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Title: An Open Verdict, Volume 1 (of 3): A Novel
Author: Braddon, M. E. (Mary Elizabeth)
Language: English
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Transcriber’s note

Variable spelling and hyphenation have been retained. Minor punctuation
inconsistencies have been silently repaired. A list of the changes made
can be found at the end of the book. Formatting and special characters
are indicated as follows:


                            AN OPEN VERDICT

                                A Novel

                           BY THE AUTHOR OF
                        ‘LADY AUDLEY’S SECRET’
                            ETC. ETC. ETC.

                           IN THREE VOLUMES

                                VOL. I.


                         JOHN MAXWELL AND CO.
                      4, SHOE LANE, FLEET STREET,

                       [_All rights reserved._]


  CHAP.                                                    PAGE

  I. MRS. DULCIMER HAS HER VIEWS                             1

  II. SWORD AND GOWN                                         18

  III. IN THE PARISH CHURCH                                  31


  V. HIS ITALIAN WIFE                                        73

  VI. CHRISTIAN HAREFIELD’S ANSWER                           101

  VII. MRS. DULCIMER MEANS BUSINESS                          120

  VIII. THE SCRATCHELLS AT HOME                              133

  IX. A FLINTY-HEARTED FATHER                                153

  X. TWO LOVE LETTERS                                        166

  XI. BELLA IN SEARCH OF A MISSION                           180


  XIII. SIR KENRICK’S ANCESTRAL HOME                         210

  XIV. BELLA OVERHEARS A CONVERSATION                        219

  XV. MR. NAMBY’S PRESCRIPTION                               245

  XVI. BELLA GOES ON A VISIT                                 262

  XVII. MRS. PIPER’S TROUBLES                                272

  XVIII. A WITNESS FROM THE GRAVE                            299




‘SIR KENRICK would be a splendid match for her’, said the Vicar’s wife.

‘As poor as Job, and as proud as Lucifer,’ retorted the Vicar, without
lifting his eyes from a volume of his favourite Bishop Berkeley.

It was the Vicar’s way in these _tête-à-tête_ conversations by the
domestic hearth. He read, and his wife talked to him. He could keep
his attention on the most intricate chain of argument, and yet never
answer Mrs. Dulcimer’s speculative assertions or vague questionings
away from the purpose. This was the happy result of long habit. The
Vicar loved his books, and his wife loved the exercise of her tongue.
His morning hours were sacred. He studied or read as he pleased till
dinner-time, secure from feminine interruption. But the evening was
a privileged time for Mrs. Dulcimer. She brought a big workbasket,
like an inverted beehive, into the library directly after dinner, and
established herself in the arm-chair opposite the Vicar’s, ready for a
comfortable chat. A comfortable chat meant a vivacious monologue, with
an occasional remark from Mr. Dulcimer, who came in now and then like
a chorus. He had his open book on the reading easel attached to his
chair, and turned the leaves with a languid air, sometimes as if out of
mere absence of mind; but he was deep in philosophy, or metaphysics,
or theology, or antiquarianism, for the greater part of his time; and
his inward ear was listening to the mystic voices of the dead, while
his outward ear gave respectful attention to Mrs. Dulcimer’s critical
observations upon the living.

‘As poor as Job, and as proud as Lucifer,’ repeated the Vicar, with
his eye upon a stiffish passage in Berkeley.

‘I call it a proper pride,’ said Mrs. Dulcimer. ‘And as for poverty,
she would have money enough for both. And then he has the estate.’

‘Mortgaged up to the hilt.’

‘And the title.’

‘Now do you really believe, Selina, that those three letters of the
alphabet, S I R, prefixed to a man’s name, can give him the smallest
possible distinction in the estimate of any of his fellow-creatures not

‘What is the use of talking in that high and mighty way, Clement? I
know that Mary Turner, an insignificant little thing with red hair and
a speckly skin, who was at school with me at the Misses Turk’s, at
Great Yafford, was very much looked up to by all the girls because her
uncle was a baronet. He lived a long way off, and he never took any
notice of her, that we could find out; but he was a baronet, and we
all felt as if there was a difference in her on that account. I don’t
pretend to say that we were not very ridiculous for thinking so,
but still you know a school is only the world in little--and the world
sets a high value on titles. I should like to see Beatrix mistress of
Culverhouse Castle.’

‘Her father’s money would be convenient for paying off the mortgages,
no doubt, provided Mr. Harefield approved of the marriage. Rather a
difficult old gentleman, I fancy.’

‘Difficult!’ cried Mrs. Dulcimer; ‘he’s detestable! a wicked old
tyrant. If it were not for our friendship Beatrix’s life would be

‘Do you really think we are any good to her?’ inquired the Vicar, in
his dreamily uncertain way, as of a man who was too doubtful about the
groundwork of existence to feel any certainty about its minor details.

This was his Bishop Berkeley mood, his mind varying in hue and tone
according to the book he was reading. Just now he felt that mind was
paramount over matter, and was hardly disposed to interest himself
warmly in a young woman who might have no existence except in his own
idea of her.

‘My dear, our house is the only notion of home the poor child has,--the
only place where she meets pleasant people, or hears and sees pleasant
things. How can we fail to improve and develop her? I am sure, without
egotism, I may say that I have been a God-send to that motherless girl.
Think how _farouche_ she was when she first came to us.’

‘Yes, she was a wild, untamed kind of creature,’ assented the Vicar.
‘Beautiful as a portrait by Rembrandt though, with that tawny skin
of hers. I call her _la belle sauvage_. She always reminds me of

‘Now wouldn’t it be a blessing, Clement, if we could see her
well married--married to a man of position, you know--and an
honourable-minded man, like Kenrick? You know you always said he was
honourable. You could always believe him.’

‘True, my love. Kenrick had his good qualities. He was not a lad that
my heart ever warmed to, but I believe he did his work honestly, and he
never told me a lie.’

‘Then don’t you think,’ urged the enthusiastic Selina, ‘that he would
make Beatrix Harefield an excellent husband?’

‘My dear,’ said the Vicar, gravely, ‘you are the best natured of women;
but I am afraid you do a great deal of harm.’


‘Yes, my love. Good-nature in the abstract is undoubtedly beautiful;
but an active good-nature, always on the alert to do some service to
its fellow-creatures, is of all attributes the most dangerous. Even the
attempt of this good man, Bishop Berkeley, to found a college in the
Bermudas resulted in waste of time and money. He would have done better
had he stayed at his Irish Deanery. The man who does least harm in the
world is your calmly selfish person who goes through life by the narrow
path of a rational self-indulgence, and never turns aside to benefit or
interfere with the rest of the human race.’

‘One of your dreadful paradoxes, Clement. How does that agree with St.
Paul’s definition of charity?’

‘My love, St. Paul’s charity is a supremely passive virtue. It
suffereth long, is not easily provoked, is not puffed up, thinketh no
evil--all which qualities are compatible with strict neutrality as to
one’s fellow-creatures’ affairs.’

‘Suffereth long--_and is kind_, you left that out, Clement.’

‘Kindness there I take to imply a mental state, and not a pushing,
exacting benevolence,’ replied the Vicar. ‘Charity poketh not its nose
into its neighbour’s business--maketh not matches--busieth not itself
with the conduct of other people’s lives--and never doeth any harm.
Good-nature does no end of mischief--in a perfectly well-meaning way.’

The Vicar spoke with some soreness. Poor Mrs. Dulcimer’s good-nature,
and sometimes misdirected energy, had been getting her into trouble
for the last twenty years. Everybody liked her; everybody dreaded and
abhorred her good-nature. She had no children of her own, and was
always full of good advice for the mothers of her acquaintance. She
knew when babies ought to be weaned, and when they were sickening for
the measles. She tried to heal family quarrels, and invariably made the
breach wider. She loved match-making, but her matches, when brought
to the triumphant conclusion of licence or wedding cake, seldom stood
the test of a few years’ matrimony. She was so eager to do the best
for the young men and women of her acquaintance, that she generally
brought ill-assorted people together, taking too broad a view of the
fitness of things, on the ground of income, family, age, and such
vulgar qualifications, and ignoring those subtle differences which set
an eternal mark of separation upon certain members of the human family.

‘I think, Selina, if I were you, I would leave Beatrix to find
a husband for herself,’ said the Vicar, stretching out his legs
comfortably before the wide hearth. ‘She is young--there is plenty of
time. Let her come here as often as she pleases. I like to see that
Rembrandt face of hers. But let things take their own course.

    “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends,
        Rough hew them as we will.”

Don’t you think it is almost an impertinence towards that ever active
Providence for us poor worms to be always taking one another’s lives
under our petty protection, and trying to shape them our way?’

‘Clement!’ exclaimed Mrs. Dulcimer, ruffling her plumes a little. She
wore a good deal of lace frilling and muslin puffing about her neck and
breast, and these adornments were subject to an occasional agitation,
like the feathers of an excited Dorking, or one of the Vicar’s
golden-pencilled Hamburgs. ‘Clement,’ cried Mrs. Dulcimer, ‘you have a
beautiful temper, but I’m afraid you are selfish.’

The Vicar laid down his book with a smile of satisfaction. He saw the
opportunity for a paradox.

‘My love, did you ever know a good-tempered man who wasn’t selfish?
or rather, did you ever know a thoroughly selfish person who wasn’t
good-tempered? Your wisely selfish man knows his own interest too well
to fret and fume about trifles. He knows that, after five-and-twenty
years of age, the supreme good in this life is repose, and that he can
never enjoy it unless he cultivates an easy temper.’

‘Selfishness is a vice, Clement.’

‘That depends upon what we call selfishness. If a strict neutrality as
to my neighbour’s business means selfishness, assuredly I am the most
selfish of men.’

‘The Gospel tells us we are to love our neighbour as ourselves,

‘I obey that divine precept implicitly. I never worry myself. I never
worry my neighbour.’

The Vicar might have gone a step further, and said that he liked to
feed his neighbour as well as he liked to feed himself--for, in that
one quality of caring for the body as well as for the souls of other
people, Clement Dulcimer was a faithful follower of his Divine Master.

‘And I’m afraid you allow things in your parish that oughtn’t to be,
Clement, sometimes,’ ventured Mrs. Dulcimer.

‘My dear, God allows them. They are done under the All-seeing Eye. If
He cannot make men better, do you suppose I can?’

‘You might lead them to Him, dear.’

‘I try my best to do that, Selina; but I don’t drive them. That’s
where I fall short, I admit. Cyril is trying his hand at the driving
process. He’s young and energetic. We shall see how it answers, and how
long he sticks at it.’

‘Cyril is the most earnest young man you’ve ever had as a curate.’

‘I taught him myself, and I know what he’s made of,’ murmured the Vicar.

‘And there’s no denying that he has done good already, Clement. The
schools are better attended, and there are more poor people at church
on a Sunday evening.’

‘Since you have such a high opinion of Cyril, how is it that you have
never thought of him as a husband for Beatrix? A clergyman ought to
marry a fortune if he marries at all. He can put the money out to
higher interest than any one else. He keeps a deposit account in

‘But, Clement, the title!’ exclaimed Mrs. Dulcimer, ‘and Culverhouse
Castle. Such a position for dear Beatrix.’

‘Ah, to be sure, the position! I suppose a girl thinks more about
that now-a-days than of her lover’s mind or person. But certainly
Cyril is both handsomer and cleverer than his cousin Kenrick. I
should like a curate with a large income, it would be so good for the
parish. And then we might rub on without the weekly offertory Cyril is
always plaguing me to institute, and which I am convinced will set my
congregation against me. Fancy me going up to my pulpit as a beggar
every Sunday, and my people expecting value for their money out of my
sermon. Imagine their remarks at the church door: “Not much there for
sixpence,” “A very poor shilling’s worth,” and so forth.’

‘Clement,’ cried Mrs. Dulcimer, thoroughly scandalized this time,
and with all her frills in motion, ‘you ought never to have been a

‘My love, I freely admit that some easier walk in life might have
suited me better. A sub-librarian’s place, now, in some antique
library, like the Cheetham Institution at Manchester. I should have
had my books round me, and my superior to tell me what to do. No
responsibilities, and leisure for self-culture. But if I am a poor
creature as a parson, you supplement me so well, Selina, that, between
us, I think we do our duty to the parish. That last batch of soup was
excellent. I tasted it yesterday at old dame Hardy’s. The clear soup
we get at Lord Highflyer’s state dinners is mere pot-liquor compared
with it. Indeed, I think,’ pursued the Vicar, dreamily, as if he were
meditating a proposition of Berkeley’s, ‘that all clear soups are more
or less a mistake--tasting only of sherry and burnt sugar.’

‘Always thinking of temporal blessings, Clement.’

‘They are the only blessings we can fully realize while on this side of
eternity, my dear. We may be excused if we sometimes set an undue value
on them.’

Mrs. Dulcimer sighed, and opened her workbasket. There were little
shirts and flannel swathings to be made for new-comers into this world
of troubles--heirs apparent to a life of labour, with a reversionary
interest in the workhouse. The Vicar’s wife spread her piece of linen
on the table, and began a series of problems with a parallelogram
in stiff brown paper, in order to find out how she might get the
maximum of baby-shirts out of the minimum of linen. It vexed her that
her husband should take life so lightly, and be troubled about a few
things, when she was troubled about so many. She had no doubt that he
was in the wrong, and that she and Cyril Culverhouse understood the
real meaning of their duties a great deal better than the Vicar.

Clement Dulcimer was the living embodiment of an idea which at this
time had not yet been put before the world by Mr. Matthew Arnold. He
was all sweetness and light. He believed in culture as the highest
good. He lived among his books, and upon his books; and those books
were of the best that the elect of this world have written. He sought
no happiness beyond his library, save in his garden and poultry yard,
which afforded his senses the gratification of colour and sweet scents,
sunshine and balmy air. He had travelled little, and sighed but faintly
for a pleasure which he found impossible. His books and his poor
absorbed all his spare cash. There was none left for foreign travel--so
Mr. Dulcimer was content to enjoy Greece in the pages of Thucydides,
or Childe Harold--to stand on the threshold of the sacred grove with
Antigone--to know Cithæron only on the lips of Œdipus--to see the sandy
plain of Marathon, or the walls of Thebes, with his mind’s eye alone.

‘I dare say I should be disappointed if I saw the reality,’ he murmured
placidly. ‘Realities are so disenchanting. Or I might be taken by
brigands, and poor Selina would have to sell her great-grand-father’s
silver tea-kettle to ransom me.’

The living at Little Yafford was a good one, and the parish was small.
It was altogether one of those exceptional cures which are reserved
for the more fortunate sons of the Church. Mr. Dulcimer had obtained
it while he was still a young man, the living being in the gift of his
uncle, Sir Philip Dulcimer, of Hawtree Hall and Yafford Park. Yafford
Park was rather a dreary place, with an unwieldly barrack of the
Georgian era in the middle of it, and Sir Philip had been very glad to
grant a large lease of park and mansion to Mr. Piper, the Great Yafford
cotton-spinner, who spent a great deal more money in little Yafford
than Sir Philip would have done, but who was looked down upon by his
neighbours on principle. Great Yafford, the manufacturing town five
miles off, was as Radical a place as you would care to find, but Little
Yafford was essentially aristocratic, ignored the commercial element
altogether, and thought it an affliction to be so near the tall chimney
shafts of the busy town.

Little Yafford had perhaps some right to give itself airs, on the
strength of being one of the prettiest villages in Yorkshire. It was
like a spoiled beauty, and felt that nothing could be too good for it.
Great bleak hills rose up between it and the bitter east winds, a river
wound in and out of the village like a shining serpent, and licked its
green meadows and garden boundaries. The long low stone bridge was as
old as the Romans. There was not an ugly house in the place--except
that big barrack of Sir Philip’s, and that was hidden behind the fine
old elms and oaks of the park. There was not a neglected garden, or
an objectionable pigsty. The gentry were all well-to-do people, who
bestowed money and care upon the beautification of their homes; while
the poorer parishioners were under the influence of Mr. Dulcimer’s
sweetness and light, and Mrs. Dulcimer’s active good-nature, and
laboured industriously to make their cottages lovely.

To come from stony, noisy, smoky, crowded Great Yafford to pastoral
Little Yafford, was like coming from purgatory to paradise--an earthly
paradise of rustic beauty and placid repose, content, and harmony. Yet
Mr. Dulcimer’s last new curate, Cyril Culverhouse, breathed many a
thoughtful sigh over the ignorances and even vice which he discovered
in this smiling village. Coming out of some cottage door, over which
the roses and honeysuckle hung in unpruned luxuriance, his lips would
often involuntarily ejaculate the familiar words of the evening
collect--‘Lighten our darkness, we beseech Thee, O Lord.’



AT various periods of his tranquil career the Rev. Clement Dulcimer
had found it convenient to add to his income by taking a private
pupil or two. He could not have endured what he called a herd of
young men, meaning half a dozen, but he rather liked to have a
couple of intelligent young fellows following him about through the
dawdling progress of his out-of-door life, or hanging upon his words
in the comfortable quietude of his study. He was an excellent master
for classics and theology--mathematics he frankly abhorred--and
he taught conscientiously in his own unconventional way. The men
he coached generally came out well; but in after life there was a
tinge of eccentricity in them--a strain imparted by Clement Dulcimer
unawares--and which in one or two cases took the unhappy form of
latitudinarianism. Spinoza on the brain, some people called it.

The two pupils who had stayed longest at the Vicarage, and occupied the
most important position in the minds of the Vicar and his wife, were
Kenrick Culverhouse and his first cousin Cyril. Old Sir Kenrick and
the Vicar had been at Oxford together, and it seemed the most natural
thing that the baronet should send his only son and his orphan nephew
to his old chum, more especially as he could nowhere else educate
them so well or so cheaply. Culverhouse Castle was a fine historical
place in Hampshire, which tourists went out of their way to see, but
which the late Sir Kenrick did not regard with any enthusiasm. He had
been more or less under a cloud of money difficulties ever since he
could remember, and preferred lodgings in St. James’s to his feudal
birthplace. The moat was all very well, and so was the massive old
keep, on the top of which the gardener had made a kitchen-garden for
gooseberries and strawberry beds; but Sir Kenrick liked Jermyn Street
and the clubs a great deal better; and, if a man must have a castle,
the King’s Bench, in which he had spent some of the liveliest days
of his youth, was much pleasanter to his mind than Culverhouse. Lady
Culverhouse was fond of the castle, no doubt--or at any rate she stayed
there, and it was a tradition in the family that no other air suited
her, and that she was quite rooted to the spot; a tradition which
was all the more firmly established because nobody had ever proposed
taking her anywhere else. Old Sir Kenrick and his wife had gone to
join the family ashes in the vault under Culverhouse Church, and young
Sir Kenrick reigned in his father’s stead. All the quicksilver in the
Culverhouse veins seemed to have run out with the last baronet. Young
Kenrick was steady and thoughtful, and the mortgages weighed upon his
spirits like a nightmare. He was always thinking what the estate would
be if those mortgages could but be paid off.

It seemed to him an Eldorado. But there were only he and his cousin and
heir presumptive to accomplish this great work. And how were two young
men, moderately gifted, to earn fifty thousand pounds between them?

‘Unless one of us were to break out into a Walter Scott, or discover a
new motive power to supersede steam, I don’t see how it’s to be done,’
Kenrick said to Mrs. Dulcimer, in one of his confidential talks with
that good-natured lady, who knew all that he could tell her about the
mortgages and the property. ‘The army won’t do it--and the church
won’t do it--and the law wouldn’t do it under thirty years’ work.
Engineering might do it, perhaps, if we could blossom into Brunels, and
get contracts for railways and things; but, you see, neither of us has
a turn for engineering.’

‘You ought both to marry heiresses,’ suggested Mrs. Dulcimer.

‘Oh no, that’s horrid. We couldn’t do that,’ cried Kenrick. ‘That’s too

This was how Kenrick had talked at seventeen, when he was in his state
of tutelage. He was more reticent about himself and his prospects now,
at nine-and-twenty, but Mrs. Dulcimer had forgotten nothing, and when
Kenrick looked grave, she always thought he was brooding upon the

‘I know that the dearest wish of his heart is to redeem the family
position,’ she said, and this was what set her thinking about a
marriage between Sir Kenrick and old Mr. Harefield’s only daughter and

Cyril had gone into the church. He loved his profession for its own
sake, and thought very little of the loaves and fishes. He would like
to be a bishop, no doubt, when his time came; but it was for the sake
of having a great influence and doing things in his own way, not for
social status or income, that he would have desired a mitre. Doing
things in his own way--that was Cyril’s idea of a perfect life. To make
his church beautiful, according to his idea of beauty, to have good
music, and a strict adherence to the rubrics in Edward the Sixth’s
Prayer-book, to infuse something of the poetry of old traditions into
the prosaic expression of a reformed faith--to train his flock in his
own way of thinking--to create for himself an enthusiastic and fervent
congregation. These were the things which Cyril Culverhouse believed he
had been sent into the world to do--rather than to help his cousin to
pay off the mortgages, which mattered very little, so long as poor Ken
had money enough to live upon.

Kenrick had chosen the army for his profession. A military career
offered a poor prospect of paying off the mortgages, but it was at
least a gentleman-like line of life, and the four or five hundred a
year which could be squeezed out of the burdened estate enabled Kenrick
to live like a gentleman among his brother officers. Honour and wealth
might come to him together, perhaps, in the distant future; and when
he was growing old, and had lost the zest of life, he might be able
to do something for Culverhouse Castle. Cyril would be a bishop, most
likely, by that time, and they would sit over their port and filberts
in the wainscoted parlour at Culverhouse, wagging their grey heads
deprecatingly at the shortcomings of the rising generation, condemning
new guns and novel doctrines, new lights of all kinds in camp or temple.

Kenrick had served in India, and was home on leave. He was very fond
of his cousin, for they had been brought up together, and nothing
could be pleasanter to him than to spend his holiday fishing and
shooting, reading or idling round about Little Yafford. He had liked
the neighbourhood as a lad. He loved it now for the sake of those
boyish days which were so delightful to look back upon--all the lights
in the picture remembered, all the shadows forgotten. He had an almost
filial affection for Mr. and Mrs. Dulcimer--and the hills and moors and
wandering streams of Yorkshire had a charm for him which was second
only to his delight in his native Hampshire.

The two young men were sitting by Cyril’s hearth on this autumn
evening, talking confidentially over pipe and cigar. They had spent the
day apart, Kenrick tramping over the moors with his gun, Cyril engaged
in his parish work.

They were talking of Christian Harefield, the owner of the Water House,
one of the most important places in Little Yafford, after the Park, and
the father of that Beatrix whom Mrs. Dulcimer was so anxious to dispose
of matrimonially.

‘One of the most disagreeable men I ever met in my life,’ said Kenrick.
‘Miss Harefield was driving him in her basket pony carriage--he looked
about as suitable an occupant of a pony carriage as Mephistopheles for
a go-cart--and I met them at the bottom of the hill, going up that
wild road to the moor. I wonder whether he was going to gather the
samolus, left-handed and fasting, or to cut mistletoe with a golden
sickle? Upon my word, he looked as grim and ancient as a Druid. Beatrix
stopped the pony when she saw me, and introduced me to her father.
“This is Sir Kenrick Culverhouse, papa,” she said, whereat the Druid
grunted. “Are you going far up the hill?” I asked, with the originality
which distinguishes these casual conversations; “I’m afraid it will be
dark before you come back.” “Oh, we don’t mind that,” she said, “Puck
and I know our way so well.” So they went up into the thickening mist,
and I saw no more of them. I dare say they are up there still. Do you
know if the old gentleman is quite right in his mind?’

‘Yes, his mind is clear enough, so far as I have been able to discover;
he is eccentric.’

‘And grumpy.’

‘Of a gloomy turn, no doubt. He goes nowhere, and receives no one,
except Mr. Scratchell, his lawyer and agent. He seems like a man whose
whole nature has been soured by a great sorrow. People say that his
wife’s death broke his heart.’

‘One would hardly suppose such a being could ever have had a wife--much
less that he could have been fond of her. When did the lady die?’

‘Don’t you remember? She died while we were at the Vicarage--about
eleven years ago. There was a good deal of talk about it at the time.
Mr. Harefield and his wife were travelling in Italy. Beatrix and her
governess were with them--she was a child then, you know,--and Mrs.
Harefield died very suddenly--after a few hours’ illness. It was a case
of Asiatic cholera, I believe. People who know Mr. Harefield, or rather
who knew him before that time--for he holds himself aloof from every
one now--say that he has been a changed man since the shock of his
wife’s death.’

‘A melancholy story,’ said Kenrick. ‘I forgive him the discourteous
grunt which was his sole recognition of my existence. Poor Beatrix! A
sad beginning for her life.’

‘Yes,’ answered Cyril, with warm interest. ‘Motherless so early--with
so strange and gloomy a father. You cannot wonder that she is somewhat
different from other girls.’

‘Somewhat different from other girls,’ echoed Kenrick. ‘She is a queen
compared with other girls. That is the difference. She is worth twenty
other girls--a hundred--for she has a character of her own.’

Cyril looked at him curiously.

“‘Praise from Sir Hubert Stanley!’” he exclaimed, ‘You are not often so
enthusiastic, Ken.’

‘Because I seldom see anything to praise--in a woman. Don’t be
frightened, Cyril. I do admire Beatrix, but only as I admire anything
else in nature that is noble and rare; and I know that you admire her
with quite another kind of admiration, though you have not honoured me
by communicating your ideas upon the subject.’

Cyril knocked the ashes out of his pipe on the old-fashioned hob, and
said not a word until he had filled it again, slowly and thoughtfully.

Clement Dulcimer was right when he called Cyril the handsomer of
the two cousins. His pale clear-cut face was essentially noble. Yet
it was by no means essentially attractive. That steadfast look and
unchangeable gravity were unpleasing to many; but, on the other hand,
Cyril’s rare smile was beautiful in all eyes. It was the sudden light
of mind brightening the whole countenance; not a mechanical contraction
of the lips revealing a fine set of teeth, and wrinkling the eyelids
agreeably. It was a smile that meant sympathy, regard, beneficence--a
smile that comforted and cheered. The miserable among his flock knew it
well; society saw it seldom.

Cyril’s eyes were gray, and had that steady look which passes for
severity; his nose was slightly aquiline, his mouth beautiful, his brow
broad and high, with hair of neutral brown cut close to the well-shaped
head, and curling crisply--hair like a gladiator’s, said Kenrick, who
rather prided himself upon the lighter auburn of his own locks, as
he also did upon the finer line of his nose, which inclined to the
Grecian, and accorded with his low straight brow and expressionless
eyes, whose pupils seemed to have no more life and colour than the
sculptor’s dint in the marble orb.

Kenrick had what is called an aristocratic look, and rather flattered
himself upon those evidences of blue blood supposed to exist in an
attenuated but open nostril, a tapering hand, and an arched instep.
These peculiarities, he imagined, declared as plainly as Domesday Book
or title-deeds that the Culverhouses were great people on the other
side of the Channel before they honoured England by coming across the
sea with Norman William to appropriate some portion of it.

‘She is a noble creature,’ said Cyril, with conviction, when he had
pressed the last shred of latakia into the well-filled bowl, ‘but
she is Christian Harefield’s only child; and he is rich enough and
suspicious enough to impute mercenary motives to any poor man who
ventured to fall in love with his daughter.’

‘Fathers have flinty hearts,’ retorted Kenrick, lightly. ‘That’s an old
saying, but sons and daughters generally contrive to follow their own
inclinations in spite of paternal flintiness. I feel very sure that
Beatrix will choose for herself, and marry the man she loves. She is
just the kind of girl to dash herself blindly against the torrent of
paternal wrath. It would be a grand thing for you, Cyril. You could
have the Culverhouse living--a poor benefice, but on your native
soil--and live at the Castle. I doubt if I shall ever be able to occupy
it properly,’ he added, with a regretful sigh.

‘I would take her without a sixpence, and work for her and cherish
her all the days of my life,’ said Cyril, in a deep-toned voice that
trembled with strong feeling, ‘but I cannot teach her to rebel against
her father. “Honour thy father and thy mother.” She hears me read that
sublime command every other Sunday, and am I to be the first to teach
her to set it at nought?’

‘How do you know that the old Druid would object to you?’

‘I do not know as much directly, but Beatrix tells me that he will
oppose any choice of hers.’

‘Obnoxious ancient Briton! Well, Cyril, all I can say is, if I were in
love with a girl, I should think no more of her father than Romeo did
of old Capulet, and I should sink the fifth commandment till after I’d
married her--and then she could honour her father with a cock robin and
holly bush card at Christmas, or a pair of muffettees on New Year’s
Day, or a sugar egg at Easter.’



THE Sunday evening service at Little Yafford parish church was as
fashionable in its own particular way as an Italian opera in June.
Everybody met everybody else there. The psalms were chanted very
fairly, the anthem was always a feature, the prettiest hymns were sung,
and the sermon, whether preached by the vicar or curate, seemed to
have a peculiar life and fervour in it that harmonized with the more
exalted feelings of the flock. The cold realism of Sunday morning gave
place on Sunday evening to a vague enthusiasm, a spiritualized ardour.
Of course there were people for whom that lofty liturgy soared too
high--uncultured souls which demanded to be fed on coarser diet,--but
these were outside the pale, and generally wore a style of bonnet which
would have been a blot on the subdued beauty of the parish church, with
its noble nave, long narrow aisles, carved rood screen, and waggon
roof. These barbarians worshipped in a queer little chapel in High
Street, to which they descended a step or two from the level of the
pavement, and in which tabernacle they might be heard singing their own
particular hymns with the utmost strength of their untrained voices, as
the Church of England people went by, the Dissenters assembling half an
hour earlier than their conforming brethren, and generally prolonging
their service half an hour later.

It was a pretty scene, that parish church of Little Yafford, in the
late October evening. The clusters of wax candles in the brazen
branches threw just enough light on column and arch to leave the
greater part of the building in shadow. The rich colouring about the
altar made a glow of splendour at the end of the gray stone chancel.
The old oak pews, with their quaintly carved doors, reflected the light
redly on bosses that took every shape, from the graceful _fleur-de-lys_
to the dog-faced demon or blunt-nosed cherub. The font in its distant
corner gleamed whitely below a cover of crimson cloth. Crimson cushions
in many of the pews, and the dark green and gold adornment of pulpit
and reading desk, the old brass lectern, the new brass candelabra,
brightened the sombre stone and dark brown oak, and made up in some
wise for the loss of the stained glories of the chancel window, dull
and dead at this hour.

The people came in quietly by twos and threes, and took their places
with the usual hushed and solemn air; then the throng thickened, and
the pews began to fill; and then the bells rang more slowly, and there
came a plaintive strain of melody from the organ, soft and subdued
as a whisper. This swelled presently into a voluntary, and became a
triumphant peal as the vestry door opened and the surpliced choir
entered the chancel, two and two, the small boys first, and the rather
clumsy-looking men bringing up the rear. After these followed Cyril
Culverhouse, looking tall in his white raiment and crimson hood, and
lastly the Vicar, a broad and dignified figure that seemed to have been
intended for lawn sleeves and a bishop’s gown.

A girl in one of the pews directly facing the chancel looked up from
her open book as Cyril took his place in the reading desk, and then
looked quickly down again, as if the sight were too terrible. That
swift shy look, and sudden fall of the eyelids told a secret old as
Time himself. Mr. Culverhouse was something more than the curate of
Little Yafford to that one member of his congregation. She was a
girl of striking appearance, richly but carelessly dressed in velvet
and silk, with feathers in her bonnet, according to the fashion for
that year made and provided. She had one of those brilliant Southern
complexions--that rich mingling of carnation and palest olive--which
are alone sufficient for good looks; but in her case this charm was
heightened by the splendour of dark Italian eyes, and the warm brown of
rippling hair. Her brow was broad but low, her nose nondescript, her
lips firmly moulded, her teeth faultless, her eyebrows strongly marked,
and of a darker brown than her hair.

‘I am always afraid of Trix’s eyebrows,’ Isabella Scratchell, the young
lady’s bosom friend, used to say. ‘They remind me of thundery weather.’

Miss Scratchell was sitting next her friend in the Harefield pew
to-night. She was a small slim person, distinguished by a pink and
white complexion, and insignificant blunt features of the Dresden china
type. There was a Scratchell pew in one of the aisles, but Beatrix
liked to have her friend with her, and the Water House pew was in the
more aristocratic and fashionable situation, advantages peculiarly
agreeable to Isabella Scratchell.

Mr. Harefield assisted at the Sunday morning service half a dozen times
or so in a quarter, just often enough to escape the stigma of absolute
indifference or infidelity. His handsome Italian wife had been a Roman
Catholic, and there was a feeling among the more bigoted section of
society in Little Yafford that Mr. Harefield was generally lax in his
ideas, like the Romans when they began to import foreign gods, and that
he would not have minded worshipping Isis and Osiris if those deities
had come in his way.

‘He has travelled so much, you know, my dear,’ said Mrs. Piper, of the
Park, to Mrs. Dulcimer, ‘and having married a foreigner, you see, one
can hardly expect him to be quite correct in his ideas. A sad education
for that poor girl. I am told he has taught her Greek, and hasn’t
allowed her to learn music. But I think that can hardly be true.’

‘It is actually true about the music,’ cried Mrs. Dulcimer, reflecting
her friend’s look of horror. ‘He hates the piano, and he had Mrs.
Harefield’s old-fashioned Broadwood sent up to the lumber-room in the
tower. But there is no use in thwarting a natural gift. That poor child
has taught herself by ear, and plays and sings very sweetly. She spends
hours up in that old turret room--in the coldest weather--wrapped
in a shawl, picking out our church music. Mrs. Harefield had an
extraordinary gift, you know.’

‘I never saw Mrs. Harefield. She died before Ebenezer took the Park.’

‘Yes, of course. I ought to have remembered. She was a lovely woman;
and I believe that Christian Harefield was passionately fond of her, in
his way; but it was not a happy marriage; there were quarrels. I did
my best, but not successfully. There is an unconquerable severity and
coldness in that man’s nature; and his wife had one of those ardent,
impetuous dispositions,--you know what I mean.’

‘Exactly,’ chimed in the visitor, whose mind had wandered a little,
and who was wondering when the Dulcimers would have a new drawing-room
carpet. The present one was threadbare, and had been ingeniously turned
and pieced, like a puzzle, odd bits of brighter colour fitting in here
and there rather too obviously. That foolish Mr. Dulcimer spent all
his money on books, and never improved his furniture, whereas in Mrs.
Piper’s ideal house there was no litter of books and pamphlets, but the
last fashion in carpets and tapestry table-covers, cabriole chairs and
sofas, and the newest kinds of antimacassars.

Although Mr. Harefield was not often to be seen in the parish church
himself, he had no objection to his daughter’s frequent attendance
there; and the church and the vicarage afforded the only variety in
the dullest life that a well-born heiress ever led. The music was a
delight to her sensitive ear; for the organist was a fine musician,
and the organ was a noble instrument, which had been presented to
Little Yafford in the reign of William the Third, by a city merchant
who had been born in the village, and who came back there to die
after having made his fortune in hides and tallow. His monument, in
coloured and gilded marbles, after the florid style of the period,
adorned the chancel, and recorded his public and private virtues, and
his munificent gift of the organ, in a long Latin epitaph, with a great
many adjectives ending in _issimus_.

The Scratchells had a comfortable old house in the village, but Miss
Harefield was not allowed to visit there, although Isabella was her
only friend and companion. Isabella might come to the Water House as
often as she liked, but it was an understood thing that Beatrix was
not to go to Mr. Scratchell’s, a distinction which Mrs. Scratchell and
Isabella’s brothers and sisters resented as invidious.

‘We are not good enough for the heiress,’ said Clementina Scratchell,

‘She’s the most stuck-up young woman I ever saw,’ said Bertie, the
eldest son, a sandy-complexioned, pug-nosed youth, who had been
christened Herbert, but who had more the air of a Samuel or a Thomas.

Such remarks as these, if overheard, always brought down the paternal
wrath upon the utterer. Even Mrs. Scratchell would remark mildly that
poor people must not quarrel with their bread and butter, and that Mr.
Harefield was a very good client to father, and that it was very kind
of Miss Harefield to be so fond of Bella, although she did look down
upon the others, which might be a little wounding to one’s feelings,
but poor people must not be proud.

