Infomotions, Inc.Two Years Ago, Volume II. / Kingsley, Charles, 1819-1875



Author: Kingsley, Charles, 1819-1875
Title: Two Years Ago, Volume II.
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): elsley; thurnall; scoutbush; valencia; tom; campbell; lucia; major campbell; lord scoutbush; tom thurnall
Contributor(s): Murray, Gilbert, 1866-1957 [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 112,983 words (average) Grade range: 7-9 (grade school) Readability score: 73 (easy)
Identifier: etext10995
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Title: Two Years Ago, Volume II.

Author: Charles Kingsley

Release Date: February 8, 2004 [EBook #10995]

Language: English

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TWO YEARS AGO

[Illustration]




TWO YEARS AGO

BY
CHARLES KINGSLEY

IN TWO VOLS.--VOL. II


1901




CONTENTS OF VOL. II.

  CHAP

  XV THE CRUISE OF THE WATERWITCH
  XVI COME AT LAST
  XVII BAALZEBUB'S BANQUET
  XVIII THE BLACK HOUND
  XIX BEDDGELERT
  XX BOTH SIDES OF THE MOON AT ONCE
  XXI NATURE'S MELODRAMA
  XXII FOND, YET NOT FOOLISH
  XXIII THE BROAD STONE OF HONOUR
  XXIV THE THIRTIETH OF SEPTEMBER
  XXV THE BANKER AND HIS DAUGHTER
  XXVI TOO LATE
  XXVII A RECENT EXPLOSION IN AN ANCIENT CRATER
  XXVIII LAST CHRISTMAS EVE




TWO YEARS AGO.




CHAPTER XV.

THE CRUISE OF THE WATERWITCH.


The middle of August is come at last; and with it the solemn day on
which Frederick Viscount Scoutbush may be expected to revisit the home
of his ancestors. Elsley has gradually made up his mind to the
inevitable, with a stately sulkiness: and comforts himself, as the time
draws near, with the thought that, after all, his brother-in-law is not
a very formidable personage.

But to the population of Aberalva in general, the coming event is one of
awful jubilation. The shipping is all decked with flags; all the Sunday
clothes have been looked out, and many a yard of new ribbon and pound of
bad powder bought; there have been arrangements for a procession, which
could not be got up; for a speech which nobody would undertake to
pronounce; and, lastly, for a dinner, about which last there was no
hanging back. Yea, also, they have hired from Carcarrow Church-town,
sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music; for Frank has put
down the old choir band at Aberalva,--another of his mistakes,--and
there is but one fiddle and a clarionet now left in all the town. So the
said town waits all the day on tiptoe, ready to worship, till out of the
soft brown haze the stately Waterwitch comes sliding in, like a white
ghost, to fold her wings in Aberalva bay.

And at that sight the town is all astir. Fishermen shake themselves up
out of their mid-day snooze, to admire the beauty, as she slips on and
on through water smooth as glass, her hull hidden by the vast curve of
the balloon-jib, and her broad wings boomed out alow and aloft, till it
seems marvellous how that vast screen does not topple headlong, instead
of floating (as it seems) self-supporting above its image in the mirror.
Women hurry to put on their best bonnets; the sexton toddles up with the
church key in his hand, and the ringers at his heels; the Coastguard
Lieutenant bustles down to the Manby's mortar, which he has hauled out
in readiness on the pebbles. Old Willis hoists a flag before his house,
and half-a-dozen merchant skippers do the same. Bang goes the harmless
mortar, burning the British nation's powder without leave or licence;
and all the rocks and woods catch up the echo, and kick it from cliff to
cliff, playing at football with it till its breath is beaten out; a
rolling fire of old muskets and bird-pieces crackles along the shore,
and in five minutes a poor lad has blown a ramrod through his hand.
Never mind, lords do not visit Penalva every day. Out burst the bells
above with merry peal; Lord Scoutbush and the Waterwitch are duly "rung
in" to the home of his lordship's ancestors; and he is received, as he
scrambles up the pier steps from his boat, by the curate, the
churchwardens, the Lieutenant, and old Tardrew, backed by half-a-dozen
ancient sons of Anak, lineal descendants of the free fishermen to whom
six hundred years before, St. Just of Penalva did grant privileges hard
to spell, and harder to understand, on the condition of receiving,
whensoever he should land at the quay head, three brass farthings from
the "free fishermen of Aberalva."

Scoutbush shakes hands with curate, Lieutenant, Tardrew, churchwardens;
and then come forward the three farthings, in an ancient leather purse.

"Hope your lordship will do us the honour to shake hands with us too; we
are your lordship's free fishermen, as we have been your forefathers',"
says a magnificent old man, gracefully acknowledging the feudal tie,
while he claims the exemption.

Little Scoutbush, who is the kindest-hearted of men, clasps the great
brown fist in his little white one, and shakes hands heartily with every
one of them, saying,--"If your forefathers were as much taller than
mine, as you are than me, gentlemen, I shouldn't wonder if they took
their own freedom, without asking his leave for it!"

A lord who begins his progress with a jest! That is the sort of
aristocrat to rule in Aberalva! And all agree that evening, at the
Mariners' Rest, that his lordship is as nice a young gentleman as ever
trod deal board, and deserves such a yacht as he's got, and long may he
sail her!

How easy it is to buy the love of men! Gold will not do it: but there is
a little angel, may be, in the corner of every man's eye, who is worth
more than gold, and can do it free of all charges: unless a man drives
him out, and "hates his brother; and so walks in darkness; not knowing
whither he goeth," but running full butt against men's prejudices, and
treading on their corns, till they knock him down in despair--and all
just because he will not open his eyes, and use the light which comes by
common human good-nature!

Presently Tom hurries up, having been originally one of the deputation,
but kept by the necessity of binding up the three fingers which the
ramrod had spared to poor Jem Burman's hand. He bows, and the
Lieutenant--who (Frank being a little shy) acts as her Majesty's
representative--introduces him as "deputy medical man to our district of
the union, sir: Mr. Thurnall."

"Dr. Heale was to have been hero, by the by. Where is Dr. Heale?" says
some one.

"Very sorry, my lord; I can answer for him--professional calls, I don't
doubt--nobody more devoted to your lordship."

One need not inquire where Dr. Heale was: but if elderly men will drink
much brandy-and-water in hot summer days, after a heavy early dinner,
then will those men be too late for deputations and for more important
employments.

"Never mind the doctor, daresay he's asleep after dinner: do him good!"
says the Viscount, hitting the mark with a random shot; and thereby
raising his repute for sagacity immensely with his audience, who laugh
outright.

"Ah! Is it so, then? But--Mr. Thurnall, I think you said?--I am glad to
make your acquaintance, sir. I have heard your name often: you are my
friend Mellot's old friend, are you not?"

"I am a very old friend of Claude Mellot's."

"Well, and there he is on board, and will be delighted to do the honours
of my yacht to you whenever you like to visit her. You and I must know
each other better, sir."

Tom bows low--his lordship does him too much honour: the cunning fellow
knows that his fortune is made in Aberalva, if he chooses to work it
out: but he humbly slips into the rear, for Frank has to be supported,
not being over popular; and the Lieutenant may "turn crusty," unless he
has his lordship to himself, before the gaze of assembled Aberalva.

Scoutbush progresses up the street, bowing right and left, and stopped
half-a-dozen times by red-cloaked old women, who curtsey under his nose,
and will needs inform him how they knew his grandfather, or nursed his
uncle, or how his "dear mother, God rest her soul, gave me this very
cloak as I have on," and so forth; till Scoutbush comes to the
conclusion that they are a very loving and lovable set of people--as
indeed they are--and his heart smites him somewhat for not having seen
more of them in past years.

No sooner is Thurnall released, than he is off to the yacht as fast as
oars can take him, and in Claude's arms.

"Now!" (after all salutations and inquiries have been gone through),
"let me introduce you to Major Campbell." And Tom was presented to a
tall and thin personage, who sat at the cabin table, bending over a
microscope.

"Excuse my rising," said he, holding out a left hand, for the right was
busy. "A single jar will give me ten minutes' work to do again. I am
delighted to meet you: Mellot has often spoken to me of you as a man who
has seen more, and faced death more carelessly, than most men."

"Mellot flatters, sir. Whatsoever I have done, I have given up being
careless about death; for I have some one beside myself to live for."

"Married at last? has Diogenes found his Aspasia?" cried Claude.

Tom did not laugh.

"Since my brothers died, Claude, the old gentleman has only me to look
to. You seem to be a naturalist, sir."

"A dabbler," said the major, with eye and hand still busy.

"I ought not to begin our acquaintance by doubting your word: but these
things are no dabbler's work;" and Tom pointed to some exquisite
photographs of minute corallines, evidently taken under the microscope.

"They are Mellot's."

"Mellot turned man of science? Impossible!"

"No; only photographer. I am tired of painting nature clumsily, and then
seeing a sun-picture out-do all my efforts--so I am turned photographer,
and have made a vow against painting for three years and a day."

"Why, the photographs only give you light and shade."

"They will give you colour, too, before seven years are over--and that
is more than I can do, or any one else. No; I yield to the new dynasty.
The artist's occupation is gone henceforth, and the painter's studio,
like 'all charms, must fly, at the mere touch of cold philosophy.' So
Major Campbell prepares the charming little cockyoly birds, and I call
in the sun to immortalise them."

"And perfectly you are succeeding! They are quite new to me, recollect.
When I left Melbourne, the art had hardly risen there above guinea
portraits of bearded desperadoes, a nugget in one hand and a L50 note in
the other: but this is a new, and what a forward step for science!"

"You are a naturalist, then?" said Campbell, looking up with interest.

"All my profession are, more or less," said Tom, carelessly; "and I have
been lucky enough here to fall on untrodden ground, and have hunted up a
few sea-monsters this summer."

"Really? You can tell one where to search then, and where to dredge, I
hope. I have set my heart on a fortnight's work here, and have been
dreaming at night, like a child before a Twelfth-night party, of all
sorts of impossible hydras, gorgons and chimaeras dire, fished up from
your western deeps."

"I have none of them; but I can give you Turbinolia Milletiana and
Zoanthus Couchii. I have a party of the last gentlemen alive on shore."

The major's face worked with almost childish delight.

"But I shall be robbing you."

"They cost me nothing, my dear sir. I did very well, moreover, without
them, for five-and-thirty years; and I may do equally well for
five-and-thirty more."

"I ought to be able to say the same, surely," answered the Major,
composing his face again, and rising carefully. "I have to thank you,
exceedingly, my dear sir, for your prompt generosity: but it is better
discipline for a man, in many ways, to find things for himself than to
have them put into his hands. So, with a thousand thanks, you shall let
me see if I can dredge a Turbinolia for myself."

This was spoken with so sweet and polished a modulation, and yet so
sadly and severely withal, that Tom looked at the speaker with interest.
He was a very tall and powerful man, and would have been a very handsome
man, both in face and figure, but for the high cheekbone, long neck, and
narrow shoulders, so often seen north of Tweed. His brow was very high
and full; his eyes--grave, but very gentle, with large drooping eyelids
--were buried under shaggy grey eyebrows. His mouth was gentle as his
eyes; but compressed, perhaps by the habit of command, perhaps by secret
sorrow; for of that, too, as well as of intellect and magnanimity,
Thurnall thought he could discern the traces. His face was bronzed by
long exposure to the sun; his close-cut curls, which had once been
auburn, were fast turning white, though his features looked those of a
man under five-and-forty; his cheeks were as smooth shaven as his chin.
A right, self-possessed, valiant soldier he looked; one who could be
very loving to little innocents, and very terrible to full-grown knaves.

"You are practising at self-denial, as usual," said Claude.

"Because I may, at any moment, have to exercise it in earnest. Mr.
Thurnall, can you tell me the name of this little glass arrow, which I
just found shooting about in the sweeping net?"

Tom did know the wonderful little link between the fish and the insect;
and the two chatted over its strange form, till the boat returned to
take them ashore.

"Do you make any stay here?"

"I purpose to spend a fortnight here in my favourite pursuit. I must
draw on your kindness and knowledge of the place to point me out
lodgings."

Lodgings, as it befell, were to be found, and good ones, close to the
beach, and away from the noise of the harbour, on Mrs. Harvey's first
floor; for the local preacher, who generally occupied them, was away.

"But Major Campbell might dislike the noise of the school?"

"The school? What better music for a lonely old bachelor than children's
voices?"

So, by sunset the major was fairly established over Mrs. Harvey's shop.
It was not the place which Tom would have chosen; he was afraid of
"running over" poor Grace, if he came in and out as often as he could
have wished. Nevertheless, he accepted the major's invitation to visit
him that very evening.

"I cannot ask you to dinner yet, sir; for my menage will be hardly
settled: but a cup of coffee, and an exceedingly good cigar, I think my
establishment may furnish you by seven o'clock to-night;--if you think
them worth walking down for."

Tom, of course, said something civil, and made his appearance in due
time. He found the coffee ready, and the cigars also; but the Major was
busy, in his shirt sleeves, unpacking and arranging jars, nets,
microscopes, and what not of scientific lumber; and Tom proffered his
help.

"I am ashamed to make use of you the first moment that you become my
guest."

"I shall enjoy the mere handling of your tackle," said Tom; and began
breaking the tenth commandment over almost every article he touched; for
everything was first-rate of its kind.

"You seem to have devoted money, as well as thought, plentifully to the
pursuit."

"I have little else to which to devote either; and more of both than is,
perhaps, safe for me."

"I should hardly complain of a superfluity of thought, if superfluity of
money was the condition of it."

"Pray understand me. I am no Dives; but I have learned to want so
little, that I hardly know how to spend the little which I have."

"I should hardly have called that an unsafe state."

"The penniless Faquir who lives on chance handfuls of rice has his
dangers, as well as the rich Parsee who has his ventures out from
Madagascar to Canton. Yes, I have often envied the schemer, the man of
business, almost the man of pleasure; their many wants at least absorb
them in outward objects, instead of leaving them too easily satisfied,
to sink in upon themselves, and waste away in useless dreams."

"You found out the best cure for that malady when you took up the
microscope and the collecting-box."

"So I fancied once. I took up natural history in India years ago to
drive away thought, as other men might take to opium, or to
brandy-pawnee: but, like them, it has become a passion now and a tyranny;
and I go on hunting, discovering, wondering, craving for more knowledge;
and--_cui bono_? I sometimes ask--"

"Why, this at least, sir; that, without such men as you, who work for
mere love, science would be now fifty years behind her present
standing-point; and we doctors should not know a thousand important facts,
which you have been kind enough to tell us, while we have not time to find
them out for ourselves."

"_Sic vos non vobis_--"

"Yes, you have the work, and we have the pay; which is a very fair
division of labour, considering the world we live in."

"And have you been skilful enough to make science pay you here, in such
an out-of-the-way little world as that of Aberalva must be?"

"She is a good stalking-horse anywhere;" and Tom detailed, with plenty
of humour, the effect of his microscope and his lecture on the drops of
water. But his wit seemed so much lost on Campbell, that he at last
stopped almost short, not quite sure that he had not taken a liberty.

"No; go on, I beg you; and do not fancy that I am not interested and
amused too, because my laughing muscles are a little stiff from want of
use. Perhaps, too, I am apt to take things too much _au grand serieux;_
but I could not help thinking, while you were speaking, how sad it was
that people were utterly ignorant of matters so vitally necessary to
health."

"And I, perhaps, ought not to jest over the subject: but, indeed, with
cholera staring us in the face here, I must indulge in some emotion; and
as it is unprofessional to weep, I must laugh as long as I dare."

The Major dropped his coffee-cup upon the floor, and looked at Thurnall
with so horrified a gaze, that Tom could hardly believe him to be the
same man. Then recollecting himself, he darted down upon the remains of
his cup: and looking up again--"A thousand pardons; but--did I hear you
aright? cholera staring us in the face?"

"How can it be otherwise? It is drawing steadily on from the eastward
week by week; and, in the present state of the town, nothing but some
miraculous caprice of Dame Fortune's can deliver us."

"Don't talk of Fortune, sir! at such a moment. Talk of God!" said the
Major, rising from his chair, and pacing the room. "It is too horrible!
Intolerable! When do you expect it here?"

"Within the month, perhaps,--hardly before. I should have warned you of
the danger, I assure you, had I not understood from you that you were
only going to stay a fortnight."

The Major made an impatient gesture.

"Do you fancy that I am afraid for myself? No; but the thought of its
coming to--to the poor people in the town, you know. It is too dreadful.
I have seen it in India--among my own men--among the natives. Good
heavens, I never shall forget--and to meet the fiend again here, of all
places in the world! I fancied it so clean and healthy, swept by fresh
sea-breezes."

"And by nothing else. A half-hour's walk round would convince you, sir;
I only wish that you could persuade his lordship to accompany you."

"Scoutbush? Of course he will,--he shall,--he must. Good heavens! whose
concern is it more than his? You think, then, that there is a chance of
staving it off--by cleansing, I mean?"

"If we have heavy rains during the next week or two, yes. If this
drought last, better leave ill alone; we shall only provoke the devil by
stirring him up."

"You speak confidently," said the Major, gradually regaining his own
self-possession, as he saw Tom so self-possessed. "Have you--allow me to
ask so important a question--have you seen much of cholera?"

"I have worked through three. At Paris, at St. Petersburgh, and in the
West Indies: and I have been thinking up my old experience for the last
six weeks, foreseeing what would come."

"I am satisfied, sir; perhaps I ought to ask your pardon for the
question."

"Not at all. How can you trust a man, unless you know him?" "And you
expect it within the month? You shall go with me to Lord Scoutbush
to-morrow, and--and now we will talk of something more pleasant." And he
began again upon the zoophites.

Tom, as they chatted on, could not help wondering at the Major's
unexpected passion; and could not help remarking, also, that in spite of
his desire to be agreeable, and to interest his guest in his scientific
discoveries, he was yet distraught, and full of other thoughts. What
could be the meaning of it? Was it mere excess of human sympathy? The
countenance hardly betokened that: but still, who can trust altogether
the expression of a weather-hardened visage of forty-five? So the Doctor
set it down to tenderness of heart, till a fresh vista opened on him.

Major Campbell, he soon found, was as fond of insects as of
sea-monsters: and he began inquiring about the woods, the heaths, the
climate; which seemed to the Doctor, for a long time, to mean nothing
more than the question which he put plainly, "Where have I a chance of
rare insects?" But he seemed, after a while, to be trying to learn the
geography of the parish in detail, and especially of the ground round
Vavasour's house. "However it's no business of mine," thought Thurnall,
and told him all he wanted, till--

"Then the house lies quite in the bottom of the glen? Is there a good
fall to the stream--for a stream I suppose there is?"

Thurnall shook his head. "Cold boggy stewponds in the garden, such as
our ancestors loved, damming up the stream. They must needs have fish in
Lent, we know; and paid the penalty of it by ague and fever."

"Stewponds damming up the stream? Scoutbush ought to drain them
instantly!" said the Major, half to himself. "But still the house lies
high--with regard to the town, I mean. No chance of malaria coming up?"

"Upon my word, sir, as a professional man, that is a thing that I dare
not say. The chances are not great--the house is two hundred yards from
the nearest cottage: but if there be an east wind--"

"I cannot bear this any longer. It is perfect madness!"

"I trust, sir, that you do not think that I have neglected the matter. I
have pointed it all out, I assure you, to Mr. Vavasour."

"And it is not altered?"

"I believe it is to be altered--that is--the truth is, sir, that Mr.
Vavasour shrinks so much from the very notion of cholera, that--"

"That he does not like to do anything which may look like believing in
its possibility?"

"He says," quoth Tom, parrying the question, but in a somewhat dry tone,
"that he is afraid of alarming Mrs. Vavasour and the servants."

The Major said something under his breath, which Tom did not catch, and
then, in an appeased tone of voice--

"Well, that is at least a fault on the right side. Mrs. Vavasour's
brother, as owner of the place, is of course the proper person to make
the house fit for habitation." And he relapsed into silence, while
Thurnall, who suspected more than met the ear, rose to depart.

"Are you going? It is not late; not ten o'clock yet."

"A medical man, who may be called up at any moment, must make sure of
his 'beauty sleep,'"

"I will walk with you, and smoke my last cigar." So they went out, and
up to Heale's. Tom went in: but he observed that his companion, after
standing awhile in the street irresolutely, went on up the hill, and, as
far as he could see, turned up the lane to Vavasour's.

"A mystery here," thought he, as he put matters to rights in the surgery
ere going upstairs. "A mystery which I may as well fathom. It may be of
use to poor Tom, as most other mysteries are. That is, though, if I can
do it honourably; for the man is a gallant gentleman. I like him, and I
am inclined to trust him. Whatsoever his secret is, I don't think that
it is one which he need be ashamed of. Still, 'there's a deal of human
natur' in man,' and there may be in him:--and what matter if there is?"

Half an hour afterwards the Major returned, took the candle from Grace,
who was sitting up for him, and went upstairs with a gentle "good
night," but without looking at her.

He sat down at the open window, and looked out leaning on the sill.

"Well, I was too late: I daresay there was some purpose in it. When
shall I learn to believe that God takes better care of His own than I
can do? I was faithless and impatient to-night. I am afraid I betrayed
myself before that man. He looks like one, certainly, who could be
trusted with a secret: yet I had rather that he had not mine. It is my
own fault, like everything else! Foolish old fellow that you are,
fretting and fussing to the end! Is not that scene a message from above,
saying, 'Be still, and know that I am God'?"

And the Major looked out upon the summer sea, lit by a million globes of
living fire, and then upon the waves which broke in flame upon the
beach, and then up to the spangled stars above.

