other times could not
honestly hinder an intercourse which gave bright ideas to the child.
Dorothy welcomed her new acquaintance with a strange and instinctive
readiness that intimated the wonderful subtlety of the threads which
bind flesh and flesh together.

At last the crisis came: it was precipitated by an accident. Dorothy and
her nurse had gone out one day for an airing, leaving Lady Mottisfont
alone indoors. While she sat gloomily thinking that in all likelihood
the Countess would contrive to meet the child somewhere, and exchange a
few tender words with her, Sir Ashley Mottisfont rushed in and informed
her that Dorothy had just had the narrowest possible escape from death.
Some workmen were undermining a house to pull it down for rebuilding,
when, without warning, the front wall inclined slowly outwards for its
fall, the nurse and child passing beneath it at the same moment. The
fall was temporarily arrested by the scaffolding, while in the meantime
the Countess had witnessed their imminent danger from the other side of
the street. Springing across, she snatched Dorothy from under the wall,
and pulled the nurse after her, the middle of the way being barely
reached before they were enveloped in the dense dust of the descending
mass, though not a stone touched them.

'Where is Dorothy?' says the excited Lady Mottisfont.

'She has her-she won't let her go for a time-'

'Has her? But she's mine-she's mine!' cries Lady Mottisfont.

Then her quick and tender eyes perceived that her husband had almost
forgotten her intrusive existence in contemplating the oneness of
Dorothy's, the Countess's, and his own: he was in a dream of exaltation
which recognized nothing necessary to his well-being outside that welded
circle of three lives.

Dorothy was at length brought home; she was much fascinated by the
Countess, and saw nothing tragic, but rather all that was truly
delightful, in what had happened. In the evening, when the excitement
was over, and Dorothy was put to bed, Sir Ashley said, 'She has saved
Dorothy; and I have been asking myself what I can do for her as a slight
acknowledgment of her heroism. Surely we ought to let her have Dorothy
to bring up, since she still desires to do it? It would be so much to
Dorothy's advantage. We ought to look at it in that light, and not
selfishly.'

Philippa seized his hand. 'Ashley, Ashley! You don't mean it-that I must
lose my pretty darling-the only one I have?' She met his gaze with her
piteous mouth and wet eyes so painfully strained, that he turned away
his face.

The next morning, before Dorothy was awake, Lady Mottisfont stole to the
girl's bedside, and sat regarding her. When Dorothy opened her eyes, she
fixed them for a long time upon Philippa's features.

'Mamma-you are not so pretty as the Contessa, are you?' she said at
length.

'I am not, Dorothy.'

'Why are you not, mamma?'

'Dorothy-where would you rather live, always; with me, or with her?'

The little girl looked troubled. 'I am sorry, mamma; I don't mean to be
unkind; but I would rather live with her; I mean, if I might without
trouble, and you did not mind, and it could be just the same to us all,
you know.'

'Has she ever asked you the same question?'

'Never, mamma.'

There lay the sting of it: the Countess seemed the soul of honour and
fairness in this matter, test her as she might. That afternoon Lady
Mottisfont went to her husband with singular firmness upon her gentle
face.

'Ashley, we have been married nearly five years, and I have never
challenged you with what I know perfectly well-the parentage of
Dorothy.'

'Never have you, Philippa dear. Though I have seen that you knew from
the first.'

'From the first as to her father, not as to her mother. Her I did not
know for some time; but I know now.'

'Ah! you have discovered that too?' says he, without much surprise.

'Could I help it? Very well, that being so, I have thought it over; and
I have spoken to Dorothy. I agree to her going. I can do no less than
grant to the Countess her wish, after her kindness to my-your-her-
child.'

Then this self-sacrificing woman went hastily away that he might not see
that her heart was bursting; and thereupon, before they left the city,
Dorothy changed her mother and her home. After this, the Countess went
away to London for a while, taking Dorothy with her; and the baronet and
his wife returned to their lonely place at Deansleigh Park without her.

To renounce Dorothy in the bustle of Bath was a different thing from
living without her in this quiet home. One evening Sir Ashley missed his
wife from the supper-table; her manner had been so pensive and woeful of
late that he immediately became alarmed. He said nothing, but looked
about outside the house narrowly, and discerned her form in the park,
where recently she had been accustomed to walk alone. In its lower
levels there was a pool fed by a trickling brook, and he reached this
spot in time to hear a splash. Running forward, he dimly perceived her
light gown floating in the water. To pull her out was the work of a few
instants, and bearing her indoors to her room, he undressed her, nobody
in the house knowing of the incident but himself. She had not been
immersed long enough to lose her senses, and soon recovered. She owned
that she had done it because the Contessa had taken away her child, as
she persisted in calling Dorothy. Her husband spoke sternly to her, and
impressed upon her the weakness of giving way thus, when all that had
happened was for the best. She took his reproof meekly, and admitted her
fault.

After that she became more resigned, but he often caught her in tears
over some doll, shoe, or ribbon of Dorothy's, and decided to take her to
the North of England for change of air and scene. This was not without
its beneficial effect, corporeally no less than mentally, as later
events showed, but she still evinced a preternatural sharpness of ear at
the most casual mention of the child. When they reached home, the
Countess and Dorothy were still absent from the neighbouring Fernell
Hall, but in a month or two they returned, and a little later Sir Ashley
Mottisfont came into his wife's room full of news.

'Well-would you think it, Philippa! After being so desperate, too, about
getting Dorothy to be with her!'

'Ah-what?'

'Our neighbour, the Countess, is going to be married again! It is to
somebody she has met in London.'

Lady Mottisfont was much surprised; she had never dreamt of such an
event. The conflict for the possession of Dorothy's person had obscured
the possibility of it; yet what more likely, the Countess being still
under thirty, and so good-looking?

'What is of still more interest to us, or to you,' continued her
husband, 'is a kind offer she has made. She is willing that you should
have Dorothy back again. Seeing what a grief the loss of her has been to
you, she will try to do without her.'

'It is not for that; it is not to oblige me,' said Lady Mottisfont
quickly. 'One can see well enough what it is for!'

'Well, never mind; beggars mustn't be choosers. The reason or motive is
nothing to us, so that you obtain your desire.'

'I am not a beggar any longer,' said Lady Mottisfont, with proud
mystery.

'What do you mean by that?'

Lady Mottisfont hesitated. However, it was only too plain that she did
not now jump at a restitution of one for whom some months before she had
been breaking her heart.

The explanation of this change of mood became apparent some little time
farther on. Lady Mottisfont, after five years of wedded life, was
expecting to become a mother, and the aspect of many things was greatly
altered in her view. Among the more important changes was that of no
longer feeling Dorothy to be absolutely indispensable to her existence.

Meanwhile, in view of her coming marriage, the Countess decided to
abandon the remainder of her term at Fernell Hall, and return to her
pretty little house in town. But she could not do this quite so quickly
as she had expected, and half a year or more elapsed before she finally
quitted the neighbourhood, the interval being passed in alternations
between the country and London. Prior to her last departure she had an
interview with Sir Ashley Mottisfont, and it occurred three days after
his wife had presented him with a son and heir.

'I wanted to speak to you,' said the Countess, looking him luminously in
the face, 'about the dear foundling I have adopted temporarily, and
thought to have adopted permanently. But my marriage makes it too
risky!'

'I thought it might be that,' he answered, regarding her steadfastly
back again, and observing two tears come slowly into her eyes as she
heard her own voice describe Dorothy in those words.

'Don't criticize me,' she said hastily; and recovering herself, went on.
'If Lady Mottisfont could take her back again, as I suggested, it would
be better for me, and certainly no worse for Dorothy. To every one but
ourselves she is but a child I have taken a fancy to, and Lady
Mottisfont coveted her so much, and was very reluctant to let her go . .
. I am sure she will adopt her again?' she added anxiously.

'I will sound her afresh,' said the baronet. 'You leave Dorothy behind
for the present?'

'Yes; although I go away, I do not give up the house for another month.'

He did not speak to his wife about the proposal till some few days
after, when Lady Mottisfont had nearly recovered, and news of the
Countess's marriage in London had just reached them. He had no sooner
mentioned Dorothy's name than Lady Mottisfont showed symptoms of
disquietude.

'I have not acquired any dislike of Dorothy,' she said, 'but I feel that
there is one nearer to me now. Dorothy chose the alternative of going to
the Countess, you must remember, when I put it to her as between the
Countess and myself.'

'But, my dear Philippa, how can you argue thus about a child, and that
child our Dorothy?'

'Not ours,' said his wife, pointing to the cot. 'Ours is here.'

'What, then, Philippa,' he said, surprised, 'you won't have her back,
after nearly dying of grief at the loss of her?'

'I cannot argue, dear Ashley. I should prefer not to have the
responsibility of Dorothy again. Her place is filled now.'

Her husband sighed, and went out of the chamber. There had been a
previous arrangement that Dorothy should be brought to the house on a
visit that day, but instead of taking her up to his wife, he did not
inform Lady Mottisfont of the child's presence. He entertained her
himself as well as he could, and accompanied her into the park, where
they had a ramble together. Presently he sat down on the root of an elm
and took her upon his knee.

'Between this husband and this baby, little Dorothy, you who had two
homes are left out in the cold,' he said.

'Can't I go to London with my pretty mamma?' said Dorothy, perceiving
from his manner that there was a hitch somewhere.

'I am afraid not, my child. She only took you to live with her because
she was lonely, you know.'

'Then can't I stay at Deansleigh Park with my other mamma and you?'

'I am afraid that cannot be done either,' said he sadly. 'We have a baby
in the house now.' He closed the reply by stooping down and kissing her,
there being a tear in his eye.

'Then nobody wants me!' said Dorothy pathetically.

'Oh yes, somebody wants you,' he assured her. 'Where would you like to
live besides?'

Dorothy's experiences being rather limited, she mentioned the only other
place in the world that she was acquainted with, the cottage of the
villager who had taken care of her before Lady Mottisfont had removed
her to the Manor House.

'Yes; that's where you'll be best off and most independent,' he
answered. 'And I'll come to see you, my dear girl, and bring you pretty
things; and perhaps you'll be just as happy there.'

Nevertheless, when the change came, and Dorothy was handed over to the
kind cottage-woman, the poor child missed the luxurious roominess of
Fernell Hall and Deansleigh; and for a long time her little feet, which
had been accustomed to carpets and oak floors, suffered from the cold of
the stone flags on which it was now her lot to live and to play; while
chilblains came upon her fingers with washing at the pump. But thicker
shoes with nails in them somewhat remedied the cold feet, and her
complaints and tears on this and other scores diminished to silence as
she became inured anew to the hardships of the farm-cottage, and she
grew up robust if not handsome. She was never altogether lost sight of
by Sir Ashley, though she was deprived of the systematic education which
had been devised and begun for her by Lady Mottisfont, as well as by her
other mamma, the enthusiastic Countess. The latter soon had other
Dorothys to think of, who occupied her time and affection as fully as
Lady Mottisfont's were occupied by her precious boy. In the course of
time the doubly-desired and doubly-rejected Dorothy married, I believe,
a respectable road-contractor-the same, if I mistake not, who repaired
and improved the old highway running from Wintoncester south-westerly
through the New Forest-and in the heart of this worthy man of business
the poor girl found the nest which had been denied her by her own flesh
and blood of higher degree.

Several of the listeners wished to hear another story from the
sentimental member after this, but he said that he could recall nothing
else at the moment, and that it seemed to him as if his friend on the
other side of the fireplace had something to say from the look of his
face.

The member alluded to was a respectable churchwarden, with a sly chink
to one eyelid-possibly the result of an accident-and a regular attendant
at the Club meetings. He replied that his looks had been mainly caused
by his interest in the two ladies of the last story, apparently women of
strong motherly instincts, even though they were not genuinely staunch
in their tenderness. The tale had brought to his mind an instance of a
firmer affection of that sort on the paternal side, in a nature
otherwise culpable. As for telling the story, his manner was much
against him, he feared; but he would do his best, if they wished.

Here the President interposed with a suggestion that as it was getting
late in the afternoon it would be as well to adjourn to their respective
inns and lodgings for dinner, after which those who cared to do so could
return and resume these curious domestic traditions for the remainder of
the evening, which might otherwise prove irksome enough. The curator had
told him that the room was at their service. The churchwarden, who was
beginning to feel hungry himself, readily acquiesced, and the Club
separated for an hour and a half. Then the faithful ones began to drop
in again-among whom were not the President; neither came the rural dean,
nor the two curates, though the Colonel, and the man of family, cigars
in mouth, were good enough to return, having found their hotel dreary.
The museum had no regular means of illumination, and a solitary candle,
less powerful than the rays of the fire, was placed on the table; also
bottles and glasses, provided by some thoughtful member. The chink-eyed
churchwarden, now thoroughly primed, proceeded to relate in his own
terms what was in substance as follows, while many of his listeners
smoked.



DAME THE FIFTH-THE LADY ICENWAY By the Churchwarden

In the reign of His Most Excellent Majesty King George the Third,
Defender of the Faith and of the American Colonies, there lived in 'a
faire maner-place' (so Leland called it in his day, as I have been
told), in one o' the greenest bits of woodland between Bristol and the
city of Exonbury, a young lady who resembled some aforesaid ones in
having many talents and exceeding great beauty. With these gifts she
combined a somewhat imperious temper and arbitrary mind, though her
experience of the world was not actually so large as her conclusive
manner would have led the stranger to suppose. Being an orphan, she
resided with her uncle, who, though he was fairly considerate as to her
welfare, left her pretty much to herself.

Now it chanced that when this lovely young lady was about nineteen, she
(being a fearless horsewoman) was riding, with only a young lad as an
attendant, in one o' the woods near her uncle's house, and, in trotting
along, her horse stumbled over the root of a felled tree. She slipped to
the ground, not seriously hurt, and was assisted home by a gentleman who
came in view at the moment of her mishap. It turned out that this
gentleman, a total stranger to her, was on a visit at the house of a
neighbouring landowner. He was of Dutch extraction, and occasionally
came to England on business or pleasure from his plantations in Guiana,
on the north coast of South America, where he usually resided.

On this account he was naturally but little known in Wessex, and was but
a slight acquaintance of the gentleman at whose mansion he was a guest.
However, the friendship between him and the Heymeres-as the uncle and
niece were named-warmed and warmed by degrees, there being but few folk
o' note in the vicinity at that time, which made a newcomer, if he were
at all sociable and of good credit, always sure of a welcome. A tender
feeling (as it is called by the romantic) sprang up between the two
young people, which ripened into intimacy. Anderling, the foreign
gentleman, was of an amorous temperament; and, though he endeavoured to
conceal his feeling, it could be seen that Miss Maria Heymere had
impressed him rather more deeply than would be represented by a scratch
upon a stone. He seemed absolutely unable to free himself from her
fascination; and his inability to do so, much as he tried-evidently
thinking he had not the ghost of a chance with her-gave her the pleasure
of power; though she more than sympathized when she overheard him
heaving his deep drawn sighs-privately to himself, as he supposed.

After prolonging his visit by every conceivable excuse in his power, he
summoned courage, and offered her his hand and his heart. Being in no
way disinclined to him, though not so fervid as he, and her uncle making
no objection to the match, she consented to share his fate, for better
or otherwise, in the distant colony where, as he assured her, his rice,
and coffee, and maize, and timber, produced him ample means-a statement
which was borne out by his friend, her uncle's neighbour. In short, a
day for their marriage was fixed, earlier in the engagement than is
usual or desirable between comparative strangers, by reason of the
necessity he was under of returning to look after his properties.

The wedding took place, and Maria left her uncle's mansion with her
husband, going in the first place to London, and about a fortnight after
sailing with him across the great ocean for their distant home-which,
however, he assured her, should not be her home for long, it being his
intention to dispose of his interests in this part of the world as soon
as the war was over, and he could do so advantageously; when they could
come to Europe, and reside in some favourite capital.

As they advanced on the voyage she observed that he grew more and more
constrained; and, by the time they had crossed the Line, he was quite
depressed, just as he had been before proposing to her. A day or two
before landing at Paramaribo, he embraced her in a very tearful and
passionate manner, and said he wished to make a confession. It had been
his misfortune, he said, to marry at Quebec in early life a woman whose
reputation proved to be in every way bad and scandalous. The discovery
had nearly killed him; but he had ultimately separated from her, and had
never seen her since. He had hoped and prayed she might be dead; but
recently in London, when they were starting on this journey, he had
discovered that she was still alive. At first he had decided to keep
this dark intelligence from her beloved ears; but he had felt that he
could not do it. All he hoped was that such a condition of things would
make no difference in her feelings for him, as it need make no
difference in the course of their lives.

Thereupon the spirit of this proud and masterful lady showed itself in
violent turmoil, like the raging of a nor'-west thunderstorm-as well it
might, God knows. But she was of too stout a nature to be broken down by
his revelation, as many ladies of my acquaintance would have been-so far
from home, and right under the Line in the blaze o' the sun. Of the two,
indeed, he was the more wretched and shattered in spirit, for he loved
her deeply, and (there being a foreign twist in his make) had been
tempted to this crime by her exceeding beauty, against which he had
struggled day and night, till he had no further resistance left in him.
It was she who came first to a decision as to what should be done-
whether a wise one I do not attempt to judge.

'I put it to you,' says she, when many useless self-reproaches and
protestations on his part had been uttered-'I put it to you whether, if
any manliness is left in you, you ought not to do exactly what I
consider the best thing for me in this strait to which you have reduced
me?'

He promised to do anything in the whole world. She then requested him to
allow her to return, and announce him as having died of malignant ague
immediately on their arrival at Paramaribo; that she should consequently
appear in weeds as his widow in her native place; and that he would
never molest her, or come again to that part of the world during the
whole course of his life-a good reason for which would be that the legal
consequences might be serious.

He readily acquiesced in this, as he would have acquiesced in anything
for the restitution of one he adored so deeply-even to the yielding of
life itself. To put her in an immediate state of independence he gave
her, in bonds and jewels, a considerable sum (for his worldly means had
been in no way exaggerated); and by the next ship she sailed again for
England, having travelled no farther than to Paramaribo. At parting he
declared it to be his intention to turn all his landed possessions into
personal property, and to be a wanderer on the face of the earth in
remorse for his conduct towards her.

Maria duly arrived in England, and immediately on landing apprised her
uncle of her return, duly appearing at his house in the garb of a widow.
She was commiserated by all the neighbours as soon as her story was
told; but only to her uncle did she reveal the real state of affairs,
and her reason for concealing it. For, though she had been innocent of
wrong, Maria's pride was of that grain which could not brook the least
appearance of having been fooled, or deluded, or nonplussed in her
worldly aims.

For some time she led a quiet life with her relative, and in due course
a son was born to her. She was much respected for her dignity and
reserve, and the portable wealth which her temporary husband had made
over to her enabled her to live in comfort in a wing of the mansion,
without assistance from her uncle at all. But, knowing that she was not
what she seemed to be, her life was an uneasy one, and she often said to
herself: 'Suppose his continued existence should become known here, and
people should discern the pride of my motive in hiding my humiliation?
It would be worse than if I had been frank at first, which I should have
been but for the credit of this child.'

Such grave reflections as these occupied her with increasing force; and
during their continuance she encountered a worthy man of noble birth and
title-Lord Icenway his name-whose seat was beyond Wintoncester, quite at
t'other end of Wessex. He being anxious to pay his addresses to her,
Maria willingly accepted them, though he was a plain man, older than
herself; for she discerned in a re-marriage a method of fortifying her
position against mortifying discoveries. In a few months their union
took place, and Maria lifted her head as Lady Icenway, and left with her
husband and child for his home as aforesaid, where she was quite
unknown.

A justification, or a condemnation, of her step (according as you view
it) was seen when, not long after, she received a note from her former
husband Anderling. It was a hasty and tender epistle, and perhaps it was
fortunate that it arrived during the temporary absence of Lord Icenway.
His worthless wife, said Anderling, had just died in Quebec; he had gone
there to ascertain particulars, and had seen the unfortunate woman
buried. He now was hastening to England to repair the wrong he had done
his Maria. He asked her to meet him at Southampton, his port of arrival;
which she need be in no fear of doing, as he had changed his name, and
was almost absolutely unknown in Europe. He would remarry her
immediately, and live with her in any part of the Continent, as they had
originally intended, where, for the great love he still bore her, he
would devote himself to her service for the rest of his days.

Lady Icenway, self-possessed as it was her nature to be, was yet much
disturbed at this news, and set off to meet him, unattended, as soon as
she heard that the ship was in sight. As soon as they stood face to face
she found that she still possessed all her old influence over him,
though his power to fascinate her had quite departed. In his sorrow for
his offence against her, he had become a man of strict religious habits,
self-denying as a lenten saint, though formerly he had been a free and
joyous liver. Having first got him to swear to make her any amends she
should choose (which he was imagining must be by a true marriage), she
informed him that she had already wedded another husband, an excellent
man of ancient family and possessions, who had given her a title, in
which she much rejoiced.

At this the countenance of the poor foreign gentleman became cold as
clay, and his heart withered within him; for as it had been her beauty
and bearing which had led him to sin to obtain her, so, now that her
beauty was in fuller bloom, and her manner more haughty by her success,
did he feel her fascination to be almost more than he could bear.
Nevertheless, having sworn his word, he undertook to obey her commands,
which were simply a renewal of her old request-that he would depart for
some foreign country, and never reveal his existence to her friends, or
husband, or any person in England; never trouble her more, seeing how
great a harm it would do her in the high position which she at present
occupied.

He bowed his head. 'And the child-our child?' he said.

'He is well,' says she. 'Quite well.'

With this the unhappy gentleman departed, much sadder in his heart than
on his voyage to England; for it had never occurred to him that a woman
who rated her honour so highly as Maria had done, and who was the mother
of a child of his, would have adopted such means as this for the
restoration of that honour, and at so surprisingly early a date. He had
fully calculated on making her his wife in law and truth, and of living
in cheerful unity with her and his offspring, for whom he felt a deep
and growing tenderness, though he had never once seen the child.

The lady returned to her mansion beyond Wintoncester, and told nothing
of the interview to her noble husband, who had fortunately gone that day
to do a little cocking and ratting out by Weydon Priors, and knew
nothing of her movements. She had dismissed her poor Anderling
peremptorily enough; yet she would often after this look in the face of
the child of her so-called widowhood, to discover what and how many
traits of his father were to be seen in his lineaments. For this she had
ample opportunity during the following autumn and winter months, her
husband being a matter-of-fact nobleman, who spent the greater part of
his time in field-sports and agriculture.

One winter day, when he had started for a meet of the hounds a long way
from the house-it being his custom to hunt three or four times a week at
this season of the year-she had walked into the sunshine upon the
terrace before the windows, where there fell at her feet some little
white object that had come over a boundary wall hard by. It proved to be
a tiny note wrapped round a stone. Lady Icenway opened it and read it,
and immediately (no doubt, with a stern fixture of her queenly
countenance) walked hastily along the terrace, and through the door into
the shrubbery, whence the note had come. The man who had first married
her stood under the bushes before her. It was plain from his appearance
that something had gone wrong with him.

'You notice a change in me, my best-beloved,' he said. 'Yes, Maria-I
have lost all the wealth I once possessed-mainly by reckless gambling in
the Continental hells to which you banished me. But one thing in the
world remains to me-the child-and it is for him that I have intruded
here. Don't fear me, darling! I shall not inconvenience you long; I love
you too well! But I think of the boy day and night-I cannot help it-I
cannot keep my feeling for him down; and I long to see him, and speak a
word to him once in my lifetime!'

'But your oath?' says she. 'You promised never to reveal by word or
sign-'

'I will reveal nothing. Only let me see the child. I know what I have
sworn to you, cruel mistress, and I respect my oath. Otherwise I might
have seen him by some subterfuge. But I preferred the frank course of
asking your permission.'

She demurred, with the haughty severity which had grown part of her
character, and which her elevation to the rank of a peeress had rather
intensified than diminished. She said that she would consider, and would
give him an answer the day after the next, at the same hour and place,
when her husband would again be absent with his pack of hounds.

The gentleman waited patiently. Lady Icenway, who had now no conscious
love left for him, well considered the matter, and felt that it would be
advisable not to push to extremes a man of so passionate a heart. On the
day and hour she met him as she had promised to do.

'You shall see him,' she said, 'of course on the strict condition that
you do not reveal yourself, and hence, though you see him, he must not
see you, or your manner might betray you and me. I will lull him into a
nap in the afternoon, and then I will come to you here, and fetch you
indoors by a private way.'

The unfortunate father, whose misdemeanour had recoiled upon his own
head in a way he could not have foreseen, promised to adhere to her
instructions, and waited in the shrubberies till the moment when she
should call him. This she duly did about three o'clock that day, leading
him in by a garden door, and upstairs to the nursery where the child
lay. He was in his little cot, breathing calmly, his arm thrown over his
head, and his silken curls crushed into the pillow. His father, now
almost to be pitied, bent over him, and a tear from his eye wetted the
coverlet.

She held up a warning finger as he lowered his mouth to the lips of the
boy.

'But oh, why not?' implored he.

'Very well, then,' said she, relenting. 'But as gently as possible.'

He kissed the child without waking him, turned, gave him a last look,
and followed her out of the chamber, when she conducted him off the
premises by the way he had come.

But this remedy for his sadness of heart at being a stranger to his own
son, had the effect of intensifying the malady; for while originally,
not knowing or having ever seen the boy, he had loved him vaguely and
imaginatively only, he now became attached to him in flesh and bone, as
any parent might; and the feeling that he could at best only see his
child at the rarest and most cursory moments, if at all, drove him into
a state of distraction which threatened to overthrow his promise to the
boy's mother to keep out of his sight.

But such was his chivalrous respect for Lady Icenway, and his regret at
having ever deceived her, that he schooled his poor heart into
submission. Owing to his loneliness, all the fervour of which he was
capable-and that was much-flowed now in the channel of parental and
marital love-for a child who did not know him, and a woman who had
ceased to love him.

At length this singular punishment became such a torture to the poor
foreigner that he resolved to lessen it at all hazards, compatible with
punctilious care for the name of the lady his former wife, to whom his
attachment seemed to increase in proportion to her punitive treatment of
him. At one time of his life he had taken great interest in tulip-
culture, as well as gardening in general; and since the ruin of his
fortunes, and his arrival in England, he had made of his knowledge a
precarious income in the hot-houses of nurserymen and others. With the
new idea in his head he applied himself zealously to the business, till
he acquired in a few months great skill in horticulture. Waiting till
the noble lord, his lady's husband, had room for an under-gardener of a
general sort, he offered himself for the place, and was engaged
immediately by reason of his civility and intelligence, before Lady
Icenway knew anything of the matter. Much therefore did he surprise her
when she found him in the conservatories of her mansion a week or two
after his arrival. The punishment of instant dismissal, with which at
first she haughtily threatened him, my lady thought fit, on reflection,
not to enforce. While he served her thus she knew he would not harm her
by a word, while, if he were expelled, chagrin might induce him to
reveal in a moment of exasperation what kind treatment would assist him
to conceal.

So he was allowed to remain on the premises, and had for his residence a
little cottage by the garden-wall which had been the domicile of some of
his predecessors in the same occupation. Here he lived absolutely alone,
and spent much of his leisure in reading, but the greater part in
watching the windows and lawns of his lady's house for glimpses of the
form of the child. It was for that child's sake that he abandoned the
tenets of the Roman Catholic Church in which he had been reared, and
became the most regular attendant at the services in the parish place of
worship hard by, where, sitting behind the pew of my lady, my lord, and
his stepson, the gardener could pensively study the traits and movements
of the youngster at only a few feet distance, without suspicion or
hindrance.

He filled his post for more than two years with a pleasure to himself
which, though mournful, was soothing, his lady never forgiving him, or
allowing him to be anything more than 'the gardener' to her child,
though once or twice the boy said, 'That gardener's eyes are so sad! Why
does he look so sadly at me?' He sunned himself in her scornfulness as
if it were love, and his ears drank in her curt monosyllables as though
they were rhapsodies of endearment. Strangely enough, the coldness with
which she treated her foreigner began to be the conduct of Lord Icenway
towards herself. It was a matter of great anxiety to him that there
should be a lineal successor to the title, yet no sign of that successor
appeared. One day he complained to her quite roughly of his fate. 'All
will go to that dolt of a cousin!' he cried. 'I'd sooner see my name and
place at the bottom of the sea!'

The lady soothed him and fell into thought, and did not recriminate. But
one day, soon after, she went down to the cottage of the gardener to
inquire how he was getting on, for he had been ailing of late, though,
as was supposed, not seriously. Though she often visited the poor, she
had never entered her under-gardener's home before, and was much
surprised-even grieved and dismayed-to find that he was too ill to rise
from his bed. She went back to her mansion and returned with some
delicate soup, that she might have a reason for seeing him.

His condition was so feeble and alarming, and his face so thin, that it
quite shocked her softening heart, and gazing upon him she said, 'You
must get well-you must! I have been hard with you-I know it. I will not
be so again.'

The sick and dying man-for he was dying indeed-took her hand and pressed
it to his lips. 'Too late, my darling, too late!' he murmured.

'But you must not die! Oh, you must not!' she said. And on an impulse
she bent down and whispered some words to him, blushing as she had
blushed in her maiden days.

He replied by a faint wan smile. 'Time was! . . . but that's past!' he
said, 'I must die!'

And die he did, a few days later, as the sun was going down behind the
garden-wall. Her harshness seemed to come trebly home to her then, and
she remorsefully exclaimed against herself in secret and alone. Her one
desire now was to erect some tribute to his memory, without its being
recognized as her handiwork. In the completion of this scheme there
arrived a few months later a handsome stained-glass window for the
church; and when it was unpacked and in course of erection Lord Icenway
strolled into the building with his wife.

'"Erected to his memory by his grieving widow,"' he said, reading the
legend on the glass. 'I didn't know that he had a wife; I've never seen
her.'

'Oh yes, you must have, Icenway; only you forget,' replied his lady
blandly. 'But she didn't live with him, and was seldom seen visiting
him, because there were differences between them; which, as is usually
the case, makes her all the more sorry now.'

'And go ruining herself by this expensive ruby-and-azure glass-design.'

'She is not poor, they say.'

As Lord Icenway grew older he became crustier and crustier, and whenever
he set eyes on his wife's boy by her other husband he would burst out
morosely, saying,

''Tis a very odd thing, my lady, that you could oblige your first
husband, and couldn't oblige me.'

'Ah! if I had only thought of it sooner!' she murmured.

'What?' said he.

'Nothing, dearest,' replied Lady Icenway.

The Colonel was the first to comment upon the Churchwarden's tale, by
saying that the fate of the poor fellow was rather a hard one.

The gentleman-tradesman could not see that his fate was at all too hard
for him. He was legally nothing to her, and he had served her
shamefully. If he had been really her husband it would have stood
differently.

The Bookworm remarked that Lord Icenway seemed to have been a very
unsuspicious man, with which view a fat member with a crimson face
agreed. It was true his wife was a very close-mouthed personage, which
made a difference. If she had spoken out recklessly her lord might have
been suspicious enough, as in the case of that lady who lived at
Stapleford Park in their great-grandfathers' time. Though there, to be
sure, considerations arose which made her husband view matters with much
philosophy.

A few of the members doubted the possibility of this.

The crimson man, who was a retired maltster of comfortable means,
ventru, and short in stature, cleared his throat, blew off his
superfluous breath, and proceeded to give the instance before alluded to
of such possibility, first apologizing for his heroine's lack of a
title, it never having been his good fortune to know many of the
nobility. To his style of narrative the following is only an
approximation.



DAME THE SIXTH-SQUIRE PETRICK'S LADY By the Crimson Maltster

Folk who are at all acquainted with the traditions of Stapleford Park
will not need to be told that in the middle of the last century it was
owned by that trump of mortgagees, Timothy Petrick, whose skill in
gaining possession of fair estates by granting sums of money on their
title-deeds has seldom if ever been equalled in our part of England.
Timothy was a lawyer by profession, and agent to several noblemen, by
which means his special line of business became opened to him by a sort
of revelation. It is said that a relative of his, a very deep thinker,
who afterwards had the misfortune to be transported for life for
mistaken notions on the signing of a will, taught him considerable legal
lore, which he creditably resolved never to throw away for the benefit
of other people, but to reserve it entirely for his own.

However, I have nothing in particular to say about his early and active
days, but rather of the time when, an old man, he had become the owner
of vast estates by the means I have signified-among them the great manor
of Stapleford, on which he lived, in the splendid old mansion now pulled
down; likewise estates at Marlott, estates near Sherton Abbas, nearly
all the borough of Millpool, and many properties near Ivell. Indeed, I
can't call to mind half his landed possessions, and I don't know that it
matters much at this time of day, seeing that he's been dead and gone
many years. It is said that when he bought an estate he would not decide
to pay the price till he had walked over every single acre with his own
two feet, and prodded the soil at every point with his own spud, to test
its quality, which, if we regard the extent of his properties, must have
been a stiff business for him.

At the time I am speaking of he was a man over eighty, and his son was
dead; but he had two grandsons, the eldest of whom, his namesake, was
married, and was shortly expecting issue. Just then the grandfather was
taken ill, for death, as it seemed, considering his age. By his will the
old man had created an entail (as I believe the lawyers call it),
devising the whole of the estates to his elder grandson and his issue
male, failing which, to his younger grandson and his issue male, failing
which, to remoter relatives, who need not be mentioned now.

While old Timothy Petrick was lying ill, his elder grandson's wife,
Annetta, gave birth to her expected child, who, as fortune would have
it, was a son. Timothy, her husband, through sprung of a scheming
family, was no great schemer himself; he was the single one of the
Petricks then living whose heart had ever been greatly moved by
sentiments which did not run in the groove of ambition; and on this
account he had not married well, as the saying is; his wife having been
the daughter of a family of no better beginnings than his own; that is
to say, her father was a country townsman of the professional class. But
she was a very pretty woman, by all accounts, and her husband had seen,
courted, and married her in a high tide of infatuation, after a very
short acquaintance, and with very little knowledge of her heart's
history. He had never found reason to regret his choice as yet, and his
anxiety for her recovery was great.

She was supposed to be out of danger, and herself and the child
progressing well, when there was a change for the worse, and she sank so
rapidly that she was soon given over. When she felt that she was about
to leave him, Annetta sent for her husband, and, on his speedy entry and
assurance that they were alone, she made him solemnly vow to give the
child every care in any circumstances that might arise, if it should
please Heaven to take her. This, of course, he readily promised. Then,
after some hesitation, she told him that she could not die with a
falsehood upon her soul, and dire deceit in her life; she must make a
terrible confession to him before her lips were sealed for ever. She
thereupon related an incident concerning the baby's parentage, which was
not as he supposed.