This fact of their poverty had always been kept before the eyes of the
young Scratchells. It encountered them at every turn. If the boys tore
the knees of their trousers in forbidden climbing of trees, they were
reminded mournfully by a desponding mother that their parents were
hard-working people, and that these destructive habits were a direct
wrong to those toil-worn bread-winners.

‘It isn’t as if your father began life with a fortune, Bertie,’ Mrs.
Scratchell would say. ‘He has to work for every sixpence, and you ought
to have thought of that before you climbed the mulberry tree.’

It was in all things alike. The Scratchells were never permitted to
make any mistake as to their place in the social scale. It was to be
a subordinate place always. They were to work for their bread, as
their father had done before them, as their mother worked daily, from
sunrise to sunset, in homely drudgery that made no effect or impression
upon the world, and left nothing behind when life was done, not so
much as an embroidered chair cover, or a thin volume of indifferent
verses, to be admired by the next generation. They were to work, these
young Scratchells. Their education was not given to them for its own
sake--on the sweetness and light principle--but as a preparation for a
laborious career. Herbert was to be apprenticed to Mr. Pontorson, the
surveyor at Great Yafford. Adolphus--poor Mrs. Scratchell had insisted
upon giving her children the cheap luxury of fine names--was promised
a clerkship in a factory. Isabella was already earning a salary as
morning governess to the little Pipers at Yafford Park. It was not
an onerous engagement, and left her afternoons free. Mr. Scratchell
thought she ought to get another engagement to fill up her afternoons,
but as yet Isabella had contrived to avoid this double labour. She was
her father’s favourite, and was believed to have great influence over
him. It was she who was always charged with the task of imparting any
disagreeable intelligence to him, such as the kitchen boiler having
cracked, the supply of coals being nearly run out, or Adolphus having
broken ‘another window.’ The previous fracture on this wretched youth’s
part was always so recent as to exaggerate the iniquity of the present

It was scarcely strange, perhaps, if from this Spartan training the
little Scratchells grew up with the idea that poverty was life’s chief
evil. Just as the Stoics believed virtue to be the only good, the young
Scratchells believed want of money to be the only ill.

‘Ah, my dears, a fat sorrow is better than a lean sorrow,’ Mrs.
Scratchell remarked, plaintively, when she heard of the afflictions of
her wealthier neighbours.

She could not bring herself even to pity her husband’s patron, Mr.
Harefield, who was supposed to have had his heart broken by the
untimely death of his handsome wife. It seemed to her impossible that
so rich a man, surrounded with all the good things of this life, could
be an object for compassion.

This close acquaintance with necessity had not endeared that stern
goddess’s countenance to Isabella. She had a secret hankering after
the good things of this life; and to her mind Beatrix Harefield, whose
solitary existence was for most people a subject of pity, was a person
to be envied. Had she not a fine old house to live in, every room
in which was like a picture, horses and carriages at her disposal,
servants to wait upon her, and an unlimited supply of pocket-money?
It was a dull life, of course, but Mr. Harefield would die before
very long, no doubt, and take his gloominess to a more appropriate
habitation, and then Beatrix would be the richest woman in the
neighbourhood, free to drain the cup of pleasure to the lees.

Ten years ago, when Beatrix was a tall, thin-legged child in a
short black frock, recovering slowly from a severe attack of
whooping-cough, the family doctor ventured to call attention to the
exceeding solitariness of her life, and to suggest that some juvenile
companionship should be procured for her. It was less than a year after
Mrs. Harefield’s death, and the master of the Water House wore an
air of settled gloom which made him, in the minds of his fellow-men,
somewhat unapproachable. The doctor made his suggestion timidly. He was
only the family practitioner of Little Yafford, and was much humbler
in his manners and pretensions than the bakers and butchers of that
settlement; for those traders knew that people must have bread and meat
always, while epidemics, accidents, and chronic diseases were subject
to periods of dulness, sorely depressing to the faculty. If he had
been Dr. Fawcus, the consulting physician of Great Yafford, he would
have ordered playfellows for Miss Harefield with as off-hand an air
as he ordered boiled chicken and barley water. But Mr. Namby made the
suggestion tentatively, quite prepared to withdraw it if it were ill

‘The child seems dull, certainly,’ said Mr. Harefield. ‘She doesn’t
run, or skip, or scream, like the general run of children. I have
thought it an advantage; but I suppose, as you say, it is a sign of
feebleness of constitution.’

‘I think that anything which would enliven her spirits might conduce
to her recovery,’ replied the doctor. ‘She doesn’t gain strength as
fast as I should wish.’

‘Really!’ said Mr. Harefield, with a far-off look, as if he were
talking of somebody at the Antipodes. ‘Well, if you think it wise, we
must get her a playfellow. I have received no visitors, as you know,
since my wife’s death. In my best days I always considered society more
or less a bore, and I could not endure to have people about me now. But
we must get a playfellow for the child. Have you a girl that would do?’

The surgeon blushed. What an opening it might have been for his
daughter, had she been old enough! Unhappily she was still in her
cradle. He explained this to Mr. Harefield.

‘My agent, Scratchell, has a little girl, I believe.’

‘He has several.’

‘One is quite enough,’ said Mr. Harefield. ‘I’ll tell him to send one
of his girls to play with Beatrix.’

Writing to his agent on some business matter that evening, Christian
Harefield added this postscript,--

‘Oblige me by sending the quietest of your girls to play with my
daughter every afternoon at three.’

The request was somewhat curtly put, but the Scratchells saw in it
the opening of a shining path that led to the temple of fortune. From
that hour Isabella was exalted above all her sisters and brothers. She
was like Joseph with his coat of many colours. All the other sheaves
bowed down to her sheaf. She had better raiment than the others, that
she might be presentable at the Water House. She never had her boots
mended more than once. After the second mending they were passed on to
Clementina, whether they fitted or not. Clementina protested piteously.

Beatrix received her new companion, and absolutely her first
playfellow, with open arms, and a heart overflowing with love that had
run more or less to waste hitherto, or had been squandered on ponies,
dogs, and guinea-pigs. Miss Scales, the governess, was not lovable.
One might as well have tried to love the Druid stones on the moor
above Little Yafford. Christian Harefield wrapped himself in gloom as
in a mantle, and lived apart from all the world. So Isabella’s coming
was like the beginning of a new life for Beatrix. She was enraptured
with this little fair-haired girl, who knew how to play at all manner
of nice games which Beatrix had never heard of, and which Miss Scales
condemned as vulgar. Happily Isabella had been so well drilled in the
needy, careful home, that she behaved with a propriety in which even
Miss Scales could find no flaw. When questioned by Mr. Harefield, the
governess reported favourably, though with a certain condescending
reserve, of the young guest, and, from coming for an hour or two every
afternoon, Isabella came almost to live at the Water House, and to
receive a share of Miss Scales valuable instructions, that lady’s
acquirements being of a solid and unornamental character which Mr.
Harefield approved.

‘I shall have your girl carefully educated,’ said Christian Harefield
to his man of business. ‘I am bound to make some return for her
services as my daughter’s companion. But if you want her taught music
and dancing, you’ll have to get that done elsewhere. My girl learns

As well as these educational advantages Isabella received other
benefits which her youthful mind better appreciated, in the occasional
gift of a silk frock or a warm winter jacket, purchased for her by Miss
Scales at Mr. Harefield’s desire; and when Beatrix grew up and had
plenty of pocket-money, she was always giving Bella presents.

‘It’s like having a fairy godmother,’ said Flora, the third of the
Scratchell daughters, with a pang of envy.

There sat the two girls in the Water House pew this October evening,
everybody in the parish church knowing their history, and thinking it
a very pretty trait of character in Mr. Harefield’s daughter that she
should be so fond of her humble friend Bella; for it must be understood
that Mr. Scratchell, never having been able to struggle out of the
morass of poverty or to keep more than one maid-servant, hardly took
his full professional rank in the village, or was even regarded as a
gentleman by Act of Parliament.

It was a recognised fact that without Mr. Harefield’s business,
the collection of rents, and drawing up of leases, and ejection of
troublesome tenants, and so on, the Scratchells could hardly have gone
on existing, outside the workhouse, the solicitor’s practice, over and
above this agency, being of the pettiest and most desultory order.

Bella’s pretty little Dresden china face was bent over her book as the
choir and clergy came filing in. But though Bella’s head was gracefully
bent, she gave a little upward glance under her auburn eyelashes, and
contrived to see that look in Beatrix’s face which was in itself the
beginning of a history. And then the service began, and both girls
seemed absorbed in their devotions, while Mrs. Dulcimer, contemplating
them benignantly from the vicarage pew, thought what a pretty pair they
made, and wondered whom she could pitch upon as a husband for Bella.
The poor little thing ought to be married. She was not a great heiress
like Beatrix, but it was not the less incumbent upon some good-natured
friend to find her a husband--nay, it was a Christian duty to do so.
Matrimony would be the poor child’s only escape from straitened
circumstances and a life of toil. Everybody knew what a struggle these
poor Scratchells had to make for the bare privilege of living.

‘She’s rather pretty, and certainly graceful,’ mused Mrs. Dulcimer,
while one of the wicked kings of Israel was misconducting himself.

Even a clergyman’s wife’s mind will occasionally wander, though her
husband may be reading the lesson.

‘I wish I could think of some one to suit her,’ said Mrs. Dulcimer to

And then it chanced that her glance roamed absently to the
reading-desk, where Cyril’s crisp brown hair and strongly marked brow
showed above the open Prayer-book.

‘The very man!’ Mrs. Dulcimer ejaculated inwardly, in an ecstasy of
good nature.

It is so delightful to feel one’s self the providence of one’s
neighbours. Poor Mrs. Dulcimer’s mind was distracted during the rest of
the service. This notion about Cyril was one of those splendid ideas
which take hold of the female mind with over-mastering power, like a
brilliant scheme for turning a silk dress, or making up last year’s
exploded bonnet into the latest fashionable shape for this year. Vainly
did the busy soul try to pin her mind to the Prayer-book. She could not
get her thoughts away from the suitability of a match between Cyril and
Bella. There was a remarkable fitness about it. Neither of them had
any money of their own. That made it so nice. They couldn’t feel under
any obligation to each other. Cyril would, of course, get on well in
the church. People always did who were as earnest and well connected
as Cyril Culverhouse. And then what an admirable wife Bella would make
for a poor man--a girl who had been brought up to pinch, and contrive,
and deny herself, and make sixpence do the work of a shilling! It never
occurred to Mrs. Dulcimer that this long apprenticeship to self-denial
might have induced in Bella a craving for the good things of this life,
and an ardent desire for the opportunity of self-indulgence.

By the time Cyril went up into the pulpit to preach his sermon, Mrs.
Dulcimer had married him to Isabella, and settled them in a modest but
comfortable living, with the prettiest and most rustic of vicarages,
where the housemaid’s pantry would afford ample scope for Isabella’s
domestic talents, while the ignorance of an agricultural parish would
give full play to Cyril’s energy and earnestness.

Cyril Culverhouse preached an admirable sermon. He had that gift
of clear and concise language, short sentences, bold and distinct
expression, appropriate metaphor, and strong colouring, which makes
certain books in the English language stand out from all other writing
with a force and power that command the admiration alike of the
cultured and uncultured reader. He had not the subtlety, finesse, and
erudition of his Vicar, who preached for the most part to please his
own fancy, and very often over the heads of his congregation. Cyril’s
earnestness made every sermon an exhortation, a call to repentance
and holy living. It was hardly possible to hear him and not be moved
by him. It would have been sheer stony-heartedness in his hearers to
sit there and listen to him and make no resolve to live better, and be
touched by no pang of compunction for past errors.

Beatrix listened with all her soul in her eyes. Once and once only
Cyril’s large gaze, sweeping the mass of faces, caught that upward
look of the dark eyes. It seemed to him to take away his breath for a
moment, and checked the progress of a vigorous peroration. He faltered,
substituted a word, recovered himself in an instant, and went on; and
no one knew how that one little look had moved him.

The clock struck eight as the congregation came trooping out of the
church, with much greeting of neighbours in the darkness just outside
the old stone porch. Mrs. Dulcimer seized upon the two girls, as they
were going away, with a sober-looking man-servant, in a dark livery, in
attendance on the heiress.

‘You are not going home, Trix,’ cried the Vicar’s wife. ‘You and Bella
must come to the Vicarage to supper. It’s an age since I’ve seen you.’

‘Dear Mrs. Dulcimer, I spent the day with you only last Tuesday! I am
quite ashamed of coming so often!’

‘You foolish child, you know it is my delight to have you. And Bella
must come to-night. I insist on Bella’s coming too.’

This was said with unconscious condescension. It was, of course, a
grand thing for Miss Scratchell to be asked to supper at the Vicarage.

‘Papa expects me to go straight home,’ said Beatrix, evidently anxious
to accept the invitation.

‘My love, you know your papa never expects anything from you. You are
quite your own mistress. Parker,’ said Mrs. Dulcimer, wheeling suddenly
and addressing herself to the footman, ‘you will be good enough to
tell your master, with my compliments, that I am taking Miss Harefield
to the Vicarage for supper, and that you are to come for her at ten
o’clock. You understand, Parker, at ten; and you can take a glass of
ale in the Vicarage kitchen while Miss Harefield puts on her bonnet.’

Mrs. Dulcimer always went into details, and overflowed in small acts of
good nature to the inferior classes.



THERE was no pleasanter house in Little Yafford or its neighbourhood to
visit on a Sunday evening than the shabby old Vicarage, in which Mr.
and Mrs. Dulcimer had lived happily for the last twenty years. It was
an old house--and had never been a grand house even in its best days;
indeed, there was a legend in Little Yafford that it had once belonged
to a farm, and there was a certain homely substantiality and solidity
about it which favoured that idea. Severe critics declared that there
was not a single good room in the house, and it must be admitted that
all the rooms were low, and that the chimneys projected into them in
a way which modern architecture disallows, leaving a deep recess on
each side to be filled up with books, old china or such miscellaneous
goods as Mrs. Piper, of the Park, denounced comprehensively as rubbish.
The windows were casements, with leaden lattices, and admitted as
little light as was consistent with their obvious functions. Heavy
beams supported the low ceilings, big old grates devoured incalculable
quantities of fuel, but happily coals--pronounced for the most part as
a dissyllable--co-als--were cheap at Little Yafford.

The furniture was in keeping with the house, for it was all ancient and
shabby, and had a wonderful individuality about it, which, in Clement
Dulcimer’s opinion, quite atoned for its shabbiness. Almost all those
old chairs and tables, and sofas, and brass-mounted sideboards, and
Indian cabinets, and Queen Anne whatnots, had come to the Vicar by
inheritance, and it was to him as if he saw the friendly faces of dead
and gone kindred smiling at him from the three-cornered bureau, or
the Japanese escritoire, or the walnut-wood chest of drawers. He even
got into the way of calling the furniture after the testators who had
left it to him, and would tell his wife to fetch him the packet of
sermon-paper out of Aunt Tabitha, or that he had left his spectacles on
Uncle Joseph.

The dining-room on this autumnal Sunday evening had a look of homely
comfort which was cheering to a heart not given wholly over to
spiritual things. It was a long low room, with three square casements
on the southern side, and a wide old fireplace, bordered with blue
and white Dutch tiles, at the end. On each side of the fireplace was
the deep recess before mentioned, filled with old oak shelves, on
which were ranged the odds and ends of porcelain and delf which had,
as it were, dropped from various branches of the family tree into
Clement Dulcimer’s lap. Aunt Tabitha’s Swansea tea set, with its
sprawling red roses on a cream-coloured ground; uncle Timothy’s quaint
Lowestoft jugs; cousin Simeon’s Bow punchbowl; grandmamma’s Oriental
dessert-plates; a Chelsea shepherdess _minus_ an arm, a Chelsea
shepherd piping to a headless sheep. There was a good deal of rubbish,
no doubt, as Mrs. Piper declared, amidst that heterogeneous collection;
but there was a great deal more value in those cups and plates than
Clement Dulcimer suspected, or he would have been sorely tempted to
exchange them for books.

At the end of the room facing the fireplace stood that fine old
sideboard of the Chippendale period, familiarly known as Uncle Joseph.
Facing the windows there was a curtained archway communicating with the

To-night a big fire burned in the capacious grate, a log of the old
poplar that was blown down in the last high wind blazing merrily at the
top of the coals, as if the stout old tree felt glad to make so jovial
an end. The supper table shone and glittered with old silver and heavy
diamond-cut glass, with here and there a tall-stemmed beaker, or an
engraved flask, as old as the pictures of Teniers or Breughel. A bowl
of chrysanthemums, a ham, a game pie, a sirloin, and a salad made a
glow of colour, and promised a substantial repast. Everybody knew that
what the Vicar gave was of the best, no cheap champagnes or doubtful
moselles, but sound claret, and the finest beer that was brewed on this
side of York.

The supper-hour was supposed to be nine o’clock, and on returning
from church the gentlemen had come straight to the dining-room. Mrs.
Dulcimer and the two girls found them there when they came downstairs
after taking off their bonnets.

The Vicar was standing in front of the fire, caressing his favourite
tabby cat with his foot, as that privileged animal rolled upon the
hearth-rug. Sir Kenrick sat in cousin Simeon’s arm-chair, a deep
velvet-covered chair, almost as large as a small house. Cyril stood
looking dreamily down at the fire.

‘Welcome, young ladies!’ exclaimed the Vicar, cheerily. ‘I thought Mrs.
Dulcimer was never going to give us our supper. Come, Beatrix, this is
your place, at my right hand.’

‘And Sir Kenrick will sit next Beatrix,’ cried Mrs. Dulcimer, on
manœuvring intent. ‘Bella, my love, you next the Vicar, and Cyril must
sit by me. I want to ask him about the next missionary meeting.’

They were all seated after good-natured Mrs. Dulcimer’s
desire,--Kenrick by the side of Beatrix, gravely contemplative of the
fine face with its rich un-English colouring; Cyril looking a little
distrait as lively Miss Scratchell discussed his sermon in her bright
appreciative way, and with an air of being quite as well read in
theology as he was. A wonderful girl, Miss Scratchell, with a knack
of picking up stray facts, and educating herself with the crumbs that
fell from other people’s tables, just as her father’s poultry picked up
their nourishment in the open street and in other people’s stable yards.

‘How did you like the sermon, Sir Kenrick?’ asked Bella, smiling across
the chrysanthemums, and offering to the baronet’s contemplation an
insignificant prettiness, all dimples and pale pink roses.

‘As much as I like any sermons, except the Vicar’s,’ answered Kenrick,
coolly. ‘I like to hear Mr. Dulcimer preach, because he makes me think.
I sit on tenter-hooks all the time, longing to stand up and argue the
point with him. But as for Cyril’s moral battering-rams and catapults,
and all the artillery which he brings to bear against my sinful soul,
I’m afraid their chief effect is to make me drowsy.’

‘They do other people good though,’ said Bella. ‘Mrs. Piper told me she
never felt awakened till she heard Mr. Culverhouse’s Lent sermons.’

‘Praise from Mrs. Piper is praise indeed,’ remarked the Vicar.

‘Oh, but she really does know a good deal about sermons,’ said Bella.
‘She is very fond of what she calls serious reading; she reads a sermon
every morning before she goes to her cook to order the dinners.’

‘And then she goes to the larder and looks at the joints to see if
there have been “followers” overnight,’ suggested Kenrick; ‘and
according to her theological reading is the keenness of her eye and the
acidity of her temper. If she has been reading Jeremy Taylor she takes
a liberal view of the sirloin, and orders a hot joint for the servants’
hall; if she has been reading old Latimer she is humorous and caustic,
and declares cold meat too good for domestic sinners. But if her pious
meditations have been directed by Baxter or Charnock I pity the cook.
There will be short commons in the servants’ hall that day.’

Bella laughed heartily. She had a pretty laugh, and she made it a rule
to laugh at any sally of Sir Kenrick’s. It is something for a penniless
village lawyer’s daughter to be on familiar terms with a baronet, even
though his estate be ever so heavily mortgaged. Bella felt that her
intimacy with the Vicarage and its surroundings lifted her above the
rest of the Scratchells. Her younger sisters used to ask her what Sir
Kenrick was like, and if he wore thick-soled boots like common people,
and ever drank anything so vulgar as beer.

The supper went on merrily. The Vicar talked of men and of books, the
younger men joining in just enough to sustain the conversation. Supper
at the Vicarage, substantial as the meal was, seemed more or less an
excuse for sitting at a table talking, for a couple of hours at a
stretch. Long after the sirloin had been carried off to do duty in the
kitchen, Mr. Dulcimer sat in the carver’s seat, sipping his claret
and talking of men and books. Beatrix could not imagine anything more
delightful than those Sunday evening discourses.

But now came a message from the footman in the kitchen to remind his
mistress that it was half-past ten. The rule at the Water House was
for every door to be locked and bolted when the clock struck eleven.
Beatrix started up, like Cinderella at the ball.

‘Oh, Mrs. Dulcimer, I had no idea it was so late.’

‘A tribute to my conversation, or a proof of your patience, my dear,’
said the Vicar. ‘Cyril, you’ll see Miss Harefield home. Jane, run and
get Miss Harefield’s bonnet.’

‘Kenrick can see Beatrix home while Cyril tells us about the missionary
meeting,’ said that artful Mrs. Dulcimer.

‘My dear Mrs. Dulcimer, I can tell you about the missionary meeting
this minute,’ said Cyril. ‘I have had a letter from Mr. Vickerman, and
he will be very happy to preach in the morning this day three weeks,
and to give a lecture in the schoolroom in the evening.’

The neat little parlourmaid came back laden with jackets and bonnets,
and Beatrix and Isabella equipped themselves quickly for their walk.

‘We really don’t want any one,’ remarked Beatrix, blushing, as the two
young men followed them into the hall. ‘Parker is here to take care of

Parker pulled his forelock assentingly.

‘But I am going with you all the same,’ said Cyril, with gentle
firmness, and he had the audacity to offer Beatrix his arm before Sir
Kenrick could seize his opportunity.

Naturally Sir Kenrick gave his arm to Miss Scratchell.

‘What will they say at home when I tell them this?’ thought Bella.

She liked Cyril best, and admired him as the first among men, but Sir
Kenrick’s title made him the more important person in her mind.

All the stars were shining out of the dark calm heaven--constellations
and variable stars looking down at them from that unutterable
remoteness beyond the planet Neptune. The walk was not long, but the
way was full of beauty under that starry sky--a road that led downhill
into the watery valley which made the chief loveliness of Little
Yafford. It was a lonely road, leading away from the town--a road
bordered on one side by a narrow wood of Scotch firs, on the other by
a stretch of somewhat marshy common, and so down into the valley where
the Water House rose, with black old tower, ivy-shrouded, above the
winding river. There was an old Roman bridge across the river, and
then came the gate of the Water House, under an ancient archway.

Cyril walked away with Beatrix’s hand under his arm, the footman
following at a respectful distance. Mr. Culverhouse forgot--or
ignored--the fact of Miss Scratchell’s residence lying exactly the
other way, and left Bella to be disposed of by his cousin. Beatrix also
seemed to forget all about her friend. She did not run back to bid
Bella good night. They would meet to-morrow, no doubt, and Bella, who
was the soul of amiability, would forgive her.

They walked on in silence, that thrilling silence which tells of
deepest feeling. These are the moments which women remember and look
back upon in the gray sober hours of afterlife. It is not some girlish
triumph--the glory of ball-room or court--which the faded beauty
recalls and meditates upon with that sense of sad sweetness which hangs
round the memories of long ago. No; it is such a moment as this, when
her hand hung tremulous upon her lover’s arm, and words would not come
from lips that were faint with a great joy.

‘Have you thought of what I said yesterday, Beatrix?’ Cyril asked at
last, in those grave tones of his which to her ear seemed the most
exquisite music.

‘Did not you say it? What should I do but think of it? When do I ever
think of anything except you and your words?’ she exclaimed, with a
kind of impatience.

‘And you have spoken to your father, or you have made up your mind to
let me speak to him?’

‘I have done neither. What is the use of my speaking, or of your
speaking, unless you want my father to separate us for ever? Do you
think that he will be civil to you when he knows that I love you? Do
you think he would let me marry the man I love? No, that would be
showing me too much kindness. If we lived in the good old fairy tale
days he would send out a herald to invite the ugliest and most hateful
men in the kingdom to come and compete for his daughter’s hand, and the
ugliest and vilest should have the prize. That’s how my father would
treat me if the age we live in would allow him, and as he can’t do
quite so much as that, he will wait quietly till some detestable person
comes in his way, and then order me to marry him.’

‘Beatrix, do you think it is right and just to talk like this?’

‘I can’t pronounce upon the rightness of it, but I know it is not
unjust. I am saying nothing but the truth. Ah, Cyril, I may seem wicked
and bitter and unwomanly when I talk like this; yes, I am all those
bad things--a woman unworthy to be loved by you, except that I am so
much to be pitied. But who has made me what I am? If you knew how I
used to try to make my father love me! If you could have seen me when
I was a little thin sickly child creeping into his study and crouching
at his knee, to be repulsed just a little more harshly than he would
have sent away a dog! I went on trying against every discouragement.
Who else was there for me to love?--who else was there to love me? My
mother was gone; my governess told me that it was natural for a father
to love his child--an only child--a motherless child most of all. So I
went on trying. And I think the more I tried to win his love the more
hateful I became to him. And now, though we meet two or three times a
day and speak civilly to each other, we live quite apart. When he was
dangerously ill last winter, I used to sit in the corridor outside his
bedroom day and night, fearing that he was going to die, and thinking
that perhaps at the last he might relent, and remember that I was his
daughter, and stretch out his feeble arms to me and take me to his
heart. But though death came very near him--awfully near--there was no

‘My darling, life has been very hard for you,’ said Cyril, with deepest

She shocked him by her vehemence--but she moved him to compassion by
the depth of bygone misery her present indignation revealed.

‘My father has been hard to me, and he has hardened me,’ she said. ‘He
turned my heart to stone. It was cold and hard as stone, Cyril, till
you melted it.’

‘My dearest, there are many duties involved in that great duty of
honouring your father,’ pleaded Cyril, ‘and perhaps the chief of all
is patience. You must be patient, love; the hour of relenting will come
at last. Duty and filial love will win their reward. But you must never
again speak of your father as you have spoken to-night. It is my duty
to forbid this great sin. I could not see you kneeling at the altar
rails--and put the sacred cup into your hands--knowing you cherished
such a spirit as this.’

‘I will not disobey you,’ she answered, with a grave humility. ‘I will
not speak of my father at all.’

‘And you will endeavour to think of him with kindness, as you used in
the days when you were trying to win his love?’

‘In those days I used to think of him with fear,’ said Beatrix. ‘The
sound of his voice or his footstep always made me shiver. But I had
this saying in my mind, “It is natural for a father to love his
motherless child,” and I did try very hard, very patiently, to make him
love me.’

‘Go on trying, dearest, and the love will come at last. Remember the
parable of the unjust judge. Human love, like heavenly love, is to be
won by many prayers. And if I am to be your lover, and your husband,
Beatrix, I can only be so with your father’s knowledge and approval.
Dearly, deeply as I love you, I will not stoop to win you by deceit and
suppression. I would not so dishonour you, I could not so dishonour

‘Let me go then,’ cried the girl, passionately. ‘Throw me away as
you would throw a withered rose into that river,’ pointing to the
dark stream under the Roman arch--shadowy waters on which the distant
stars shone dimly,--‘you will never win me with his consent. He will
not believe in your love for me. He will misjudge and insult you, for
he believes in no man’s truth or honour. He has made for himself a
religion of hatred and suspicion. Why should we make him the ruler
of our lives--why should we accept misery because he wills us to be
miserable? You are quite sure that you love me, Cyril--it is really
love and not pity that you feel for me?’ she asked, suddenly, with a
gush of womanliness.

‘The truest, fondest, deepest love man ever felt. Will that content

‘It does more than content me--it makes me exquisitely happy. Then,
since you love me, Cyril, and really choose me above all other
women--so many of them worthy to be so chosen--for your wife, you must
stoop a little. You must be content to take me without my father’s
consent, or blessing, and without his money. But we do not care for
that, do we, either of us?’

‘Not a jot, Beatrix. The money is a millstone round your neck. Let that
go, with all my heart. But if you and I were to be quietly married some
day at the old parish church, darling, and were to walk away together
arm in arm into a happy, smiling, useful future, as we might do,--can
you guess what the world would say of your husband?’

‘No--unless it said he was foolish to choose so faulty a wife.’

‘The world would say that the penniless curate played a crafty game,
and that, knowing Christian Harefield would never consent beforehand
to receive him as a son-in-law, he had hazarded his chances on a
clandestine marriage, counting upon Mr. Harefield’s being won over to
receive him and forgive his daughter afterwards. That is what the world
would say of any man, Beatrix, who married under such circumstances;
and that is what the world shall not say of me.’

‘Then you value the world’s opinion more than you value me,’ said

    ‘“I could not love thee, dear, so much,
      Loved I not honour more,”’

answered her lover. ‘I shall call upon your father to-morrow.’

The church clock and the stable clock at the Water House began to
strike eleven.

‘Good night, Cyril, you must be the manager of our destiny, but I’m
afraid you will bring about nothing but sorrow and parting.’

‘I will do what is right, my dear. I will trust in Him who rules and
governs all hearts--even your father’s when he seems hardest to you.’

‘Good night, Cyril.’

‘Good night, my best and dearest.’

He would not take her to his heart, or kiss the proud lips that were
so near his own as they stood side by side in the shadow of the wide
archway, though the discreet Parker kept his distance. He only took her
hand and pressed it gently, and, with a murmured blessing, left her,
just as the little low door in the archway opened, and the light shone
faintly from within, making a kind of aureole round the bald head of
the old gardener who lived in the mediæval gateway.



THAT deep shadow of gloom which had fallen upon Christian Harefield’s
life seemed to have descended also upon the house he lived in. The
house--with its low ceilings, narrow corridors, strange ins and outs,
odd corners, and black oak panelling--had doubtless been more or less
gloomy of aspect for the last two hundred years. But an old world
gloom like this contrasts pleasantly with the movement and bustle
of glad domestic life--the flashes of sudden colour--the glow of
many hearths--winter’s yule log and summer’s wealth of flowers--the
fresh shrill voices of young children--the hospitalities of eventide,
the passing in and out of many figures, varied yet recurrent as the
combinations of a kaleidoscope.

For the last fifty years the Water House had been known to all Little
Yafford, and within a radius of twenty miles, as a grave and sober
mansion, where high jinks of any kind were as little to be expected as
a reappearance of white-robed, oak-crowned Druids in that stony circle
on the moor which had once reeked with the blood of human victims.

Old Christian Harefield, the father of the present owner of the estate,
had been distinguished for various eccentricities, the chief of which
was love of money. He did not love it too well to spend it on himself,
but he loved it too well to waste it upon his fellow-creatures, whom he
did not love. He was a born man-hater. No youthful disappointments, no
wrong-doing of a familiar friend, no inconstancy of a woman, had soured
his temper, or changed the current of his life. In his nursery he had
regarded outside humanity with a cold distrust, and had been selfish
in the transactions of his babyhood. At Eton he was known as the most
respectable of lads, and was universally detested. There was a legend
of his having given a boy he disliked the scarlatina, deliberately and
of malice aforethought; and this was the only thing he had ever been
known to give away. At the University he took care of himself, made
his rooms the prettiest in his quad, rode good horses, read diligently
and took his degree with ease, but he refused all invitations to wine
parties, rather than incur the expense of returning hospitality, and
he was remembered among his contemporaries as Stingy Harefield. When
the time came for him to marry he made no attempt to escape that
ordeal, as it presented itself to him in the form of an alliance with
a certain Jane Pynsent, a young lady whose personal attractions were
not startling, but whose father had enriched himself by commerce, and
had recently acquired a large tract of land in Lincolnshire. The young
lady and the tract of land went in one lot, and Christian married
her, without feeling himself guilty of that kind of sentimental folly
called ‘falling in love;’ a weakness which offended his reason in those
inferior animals whom stern necessity obliged him to acknowledge as
his fellow-creatures. From this alliance of the mercantile classes and
the landed gentry sprang an only child, Christian the second. In his
boyhood and youth he gave indications of a nobler and wider nature
than his father’s. He was careless of money--had his attachments
among his schoolfellows and companions at the University--gave wine
parties on a larger scale than any undergraduate of his year--read
hard--rode hard--was at once dissipated and a student--came through
his examinations with flying colours, and left behind him a reputation
which caused at least half a dozen freshmen to ruin themselves in the
endeavour to imitate ‘Alcibiades Harefield,’ that being the name which
Christian the second had won for himself.

There were hard words between father and son when the young man went
back to the Water House with a B.A. degree, and a sheaf of bills on a
more tremendous scale than usual. His mother’s estate had been settled
upon Christian the younger, and beyond those paternal reproaches, he
suffered very little from his extravagance. His majority, which had
been wisely, or unwisely, deferred to his twenty-fifth birthday, would
make him independent. He stayed a month or so at the Water House--shot
on the moors--read late of nights in the sombre library--dined out
very often, and saw as little of his father as was consistent with
occupation of the same house. After this brief experience of domestic
life he went off to the Continent, and remained there roaming from
city to city, for the next ten years of his life, his father living
on quietly at the Water House all the time, eating and sleeping and
riding his steady cob, and generally taking care of himself in an
eminently respectable and gentleman-like manner. In the tenth year of
his son’s absence the father died suddenly of apoplexy--a catastrophe
which seemed to most people in Little Yafford the natural close of a
selfish, self-indulgent life. Christian appeared at the Water House in
time for the funeral, after travelling day and night for a week. He saw
his father buried, he examined his father’s papers in Mr. Scratchell’s
presence, and he perused his father’s will drawn by Scratchell, and
leaving everything to ‘my only son, Christian Harefield.’ The will had
been made directly after Mrs. Harefield’s death, when Christian the
younger was still at Eton; and although the father and son had not got
on particularly well together afterwards, Christian the elder had not
troubled himself to alter his bequest. He was too essentially selfish
to leave a shilling away from his own flesh and blood. Christian had
not treated him well, but Christian was in some wise a part of himself;
and although he did not care much for Christian, there was nobody else
for whom he cared at all.

Christian Harefield, now lord of the double estates, went back to the
Continent, where he was heard of no more for the next five years, at
the end of which time there came a report of his marriage with a very
handsome Italian girl; but as everybody in Little Yafford remarked,
‘there had been no advertisement in the _Times_, which made the whole
thing seem rather odd and irregular.’ A year or two later Mr. Harefield
was heard of as living near Florence with the lovely Italian wife and a
baby, and nine years after his father’s death he came suddenly home to
the Water House, bringing the lovely wife, and a little girl of three
years old, home with him. He was now a man of middle age, very grave
of aspect, but courteous and not inaccessible. Aged people at Little
Yafford began to speculate upon a change at the Water House. It would
be as it had been when the late Christian Harefield was a child, and
old Mr. and Mrs. Harefield gave hunting breakfasts and dinners, and
the old place was kept up altogether as it ought to be--with a great
deal of company in the dining-room, and plenty of waste and riot in the
kitchen and servants’ hall.

Christian Harefield did not quite realize those hopes which memory had
evoked in the hearts of the oldest inhabitants of Little Yafford; but
he was not unsocial. The Water House resumed something of its ancient
splendour: there was a large household liberally conducted--a fine
stud of horses filled the roomy old stables. Mr. Harefield received
his neighbours cordially, and gave dinners enough to satisfy the most
exacting among his friends.

There had been a great many stories, for the most part purely the work
of invention; or of that gradual cohesion of casual particles floating
in space, which is the root of all scandal. Some people had heard, as
a certain fact, that the beautiful Italian had been a flower girl,
and that Mr. Harefield had seen her selling violets in the streets
of Florence. Others were equally certain that she had been an opera
singer. Others were assured that ballet-dancing had been her profession
at the time she attracted her wealthy lover’s attention. The more
scandalous hinted darkly that she was somebody else’s runaway wife, and
that Christian Harefield’s marriage was no marriage at all.