"What do I know of these, with all my knowing? Not even a twentieth part
of those medusae, or one in each thousand of those sparks among the
foam. Perhaps I need not know. And yet why was the thirst awakened in
me, save to be satisfied at last? Perhaps to become more intense, with
every fresh delicious draught of knowledge.... Death, beautiful, wise,
kind death; when will you come and tell me what I want to know? I
courted you once and many a time, brave old Death, only to give rest to
the weary. That was a coward's wish, and so you would not come. I ran
you close in Afghanistan, old Death, and at Sobraon too, I was not far
behind you; and I thought I had you safe among that jungle grass at
Aliwal; but you slipped through my hand--I was not worthy of you. And
now I will not hunt you any more, old Death: do you bide your time, and
I mine; though who knows if I may not meet you here? Only when you come
give me not rest, but work. Give work to the idle, freedom to the
chained, sight to the blind!--Tell me a little about finer things than
zoophytes--perhaps about the zoophytes as well--and you shall still be
brave old Death, my good camp-comrade now for many a year."

Was Major Campbell mad? That depends upon the way in which the reader
may choose to define the adjective.

Meanwhile Scoutbush had walked into Penalva Court--where an affecting
scene of reconciliation took place?

Not in the least. Scoutbush kissed Lucia, shook hands with Elsley,
hugged the children, and then settled himself in an arm-chair, and
talked about the weather, exactly as if he had been running in and out
of the house every week for the last three years, and so the matter was
done; and for the first time a _partie carree_ was assembled in the
dining-room.

The evening passed off at first as uncomfortably as it could, where
three out of the four were well-bred people. Elsley was, of course, shy
before Lord Scoutbush, and Scoutbush was equally shy before Elsley,
though as civil as possible to him; for the little fellow stood in
extreme awe of Elsley's talents, and was afraid of opening his lips
before a poet. Lucia was nervous for both their sakes, as well she might
be; and Valencia had to make all the talking, and succeeded capitally in
drawing out both her brother and her brother-in-law, till both of them
found the other, on the whole more like other people than he had
expected. The next morning's breakfast, therefore, was easy and gracious
enough: and when it was over, and Lucia fled to household matters--

"You smoke, Vavasour?" asked Scoutbush.

Vavasour did not smoke.

"Really? I thought poets always smoked. You will not forbid my having a
cigar in your garden, nevertheless, I suppose! Do walk round with me,
too, and show me the place, unless you are going to be busy."

Oh no; Elsley was at Lord Scoutbush's service, of course, and had really
nothing to do. So out they went.

"Charming old pigeon-hole it is," said its owner, "I have not seen it
since I went into the Guards. Campbell says it's a shame of me, and so
it is one, I suppose; but how beautiful you have made the garden look!"

"Lucia is very fond of gardening," said Elsley, who was very fond of it
also, and had great taste therein; but he was afraid to confess any such
tastes before a man who, he thought, would not understand him.

"And that fine old wood--full of cocks it used to be--I hope you worked
it well last year."

Elsley did not shoot; but he had heard there was plenty of game there.

"Plenty of cocks," said his guest, correcting him; "but for game, the
less we say about that the better. I really wonder you do not shoot; it
fills up time so in the winter."

"There is really no winter to fill up here, thanks to this delicious
climate; and I have my books."

"Ah! I wish I had. I wish heartily," said he, in a confidential tone,
"you, or Campbell, or some of your clever men, would sell me a little of
their book-learning; as Valencia says to me, 'brains are so common in
the world, I wonder how none fell to your share.'"

"I do not think that they are an article which is for sale, if Solomon
is to be believed."

"And if they were, I couldn't afford to buy, with this Irish Encumbered
Estates' Bill. But now, this is one thing I wanted to say. Is everything
here just as you would wish? Of course no one could wish a better
tenant; but any repairs, you know, or improvements which I ought to do
of course? Only tell me what you think should be done; for, of course,
you know more about these things than I do--can't know less."

"Nothing, I assure you, Lord Scoutbush. I have always left those matters
to Mr. Tardrew."

"Ah, my dear fellow, you shouldn't do that. He is such a screw, as all
honest stewards are. Screws me, I know, and I dare say has screwed you
too."

"Never, I assure you. I never gave him the opportunity, and he has been
most civil."

"Well, in future, just order him to do what you like, and just as if you
were landlord, in fact; and if the old man haggles, write to me, and
I'll blow him up. Delighted to have a man of taste like you here, who
can improve the place for me."

"I assure you, Lord Scoutbush, I need nothing, nor does the place. I am
a man of very few wants."

"I wish I were," sighed Scoutbush, pulling out another of Hudson's
highest-priced cigars.

"And I am bound to say"--(and here Elsley choked a little; but the
Viscount's frankness and humility had softened him, and he determined to
be very magnanimous)--"I am bound in honour, after owing to your
kindness such an exquisite retreat--all that either I or Lucia could
have fancied for ourselves, and more--not to trouble you by asking for
little matters which we really do not need."

And so Elsley, instead of simply asking to have the house-drains set
right, which Lord Scoutbush would have done upon the spot, chose to be
lofty-minded, at the risk of killing his wife and children.

"My dear follow, you really must not 'lord' me any more; I hate it. I
must be plain Scoutbush here among my own people, just as I am in the
Guards' mess-room. And as for owing me any,--really, it is we that are
in your debt--to see my sister so happy, and such beautiful children,
and so well too--and altogether--and Valencia so delighted with your
poems--and, and altogether--" and there Lord Scoutbush stopped, having
hoisted, as he considered, the flag of peace once and for all, and very
glad that the thing was over.

Elsley was going to say something in return; but his guest turned the
conversation as fast as he could. "And now, I know you want to be busy,
though you are too civil to confess it; and I must be with that old fool
Tardrew at ten, to settle accounts: he'll scold me if I do not--the
precise old pedant--just as if I was his own child. Good-bye."

"Where are you going, Frederick?" called Lucia, from the window; she had
been watching the interview anxiously enough, and could see that it had
ended well.

"To old Stot-and-kye at the farm: do you want anything?"

"No; only I thought you might be going to the yacht; and Valencia would
have walked down with you. She wants to find Major Campbell."

"I want to scold Major Campbell," said Valencia, tripping out on the
lawn in her walking dress. "Why has he not been here an hour ago? I will
undertake to say that he was up at four this morning."

"He waits to be invited, I suppose," said Scoutbush.

"I suppose I must do it," said Elsley to himself, sighing.

"Just like his primness," said Valencia. "I shall go down and bring him
up myself this minute, and Mr. Vavasour shall come with me. Of course
you will! You do not know what a delightful person he is, when once you
can break the ice."

Elsley, like most vain men, was of a jealous temper; and Valencia's
eagerness to see Major Campbell jarred on him. He wanted to keep the
exquisite creature to himself, and Headley was quite enough of an
intruder already. Beside, the accounts of the new comer, his learning,
his military prowess, the reverence with which all, even Scoutbush,
evidently regarded him, made him prepared to dislike the Major; and all
the more, now he heard that there was an ice-crust to crack. Impulsive
men like Elsley, especially when their self-respect and certainty of
their own position is not very strong, have instinctively a defiant fear
of the strong, calm, self-contained man, especially if he has seen the
world; and Elsley set down Major Campbell as a proud, sarcastic fellow,
before whom he must be at the pains of being continually on his guard.
He wished him a hundred miles away. However, there was no refusing
Valencia anything; so he got his hat, but with so bad a grace, that
Valencia saw his chagrin, and from mere naughtiness of heart amused
herself with it by talking all the way of nothing but Major Campbell.

"And Lucia," she said at last, "will be so glad to see him again. We
knew him so well, you know, in Eaton Square years ago."

"Really," said Elsley, wincing, "I never met him there." He recollected
that Lucia had expressed more pleasure at Major Campbell's coming than
even, at that of her brother; and a dark, undefined phantom entered his
heart, which, though he would have been too proud to confess it to
himself, was none other than jealousy.

"Oh--did you not? No; it was the year before we first knew you. And we
used to laugh at him together, behind his back, and christened him the
wild Indian, because he was so gauche and shy. He was a major in the
Indian army then: but a few months afterwards he sold out, went into the
line--no one could tell why, for he threw away very brilliant
prospects, they say, and might have been a general by now, instead of a
mere major still. But he is so improved since then; he is like an elder
brother to Scoutbush; guides him in everything. I call him the blind
man, and the major his dog!"

"So much the worse," thought Elsley, who disliked the notion of
Campbell's having power over a man to whom he was indebted for his
house-room: but by this time they were at Mrs. Harvey's door.

Mrs. Harvey opened it, curtseying to the very ground: and Valencia ran
upstairs, and knocked at the sitting-room door herself.

"Come in," shouted a pre-occupied voice inside.

"Is that a proper way in which to address a lady, sir?" answered she,
putting in her beautiful head.

Major Campbell was sitting, Elsley could see, in his shirt sleeves,
cigar in mouth, bent over his microscope: but instead of the unexpected
prim voice, he heard a very gay and arch one answer, "Is that a proper
way in which to come peeping into an old bachelor's sanctuary, ma'am? Go
away this moment, till I make myself fit to be seen."

Valencia shut the door again, laughing.

"You seem very intimate with Major Campbell," said Elsley.

"Intimate? I look on him as my father almost. Now, may we come in?" said
she, knocking again in pretty petulance. "I want to introduce Mr.
Vavasour."

"I shall be only too happy," said the Major, opening his door (this time
with his coat on); "there are few persons in the world whom I have more
wished to know than Mr. Vavasour." And he held out his hand, and quite
led Elsley in. He spoke in a tone of grave interest, looking intently at
Elsley as he spoke. Valencia remarked the interest--Elsley only the
compliment.

"It is a great kindness of you to call on me so soon," said he. "I met
Mrs. Vavasour several times in years past; and though I saw very little
of her, I saw enough to long much for the acquaintance of the man who
has been worthy to become her husband."

Elsley blushed, for his conscience smote him a little at that word
"worthy," and muttered some commonplace civility in return. Valencia saw
it, and attributing it to his usual awkwardness, drew off the
conversation to herself.

"Really, Major Campbell! You bring in Mr. Vavasour, and let me walk
behind as I can; and then let me sit three whole minutes in your house
without deigning to speak to me!"

"Ah! my dear Queen Whims!" answered he, returning suddenly to his gay
tone; "and how have you been misbehaving yourself since we met last?"

"I have not been misbehaving myself at all, mon cher Saint Pere, as Mr.
Vavasour will answer for me, during the most delightful fortnight I ever
spent!"

"Delightful indeed!" said Elsley, as he was bound to say: but he said it
with an earnestness which made the Major fix his eyes on him. "Why
should he not find any and every fortnight as delightful as his last?"
said he to himself; but now Valencia began bantering him about his books
and his animals; wanting to look through his microscope, pulling off her
hat for the purpose, laughing when her curls blinded her, letting them
blind her in order to toss them back in the prettiest way, jesting at
him about "his old fogies" at the Linnaean Society; clapping her hands
in ecstasy when he answered that they were not old fogies at all, but
the most charming set of men in England, and that (with no offence to
the name of Scoutbush) he was prouder of being an F.L.S., than if he
were a peer of the realm,--and so forth; all which harmless pleasantry
made Elsley cross, and more cross--first, because he did not mix in it;
next, because he could not mix in it if he tried. He liked to be always
in the seventh heaven; and if other people were anywhere else, he
thought them bores.

At last,--"Now, if you will be good for five minutes," said the Major,
"I will show you something really beautiful."

"I can see that," answered she, with the most charming impudence, "in
another glass besides your magnifying one."

"Be it so: but look here, and see what an exquisite world there is, of
which you never dream; and which behaves a great deal better in its
station than the world of which you do dream!"

When Campbell spoke in that way, Valencia was good at once; and as she
went obediently to the microscope, she whispered, "Don't be angry with
me, mon Saint Pere."

"Don't be naughty, then, _ma chere enfant_" whispered he; for he saw
something about Elsley's face which gave him a painful suspicion.

She looked long, and then lifted up her head suddenly--"Do come and
look, Mr. Vavasour, at this exquisite little glass fairy, like--I cannot
tell what like, but a pure spirit hovering in some nun's dream! Come!"

Elsley came, and looked; and when he looked he started, for it was the
very same zoophyte which Thurnall had shown him on a certain memorable
day.

"Where did you find the fairy, mon Saint Pere?"

"I had no such good fortune. Mr. Thurnall, the doctor, gave it me."

"Thurnall?" said she, while Elsley kept still looking, to hide cheeks
which were growing very red. "He is such a clever man, they say. Where
did you meet him? I have often thought of asking Mr. Vavasour to invite
him up for an evening with his microscope. He seems so superior to the
people round him. It would be a charity, really, Mr. Vavasour."

Vavasour kept his eyes fixed on the zoophyte, and said,--

"I shall be only too delighted, if you wish it."

"You will wish it yourself a second time," chimed in Campbell, "if you
try it once. Perhaps you know nothing of him but professionally.
Unfortunately for professional men, that too often happens."

"Know anything of him--I! I assure you not, save that he attends Mrs.
Vavasour and the children," said Vavasour, looking up at last: but with
an expression of anger which astonished both Valencia and Campbell.

Campbell thought that he was too proud to allow rank as a gentleman to a
country doctor; and despised him from that moment, though, as it
happened, unjustly. But he answered quietly,--

"I assure you, that whatever some country practitioners may be, the
average of them, as far as I have seen, are cleverer men, and even of
higher tone than their neighbours; and Thurnall is beyond the average:
he is a man of the world,--even too much of one,--and a man of science;
and I fairly confess that, what with his wit, his _savoir vivre_, and
his genial good temper, I have quite fallen in love with him in a single
evening; we began last night on the microscope, and ended on all heaven
and earth."

"How I should like to make a third!"

"My dear Queen Whims would hear a good deal of sober sense, then; at
least on one side: but I shall not ask her: for Mr. Thurnall and I have
our deep secrets together."

So spoke the Major, in the simple wish to exalt Tom in a quarter where
he hoped to get him practice; and his "secret" was a mere jest,
unnecessary, perhaps, as he thought afterwards, to pass off Tom's want
of orthodoxy.

"I was a babbler then," said he to himself the next moment; "how much
better to have simply held my tongue!"

"Ah; yes; I know men have their secrets, as well as women," said
Valencia, for the mere love of saying something: but as she looked at
Vavasour, she saw an expression in his face which she had never seen
before. What was it?--All that one can picture for oneself branded into
the countenance of a man unable to repress the least emotion, who had
worked himself into the belief that Thurnall had betrayed his secret.

"My dear Mr. Vavasour," cried Campbell, of course unable to guess the
truth, and supposing vaguely that he was 'ill;' "I am sure that--that
the sun has overpowered you" (the only possible thing he could think
of). "Lie down on the sofa a minute" (Vavasour was actually reeling with
rage and terror), "and I will run up to Thurnall's for salvolatile."

Elsley, who thought him the most consummate of hypocrites, cast on him a
look which he intended to have been withering, and rushed out of the
room, leaving the two staring at each other.

Valencia was half inclined to laugh, knowing Elsley's petulance and
vanity: but the impossibility of guessing a cause kept her quiet.

Major Campbell stood for full five minutes; not as one astounded, but as
one in deep and anxious thought.

"What can be the matter, mon Saint Pere?" asked she at last, to break
the silence.

"That there are more whims in the world than yours, dear Queen Whims;
and I fear darker ones. Let us walk up together after this man. I have
offended him."

"Nonsense! I dare say he wanted to get home to write poetry, as you did
not praise what he had written. I know his vanity and flightiness."

"You do?" asked he quickly, in a painful tone. "However, I have offended
him, I can see; and deeply. I must go up, and make things right, for the
sake of--for everybody's sake."

"Then do not ask me anything. Lucia loves him intensely, and let that be
enough for us."

The Major saw the truth of the last sentence no more than Valencia
herself did; for Valencia would have been glad enough to pour out to
him, with every exaggeration, her sister's woes and wrongs, real and
fancied, had not the sense of her own folly with Vavasour kept her
silent and conscience-stricken.

Valencia remarked the Major's pained look as they walked up the street.

"You dear conscientious Saint Pere, why will you fret yourself about
this foolish matter? He will have forgotten it all in an hour; I know
him well enough."

Major Campbell was not the sort of person to admire Elsley the more for
throwing away capriciously such deep passion as he had seen him show,
any more than for showing the same.

"He must be of a very volatile temperament."

"Oh, all geniuses are."

"I have no respect for genius, Miss St. Just; I do not even acknowledge
its existence when there is no strength and steadiness of character. If
any one pretends to be more than a man, he must begin by proving himself
a man at all. Genius? Give me common sense and common decency! Does he
give Mrs. Vavasour, pray, the benefit of any of these pretty flights of
genius?"

Valencia was frightened. She had never heard her Saint Pere speak so
severely and sarcastically; and she feared that if he knew the truth he
would be terribly angry. She had never seen him angry; but she knew well
enough that that passion, when it rose in him in a righteous cause,
would be very awful to see; and she was one of those women who always
grow angry when they are frightened. So she was angry at his calling her
Miss St. Just; she was angry because she chose to think he was talking
at her; though she reasonably might have guessed it, seeing that he had
scolded her a hundred times for want of steadiness of character. She was
more angry than all, because she knew that her own vanity had caused--at
least disagreement--between Lucia and Elsley. All which (combined with
her natural wish not to confess an unpleasant truth about her sister)
justified her, of course, in answering,--

"Miss St. Just does not intrude into the secrets of her sister's married
life; and if she did, she would not repeat them."

Major Campbell sighed, and walked on a few moments in silence, then,--

"Pardon, Miss St. Just; I asked a rude question, and I am sorry for it."

"Pardon you, my dear Saint Pere?" cried she, almost catching at his
hand. "Never! I must either believe you infallible, or hate you
eternally. It is I that was naughty; I always am; but you will forgive
Queen Whims?"

"Who could help it?" said the Major, in a sad, sweet tone. "But here is
the postman. May I open my letters?"

"You may do as you like, now you have forgiven me. Why, what is it, mon
Saint Pere?"

A sudden shock of horror had passed over the Major's face, as he read
his letter: but it had soon subsided into stately calm.

"A gallant officer, whom we and all the world knew well, is dead of
cholera, at his post, where a man should die.... And, my dear Miss St.
Just, we are going to the Crimea."

"We?--you?"

"Yes. The expedition will really sail, I find."

"But not you?"

"I shall offer my services. My leave of absence will, in any case, end
on the first of September; and even if it did not, my health is quite
enough restored to enable me to walk up to a cannon's mouth."

"Ah, mon Saint Pere, what words are these?"

"The words of an old soldier, Queen Whims, who has been so long at his
trade that he has got to take a strange pleasure in it."

"In killing?"

"No; only in the chance of----. But I will not cast an unnecessary
shadow over your bright soul. There will be shadows enough over it soon,
without my help."

"What do you mean?"

"That you, and thousands more as delicate, if not as fair as you, will
see, ere long, what the realities of human life are; and in a way of
which you have never dreamed."

And he murmured, half to himself, the words of the prophet,--"'Thou
saidst, I shall sit as a lady for ever: but these two things shall come
upon thee in one day, widowhood and the loss of children. They shall
even come upon thee,'--No! not in their fulness! There are noble
elements beneath the crust, which will come out all the purer from the
fire; and we shall have heroes and heroines rising up among us as of
old, sincere and earnest, ready to face their work, and to do it, and to
call all things by their right names once more; and Queen Whims herself
will become what Queen Whims might be!"

Valencia was awed, as well she might have been; for there was a very
deep sadness about Campbell's voice.

"You think there will be def--disasters?" said she, at last.

"How can I tell? That we are what we always were, I doubt not. Scoutbush
will fight as merrily as I. But we owe the penalty of many sins, and we
shall pay it."

It would be as unfair, perhaps, as easy, to make Major Campbell a
prophet after the fact, by attributing to him any distinct expectation
of those mistakes which have been but too notorious since. Much of the
sadness in his tone may have been due to his habitual melancholy; his
strong belief that the world was deeply diseased, and that some terrible
purgation would surely come, when it was needed. But it is difficult,
again, to conceive that those errors were altogether unforeseen by many
an officer of Campbell's experience and thoughtfulness.

"We will talk no more of it just now." And they walked up to Penalva
Court, seriously enough.

"Well, Scoutbush, any letters from town?" said the Major.

"Yes."

"You have heard what has happened at D---- Barracks?"

"Yes."

"You had better take care then, that the like of it does not happen
here."

"Here?"

"Yes. I'll tell you all presently. Have you heard from head-quarters?"

"Yes; all right," said Scoutbush, who did not like to let out the truth
before Valencia.

Campbell saw it and signed to him to speak out.

"A11 right?" asked Valencia. "Then you are not going?"

"Ay, but I am! Orders to join my regiment by the first of October, and
to be shot as soon afterwards as is fitting for the honour of my
country. So, Miss Val, you must be quick in making good friends with the
heir-at-law; or else you won't get your bills paid any more."

"Oh, dear, dear!" And Valencia began to cry bitterly. It was her first
real sorrow.

Strangely enough, Major Campbell, instead of trying to comfort her, took
Scoutbush out with him, and left her alone with her tears. He could not
rest till he had opened the whole cholera question.

Scoutbush was honestly shocked. Who would have dreamed it? No one had
ever told him that the cholera had really been there before. What could
he do? Send for Thurnall?

Tom was sent for; and Scoutbush found, to his horror, that what little
he could have ever done ought to have been done three months ago, with
Lord Minchampstead's improvements at Pentremochyn.