Timothy Petrick, though a quick-feeling man, was not of a sort to show
nerves outwardly; and he bore himself as heroically as he possibly could
do in this trying moment of his life. That same night his wife died; and
while she lay dead, and before her funeral, he hastened to the bedside
of his sick grandfather, and revealed to him all that had happened: the
baby's birth, his wife's confession, and her death, beseeching the aged
man, as he loved him, to bestir himself now, at the eleventh hour, and
alter his will so as to dish the intruder. Old Timothy, seeing matters
in the same light as his grandson, required no urging against allowing
anything to stand in the way of legitimate inheritance; he executed
another will, limiting the entail to Timothy his grandson, for life, and
his male heirs thereafter to be born; after them to his other grandson
Edward, and Edward's heirs. Thus the newly- born infant, who had been
the centre of so many hopes, was cut off and scorned as none of the
elect.

The old mortgagee lived but a short time after this, the excitement of
the discovery having told upon him considerably, and he was gathered to
his fathers like the most charitable man in his neighbourhood. Both wife
and grandparent being buried, Timothy settled down to his usual life as
well as he was able, mentally satisfied that he had by prompt action
defeated the consequences of such dire domestic treachery as had been
shown towards him, and resolving to marry a second time as soon as he
could satisfy himself in the choice of a wife.

But men do not always know themselves. The embittered state of Timothy
Petrick's mind bred in him by degrees such a hatred and mistrust of
womankind that, though several specimens of high attractiveness came
under his eyes, he could not bring himself to the point of proposing
marriage. He dreaded to take up the position of husband a second time,
discerning a trap in every petticoat, and a Slough of Despond in
possible heirs. 'What has happened once, when all seemed so fair, may
happen again,' he said to himself. 'I'll risk my name no more.' So he
abstained from marriage, and overcame his wish for a lineal descendant
to follow him in the ownership of Stapleford.

Timothy had scarcely noticed the unfortunate child that his wife had
borne, after arranging for a meagre fulfilment of his promise to her to
take care of the boy, by having him brought up in his house.
Occasionally, remembering this promise, he went and glanced at the
child, saw that he was doing well, gave a few special directions, and
again went his solitary way. Thus he and the child lived on in the
Stapleford mansion-house till two or three years had passed by. One day
he was walking in the garden, and by some accident left his snuff-box on
a bench. When he came back to find it he saw the little boy standing
there; he had escaped his nurse, and was making a plaything of the box,
in spite of the convulsive sneezings which the game brought in its
train. Then the man with the encrusted heart became interested in the
little fellow's persistence in his play under such discomforts; he
looked in the child's face, saw there his wife's countenance, though he
did not see his own, and fell into thought on the piteousness of
childhood-particularly of despised and rejected childhood, like this
before him.

From that hour, try as he would to counteract the feeling, the human
necessity to love something or other got the better of what he had
called his wisdom, and shaped itself in a tender anxiety for the
youngster Rupert. This name had been given him by his dying mother when,
at her request, the child was baptized in her chamber, lest he should
not survive for public baptism; and her husband had never thought of it
as a name of any significance till, about this time, he learnt by
accident that it was the name of the young Marquis of Christminster, son
of the Duke of Southwesterland, for whom Annetta had cherished warm
feelings before her marriage. Recollecting some wandering phrases in his
wife's last words, which he had not understood at the time, he perceived
at last that this was the person to whom she had alluded when affording
him a clue to little Rupert's history.

He would sit in silence for hours with the child, being no great speaker
at the best of times; but the boy, on his part, was too ready with his
tongue for any break in discourse to arise because Timothy Petrick had
nothing to say. After idling away his mornings in this manner, Petrick
would go to his own room and swear in long loud whispers, and walk up
and down, calling himself the most ridiculous dolt that ever lived, and
declaring that he would never go near the little fellow again; to which
resolve he would adhere for the space perhaps of a day. Such cases are
happily not new to human nature, but there never was a case in which a
man more completely befocled his former self than in this.

As the child grew up, Timothy's attachment to him grew deeper, till
Rupert became almost the sole object for which he lived. There had been
enough of the family ambition latent in him for Timothy Petrick to feel
a little envy when, some time before this date, his brother Edward had
been accepted by the Honourable Harriet Mountclere, daughter of the
second Viscount of that name and title; but having discovered, as I have
before stated, the paternity of his boy Rupert to lurk in even a higher
stratum of society, those envious feelings speedily dispersed. Indeed,
the more he reflected thereon, after his brother's aristocratic
marriage, the more content did he become. His late wife took softer
outline in his memory, as he thought of the lofty taste she had
displayed, though only a plain burgher's daughter, and the justification
for his weakness in loving the child-the justification that he had
longed for-was afforded now in the knowledge that the boy was by nature,
if not by name, a representative of one of the noblest houses in
England.

'She was a woman of grand instincts, after all,' he said to himself
proudly. 'To fix her choice upon the immediate successor in that ducal
line-it was finely conceived! Had he been of low blood like myself or my
relations she would scarce have deserved the harsh measure that I have
dealt out to her and her offspring. How much less, then, when such
grovelling tastes were farthest from her soul! The man Annetta loved was
noble, and my boy is noble in spite of me.'

The afterclap was inevitable, and it soon came. 'So far,' he reasoned,
'from cutting off this child from inheritance of my estates, as I have
done, I should have rejoiced in the possession of him! He is of pure
stock on one side at least, whilst in the ordinary run of affairs he
would have been a commoner to the bone.'

Being a man, whatever his faults, of good old beliefs in the divinity of
kings and those about 'em, the more he overhauled the case in this
light, the more strongly did his poor wife's conduct in improving the
blood and breed of the Petrick family win his heart. He considered what
ugly, idle, hard-drinking scamps many of his own relations had been; the
miserable scriveners, usurers, and pawnbrokers that he had numbered
among his forefathers, and the probability that some of their bad
qualities would have come out in a merely corporeal child, to give him
sorrow in his old age, turn his black hairs gray, his gray hairs white,
cut down every stick of timber, and Heaven knows what all, had he not,
like a skilful gardener, minded his grafting and changed the sort; till
at length this right-minded man fell down on his knees every night and
morning and thanked God that he was not as other meanly descended
fathers in such matters.

It was in the peculiar disposition of the Petrick family that the
satisfaction which ultimately settled in Timothy's breast found
nourishment. The Petricks had adored the nobility, and plucked them at
the same time. That excellent man Izaak Walton's feelings about fish
were much akin to those of old Timothy Petrick, and of his descendants
in a lesser degree, concerning the landed aristocracy. To torture and to
love simultaneously is a proceeding strange to reason, but possible to
practice, as these instances show.

Hence, when Timothy's brother Edward said slightingly one day that
Timothy's son was well enough, but that he had nothing but shops and
offices in his backward perspective, while his own children, should he
have any, would be far different, in possessing such a mother as the
Honourable Harriet, Timothy felt a bound of triumph within him at the
power he possessed of contradicting that statement if he chose.

So much was he interested in his boy in this new aspect that he now
began to read up chronicles of the illustrious house ennobled as the
Dukes of Southwesterland, from their very beginning in the glories of
the Restoration of the blessed Charles till the year of his own time. He
mentally noted their gifts from royalty, grants of lands, purchases,
intermarriages, plantings and buildings; more particularly their
political and military achievements, which had been great, and their
performances in art and letters, which had been by no means
contemptible. He studied prints of the portraits of that family, and
then, like a chemist watching a crystallization, began to examine young
Rupert's face for the unfolding of those historic curves and shades that
the painters Vandyke and Lely had perpetuated on canvas.

When the boy reached the most fascinating age of childhood, and his
shouts of laughter ran through Stapleford House from end to end, the
remorse that oppressed Timothy Petrick knew no bounds. Of all people in
the world this Rupert was the one on whom he could have wished the
estates to devolve; yet Rupert, by Timothy's own desperate strategy at
the time of his birth, had been ousted from all inheritance of them;
and, since he did not mean to remarry, the manors would pass to his
brother and his brother's children, who would be nothing to him, whose
boasted pedigree on one side would be nothing to his Rupert's.

Had he only left the first will of his grandfather alone!

His mind ran on the wills continually, both of which were in existence,
and the first, the cancelled one, in his own possession. Night after
night, when the servants were all abed, and the click of safety locks
sounded as loud as a crash, he looked at that first will, and wished it
had been the second and not the first.

The crisis came at last. One night, after having enjoyed the boy's
company for hours, he could no longer bear that his beloved Rupert
should be dispossessed, and he committed the felonious deed of altering
the date of the earlier will to a fortnight later, which made its
execution appear subsequent to the date of the second will already
proved. He then boldly propounded the first will as the second.

His brother Edward submitted to what appeared to be not only
incontestible fact, but a far more likely disposition of old Timothy's
property; for, like many others, he had been much surprised at the
limitations defined in the other will, having no clue to their cause. He
joined his brother Timothy in setting aside the hitherto accepted
document, and matters went on in their usual course, there being no
dispositions in the substituted will differing from those in the other,
except such as related to a future which had not yet arrived.

The years moved on. Rupert had not yet revealed the anxiously expected
historic lineaments which should foreshadow the political abilities of
the ducal family aforesaid when it happened on a certain day that
Timothy Petrick made the acquaintance of a well-known physician of
Budmouth, who had been the medical adviser and friend of the late Mrs.
Petrick's family for many years; though after Annetta's marriage, and
consequent removal to Stapleford, he had seen no more of her, the
neighbouring practitioner who attended the Petricks having then become
her doctor as a matter of course. Timothy was impressed by the insight
and knowledge disclosed in the conversation of the Budmouth physician,
and the acquaintance ripening to intimacy, the physician alluded to a
form of hallucination to which Annetta's mother and grandmother had been
subject-that of believing in certain dreams as realities. He delicately
inquired if Timothy had ever noticed anything of the sort in his wife
during her lifetime; he, the physician, had fancied that he discerned
germs of the same peculiarity in Annetta when he attended her in her
girlhood. One explanation begat another, till the dumbfoundered Timothy
Petrick was persuaded in his own mind that Annetta's confession to him
had been based on a delusion.

'You look down in the mouth?' said the doctor, pausing.

'A bit unmanned. 'Tis unexpected-like,' sighed Timothy.

But he could hardly believe it possible; and, thinking it best to be
frank with the doctor, told him the whole story which, till now, he had
never related to living man, save his dying grandfather. To his
surprise, the physician informed him that such a form of delusion was
precisely what he would have expected from Annetta's antecedents at such
a physical crisis in her life.

Petrick prosecuted his inquiries elsewhere; and the upshot of his
labours was, briefly, that a comparison of dates and places showed
irrefutably that his poor wife's assertion could not possibly have
foundation in fact. The young Marquis of her tender passion-a highly
moral and bright-minded nobleman-had gone abroad the year before
Annetta's marriage, and had not returned till after her death. The young
girl's love for him had been a delicate ideal dream-no more.

Timothy went home, and the boy ran out to meet him; whereupon a
strangely dismal feeling of discontent took possession of his soul.
After all, then, there was nothing but plebeian blood in the veins of
the heir to his name and estates; he was not to be succeeded by a noble-
natured line. To be sure, Rupert was his son; but that glory and halo he
believed him to have inherited from the ages, outshining that of his
brother's children, had departed from Rupert's brow for ever; he could
no longer read history in the boy's face, and centuries of domination in
his eyes.

His manner towards his son grew colder and colder from that day forward;
and it was with bitterness of heart that he discerned the characteristic
features of the Petricks unfolding themselves by degrees. Instead of the
elegant knife-edged nose, so typical of the Dukes of Southwesterland,
there began to appear on his face the broad nostril and hollow bridge of
his grandfather Timothy. No illustrious line of politicians was promised
a continuator in that graying blue eye, for it was acquiring the
expression of the orb of a particularly objectionable cousin of his own;
and, instead of the mouth-curves which had thrilled Parliamentary
audiences in speeches now bound in calf in every well- ordered library,
there was the bull-lip of that very uncle of his who had had the
misfortune with the signature of a gentleman's will, and had been
transported for life in consequence.

To think how he himself, too, had sinned in this same matter of a will
for this mere fleshly reproduction of a wretched old uncle whose very
name he wished to forget! The boy's Christian name, even, was an
imposture and an irony, for it implied hereditary force and brilliancy
to which he plainly would never attain. The consolation of real sonship
was always left him certainly; but he could not help groaning to
himself, 'Why cannot a son be one's own and somebody else's likewise!'

The Marquis was shortly afterwards in the neighbourhood of Stapleford,
and Timothy Petrick met him, and eyed his noble countenance admiringly.
The next day, when Petrick was in his study, somebody knocked at the
door.

'Who's there?'

'Rupert.'

'I'll Rupert thee, you young impostor! Say, only a poor commonplace
Petrick!' his father grunted. 'Why didn't you have a voice like the
Marquis's I saw yesterday?' he continued, as the lad came in. 'Why
haven't you his looks, and a way of commanding, as if you'd done it for
centuries-hey?'

'Why? How can you expect it, father, when I'm not related to him?'

'Ugh! Then you ought to be!' growled his father.

As the narrator paused, the surgeon, the Colonel, the historian, the
Spark, and others exclaimed that such subtle and instructive
psychological studies as this (now that psychology was so much in
demand) were precisely the tales they desired, as members of a
scientific club, and begged the master-maltster to tell another curious
mental delusion.

The maltster shook his head, and feared he was not genteel enough to
tell another story with a sufficiently moral tone in it to suit the
club; he would prefer to leave the next to a better man.

The Colonel had fallen into reflection. True it was, he observed, that
the more dreamy and impulsive nature of woman engendered within her
erratic fancies, which often started her on strange tracks, only to
abandon them in sharp revulsion at the dictates of her common sense-
sometimes with ludicrous effect. Events which had caused a lady's action
to set in a particular direction might continue to enforce the same line
of conduct, while she, like a mangle, would start on a sudden in a
contrary course, and end where she began.

The Vice-President laughed, and applauded the Colonel, adding that there
surely lurked a story somewhere behind that sentiment, if he were not
much mistaken.

The Colonel fixed his face to a good narrative pose, and went on without
further preamble.



DAME THE SEVENTH-ANNA, LADY BAXBY By the Colonel

It was in the time of the great Civil War-if I should not rather, as a
loyal subject, call it, with Clarendon, the Great Rebellion. It was, I
say, at that unhappy period of our history, that towards the autumn of a
particular year, the Parliament forces sat down before Sherton Castle
with over seven thousand foot and four pieces of cannon. The Castle, as
we all know, was in that century owned and occupied by one of the Earls
of Severn, and garrisoned for his assistance by a certain noble Marquis
who commanded the King's troops in these parts. The said Earl, as well
as the young Lord Baxby, his eldest son, were away from home just now,
raising forces for the King elsewhere. But there were present in the
Castle, when the besiegers arrived before it, the son's fair wife Lady
Baxby, and her servants, together with some friends and near relatives
of her husband; and the defence was so good and well-considered that
they anticipated no great danger.

The Parliamentary forces were also commanded by a noble lord-for the
nobility were by no means, at this stage of the war, all on the King's
side-and it had been observed during his approach in the night-time, and
in the morning when the reconnoitring took place, that he appeared sad
and much depressed. The truth was that, by a strange freak of destiny,
it had come to pass that the stronghold he was set to reduce was the
home of his own sister, whom he had tenderly loved during her
maidenhood, and whom he loved now, in spite of the estrangement which
had resulted from hostilities with her husband's family. He believed,
too, that, notwithstanding this cruel division, she still was sincerely
attached to him.

His hesitation to point his ordnance at the walls was inexplicable to
those who were strangers to his family history. He remained in the field
on the north side of the Castle (called by his name to this day because
of his encampment there) till it occurred to him to send a messenger to
his sister Anna with a letter, in which he earnestly requested her, as
she valued her life, to steal out of the place by the little gate to the
south, and make away in that direction to the residence of some friends.

Shortly after he saw, to his great surprise, coming from the front of
the Castle walls a lady on horseback, with a single attendant. She rode
straight forward into the field, and up the slope to where his army and
tents were spread. It was not till she got quite near that he discerned
her to be his sister Anna; and much was he alarmed that she should have
run such risk as to sally out in the face of his forces without
knowledge of their proceedings, when at any moment their first discharge
might have burst forth, to her own destruction in such exposure. She
dismounted before she was quite close to him, and he saw that her
familiar face, though pale, was not at all tearful, as it would have
been in their younger days. Indeed, if the particulars as handed down
are to be believed, he was in a more tearful state than she, in his
anxiety about her. He called her into his tent, out of the gaze of those
around; for though many of the soldiers were honest and serious- minded
men, he could not bear that she who had been his dear companion in
childhood should be exposed to curious observation in this her great
grief.

When they were alone in the tent he clasped her in his arms, for he had
not seen her since those happier days when, at the commencement of the
war, her husband and himself had been of the same mind about the
arbitrary conduct of the King, and had little dreamt that they would not
go to extremes together. She was the calmest of the two, it is said, and
was the first to speak connectedly.

'William, I have come to you,' said she, 'but not to save myself as you
suppose. Why, oh, why do you persist in supporting this disloyal cause,
and grieving us so?'

'Say not that,' he replied hastily. 'If truth hides at the bottom of a
well, why should you suppose justice to be in high places? I am for the
right at any price. Anna, leave the Castle; you are my sister; come
away, my dear, and save thy life!'

'Never!' says she. 'Do you plan to carry out this attack, and level the
Castle indeed?'

'Most certainly I do,' says he. 'What meaneth this army around us if not
so?'

'Then you will find the bones of your sister buried in the ruins you
cause!' said she. And without another word she turned and left him.

'Anna-abide with me!' he entreated. 'Blood is thicker than water, and
what is there in common between you and your husband now?'

But she shook her head and would not hear him and hastening out, mounted
her horse, and returned towards the Castle as she had come. Ay, many's
the time when I have been riding to hounds across that field that I have
thought of that scene!

When she had quite gone down the field, and over the intervening ground,
and round the bastion, so that he could no longer even see the tip of
her mare's white tail, he was much more deeply moved by emotions
concerning her and her welfare than he had been while she was before
him. He wildly reproached himself that he had not detained her by force
for her own good, so that, come what might, she would be under his
protection and not under that of her husband, whose impulsive nature
rendered him too open to instantaneous impressions and sudden changes of
plan; he was now acting in this cause and now in that, and lacked the
cool judgment necessary for the protection of a woman in these troubled
times. Her brother thought of her words again and again, and sighed, and
even considered if a sister were not of more value than a principle, and
if he would not have acted more naturally in throwing in his lot with
hers.

The delay of the besiegers in attacking the Castle was said to be
entirely owing to this distraction on the part of their leader, who
remained on the spot attempting some indecisive operations, and
parleying with the Marquis, then in command, with far inferior forces,
within the Castle. It never occurred to him that in the meantime the
young Lady Baxby, his sister, was in much the same mood as himself. Her
brother's familiar voice and eyes, much worn and fatigued by keeping the
field, and by family distractions on account of this unhappy feud, rose
upon her vision all the afternoon, and as day waned she grew more and
more Parliamentarian in her principles, though the only arguments which
had addressed themselves to her were those of family ties.

Her husband, General Lord Baxby, had been expected to return all the day
from his excursion into the east of the county, a message having been
sent to him informing him of what had happened at home; and in the
evening he arrived with reinforcements in unexpected numbers. Her
brother retreated before these to a hill near Ivell, four or five miles
off, to afford the men and himself some repose. Lord Baxby duly placed
his forces, and there was no longer any immediate danger. By this time
Lady Baxby's feelings were more Parliamentarian than ever, and in her
fancy the fagged countenance of her brother, beaten back by her husband,
seemed to reproach her for heartlessness. When her husband entered her
apartment, ruddy and boisterous, and full of hope, she received him but
sadly; and upon his casually uttering some slighting words about her
brother's withdrawal, which seemed to convey an imputation upon his
courage, she resented them, and retorted that he, Lord Baxby himself,
had been against the Court-party at first, where it would be much more
to his credit if he were at present, and showing her brother's
consistency of opinion, instead of supporting the lying policy of the
King (as she called it) for the sake of a barren principle of loyalty,
which was but an empty expression when a King was not at one with his
people. The dissension grew bitter between them, reaching to little less
than a hot quarrel, both being quick-tempered souls.

Lord Baxby was weary with his long day's march and other excitements,
and soon retired to bed. His lady followed some time after. Her husband
slept profoundly, but not so she; she sat brooding by the window-slit,
and lifting the curtain looked forth upon the hills without.

In the silence between the footfalls of the sentinels she could hear
faint sounds of her brother's camp on the distant hills, where the
soldiery had hardly settled as yet into their bivouac since their
evening's retreat. The first frosts of autumn had touched the grass, and
shrivelled the more delicate leaves of the creepers; and she thought of
William sleeping on the chilly ground, under the strain of these
hardships. Tears flooded her eyes as she returned to her husband's
imputations upon his courage, as if there could be any doubt of Lord
William's courage after what he had done in the past days.

Lord Baxby's long and reposeful breathings in his comfortable bed vexed
her now, and she came to a determination on an impulse. Hastily lighting
a taper, she wrote on a scrap of paper:

'Blood is thicker than water, dear William-I will come;' and with this
in her hand, she went to the door of the room, and out upon the stairs;
on second thoughts turning back for a moment, to put on her husband's
hat and cloak-not the one he was daily wearing-that if seen in the
twilight she might at a casual glance appear as some lad or hanger-on of
one of the household women; thus accoutred she descended a flight of
circular stairs, at the bottom of which was a door opening upon the
terrace towards the west, in the direction of her brother's position.
Her object was to slip out without the sentry seeing her, get to the
stables, arouse one of the varlets, and send him ahead of her along the
highway with the note to warn her brother of her approach, to throw in
her lot with his.

She was still in the shadow of the wall on the west terrace, waiting for
the sentinel to be quite out of the way, when her ears were greeted by a
voice, saying, from the adjoining shade-

'Here I be!'

The tones were the tones of a woman. Lady Baxby made no reply, and stood
close to the wall.

'My Lord Baxby,' the voice continued; and she could recognize in it the
local accent of some girl from the little town of Sherton, close at
hand. 'I be tired of waiting, my dear Lord Baxby! I was afeard you would
never come!'

Lady Baxby flushed hot to her toes.

'How the wench loves him!' she said to herself, reasoning from the tones
of the voice, which were plaintive and sweet and tender as a bird's. She
changed from the home-hating truant to the strategic wife in one moment.

'Hist!' she said.

'My lord, you told me ten o'clock, and 'tis near twelve now,' continues
the other. 'How could ye keep me waiting so if you love me as you said?
I should have stuck to my lover in the Parliament troops if it had not
been for thee, my dear lord!'

There was not the least doubt that Lady Baxby had been mistaken for her
husband by this intriguing damsel. Here was a pretty underhand business!
Here were sly manoeuvrings! Here was faithlessness! Here was a precious
assignation surprised in the midst! Her wicked husband, whom till this
very moment she had ever deemed the soul of good faith-how could he!

Lady Baxby precipitately retreated to the door in the turret, closed it,
locked it, and ascended one round of the staircase, where there was a
loophole. 'I am not coming! I, Lord Baxby, despise ye and all your
wanton tribe!' she hissed through the opening; and then crept upstairs,
as firmly rooted in Royalist principles as any man in the Castle.

Her husband still slept the sleep of the weary, well-fed, and well-
drunken, if not of the just; and Lady Baxby quickly disrobed herself
without assistance-being, indeed, supposed by her woman to have retired
to rest long ago. Before lying down, she noiselessly locked the door and
placed the key under her pillow. More than that, she got a staylace,
and, creeping up to her lord, in great stealth tied the lace in a tight
knot to one of his long locks of hair, attaching the other end of the
lace to the bedpost; for, being tired herself now, she feared she might
sleep heavily; and, if her husband should wake, this would be a delicate
hint that she had discovered all.

It is added that, to make assurance trebly sure, her gentle ladyship,
when she had lain down to rest, held her lord's hand in her own during
the whole of the night. But this is old-wives' gossip, and not
corroborated. What Lord Baxby thought and said when he awoke the next
morning, and found himself so strangely tethered, is likewise only
matter of conjecture; though there is no reason to suppose that his rage
was great. The extent of his culpability as regards the intrigue was
this much; that, while halting at a cross-road near Sherton that day, he
had flirted with a pretty young woman, who seemed nothing loth, and had
invited her to the Castle terrace after dark-an invitation which he
quite forgot on his arrival home.

The subsequent relations of Lord and Lady Baxby were not again greatly
embittered by quarrels, so far as is known; though the husband's conduct
in later life was occasionally eccentric, and the vicissitudes of his
public career culminated in long exile. The siege of the Castle was not
regularly undertaken till two or three years later than the time I have
been describing, when Lady Baxby and all the women therein, except the
wife of the then Governor, had been removed to safe distance. That
memorable siege of fifteen days by Fairfax, and the surrender of the old
place on an August evening, is matter of history, and need not be told
by me.

The Man of Family spoke approvingly across to the Colonel when the Club
had done smiling, declaring that the story was an absolutely faithful
page of history, as he had good reason to know, his own people having
been engaged in that well-known scrimmage. He asked if the Colonel had
ever heard the equally well-authenticated, though less martial tale of a
certain Lady Penelope, who lived in the same century, and not a score of
miles from the same place?

The Colonel had not heard it, nor had anybody except the local
historian; and the inquirer was induced to proceed forthwith.



DAME THE EIGHTH-THE LADY PENELOPE By the Man of Family

In going out of Casterbridge by the low-lying road which eventually
conducts to the town of Ivell, you see on the right hand an ivied manor-
house, flanked by battlemented towers, and more than usually
distinguished by the size of its many mullioned windows. Though still of
good capacity, the building is much reduced from its original grand
proportions; it has, moreover, been shorn of the fair estate which once
appertained to its lord, with the exception of a few acres of park-land
immediately around the mansion. This was formerly the seat of the
ancient and knightly family of the Drenghards, or Drenkhards, now
extinct in the male line, whose name, according to the local chronicles,
was interpreted to mean Strenuus Miles, vel Potator, though certain
members of the family were averse to the latter signification, and a
duel was fought by one of them on that account, as is well known. With
this, however, we are not now concerned.

In the early part of the reign of the first King James, there was
visiting near this place of the Drenghards a lady of noble family and
extraordinary beauty. She was of the purest descent; ah, there's seldom
such blood nowadays as hers! She possessed no great wealth, it was said,
but was sufficiently endowed. Her beauty was so perfect, and her manner
so entrancing, that suitors seemed to spring out of the ground wherever
she went, a sufficient cause of anxiety to the Countess her mother, her
only living parent. Of these there were three in particular, whom
neither her mother's complaints of prematurity, nor the ready raillery
of the maiden herself, could effectually put off. The said gallants were
a certain Sir John Gale, a Sir William Hervy, and the well-known Sir
George Drenghard, one of the Drenghard family before- mentioned. They
had, curiously enough, all been equally honoured with the distinction of
knighthood, and their schemes for seeing her were manifold, each fearing
that one of the others would steal a march over himself. Not content
with calling, on every imaginable excuse, at the house of the relative
with whom she sojourned, they intercepted her in rides and in walks; and
if any one of them chanced to surprise another in the act of paying her
marked attentions, the encounter often ended in an altercation of great
violence. So heated and impassioned, indeed, would they become, that the
lady hardly felt herself safe in their company at such times,
notwithstanding that she was a brave and buxom damsel, not easily put
out, and with a daring spirit of humour in her composition, if not of
coquetry.

At one of these altercations, which had place in her relative's grounds,
and was unusually bitter, threatening to result in a duel, she found it
necessary to assert herself. Turning haughtily upon the pair of
disputants, she declared that whichever should be the first to break the
peace between them, no matter what the provocation, that man should
never be admitted to her presence again; and thus would she effectually
stultify the aggressor by making the promotion of a quarrel a distinct
bar to its object.

While the two knights were wearing rather a crest-fallen appearance at
her reprimand, the third, never far off, came upon the scene, and she
repeated her caveat to him also. Seeing, then, how great was the concern
of all at her peremptory mood, the lady's manner softened, and she said
with a roguish smile-

'Have patience, have patience, you foolish men! Only bide your time
quietly, and, in faith, I will marry you all in turn!'

They laughed heartily at this sally, all three together, as though they
were the best of friends; at which she blushed, and showed some
embarrassment, not having realized that her arch jest would have sounded
so strange when uttered. The meeting which resulted thus, however, had
its good effect in checking the bitterness of their rivalry; and they
repeated her speech to their relatives and acquaintance with a hilarious
frequency and publicity that the lady little divined, or she might have
blushed and felt more embarrassment still.

In the course of time the position resolved itself, and the beauteous
Lady Penelope (as she was called) made up her mind; her choice being the
eldest of the three knights, Sir George Drenghard, owner of the mansion
aforesaid, which thereupon became her home; and her husband being a
pleasant man, and his family, though not so noble, of as good repute as
her own, all things seemed to show that she had reckoned wisely in
honouring him with her preference.

But what may lie behind the still and silent veil of the future none can
foretell. In the course of a few months the husband of her choice died
of his convivialities (as if, indeed, to bear out his name), and the
Lady Penelope was left alone as mistress of his house. By this time she
had apparently quite forgotten her careless declaration to her lovers
collectively; but the lovers themselves had not forgotten it; and, as
she would now be free to take a second one of them, Sir John Gale
appeared at her door as early in her widowhood as it was proper and
seemly to do so.

She gave him little encouragement; for, of the two remaining, her best
beloved was Sir William, of whom, if the truth must be told, she had
often thought during her short married life. But he had not yet
reappeared. Her heart began to be so much with him now that she
contrived to convey to him, by indirect hints through his friends, that
she would not be displeased by a renewal of his former attentions. Sir
William, however, misapprehended her gentle signalling, and from
excellent, though mistaken motives of delicacy, delayed to intrude
himself upon her for a long time. Meanwhile Sir John, now created a
baronet, was unremitting, and she began to grow somewhat piqued at the
backwardness of him she secretly desired to be forward.

'Never mind,' her friends said jestingly to her (knowing of her humorous
remark, as everybody did, that she would marry them all three if they
would have patience)-'never mind; why hesitate upon the order of them?
Take 'em as they come.'

This vexed her still more, and regretting deeply, as she had often done,
that such a careless speech should ever have passed her lips, she fairly
broke down under Sir John's importunity, and accepted his hand. They
were married on a fine spring morning, about the very time at which the
unfortunate Sir William discovered her preference for him, and was
beginning to hasten home from a foreign court to declare his unaltered
devotion to her. On his arrival in England he learnt the sad truth.

If Sir William suffered at her precipitancy under what she had deemed
his neglect, the Lady Penelope herself suffered more. She had not long
been the wife of Sir John Gale before he showed a disposition to
retaliate upon her for the trouble and delay she had put him to in
winning her. With increasing frequency he would tell her that, as far as
he could perceive, she was an article not worth such labour as he had
bestowed in obtaining it, and such snubbings as he had taken from his
rivals on the same account. These and other cruel things he repeated
till he made the lady weep sorely, and wellnigh broke her spirit, though
she had formerly been such a mettlesome dame. By degrees it became
perceptible to all her friends that her life was a very unhappy one; and
the fate of the fair woman seemed yet the harder in that it was her own
stately mansion, left to her sole use by her first husband, which her
second had entered into and was enjoying, his being but a mean and
meagre erection.

But such is the flippancy of friends that when she met them, and
secretly confided her grief to their ears, they would say cheerily,
'Lord, never mind, my dear; there's a third to come yet!'-at which
maladroit remark she would show much indignation, and tell them they
should know better than to trifle on so solemn a theme. Yet that the
poor lady would have been only too happy to be the wife of the third,
instead of Sir John whom she had taken, was painfully obvious, and much
she was blamed for her foolish choice by some people. Sir William,
however, had returned to foreign cities on learning the news of her
marriage, and had never been heard of since.

Two or three years of suffering were passed by Lady Penelope as the
despised and chidden wife of this man Sir John, amid regrets that she
had so greatly mistaken him, and sighs for one whom she thought never to
see again, till it chanced that her husband fell sick of some slight
ailment. One day after this, when she was sitting in his room, looking
from the window upon the expanse in front, she beheld, approaching the
house on foot, a form she seemed to know well. Lady Penelope withdrew
silently from the sickroom, and descended to the hall, whence, through
the doorway, she saw entering between the two round towers, which at
that time flanked the gateway, Sir William Hervy, as she had surmised,
but looking thin and travel-worn. She advanced into the courtyard to
meet him.

'I was passing through Casterbridge,' he said, with faltering deference,
'and I walked out to ask after your ladyship's health. I felt that I
could do no less; and, of course, to pay my respects to your good
husband, my heretofore acquaintance . . . But oh, Penelope, th'st look
sick and sorry!'

'I am heartsick, that's all,' said she.

They could see in each other an emotion which neither wished to express,
and they stood thus a long time with tears in their eyes.

'He does not treat 'ee well, I hear,' said Sir William in a low voice.
'May God in Heaven forgive him; but it is asking a great deal!'

'Hush, hush!' said she hastily.

'Nay, but I will speak what I may honestly say,' he answered. 'I am not
under your roof, and my tongue is free. Why didst not wait for me,
Penelope, or send to me a more overt letter? I would have travelled
night and day to come!'

'Too late, William; you must not ask it,' said she, endeavouring to
quiet him as in old times. 'My husband just now is unwell. He will grow
better in a day or two, maybe. You must call again and see him before
you leave Casterbridge.'

As she said this their eyes met. Each was thinking of her lightsome
words about taking the three men in turn; each thought that two-thirds
of that promise had been fulfilled. But, as if it were unpleasant to her
that this recollection should have arisen, she spoke again quickly:
'Come again in a day or two, when my husband will be well enough to see
you.'

Sir William departed without entering the house, and she returned to Sir
John's chamber. He, rising from his pillow, said, 'To whom hast been
talking, wife, in the courtyard? I heard voices there.'

She hesitated, and he repeated the question more impatiently.

'I do not wish to tell you now,' said she.

'But I wooll know!' said he.

Then she answered, 'Sir William Hervy.'

'By G\x97- I thought as much!' cried Sir John, drops of perspiration
standing on his white face. 'A skulking villain! A sick man's ears are
keen, my lady. I heard that they were lover-like tones, and he called
'ee by your Christian name. These be your intrigues, my lady, when I am
off my legs awhile!'

'On my honour,' cried she, 'you do me a wrong. I swear I did not know of
his coming!'

'Swear as you will,' said Sir John, 'I don't believe 'ee.' And with this
he taunted her, and worked himself into a greater passion, which much
increased his illness. His lady sat still, brooding. There was that upon
her face which had seldom been there since her marriage; and she seemed
to think anew of what she had so lightly said in the days of her
freedom, when her three lovers were one and all coveting her hand. 'I
began at the wrong end of them,' she murmured. 'My God-that did I!'