But after Mr. and Mrs. Harefield had been living at the Water House
three months, the slightest allusion to one of these once favourite
scandals would have been about as great a solecism as any one in Little
Yafford could be guilty of. The ancient slanders were sunk in the Red
Sea of oblivion. Those who had been most active in disseminating these
rumours forgot all about them--could not have taxed their memory with
the slightest detail, would have looked quite puzzled if any underbred
intruder in polite society had questioned them on the subject, or
recalled former assertions. There was a dignity about Christian
Harefield, a subdued elegance about his lovely wife, which made such
stories as Little Yafford had formerly believed in obviously and
distinctly impossible. _He_ marry a ballet-girl dancer, the proudest
of men! _She_ sell penny bunches of violets, the most aristocratic of
women! All the best people of Little Yafford visited the Water House,
and swore by Mrs. Harefield.

She was not a woman to make her influence widely felt even in that
quiet circle. Beauty and elegance were her chief gifts. She was
passionately fond of music--played exquisitely, in a style which was
poetic rather than brilliant--sang sweetly--but not with the power
of voice or splendour of execution which would have justified the
story of her having been a prima donna. She had graceful manners, and
distinction of bearing; but the leading spirits in Little Yafford--Mrs.
Dulcimer, Lady Jane Gowry, and an old Mrs. Dunraven--decided that she
had not much mind.

‘She can only look lovely, my dear, and curtsey in that foreign way
of hers, which reminds me of my young days, when ladies behaved like
ladies, and good manners had not begun to get obsolete,’ said Lady Jane
to her dear Mrs. Dulcimer. ‘She can only look elegant, and sit at her
piano, and suffer us to admire her, just as we should if she were the
Venus de Milo in the Louvre. I don’t think she has much more feeling or
passion than that one-armed statue; but she is quite as lovely, and I
suppose that is enough for Mr. Harefield.’

Everybody agreed that Christian Harefield was devoted to his wife, and
that it was a happy marriage. But for his little girl he had evidently
no very warm regard. As time went on, and no second baby appeared,
the father began to feel himself personally injured by the sex of his
only child. She ought to have been a son. Here was the great Harefield
property in danger of travelling out of the direct line, and belonging
to some spurious Harefield, who should only assume that good old name
by Royal Letters Patent. And it seemed to Christian--large-minded
and cosmopolitan as he considered himself--that it would be a loss
to English society if real Harefields should become extinct in the
land. This idea that his daughter was a mistake grew upon him, and by
slow degrees began to go hand in hand with another idea--of a far
more injurious and dangerous nature--and that was the fancy that his
wife loved the child better than she loved him. Those tender maternal
caresses which the gentle Italian lavished on her little girl galled
her husband almost as much as if he had seen them given to a rival.
This was the first arising of that sombre passion which was afterwards
to turn all his life to poison. He first learnt the meaning of jealousy
when he sat by his own fireside watching the lovely face opposite him
smiling down upon Beatrix. He had never cared for children in the
abstract, never had perceived any special poetry or beauty in young
lives and small round rosy faces, and he could see nothing to love or
admire in Beatrix, who, at this stage of her existence, was small and
sallow, ‘a little yellow thing, all eyes and mouth,’ as he himself
described her. It was a constant irritation to him to see such blind
unreasoning affection squandered upon so unlovely an object.

He spent one winter and a spring at the Water House, and then carried
his wife away with him to Baden, and from Baden went to Florence for
the winter, leaving Beatrix in charge of a conscientious and elderly
governess at Little Yafford. The child was almost heart-broken at
the loss of that loving mother, but no one except Miss Scales, the
governess, knew anything about it, and Miss Scales wrote Mrs. Harefield
cheery letters, telling her that dear little Trix was getting tall and
strong, and had just gone into words of two syllables.

Mr. and Mrs. Harefield came back to the Water House, and spent the
summer and autumn at home, and gave parties and made themselves
generally agreeable. Then came winter and a migration to the South,
Beatrix staying behind with Miss Scales as before. This winter she went
into words of three syllables, and made small excursions into various
foreign grammars, taking to Italian naturally, as a duck hatched by a
hen takes to the water.

This kind of life went on till Beatrix was ten, Mr. and Mrs.
Harefield’s sojourn at the Water House growing briefer each year,
and by degrees there arose a feeling in Little Yafford that Mr. and
Mrs. Harefield were not quite the happiest couple in the world, that
there were more clouds than sunshine in that small home circle. These
things make themselves known somehow. It was hinted that there were
quarrels. Mrs. Harefield had a distressed look sometimes. Beatrix
was rarely found in the drawing-room with her mother when people
called. Good-natured Mrs. Dulcimer discovered that the little girl
was always cooped up in the schoolroom, or sent out for dreary walks
with her governess, and felt herself called upon to interfere and
draw Mrs. Harefield’s attention to this neglect of maternal duty; but
Mrs. Harefield, mildly graceful as she was at all times, received the
remonstrance with a placid dignity which rebuked the good-natured

There was trouble of some kind evidently at the Water House, but no
one in Little Yafford could ever get face to face with the skeleton.
Italian friends of Mrs. Harefield’s appeared upon the scene, but Little
Yafford was not invited to meet these foreigners. Then came autumn,
and another migration to warmer lands, and this time Miss Scales and
Beatrix went with the travellers.

‘That is more as it should be,’ said Mrs. Dulcimer, triumphantly. ‘So
you see, after all, Clement, my remonstrance had some effect.’

‘If ever I find that any act of interference with other people’s
conduct of their own affairs has a good effect, I will reverse the
whole theory of morals which I have made for myself in relation to my
neighbour,’ answered Mr. Dulcimer, with unaccustomed energy.

This last journey was fatal. Six weeks after the travellers left
the Water House, Little Yafford was startled by the tidings of Mrs.
Harefield’s death. She had died suddenly, at a little roadside inn in
the Apennines, the loneliest spot of earth she could well have found
for life’s closing scene. She had gone there alone with her husband on
their way from Venice to Rome, leaving Beatrix and her governess at
Venice. Mr. Harefield was distracted, and had gone off to wander no one
knew where, after sending his child and the governess home to the Water
House. Little Beatrix appeared there by and by, a silent and almost
ghost-like child, whose small face looked unnaturally white above the
dense blackness of her frock.

‘It’s absolutely heart-rending to see a Christian gentleman’s child
look so like one’s idea of a vampire,’ exclaimed compassionate Mrs.
Dulcimer, and she tried to lure the little girl to the Vicarage with a
view to petting and making her happy; but Miss Scales guarded her pupil
as jealously as if she had been a griffin in a fairy tale keeping watch
and ward over an enchanted princess.

It was the universal opinion in Little Yafford--a kind of foregone
conclusion--that Mr. Harefield would wander for years, and return to
the Water House after a decade or two, with long gray hair and a bent
backbone, and the general appearance of a pilgrim. He disappointed
everybody’s expectations by coming back early in the spring and taking
up his abode permanently in the grave old house, which now put on that
mantle of silence and gloom which had never been lifted from it since.

Under this shadow of gloom, encircled by this perpetual silence and
monotony, Beatrix had grown from childhood to womanhood. You could hear
the dropping of the light wood ashes in a distant room as you stood in
the hall at the Water House, or the chirping of a winter robin in the
garden outside the windows, or the ticking of the dining-room clock,
but of human voice or motion there was hardly anything to be heard. The
kitchens and offices were remote, and the servants knew the value of
good wages and a comfortable home too well to let any token of their
existence reach Mr. Harefield’s ears. The master of that silent house
sat in his library at the end of the low corridor, and read, or smoked,
or mused, or wrote in solitude. Sometimes he took his daily ride or
walk in all weathers, for months at a stretch; at other times he would
remain for several weeks without leaving the house. He received no
guests--he visited no one, having taken the trouble, immediately after
his return, to let people know that he had come to the Water House in
search of solitude, and not sympathy.

Scratchell, his lawyer and agent, and Mr. Namby, the family doctor,
were the only two men freely admitted to his presence, and of these he
saw as little as possible. He allowed Bella Scratchell to be with his
daughter as much as Beatrix pleased to have her, but, save on Sundays,
he never sat at meals with them or honoured them with his society. His
hours were different from theirs, and they had Miss Scales to take care
of them. What could they want more?

One day, when Beatrix was between sixteen and seventeen, Mrs. Dulcimer
met the misanthrope in one of his solitary walks on the Druids’ moor,
and ventured, not without inward fear and trembling, to attack him on
the subject of his daughter’s solitary life.

‘It must be very dull for Beatrix at the Water House,’ she said.

‘I dare say it is, madam,’ answered Christian Harefield, with austere
civility, ‘but I don’t mind that. Dulness is good for young women, in
my opinion.’

‘Oh, but, dear Mr. Harefield,’ cried the Vicar’s wife, emboldened by
his politeness, ‘there you differ from all the rest of the world.’

‘I have not generally found the rest of the world so wise, my dear
madam, as to distress myself because its opinions and mine happen to be
at variance,’ Mr. Harefield answered coldly.

Mrs. Dulcimer felt herself baffled. This stony urbanity was too much
for her. But she remembered Beatrix’s pale joyless face as she had seen
it in the chancel pew last Sunday, and made one more heroic effort.

‘Mr. Harefield, I am not going to ask you to change your own habits----’

‘That would be wasted labour, madam----’

‘Or to ask people to the Water House----’

‘I would not do my friends so great a wrong----’

‘But you might at least let Beatrix come to me. We are very quiet
people at the Vicarage,--Clement is absorbed in his books--I in my
workbasket. There would be no gaiety for her, but there would be the
change from one house to another, and we lie higher. You must be damp
at the Water House. I know Beatrix has suffered from neuralgia----’

‘A new fashion among young ladies, like the shape of their bonnets. I
never heard of it when I was young----’

‘Oh, it was called toothache then, but it was just as excruciating.
Then you really will let her come?’ pursued Mrs. Dulcimer, pretending
to make sure of his consent.

‘Clement Dulcimer is a gentleman I greatly respect, and you are the
most amiable of women. I cannot see why I should forbid my daughter
coming to you if you like to be troubled with her. But I must make it a
condition that you do not take her anywhere else--that she is to come
to your house and yours alone.’

‘Most assuredly. I shall consider your wishes upon that point sacred,’
protested Mrs. Dulcimer, delighted with her success.

She called on Beatrix the next day, and carried her off to the
Vicarage. The girl had been carefully educated by conscientious Miss
Scales, and knew everything that a girl of her age is supposed to know,
except the theory of music. She could have enlightened the Vicar about
latitude and longitude, and the subjunctive mood in various languages.
But she had all the deficiencies and peculiarities of a girl whose
life had been lonely. She was proud and shy--what the Vicar called
_farouche_--and it was a long time before her new friends could set her
at ease. But when she did expand they grew very fond of her, and that
new life at the Vicarage was like the beginning of her youth. She had
never felt herself young before. Miss Scales’ prim perfection had been
like a band of iron about her life. Her father’s gloom and hardness
had weighed upon her like an actual burden. She had waked in the
night sobbing, startled from some dim strange dream of an impossible
happiness, by the recollection that she had a father who had never
loved her, who never would love her.

This hardness of her father’s had gradually hardened her feelings
towards him. She had left off hoping for any change in him, and with
the cessation of hope came a stream of bitterness which overwhelmed
every sweet and filial sentiment. As she grew from child to woman, her
memories of the past took a new shape. Well-remembered scenes acted
themselves over again before her mental vision under a new and more
vivid light. She began to see that there had been unhappiness in her
mother’s life, and that her father had been the cause of it, that the
cloud had always come from him.

Brief episodes of that bygone life flashed back upon her with a cruel
distinctness. She remembered herself leaning on her mother’s shoulder
one evening as Mrs. Harefield sat at the drawing-room piano weaving
the sweet tangle of Italian melody she loved so well. It was a summer
twilight, and the windows were all open, the garden was full of roses,
the river was shining under the setting sun.

She remembered her father’s coming in suddenly, and walking up to the
piano. He took her by the wrist with a hard strong hand that hurt her a

‘Go to your governess,’ he said. ‘I want to talk to your mother.’

And then, before she could reach the door, she heard him say,--

‘So you have seen Antonio again.’

Those words haunted her curiously now that she was growing a woman.
Who was Antonio? She could remember no one in the history of her life
to whom that name belonged. It was an Italian name--the name of one of
those Italian friends of her mother’s who came and went in those memory
pictures, like figures in a dream. She could not distinguish one from
the other. They had all pale dark faces, like ivory that had been long
shut from the light, and dark gleaming eyes, and hair like the shining
wings of the rooks in the tall old elm tops yonder. But she could not
recall any one of them who had impressed her, a wondering child of
seven, more than the rest.

Yes, there was one--the one who sang so beautifully. She could remember
sitting on her mother’s lap one evening before dinner, the room dimly
lighted, no one present but her mother and the Italian gentleman. She
remembered his sitting at the piano and singing church music--music
that thrilled her till, in a nervous ecstasy, she burst into tears, and
her mother soothed her and carried her away, saying something to the
strange gentleman in Italian as she went towards the door, and he got
up from the piano and came to them and stopped on the threshold to bend
down and kiss her, as she had never been kissed before in all her life.
She could remember the kiss now, though it was ten years ago.

And he spoke to her mother in Italian, a few hurried words that seemed
half sorrow and half anger.

Was that Antonio?

Her mother’s rooms had never been opened by any one but Christian
Harefield since his return to the Water House after that last fatal
journey. There was something ghostly in the idea of those three rooms
facing the river, those three locked doors in the long oak gallery.
Beatrix passed those sealed doors always with a thrill of pain. If her
mother had but lived, how different life would have been for her! There
would have been sorrow perhaps, for she knew there had been sorrow in
the last year of her mother’s life, but they two would have shared
it. They would have clung to each other closer, loved each other more
fondly because of the husband and father’s unkindness.

‘What would papa matter to me if I had mamma?’ she thought. ‘He would
be only a gloomy person coming in and out, like the dark brief night
which comes in and out among the summer days. We should not have minded
him. We should have accepted him as a part of nature, the shadow that
made our sunshine brighter.’

Often and often she sat upon a bench on the river terrace, leaning back
with her arms folded above her head, looking up at those seven blank
windows, darkly shuttered, three windows for the spacious old bedroom,
one for the narrow dressing closet, three for the pretty morning-room
which she remembered dimly, a white panelled room, with pale blue
curtains all worked with birds and flowers in many coloured silks,
black and gold Japanese cabinets, a tall chimney-piece with a curious
old looking-glass above it, let into the wall, pictures, and red and
blue china jars, a faint odour of pot pourri, a piano, a frame for
Berlin woolwork, with a group of unfinished roses that never seemed to
grow any bigger.

‘Dear room,’ she said, ‘to think that I should live so near you, pass
your door every day, and yet remember you so faintly, as if you were a

Once a curious fancy flashed upon her as she sat in the evening glow,
looking up at those windows.

‘Perhaps Antonio’s picture is in that room.’

She could just recollect a miniature in a velvet case, which she had
opened one day, the picture of a gentleman. She had only glanced at it,
when her mother took the case from her and put it away. The complexion
was more beautiful than Antonio’s, supposing the gentleman who sang
the church music to have been Antonio; but people’s complexions in
portraits are generally superior to the reality.

       *       *       *       *       *

Kind as her friends at the Vicarage were, Beatrix never talked of these
old memories. The past was a sealed book. Not for worlds could she have
spoken of it--not even to Bella, with whom she conversed as freely, in
a general way, as a little girl talks to her doll.

The new home life at the Vicarage brightened her wonderfully. Her
reserve wore off as she grew accustomed to that friendly household.
She was enraptured with Mr. Dulcimer’s library. Here, on the Vicar’s
well-stocked shelves, she found those Italian poets her mother must
have loved--prose writers too--quaint old romances, bound in white
vellum, on curious ribbed paper, printed at Venice two hundred
years ago. She spent many an hour sitting on a hassock in the sunny
bow-window, with a pile of those old Italian books on the floor beside
her, while the Vicar sat at his big table annotating Berkeley, or
making excursions into the world of science.

Here she read the Bridgewater Treatises, and got her first grand idea
of the universe. Here her young mind soared away from the narrow track
along which Miss Scales had conducted it, and entered the regions of
poetry and delight. And here--in this sunny old room, with its walls
of hooks--young Love took her by the hand, and led her across the
threshold of his wonder-world. Here she first met Cyril Culverhouse,
and learnt how fair a thing piety may seem in a bright young soul,
eager to do some good in its generation. Religion hitherto, as
interpreted by Miss Scales, had appeared to her a hard and difficult
business, which no one could take to except under severest pressure--a
system of punishments and penances invented for the torment of mankind.
But in Cyril’s teaching how different it all seemed! Religion became
a sentiment to live or die for. Without it happiness or peace of mind
seemed impossible.

‘Your mother belonged to the old faith, perhaps,’ he said, one day,
when they were talking of High and Low Church.

Beatrix gave a faint shiver.

‘I don’t know,’ she answered, sadly. ‘Mamma never talked to me about
religion. I was too young, perhaps.’

Cyril found her curiously ignorant of all that was most vital in
religion, and his first interest in her arose from this very ignorance
of hers. He was so glad to set her right--to get her out of the narrow
Scales track, Miss Scales being essentially Low Church, and scenting
Roman encroachment in an anthem or a surplice. The interest soon
deepened, but he could hardly have told when it first grew into love.
Perhaps that might never have come, if Beatrix’s fresh young soul had
not gone out to meet his unawares, so that ere he knew himself a lover
he found himself beloved.

The thought was full of rapture, for at this stage of their friendship
she seemed to him the most perfect among women--the lovely embodiment
of youth and innocence, and noble yearnings, truthfulness, purity, all
things fair and holy. But the consideration that she was Christian
Harefield’s heiress dashed his joy. He saw himself in advance--branded
in the sight of men--as the clerical adventurer who, under the guise of
religion, had pushed his own fortune.

Then it was--while it was still a new thing for them to talk of their
mutual love--that he told Beatrix her father must be informed of their



THE Monday after that Sunday evening supper at the Vicarage dragged
more heavily than any day Beatrix could remember since that never-to-be
forgotten awful day when--a little child in a strange city--she
was told of her mother’s death. To-day she felt that a blow was
impending--a stroke that must shatter the rosy chain that bound her
to her bright new life. The strictness of Miss Scales’ rule had been
relaxed since Beatrix’s eighteenth birthday. The lady was now rather
companion and duenna than governess; but Miss Scales was conscientious,
and did not care to take her salary without earning it, so she had
urged upon Beatrix that a young lady of eighteen was in duty bound
to go on improving her mind, and Beatrix had consented to two hours’
daily reading, on a rigid system. English history one day--Roman
another--Grecian another--Travels on the fourth day--_Belles-lettres_,
represented by the dullest books in the English language, on the
fifth--and French, as exemplified in an intensely proper novel, on the
sixth. And all this reading was to be carefully done, with a good deal
of reference to the best authorities--all obsolete, and improved upon
by the newest lights to be obtained from the last discoveries published
a year or two before the battle of Waterloo. That her favourite
authorities could be superseded was a possibility beyond Miss Scales’
mental grasp. She had learned out of those books, and would continue to
teach out of them to her dying day.

Upon this particular Monday the English historians hung somewhat
heavily. Hume was dull--and Rapin furnished no improvement upon him.

‘Really, Miss Scales dear,’ said Beatrix at last, with a stifled yawn,
‘I don’t think I am appreciating Joan of Arc at all properly this
morning. She was much too good a person to be yawned over like this;
and if she really was burnt at Rouen, and did not get out of that
cruel Beaufort’s clutches, and marry and have ever so many children

‘Joan of Arc--married--and the mother of a family! Beatrix, what are
you dreaming of?’ cried the scandalized Miss Scales, her little gray
ringlets quivering with indignation.

‘Mr. Dulcimer says she did, and that there are documents to prove it.’

‘Mr. Dulcimer is a horrid person to tell you such stories; and after
this I shouldn’t be at all surprised at his going over to Rome.’

‘Would you much mind my putting up the books, Miss Scales love?’ asked
Beatrix, in the coaxing way in which she was wont to address her
duenna. ‘My mind isn’t equal to grasping such heroism as Joan’s to-day.’

‘You have been looking absent-minded all the morning, certainly.’

‘I do feel rather head-achy.’

‘Then you’d better take a seidlitz powder--and be sure you put in the
blue paper first----’

‘No, thank you, dear, I’m really not ill. But I think a turn in the
garden would do me good. I’ll read ever so much to-morrow, if you’ll
let me.’

‘If I’ll let you, Beatrix! When have _I_ ever stood between you and
the improvement of your mind? But I hope you won’t get hold of Mr.
Dulcimer’s crotchets. Joan of Arc not burned at Rouen, indeed! What is
the world coming to? And Archbishop Whately has written a pamphlet to
prove that there was no such person as Napoleon, though my father saw
him--with his own eyes--on board the _Bellerophon_, in Plymouth roads.’

Beatrix waited for no further permission to put the dingy old books
back upon their shelves, and go out bare-headed into the autumnal
garden. It was a good old garden at all times--a wide stretch of
lawn following the bend of the river--a broad gravelled walk with
moss-grown old stone vases at intervals--and a stone bench here and
there--flowers in profusion, but of the old-fashioned sort--rare shrubs
and trees--plane and tulip, and Spanish chestnut that had been growing
for centuries--one grand cedar stretching wide his limbs over the
close-shorn sward--a stone sundial with a blatantly false inscription
to the effect that it recorded only happy hours--and for prospect, the
Roman one-arched bridge, with the deep narrow river flowing swiftly
under it,--these in the foreground; and in the distance across the
river the heterogeneous roofs, chimneys, and gables of Little Yafford,
with the good old square church tower rising up in their midst, and
behind this little settlement the purple moor sloping far up towards
the calm grey sky.

It was a scene so familiar to Beatrix that she scarcely felt its great
beauty, as she walked up and down the river terrace, thinking of Cyril
and the interview that was to take place to-day. She was not hopeful as
to the result of that interview. There were hard thoughts in her mind
about her father.

‘He has never given me his love,’ she said to herself. ‘Will he be
cruel enough to take this love from me--this love that makes life a new

While Beatrix was pacing slowly to and fro along the quiet river-side
walk, Cyril was coming down the sloping road to the Roman bridge,
thinking of what he had to do. It was not a pleasant mission by any
means. He was going to beard the lion in his den--to offer himself as
a husband for the richest heiress in the neighbourhood. He, Cyril
Culverhouse, who had not a sixpence beyond his stipend, and who yet
came of too good a family to be called an adventurer. He had never
spoken to Mr. Harefield, and he was going to him to ask for his
daughter’s hand. The position was difficult, but Cyril did not shrink
from facing it.

He went under the archway into the grassy quadrangle, where the low
stone mullioned windows faced him with their dull blank look, as of
windows out of which no one ever looked. There was a low door in a
corner, studded with iron nails--and a bell that would have been loud
enough for a means of communication with a house a quarter of a mile
away. This noisy bell clanged out unmercifully in the afternoon quiet.

‘He will never forgive me for ringing such a peal as that,’ thought

The staid old butler looked at him wonderingly when he asked if Mr.
Harefield was at home. Visitors were rare at the Water House.

‘He is at home,’ answered the butler, dubiously, as much as to say,
‘but he won’t see you.’

‘Will you say that I wish to see him--upon particular business?’

The butler led the way to the drawing-room, without a word. He had
heard Mr. Culverhouse preach, at odd times, though himself a member of
the Little Yafford Baptists, and had too much respect for his cloth to
express his opinion as to the uselessness of this proceeding. He led
the way to the drawing-room and left Cyril there.

It was a pretty room, despite the gloom that had fallen upon it. A
long old room, with oak panelling, a richly carved cornice, and a
low ceiling, a few good Italian pictures, a tall pillared marble
chimney-piece, broad Tudor windows looking towards the river, deep
recesses filled with books, and chairs and sofas of the Louis Seize
period, covered with Gobelins tapestry.

But there was no sign of occupation--no open piano--not a book out of
its place--not a newspaper or pamphlet on the tables. Everything was in
perfect order, as in a house that is shown and not lived in.

This was the first time Cyril had been under the roof that sheltered
Beatrix. He looked around him for some trace of her presence, but he
saw no such trace. Did she inhabit this room? No, it was evidently a
room in which no one lived.

He went to one of the windows and looked out. He could just see the
lonely figure at the end of the river walk, bare-headed under the
sunless sky--a figure full of grace and dignity, to his eye, as it
moved slowly along, the face turned towards the bridge.

‘Poor child, she is watching for me, perhaps,’ he thought with tender
sadness, ‘waiting and fearing.’

‘My master will be pleased to see you, sir,’ said the voice in the
doorway, and Cyril turned to follow the butler.

He followed him down a corridor that went the whole length of the
house. The butler opened a deep-set oak door, thick enough for a
gaol, and gravely announced the visitor. It was a very solemn thing
altogether, Cyril felt.

He found himself in a large low room, lined from floor to ceiling with
books on carved oak shelves. A sombre brownness prevailed throughout
the room. All that was not brown leather was brown oak.

Three low windows looked into a courtyard. A pile of damp logs
smouldered on the wide stone hearth. Cyril had never entered a more
gloomy room.

The master of the Water House stood before the hearth, ready to
receive his visitor--a tall, powerfully built man, in a long cloth
dressing-gown, like a monk’s habit, which made him look taller than
he really was. The hard, stern face would have done for one of
Cromwell’s Ironsides; the grizzled black hair worn somewhat long, the
large nostrils, iron mouth and jaw, dark deep-set eyes, and heavily
lined forehead were full of character; but it was character that was
calculated to repel rather than to invite sympathy.

‘You have asked to see me on particular business, Mr. Culverhouse,’
said Christian Harefield, with a wave of his hand which might or might
not mean an invitation to be seated. He remained standing himself. ‘If
it is any question of church restoration, Mr. Dulcimer ought to know
that my cheque-book is at his command. I take no personal interest in
these things, but I like to do what is right.’

‘It is no question of church restoration, Mr. Harefield.’

‘Some of your poor people burned out, or washed out, or down with
fever, perhaps? I hear you are very active in good works. My purse is
at your disposal. Pray do not scruple to make use of it. I do so little
good myself, that I am glad to practise a little vicarious benevolence.’

He seated himself at a large oak table covered with books and papers,
and opened his cheque-book.

‘How much shall it be?’ he asked, in a business-like tone.

Cyril was looking at him thoughtfully. There was something noble in
that iron-gray head, surely--a grand intelligence at least, if not the
highest type of moral good.

‘Pardon me, Mr. Harefield,’ said the curate, ‘you are altogether
mistaken in the purpose of my visit. I came to ask no favour for
others. I am here as a suppliant for myself alone. I know and love
your daughter, and I have her permission to tell you that she loves
me, and only waits your approval to accept me as her future husband.’

Christian Harefield started to his feet, and turned upon the suppliant.

‘What, it has come already!’ he cried. ‘I knew that it was inevitable;
but I did not think it would come quite so soon. My daughter is
not nineteen, I believe, and she is already a prey for the first
gentlemanly adventurer who crosses her path----’

‘Mr. Harefield!’

‘Mr. Culverhouse, _I_ was married for my money. My daughter shall
escape that misery if any power of mine can shield her from it. We will
not bandy hard words. You profess to love her--a raw, uncultured girl
whom you have known at most six months--I will give you credit for
being sincere, if you like--for believing that you do love her--and
I can only say that I am sorry your fancy should have taken so
inopportune a direction. My daughter shall marry no man who is not so
entirely her equal in wealth and position that I can feel very sure he
takes her for her own sake.’

‘I expected something of this kind from you, Mr. Harefield.’

‘You can never know my justification for this line of conduct,’ replied
Mr. Harefield. ‘I marked out this course for myself long ago, when
my daughter was a child. I will spare her a deception that turned my
life to gall. I will spare her disillusions that broke my heart. I am
speaking openly to you, Mr. Culverhouse, more freely than I have spoken
to any man, and I beg that all I have said may be sacred.’

‘It shall be so,’ answered Cyril. ‘You think you can protect your
daughter from the possibility of a sorrow like that which has darkened
your own life. But do you not think that Providence is stronger to
guard and save than you can be, and that it might be wiser to let her
obey the instinct of her own heart?’

‘As I did,’ cried Christian Harefield, with a laugh. ‘Sir, Providence
did not guard or save me. I was a man--of mature years--and thought I
knew mankind by heart. Yet I walked blindfold into the trap. Would you
have me trust my daughter’s instinct at eighteen, when my own reason at
thirty could so betray me? No, I shall take my own course. If I can
save a silly girl from a future of ruined hopes and broken dreams, I
will so save her, against her own will. I have never played the tender
father, but perhaps in this my sternness may serve my daughter better
than a more loving father’s softness. If Beatrix marries without my
approval she will be a pauper.’

‘I would gladly so take her,’ cried Cyril.

‘And teach her to disobey her father! you, who read the commandments to
her in church every other Sunday, would teach her to set one of them at

It was Cyril’s own argument. He blushed as he heard it.

‘Must you withhold your love because you withhold your money?’ he
asked. ‘You say that your own marriage was unhappy because you were a
rich man. Let the weight of riches be lifted from your daughter’s life.
She does not value them--nor do I.’

‘What, a Culverhouse--the son of a spendthrift father--a parson, too!
You can afford to despise riches?’

‘Yes, because I look round me and see how rarely money can bring
happiness. Perhaps there is not much real and perfect happiness upon
earth; but I am very sure that what little there is has never been
bought with gold. Leave your estate away from your daughter--leave it
where you please--devote it to some great work. Let me have Beatrix
without a sixpence--let me be your son--and if it is possible for
affection to brighten your later life you shall not find it wanting.’

‘It is not possible,’ answered Harefield, coldly. ‘I never desired
affection except from one source--and it was not given me. I cannot
open my heart again--its doors are sealed.’

‘Against your only child?’

‘Against all flesh and blood.’

‘Then, if you withhold your love from Beatrix, it would be only right
and reasonable to withhold your fortune, and leave her free to accept
the love which may in some measure atone for the loss of yours.’

‘You must have a monstrous good opinion of yourself, Mr. Culverhouse,
when you set your own value above that of one of the finest estates in
this part of Yorkshire.’

‘I have no exalted opinion of my own value, but I have a very low
estimate of the blessings of wealth. For such a woman as Beatrix a
great estate can only be a great burthen. She has been brought up in
solitude, she will never be a woman of the world. She does not value

‘Because she has never had to do without it, and because she has seen
very little of what it can do. Launch her in the world to-morrow, and
in one year she will have learned the full value of wealth. No, Mr.
Culverhouse, I cannot accept your judgment in this matter. If I have
withheld my affection from my daughter, so much the more reason that I
should give her the estate which, as my only child, she is entitled to
inherit. And it shall be my business to obtain for her such an alliance
as will place her husband above the suspicion of mercenary motives.’

‘And in arriving at this decision you put your daughter’s feelings out
of the question. You do not even take the trouble to make yourself
acquainted with her sentiments.’

‘No. I trust to time. I regret that she should have been so soon
exposed to a peril which I had not apprehended for her just yet. If I
had, I should have been more on my guard. I must request you, as a man
of honour, to hold no further communication--either personally or by
letter--with my daughter, and I shall be under the painful necessity of
forbidding any more visiting at the Vicarage.’

‘You are asking too much, Mr. Harefield. No man with common sense would
submit to such an exaction as that. I will do more than most men in my
position would be willing to do. Your daughter is young and impulsive,
unversed in worldly knowledge. I will promise to wait for her till she
is of age, and to hold no communication with her in the interval. Two
years hence, if your wishes have conquered, I will submit to my fate.
I will make no claim. But if she still thinks as she thinks to-day, I
shall claim my right to address her on equal terms. But it is my duty
to remind you that your daughter has some strength of will--that she is
a creature of impulse, not easily to be dragooned into subservience to
the ideas and plans of another--even though that other be her father.’

‘I shall know how to govern her impulses, sir, and to bring a
stronger will than her own to bear upon her follies. I have no more
to say--except that I rely upon your promise, and consider your
acquaintance with my daughter at an end from this hour.’

Cyril had hardly expected anything better than this, yet the actual
discomfiture was no less difficult to bear. To be told that he must
see Beatrix no more, knowing as he did that the girl he loved returned
his love with fullest measure, and was willing to fling every tie to
the winds for his sake! And then her ties were at best so feeble. The
father she was ready to defy for his sake was a father who had never
loved her, who freely confessed his lack of affection for her. Not
much, perhaps, to forfeit such a father’s favour for the sake of a
lover who loved her with all the strength of his strong nature.

Cyril could not bring himself to say, Disobey your father, fling
fortune to the winds, and be my wife. Duty forbade him, and
consideration for Beatrix was on the side of duty. The day might
come when she would upbraid him with the loss of her father’s
cold liking, and her loss of fortune. He saw himself, far away in
the future, a disappointed man--a failure--high hopes unrealized,
labours unsuccessful, aspirations blighted; saw himself struggling
single-handed against misfortune, and with Beatrix by his side.
Might she not--if life went badly with him--repent her choice? And
what was the bitterness of the present--the loss involved in doing
right--compared with that sharper bitterness, that greater loss, which
might follow in the future upon doing wrong?

‘My first and last visit to the Water House, I dare say,’ he thought,
as he paused for a minute in the quadrangle, to look up at the ivy-clad
walls, the massive stone mullions and Tudor gables. A fine old house if
its associations had been bright and pleasant, but, looked at as the
dungeon of unloved youth, it appeared dismal as an Egyptian tomb.

He saw an open door in the cloistered side wall--a door leading to
the garden, and thought how natural it would be for him to go there
in search of Beatrix--thought how happily he would have gone to seek
her if Mr. Harefield’s decision had favoured their love--if he had
given them ever so little encouragement, ever so small a right to look
hopefully towards the future. Now all was blank--a dull, dead despair.

He went under the archway, and the outer door shut behind him with a
hollow clang in the twilight.



WHEN a benevolent idea entered the mind of the good-natured Mrs.
Dulcimer, there immediately began a process of incubation or hatching,
as of a patient maternal hen intent on the development of her eggs.
Like that domestic fowl, Mrs. Dulcimer gave her whole mind to the task,
and, for the time being, thought of nothing else.

The notion of a marriage between Cyril Culverhouse and Bella Scratchell
was now incubating. Bella, of whom Mrs. Dulcimer had not thought much
hitherto, was now taken under her wing, a _protégée_ whose provision in
life was an actual duty.

Mrs. Dulcimer talked about her to the parlourmaid, while she was
dusting the drawing-room china. The servants at the Vicarage were all
old retainers, who by faithful service had become interwoven in the
very fabric of the family life. The Vicar and his wife could hardly
have believed that home was home with strange faces round them. Crisp,
the man of all work, and Rebecca, the confidential maid, were as much
an integral part of life as the dark ridge of moorland, and the gray
church tower, the winding river, the Vicar’s library, and the faithful
old pointer, Ponto, which had not stood to a bird for the last seven
years, but held the position of friend and familiar, and lived in a
land overflowing with milk and honey.

‘What a nice young lady Miss Scratchell is, Rebecca!’ said Mrs.
Dulcimer, as she flecked a grain of dust off a Chelsea shepherdess with
her feather-brush. The Vicar’s wife was rarely seen between breakfast
and noon without a feather-brush in her hand. ‘Have you remarked it?’

‘She ain’t so handsome as Miss Harefield,’ answered Rebecca, frankly,
‘but she’s a deal affabler. They give her a very good character at the
Park--always punkshall, and a great favourite with the children.’

‘She is just the sort of girl to do well in life, Rebecca. She ought to
get a good husband.’

Rebecca gave a loud sniff, scenting mischief.

‘That’s as Providence pleases, ma’am,’ she retorted, rubbing the fender
with her chamois leather; ‘marriages is made in heaven.’

‘Perhaps, Rebecca. But a poor man’s daughter like Bella Scratchell has
a very poor chance of meeting an eligible person. Unless it is in this
house, I don’t think she sees any one worth speaking of.’

‘There’s the Park, ma’am,’ suggested Rebecca, rubbing the fender almost

‘Oh! at the Park she is only a dependant--quite looked down upon,
you may be sure; for though Mrs. Piper is a good creature, she is
a thorough _parvenue_. Miss Scratchell never sees any of the Park
visitors, you may be sure. She only lunches at the children’s dinners.
They don’t even ask her to play the piano at their parties. They have
a man from Great Yafford. Now don’t you think, Rebecca, that Mr.
Culverhouse would be a nice match for Miss Scratchell?’

Rebecca wheeled round upon her knees and confronted her mistress.