The little man walked up and down, and wrung his hands. He cursed
Tardrew for not telling him the truth; he cursed himself for letting the
cottages go out of his power; he cursed A, B, and C, for taking the said
cottages off his hands; he cursed up, he cursed down, he cursed all
around, things which ought to have been cursed, and things which really
ought not--for half of the worst sanatory sinners, in this blessed age
of ignorance, yclept of progress and science (how our grandchildren will
laugh at the epithets!) are utterly unconscious and guiltless ones.

But cursing leaves him, as it leaves other men, very much where he had
started.

To do him justice, he was in one thing a true nobleman, for he was above
all pride; as are most men of rank, who know what their own rank means.
It is only the upstart, unaccustomed to his new eminence, who stands on
his dignity, and "asserts his power."

So Scoutbush begged humbly of Thurnall only to tell him what he could
do.

"You might use your moral influence, my lord."

"Moral influence?" in a tone which implied naively enough, "I'd better
get a little morals myself before I talk of using the same."

"Your position in the parish--"

"My good sir!" quoth Scoutbush in his shrewd way; "do you not know
yourself what these fine fellows who were ready yesterday to kiss the
dust off my feet would say, if I asked leave to touch a single hair of
their rights?--'Tell you what, my lord; we pays you your rent, and you
takes it. You mind your business, and we'll mind our'n.' You forget that
times are changed since my seventeenth progenitor was lord of life and
limb over man and maid in Aberalva."

"And since your seventeenth progenitor took the trouble to live at
Penalva Court," said Campbell, "instead of throwing away what little
moral influence he had by going into the Guards, and spending his time
between Rotten Row and Cowes."

"Hardly fair, Major Campbell!" quoth Tom; "you forget that in the old
times, if the Lord of Aberalva was responsible for his people, he had
also by law the power of making them obey him."

"The long and the short of it is, then," said Scoutbush a little tartly,
"that I can do nothing."

"You can put to rights the cottages which are still in your hands, my
lord. For the rest, my only remaining hope lies in the last person whom
one would usually depute on such an errand."

"Who is that?"

"The schoolmistress."

"The who?" asked Scoutbush.

"The schoolmistress; at whose house Major Campbell lodges."

And Tom told them, succinctly, enough to justify his strange assertion.

"If you doubt me, my lord, I advise you to ask Mr. Headley. He is no
friend of hers; being a high churchman, while she is a little inclined
to be schismatic; but an enemy's opinion will be all the more honest."

"She must be a wonderful woman," said Scoutbush; "I should like to see
her."

"And I too," said Campbell, "I passed a lovely girl on the stairs last
night, and thought no more of it. Lovely girls are common enough in West
Country ports."

"We'll go and see her," quoth his lordship.

Meanwhile, Aberalva pier was astonished by a strange phenomenon. A boat
from the yacht landed at the pier-head, not only Claude Mellot, whose
beard was an object of wonder to the fishermen, but a tall three-legged
box and a little black tent; which, being set upon the pier, became the
scene of various mysterious operations, carried on by Claude and a
sailor lad.

"I say!" quoth one of the fishing elders, after long suspicious silence;
"I say, lads, this won't do. We can't have no outlandish foreigners
taking observations here!"

And then dropped out one wild suspicion after another.

"Maybe he's surveying for a railroad?"

"Maybe he's from the Trinity House, going to make a new harbour; or
maybe a lighthouse. And then we'd better not meddle wi' him."

"I'll tell you what he be. He's that here government chap as the Doctor
said he'd bring down to set our drains right."

"If he goes meddling with our drains, and knocking of our back-yards
about, he'll find himself over quay before he's done."

"Steady! Steady. He come with my loord, mind."

"He might a' taken in his loordship, and be a Roossian spy to the bottom
of him after all. They mak' munselves up into all manner of
disguisements, specially beards. I've seed the Roossians with their
beards many a time."

"Maybe 'tis witchcraft. Look to mun, putting mun's head under that black
bag now! He'm after no good, I'll warrant. If they ben't works of
darkness, what be?"

"Leastwise he'm no right to go spying here on our quay, and never ax
with your leave, or by your leave. I'll just goo mak' mun out."

And Claude, who had just retreated into his tent, had the pleasure of
finding the curtain suddenly withdrawn, and as a flood of light rushed
in, spoiling his daguerreotype plate, hearing a voice as of a sleepy
bear--

"Ax your pardon, sir; but what be you arter here?"

"Murder! shut the screen!" But it was too late; and Claude came out,
while the eldest-born of Anak stood sternly inquiring,--

"I say, what be you arter here, mak' so boold?"

"Taking sun-pictures, my good sir, and you have spoilt one for me."

"Sun-picturs, saith a?" in a very incredulous tone.

"Daguerreotypes of the place, for Lord Scoutbush."

"Oh!--if it's his lordship's wish, of course! Only things is very well
as they are, and needs no mending, thank God. Only, ax pardon, sir. You
see, we don't generally allow no interfering on our pier without lave,
sir; the pier being ourn, we pays for the repairing. So, if his lordship
intends making of alterations, he'd better to have spoken to us first."

"Alterations?" said Claude, laughing; "the place is far too pretty to
need any improvement."

"Glad you think so, sir! But whatever be you arter here?"

"Taking views! I'm a painter, an artist! I'll take your portrait, if you
like!" said Claude, laughing more and more.

"Bless my heart, what vules we be! 'Tis a paainter gentleman, lads!"
roared he.

"What on earth did you take me for? A Russian spy?"

The elder shook his head; grinned solemnly; and peace was concluded.
"We'm old-fashioned folks here, you see, sir; and don't like no
new-fangled meddlecomes. You'll excuse us; you'm very welcome to do what
you like, and glad to see you here." And the old fellow made a stately
bow, and moved away.

"No, no! you must stay and have your portrait taken; you'll make a fine
picture."

"Hum; might ha', they used to say, thirty years agone; I'm over old now.
Still, my old woman might like it. Make so bold, sir, but what's your
charge?"

"I charge nothing. Five minutes' talk with an honest man will pay me."

"Hum: if you'd a let me pay you, sir, well and good; but I maunt take up
your time for nought; that's not fair."

However, Claude prevailed, and in ten minutes he had all the sailors on
the quay round him; and one after another came forward blushing and
grinning to be "taken off." Soon the children gathered round, and when
Valencia and Major Campbell came on the pier, they found Claude in the
midst of a ring of little dark-haired angels; while a dozen honest
fellows grinned when their own visages appeared, and chaffed each other
about the sweethearts who were to keep them while they were out at sea.
And in the midst little Claude laughed and joked, and told good stories,
and gave himself up, the simple, the sunny-hearted fellow, to the
pleasure of pleasing, till he earned from one and all the character of
"the pleasantest-spokenest gentleman that was ever into the town."

"Here's her ladyship! make room for her ladyship!" But Claude held up a
warning hand. He had just arranged a masterpiece,--half-a-dozen of the
prettiest children, sitting beneath a broken boat, on spars, sails,
blocks, lobster-pots, and what not, arranged in picturesque confusion;
while the black-bearded sea-kings round were promising them rock and
bulls-eyes, if they would only sit still like "gude maids."

But at Valencia's coming the children all looked round, and jumped up
and curtsied, and then were afraid to sit down again.

"You have spoilt my group, Miss St. Just, and you must mend it!"

Valencia caught the humour, regrouped them all forthwith; and then
placed herself in front of them by Claude's side.

"Now, be good children! Look straight at me, and listen!" And lifting up
her finger, she began to sing the first song of which she could think,
"The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers."

She had no need to bid the children look at her and listen; for not only
they, but every face upon the pier was fixed upon her; breathless,
spell-bound, at once by her magnificent beauty and her magnificent
voice, as up rose, leaping into the clear summer air, and rolling away
over the still blue sea, that glorious melody which has now become the
national anthem to the nobler half of the New World. Honour to woman,
and honour to old England, that from Felicia Hemans came the song which
will last, perhaps, when modern Europe shall have shared the fate of
ancient Rome and Greece!

Valencia's singing was the reflex of her own character; and therefore,
perhaps, all the more fitted to the song, the place, and the audience.
It was no modest cooing voice, tender, suggestive, trembling with
suppressed emotion, such as, even though narrow in compass, and dull in
quality, will touch the deepest fibres of the heart, and, as delicate
scents will sometimes do, wake up long-forgotten dreams, which seem
memories of some antenatal life.

It was clear, rich, massive, of extraordinary compass, and yet full of
all the graceful ease, the audacious frolic, of perfect physical health,
and strength, and beauty; had there been a trace of effort in it, it
might have been accused of "bravura:" but there was no need of effort
where nature had bestowed already an all but perfect organ, and all that
was left for science was to teach not power, but control. Above all, it
was a voice which you trusted; after the first three notes you felt that
that perfect ear, that perfect throat, could never, even by the
thousandth part of a note, fall short of melody; and you gave your soul
up to it, and cast yourself upon it, to bear you up and away, like a
fairy steed, whither it would, down into the abysses of sadness, and up
to the highest heaven of joy; as did those wild and rough, and yet
tenderhearted and imaginative men that day, while every face spoke new
delight, and hung upon those glorious notes,--

  "As one who drinks from a charmed cup
  Of sparkling, and foaming, and murmuring wine"--

and not one of them, had he had the gift of words, but might have said
with the poet:--

 "I have no life, Constantia, now but thee,
  While, like the world-surrounding air, thy song
Flows on, and fills all things with melody.
  Now is thy voice tempest swift and strong,
On which, like one in a trance upborne,
  Secure o'er rocks and waves I sweep,
Rejoicing like a cloud of morn.
  Now 'tis the breath of summer night,
Which, when the starry waters sleep
  Round western isles, with incense-blossoms bright,
  Lingering, suspends my soul in its voluptuous flight."

At last it ceased: and all men drew their breaths once more; while a
low murmur of admiration ran through the crowd, too well-bred to applaud
openly, as they longed to do.

"Did you ever hear the like of that, Gentleman Jan?"

"Or see? I used to say no one could hold a candle to our Grace but she--
she looked like a born queen all the time!"

"Well, she belongs to us, too, so we've a right to be proud of her. Why,
here's our Grace all the while!"

True enough; Grace had been standing among the crowd all the while,
rapt, like them, her eyes fixed on Valencia, and full, too, of tears.
They had been called up first by the melody itself, and then, by a chain
of thought peculiar to Grace, by the faces round her.

"Ah! if Grace had been here!" cried one, "we'd have had her dra'ed off
in the midst of the children."

"Ah! that would ha' been as nat'ral as life!"

"Silence, you!" says Gentleman Jan, who generally feels a mission to
teach the rest of the quay good manners, "'Tis the gentleman's pleasure
to settle who he'll dra' off, and not wer'n."

To which abnormal possessive pronoun, Claude rejoined,--

"Not a bit! whatever you like. I could not have a better figure for the
centre. I'll begin again."

"Oh, do come and sit among the children, Grace!" says Valencia.

"No, thank your ladyship."

Valencia began urging her; and many a voice round, old as well as young,
backed the entreaty.

"Excuse me, my lady," and she slipped into the crowd; but as she went
she spoke low, but clear enough to be heard by all: "No: it will be time
enough to flatter me, and ask for my picture, when you do what I tell
you--what God tells you!"

"What's that, then, Grace dear?"

"You know! I've asked you to save your own lives from cholera, and you
have not the common sense to do it. Let me go home and pray for you!"

There was an awkward silence among the men, till some fellow said,--

"She'm gone mad after that doctor, I think, with his muck-hunting
notions."

And Grace went home, to await the hour of afternoon school.

"What a face!" said Mellot.

"Is it not? Come and see her in her school, when the children go in at
two o'clock. Ah! there are Scoutbush and St. Pere."

"We are going to the school, my lord. Don't you think that, as patron of
things in general here, it would look well if you walked in, and
signified your full approbation of what you know nothing about?"

"So much so, that I was just on my way there with Campbell. But I must
just speak to that lime-burning fellow. He wants a new lease of the
kiln, and I suppose he must have it. At least, here he comes, running at
me open-mouthed, and as dry as his own waistband. It makes one thirsty
to look at him. I'll catch you up in five minutes!"

So the three went off to the school.

       *       *       *       *       *

Grace was telling, in her own sweet way, that charming story of the
Three Trouts, which, by the by, has been lately pirated (as many things
are) by a religious author, whose book differs sufficiently from the
liberal and wholesome morality of the true author of the tale.

"What a beautiful story, Grace!" said Valencia. "You will surpass Hans
Anderssen some day."

Grace blushed, and was silent a moment.

"It is not my own, my lady."

"Not your own? I should have thought that no one but you and Anderssen
could have made such an ending to it."

Grace gave her one of those beseeching, half-reproachful looks, with
which she always answered praise; and then,--"Would you like to hear the
children repeat a hymn, my lady?"

"No. I want to know where that story came from."

Grace blushed, and stammered.

"I know where," said Campbell. "You need not be ashamed of having read
the book, Miss Harvey. I doubt not that you took all the good from it,
and none of the harm, if harm there be."

Grace looked at him; at once surprised and relieved.

"It was a foolish romance-book, sir, as you seem to know. It was the
only one which I ever read, except Hans Anderssen's,--which are not
romances, after all. But the beginning was so full of God's truth, sir,
--romance though it was,--and gave me such precious new light about
educating children, that I was led on unawares. I hope I was not wrong."

"This schoolroom proves that you were not," said Campbell. "'To the
pure, all things are pure.'"

"What is this mysterious book? I must know!" said Valencia.

"A very noble romance, which I made Mellot read once, containing the
ideal education of an English nobleman, in the middle of the last
century."

"The Fool of Quality?" said Mellot. "Of course! I thought I had heard
the story before. What a well-written book it is, too, in spite of all
extravagance and prolixity. And how wonderfully ahead of his generation
the man who wrote it, in politics as well as in religion!"

"I must read it," said Valencia. "You must lend it me, Saint Pere."

"Not yet, I think."

"Why?" whispered she, pouting. "I suppose I am not as pure as Grace
Harvey?"

"She has the children to educate, who are in daily contact with coarse
sins, of which you know nothing--of which she cannot help knowing. It
was written in an age when the morals of our class (more shame to us)
were on the same level with the morals of her class now. Let it alone. I
often have fancied I should edit a corrected edition of it. When I do,
you shall read that."

"Now, Miss Harvey," said Mellot, who had never taken his eyes off her
face, "I want to turn schoolmaster, and give your children a drawing
lesson. Get your slates, all of you!"

And taking possession of the black board and a piece of chalk, Claude
began sketching them imps and angels, dogs and horses, till the school
rang with shrieks of delight.

"Now," said he, wiping the board, "I'll draw something, and you shall
copy it."

And, without taking off his hand, he drew a single line; and a profile
head sprang up, as if by magic, under his firm, unerring touch.

"Somebody?" "A lady!" "No, 'taint; 'tis schoolmistress!"

"You can't copy that; I'll draw you another face." And he sketched a
full face on the board.

"That's my lady." "No, it's schoolmistress again!" "No it's not!"

"Not quite sure, my dears?" said Claude, half to himself. "Then here!"
and wiping the board once more, he drew a three-quarters face, which
elicited a shout of approbation.

"That's schoolmistress, her very self!"

"Then you cannot do anything better than try and draw it. I'll show you
how." And going over the lines again, one by one, the crafty Claude
pretended to be giving a drawing lesson, while he was really studying
every feature of his model.

"If you please, my lady," whispered Grace to Valencia; "I wish the
gentleman would not."

"Why not?"

"Oh, madam, I do not judge any one else: but why should this poor
perishing flesh be put into a picture? We wear it but for a little
while, and are blessed when we are rid of its burden. Why wish to keep a
copy of what we long to be delivered from?"

"It will please the children, Grace," said Valencia, puzzled. "See how
they are all trying to copy it, from love of you."

"Who am I? I want them to do things from love of God. No, madam, I was
pained (and no offence to you) when I was asked to have my likeness
taken on the quay. There's no sin in it, of course: but let those who
are going away to sea, and have friends at home, have their pictures
taken: not one who wishes to leave behind her no likeness of her own,
only Christ's likeness in these children; and to paint Him to other
people, not to be painted herself. Do ask him to rub it out, my lady!"

"Why, Grace, we were all just wishing to have a likeness of you. Every
one has their picture taken for a remembrance."

"The saints and martyrs never had theirs, as far as I ever heard, and
yet they are not forgotten yet. I know it is the way of great people
like you. I saw your picture once, in a book Miss Heale had; and did not
wonder, when I saw it, that people wished to remember such a face as
yours: and since I have seen you, I wonder still less."

"My picture? where?"

"In a book--'The Book of Beauty,' I believe they called it."

"My dear Grace," said Valencia, laughing and blushing, "if you ever
looked in your glass, you must know that you are quite as worthy of a
place in 'The Book of Beauty' as I am."

Grace shook her head with a serious smile. "Every one in their place,
madam. I cannot help knowing that God has given me a gift: but why, I
cannot tell. Certainly not for the same purpose as He gave it to you
for,--a simple country girl like me. If He have any use for it, He will
use it, as He does all His creatures, without my help. At all events it
will not last long; a few years more, perhaps a few months, and it will
be food for worms; and then people will care as little about my looks as
I care now. I wish, my lady, you would stop the gentleman!"

"Mr. Mellot, draw the children something simpler, please;--a dog or a
cat." And she gave Claude a look which he obeyed.

Valencia felt in a more solemn mood than usual as she walked home that
day.

"Well," said Claude, "I have here every line and shade, and she cannot
escape me. I'll go on board and paint her right off from memory, while
it is fresh. Why, here come Scoutbush and the Major."

"Miss Harvey," said Scoutbush, trying, as he said to Campbell, "to look
as grand as a sheep-dog among a pack of fox-hounds, and very thankful
all the while he had no tail to be bitten off"--"Miss Harvey, I--we--
have heard a great deal in praise of your school; and so I thought I
should like to come and see it."

"Would your lordship like to examine the children?" says Grace,
curtseying to the ground.

"No--thanks--that is--I have no doubt you teach them all that's right,
and we are exceedingly gratified with the way in which you conduct the
school.--I say Val," cried Scoutbush, who could support the part of
patron no longer, "what pretty little ducks they are, I wish I had a
dozen of them! Come you here!" and down he sat on a bench, and gathered
a group round him.

"Now, are you all good children? I'm sure you look so!" said he, looking
round into the bright pure faces, fresh from Leaven, and feeling himself
the nearer heaven as he did so. "Ah! I see Mr. Mellot's been drawing you
pictures. He's a clever man, a wonderful man, isn't he? I can't draw you
pictures, nor tell you stories, like your schoolmistress. What shall I
do?"

"Sing to them, Fred!" said Valencia.

And he began warbling a funny song, with a child on each knee, and his
arms round three or four more, while the little faces looked up into
his, half awe-struck at the presence of a live lord, half longing to
laugh, but not sure whether it would be right.

Valencia and Campbell stood close together, exchanging looks.

"Dear fellow!" whispered she, "so simple and good when he is himself!
And he must go to that dreadful war!"

"Never mind. Perhaps by this very act he is earning permission to come
back again, a wiser and a more useful man."

"How then?"

"Is he not making friends with angels who always behold our Father's
face? At least he is showing capabilities of good, which God gave; and
which therefore God will never waste."

"Now, shall I sing you another song?"

"Oh yes, please!" rose from a dozen little mouths.

"You must not be troublesome to his lordship," says Grace.

"Oh no, I like it. I'll sing them one more song, and then--I want to
speak to you, Miss Harvey."

Grace curtsied, blushed, and shook all over. What could Lord Scoutbush
want to say to her?

That indeed was not very easy to discover at first; for Scoutbush felt
so strongly the oddity of taking a pretty young woman into his counsel
on a question of sanitary reform, that he felt mightily inclined to
laugh, and began beating about the bush, in a sufficiently confused
fashion.

"Well, Miss Harvey, I am exceedingly pleased with--with what I have seen
of the school--that is, what my sister tells, and the clergyman--"

"The clergyman?" thought Grace, surprised, as she well might be, at what
was entirely an impromptu invention of his lordship's.

"And--and--there is ten pounds toward the school, and--and, I will give
an annual subscription the same amount."

"Mr. Headley receives the subscriptions, my lord," said Grace, drawing
back from the proffered note.

"Of course," quoth Scoutbush, trusting again to an impromptu: "but this
is for yourself--a small mark of our sense of your--your usefulness."

If any one has expected that Grace is about to conduct herself, during
this interview, in any wise like a prophetess, tragedy queen, or other
exalted personage; to stand upon her native independence, and scorning
the bounty of an aristocrat, to read the said aristocrat a lecture on
his duties and responsibilities, as landlord of Aberalva town; then will
that person be altogether disappointed. It would have looked very well,
doubtless: but it would have been equally untrue to Grace's womanhood,
and to her notions of Christianity. Whether all men were or were not
equal in the sight of Heaven, was a notion which, had never crossed her
mind. She knew that they would all be equal in heaven, and that was
enough for her. Meanwhile, she found lords and ladies on earth, and
seeing no open sin in the fact of their being richer and more powerful
than she was, she supposed that God had put them where they were; and
she accepted them simply as facts of His kingdom. Of course they had
their duties, as every one has: but what they were she did not know, or
care to know. To their own master they stood or fell; her business was
with her own duties, and with her own class, whose good and evil she
understood by practical experience. So when a live lord made his
appearance in her school, she looked at him with vague wonder and
admiration, as a being out of some other planet, for whom she had no
gauge or measure: she only believed that he had vast powers of doing
good unknown to her; and was delighted by seeing him condescend to play
with her children. The truth may be degrading, but it must be told.
People, of course, who know the hollowness of the world, and the vanity
of human wealth and honour, and are accustomed to live with lords and
ladies, see through all that, just as clearly as any American republican
does; and care no more about walking down Pall-Mall with the Marquis of
Carabas, who can get them a place or a living, than with Mr. Two-shoes,
who can only borrow ten pounds of them; but Grace was a poor simple
West-country girl; and as such we must excuse her, if, curtseying to the
very ground, with tears of gratitude in her eyes, she took the ten-pound
note, saying to herself, "Thank the Good Lord! This will just pay
mother's account at the mill."