'What?' said he.

'A trifle,' said she. 'I spoke to myself only.'

It was somewhat strange that after this day, while she went about the
house with even a sadder face than usual, her churlish husband grew
worse; and what was more, to the surprise of all, though to the regret
of few, he died a fortnight later. Sir William had not called upon him
as he had promised, having received a private communication from Lady
Penelope, frankly informing him that to do so would be inadvisable, by
reason of her husband's temper.

Now when Sir John was gone, and his remains carried to his family
burying-place in another part of England, the lady began in due time to
wonder whither Sir William had betaken himself. But she had been cured
of precipitancy (if ever woman were), and was prepared to wait her whole
lifetime a widow if the said Sir William should not reappear. Her life
was now passed mostly within the walls, or in promenading between the
pleasaunce and the bowling-green; and she very seldom went even so far
as the high road which then skirted the grounds on the north, though it
has now, and for many years, been diverted to the south side. Her
patience was rewarded (if love be in any case a reward); for one day,
many months after her second husband's death, a messenger arrived at her
gate with the intelligence that Sir William Hervy was again in
Casterbridge, and would be glad to know if it were her pleasure that he
should wait upon her.

It need hardly be said that permission was joyfully granted, and within
two hours her lover stood before her, a more thoughtful man than
formerly, but in all essential respects the same man, generous, modest
to diffidence, and sincere. The reserve which womanly decorum threw over
her manner was but too obviously artificial, and when he said 'the ways
of Providence are strange,' and added after a moment, 'and merciful
likewise,' she could not conceal her agitation, and burst into tears
upon his neck.

'But this is too soon,' she said, starting back.

'But no,' said he. 'You are eleven months gone in widowhood, and it is
not as if Sir John had been a good husband to you.'

His visits grew pretty frequent now, as may well be guessed, and in a
month or two he began to urge her to an early union. But she counselled
a little longer delay.

'Why?' said he. 'Surely I have waited long! Life is short; we are
getting older every day, and I am the last of the three.'

'Yes,' said the lady frankly. 'And that is why I would not have you
hasten. Our marriage may seem so strange to everybody, after my unlucky
remark on that occasion we know so well, and which so many others know
likewise, thanks to talebearers.'

On this representation he conceded a little space, for the sake of her
good name. But the destined day of their marriage at last arrived, and
it was a gay time for the villagers and all concerned, and the bells in
the parish church rang from noon till night. Thus at last she was united
to the man who had loved her the most tenderly of them all, who but for
his reticence might perhaps have been the first to win her. Often did he
say to himself; 'How wondrous that her words should have been fulfilled!
Many a truth hath been spoken in jest, but never a more remarkable one!'
The noble lady herself preferred not to dwell on the coincidence, a
certain shyness, if not shame, crossing her fair face at any allusion
thereto.

But people will have their say, sensitive souls or none, and their
sayings on this third occasion took a singular shape. 'Surely,' they
whispered, 'there is something more than chance in this . . . The death
of the first was possibly natural; but what of the death of the second,
who ill-used her, and whom, loving the third so desperately, she must
have wished out of the way?'

Then they pieced together sundry trivial incidents of Sir John's
illness, and dwelt upon the indubitable truth that he had grown worse
after her lover's unexpected visit; till a very sinister theory was
built up as to the hand she may have had in Sir John's premature demise.
But nothing of this suspicion was said openly, for she was a lady of
noble birth-nobler, indeed, than either of her husbands-and what people
suspected they feared to express in formal accusation.

The mansion that she occupied had been left to her for so long a time as
she should choose to reside in it, and, having a regard for the spot,
she had coaxed Sir William to remain there. But in the end it was
unfortunate; for one day, when in the full tide of his happiness, he was
walking among the willows near the gardens, where he overheard a
conversation between some basket-makers who were cutting the osiers for
their use. In this fatal dialogue the suspicions of the neighbouring
townsfolk were revealed to him for the first time.

'A cupboard close to his bed, and the key in her pocket. Ah!' said one.

'And a blue phial therein-h'm!' said another.

'And spurge-laurel leaves among the hearth-ashes. Oh-oh!' said a third.

On his return home Sir William seemed to have aged years. But he said
nothing; indeed, it was a thing impossible. And from that hour a ghastly
estrangement began. She could not understand it, and simply waited. One
day he said, however, 'I must go abroad.'

'Why?' said she. 'William, have I offended you?'

'No,' said he; 'but I must go.'

She could coax little more out of him, and in itself there was nothing
unnatural in his departure, for he had been a wanderer from his youth.
In a few days he started off, apparently quite another man than he who
had rushed to her side so devotedly a few months before.

It is not known when, or how, the rumours, which were so thick in the
atmosphere around her, actually reached the Lady Penelope's ears, but
that they did reach her there is no doubt. It was impossible that they
should not; the district teemed with them; they rustled in the air like
night-birds of evil omen. Then a reason for her husband's departure
occurred to her appalled mind, and a loss of health became quickly
apparent. She dwindled thin in the face, and the veins in her temples
could all be distinctly traced. An inner fire seemed to be withering her
away. Her rings fell off her fingers, and her arms hung like the flails
of the threshers, though they had till lately been so round and so
elastic. She wrote to her husband repeatedly, begging him to return to
her; but he, being in extreme and wretched doubt, moreover, knowing
nothing of her ill-health, and never suspecting that the rumours had
reached her also, deemed absence best, and postponed his return awhile,
giving various good reasons for his delay.

At length, however, when the Lady Penelope had given birth to a still-
born child, her mother, the Countess, addressed a letter to Sir William,
requesting him to come back to her if he wished to see her alive; since
she was wasting away of some mysterious disease, which seemed to be
rather mental than physical. It was evident that his mother-in-law knew
nothing of the secret, for she lived at a distance; but Sir William
promptly hastened home, and stood beside the bed of his now dying wife.

'Believe me, William,' she said when they were alone, 'I am innocent-
innocent!'

'Of what?' said he. 'Heaven forbid that I should accuse you of
anything!'

'But you do accuse me-silently!' she gasped. 'I could not write thereon-
and ask you to hear me. It was too much, too degrading. But would that I
had been less proud! They suspect me of poisoning him, William! But, oh
my dear husband, I am innocent of that wicked crime! He died naturally.
I loved you-too soon; but that was all!'

Nothing availed to save her. The worm had gnawed too far into her heart
before Sir William's return for anything to be remedial now; and in a
few weeks she breathed her last. After her death the people spoke
louder, and her conduct became a subject of public discussion. A little
later on, the physician, who had attended the late Sir John, heard the
rumour, and came down from the place near London to which he latterly
had retired, with the express purpose of calling upon Sir William Hervy,
now staying in Casterbridge.

He stated that, at the request of a relative of Sir John's, who wished
to be assured on the matter by reason of its suddenness, he had, with
the assistance of a surgeon, made a private examination of Sir John's
body immediately after his decease, and found that it had resulted from
purely natural causes. Nobody at this time had breathed a suspicion of
foul play, and therefore nothing was said which might afterwards have
established her innocence.

It being thus placed beyond doubt that this beautiful and noble lady had
been done to death by a vile scandal that was wholly unfounded, her
husband was stung with a dreadful remorse at the share he had taken in
her misfortunes, and left the country anew, this time never to return
alive. He survived her but a few years, and his body was brought home
and buried beside his wife's under the tomb which is still visible in
the parish church. Until lately there was a good portrait of her, in
weeds for her first husband, with a cross in her hand, at the ancestral
seat of her family, where she was much pitied, as she deserved to be.
Yet there were some severe enough to say-and these not unjust persons in
other respects-that though unquestionably innocent of the crime imputed
to her, she had shown an unseemly wantonness in contracting three
marriages in such rapid succession; that the untrue suspicion might have
been ordered by Providence (who often works indirectly) as a punishment
for her self-indulgence. Upon that point I have no opinion to offer.

The reverend the Vice-President, however, the tale being ended, offered
as his opinion that her fate ought to be quite clearly recognized as a
punishment. So thought the Churchwarden, and also the quiet gentleman
sitting near. The latter knew many other instances in point, one of
which could be narrated in a few words.



DAME THE NINTH-THE DUCHESS OF HAMPTONSHIRE By the Quiet Gentleman

Some fifty years ago, the then Duke of Hamptonshire, fifth of that
title, was incontestibly the head man in his county, and particularly in
the neighbourhood of Batton. He came of the ancient and loyal family of
Saxelbye, which, before its ennoblement, had numbered many knightly and
ecclesiastical celebrities in its male line. It would have occupied a
painstaking county historian a whole afternoon to take rubbings of the
numerous effigies and heraldic devices graven to their memory on the
brasses, tablets, and altar-tombs in the aisle of the parish-church. The
Duke himself, however, was a man little attracted by ancient chronicles
in stone and metal, even when they concerned his own beginnings. He
allowed his mind to linger by preference on the many graceless and
unedifying pleasures which his position placed at his command. He could
on occasion close the mouths of his dependents by a good bomb-like oath,
and he argued doggedly with the parson on the virtues of cock-fighting
and baiting the bull.

This nobleman's personal appearance was somewhat impressive. His
complexion was that of the copper-beech tree. His frame was stalwart,
though slightly stooping. His mouth was large, and he carried an
unpolished sapling as his walking-stick, except when he carried a spud
for cutting up any thistle he encountered on his walks. His castle stood
in the midst of a park, surrounded by dusky elms, except to the
southward; and when the moon shone out, the gleaming stone facade,
backed by heavy boughs, was visible from the distant high road as a
white spot on the surface of darkness. Though called a castle, the
building was little fortified, and had been erected with greater eye to
internal convenience than those crannied places of defence to which the
name strictly appertains. It was a castellated mansion as regular as a
chessboard on its ground-plan, ornamented with make-believe bastions and
machicolations, behind which were stacks of battlemented chimneys. On
still mornings, at the fire-lighting hour, when ghostly house-maids
stalk the corridors, and thin streaks of light through the shutter-
chinks lend startling winks and smiles to ancestors on canvas, twelve or
fifteen thin stems of blue smoke sprouted upwards from these chimney-
tops, and spread into a flat canopy on high. Around the site stretched
ten thousand acres of good, fat, unimpeachable soil, plentiful in glades
and lawns wherever visible from the castle-windows, and merging in
homely arable where screened from the too curious eye by ingeniously-
contrived plantations.

Some way behind the owner of all this came the second man in the parish,
the rector, the Honourable and Reverend Mr. Oldbourne, a widower, over
stiff and stern for a clergyman, whose severe white neckcloth, well-kept
gray hair, and right-lined face betokened none of those sympathetic
traits whereon depends so much of a parson's power to do good among his
fellow-creatures. The last, far-removed man of the series-altogether the
Neptune of these local primaries-was the curate, Mr. Alwyn Hill. He was
a handsome young deacon with curly hair, dreamy eyes-so dreamy that to
look long into them was like ascending and floating among summer clouds-
a complexion as fresh as a flower, and a chin absolutely beardless.
Though his age was about twenty-five, he looked not much over nineteen.

The rector had a daughter called Emmeline, of so sweet and simple a
nature that her beauty was discovered, measured, and inventoried by
almost everybody in that part of the country before it was suspected by
herself to exist. She had been bred in comparative solitude; a
rencounter with men troubled and confused her. Whenever a strange
visitor came to her father's house she slipped into the orchard and
remained till he was gone, ridiculing her weakness in apostrophes, but
unable to overcome it. Her virtues lay in no resistant force of
character, but in a natural inappetency for evil things, which to her
were as unmeaning as joints of flesh to a herbivorous creature. Her
charms of person, manner, and mind, had been clear for some time to the
Antinous in orders, and no less so to the Duke, who, though scandalously
ignorant of dainty phrases, ever showing a clumsy manner towards the
gentler sex, and, in short, not at all a lady's man, took fire to a
degree that was wellnigh terrible at sudden sight of Emmeline, a short
time after she was turned seventeen.

It occurred one afternoon at the corner of a shrubbery between the
castle and the rectory, where the Duke was standing to watch the heaving
of a mole, when the fair girl brushed past at a distance of a few yards,
in the full light of the sun, and without hat or bonnet. The Duke went
home like a man who had seen a spirit. He ascended to the picture-
gallery of his castle, and there passed some time in staring at the
bygone beauties of his line as if he had never before considered what an
important part those specimens of womankind had played in the evolution
of the Saxelbye race. He dined alone, drank rather freely, and declared
to himself that Emmeline Oldbourne must be his.

Meanwhile there had unfortunately arisen between the curate and this
girl some sweet and secret understanding. Particulars of the attachment
remained unknown then and always, but it was plainly not approved of by
her father. His procedure was cold, hard, and inexorable. Soon the
curate disappeared from the parish, almost suddenly, after bitter and
hard words had been heard to pass between him and the rector one evening
in the garden, intermingled with which, like the cries of the dying in
the din of battle, were the beseeching sobs of a woman. Not long after
this it was announced that a marriage between the Duke and Miss
Oldbourne was to be solemnized at a surprisingly early date.

The wedding-day came and passed; and she was a Duchess. Nobody seemed to
think of the ousted man during the day, or else those who thought of him
concealed their meditations. Some of the less subservient ones were
disposed to speak in a jocular manner of the august husband and wife,
others to make correct and pretty speeches about them, according as
their sex and nature dictated. But in the evening, the ringers in the
belfry, with whom Alwyn had been a favourite, eased their minds a little
concerning the gentle young man, and the possible regrets of the woman
he had loved.

'Don't you see something wrong in it all?' said the third bell as he
wiped his face. 'I know well enough where she would have liked to stable
her horses to-night, when they have done their journey.'

'That is, you would know if you could tell where young Mr. Hill is
living, which is known to none in the parish.'

'Except to the lady that this ring o' grandsire triples is in honour
of.'

Yet these friendly cottagers were at this time far from suspecting the
real dimensions of Emmeline's misery, nor was it clear even to those who
came into much closer communion with her than they, so well had she
concealed her heart-sickness. But bride and bridegroom had not long been
home at the castle when the young wife's unhappiness became plainly
enough perceptible. Her maids and men said that she was in the habit of
turning to the wainscot and shedding stupid scalding tears at a time
when a right-minded lady would have been overhauling her wardrobe. She
prayed earnestly in the great church-pew, where she sat lonely and
insignificant as a mouse in a cell, instead of counting her rings,
falling asleep, or amusing herself in silent laughter at the queer old
people in the congregation, as previous beauties of the family had done
in their time. She seemed to care no more for eating and drinking out of
crystal and silver than from a service of earthen vessels. Her head was,
in truth, full of something else; and that such was the case was only
too obvious to the Duke, her husband. At first he would only taunt her
for her folly in thinking of that milk-and-water parson; but as time
went on his charges took a more positive shape. He would not believe her
assurance that she had in no way communicated with her former lover, nor
he with her, since their parting in the presence of her father. This led
to some strange scenes between them which need not be detailed; their
result was soon to take a catastrophic shape.

One dark quiet evening, about two months after the marriage, a man
entered the gate admitting from the highway to the park and avenue which
ran up to the house. He arrived within two hundred yards of the walls,
when he left the gravelled drive and drew near to the castle by a
roundabout path leading into a shrubbery. Here he stood still. In a few
minutes the strokes of the castle-clock resounded, and then a female
figure entered the same secluded nook from an opposite direction. There
the two indistinct persons leapt together like a pair of dewdrops on a
leaf; and then they stood apart, facing each other, the woman looking
down.

'Emmeline, you begged me to come, and here I am, Heaven forgive me!'
said the man hoarsely.

'You are going to emigrate, Alwyn,' she said in broken accents. 'I have
heard of it; you sail from Plymouth in three days in the Western Glory?'

'Yes. I can live in England no longer. Life is as death to me here,'
says he.

'My life is even worse-worse than death. Death would not have driven me
to this extremity. Listen, Alwyn-I have sent for you to beg to go with
you, or at least to be near you-to do anything so that it be not to stay
here.'

'To go away with me?' he said in a startled tone.

'Yes, yes-or under your direction, or by your help in some way! Don't be
horrified at me-you must bear with me whilst I implore it. Nothing short
of cruelty would have driven me to this. I could have borne my doom in
silence had I been left unmolested; but he tortures me, and I shall soon
be in the grave if I cannot escape.'

To his shocked inquiry how her husband tortured her, the Duchess said
that it was by jealousy. 'He tries to wring admissions from me
concerning you,' she said, 'and will not believe that I have not
communicated with you since my engagement to him was settled by my
father, and I was forced to agree to it.'

The poor curate said that this was the heaviest news of all. 'He has not
personally ill-used you?' he asked.

'Yes,' she whispered.

'What has he done?'

She looked fearfully around, and said, sobbing: 'In trying to make me
confess to what I have never done, he adopts plans I dare not describe
for terrifying me into a weak state, so that I may own to anything! I
resolved to write to you, as I had no other friend.' She added, with
dreary irony, 'I thought I would give him some ground for his suspicion,
so as not to disgrace his judgment.'

'Do you really mean, Emmeline,' he tremblingly inquired, 'that you-that
you want to fly with me?'

'Can you think that I would act otherwise than in earnest at such a time
as this?'

He was silent for a minute or more. 'You must not go with me,' he said.

'Why?'

'It would be sin.'

'It cannot be sin, for I have never wanted to commit sin in my life; and
it isn't likely I would begin now, when I pray every day to die and be
sent to Heaven out of my misery!'

'But it is wrong, Emmeline, all the same.'

'Is it wrong to run away from the fire that scorches you?'

'It would look wrong, at any rate, in this case.'

'Alwyn, Alwyn, take me, I beseech you!' she burst out. 'It is not right
in general, I know, but it is such an exceptional instance, this. Why
has such a severe strain been put upon me? I was doing no harm, injuring
no one, helping many people, and expecting happiness; yet trouble came.
Can it be that God holds me in derision? I had no supporter-I gave way;
and now my life is a burden and a shame to me . . . Oh, if you only knew
how much to me this request to you is-how my life is wrapped up in it,
you could not deny me!'

'This is almost beyond endurance-Heaven support us,' he groaned. 'Emmy,
you are the Duchess of Hamptonshire, the Duke of Hamptonshire's wife;
you must not go with me!'

'And am I then refused?-Oh, am I refused?' she cried frantically.
'Alwyn, Alwyn, do you say it indeed to me?'

'Yes, I do, dear, tender heart! I do most sadly say it. You must not go.
Forgive me, for there is no alternative but refusal. Though I die,
though you die, we must not fly together. It is forbidden in God's law.
Good-bye, for always and ever!'

He tore himself away, hastened from the shrubbery, and vanished among
the trees.

Three days after this meeting and farewell, Alwyn, his soft, handsome
features stamped with a haggard hardness that ten years of ordinary wear
and tear in the world could scarcely have produced, sailed from Plymouth
on a drizzling morning, in the passenger-ship Western Glory. When the
land had faded behind him he mechanically endeavoured to school himself
into a stoical frame of mind. His attempt, backed up by the strong moral
staying power that had enabled him to resist the passionate temptation
to which Emmeline, in her reckless trustfulness, had exposed him, was
rewarded by a certain kind of success, though the murmuring stretch of
waters whereon he gazed day after day too often seemed to be
articulating to him in tones of her well-remembered voice.

He framed on his journey rules of conduct for reducing to mild
proportions the feverish regrets which would occasionally arise and
agitate him, when he indulged in visions of what might have been had he
not hearkened to the whispers of conscience. He fixed his thoughts for
so many hours a day on philosophical passages in the volumes he had
brought with him, allowing himself now and then a few minutes' thought
of Emmeline, with the strict yet reluctant niggardliness of an ailing
epicure proportioning the rank drinks that cause his malady. The voyage
was marked by the usual incidents of a sailing-passage in those days-a
storm, a calm, a man overboard, a birth, and a funeral-the latter sad
event being one in which he, as the only clergyman on board, officiated,
reading the service ordained for the purpose. The ship duly arrived at
Boston early in the month following, and thence he proceeded to
Providence to seek out a distant relative.

After a short stay at Providence he returned again to Boston, and by
applying himself to a serious occupation made good progress in shaking
off the dreary melancholy which enveloped him even now. Distracted and
weakened in his beliefs by his recent experiences, he decided that he
could not for a time worthily fill the office of a minister of religion,
and applied for the mastership of a school. Some introductions, given
him before starting, were useful now, and he soon became known as a
respectable scholar and gentleman to the trustees of one of the
colleges. This ultimately led to his retirement from the school and
installation in the college as Professor of rhetoric and oratory.

Here and thus he lived on, exerting himself solely because of a
conscientious determination to do his duty. He passed his winter
evenings in turning sonnets and elegies, often giving his thoughts voice
in 'Lines to an Unfortunate Lady,' while his summer leisure at the same
hour would be spent in watching the lengthening shadows from his window,
and fancifully comparing them with the shades of his own life. If he
walked, he mentally inquired which was the eastern quarter of the
landscape, and thought of two thousand miles of water that way, and of
what was beyond it. In a word he was at all spare times dreaming of her
who was only a memory to him, and would probably never be more.

Nine years passed by, and under their wear and tear Alwyn Hill's face
lost a great many of the attractive characteristics which had formerly
distinguished it. He was kind to his pupils and affable to all who came
in contact with him; but the kernel of his life, his secret, was kept as
snugly shut up as though he had been dumb. In talking to his
acquaintances of England and his life there, he omitted the episode of
Batton Castle and Emmeline as if it had no existence in his calendar at
all. Though of towering importance to himself, it had filled but a short
and small fragment of time, an ephemeral season which would have been
wellnigh imperceptible, even to him, at this distance, but for the
incident it enshrined.

One day, at this date, when cursorily glancing over an old English
newspaper, he observed a paragraph which, short as it was, contained for
him whole tomes of thrilling information-rung with more passion-stirring
rhythm than the collected cantos of all the poets. It was an
announcement of the death of the Duke of Hamptonshire, leaving behind
him a widow, but no children.

The current of Alwyn's thoughts now completely changed. On looking again
at the newspaper he found it to be one that was sent him long ago, and
had been carelessly thrown aside. But for an accidental overhauling of
the waste journals in his study he might not have known of the event for
years. At this moment of reading the Duke had already been dead seven
months. Alwyn could now no longer bind himself down to machine- made
synecdoche, antithesis, and climax, being full of spontaneous specimens
of all these rhetorical forms, which he dared not utter. Who shall
wonder that his mind luxuriated in dreams of a sweet possibility now
laid open for the first time these many years? for Emmeline was to him
now as ever the one dear thing in all the world. The issue of his silent
romancing was that he resolved to return to her at the very earliest
moment.

But he could not abandon his professional work on the instant. He did
not get really quite free from engagements till four months later; but,
though suffering throes of impatience continually, he said to himself
every day: 'If she has continued to love me nine years she will love me
ten; she will think the more tenderly of me when her present hours of
solitude shall have done their proper work; old times will revive with
the cessation of her recent experience, and every day will favour my
return.'

The enforced interval soon passed, and he duly arrived in England,
reaching the village of Batton on a certain winter day between twelve
and thirteen months subsequent to the time of the Duke's death.

It was evening; yet such was Alwyn's impatience that he could not
forbear taking, this very night, one look at the castle which Emmeline
had entered as unhappy mistress ten years before. He threaded the park
trees, gazed in passing at well-known outlines which rose against the
dim sky, and was soon interested in observing that lively country-
people, in parties of two and three, were walking before and behind him
up the interlaced avenue to the castle gateway. Knowing himself to be
safe from recognition, Alwyn inquired of one of these pedestrians what
was going on.

'Her Grace gives her tenantry a ball to-night, to keep up the old custom
of the Duke and his father before him, which she does not wish to
change.'

'Indeed. Has she lived here entirely alone since the Duke's death?'

'Quite alone. But though she doesn't receive company herself, she likes
the village people to enjoy themselves, and often has 'em here.'

'Kind-hearted, as always!' thought Alwyn.

On reaching the castle he found that the great gates at the tradesmen's
entrance were thrown back against the wall as if they were never to be
closed again; that the passages and rooms in that wing were brilliantly
lighted up, some of the numerous candles guttering down over the green
leaves which decorated them, and upon the silk dresses of the happy
farmers' wives as they passed beneath, each on her husband's arm. Alwyn
found no difficulty in marching in along with the rest, the castle being
Liberty Hall to-night. He stood unobserved in a corner of the large
apartment where dancing was about to begin.

'Her Grace, though hardly out of mourning, will be sure to come down and
lead off the dance with neighbour Bates,' said one.

'Who is neighbour Bates?' asked Alwyn.

'An old man she respects much-the oldest of her tenant-farmers. He was
seventy-eight his last birthday.'

'Ah, to be sure!' said Alwyn, at his ease. 'I remember.'

The dancers formed in line, and waited. A door opened at the farther end
of the hall, and a lady in black silk came forth. She bowed, smiled, and
proceeded to the top of the dance.

'Who is that lady?' said Alwyn, in a puzzled tone. 'I thought you told
me that the Duchess of Hamptonshire-'

'That is the Duchess,' said his informant.

'But there is another?'

'No; there is no other.'

'But she is not the Duchess of Hamptonshire-who used to-' Alwyn's tongue
stuck to his mouth, he could get no farther.

'What's the matter?' said his acquaintance. Alwyn had retired, and was
supporting himself against the wall.

The wretched Alwyn murmured something about a stitch in his side from
walking. Then the music struck up, the dance went on, and his neighbour
became so interested in watching the movements of this strange Duchess
through its mazes as to forget Alwyn for a while.

It gave him an opportunity to brace himself up. He was a man who had
suffered, and he could suffer again. 'How came that person to be your
Duchess?' he asked in a firm, distinct voice, when he had attained
complete self-command. 'Where is her other Grace of Hamptonshire? There
certainly was another. I know it.'

'Oh, the previous one! Yes, yes. She ran away years and years ago with
the young curate. Mr. Hill was the young man's name, if I recollect.'

'No! She never did. What do you mean by that?' he said.

'Yes, she certainly ran away. She met the curate in the shrubbery about
a couple of months after her marriage with the Duke. There were folks
who saw the meeting and heard some words of their talk. They arranged to
go, and she sailed from Plymouth with him a day or two afterward.'

'That's not true.'

'Then 'tis the queerest lie ever told by man. Her father believed and
knew to his dying day that she went with him; and so did the Duke, and
everybody about here. Ay, there was a fine upset about it at the time.
The Duke traced her to Plymouth.'

'Traced her to Plymouth?'

'He traced her to Plymouth, and set on his spies; and they found that
she went to the shipping-office, and inquired if Mr. Alwyn Hill had
entered his name as passenger by the Western Glory; and when she found
that he had, she booked herself for the same ship, but not in her real
name. When the vessel had sailed a letter reached the Duke from her,
telling him what she had done. She never came back here again. His Grace
lived by himself a number of years, and married this lady only twelve
months before he died.'

Alwyn was in a state of indescribable bewilderment. But, unmanned as he
was, he called the next day on the, to him, spurious Duchess of
Hamptonshire. At first she was alarmed at his statement, then cold, then
she was won over by his condition to give confidence for confidence. She
showed him a letter which had been found among the papers of the late
Duke, corroborating what Alwyn's informant had detailed. It was from
Emmeline, bearing the postmarked date at which the Western Glory sailed,
and briefly stated that she had emigrated by that ship to America.

Alwyn applied himself body and mind to unravel the remainder of the
mystery. The story repeated to him was always the same: 'She ran away
with the curate.' A strangely circumstantial piece of intelligence was
added to this when he had pushed his inquiries a little further. There
was given him the name of a waterman at Plymouth, who had come forward
at the time that she was missed and sought for by her husband, and had
stated that he put her on board the Western Glory at dusk one evening
before that vessel sailed.

After several days of search about the alleys and quays of Plymouth
Barbican, during which these impossible words, 'She ran off with the
curate,' became branded on his brain, Alwyn found this important
waterman. He was positive as to the truth of his story, still
remembering the incident well, and he described in detail the lady's
dress, as he had long ago described it to her husband, which description
corresponded in every particular with the dress worn by Emmeline on the
evening of their parting.

Before proceeding to the other side of the Atlantic to continue his
inquiries there, the puzzled and distracted Alwyn set himself to
ascertain the address of Captain Wheeler, who had commanded the Western
Glory in the year of Alwyn's voyage out, and immediately wrote a letter
to him on the subject.

The only circumstances which the sailor could recollect or discover from
his papers in connection with such a story were, that a woman bearing
the name which Alwyn had mentioned as fictitious certainly did come
aboard for a voyage he made about that time; that she took a common
berth among the poorest emigrants; that she died on the voyage out, at
about five days' sail from Plymouth; that she seemed a lady in manners
and education. Why she had not applied for a first-class passage, why
she had no trunks, they could not guess, for though she had little money
in her pocket she had that about her which would have fetched it. 'We
buried her at sea,' continued the captain. 'A young parson, one of the
cabin-passengers, read the burial-service over her, I remember well.'

The whole scene and proceedings darted upon Alwyn's recollection in a
moment. It was a fine breezy morning on that long-past voyage out, and
he had been told that they were running at the rate of a hundred and odd
miles a day. The news went round that one of the poor young women in the
other part of the vessel was ill of fever, and delirious. The tidings
caused no little alarm among all the passengers, for the sanitary
conditions of the ship were anything but satisfactory. Shortly after
this the doctor announced that she had died. Then Alwyn had learnt that
she was laid out for burial in great haste, because of the danger that
would have been incurred by delay. And next the funeral scene rose
before him, and the prominent part that he had taken in that solemn
ceremony. The captain had come to him, requesting him to officiate, as
there was no chaplain on board. This he had agreed to do; and as the sun
went down with a blaze in his face he read amidst them all assembled:
'We therefore commit her body to the deep, to be turned into corruption,
looking for the resurrection of the body when the sea shall give up her
dead.'

The captain also forwarded the addresses of the ship's matron and of
other persons who had been engaged on board at the date. To these Alwyn
went in the course of time. A categorical description of the clothes of
the dead truant, the colour of her hair, and other things, extinguished
for ever all hope of a mistake in identity.

At last, then, the course of events had become clear. On that unhappy
evening when he left Emmeline in the shrubbery, forbidding her to follow
him because it would be a sin, she must have disobeyed. She must have
followed at his heels silently through the darkness, like a poor pet
animal that will not be driven back. She could have accumulated nothing
for the journey more than she might have carried in her hand; and thus
poorly provided she must have embarked. Her intention had doubtless been
to make her presence on board known to him as soon as she could muster
courage to do so.

Thus the ten years' chapter of Alwyn Hill's romance wound itself up
under his eyes. That the poor young woman in the steerage had been the
young Duchess of Hamptonshire was never publicly disclosed. Hill had no
longer any reason for remaining in England, and soon after left its
shores with no intention to return. Previous to his departure he
confided his story to an old friend from his native town-grandfather of
the person who now relates it to you.

A few members, including the Bookworm, seemed to be impressed by the
quiet gentleman's tale; but the member we have called the Spark-who, by
the way, was getting somewhat tinged with the light of other days, and
owned to eight-and-thirty-walked daintily about the room instead of
sitting down by the fire with the majority and said that for his part he
preferred something more lively than the last story-something in which
such long-separated lovers were ultimately united. He also liked stories
that were more modern in their date of action than those he had heard
to-day.

Members immediately requested him to give them a specimen, to which the
Spark replied that he didn't mind, as far as that went. And though the
Vice-President, the Man of Family, the Colonel, and others, looked at
their watches, and said they must soon retire to their respective
quarters in the hotel adjoining, they all decided to sit out the Spark's
story.



DAME THE TENTH-THE HONOURABLE LAURA By the Spark

It was a cold and gloomy Christmas Eve. The mass of cloud overhead was
almost impervious to such daylight as still lingered on; the snow lay
several inches deep upon the ground, and the slanting downfall which
still went on threatened to considerably increase its thickness before
the morning. The Prospect Hotel, a building standing near the wild north
coast of Lower Wessex, looked so lonely and so useless at such a time as
this that a passing wayfarer would have been led to forget summer
possibilities, and to wonder at the commercial courage which could
invest capital, on the basis of the popular taste for the picturesque,
in a country subject to such dreary phases. That the district was alive
with visitors in August seemed but a dim tradition in weather so totally
opposed to all that tempts mankind from home. However, there the hotel
stood immovable; and the cliffs, creeks, and headlands which were the
primary attractions of the spot, rising in full view on the opposite
side of the valley, were now but stern angular outlines, while the
townlet in front was tinged over with a grimy dirtiness rather than the
pearly gray that in summer lent such beauty to its appearance.

Within the hotel commanding this outlook the landlord walked idly about
with his hands in his pockets, not in the least expectant of a visitor,
and yet unable to settle down to any occupation which should compensate
in some degree for the losses that winter idleness entailed on his
regular profession. So little, indeed, was anybody expected, that the
coffee-room waiter-a genteel boy, whose plated buttons in summer were as
close together upon the front of his short jacket as peas in a pod-now
appeared in the back yard, metamorphosed into the unrecognizable shape
of a rough country lad in corduroys and hobnailed boots, sweeping the
snow away, and talking the local dialect in all its purity, quite
oblivious of the new polite accent he had learned in the hot weather
from the well-behaved visitors. The front door was closed, and, as if to
express still more fully the sealed and chrysalis state of the
establishment, a sand-bag was placed at the bottom to keep out the
insidious snowdrift, the wind setting in directly from that quarter.

The landlord, entering his own parlour, walked to the large fire which
it was absolutely necessary to keep up for his comfort, no such blaze
burning in the coffee-room or elsewhere, and after giving it a stir
returned to a table in the lobby, whereon lay the visitors' book-now
closed and pushed back against the wall. He carelessly opened it; not a
name had been entered there since the 19th of the previous November, and
that was only the name of a man who had arrived on a tricycle, who,
indeed, had not been asked to enter at all.

While he was engaged thus the evening grew darker; but before it was as
yet too dark to distinguish objects upon the road winding round the back
of the cliffs, the landlord perceived a black spot on the distant white,
which speedily enlarged itself and drew near. The probabilities were
that this vehicle-for a vehicle of some sort it seemed to be-would pass
by and pursue its way to the nearest railway-town as others had done.
But, contrary to the landlord's expectation, as he stood conning it
through the yet unshuttered windows, the solitary object, on reaching
the corner, turned into the hotel-front, and drove up to the door.

It was a conveyance particularly unsuited to such a season and weather,
being nothing more substantial than an open basket-carriage drawn by a
single horse. Within sat two persons, of different sexes, as could soon
be discerned, in spite of their muffled attire. The man held the reins,
and the lady had got some shelter from the storm by clinging close to
his side. The landlord rang the hostler's bell to attract the attention
of the stable-man, for the approach of the visitors had been deadened to
noiselessness by the snow, and when the hostler had come to the horse's
head the gentleman and lady alighted, the landlord meeting them in the
hall.