‘Oh, ma’am, I wouldn’t if I was you!’ she exclaimed, energetically. ‘I
wouldn’t have act or part in it. You won’t get no thanks for it. You
never do. Nobody’s never thanked for that kind of thing. You didn’t get
no thanks from Mr. Parker and Miss Morison, and look at the trouble you
took about them. There isn’t an unhappier couple in Little Yafford, if
all folks say is true, and I believe every time they quarrel your name
comes up between ’em. “If it hadn’t been for Mrs. Dulcimer I shouldn’t
have been such a fool as to marry you,” says he. “My wretchedness is
all Mrs. Dulcimer’s doing,” says she, “and I wish I was dead.” That’s a
dreadful thing to have on your conscience, ma’am, after taking no end
of trouble to bring it about.’

‘Nonsense, Rebecca! Is it my fault the Parkers are quarrelsome? Mary
Morison would have quarrelled with any husband.’

‘Then she ought never to have had one,’ ejaculated Rebecca, renewing
her savage treatment of the fender. ‘But I recollect when you thought
her perfection.’

‘I allow that I was deceived in Miss Morison, Rebecca,’ replied the
Vicar’s wife, meekly. She was very fond of Rebecca, and not a little
afraid of her. ‘But you see Miss Scratchell is quite another sort of

‘Company manners,’ said Rebecca, scornfully. ‘They’ve all got ’em. It’s
the outside crust. You can’t tell what’s inside the pie.’

‘I am sure Miss Scratchell is a good girl. See how she has been brought
up. The Scratchells have to study every sixpence.’

‘Does that make people good?’ inquired Rebecca, speculatively,
gathering up her brushes and leathers into her box. ‘I don’t think it
would improve my disposition. I like the sixpences to come and go,
without my thinking about ’em.’

‘Ah, but, Rebecca, consider what a good wife a girl brought up like
that would make for a poor man. Mr. Culverhouse has nothing but his
curacy, you know.’

‘I should ha’ thought a rich young woman would ha’ suited him better.
There’s Miss Harefield, with her large fortune, would be just the

‘Nonsense, Rebecca! Mr. Harefield would never consent to such a
marriage. Sir Kenrick is the proper husband for Miss Harefield; he can
make her mistress of one of the finest places in Hampshire.’

‘Oh, that’s it, is it?’ said Rebecca, with something approaching a
groan. ‘Sir Kenrick and Miss Harefield, and Mr. Culverhouse and Miss
Scratchell! Ladies’ chain and set to partners--like the first figure
in a quadrille. You’ve got your hands full, ma’am, and I suppose it’s
no use my talking; but if you wasn’t too wise a lady to take a fool’s
advice, I should say don’t have nothink to do with it.’

And with this oracular speech Rebecca took up her box, with all her
implements of war, and left the drawing-room.

‘Rebecca is a good creature, and an original, but dull,’ thought Mrs.
Dulcimer. ‘I never can make her see things in a proper light.’

After the early dinner, and the Vicar’s departure for his daily round
among his parishioners--a sauntering, easy-going visitation at all
times--Mrs. Dulcimer set out in her best bonnet and sable-bordered
mantle to make some calls. The sable mantle was well known in Little
Yafford as a kind of insignia of office. When Mrs. Dulcimer wore it
she meant business, and business with Mrs. Dulcimer meant the business
of other people. Her bonnets were known also, with their different
grades of merit. She had a bonnet for the landed gentry, and a second
best bonnet for the tradespeople, and last year’s bonnet, done up by
Rebecca, for her visits amongst the poor.

To-day she wore her landed gentry bonnet, and her first visit was to
the Park.

Whether a man who has made his money in trade, and has taken somebody
else’s mansion and park, can be considered to belong to the landed
gentry, is an open question; but Little Yafford gave Mr. Piper the
benefit of the doubt, and as there were not many rich people in the
village, he ranked high.

Mrs. Piper was at home, and delighted to see her dear Mrs. Dulcimer.
There is no more lively companion than a good-natured busybody, except
an ill-natured one. Mrs. Dulcimer’s conversation lacked the pungency
and acidity, the cayenne and lemon with which your cynical gossip
flavours his discourse, but she was always well posted in facts, and,
if too much given to pity and deplore, had at least plenty to tell.

The two matrons had the drawing-room all to themselves--a large and
splendid apartment, furnished in the ugliest style of the later
Georges, but glorified by the Piper family with Berlin woolwork and
beaded cushions, ormolu inkstands, Parian statuettes, Bohemian vases,
malachite envelope-boxes, and mother-o’-pearl albums in great profusion.

Mrs. Piper was a devoted mother, and, on the children being inquired
for, began a string of praises.

‘Elizabeth is getting on splendidly with her music,’ she said; ‘you’ll
be quite surprised. She and Mary play the overture to “Zamper.” You’d
be delighted.’

‘Miss Scratchell taught them, I suppose?’

‘Oh dear no! Miss Scratchell superintends their practice; but they have
a master from Great Yafford, Mr. Jackson, the organist--a very fine
musician. Isabella is a very nice player,’ said Mrs. Piper, with a
patronizing air. She had never got beyond ‘Buy a Broom’ and ‘The Bird
Waltz’ in her own day, but was severely critical now. ‘But I couldn’t
think of having my girls taught by a lady. They don’t get the touch, or
the style, or the execution.’

‘What a sweet girl Bella is!’ exclaimed Mrs. Dulcimer, who had come to
the Park on purpose to talk about Miss Scratchell.

She was not going to work blindly this time, or to lay herself open
to such reproaches as Rebecca had assailed her with on account of the
Parker and Morison marriage. She would find out all about Bella before
she set to work; and who so well able to inform her as Bella’s employer?

‘Yes,’ replied Mrs. Piper, ‘I am very well satisfied with Bella
Scratchell. She’s the first governess I’ve had that has given me
satisfaction--and I’ve had seven since we’ve lived at Little Yafford.
She’s very young for such a position--with clever girls like mine, who
are much beyond their years, especially; and when Mr. Scratchell first
applied for the situation I felt I couldn’t entertain his proposal.
“Give her a trial, Mrs. Piper,” he said, “you don’t know how she’s been
educated. She’s had all the advantages Miss Harefield has had, and
she’s known a great deal better how to value them.” So I thought it
over, and I agreed to give Bella a trial. She couldn’t well be worse
than the others had been, I considered, and I gave her the chance. Of
course it would be a great opening in life for her to come here. Not
that we make our governess one of the family. I don’t hold with that,
no more does Piper. Miss Scratchell comes and goes quietly, and keeps
her place. She is very useful and domesticated, and when I’ve been ill
I’ve found her a great comfort in looking after the servants for me,
and helping me to go over the tradesmen’s books; for you know what poor
health I’ve had of late years, Mrs. Dulcimer, and what trouble I’ve had
with my servants.’

Mrs. Dulcimer sighed a sympathetic assent.

‘If I’m alone she stops to luncheon with me; if I’m not, Bella
superintends the children’s dinner, and after that she can go home as
soon as she likes. The rest of the day is her own.’

‘It must be rather dull for a young girl like her, never seeing any
society,’ suggested Mrs. Dulcimer.

‘I shouldn’t think Mr. Scratchell had brought up his daughters to
expect society, if you mean parties and that sort of thing,’ replied
Mrs. Piper, severely. ‘My children ought to be society enough for a
young woman in Bella’s position.’

‘Of course. She would naturally be very fond of them,’ assented the
Vicar’s wife. ‘But I was thinking with regard to her marrying; a girl
who has nothing to expect from her father ought to marry.’

Mrs. Piper was averse from match-making. She had married well herself,
and was rather inclined to regard matrimony as a luxury intended for
the favoured few--like a cockade on a coachman’s hat, or a range of
glass houses in one’s garden.

‘I hope Bella is not thinking of a husband,’ she said, disapprovingly.
‘For my part, when a young woman begins husband-hunting, I always
think her useless for everything else. I should be very sorry to have
Elizabeth taught by a governess who was thinking of husbands. The dear
child would get ideas, and, with her intelligence----’

Mrs. Dulcimer’s good nature took fright immediately.

‘Oh, I do not believe Bella has ever given a thought to such a thing,’
she exclaimed. ‘She is quite wrapped up in her teaching, and so fond of
your dear girls. But I rather think that Mr. Culverhouse admires her
very much, and you must allow that it would be a suitable match.’

‘I should have thought Mr. Culverhouse had more sense. Why, he could no
more afford to marry than his brother can afford to live at Culverhouse

‘He has talent and energy, and is sure to succeed, and with such a
well-trained economical wife as Bella----’

‘Well, I am sorry to find that Bella has got marriage and love-making
into her head. I shall expect to see a difference in her with the

‘Oh, but I assure you----’

In vain did poor Mrs. Dulcimer protest. Mrs. Piper had a fixed idea
that a governess ought to have nothing to do with the tender passion.
Had she not turned away Miss Green for no other reason than because
that unfortunate young person wrote long letters to a young man in New
Zealand, to whom she had been engaged for seven years, and to whom she
expected to be engaged for seven years more, before he would be rich
enough to marry her?

‘It was such a distraction to her mind, you see, my dear,’ Mrs. Piper
told her intimate friends. ‘I couldn’t possibly allow it.’

Mrs. Dulcimer left the Park, after having done her _protégée_ some
injury, with the best intentions. From the Park she went to the
village, and stopped at Mr. Scratchell’s door.



MR. SCRATCHELL occupied a large red brick house at the beginning of
the village street, a house that had once been one of the best, if
not the best in Little Yafford, but which, in its present degenerated
state, looked a very shabby habitation as compared with the smart
Gothic villas of the Great Yafford professional men and tradesmen who
had retired into gentility at Little Yafford. It had been built by
a wealthy brewer, and still adjoined a thriving brewery. But as the
age grew more civilized, the brewer removed his domestic life from
the immediate vicinity of his vats and casks to a stuccoed mansion in
fifteen acres of meadow land, _par excellence_ Park. There was a good
garden behind the substantial roomy old house, and more outbuildings
than the Scratchells had any worthy use for--but which made a
wilderness or playground for the children, and for Mrs. Scratchell’s
poor little family of fowls, which always had a shabby uncombed look,
as of neglected poultry, but which laid more eggs than Mrs. Piper’s
pampered Dorkings and Cochin Chinas.

Here the Scratchells had lived for the last twenty years, Mr.
Scratchell holding his tenement upon a repairing lease, which seemed
to mean that he was to grub on in the best way he could in dilapidated
premises, and never ask his landlord to do anything for him. Perhaps
when the lease ran out there would be complications; but Mr. Scratchell
hoped that, being a lawyer himself, he should be a match for any lawyer
his landlord might set upon him, and that he should find a loophole
whereby to escape the question of dilapidations.

It was a gaunt, dreary-looking house in its present state of decay. The
garden was all at the back, and the front of the house came straight
upon the village street, an advantage in the eyes of the younger
Scratchells, as the few passers-by who enlivened the scene came within
half a yard of their inquisitive young noses, which were generally
glued against the window-panes in all intervals of leisure.

The Scratchell girls did not go to school. That was a luxury which
their father’s limited means could not afford them. They were educated
at home by their mother, in that desultory and somewhat spasmodic form
which maternal education, where the poor house-mother has a multitude
of other duties, is apt to assume.

Taking all things into consideration, it must be allowed that Mrs.
Scratchell did her work very well. She turned the four girls into
the shabby old schoolroom at eleven o’clock every morning--after
they had helped her to make the beds, dust the rooms, and wash the
breakfast-things. She set them down to their French exercises or their
ciphering, their maps or their English analysis, while she went to
the kitchen to see after the dinner, which generally meant to cook
it, and at twelve she came into the schoolroom with her huge motherly
workbasket--full of stockings to be darned, and under garments to be
pieced--some of them arrived at a stage when piecing seemed little
short of the miraculous--and sat down to hear her children read history
or polite literature in their shrill monotonous voices, while the busy
needle never ceased from its labour.

Pinnock’s Goldsmith and darning cotton must have been curiously
interwoven in poor Mrs. Scratchell’s mind, and it must have been a
little difficult for her to dissociate the embarrassments of Telemachus
from the intricacies of her domestic patchwork.

In this wise, however, the young Scratchell girls contrived to get
educated, perhaps pretty nearly as well as the general run of girls,
at home or abroad. The humble and old-fashioned education which Mrs.
Scratchell had received herself she handed down to her daughters. She
could not teach them German, or Italian, for she had never learnt those
languages. She could not ground them in the Latin tongue, for in her
day Latin had been considered an exclusively masculine accomplishment.
She could not teach them the use of the globes, for she had no globes;
nor natural science, for she scarcely knew what it meant. But she made
them plough laboriously through Noel and Chapsal’s French grammar,
until they knew it thoroughly. She taught them English, and Roman,
and Grecian history till they could have set you right upon the dates
and details of any great event you could mention. She made them very
familiar with the geography of this globe, and the manners and customs
of its inhabitants; and she taught them a good deal about common
things, which might or might not be useful to them in after life.

Upon this particular afternoon Mrs. Scratchell and her five daughters
were assembled in the schoolroom busied with a task of all-absorbing
interest. They were making their winter dresses, and the threadbare
carpet was strewed with shreds and patches of dark blue merino, while
the somewhat stuffy atmosphere was odorous with glazed lining.

It was a shabby old panelled room, from whose wainscot almost all the
paint had been worn and scrubbed away in the progress of years. But
though the paint was mostly gone a general drabness remained. Narrow
drab moreen curtains hung beside the straight windows--an oblong
mahogany table, with those treacherous contrivances called flaps,
occupied the centre of the room, and was now covered with bodices,
and sleeves, and pockets, and skirts, in various stages of being.
There was an old horsehair sofa against the wall, loaded with books,
slates, and desks which had been thrust aside to make room for the more
agreeable pursuit of dressmaking. There were a dozen chairs of various
shapes and make, the odds and ends of a sale-room or a broker’s shop.
No ornament or beautification of any kind had ever been attempted in
the schoolroom. The apartment was unpretendingly hideous; and yet the
Scratchell children were fond of it, and looked back to it in after
years as the dearest room in the world. Perhaps the only thing that
could be called good in it was the wide old fireplace, with its blue
and white Dutch tiles, basket grate, and capacious hobs, which were so
convenient for cooking toffy or roasting chestnuts.

Bella was at work with her mother and sisters. She had a natural gift
for dressmaking, as she had for many things, and was the general cutter
out and contriver, and the family arbiter upon fashion. It was she who
decided how the sleeves were to be made, and whether the skirts were to
be plain or flounced.

She sat among them this afternoon, her busy scissors crunching and
grinding over the table, cutting and slashing with quite a professional
ease and audacity.

‘What a correct eye and what a steady hand you have, Bella!’ said her
mother, admiringly. ‘It’s quite wonderful.’

‘I’d need have something, mother,’ sighed Bella, ‘as I’ve no money.’

‘True, my dear. There’s a great deal wanted to make up for the loss of
that. One feels it every day.’

‘Every day,’ echoed Bella. ‘Why not say every hour, every moment? When
doesn’t one feel it? It is a steady gnawing pain, like toothache.’

‘But Providence has made you so bright and clever, dear. That’s a great
consolation. There’s Miss Harefield now, I don’t suppose _she_ could
make herself a dress.’

‘I doubt if she could thread a needle,’ said Bella. ‘But I’d change
places with her any day.’

‘What, Bella! and be almost alone in the world? Without a mother--or
sisters--or brothers!’

Bella did not say whether she would have borne this latter loss, but
she looked at the four lanky girls in shabby frocks and grubby holland
pinafores, dubiously, as if her mind was not quite made up as to their
value in the sum of life.

Just then there came a sharp double knock at the street door, and the
four girls rushed to the window and glued their noses against the
panes, like four small jelly-fishes holding on by suction.

Bella ran across the room and pushed her four sisters on to the floor
in a tumbled heap of brown holland and faded green merino.

‘You horrid vulgar creatures!’ she exclaimed to these blessings. ‘Don’t
you know that a visitor can see you? Gracious!’ she exclaimed, ‘it’s
Mrs. Dulcimer, and in her best bonnet. Run up and change your gown,
mother, and do your hair up better. I can go and receive her. I’m tidy.’

Bella was more than tidy. She would have been presentable anywhere,
with her shining plaits of fair hair, her fresh pink and white
complexion, perfectly fitting black silk dress, and neat collar and
ribbon. Bella was a young woman who would have moved heaven and
earth for the sake of a good gown, and who knew how to take care of
her clothes and make them last twice as long as other people’s--an
invaluable wife for a poor curate, surely, as Mrs. Dulcimer thought.

Bella went smiling into the best parlour. It was a very shabby old
room to be called best, but it was always kept clean and tidy, and
Bella had taken a good deal of pains with it, and had even spent a
little of her hardly-earned money to brighten it. The faded chintz was
enlivened with starched muslin antimacassars. There was a rustic basket
of ferns and flowers in each of the windows, there were a few little
bits of Oriental china, the relics of bygone prosperity, on the narrow
mantelpiece, there were some water-colour fruit and flower pieces of
Bella’s on the walls, neatly framed, and hung with smart blue ribbons,
instead of the commonplace picture cord.

Mrs. Dulcimer had taken an approving survey of everything, while
waiting for Bella’s appearance.

‘Mamma will be down in a minute,’ said Bella, when they had shaken
hands. ‘She has been working at our blue merino dresses, and her hands
were all over dye. She is so pleased at the idea of your coming to see

‘It is such a time since I have called on her. I feel quite ashamed.
But I have so many calls to make.’

‘Yes, and you are so good to every one. Mamma is so grateful for your
kindness to me.’

‘It is nothing, Bella. I only wish I could be kinder. You are such a
good industrious girl. I wish I could see you comfortably settled in

Bella blushed and smiled. Mrs. Dulcimer’s mania for match-making was
notorious. It was an amiable propensity, but did not always work well.

‘Don’t worry yourself about me, dear Mrs. Dulcimer. I have no wish to
get settled. I should be sorry to leave poor mamma. I can help her in
so many little ways, you know.’

‘Yes, my dear, I know what an excellent daughter you are. A good
daughter will always make a good wife. But in a large family like yours
the sooner a girl marries the better. Let me see, now, how many sisters
have you?’


‘Four! good gracious! Five girls in one family! That’s quite dreadful!
I can’t see where five husbands are to come from. Not out of Little
Yafford, I am afraid.’

‘But, dear Mrs. Dulcimer, we are not all obliged to marry.’

‘My poor child, what else are you to do? There is nothing between that
and being governesses.’

‘Then we must all be governesses. I had rather be a tolerably contented
governess than a miserable wife.’

‘But you might be a very happy wife--if you marry the man who loves

Bella blushed again, and this time more deeply. Did Mrs. Dulcimer know
or suspect anything? Bella’s heart thrilled strangely. To be loved, how
sweet it sounded! To have her life all at once transformed to something
new and strange, lifted out of this dull level of poverty-stricken
monotony, in which it had crept on for all the years she could remember!

‘I must wait till the true lover appears, Mrs. Dulcimer,’ she answered
quietly, though the beating of her heart had quickened. ‘I have never
met him yet.’

‘Haven’t you, Bella? You may have met him without knowing it. I have an
idea that Cyril Culverhouse is very fond of you.’

Now if Bella had heard Mrs. Dulcimer express such an idea in relation
to any one but herself, she would have given the notion exactly its
just value, which would have been nothing--for it was Mrs. Dulcimer’s
peculiar faculty to evolve ideas of this kind from her inner
consciousness--but, applied to herself, the notion had a startling
effect upon Bella’s nerves and brain.

Could it be? Cyril--her ideal preacher--the man whose earnest eyes
had made her tremble strangely, at odd times, when her own eyes met
them suddenly. Cyril, the only being who had ever made her feel the
littleness of her own views and aspirations, and that, despite all
her gifts, she was a very poor creature. That Cyril could care for
her--value her--love her--it was too bright a dream! She forgot that he
was little better off than herself--that he could do nothing to lift
her out of her dull life of aching poverty. She forgot everything,
except that it would be the sweetest thing in the world to be loved by

‘Indeed, Mrs. Dulcimer, you must be mistaken’, she said, her voice
trembling a little. ‘Mr. Culverhouse has not given me a thought--he has
never said one word that----’

‘My dear, he is too honourable to say anything until he felt himself in
a position to speak plainly, and that would hardly be till he has got a
living. But the Church will not be such slow work for him as it is for
most young men, you may depend. He has great gifts.’

‘He has indeed,’ sighed Bella.

This idea of a living opened quite a delicious picture before the eye
of fancy. Bella saw herself a vicar’s wife--a person of importance
in the village--like Mrs. Dulcimer--inhabiting some pretty vicarage,
full of old china, and modern furniture, surrounded with smiling lawns
and flower-beds, instead of the gooseberry bushes, cabbage rows, and
general utilitarianism and untidiness of the Scratchell garden. And
with Cyril--her Cyril--for the companion of her days. Imagination could
paint no fairer life.

‘I don’t say that anything has been said, my love, even to me,’ said
Mrs. Dulcimer. ‘But I am long-sighted in these matters. I can see very
far ahead.’

This was true, for Mrs. Dulcimer’s apprehension had often been so far
in advance of fact that she had seen inclinations and nascent loves
that had never existed--and had sometimes worried the victims of these
fancied affections into ill-advised matrimony. Most of Mrs. Dulcimer’s
happy couples began, like Benedick and Beatrice, with a little aversion.

Mrs. Scratchell now appeared, smooth as to her hair and shiny as to
her complexion, and with an unmistakable appearance of having just
changed her gown. She saluted the Vicar’s wife with the old-fashioned
curtsey which had been taught her in her boarding-school days, and
seemed almost overcome when Mrs. Dulcimer shook hands with her.

‘I’m sure I don’t know how I can thank you for all your goodness to
Bella,’ said the grateful mother.

‘Indeed, I want no thanks, Mrs. Scratchell. We are all very fond of
Bella at the Vicarage. She is so bright and clever. What a help she
must be to you!’

‘She is indeed. I don’t know what we should do without her. She’s the
only one of us that can manage her father when he’s out of temper.’

‘What a good wife she would make for a man of limited means!’

‘She would know how to make the most of things,’ answered Mrs.
Scratchell, with a sigh; ‘but I really think I’d rather my daughters
kept single all their lives than that they should have to cut and
contrive as I have had. I’ve not a word to say against poor Scratchell.
Poverty tries all our tempers, and his has been more tried than most
men’s. He’s a good father, and a good husband, and I’ve as good
children as any woman need wish to have; but, for all that, I’d rather
my daughters should never marry than that they should marry like me.’

‘Oh, Mrs. Scratchell,’ cried the Vicar’s wife, shocked at this slander
against her favourite institution. ‘Surely now, as a wife and mother,
you have fulfilled woman’s noblest mission. You ought to be proud of
having brought up such a nice family and managed things respectably
upon so little.’

‘Perhaps I ought,’ sighed Mrs. Scratchell. ‘But I don’t feel anything,
except very tired. I was forty-one last birthday, but I feel as if I
were eighty.’

Mrs. Dulcimer did not know what to say. Life had been so easy for her.
All good things had fallen unsolicited into her lap. She had never
known an ungratified want, except her yearning for a new drawing-room
carpet. This glimpse of a pinched, overworked existence came upon her
like a revelation.

‘But you must be so proud of your fine family,’ said Mrs. Dulcimer,
bent on being cheerful; ‘so many of them--and all well and thriving.’

‘Yes,’ sighed the house-mother, ‘they grow very fast, and they have
fine healthy appetites. It’s better to pay the baker than the doctor,
as I always say to Mr. Scratchell when he complains, but the bills
_are_ very heavy.’

‘Now mind, Bella, I shall expect to see you often at the Vicarage,’
said Mrs. Dulcimer, with her sweetest smile. ‘You are not to wait for
Miss Harefield to bring you, but you are to come and see me, you know,
in a friendly way--and bring your work. I know you are clever at fancy

‘She is clever at everything,’ said the mother, with a doleful pride.
‘I never knew such hands as Bella’s. She can turn them to anything.’

‘Bring your work of an afternoon then, Bella, when your mother can
spare you, and come and sit with me. Mr. Culverhouse often drops in
after tea.’

And then with much hand-shaking and cordiality, kindly Mrs. Dulcimer
took her leave, and went home happy, her mind glowing with triumphant
benevolence, feeling that she had employed her afternoon in a manner
that St. Paul himself must have approved.

‘It’s all very well for Clement to talk about charity being a passive
virtue,’ she reflected. ‘Passive good nature would never get that girl
comfortably married. Five daughters, and the father without a sixpence
to give them! Poor dear girls! Husbands must be found for them somehow.’

Bella Scratchell felt curiously fluttered after the Vicar’s wife
was gone. The noise of the home tea-table, those rough boys, those
boisterous unkempt girls, with hair like horses’ manes, and an
uncomfortable habit of stretching across the table for everything they
wanted, seemed a shade more trying than usual.

‘Now then, Greedy,’ cried Adolphus, the second boy, to his sister
Flora. ‘I would scrape the pot if I was you. Yah!’ looking into an
empty marmalade pot. ‘Not a vestige left. I say, Bella, you might stand
a pot of marmalade now and then.’

The boys were in the habit of making random demands upon Bella’s
private means, but were not often successful.

‘I’m sure you want no temptation to eat bread and butter,’ she said.
‘It would be sheer cruelty to ma.’

What bliss to be away from them all! This noisy circle--the odour of
Dorset butter--the poor mother’s worried looks, and frequent getting up
to see after this and that--the scolding and disputing--the domestic

A lonely old bachelor, looking in through the window at the firelit
room, might perchance have envied Mr. Scratchell his healthy young
family might have thought that this circle of eager faces, and buzz
of voices, meant happiness; yet for Bella home meant anything but
happiness. She was heartily tired of it all.

She pictured herself in that ideal vicarage, with the only man she
had ever admired for her husband. She was thinking of him all through
the confusion of tea-time--the clinking of tea-spoons and rattling of
cups--the spilling of tea--an inevitable feature in every Scratchell
tea party--the fuss about the kettle, with much argumentation between
Mrs. Scratchell and the maid of all work as to whether it boiled or did
not boil--the scrambling for crusts, and general squabbling--through
all she was thinking of Cyril’s earnest face--hearing his thrilling
voice close at her ear.

‘Can it be true?’ she asked herself. ‘Can it be true that he cares for
me--ever so little even? Oh, it would be too much--it would be heaven!’

Here Bertie’s cup of hot tea came into collision with his sister’s
elbow, foundered and went down, amidst a storm of shrill young voices
and maternal expostulation.



BEATRIX walked up and down by the river, till the gray day grew darker
and duller, and the first shadows of evening began to show blue behind
the gables and chimney stacks and square church tower of Little
Yafford. Her heart beat faster as the time went on. Every minute might
bring her a summons to the library to hear her father’s decision. Or
Cyril would come into the garden to seek her, perhaps. But the light
grew grayer--evening was at hand, and there was still no summons.

‘Can he have gone away without seeing me? Cruel,’ she thought.

Miss Scales came running out, with her shawl over her head, full of
reproaches about the risk of evening air.

‘Do you know if papa has had any visitors, Miss Scales, sweet?’ asked
Beatrix, taking her governess’s arm affectionately.

‘My dear, when does your papa ever have visitors?’

‘Then there hasn’t been any one.’

‘I have been in my own room all the afternoon!’

‘Then you couldn’t have seen any one if they had come,’ said Beatrix.
‘Why didn’t you say so before?’

‘My dear Beatrix, you have not your usual amenity of manner,’
remonstrated the governess.

‘I beg your pardon, dear, but I have such a frightful headache.’

‘If you would only try a seidlitz----’

‘No, it will be better by and by. Let us go in----’

‘You shall have a cup of tea, dear.’

They went in together, and Beatrix pleaded exemption from the formality
of dinner, on account of her headache. She went to her room, and
threw herself on her sofa, and took up the first book that her hand
lighted on, amidst a litter of books and papers on the old-fashioned

It was Dante. That melodious language which had been her mother’s
native tongue had always been dear to Beatrix, though it was only Miss
Scales’ English lips from which she had learned it. Her mother had
rarely spoken Italian in her presence. She had tried her best to become
an Englishwoman.

She turned over the familiar pages of the ‘Inferno’ till she came to
the story of Paolo and Francesca.

‘Perhaps my mother’s history was like that,’ she said. ‘She may never
have loved my father. Poor Francesca! And Dante had known her when she
was a happy, innocent child. No wonder that he should write of her with
infinite pity.’

Her thoughts wandered back to that dream-like time of childhood, in
which her mother had been the chief figure in the picture of life.
Poor mother! There was some deep sorrow--some inexpressible grief and
mystery mixed up with those early years.

Miss Scales brought her some tea, and was full of affectionate

‘Dearest, kindest Miss Scales, if you would only go and have your
dinner, and leave me quite alone,’ Beatrix entreated. ‘I know that
perfect quiet will cure my headache.’

‘I’ll only stop till you have finished your tea, my dear. Oh,
by-the-bye, your papa did have a visitor this afternoon. Quite an
event, is it not? Mr. Culverhouse called, and was in the library for
the best part of an hour, Peacock tells me. I suppose it was about the
schools, or the church, or something.’

‘I suppose so,’ said Beatrix.

Thank Heaven, Miss Scales did not suspect anything. Beatrix could bear
anything better than people’s sympathy. There was much of her father’s
reserve in her nature. She had never made a confidante of Isabella
Scratchell, of whom she was so fond.

Miss Scales went away to eat her lonely dinner. That meal was served
for the governess and her pupil at half-past five o’clock in the cedar
parlour--a pretty old room looking into the garden. Except on Sundays,
when there was a dreary make-believe family dinner, Mr. Harefield dined
alone at seven o’clock in the spacious dining-room.

It would not be good for his daughter to dine so late, he said; and
he could not dine earlier. On this pretext he contrived to secure to
himself the solitude which his gloomy soul loved. He was a man who
took no pleasure in eating or drinking. He consumed his food in an
absent-minded manner, for the most part with an open book beside his
plate, and could not have told any one what he had had for dinner half
an hour after he had dined.

Left to herself Beatrix lay upon the sofa, broad awake, with her arms
folded above her head, still as a statue--waiting for her doom. That
hung in some measure upon her father’s decision of to-day. But it was
a resolute young soul which stood thus face to face with destiny--a
soul capable of desperate things. Every line in the girl’s face told of
decision. The firm lips were closely locked, the large dark eyes looked
steadfastly forward, as if looking into the future and facing its worst

At eight o’clock there came a gentle tapping at the door.

‘Oh, if you please, miss,’ said the housemaid, ‘master wishes to see
you in the library.’

‘It has come,’ thought Beatrix, rising from the sofa. She paused for
an instant as she passed the cheval glass to survey herself from head
to foot. She was dressed in dark blue cloth, plainly made, fitting her
like a riding habit--a close linen collar clasped with a gold button.
The tall, full figure had more of womanly pride than girlish grace.

‘Yes,’ she said to herself, ‘I am like my mother. Perhaps that is why
he hates me. And yet, if he had not loved her better than anything on
earth, why should he be so miserable?’

This was a problem that Beatrix had often tried to solve. The loss
which had blighted her father’s life must have been the loss of one
deeply loved. Yet Beatrix’s memory of her mother’s last year on earth
could recall no evidence of a husband’s love.

Her father was standing with his back to the fire, when she went into
the library, just in the same attitude as that in which he had awaited
Cyril Culverhouse. He had changed his long gray dressing-gown for a
frock coat. That was the only alteration.

There was but one lamp in the room--a large reading lamp with a crimson
velvet shade which threw all the light on Mr. Harefield’s table. The
rest of the room was in semi-darkness, fitfully illuminated by the wood

Mr. Harefield did not waste time upon any ceremonious preamble.

‘I have had an application for your hand,’ he said, his daughter
standing before him, facing him steadily.

‘Yes, papa.’

‘You know of it, I suppose?’

‘Yes, papa.’

‘And you approve of it?’

She hesitated for a moment, remembering her last conversation with

‘I am deeply attached to Mr. Culverhouse,’ she said, her voice
trembling a little at the daring confession, ‘and he is the only man I
will ever marry.’

‘Indeed! That is coming to the point. How old are you, Beatrix?’


‘And you have made up your mind already that there is but one man upon
earth you can love--that you will marry him, and no other?’

‘Yes, papa,’ she answered, looking at him with those dark intense eyes
of hers--so like other eyes, long since quenched in eternal night.

‘Yes, papa, I am very sure of that. Fate may be too strong for me--I
feel sometimes as if I were born for an evil destiny. I may not marry
Cyril, perhaps; but I will never marry any one else.’

‘Do you know that when I am dead--if you do not offend me--you will be
a very rich woman?’

‘I have never thought about it, papa.’

‘Think about it now, then. If you marry to please me you will have an
estate large enough to make you an important personage in the world. If
you marry Cyril Culverhouse you will not have sixpence. I will leave
all I have in the world to found an asylum for----’

A coarse word was on his lips, but he checked himself and substituted a

‘An asylum for nameless children.’

‘Papa, I should be sorry to offend you,’ said Beatrix, with a quiet
resoluteness that took him by surprise, ‘but the consideration of your
wealth would not influence me in the least. I have seen that money
cannot bring happiness,’ she went on, unconsciously repeating Cyril’s
argument, ‘and I can let the chance of being rich slip by me without
a pang. I have quite made up my mind to marry Cyril--to share his
poverty, and be his patient, hard-working wife--if he will have me.’

‘You deliberately announce your intention to disobey me!’ cried Mr.
Harefield, pale with indignation.

‘You have never given me love. Cyril loves me. Can you expect me to
obey you at the sacrifice of that love? Do you think it is reasonable,

‘Ah!’ sighed Christian Harefield, ‘it is in the blood--it is in the
blood! It would not be natural for her to love me.’

He paced the room two or three times, through the sombre shadows,
leaving Beatrix standing by the hearth. Then he came slowly back, and
seated himself in the large arm-chair beside the fire.

He bent over the logs and stirred them into a blaze. The broad yellow
light leaped up and filled the room with brightness. The grinning faces
in the carved bookcases came to life, the tarnished gilding of the
books seemed new again.

‘Now listen to me, Beatrix,’ he said, without looking up from the
fire. ‘You complain that I have given you no love. Well, perhaps your
complaint is not baseless. The fountain of my affections was poisoned
at its spring--years ago. If I had loved you my love would have been
baneful. Better that I should lock my heart against you, that you
should grow up at my side almost as a stranger, near and yet far off.
You have so grown up, and, according to my lights, I have done my duty
to you as a father. Now comes the question of obedience. You repudiate
my claim to that. I will put the question in another way. I appeal to
your self-interest. Mr. Culverhouse loves you, you think. Very probably
he does. You are young, handsome, and considering it to his advantage
to fall in love with you, he may have found the task easy. But be
assured that he loves the heiress better than he loves the woman--that
he looks to your fortune as a stepping-stone to his advancement. He is
ambitious, no doubt. All these Churchmen are. They assume the religion
of humility, and yet languish for power. Every country vicar is at
heart a Pope, and believes in his own infallibility. Mr. Culverhouse
knows that a rich wife is the shortest cut to a deanery.’

‘Put him to the test,’ cried Beatrix. ‘Let him take me without a

‘Yes, he would do that, believing that time would take the edge off my
anger, and that I should end by leaving you mistress of my estates. He
would speculate upon the chances of the future, and then when I died
and left you nothing, you would have to pay for his disappointment.
A life of poverty and complaint, discontent, and upbraiding. Be
reasonable, Beatrix. Let the bitter experience of my life govern yours.
Great inequality of fortune between husband and wife means that one of
the two is dupe or victim. Wait till a suitor approaches you who has
advantages to offer equal to those you can give. You are tired of this
gloomy home--you want to spread your wings and fly. Be patient for a
little while. For your sake I will come out of my shell. I will take
you to great cities. You shall see the world, and make your own choice,
but make it wisely. This first choice of yours is only a girl’s fancy,
and means nothing.’

‘It means life or death, papa,’ she answered, firmly. ‘I shall never

‘And you deliberately refuse to obey me?’

‘Yes, I refuse to sacrifice my happiness at your bidding. If you had
loved me it would have been different. Your love would have filled my
heart. But my heart was as empty as a desert. I had nothing but the
memory of my mother, and that was full of sorrow----’

‘Hush!’ said Christian Harefield. ‘Do not speak of your mother.’

‘Why should I not?’ exclaimed Beatrix, haughtily. ‘She was good, and
pure, and noble. My heart tells me that. Nothing you could say against
her would shake my faith in her. I love her memory better--better than
anything upon this earth--except Cyril.’