Likewise we must excuse her if she trembled a little, being a young
woman--though being also a lady, she lost no jot of self-possession--
when his lordship went on in as important a tone as he could--

"And--and I hear, Miss Harvey, that you have a great influence over
these children's parents."

"I am afraid some one has misinformed your lordship," said Grace, in a
low voice.

"Ah!" quoth Scoutbush, in a tone meant to be reassuring; "it is quite
proper in you to say so. What eyes she has! and what hair! and what
hands, too!" (This was, of course, spoken mentally.) "But we know
better; and we want you to speak to them, whenever you can, about
keeping their houses clean, and all that, in case the cholera should
come." And Scoutbush stopped. It was a quaint errand enough; and
besides, as he told Mellot frankly, "I could think of nothing but those
wonderful eyes of hers, and how like they were to La Signora's."

Grace had been looking at the ground all the while. Now she threw upon
him one of her sudden, startled looks, and answered slowly, as her eyes
dropped again:

"I have, my lord; but they will not listen to me."

"Won't listen to you? Then to whom will they listen?"

"To God, when He speaks Himself," said she, still looking on the ground.
Scoutbush winced uneasily. He was not accustomed to solemn words, spoken
so solemnly.

"Do you hear this, Campbell? Miss Harvey has been talking to these
people already, and they won't hear her."

"Miss Harvey, I dare say, is not astonished at that. It is the usual
fate of those who try to put a little common sense into their
fellow-men."

"Well, and I shall, at all events, go off and give them my mind on the
matter; though I suppose (with a glance at Grace) I can't expect to be
heard where Miss Harvey has not been."

"Oh, my lord," cried Grace, "if you would but speak--" And there she
stopped; for was it her place to tell him his duty? No doubt he had
wiser people than her to counsel him.

But the moment the party left the school, Grace dropped into her chair;
her head fell on the table, and she burst into an agony of weeping,
which brought the whole school round her.

"Oh, my darlings! my darlings!" cried she at last, looking up, and
clasping them to her by twos and threes; "Is there no way of saving you?
No way! Then we must make the more haste to be good, and be all ready
when Jesus comes to take us." And shaking off her passion with one
strong effort, she began teaching those children as she had never taught
them before, with a voice, a look, as of Stephen himself when he saw the
heavens opened.

For that burst of weeping was the one single overflow of long pent
passion, disappointment, and shame.

She had tried, indeed. Ever since Tom's conversation and Frank's sermon
had poured in a flood of new light on the meaning of epidemics, and
bodily misery, and death itself, she had been working as only she could
work; exhorting, explaining, coaxing, warning, entreating with tears,
offering to perform with her own hands the most sickening offices; to
become, if no one else would, the common scavenger of the town. There
was no depth to which, in her noble enthusiasm, she would not have gone
down. And behold, it had been utterly in vain! Ah! the bitter
disappointment of finding her influence fail her utterly, the first time
that it was required for a great practical work! They would let her talk
to them about their souls, then!--They would even amend a few sins here
and there, of which they had been all along as well aware as she. But to
be convinced of a new sin; to have their laziness, pride, covetousness,
touched; that, she found, was what they would not bear; and where she
had expected, if not thanks, at least a fair hearing, she had been met
with peevishness, ridicule, even anger and insult.

Her mother had turned against her. "Why would she go getting a bad name
from every one, and driving away customers?" The preachers, who were (as
is too common in West-country villages) narrow, ignorant, and somewhat
unscrupulous men, turned against her. They had considered the cholera,
if it was to come, as so much spiritual capital for themselves; an
occasion which they could "improve" into a sensation, perhaps a
"revival;" and to explain it upon mere physical causes was to rob them
of their harvest. Coarse viragos went even farther still, and dared to
ask her "whether it was the curate or the doctor she was setting her cap
at: for she never had anything in her mouth now but what they had said?"
And those words went through her heart like a sword. Was she
disinterested? Was not love for Thurnall, the wish to please him,
mingling with all her earnestness? And again, was not self-love mingling
with it? and mingling, too, with the disappointment, even indignation,
which she felt at having failed? Ah--what hitherto hidden spots of
self-conceit, vanity, pharisaic pride, that bitter trial laid bare, or
seemed to lay, till she learned to thank her unseen Guide even for it!

Perhaps she had more reason to be thankful for her humiliation than she
could suspect, with her narrow knowledge of the world. Perhaps that
sudden downfall of her fancied queenship was needed, to shut her out,
once and for all, from that downward path of spiritual intoxication,
followed by spiritual knavery, which, as has been hinted, was but too
easy for her.

But meanwhile the whole thing was but a fresh misery. To bear the burden
of Cassandra day and night, seeing in fancy--which yet was truth--the
black shadow of death hanging over that doomed place; to dream of whom
it might sweep off;--perhaps, worst of all, her mother, unconfessed and
impenitent!

Too dreadful! And dreadful, too, the private troubles which were
thickening fast; and which seemed, instead of drawing her mother to her
side, to estrange her more and more, for some mysterious reason. Her
mother was heavily in debt. This ten pounds of Lord Scoutbush's would
certainly clear off the miller's bill. Her scanty quarter's salary,
which was just due, would clear off a little more. But there was a
long-standing account of the wholesale grocer's for five-and-twenty
pounds, for which Mrs. Harvey had given a two months' bill. That bill
would become due early in September: and how to meet it, neither mother
nor daughter knew; it lay like a black plague-spot on the future, only
surpassed in horror by the cholera itself.

It might have been three or four days after, that Claude, lounging after
breakfast on deck, was hailed from a dingy, which contained Captain
Willis and Gentleman Jan.

"Might we take the liberty of coming aboard to speak with your honour?"

"By all means!" and up the side they came; their faces evidently big
with some great purpose, and each desirous that the other should begin.

"You speak, Captain," says Jan, "you'm oldest;" and then he began
himself. "If you please, sir, we'm come on a sort of deputation--Why
don't you tell the gentleman, Captain?" Willis seemed either doubtful
of the success of his deputation, or not over desirous thereof; for,
after trying to put John Beer forward as spokesman, he began:--

"I'm sorry to trouble you, sir, but these young men will have it so--and
no shame to them--on a matter which I think will come to nothing. But
the truth is, they have heard that you are a great painter, and they
have taken it into their heads to ask you to paint a picture for them."

"Not to ask you a favour, sir, mind!" interrupted Jan; "we'd scorn to be
so forward; we'll subscribe and pay for it, in course, any price in
reason. There's forty and more promised already."

"You must tell me, first, what the picture is to be about," said Claude,
puzzled and amused.

"Why didn't you tell the gentleman, Captain?"

"Because I think it is no use; and I told them all so from the first.
The truth is, sir, they want a picture of my--of our schoolmistress, to
hang up in the school or somewhere--"

"That's it, dra'ed out all natural, in paints, and her bonnet, and her
shawl, and all, just like life; we was a going to ax you to do one of
they garrytypes; but she would have'n noo price; besides tan't cheerful
looking they sort, with your leave; too much blackamoor wise, you see,
and over thick about the nozzes, most times, to my liking; so we'll pay
you and welcome, all you ask."

"Too much blackamoor wise, indeed!" said Claude, amused. "And how much
do you think I should ask?"

No answer.

"We'll settle that presently. Come down into the cabin with me."

"Why, sir, we couldn't make so hold. His lordship--"

"Oh, his lordship's on shore, and I am skipper for the time; and if not,
he'd be delighted to see two good seamen here. So come along."

And down they went.

"Bowie, bring these gentlemen some sherry!" cried Claude, turning over
his portfolio. "Now then, my worthy friends, is that the sort of thing
you want?"

And he spread on the table a water-colour sketch of Grace.

The two worthies gazed in silent delight, and then looked at each other,
and then at Claude, and then at the picture.

"Why, sir," said Willis; "I couldn't have believed it! You've got the
very smile of her, and the sadness of her too, as if you'd known her a
hundred year!"

"'Tis beautiful!" sighed Jan, half to himself. Poor fellow, he had
cherished, perhaps, hopes of winning Grace after all.

"Well, will that suit you?"

"Why, sir, make so bold:--but what we thought on was to have her drawn
from head to foot, and a child standing by her like, holding to her
hand, for a token as she was schoolmistress; and the pier behind, maybe,
to signify as she was our maid, and belonged to Aberalva."

"A capital thought! Upon my word, you're men of taste here in the West;
but what do you think I should charge for such a picture as that?"

"Name your price, sir," said Jan, who was in high good humour at
Claude's approbation.

"Two hundred guineas?"

Jan gave a long whistle.

"I told you so, Captain Beer," said Willis, "or ever we got into the
boat."

"Now," said Claude, laughing, "I've two prices, ore's two hundred, and
the other is just nothing; and if you won't agree to the one, you must
take the other."

"But we wants to pay, we'd take it an honour to pay, if we could afford
it."

"Then wait till next Christmas."

"Christmas?"

"My good friend, pictures are not painted in a day. Next Christmas, if I
live, I'll send you what you shall not be ashamed of, or she either, and
do you club your money and put it into a handsome gold frame."

"But, sir," said Willis, "this will give you a sight of trouble, and all
for our fancy."

"I like it, and I like you! You're fine fellows, who know a noble
creature when God sends her to you; and I should be ashamed to ask a
farthing of your money. There, no more words!"

"Well, you are a gentleman, sir!" said Gentleman Jan.

"And so are you," said Claude. "Now I'll show you some more sketches."

"I should like to know, sir," asked Willis, "how you got at that
likeness. She would not hear of the thing, and that's why I had no
liking to come troubling you about nothing."

Claude told them, and Jan laughed heartily, while Willis said,--

"Do you know, sir, that's a relief to my mind. There is no sin in being
drawn, of course; but I didn't like to think my maid had changed her
mind, when once she'd made it up."

So the deputation retired in high glee, after Willis had entreated
Claude and Beer to keep the thing a secret from Grace.

It befell that Claude, knowing no reason why he should not tell Frank
Headley, told him the whole story, as a proof of the chivalry of his
parishioners, in which he would take delight.

Frank smiled, but said little; his opinion of Grace was altering fast. A
circumstance which occurred a few days after altered it still more.

Scoutbush had gone forth, as he threatened, and exploded in every
direction, with such effect as was to be supposed. Everybody promised
his lordship to do everything. But when his lordship's back was turned,
everybody did just nothing. They knew very well that he could not make
them do anything; and what was more, in some of the very worst cases,
the evil was past remedy now, and better left alone. For the drought
went on pitiless. A copper sun, a sea of glass, a brown easterly blight,
day after day, while Thurnall looked grimly aloft and mystified the
sailors with--

"Fine weather for the Flying Dutchman, this!"

"Coffins sail fastest in a calm."

"You'd best all out to the quay-head, and whistle for a wind: it would
be an ill one that would blow nobody good just now!"

But the wind came not, nor the rain; and the cholera crept nearer and
nearer: while the hearts of all in Aberalva were hardened, and out of
very spite against the agitators, they did less than they would have
done otherwise. Even the inhabitants of the half-a-dozen cottages, which
Scoutbush, finding that they were in his own hands, whitewashed by main
force, filled the town with lamentations over his lordship's tyranny.
True--their pig-styes were either under their front windows; or within
two feet of the wall: but to pull down a poor man's pig-stye!--they
might ever so well be Rooshian slaves!--and all the town was on their
side; for pigs were the normal inhabitants of Aberalva back-yards.

Tardrew's wrath, of course, knew no bounds; and meeting Thurnall
standing at Willis's door, with Frank and Mellot, he fell upon him
open-mouthed.

"Well, sir! I've a crow to pick with you."

"Pick away!" quoth Tom.

"What business have you meddling between his lordship and me?"

"That is my concern," quoth Tom, who evidently was not disinclined to
quarrel. "I am not here to give an account to you of what I choose to
do."

"I'll tell you what, sir; ever since you've been in this parish you've
been meddling, you and Mr. Headley too,--I'll say it to your faces,--
I'll speak the truth to any man, gentle or simple; and that ain't enough
for you, but you must come over that poor half-crazed girl, to set her
plaguing honest people, with telling 'em they'll all be dead in a month,
till nobody can eat their suppers in peace: and that again ain't enough
for you, but you must go to my lord with your--"

"Hold hard!" quoth Tom. "Don't start two hares at once. Let's hear that
about Miss Harvey again!"

"Miss Harvey? Why, you should know better than I."

"Let's hear what you know."

"Why, ever since that night Trebooze caught you and her together--"

"Stop!" said Tom, "that's a lie."

"Everybody says so."

"Then everybody lies, that's all; and you may say I said so, and take
care you don't say it again yourself. But what ever since that night?"

"Why, I suppose you come over the poor thing somehow, as you seem minded
to do over every one as you can. But she's been running up and down the
town ever since, preaching to 'em about windilation, and drains, and
smells, and cholera, and its being a judgment of the Lord against dirt,
till she's frightened all the women so, that many's the man as has had
to forbid her his house.--But you know that as well as I."

"I never heard a word of it before: but now I have, I'll give you my
opinion on it. That she is a noble, sensible girl, and that you are all
a set of fools who are not worthy of her; and that the greatest fool of
the whole is you, Mr. Tardrew. And when the cholera comes, it will serve
you exactly right if you are the first man carried off by it. Now, sir,
you have given me your mind, and I have given you mine, and I do not
wish to hear anything more of you. Good morning!"

"You hold your head mighty high, to be sure, since you've had the run of
his lordship's yacht."

"If you are impertinent, sir, you will repent it. I shall take care to
inform his lordship of this conversation."

"My dear Thurnall," said Headley, as Tardrew withdrew, muttering curses,
"the old fellow is certainly right on one point."

"What then?"

"That you have wonderfully changed your tone. Who was to eat any amount
of dirt, if he could but save his influence thereby?"

"I have altered my plans. I shan't stay here long: I shall just see this
cholera over, and then vanish."

"No?"

"Yes. I cannot sit here quietly, listening to the war-news. It makes me
mad to be up and doing. I must eastward-ho, and see if trumps will not
turn up for me at last. Why, I know the whole country, half-a-dozen of
the languages,--oh, if I could get some secret-service work! Go I must.
At worst I can turn my hand to doctoring Bashi-bazouks."

"My dear Tom, when will you settle down like other men?" cries Claude.

"I would now, if there was an opening at Whitbury, and low as life would
be, I'd face it for my father's sake. But here I cannot stay."

Both Claude and Headley saw that Tom had reasons which he did not choose
to reveal. However, Claude was taken into his confidence that very
afternoon.

"I shall make a fool of myself with that schoolmistress. I have been
near enough to it a dozen times already; and this magnificent conduct of
hers about the cholera has given the finishing stroke to my brains. If I
stay on here, I shall marry her: I know I shall! and I won't--I'd go
to-morrow, if it were not that I'm bound, for my own credit, to see the
cholera safe into the town, and out again."

Tom did not hint a word of the lost money, or of the month's delay which
Grace had asked of him. The month was drawing fast to a close now,
however: but no sign of the belt. Still, Tom had honour enough in him to
be silent on the point, even to Claude.

"By the by, have you heard from the wanderers this week?"

"I heard from Sabina this morning. Marie is very poorly, I fear. They
have been at Kissingen, bathing; and are going to Bertrich: somebody has
recommended the baths there."

"Bertrich! Where's Bertrich?"

"The most delicious little nest of a place, half way up the Moselle,
among the volcano craters."

"Don't know it. Have they found that Yankee?"

"No."

"Why, I thought Sabina had a whole detective force of pets and proteges,
from Boulogne to Rome."

"Well, she has at least heard of him at Baden; and then again at
Stuttgard: but he has escaped them as yet."

"And poor Marie is breaking her heart all the while? I'll tell you what,
Claude, it will be well for him if he escapes me as well as them."

"What do you mean?"

"I certainly shan't go to the East without shaking hands once more with
Marie and Sabina; and if in so doing I pass that fellow, it's a pity if
I don't have a snap shot at him."

"Tom! Tom! I had hoped your duelling days were over."

"They will be, over, when one can get the law to punish such puppies;
but not till then. Hang the fellow! What business had he with her at
all, if he didn't intend to marry her?"

"I tell you, as I told you before, it is she who will not marry him."

"And yet she's breaking her heart for him. I can see it all plain
enough, Claude. She has found him out only too late. I know him--
luxurious, selfish, blaze; would give a thousand dollars to-morrow, I
believe, like the old Roman, for a new pleasure: and then amuses himself
with her till he breaks her heart! Of course she won't many him: because
she knows that if he found out her Quadroon blood--ah, that's it! I'll
lay my life he has found it out already, and that is why he has bolted!"

Claude had no answer to give. That talk at the Exhibition made it only
too probable.

"You think so yourself, I see! Very well. You know that whatever I have
been to others, that girl has nothing against me."

"Nothing against you? Why, she owes you honour, life, everything."

"Never mind that. Only when I take a fancy to begin, I'll carry it
through. I took to that girl, for poor Wyse's sake; and I'll behave by
her to the last as he would wish; and he who insults her, insults me. I
won't go out of my way to find Stangrave: but if I do, I'll have it
out!"

"Then you will certainly fight. My dearest Tom, do look into your own
heart, and see whether you have not a grain or two of spite against him
left. I assure you you judge him too harshly."

"Hum--that must take its chance. At least, if we fight, we fight fairly
and equally. He is a brave man--I will do him that justice--and a cool
one; and used to be a sweet shot. So he has just as good a chance of
shooting me, if I am in the wrong, as I have of shooting him, if he is."

"But your father?"

"I know. That is very disagreeable; and all the more so because I am
going to insure my life--a pretty premium they will make me pay!--and if
I'm killed in a duel, it will be forfeited. However, the only answer to
that is, that either I shan't fight, or if I do, I shan't be killed. You
know I don't believe in being killed, Claude."

"Tom! Tom! The same as ever!" said Claude sadly.

"Well, old man, and what else would you have me? Nobody could ever alter
me, you know; and why should I alter myself? Here I am, after all, alive
and jolly; and there is old daddy, as comfortable as he ever can be on
earth: and so it will be to the end of the chapter. There! let's talk of
something else."




CHAPTER XVI.

COME AT LAST.


Now, as if in all things Tom Thurnall and John Briggs were fated to
take opposite sides, Campbell lost ground with Elsley as fast as he
gained it with Thurnall. Elsley had never forgiven himself for his
passion that first morning. He had shown Campbell his weak side, and
feared and disliked him accordingly. Beside, what might not Thurnall
have told Campbell about him? And what use might not the Major make of
his secret? Besides, Elsley's dread and suspicion increased rapidly when
he discovered that Campbell was one of those men who live on terms of
peculiar intimacy with many women; whether for his own good or not,
still for the good of the women concerned. For only by honest purity,
and moral courage superior to that of the many, is that dangerous post
earned; and women will listen to the man who will tell them the truth,
however sternly; and will bow, as before a guardian angel, to the strong
insight of him whom they have once learned to trust. But it is a
dangerous office, after all, for layman as well as for priest, that of
father-confessor. The experience of centuries has shown that they must
needs exist, wherever fathers neglect their daughters, husbands their
wives; wherever the average of the women cannot respect the average of
the men. But the experience of centuries should likewise have taught
men, that the said father-confessors are no objects of envy; that their
temptations to become spiritual coxcombs (the worst species of all
coxcombs), if not intriguers, bullies, and worse, are so extreme, that
the soul which is proof against them must be either very great, or very
small indeed. Whether Campbell was altogether proof, will be seen
hereafter. But one day Elsley found out that such was Campbell's
influence, and did not love him the more for the discovery.

They were walking round the garden after dinner; Scoutbush was licking
his foolish lips over some commonplace tale of scandal.

"I tell you, my dear fellow, she's booked; and Mellot knows it as well
as I. He saw her that night at Lady A's."

"We saw the third act of the comi-tragedy. The fourth is playing out
now. We shall see the fifth before the winter."

"Non sine sanguine!" said the Major.

"Serve the wretched stick right, at least," said Scoutbush. "What right
had he to marry such a pretty woman?"

"What right had they to marry her up to him?" said Claude. "I don't
blame poor January. I suppose none of us, gentlemen, would have refused
such a pretty toy, if we could have afforded it as he could."

"Whom do you blame then?" asked Elsley.

"Fathers and mothers who prate hypocritically about keeping their
daughters' minds pure; and then abuse a girl's ignorance, in order to
sell her to ruin. Let them keep her mind pure, in heaven's name; but let
them consider themselves all the more bound in honour to use on her
behalf the experience in which she must not share."

"Well," drawled Scoutbush, "I don't complain of her bolting; she's a
very sweet creature, and always was: but, as Longreach says,--and a very
witty fellow he is, though you laugh at him,--'If she'd kept to us, I
shouldn't have minded: but as Guardsmen, we must throw her over. It's an
insult to the whole Guards, my dear fellow, after refusing two of us, to
marry an attorney, and after all to bolt with a plunger.'"

What bolting with a plunger might signify, Elsley knew not: but ere he
could ask, the Major rejoined, in an abstracted voice--

"God help us all! And this is the girl I recollect, two years ago,
singing there in Cavendish Square, as innocent as a nestling thrush!"

"Poor child!" said Mellot, "sold at first--perhaps sold again now. The
plunger has bills out, and she has ready money. I know her settlements."