The male stranger was a foreign-looking individual of about eight-and-
twenty. He was close-shaven, excepting a moustache, his features being
good, and even handsome. The lady, who stood timidly behind him, seemed
to be much younger-possibly not more than eighteen, though it was
difficult to judge either of her age or appearance in her present
wrappings.

The gentleman expressed his wish to stay till the morning, explaining
somewhat unnecessarily, considering that the house was an inn, that they
had been unexpectedly benighted on their drive. Such a welcome being
given them as landlords can give in dull times, the latter ordered fires
in the drawing and coffee-rooms, and went to the boy in the yard, who
soon scrubbed himself up, dragged his disused jacket from its box,
polished the buttons with his sleeve, and appeared civilized in the
hall. The lady was shown into a room where she could take off her snow-
damped garments, which she sent down to be dried, her companion,
meanwhile, putting a couple of sovereigns on the table, as if anxious to
make everything smooth and comfortable at starting, and requesting that
a private sitting-room might be got ready. The landlord assured him that
the best upstairs parlour-usually public-should be kept private this
evening, and sent the maid to light the candles. Dinner was prepared for
them, and, at the gentleman's desire, served in the same apartment;
where, the young lady having joined him, they were left to the rest and
refreshment they seemed to need.

That something was peculiar in the relations of the pair had more than
once struck the landlord, though wherein that peculiarity lay it was
hard to decide. But that his guest was one who paid his way readily had
been proved by his conduct, and dismissing conjectures, he turned to
practical affairs.

About nine o'clock he re-entered the hall, and, everything being done
for the day, again walked up and down, occasionally gazing through the
glass door at the prospect without, to ascertain how the weather was
progressing. Contrary to prognostication, snow had ceased falling, and,
with the rising of the moon, the sky had partially cleared, light
fleeces of cloud drifting across the silvery disk. There was every sign
that a frost was going to set in later on. For these reasons the distant
rising road was even more distinct now between its high banks than it
had been in the declining daylight. Not a track or rut broke the virgin
surface of the white mantle that lay along it, all marks left by the
lately arrived travellers having been speedily obliterated by the flakes
falling at the time.

And now the landlord beheld by the light of the moon a sight very
similar to that he had seen by the light of day. Again a black spot was
advancing down the road that margined the coast. He was in a moment or
two enabled to perceive that the present vehicle moved onward at a more
headlong pace than the little carriage which had preceded it; next, that
it was a brougham drawn by two powerful horses; next, that this
carriage, like the former one, was bound for the hotel-door. This
desirable feature of resemblance caused the landlord to once more
withdraw the sand-bag and advance into the porch.

An old gentleman was the first to alight. He was followed by a young
one, and both unhesitatingly came forward.

'Has a young lady, less than nineteen years of age, recently arrived
here in the company of a man some years her senior?' asked the old
gentleman, in haste. 'A man cleanly shaven for the most part, having the
appearance of an opera-singer, and calling himself Signor Smithozzi?'

'We have had arrivals lately,' said the landlord, in the tone of having
had twenty at least-not caring to acknowledge the attenuated state of
business that afflicted Prospect Hotel in winter.

'And among them can your memory recall two persons such as those I
describe?-the man a sort of baritone?'

'There certainly is or was a young couple staying in the hotel; but I
could not pronounce on the compass of the gentleman's voice.'

'No, no; of course not. I am quite bewildered. They arrived in a basket-
carriage, altogether badly provided?'

'They came in a carriage, I believe, as most of our visitors do.'

'Yes, yes. I must see them at once. Pardon my want of ceremony, and show
us in to where they are.'

'But, sir, you forget. Suppose the lady and gentleman I mean are not the
lady and gentleman you mean? It would be awkward to allow you to rush in
upon them just now while they are at dinner, and might cause me to lose
their future patronage.'

'True, true. They may not be the same persons. My anxiety, I perceive,
makes me rash in my assumptions!'

'Upon the whole, I think they must be the same, Uncle Quantock,' said
the young man, who had not till now spoken. And turning to the landlord:
'You possibly have not such a large assemblage of visitors here, on this
somewhat forbidding evening, that you quite forget how this couple
arrived, and what the lady wore?' His tone of addressing the landlord
had in it a quiet frigidity that was not without irony.

'Ah! what she wore; that's it, James. What did she wear?'

'I don't usually take stock of my guests' clothing,' replied the
landlord drily, for the ready money of the first arrival had decidedly
biassed him in favour of that gentleman's cause. 'You can certainly see
some of it if you want to,' he added carelessly, 'for it is drying by
the kitchen fire.'

Before the words were half out of his mouth the old gentleman had
exclaimed, 'Ah!' and precipitated himself along what seemed to be the
passage to the kitchen; but as this turned out to be only the entrance
to a dark china-closet, he hastily emerged again, after a collision with
the inn-crockery had told him of his mistake.

'I beg your pardon, I'm sure; but if you only knew my feelings (which I
cannot at present explain), you would make allowances. Anything I have
broken I will willingly pay for.'

'Don't mention it, sir,' said the landlord. And showing the way, they
adjourned to the kitchen without further parley. The eldest of the party
instantly seized the lady's cloak, that hung upon a clothes-horse,
exclaiming: 'Ah! yes, James, it is hers. I knew we were on their track.'

'Yes, it is hers,' answered the nephew quietly, for he was much less
excited than his companion.

'Show us their room at once,' said the old man.

'William, have the lady and gentleman in the front sitting-room finished
dining?'

'Yes, sir, long ago,' said the hundred plated buttons.

'Then show up these gentlemen to them at once. You stay here to-night,
gentlemen, I presume? Shall the horses be taken out?'

'Feed the horses and wash their mouths. Whether we stay or not depends
upon circumstances,' said the placid younger man, as he followed his
uncle and the waiter to the staircase.

'I think, Nephew James,' said the former, as he paused with his foot on
the first step-'I think we had better not be announced, but take them by
surprise. She may go throwing herself out of the window, or do some
equally desperate thing!'

'Yes, certainly, we'll enter unannounced.' And he called back the lad
who preceded them.

'I cannot sufficiently thank you, James, for so effectually aiding me in
this pursuit!' exclaimed the old gentleman, taking the other by the
hand. 'My increasing infirmities would have hindered my overtaking her
to-night, had it not been for your timely aid.'

'I am only too happy, uncle, to have been of service to you in this or
any other matter. I only wish I could have accompanied you on a
pleasanter journey. However, it is advisable to go up to them at once,
or they may hear us.' And they softly ascended the stairs.

On the door being opened, a room too large to be comfortable, lit by the
best branch-candlesticks of the hotel, was disclosed, before the fire of
which apartment the truant couple were sitting, very innocently looking
over the hotel scrap-book and the album containing views of the
neighbourhood. No sooner had the old man entered than the young lady-who
now showed herself to be quite as young as described, and remarkably
prepossessing as to features-perceptibly turned pale. When the nephew
entered, she turned still paler, as if she were going to faint. The
young man described as an opera-singer rose with grim civility, and
placed chairs for his visitors.

'Caught you, thank God!' said the old gentleman breathlessly.

'Yes, worse luck, my lord!' murmured Signor Smithozzi, in native London-
English, that distinguished alien having, in fact, first seen the light
in the vicinity of the City Road. 'She would have been mine to-morrow.
And I think that under the peculiar circumstances it would be wiser-
considering how soon the breath of scandal will tarnish a lady's fame-to
let her be mine to-morrow, just the same.'

'Never!' said the old man. 'Here is a lady under age, without
experience-child-like in her maiden innocence and virtue-whom you have
plied by your vile arts, till this morning at dawn-'

'Lord Quantock, were I not bound to respect your gray hairs-'

'Till this morning at dawn you tempted her away from her father's roof.
What blame can attach to her conduct that will not, on a full
explanation of the matter, be readily passed over in her and thrown
entirely on you? Laura, you return at once with me. I should not have
arrived, after all, early enough to deliver you, if it had not been for
the disinterestedness of your cousin, Captain Northbrook, who, on my
discovering your flight this morning, offered with a promptitude for
which I can never sufficiently thank him, to accompany me on my journey,
as the only male relative I have near me. Come, do you hear? Put on your
things; we are off at once.'

'I don't want to go!' pouted the young lady.

'I daresay you don't,' replied her father drily. 'But children never
know what's best for them. So come along, and trust to my opinion.'

Laura was silent, and did not move, the opera gentleman looking
helplessly into the fire, and the lady's cousin sitting meditatively
calm, as the single one of the four whose position enabled him to survey
the whole escapade with the cool criticism of a comparative outsider.

'I say to you, Laura, as the father of a daughter under age, that you
instantly come with me. What? Would you compel me to use physical force
to reclaim you?'

'I don't want to return!' again declared Laura.

'It is your duty to return nevertheless, and at once, I inform you.'

'I don't want to!'

'Now, dear Laura, this is what I say: return with me and your cousin
James quietly, like a good and repentant girl, and nothing will be said.
Nobody knows what has happened as yet, and if we start at once, we shall
be home before it is light to-morrow morning. Come.'

'I am not obliged to come at your bidding, father, and I would rather
not!'

Now James, the cousin, during this dialogue might have been observed to
grow somewhat restless, and even impatient. More than once he had parted
his lips to speak, but second thoughts each time held him back. The
moment had come, however, when he could keep silence no longer.

'Come, madam!' he spoke out, 'this farce with your father has, in my
opinion, gone on long enough. Just make no more ado, and step downstairs
with us.'

She gave herself an intractable little twist, and did not reply.

'By the Lord Harry, Laura, I won't stand this!' he said angrily. 'Come,
get on your things before I come and compel you. There is a kind of
compulsion to which this talk is child's play. Come, madam-instantly, I
say!'

The old nobleman turned to his nephew and said mildly: 'Leave me to
insist, James. It doesn't become you. I can speak to her sharply enough,
if I choose.'

James, however, did not heed his uncle, and went on to the troublesome
young woman: 'You say you don't want to come, indeed! A pretty story to
tell me, that! Come, march out of the room at once, and leave that
hulking fellow for me to deal with afterward. Get on quickly-come!' and
he advanced toward her as if to pull her by the hand.

'Nay, nay,' expostulated Laura's father, much surprised at his nephew's
sudden demeanour. 'You take too much upon yourself. Leave her to me.'

'I won't leave her to you any longer!'

'You have no right, James, to address either me or her in this way; so
just hold your tongue. Come, my dear.'

'I have every right!' insisted James.

'How do you make that out?'

'I have the right of a husband.'

'Whose husband?'

'Hers.'

'What?'

'She's my wife.'

'James!'

'Well, to cut a long story short, I may say that she secretly married
me, in spite of your lordship's prohibition, about three months ago. And
I must add that, though she cooled down rather quickly, everything went
on smoothly enough between us for some time; in spite of the awkwardness
of meeting only by stealth. We were only waiting for a convenient moment
to break the news to you when this idle Adonis turned up, and after
poisoning her mind against me, brought her into this disgrace.'

Here the operatic luminary, who had sat in rather an abstracted and
nerveless attitude till the cousin made his declaration, fired up and
cried: 'I declare before Heaven that till this moment I never knew she
was a wife! I found her in her father's house an unhappy girl-unhappy,
as I believe, because of the loneliness and dreariness of that
establishment, and the want of society, and for nothing else whatever.
What this statement about her being your wife means I am quite at a loss
to understand. Are you indeed married to him, Laura?'

Laura nodded from within her tearful handkerchief. 'It was because of my
anomalous position in being privately married to him,' she sobbed, 'that
I was unhappy at home-and-and I didn't like him so well as I did at
first-and I wished I could get out of the mess I was in! And then I saw
you a few times, and when you said, "We'll run off," I thought I saw a
way out of it all, and then I agreed to come with you-oo-oo!'

'Well! well! well! And is this true?' murmured the bewildered old
nobleman, staring from James to Laura, and from Laura to James, as if he
fancied they might be figments of the imagination. 'Is this, then,
James, the secret of your kindness to your old uncle in helping him to
find his daughter? Good Heavens! What further depths of duplicity are
there left for a man to learn!'

'I have married her, Uncle Quantock, as I said,' answered James coolly.
'The deed is done, and can't be undone by talking here.'

'Where were you married?'

'At St. Mary's, Toneborough.'

'When?'

'On the 29th of September, during the time she was visiting there.'

'Who married you?'

'I don't know. One of the curates-we were quite strangers to the place.
So, instead of my assisting you to recover her, you may as well assist
me.'

'Never! never!' said Lord Quantock. 'Madam, and sir, I beg to tell you
that I wash my hands of the whole affair! If you are man and wife, as it
seems you are, get reconciled as best you may. I have no more to say or
do with either of you. I leave you, Laura, in the hands of your husband,
and much joy may you bring him; though the situation, I own, is not
encouraging.'

Saying this, the indignant speaker pushed back his chair against the
table with such force that the candlesticks rocked on their bases, and
left the room.

Laura's wet eyes roved from one of the young men to the other, who now
stood glaring face to face, and, being much frightened at their aspect,
slipped out of the room after her father. Him, however, she could hear
going out of the front door, and, not knowing where to take shelter, she
crept into the darkness of an adjoining bedroom, and there awaited
events with a palpitating heart.

Meanwhile the two men remaining in the sitting-room drew nearer to each
other, and the opera-singer broke the silence by saying, 'How could you
insult me in the way you did, calling me a fellow, and accusing me of
poisoning her mind toward you, when you knew very well I was as ignorant
of your relation to her as an unborn babe?'

'Oh yes, you were quite ignorant; I can believe that readily,' sneered
Laura's husband.

'I here call Heaven to witness that I never knew!'

'Recitativo-the rhythm excellent, and the tone well sustained. Is it
likely that any man could win the confidence of a young fool her age,
and not get that out of her? Preposterous! Tell it to the most improved
new pit-stalls.'

'Captain Northbrook, your insinuations are as despicable as your
wretched person!' cried the baritone, losing all patience. And springing
forward he slapped the captain in the face with the palm of his hand.

Northbrook flinched but slightly, and calmly using his handkerchief to
learn if his nose was bleeding, said, 'I quite expected this insult, so
I came prepared.' And he drew forth from a black valise which he carried
in his hand a small case of pistols.

The baritone started at the unexpected sight, but recovering from his
surprise said, 'Very well, as you will,' though perhaps his tone showed
a slight want of confidence.

'Now,' continued the husband, quite confidingly, 'we want no parade, no
nonsense, you know. Therefore we'll dispense with seconds?'

The signor slightly nodded.

'Do you know this part of the country well?' Cousin James went on, in
the same cool and still manner. 'If you don't, I do. Quite at the bottom
of the rocks out there, just beyond the stream which falls over them to
the shore, is a smooth sandy space, not so much shut in as to be out of
the moonlight; and the way down to it from this side is over steps cut
in the cliff; and we can find our way down without trouble. We-we two-
will find our way down; but only one of us will find his way up, you
understand?'

'Quite.'

'Then suppose we start; the sooner it is over the better. We can order
supper before we go out-supper for two; for though we are three at
present-'

'Three?'

'Yes; you and I and she-'

'Oh yes.'

'-We shall be only two by and by; so that, as I say, we will order
supper for two; for the lady and a gentleman. Whichever comes back alive
will tap at her door, and call her in to share the repast with him-she's
not off the premises. But we must not alarm her now; and above all
things we must not let the inn-people see us go out; it would look so
odd for two to go out, and only one come in. Ha! ha!'

'Ha! ha! exactly.'

'Are you ready?'

'Oh-quite.'

'Then I'll lead the way.'

He went softly to the door and downstairs, ordering supper to be ready
in an hour, as he had said; then making a feint of returning to the room
again, he beckoned to the singer, and together they slipped out of the
house by a side door.

The sky was now quite clear, and the wheelmarks of the brougham which
had borne away Laura's father, Lord Quantock, remained distinctly
visible. Soon the verge of the down was reached, the captain leading the
way, and the baritone following silently, casting furtive glances at his
companion, and beyond him at the scene ahead. In due course they arrived
at the chasm in the cliff which formed the waterfall. The outlook here
was wild and picturesque in the extreme, and fully justified the many
praises, paintings, and photographic views to which the spot had given
birth. What in summer was charmingly green and gray, was now rendered
weird and fantastic by the snow.

From their feet the cascade plunged downward almost vertically to a
depth of eighty or a hundred feet before finally losing itself in the
sand, and though the stream was but small, its impact upon jutting rocks
in its descent divided it into a hundred spirts and splashes that sent
up a mist into the upper air. A few marginal drippings had been frozen
into icicles, but the centre flowed on unimpeded.

The operatic artist looked down as he halted, but his thoughts were
plainly not of the beauty of the scene. His companion with the pistols
was immediately in front of him, and there was no handrail on the side
of the path toward the chasm. Obeying a quick impulse, he stretched out
his arm, and with a superhuman thrust sent Laura's husband reeling over.
A whirling human shape, diminishing downward in the moon's rays farther
and farther toward invisibility, a smack-smack upon the projecting
ledges of rock-at first louder and heavier than that of the brook, and
then scarcely to be distinguished from it-then a cessation, then the
splashing of the stream as before, and the accompanying murmur of the
sea, were all the incidents that disturbed the customary flow of the
little waterfall.

The singer waited in a fixed attitude for a few minutes, then turning,
he rapidly retraced his steps over the intervening upland toward the
road, and in less than a quarter of an hour was at the door of the
hotel. Slipping quietly in as the clock struck ten, he said to the
landlord, over the bar hatchway-

'The bill as soon as you can let me have it, including charges for the
supper that was ordered, though we cannot stay to eat it, I am sorry to
say.' He added with forced gaiety, 'The lady's father and cousin have
thought better of intercepting the marriage, and after quarrelling with
each other have gone home independently.'

'Well done, sir!' said the landlord, who still sided with this customer
in preference to those who had given trouble and barely paid for baiting
the horses. '"Love will find out the way!" as the saying is. Wish you
joy, sir!'

Signor Smithozzi went upstairs, and on entering the sitting-room found
that Laura had crept out from the dark adjoining chamber in his absence.
She looked up at him with eyes red from weeping, and with symptoms of
alarm.

'What is it?-where is he?' she said apprehensively.

'Captain Northbrook has gone back. He says he will have no more to do
with you.'

'And I am quite abandoned by them!-and they'll forget me, and nobody
care about me any more!' She began to cry afresh.

'But it is the luckiest thing that could have happened. All is just as
it was before they came disturbing us. But, Laura, you ought to have
told me about that private marriage, though it is all the same now; it
will be dissolved, of course. You are a wid-virtually a widow.'

'It is no use to reproach me for what is past. What am I to do now?'

'We go at once to Cliff-Martin. The horse has rested thoroughly these
last three hours, and he will have no difficulty in doing an additional
half-dozen miles. We shall be there before twelve, and there are late
taverns in the place, no doubt. There we'll sell both horse and carriage
to-morrow morning; and go by the coach to Downstaple. Once in the train
we are safe.'

'I agree to anything,' she said listlessly.

In about ten minutes the horse was put in, the bill paid, the lady's
dried wraps put round her, and the journey resumed.

When about a mile on their way, they saw a glimmering light in advance
of them. 'I wonder what that is?' said the baritone, whose manner had
latterly become nervous, every sound and sight causing him to turn his
head.

'It is only a turnpike,' said she. 'That light is the lamp kept burning
over the door.'

'Of course, of course, dearest. How stupid I am!'

On reaching the gate they perceived that a man on foot had approached
it, apparently by some more direct path than the roadway they pursued,
and was, at the moment they drew up, standing in conversation with the
gatekeeper.

'It is quite impossible that he could fall over the cliff by accident or
the will of God on such a light night as this,' the pedestrian was
saying. 'These two children I tell you of saw two men go along the path
toward the waterfall, and ten minutes later only one of 'em came back,
walking fast, like a man who wanted to get out of the way because he had
done something queer. There is no manner of doubt that he pushed the
other man over, and, mark me, it will soon cause a hue and cry for that
man.'

The candle shone in the face of the Signor and showed that there had
arisen upon it a film of ghastliness. Laura, glancing toward him for a
few moments observed it, till, the gatekeeper having mechanically swung
open the gate, her companion drove through, and they were soon again
enveloped in the white silence.

Her conductor had said to Laura, just before, that he meant to inquire
the way at this turnpike; but he had certainly not done so.

As soon as they had gone a little farther the omission, intentional or
not, began to cause them some trouble. Beyond the secluded district
which they now traversed ran the more frequented road, where progress
would be easy, the snow being probably already beaten there to some
extent by traffic; but they had not yet reached it, and having no one to
guide them their journey began to appear less feasible than it had done
before starting. When the little lane which they had entered ascended
another hill, and seemed to wind round in a direction contrary to the
expected route to Cliff-Martin, the question grew serious. Ever since
overhearing the conversation at the turnpike, Laura had maintained a
perfect silence, and had even shrunk somewhat away from the side of her
lover.

'Why don't you talk, Laura,' he said with forced buoyancy, 'and suggest
the way we should go?'

'Oh yes, I will,' she responded, a curious fearfulness being audible in
her voice.

After this she uttered a few occasional sentences which seemed to
persuade him that she suspected nothing. At last he drew rein, and the
weary horse stood still.

'We are in a fix,' he said.

She answered eagerly: 'I'll hold the reins while you run forward to the
top of the ridge, and see if the road takes a favourable turn beyond. It
would give the horse a few minutes' rest, and if you find out no change
in the direction, we will retrace this lane, and take the other
turning.'

The expedient seemed a good one in the circumstances, especially when
recommended by the singular eagerness of her voice; and placing the
reins in her hands-a quite unnecessary precaution, considering the state
of their hack-he stepped out and went forward through the snow till she
could see no more of him.

No sooner was he gone than Laura, with a rapidity which contrasted
strangely with her previous stillness, made fast the reins to the corner
of the phaeton, and slipping out on the opposite side, ran back with all
her might down the hill, till, coming to an opening in the fence, she
scrambled through it, and plunged into the copse which bordered this
portion of the lane. Here she stood in hiding under one of the large
bushes, clinging so closely to its umbrage as to seem but a portion of
its mass, and listening intently for the faintest sound of pursuit. But
nothing disturbed the stillness save the occasional slipping of gathered
snow from the boughs, or the rustle of some wild animal over the crisp
flake-bespattered herbage. At length, apparently convinced that her
former companion was either unable to find her, or not anxious to do so,
in the present strange state of affairs, she crept out from the bushes,
and in less than an hour found herself again approaching the door of the
Prospect Hotel.

As she drew near, Laura could see that, far from being wrapped in
darkness, as she might have expected, there were ample signs that all
the tenants were on the alert, lights moving about the open space in
front. Satisfaction was expressed in her face when she discerned that no
reappearance of her baritone and his pony-carriage was causing this
sensation; but it speedily gave way to grief and dismay when she saw by
the lights the form of a man borne on a stretcher by two others into the
porch of the hotel.

'I have caused all this,' she murmured between her quivering lips. 'He
has murdered him!' Running forward to the door, she hastily asked of the
first person she met if the man on the stretcher was dead.

'No, miss,' said the labourer addressed, eyeing her up and down as an
unexpected apparition. 'He is still alive, they say, but not sensible.
He either fell or was pushed over the waterfall; 'tis thoughted he was
pushed. He is the gentleman who came here just now with the old lord,
and went out afterward (as is thoughted) with a stranger who had come a
little earlier. Anyhow, that's as I had it.'

Laura entered the house, and acknowledging without the least reserve
that she was the injured man's wife, had soon installed herself as head
nurse by the bed on which he lay. When the two surgeons who had been
sent for arrived, she learned from them that his wounds were so severe
as to leave but a slender hope of recovery, it being little short of
miraculous that he was not killed on the spot, which his enemy had
evidently reckoned to be the case. She knew who that enemy was, and
shuddered.

Laura watched all night, but her husband knew nothing of her presence.
During the next day he slightly recognized her, and in the evening was
able to speak. He informed the surgeons that, as was surmised, he had
been pushed over the cascade by Signor Smithozzi; but he communicated
nothing to her who nursed him, not even replying to her remarks; he
nodded courteously at any act of attention she rendered, and that was
all.

In a day or two it was declared that everything favoured his recovery,
notwithstanding the severity of his injuries. Full search was made for
Smithozzi, but as yet there was no intelligence of his whereabouts,
though the repentant Laura communicated all she knew. As far as could be
judged, he had come back to the carriage after searching out the way,
and finding the young lady missing, had looked about for her till he was
tired; then had driven on to Cliff-Martin, sold the horse and carriage
next morning, and disappeared, probably by one of the departing coaches
which ran thence to the nearest station, the only difference from his
original programme being that he had gone alone.

During the days and weeks of that long and tedious recovery, Laura
watched by her husband's bedside with a zeal and assiduity which would
have considerably extenuated any fault save one of such magnitude as
hers. That her husband did not forgive her was soon obvious. Nothing
that she could do in the way of smoothing pillows, easing his position,
shifting bandages, or administering draughts, could win from him more
than a few measured words of thankfulness, such as he would probably
have uttered to any other woman on earth who had performed these
particular services for him.

'Dear, dear James,' she said one day, bending her face upon the bed in
an excess of emotion. 'How you have suffered! It has been too cruel. I
am more glad you are getting better than I can say. I have prayed for
it-and I am sorry for what I have done; I am innocent of the worst, and-
I hope you will not think me so very bad, James!'

'Oh no. On the contrary, I shall think you very good-as a nurse,' he
answered, the caustic severity of his tone being apparent through its
weakness.

Laura let fall two or three silent tears, and said no more that day.

Somehow or other Signor Smithozzi seemed to be making good his escape.
It transpired that he had not taken a passage in either of the suspected
coaches, though he had certainly got out of the county; altogether, the
chance of finding him was problematical.

Not only did Captain Northbrook survive his injuries, but it soon
appeared that in the course of a few weeks he would find himself little
if any the worse for the catastrophe. It could also be seen that Laura,
while secretly hoping for her husband's forgiveness for a piece of folly
of which she saw the enormity more clearly every day, was in great doubt
as to what her future relations with him would be. Moreover, to add to
the complication, whilst she, as a runaway wife, was unforgiven by her
husband, she and her husband, as a runaway couple, were unforgiven by
her father, who had never once communicated with either of them since
his departure from the inn. But her immediate anxiety was to win the
pardon of her husband, who possibly might be bearing in mind, as he lay
upon his couch, the familiar words of Brabantio, 'She has deceived her
father, and may thee.'

Matters went on thus till Captain Northbrook was able to walk about. He
then removed with his wife to quiet apartments on the south coast, and
here his recovery was rapid. Walking up the cliffs one day, supporting
him by her arm as usual, she said to him, simply, 'James, if I go on as
I am going now, and always attend to your smallest want, and never think
of anything but devotion to you, will you-try to like me a little?'

'It is a thing I must carefully consider,' he said, with the same gloomy
dryness which characterized all his words to her now. 'When I have
considered, I will tell you.'

He did not tell her that evening, though she lingered long at her
routine work of making his bedroom comfortable, putting the light so
that it would not shine into his eyes, seeing him fall asleep, and then
retiring noiselessly to her own chamber. When they met in the morning at
breakfast, and she had asked him as usual how he had passed the night,
she added timidly, in the silence which followed his reply, 'Have you
considered?'

'No, I have not considered sufficiently to give you an answer.'

Laura sighed, but to no purpose; and the day wore on with intense
heaviness to her, and the customary modicum of strength gained to him.

The next morning she put the same question, and looked up despairingly
in his face, as though her whole life hung upon his reply.

'Yes, I have considered,' he said.

'Ah!'

'We must part.'

'O James!'

'I cannot forgive you; no man would. Enough is settled upon you to keep
you in comfort, whatever your father may do. I shall sell out, and
disappear from this hemisphere.'

'You have absolutely decided?' she asked miserably. 'I have nobody now
to c-c-care for-'

'I have absolutely decided,' he shortly returned. 'We had better part
here. You will go back to your father. There is no reason why I should
accompany you, since my presence would only stand in the way of the
forgiveness he will probably grant you if you appear before him alone.
We will say farewell to each other in three days from this time. I have
calculated on being ready to go on that day.'

Bowed down with trouble, she withdrew to her room, and the three days
were passed by her husband in writing letters and attending to other
business-matters, saying hardly a word to her the while. The morning of
departure came; but before the horses had been put in to take the
severed twain in different directions, out of sight of each other,
possibly for ever, the postman arrived with the morning letters.

There was one for the captain; none for her-there were never any for
her. However, on this occasion something was enclosed for her in his,
which he handed her. She read it and looked up helpless.

'My dear father-is dead!' she said. In a few moments she added, in a
whisper, 'I must go to the Manor to bury him . . . Will you go with me,
James?'

He musingly looked out of the window. 'I suppose it is an awkward and
melancholy undertaking for a woman alone,' he said coldly. 'Well, well-
my poor uncle!-Yes, I'll go with you, and see you through the business.'

So they went off together instead of asunder, as planned. It is
unnecessary to record the details of the journey, or of the sad week
which followed it at her father's house. Lord Quantock's seat was a fine
old mansion standing in its own park, and there were plenty of
opportunities for husband and wife either to avoid each other, or to get
reconciled if they were so minded, which one of them was at least.
Captain Northbrook was not present at the reading of the will. She came
to him afterward, and found him packing up his papers, intending to
start next morning, now that he had seen her through the turmoil
occasioned by her father's death.

'He has left me everything that he could!' she said to her husband.
'James, will you forgive me now, and stay?'

'I cannot stay.'

'Why not?'

'I cannot stay,' he repeated.

'But why?'

'I don't like you.'

He acted up to his word. When she came downstairs the next morning she
was told that he had gone.

Laura bore her double bereavement as best she could. The vast mansion in
which she had hitherto lived, with all its historic contents, had gone
to her father's successor in the title; but her own was no unhandsome
one. Around lay the undulating park, studded with trees a dozen times
her own age; beyond it, the wood; beyond the wood, the farms. All this
fair and quiet scene was hers. She nevertheless remained a lonely,
repentant, depressed being, who would have given the greater part of
everything she possessed to ensure the presence and affection of that
husband whose very austerity and phlegm-qualities that had formerly led
to the alienation between them-seemed now to be adorable features in his
character.

She hoped and hoped again, but all to no purpose. Captain Northbrook did
not alter his mind and return. He was quite a different sort of man from
one who altered his mind; that she was at last despairingly forced to
admit. And then she left off hoping, and settled down to a mechanical
routine of existence which in some measure dulled her grief; but at the
expense of all her natural animation and the sprightly wilfulness which
had once charmed those who knew her, though it was perhaps all the while
a factor in the production of her unhappiness.

To say that her beauty quite departed as the years rolled on would be to
overstate the truth. Time is not a merciful master, as we all know, and
he was not likely to act exceptionally in the case of a woman who had
mental troubles to bear in addition to the ordinary weight of years. Be
this as it may, eleven other winters came and went, and Laura Northbrook
remained the lonely mistress of house and lands without once hearing of
her husband. Every probability seemed to favour the assumption that he
had died in some foreign land; and offers for her hand were not few as
the probability verged on certainty with the long lapse of time. But the
idea of remarriage seemed never to have entered her head for a moment.
Whether she continued to hope even now for his return could not be
distinctly ascertained; at all events she lived a life unmodified in the
slightest degree from that of the first six months of his absence.

This twelfth year of Laura's loneliness, and the thirtieth of her life
drew on apace, and the season approached that had seen the unhappy
adventure for which she so long had suffered. Christmas promised to be
rather wet than cold, and the trees on the outskirts of Laura's estate
dripped monotonously from day to day upon the turnpike-road which
bordered them. On an afternoon in this week between three and four
o'clock a hired fly might have been seen driving along the highway at
this point, and on reaching the top of the hill it stopped. A gentleman
of middle age alighted from the vehicle.

'You need drive no farther,' he said to the coachman. 'The rain seems to
have nearly ceased. I'll stroll a little way, and return on foot to the
inn by dinner-time.'

The flyman touched his hat, turned the horse, and drove back as
directed. When he was out of sight, the gentleman walked on, but he had
not gone far before the rain again came down pitilessly, though of this
the pedestrian took little heed, going leisurely onward till he reached
Laura's park gate, which he passed through. The clouds were thick and
the days were short, so that by the time he stood in front of the
mansion it was dark. In addition to this his appearance, which on
alighting from the carriage had been untarnished, partook now of the
character of a drenched wayfarer not too well blessed with this world's
goods. He halted for no more than a moment at the front entrance, and
going round to the servants' quarter, as if he had a preconceived
purpose in so doing, there rang the bell. When a page came to him he
inquired if they would kindly allow him to dry himself by the kitchen
fire.

The page retired, and after a murmured colloquy returned with the cook,
who informed the wet and muddy man that though it was not her custom to
admit strangers, she should have no particular objection to his drying
himself; the night being so damp and gloomy. Therefore the wayfarer
entered and sat down by the fire.

'The owner of this house is a very rich gentleman, no doubt?' he asked,
as he watched the meat turning on the spit.

''Tis not a gentleman, but a lady,' said the cook.

'A widow, I presume?'

'A sort of widow. Poor soul, her husband is gone abroad, and has never
been heard of for many years.'

'She sees plenty of company, no doubt, to make up for his absence?'

'No, indeed-hardly a soul. Service here is as bad as being in a
nunnery.'

In short, the wayfarer, who had at first been so coldly received,
contrived by his frank and engaging manner to draw the ladies of the
kitchen into a most confidential conversation, in which Laura's history
was minutely detailed, from the day of her husband's departure to the
present. The salient feature in all their discourse was her unflagging
devotion to his memory.

Having apparently learned all that he wanted to know-among other things
that she was at this moment, as always, alone-the traveller said he was
quite dry; and thanking the servants for their kindness, departed as he
had come. On emerging into the darkness he did not, however, go down the
avenue by which he had arrived. He simply walked round to the front
door. There he rang, and the door was opened to him by a man-servant
whom he had not seen during his sojourn at the other end of the house.

In answer to the servant's inquiry for his name, he said ceremoniously,
'Will you tell The Honourable Mrs. Northbrook that the man she nursed
many years ago, after a frightful accident, has called to thank her?'

The footman retreated, and it was rather a long time before any further
signs of attention were apparent. Then he was shown into the drawing-
room, and the door closed behind him.

On the couch was Laura, trembling and pale. She parted her lips and held
out her hands to him, but could not speak. But he did not require
speech, and in a moment they were in each other's arms.

Strange news circulated through that mansion and the neighbouring town
on the next and following days. But the world has a way of getting used
to things, and the intelligence of the return of The Honourable Mrs.
Northbrook's long-absent husband was soon received with comparative
calm.