She said this softly, and for the first time since she had entered her
father’s presence a maidenly blush dyed her face.

‘Go,’ said Christian Harefield, ‘you and I are as likely to agree
as fire and water. Go. I have no more to say to you. Take your own

She went to the door without a word, but, with her hand upon the lock,
paused, faltered, and came slowly back to the hearth. Unconsciously she
repeated the conduct of Desdemona after her rebellious marriage. She
knelt at her father’s feet, took his hand, and kissed it.

‘Forgive me for disobeying you,’ she pleaded. ‘The sacrifice you
require is too great.’

He answered not a word, but when she had reached the door he said,
‘So long as you are in my house, and under age, I shall insist upon
obedience. You are to go no more to the Vicarage--understand that.’

‘Very well, papa.’



PROUDLY as Beatrix had carried herself while she was face to face with
her father, her firmness gave way all at once when she left him, and
she burst into a flood of tears.

She went upstairs, intending to go straight to her own room. She
did not want to exhibit her grief before kindly Miss Scales. She
shrank from her governess’s sympathy--would not for worlds have told
her secret, or bared her wounds, or allowed Cyril’s affection to be
canvassed or criticised. She wanted no one’s sympathy or advice, and
had fully made up her mind as to her future course.

‘If he will be steadfast to me I will be true to him,’ she said within
herself. ‘I laugh at the thought of poverty if it is to be shared with

In the dimly lighted corridor she stopped suddenly, with a start of
surprise. Something had happened which she had never known to occur
before. The key was in the lock of her mother’s room,--that sealed
chamber, the picture of which was more dimly painted on her memory than
a dream of past years--the room she had so languished to see.

Without a thought of whether it were right or wrong she ran to her room
at the other end of the corridor, fetched a candle, and went back to
her mother’s door.

The door was unlocked. She took out the key, went in, and locked the
door inside, to secure herself from interruption.

‘Dear room,’ she said, looking round in the dim light. ‘Yes, I remember
it better now--and mamma sitting there in that low chair by the
fire--and I lying on that white rug with my toys scattered about. Ah,
what happy days! The soft fleecy whiteness used to remind me of snow.
And then when I was tired of play mamma used to take me into her lap
and sing to me. Oh, how I loved her! No, there is no love like that--no
love so sweet, so strong, so holy! Mother, if you could come back to
me for a few short years I would give up Cyril. I would sacrifice
that newer love for the old one--for the old love was dearer, sweeter,
closer, better.’

She flung herself on her knees beside the empty chair, and sobbed out
her passionate grief. It seemed to her almost as if there were sympathy
in that contact--a kind of sympathy which comforted her soul. To these
dumb things which breathed of her mother’s presence she could pour out
her sorrow, she could lay bare her heart. No pride restrained her here.

So she remained for a long time, till her passion had almost worn
itself out in weeping. Then she rose and looked round the room, and
then slowly examined each once familiar object, candle in hand. The
dust lay white upon everything, and the spider had spun his gauzy
draperies from curtain to curtain.

Yes. Everything was as she had faintly remembered it. There stood the
Japanese cabinets, with their rich raised work representing dragons,
and birds, and fishes, and golden trees, and golden bridges, and golden
temples, all golden on a shining black ground. How often she had stood
before one of those cabinets, admiring the strange creatures!

‘Are they all gold when they are alive, mamma?’ she had asked once,
‘and do they swim in black water?’

There stood the frame, with the Berlin wool roses which she had watched
slowly creeping into life under her mother’s white hands. She lifted
the tissue-paper covering, and looked at the flowers, with awe-stricken
eyes. All these empty years had scarcely faded them--and yet the hands
that had wrought them were dust.

The centre table was covered with books, and desks, and dainty
workbaskets, all the trifles of a woman’s daily life--just as Mrs.
Harefield had left them.

Beatrix opened a blotting-book. There was a letter begun in a woman’s
hand--her mother’s doubtless. The sight of it thrilled her, for it was
the first scrap of her mother’s writing she had seen since she was old
enough to distinguish one style of penmanship from another.

The letter was dated in the year of her mother’s death.

                              ‘_The Water House, September 10th, 1840._

  ‘We should have been very pleased to come to you on the 22nd, but Mr.
  Harefield has made up his mind to leave for Italy on the 18th, so you
  see it would be impossible. Thanks for your kind advice about little
  Trix. I agree with you that she is far from strong, and I am happy to
  tell you that Mr. Harefield has consented to my taking her with me
  this year. A winter in the South will----’

Here the letter broke off. Mrs. Dulcimer had called, perhaps, and
rendered its completion unnecessary. Beatrix could just remember that
Mrs. Dulcimer used to call rather often in those days.

The key was in one of the Japanese cabinets. Beatrix unlocked it, and
looked inside. There were two rows of shallow drawers, with tarnished
silver handles. In the first she opened there was a velvet covered
miniature case which Beatrix recognised with a start. It was the one
which her mother had taken out of her hand one day.

She opened it and looked at the pictured face exquisitely painted
on ivory. It was such a face as one sees in the pictures of the
old Italian masters--darkly beautiful--the lips proud and firm--the
nostrils exquisitely chiselled--the eyes Italian.

‘Was this Antonio?’ Beatrix asked herself, ‘and who was he? And why was
his influence evil in my mother’s life?’

She pursued her examination of the room. What was this small brass
inlaid casket on a table between the windows? It was a neat little
medicine chest with stoppered bottles. She took them out one by one.
They were for the most part empty. But one, labelled laudanum, poison,
was three parts full. She put them back into their places and shut down
the lid. ‘I wonder whether mamma used to take laudanum, as I have done
sometimes, to kill pain?’ she said to herself.

The morning-room opened into the dressing-room, which communicated with
the bedroom.

But the door between the morning-room and dressing-room was locked.
Beatrix could explore no further.

She unlocked the door, restored the key to its place on the other side,
and returned to her own room. She looked at her watch, and found that
it was half-past ten. She had been an hour in that chamber of the dead.

She locked the door of her own room, just in time to escape a
visitation from Miss Scales, whose gentle tapping sounded on the panel
five minutes afterwards.

‘Are you going to bed, dear?’ inquired the duenna.

‘Yes, Miss Scales, love. Good night.’

‘Good night, dear.’

Beatrix stirred the fire. The autumn nights were getting chill and
shivery. It seemed as if the river became an embodied dampness at this
time of the year, and stole into the house after nightfall, like a

She took out her desk, and in that firm and almost masculine hand of
hers began a letter to Cyril.

‘Dearest,’ she began.

No other name was needed. He was her dearest and only dear.

  ‘DEAREST,--My father has told me his decision. It is just as I said
  it would be. He will bestow no blessing upon our love. He has sworn
  to disinherit me if I marry you. He is quite resolute, and will never
  change his mind, he assures me. Nothing you or I could do would
  soften him. If you marry me you will marry a pauper. I am to be

  ‘Is your mind made up, Cyril? Are you true and steadfast? If so
  you will find me firm as rock. Poverty has no terrors for me. I
  would marry you, dearest, if you were a farm labourer with a dozen
  shillings a week. I would work, drudge, and wash and mend, and be
  your happy wife. I have told my father as much as this. I have told
  him that I renounce his money and his lands--that I am ready to be
  your wife whenever you choose to claim me--that the loss of all he
  has to leave cannot make me swerve by one hair’s breadth from my

  ‘Do you think me bold, Cyril, or unwomanly, for writing thus frankly?
  If you do please pardon me, as Romeo pardoned Juliet, because I
  have not “more cunning to be strange.” Write to me, dearest. I am
  forbidden to go to the Vicarage any more while I remain under my
  father’s roof; so I have little hope of seeing you. Write and tell me
  what you wish.

  ‘Your ever affectionate

What was Cyril Culverhouse to do on receiving such a letter as this of
Beatrix Harefield’s, after his promise to her father that he would hold
no further communication with her? To leave such a letter unanswered
was impossible to any man. To break his word and answer it in an
underhand manner was impossible to Cyril Culverhouse.

The woman he loved declared herself all his own. She held the sacrifice
of fortune as a feather weighed against his love. She was ready to be
his wife, unfettered, unburdened by the wealth which had never entered
into his views or desires. The loss of that wealth would weigh as
lightly with him as it did with her. But could he be so selfish as to
take this impetuous girl at her word? Could he say to her, ‘Sacrifice
all things for my sake, fortune and duty, your father’s estate and
your father’s regard. Disobey and defy your father at my bidding?’
Could he, whose mission it was to teach others their duty, so far
violate his own?

Cyril told himself that he could not do this thing. He was a man who
had built his life upon principle, and though, in this case, passion
urged him strongly to do wrong, principle was stronger, and insisted
upon his doing right.

He asked advice from no one--not even from his cousin Kenrick, who had
found out the secret of his heart.

This is what he wrote to Beatrix within three hours of the delivery of
her letter, hours which he had given to deepest thought:--

  ‘MY BEST AND DEAREST,--How can I thank you enough for your
  noble letter, and for its dear assurance that fortune ranks no
  higher in your esteem than it does in mine? How can I answer you
  conscientiously, and with a strict adherence to the hard path of
  duty--and not seem to answer coldly?

  ‘If I could answer you as my heart prompts I should say, “Let us
  begin our life journey at once.” I have no fear of the issue. Were
  I a fatalist, I should feel myself strong enough to conquer adverse
  fate, with you by my side. Believing as I do in a Divine goodness
  governing and guiding all things, I can survey the future with
  infinite reliance, feeling certain that all things will be well for
  us if we only cleave to the right.

  ‘It would not be right, dearest, for me to profit by the impulse of
  your warm heart, which prompts you to make so large a sacrifice for
  my sake. You are but just emerging from childhood into womanhood,
  and you can hardly measure the losses you are at this moment willing
  to incur. Let us wait a few years, love, and if time and experience
  confirm your present purpose, most proudly and gladly will I take my
  darling to my heart, free from the splendid burden of wealth. Let us
  wait at least till you are of age, and then, if you are still true
  to your purpose of to-day, you will be justified in choosing for
  yourself. No father has the right to impose his wishes upon a child
  where a life’s happiness or misery is at stake, but he has the right
  to do his uttermost to prevent an unwise choice. Your father has done
  me the injustice to think me a fortune-hunter. He might be justified
  in thinking me something less than an honourable man, if I were to
  take advantage of your guileless nature, which knows not worldly
  prudence or the thought of change.

  ‘Love, I dare not write more than this. I dare not let my heart go
  out to you, as it would, in fondest words. I want to write soberly,
  wisely, if possible. Wait, dear love, for two little years, and, with
  God’s help, I shall have won a better position in my profession, a
  home which, although humble compared with your father’s house, may be
  not unworthy of a true and loving wife.

  ‘During those two years of waiting we shall have to live apart. I
  have promised your father that I will make no attempt to see or
  communicate with you till after your twenty-first birthday. Even to
  convey this letter to you I shall have to appeal to his generosity. I
  shall not break that promise. Dear as my work in Little Yafford has
  become to me, I shall leave this place as soon as I can hear of an
  eligible curacy elsewhere. Hitherto my work has been only a labour of
  love. Henceforward I am a man anxious to succeed in my profession.
  I do not mean that I am going to sacrifice my Divine calling to the
  desire to win a home for my sweet wife,--only that I shall, so far as
  may be justifiable, seek to improve my position.

  ‘Farewell, dearest. Remember that while I hold myself bound to you, I
  leave you free; and, if the future should show you a fairer life than
  that which I can give you, you have but to send me one line, “Cyril,
  the dream is ended,” and I will submit, as to the will of God.

  ‘Yours till death,

This letter Cyril enclosed in an envelope, addressed to Mr. Harefield,
with the following note:--

  ‘DEAR SIR,--I promised not to write to your daughter until after her
  twenty-first birthday. She has written to me, and I cannot leave her
  letter unanswered. I must appeal to your kindness therefore to give
  her the enclosed letter, read or unread, as it may please you. There
  is not a word in it that I should blush for you to read, yet I shall
  be grateful if you deliver the letter unread. I cannot think that you
  will refuse to make this concession, as, if you do so, you will place
  me in the position of having received a noble and self-sacrificing
  letter from your daughter, and of leaving it wholly unacknowledged.

  ‘Your obedient servant,



WHILE taking charge of Bella Scratchell’s destiny, Mrs. Dulcimer’s
busy mind had not forgotten the interests of her older _protégé_, Sir
Kenrick Culverhouse, whose mortgaged estate was to be set free by means
of Beatrix Harefield’s fortune. She was quite pleased with herself for
the brilliant idea of disposing comfortably of Cyril by handing him
over to Miss Scratchell, and thus leaving Sir Kenrick without a rival
in the field.

‘That foolish husband of mine would have been trying to make a match
between Beatrix and his favourite Cyril,’ she said to herself. ‘But if
I can put it into Cyril’s head that Bella Scratchell is very fond of
him, he is almost sure to fall over head and ears in love with her. Men
always do. I have not forgotten Benedick and Beatrice.’

All Mrs. Dulcimer’s good intents with regard to Sir Kenrick and the
mortgages were suddenly frustrated by a letter from Beatrix, which at
once surprised and puzzled her.

  ‘DEAREST MRS. DULCIMER,--My father has forbidden me to visit your
  pleasant house any more. I am to have no more happy hours in dear Mr.
  Dulcimer’s library, or with you in your pretty garden. I cannot tell
  you the reason of his harsh conduct. It is nothing that concerns you
  or Mr. Dulcimer. It is for a fault of my own that I am henceforward
  denied the happiness I found in your friendship and society.

  ‘Pray think of me kindly, and remember that I shall be always, as
  long as I live,

  ‘Your grateful and affectionate


Here was a dead lock. Poor Kenrick’s hopes were nipped in the bud.
Happily Kenrick himself had not yet begun to hope. It was Mrs. Dulcimer
who was disappointed. She would have abandoned herself to despair if
she had not been provided with that other scheme in favour of Cyril and
Bella,--a smaller business, but one that served to occupy her mind.
After Mrs. Dulcimer’s visit to the Scratchell domicile, Bella came very
often to the Vicarage, carrying her neat little leather work-bag, and
spending the afternoon in a friendly way. If she did not come of her
own accord, Mrs. Dulcimer would even go the length of sending Rebecca,
or that useful lad who was a boot, knife, and garden boy in the
morning, and a page in the afternoon, to fetch her. The Vicar’s wife
was glad to have a companion who appreciated her conversation better
than the absent-minded Vicar, whose eyes were always on his books,
and whose answers were too obviously mechanical. So it happened that,
through this skilful contriving of Mrs. Dulcimer’s, Bella found herself
very often in Cyril’s society. Cyril was very fond of Mr. Dulcimer, and
had a good deal of parish work to discuss with him. This brought him to
the Vicarage nearly every evening. He used to drop in at the fag end
of the tea--a substantial meal which was tea and supper combined--and
take his place by Mrs. Dulcimer, at a corner of the tray, just in
time for the last decent cup of tea, as the Vicar’s wife would remark

‘Why don’t you come at seven o’clock, and sit down with us in a
sociable manner,’ she complained, ‘instead of coming in when the teapot
is just exhausted? Bella has been quite anxious about you. “I’m sure
Mr. Culverhouse over-fatigues himself in his devotion to his parish
work,” she said just now.’

Bella blushed, and turned her pretty blue eyes shyly upon the curate.

‘And I am sure you do,’ she said. ‘It’s quite dreadful. You will have a
fever or something. You are so careless about your health.’

Cyril saw neither the blush nor the shy look in the soft blue eyes.
Bella’s eyes wore always that soft look in company, but they could
harden and assume a much keener gaze during the everyday business of

‘I never was ill in my life,’ said Cyril, in a provokingly
matter-of-fact tone, not in the least touched by this feminine interest
in his welfare.

It was very aggravating, but Benedick was so at first, Mrs. Dulcimer

‘How much I miss Beatrix Harefield!’ said the Vicar. ‘There is
something original about that girl which always interested me--and
then she has such a mind to appreciate books. I never saw so young
a creature fasten as she does on a great book. She seems to have an
instinct which always leads her to the best.’

‘She is a noble creature,’ said Cyril, quietly.

‘What a wife she would have made for your cousin!’ exclaimed Mrs.
Dulcimer, too eager to be able to mask her batteries altogether.

‘She would make a noble wife--for any man,’ assented Cyril.

‘Of course, but she and your cousin seemed so peculiarly suited to
each other. There is something about both of them so much above the
common herd--a _je ne sais quoi_--a patrician air--an aristocratic way
of thinking. And then, with such a fortune as Miss Harefield’s, your
cousin’s position----’

‘Pray do not let Miss Harefield’s fortune enter into the question,’
cried Cyril, impatiently. ‘Kenrick is not a fortune-hunter, and Miss
Harefield is far too noble a woman for one to tolerate the idea of her
being married for her money.’

‘My dear Cyril, I never had such an idea. You need not take me up so
sharply. Kenrick a fortune-hunter!--of course not. But where these
things combine----However we need not dispute about it. That wretched
Mr. Harefield is resolved to immure his daughter in that dreary old
house of his. She is as badly off as a princess in a fairy tale.’

‘Worse,’ said Bella, ‘for there are no adventurous princes in these
degenerate days.’

‘How does she bear this cruel treatment?’ asked Cyril, looking at Bella
for the first time, since he had shaken hands with her on arriving.
‘You see her often, don’t you, Miss Scratchell?’

‘Two or three times a week. But she is so reserved--even with me,
though we are such old friends. I never quite know what she thinks or
feels. She is all that is nice--and I am devotedly attached to her--but
she never treats me with the same frankness I show to her. She has
looked unhappy since Mr. Harefield put a stop to her visits here--but
she never complains.’

‘I should call at the Water House,’ said Mrs. Dulcimer, ‘for I long
to see the dear girl; but I really cannot face that dreadful Mr.
Harefield; and, as he has forbidden Beatrix to come here, I dare say he
would not allow her to see me. I wonder you are allowed to visit her,

‘Oh,’ said Bella, ‘I don’t count. I am only admitted as a humble
companion. Mr. Harefield thinks no more of me than of one of the

Tea was over by this time, and the family had retired to the library,
which was Mr. Dulcimer’s favourite evening room. There he had his pet
chair, his reading table and lamp, and could take up a book, or lay
it down as he pleased. Even the backs of his books were dear to him.
In his idler moments he would lean back in his chair and gaze at them
dreamily, in a rapture of content. To him those bindings of various
hues, some sober, some gorgeous, were as familiar faces. There was
Burton yonder, in calf antique, the Oxford edition--there Southey’s
‘Doctor,’ in crimson morocco--there the old dramatists in brown and
gold. Anon came a solid block of histories, from Herodotus to Guizot.

Mrs. Dulcimer established herself at her work table, with Bella by
her side. The curate seated himself by his Vicar and began to talk of
the parish. In her heart Bella hated that parish talk--the rheumatic
old women--the sick children--men who were out of work or down with
fever--the sufferers--the sinners--the cases of all kinds that needed

‘If I were a man I would rather be a chimneysweep than a clergyman,’
she thought. ‘One might get to like sooty chimneys, in time; but I am
sure I could never get to like poor people.’

And yet at that moment Bella was contemplating a step which would bring
her into very close contact with the poor of Little Yafford.

It was a quiet humdrum evening, enlivened only by Mrs. Dulcimer’s
small talk about her neighbours or her needlework, and the indistinct
murmurs of those two men on the other side of the wide old hearth.
But to Bella it was infinitely more agreeable than the noisy evenings
at home--the father’s grumblings and growlings--the squabblings and
snappings of boys and girls--the house-mother’s moaning about the
maid-of-all-work’s misdoings. It was pleasant to sit in this pretty
room, lined with many-coloured volumes, all kept with an exquisite
neatness, which was a feature in Mr. Dulcimer’s love of books. The glow
of the fire, the subdued radiance of the lamps, the rich dark red of
the curtains, made a warm brightness unknown in those bare rooms at
home. And every now and then Bella’s blue eyes shot a glance at the
curate’s earnest face--or, when he was most occupied, dwelt upon it
admiringly for a few moments.

‘Ten o’clock,’ exclaimed Mrs. Dulcimer, as the skeleton clock on the
chimney-piece chimed the hour. ‘I wouldn’t make your poor mother uneasy
for the world, Bella dear--Cyril, I know you’ll be kind enough to see
Bella safe home. You pass her door, you know.’

Mr. Culverhouse knew it perfectly.

‘I shall be very happy,’ he said kindly.

He looked with favour on Bella--as a harmless little thing, and
Beatrix’s friend.

Bella slipped away, beaming with smiles, to put on her bonnet. ‘That
girl contrives to look well in everything she wears,’ said Mrs.
Dulcimer. ‘Isn’t she pretty?’

As this was directly addressed to Cyril, he felt himself compelled to

‘Well, yes,’ he deliberated. ‘I suppose she is the kind of little
person usually called pretty. Pink and white prettiness.’

‘Pink and white!’ cried Mrs. Dulcimer, ‘you might say as much as that
of a wax doll. Bella’s complexion is as delicate as Dresden china.’

‘Don’t be angry with me, Mrs. Dulcimer, but I must confess I hate
Dresden china,’ said Cyril, laughing. ‘But I like Miss Scratchell,’ he
added hastily, ‘because she seems good and amiable. She must have a
hard life with all those brothers and sisters.’

‘A hard life,’ echoed Mrs. Dulcimer. ‘Ah, you don’t know what an angel
that girl is in her mother’s house. She does everything--cuts out her
sisters dresses even--and with such an eye for fashion.’

‘I can’t fancy an angel cutting out dresses, or having an eye for

‘For shame, Cyril! You young men can’t appreciate domestic virtues.
You would think more of her if I told you that she wanted to go into a
convent, or to chop somebody’s head off, like Judith. That girl will
make a perfect wife.’

‘I have no doubt she will. And I dare say you have already decided on
the happy man who is to be her husband,’ replied Cyril, innocently.

Mrs. Dulcimer actually blushed.

Bella came back in her neat little bonnet, and comfortable shepherd’s
plaid shawl. Those were days in which women still wore bonnets and
shawls. She looked the picture of sweetness and innocence in that
cottage bonnet, tied under her pretty little chin, and surrounding her
face like a halo.

‘I am so sorry to trouble you,’ she said, as she walked away from the
Vicarage, with her hand on Cyril’s arm.

‘It is not the least trouble, but a pleasure to be of use to you.’

‘You are much too good. But I am going to be really troublesome. I want
to make you my father confessor.’

‘About the husband Mrs. Dulcimer has in view,’ thought Cyril, expecting
to be made adviser in a love affair.

‘Indeed,’ he said kindly. ‘I am sure you can have nothing very
appalling to confess. And if my advice can be of any use to you it is
entirely at your service.’

‘How kind you are!’ exclaimed Bella. ‘I wonder sometimes that you can
find so much kindness for every one--that you can sympathize with so
many--that you are never worn out or impatient, or----’

‘I should be very unworthy of my vocation if I could be so easily
wearied,’ said Cyril, stopping this discursive gush of laudation. ‘But
I am waiting to hear your confession.’

‘I hardly know how to begin,’ faltered Bella. ‘But--yes. I must say
so. Your sermons have awakened my conscience. I think it must have
been cold and dead till you came to us. But you have taught me to
consider things more deeply. I see what an empty and useless life I am

‘Why, Mrs. Dulcimer has just been praising your usefulness,’ said
Cyril, kindly, a kindness that fluttered Bella’s heart with baseless
hopes. ‘She has been telling me how much you do for your mother and

‘Oh yes,’ replied Bella, carelessly, ‘of course I try to be useful
at home. I work for my own family. But that is such an obvious
duty, and there is a pleasure in doing those things that is almost

What a different story Adolphus and Bertie could have told about
Bella’s black looks when she had to sew on buttons for them!

‘What I should like would be to do some good for the poor, those
wretched creatures for whom you do so much. My mornings are all
occupied in teaching--but I have my afternoons to myself,--and I think
I could spare three afternoons a week, if you would show me how I could
be useful--in visiting and reading, or teaching the children.’

‘You are very good,’ said Cyril, thoughtfully, ‘and I like you for
having such a thought. But I really don’t know what to say. I have
several kind ladies who help me.’

‘Who run after you, you should say,’ thought Bella, savagely. ‘Forward

‘And really I hesitate at the idea of withdrawing you from a home in
which you are so useful. For after all, your mother, with her numerous
family, has as much need of sympathy----’

‘As those horrid rheumatic old women,’ thought Bella. ‘I should think
so, indeed.’

‘In short, my dear Miss Scratchell, your present life seems to me so
usefully and wisely employed, that I can hardly bring myself to propose
any alteration.’

‘Perhaps you think that I should be of no use in the parish work,’
suggested Bella.

‘Believe me, no. Indeed, I think, with your taste and handiness, and
industrious habits, you might be of much use. The poor are often sadly
deficient in taste and neatness, and the power to make the best of
things. If you could go among the younger people, and show them how to
be neat and tasteful in their homes, and in their dress, to make the
best of their small resources, to cultivate the beauty of cleanliness
and tidiness--if you could show them how much beauty there is to be
got out of the simplest things--in a word, if you could elevate their
taste----’ said Mr. Culverhouse, with vague yearnings after sweetness
and light. ‘Yes, I am sure you could be useful, as an apostle of the

Bella’s face crimsoned with a happy blush. Her whole being thrilled
with triumph. She took this as a compliment to herself. He thought her
beautiful. Mrs. Dulcimer was right. He loved her, and in good time
would tell her of his love.

‘Tell me where to go, and what to do,’ she said, in a voice that
trembled with joyful feeling.

‘I will make out a list of people. I shall not send you among the very
poor, or to those who would pester you for money. I will send you into
homes where there are young people, where sympathy and kindly interest
in small things will be of use.’

‘A thousand thanks,’ cried Bella; ‘I shall feel so much happier when I
know that I have some small share in the work you do so nobly. Here we
are at home. Will you come in and see papa?’

She devoutly hoped that he would decline, knowing too well the general
untidiness of home at this hour.

‘Not to-night; it is too late. But I will call in a day or two.’

Bertie opened the door, keeping himself wedged behind it, as if it had
been opened by a supernatural power.

‘Good night,’ said Bella.

‘Good night,’ said the curate, with a kindness which Bella mistook for

‘Why, Bella, what have you been painting your cheeks with?’ cried
Adolphus, when Miss Scratchell entered the family parlour, where
the solicitor was sitting by the fire, reading one of the county
papers--about the only literature with which he ever recreated his
mind--while poor Mrs. Scratchell sighed over a basket of stockings,
mostly past mending, or requiring a miracle of ingenuity in the mender.
It was a miserable home to come back to, Bella thought; and again that
vision of an ideal parsonage arose before her mental eye--a paradise
of roses and rosebud chintz, Venetian blinds, and a pony chaise. The
fulfilment of that dream seemed nearer to her to-night than when first
Mrs. Dulcimer conjured up the delightful picture.

‘He seemed pleased with my offer to visit his tiresome poor people,’
thought Bella, as she brushed her soft auburn locks. ‘It will bring
us more together, perhaps; and, if he really cares for me, that will
please him.’



BELLA’S hopes were realized insomuch that her offer to visit his
cottagers certainly did bring her more directly in contact with Mr.
Culverhouse than she had ever been yet. From that hour Cyril became
friendly and confidential--he had found some one besides the Vicar and
Mrs. Dulcimer to whom he could talk about his poor parishioners, their
wants, their virtues, and their vices. He found Bella full of sympathy.
She took up her new work with ardour. She made friends wherever she
went. His people were full of her praises. Perhaps, if Cyril’s heart
had been free, he might have obliged Mrs. Dulcimer by falling in love
with her latest _protégée_. There was something so nice about Bella
Scratchell--a winning softness, a gentle submission to other people, a
kittenish sleekness and grace, accompanied with all a petted kitten’s
caressing ways.

‘That girl has really a remarkable sweetness of character,’ said
Cyril, who, like most young men fresh from the university, fancied he
understood mankind.

He praised Isabella warmly to Mrs. Dulcimer, and thereby stimulated
that lady’s efforts.

‘How clever it was of you to propose to visit the poor!’ said the
Vicar’s wife to Bella, approvingly. ‘Just the very thing to please him.’

‘Oh, dear Mrs. Dulcimer, I hope you don’t think I did it on that
account,’ cried Bella, with a shocked look. ‘It is a real pleasure to
me to be of some little use. When I see how good you and Mr. Dulcimer

‘Oh, my dear, I’m afraid I don’t go among the poor as much as I
ought. Anxious as I am to do good, I don’t get on with them as
well as Clement does. I can’t help telling them when I see things
going wrong, and trying to set them in the right way. And they
resent that. One must look on and smile as if everything was
right--dirt--muddle--extravagance--everything. It is too trying for any
one with an energetic temper. I’m sure only the other day I said to
Maria Bowes--whom I’ve known all my life--“If I were you, Maria, I’d
try to have your keeping-room a little neater--and a few flowers in the
window--and the hearth always swept up. It would be so much nicer for
Bowes when he comes home from his work.” “I dare say I should have it
so if I’d three women-servants, and a boy to clean up after them,” she
answered, quite impertinently, “and, if my keeping-room wasn’t kitchen
and chamber too.” “Do you mean to say that I keep too many servants,
Maria?” I said. “No, ma’am,” she answered, “but I mean that gentlefolks
can’t tell how difficult poor folks find it to cook a bit of victuals,
and keep their children from getting ragged, without fiddle-faddling
with cleaning up a place that’s no sooner cleaned than it’s mucked

‘I can pity her, poor wretch,’ said Bella, ‘for it’s like that with us
at home, though we make believe to think ourselves gentlefolks. It’s
as much as mother can do to keep things together anyhow; and every
Saturday night is a struggle to get the children’s clothes decent for
Sunday. Mother and I often sit up till after twelve o’clock, sewing on
buttons, and darning stockings.’

‘Ah, what a wife you will make, Bella!’ exclaimed Mrs. Dulcimer, as if
a wife’s one duty were the repair of her husband’s garments.

       *       *       *       *       *

The woods were growing browner, the moorland grayer. The mists of
chill November crept up from the valley, and hung upon the hill-side.
The river was half hidden under a silvery veil, on those dim November
afternoons. An autumnal tranquillity hung over the sombre old Water
House. The dahlias and hollyhocks were dead, the chrysanthemums were
fading--autumn primroses showed pale in quiet nooks of the garden, and
along by the old-fashioned borders stole the welcome odour of late

How often Cyril Culverhouse lingered on the old Roman bridge to look at
the house which held the one woman he loved! The entrance tower and a
couple of fine old yew trees hid the river walk from him, or he might
have seen Beatrix pacing slowly up and down in melancholy solitude.

She had not answered his letter, but he had received a brief note from
Mr. Harefield.

  ‘SIR,--I have delivered your letter to my daughter unread. I hope the
  next two years will bring her wisdom.

  ‘Yours obediently,


Cyril had questioned Bella Scratchell more than once about her friend,
without betraying the warmth of his interest in Beatrix.

‘Yes, she is very dull, poor thing,’ said Bella. ‘I am more sorry for
her than I can say. I go there as often as I can, and do what I can to
cheer her. But Beatrix was never a cheerful girl, you know, and she
gets graver and more silent every day. Miss Scales is quite anxious
about her, and wants her to take bark.’

‘I doubt if bark is a cure for an unhappy home,’ said Cyril.

‘No--if you call her home unhappy. But really she has everything a
girl could wish. Handsome old rooms to herself--no disorder--no noisy
brothers upsetting things. She has her books--and a governess who
adores her--a fine old garden beautifully kept--a pony carriage--a
horse to ride.’

‘Unfortunately those things won’t make youth happy,’ answered the
curate: ‘they might be sufficient for happiness at the end of life;
they are not enough for it at the beginning.’

‘I know that life is a very different thing without them,’ sighed Bella.

‘Would you change places with Miss Harefield?’ asked Cyril.

Bella blushed and cast down her eyes.

‘No,’ she said softly.

She meant that she would not barter her hope of Cyril’s love for the
advantages of Beatrix Harefield’s position, though she had envied those
advantages ever since the childish days in which she first became Miss
Harefield’s playfellow.

One afternoon, towards the close of November, Cyril was returning from
a tramp across the moor. He had been to a distant village to see the
ailing married daughter of one of his parishioners, who had fancied
that a visit from the kind curate would do her sick daughter more
good than ‘doctor’s stuff.’ It was a clear afternoon, a yellow sunset
brightening the western horizon. This long lonely walk had given him
much time for thought, and he had been thinking of Beatrix all the
way. She was so much in his thoughts that, although he had had no hope
of meeting her, it seemed scarcely strange to him when he heard the
muffled sound of hoofs upon the short grass, and looking round saw her
riding towards him at a fast canter.

What was he to do? He had promised to hold himself aloof from her. He
was neither to see nor write to her during the two years of probation.
He had made up his mind that she would pass him at that flying pace,
that he would see the slim figure--erect in the saddle, firmly seated
as an Arab on his loosely held courser--flash by him like a vision of
pride and beauty, and be gone. He stood bare-headed to see her pass,
expecting to receive no more notice than a bow, or doubtful even
whether she would see him, when she pulled her horse almost on his
haunches, wheeled round, and met him face to face.

‘How lucky!’ she cried, flushing with delight. ‘I have been dying to
see you. I thought I could not be mistaken, when I saw your figure in
the distance, and I rode after you.’

She slipped lightly out of the saddle, and stood beside him, bridle in
hand, the petted horse rubbing his velvet nose against her shoulder.

‘William is half a mile behind,’ she said. ‘He’s on one of papa’s old
hunters. Don’t you hear him?’

A distant noise, like the puffing of a steam-engine, announced the
groom’s approach.

‘Cyril,’ cried Beatrix, ‘are you as glad to see me as I am to see you?’

‘It is more than gladness that I feel, dear,’ he answered, clasping her
hands and looking earnestly at the expressive face, which had faded to
a sickly pallor after the flush of joy, ‘but, my dearest, how ill you
are looking, how changed----’

‘Oh, I have been miserable,’ she said, impetuously, ‘simply miserable.
I miss you every day in the week, every hour in the day. I did not see
you very often, did I? And yet, now that I am forbidden to go to the
Vicarage, it seems as if my life had been spent in your society. Oh,
you have work to do, you have noble ideas to fill your mind! How can
you tell the blankness of a woman’s life, parted from all she loves?’

‘My darling, it is not for life; it is only for a little while.’

‘A little while!’ she cried, impatiently. ‘A day is an age when one is
miserable. I wake every morning, oh so early! and see the dreary gray
light, and say to myself, “What does it matter? Night and day are alike
to me. I shall not see him.” Cyril, why did you write me that cruel

The groom had ridden up by this time on his roaring hunter, and was
standing at a respectful distance, wondering what his young mistress
could have to say to the curate, and why she had dismounted in order to
say it.

‘My own love, how could I write otherwise? I promised your father that
for two years I would respect his desires, that I would counsel you
to no act of disobedience till you were old enough to take the full
measure of your acts--till time had changed impulse into conviction.
How could I have written otherwise than as I did?’

‘You could have said, “Defy your father as I do, laugh to scorn the
loss of fortune, as I do. Be my wife. We shall be very poor, perhaps,
for the first few years. But Heaven will take care of us as the ravens
cared for Elijah.” That is how you ought to have written to me.’

He was sorely tempted by her--tempted to take her to his heart that
moment, to rain kisses on the sweet pale face that he had never
kissed--to mount her on her lively young bay horse, and steal the
groom’s hunter for himself, and ride off to the Scottish border with
her, and be married by the unlearned priest of Gretna, who was still
plying his profitable trade. Never was man more tempted. But he had
given his promise, and meant to keep it.

‘Two years hence, my dearest, please God, I will have a home for you
that shall not mean absolute poverty. I cannot break my word, love. We
must wait till you are one-and-twenty. It is not a long time.’

‘It would not seem long if my father had been reasonable--if he had
not forbidden me to see you, or write to you. Cyril,’ she said, looking
at him with sudden intensity, ‘is it a sin to wish for the death of any

‘My dear one, you must know that it is--a deadly sin: “Whosoever hateth
his brother is a murderer.”’

‘I do not hate my father; but sometimes I find myself thinking of
what would happen if he were to die. I should be free--rich. I could
give you my fortune--you could lavish it all on acts of charity and
beneficence. We would live like poor people. We would devote our lives
to doing good. We would show the world how a parish priest and his wife
ought to live.’