"She shan't do it," said the Major quietly: "I'll write to her
to-night."

Elsley looked at him keenly. "You think, then, sir, that you can, by
simply writing, stop this intrigue?"

The Major did not answer. He was deep in thought.

"I shouldn't wonder if he did," said Scoutbush; "two to one on his
baulking the plunger!"

"She is at Lord ----'s now, at those silly private theatricals. Is he
there?"

"No," said Mellot; "he tried hard for an invitation--stooped to work me
and Sabina. I believe she told him that she would sooner see him in the
Morgue than help him; and he is gone to the moors now, I believe."

"There is time then: I will write to her to-night;" and Campbell took up
his hat and went home to do it.

"Ah," said Scoutbush, taking his cigar meditatively from his mouth, "I
wonder how he does it! It's a gift, I always say, a wonderful gift!
Before he has been a week in a house, he'll have the confidence of every
woman in it,--and 'gad, he does it by saying the rudest things!--and the
confidence of all the youngsters the week after."

"A somewhat dangerous gift," said Elsley, drily.

"Ah, yes; he might play tricks if he chose: but there's the wonder, that
he don't. I'd answer for him with my own sister. I do every day of my
life--for I believe he knows how many pins she puts into her dress--and
yet there he is. As I said once in the mess-room--there was a youngster
there who took on himself to be witty, and talked about the still sow
supping the milk--the snob! You recollect him, Mellot? the attorney's
son from Brompton, who sold out;--we shaved his mustachios, put a bear
in his bed, and sent him home to his ma--And he said that Major Campbell
might be very pious, and all that: but he'd warrant--they were the
fellow's own words,--that he took his lark on the sly, like other men--
the snob! so I told him, I was no better than the rest, and no more I
am; but if any man dared to say that the Major was not as honest as his
own sister, I was his man at fifteen paces. And so I am, Claude!"

All which did not increase Elsley's love to the Major, conscious as he
was that Lucia's confidence was a thing which he had not wholly; and
which it would be very dangerous to him for any other man to have at
all.

Into the drawing-room they went. Frank Headley had been asked up to tea;
and he stood at the piano, listening to Valencia's singing.

As they came in, the maid came in also. "Mr. Thurnall wished to speak to
Major Campbell."

Campbell went out, and returned in two minutes somewhat hurriedly.

"Mr. Thurnall wishes Lord Scoutbush to be informed at once, and I think
it is better that you should all know it--that--it is a painful
surprise:--but there is a man ill in the street, whose symptoms he does
not like, he says."

"Cholera?" said Elsley.

"Call him in," said Scoutbush.

"He had rather not come in, he says."

"What! is it infectious?"

"Certainly not, if it be cholera, but--"

"He don't wish to frighten people, quite right:" (with a half glance at
Elsley;) "but is it cholera, honestly?"

"I fear so."

"Oh, my children!" said poor Mrs. Vavasour.

"Will five pounds help the poor fellow?" said Scoutbush.

"How far off is it?" asked Elsley.

"Unpleasantly near. I was going to advise you to move at once."

"You hear what they are saying?" asked Valencia of Frank.

"Yes, I hear it," said Frank, in a quiet meaning tone.

Valencia thought that he was half pleased with the news. Then she
thought him afraid; for he did not stir.

"You will go instantly, of course?"

"Of course I shall. Good-bye! Do not be afraid. It is not infectious."

"Afraid? And a soldier's sister?" said Valencia, with a toss of her
beautiful head, by way of giving force to her somewhat weak logic.

Frank left the room instantly, and met Thurnall in the passage.

"Well, Headley, it's here before we sent for it, as bad luck usually
is."

"I know. Let me go! Where is it? Whose house?" asked Frank in an excited
tone.

"Humph!" said Thurnall, looking intently at him, "that is just what I
shall not tell you."

"Not tell me?"

"No, you are too pale, Headley. Go back and get two or three glasses of
wine, and then we will talk of it."

"What do you mean? I must go instantly! It is my duty,--my parishioner!"

"Look here, Headley! Are you and I to work together in this business, or
are we not?"

"Why not, in heaven's name?"

"Then I want you, not for cure, but for prevention. You can do them no
good when they have once got it. You may prevent dozens from having it
in the next four-and-twenty hours, if you will be guided by me."

"But my business is with their souls, Thurnall."

"Exactly;--to give them the consolations of religion, as they call it.
You will give them to the people who have not taken it. You may bring
them safe through it by simply keeping up their spirits; while if you
waste your time on poor dying wretches--"

"Thurnall, you must not talk so! I will do all you ask: but my place is
at the death-bed, as well as elsewhere. These perishing souls are in my
care."

"And how do you know, pray, that they are perishing?" answered Tom, with
something very like a sneer. "And if they were, do you honestly believe
that any talk of yours can change in five minutes a character which has
been forming for years, or prevent a man's going where he ought to go,--
which, I suppose, is the place to which he deserves to go?"

"I do," said Frank, firmly.

"Well. It is a charitable and hopeful creed. My great dread was, lest
you should kill the poor wretches before their time, by adding to the
fear of cholera the fear of hell. I caught the Methodist parson at that
work an hour ago, took him by the shoulders and shot him out into the
street. But, my dear Headley" (and Tom lowered his voice to a whisper),
"wherever poor Tom Beer deserved to go to, he is gone to it already. He
has been dead this twenty minutes."

"Tom Beer dead? One of the finest fellows in the town! And I never sent
for?"

"Don't speak so loud, or they will hear you. I had no time to send for
you; and if I had, I should not have sent, for he was past attending to
you from the first. He brought it with him, I suppose, from C----. Had
had warnings for a week, and neglected them. Now listen to me: that man
was but two hours ill; as sharp a case as I ever saw, even in the West
Indies. You must summon up all your good sense, and play the man for a
fortnight; for it's coming on the poor souls like hell!" said Tom
between his teeth, and stamped his foot upon the ground. Frank had never
seen him show so much feeling; he fancied he could see tears glistening
in his eyes.

"I will, so help me God!" said Frank.

Tom held out his hand, and grasped Frank's.

"I know you will. You're all right at heart. Only mind three things:
don't frighten them; don't tire yourself; don't go about on an empty
stomach; and then we can face the worst like men. And now go in, and say
nothing to these people. If they take a panic we shall have some of them
down to-night as sure as fate. Go in, keep quiet, persuade them to bolt
anywhere on earth by daylight to-morrow. Then go home, eat a good
supper, and come across to me; and if I'm out, I'll leave word where."

Frank went back again; he found Campbell, who had had his cue from Tom,
urging immediate removal as strongly as he could, without declaring the
extent of the danger. Valencia was for sending instantly for a fly to
the nearest town, and going to stay at a watering-place some forty miles
off. Elsley was willing enough at heart, but hesitated; he knew not, at
the moment, poor fellow, where to find the money. His wife knew that she
could borrow of Valencia; but she, too, was against the place. The
cholera would be in the air for miles round. The journey in the hot sun
would make the children sick and ill; and watering-place lodgings were
such horrid holes, never ventilated, and full of smells--people caught
fevers at them so often. Valencia was inclined to treat this as
"mother's nonsense;" but Major Campbell said gravely, that Mrs. Vavasour
was perfectly right as to fact, and her arguments full of sound reason;
whereon Valencia said that "of course if Lucia thought it, Major
Campbell would prove it; and there was no arguing with such Solons as
he--"

Which Elsley heard, and ground his teeth. Whereon little Scoutbush cried
joyfully,--

"I have it; why not go by sea? Take the yacht, and go! Where? Of course
I have it again. 'Pon my word I'm growing clever, Valencia, in spite of
all your prophecies. Go up the Welsh coast. Nothing so healthy and airy
as a sea-voyage: sea as smooth as a mill-pond, too, and likely to be.
And then land, if you like, at Port Madoc, as I meant to do; and there
are my rooms at Beddgelert lying empty. Engaged them a week ago,
thinking I should be there by now; so you may as well keep them aired
for me. Come, Valencia, pack up your millinery! Lucia, get the cradles
ready, and we'll have them all on board by twelve. Capital plan,
Vavasour, isn't if? and, by Jove, what stunning poetry you will write
there under Snowdon!"

"But will you not want your rooms yourself, Lord Scoutbush?" said
Elsley.

"My dear fellow, never mind me. I shall go across the country, I think,
see an old friend, and get some otter-hunting. Don't think of me, till
you're there, and then send the yacht back for me. She must be doing
something, you know; and the men are only getting drunk every day here.
Come--no arguing about it, or I shall turn you all out of doors into the
lane, eh?"

And the little fellow laughed so good-naturedly, that Elsley could not
help liking him: and feeling that he would be both a fool, and cruel to
his family, if he refused so good an offer, he gave in to the scheme,
and went out to arrange matters: while Scoutbush went out into the hall
with Campbell, and scrambled into his pea-jacket, to go off to the yacht
that moment.

"You'll see to them, there's a good fellow," as they lighted their
cigars at the door. "That Vavasour is greener than grass, you know,
_tant pis_ for my poor sister."

"I am not going."

"Not going?"

"Certainly not; so my rooms will be at their service; and you had much
better escort them yourself. It will be much less disagreeable for
Vavasour, who knows nothing of commanding sailors," or himself, thought
the Major, "than finding himself master of your yacht in your absence,
and you will get your fishing as you intended."

"But why are you going to stay?"

"Oh, I have not half done with the sea-beasts here. I found too new ones
yesterday."

"Quaint old beetle-hunter you are, for a man who has fought in
half-a-dozen battles!" and Scoutbush walked on silently for five minutes.

Suddenly he broke out--

"I cannot! By George, I cannot; and what's more, I won't!"

"What?"

"Run away. It will look so--so cowardly, and there's the truth of it,
before those fine fellows down there: and just as I am come among them,
too! The commander-in-chief to turn tail at the first shot! Though I
can't be of any use, I know, and I should have liked a fortnight's
fishing so," said he in a dolorous voice, "before going to be eaten up
with flies at Varna--for this Crimean expedition is all moonshine."

"Don't be too sure of that," said Campbell. "We shall go; and some of us
who go will never come back, Freddy. I know those Russians better than
many, and I have been talking them over lately with Thurnall, who has
been in their service."

"Has he been at Sevastopol?"

"No. Almost the only place on earth where he has not been: but from all
he says, and from all I know, we are undervaluing our foes, as usual,
and shall smart for it!"

"We'll lick them, never fear!"

"Yes; but not at the first round. Scoutbush, your life has been child's
play as yet. You are going now to see life in earnest,--the sort of life
which average people have been living, in every age and country, since
Adam's fall; a life of sorrow and danger, tears and blood, mistake,
confusion, and perplexity; and you will find it a very new sensation;
and, at first, a very ugly one. All the more reason for doing what good
deeds you can before you go; for you may have no time left to do any on
the other side of the sea."

Scoutbush was silent awhile.

"Well; I'm afraid of nothing, I hope: only I wish one could meet this
cholera face to face, as one will those Russians, with a good sword in
one's hand, and a good horse between one's knees; and have a chance of
giving him what he brings, instead of being kicked off by the cowardly
Rockite, no one knows how; and not even from behind a turf dyke, but out
of the very clouds."

"So we all say, in every battle, Scoutbush. Who ever sees the man who
sent the bullet through him? And yet we fight on. Do you not think the
greatest terror, the only real terror, in any battle, is the chance
shot? which come from no one knows where, and hit no man can guess whom?
If you go to the Crimea, as you will, you will feel what I felt at the
Cape, and Cabul, and the Punjab, twenty times,--the fear of dying like a
dog, one knew not how."

"And yet I'll fight, Campbell!"

"Of course you will, and take your chance. Do so now!"

"By Jove, Campbell--I always say it--you're the most sensible man I ever
met; and, by Jove, the doctor comes the next. My sister shall have the
yacht, and I'll go up to Penalva."

"You will do two good deeds at once, then," said the Major. "You will do
what is right, and you will give heart to many a poor wretch here.
Believe me, Scoutbush, you will never repent of this."

"By Jove, it always does one good to hear you talk in that way,
Campbell! One feels--I don't know--so much of a man when one is with
you; not that I shan't take uncommonly good care of myself, old fellow;
that is but fair: but as for running away, as I said, why--why--why I
can't, and so I won't!"

"By the by," said the Major, "there is one thing which I have forgotten,
and which they will never recollect. Is the yacht victualled--with fresh
meat and green stuff, I mean?"

"Whew--w--"

"I will go back, borrow a lantern, and forage in the garden, like an old
campaigner. I have cut a salad with my sword before now."

"And made it in your helmet, with macassar sauce?" And the two went
their ways.

Meanwhile, before they had left the room, a notable conversation had
been going on between Valencia and Headley.

Headley had re-entered the room so much paler than he went out, that
everybody noticed his altered looks. Valencia chose to attribute them to
fear.

"So! Are you returned from the sick man already, Mr. Headley?" asked
she, in a marked tone.

"I have been forbidden by the doctor to go near him at present, Miss St.
Just," said he quietly, but in a sort of under-voice, which hinted that
he wished her to ask no more questions. A shade passed over her
forehead, and she began chatting rather noisily to the rest of the
party, till Elsley, her brother, and Campbell went out.

Valencia looked up at him, expecting him to go too. Mrs. Vavasour began
bustling about the room, collecting little valuables, and looking over
her shoulders at the now unwelcome guest. But Frank leaned back in a
cosy arm-chair, and did not stir. His hands were clasped on his knees;
he seemed lost in thought; very pale: but there was a firm set look
about his lips which attracted Valencia's attention. Once he looked up
in Valencia's face, and saw that she was looking at him. A flush came
over his cheeks for a moment, and then he seemed as impassive as ever.
What could he want there! How very gauche and rude of him; so unlike
him, too! And she said, civilly enough, to him, "I fear, Mr. Headley, we
must begin packing up now."

"I fear you must, indeed," answered he, as if starting from a dream. He
spoke in a tone, and with a look, which made both the women start; for
what they meant it was impossible to doubt.

"I fear you must. I have foreseen it a long time; and so, I fear (and he
rose from his seat), must I, unless I mean to be very rude. You will at
least take away with you the knowledge, that you have given to one
person's existence, at least for a few weeks, pleasure more intense than
he thought earth could hold."

"I trust that pretty compliment was meant for me," said Lucia, half
playful, half reproving.

"I am sure that it ought not to have been meant for me," said Valencia,
more downright than her sister. Both could see for whom it was meant, by
the look of passionate worship which Frank fixed on a face which, after
all, seemed made to be worshipped.

"I trust that neither of you," answered he, quietly, "think me
impertinent enough to pretend to make love, as it is called, to Miss St.
Just. I know who she is, and who I am. Gentleman as I am, and the
descendant of gentlemen" (and Frank looked a little proud, as he spoke,
and very handsome), "I see clearly enough the great gulf fixed between
us; and I like it; for it enables me to say truth which I otherwise dare
not have spoken; as a brother might say to a sister, or a subject to a
queen. Either analogy will do equally well and equally ill."

Frank, without the least intending it, had taken up the very strongest
military position. Let a man once make a woman understand, or fancy,
that he knows that he is nothing to her; and confess boldly that there
is a great gulf fixed between them, which he has no mind to bridge over:
and then there is little that he may not see or do, for good or for
evil.

And therefore it was that Lucia answered gently, "I am sure you are not
well, Mr. Headley. The excitement of the night has been too much for
you."

"Do I look excited, my dear madam?" he answered quietly. "I assure you
that I am as calm as a man must be who believes that he has but a few
days to live, and trusts, too, that when he dies, he will be infinitely
happier than he ever has been on earth, and lay down an office which he
has never discharged otherwise than ill; which has been to him a
constant source of shame and sorrow."

"Do not speak so!" said Valencia, with her Irish impetuous generosity;
"you are unjust to yourself. We have watched you, felt for you, honoured
you, even when we differed from you"--What more she would have said, I
know not, but at that moment Elsley's peevish voice was heard calling
over the stairs, "Lucia! Lucia?"

"Oh dear! He will wake the children!" cried Lucia, looking at her
sister, as much as to say, "How can I leave you!"

"Run, run, my dear creature!" said Valencia, with a self-confident
smile: and the two were left alone.

The moment that Mrs. Vavasour left the room, there vanished from Frank's
face that intense look of admiration which had made even Valencia
uneasy. He dropped his eyes, and his voice faltered as he spoke again.
He acknowledged the change in their position, and Valencia saw that he
did so, and liked him the better for it.

"I shall not repeat, Miss St. Just, now that we are alone, what I said
just now of the pleasure which I have had during the last month. I am
not poetical, or given to string metaphors together; and I could only go
over the same dull words once more. But I could ask, if I were not
asking too much, leave to prolong at least a shadow of that pleasure to
the last moment. That I shall die shortly, and of this cholera, is with
me a fixed idea, which nothing can remove. No, madam--it is useless to
combat it! But had I anything, by which to the last moment I could bring
back to my fancy what has been its sunlight for so long; even if it were
a scrap of the hem of your garment, aye, a grain of dust off your feet--
God forgive me! He and His mercy ought to be enough to keep me up: but
one's weakness may be excused for clinging to such slight floating
straws of comfort."

Valencia paused, startled, and yet affected. How she had played with
this deep pure heart! And yet, was it pure? Did he wish, by exciting her
pity, to trick her into giving him what he might choose to consider a
token of affection?

And she answered coldly enough--

"I should be sorry, after what you have just said, to chance hurting you
by refusing. I put it to your own good feeling--have you not asked
somewhat too much?"

"Certainly too much, madam, in any common case," said he, quite unmoved.
"Certainly too much, if I asked you for it, as I do not, as the token of
an affection which I know well you do not, cannot feel. But--take my
words as they stand--were you to--It would be returned if I die, in a
few weeks; and returned still sooner if I live. And, madam," said he
lowering his voice, "I vow to you, before Him who sees us both, that, as
far as I am concerned, no human being shall ever know of the fact."

Frank had at last touched the wrong chord.

"What, Mr. Headley? Can you think that I am to have secrets in common
with you, or with any other man? No, sir! If I granted your request, I
should avow it as openly as I shall refuse it."

And she turned sharply toward the door.

Frank Headley was naturally a shy man: but extreme need sometimes
bestows on shyness a miraculous readiness--(else why, in the long run,
do the shy men win the best wives? which is a fact, and may be proved by
statistics, at least as well as anything else can) so he quietly stepped
to Valencia's side, and said in a low voice--

"You cannot avow the refusal half as proudly as I shall avow the
request, if you will but wait till your sister's return. Both are
unnecessary, I think: but it will only be an honour to me to confess,
that, poor curate as I am--"

"Hush!" and Valencia walked quietly up to the table, and began turning
over the leaves of a book, to gain time for her softened heart and
puzzled brain.

In five minutes Frank was beside her again. The book was Tennyson's
"Princess." She had wandered--who can tell why?--to that last exquisite
scene, which all know; and as Valencia read, Frank quietly laid a finger
on the book, and arrested her eyes at last--

  "If you be, what I think you, some sweet dream.
  Stoop down, and seem to kiss me ere I die!"

Valencia shut the book up hurriedly and angrily. A moment after she had
made up her mind what to do, and with the slightest gesture in the
world, motioned Frank proudly and coldly to follow her back into the
window. Had she been a country girl, she would have avoided the ugly
matter; but she was a woman of the world enough to see that she must,
for her own sake and his, talk it out reasonably.

"What do you mean, Mr. Headley? I must ask! You told me just now that
you had no intention of making love to me."

"I told you the truth," said he, in his quiet impassive voice. "I fixed
on these lines as a _pis aller_; and they have done all and more than I
wished, by bringing you back here for at least a moment."

"And do you suppose--you speak like a rational man, therefore, I must
treat you as one--that I can grant your request?"

"Why not? It is an uncommon one. If I have guessed your character
aright, you are able to do uncommon things. Had I thought you enslaved
by etiquette, and by the fear of a world which you can make bow at your
feet if you will, I should not have asked you. But,"--and here his voice
took a tone of deepest earnestness--"grant it--only grant it, and you
shall never repent it. Never, never, never will I cast one shadow over a
light which has been so glorious, so life-giving; which I watched with
delight, and yet lose without regret. Go your way, and God be with you!
I go mine; grant me but a fortnight's happiness, and then, let what will
come!"

He had conquered. The quiet earnestness of the voice, the child-like
simplicity of the manner, of which every word conveyed the most delicate
flattery--yet, she could see, without intending to flatter, without an
after-thought--all these had won the impulsive Irish nature. For all the
dukes and marquises in Belgravia she would not have done it; for they
would have meant more than they said, even when they spoke more
clumsily: but for the plain country curate she hesitated, and asked
herself, "What shall I give him?"

The rose from her bosom? No. That was too significant at once, and too
commonplace; besides, it might wither, and he find an excuse for not
restoring it. It must be something valuable, stately, formal, which he
must needs return. And she drew off a diamond hoop, and put it quietly
into his hand.

"You promise to return if?"

"I promised long ago."

He took it, and lifted it--she thought that he was going to press it to
his lips. Instead, he put it to his forehead, bowing forward and moved
it slightly. She saw that he made with it the sign of the Cross.

"I thank you," he said, with a look of quiet gratitude. "I expected as
much, when you came to understand my request. Again, thank you!" and he
drew back humbly, and left her there alone; while her heart smote her
bitterly for all the foolish encouragement which she had given to one so
tender and humble, and delicate and true.

And so did Frank Headley get what he wanted; by that plain earnest
simplicity, which has more power (let worldlings pride themselves as
they will on their knowledge of women) than all the cunning wiles of the
most experienced rake; and only by aping which, after all, can the rake
conquer. It was a strange thing for Valencia to do, no doubt: but the
strange things which are done in the world (which are some millions
daily) are just what keep the world alive.