A few days more brought Christmas, and the forlorn home of Laura
Northbrook blazed from basement to attic with light and cheerfulness.
Not that the house was overcrowded with visitors, but many were present,
and the apathy of a dozen years came at length to an end. The animation
which set in thus at the close of the old year did not diminish on the
arrival of the new; and by the time its twelve months had likewise run
the course of its predecessors, a son had been added to the dwindled
line of the Northbrook family.

At the conclusion of this narrative the Spark was thanked, with a manner
of some surprise, for nobody had credited him with a taste for tale-
telling. Though it had been resolved that this story should be the last,
a few of the weather-bound listeners were for sitting on into the small
hours over their pipes and glasses, and raking up yet more episodes of
family history. But the majority murmured reasons for soon getting to
their lodgings.

It was quite dark without, except in the immediate neighbourhood of the
feeble street-lamps, and before a few shop-windows which had been
hardily kept open in spite of the obvious unlikelihood of any chance
customer traversing the muddy thoroughfares at that hour.

By one, by two, and by three the benighted members of the Field-Club
rose from their seats, shook hands, made appointments, and dropped away
to their respective quarters, free or hired, hoping for a fair morrow.
It would probably be not until the next summer meeting, months away in
the future, that the easy intercourse which now existed between them all
would repeat itself. The crimson maltster, for instance, knew that on
the following market-day his friends the President, the Rural Dean, and
the bookworm would pass him in the street, if they met him, with the
barest nod of civility, the President and the Colonel for social
reasons, the bookworm for intellectual reasons, and the Rural Dean for
moral ones, the latter being a staunch teetotaller, dead against John
Barleycorn. The sentimental member knew that when, on his rambles, he
met his friend the bookworm with a pocket-copy of something or other
under his nose, the latter would not love his companionship as he had
done to-day; and the President, the aristocrat, and the farmer knew that
affairs political, sporting, domestic, or agricultural would exclude for
a long time all rumination on the characters of dames gone to dust for
scores of years, however beautiful and noble they may have been in their
day.

The last member at length departed, the attendant at the museum lowered
the fire, the curator locked up the rooms, and soon there was only a
single pirouetting flame on the top of a single coal to make the bones
of the ichthyosaurus seem to leap, the stuffed birds to wink, and to
draw a smile from the varnished skulls of Vespasian's soldiery. draw a
smile from the varnished skulls of Vespasian's soldiery.



WESSEX TALES

By Thomas Hardy

CONTENTS

PREFACE


AN IMAGINATIVE WOMAN

THE THREE STRANGERS


THE WITHERED ARM

CHAPTER I-A LORN MILKMAID

CHAPTER II-THE YOUNG WIFE

CHAPTER III-A VISION

CHAPTER IV-A SUGGESTION

CHAPTER V-CONJUROR TRENDLE

CHAPTER VI-A SECOND ATTEMPT

CHAPTER VII-A RIDE

VIII-A WATER-SIDE HERMIT

IX-A RENCOUNTER


FELLOW-TOWNSMEN

I

II

III

IV

V

VI

VII

VIII

IX


INTERLOPERS AT THE KNAP

I

II

III

IV

V


THE DISTRACTED PREACHER

I-HOW HIS COLD WAS CURED

II-HOW HE SAW TWO OTHER MEN

III-THE MYSTERIOUS GREATCOAT

IV-AT THE TIME OF THE NEW MOON

V-HOW THEY WENT TO LULSTEAD COVE

VI-THE GREAT SEARCH AT NETHER-MOYNTON

VII-THE WALK TO WARM'ELL CROSS AND AFTERWARDS



PREFACE

An apology is perhaps needed for the neglect of contrast which is shown
by presenting two consecutive stories of hangmen in such a small
collection as the following. But in the neighbourhood of county-towns
tales of executions used to form a large proportion of the local
traditions; and though never personally acquainted with any chief
operator at such scenes, the writer of these pages had as a boy the
privilege of being on speaking terms with a man who applied for the
office, and who sank into an incurable melancholy because he failed to
get it, some slight mitigation of his grief being to dwell upon striking
episodes in the lives of those happier ones who had held it with success
and renown. His tale of disappointment used to cause some wonder why his
ambition should have taken such an unfortunate form, but its nobleness
was never questioned. In those days, too, there was still living an old
woman who, for the cure of some eating disease, had been taken in her
youth to have her 'blood turned' by a convict's corpse, in the manner
described in 'The Withered Arm.'

Since writing this story some years ago I have been reminded by an aged
friend who knew 'Rhoda Brook' that, in relating her dream, my
forgetfulness has weakened the facts our of which the tale grew. In
reality it was while lying down on a hot afternoon that the incubus
oppressed her and she flung it off, with the results upon the body of
the original as described. To my mind the occurrence of such a vision in
the daytime is more impressive than if it had happened in a midnight
dream. Readers are therefore asked to correct the misrelation, which
affords an instance of how our imperfect memories insensibly formalize
the fresh originality of living fact-from whose shape they slowly
depart, as machine-made castings depart by degrees from the sharp hand-
work of the mould.

Among the many devices for concealing smuggled goods in caves and pits
of the earth, that of planting an apple-tree in a tray or box which was
placed over the mouth of the pit is, I believe, unique, and it is
detailed in one of the tales precisely as described by an old carrier of
'tubs'-a man who was afterwards in my father's employ for over thirty
years. I never gathered from his reminiscences what means were adopted
for lifting the tree, which, with its roots, earth, and receptacle, must
have been of considerable weight. There is no doubt, however, that the
thing was done through many years. My informant often spoke, too, of the
horribly suffocating sensation produced by the pair of spirit-tubs slung
upon the chest and back, after stumbling with the burden of them for
several miles inland over a rough country and in darkness. He said that
though years of his youth and young manhood were spent in this irregular
business, his profits from the same, taken all together, did not average
the wages he might have earned in a steady employment, whilst the
fatigues and risks were excessive.

I may add that the first story in the series turns upon a physical
possibility that may attach to women of imaginative temperament, and
that is well supported by the experiences of medical men and other
observers of such manifestations.

T. H. April 1896.



AN IMAGINATIVE WOMAN

When William Marchmill had finished his inquiries for lodgings at a
well-known watering-place in Upper Wessex, he returned to the hotel to
find his wife. She, with the children, had rambled along the shore, and
Marchmill followed in the direction indicated by the military-looking
hall-porter

'By Jove, how far you've gone! I am quite out of breath,' Marchmill
said, rather impatiently, when he came up with his wife, who was reading
as she walked, the three children being considerably further ahead with
the nurse.

Mrs. Marchmill started out of the reverie into which the book had thrown
her. 'Yes,' she said, 'you've been such a long time. I was tired of
staying in that dreary hotel. But I am sorry if you have wanted me,
Will?'

'Well, I have had trouble to suit myself. When you see the airy and
comfortable rooms heard of, you find they are stuffy and uncomfortable.
Will you come and see if what I've fixed on will do? There is not much
room, I am afraid; hut I can light on nothing better. The town is rather
full.'

The pair left the children and nurse to continue their ramble, and went
back together.

In age well-balanced, in personal appearance fairly matched, and in
domestic requirements conformable, in temper this couple differed,
though even here they did not often clash, he being equable, if not
lymphatic, and she decidedly nervous and sanguine. It was to their
tastes and fancies, those smallest, greatest particulars, that no common
denominator could be applied. Marchmill considered his wife's likes and
inclinations somewhat silly; she considered his sordid and material. The
husband's business was that of a gunmaker in a thriving city northwards,
and his soul was in that business always; the lady was best
characterized by that superannuated phrase of elegance 'a votary of the
muse.' An impressionable, palpitating creature was Ella, shrinking
humanely from detailed knowledge of her husband's trade whenever she
reflected that everything he manufactured had for its purpose the
destruction of life. She could only recover her equanimity by assuring
herself that some, at least, of his weapons were sooner or later used
for the extermination of horrid vermin and animals almost as cruel to
their inferiors in species as human beings were to theirs.

She had never antecedently regarded this occupation of his as any
objection to having him for a husband. Indeed, the necessity of getting
life-leased at all cost, a cardinal virtue which all good mothers teach,
kept her from thinking of it at all till she had closed with William,
had passed the honeymoon, and reached the reflecting stage. Then, like a
person who has stumbled upon some object in the dark, she wondered what
she had got; mentally walked round it, estimated it; whether it were
rare or common; contained gold, silver, or lead; were a clog or a
pedestal, everything to her or nothing.

She came to some vague conclusions, and since then had kept her heart
alive by pitying her proprietor's obtuseness and want of refinement,
pitying herself, and letting off her delicate and ethereal emotions in
imaginative occupations, day-dreams, and night-sighs, which perhaps
would not much have disturbed William if he had known of them.

Her figure was small, elegant, and slight in build, tripping, or rather
bounding, in movement. She was dark-eyed, and had that marvellously
bright and liquid sparkle in each pupil which characterizes persons of
Ella's cast of soul, and is too often a cause of heartache to the
possessor's male friends, ultimately sometimes to herself. Her husband
was a tall, long-featured man, with a brown beard; he had a pondering
regard; and was, it must be added, usually kind and tolerant to her. He
spoke in squarely shaped sentences, and was supremely satisfied with a
condition of sublunary things which made weapons a necessity.

Husband and wife walked till they had reached the house they were in
search of, which stood in a terrace facing the sea, and was fronted by a
small garden of wind-proof and salt-proof evergreens, stone steps
leading up to the porch. It had its number in the row, but, being rather
larger than the rest, was in addition sedulously distinguished as Coburg
House by its landlady, though everybody else called it 'Thirteen, New
Parade.' The spot was bright and lively now; but in winter it became
necessary to place sandbags against the door, and to stuff up the
keyhole against the wind and rain, which had worn the paint so thin that
the priming and knotting showed through.

The householder, who bad been watching for the gentleman's return, met
them in the passage, and showed the rooms. She informed them that she
was a professional man's widow, left in needy circumstances by the
rather sudden death of her husband, and she spoke anxiously of the
conveniences of the establishment.

Mrs. Marchmill said that she liked the situation and the house; but, it
being small, there would not be accommodation enough, unless she could
have all the rooms.

The landlady mused with an air of disappointment. She wanted the
visitors to be her tenants very badly, she said, with obvious honesty.
But unfortunately two of the rooms were occupied permanently by a
bachelor gentleman. He did not pay season prices, it was true; but as he
kept on his apartments all the year round, and was an extremely nice and
interesting young man, who gave no trouble, she did not like to turn him
out for a month's 'let,' even at a high figure. 'Perhaps, however,' she
added, 'he might offer to go for a time.'

They would not hear of this, and went back to the hotel, intending to
proceed to the agent's to inquire further. Hardly had they sat down to
tea when the landlady called. Her gentleman, she said, had been so
obliging as to offer to give up his rooms for three or four weeks rather
than drive the new-comers away.

'It is very kind, but we won't inconvenience him in that way,' said the
Marchmills.

'O, it won't inconvenience him, I assure you!' said the landlady
eloquently. 'You see, he's a different sort of young man from most-
dreamy, solitary, rather melancholy-and he cares more to be here when
the south-westerly gales are beating against the door, and the sea
washes over the Parade, and there's not a soul in the place, than he
does now in the season. He'd just as soon be where, in fact, he's going
temporarily, to a little cottage on the Island opposite, for a change.'
She hoped therefore that they would come.

The Marchmill family accordingly took possession of the house next day,
and it seemed to suit them very well. After luncheon Mr. Marchmill
strolled out towards the pier, and Mrs. Marchmill, having despatched the
children to their outdoor amusements on the sands, settled herself in
more completely, examining this and that article, and testing the
reflecting powers of the mirror in the wardrobe door.

In the small back sitting-room, which had been the young bachelor's, she
found furniture of a more personal nature than in the rest. Shabby
books, of correct rather than rare editions, were piled up in a queerly
reserved manner in corners, as if the previous occupant had not
conceived the possibility that any incoming person of the season's
bringing could care to look inside them. The landlady hovered on the
threshold to rectify anything that Mrs. Marchmill might not find to her
satisfaction.

'I'll make this my own little room,' said the latter, 'because the books
are here. By the way, the person who has left seems to have a good many.
He won't mind my reading some of them, Mrs. Hooper, I hope?'

'O dear no, ma'am. Yes, he has a good many. You see, he is in the
literary line himself somewhat. He is a poet-yes, really a poet-and he
has a little income of his own, which is enough to write verses on, but
not enough for cutting a figure, even if he cared to.'

'A poet! O, I did not know that.'

Mrs. Marchmill opened one of the books, and saw the owner's name written
on the title-page. 'Dear me!' she continued; 'I know his name very well-
Robert Trewe-of course I do; and his writings! And it is his rooms we
have taken, and him we have turned out of his home?'

Ella Marchmill, sitting down alone a few minutes later, thought with
interested surprise of Robert Trewe. Her own latter history will best
explain that interest. Herself the only daughter of a struggling man of
letters, she had during the last year or two taken to writing poems, in
an endeavour to find a congenial channel in which to let flow her
painfully embayed emotions, whose former limpidity and sparkle seemed
departing in the stagnation caused by the routine of a practical
household and the gloom of bearing children to a commonplace father.
These poems, subscribed with a masculine pseudonym, had appeared in
various obscure magazines, and in two cases in rather prominent ones. In
the second of the latter the page which bore her effusion at the bottom,
in smallish print, bore at the top, in large print, a few verses on the
same subject by this very man, Robert Trewe. Both of them had, in fact,
been struck by a tragic incident reported in the daily papers, and had
used it simultaneously as an inspiration, the editor remarking in a note
upon the coincidence, and that the excellence of both poems prompted him
to give them together.

After that event Ella, otherwise 'John Ivy,' had watched with much
attention the appearance anywhere in print of verse bearing the
signature of Robert Trewe, who, with a man's unsusceptibility on the
question of sex, had never once thought of passing himself off as a
woman. To be sure, Mrs. Marchmill had satisfied herself with a sort of
reason for doing the contrary in her case; that nobody might believe in
her inspiration if they found that the sentiments came from a pushing
tradesman's wife, from the mother of three children by a matter-of-fact
small-arms manufacturer.

Trewe's verse contrasted with that of the rank and file of recent minor
poets in being impassioned rather than ingenious, luxuriant rather than
finished. Neither symboliste nor d\xE9cadent, he was a pessimist in so far
as that character applies to a man who looks at the worst contingencies
as well as the best in the human condition. Being little attracted by
excellences of form and rhythm apart from content, he sometimes, when
feeling outran his artistic speed, perpetrated sonnets in the loosely
rhymed Elizabethan fashion, which every right-minded reviewer said he
ought not to have done.

With sad and hopeless envy, Ella Marchmill had often and often scanned
the rival poet's work, so much stronger as it always was than her own
feeble lines. She had imitated him, and her inability to touch his level
would send her into fits of despondency. Months passed away thus, till
she observed from the publishers' list that Trewe had collected his
fugitive pieces into a volume, which was duly issued, and was much or
little praised according to chance, and had a sale quite sufficient to
pay for the printing.

This step onward had suggested to John Ivy the idea of collecting her
pieces also, or at any rate of making up a book of her rhymes by adding
many in manuscript to the few that had seen the light, for she had been
able to get no great number into print. A ruinous charge was made for
costs of publication; a few reviews noticed her poor little volume; but
nobody talked of it, nobody bought it, and it fell dead in a fortnight-
if it had ever been alive.

The author's thoughts were diverted to another groove just then by the
discovery that she was going to have a third child, and the collapse of
her poetical venture had perhaps less effect upon her mind than it might
have done if she had been domestically unoccupied. Her husband had paid
the publisher's bill with the doctor's, and there it all had ended for
the time. But, though less than a poet of her century, Ella was more
than a mere multiplier of her kind, and latterly she had begun to feel
the old afflatus once more. And now by an odd conjunction she found
herself in the rooms of Robert Trewe.

She thoughtfully rose from her chair and searched the apartment with the
interest of a fellow-tradesman. Yes, the volume of his own verse was
among the rest. Though quite familiar with its contents, she read it
here as if it spoke aloud to her, then called up Mrs. Hooper, the
landlady, for some trivial service, and inquired again about the young
man.

'Well, I'm sure you'd be interested in him, ma'am, if you could see him,
only he's so shy that I don't suppose you will.' Mrs. Hooper seemed
nothing loth to minister to her tenant's curiosity about her
predecessor. 'Lived here long? Yes, nearly two years. He keeps on his
rooms even when he's not here: the soft air of this place suits his
chest, and he likes to be able to come back at any time. He is mostly
writing or reading, and doesn't see many people, though, for the matter
of that, he is such a good, kind young fellow that folks would only be
too glad to be friendly with him if they knew him. You don't meet kind-
hearted people every day.'

'Ah, he's kind-hearted . . . and good.'

'Yes; he'll oblige me in anything if I ask him. "Mr. Trewe," I say to
him sometimes, "you are rather out of spirits." "Well, I am, Mrs.
Hooper," he'll say, "though I don't know how you should find it out."
"Why not take a little change?" I ask. Then in a day or two he'll say
that he will take a trip to Paris, or Norway, or somewhere; and I assure
you he comes back all the better for it.'

'Ah, indeed! His is a sensitive nature, no doubt.'

'Yes. Still he's odd in some things. Once when he had finished a poem of
his composition late at night he walked up and down the room rehearsing
it; and the floors being so thin-jerry-built houses, you know, though I
say it myself-he kept me awake up above him till I wished him further .
. . But we get on very well.'

This was but the beginning of a series of conversations about the rising
poet as the days went on. On one of these occasions Mrs. Hooper drew
Ella's attention to what she had not noticed before: minute scribblings
in pencil on the wall-paper behind the curtains at the head of the bed.

'O! let me look,' said Mrs. Marchmill, unable to conceal a rush of
tender curiosity as she bent her pretty face close to the wall.

'These,' said Mrs. Hooper, with the manner of a woman who knew things,
'are the very beginnings and first thoughts of his verses. He has tried
to rub most of them out, but you can read them still. My belief is that
he wakes up in the night, you know, with some rhyme in his head, and
jots it down there on the wall lest he should forget it by the morning.
Some of these very lines you see here I have seen afterwards in print in
the magazines. Some are newer; indeed, I have not seen that one before.
It must have been done only a few days ago.'

'O yes! . . . '

Ella Marchmill flushed without knowing why, and suddenly wished her
companion would go away, now that the information was imparted. An
indescribable consciousness of personal interest rather than literary
made her anxious to read the inscription alone; and she accordingly
waited till she could do so, with a sense that a great store of emotion
would be enjoyed in the act.

Perhaps because the sea was choppy outside the Island, Ella's husband
found it much pleasanter to go sailing and steaming about without his
wife, who was a bad sailor, than with her. He did not disdain to go thus
alone on board the steamboats of the cheap-trippers, where there was
dancing by moonlight, and where the couples would come suddenly down
with a lurch into each other's arms; for, as he blandly told her, the
company was too mixed for him to take her amid such scenes. Thus, while
this thriving manufacturer got a great deal of change and sea-air out of
his sojourn here, the life, external at least, of Ella was monotonous
enough, and mainly consisted in passing a certain number of hours each
day in bathing and walking up and down a stretch of shore. But the
poetic impulse having again waxed strong, she was possessed by an inner
flame which left her hardly conscious of what was proceeding around her.

She had read till she knew by heart Trewe's last little volume of
verses, and spent a great deal of time in vainly attempting to rival
some of them, till, in her failure, she burst into tears. The personal
element in the magnetic attraction exercised by this circumambient,
unapproachable master of hers was so much stronger than the intellectual
and abstract that she could not understand it. To be sure, she was
surrounded noon and night by his customary environment, which literally
whispered of him to her at every moment; but he was a man she had never
seen, and that all that moved her was the instinct to specialize a
waiting emotion on the first fit thing that came to hand did not, of
course, suggest itself to Ella.

In the natural way of passion under the too practical conditions which
civilization has devised for its fruition, her husband's love for her
had not survived, except in the form of fitful friendship, any more
than, or even so much as, her own for him; and, being a woman of very
living ardours, that required sustenance of some sort, they were
beginning to feed on this chancing material, which was, indeed, of a
quality far better than chance usually offers.

One day the children had been playing hide-and-seek in a closet, whence,
in their excitement, they pulled out some clothing. Mrs. Hooper
explained that it belonged to Mr. Trewe, and hung it up in the closet
again. Possessed of her fantasy, Ella went later in the afternoon, when
nobody was in that part of the house, opened the closet, unhitched one
of the articles, a mackintosh, and put it on, with the waterproof cap
belonging to it.

'The mantle of Elijah!' she said. 'Would it might inspire me to rival
him, glorious genius that he is!'

Her eyes always grew wet when she thought like that, and she turned to
look at herself in the glass. His heart had beat inside that coat, and
his brain had worked under that hat at levels of thought she would never
reach. The consciousness of her weakness beside him made her feel quite
sick. Before she had got the things off her the door opened, and her
husband entered the room.

'What the devil-'

She blushed, and removed them

'I found them in the closet here,' she said, 'and put them on in a
freak. What have I else to do? You are always away!'

'Always away? Well . . . '

That evening she had a further talk with the landlady, who might herself
have nourished a half-tender regard for the poet, so ready was she to
discourse ardently about him.

'You are interested in Mr. Trewe, I know, ma'am,' she said; 'and he has
just sent to say that he is going to call to-morrow afternoon to look up
some books of his that he wants, if I'll be in, and he may select them
from your room?'

'O yes!'

'You could very well meet Mr Trewe then, if you'd like to be in the
way!'

She promised with secret delight, and went to bed musing of him.

Next morning her husband observed: 'I've been thinking of what you said,
Ell: that I have gone about a good deal and left you without much to
amuse you. Perhaps it's true. To-day, as there's not much sea, I'll take
you with me on board the yacht.'

For the first time in her experience of such an offer Ella was not glad.
But she accepted it for the moment. The time for setting out drew near,
and she went to get ready. She stood reflecting. The longing to see the
poet she was now distinctly in love with overpowered all other
considerations.

'I don't want to go,' she said to herself. 'I can't bear to be away! And
I won't go.'

She told her husband that she had changed her mind about wishing to
sail. He was indifferent, and went his way.

For the rest of the day the house was quiet, the children having gone
out upon the sands. The blinds waved in the sunshine to the soft, steady
stroke of the sea beyond the wall; and the notes of the Green Silesian
band, a troop of foreign gentlemen hired for the season, had drawn
almost all the residents and promenaders away from the vicinity of
Coburg House. A knock was audible at the door.

Mrs. Marchmill did not hear any servant go to answer it, and she became
impatient. The books were in the room where she sat; but nobody came up.
She rang the bell.

'There is some person waiting at the door,' she said.

'O no, ma'am! He's gone long ago. I answered it.'

Mrs. Hooper came in herself.

'So disappointing!' she said. 'Mr. Trewe not coming after all!'

'But I heard him knock, I fancy!'

'No; that was somebody inquiring for lodgings who came to the wrong
house. I forgot to tell you that Mr. Trewe sent a note just before lunch
to say I needn't get any tea for him, as he should not require the
books, and wouldn't come to select them.'

Ella was miserable, and for a long time could not even re-read his
mournful ballad on 'Severed Lives,' so aching was her erratic little
heart, and so tearful her eyes. When the children came in with wet
stockings, and ran up to her to tell her of their adventures, she could
not feel that she cared about them half as much as usual.

'Mrs. Hooper, have you a photograph of-the gentleman who lived here?'
She was getting to be curiously shy in mentioning his name.

'Why, yes. It's in the ornamental frame on the mantelpiece in your own
bedroom, ma'am.'

'No; the Royal Duke and Duchess are in that.'

'Yes, so they are; but he's behind them. He belongs rightly to that
frame, which I bought on purpose; but as he went away he said: "Cover me
up from those strangers that are coming, for God's sake. I don't want
them staring at me, and I am sure they won't want me staring at them."
So I slipped in the Duke and Duchess temporarily in front of him, as
they had no frame, and Royalties are more suitable for letting furnished
than a private young man. If you take 'em out you'll see him under.
Lord, ma'am, he wouldn't mind if he knew it! He didn't think the next
tenant would be such an attractive lady as you, or he wouldn't have
thought of hiding himself; perhaps.'

'Is he handsome?' she asked timidly.

'I call him so. Some, perhaps, wouldn't.'

'Should I?' she asked, with eagerness.

'I think you would, though some would say he's more striking than
handsome; a large-eyed thoughtful fellow, you know, with a very electric
flash in his eye when he looks round quickly, such as you'd expect a
poet to be who doesn't get his living by it.'

'How old is he?'

'Several years older than yourself, ma'am; about thirty-one or two, I
think.'

Ella was, as a matter of fact, a few months over thirty herself; but she
did not look nearly so much. Though so immature in nature, she was
entering on that tract of life in which emotional women begin to suspect
that last love may be stronger than first love; and she would soon,
alas, enter on the still more melancholy tract when at least the vainer
ones of her sex shrink from receiving a male visitor otherwise than with
their backs to the window or the blinds half down. She reflected on Mrs.
Hooper's remark, and said no more about age.

Just then a telegram was brought up. It came from her husband, who had
gone down the Channel as far as Budmouth with his friends in the yacht,
and would not be able to get back till next day.

After her light dinner Ella idled about the shore with the children till
dusk, thinking of the yet uncovered photograph in her room, with a
serene sense of something ecstatic to come. For, with the subtle
luxuriousness of fancy in which this young woman was an adept, on
learning that her husband was to be absent that night she had refrained
from incontinently rushing upstairs and opening the picture-frame,
preferring to reserve the inspection till she could be alone, and a more
romantic tinge be imparted to the occasion by silence, candles, solemn
sea and stars outside, than was afforded by the garish afternoon
sunlight.

The children had been sent to bed, and Ella soon followed, though it was
not yet ten o'clock. To gratify her passionate curiosity she now made
her preparations, first getting rid of superfluous garments and putting
on her dressing-gown, then arranging a chair in front of the table and
reading several pages of Trewe's tenderest utterances. Then she fetched
the portrait-frame to the light, opened the back, took out the likeness,
and set it up before her.

It was a striking countenance to look upon. The poet wore a luxuriant
black moustache and imperial, and a slouched hat which shaded the
forehead. The large dark eyes, described by the landlady, showed an
unlimited capacity for misery; they looked out from beneath well-shaped
brows as if they were reading the universe in the microcosm of the
confronter's face, and were not altogether overjoyed at what the
spectacle portended.

Ella murmured in her lowest, richest, tenderest tone: 'And it's you
who've so cruelly eclipsed me these many times!'

As she gazed long at the portrait she fell into thought, till her eyes
filled with tears, and she touched the cardboard with her lips. Then she
laughed with a nervous lightness, and wiped her eyes.

She thought how wicked she was, a woman having a husband and three
children, to let her mind stray to a stranger in this unconscionable
manner. No, he was not a stranger! She knew his thoughts and feelings as
well as she knew her own; they were, in fact, the self-same thoughts and
feelings as hers, which her husband distinctly lacked; perhaps luckily
for himself; considering that he had to provide for family expenses.

'He's nearer my real self, he's more intimate with the real me than Will
is, after all, even though I've never seen him,' she said.

She laid his book and picture on the table at the bedside, and when she
was reclining on the pillow she re-read those of Robert Trewe's verses
which she had marked from time to time as most touching and true.
Putting these aside, she set up the photograph on its edge upon the
coverlet, and contemplated it as she lay. Then she scanned again by the
light of the candle the half-obliterated pencillings on the wall-paper
beside her head. There they were-phrases, couplets, bouts-rim\xE9s,
beginnings and middles of lines, ideas in the rough, like Shelley's
scraps, and the least of them so intense, so sweet, so palpitating, that
it seemed as if his very breath, warm and loving, fanned her cheeks from
those walls, walls that had surrounded his head times and times as they
surrounded her own now. He must often have put up his hand so-with the
pencil in it. Yes, the writing was sideways, as it would be if executed
by one who extended his arm thus.

These inscribed shapes of the poet's world,

'Forms more real than living man, Nurslings of immortality,'

were, no doubt, the thoughts and spirit-strivings which had come to him
in the dead of night, when he could let himself go and have no fear of
the frost of criticism. No doubt they had often been written up hastily
by the light of the moon, the rays of the lamp, in the blue-grey dawn,
in full daylight perhaps never. And now her hair was dragging where his
arm had lain when he secured the fugitive fancies; she was sleeping on a
poet's lips, immersed in the very essence of him, permeated by his
spirit as by an ether.

While she was dreaming the minutes away thus, a footstep came upon the
stairs, and in a moment she heard her husband's heavy step on the
landing immediately without.

'Ell, where are you?'

What possessed her she could not have described, but, with an
instinctive objection to let her husband know what she had been doing,
she slipped the photograph under the pillow just as he flung open the
door, with the air of a man who had dined not badly.

'O, I beg pardon,' said William Marchmill. 'Have you a headache? I am
afraid I have disturbed you.'

'No, I've not got a headache,' said she. 'How is it you've come?'

'Well, we found we could get back in very good time after all, and I
didn't want to make another day of it, because of going somewhere else
to-morrow.'

'Shall I come down again?'

'O no. I'm as tired as a dog. I've had a good feed, and I shall turn in
straight off. I want to get out at six o'clock to-morrow if I can . . .
I shan't disturb you by my getting up; it will be long before you are
awake.' And he came forward into the room.

While her eyes followed his movements, Ella softly pushed the photograph
further out of sight.

'Sure you're not ill?' he asked, bending over her.

'No, only wicked!'

'Never mind that.' And he stooped and kissed her.

Next morning Marchmill was called at six o'clock; and in waking and
yawning she heard him muttering to himself: 'What the deuce is this
that's been crackling under me so?' Imagining her asleep he searched
round him and withdrew something. Through her half-opened eyes she
perceived it to be Mr. Trewe.

'Well, I'm damned!' her husband exclaimed.

'What, dear?' said she.

'O, you are awake? Ha! ha!'

'What do you mean?'

'Some bloke's photograph-a friend of our landlady's, I suppose. I wonder
how it came here; whisked off the table by accident perhaps when they
were making the bed.'

'I was looking at it yesterday, and it must have dropped in then.'

'O, he's a friend of yours? Bless his picturesque heart!'

Ella's loyalty to the object of her admiration could not endure to hear
him ridiculed. 'He's a clever man!' she said, with a tremor in her
gentle voice which she herself felt to be absurdly uncalled for.

'He is a rising poet-the gentleman who occupied two of these rooms
before we came, though I've never seen him.'

'How do you know, if you've never seen him?'

'Mrs. Hooper told me when she showed me the photograph.'

'O; well, I must up and be off. I shall be home rather early. Sorry I
can't take you to-day, dear. Mind the children don't go getting
drowned.'

That day Mrs. Marchmill inquired if Mr. Trewe were likely to call at any
other time.

'Yes,' said Mrs. Hooper. 'He's coming this day week to stay with a
friend near here till you leave. He'll be sure to call.'

Marchmill did return quite early in the afternoon; and, opening some
letters which had arrived in his absence, declared suddenly that he and
his family would have to leave a week earlier than they had expected to
do-in short, in three days.

'Surely we can stay a week longer?' she pleaded. 'I like it here.'

'I don't. It is getting rather slow.'

'Then you might leave me and the children!'

'How perverse you are, Ell! What's the use? And have to come to fetch
you! No: we'll all return together; and we'll make out our time in North
Wales or Brighton a little later on. Besides, you've three days longer
yet.'

It seemed to be her doom not to meet the man for whose rival talent she
had a despairing admiration, and to whose person she was now absolutely
attached. Yet she determined to make a last effort; and having gathered
from her landlady that Trewe was living in a lonely spot not far from
the fashionable town on the Island opposite, she crossed over in the
packet from the neighbouring pier the following afternoon.

What a useless journey it was! Ella knew but vaguely where the house
stood, and when she fancied she had found it, and ventured to inquire of
a pedestrian if he lived there, the answer returned by the man was that
he did not know. And if he did live there, how could she call upon him?
Some women might have the assurance to do it, but she had not. How crazy
he would think her. She might have asked him to call upon her, perhaps;
but she had not the courage for that, either. She lingered mournfully
about the picturesque seaside eminence till it was time to return to the
town and enter the steamer for recrossing, reaching home for dinner
without having been greatly missed.

At the last moment, unexpectedly enough, her husband said that he should
have no objection to letting her and the children stay on till the end
of the week, since she wished to do so, if she felt herself able to get
home without him. She concealed the pleasure this extension of time gave
her; and Marchmill went off the next morning alone.

But the week passed, and Trewe did not call.

On Saturday morning the remaining members of the Marchmill family
departed from the place which had been productive of so much fervour in
her. The dreary, dreary train; the sun shining in moted beams upon the
hot cushions; the dusty permanent way; the mean rows of wire-these
things were her accompaniment: while out of the window the deep blue
sea-levels disappeared from her gaze, and with them her poet's home.
Heavy-hearted, she tried to read, and wept instead.

Mr. Marchmill was in a thriving way of business, and he and his family
lived in a large new house, which stood in rather extensive grounds a
few miles outside the city wherein he carried on his trade. Ella's life
was lonely here, as the suburban life is apt to be, particularly at
certain seasons; and she had ample time to indulge her taste for lyric
and elegiac composition. She had hardly got back when she encountered a
piece by Robert Trewe in the new number of her favourite magazine, which
must have been written almost immediately before her visit to Solentsea,
for it contained the very couplet she had seen pencilled on the
wallpaper by the bed, and Mrs. Hooper had declared to be recent. Ella
could resist no longer, but seizing a pen impulsively, wrote to him as a
brother-poet, using the name of John Ivy, congratulating him in her
letter on his triumphant executions in metre and rhythm of thoughts that
moved his soul, as compared with her own brow-beaten efforts in the same
pathetic trade.

To this address there came a response in a few days, little as she had
dared to hope for it-a civil and brief note, in which the young poet
stated that, though he was not well acquainted with Mr. Ivy's verse, he
recalled the name as being one he had seen attached to some very
promising pieces; that he was glad to gain Mr. Ivy's acquaintance by
letter, and should certainly look with much interest for his productions
in the future.

There must have been something juvenile or timid in her own epistle, as
one ostensibly coming from a man, she declared to herself; for Trewe
quite adopted the tone of an elder and superior in this reply. But what
did it matter? he had replied; he had written to her with his own hand
from that very room she knew so well, for he was now back again in his
quarters.

The correspondence thus begun was continued for two months or more, Ella
Marchmill sending him from time to time some that she considered to be
the best of her pieces, which he very kindly accepted, though he did not
say he sedulously read them, nor did he send her any of his own in
return. Ella would have been more hurt at this than she was if she had
not known that Trewe laboured under the impression that she was one of
his own sex.