‘Beatrix, pray continually against wicked thoughts. There could be no
deadlier sin than to desire your father’s death. God forbid that you
should fall into it! I have never sighed for wealth--nor do I believe
that a man’s opportunities of doing good depend upon the length of
his purse. For one man who will find will and energy, patience and
perseverance, to help his fellow-men, there are a hundred ready to
give their money. No, dear love, we can be happy without your father’s
wealth. We should be no happier for his death. We have but to be true
to each other, and all will be well.’

The groom came up to remind his mistress that the short day was
closing, and that the moorland road was dangerous after dark.

‘God bless you, dearest, and good-bye,’ said Cyril.

‘Oh, why are you in such haste to get rid of me?’ she cried,
impatiently, in French, the groom standing close by, ready to lift her
on to her horse. ‘It may be ages before we meet again. You talked in
that cruel letter of leaving Little Yafford. When is that to be?’

‘I have taken no step yet. This place is dear to me. But I shall leave
soon after Christmas, if I can do so without inconvenience to the

‘I shall feel just a shade more miserable when you are gone,’ said

She put her slim foot upon William’s broad palm, and sprang lightly
into her saddle.

Cyril watched her as she rode slowly down the hill, looking back at him
now and then, forlornly, as from the vessel that was carrying her into
exile. His heart bled for her, but the idea that she had calculated
the possibilities that hung upon her father’s death--that she had even
sinned so deeply as to wish him dead--haunted him painfully.

Was there a strain of hardness in this impetuous nature--a flaw in this
gem which he had hitherto counted peerless? Well, she was not perfect,
perhaps. His creed taught him that there was no soul so pure but on its
virgin whiteness showed some dark spot of sin. And she had been hardly
treated--held at arm’s length by her father’s coldness. She had been
reared in a home unsanctified by affection.

He pleaded for her, and excused her in his own mind, and was full of
sorrow for her.

But for him, as she had said, life was full of interest and action. For
him two years seemed a little while.



SIR KENRICK CULVERHOUSE had gone to Hampshire to look at the old
domain. He had plenty of friends in the neighbourhood of Culverhouse,
who would have been glad to give him hospitality, but he preferred the
less luxurious accommodation of his own house, which was maintained
by a couple of faithful old servants, very much in the style of the
Master of Ravenswood’s immortal _ménage_ at Wolf’s Craig. The old
butler was not so amusing or so enthusiastic as Caleb Balderstone;
but he was every whit as faithful, and preferred his board wages and
bacon dumplings, in the halls of the good old race, to those fleshpots
of Egypt which he might perchance have found in the service of some
mushroom gentleman or commercial magnate newly established in the

People had told Kenrick that he ought to let Culverhouse Castle, and
that he might add considerably to his income by so doing. But Kenrick
repudiated the idea of an income so obtained. To allow purse-proud city
people to come and criticise those old familiar rooms, and make rude
remarks upon the shabbiness of the furniture--to have some newly-made
country squire, whose beginnings were on the Stock Exchange, airing
his unaccustomed grandeur in the rooms where meek Lady Culverhouse had
lived her tranquil unoffending life--no; Kenrick would have starved
rather than sanction such a desecration. His mother’s gentle shadow
still occupied the rooms she had loved. He would not have that peaceful
ghost scared away by horsey young ladies or billiard-playing young men.

At a cost of about a hundred and fifty pounds a year--nearly half his
small income--Kenrick contrived to have the place kept decently; the
gardens free from weeds and ruin; the empty stables protected from wind
and rain; the house preserved from actual decay. And the place was
ready to receive him when he was able to come home, were it but for a
single night. This, in Kenrick’s mind, was much.

Love of his birthplace, and pride of his race, were the strongest
points in Kenrick’s character; and Culverhouse was assuredly a home
which a man with any sense of the beautiful might be pardoned for
loving to enthusiasm. It had been a fortress in those early days
when the Danish invader was marking his conquering course along the
south-western coast with the blaze of burning villages. It had been an
abbey before the Reformation, and much that belonged to its monastic
period still remained. Some portions had been converted to secular
uses, other parts had been preserved in what might be called a state of
substantial ruin. And this mixture of ecclesiastical ruins and Tudor
dwelling-house made a most picturesque and romantic whole. The massive
outer wall of the cloistered quadrangle still remained, but where the
cloisters had been was now the rose garden--a fair expanse of velvet
turf, intersected with alleys of roses. The chapel door stood in all
its early English purity of line and moulding, but the chapel had
given place to a sunny enclosure, bounded by hedges of honeysuckle and
sweet-briar, a garden in which old-fashioned flowers grew luxuriantly
in prim box-edged beds.

The house was one of the handsomest in the county. Much too good for a
decayed race, old Sir Kenrick had always said; but young Sir Kenrick
held it as in no wise too good for him. He would not have sold it for
half a million, had he been free to sell it. The situation was perfect.
It stood in a fertile green valley, on the bank of a river which,
insignificant elsewhere, widened here to a noble reach of water, and
curved lovingly round the velvet slopes of the lawn. A long wooden
bridge spanned the river just beyond the old Gothic gateway of the
castle, and communicated with the village of Culverhouse, in which
a population of a hundred and eighty souls fancied itself a world.
Kenrick loved the place--castle, village, river--low-lying water
meadows--ancient avenues--fair green field where the foundations of the
abbey had been marked out with rows of stones--a stone for each pillar
in nave and aisles--chancel and apse--he loved all these things with
a love that was almost a passion. His heart thrilled within him when
he came back to the familiar scene after a year or more of exile. His
nature, not too warm elsewhere, warmed to the old goodies and gaffers
of Culverhouse village with an unalterable tenderness. Poor as he was,
he had always stray sixpences and shillings in his waistcoat pocket to
give these ancient rustics, for beer, or tea, or snuff. He could listen
to their stories of rheumatics and other afflictions with infinite
patience. Their very dialect was dear to him.

If Kenrick had lived in the Middle Ages, and been exposed to visible
contact with the powers of darkness, Mephistopheles would have
assuredly baited his hook with the Culverhouse estate.

‘Here are the money-bags,’ he would have said; ‘sign me this bond,
and Culverhouse is yours, free of the mortgages that now degrade and
humiliate your race. For twenty years you may reign securely in the
halls of your ancestors--and then----’

Perhaps Kenrick might have had the force of mind to refuse so frankly
diabolical a bargain, but when Mephistopheles assumed the amiable
countenance of Selina Dulcimer, and whispered in his ear, ‘Marry
Beatrix Harefield, and let her fortune revive the glory of your race,’
the young man was sorely tempted.

He had promised his cousin Cyril that he would not attempt to become
his rival, but he did not know how far Cyril’s love affair had gone. He
had no idea that Beatrix had already made her choice, irrevocably, and
was ready to sacrifice fortune and her father’s favour for her lover.

Kenrick was not in love with Beatrix Harefield, in spite of all those
hints and innuendos wherewith Mrs. Dulcimer had artfully striven to
kindle the fire of passion in his heart. He was not in love with her,
but he admired her beyond any woman he had ever met, and he could but
remember that her fortune would give him the desire of his heart. He
was above the meanness of marrying for money. He would not have sold
himself to a woman he disliked or despised, any more than he would have
sold himself to Satan. He would have accounted one bargain as base
as the other. But he would have been very glad to marry a woman with
money, provided he could think her the first of women, and worthy to
rule in the halls of his race. That he should love her was a secondary
necessity. Sir Kenrick was not a young man who considered loving and
being beloved essential to the happiness of life. Nature had made
him of colder stuff than his cousin Cyril. He could do very well
without love, but existence could hardly be tolerable to him without
Culverhouse Castle.

He thought of Beatrix Harefield as he paced the long tapestried saloon
on the evening of his arrival. He had ordered a fire to be lighted
here, though old Mrs. Mopson, the major-domo’s wife, had strongly
recommended him to sit in the library, or his mother’s morning-room.

‘You’ll be a deal snuggerer than in that there big room, Sir Kenrick,’
she urged. ‘I don’t say it’s damp, for I opens the windows every fine
morning--but it’s awful chill, and it’d take a’most a stack of logs to
warm it.’

‘Never mind the chilliness, Betty,’ said Kenrick, ‘I want to sit in
the saloon. It’s a treat to see the dear old room again after three
years’ absence.’

‘Ah,’ said Betty, ‘there ain’t another room in Hampshire ekal to it,’
firmly convinced that Hampshire was the world, or at any rate all the
world that was civilized and worth living in. Once, when somebody asked
Betty Mopson if she had ever been so far as London, she replied, ‘No,
thank God, I’m no furriner.’

So Betty lighted a pile of logs on the open hearth, and put a pair of
candles on the table near the fire, and wheeled a tapestried arm-chair
beside it, and placed Sir Kenrick’s slippers comfortably in front of
the fender--so that in spite of its long disuse the room had a homelike
aspect when he came to it after his homely dinner. By this dim light
the room looked lovely--all its shabbiness hidden--all its beauties
of form and colour intensified--the figures in the fine old tapestry
standing out in life-like roundness. Theseus and Ariadne--Ariadne
deserted--the coming of Bacchus--hymeneal festival--nymphs and satyrs
frisking against a background of blue sea.

Kenrick thought of Beatrix Harefield as he walked slowly up and down.
How well her stately beauty would become the room! how well the room
would become her! She was just the wife for the master of such a place
as Culverhouse. It seemed a hard thing that honour forbade his putting
himself forward as her suitor.

‘How do I know that she cares for Cyril?’ he asked himself; ‘and if
she does not, why should not I have my chance? Cyril is such a close
fellow. I don’t know how far things have gone between them. She may
not care a straw for him. And I may go back to India, and leave her
to be snapped up by some adventurer. I must have the matter placed on
a plainer footing when I go back to Little Yafford. If Cyril does not
mean to go in and win the prize, I must have my innings. It will be
only fair.’



NEVER in her life had Isabella Scratchell been so happy as she was
in those winter days which Beatrix spent in her solitary home, or in
long lonely rides or drives across the moor. Isabella, whose time had
seldom been given to idleness, now worked day and night. She could not
altogether withdraw her help from the overtaxed house-mother, so she
sat up for an hour or two nightly, when the rest of the family had gone
to bed, mending and making for the insatiable brood.

‘Never mind, ma,’ she would say when Mrs. Scratchell was on the verge
of distraction about a skirt, or a ‘waist,’ a pair of impracticable
socks, or trousers that were gone at the knee; ‘leave your basket, and
I’ll make it right when you’re gone to bed.’

‘But, Bella, my dear,’ sighed the mother, ‘it’s so bad for your health
to sit up ever so long after twelve. Working so hard as you do all the
day, too. I wish you had never taken that district visiting into your

‘District fiddlesticks!’ growled Mr. Scratchell from behind his
newspaper. He was inconveniently quick of hearing, like the generality
of fathers. ‘District stuff and nonsense! Visiting the poor means
running after curates.’

‘It’s a great shame to say such a thing, pa,’ cried Bella, crimsoning.
‘I’m sure I try hard enough to be useful at home, and I give mother the
best part of my salary towards the housekeeping. I ought to be free to
do a little good abroad, if it makes me happy.’

‘A little fiddle-faddle,’ retorted the father, not taking the trouble
to lower his newspaper. ‘A deal of good you can do, going simpering
and smirking into cottages, as much as to say, “Ain’t I pretty? How do
you like my bonnet?” And then I suppose you inquire after the state of
their souls, and ask why they don’t teach their children to blow their
noses, and quote Scripture, and talk as if you’d got a freehold estate
in heaven. I hate such humbug. Stay at home and help your mother.
That’s what _I_ call Christianity.’

Like most men who never go to church or read their Bibles, Mr.
Scratchell had his own idea of Christianity, and was quite as ready
to assert and defend it as the most learned Churchman. He laid down
the law as arrogantly upon this Christian code of his as if he had
received a revelation all to himself, and was in a position to put the
Established Church right, if it had been worth his while to do so.

Bella Scratchell went on devoting three afternoons a week to parish
visiting, in spite of paternal opposition. In fact, that paternal
opposition gave a new zest to her work, and she felt herself in her
small way a martyr.

She told Cyril about her father’s unkindness one afternoon as he was
walking home with her, after an accidental meeting in one of the

‘Papa is so cruel,’ she said; ‘he declares that I can do no good--that
I am too insignificant and silly to be of the least use.’

‘You are neither insignificant nor silly,’ answered Cyril, warmly; ‘and
the people like you. That is the grand point. They will generally take
advice from a person they like. And they like bright young faces, and
pleasant friendly manners. You have done good already. I have seen it
in more than one case.’

‘I am so glad!’ cried Bella, in a voice that actually trembled with
delight. ‘Are you really pleased with me?’

‘I am very much pleased.’

‘Then I will go on. Papa may be as unkind as he likes. I am amply

‘My praise is a very small reward,’ replied Cyril, smiling. ‘The
satisfaction of your own conscience is the real good. You know that
your life now is all usefulness.’

Bella lived in a fool’s paradise, from this time forward. Mrs.
Dulcimer was always telling her how Cyril had praised her. She met him
continually in the cottages, or at the Vicarage. Her life was full of
delight. She only went to the Water House once or twice a week, though
she had hitherto gone almost every day. She told Beatrix about her
district visiting.

‘Of course I like being here with you much better than going among
those poor things,’ she said, affectionately; ‘but I felt it a duty to
do something, my life seemed so useless.’

‘What is mine, then?’ sighed Beatrix.

‘Oh dear, with you it is different. With your means you can always be
doing good indirectly. See how much you have done for me. I owe you
and Mr. Harefield my education, my good clothes, my power to help poor
mamma. But I have only my time to give, and I am very happy to devote
some of that to the poor, under Mr. Culverhouse’s guidance.’

‘He is kind to you?’ interrogated Beatrix; ‘you like him?’

‘He is more than kind to me. He is my master, my teacher, my guide! I
cannot use such a poor word as liking to describe my feelings for him.
I reverence--I almost worship him.’

‘He is worthy of your esteem,’ said Beatrix, wondering a little at this
gush of feeling from Bella.

Mrs. Dulcimer felt that things were working round delightfully towards
the realization of her matrimonial scheme.

‘I look upon it as quite a settled matter, Rebecca,’ she said one
morning, when the all-important factotum was polishing the old
sideboard, familiarly known as Uncle John.

‘Having the chimneys swept again before Christmas? yes, mum,’ replied
Rebecca, driving her leather vigorously backwards and forwards across
the shining wood. ‘They’ll want it. We begun fires extra early this
year, and master do pile up the wood and coals, as if he wanted to keep
himself in mind of Bloody Mary’s martyrs at Smiffell, and show his
thankfulness that God made him a Protestant.’

‘I wasn’t talking of the chimneys, Rebecca. I was thinking of Mr.
Culverhouse and Miss Scratchell. He’s getting fonder of her every day.’

‘He ought to be,’ retorted the maid, snappishly. ‘She runs after him
hard enough. But if I was you, ‘um, I’d leave him to find out his own
feelings. Forced affections are like forced rhubarb, sour and watery.
Uncle John’s in the sulks this morning. I can’t get him to shine nohow.
It’s the damp weather, I suppose. It always makes him dull.’

‘Well, Rebecca,’ said Mrs. Dulcimer, complacently, ‘if this marriage
takes place soon, as I believe it will, I shall feel that I’ve been the
salvation of Bella Scratchell. If you could see her wretched home----’

‘I’ve seen the maid-of-all-work,’ replied Rebecca, curtly, ‘that’s
enough for me. I’ve no call to see inside the house.’

Hopefully as things were progressing in Mrs. Dulcimer’s estimation, the
active beneficence of that amiable woman urged her to take some step
which should place matters on a more decided footing. It was more than
a month since she had taken Cyril and Bella under her protection, and
she felt that it was time the gentleman should declare himself. He had
received every encouragement to speak; he had evidently been touched by
Bella’s efforts for the good of her species. He admired Bella’s taste
and industry, her neatness of attire and amiable manners. What more
could he want?

‘It’s positively ridiculous of him to hang back in this way,’ thought
Mrs. Dulcimer, impatient for action. ‘But I have no doubt his silence
is the result of shyness. Those reserved men are always shy. One gives
them credit for pride, and they are suffering agonies of self-distrust
all the time.’

It is generally some combination of trifles which determines the great
events of life. Mrs. Dulcimer was hurried into a line of conduct more
impetuous than sagacious by such a combination.

First it was a wet afternoon, which fact prevented the Vicar’s wife
going on a round of ceremonious calls, in her best bonnet. She might
have trusted her own body out in the wet, leaving the accident of a
cold in the head to be dealt with by Rebecca, who was a wonderful hand
at domestic medicine, and made gruel that was almost a luxury; but
she could not risk the destruction of her new velvet bonnet and bird
of Paradise. Secondly, Mr. Dulcimer had gone to Great Yafford for a
day’s leisurely prowl among the second-hand book-shops, a recreation
his soul loved. His absence made the Vicarage seem empty, and the day
longer than usual. Mrs. Dulcimer ate her early dinner alone, and felt

After dinner she sent the boy to ask Bella Scratchell to come and spend
the afternoon, and to bring her work. The fire was lighted in the
library, so that the room might be warm and cheerful on the Vicar’s
return; but Mrs. Dulcimer preferred her snug corner by the dining-room
hearth, where she had a comfortable Rockingham chair, and a delightful
little Chippendale table. She opened her charity basket, took out her
pile of baby clothes, and felt that, with Bella to talk to, she could
spend an agreeable afternoon, despite the incessant rain, which came
down with a dismal drip, drip, on the sodden lawn, where the blackbirds
were luxuriating in the unusual accessibility of the worm family.

Bella’s rapid fingers were wont to be helpful too, with the charity
basket. She would lay aside her dainty strip of embroidery, and devote
herself to herring-boning flannel, or stitching in gussets, with the
most amiable alacrity.

‘You dear girl, to come through this abominable rain and enliven me!’
exclaimed Mrs. Dulcimer, when Bella came in, looking very bright and
pretty after her rainy walk.

‘I think I would come through fire as well as water to see you, dear
Mrs. Dulcimer,’ replied Bella, affectionately. ‘I was going to sit with
poor Mary Smithers this afternoon,--she is in a decline, you know, and
so patient. Mr. Culverhouse is deeply interested in her. But of course
I would rather come here----’

‘You dear unselfish girl! And does Mr. Culverhouse seem pleased with
what you are doing for his people?’

‘Very much. His face quite lights up when he comes into a cottage and
finds me there.’

‘Ah!’ said Mrs. Dulcimer, significantly. ‘We all know what that means.’

Bella sighed and looked at the fire. Her fool’s paradise was a sweet
place to dwell in, but there were times when the suspicion that it was
only a fool’s paradise, after all, crept like an ugly snake into the
Eden of her mind.

‘Dear Mrs. Dulcimer,’ she began thoughtfully, after an interval of
silence, in which the Vicar’s wife had been trying to accomplish some
manœuvre, almost as difficult as squaring the circle, with a brown
paper pattern and an awkward bit of flannel. ‘You are too good to be
so much interested in my welfare; but, do you know, sometimes I fancy
you are altogether mistaken--as to--as to--Mr. Culverhouse’s feelings.
He is all that is kind to me--he approves of my poor efforts to be
useful--he praises me--he seems always glad to see me--yet he has never
said a word that would imply----’

‘That will come all at once, all in a moment,’ cried Mrs. Dulcimer,
decisively. ‘It did with Clement. I hadn’t the least idea that he was
in love with me. My father was a bookworm, you know, like Mr. Dulcimer;
and Clement used to come to our house a great deal, and they were
always talking of first editions and second editions, and black-letter
books, and incunabula, and a lot more stuff, of which I hardly knew
the meaning. And one day Clement suddenly asked me to marry him. I
never felt so surprised in my life. I felt sure that my father must
have suggested it to him, but the idea did not offend me. These things
ought to be suggested. There are men who would go down to their graves
miserable old bachelors for want of some one to give them a judicious

‘And you really think Mr. Culverhouse likes me?’ faltered Bella.

It was growing every day--nay, every hour--more and more a question
of life or death with her. The old home seemed daily more hateful,
the ideal existence to be shared with Cyril more paradisaic. Suspense
gnawed her heart like a serpent’s tooth. She knew, and felt, that it
was unwomanly to discuss such a question, even with friendly Mrs.
Dulcimer, but she could not help seeking the comfort to be obtained
from such a discussion.

‘My love, I am sure of it,’ said the Vicar’s wife, with conviction. ‘I
have seen it in a thousand ways.’

Bella did not ask her to name one of the thousand, though she would
have been very glad to get more detailed information.

Again Bella’s eyes sought the fire, and again she gave a little
depressed sigh. Her father had been especially disagreeable lately;
there had been difficulties about bills and taxes--life at home was
at such times a perpetual warfare. Mrs. Piper had been ailing for the
last fortnight; her temper had been ailing too. The Piper children were
stupid and insolent. Existence was altogether a trial. Bella thought
of Beatrix Harefield’s smooth life in the beautiful old Water House,
with its lights and shadows, its old world comfort, its retinue of
well-trained servants. A dull life, no doubt, but a paradise of rest.
As a child, Bella had been envious of her playfellow; but, since both
girls had grown to womanhood, envy had assumed a deeper hue, black as
the juice of the cuttle-fish, which darkens all it touches.

‘Let me herring-bone those flannels for you, dear Mrs. Dulcimer,’ Bella
said at last, rousing herself from her reverie, and presently the
needle was flying swiftly backwards and forwards, as Miss Scratchell’s
fair head bent over her work.

She tried to be lively, feeling it incumbent on her to amuse her kind
patroness; and the two women prattled on about servants, and gowns, and
bonnets, and the usual feminine subjects, till four o’clock, when it
was too dark for any more work, and they could only talk on by the red
glow of the fire, till it pleased the omnipotent Rebecca to bring lamps
and candles.

The Vicarage dining-room was charming by this light. The blocks of
books, the shelves of old china, Uncle John’s portly sideboard,
standing out with a look of human corpulence in the ruddy glow, shining
with a polish that did credit to Rebecca, Aunt Tabitha’s mahogany
bureau glittering with brassy ornamentation, the sombre crimson of the
well-worn curtains giving depth of tone to the picture. Yes it was a
good old room in this changeful and uncertain light, and to Bella,
after the discords and disorders of home, it seemed an exquisite haven
of repose. There had been old-fashioned folding-doors between the
dining-room and library, but these Mr. Dulcimer had removed, replacing
them with thick cloth curtains, which made it easier for him to pass
from room to room.

The clock had struck four, and Mrs. Dulcimer was beginning to feel
sleepy, when a ring at the house door put her on the alert.

‘I wonder who it is?’ she said in an undertone, as if the visitor might
hear her outside the hall door. ‘It isn’t Clement, for he has his key.
And it couldn’t be any ordinary caller on such an afternoon. I dare say
it is Mr. Culverhouse come on parish business.’

Bella had made the same speculation, and her heart was beating
painfully fast.

‘If it is I’ll draw him out,’ whispered the Vicar’s wife.

‘Oh, pray, pray, dear Mrs. Dulcimer, don’t dream of such a thing----’

‘Sh, my dear,’ whispered Mrs. Dulcimer, ‘don’t you be frightened. I am
not going to compromise you. I hope I have more tact than to do such a
thing as that. But I shall draw him out. I won’t have him trifle with
you any longer. He shall be made to speak his mind.’

‘Dear Mrs. Dulcimer, I beg----’

‘Mr. Culverhouse, ‘um,’ announced Rebecca. ‘He wanted to see master,
but he says you’ll do. I’ve shown him into the libery.’

Mrs. Dulcimer rose without a word, squeezed Bella’s hand, put her
finger on her lip mysteriously, and passed through into the next room,
dropping the curtains behind her. Bella grew pale, and trembled a
little as she crept towards the curtains.

‘I think she must mean me to listen,’ she said to herself, and she took
her stand just by the central line where the two curtains met.

Mr. Culverhouse had come to beg help for some of his poor people. Widow
Watson’s little boy had fallen into the fire, while his mother was out
getting her little bit of washing passed through a neighbour’s mangle,
and there was old linen wanted to dress his wounds, and a little wine,
as he was very weak from the shock. Good-natured Mrs. Dulcimer ran off
to hunt for the linen, and to get the wine from Rebecca, and Cyril was
left alone in the library.

Bella stole back to her chair by the fire. He might come in, perhaps,
and find her there. He was quite at home in the house. She felt that
she would look innocent enough, sitting there by the little work-table.
She might even simulate a gentle slumber. She was wise enough to know
that girlhood is never prettier than in sleep.

Cyril did not come into the dining-room. She heard him walking slowly
up and down the library, deep in thought, no doubt.

‘If Mrs. Dulcimer is right, he must be thinking of me,’ said Bella. ‘I
think of him all day long. He shuts everything else out of my thoughts.’

Presently Mrs. Dulcimer came back.

‘I have sent off a parcel of linen and some sherry,’ she said.

‘A thousand thanks for your prompt kindness. It is really a sad
case--the poor mother is almost heartbroken----’

‘Poor thing,’ said Mrs. Dulcimer. ‘I cannot think how they do manage to
set themselves on fire so often. It’s quite an epidemic.’

‘Their rooms are so small,’ suggested Cyril.

‘True. That may have something to do with it. How tired you must
be this wet day! You’ll stop to tea, of course. Clement has been
book-hunting at Great Yafford, and will be home soon. I have got a
brace of pheasants for him. He’ll want something nice after such a
wretched day. How is Mary Smithers?’

Mary Smithers was the girl Bella had talked of visiting.

‘No better, poor soul,’ said Cyril. ‘There is only one change for her

‘Ah!’ sighed Mrs. Dulcimer, ‘and that is a blessed one for a girl in
her position.’

Her tone implied that heaven was a desirable refuge for the destitute,
a supernal almshouse, with easier terms of election than those common
to earthly asylums.

‘Have you seen much of poor Mary since she has been ill?’ asked Mrs.
Dulcimer, artfully leading up to her subject.

‘I see her as often as I can, but not so often as I wish. But she has
been well looked after.’


‘Your little favourite, Miss Scratchell, has been quite devoted to her,
and fortunately poor Mary has taken a strong fancy to Miss Scratchell.’

How fast Bella’s heart was beating now! and how close her ear was to
the narrow line between the curtains!

‘Your little favourite.’ The careless kindness of his tone had a
chilling sound in Bella’s ear.

‘I am delighted to hear you say so,’ replied Mrs. Dulcimer. ‘Bella
is indeed a dear girl--clever, accomplished, useful; a treasure at
home--beloved wherever she goes. What a wife she will make!’

‘A capital one,’ said the curate. ‘I should be very pleased to marry

Bella’s heart gave a leap.

‘To some thoroughly good fellow who could give her a happy home.’

Bella’s heart sank as heavily as a lump of lead.

‘And no doubt she will marry well,’ pursued the curate, in the same
cheerful tone. ‘She is a very attractive girl as well as a good girl.’

Mrs. Dulcimer began to feel uncomfortable. Could she have been mistaken
after all? Could she have misled poor Bella? It was not the first
time in her life that her judgment had gone astray--but this time she
had felt particularly sure of her facts, and she had been more than
usually anxious for the success of her scheme. Bella’s home was so
uncomfortable. It was absolutely incumbent on Mrs. Dulcimer, as an
active Christian, to get the poor girl married. Match-making here was
not an amusement, but a stringent duty.

There was a pause, and for some moments Mrs. Dulcimer thought of
abandoning her idea of drawing Cyril out. The attempt might be
premature. And there was poor Bella listening intently, no doubt, and
having her young hopes blighted by the indifference of the curate’s
tone. Curiosity got the better of discretion, however, and Mrs.
Dulcimer pursued her theme.

‘She is a sweet pretty girl,’ she said, ‘I really think she grows
prettier every day. I wonder you can talk so cheerfully of marrying her
to somebody else. What a charming wife she would make for you!’

‘I dare say she would, if I wanted just that kind of wife, and if she
wanted such a person as me for a husband. But I dare say I am as far
from her ideal of a husband as she is from my ideal of a wife.’

Bella’s knees gave way under her at this point, and she sank into a
languid heap upon the floor by the curtains. She did not faint, but she
felt as if there were no more power or life in her limbs, as if she had
sunk upon that spot never to rise any more, as if the best thing that
could happen to her would be to lie there and feel life ebbing gently
away, light slowly fading to eternal darkness.

‘You astonish me,’ cried Mrs. Dulcimer, more indignant at the
downfall of this last cherished scheme than she had ever felt
at any previous failure. ‘What more could you want in a wife?
Beauty--cleverness--industry--good management.’

‘Dante found only one Beatrice,’ said Cyril, gravely, ‘yet I have no
doubt there were plenty of women in Florence who could sew on shirt
buttons and make soup. I have found my Beatrice. I may never marry her,
perhaps. But I am fixed for life. I shall never marry any one else.’

A new life returned to Bella’s limbs now. It was as if the blood that
had just now flowed so sluggishly through her veins was suddenly
changed to quicksilver. She rose to her feet again, and stood, white
as a corpse, with her hands tightly clenched, her lips drawn together
till they made only a thin line of pallid violet. The pretty Dresden
china face was hardly recognisable.

A sudden conviction had darted into her mind with Cyril’s utterance of
that name--Beatrice. It was as if a flash of lightning had revealed
things close at hand but wrapped in darkness till this moment.

‘I never was more surprised in my life--or disappointed,’ faltered
Mrs. Dulcimer, quite overcome by this failure. ‘I am so fond of you,
Cyril--and so fond of Bella, and I thought you would make such a nice
couple--that it would be a delightful arrangement in every way.’

‘My dear friend, there is a higher Power who rules these things. I am
a believer in the old saying that marriages are made in heaven, and I
have not much faith in the wisdom of earthly match-making.’

‘But this was in every way so suitable,’ harped Mrs. Dulcimer. ‘Bella
is such a good girl--a model wife for a man who has to make his way in
the world.’

‘Heaven defend me from a model wife chosen for me by my friends,’
ejaculated Cyril.

‘And you have paid her so much attention--you have been so warmly
interested in her parish work.’

‘Not more than I should be in any good work done by any good woman. I
trust,’ pursued Cyril with a sudden look of alarm, ‘that I have done
nothing to mislead Miss Scratchell on this subject. I should hate
myself if I thought it were possible. I can confidently say that I have
never uttered a word that could be misunderstood by the most romantic
young lady. Our conversation has always been perfectly matter of
fact--about other people--never about ourselves. I would as soon take
to writing sonnets as indulge in the sentimental twaddle some curates

‘Pray don’t alarm yourself,’ cried Mrs. Dulcimer, remembering her
promise to Bella. ‘Miss Scratchell hasn’t an idea upon the subject. I
know that she admires--reveres--esteems you--’ she added, thinking it
just possible to turn the tide of his feelings by the warm south wind
of flattery; ‘but beyond that--no--Bella has too much modesty, I am
sure she has not a thought about being married. It is only I who am
anxious to see her comfortably settled. Of course I cannot blame you
for my having been deceived about your feelings. But I really do think,
Cyril, that when a young man is engaged he ought to let his intimate
friends know all about it. It would prevent misunderstandings.’

‘There are reasons why I should not talk about my engagement. It has
not been ratified by the consent of the lady’s family. It may be long
before I can marry.’

‘Ah!’ thought Mrs. Dulcimer, ‘some artful girl he met at Oxford, I
daresay. A university town is a regular man-trap.’

She was seriously concerned about Bella. The poor girl would fret
perhaps, would lay her sorrow at Mrs. Dulcimer’s door; and for once
in her life the Vicar’s wife felt herself to blame. In the active
exercise of her charity she had done more harm than if she had loved
her neighbour a little less intensely, and left other people’s business

‘Poor Bella!’ she thought, and she felt almost afraid to face her
victim; yet she was bound to go and console her, so, after a little
desultory talk with Cyril about nothing particular, she excused
herself, on the pretext of looking after the tea, and left the
curate to amuse himself with the books and periodicals heaped on Mr.
Dulcimer’s table, the sober drab _Quarterly_, the _Edinburgh_ in yellow
and blue, the philosophical _Westminster_, lurking among his more
orthodox brethren, like a snake in the grass.

The dining-room was empty when Mrs. Dulcimer returned to it. Bella had
carried her crushed heart out of the house, into the gray rainy night,
which seemed in harmony with her desolation. She had crept quietly from
the room, directly the conversation between Cyril and Mrs. Dulcimer had
changed to general topics, and had gone upstairs to put on her bonnet
and shawl.

On Mrs. Dulcimer’s dressing-table she left a brief pencilled note.

‘I could not stay after what has happened, dear friend. We have both
been foolish. Pray think no more about it.’

Mrs. Dulcimer found this little note, presently, when she went upstairs
to arrange her cap, and re-adjust the frilling and puffings about her
neck and shoulders.

The little note gave her unspeakable relief.

‘Noble girl!’ she exclaimed, ‘how heroically she takes it. Yet I am
sure she is fond of him. And how good of her not to feel angry with me
for having misled her.’

Mrs. Dulcimer would not have been quite so satisfied with the result of
her good-natured manœuvring, could she have seen the figure lying prone
upon the floor of Bella Scratchell’s barely-furnished bedroom--the
dishevelled hair--the clenched hands--the convulsed movements of the
thin bloodless lips: and, perhaps, she might have been for ever cured
of her passion for match-making, could she have heard the curses which
those pallid lips called down upon her matronly head.



IN the dark days of December, Mr. Namby, the family practitioner and
parish doctor of Little Yafford, was agreeably surprised by a summons
to the Water House. His patients there had been inconveniently well
for the greater part of the year, and he had been looking somewhat
dolefully at the blank leaf in his diary which told him that he should
have no account worth speaking of to send in to Mr. Harefield at
Christmas. He was much too benevolent a man to desire the misfortune
of his fellow creatures; but he thought that those favoured ones of
this world, whom Providence has exempted from all the cares of the
impecunious majority, ought at least to be troubled with such small
nervous disorders as would keep the faculty employed. An obscure case
of hysteria, now, was the sort of thing one might look for at the
Water House, and which, without doing vital harm to the patient, would
necessitate a great many attendances from the doctor.

He plucked up his spirits, therefore, and decapitated his breakfast egg
with an unusual air of sprightliness, on hearing that James from the
Water House had just called, to request that Mr. Namby would be so good
as to look in to see Miss Harefield, during his morning round.

‘Poor girl! neuralgic, I daresay,’ he murmured cheerfully. ‘The Water
House must be damp, but of course one cannot say anything to frighten
away patients. She is a sweet girl. I shall try the new treatment.’

‘If it’s the stuff you gave me, William, it made me worse,’ said Mrs.
Namby. ‘Nothing did me so much good as that cask of double stout you
ordered from the brewer at Great Yafford.’

Mr. Namby’s countenance expressed ineffable disgust.

‘Do you think your constitution would have been in a condition to
profit by that stout if I had not prescribed the new treatment for you
first?’ he exclaimed, and Mrs. Namby, being a wise little woman, went
on cutting bread and butter for her children in a sagacious silence.

Mr. Namby was shown straight to the study, where Miss Harefield was
accustomed to read history and other erudite works to her governess.
The histories were all dull old fashioned chronicles, which had been
religiously believed when Miss Scales was a little girl, but whereof
most of the facts had faded into mere phantasmagoria, before the fierce
light of nineteenth century research, and the revelations of the Record

Beatrix was not reading history on this particular morning. She was
sitting by one of the deep set windows, with her folded arms resting on
the broad oaken ledge, and her heavy eyes watching the drifting clouds
in the windy sky--or the bare black elm-branches tossing against the

She looked round listlessly when Mr. Namby came in, and gave him her
hand with a mechanical air, which he often saw in small patients who
were told to shake hands with the doctor.

‘Dear, dear, this is very bad,’ he said, in his fatherly way. ‘We are
looking quite sadly this morning.’

Then came the usual ordeal. The doctor held the slight wrist between
his fingers, and consulted a pale faced watch, with a surreptitious air.

‘Quick, and irregular,’ he said, ‘and weak. We must do something to set
you right, my dear young lady. Have you been over exerting yourself

‘She has,’ exclaimed Miss Scales, in an aggrieved tone. ‘She’s been
riding and driving far too much--too much even for the horses, Jarvis
told me, so you may imagine it was too much for her.’

‘My dear Miss Scales, you forget that the horse had the greater share
of the labour,’ interposed Beatrix.