CHAPTER XVII.

BAALZEBUB'S BANQUET.


The next day there were three cholera cases: the day after there were
thirteen.

He had come at last, Baalzebub, God of flies, and of what flies are bred
from; to visit his self-blinded worshippers, and bestow on them his own
Cross of the Legion of Dishonour. He had come suddenly, capriciously,
sportively, as he sometimes comes; as he had come to Newcastle the
summer before, while yet the rest of England was untouched. He had
wandered all but harmless about the West country that summer; as if his
maw had been full glutted five years before, when he sat for many a week
upon the Dartmoor hills, amid the dull brown haze, and sun-burnt bents,
and dried-up watercourses of white dusty granite, looking far and wide
over the plague-struck land, and listening to the dead-bell booming all
day long in Tavistock churchyard. But he was come at last, with appetite
more fierce than ever, and had darted aside to seize on Aberalva, and
not to let it go till he had sucked his fill.

And all men moved about the streets slowly, fearfully; conscious of some
awful unseen presence, which might spring on them from round every
corner; some dreadful inevitable spell, which lay upon them like a
nightmare weight; and walked to and fro warily, looking anxiously into
each other's faces, not to ask, "How are you?" but "How am I?" "Do I
look as if--?" and glanced up ever and anon restlessly, as if they
expected to see, like the Greeks, in their tainted camp, by Troy, the
pitiless Sun-god shooting his keen arrows down on beast and man.

All night long the curdled cloud lay low upon the hills, wrapping in its
hot blanket the sweltering breathless town; and rolled off sullenly when
the sun rose high, to let him pour down his glare, and quicken into evil
life all evil things. For Baalzebub is a sunny fiend; and loves not
storm and tempest, thunder, and lashing rains; but the broad bright sun,
and broad blue sky, under which he can take his pastime merrily, and
laugh at all the shame and agony below; and, as he did at his great
banquet in New Orleans once, madden all hearts the more by the contrast
between the pure heaven above and the foul hell below.

And up and down the town the foul fiend sported, now here now there;
snapping daintily at unexpected victims, as if to make confusion worse
confounded: to belie Thurnall's theories and prognostics, and harden the
hearts of fools by fresh excuses for believing that he had nothing to do
with drains and water; that he was "only"--such an only!--"the
Visitation of God."

He has taken old Beer's second son; and now he clutches at the old man
himself; then across the street to Gentleman Jan, his eldest: but he is
driven out from both houses by chloride of lime and peat dust, and the
colony of the Beers has peace awhile.

Alas! there are victims enough and to spare beside them, too ready for
the sacrifice, and up the main street he goes unabashed, springing in at
one door and at another, on either side of the street, but fondest of
the western side, where the hill slopes steeply down to the house-backs.

He fleshes his teeth on every kind of prey. The drunken cobbler dies, of
course: but spotless cleanliness and sobriety does not save the mother
of seven children, who has been soaking her brick floor daily with water
from a poisoned well, defiling where she meant to clean. Youth does not
save the buxom lass, who has been filling herself, as girls will do,
with unripe fruit: nor innocence the two fair children who were sailing
their feather-boats yesterday in the quay-pools, as they have sailed
them for three years past, and found no hurt; piety does not save the
bed-ridden old dame, bed-ridden in the lean-to garret, who moans, "It is
the Lord!" and dies. It is "the Lord" to her, though Baalzebub himself
be the angel of release.

And yet all the while sots and fools escape where wise men fall; weakly
women, living amid all wretchedness, nurse, unharmed, strong men who
have breathed fresh air all day. Of one word of Scripture at least
Baalzebub is mindful; for "one is taken and another left."

Still, there is a method in his seeming madness. His eye falls on a
blind alley, running back from the main street, backed at the upper end
by a high wall of rock. There is a God-send for him--a devil's-send,
rather, to speak plain truth: and in he dashes; and never leaves that
court, let brave Tom wrestle with him as he may, till he has taken one
from every house.

That court belonged to Treluddra, the old fish-jowder. He must do
something. Thurnall attacks him; Major Campbell, Headley; the neighbours
join in the cry; for there is no mistaking cause and effect there, and
no one bears a great love to him; besides, terrified and
conscience-stricken men are glad of a scapegoat; and some of those who
were his stoutest backers in the vestry are now, in their terror, the
loudest against him, ready to impute the whole cholera to him. Indeed,
old Beer is ready to declare that it was Treluddra's fish-heaps which
poisoned him and his: so, all but mobbed, the old sinner goes up--to set
the houses to rights? No; to curse the whole lot for a set of pigs, and
order them to clean the place out themselves, or he will turn them into
the street. He is one of those base natures, whom fact only lashes into
greater fury,--a Pharaoh whose heart the Lord himself can only harden;
such men there are, and women, too, grown grey in lies, to reap at last
the fruit of lies. But he carries back with him to his fish-heaps a
little invisible somewhat which he did not bring; and ere nightfall he
is dead hideously; he, his wife, his son:--and now the Beers are down
again, and the whole neighbourhood of Treluddra's house is wild with
disgusting agony.

Now the fiend is hovering round the fish-curing houses: but turns back,
disgusted with the pure scent of the tan-yard, where not hides, but nets
are barked; skips on board of a brig in the quay-pool; and a poor
collier's 'prentice dies, and goes to his own place. What harm has he
done? Is it his sin that, ill-fed and well-beaten daily, he has been
left to sleep on board, just opposite the sewer's mouth, in a berth some
four feet long by two feet high and broad?

Or is it that poor girl's sin who was just now in Heale's shop, talking
to Miss Heale safe and sound, that she is carried back into it, in
half-an-hour's time, fainting, shrieking? One must draw a veil over the
too hideous details.

No, not her fault: but there, at least, the curse has not come without a
cause. For she is Tardrew's daughter.

But whither have we got? How long has the cholera been in Aberalva? Five
days, five minutes, or five years? How many suns have risen and set
since Frank Headley put into his bosom Valencia's pledge!

It would be hard for him to tell; and hard for many more: for all the
days have passed as in a fever dream. To cowards the time has seemed
endless; and every moment, ere their term shall come, an age of terror,
of self-reproach, of superstitious prayers, and cries, which are not
repentance. And to some cowards, too, the days have seemed but as a
moment; for they have been drunk day and night.

Strange and hideous, yet true.

It has now become a mere commonplace, the strange power which great
crises, pestilences, famines, revolutions, invasions, have to call out
in their highest power, for evil and for good alike, the passions and
virtues of man; how, during their stay, the most desperate recklessness,
the most ferocious crime, side by side with the most heroic and
unexpected virtue, are followed generally by a collapse and a moral
death, alike of virtue and of vice. We should explain this now-a-days,
and not ill, by saying that these crises put the human mind into a state
of exaltation: but the truest explanation, after all, lies in the old
Bible belief, that in these times there goes abroad the unquenchable
fire of God, literally kindling up all men's hearts to the highest
activity, and showing, by the light of their own strange deeds, the
inmost recesses of their spirits, till those spirits burn down again,
self-consumed, while the chaff and stubble are left as ashes, not
valueless after all, as manure for some future crop; and the pure gold,
if gold there be, alone remains behind.

Even so it was in Aberalva during that fearful week. The drunkards drank
more; the swearers swore more than ever; the unjust shopkeeper clutched
more greedily than ever at the last few scraps of mean gain which
remained for him this side the grave; the selfish wrapped themselves up
more brutally than ever in selfishness; the shameless woman mingled
desperate debauchery with fits of frantic superstition; and all base
souls cried out together, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die!"

But many a brave man and many a weary woman possessed their souls in
patience, and worked on, and found that as their day their strength
should be. And to them the days seemed short indeed; for there was too
much to be done in them for any note of time.

Headley and Campbell, Grace and old Willis, and last, but not least, Tom
Thurnall,--these and three or four brave women, organised themselves
into a right-gallant and well-disciplined band, and commenced at once a
visitation from house to house, saving thereby, doubtless, many a life:
but ere eight-and-forty hours were passed, the house visitation
languished. It was as much as they could do to attend to the acute
cases.

And little Scoutbush? He could not nurse, nor doctor: but what he could,
he did. He bought, and fetched all that money could procure. He galloped
over to the justices, and obtained such summary powers as he could; and
then, like a true Irishman, exceeded them recklessly, breaking into
premises right and left, in an utterly burglarious fashion; he organised
his fatigue-party, as he called them, of scavengers, and paid the
cowardly clods five shillings a day each to work at removing all
removable nuisances; he walked up and down the streets for hours, giving
the sailors cigars from his own case, just to show them that he was not
afraid, and therefore they need not be: and if it was somewhat his fault
that the horse was stolen, he at least did his best after the event to
shut the stable-door. The five real workers toiled on, meanwhile, in
perfect harmony and implicit obedience to the all-knowing Tom, but with
the most different inward feelings. Four of them seemed to forget death
and danger; but each remembered them in his own fashion.

Major Campbell longed to die, and courted death. Frank believed that he
should die, and was ready for death. Grace longed to die, but knew that
she should not die till she had found Tom's belt, and was content to
wait. Willis was of opinion that an "old man must die some day, and
somehow,--as good one way as another;" and all his concern was to run
about after his maid, seeing that she did not tire herself, and obeying
all her orders with sailor-like precision and cleverness.

And Tom? He just thought nothing about death and danger at-all. Always
smiling, always cheerful, always busy, yet never in a hurry, he went up
and down, seemingly ubiquitous. Sleep he got when he could, and food as
often as he could; into the sea he leapt, morning and night, and came
out fresher every time; the only person in the town who seemed to grow
healthier, and actually happier, as the work went on.

"You really must be careful of yourself," said Campbell, at last. "You
carry no charmed life."

"My dear sir, I am the most cautious and selfish man in the town. I am
living by rule; I have got--and what greater pleasure?--a good stand-up
fight with an old enemy; and be sure I shall keep myself in condition
for it. I have written off for help to the Board of Health, and I shall
not be shoved against the ropes till the Government man comes down."

"And then?"

"I shall go to bed and sleep for a month. Never mind me; but mind
yourself: and mind that curate; he's a noble brick;--if all parsons in
England were like him, I'd--What's here now?"

Miss Heale came shrieking down the street.

"Oh, Mr. Thurnall! Miss Tardrew! Miss Tardrew!"

"Screaming will only make you ill, too, Miss. Where is Miss Tardrew?"

"In the surgery,--and my mother!"

"I expected this," said Tom. "The old man will go next."

He went into the surgery. The poor girl was in collapse already. Mrs.
Heale was lying on the sofa, stricken. The old man hanging over her,
brandy bottle in hand.

"Put away that trash!" cried Tom; "you've had too much already."

"Oh, Mr. Thurnall, she's dying, and I shall die too!"

"You! you were all right this morning."

"But I shall die; I know I shall, and go to hell!"

"You'll go where you ought; and if you give way to this miserable
cowardice, you'll go soon enough. Walk out, sir! Make yourself of some
use, and forget your fear! Leave Mrs. Heale to me."

The wretched old man obeyed him, utterly cowed, and went out: but not to
be of use: he had been hopelessly boozy from the first--half to fortify
his body against infection, half to fortify his heart against
conscience. Tom had never reproached him for his share in the public
folly. Indeed, Tom had never reproached a single soul. Poor wretches who
had insulted him had sent for him, with abject shrieks. "Oh, doctor,
doctor, save me! Oh, forgive me! oh, if I'd minded what you said! Oh,
don't think of what I said!" And Tom had answered cheerfully, "Tut-tut;
never mind what might have been; let's feel your pulse."

But though Tom did not reproach Heale, Heale reproached himself. He had
just conscience enough left to feel the whole weight of his abused
responsibility, exaggerated and defiled by superstitious horror; and
maudlin tipsy, he wandered about the street, moaning that he had
murdered his wife, and all the town, and asking pardon of every one he
met; till seeing one of the meeting-houses open, he staggered in, in the
vain hope of comfort which he knew he did not deserve.

In half-an-hour Tom was down the street again to Headley's. "Where is
Miss Harvey?"

"At the Beers'."

"She must go up to Heale's instantly. The mother will die. Those cases
of panic seldom recover. And Miss Heale may very likely follow her. She
has shrieked and sobbed herself into it, poor fool! and Grace must go to
her at once; she may bring her to common sense and courage, and that is
the only chance."

Grace went, and literally talked and prayed Miss Heale into life again.

"You are an angel," said Tom to her that very evening, when he found the
girl past danger.

"Mr. Thurnall!" said Grace, in a tone of sad and most meaning reproof.

"But you are! And these owls are not worthy of you."

"This is no time for such language, sir! After all, what am I doing more
than you?" And Grace went upstairs again, with a cold hard countenance
which belied utterly the heart within.

That was the critical night of all. The disease seemed to have done its
worst in the likeliest spots: but cases of panic increased all the
afternoon; and the gross number was greater than ever.

Tom did not delay inquiring into the cause: and he discovered it.
Headley, coming out the next morning, after two hours' fitful sleep, met
him at the gate: his usual business-like trot was exchanged for a fierce
and hurried stamp. When he saw Frank, he stopped short, and burst out
into a story which was hardly intelligible, so interlarded was it with
oaths.

"For Heaven's sake! Thurnall, calm yourself, and do not swear so
frightfully; it is so unlike you! What can have upset you thus?"

"Why should I not curse and swear in the street," gasped he, "while
every fellow who calls himself a preacher is allowed to do it in the
pulpit with impunity! Fine him five shillings for every curse, as you
might if people had courage and common sense, and then complain of me! I
am a fool, I know, though. But I cannot stand it! To have all my work
undone by a brutal ignorant fanatic!--It is too much! Here, if you will
believe it, are those preaching fellows getting up a revival, or some
such invention, just to make money out of the cholera! They have got
down a great gun from the county town. Twice a-day they are preaching at
them, telling them that it is all God's wrath against their sins; that
it is impious to interfere, and that I am fighting against God, and the
end of the world is coming, and they and the devil only know what. If I
meet one of them, I'll wring his neck, and be hanged for it! Oh, you
parsons! you parsons!" and Tom ground his teeth with rage.

"Is it possible? How did you find this out?"

"Mrs. Heale had been in, listening to their howling, just before she was
taken. Heale went in when I turned him out of doors; came home raving
mad, and is all but blue now. Three cases of women have I had this
morning, all frightened into cholera, by their own confession, by last
night's tomfoolery.--Came home howling, fainted, and were taken before
morning. One is dead, the other two will die. You must stop it, or I
shall have half-a-dozen more to-night. Go into the meeting, and curse the
cur to his face!"

"I cannot," cried Frank, with a gesture of despair, "I cannot!"

"Ah, your cloth forbids you, I suppose, to enter the non-conformist
opposition shop."

"You are unjust, Thurnall! What are such rules at a moment like this?
I'd break them, and the bishop would hold me guiltless. But I cannot
speak to these people. I have no eloquence--no readiness--they do not
trust me--would not believe me--God help me!" and Frank covered his face
with his hands, and burst into tears.

"Not that, for Heaven's sake!" said Tom, "or we shall have you blue
next, my good fellow. I'd go myself, but they'd not hear me, for
certain; I am no Christian, I suppose: at least, I can't talk their
slang:--but I know who can! We'll send Campbell!"

Frank hailed the suggestion with rapture, and away they went: but they
had an hour's good search from sufferer to sufferer before they found
the Major.

He heard them quietly. A severe gloom settled over his face. "I will
go," said he.

At six o'clock that evening, the meeting-house was filling with
terrified women, and half-curious, half-sneering, men; and among them
the tall figure of Major Campbell, in his undress uniform (which he had
put on, wisely, to give a certain dignity to his mission), stalked in,
and took his seat in the back benches.

The sermon was what he expected. There is no need to transcribe it. Such
discourses may be heard often enough in churches as well as chapels. The
preacher's object seemed to be--for some purpose or other which we have
no right to judge--to excite in his hearers the utmost intensity of
selfish fear, by language which certainly, as Tom had said, came under
the law against profane cursing and swearing. He described the next
world in language which seemed a strange jumble of Virgil's Aeneid, the
Koran, the dreams of those rabbis who crucified our Lord, and of those
mediaeval inquisitors who tried to convert sinners (and on their own
ground, neither illogically nor over-harshly) by making this world for a
few hours as like as possible to what, so they held, God was going to
make the world to come for ever.

At last he stopped suddenly, when he saw that the animal excitement was
at the very highest; and called on all who felt "convinced" to come
forward and confess their sins.

In another minute there would have been (as there have been ere now)
four or five young girls raving and tossing upon the floor, in mad
terror and excitement; or, possibly, half the congregation might have
rushed out (as a congregation has rushed out ere now) headed by the
preacher himself, and ran headlong down to the quay-pool, with shrieks
and shouts, declaring that they had cast the devil out of Betsey
Pennington, and were hunting him into the sea: but Campbell saw that the
madness must be stopped at once; and rising, he thundered, in a voice
which brought all to their senses in a moment--

"Stop! I, too, have a sermon to preach to you; I trust I am a Christian
man, and that not of last year's making, or the year before. Follow me
outside, if you be rational beings, and let me tell you the truth--God's
truth! Men!" he said, with an emphasis on the word, "you at least, will
give me a fair hearing, and you too, modest married women! Leave that
fellow with the shameless hussies who like to go into fits at his feet."

The appeal was not in vain. The soberer majority followed him out; the
insane minority soon followed, in the mere hope of fresh excitement;
while the preacher was fain to come also, to guard his flock from the
wolf. Campbell sprang upon a large block of stone, and taking off his
cap, opened his mouth, and spake unto them.

       *       *       *       *       *

Readers will doubtless desire to hear what Major Campbell said: but they
will be disappointed; and perhaps it is better for them that they should
be. Let each of them, if they think it worth while, write for themselves
a discourse fitting for a Christian man, who loved and honoured his
Bible too much to find in a few scattered texts, all misinterpreted, and
some mistranslated, excuses for denying fact, reason, common justice,
the voice of God in his own moral sense, and the whole remainder of the
Bible from beginning to end.

Whatsoever words he spoke they came home to those wild hearts with
power. And when he paused, and looked intently into the faces of his
auditory, to see what effect he was producing, a murmur of assent and
admiration rose from the crowd, which had now swelled to half the
population of the town. And no wonder; no wonder that, as the men were
enchained by the matter, so were the women by the manner. The grand
head, like a grey granite peak against the clear blue sky; the tall
figure, with all its martial stateliness and ease; the gesture of his
long arm, so graceful, and yet so self-restrained; the tones of his
voice which poured from beneath that proud moustache, now tender as a
girl's, now ringing like a trumpet over roof and sea. There were old men
there, old beyond the years of man, who said they had never seen nor
heard the like: but it must be like what their fathers had told them of,
when John Wesley, on the cliffs of St. Ives, out-thundered the thunder
of the gale. To Grace he seemed one of the old Scotch Covenanters of
whom she had read, risen from the dead to preach there from his rock
beneath the great temple of God's air, a wider and a juster creed than
theirs. Frank drew Thurnall's arm through his, and whispered, "I shall
thank you for this to my dying day:" but Thurnall held down his head. He
seemed deeply moved. At last, half to himself,--

"Humph! I believe that between this man and that girl, you will make a
Christian even of me some day!"

But the lull was only for a moment. For Major Campbell, looking round,
discerned among the crowd the preacher, whispering and scowling amid a
knot of women; and a sudden fit of righteous wrath came over him.

"Stand out there, sir, you preacher, and look me in the face, if you
can!" thundered he. "We are here on common ground as free men, beneath
God's heaven and God's eye. Stand out, sir! and answer me if you can; or
be for ever silent!"

Half in unconscious obedience to the soldier-like word of command, half
in jealous rage, the preacher stepped forward, gasping for breath,--
"Don't listen to him! He is a messenger of Satan, sent to damn you--a
lying prophet! Let the Lord judge between me and him! Stop your ears--a
messenger of Satan--a Jesuit in disguise!"

"You lie, and you know that you lie!" answered Campbell, twirling slowly
his long moustache, as he always did when choking down indignation. "But
you have called on the Lord to judge; so do I. Listen to me, sir! Dare
you, in the presence of God, answer for the words which you have spoken
this day?"

A strange smile came over the preacher's face.

"I read my title clear, sir, to mansions in the skies. Well for you if
you could do the same."

Was it only the setting sun, or was it some inner light from the depths
of that great spirit, which shone out in all his countenance, and filled
his eyes with awful inspiration, as he spoke, in a voice calm and sweet,
sad and regretful, and yet terrible from the slow distinctness of every
vowel and consonant?

"Mansions in the skies? You need not wait till then, sir, for the
presence of God. Now, here, you and I are before God's judgment-seat.
Now, here, I call on you to answer to Him for the innocent lives which
you have endangered and destroyed, for the innocent souls to whom you
have slandered their heavenly Father by your devil's doctrines this day!
You have said it. Let the Lord judge between you and me. He knows best
how to make His judgment manifest."

He bowed his head awhile, as if overcome by the awful words which he had
uttered, almost in spite of himself, and then stepped slowly down from
the stone, and passed through the crowd, which reverently made way for
him; while many voices cried, "Thank you, sir! Thank you!" and old
Captain Willis, stepping forward, held out his hand to him, a quiet
pride in his grey eye.

"You will not refuse an old fighting man's thanks, sir? This has been
like Elijah's day with Baal's priests on Carmel."

Campbell shook his hand in silence: but turned suddenly, for another and
a coarser voice caught his ear. It was Jones, the Lieutenant's.

"And now, my lads, take the Methodist Parson, neck and heels, and heave
him into the quay pool, to think over his summons!"