Yet the situation was unsatisfactory. A flattering little voice told her
that, were he only to see her, matters would be otherwise. No doubt she
would have helped on this by making a frank confession of womanhood, to
begin with, if something had not happened, to her delight, to render it
unnecessary. A friend of her husband's, the editor of the most important
newspaper in the city and county, who was dining with them one day,
observed during their conversation about the poet that his (the
editor's) brother the landscape-painter was a friend of Mr. Trewe's, and
that the two men were at that very moment in Wales together.

Ella was slightly acquainted with the editor's brother. The next morning
down she sat and wrote, inviting him to stay at her house for a short
time on his way back, and requesting him to bring with him, if
practicable, his companion Mr. Trewe, whose acquaintance she was anxious
to make. The answer arrived after some few days. Her correspondent and
his friend Trewe would have much satisfaction in accepting her
invitation on their way southward, which would be on such and such a day
in the following week.

Ella was blithe and buoyant. Her scheme had succeeded; her beloved
though as yet unseen one was coming. "Behold, he standeth behind our
wall; he looked forth at the windows, showing himself through the
lattice," she thought ecstatically. "And, lo, the winter is past, the
rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth, the time of the
singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our
land."

But it was necessary to consider the details of lodging and feeding him.
This she did most solicitously, and awaited the pregnant day and hour.

It was about five in the afternoon when she heard a ring at the door and
the editor's brother's voice in the hall. Poetess as she was, or as she
thought herself, she had not been too sublime that day to dress with
infinite trouble in a fashionable robe of rich material, having a faint
resemblance to the chiton of the Greeks, a style just then in vogue
among ladies of an artistic and romantic turn, which had been obtained
by Ella of her Bond Street dressmaker when she was last in London. Her
visitor entered the drawing-room. She looked towards his rear; nobody
else came through the door. Where, in the name of the God of Love, was
Robert Trewe?

'O, I'm sorry,' said the painter, after their introductory words had
been spoken. 'Trewe is a curious fellow, you know, Mrs. Marchmill. He
said he'd come; then he said he couldn't. He's rather dusty. We've been
doing a few miles with knapsacks, you know; and he wanted to get on
home.'

'He-he's not coming?'

'He's not; and he asked me to make his apologies.'

'When did you p-p-part from him?' she asked, her nether lip starting off
quivering so much that it was like a tremolo-stop opened in her speech.
She longed to run away from this dreadful bore and cry her eyes out.

'Just now, in the turnpike road yonder there.'

'What! he has actually gone past my gates?'

'Yes. When we got to them-handsome gates they are, too, the finest bit
of modern wrought-iron work I have seen-when we came to them we stopped,
talking there a little while, and then he wished me good-bye and went
on. The truth is, he's a little bit depressed just now, and doesn't want
to see anybody. He's a very good fellow, and a warm friend, but a little
uncertain and gloomy sometimes; he thinks too much of things. His poetry
is rather too erotic and passionate, you know, for some tastes; and he
has just come in for a terrible slating from the \x97- Review that was
published yesterday; he saw a copy of it at the station by accident.
Perhaps you've read it?'

'No.'

'So much the better. O, it is not worth thinking of; just one of those
articles written to order, to please the narrow-minded set of
subscribers upon whom the circulation depends. But he's upset by it. He
says it is the misrepresentation that hurts him so; that, though he can
stand a fair attack, he can't stand lies that he's powerless to refute
and stop from spreading. That's just Trewe's weak point. He lives so
much by himself that these things affect him much more than they would
if he were in the bustle of fashionable or commercial life. So he
wouldn't come here, making the excuse that it all looked so new and
monied-if you'll pardon-'

'But-he must have known-there was sympathy here! Has he never said
anything about getting letters from this address?'

'Yes, yes, he has, from John Ivy-perhaps a relative of yours, he
thought, visiting here at the time?'

'Did he-like Ivy, did he say?'

'Well, I don't know that he took any great interest in Ivy.'

'Or in his poems?'

'Or in his poems-so far as I know, that is.'

Robert Trewe took no interest in her house, in her poems, or in their
writer. As soon as she could get away she went into the nursery and
tried to let off her emotion by unnecessarily kissing the children, till
she had a sudden sense of disgust at being reminded how plain-looking
they were, like their father.

The obtuse and single-minded landscape-painter never once perceived from
her conversation that it was only Trewe she wanted, and not himself. He
made the best of his visit, seeming to enjoy the society of Ella's
husband, who also took a great fancy to him, and showed him everywhere
about the neighbourhood, neither of them noticing Ella's mood.

The painter had been gone only a day or two when, while sitting upstairs
alone one morning, she glanced over the London paper just arrived, and
read the following paragraph:-'SUICIDE OF A POET

'Mr. Robert Trewe, who has been favourably known for some years as one
of our rising lyrists, committed suicide at his lodgings at Solentsea on
Saturday evening last by shooting himself in the right temple with a
revolver. Readers hardly need to be reminded that Mr. Trewe has recently
attracted the attention of a much wider public than had hitherto known
him, by his new volume of verse, mostly of an impassioned kind, entitled
"Lyrics to a Woman Unknown," which has been already favourably noticed
in these pages for the extraordinary gamut of feeling it traverses, and
which has been made the subject of a severe, if not ferocious, criticism
in the \x97- Review. It is supposed, though not certainly known, that the
article may have partially conduced to the sad act, as a copy of the
review in question was found on his writing-table; and he has been
observed to be in a somewhat depressed state of mind since the critique
appeared.'

Then came the report of the inquest, at which the following letter was
read, it having been addressed to a friend at a distance:-

'DEAR -,-Before these lines reach your hands I shall be delivered from
the inconveniences of seeing, hearing, and knowing more of the things
around me. I will not trouble you by giving my reasons for the step I
have taken, though I can assure you they were sound and logical. Perhaps
had I been blessed with a mother, or a sister, or a female friend of
another sort tenderly devoted to me, I might have thought it worth while
to continue my present existence. I have long dreamt of such an
unattainable creature, as you know, and she, this undiscoverable,
elusive one, inspired my last volume; the imaginary woman alone, for, in
spite of what has been said in some quarters, there is no real woman
behind the title. She has continued to the last unrevealed, unmet,
unwon. I think it desirable to mention this in order that no blame may
attach to any real woman as having been the cause of my decease by cruel
or cavalier treatment of me. Tell my landlady that I am sorry to have
caused her this unpleasantness; but my occupancy of the rooms will soon
be forgotten. There are ample funds in my name at the bank to pay all
expenses. R. TREWE.'

Ella sat for a while as if stunned, then rushed into the adjoining
chamber and flung herself upon her face on the bed.

Her grief and distraction shook her to pieces; and she lay in this
frenzy of sorrow for more than an hour. Broken words came every now and
then from her quivering lips: 'O, if he had only known of me-known of
me-me! . . . O, if I had only once met him-only once; and put my hand
upon his hot forehead-kissed him-let him know how I loved him-that I
would have suffered shame and scorn, would have lived and died, for him!
Perhaps it would have saved his dear life! . . . But no-it was not
allowed! God is a jealous God; and that happiness was not for him and
me!'

All possibilities were over; the meeting was stultified. Yet it was
almost visible to her in her fantasy even now, though it could never be
substantiated -

'The hour which might have been, yet might not be, Which man's and
woman's heart conceived and bore, Yet whereof life was barren.'

She wrote to the landlady at Solentsea in the third person, in as
subdued a style as she could command, enclosing a postal order for a
sovereign, and informing Mrs. Hooper that Mrs. Marchmill had seen in the
papers the sad account of the poet's death, and having been, as Mrs.
Hooper was aware, much interested in Mr. Trewe during her stay at Coburg
House, she would be obliged if Mrs. Hooper could obtain a small portion
of his hair before his coffin was closed down, and send it her as a
memorial of him, as also the photograph that was in the frame.

By the return-post a letter arrived containing what had been requested.
Ella wept over the portrait and secured it in her private drawer; the
lock of hair she tied with white ribbon and put in her bosom, whence she
drew it and kissed it every now and then in some unobserved nook.

'What's the matter?' said her husband, looking up from his newspaper on
one of these occasions. 'Crying over something? A lock of hair? Whose is
it?'

'He's dead!' she murmured.

'Who?'

'I don't want to tell you, Will, just now, unless you insist!' she said,
a sob hanging heavy in her voice.

'O, all right.'

'Do you mind my refusing? I will tell you some day.'

'It doesn't matter in the least, of course.'

He walked away whistling a few bars of no tune in particular; and when
he had got down to his factory in the city the subject came into
Marchmill's head again.

He, too, was aware that a suicide had taken place recently at the house
they had occupied at Solentsea. Having seen the volume of poems in his
wife's hand of late, and heard fragments of the landlady's conversation
about Trewe when they were her tenants, he all at once said to himself;
'Why of course it's he! How the devil did she get to know him? What sly
animals women are!'

Then he placidly dismissed the matter, and went on with his daily
affairs. By this time Ella at home had come to a determination. Mrs.
Hooper, in sending the hair and photograph, had informed her of the day
of the funeral; and as the morning and noon wore on an overpowering wish
to know where they were laying him took possession of the sympathetic
woman. Caring very little now what her husband or any one else might
think of her eccentricities; she wrote Marchmill a brief note, stating
that she was called away for the afternoon and evening, but would return
on the following morning. This she left on his desk, and having given
the same information to the servants, went out of the house on foot.

When Mr. Marchmill reached home early in the afternoon the servants
looked anxious. The nurse took him privately aside, and hinted that her
mistress's sadness during the past few days had been such that she
feared she had gone out to drown herself. Marchmill reflected. Upon the
whole he thought that she had not done that. Without saying whither he
was bound he also started off, telling them not to sit up for him. He
drove to the railway-station, and took a ticket for Solentsea.

It was dark when he reached the place, though he had come by a fast
train, and he knew that if his wife had preceded him thither it could
only have been by a slower train, arriving not a great while before his
own. The season at Solentsea was now past: the parade was gloomy, and
the flys were few and cheap. He asked the way to the Cemetery, and soon
reached it. The gate was locked, but the keeper let him in, declaring,
however, that there was nobody within the precincts. Although it was not
late, the autumnal darkness had now become intense; and he found some
difficulty in keeping to the serpentine path which led to the quarter
where, as the man had told him, the one or two interments for the day
had taken place. He stepped upon the grass, and, stumbling over some
pegs, stooped now and then to discern if possible a figure against the
sky.

He could see none; but lighting on a spot where the soil was trodden,
beheld a crouching object beside a newly made grave. She heard him, and
sprang up.

'Ell, how silly this is!' he said indignantly. 'Running away from home-I
never heard such a thing! Of course I am not jealous of this unfortunate
man; but it is too ridiculous that you, a married woman with three
children and a fourth coming, should go losing your head like this over
a dead lover! . . . Do you know you were locked in? You might not have
been able to get out all night.'

She did not answer.

'I hope it didn't go far between you and him, for your own sake.'

'Don't insult me, Will.'

'Mind, I won't have any more of this sort of thing; do you hear?'

'Very well,' she said.

He drew her arm within his own, and conducted her out of the Cemetery.
It was impossible to get back that night; and not wishing to be
recognized in their present sorry condition, he took her to a miserable
little coffee-house close to the station, whence they departed early in
the morning, travelling almost without speaking, under the sense that it
was one of those dreary situations occurring in married life which words
could not mend, and reaching their own door at noon.

The months passed, and neither of the twain ever ventured to start a
conversation upon this episode. Ella seemed to be only too frequently in
a sad and listless mood, which might almost have been called pining. The
time was approaching when she would have to undergo the stress of
childbirth for a fourth time, and that apparently did not tend to raise
her spirits.

'I don't think I shall get over it this time!' she said one day.

'Pooh! what childish foreboding! Why shouldn't it be as well now as
ever?'

She shook her head. 'I feel almost sure I am going to die; and I should
be glad, if it were not for Nelly, and Frank, and Tiny.'

'And me!'

'You'll soon find somebody to fill my place,' she murmured, with a sad
smile. 'And you'll have a perfect right to; I assure you of that.'

'Ell, you are not thinking still about that-poetical friend of yours?'

She neither admitted nor denied the charge. 'I am not going to get over
my illness this time,' she reiterated. 'Something tells me I shan't.'

This view of things was rather a bad beginning, as it usually is; and,
in fact, six weeks later, in the month of May, she was lying in her
room, pulseless and bloodless, with hardly strength enough left to
follow up one feeble breath with another, the infant for whose
unnecessary life she was slowly parting with her own being fat and well.
Just before her death she spoke to Marchmill softly:-

'Will, I want to confess to you the entire circumstances of that-about
you know what-that time we visited Solentsea. I can't tell what
possessed me-how I could forget you so, my husband! But I had got into a
morbid state: I thought you had been unkind; that you had neglected me;
that you weren't up to my intellectual level, while he was, and far
above it. I wanted a fuller appreciator, perhaps, rather than another
lover-'

She could get no further then for very exhaustion; and she went off in
sudden collapse a few hours later, without having said anything more to
her husband on the subject of her love for the poet. William Marchmill,
in truth, like most husbands of several years' standing, was little
disturbed by retrospective jealousies, and had not shown the least
anxiety to press her for confessions concerning a man dead and gone
beyond any power of inconveniencing him more.

But when she had been buried a couple of years it chanced one day that,
in turning over some forgotten papers that he wished to destroy before
his second wife entered the house, he lighted on a lock of hair in an
envelope, with the photograph of the deceased poet, a date being written
on the back in his late wife's hand. It was that of the time they spent
at Solentsea.

Marchmill looked long and musingly at the hair and portrait, for
something struck him. Fetching the little boy who had been the death of
his mother, now a noisy toddler, he took him on his knee, held the lock
of hair against the child's head, and set up the photograph on the table
behind, so that he could closely compare the features each countenance
presented. There were undoubtedly strong traces of resemblance; the
dreamy and peculiar expression of the poet's face sat, as the
transmitted idea, upon the child's, and the hair was of the same hue.

'I'm damned if I didn't think so!' murmured Marchmill. 'Then she did
play me false with that fellow at the lodgings! Let me see: the dates-
the second week in August . . . the third week in May . . . Yes . . .
yes . . . Get away, you poor little brat! You are nothing to me!' 1893.



THE THREE STRANGERS

Among the few features of agricultural England which retain an
appearance but little modified by the lapse of centuries, may be
reckoned the high, grassy and furzy downs, coombs, or ewe-leases, as
they are indifferently called, that fill a large area of certain
counties in the south and south-west. If any mark of human occupation is
met with hereon, it usually takes the form of the solitary cottage of
some shepherd.

Fifty years ago such a lonely cottage stood on such a down, and may
possibly be standing there now. In spite of its loneliness, however, the
spot, by actual measurement, was not more than five miles from a county-
town. Yet that affected it little. Five miles of irregular upland,
during the long inimical seasons, with their sleets, snows, rains, and
mists, afford withdrawing space enough to isolate a Timon or a
Nebuchadnezzar; much less, in fair weather, to please that less
repellent tribe, the poets, philosophers, artists, and others who
'conceive and meditate of pleasant things.'

Some old earthen camp or barrow, some clump of trees, at least some
starved fragment of ancient hedge is usually taken advantage of in the
erection of these forlorn dwellings. But, in the present case, such a
kind of shelter had been disregarded. Higher Crowstairs, as the house
was called, stood quite detached and undefended. The only reason for its
precise situation seemed to be the crossing of two footpaths at right
angles hard by, which may have crossed there and thus for a good five
hundred years. Hence the house was exposed to the elements on all sides.
But, though the wind up here blew unmistakably when it did blow, and the
rain hit hard whenever it fell, the various weathers of the winter
season were not quite so formidable on the coomb as they were imagined
to be by dwellers on low ground. The raw rimes were not so pernicious as
in the hollows, and the frosts were scarcely so severe. When the
shepherd and his family who tenanted the house were pitied for their
sufferings from the exposure, they said that upon the whole they were
less inconvenienced by 'wuzzes and flames' (hoarses and phlegms) than
when they had lived by the stream of a snug neighbouring valley.

The night of March 28, 182-, was precisely one of the nights that were
wont to call forth these expressions of commiseration. The level
rainstorm smote walls, slopes, and hedges like the clothyard shafts of
Senlac and Crecy. Such sheep and outdoor animals as had no shelter stood
with their buttocks to the winds; while the tails of little birds trying
to roost on some scraggy thorn were blown inside-out like umbrellas. The
gable-end of the cottage was stained with wet, and the eavesdroppings
flapped against the wall. Yet never was commiseration for the shepherd
more misplaced. For that cheerful rustic was entertaining a large party
in glorification of the christening of his second girl.

The guests had arrived before the rain began to fall, and they were all
now assembled in the chief or living room of the dwelling. A glance into
the apartment at eight o'clock on this eventful evening would have
resulted in the opinion that it was as cosy and comfortable a nook as
could be wished for in boisterous weather. The calling of its inhabitant
was proclaimed by a number of highly-polished sheep-crooks without stems
that were hung ornamentally over the fireplace, the curl of each shining
crook varying from the antiquated type engraved in the patriarchal
pictures of old family Bibles to the most approved fashion of the last
local sheep-fair. The room was lighted by half-a-dozen candles, having
wicks only a trifle smaller than the grease which enveloped them, in
candlesticks that were never used but at high-days, holy-days, and
family feasts. The lights were scattered about the room, two of them
standing on the chimney-piece. This position of candles was in itself
significant. Candles on the chimney-piece always meant a party.

On the hearth, in front of a back-brand to give substance, blazed a fire
of thorns, that crackled 'like the laughter of the fool.'

Nineteen persons were gathered here. Of these, five women, wearing gowns
of various bright hues, sat in chairs along the wall; girls shy and not
shy filled the window-bench; four men, including Charley Jake the hedge-
carpenter, Elijah New the parish-clerk, and John Pitcher, a neighbouring
dairyman, the shepherd's father-in-law, lolled in the settle; a young
man and maid, who were blushing over tentative pourparlers on a life-
companionship, sat beneath the corner-cupboard; and an elderly engaged
man of fifty or upward moved restlessly about from spots where his
betrothed was not to the spot where she was. Enjoyment was pretty
general, and so much the more prevailed in being unhampered by
conventional restrictions. Absolute confidence in each other's good
opinion begat perfect ease, while the finishing stroke of manner,
amounting to a truly princely serenity, was lent to the majority by the
absence of any expression or trait denoting that they wished to get on
in the world, enlarge their minds, or do any eclipsing thing whatever-
which nowadays so generally nips the bloom and bonhomie of all except
the two extremes of the social scale.

Shepherd Fennel had married well, his wife being a dairyman's daughter
from a vale at a distance, who brought fifty guineas in her pocket-and
kept them there, till they should be required for ministering to the
needs of a coming family. This frugal woman had been somewhat exercised
as to the character that should be given to the gathering. A sit-still
party had its advantages; but an undisturbed position of ease in chairs
and settles was apt to lead on the men to such an unconscionable deal of
toping that they would sometimes fairly drink the house dry. A dancing-
party was the alternative; but this, while avoiding the foregoing
objection on the score of good drink, had a counterbalancing
disadvantage in the matter of good victuals, the ravenous appetites
engendered by the exercise causing immense havoc in the buttery.
Shepherdess Fennel fell back upon the intermediate plan of mingling
short dances with short periods of talk and singing, so as to hinder any
ungovernable rage in either. But this scheme was entirely confined to
her own gentle mind: the shepherd himself was in the mood to exhibit the
most reckless phases of hospitality.

The fiddler was a boy of those parts, about twelve years of age, who had
a wonderful dexterity in jigs and reels, though his fingers were so
small and short as to necessitate a constant shifting for the high
notes, from which he scrambled back to the first position with sounds
not of unmixed purity of tone. At seven the shrill tweedle-dee of this
youngster had begun, accompanied by a booming ground-bass from Elijah
New, the parish-clerk, who had thoughtfully brought with him his
favourite musical instrument, the serpent. Dancing was instantaneous,
Mrs. Fennel privately enjoining the players on no account to let the
dance exceed the length of a quarter of an hour.

But Elijah and the boy, in the excitement of their position, quite
forgot the injunction. Moreover, Oliver Giles, a man of seventeen, one
of the dancers, who was enamoured of his partner, a fair girl of thirty-
three rolling years, had recklessly handed a new crown-piece to the
musicians, as a bribe to keep going as long as they had muscle and wind.
Mrs. Fennel, seeing the steam begin to generate on the countenances of
her guests, crossed over and touched the fiddler's elbow and put her
hand on the serpent's mouth. But they took no notice, and fearing she
might lose her character of genial hostess if she were to interfere too
markedly, she retired and sat down helpless. And so the dance whizzed on
with cumulative fury, the performers moving in their planet-like
courses, direct and retrograde, from apogee to perigee, till the hand of
the well-kicked clock at the bottom of the room had travelled over the
circumference of an hour.

While these cheerful events were in course of enactment within Fennel's
pastoral dwelling, an incident having considerable bearing on the party
had occurred in the gloomy night without. Mrs. Fennel's concern about
the growing fierceness of the dance corresponded in point of time with
the ascent of a human figure to the solitary hill of Higher Crowstairs
from the direction of the distant town. This personage strode on through
the rain without a pause, following the little-worn path which, further
on in its course, skirted the shepherd's cottage.

It was nearly the time of full moon, and on this account, though the sky
was lined with a uniform sheet of dripping cloud, ordinary objects out
of doors were readily visible. The sad wan light revealed the lonely
pedestrian to be a man of supple frame; his gait suggested that he had
somewhat passed the period of perfect and instinctive agility, though
not so far as to be otherwise than rapid of motion when occasion
required. At a rough guess, he might have been about forty years of age.
He appeared tall, but a recruiting sergeant, or other person accustomed
to the judging of men's heights by the eye, would have discerned that
this was chiefly owing to his gauntness, and that he was not more than
five-feet-eight or nine.

Notwithstanding the regularity of his tread, there was caution in it, as
in that of one who mentally feels his way; and despite the fact that it
was not a black coat nor a dark garment of any sort that he wore, there
was something about him which suggested that he naturally belonged to
the black-coated tribes of men. His clothes were of fustian, and his
boots hobnailed, yet in his progress he showed not the mud-accustomed
bearing of hobnailed and fustianed peasantry.

By the time that he had arrived abreast of the shepherd's premises the
rain came down, or rather came along, with yet more determined violence.
The outskirts of the little settlement partially broke the force of wind
and rain, and this induced him to stand still. The most salient of the
shepherd's domestic erections was an empty sty at the forward corner of
his hedgeless garden, for in these latitudes the principle of masking
the homelier features of your establishment by a conventional frontage
was unknown. The traveller's eye was attracted to this small building by
the pallid shine of the wet slates that covered it. He turned aside,
and, finding it empty, stood under the pent-roof for shelter.

While he stood, the boom of the serpent within the adjacent house, and
the lesser strains of the fiddler, reached the spot as an accompaniment
to the surging hiss of the flying rain on the sod, its louder beating on
the cabbage-leaves of the garden, on the eight or ten beehives just
discernible by the path, and its dripping from the eaves into a row of
buckets and pans that had been placed under the walls of the cottage.
For at Higher Crowstairs, as at all such elevated domiciles, the grand
difficulty of housekeeping was an insufficiency of water; and a casual
rainfall was utilized by turning out, as catchers, every utensil that
the house contained. Some queer stories might be told of the
contrivances for economy in suds and dish-waters that are absolutely
necessitated in upland habitations during the droughts of summer. But at
this season there were no such exigencies; a mere acceptance of what the
skies bestowed was sufficient for an abundant store.

At last the notes of the serpent ceased and the house was silent. This
cessation of activity aroused the solitary pedestrian from the reverie
into which he had lapsed, and, emerging from the shed, with an
apparently new intention, he walked up the path to the house-door.
Arrived here, his first act was to kneel down on a large stone beside
the row of vessels, and to drink a copious draught from one of them.
Having quenched his thirst he rose and lifted his hand to knock, but
paused with his eye upon the panel. Since the dark surface of the wood
revealed absolutely nothing, it was evident that he must be mentally
looking through the door, as if he wished to measure thereby all the
possibilities that a house of this sort might include, and how they
might bear upon the question of his entry.

In his indecision he turned and surveyed the scene around. Not a soul
was anywhere visible. The garden-path stretched downward from his feet,
gleaming like the track of a snail; the roof of the little well (mostly
dry), the well-cover, the top rail of the garden-gate, were varnished
with the same dull liquid glaze; while, far away in the vale, a faint
whiteness of more than usual extent showed that the rivers were high in
the meads. Beyond all this winked a few bleared lamplights through the
beating drops-lights that denoted the situation of the county-town from
which he had appeared to come. The absence of all notes of life in that
direction seemed to clinch his intentions, and he knocked at the door.

Within, a desultory chat had taken the place of movement and musical
sound. The hedge-carpenter was suggesting a song to the company, which
nobody just then was inclined to undertake, so that the knock afforded a
not unwelcome diversion.

'Walk in!' said the shepherd promptly.

The latch clicked upward, and out of the night our pedestrian appeared
upon the door-mat. The shepherd arose, snuffed two of the nearest
candles, and turned to look at him.

Their light disclosed that the stranger was dark in complexion and not
unprepossessing as to feature. His hat, which for a moment he did not
remove, hung low over his eyes, without concealing that they were large,
open, and determined, moving with a flash rather than a glance round the
room. He seemed pleased with his survey, and, baring his shaggy head,
said, in a rich deep voice, 'The rain is so heavy, friends, that I ask
leave to come in and rest awhile.'

'To be sure, stranger,' said the shepherd. 'And faith, you've been lucky
in choosing your time, for we are having a bit of a fling for a glad
cause-though, to be sure, a man could hardly wish that glad cause to
happen more than once a year.'

'Nor less,' spoke up a woman. 'For 'tis best to get your family over and
done with, as soon as you can, so as to be all the earlier out of the
fag o't.'

'And what may be this glad cause?' asked the stranger.

'A birth and christening,' said the shepherd.

The stranger hoped his host might not be made unhappy either by too many
or too few of such episodes, and being invited by a gesture to a pull at
the mug, he readily acquiesced. His manner, which, before entering, had
been so dubious, was now altogether that of a careless and candid man.

'Late to be traipsing athwart this coomb-hey?' said the engaged man of
fifty.

'Late it is, master, as you say.-I'll take a seat in the chimney-corner,
if you have nothing to urge against it, ma'am; for I am a little moist
on the side that was next the rain.'

Mrs. Shepherd Fennel assented, and made room for the self-invited comer,
who, having got completely inside the chimney-corner, stretched out his
legs and his arms with the expansiveness of a person quite at home.

'Yes, I am rather cracked in the vamp,' he said freely, seeing that the
eyes of the shepherd's wife fell upon his boots, 'and I am not well
fitted either. I have had some rough times lately, and have been forced
to pick up what I can get in the way of wearing, but I must find a suit
better fit for working-days when I reach home.'

'One of hereabouts?' she inquired.

'Not quite that-further up the country.'

'I thought so. And so be I; and by your tongue you come from my
neighbourhood.'

'But you would hardly have heard of me,' he said quickly. 'My time would
be long before yours, ma'am, you see.'

This testimony to the youthfulness of his hostess had the effect of
stopping her cross-examination.

'There is only one thing more wanted to make me happy,' continued the
new-comer. 'And that is a little baccy, which I am sorry to say I am out
of.'

'I'll fill your pipe,' said the shepherd.

'I must ask you to lend me a pipe likewise.'

'A smoker, and no pipe about 'ee?'

'I have dropped it somewhere on the road.'

The shepherd filled and handed him a new clay pipe, saying, as he did
so, 'Hand me your baccy-box-I'll fill that too, now I am about it.'

The man went through the movement of searching his pockets.

'Lost that too?' said his entertainer, with some surprise.

'I am afraid so,' said the man with some confusion. 'Give it to me in a
screw of paper.' Lighting his pipe at the candle with a suction that
drew the whole flame into the bowl, he resettled himself in the corner
and bent his looks upon the faint steam from his damp legs, as if he
wished to say no more.

Meanwhile the general body of guests had been taking little notice of
this visitor by reason of an absorbing discussion in which they were
engaged with the band about a tune for the next dance. The matter being
settled, they were about to stand up when an interruption came in the
shape of another knock at the door.

At sound of the same the man in the chimney-corner took up the poker and
began stirring the brands as if doing it thoroughly were the one aim of
his existence; and a second time the shepherd said, 'Walk in!' In a
moment another man stood upon the straw-woven door-mat. He too was a
stranger.

This individual was one of a type radically different from the first.
There was more of the commonplace in his manner, and a certain jovial
cosmopolitanism sat upon his features. He was several years older than
the first arrival, his hair being slightly frosted, his eyebrows
bristly, and his whiskers cut back from his cheeks. His face was rather
full and flabby, and yet it was not altogether a face without power. A
few grog-blossoms marked the neighbourhood of his nose. He flung back
his long drab greatcoat, revealing that beneath it he wore a suit of
cinder-gray shade throughout, large heavy seals, of some metal or other
that would take a polish, dangling from his fob as his only personal
ornament. Shaking the water-drops from his low-crowned glazed hat, he
said, 'I must ask for a few minutes' shelter, comrades, or I shall be
wetted to my skin before I get to Casterbridge.'

'Make yourself at home, master,' said the shepherd, perhaps a trifle
less heartily than on the first occasion. Not that Fennel had the least
tinge of niggardliness in his composition; but the room was far from
large, spare chairs were not numerous, and damp companions were not
altogether desirable at close quarters for the women and girls in their
bright-coloured gowns.

However, the second comer, after taking off his greatcoat, and hanging
his hat on a nail in one of the ceiling-beams as if he had been
specially invited to put it there, advanced and sat down at the table.
This had been pushed so closely into the chimney-corner, to give all
available room to the dancers, that its inner edge grazed the elbow of
the man who had ensconced himself by the fire; and thus the two
strangers were brought into close companionship. They nodded to each
other by way of breaking the ice of unacquaintance, and the first
stranger handed his neighbour the family mug-a huge vessel of brown
ware, having its upper edge worn away like a threshold by the rub of
whole generations of thirsty lips that had gone the way of all flesh,
and bearing the following inscription burnt upon its rotund side in
yellow letters

THERE IS NO FUN UNTiLL i CUM.

The other man, nothing loth, raised the mug to his lips, and drank on,
and on, and on-till a curious blueness overspread the countenance of the
shepherd's wife, who had regarded with no little surprise the first
stranger's free offer to the second of what did not belong to him to
dispense.

'I knew it!' said the toper to the shepherd with much satisfaction.
'When I walked up your garden before coming in, and saw the hives all of
a row, I said to myself; "Where there's bees there's honey, and where
there's honey there's mead." But mead of such a truly comfortable sort
as this I really didn't expect to meet in my older days.' He took yet
another pull at the mug, till it assumed an ominous elevation.

'Glad you enjoy it!' said the shepherd warmly.

'It is goodish mead,' assented Mrs. Fennel, with an absence of
enthusiasm which seemed to say that it was possible to buy praise for
one's cellar at too heavy a price. 'It is trouble enough to make-and
really I hardly think we shall make any more. For honey sells well, and
we ourselves can make shift with a drop o' small mead and metheglin for
common use from the comb-washings.'

'O, but you'll never have the heart!' reproachfully cried the stranger
in cinder-gray, after taking up the mug a third time and setting it down
empty. 'I love mead, when 'tis old like this, as I love to go to church
o' Sundays, or to relieve the needy any day of the week.'

'Ha, ha, ha!' said the man in the chimney-corner, who, in spite of the
taciturnity induced by the pipe of tobacco, could not or would not
refrain from this slight testimony to his comrade's humour.

Now the old mead of those days, brewed of the purest first-year or
maiden honey, four pounds to the gallon-with its due complement of white
of eggs, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, mace, rosemary, yeast, and processes
of working, bottling, and cellaring-tasted remarkably strong; but it did
not taste so strong as it actually was. Hence, presently, the stranger
in cinder-gray at the table, moved by its creeping influence, unbuttoned
his waistcoat, threw himself back in his chair, spread his legs, and
made his presence felt in various ways.

'Well, well, as I say,' he resumed, 'I am going to Casterbridge, and to
Casterbridge I must go. I should have been almost there by this time;
but the rain drove me into your dwelling, and I'm not sorry for it.'

'You don't live in Casterbridge?' said the shepherd.

'Not as yet; though I shortly mean to move there.'

'Going to set up in trade, perhaps?'

'No, no,' said the shepherd's wife. 'It is easy to see that the
gentleman is rich, and don't want to work at anything.'

The cinder-gray stranger paused, as if to consider whether he would
accept that definition of himself. He presently rejected it by
answering, 'Rich is not quite the word for me, dame. I do work, and I
must work. And even if I only get to Casterbridge by midnight I must
begin work there at eight to-morrow morning. Yes, het or wet, blow or
snow, famine or sword, my day's work to-morrow must be done.'

'Poor man! Then, in spite o' seeming, you be worse off than we?' replied
the shepherd's wife.

''Tis the nature of my trade, men and maidens. 'Tis the nature of my
trade more than my poverty . . . But really and truly I must up and off,
or I shan't get a lodging in the town.' However, the speaker did not
move, and directly added, 'There's time for one more draught of
friendship before I go; and I'd perform it at once if the mug were not
dry.'

'Here's a mug o' small,' said Mrs. Fennel. 'Small, we call it, though to
be sure 'tis only the first wash o' the combs.'

'No,' said the stranger disdainfully. 'I won't spoil your first kindness
by partaking o' your second.'

'Certainly not,' broke in Fennel. 'We don't increase and multiply every
day, and I'll fill the mug again.' He went away to the dark place under
the stairs where the barrel stood. The shepherdess followed him.

'Why should you do this?' she said reproachfully, as soon as they were
alone. 'He's emptied it once, though it held enough for ten people; and
now he's not contented wi' the small, but must needs call for more o'
the strong! And a stranger unbeknown to any of us. For my part, I don't
like the look o' the man at all.'

'But he's in the house, my honey; and 'tis a wet night, and a
christening. Daze it, what's a cup of mead more or less? There'll be
plenty more next bee-burning.'

'Very well-this time, then,' she answered, looking wistfully at the
barrel. 'But what is the man's calling, and where is he one of; that he
should come in and join us like this?'

'I don't know. I'll ask him again.'

The catastrophe of having the mug drained dry at one pull by the
stranger in cinder-gray was effectually guarded against this time by
Mrs. Fennel. She poured out his allowance in a small cup, keeping the
large one at a discreet distance from him. When he had tossed off his
portion the shepherd renewed his inquiry about the stranger's
occupation.