‘I repeat, Beatrix,’ protested Miss Scales, severely, ‘that if it was
too much for the horse it must have been infinitely worse for you. You
have not the constitution of a horse, or the endurance of a horse, or
the strength of a horse. Don’t talk nonsense.’

The doctor asked a string of questions. Did she eat well--sleep well?

Beatrix was obliged to confess that she did neither.

‘She eats hardly anything,’ said Miss Scales, ‘and I know by her candle
that she reads half the night.’

‘What can I do but read,’ exclaimed Beatrix. ‘I have no pleasant
thoughts of my own. I am obliged to find them in books.’

‘Oh, dear, dear,’ cried the doctor, ‘why a young lady like you ought to
have her mind full of pleasant thoughts.’

Beatrix sighed.

‘I see what it is--the nervous power over-tasked--a slight tendency
to insomnia. We must not allow this to go on, my dear Miss Harefield.
The riding and driving are all very well, but in moderation. _In medio
tutissimus ibis_, as they used to teach us at school. And a nice
quiet walk with Miss Scales, now, would be a beneficial alternation
with the equestrian exercise. Walk one day, ride the next. If it were
a different time of year I might suggest change of air. Filey--or
Harrogate--but just now of course that is out of the question. Do you
remember what I prescribed for you after the whooping cough?’

‘Yes,’ answered Beatrix. ‘You gave me a playfellow.’

‘To be sure I did. Well, now, I say again you must have youthful
society. A companion of your own age. I thought Miss Scratchell and you
were inseparable.’

‘We used to be--but, since she has gone out as a daily governess, we
have seen much less of each other--and lately she has been particularly
busy. She is very good.’

‘And you are fond of her.’

‘Yes, I like her very much.’

‘Then you must have more of her company. I must talk to papa about it.’

‘Oh, pray do not trouble my father,’ exclaimed Beatrix, anxiously.

‘But he must be troubled. You must have youthful society. I know that
Miss Scales is all kindness, and her conversation most improving.’ Miss
Scales acknowledged the compliment with a stiffish bow. ‘But you must
have a young companion with whom you can unbend, and talk a little
nonsense now and then, not about the Greeks and Romans, you know, but
about your new frocks and your beaux.’

Miss Scales looked an image of disgust.

‘For my own part I believe if Beatrix would employ her mind there would
be none of this repining,’ she remarked severely. ‘Low spirits with
young people generally mean idleness.’

‘My dear Miss Scales, I have not been repining,’ remonstrated Beatrix,
wounded by this accusation. ‘I don’t want any one to be troubled about
me. I only wish to be let alone.’

She turned from them both with a proud movement of head and throat, and
went on looking out of the window; but her fixed gaze saw very little
of the gray landscape under the gray sky, the dark shoulder of the
moor, tinged with a gleam of livid winter light upon its western edge.

Mr. Namby looked at her curiously as she stood there with averted face,
palpably, by her very attitude, refusing all sympathy or solicitude
from him or her governess. He was not a profound psychologist. He had,
indeed, given his attention too completely to the management of other
people’s bodies to have had much leisure for the study of the mind, but
he felt instinctively that here was a case of supreme misery--a proud
young soul at war with life--a girl, capable of all girlhood’s warmest
affections, confined to the dry-as-dust companionship of a human
machine for grinding grammar and geography, histories and ologies. A
reasonable amount of this grinding would have been good for Beatrix,
no doubt, thought the village surgeon, who was no enemy to education;
but there must be something brighter than these things in the life of a
girl, or she will languish like a woodland bird newly caged.

Mr. Namby went down stairs, and asked to see Mr. Harefield--an awful
thing to him always, but duty compelled him to beard the lion in his

He was shown into the library where Christian Harefield sat among his
books, as usual, brown leather-bound folios and quartos piled upon the
floor on each side of his chair, more books on his desk, and a general
appearance of profound study. What he read, or to what end he read,
no one had ever discovered. He filled commonplace books with extracts,
copied in a neat fine hand, almost as close as print, and he wrote a
good deal of original matter. But he had never given a line to the
world, not so much as a paragraph in _Notes and Queries_; nor had he
ever confided the nature of his studies to friend or acquaintance. He
lived among his books, and in his books, and for the last ten years he
had cared for no life outside them.

‘Well, Namby, what’s the matter with my daughter?’ he asked, without
looking up from a volume of Plutarch’s ‘Moralia.’

‘You have been anxious about her.’

‘I have not been anxious. Her governess took it into her head to be
anxious, and wished that you should be sent for. There’s nothing amiss,
I conclude.’

‘There is very much amiss. Your daughter’s lonely life is killing her.
She must have livelier company than Miss Scales--and change of air and
scene directly the weather is milder.’

‘But there is nothing actually wrong, nothing organic?’

‘Nothing that I can discover at present. But there is
sleeplessness--one of the worst foes to life--there is loss of
appetite--there is want of vigour. She must be roused, interested,

‘Do you mean that she should be taken to London and carried about to
balls and theatres?’ inquired Mr. Harefield.

‘She is not in a condition for balls and theatres, even if you were
inclined to indulge her so far. No, she wants to be made happier, that
is all.’

‘All!’ exclaimed Mr. Harefield. ‘You are moderate in your demands. Do
you suppose that I have a recipe for making young women happy? It would
be almost as miraculous as the wand with which the wicked fairy used to
transform a contumacious prince into a blue bird or a white poodle. I
have let my daughter have her own way in all the minor details of life,
and I have put no limit upon her pocket-money. I can imagine no other
way of making her happy.’

‘I think you will be obliged to find some other way,’ answered Mr.
Namby, tremulous at his own audacity; but the lion was unusually mild
this morning, and the doctor felt heroic, ‘unless you want to lose her.’

‘Lose her!’ cried Mr. Harefield. ‘Oh, she will last my time, depend
upon it. My lease has not long to run, and then she will be mistress of
her fate, and be happy in her own way.’

‘My dear sir, with your noble constitution----’

‘Length of days does not depend entirely on constitution. A man must
have the inclination to live. But tell me what I am to do for my

‘Let her have her young friend Miss Scratchell to come and stay with
her, and when the spring comes send them both to the sea-side.’

‘I have no objection. I will write to Scratchell immediately. His
daughter has been employed at the Park lately, but, as that can only be
a question of remuneration, I can arrange it with Scratchell.’

‘I do not think you can do any more at present. I shall send Miss
Harefield a tonic. Good morning.’

The village surgeon retired, delighted at getting off so easily. Mr.
Harefield wrote at once to his agent:--

  ‘Dear Scratchell,

  ‘My daughter is ill, and wants pleasant company. Please let your
  girl come and stay with her. If there is any loss involved in your
  daughter being away from home, I shall be happy to send you a cheque
  for whatever amount you may consider sufficient.’

  ‘Yours truly, C. H.’

This happened about a fortnight before Christmas, and at a time when
Miss Scratchell’s duties at the Park were in a considerable degree
suspended. She would not have been wanted there at all, under ordinary
circumstances, for the young Pipers, who had a frank detestation of
all kinds of learning, claimed a holiday at this season, and had their
claim allowed. But Mrs. Piper was ill, so ill as to be confined to her
own room; and in this juncture she found Isabella’s domestic talents of
use to her, and, without any extra remuneration, contrived to occupy a
good deal of Isabella’s time.

A little while ago, when she was living in her fool’s paradise,
believing herself loved by Cyril Culverhouse, this encroachment upon
her leisure would have been aggravating in the extreme to Bella
Scratchell. But just now it was rather a relief than otherwise, for
it gave her an excuse for neglecting her cottagers. She went among
them still, now and then, and was sweet and sympathetic as of old,
reading favourite chapters of St. John to the consumptive dressmaker,
or carrying a bunch of wintry flowers to the wheelwright’s bed-ridden
daughter, a patient victim to spinal complaint; but, so far as
it was possible, she avoided meeting Cyril. There was too keen a
shame, too fierce an agony in the thought of her delusion. In this
innocent seeming Dresden china beauty there existed a capacity for
passionate feeling, unsuspected by her kindred or friends. From love
to vindictiveness was only a step in this intense nature. She hated
Mrs. Dulcimer for having entrapped her--she hated herself for having
fallen so easily into so petty a snare. She hated Cyril for not loving
her--she hated him still more for loving somebody else--and she hated
Beatrix Harefield most of all for being the object of his love.

‘Has she not enough of the good things of this life without taking him
from me?’ she thought savagely, forgetting that as Cyril had never
belonged to her, Beatrix could hardly be charged with robbery.

‘He would have cared for me if he had never seen her,’ argued Bella.
‘She is handsomer than I am--grand and noble looking--while I am small
and mean.’

Vanity and self-esteem were alike crushed by Cyril’s indifference. She
had been vain of her pink and white prettiness hitherto. Now she looked
at herself in the glass, and scorned her trivial beauty--the blue eyes
and light brown lashes--the indefinite eyebrows, the blunt inoffensive
little nose--the rose-bud mouth, and coquettish dimples. A beauty to
catch fools perhaps; but of no value in the eyes of a man of character,
like Cyril Culverhouse.

She bore her burden quietly, being very proud, after her small manner,
and no one in that noisy home circle of Mr. Scratchell’s discovered
that there was anything amiss in the eldest daughter of the house.

Mrs. Dulcimer wrote an affectionate and sympathetic letter to her dear
Bella, and insisted that she should spend a long day at the Vicarage;
as if a long day in Mrs. Dulcimer’s society were a balm that must heal
the sharpest wound. Bella answered the letter in person, being too wise
to commit herself to pen and ink upon so humiliating a subject, and she
received Mrs. Dulcimer’s apologies with an unalterable placidity which
convinced the worthy matchmaker that there was no harm done.

‘Let us think of the whole affair as a good joke, dear Mrs. Dulcimer,’
said Bella; ‘but let us keep it to ourselves. I hope you have not
talked about it to Rebecca.’

Everybody in Little Yafford knew that Rebecca was Mrs. Dulcimer’s
_confidante_, and that she had a vivacious tongue.

The vicar’s wife blushed, and trifled nervously with her lace

‘My love, you cannot suppose that I should say a word about you that
ought not to be said,’ she murmured, affectionately.

And then Bella knew that Rebecca had been told everything.

‘It is so nice of you to take it in such a sweet-tempered way,’ said
Mrs. Dulcimer; ‘and it only confirms my good opinion of you; but I am
more angry with _him_ than I can say. You would have suited each other

‘Ah, but you see he does not think so,’ replied Bella, with inward
bitterness. ‘I am not his style. He has chosen some one quite
different. You have no idea, I suppose, who the lady is?’

‘Some one he met at Oxford, I don’t doubt. He will live to regret his
choice, I daresay. I am almost wicked enough to hope he may. And now,
Bella, when will you come and spend a long quiet day with me?’ demanded
Mrs. Dulcimer, anxious to administer her balsam.

‘I am hardly ever free now, dear Mrs. Dulcimer. Since Mrs. Piper has
been ill she has asked me to help her a little with the housekeeping.
She is so unfortunate in her servants, you know, always changing, and
that makes her distrustful.’

‘My dear, Mrs. Piper doesn’t make her servants happy,’ said Mrs.
Dulcimer. ‘Servants are like other people; they want to be happy, and
nobody can be happy who is being found fault with from morning till

‘I am afraid it is so,’ assented Bella; ‘poor Mrs. Piper means well,
but she is too particular.’

‘My dear, if I were to find fault with Rebecca three times in a week,
she would give me warning; and yet she’s almost like my own flesh and
blood. Now, mind, I shall expect you to come and spend a long day with
me the first time you find yourself free.’

‘I shall only be too happy,’ murmured Bella.

‘And I’ll take care you don’t meet Cyril.’

‘You are so thoughtful.’

‘Well, dear, I think we were sent into the world to think of other
people as well as of ourselves,’ replied the vicar’s wife, with a
self-satisfied air.



‘HERE’S a fine chance for Bella!’ exclaimed Mr. Scratchell, after
reading his patron’s curt epistle. ‘She is to go and spend Christmas at
the Water House.’

‘My word, won’t she have a blow out of mince pies,’ exclaimed the
youthful Adolphus, who, from being somewhat restricted as to the good
things of this life, was apt to take a material view of pleasure.

‘Bella doesn’t care twopence for mince pies,’ said Clementina. ‘She
likes dresses and bonnets. She would live on bread and water for a
month for the sake of a pretty dress.’

Bella herself was not enthusiastic about the invitation to the Water

‘I don’t see how I can go, papa,’ she said. ‘Mrs. Piper wants me to
look after the housekeeping, and to see to the children’s early dinner.
Mr. Piper hates carving for so many.’

‘Mrs. Piper must do without you. She’ll know your value all the better
if she loses your services for a week or two.’

‘You ought not to refuse such an invitation, Bella,’ said Mrs.
Scratchell. ‘Christmas time and all--Mr. Harefield will be sure to give
you a handsome present.’

‘I might run across to the Park every morning, perhaps, even if I were
staying at the Water House,’ Bella suggested presently. She had been
thinking deeply for the last few minutes.

‘Of course, you might,’ answered her father. ‘It’s not ten minutes’
walk, through the fields.’

So Mr. Harefield’s letter was answered to the effect that Bella would
be delighted to stay with her dear Miss Harefield, and would be with
her that evening. And all day long there was a grand starching and
ironing of cuffs, collars, and petticoats, at which the younger Miss
Scratchells assisted.

‘I shall find out all about Cyril,’ thought Bella. ‘What a secret
nature Beatrix must have to be able to hide every thing from me so
long. I have seen her look shy and strange when she met him, and have
half-suspected--but I could not think that if she really cared for him
she would hide it from me.’

Bella and her worldly goods arrived at the Water House after dark on
that December evening--Bella walking, under the escort of her brother
Herbert, the worldly goods accompanying her in a wheelbarrow.

Bella found Beatrix alone in the upstairs sitting-room, which had been
called the schoolroom ever since Miss Scales had been paramount at
the Water House. It was a large panelled room, with old oak furniture
of the Dutch school that had been there since the days of William and
Mary; old blue and white Delft jars, and old pictures that nobody
ever looked at; a high carved oak mantel piece, with a shelf just
wide enough to carry the tiny teacups of the Queen Anne period; an
old-fashioned fireplace, set round with blue and white tiles; a sombre
Turkey carpet, with a good deal of yellow in it; and thick woollen
curtains of a curious flowered stuff. To Bella it was simply one of
the handsomest rooms in the world, and she felt angry with Beatrix for
her want of gratitude to a Providence that had set her in the midst of
such surroundings.

Beatrix received her old playfellow affectionately. She was more
cheerful this evening than she had been since her father had forbidden
her visits to the vicarage.

‘A most wonderful thing has happened, Bella,’ she said, when they had
kissed. Bella had taken off her hat, and was comfortably seated in an
arm chair by the fire. ‘Miss Scales has gone for a fortnight’s holiday,
and you and I are to be our own mistresses all Christmas time.’

‘How nice!’ cried Bella.

‘Isn’t it? My father did not at all like it, I believe. But an old aunt
of Miss Scales--an aunt who is supposed to have money--has been so kind
as to get dangerously ill, and Miss Scales has been sent for to attend
her sick bed. She lives in some unknown corner of Devonshire, quite at
the other end of the map, so less than a fortnight’s leave of absence
would hardly have been any use, and papa was compelled to give it. I
am to pay no visits, but I may drive where I like in the pony carriage
on fine days--and ride as often as Jarvis will let me.’

Jarvis was the groom who had taught Beatrix to ride her pony ten years
ago, when Mr. Namby had suggested riding as a healthy exercise for the
pale and puny child.

‘It will be very nice,’ said Bella.

‘Very nice for me. But I’m afraid it will be a dreadfully dull
Christmas for you, Bella. You will wish yourself at home. Christmas
must be so cheerful in a large family.’

‘I can endure the loss of a home Christmas with exemplary resignation,’
replied Bella, with a graceful little shrug of her pretty shoulders. ‘I
think if there is one time more trying than another in our house, it is
Christmas. The children have a vague idea that they are going to enjoy
themselves--and it shows a wonderful gift of blind faith that they can
have such an idea after so many disappointments. They make the parlours
uncomfortable with holly and laurel, and club together for a bunch
of mistletoe to hang in the passage--they make poor ma promise them
snapdragon and hot elder wine--and then on Christmas Eve one of the
boys contrives to break a window--or to upset papa’s office inkstand,
which holds about a quart, and then the whole family are in disgrace.
Papa and mamma have words--the beef is underdone on Christmas day, and
papa uses awful language about the housekeeping--the boys go out for
an afternoon walk to avoid the storm indoors, and perhaps get caught
in the rain out of doors and spoil their best clothes. After tea pa
and ma have a long talk by the fire, while we young ones squabble over
‘vingt et un’ at the table, and we know by their faces that they are
talking about the new year’s bills, and then we all go to bed feeling
miserable, without exactly knowing why.’

‘Poor Bella,’ said Beatrix compassionately. ‘It does seem very hard
that some people should have more money than they know what to do with,
and others so much too little. It’s quite puzzling. The trees and
flowers have everything equally, sun and rain, and dew and frost.’

‘No, they don’t,’ said Bella. ‘The trees see life from different
aspects. Some have all the southern sun, and others all the northern
blasts. You are like a carefully trained peach tree on a south wall,
and I am a poor little shrub in a gloomy corner facing the north.’

‘Bella,’ cried Beatrix, ‘do you seriously believe that there is much
sunshine in my life?’

‘Plenty,’ answered Bella. ‘You have never known the want of money.’

‘But money cannot make happiness.’

‘Perhaps not, but it can make a very good imitation; and I know that
the want of money can make very real unhappiness.’

‘Poor Bella!’ sighed Beatrix again.

‘Oh! as for me,’ said Bella, ‘I am very well off, since I’ve been at
the Pipers. And then you have always been so kind to me. I am the
favoured one of the family. But it is trying to see how my poor mother
is worried, and how she worries every one else, in the struggle to make
both ends meet. And now tell me about yourself, Beatrix. Papa said you
had been ill.’

‘Miss Scales and Mr. Namby have made up their minds that I am ill,’
answered Beatrix indifferently, ‘but except that I can’t sleep, I
don’t think there’s much the matter.’

‘But that is very dreadful,’ exclaimed Bella. ‘Do you mean to say that
you are not able to sleep at all?’

‘Very little. Sometimes I lie awake all night--sometimes I get up and
walk about my room, and stare out of the window at the moor and the
river. They look so strange and ghostlike in the dead of the night--not
a bit like the moor and river we know by day. Sometimes I light my
candle and read.’

‘And you never sleep?’

‘Towards the morning I sometimes drop off into a doze, but I always
wake with a start, just as if the surprise of finding myself asleep had
awakened me.’

‘And hasn’t Mr. Namby given you anything to make you sleep?’ asked

‘No. He is giving me tonics, and he says when I get strong the
sleeplessness will leave me. He has refused to give me an opiate,
though I begged very hard for something that would send me to sleep.’

‘That seems cruel,’ said Bella, ‘but I suppose he is right. I think he
is a very clever little man. Mrs. Piper has more confidence in him
than in Dr. Armytage, who has a big fee every time he comes over from
Great Yafford, and who never seems to do anything but approve of what
Mr. Namby is doing. Or perhaps he makes some slight alteration in the
diet--recommends sago instead of tapioca--or madeira instead of sherry.’

‘Is Mrs. Piper very ill?’

‘Dreadfully ill, poor thing. It is an internal complaint that is
killing her. She struggles against it, but I think she knows that it
must be fatal.’

‘How sad for her children.’

‘Yes, poor little things. She is a very good mother--perhaps a little
too strict, but most careful of her children. They will miss her
dreadfully. I’m afraid Mr. Piper is the sort of man to marry again.’

‘Oh, surely not?’ cried Beatrix, ‘that fat red-faced man--with a figure
like a barrel. Who would marry him.’

‘Who would refuse him--and his money?’

‘Oh, Bella! Now surely you would not marry such a man as that--for all
the money in the world?’

‘I would not, well as I know the value of money. But I have no doubt
there are plenty of girls who would. And now, Beatrix, tell me why you
never go to the Vicarage now.’

‘Simply because my father has forbidden me.’

‘How unkind! But he must have some reason for such a step.’

‘He has his reasons no doubt.’

‘And has he not told you what they are?’

‘Don’t let us talk about it, please, Bella dear. I had rather speak of
anything else.’

‘Of course,’ thought Bella, ‘the whole thing is quite clear.’



BEATRIX HAREFIELD’S spirits improved in the society of her friend. She
was fond of Bella, and believed in Bella’s faithfulness and affection.
Her reticence on the subject of Cyril Culverhouse had not arisen from
distrust, but from a reserve natural in a girl reared in solitude,
and with a mind lofty and ardent enough to make first love sacred as

But when Bella, with every evidence of fondness, entreated to be taken
into her friend’s confidence, Beatrix was not so stoical as to refuse
the comfort of sympathy.

‘I know you are hiding something from me, Beatrix,’ said Bella, as they
were walking in the wintry garden on the first morning of her visit.
‘There is a reason for your father’s forbidding your visits to the
Vicarage--and a reason for your pale cheeks and sleepless nights. Why
are you afraid to trust me?’

‘I am not afraid to trust you. But there are things one does not care
to talk about.’

‘Does not one? What are those things, dear? Do you mean that you don’t
care to talk about Mr. Culverhouse?’

Beatrix started, and flushed crimson.

‘How do you know--did any one tell you?’

‘My dear Beatrix, I have eyes and ears, and they told me. I have seen
you together. I have heard him speak of you.’

‘And you found out----’

‘That you adore each other.’

‘It is true, Bella. I love him with all my heart and soul--and we are
to be married as soon as I am of age.’

‘With your father’s consent?’

‘With or without it. That matters very little to me.’

‘But if you offend him he may leave his estate to a hospital,’
suggested Bella, who knew a great deal more about Mr. Harefield’s
property than Beatrix.

‘He may do what he likes with it. Cyril will not marry me for my

‘Of course not, but fortune is a very good thing, and Mr. Culverhouse,
who is poor, must think so.’

This arrow glanced aside from the armour of Beatrix’s faith. No one
could have made her believe that her lover had any lurking greed of

‘Then it is all settled,’ said Bella, cheerfully. ‘You will be of age
in two years, and then you are to be married, whether Mr. Harefield
likes or not. I really can’t see why you should be unhappy.’

‘I am not to see Cyril, or hear from him, for two years. He is going to
leave this place in the spring. He might be ill--dying--and I should
know nothing, till I took up the _Times_ some morning and saw the
advertisement of his death.’

‘He is young and strong,’ replied Bella. ‘There is nothing less likely
than that he should die. I don’t think you need make yourself unhappy
in advance about that.’

Her cold hard tone wounded Beatrix, who had expected more sympathy.

‘Don’t let us talk about him, Bella,’ she said.

But Bella was determined to talk about him till she had found out all
that there was for her to know. She assumed a more sympathetic tone,
and Beatrix was induced to tell of Cyril’s interview with her father,
and of the letter which her lover wrote to her after that interview.

The clocks struck eleven a few minutes after this conversation was

‘And now I must run to the Park and spend an hour with poor Mrs.
Piper,’ said Bella. ‘I promised to go over every day to make myself
useful. She is so wretched about her servants, if there is no one to
look after them.’

‘How painful to have servants that require to be looked after!’
said Beatrix, who was accustomed to a household that went as if by
clockwork, conducted by a butler and housekeeper who were trusted

‘It is rather dreadful,’ replied Bella. ‘I think I would sooner have
our maid-of-all-work, with her sooty face and red elbows, than poor
Mrs. Piper’s staff of smart young women, who study nothing but their
own comfort, and come and go as if the Park were an hotel; for our
poor Sarah is at least faithful, and would no more think of leaving us
than of going to the moon. Good-bye, darling, I shall be back before

Beatrix went back to her quiet room, and her books. Her mind had been
much widened by her intercourse with Mr. Dulcimer and his library, and
good books were a consolation and delight to her. She had marked out
a line of serious study, which she fancied might make her fitter to
be Cyril’s wife, and was resolved not to be led astray by any flowers
of literature. Hard reading was a little difficult sometimes, for her
thoughts would wander to the lover from whom cruel fate had parted her;
but she persevered bravely, and astonished Miss Scales by the severity
of her self-discipline.

Bella tripped briskly across the fields to Little Yafford Park, which
was about half a mile from the village, and only a little less distant
from the Water House. It was Saturday morning, and she knew that Mrs.
Piper would be worried about the weekly bills, which had an unvarying
tendency to be heavier than she expected to find them.

Mrs. Piper was propped up with pillows in her easy chair by the fire,
while all the youthful Pipers--including a couple of apple-cheeked
ungainly boys from an expensive boarding-school--were making havoc of
her handsomely furnished morning-room--a process eminently calculated
to shorten the brief remnant of her days.

‘Cobbett, if you don’t leave that malachite blotting book alone
directly, I’ll ring for your pa,’ exclaimed the invalid, as Bella

Mr. Piper was a man who had read books in his time--not many, perhaps,
but he remembered them all the better on that account. He was a man
who boasted of thinking for himself; which meant that he asserted
second-hand opinions so forcibly as to make them pass for new, and put
down other people’s arguments with the high hand of a self-conscious

He had christened his two elder boys Cobbett and Bentham. The
chubby little plague in pinafores was Horne Tooke, the bony boy in
knickerbockers was Brougham. The two girls were living memorials of
Elizabeth Fry and Mary Wolstencroft. His ambition was to see these
children all educated up to the highest modern standard, and able to
occupy an intellectual eminence from which they could look down upon
everybody else.

‘Money and dulness are sometimes supposed to go hand in hand,’ said Mr.
Piper. ‘I shall take care that my children may be able to exhibit the
pleasing spectacle of capital allied with intelligence.’

Unhappily the young Pipers did not take to education quite so kindly as
their father expected them to do. They had no thirst for the Pierian
spring, and, instead of drinking deeply, imbibed the sacred waters in
reluctant sips, as if the fount had been some nauseous sulphur spring
offered to them medicinally. Poor Bella had laboured almost hopelessly
for the last year to drag Brougham through that Slough of Despond, Dr.
Somebody’s first Latin grammar, and had toiled valorously in the vain
effort to familiarize Horne Tooke with words of one syllable. Elizabeth
Fry, whom her mother designed for greatness in the musical world, had
not yet mastered the mysteries of a common chord, or learned the
difference between a major and minor scale. Mary Wolstencroft was a
sullen young person of eleven, who put her chubby fingers in her mouth
at the least provocation, and stubbornly refused to learn anything.

‘Oh, my dear, I am very glad you have come,’ cried Mrs. Piper. ‘These
children are positively maddening. I like to have them with me, because
it’s a mother’s duty, and I hope I shall do my duty to the last hour
of my life. But they are very trying. Bentham has spilt the ink on the
patchwork table-cover, and Mary has been pulling the Angola’s tail most

The animal which Mrs. Piper insisted on calling the ‘Angola’ was a
magnificent white Angora cat, and really the handsomest living creature
in the Piper household; indeed the Piper children seemed to have
been invented as a foil to the grace and beauty of the cat, to which
they were inferior in every attribute, except the gift of speech, a
privilege they systematically abused.

Bella examined the injured table-cover, and stroked the offended cat,
and then sat down by Mrs. Piper’s sofa.

‘I dare say the children are tiresome, dear Mrs. Piper,’ she said,
whereupon Bentham secretly put out his tongue at her, ‘but it must be a
comfort to you to see them all in such good health.’

‘Yes, my dear, it is. But I really think there never were such
boisterous children. I am sure when they were all down with the measles
the house was like ‘eaven. The way they use the furniture is enough to
provoke a saint. I sometimes wish Piper hadn’t bought so many ‘andsome
ornaments for my boodwar.’

And Mrs. Piper gave a heavy sigh, inwardly lamenting the ten-roomed
villa in the broad high road outside Great Yafford--the best parlour
which no one was allowed to enter--save on special occasions and under
most restrictive conditions--and the everyday parlour, in which the
shabby old furniture could hardly be the worse for ill-usage.

‘And now, Bella, we’ll go to the books,’ said Mrs. Piper, ‘they’re
something awful this week. There’s fine goings on downstairs now that I
can’t get about.’

‘The boys being home from school must make a difference,’ suggested

‘After allowing amply for the boys, the bills are awful. Look at the
baker’s book, Bella. It will freeze your blood.’

Bella looked, and was not actually frozen, though the amount was
startling. The household expenses seemed to have been upon an ascending
scale from the beginning of Mrs. Piper’s illness. That careful
housewife’s seclusion had certainly relaxed the stringent economy by
which larder and kitchen had been hitherto regulated.

The tradesmen’s books were gone through one by one, Mrs. Piper
lamenting much, and doubtful of almost every item. Why so much lard
and butter, why so many eggs? There were mysterious birds in the
poulterer’s book, inexplicable fish in the fishmonger’s. When they came
to the butcher’s book things grew desperate, and the cook was summoned
to render an account of her doings.

Cook was a plausible young woman in a smart cap, and she proved too
much for Mrs. Piper. She had an explanation for every pound of meat
in the book, and her mistress dared not push inquiry to the verge of
accusation, lest this smart young woman should take advantage of the
impending season and resign her situation then and there, leaving
Mrs. Piper to get her Christmas dinner cooked as she might. Piper was
particular about his dinner. It was the one sensual weakness of a great
mind, and if his meals fell in any way short of his requirements and
expectations, his family circle suffered. The simoom in the desert
was not more sudden or devastating than the whirlwind of Mr. Piper’s
wrath in the dining-room, when the fish was sodden and sloppy, or the
joint presented an interior stratum of rawness under an outer crust of
scorched flesh.

‘Piper is _so_ particular,’ his wife would remark piteously, ‘and good
cooks are so hard to get.’

The fact of the case was that no good cook would endure Mrs. Piper’s
watchfulness and suspicion, and those scathing denunciations which Mr.
Piper sent out by the parlour-maid when the dishes were not to his

‘I might have borne Mrs. Piper’s petty prying ways,’ remarked one of
the Park cooks, after giving her mistress warning, ‘or I might have
put up with Mr. Piper’s tempers; but I couldn’t stand him and her
together. That was too much for Christian flesh and blood.’

The cook was dismissed, with inward groanings on the part of Mrs.
Piper, and the money for the tradesmen was entrusted to Bella, who was
to pay the bills on her way through the village, and to make divers
complaints and objections which the cook might have omitted to deliver.

‘I never let a servant pay my bills if I can help it,’ said Mrs. Piper,
‘it gives them too much power.’

And Mrs. Piper gave another sigh for the days of old, when her villa in
the Great Yafford Road had been kept as neat as a pin by two servants,
and those two servants had been completely under their mistress’s
thumb, when she herself had given her orders by word of mouth to the
tradespeople, and not so much as a half-quartern loaf had come into the
house without her knowledge and consent. The transition from the tight
economies of mediocre comfort to the larger splendour of unlimited
wealth had been a sore trial to Mrs. Piper. The change had come too
late in her life. She could not reconcile herself to the cost of her
grandeur, although her husband assured her that he was not spending
half his income.

‘It may be so now, Piper,’ she replied, dubiously, ‘but when the
children grow up you’ll find yourself spending more money. They’ll eat
more, and their boots will come dearer. I feel the difference every

‘When I find myself with less than fifty thousand surplus capital, I
shall begin to grumble, Moggie,’ said Mr. Piper, ‘but I ain’t going to
make a poor mouth till then.’

‘Well, Piper, of course it’s nice to live in a big place like this, and
to feel oneself looked up to, and that the best of everything is hardly
good enough for us; but still there are times when I feel as if you and
me had been sent into the world to feed a pack of extravagant servants.’

‘We can’t help that, my dear,’ answered Piper, cheerily. ‘Dukes and
duchesses are the same.’

‘Ah, but then you see dukes and duchesses are born to it. They’ve not
been used to have their housekeeping in their own hands, as I have. I
suppose it’s when I’m a little low that it preys upon me,’ mused Mrs.
Piper, ‘but I do feel it very trying sometimes. When I think of the
butter and lard that are used in this house it seems to me as if we
must come to the workhouse. No fortune could be big enough to stand
against it.’

‘Don’t be a fool, Moggie,’ retorted the manufacturer, unmoved by this
pathetic suggestion. ‘When I was in business I’ve lost five thousand
pounds in a morning by the turn of the market, and I’ve come home and
eat my dinner and never said a word to you about it. What’s your butter
and lard against that?’

‘Oh, Piper, I wonder you ever lived through it.’

‘I wasn’t a fool,’ answered Piper, ‘and I knew that where there’s big
gains there must be big losses, now and again. A man that’s afraid to
lose a few odd thousands will never come out a millionaire.’

Ebenezer Piper had a high opinion of his children’s governess. He
had heard Bella grinding Latin verbs with Brougham, and admired her
tact and patience. He liked to see pretty faces about him, as he
acknowledged with a noble candour, and Bella’s face seemed to him
particularly agreeable. That pink and white prettiness was entirely to
his taste. Something soft and fresh and peachy. The kind of woman who
seemed created to acknowledge and submit to the superiority of man.
Mrs. Piper had been a very fair sample of this pink and white order
of beauty, when the rising manufacturer married her; but time and
ill-health and a natural fretfulness had destroyed good looks which
consisted chiefly of a fine complexion and a plump figure, and the Mrs.
Piper of the present was far from lovely. Her Ebenezer was not the
less devoted to her on that account. He bought her fine dresses, and
every possible combination of ormolu and malachite, mother-o’-pearl and
tortoiseshell, for her boudoir and drawing-room; and he told everybody
that she had been a good wife to him, and a pretty woman in her time,
‘though nobody would believe it to look at her now.’

On her way from Mrs. Piper’s boudoir to the hall Miss Scratchell
encountered the master of the house, coming out of the billiard-room,
where he had been knocking the balls about in a thoughtful solitude.

‘How did you find the missus?’ he asked, after saluting Bella with a
friendly nod.

‘Pretty much the same as usual, Mr. Piper. I’m afraid there is no
change for the better. She looks worn and worried.’

‘She will worry herself when there ain’t no call,’ said Piper. ‘She’s
been bothering over those tradesmen’s books this morning, I’ll warrant,
just as she used fifteen years ago when I allowed her five pounds
a week for the housekeeping. She never did take kindly to a large
establishment. She’s been wearing her life out about fiddle-faddle ever
since we came here--and yet she had set her heart on being a great
lady. She’s a good little woman, and I’m uncommonly fond of her, but
she’s narrer-minded. I ain’t so blind but what I can see that.’

‘She is all that is kind and good,’ said Bella, who had always a large
balance of affection at call for anybody who was likely to be useful to

‘So she is,’ assented Ebenezer, ‘and you’re very fond of her, ain’t
you? She’s fond of you, too. She thinks you are one of the cleverest
girls out. And so you are. You’ve had a hard job with Brougham’s
Latin. He don’t take to learning as I did. I was a self-taught man,
Miss Scratchell. I bought a Latin grammar at a bookstall, when I was
a factory hand, and used to sit up of a night puzzling over it till
I taught myself as much Latin as many a chap knows that’s cost his
parents no end of money. My education never cost anybody anything,
except myself--and it cost me about a pound, first and last, for
books. I don’t know many books, you know, but them I do know I know
thoroughly. The Vicar himself couldn’t beat me at an argument, when
it comes to the subjects I’m up in. But I don’t pretend to know
everything. I ain’t a many-sided man. I couldn’t tell you what breed of
tomcats was ranked highest in Egypt, or where’s the likeliest spot in
the sky to look for a new planet.’

‘Everybody knows that you are very clever,’ said Bella, safely.

‘Well, I hope nobody has ever found me very stupid. But I want my
children to know a deal more than me. They must be able to hold their
own against all comers. I should like ’em to read off the monuments
in Egypt as pat as I can read the newspaper. Like that French fellow
Shampoleon, we heard so much of when I was a young man. Come and have a
look at the conservatory, and take home some flowers for your mar.’

‘You are very kind, Mr. Piper; but I’m rather in a hurry. I am not
going home. I am on a visit to the Water House.’

‘The deuce you are!’ exclaimed Mr. Piper. ‘There’s not many visitors
there, I take it. You must be uncommon dull.’

‘Other people might find it dull, perhaps; but I am very happy there. I
am very fond of Beatrix Harefield.’

‘Ah! she’s a fine grown young woman; but she ain’t my style. Looks as
if there was a spice of the devil in her. Come and have a look at the
conservatory. You can take Miss Harefield some flowers.’