Campbell went back instantly. "No, my dear sir, let me entreat you for
my sake. What has passed has been too terrible to me already; if it has
done any good, do not let us break it by spoiling the law."

"I believe you're right, sir: but my blood is up, and no wonder. Why,
where is the preacher?"

He had stood quite still for several minutes after Campbell's
adjuration. He had, often perhaps, himself hurled forth such words in
the excitement of preaching; but never before had he heard them
pronounced in spirit and in truth. And as he stood, Thurnall, who had
his doctor's eye on him, saw him turn paler and more pale. Suddenly he
clenched his teeth, and stooped slightly forwards for a moment, drawing
his breath. Thurnall walked quickly and steadily up to him.

Gentleman Jan and two other riotous fellows had already laid hold of
him, more with the intention of frightening, than of really ducking him.

"Don't! don't!" cried he, looking round with eyes wild--but not with
terror.

"Hands off, my good lads," said Tom quietly. "This is my business now,
not yours, I can tell you."

And passing the preacher's arm through his own, with a serious face, Tom
led him off into the house at the back of the chapel.

In two hours more he was blue; in four he was a corpse. The judgment, as
usual, had needed no miracle to enforce it.

Tom went to Campbell that night, and apprised him of the fact. "Those
words of yours went through him, sir, like a Minie bullet. I was afraid
of what would happen when I heard them."

"So was I, the moment after they were spoken. But, sir, I felt a power
upon me,--you may think it a fancy,--that there was no resisting."

"I dare impute no fancies, when I hear such truth and reason as you
spoke upon that stone, sir."

"Then you do not blame me?" asked Campbell, with a subdued, almost
deprecatory voice, such as Thurnall had never heard in him before.

"The man deserved to die, and he died, sir. It is well that there are
some means left on earth of punishing offenders whom the law cannot
touch."

"It is an awful responsibility."

"Not more awful than killing a man in battle, which we both have done,
sir, and yet have felt no sting of conscience."

"An awful responsibility still. Yet what else is life made up of, from
morn to night, but of deeds which may earn heaven or hell?... Well, as
he did to others, so was it done to him. God forgive him! At least, our
cause will be soon tried and judged: there is little fear of my not
meeting him again--soon enough." And Campbell, with a sad smile, lay
back in his chair and was silent.

"My dear sir," said Tom, "allow me to remind you, after this excitement
comes a collapse; and that is not to be trifled with just now. Medicine
I dare not give you. Food I must."

Campbell shook his head.

"You must go now, my dear fellow. It is now half-past ten, and I will be
at Pennington's at one o'clock, to see how he goes on; so you need not
go there. And, meanwhile, I must take a little medicine."

"Major, you are not going to doctor yourself?" cried Tom.

"There is a certain medicine called prayer, Mr. Thurnall--an old
specific for the heart-ache, as you will find one day--which I have been
neglecting much of late, and which I must return to in earnest before
midnight. Good-bye, God bless and keep you!" And the Major retired to
his bed-room, and did not stir off his knees for two full hours. After
which he went to Pennington's, and thence somewhere else; and Tom met
him at four o'clock that morning musing amid unspeakable horrors, quiet,
genial, almost cheerful.

"You are a man," said Tom to himself; "and I fancy at times something
more than a man; more than me at least."

Tom was right in his fear that after excitement would come collapse; but
wrong as to the person to whom it would come. When he arrived at the
surgery door, Headley stood waiting for him.

"Anything fresh? Have you seen the Heales?"

"I have been praying with them. Don't be frightened. I am not likely to
forget the lesson of this afternoon."

"Then go to bed. It is full twelve o'clock."

"Not yet, I fear. I want you to see old Willis. All is not right."

"Ah! I thought the poor dear old man would kill himself. He has been
working too hard, and presuming on his sailor's power of tumbling in and
taking a dog's nap whenever he chose."

"I have warned him again and again: but he was working so magnificently,
that one had hardly heart to stop him. And beside, nothing would part
him from his maid."

"I don't wonder at that:" quoth Tom to himself. "Is she with him?"

"No: he found himself ill; slipped home on some pretence; and will not
hear of our telling her."

"Noble old fellow! Caring for every one but himself to the last." And
they went in.

It was one of those rare cases, fatal, yet merciful withal, in which the
poison seems to seize the very centre of the life, and to preclude the
chance of lingering torture, by one deadening blow.

The old man lay paralysed, cold, pulseless, but quite collected and
cheerful. Tom looked, inquired, shook his head, and called for a hot
bath of salt and water.

"Warmth we must have, somehow. Anything to keep the fire alight."

"Why so, sir?" asked the old man "The fire's been flickering down this
many a year. Why not let it go out quietly, at three-score years and
ten? You're sure my maid don't know?"

They put him into his bath, and he revived a little.

"No; I am not going to get well; so don't you waste your time on me,
sirs! I'm taken while doing my duty, as I hoped to be. And I've lived to
see my maid do hers, as I knew she would, when the Lord called on her. I
have,--but don't tell her, she's well employed, and has sorrows enough
already, some that you'll know of some day--"

"You must not talk," quoth Tom, who guessed his meaning, and wished to
avoid the subject.

"Yes, but I must, sir. I've no time to lose. If you'd but go and see
after those poor Heales, and come again. I'd like to have one word with
Mr. Headley; and my time runs short."

"A hundred, if you will," said Frank.

"And now, sir," when they were alone, "only one thing, if you'll excuse
an old sailor," and Willis tried vainly to make his usual salutation;
but the cramped hand refused to obey,--"and a dying one too."

"What is it?"

"Only don't be hard on the people, sir; the people here. They're
good-hearted souls, with all their sins, if you'll only take them as you
find them, and consider that they've had no chance."

"Willis, Willis, don't talk of that! I shall be a wiser man henceforth,
I trust. At least I shall not trouble Aberalva long."

"Oh, sir, don't talk so; and you just getting a hold of them!"

"I?"

"Yes, you, sir. They've found you out at last, thank God. I always knew
what you were and said it. They've found you out in the last week; and
there's not a man in the town but what would die for you, I believe."

This announcement staggered Frank. Some men it would have only hardened
in their pedantry, and have emboldened them to say: "Ah! then these men
see that a High Churchman can work like any one else, when there is a
practical sacrifice to be made. Now I have a standing ground which no
one can dispute from which to go on, and enforce my idea of what he
ought to be."

But, rightly or wrongly, no such thought crossed Frank's mind. He was
just as good a Churchman as ever--why not? Just as fond of his own ideal
of what a parish and a Church Service ought to be--why not? But the only
thought which did rise in his mind was one of utter self-abasement.

"Oh, how blind I have been! How I have wasted my time in laying down the
law to these people: fancying myself infallible, as if God were not as
near to them as He is to me--certainly nearer than to any book on my
shelves--offending their little prejudices, little superstitions, in my
own cruel self-conceit and self-will! And now, the first time that I
forget my own rules; the first time that I forget almost that I am a
priest, even a Christian at all! that moment they acknowledge me as a
priest, as a Christian. The moment I meet them upon the commonest human
ground, helping them as one heathen would help another, simply because
he was his own flesh and blood, that moment they soften to me and show
me how much I might have done with them twelve months ago, had I had but
common sense!"

He knelt down and prayed by the old man, for him and for himself.

"Would it be troubling you, sir?" said the old man at last. "But I'd
like to take the Sacrament before I go."

"Of course. Whom shall I ask in?"

The old man paused awhile. "I fear it's selfish: but it seems to me I
would not ask it, but that I know I'm going. I should like to take it
with my maid, once more before I die."

"I'll go for her," said Frank, "the moment Thurnall comes back to watch
you."

"What need to go yourself, sir? Old Sarah will go, and willing."

Thurnall came in at that moment.

"I am going to fetch Miss Harvey. Where is she, Captain?"

"At Janey Headon's, along with her two poor children."

"Stay," said Tom, "that's a bad quarter, just at the fish-house back.
Have some brandy before you start?"

"No! no Dutch courage!" and Frank was gone. He had a word to say to
Grace Harvey, and it must be said at once.

He turned down the silent street, and turned up over stone stairs,
through quaint stone galleries and balconies such as are often huddled
together on the cliff sides in fishing towns; into a stifling cottage,
the door of which had been set wide open in the vain hope of fresh air.
A woman met him, and clasped both his hands, with tears of joy.

"They're mending, sir! They're mending, else I'd have sent to tell you.
I never looked for you so late."

There was a gentle voice in the next room. It was Grace's.

"Ah, she's praying by them now. She'm giving them all their medicines
all along! Whatever I should have done without her?--and in and out all
day long, too; till one fancies at whiles the Lord must have changed her
into five or six at once, to be everywhere to the same minute."

Frank went in, and listened to her prayer. Her face was as pale and calm
as the pale, calm faces of the two worn-out babes, whose heads lay on
the pillow close to hers: but her eyes were lit up with an intense
glory, which seemed to fill the room with love and light.

Frank listened: but would not break the spell.

At last she rose, looked round and blushed.

"I beg your pardon, sir, for taking the liberty. If I had known that you
were about, I would have sent: but hearing that you were gone home, I
thought you would not be offended, if I gave thanks for them myself.
They are my own, sir, as it were--"

"Oh, Miss Harvey, do not talk so! While you can pray as you were praying
then, he who would silence you might be silencing unawares the Lord
himself!"

She made no answer, though the change in Frank's tone moved her; and
when he told her his errand, that thought also passed from her mind.

At last, "Happy, happy man!" she said calmly; and putting on her bonnet,
followed Frank out of the house.

"Miss Harvey," said Frank, as they hurried up the street, "I must say
one word to you, before we take that Sacrament together."

"Sir?"

"It is well to confess all sins before the Eucharist, and I will confess
mine. I have been unjust to you. I know that you hate to be praised; so
I will not tell you what has altered my opinion. But Heaven forbid that
I should ever do so base a thing, as to take the school away from one
who is far more fit to rule in it than ever I shall be!"

Grace burst into tears.

"Thank God! And I thank you, sir! Oh, there's never a storm but what
some gleam breaks through it! And now, sir, I would not have told you it
before, lest you should fancy that I changed for the sake of gain--
though, perhaps, that is pride, as too much else has been. But you will
never hear of me inside either of those chapels again."

"What has altered your opinion of them, then?"

"It would take long to tell, sir: but what happened this morning filled
the cup. I begin to think, sir, that their God and mine are not the
same. Though why should I judge them, who worshipped that other God
myself till no such long time since; and never knew, poor fool, that the
Lord's name was Love?"

"I have found out that, too, in these last days. More shame to me than
to you that I did not know it before."

"Well for us both that we do know it now, sir. For if we believed Him
now, sir, to be aught but perfect Love, how could we look round here
to-night, and not go mad?"

"Amen!" said Frank.

And how had the pestilence, of all things on earth, revealed to those
two noble souls that God is Love?

Let the reader, if he have supplied Campbell's sermon, answer the
question for himself.

They went in, and upstairs to Willis.

Grace bent over the old man, tenderly, but with no sign of sorrow.
Dry-eyed, she kissed the old man's forehead; arranged his bed-clothes,
woman-like, before she knelt down; and then the three received the
Sacrament together.

"Don't turn me out," whispered Tom. "It's no concern of mine, of course;
but you are all good creatures, and, somehow, I should like to be with
you."

So Tom stayed; and what thoughts passed through his heart are no concern
of ours.

Frank put the cup to the old man's lips; the lips closed, sipped,--then
opened ... the jaw had fallen.

"Gone," said Grace quietly.

Frank paused, awe-struck.

"Go on, sir," said she, in a low voice. "He hears it all more clearly
than he ever did before." And by the dead man's side Frank finished the
Communion Service.

Grace rose when it was over, kissed the calm forehead, and went out
without a word.

"Tom," said Frank, in a whisper, "come into the next room with me."

Tom hardly heard the tone in which the words were spoken, or he would
perhaps have answered otherwise than he did.

"My father takes the Communion," said he, half to himself. "At least, it
is a beautiful old--"

Howsoever the sentence would have been finished, Tom stopped short--

"Hey?--What does that mean?"

"At last?" gasped Frank, gently enough. "Excuse me!" He was bowed almost
double, crushing Thurnall's arm in the fierce gripe of pain. "Pish!--
Hang it!--Impossible!--There, you are all right now!"

"For the time. I can understand many things now. Curious sensation it
is, though. Can you conceive a sword put in on one side of the waist,
just above the hip-bone, and drawn through, handle and all, till it
passes out at the opposite point?"

"I have felt it twice; and therefore you will be pleased to hold your
tongue and go to bed. Have you had any warnings?"

"Yes,--no,--that is--this morning: but I forgot. Never mind!--What
matter a hundred years hence I There it is again!--God help me!"

"Humph!" growled Thurnall to himself. "I'd sooner have lost a dozen of
these herring-hogs, whom nobody misses, and who are well out of their
life-scrape: but the parson, just as he was making a man!"

There is no use in complaints. In half an hour Frank is screaming like a
woman, though he has bitten his tongue half through to stop his screams.




CHAPTER XVIII.

THE BLACK HOUND.


Pah! Let us escape anywhere for a breath of fresh air, for even the
scent of a clean turf. We have been watching saints and martyrs--perhaps
not long enough for the good of our souls, but surely too long for the
comfort of our bodies. Let us away up the valley, where we shall find,
it not indeed a fresh healthful breeze (for the drought lasts on), at
least a cool refreshing down-draught from Carcarrow Moor before the sun
gets up. It is just half-past four o'clock, on a glorious August
morning. We shall have three hours at least before the heavens become
one great Dutch-oven again.

We shall have good company, too, in our walk; for here comes Campbell
fresh from his morning's swim, swinging up the silent street toward
Frank Headley's lodging.

He stops, and tosses a pebble against the window-pane. In a minute or
two Thurnall opens the street-door and slips out to him.

"Ah, Major! Overslept myself at last; that sofa is wonderfully
comfortable. No time to go down and bathe. Ill get my header somewhere
up the stream."

"How is he?"

"He? sleeping like a babe, and getting well as fast as his soul will
allow his body. He has something on his mind. Nothing to be ashamed of,
though, I will warrant; for a purer, nobler fellow I never met."

"When can we move him?"

"Oh, to-morrow, if he will agree. You may all depart and leave me and
the Government man to make out the returns of killed and wounded. We
shall have no more cholera. Eight days without a new case. We shall do
now. I'm glad you are coming up with us."

"I will just see the hounds throw off, and then go back and get
Headley's breakfast."

"No, no! you mustn't, sir: you want a day's play."

"Not half as much as you. And I am in no hunting mood just now. Do you
take your fill of the woods and the streams, and let me see our patient.
I suppose you will be back by noon?"

"Certainly." And the two swing up the street, and out of the town, along
the vale toward Trebooze.

For Trebooze of Trebooze has invited them, and Lord Scoutbush, and
certain others, to come out otter-hunting; and otter-hunting they will
go.

Trebooze has been sorely exercised, during the last fortnight, between
fear of the cholera and desire of calling upon Lord Scoutbush--"as I
ought to do, of course, as one of the gentry round; he's a Whig, of
course, and no more to me than anybody else; but one don't like to let
politics interfere;" by which Trebooze glosses over to himself and
friends the deep Hunkeydom with which he lusteth after a live lord's
acquaintance, and one especially in whom he hopes to find even such a
one as himself.... "Good fellow, I hear he is, too,--good sportsman,
smokes like a chimney," and so forth.

So at last, when the cholera has all but disappeared, he comes down to
Penalva, and introduces himself, half swaggering, half servile; begins
by a string of apologies for not having called before,--"Mrs. Trebooze
so afraid of infection, you see, my lord,"--which is a lie: then
blunders out a few fulsome compliments to Scoutbush's courage in
staying; then takes heart at a little joke of Scoutbush's, and tries the
free and easy style; fingers his lordship's high-priced Hudsons, and
gives a broad hint that he would like to smoke one on the spot; which
hint is not taken, any more than the bet of a "pony" which he offers
five minutes afterwards, that he will jump his Irish mare in and out of
Aberalva pound; is utterly "thrown on his haunches" (as he informs his
friend Mr. Creed afterwards) by Scoutbush's praise of Tom Thurnall, as
an "invaluable man, a treasure in such an out-of-the-way place, and
really better company than ninety-nine men out of a hundred;" recovers
himself again when Scoutbush asks after his otter-hounds, of which he
has heard much praise from Tardrew; and launches out once more into
sporting conversation of that graceful and lofty stamp which may be
perused and perpended in the pages of "Handley Cross," and "Mr. Sponge's
Sporting Tour," books painfully true to that uglier and baser side of
sporting life, which their clever author has chosen so wilfully to
portray.

So, at least, said Scoutbush to himself, when his visitor had departed.

"He's just like a page out of Sponge's Tour, though he's not half as
good a fellow as Sponge himself; for Sponge knew he was a snob, and
lived up to his calling honestly: but this fellow wants all the while to
play at being a gentleman; and--Ugh! how the fellow smelt of brandy, and
worse! His hand, too, shook as if he had the palsy, and he chattered and
fidgetted like a man with St. Vitus's dance."

"Did he, my lord?" quoth Tom Thurnall, when he heard the same, in a very
meaning tone.

And Trebooze, "for his part, couldn't make out that lord--uncommonly
agreeable, and easy, and all that: but shoves a fellow off, and sets him
down somehow, and in such a ---- civil way, that you don't know where to
have him."

However, Trebooze departed in high spirits; for Lord Scoutbush has
deigned to say that he will be delighted to see the otter-hounds work
any morning that Trebooze likes, and anyhow--no time too early for him.
"He will bring his friend Major Campbell?"

"By all means."

"Expect two or three sporting gentlemen from the neighbourhood, too.
Regular good ones, my lord--though they are county bucks--very much
honoured to make your lordship's acquaintance."

Scoutbush expresses himself equally honoured by making their
acquaintance, in a tone of bland simplicity, which utterly puzzles
Trebooze, who goes a step further.

"Your lordship'll honour us by taking pot luck afterwards. Can't show
you French cookery, you know, and your souffleys and glacys, and all
that. Honest saddle o' mutton, and the grounds of old port.--My father
laid it down, and I take it up, eh?" And Trebooze gave a wink and a
nudge of his elbow, meaning to be witty.

His lordship was exceedingly sorry; it was the most unfortunate
accident: but he had the most particular engagement that very afternoon,
and must return early from the otter-hunt, and probably sail the next
day for Wales. "But," says the little man, who knows all about
Trebooze's household, "I shall not fail to do myself the honour of
calling on Mrs. Trebooze, and expressing my regret," etc.

So to the otter-hunt is Scoutbush gone, and Campbell and Thurnall after
him; for Trebooze has said to himself, "Must ask that blackguard of a
doctor--hang him! I wish he were an otter himself; but if he's so thick
with his lordship it won't do to quarrel." For, indeed, Thurnall might
tell tales. So Trebooze swallows his spite and shame,--as do many folk
who call themselves his betters, when they have to deal with a great
man's hanger-on,--and sends down a note to Tom:

"Mr. Trebooze requests the pleasure of Mr. Thurnall's company with his
hounds at----"

And Tom accepts--why not? and chats with Campbell, as they go, on many
things; and among other things on this,--

"By the by," said he, "I got an hour's shore-work yesterday afternoon,
and refreshing enough it was. And I got a prize, too. The sucking
barnacle which you asked for: I was certain I should get one or two, if
I could have a look at the pools this week. Jolly little dog! he was
paddling and spinning about last night, and enjoying himself, 'ere age
with creeping'--What is it?--'hath clawed him in his clutch.' That
fellow's destiny is not a hopeful analogy for you, sir, who believe that
we shall rise after we die into some higher and freer state."

"Why not?"

"Why, which is better off, the free swimming larva, or the perfect
cirrhipod, rooted for ever motionless to the rock?"

"Which is better off, the roving young fellow who is sowing his wild
oats, or the man who has settled down, and become a respectable
landowner with a good house over his head?"

"And begun to propagate his species? Well, you have me there, sir, as
far as this life is concerned; but you will confess that the barnacle's
history proves that all crawling grubs don't turn into butterflies."

"I daresay the barnacle turns into what is best for him; at all events,
what he deserves. That rule of yours will apply to him, to whomsoever it
will not."

"And so does penance for the sins of his youth, as some of us are to do
in the next world?"

"Perhaps yes; perhaps no; perhaps neither."

"Do you speak of us, or the barnacle?"

"Of both."

"I am glad of that; for on the popular notion of our being punished a
million years hence for what we did when we were lads, I never could see
anything but a misery and injustice in our having come into the world at
all."

"I can," said the Major quietly.

"Of course I meant nothing rude: but I had to buy my experience, and
paid for it dearly enough in folly."

"So had I to buy mine."

"Then why be punished over and above? Why have to pay for the folly,
which was itself only the necessary price of experience'?"

"For being, perhaps, so foolish as not to use the experience after it
has cost you so dear."

"And will punishment cure me of the foolishness?"

"That depends on yourself. If it does, it must needs be so much the
better for you. But perhaps you will not be punished, but forgiven."

"Let off? That would be a very bad thing for me, unless I become a very
different man from what I have been as yet. I am always right glad now
to get a fall whenever I make a stumble. I should have gone to sleep in
my tracks long ago else, as one to do in the back woods on a long elk
hunt."

"Perhaps you may become a very different man."

"I should be sorry for that, even if it were possible."

"Why? Do you consider yourself perfect?"

"No.... But somehow, Thomas Thurnall is an old friend of mine, the first
I ever had; and I should be sorry to lose his company."

"I don't think you need fear doing so. You have seen an insect go
through strange metamorphoses, and yet remain the same individual; why
should not you and I do so likewise?"

"Well?"