The latter did not immediately reply, and the man in the chimney-corner,
with sudden demonstrativeness, said, 'Anybody may know my trade-I'm a
wheelwright.'

'A very good trade for these parts,' said the shepherd.

'And anybody may know mine-if they've the sense to find it out,' said
the stranger in cinder-gray.

'You may generally tell what a man is by his claws,' observed the hedge-
carpenter, looking at his own hands. 'My fingers be as full of thorns as
an old pin-cushion is of pins.'

The hands of the man in the chimney-corner instinctively sought the
shade, and he gazed into the fire as he resumed his pipe. The man at the
table took up the hedge-carpenter's remark, and added smartly, 'True;
but the oddity of my trade is that, instead of setting a mark upon me,
it sets a mark upon my customers.'

No observation being offered by anybody in elucidation of this enigma,
the shepherd's wife once more called for a song. The same obstacles
presented themselves as at the former time-one had no voice, another had
forgotten the first verse. The stranger at the table, whose soul had now
risen to a good working temperature, relieved the difficulty by
exclaiming that, to start the company, he would sing himself. Thrusting
one thumb into the arm-hole of his waistcoat, he waved the other hand in
the air, and, with an extemporizing gaze at the shining sheep-crooks
above the mantelpiece, began:-

'O my trade it is the rarest one, Simple shepherds all -My trade is a
sight to see; For my customers I tie, and take them up on high, And waft
'em to a far countree!'

The room was silent when he had finished the verse-with one exception,
that of the man in the chimney-corner, who, at the singer's word,
'Chorus! 'joined him in a deep bass voice of musical relish -

'And waft 'em to a far countree!'

Oliver Giles, John Pitcher the dairyman, the parish-clerk, the engaged
man of fifty, the row of young women against the wall, seemed lost in
thought not of the gayest kind. The shepherd looked meditatively on the
ground, the shepherdess gazed keenly at the singer, and with some
suspicion; she was doubting whether this stranger were merely singing an
old song from recollection, or was composing one there and then for the
occasion. All were as perplexed at the obscure revelation as the guests
at Belshazzar's Feast, except the man in the chimney-corner, who quietly
said, 'Second verse, stranger,' and smoked on.

The singer thoroughly moistened himself from his lips inwards, and went
on with the next stanza as requested:-

'My tools are but common ones, Simple shepherds all -My tools are no
sight to see: A little hempen string, and a post whereon to swing, Are
implements enough for me!'

Shepherd Fennel glanced round. There was no longer any doubt that the
stranger was answering his question rhythmically. The guests one and all
started back with suppressed exclamations. The young woman engaged to
the man of fifty fainted half-way, and would have proceeded, but finding
him wanting in alacrity for catching her she sat down trembling.

'O, he's the-!' whispered the people in the background, mentioning the
name of an ominous public officer. 'He's come to do it! 'Tis to be at
Casterbridge jail to-morrow-the man for sheep-stealing-the poor clock-
maker we heard of; who used to live away at Shottsford and had no work
to do-Timothy Summers, whose family were a-starving, and so he went out
of Shottsford by the high-road, and took a sheep in open daylight,
defying the farmer and the farmer's wife and the farmer's lad, and every
man jack among 'em. He' (and they nodded towards the stranger of the
deadly trade) 'is come from up the country to do it because there's not
enough to do in his own county-town, and he's got the place here now our
own county man's dead; he's going to live in the same cottage under the
prison wall.'

The stranger in cinder-gray took no notice of this whispered string of
observations, but again wetted his lips. Seeing that his friend in the
chimney-corner was the only one who reciprocated his joviality in any
way, he held out his cup towards that appreciative comrade, who also
held out his own. They cWESSEXlinked together, the eyes of the rest of
the room hanging upon the singer's actions. He parted his lips for the
third verse; but at that moment another knock was audible upon the door.
This time the knock was faint and hesitating.

The company seemed scared; the shepherd looked with consternation
towards the entrance, and it was with some effort that he resisted his
alarmed wife's deprecatory glance, and uttered for the third time the
welcoming words, 'Walk in!'

The door was gently opened, and another man stood upon the mat. He, like
those who had preceded him, was a stranger. This time it was a short,
small personage, of fair complexion, and dressed in a decent suit of
dark clothes.

'Can you tell me the way to-?' he began: when, gazing round the room to
observe the nature of the company amongst whom he had fallen, his eyes
lighted on the stranger in cinder-gray. It was just at the instant when
the latter, who had thrown his mind into his song with such a will that
he scarcely heeded the interruption, silenced all whispers and inquiries
by bursting into his third verse:-

'To-morrow is my working day, Simple shepherds all -To-morrow is a
working day for me: For the farmer's sheep is slain, and the lad who did
it ta'en, And on his soul may God ha' merc-y!'

The stranger in the chimney-corner, waving cups with the singer so
heartily that his mead splashed over on the hearth, repeated in his bass
voice as before:-

'And on his soul may God ha' merc-y!'

All this time the third stranger had been standing in the doorway.
Finding now that he did not come forward or go on speaking, the guests
particularly regarded him. They noticed to their surprise that he stood
before them the picture of abject terror-his knees trembling, his hand
shaking so violently that the door-latch by which he supported himself
rattled audibly: his white lips were parted, and his eyes fixed on the
merry officer of justice in the middle of the room. A moment more and he
had turned, closed the door, and fled.

'What a man can it be?' said the shepherd.

The rest, between the awfulness of their late discovery and the odd
conduct of this third visitor, looked as if they knew not what to think,
and said nothing. Instinctively they withdrew further and further from
the grim gentleman in their midst, whom some of them seemed to take for
the Prince of Darkness himself; till they formed a remote circle, an
empty space of floor being left between them and him -

' . . . circulus, cujus centrum diabolus.'

The room was so silent-though there were more than twenty people in it-
that nothing could be heard but the patter of the rain against the
window-shutters, accompanied by the occasional hiss of a stray drop that
fell down the chimney into the fire, and the steady puffing of the man
in the corner, who had now resumed his pipe of long clay.

The stillness was unexpectedly broken. The distant sound of a gun
reverberated through the air-apparently from the direction of the
county-town.

'Be jiggered!' cried the stranger who had sung the song, jumping up.

'What does that mean?' asked several.

'A prisoner escaped from the jail-that's what it means.'

All listened. The sound was repeated, and none of them spoke but the man
in the chimney-corner, who said quietly, 'I've often been told that in
this county they fire a gun at such times; but I never heard it till
now.'

'I wonder if it is my man?' murmured the personage in cinder-gray.

'Surely it is!' said the shepherd involuntarily. 'And surely we've zeed
him! That little man who looked in at the door by now, and quivered like
a leaf when he zeed ye and heard your song!'

'His teeth chattered, and the breath went out of his body,' said the
dairyman.

'And his heart seemed to sink within him like a stone,' said Oliver
Giles.

'And he bolted as if he'd been shot at,' said the hedge-carpenter.

'True-his teeth chattered, and his heart seemed to sink; and he bolted
as if he'd been shot at,' slowly summed up the man in the chimney-
corner.

'I didn't notice it,' remarked the hangman.

'We were all a-wondering what made him run off in such a fright,'
faltered one of the women against the wall, 'and now 'tis explained!'

The firing of the alarm-gun went on at intervals, low and sullenly, and
their suspicions became a certainty. The sinister gentleman in cinder-
gray roused himself. 'Is there a constable here?' he asked, in thick
tones. 'If so, let him step forward.'

The engaged man of fifty stepped quavering out from the wall, his
betrothed beginning to sob on the back of the chair.

'You are a sworn constable?'

'I be, sir.'

'Then pursue the criminal at once, with assistance, and bring him back
here. He can't have gone far.'

'I will, sir, I will-when I've got my staff. I'll go home and get it,
and come sharp here, and start in a body.'

'Staff!-never mind your staff; the man'll be gone!'

'But I can't do nothing without my staff-can I, William, and John, and
Charles Jake? No; for there's the king's royal crown a painted on en in
yaller and gold, and the lion and the unicorn, so as when I raise en up
and hit my prisoner, 'tis made a lawful blow thereby. I wouldn't 'tempt
to take up a man without my staff-no, not I. If I hadn't the law to gie
me courage, why, instead o' my taking up him he might take up me!'

'Now, I'm a king's man myself; and can give you authority enough for
this,' said the formidable officer in gray. 'Now then, all of ye, be
ready. Have ye any lanterns?'

'Yes-have ye any lanterns?-I demand it!' said the constable.

'And the rest of you able-bodied-'

'Able-bodied men-yes-the rest of ye!' said the constable.

'Have you some good stout staves and pitch-forks-'

'Staves and pitchforks-in the name o' the law! And take 'em in yer hands
and go in quest, and do as we in authority tell ye!'

Thus aroused, the men prepared to give chase. The evidence was, indeed,
though circumstantial, so convincing, that but little argument was
needed to show the shepherd's guests that after what they had seen it
would look very much like connivance if they did not instantly pursue
the unhappy third stranger, who could not as yet have gone more than a
few hundred yards over such uneven country.

A shepherd is always well provided with lanterns; and, lighting these
hastily, and with hurdle-staves in their hands, they poured out of the
door, taking a direction along the crest of the hill, away from the
town, the rain having fortunately a little abated.

Disturbed by the noise, or possibly by unpleasant dreams of her baptism,
the child who had been christened began to cry heart-brokenly in the
room overhead. These notes of grief came down through the chinks of the
floor to the ears of the women below, who jumped up one by one, and
seemed glad of the excuse to ascend and comfort the baby, for the
incidents of the last half-hour greatly oppressed them. Thus in the
space of two or three minutes the room on the ground-floor was deserted
quite.

But it was not for long. Hardly had the sound of footsteps died away
when a man returned round the corner of the house from the direction the
pursuers had taken. Peeping in at the door, and seeing nobody there, he
entered leisurely. It was the stranger of the chimney-corner, who had
gone out with the rest. The motive of his return was shown by his
helping himself to a cut piece of skimmer-cake that lay on a ledge
beside where he had sat, and which he had apparently forgotten to take
with him. He also poured out half a cup more mead from the quantity that
remained, ravenously eating and drinking these as he stood. He had not
finished when another figure came in just as quietly-his friend in
cinder-gray.

'O-you here?' said the latter, smiling. 'I thought you had gone to help
in the capture.' And this speaker also revealed the object of his return
by looking solicitously round for the fascinating mug of old mead.

'And I thought you had gone,' said the other, continuing his skimmer-
cake with some effort.

'Well, on second thoughts, I felt there were enough without me,' said
the first confidentially, 'and such a night as it is, too. Besides, 'tis
the business o' the Government to take care of its criminals-not mine.'

'True; so it is. And I felt as you did, that there were enough without
me.'

'I don't want to break my limbs running over the humps and hollows of
this wild country.'

'Nor I neither, between you and me.'

'These shepherd-people are used to it-simple-minded souls, you know,
stirred up to anything in a moment. They'll have him ready for me before
the morning, and no trouble to me at all.'

'They'll have him, and we shall have saved ourselves all labour in the
matter.'

'True, true. Well, my way is to Casterbridge; and 'tis as much as my
legs will do to take me that far. Going the same way?'

'No, I am sorry to say! I have to get home over there' (he nodded
indefinitely to the right), 'and I feel as you do, that it is quite
enough for my legs to do before bedtime.'

The other had by this time finished the mead in the mug, after which,
shaking hands heartily at the door, and wishing each other well, they
went their several ways.

In the meantime the company of pursuers had reached the end of the
hog's-back elevation which dominated this part of the down. They had
decided on no particular plan of action; and, finding that the man of
the baleful trade was no longer in their company, they seemed quite
unable to form any such plan now. They descended in all directions down
the hill, and straightway several of the party fell into the snare set
by Nature for all misguided midnight ramblers over this part of the
cretaceous formation. The 'lanchets,' or flint slopes, which belted the
escarpment at intervals of a dozen yards, took the less cautious ones
unawares, and losing their footing on the rubbly steep they slid sharply
downwards, the lanterns rolling from their hands to the bottom, and
there lying on their sides till the horn was scorched through.

When they had again gathered themselves together, the shepherd, as the
man who knew the country best, took the lead, and guided them round
these treacherous inclines. The lanterns, which seemed rather to dazzle
their eyes and warn the fugitive than to assist them in the exploration,
were extinguished, due silence was observed; and in this more rational
order they plunged into the vale. It was a grassy, briery, moist defile,
affording some shelter to any person who had sought it; but the party
perambulated it in vain, and ascended on the other side. Here they
wandered apart, and after an interval closed together again to report
progress.

At the second time of closing in they found themselves near a lonely
ash, the single tree on this part of the coomb, probably sown there by a
passing bird some fifty years before. And here, standing a little to one
side of the trunk, as motionless as the trunk itself; appeared the man
they were in quest of; his outline being well defined against the sky
beyond. The band noiselessly drew up and faced him.

'Your money or your life!' said the constable sternly to the still
figure.

'No, no,' whispered John Pitcher. ''Tisn't our side ought to say that.
That's the doctrine of vagabonds like him, and we be on the side of the
law.'

'Well, well,' replied the constable impatiently; 'I must say something,
mustn't I? and if you had all the weight o' this undertaking upon your
mind, perhaps you'd say the wrong thing too!-Prisoner at the bar,
surrender, in the name of the Father-the Crown, I mane!'

The man under the tree seemed now to notice them for the first time,
and, giving them no opportunity whatever for exhibiting their courage,
he strolled slowly towards them. He was, indeed, the little man, the
third stranger; but his trepidation had in a great measure gone.

'Well, travellers,' he said, 'did I hear ye speak to me?'

'You did: you've got to come and be our prisoner at once!' said the
constable. 'We arrest 'ee on the charge of not biding in Casterbridge
jail in a decent proper manner to be hung to-morrow morning. Neighbours,
do your duty, and seize the culpet!'

On hearing the charge, the man seemed enlightened, and, saying not
another word, resigned himself with preternatural civility to the
search-party, who, with their staves in their hands, surrounded him on
all sides, and marched him back towards the shepherd's cottage.

It was eleven o'clock by the time they arrived. The light shining from
the open door, a sound of men's voices within, proclaimed to them as
they approached the house that some new events had arisen in their
absence. On entering they discovered the shepherd's living room to be
invaded by two officers from Casterbridge jail, and a well-known
magistrate who lived at the nearest country-seat, intelligence of the
escape having become generally circulated.

'Gentlemen,' said the constable, 'I have brought back your man-not
without risk and danger; but every one must do his duty! He is inside
this circle of able-bodied persons, who have lent me useful aid,
considering their ignorance of Crown work. Men, bring forward your
prisoner!' And the third stranger was led to the light.

'Who is this?' said one of the officials.

'The man,' said the constable.

'Certainly not,' said the turnkey; and the first corroborated his
statement.

'But how can it be otherwise?' asked the constable. 'Or why was he so
terrified at sight o' the singing instrument of the law who sat there?'
Here he related the strange behaviour of the third stranger on entering
the house during the hangman's song.

'Can't understand it,' said the officer coolly. 'All I know is that it
is not the condemned man. He's quite a different character from this
one; a gauntish fellow, with dark hair and eyes, rather good-looking,
and with a musical bass voice that if you heard it once you'd never
mistake as long as you lived.'

'Why, souls-'twas the man in the chimney-corner!'

'Hey-what?' said the magistrate, coming forward after inquiring
particulars from the shepherd in the background. 'Haven't you got the
man after all?'

'Well, sir,' said the constable, 'he's the man we were in search of,
that's true; and yet he's not the man we were in search of. For the man
we were in search of was not the man we wanted, sir, if you understand
my everyday way; for 'twas the man in the chimney-corner!'

'A pretty kettle of fish altogether!' said the magistrate. 'You had
better start for the other man at once.'

The prisoner now spoke for the first time. The mention of the man in the
chimney-corner seemed to have moved him as nothing else could do. 'Sir,'
he said, stepping forward to the magistrate, 'take no more trouble about
me. The time is come when I may as well speak. I have done nothing; my
crime is that the condemned man is my brother. Early this afternoon I
left home at Shottsford to tramp it all the way to Casterbridge jail to
bid him farewell. I was benighted, and called here to rest and ask the
way. When I opened the door I saw before me the very man, my brother,
that I thought to see in the condemned cell at Casterbridge. He was in
this chimney-corner; and jammed close to him, so that he could not have
got out if he had tried, was the executioner who'd come to take his
life, singing a song about it and not knowing that it was his victim who
was close by, joining in to save appearances. My brother looked a glance
of agony at me, and I knew he meant, "Don't reveal what you see; my life
depends on it." I was so terror-struck that I could hardly stand, and,
not knowing what I did, I turned and hurried away.'

The narrator's manner and tone had the stamp of truth, and his story
made a great impression on all around. 'And do you know where your
brother is at the present time?' asked the magistrate.

'I do not. I have never seen him since I closed this door.'

'I can testify to that, for we've been between ye ever since,' said the
constable.

'Where does he think to fly to?-what is his occupation?'

'He's a watch-and-clock-maker, sir.'

''A said 'a was a wheelwright-a wicked rogue,' said the constable.

'The wheels of clocks and watches he meant, no doubt,' said Shepherd
Fennel. 'I thought his hands were palish for's trade.'

'Well, it appears to me that nothing can be gained by retaining this
poor man in custody,' said the magistrate; 'your business lies with the
other, unquestionably.'

And so the little man was released off-hand; but he looked nothing the
less sad on that account, it being beyond the power of magistrate or
constable to raze out the written troubles in his brain, for they
concerned another whom he regarded with more solicitude than himself.
When this was done, and the man had gone his way, the night was found to
be so far advanced that it was deemed useless to renew the search before
the next morning.

Next day, accordingly, the quest for the clever sheep-stealer became
general and keen, to all appearance at least. But the intended
punishment was cruelly disproportioned to the transgression, and the
sympathy of a great many country-folk in that district was strongly on
the side of the fugitive. Moreover, his marvellous coolness and daring
in hob-and-nobbing with the hangman, under the unprecedented
circumstances of the shepherd's party, won their admiration. So that it
may be questioned if all those who ostensibly made themselves so busy in
exploring woods and fields and lanes were quite so thorough when it came
to the private examination of their own lofts and outhouses. Stories
were afloat of a mysterious figure being occasionally seen in some old
overgrown trackway or other, remote from turnpike roads; but when a
search was instituted in any of these suspected quarters nobody was
found. Thus the days and weeks passed without tidings.

In brief; the bass-voiced man of the chimney-corner was never
recaptured. Some said that he went across the sea, others that he did
not, but buried himself in the depths of a populous city. At any rate,
the gentleman in cinder-gray never did his morning's work at
Casterbridge, nor met anywhere at all, for business purposes, the genial
comrade with whom he had passed an hour of relaxation in the lonely
house on the coomb.

The grass has long been green on the graves of Shepherd Fennel and his
frugal wife; the guests who made up the christening party have mainly
followed their entertainers to the tomb; the baby in whose honour they
all had met is a matron in the sere and yellow leaf. But the arrival of
the three strangers at the shepherd's that night, and the details
connected therewith, is a story as well known as ever in the country
about Higher Crowstairs.

March 1883.



THE WITHERED ARM



CHAPTER I-A LORN MILKMAID

It was an eighty-cow dairy, and the troop of milkers, regular and
supernumerary, were all at work; for, though the time of year was as yet
but early April, the feed lay entirely in water-meadows, and the cows
were 'in full pail.' The hour was about six in the evening, and three-
fourths of the large, red, rectangular animals having been finished off,
there was opportunity for a little conversation.

'He do bring home his bride to-morrow, I hear. They've come as far as
Anglebury to-day.'

The voice seemed to proceed from the belly of the cow called Cherry, but
the speaker was a milking-woman, whose face was buried in the flank of
that motionless beast.

'Hav' anybody seen her?' said another.

There was a negative response from the first. 'Though they say she's a
rosy-cheeked, tisty-tosty little body enough,' she added; and as the
milkmaid spoke she turned her face so that she could glance past her
cow's tail to the other side of the barton, where a thin, fading woman
of thirty milked somewhat apart from the rest.

'Years younger than he, they say,' continued the second, with also a
glance of reflectiveness in the same direction.

'How old do you call him, then?'

'Thirty or so.'

'More like forty,' broke in an old milkman near, in a long white
pinafore or 'wropper,' and with the brim of his hat tied down, so that
he looked like a woman. ''A was born before our Great Weir was builded,
and I hadn't man's wages when I laved water there.'

The discussion waxed so warm that the purr of the milk-streams became
jerky, till a voice from another cow's belly cried with authority, 'Now
then, what the Turk do it matter to us about Farmer Lodge's age, or
Farmer Lodge's new mis'ess? I shall have to pay him nine pound a year
for the rent of every one of these milchers, whatever his age or hers.
Get on with your work, or 'twill be dark afore we have done. The evening
is pinking in a'ready.' This speaker was the dairyman himself; by whom
the milkmaids and men were employed.

Nothing more was said publicly about Farmer Lodge's wedding, but the
first woman murmured under her cow to her next neighbour, ''Tis hard for
she,' signifying the thin worn milkmaid aforesaid.

'O no,' said the second. 'He ha'n't spoke to Rhoda Brook for years.'

When the milking was done they washed their pails and hung them on a
many-forked stand made of the peeled limb of an oak-tree, set upright in
the earth, and resembling a colossal antlered horn. The majority then
dispersed in various directions homeward. The thin woman who had not
spoken was joined by a boy of twelve or thereabout, and the twain went
away up the field also.

Their course lay apart from that of the others, to a lonely spot high
above the water-meads, and not far from the border of Egdon Heath, whose
dark countenance was visible in the distance as they drew nigh to their
home.

'They've just been saying down in barton that your father brings his
young wife home from Anglebury to-morrow,' the woman observed. 'I shall
want to send you for a few things to market, and you'll be pretty sure
to meet 'em.'

'Yes, mother,' said the boy. 'Is father married then?'

'Yes . . . You can give her a look, and tell me what's she's like, if
you do see her.'

'Yes, mother.'

'If she's dark or fair, and if she's tall-as tall as I. And if she seems
like a woman who has ever worked for a living, or one that has been
always well off, and has never done anything, and shows marks of the
lady on her, as I expect she do.'

'Yes.'

They crept up the hill in the twilight, and entered the cottage. It was
built of mud-walls, the surface of which had been washed by many rains
into channels and depressions that left none of the original flat face
visible; while here and there in the thatch above a rafter showed like a
bone protruding through the skin.

She was kneeling down in the chimney-corner, before two pieces of turf
laid together with the heather inwards, blowing at the red-hot ashes
with her breath till the turves flamed. The radiance lit her pale cheek,
and made her dark eyes, that had once been handsome, seem handsome anew.
'Yes,' she resumed, 'see if she is dark or fair, and if you can, notice
if her hands be white; if not, see if they look as though she had ever
done housework, or are milker's hands like mine.'

The boy again promised, inattentively this time, his mother not
observing that he was cutting a notch with his pocket-knife in the
beech-backed chair.



CHAPTER II-THE YOUNG WIFE

The road from Anglebury to Holmstoke is in general level; but there is
one place where a sharp ascent breaks its monotony. Farmers homeward-
bound from the former market-town, who trot all the rest of the way,
walk their horses up this short incline.

The next evening, while the sun was yet bright, a handsome new gig, with
a lemon-coloured body and red wheels, was spinning westward along the
level highway at the heels of a powerful mare. The driver was a yeoman
in the prime of life, cleanly shaven like an actor, his face being toned
to that bluish-vermilion hue which so often graces a thriving farmer's
features when returning home after successful dealings in the town.
Beside him sat a woman, many years his junior-almost, indeed, a girl.
Her face too was fresh in colour, but it was of a totally different
quality-soft and evanescent, like the light under a heap of rose-petals.

Few people travelled this way, for it was not a main road; and the long
white riband of gravel that stretched before them was empty, save of one
small scarce-moving speck, which presently resolved itself into the
figure of boy, who was creeping on at a snail's pace, and continually
looking behind him-the heavy bundle he carried being some excuse for, if
not the reason of, his dilatoriness. When the bouncing gig-party slowed
at the bottom of the incline above mentioned, the pedestrian was only a
few yards in front. Supporting the large bundle by putting one hand on
his hip, he turned and looked straight at the farmer's wife as though he
would read her through and through, pacing along abreast of the horse.

The low sun was full in her face, rendering every feature, shade, and
contour distinct, from the curve of her little nostril to the colour of
her eyes. The farmer, though he seemed annoyed at the boy's persistent
presence, did not order him to get out of the way; and thus the lad
preceded them, his hard gaze never leaving her, till they reached the
top of the ascent, when the farmer trotted on with relief in his
lineaments-having taken no outward notice of the boy whatever.

'How that poor lad stared at me!' said the young wife.

'Yes, dear; I saw that he did.'

'He is one of the village, I suppose?'

'One of the neighbourhood. I think he lives with his mother a mile or
two off.'

'He knows who we are, no doubt?'

'O yes. You must expect to be stared at just at first, my pretty
Gertrude.'

'I do,-though I think the poor boy may have looked at us in the hope we
might relieve him of his heavy load, rather than from curiosity.'

'O no,' said her husband off-handedly. 'These country lads will carry a
hundredweight once they get it on their backs; besides his pack had more
size than weight in it. Now, then, another mile and I shall be able to
show you our house in the distance-if it is not too dark before we get
there.' The wheels spun round, and particles flew from their periphery
as before, till a white house of ample dimensions revealed itself, with
farm-buildings and ricks at the back.

Meanwhile the boy had quickened his pace, and turning up a by-lane some
mile and half short of the white farmstead, ascended towards the leaner
pastures, and so on to the cottage of his mother.

She had reached home after her day's milking at the outlying dairy, and
was washing cabbage at the doorway in the declining light. 'Hold up the
net a moment,' she said, without preface, as the boy came up.

He flung down his bundle, held the edge of the cabbage-net, and as she
filled its meshes with the dripping leaves she went on, 'Well, did you
see her?'

'Yes; quite plain.'

'Is she ladylike?'

'Yes; and more. A lady complete.'

'Is she young?'

'Well, she's growed up, and her ways be quite a woman's.'

'Of course. What colour is her hair and face?'

'Her hair is lightish, and her face as comely as a live doll's.'

'Her eyes, then, are not dark like mine?'

'No-of a bluish turn, and her mouth is very nice and red; and when she
smiles, her teeth show white.'

'Is she tall?' said the woman sharply.

'I couldn't see. She was sitting down.'

'Then do you go to Holmstoke church to-morrow morning: she's sure to be
there. Go early and notice her walking in, and come home and tell me if
she's taller than I.'

'Very well, mother. But why don't you go and see for yourself?'

'I go to see her! I wouldn't look up at her if she were to pass my
window this instant. She was with Mr. Lodge, of course. What did he say
or do?'

'Just the same as usual.'

'Took no notice of you?'

'None.'

Next day the mother put a clean shirt on the boy, and started him off
for Holmstoke church. He reached the ancient little pile when the door
was just being opened, and he was the first to enter. Taking his seat by
the font, he watched all the parishioners file in. The well-to-do Farmer
Lodge came nearly last; and his young wife, who accompanied him, walked
up the aisle with the shyness natural to a modest woman who had appeared
thus for the first time. As all other eyes were fixed upon her, the
youth's stare was not noticed now.

When he reached home his mother said, 'Well?' before he had entered the
room.

'She is not tall. She is rather short,' he replied.

'Ah!' said his mother, with satisfaction.

'But she's very pretty-very. In fact, she's lovely.'

The youthful freshness of the yeoman's wife had evidently made an
impression even on the somewhat hard nature of the boy.

'That's all I want to hear,' said his mother quickly. 'Now, spread the
table-cloth. The hare you caught is very tender; but mind that nobody
catches you.-You've never told me what sort of hands she had.'

'I have never seen 'em. She never took off her gloves.'

'What did she wear this morning?'

'A white bonnet and a silver-coloured gownd. It whewed and whistled so
loud when it rubbed against the pews that the lady coloured up more than
ever for very shame at the noise, and pulled it in to keep it from
touching; but when she pushed into her seat, it whewed more than ever.
Mr. Lodge, he seemed pleased, and his waistcoat stuck out, and his great
golden seals hung like a lord's; but she seemed to wish her noisy gownd
anywhere but on her.'

'Not she! However, that will do now.'

These descriptions of the newly-married couple were continued from time
to time by the boy at his mother's request, after any chance encounter
he had had with them. But Rhoda Brook, though she might easily have seen
young Mrs. Lodge for herself by walking a couple of miles, would never
attempt an excursion towards the quarter where the farmhouse lay.
Neither did she, at the daily milking in the dairyman's yard on Lodge's
outlying second farm, ever speak on the subject of the recent marriage.
The dairyman, who rented the cows of Lodge, and knew perfectly the tall
milkmaid's history, with manly kindliness always kept the gossip in the
cow-barton from annoying Rhoda. But the atmosphere thereabout was full
of the subject during the first days of Mrs. Lodge's arrival; and from
her boy's description and the casual words of the other milkers, Rhoda
Brook could raise a mental image of the unconscious Mrs Lodge that was
realistic as a photograph.



CHAPTER III-A VISION

One night, two or three weeks after the bridal return, when the boy was
gone to bed, Rhoda sat a long time over the turf ashes that she had
raked out in front of her to extinguish them. She contemplated so
intently the new wife, as presented to her in her mind's eye over the
embers, that she forgot the lapse of time. At last, wearied with her
day's work, she too retired.

But the figure which had occupied her so much during this and the
previous days was not to be banished at night. For the first time
Gertrude Lodge visited the supplanted woman in her dreams. Rhoda Brook
dreamed-since her assertion that she really saw, before falling asleep,
was not to be believed-that the young wife, in the pale silk dress and
white bonnet, but with features shockingly distorted, and wrinkled as by
age, was sitting upon her chest as she lay. The pressure of Mrs. Lodge's
person grew heavier; the blue eyes peered cruelly into her face; and
then the figure thrust forward its left hand mockingly, so as to make
the wedding-ring it wore glitter in Rhoda's eyes. Maddened mentally, and
nearly suffocated by pressure, the sleeper struggled; the incubus, still
regarding her, withdrew to the foot of the bed, only, however, to come
forward by degrees, resume her seat, and flash her left hand as before.

Gasping for breath, Rhoda, in a last desperate effort, swung out her
right hand, seized the confronting spectre by its obtrusive left arm,
and whirled it backward to the floor, starting up herself as she did so
with a low cry.

'O, merciful heaven!' she cried, sitting on the edge of the bed in a
cold sweat; 'that was not a dream-she was here!'

She could feel her antagonist's arm within her grasp even now-the very
flesh and bone of it, as it seemed. She looked on the floor whither she
had whirled the spectre, but there was nothing to be seen.

Rhoda Brook slept no more that night, and when she went milking at the
next dawn they noticed how pale and haggard she looked. The milk that
she drew quivered into the pail; her hand had not calmed even yet, and
still retained the feel of the arm. She came home to breakfast as
wearily as if it had been suppertime.

'What was that noise in your chimmer, mother, last night?' said her son.
'You fell off the bed, surely?'

'Did you hear anything fall? At what time?'

'Just when the clock struck two.'

She could not explain, and when the meal was done went silently about
her household work, the boy assisting her, for he hated going afield on
the farms, and she indulged his reluctance. Between eleven and twelve
the garden-gate clicked, and she lifted her eyes to the window. At the
bottom of the garden, within the gate, stood the woman of her vision.
Rhoda seemed transfixed.

'Ah, she said she would come!' exclaimed the boy, also observing her.

'Said so-when? How does she know us?'

'I have seen and spoken to her. I talked to her yesterday.'

'I told you,' said the mother, flushing indignantly, 'never to speak to
anybody in that house, or go near the place.'

'I did not speak to her till she spoke to me. And I did not go near the
place. I met her in the road.'

'What did you tell her?'

'Nothing. She said, "Are you the poor boy who had to bring the heavy
load from market?" And she looked at my boots, and said they would not
keep my feet dry if it came on wet, because they were so cracked. I told
her I lived with my mother, and we had enough to do to keep ourselves,
and that's how it was; and she said then, "I'll come and bring you some
better boots, and see your mother." She gives away things to other folks
in the meads besides us.'

Mrs. Lodge was by this time close to the door-not in her silk, as Rhoda
had seen her in the bed-chamber, but in a morning hat, and gown of
common light material, which became her better than silk. On her arm she
carried a basket.

The impression remaining from the night's experience was still strong.
Brook had almost expected to see the wrinkles, the scorn, and the
cruelty on her visitor's face.

She would have escaped an interview, had escape been possible. There
was, however, no backdoor to the cottage, and in an instant the boy had
lifted the latch to Mrs. Lodge's gentle knock.

'I see I have come to the right house,' said she, glancing at the lad,
and smiling. 'But I was not sure till you opened the door.'

The figure and action were those of the phantom; but her voice was so
indescribably sweet, her glance so winning, her smile so tender, so
unlike that of Rhoda's midnight visitant, that the latter could hardly
believe the evidence of her senses. She was truly glad that she had not
hidden away in sheer aversion, as she had been inclined to do. In her
basket Mrs. Lodge brought the pair of boots that she had promised to the
boy, and other useful articles.

At these proofs of a kindly feeling towards her and hers Rhoda's heart
reproached her bitterly. This innocent young thing should have her
blessing and not her curse. When she left them a light seemed gone from
the dwelling. Two days later she came again to know if the boots fitted;
and less than a fortnight after that paid Rhoda another call. On this
occasion the boy was absent.

'I walk a good deal,' said Mrs. Lodge, 'and your house is the nearest
outside our own parish. I hope you are well. You don't look quite well.'

Rhoda said she was well enough; and, indeed, though the paler of the
two, there was more of the strength that endures in her well-defined
features and large frame, than in the soft-cheeked young woman before
her. The conversation became quite confidential as regarded their powers
and weaknesses; and when Mrs. Lodge was leaving, Rhoda said, 'I hope you
will find this air agree with you, ma'am, and not suffer from the damp
of the water-meads.'

The younger one replied that there was not much doubt of it, her general
health being usually good. 'Though, now you remind me,' she added, 'I
have one little ailment which puzzles me. It is nothing serious, but I
cannot make it out.'

She uncovered her left hand and arm; and their outline confronted
Rhoda's gaze as the exact original of the limb she had beheld and seized
in her dream. Upon the pink round surface of the arm were faint marks of
an unhealthy colour, as if produced by a rough grasp. Rhoda's eyes
became riveted on the discolorations; she fancied that she discerned in
them the shape of her own four fingers.

'How did it happen?' she said mechanically.