The conservatory opened out of the hall, to which they had descended
by this time. Bella could not refuse to go in and look at Mr. Piper’s
expensive collection of tropical plants, with long Latin names.
His conservatory was an object of interest to him in his present
comparatively idle life. He knew all the Latin names, and the habits
of all the plants. He cut off some of the blossoms that were on the
wane, and presented them to Bella, talking about himself and his wife
and children all the while. She had a hard struggle to get away, for
Mr. Piper approved of her, just as Dr. Johnson approved of Kitty Clive,
as a nice little thing to sit beside one, or, in other words, a good

Bella got back to the Water House in time for luncheon, a meal which
the two girls took together in a snug breakfast parlour on the ground
floor. The dining-room was much too large for the possibility of

‘You have hardly eaten anything, Beatrix,’ remarked Bella, when they
had finished; ‘and you had only a cup of tea at breakfast time. No
wonder you are ill.’

‘I dare say if I could sleep better I should eat more,’ answered
Beatrix, listlessly, ‘but the nights are so long--when day comes I feel
too worn out to be hungry.’

‘It is all very bad and very foolish,’ said Bella. ‘Why should you have
these sleepless nights? It can’t be grief. You have nothing to grieve
about. Your way lies clear before you. It is only a question of time.’

‘I suppose so,’ assented Beatrix; ‘but I can’t see myself happy in the
future. I can’t believe in it. I feel as if all my life was to be spent
in this loveless home--my father holding himself aloof from me--Cyril
parted from me. How can I be sure that he will always love me--that I
shall be the same to him two years hence that I am now? It is a long

‘A long time to be parted without even the privilege of writing to each
other, certainly,’ said Bella; ‘but there is no fear of any change in
Mr. Culverhouse’s feelings. Think what a splendid match you are for a
poor curate.’

‘Why do you harp upon that string, Bella?’ cried Beatrix, angrily. ‘You
know that if I marry Cyril I shall forfeit my father’s fortune. Cyril
knows it too. It is a settled thing. I shall go to him penniless.’

‘Oh, no, you won’t, dear! Things will never go so far as that.
Your father will get reconciled to the idea of your marrying Mr.
Culverhouse. You must both look forward to that.’

‘We neither of us look forward to it. There is no question of fortune
between us. Never speak of such a thing again, Bella, unless you wish
to offend me. And now I am going to drive you to Great Yafford, to do
some shopping. We must buy some Christmas presents for your mamma and
brothers and sisters.’

‘Oh, Beatrix, you are too good.’

Puck, the pony, was one of the finest specimens of his race, a
thick-necked, stout-limbed animal, and a splendid goer. He would
have dragged his mistress all round England, and never asked for a
day’s rest. He never was sick nor sorry, as the old coachman said
approvingly, when summing up Puck’s qualifications. On the other hand,
he had a temper of his own, and if he was offended he kicked. He would
have destroyed a carriage once a week if he had got into bad hands. But
he understood Beatrix, and Beatrix understood him, and everything went
smoothly between them.

Great Yafford on a December afternoon was about as ugly a town as one
need care to see; but it was busy and prosperous, and seemed to take an
honest pride in its ugliness, so stoutly did its vestry and corporation
oppose any movement in the direction of beauty. There was one street of
ample breadth and length, intersected by a great many narrow streets.
There was a grimy looking canal, along which still grimier coal barges
crept stealthily under the dull gray sky. There were great piles of
buildings devoted to the purposes of commerce; factories, warehouses,
gas works, dye works, oil works, soap works, bone works, all vying with
one another in hideousness, and in the production of unsavoury odours.

Ugly as Great Yafford was, however, there was nothing Bella
Scratchell enjoyed so much as a visit to Tower Gate, the broad street
above-named, and a leisurely contemplation of the well-furnished shop
windows, where the fashions, as that morning received from Paris, were
to be seen gratis by the penniless gazer. Banbury and Banburys’, the
chief drapers, afforded Bella as much delight as a lover of pictures
derives from a noble gallery. She would have seen the Venus of Milo for
the first time with less excitement than she felt on beholding ‘our
latest novelties in Paris mantles,’ or ‘our large importation of silks
from the great Lyons houses.’

‘Drive slowly, please, Beatrix,’ said Bella, as they entered Tower
Gate; ‘I should like to have a look at Banburys’, though it can’t make
any difference to me, for I have bought my winter things.’

‘You can look as long as you like, Bella. I am going in to buy some
gloves, and a few little things. Perhaps you would like to go in with

‘I should very much, dear. They have always such lovely things inside.’

Puck was given over to the care of the groom, while the two young
ladies went into Banburys’. It was a very busy time just now. ‘Our
latest novelties’ were being scrutinized and pulled about by an eager
throng of buyers, and the patience of Banburys’ young men was tried to
the verge of martyrdom by ladies who hadn’t quite made up their minds
what they wanted, or whether they wanted anything at all. An ordinary
individual would have had ample time to study the humours of Banburys’
before being served; but Miss Harefield was known as an excellent
customer, and the shop-walker was in a fever till he had found a young
man to attend upon her. He was a pale young man, in whose face all the
colour had run into pimples, and he had a wild and worried look, which
was not unnatural in a youth whose mind had been tortured by all kinds
of fanciful objections to, and criticisms upon Banburys’ stock, from
nine o’clock that morning, and who had run to and fro over the face
of Banburys’, like a new Orestes driven by the Furies, in search of
articles that never answered the requirements of his customers, proving
always just a little too dear, or too common, too thick or too thin,
too dark or too light, too silky or too woolly for the fair buyer. To
this tormented youth Beatrix seemed an angel of light, so easily was
she pleased, so quickly did she decide upon her purchases. She bought
a dozen pairs of gloves, a pile of ribbons, laces, and other trifles
in the time that an elderly female in black, a little lower down the
counter, devoted to the thrilling question of which particular piece
out of a pile of lavender printed cotton would best survive the ordeal
of the washtub.

‘What is your sister Clementina’s size?’ inquired Beatrix, looking over
a box of gloves.

‘Oh, Beatrix, you mustn’t buy any for her,’ whispered Bella.

‘Yes, I must. And you must tell me her number.’

‘Six and three-quarters.’

‘The same as yours. I’ll take a dozen of the six and three-quarters.’

A large Honiton collar and cuffs, after the fashion of the period--a
dark age in which rufflings and fichus and all the varieties of modern
decorative art were unknown--were chosen for Miss Scales--neck ribbons
for the women servants--warm clothing for certain goodies in the
village--a noble parcel altogether. The pale and haggard youth felt
that he need not quail before the awful eye of Banbury when the day’s
takings came to be summed up.

After leaving Banburys’, Miss Harefield drove to a chemist’s, and got
out alone to make her purchases.

‘I couldn’t get what I wanted there,’ she said, and then drove into one
of the narrow streets and pulled up at another chemist’s.

She went in this way to no less than six chemists’ shops, entering each
alone, and remaining for about five minutes in each. She had a good
many little daintily sealed white parcels by the time she had finished
this round.

‘Are you going to set up as a doctor?’ Bella asked, laughing.

‘I have got what I wanted at last,’ Beatrix answered evasively.

‘What can you have in all those little parcels?’

‘Perfumery--in most of them. And now I am going to the Repository to
buy something for your small brothers and sisters.’

The Repository was a kind of bazaar in Tower Gate, where there was a
large selection of useless articles at any price from sixpence to a
guinea. Beatrix loaded herself with popular parlour games, Conversation
Cards, Royal Geographical Games, and Kings of England--games which no
one but a drivelling idiot could play more than once without being
conscious of a tendency to softening of the brain--for the young
Scratchells. She bought a handsome workbasket for the industrious
house-mother. She bought scent bottles and thimble cases for the girls,
knives and pocket-books for the boys.

‘Upon my word, Beatrix, you are too good,’ exclaimed Bella, when she
heard the destination of these objects.

‘Do you suppose that money can give me any better pleasure than to make
other people happy with it, if I can?’ answered Beatrix. ‘It will never
make me happy.’



THE two girls at the Water House lived their solitary life all through
the dark week before Christmas. They read a great deal; Bella confining
herself to the novels from the Great Yafford library, Beatrix reading
those books which she believed were to fit her for companionship with
Cyril Culverhouse in the days to come. They did not find so much to say
to each other as friends of such long standing might have been expected
to find. But Beatrix was by nature reserved about those things nearest
her heart, and her cloistered life gave her little else to talk about.
On the dusky winter afternoons they went up to the lumber-room, and had
a feast of music at the old piano; Bella singing prettily in a clear
soprano voice--thin but not unmelodious--Beatrix playing church music
with the touch of a player in whom music was a natural expression of
thought and feeling, and not a laboriously acquired art. Very rarely
could Beatrix be persuaded to sing, but when she did uplift her fresh
young voice, the rich contralto tones were like the sound of an organ,
and even Bella’s shallow soul was moved by the simple melodies of the
Psalter of those days.

    ‘As pants the hart for cooling streams,
      When heated in the chase.’


    ‘With one consent let all the earth
      To God their cheerful voices raise.’

‘Has Mr. Culverhouse ever heard you sing?’ inquired Bella.

‘Never. Where should he hear me? I never sing anywhere but in this

‘And in church.’

‘Yes, of course, in church. But I do not think even Cyril could
distinguish my voice out of a whole congregation.’

‘He might,’ said Bella, ‘all the rest sing through their noses.’

For fine days there was the garden, and for variety Puck and the pony
carriage. Miss Harefield took her friend for long drives across the
moor. Once they met Cyril in one of the lanes, and passed him with a
distant recognition. Bella saw Beatrix’s cheek grow pale as he came in

‘How white you turned just now,’ she said, when Puck had carried them
ever so far away from the curate of Little Yafford.

‘Did I?’ asked Beatrix. ‘I don’t think I can be as pale as you. That
was sympathy, I suppose. You felt how hard it was for me to pass him

‘Yes,’ answered Bella in her quiet little way, ‘that was what I felt.’

Bella had been staying at the Water House a week and during that time
had seen Mr. Harefield about half a dozen times. He was in the habit
of dining with his daughter and her governess on Sundays. It was not a
pleasant change in his hermit-like life, but he made this sacrifice to
paternal duty. Every Sunday at four o’clock he sat down to dinner with
his daughter and Miss Scales. Now that Miss Scales was away he sat down
alone with the two girls, and looked at them curiously, when he found
himself face to face with them at the board, as if they had been a new
species in zoology which he had never before had the opportunity of

He looked from one to the other thoughtfully while he unfolded his
napkin, as if he were not quite clear as to which was his daughter, and
then, having made up his mind on that point, addressed himself with a
slight turn of the head to Beatrix.

‘Your friend has grown very much,’ he said.

‘Do you really think so, Mr. Harefield?’ inquired Bella, with a
gratified simper. It was something to be spoken of in any wise by this
modern Timon.

Mr. Harefield went on helping the soup without a word. He had quite
forgotten his own remark, and had not heard Bella’s. They got half-way
through the dinner in absolute silence. Then a tart and a pudding
appeared, and the tart, being set down rather suddenly before Mr.
Harefield, seemed to disturb him in the midst of a waking dream.

‘Have you heard from Miss Scales?’ he asked his daughter abruptly.

‘Yes, papa. I have had two letters. Her aunt is very ill. Miss Scales
is afraid she will die.’

‘She hopes it, you mean. Can you suppose such a sensible person as Miss
Scales would wish a tiresome old woman’s life prolonged when she will
get a legacy by her death?’

‘Miss Scales is a good woman, papa. She would not be so wicked as to
wish for any one’s death.’

‘Would she not? I’m afraid there are a great many good people on this
earth wishing as hard as they can in the same line. Expectant heirs,
expectant heiresses--waiting to wrench purse and power from a dead
man’s gripe.’

After this pleasant speech the master of the house relapsed into
silence. The old butler moved quietly to and fro. There was a gentle
jingle of glass and silver now and then, like the ringing of distant
sleigh-bells. The wood ashes fell softly from the wide old grate. The
clock ticked in the hall outside. Time halted like a cripple. Bella
began to think that even a home Sunday--with Mr. Scratchell swearing at
the cooking and Mrs. Scratchell in tears--was better than this. It was
at least open misery, and the storm generally blew over as rapidly as
it arose. Here there was a suppressed and solemn gloom, as of a tempest
always impending and never coming. What a waste of wealth and luxury
it seemed to sit in a fine old room like this, surrounded by all good
things, and to be obstinately wretched!

When dinner was over, and certain dried fruits and pale half-ripened
oranges had been carried round by the butler’s subordinate, the butler
himself following solemnly with decanters and claret jug, and nobody
taking anything, the two girls rose, at a look from Beatrix, and left
Mr. Harefield alone.

‘Will you come up to my room and have some tea, papa?’ Beatrix asked at
the door.

‘Not to-night, my dear. I have a new number of the _Westminster_ to
read. You and Miss Scratchell can amuse yourselves. Good-night.’

No paternal kiss was offered or asked.

‘Good-night, papa,’ said Beatrix, and she and Bella went away.

It was a long evening. Bella did not like to open a novel, and did not
care for Bishop Ken, whose ‘Practice of Divine Love’ formed the last
stage in Miss Harefield’s self-culture. The only piano in the house was
ever so far away in the lumber-room, and the lumber-room after dark was
suggestive of ghosts and goblins, or at any rate of rats and mice.

Sunday evening at the parish church was gayer than this, Bella thought,
as she sat by the fire stifling her frequent yawns, and watched
Beatrix’s thoughtful face bending over Bishop Ken.

‘Yes, she is much handsomer than I am,’ reflected Bella, with a pang
of envy. ‘How can I wonder that he likes her best! She is like one of
those old prints Mr. Dulcimer showed us one evening--by Albert Durer, I
think. Grave dark faces of Saints and Madonnas. She is like a poem or a
picture made alive. And he is full of romance and poetry. No wonder he
loves her. It is not for the sake of her fortune. He really does love

And then came the question which in Bella’s mind was unanswerable. ‘Why
should she have everything and I so little?’

Beatrix read on, absorbed in her book. The clock ticked, the gray
wood ashes dropped upon the hearth, just as they had done in the
dining-room. Outside the deep casement windows the night winds were
blowing, the ragged tree-tops swaying against a cold gray sky. Bella
shivered as she sat by the fire. This was the dreariest Sunday evening
she had ever spent.

Presently a shrill bell pealed loudly through the house, a startling
sound amidst a silence which seemed to have lasted for ages, nay, to be
a normal condition of one’s existence. Bella gave a little jump, and
sat up in her chair alert and eager.

‘Could it be Cyril Culverhouse? No, of course not.’

His image filled so large a place in her life that even the sudden
ringing of a bell suggested his approach, till reason came to check the
vagaries of fancy.

The same thought darted into Beatrix’s mind. For a woman deeply in
love, earth holds only one man--her lover. Was it Cyril who came to
claim her; to trample down the barrier of paternal authority, and to
claim her by the right of their mutual love? This idea being, at the
first flash of reason, utterly untenable, lasted no longer with Beatrix
than it had done with Bella.

‘It must be Miss Scales,’ she said, going to the door. ‘And yet I
should not have thought she would travel on a Sunday. She is so very
particular about Sunday.’

Miss Scales belonged to a sect with whom God’s day of rest means a day
of penance; a day upon which mankind holds itself in an apologetic
attitude towards its Maker, as if deprecating the Divine wrath for its
audacity in having taken the liberty to be born.

The two girls went out into the corridor, and from the corridor to the
square open gallery in the middle of the house, from which the broad
staircase descended. Here, leaning upon the oaken balustrade, they
looked down into the hall.

It was empty when they first looked, a vacant expanse of black and
white marble. Then there came another peal of the bell, and the butler
walked slowly across to the door, and opened it just wide enough to
reconnoitre the visitor.

Here there was a brief parley, the drift of which the girls could not
distinguish. They only heard a murmur of masculine voices.

‘It can’t be Miss Scales,’ whispered Beatrix. ‘They would have brought
in her portmanteau before this.’

The parley ceased all at once, the butler threw open the door, and a
gentleman came in out of the windy night, bringing a blast of cold air
with him. He took off his hat, and stood in the centre of the hall,
looking about him, while the butler carried his card to Mr. Harefield.
The stranger was a man of about fifty, tall and spare of figure, but
with a certain nobility of bearing, as of one accustomed to command.
The finely shaped head was beautifully set upon the shoulders, the
chest was broad and deep. As he looked upwards the two girls drew back
into the shadow, still watching him.

It was a beautiful head, a grand Italian face full of tranquillity
and power, like a portrait by Moroni. The eyes were dark, the skin
was a pale olive, the hair ‘a sable silvered.’ A thrill went through
Beatrix’s heart as she looked at him.

Yes, she remembered, she knew. This was Antonio. This was the Italian
with the pathetic voice, who sat in the twilight, singing church music,
that summer evening long ago. This was the man whose face memory
associated with the face of her dead mother. She had seen them looking
at her together in those days of early childhood, whose faint memories
are like a reminiscence of some anterior state of being, a world known
before earth.

The butler came back.

‘My master will see you, sir.’

The stranger followed him out of the hall. Beatrix and Bella could hear
the footsteps travelling slowly along the passage to the library.

‘Who can he be?’ exclaimed Miss Scratchell, full of curiosity. ‘Perhaps
he is a relation of your papa’s,’ she added, speculatively, Beatrix
having ignored her first remark.

Beatrix remained silent. She was thinking of the miniature in her
mother’s room, the youthful likeness of the face she had seen to-night.
Who was this man? Her mother’s kinsman, perhaps? But why had his
presence brought sorrow and severance between husband and wife? Little
as she knew of the hard facts that made up the history of her mother’s
life, there was that in Beatrix’s memory which told her this man had
been the cause of evil.

She roused herself with an effort, and went back to her room, followed
by Bella, who had broken out into fresh yawns on finding that the
advent of the stranger promised no relief to the dulness of the evening.

‘Eight o’clock,’ she said, as the old clock in the hall announced that
fact, embellishing a plain truth with a little burst of old-fashioned
melody. ‘They are coming out of church by this time. I wonder whether
Mr. Culverhouse has preached one of his awakening sermons? I am sure
we should be the better for a little awakening, shouldn’t we, Beatrix?
I really wish you would talk a little, dear. You look as if you were
walking in your sleep.’

‘Do I?’ said Beatrix. ‘Here comes the tea-tray. Perhaps a cup of tea
may enliven us.’

‘Well, the urn is company at any rate,’ assented Bella, as the servant
set down the oblong silver tray, with its buff and gold Bristol cups
and saucers, and the massive old urn, dimly suggestive of sisterly
affection in the person of Electra, or needing only a napkin neatly
draped across it to recall the sculptured monuments of a modern

‘Now, really,’ pursued Bella, while Beatrix was making tea, ‘have you
no idea who that foreign-looking gentleman is?’

‘Why should I trouble myself about him? He comes to see papa, not me.’

‘Yes, but one can’t help being curious so long as one is human. By the
time my inquisitiveness is worn out I shall be an angel. Your papa has
so few visitors; and this one has such a distinguished appearance. I
feel sure he is some one of importance.’

‘Very likely.’

‘My dear Beatrix, this lonely life of yours is making you dreadfully
stoical,’ remonstrated Bella.

‘I should be glad to become stoical. This stranger’s visit cannot make
any difference to me. It will not make my father love me any better, or
feel more kindly disposed towards Cyril. It may make him a little worse
perhaps. It may stir up old bitterness.’

‘Why?’ cried Bella, eagerly, her bright blue eyes becoming
unbeauteously round in her excitement.

‘Don’t talk to me about him any more, please, Bella. I do not know who
he is, or what he is, or whence or why he comes. He will go as he came,
no doubt, leaving no trace of his presence behind him.’

But here Beatrix was wrong. This was not to be. In the library the two
men were standing face to face--men who had not met for more than ten
years, who had parted in anger too deep for words.

Christian Harefield contemplated his visitor calmly, or with that stony
quietude which is passion’s best assumption of calm.

‘Has the end of the world come,’ he asked, ‘that you come to me?’

‘You are surprised that I should come?’ responded the Italian, in very
good English.

‘I am surprised at two things--your folly and your audacity.’

‘I shall not praise my own wisdom. I have done a foolish thing,
perhaps, in coming to England on purpose to do you a service. But I
deny the audacity. There is no act in my past life that should forbid
my entrance to this house.’

‘We will not re-open old wounds,’ answered Christian Harefield. ‘You
are a villain; you acted like a villain. You are a coward; you acted
like a coward in flying from the man you had wronged, when he pursued
you in his just and righteous wrath.’

‘My career of the last ten years best answers your charge of
cowardice,’ replied the other. ‘My name will be remembered in Italy
with the five days of Milan. I never fled from you; I never knew that
you pursued me.’

‘I spent half a year of my life in hunting you. I would have given the
remnant of an unprofitable life then to have met you face to face in
your lawless country, as we are meeting to-night in this room. But now
the chance comes too late. I have outlived even the thirst for revenge.’

‘Again I tell you that I never wronged you, unless it was a wrong
against you to enter this house.’

‘It was, and you know it. You, my wife’s former lover--the only man she
ever loved--you to creep into my house, as the serpent crept into Eden,
under the guise of friendship and good-will, and poison my peace for

‘It was your own groundless jealousy that made the poison. From first
to last your wife was the purest and noblest of women.’

‘From first to last!’ exclaimed Christian Harefield, with exceeding
bitterness. ‘First, when she introduced you, the lover of her youth, to
her husband’s house, last when she fled from that husband with you for
her companion. Assuredly the purest and noblest among women, judged by
your Italian ethics.’

‘With me!’ cried the Italian, ‘with me! Your wife fled with me! You say
that--say it in good faith.’

‘I say that which I know to be the truth. When she left me that night
at the inn on the mountain road above Borgo Pace, after a quarrel
that had been just a trifle more bitter than our customary quarrels,
you were waiting for her with a carriage a quarter of a mile from the
inn. You were seen there; she was seen to enter the carriage with you.
Tolerably direct evidence, I fancy. For my daughter’s sake--to save my
own pride and honour--I gave out that my wife had died suddenly at that
lonely inn in the Apennines. Her father was dead, her brother sunk in
the gulf of Parisian dissipation. There was no one interested in making
any inquiries as to the details of her death or burial. The fiction
passed unquestioned. For me it was a truth. She died to me in the hour
she abandoned and dishonoured me; and all trust in my fellow-men, all
love for my race, died within me at the same time.’

‘You are a man to be pitied,’ said Antonio, gravely. ‘You have borne
the burden of an imaginary dishonour. You have wronged your wife, you
have wronged me; but you have wronged yourself most of all. Did you get
no letter from the Convent of Santa Cecilia?’

‘What letter? No. I had no letter. I left the inn at daybreak
on the morning after my wife’s flight, followed on the track of
your carriage--traced you as far as Citta di Castello--there lost
you--caught the trail again at Perugia, followed you to Narni, and
there again missed you.’

‘And you believed that your wife was my companion in that journey?’

‘What else should I believe? It was the truth. I heard everywhere that
you were accompanied by a lady--a lady whose description answered to my

‘Possibly. A tavern-keeper’s description is somewhat vague. The lady
was my sister, whom I was taking from the convent of the Sacred Heart
at Urbino, where she had been educated, to meet her betrothed in Rome,
where she was to be married. Your wife took refuge at the convent of
Santa Cecilia on the night she left you. My sister and I went there
with her--left her in the charge of the Reverend Mother, who promised
her an asylum there as long as she chose to remain. She was to write
to you immediately, explaining her conduct, and telling you that your
violence had compelled her to this course, and that she could only
return to you under certain conditions. I heard the Reverend Mother
promise that a messenger should be despatched to the inn with the
letter as soon as it was daylight.’

‘I was on the road at the first streak of dawn,’ exclaimed Mr.
Harefield. ‘I never had that letter. How do I know that it is not all
a lie? How do I know that you have not come here with a deep-laid
plot to cheat and cajole me? I have lived all these years believing
my wife false, accursed, abominable, a woman whose very existence was
a disgrace to me and to her child. And you come now with this fable
about a convent--a sudden flight from an intolerable life--ay, it
was bitter enough in those last days, I confess--a pure and spotless
life, cloistered, unknown. She is living still, I suppose--a professed
nun--hiding that calm face under the shadow of a sable hood?’

‘She died within a year of her entrance into the convent, died, as
she had lived, a guest, receiving protection and hospitality from the
sisterhood, among them but not one of them. As your wife the church
could not have received her. The nuns loved her for her gentleness,
her piety, and her sorrow. I have come from her grave. Till within the
last few months I have been a wanderer on the face of my country--every
thought of my brain, every desire of my heart given to the cause of
Italian independence. Only last week I found myself again a traveller
on the mountain road between Urbino and Perugia, and master of my time.
I went to visit the grave of her I had last seen a sorrowful fugitive
from a husband whose very love had been so mixed with bitterness that
it had resulted in mutual misery. The fact that you had never visited
the convent, or communicated in any way with the nuns during all these
years made me suspect some misunderstanding--and in justice to her whom
I loved when life was young and full of fair hopes--and whose memory
I love and honour now my hair is gray, I am here to tell you that
your wife died worthy of your regret, that it is you who have need of
pardon--not she.’

‘And I am to take your word for this?’

‘No, I knew too well your hatred and distrust to come to you without
some confirmation of my story. At my request, knowing all the
circumstances of the case, the Reverend Mother drew up a full account
of your wife’s reception at the convent, her last illness, and her
death, which came unexpectedly though she had long been ill. My chief
purpose in coming to England was to give you this paper.’ He laid a
large sealed envelope upon the table before Mr. Harefield. ‘Having done
this, my mission is ended. I have no more to say.’

The Italian bowed gravely, and left the room, Mr. Harefield
mechanically ringing the bell for the butler to show him out.

The door closed upon the departing guest, and Christian Harefield stood
looking straight before him with fixed eyes--looking into empty air and

A pale pained face, white to the lips, framed in darkest hair, dark
eyes gazing at him with a strained agonized gaze--hands clasped in a
convulsion of grief and anger.

He heard a voice half choked with sobs.

‘Husband, you are too cruel--groundless accusations--vilest
suspicions--I will not, I cannot bear this persecution any longer. I
will leave you this very night.’

‘Yes,’ he answered, ‘your lover is waiting for you. It was his carriage
that passed us on the road--and _you_ know it.’

‘I do,’ she exclaimed with flashing eyes, ‘and I thank God that I have
a friend and defender so near.’

And then she left him, to go to her own room as he fancied. He took
her talk of flight as an empty threat. She had threatened him in this
same way more than once in her passion. Their quarrel to-night had been
a little more violent than usual. That was all. His jealousy had been
aroused by the sight of a face he hated, looking out of a travelling
carriage that whirled by them in a cloud of white dust on the sunny
mountain road. He had given free rein to his violence afterwards, when
they were alone at the inn--and had spoken words that no woman could
forgive or forget.

Late that night he found her gone, and on inquiry discovered that
a carriage had been seen waiting not far from the inn, and a lady,
muffled in a mantle, had been seen to enter it. He heard this some
hours after the event. He had no clue to assist him in discovering the
way the carriage had taken, but he concluded that it had gone on to
Citta di Castello. He had no doubt as to the face he had seen looking
out of the window, athwart that blinding cloud of dust, as the bells
jingled on the ragged old harness, and the driver lashed his jaded

The outer door of the Water House shut with a prolonged reverberation,
like the door of an empty church. Antonio was gone. Christian Harefield
sank down in his accustomed seat, and sat staring at the fire, with
hollow eyes, his arms hanging loosely across the oaken arms of the
chair, his long thin hands falling idly, his lips moving faintly, now
and then, but making no sound, as if repeating dumbly some conversation
of the past--the ghosts of words long dead.

Those haggard eyes, which seemed to be staring at the red logs, were
indeed looking along the corridor of slow dull years to that one point
in the past when life was fresh and vivid, and all this earth flushed
with colour and alive with light.

He was thinking of the evening when he first saw the girl who was
afterwards his wife.

It was at a party in Florence--at the house of an Italian
Countess--literary--artistic--dilettante--a party at which the rooms
were crowded, and people went in and out and complained of the heat,
while large and splendid Italian matrons--with eyes that one would
hardly hope to see, save on the canvas of Guido, sat in indolent
grace on the broad crimson divans, languidly fanning themselves, and
murmuring soft scandals under cover of the music. There was much music
at the Countess Circignani’s, and that night a young novice--the
daughter of a Colonel in the Italian army--was led to the piano by
the fair hand of the Countess herself, who entreated silence for her
_protégée_. And then the sweet round voice arose, full of youth and
freshness, in a joyous melody of Rossini’s--an air as full of trills
and bright spontaneous cadences as a skylark’s song.

He, Christian Harefield, the travelling Englishman, stood among the
crowd and watched the fair face of the singer. He was struck with
its beauty and sweetness; but his was not a nature prone to sudden
passions. This was to be no new instance of love kindled by a single
glance, swift as fire from a burning glass. Before the evening was
ended, Mr. Harefield had been presented to Colonel Murano, and by the
Colonel to the fair singer. The soldier was a patriot, burning for the
release of his country from the Austrian yoke--full of grand ideas
of unification, glorious hopes that pointed to Rome as the capital
of a united Italy. He found the Englishman interested in the Italian
question, if not enthusiastic. He was known to be rich, and therefore
worthy to be cultivated. Colonel Murano cultivated him assiduously,
gave him the entrance to his shabby but patriotic _salon_, where Mr.
Harefield listened courteously while patriots with long hair, and
patriots with short hair, discussed the future of Italy.

The Colonel was a widower with a son and daughter--the girl newly
released from the convent of an educational order, where her musical
gifts had been cultivated to the uttermost--the son an incipient
profligate, without the means of gratifying his taste for low
pleasures. There was a nephew, a soldier and an enthusiast like his
uncle, who spent all his evenings in the Colonel’s _salon_, singing
with Beatrix Murano, or listening while she sang.

From the hour in which he first loved Beatrix, Christian Harefield
hated this cousin, with the grave, dark face, sympathetic manners, and
exquisite tenor voice. In him the Englishman saw his only rival.

Later, this young soldier, Antonio Murano, left Florence on military
duty. The coast was clear, Mr. Harefield offered himself to the Colonel
as a husband for his daughter--the Colonel responded warmly. He could
wish no happier alliance for his only girl. She was young--her heart
had never been touched. She could scarcely fail to reciprocate an
attachment which did her so much honour.

‘Are you sure of that?’ asked Christian Harefield. ‘I have fancied
sometimes that there is something more than cousinly regard between the
Signora and Captain Murano.’

The Colonel laughed at the idea. The cousins had been brought up
together like brother and sister--both were enthusiasts in music
and love of country. There was sympathy--an ardent sympathy between
them--nothing more.

Christian Harefield’s jealous temper was not to be satisfied so
easily. He kept his opinion; but passion was stronger than prudence,
and a week after he had made his offer to the father he proposed to
the daughter. She accepted him with a pretty submission that charmed
him--but which meant that she had learnt her lesson. She had been told
that to refuse this chance of fortune was to inflict a deliberate and
cruel injury upon those she loved--her father, for whom life had been
a hard-fought battle, unblest by a single victory--her brother, who
was on the threshold of life, and who needed to be put in the right
road by a friend as powerful as Christian Harefield. The girl accepted
her English suitor, loving that absent one fondly all the while, and
believing she was doing her duty.

Then followed a union which might have been calm and peaceful, nay,
even happy, had fate and Christian Harefield willed it. His wife’s
health rendered a winter in England impossible. The doctors ordered
her southward as soon as autumn began. What more natural than that her
own wishes should point to her native city, the lovely and civilized
Florence? Her husband, at first doting, though always suspicious,
indulged this reasonable desire. At Florence they met the soldier
cousin. He and Mrs. Harefield’s father both belonged to the patriot
party. Both believed that the hour for casting off the Austrian yoke
was close at hand. Colonel Murano’s _salon_ was the rendezvous of all
the _Carbonari_ in the city. It was a political club. Mrs. Harefield
shared the enthusiasm of her father and her cousin, and even her
husband’s stern nature was moved to sympathy with a cause so noble.
Then, by a slow and gradual growth, jealousy took root in the husband’s
heart, and strangled every better feeling. He began to see in his
wife’s love for Florence a secret hankering after an old lover. He
set himself to watch, and the man who watches always sees something
to suspect. His own eyes create the monster. By and by, Antonio
Murano came to England on a secret mission to an exiled chief of the
patriot party, and naturally went northward to visit his cousin. He
was received with outward friendship but inward distrust. Then came
scenes of suppressed bitterness between husband and wife--a sleepless
watchfulness that imagined evil in every look and word, and saw
guilt in actions the most innocent. A life that was verily hell upon
earth. Later there followed positive accusations--the open charge of
infidelity; and, in the indignation kindled by groundless allegations,
Christian Harefield’s wife confessed that she had never loved him, that
she had sacrificed her own inclinations for the benefit of her family.
She confessed further that she had loved Antonio Murano; but declared
at the same time, with tears of mingled anger and shame, that no word
had ever been spoken by either of them since her marriage which her
husband could blame.

‘You have seen him. He has been your chosen companion and friend,’
cried Christian Harefield. ‘If you had meant to be true to me you would
never have seen his face after your marriage. Had you been honest
and loyal I would have forgiven you for not loving me. I will never
forgive you for deceiving me.’

From that hour there was no longer even the semblance of love between
them. On Mr. Harefield’s part there was an ill-concealed aversion
which extended even to his child. Finally came that last Italian
journey--necessitated by the wife’s fast failing health--and with that
journey the end. They went this time not to Florence, Mrs. Harefield’s
beloved home, but to Venice, where she was a stranger. From Venice
they were to go to Rome for the winter, and it was while they were
travelling towards Rome that the catastrophe came. Christian Harefield
believed that his wife had left him with her cousin--that the whole
thing had been deliberately planned between them, Captain Murano
following them southward from Venice.

This was the bitter past upon which Christian Harefield looked back as
he sat before his solitary hearth that wintry night. The story of his
wedded life passed before him like a series of pictures. He might have
made it better, perhaps, if he had been wiser, he told himself; but
he could not have made his wife love him, and he had loved her too
passionately to be satisfied with less than her love. They were doomed
to be miserable.

It was long before he read the Reverend Mother’s statement. The clock
had struck more than once. His servant had come in for the last time,
bringing a fresh supply of wood. The doors had been locked and barred.
The household had gone to bed. It was the dead of night before Mr.
Harefield aroused himself from that long reverie, and opened the sealed
paper which was to confirm Antonio Murano’s story.

He read it slowly and thoughtfully, and believed it. What motive could
any one have for deceiving him, now, after all these years, when the
griefs and passions of the past were dead things--like a handful of
gray dust in a funeral urn?

He rose and paced the room for a long time, deep in thought, holding
the Superior’s letter in his hand. Then, as if moved by a sudden
resolution, he seated himself at his table, and began to write a
letter. It was brief--but he was long in writing it, and when it was
done he sat for some time with the letter lying before him--and
his eyes fixed--as if his mind had gone astray into deep thickets
and jungles of conflicting thought. Then, as if again influenced by
a sudden determination, he folded his letter and put it, with the
Reverend Mother’s statement, into a large envelope.

This he addressed curiously, thus:--

  ‘For my daughter Beatrix.’

Then, leaving this letter on the table, he lighted a candle and went
upstairs to the long passage out of which his wife’s rooms opened. He
unlocked the door of her sitting-room and went in.




Pages 15-16, which were misplaced in the original, have been restored.
The first line indicates the original, the second the correction.

p. 163

  Let the bitter experience of my live govern yours.
  Let the bitter experience of my life govern yours.

p. 215

  in spite of all those hints and inuendoes
  in spite of all those hints and innuendos

p. 227

  Mrs. Dulcimer eat her early dinner alone,
  Mrs. Dulcimer ate her early dinner alone,

p. 245

  parish doctor of Little Yafford, was agreeable surprised
  parish doctor of Little Yafford, was agreeably surprised

p. 248

  Have your been over exerting yourself lately?
  Have you been over exerting yourself lately?

  ‘She been riding and driving far too much
  ‘She’s been riding and driving far too much

p. 250

  lately she has been particular busy
  lately she has been particularly busy

p. 254

  have her own way in all the minor detals of life
  have her own way in all the minor details of life

p. 262

  She like dresses and bonnets.
  She likes dresses and bonnets.

p. 307

  in having taken the librety to be born.
  in having taken the liberty to be born.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "An Open Verdict, Volume 1 (of 3): A Novel" ***

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