'I cannot tell,' replied Mrs. Lodge, shaking her head. 'One night when I
was sound asleep, dreaming I was away in some strange place, a pain
suddenly shot into my arm there, and was so keen as to awaken me. I must
have struck it in the daytime, I suppose, though I don't remember doing
so.' She added, laughing, 'I tell my dear husband that it looks just as
if he had flown into a rage and struck me there. O, I daresay it will
soon disappear.'

'Ha, ha! Yes . . . On what night did it come?'

Mrs. Lodge considered, and said it would be a fortnight ago on the
morrow. 'When I awoke I could not remember where I was,' she added,
'till the clock striking two reminded me.'

She had named the night and the hour of Rhoda's spectral encounter, and
Brook felt like a guilty thing. The artless disclosure startled her; she
did not reason on the freaks of coincidence; and all the scenery of that
ghastly night returned with double vividness to her mind.

'O, can it be,' she said to herself, when her visitor had departed,
'that I exercise a malignant power over people against my own will?' She
knew that she had been slily called a witch since her fall; but never
having understood why that particular stigma had been attached to her,
it had passed disregarded. Could this be the explanation, and had such
things as this ever happened before?



CHAPTER IV-A SUGGESTION

The summer drew on, and Rhoda Brook almost dreaded to meet Mrs. Lodge
again, notwithstanding that her feeling for the young wife amounted
well-nigh to affection. Something in her own individuality seemed to
convict Rhoda of crime. Yet a fatality sometimes would direct the steps
of the latter to the outskirts of Holmstoke whenever she left her house
for any other purpose than her daily work; and hence it happened that
their next encounter was out of doors. Rhoda could not avoid the subject
which had so mystified her, and after the first few words she stammered,
'I hope your-arm is well again, ma'am?' She had perceived with
consternation that Gertrude Lodge carried her left arm stiffly.

'No; it is not quite well. Indeed it is no better at all; it is rather
worse. It pains me dreadfully sometimes.'

'Perhaps you had better go to a doctor, ma'am.'

She replied that she had already seen a doctor. Her husband had insisted
upon her going to one. But the surgeon had not seemed to understand the
afflicted limb at all; he had told her to bathe it in hot water, and she
had bathed it, but the treatment had done no good.

'Will you let me see it?' said the milkwoman.

Mrs. Lodge pushed up her sleeve and disclosed the place, which was a few
inches above the wrist. As soon as Rhoda Brook saw it, she could hardly
preserve her composure. There was nothing of the nature of a wound, but
the arm at that point had a shrivelled look, and the outline of the four
fingers appeared more distinct than at the former time. Moreover, she
fancied that they were imprinted in precisely the relative position of
her clutch upon the arm in the trance; the first finger towards
Gertrude's wrist, and the fourth towards her elbow.

What the impress resembled seemed to have struck Gertrude herself since
their last meeting. 'It looks almost like finger-marks,' she said;
adding with a faint laugh, 'my husband says it is as if some witch, or
the devil himself, had taken hold of me there, and blasted the flesh.'

Rhoda shivered. 'That's fancy,' she said hurriedly. 'I wouldn't mind it,
if I were you.'

'I shouldn't so much mind it,' said the younger, with hesitation, 'if-if
I hadn't a notion that it makes my husband-dislike me-no, love me less.
Men think so much of personal appearance.'

'Some do-he for one.'

'Yes; and he was very proud of mine, at first.'

'Keep your arm covered from his sight.'

'Ah-he knows the disfigurement is there!' She tried to hide the tears
that filled her eyes.

'Well, ma'am, I earnestly hope it will go away soon.'

And so the milkwoman's mind was chained anew to the subject by a horrid
sort of spell as she returned home. The sense of having been guilty of
an act of malignity increased, affect as she might to ridicule her
superstition. In her secret heart Rhoda did not altogether object to a
slight diminution of her successor's beauty, by whatever means it had
come about; but she did not wish to inflict upon her physical pain. For
though this pretty young woman had rendered impossible any reparation
which Lodge might have made Rhoda for his past conduct, everything like
resentment at the unconscious usurpation had quite passed away from the
elder's mind.

If the sweet and kindly Gertrude Lodge only knew of the scene in the
bed-chamber, what would she think? Not to inform her of it seemed
treachery in the presence of her friendliness; but tell she could not of
her own accord-neither could she devise a remedy.

She mused upon the matter the greater part of the night; and the next
day, after the morning milking, set out to obtain another glimpse of
Gertrude Lodge if she could, being held to her by a gruesome
fascination. By watching the house from a distance the milkmaid was
presently able to discern the farmer's wife in a ride she was taking
alone-probably to join her husband in some distant field. Mrs. Lodge
perceived her, and cantered in her direction.

'Good morning, Rhoda!' Gertrude said, when she had come up. 'I was going
to call.'

Rhoda noticed that Mrs. Lodge held the reins with some difficulty.

'I hope-the bad arm,' said Rhoda.

'They tell me there is possibly one way by which I might be able to find
out the cause, and so perhaps the cure, of it,' replied the other
anxiously. 'It is by going to some clever man over in Egdon Heath. They
did not know if he was still alive-and I cannot remember his name at
this moment; but they said that you knew more of his movements than
anybody else hereabout, and could tell me if he were still to be
consulted. Dear me-what was his name? But you know.'

'Not Conjuror Trendle?' said her thin companion, turning pale.

'Trendle-yes. Is he alive?'

'I believe so,' said Rhoda, with reluctance.

'Why do you call him conjuror?'

'Well-they say-they used to say he was a-he had powers other folks have
not.'

'O, how could my people be so superstitious as to recommend a man of
that sort! I thought they meant some medical man. I shall think no more
of him.'

Rhoda looked relieved, and Mrs. Lodge rode on. The milkwoman had
inwardly seen, from the moment she heard of her having been mentioned as
a reference for this man, that there must exist a sarcastic feeling
among the work-folk that a sorceress would know the whereabouts of the
exorcist. They suspected her, then. A short time ago this would have
given no concern to a woman of her common-sense. But she had a haunting
reason to be superstitious now; and she had been seized with sudden
dread that this Conjuror Trendle might name her as the malignant
influence which was blasting the fair person of Gertrude, and so lead
her friend to hate her for ever, and to treat her as some fiend in human
shape.

But all was not over. Two days after, a shadow intruded into the window-
pattern thrown on Rhoda Brook's floor by the afternoon sun. The woman
opened the door at once, almost breathlessly.

'Are you alone?' said Gertrude. She seemed to be no less harassed and
anxious than Brook herself.

'Yes,' said Rhoda.

'The place on my arm seems worse, and troubles me!' the young farmer's
wife went on. 'It is so mysterious! I do hope it will not be an
incurable wound. I have again been thinking of what they said about
Conjuror Trendle. I don't really believe in such men, but I should not
mind just visiting him, from curiosity-though on no account must my
husband know. Is it far to where he lives?'

'Yes-five miles,' said Rhoda backwardly. 'In the heart of Egdon.'

'Well, I should have to walk. Could not you go with me to show me the
way-say to-morrow afternoon?'

'O, not I-that is,' the milkwoman murmured, with a start of dismay.
Again the dread seized her that something to do with her fierce act in
the dream might be revealed, and her character in the eyes of the most
useful friend she had ever had be ruined irretrievably.

Mrs. Lodge urged, and Rhoda finally assented, though with much
misgiving. Sad as the journey would be to her, she could not
conscientiously stand in the way of a possible remedy for her patron's
strange affliction. It was agreed that, to escape suspicion of their
mystic intent, they should meet at the edge of the heath at the corner
of a plantation which was visible from the spot where they now stood.



CHAPTER V-CONJUROR TRENDLE

By the next afternoon Rhoda would have done anything to escape this
inquiry. But she had promised to go. Moreover, there was a horrid
fascination at times in becoming instrumental in throwing such possible
light on her own character as would reveal her to be something greater
in the occult world than she had ever herself suspected.

She started just before the time of day mentioned between them, and
half-an-hour's brisk walking brought her to the south-eastern extension
of the Egdon tract of country, where the fir plantation was. A slight
figure, cloaked and veiled, was already there. Rhoda recognized, almost
with a shudder, that Mrs. Lodge bore her left arm in a sling.

They hardly spoke to each other, and immediately set out on their climb
into the interior of this solemn country, which stood high above the
rich alluvial soil they had left half-an-hour before. It was a long
walk; thick clouds made the atmosphere dark, though it was as yet only
early afternoon; and the wind howled dismally over the hills of the
heath-not improbably the same heath which had witnessed the agony of the
Wessex King Ina, presented to after-ages as Lear. Gertrude Lodge talked
most, Rhoda replying with monosyllabic preoccupation. She had a strange
dislike to walking on the side of her companion where hung the afflicted
arm, moving round to the other when inadvertently near it. Much heather
had been brushed by their feet when they descended upon a cart-track,
beside which stood the house of the man they sought.

He did not profess his remedial practices openly, or care anything about
their continuance, his direct interests being those of a dealer in
furze, turf, 'sharp sand,' and other local products. Indeed, he affected
not to believe largely in his own powers, and when warts that had been
shown him for cure miraculously disappeared-which it must be owned they
infallibly did-he would say lightly, 'O, I only drink a glass of grog
upon 'em-perhaps it's all chance,' and immediately turn the subject.

He was at home when they arrived, having in fact seen them descending
into his valley. He was a gray-bearded man, with a reddish face, and he
looked singularly at Rhoda the first moment he beheld her. Mrs. Lodge
told him her errand; and then with words of self-disparagement he
examined her arm.

'Medicine can't cure it,' he said promptly. ''Tis the work of an enemy.'

Rhoda shrank into herself, and drew back.

'An enemy? What enemy?' asked Mrs. Lodge.

He shook his head. 'That's best known to yourself,' he said. 'If you
like, I can show the person to you, though I shall not myself know who
it is. I can do no more; and don't wish to do that.'

She pressed him; on which he told Rhoda to wait outside where she stood,
and took Mrs. Lodge into the room. It opened immediately from the door;
and, as the latter remained ajar, Rhoda Brook could see the proceedings
without taking part in them. He brought a tumbler from the dresser,
nearly filled it with water, and fetching an egg, prepared it in some
private way; after which he broke it on the edge of the glass, so that
the white went in and the yolk remained. As it was getting gloomy, he
took the glass and its contents to the window, and told Gertrude to
watch them closely. They leant over the table together, and the
milkwoman could see the opaline hue of the egg-fluid changing form as it
sank in the water, but she was not near enough to define the shape that
it assumed.

'Do you catch the likeness of any face or figure as you look?' demanded
the conjuror of the young woman.

She murmured a reply, in tones so low as to be inaudible to Rhoda, and
continued to gaze intently into the glass. Rhoda turned, and walked a
few steps away.

When Mrs. Lodge came out, and her face was met by the light, it appeared
exceedingly pale-as pale as Rhoda's-against the sad dun shades of the
upland's garniture. Trendle shut the door behind her, and they at once
started homeward together. But Rhoda perceived that her companion had
quite changed.

'Did he charge much?' she asked tentatively.

'O no-nothing. He would not take a farthing,' said Gertrude.

'And what did you see?' inquired Rhoda.

'Nothing I-care to speak of.' The constraint in her manner was
remarkable; her face was so rigid as to wear an oldened aspect, faintly
suggestive of the face in Rhoda's bed-chamber.

'Was it you who first proposed coming here?' Mrs. Lodge suddenly
inquired, after a long pause. 'How very odd, if you did!'

'No. But I am not sorry we have come, all things considered,' she
replied. For the first time a sense of triumph possessed her, and she
did not altogether deplore that the young thing at her side should learn
that their lives had been antagonized by other influences than their
own.

The subject was no more alluded to during the long and dreary walk home.
But in some way or other a story was whispered about the many-dairied
lowland that winter that Mrs. Lodge's gradual loss of the use of her
left arm was owing to her being 'overlooked' by Rhoda Brook. The latter
kept her own counsel about the incubus, but her face grew sadder and
thinner; and in the spring she and her boy disappeared from the
neighbourhood of Holmstoke.



CHAPTER VI-A SECOND ATTEMPT

Half-a-dozen years passed away, and Mr. and Mrs. Lodge's married
experience sank into prosiness, and worse. The farmer was usually gloomy
and silent: the woman whom he had wooed for her grace and beauty was
contorted and disfigured in the left limb; moreover, she had brought him
no child, which rendered it likely that he would be the last of a family
who had occupied that valley for some two hundred years. He thought of
Rhoda Brook and her son; and feared this might be a judgment from heaven
upon him.

The once blithe-hearted and enlightened Gertrude was changing into an
irritable, superstitious woman, whose whole time was given to
experimenting upon her ailment with every quack remedy she came across.
She was honestly attached to her husband, and was ever secretly hoping
against hope to win back his heart again by regaining some at least of
her personal beauty. Hence it arose that her closet was lined with
bottles, packets, and ointment-pots of every description-nay, bunches of
mystic herbs, charms, and books of necromancy, which in her schoolgirl
time she would have ridiculed as folly.

'Damned if you won't poison yourself with these apothecary messes and
witch mixtures some time or other,' said her husband, when his eye
chanced to fall upon the multitudinous array.

She did not reply, but turned her sad, soft glance upon him in such
heart-swollen reproach that he looked sorry for his words, and added, 'I
only meant it for your good, you know, Gertrude.'

'I'll clear out the whole lot, and destroy them,' said she huskily, 'and
try such remedies no more!'

'You want somebody to cheer you,' he observed. 'I once thought of
adopting a boy; but he is too old now. And he is gone away I don't know
where.'

She guessed to whom he alluded; for Rhoda Brook's story had in the
course of years become known to her; though not a word had ever passed
between her husband and herself on the subject. Neither had she ever
spoken to him of her visit to Conjuror Trendle, and of what was revealed
to her, or she thought was revealed to her, by that solitary heath-man.

She was now five-and-twenty; but she seemed older.

'Six years of marriage, and only a few months of love,' she sometimes
whispered to herself. And then she thought of the apparent cause, and
said, with a tragic glance at her withering limb, 'If I could only again
be as I was when he first saw me!'

She obediently destroyed her nostrums and charms; but there remained a
hankering wish to try something else-some other sort of cure altogether.
She had never revisited Trendle since she had been conducted to the
house of the solitary by Rhoda against her will; but it now suddenly
occurred to Gertrude that she would, in a last desperate effort at
deliverance from this seeming curse, again seek out the man, if he yet
lived. He was entitled to a certain credence, for the indistinct form he
had raised in the glass had undoubtedly resembled the only woman in the
world who-as she now knew, though not then-could have a reason for
bearing her ill-will. The visit should be paid.

This time she went alone, though she nearly got lost on the heath, and
roamed a considerable distance out of her way. Trendle's house was
reached at last, however: he was not indoors, and instead of waiting at
the cottage, she went to where his bent figure was pointed out to her at
work a long way off. Trendle remembered her, and laying down the handful
of furze-roots which he was gathering and throwing into a heap, he
offered to accompany her in her homeward direction, as the distance was
considerable and the days were short. So they walked together, his head
bowed nearly to the earth, and his form of a colour with it.

'You can send away warts and other excrescences I know,' she said; 'why
can't you send away this?' And the arm was uncovered.

'You think too much of my powers!' said Trendle; 'and I am old and weak
now, too. No, no; it is too much for me to attempt in my own person.
What have ye tried?'

She named to him some of the hundred medicaments and counterspells which
she had adopted from time to time. He shook his head.

'Some were good enough,' he said approvingly; 'but not many of them for
such as this. This is of the nature of a blight, not of the nature of a
wound; and if you ever do throw it off; it will be all at once.'

'If I only could!'

'There is only one chance of doing it known to me. It has never failed
in kindred afflictions,-that I can declare. But it is hard to carry out,
and especially for a woman.'

'Tell me!' said she.

'You must touch with the limb the neck of a man who's been hanged.'

She started a little at the image he had raised.

'Before he's cold-just after he's cut down,' continued the conjuror
impassively.

'How can that do good?'

'It will turn the blood and change the constitution. But, as I say, to
do it is hard. You must get into jail, and wait for him when he's
brought off the gallows. Lots have done it, though perhaps not such
pretty women as you. I used to send dozens for skin complaints. But that
was in former times. The last I sent was in '13-near twenty years ago.'

He had no more to tell her; and, when he had put her into a straight
track homeward, turned and left her, refusing all money as at first.



CHAPTER VII-A RIDE

The communication sank deep into Gertrude's mind. Her nature was rather
a timid one; and probably of all remedies that the white wizard could
have suggested there was not one which would have filled her with so
much aversion as this, not to speak of the immense obstacles in the way
of its adoption.

Casterbridge, the county-town, was a dozen or fifteen miles off; and
though in those days, when men were executed for horse-stealing, arson,
and burglary, an assize seldom passed without a hanging, it was not
likely that she could get access to the body of the criminal unaided.
And the fear of her husband's anger made her reluctant to breathe a word
of Trendle's suggestion to him or to anybody about him.

She did nothing for months, and patiently bore her disfigurement as
before. But her woman's nature, craving for renewed love, through the
medium of renewed beauty (she was but twenty-five), was ever stimulating
her to try what, at any rate, could hardly do her any harm. 'What came
by a spell will go by a spell surely,' she would say. Whenever her
imagination pictured the act she shrank in terror from the possibility
of it: then the words of the conjuror, 'It will turn your blood,' were
seen to be capable of a scientific no less than a ghastly
interpretation; the mastering desire returned, and urged her on again.

There was at this time but one county paper, and that her husband only
occasionally borrowed. But old-fashioned days had old-fashioned means,
and news was extensively conveyed by word of mouth from market to
market, or from fair to fair, so that, whenever such an event as an
execution was about to take place, few within a radius of twenty miles
were ignorant of the coming sight; and, so far as Holmstoke was
concerned, some enthusiasts had been known to walk all the way to
Casterbridge and back in one day, solely to witness the spectacle. The
next assizes were in March; and when Gertrude Lodge heard that they had
been held, she inquired stealthily at the inn as to the result, as soon
as she could find opportunity.

She was, however, too late. The time at which the sentences were to be
carried out had arrived, and to make the journey and obtain admission at
such short notice required at least her husband's assistance. She dared
not tell him, for she had found by delicate experiment that these
smouldering village beliefs made him furious if mentioned, partly
because he half entertained them himself. It was therefore necessary to
wait for another opportunity.

Her determination received a fillip from learning that two epileptic
children had attended from this very village of Holmstoke many years
before with beneficial results, though the experiment had been strongly
condemned by the neighbouring clergy. April, May, June, passed; and it
is no overstatement to say that by the end of the last-named month
Gertrude well-nigh longed for the death of a fellow-creature. Instead of
her formal prayers each night, her unconscious prayer was, 'O Lord, hang
some guilty or innocent person soon!'

This time she made earlier inquiries, and was altogether more systematic
in her proceedings. Moreover, the season was summer, between the
haymaking and the harvest, and in the leisure thus afforded him her
husband had been holiday-taking away from home.

The assizes were in July, and she went to the inn as before. There was
to be one execution-only one-for arson.

Her greatest problem was not how to get to Casterbridge, but what means
she should adopt for obtaining admission to the jail. Though access for
such purposes had formerly never been denied, the custom had fallen into
desuetude; and in contemplating her possible difficulties, she was again
almost driven to fall back upon her husband. But, on sounding him about
the assizes, he was so uncommunicative, so more than usually cold, that
she did not proceed, and decided that whatever she did she would do
alone.

Fortune, obdurate hitherto, showed her unexpected favour. On the
Thursday before the Saturday fixed for the execution, Lodge remarked to
her that he was going away from home for another day or two on business
at a fair, and that he was sorry he could not take her with him.

She exhibited on this occasion so much readiness to stay at home that he
looked at her in surprise. Time had been when she would have shown deep
disappointment at the loss of such a jaunt. However, he lapsed into his
usual taciturnity, and on the day named left Holmstoke.

It was now her turn. She at first had thought of driving, but on
reflection held that driving would not do, since it would necessitate
her keeping to the turnpike-road, and so increase by tenfold the risk of
her ghastly errand being found out. She decided to ride, and avoid the
beaten track, notwithstanding that in her husband's stables there was no
animal just at present which by any stretch of imagination could be
considered a lady's mount, in spite of his promise before marriage to
always keep a mare for her. He had, however, many cart-horses, fine ones
of their kind; and among the rest was a serviceable creature, an equine
Amazon, with a back as broad as a sofa, on which Gertrude had
occasionally taken an airing when unwell. This horse she chose.

On Friday afternoon one of the men brought it round. She was dressed,
and before going down looked at her shrivelled arm. 'Ah!' she said to
it, 'if it had not been for you this terrible ordeal would have been
saved me!'

When strapping up the bundle in which she carried a few articles of
clothing, she took occasion to say to the servant, 'I take these in case
I should not get back to-night from the person I am going to visit.
Don't be alarmed if I am not in by ten, and close up the house as usual.
I shall be at home to-morrow for certain.' She meant then to privately
tell her husband: the deed accomplished was not like the deed projected.
He would almost certainly forgive her.

And then the pretty palpitating Gertrude Lodge went from her husband's
homestead; but though her goal was Casterbridge she did not take the
direct route thither through Stickleford. Her cunning course at first
was in precisely the opposite direction. As soon as she was out of
sight, however, she turned to the left, by a road which led into Egdon,
and on entering the heath wheeled round, and set out in the true course,
due westerly. A more private way down the county could not be imagined;
and as to direction, she had merely to keep her horse's head to a point
a little to the right of the sun. She knew that she would light upon a
furze-cutter or cottager of some sort from time to time, from whom she
might correct her bearing.

Though the date was comparatively recent, Egdon was much less
fragmentary in character than now. The attempts-successful and
otherwise-at cultivation on the lower slopes, which intrude and break up
the original heath into small detached heaths, had not been carried far;
Enclosure Acts had not taken effect, and the banks and fences which now
exclude the cattle of those villagers who formerly enjoyed rights of
commonage thereon, and the carts of those who had turbary privileges
which kept them in firing all the year round, were not erected.
Gertrude, therefore, rode along with no other obstacles than the prickly
furze bushes, the mats of heather, the white water-courses, and the
natural steeps and declivities of the ground.

Her horse was sure, if heavy-footed and slow, and though a draught
animal, was easy-paced; had it been otherwise, she was not a woman who
could have ventured to ride over such a bit of country with a half-dead
arm. It was therefore nearly eight o'clock when she drew rein to breathe
the mare on the last outlying high point of heath-land towards
Casterbridge, previous to leaving Egdon for the cultivated valleys.

She halted before a pool called Rushy-pond, flanked by the ends of two
hedges; a railing ran through the centre of the pond, dividing it in
half. Over the railing she saw the low green country; over the green
trees the roofs of the town; over the roofs a white flat fa\xE7ade,
denoting the entrance to the county jail. On the roof of this front
specks were moving about; they seemed to be workmen erecting something.
Her flesh crept. She descended slowly, and was soon amid corn-fields and
pastures. In another half-hour, when it was almost dusk, Gertrude
reached the White Hart, the first inn of the town on that side.

Little surprise was excited by her arrival; farmers' wives rode on
horseback then more than they do now; though, for that matter, Mrs.
Lodge was not imagined to be a wife at all; the innkeeper supposed her
some harum-skarum young woman who had come to attend 'hang-fair' next
day. Neither her husband nor herself ever dealt in Casterbridge market,
so that she was unknown. While dismounting she beheld a crowd of boys
standing at the door of a harness-maker's shop just above the inn,
looking inside it with deep interest.

'What is going on there?' she asked of the ostler.

'Making the rope for to-morrow.'

She throbbed responsively, and contracted her arm.

''Tis sold by the inch afterwards,' the man continued. 'I could get you
a bit, miss, for nothing, if you'd like?'

She hastily repudiated any such wish, all the more from a curious
creeping feeling that the condemned wretch's destiny was becoming
interwoven with her own; and having engaged a room for the night, sat
down to think.

Up to this time she had formed but the vaguest notions about her means
of obtaining access to the prison. The words of the cunning-man returned
to her mind. He had implied that she should use her beauty, impaired
though it was, as a pass-key. In her inexperience she knew little about
jail functionaries; she had heard of a high-sheriff and an under-
sheriff; but dimly only. She knew, however, that there must be a
hangman, and to the hangman she determined to apply.



VIII-A WATER-SIDE HERMIT

At this date, and for several years after, there was a hangman to almost
every jail. Gertrude found, on inquiry, that the Casterbridge official
dwelt in a lonely cottage by a deep slow river flowing under the cliff
on which the prison buildings were situate-the stream being the self-
same one, though she did not know it, which watered the Stickleford and
Holmstoke meads lower down in its course.

Having changed her dress, and before she had eaten or drunk-for she
could not take her ease till she had ascertained some particulars-
Gertrude pursued her way by a path along the water-side to the cottage
indicated. Passing thus the outskirts of the jail, she discerned on the
level roof over the gateway three rectangular lines against the sky,
where the specks had been moving in her distant view; she recognized
what the erection was, and passed quickly on. Another hundred yards
brought her to the executioner's house, which a boy pointed out It stood
close to the same stream, and was hard by a weir, the waters of which
emitted a steady roar.

While she stood hesitating the door opened, and an old man came forth
shading a candle with one hand. Locking the door on the outside, he
turned to a flight of wooden steps fixed against the end of the cottage,
and began to ascend them, this being evidently the staircase to his
bedroom. Gertrude hastened forward, but by the time she reached the foot
of the ladder he was at the top. She called to him loudly enough to be
heard above the roar of the weir; he looked down and said, 'What d'ye
want here?'

'To speak to you a minute.'

The candle-light, such as it was, fell upon her imploring, pale,
upturned face, and Davies (as the hangman was called) backed down the
ladder. 'I was just going to bed,' he said; '"Early to bed and early to
rise," but I don't mind stopping a minute for such a one as you. Come
into house.' He reopened the door, and preceded her to the room within.

The implements of his daily work, which was that of a jobbing gardener,
stood in a corner, and seeing probably that she looked rural, he said,
'If you want me to undertake country work I can't come, for I never
leave Casterbridge for gentle nor simple-not I. My real calling is
officer of justice,' he added formally.

'Yes, yes! That's it. To-morrow!'

'Ah! I thought so. Well, what's the matter about that? 'Tis no use to
come here about the knot-folks do come continually, but I tell 'em one
knot is as merciful as another if ye keep it under the ear. Is the
unfortunate man a relation; or, I should say, perhaps' (looking at her
dress) 'a person who's been in your employ?'

'No. What time is the execution?'

'The same as usual-twelve o'clock, or as soon after as the London mail-
coach gets in. We always wait for that, in case of a reprieve.'

'O-a reprieve-I hope not!' she said involuntarily,

'Well,-hee, hee!-as a matter of business, so do I! But still, if ever a
young fellow deserved to be let off, this one does; only just turned
eighteen, and only present by chance when the rick was fired.
Howsomever, there's not much risk of it, as they are obliged to make an
example of him, there having been so much destruction of property that
way lately.'

'I mean,' she explained, 'that I want to touch him for a charm, a cure
of an affliction, by the advice of a man who has proved the virtue of
the remedy.'

'O yes, miss! Now I understand. I've had such people come in past years.
But it didn't strike me that you looked of a sort to require blood-
turning. What's the complaint? The wrong kind for this, I'll be bound.'

'My arm.' She reluctantly showed the withered skin.

'Ah-'tis all a-scram!' said the hangman, examining it.

'Yes,' said she.

'Well,' he continued, with interest, 'that is the class o' subject, I'm
bound to admit! I like the look of the place; it is truly as suitable
for the cure as any I ever saw. 'Twas a knowing-man that sent 'ee,
whoever he was.'

'You can contrive for me all that's necessary?' she said breathlessly.

'You should really have gone to the governor of the jail, and your
doctor with 'ee, and given your name and address-that's how it used to
be done, if I recollect. Still, perhaps, I can manage it for a trifling
fee.'

'O, thank you! I would rather do it this way, as I should like it kept
private.'

'Lover not to know, eh?'

'No-husband.'

'Aha! Very well. I'll get ee' a touch of the corpse.'

'Where is it now?' she said, shuddering.

'It?-he, you mean; he's living yet. Just inside that little small winder
up there in the glum.' He signified the jail on the cliff above.

She thought of her husband and her friends. 'Yes, of course,' she said;
'and how am I to proceed?'

He took her to the door. 'Now, do you be waiting at the little wicket in
the wall, that you'll find up there in the lane, not later than one
o'clock. I will open it from the inside, as I shan't come home to dinner
till he's cut down. Good-night. Be punctual; and if you don't want
anybody to know 'ee, wear a veil. Ah-once I had such a daughter as you!'

She went away, and climbed the path above, to assure herself that she
would be able to find the wicket next day. Its outline was soon visible
to her-a narrow opening in the outer wall of the prison precincts. The
steep was so great that, having reached the wicket, she stopped a moment
to breathe; and, looking back upon the water-side cot, saw the hangman
again ascending his outdoor staircase. He entered the loft or chamber to
which it led, and in a few minutes extinguished his light.

The town clock struck ten, and she returned to the White Hart as she had
come.



IX-A RENCOUNTER

It was one o'clock on Saturday. Gertrude Lodge, having been admitted to
the jail as above described, was sitting in a waiting-room within the
second gate, which stood under a classic archway of ashlar, then
comparatively modern, and bearing the inscription, 'COVNTY JAIL: 1793.'
This had been the fa\xE7ade she saw from the heath the day before. Near at
hand was a passage to the roof on which the gallows stood.

The town was thronged, and the market suspended; but Gertrude had seen
scarcely a soul. Having kept her room till the hour of the appointment,
she had proceeded to the spot by a way which avoided the open space
below the cliff where the spectators had gathered; but she could, even
now, hear the multitudinous babble of their voices, out of which rose at
intervals the hoarse croak of a single voice uttering the words, 'Last
dying speech and confession!' There had been no reprieve, and the
execution was over; but the crowd still waited to see the body taken
down.

Soon the persistent girl heard a trampling overhead, then a hand
beckoned to her, and, following directions, she went out and crossed the
inner paved court beyond the gatehouse, her knees trembling so that she
could scarcely walk. One of her arms was out of its sleeve, and only
covered by her shawl.

On the spot at which she had now arrived were two trestles, and before
she could think of their purpose she heard heavy feet descending stairs
somewhere at her back. Turn her head she would not, or could not, and,
rigid in this position, she was conscious of a rough coffin passing her
shoulder, borne by four men. It was open, and in it lay the body of a
young man, wearing the smockfrock of a rustic, and fustian breeches. The
corpse had been thrown into the coffin so hastily that the skirt of the
smockfrock was hanging over. The burden was temporarily deposited on the
trestles.

By this time the young woman's state was such that a gray mist seemed to
float before her eyes, on account of which, and the veil she wore, she
could scarcely discern anything: it was as though she had nearly died,
but was held up by a sort of galvanism.

'Now!' said a voice close at hand, and she was just conscious that the
word had been addressed to her.

By a last strenuous effort she advanced, at the same time hearing
persons approaching behind her. She bared her poor curst arm; and
Davies, uncovering the face of the corpse, took Gertrude's hand, and
held it so that her arm lay across the dead man's neck, upon a line the
colour of an unripe blackberry, which surrounded it.

Gertrude shrieked: 'the turn o' the blood,' predicted by the conjuror,
had taken place. But at that moment a second shriek rent the air of the
enclosure: it was not Gertrude's, and its effect upon her was to make
her start round.

Immediately behind her stood Rhoda Brook, her face drawn, and her eyes
red with weeping. Behind Rhoda stood Gertrude's own husband; his
countenance lined, his eyes dim, but without a tear.

'D-n you! what are you doing here?' he said hoarsely.

'Hussy-to come between us and our child now!' cried Rhoda. 'This is the
meaning of what Satan showed me in the vision! You are like her at
last!' And clutching the bare arm of the younger woman, she pulled her
unresistingly back against the wall. Immediately Brook had loosened her
hold the fragile young Gertrude slid down against the feet of her
husband. When he lifted her up she was unconscious.

The mere sight of the twain had been enough to suggest to her that the
dead young man was Rhoda's son. At that time the relatives of an
executed convict had the privilege of claiming the body for burial, if
they chose to do so; and it was for this purpose that Lodge was awaiting
the inquest with Rhoda. He had been summoned by her as soon as the young
man was taken in the crime, and at different times since; and he had
attended in court during the trial. This was the 'holiday' he had been
indulging in of late. The two wretched parents had wished to avoid
exposure; and hence had come themselves for the body, a waggon and sheet
for its conveyance and covering being in waiting outside.

Gertrude's case was so serious that it was deemed advisable to call to
her the surgeon who was at hand. She was taken out of the jail into the
town; but she never reached home alive. Her delicate vitality, sapped
perhaps by the paralyzed arm, collapsed under the double shock that
followed the severe strain, physical and mental, to which she had
subjected herself during the previous twenty-four hours. Her blood had
been 'turned' indeed-too far. Her death took place in the town three
days after.

Her husband was never seen in Casterbridge again; once only in the old
market-place at Anglebury, which he had so much frequented, and very
seldom in public anywhere. Burdened at first with moodiness and remorse,
he eventually changed for the better, and appeared as a chastened and
thoughtful man. Soon after attending the funeral of his poor young wife
he took steps towards giving up the farms in Holmstoke and the adjoining
parish, and, having sold every head of his stock, he went away to Port-
Bredy, at the other end of the county, living there in solitary lodgings
till his death two years later of a painless decline. It was then found
that he had bequeathed the whole of his not inconsiderable property to a
reformatory for boys, subject to the payment of a small annuity to Rhoda
Brook, if she could be found to claim it.

For some time she could not be found; but eventually she reappeared in
her old parish,-absolutely refusing, however, to have anything to do
with the provision made for her. Her monotonous milking at the dairy was
resumed, and followed for many long years, till her form became bent,
and her once abundant dark hair white and worn away at the forehead-
perhaps by long pressure against the cows. Here, sometimes, those who
knew her experiences would stand and observe her, and wonder what sombre
thoughts were beating inside that impassive, wrinkled brow, to the
rhythm of the alternating milk-streams.

('Blackwood's Magazine,' January 1888.)



FELLOW-TOWNSMEN



I

The shepherd on the east hill could shout out lambing intelligence to
the shepherd on the west hill, over the intervening town chimneys,
without great inconvenience to his voice, so nearly did the steep
pastures encroach upon the burghers' backyards. And at night it was
possible to stand in the very midst of the town and hear from their
native paddocks on the lower levels of greensward the mild lowing of the
farmer's heifers, and the profound, warm blowings of breath in which
those creatures indulge. But the community which had jammed itself in
the valley thus flanked formed a veritable town, with a real mayor and
corporation, and a staple manufacture.

During a certain damp evening five-and-thirty years ago, before the
twilight was far advanced, a pedestrian of professional appearance,
carrying a small bag in his hand and an elevated umbrella, was
descending one of these hills by the turnpike road when