"Well--There are some points about you, I suppose, which you would not
be sorry to have altered?"

"A few," quoth Tom, laughing. "I do not consider myself quite perfect
yet."

"What if those points were not really any part of your character, but
mere excrescences of disease: or if that be too degrading a notion, mere
scars of old wounds, and of the wear and tear of life; and what if, in
some future life, all those disappeared, and the true Mr. Thomas
Thurnall, pure and simple, were alone left?"

"It is a very hopeful notion. Only, my dear sir, one is quite
self-conceited enough in this imperfect state. What intolerable coxcombs
we should all be if we were perfect, and could sit admiring ourselves for
ever and ever!"

"But what if that self-conceit and self-dependence were the very root of
all the disease, the cause of all the scars, the very thing which will
have to be got rid of, before our true character and true manhood can be
developed?"

"Yes, I understand. Faith and humility.... You will forgive me, Major
Campbell. I shall learn to respect those virtues when good people have
defined them a little more exactly, and can show me somewhat more
clearly in what faith differs from superstition, and humility from
hypocrisy."

"I do not think any man will ever define them for you. But you may go
through a course of experiences, more severe, probably, than pleasant,
which may enable you at last to define them for yourself."

"Have you defined them?" asked Tom, bluntly, glancing round at his
companion.

"Faith?--Yes, I trust. Humility?--No, I fear."

"I should like to hear your definition of the former, at least."

"Did I not say that you must discover it for yourself?"

"Yes. Well. When the lesson comes, if it does come, I suppose it will
come in some learnable shape; and till then, I must shift for myself--
and if self-dependence he a punishable sin, I shall, at all events, have
plenty of company whithersoever I go. There is Lord Scoutbush and
Trebooze!"

Why did not Campbell speak his mind more clearly to Thurnall?

Because he knew that with such men words are of little avail. The
disease was entrenched too strongly in the very centre of the man's
being. It seemed at moments as if all his strange adventures and
hairbreadth escapes had been sent to do him harm, and not good; to
pamper and harden his self-confidence, not to crush it. Therefore
Campbell seldom argued with him: but he prayed for him often; for he had
begun, as all did who saw much of Tom Thurnall, to admire and respect
him, in spite of all his faults.

And now, turning through a woodland path, they descend toward the river,
till they can hear voices below them; Scoutbush laughing quietly,
Trebooze laying down the law at the top of his voice.

"How noisy the fellow is, and how he is hopping about!" says Campbell.

"No wonder: he has been soaking, I hear, for the last fortnight, with
some worthy compeers, by way of keeping off cholera. I must have my eye
on him to-day."

Scrambling down through the brushwood, they found themselves in such a
scene as Creswick alone knows how to paint: though one element of
beauty, which Creswick uses full well, was wanting; and the whole place
was seen, not by slant sun-rays, gleaming through the boughs, and
dappling all the pebbles with a lacework of leaf shadows, but in the
uniform and sober grey of dawn.

A broad bed of shingle, looking just now more like an ill-made turnpike
road than the bed of Alva stream; above it, a long shallow pool, which
showed every stone through the transparent water; on the right, a craggy
bank, bedded with deep wood sedge and orange-tipped king ferns,
clustering beneath sallow and maple bushes already tinged with gold; on
the left, a long bar of gravel, covered with giant "butter-bur" leaves;
in and out of which the hounds are brushing--beautiful black-and-tan
dogs, of which poor Trebooze may be pardonably proud; while round the
burleaf-bed dances a rough white Irish terrier, seeming, by his frantic
self-importance, to consider himself the master of the hounds.

Scoutbush is standing with Trebooze beyond the bar, upon a little lawn
set thick with alders. Trebooze is fussing and fidgetting about, wiping
his forehead perpetually; telling everybody to get out of the way, and
not to interfere; then catching hold of Scoutbush's button to chatter in
his face; then, starting aside to put some part of his dress to rights.
His usual lazy drawl is exchanged for foolish excitement. Two or three
more gentlemen, tired of Trebooze's absurdities, are scrambling over the
rocks above, in search of spraints. Old Tardrew waddles stooping along
the line where grass and shingle meet, his bulldog visage bent to his
very knees.

"Tardrew out hunting?" says Campbell. "Why, it is but a week since his
daughter was buried!"

"And why not? I like him better for it. Would he bring her back again by
throwing away a good day's sport? Better turn out, as he has done, and
forget his feelings, if he has any."

"He has feelings enough, don't doubt. But you are right. There is
something very characteristic in the way in which the English countryman
never shows grief, never lets it interfere with business, even with
pleasure."

"Hillo! Mr. Trebooze!" says the old fellow, looking up. "Here it is!"

"Spraint?--Spraint?--Spraint?--Where? Eh--what?" cries Trebooze.

"No; but what's as good: here on this alder stump, not an hour old. I
thought they beauties starns weren't flemishing for nowt."

"Here! Here! Here! Here! Musical, Musical! Sweetlips! Get out of the
way!"--and Trebooze runs down.

Musical examines, throws her nose into the air, and answers by the rich
bell-like note of the true otter hound; and all the woodlands ring as
the pack dashes down the shingle to her call.

"Over!" shouts Tom. "Here's the fresh spraint our side!"

Through the water splash squire, viscount, steward, and hounds, to the
horror of a shoal of par, the only visible tenants of a pool, which,
after a shower of rain, would be alive with trout. Where those trout are
in the meanwhile is a mystery yet unsolved.

Over dances the little terrier, yapping furiously, and expending his
superfluous energy by snapping right and left at the par.

"Hark to Musical! hark to Sweetlips! Down the stream?--No! the old girl
has it; right up the bank!"

"How do, Doctor? How do, Major Campbell? Forward!--Forward!--Forward!"
shouts Trebooze, glad to escape a longer parley, as with his spear in
his left hand, he clutches at the overhanging boughs with his right, and
swings himself up, with Peter, the huntsman, after him. Tom follows him;
and why?

Because he does not like his looks. That bull-eye is red, and almost
bursting; his cheeks are flushed, his lips blue, his hand shakes; and
Tom's quick eye has already remarked, from a distance, over and above
his new fussiness, a sudden shudder, a quick half-frightened glance
behind him; and perceived, too, that the moment Musical gave tongue, he
put the spirit-flask to his mouth.

Away go the hounds at score through tangled cover, their merry peal
ringing from brake and brier, clashing against the rocks, moaning
musically away through distant glens aloft.

Scoutbush and Tardrew "take down" the riverbed, followed by Campbell. It
is in his way home; and though the Major has stuck many a pig, shot many
a gaur, rhinoceros, and elephant, he disdains not, like a true
sportsman, the less dangerous but more scientific excitement of an
otter-hunt.

"Hark to the merry merry Christchurch bells! She's up by this time;--
that don't sound like a drag now!" cries Tom, bursting desperately, with
elbow-guarded visage, through the tangled scrub.

"What's the matter, Trebooze? No, thanks! 'Modest quenchers' won't
improve the wind just now."

For Trebooze has halted, panting and bathed in perspiration; has been at
the brandy flask again; and now offers Tom a "quencher," as he calls it.

"As you like," says Trebooze, sulkily, having meant it as a token of
reconciliation, and pushes on.

They are now upon a little open meadow, girdled by green walls of wood;
and along the river-bank the hounds are fairly racing. Tom and Peter
hold on; Trebooze slackens.

"Your master don't look right this morning, Peter."

Peter lifts his hand to his mouth, to signify the habit of drinking; and
then shakes it in a melancholy fashion, to signify that the said habit
has reached a lamentable and desperate point.

Tom looks back. Trebooze has pulled up, and is walking, wiping still at
his face. The hounds have overrun the scent, and are back again,
flemishing about the plashed fence on the river brink.

"Over! over! over!" shouts Peter, tumbling over the fence into the
stream, and staggering across.

Trebooze comes up to it, tries to scramble over, mutters something, and
sits down astride of a bough.

"You are not well, Squire?"

"Well as ever I was in my life! only a little sick--have been several
times lately; couldn't sleep either--haven't slept an hour this week.--
Don't know what it is."

"What ducks of hounds those are!" says Tom, trying, for ulterior
purposes, to ingratiate himself. "How they are working there all by
themselves, like so many human beings. Perfect!"

"Yes--don't want us--may as well sit here a minute. Awfully hot, eh?
What a splendid creature that Miss St. Just is! I say, Peter!"

"Yes, sir," shouts Peter, from the other side.

"Those hounds ain't right!" with an oath.

"Not right, sir?"

"Didn't I tell you?--five couple and a half--no, five couple--no, six.
Hang it! I can't see, I think! How many hounds did I tell you to bring
out?"

"Five couple, sir."

"Then ... why did you bring out that other?"

"Which other?" shouts Peter, while Thurnall eyes Trebooze keenly.

"Why that! He's none o' mine! Nasty black cur, how did he get here?"

"Where? There's never no cur here!"

"You lie, you oaf--no--why--Doctor--How many hounds are there here?"

"I can't see," says Tom, "among those bushes."

"Can't see, eh? Why don't those brutes hit it off?" says Trebooze,
drawling, as if he had forgotten the matter, and lounging over the
fence, drops into the stream, followed by Tom, and wades across.

The hounds are all round him, and he is couraging them on, fussing again
more than ever; but without success.

"Gone to hole somewhere here," says Peter.

"....!" cries Trebooze, looking round, with a sudden shudder, and face
of terror. "There's that black brute again! there, behind me! Hang it,
he'll bite me next!" and he caught up his leg, and struck behind him
with his spear.

There was no dog there.

Peter was about to speak; but Tom silenced him by a look, and shouted,--

"Here we are! Gone to holt in this alder root!"

"Now then, little Carlingford! Out of the way, puppies!" cries Trebooze,
righted again for the moment by the excitement, and thrusting the hounds
right and left, he stoops down to put in the little terrier.

Suddenly he springs up, with something like a scream, and then bursts
out on Peter with a volley of oaths.

"Didn't I tell you to drive that cur away?"

"Which cur, sir?" cries Peter, trembling, and utterly confounded.

"That cur!... Can't I believe my own eyes? Will you tell me that the
beggar didn't bolt between my legs this moment, and went into the hole
before the terrier?"

Neither answered. Peter with utter astonishment; Tom because he saw what
was the matter.

"Don't stoop, Squire. You'll make the blood fly to your head. Let me--"

But Trebooze thrust him back with curses.

"I'll have the brute out, and send the spear through him!" and flinging
himself on his knees again, Trebooze began tearing madly at the roots
and stones, shouting to the half-buried terrier to tear the intruder.

Peter looked at Tom, and then wrung his hands in despair.

"Dirty work--beastly work!" muttered Trebooze. "Nothing but slugs and
evats!--Toads, too,--hang the toads! What a plague brings all this
vermin? Curse it!" shrieked he, springing back, "there's an adder! and
he's gone up my sleeve! Help me! Doctor! Thurnall! or I'm a dead man!"

Tom caught the arm, thrust his hand up the sleeve, and seemed to snatch
out the snake, and hurl it back into the river.

"All right now!--a near chance, though!"

Peter stood open mouthed.

"I never saw no snake!" cried he.

Tom caught him a buffet which sent him reeling. "Look after your hounds,
you blind ass! How are you now, Trebooze?" And he caught the squire
round the waist, for he was reeling.

"The world! The world upside down! rocking and swinging! Who's put me
feet upwards, like a fly on a ceiling? I'm falling, falling off, into
the clouds--into hell-fire--hold me!--Toads and adders! and wasps--to go
to holt in a wasp's nest! Drive 'em away,--get me a green bough! I shall
be stung to death!"

And tearing off a green bough, the wretched man rushed into the river,
beating wildly right and left at his fancied tormentors.

"What is it?" cry Campbell and Scoutbush, who have run up breathless.

"Delirium tremens. Campbell, get home as fast as you can, and send me up
a bottle of morphine. Peter, take the hounds home. I must go after him."

"I'll go home with Campbell, and send the bottle up by a man and horse,"
cries Scoutbush; and away the two trot at a gallant pace, for a
cross-country run home.

"Mr. Tardrew, come with me, there's a good man!--I shall want help."

Tardrew made no reply, but dashed through the river at his heels.

Trebooze had already climbed the plashed fence, and was running wildly
across the meadow. Tom dragged Tardrew up it after him.

"Thank 'ee, sir," but nothing more. The two had not met since the
cholera.

Trebooze fell, and lay rolling, trying in vain to shield his face from
the phantom wasps.

They lifted him up, and spoke gently to him.

"Better get home to Mrs. Trebooze, sir," said Tardrew, with as much
tenderness as his gruff voice could convey.

"Yes, home! home to Molly! My Molly's always kind. She won't let me be
eaten up alive. Molly, Molly!"

And shrieking for his wife, the wretched man started to run again.

"Molly, I'm in hell! Only help me! you're always right! only forgive me!
and I'll never, never again--"

And then came out hideous confessions; then fresh hideous delusions.

       *       *       *       *       *

Three weary up-hill miles lay between them and the house: but home they
got at last.

Trebooze dashed at the house-door, tore it open; slammed and bolted it
behind him, to shut out the pursuing fiends.

"Quick, round by the back-door!" said Tom, who had not opposed him for
fear of making him furious, but dreaded some tragedy if he were left
alone.

But his fear was needless. Trebooze looked into the breakfast-room. It
was empty; she was not out of bed yet. He rushed upstairs into her
bed-room, shrieking her name; she leaped up to meet him; and the poor
wretch buried his head in that faithful bosom, screaming to her to save
him from he knew not what.

She put her arms round him, soothed him, wept over him sacred tears. "My
William! my own William! Yes, I will take care of you! Nothing shall
hurt you,--my own, own!"

Vain, drunken, brutal, unfaithful. Yes: but her husband still.

There was a knock at the door.

"Who is that?" she cried, with her usual fierceness, terrified for his
character, not terrified for herself.

"Mr. Thurnall, madam. Have you any laudanum in the house?"

"Yes, here! Oh, come in! Thank God you are come! What is to be done?"

Tom looked for the laudanum bottle, and poured out a heavy dose.

"Make him take that, madam, and put him to bed. I will wait downstairs
awhile!"

"Thurnall, Thurnall!" calls Trebooze, "don't leave me, old fellow! you
are a good fellow. I say, forgive and forget. Don't leave me! Only don't
leave me, for the room is as full of devils as--"

       *       *       *       *       *

An hour after, Tom and Tardrew were walking home together.

"He is quite quiet now, and fast asleep."

"Will he mend, sir?" asks Tardrew.

"Of course, he will: and perhaps in more ways than one. Best thing that
could have happened--will bring him to his senses, and he'll start
fresh."

"We'll hope so,--he's been mad, I think, ever since he heard of that
cholera."

"So have others: but not with brandy," thought Tom: but he said nothing.

"I say, sir," quoth Tardrew, after a while, "how's Parson Headley?"

"Getting well, I'm happy to say."

"Glad to hear it, sir. He's a good man, after all; though we did have
our differences. But he's a good man, and worked like one."

"He did."

Silence again.

"Never heard such beautiful prayers in all my life, as he made over my
poor maid."

"I don't doubt it," said Tom. "He understands his business at heart,
though he may have his fancies."

"And so do some others," said Tardrew in a gruff tone, as if half to
himself, "who have no fancies.... Tell you what it is, sir: you was
right this time; and that's plain truth. I'm sorry to hear talk of your
going."

"My good sir," quoth Tom, "I shall be very sorry to go. I have found
place and people here as pleasant as man could wish: but go I must."

"Glad you're satisfied, sir; wish you was going to stay," says Tardrew.
"Seen Miss Harvey this last day or two, sir?"

"Yes. You know she's to keep her school?"

"I know it. Nursed my girl like an angel."

"Like what she is," said Tom.

"You said one true word once: that she was too good for us."

"For this world," said Tom; and fell into a great musing.

By those curt and surly utterances did Tardrew, in true British bulldog
fashion, express a repentance too deep for words; too deep for all
confessionals, penances, and emotions or acts of contrition; the
repentance not of the excitable and theatric southern, unstable as
water, even in his most violent remorse: but of the still, deep-hearted
northern, whose pride breaks slowly and silently, but breaks once for
all; who tells to God what he will never tell to man; and having told
it, is a new creature from that day forth for ever.




CHAPTER XIX.

BEDDGELERT.


The pleasant summer voyage is over. The Waterwitch is lounging off Port
Madoc, waiting for her crew. The said crow are busy on shore drinking
the ladies' healths, with a couple of sovereigns which Valencia has
given them, in her sister's name and her own. The ladies, under the care
of Elsley, and the far more practical care of Mr. Bowie, are rattling
along among children, maids, and boxes, over the sandy flats of the
Traeth Mawr, beside the long reaches of the lazy stream, with the blue
surges of the hills in front, and the silver sea behind. Soon they begin
to pass wooded knolls, islets of rock in the alluvial plain. The higher
peaks of Snowdon sink down behind the lower spurs in front; the plain
narrows; closes in, walled round with woodlands clinging to the steep
hill-sides; and, at last, they enter the narrow gorge of
Pont-Aberglaslyn,--pretty enough no doubt, but much over-praised; for there
are in Devon alone a dozen passes far grander, both for form and size.

Soon they emerge again on flat meadows, mountain-cradled; and the grave
of the mythic greyhound, and the fair old church, shrouded in tall
trees; and last, but not least, at the famous Leek Hotel, where ruleth
Mrs. Lewis, great and wise, over the four months' Babylon of guides,
cars, chambermaids, tourists, artists, and reading-parties, camp-stools,
telescopes, poetry-books, blue uglies, red petticoats, and parasols of
every hue.

There they settle down in the best rooms in the house, and all goes as
merrily as it can, while the horrors which they have left behind them
hang, like a black background, to all their thoughts. However, both
Scoutbush and Campbell send as cheerful reports as they honestly can;
and gradually the exceeding beauty of the scenery, and the amusing
bustle of the village, make them forget, perhaps, a good deal which they
ought to have remembered.

As for poor Lucia, no one will complain of her for being happy; for
feeling that she has got a holiday, the first for now four years, and
trying to enjoy it to the utmost. She has no household cares. Mr. Bowie
manages everything, and does so, in order to keep up the honour of the
family, on a somewhat magnificent scale. The children, in that bracing
air, are better than she has ever seen them. She has Valencia all to
herself; and Elsley, in spite of the dark fancies over which he has been
brooding, is better behaved, on the whole, than usual.

He has escaped--so he considers--escaped from Campbell, above all from
Thurnall. From himself, indeed, he has not escaped; but the company of
self is, on the whole, more pleasant to him than otherwise just now. For
though he may turn up his nose at tourists and reading-parties, and long
for contemplative solitude, yet there is a certain pleasure to some
people, and often strongest in those who pretend most shyness, in the
"digito monstrari, et diceri, hic est:" in taking for granted that
everybody has read his poems; that everybody is saying in their hearts,
"There goes Mr. Vavasour the distinguished poet. I wonder what he is
writing now? I wonder where he has been to-day, and what he has been
thinking of."

So Elsley went up Hebog, and looked over the glorious vista of the vale,
over the twin lakes, and the rich sheets of woodland, with Aran and Moel
Meirch guarding them right and left, and the greystone glaciers of the
Glyder walling up the valley miles above. And they went up Snowdon, too,
and saw little beside fifty fog-blinded tourists, five-and-twenty
dripping ponies, and five hundred empty porter-bottles; wherefrom they
returned, as do many, disgusted, and with great colds in their heads.
But most they loved to scramble up the crags of Dinas Emrys, and muse
over the ruins of the old tower, "where Merlin taught Vortigern the
courses of the stars;" till the stars set and rose as they had done for
Merlin and his pupil, behind the four great peaks of Aran, Siabod,
Cnicht, and Hebog, which point to the four quarters of the heavens: or
to lie by the side of the boggy spring, which once was the magic well of
the magic castle, till they saw in fancy the white dragon and the red
rise from its depths once more, and fight high in air the battle which
foretold the fall of the Cymry before the Sassenach invader.

One thing, indeed, troubled Elsley,--that Claude was his only companion;
for Valencia avoided carefully any more _tete-a-tete_ walks with him.
She had found out her mistake, and devoted herself now to Lucia. She had
a fair excuse enough, for Lucia was not just then in a state for rambles
and scrambles; and of that Elsley certainly had no right to complain; so
that he was forced to leave them both at home, with as good grace as he
could muster, and to wander by himself, scribbling his fancies, while
they lounged and worked in the pleasant garden of the hotel, with Bowie
fetching and carrying for them all day long, and intimating pretty
roundly to Miss Clara his "opeeenion," that he "was very proud and
thankful of the office: but he did think that he had to do a great many
things for Mrs. Vavasour every day which would come with a much better
grace from Mr. Vavasour himself: and that, when he married, he should
not leave his wife to be nursed by other men." Which last words were
spoken with an ulterior object, well understood by the hearer; for
between Clara and Bowie there was one of those patient and honourable
attachments so common between worthy servants. They had both "kept
company," though only by letter, for the most part, for now five years;
they had both saved a fair sum of money; and Clara might have married
Bowie when she chose, had she not thought it her duty to take care of
her mistress; while Bowie considered himself equally indispensable to
the welfare of that "puir feckless laddie," his master.

So they waited patiently, amusing the time by little squabbles of
jealousy, real or pretended; and Bowie was faithful, though Clara was
past thirty now, and losing her good looks.

"So ye'll see your lassie, Mr. Bowie!" said Sergeant MacArthur, his
intimate, when he started for Aberalva that summer. "I'm thinking ye'd
better put her out of her pain soon. Five years is ower lang courting,
and she's na pullet by now, saving your pardon."

"Hoooo--," says Bowie; "leave the green gooseberries to the lads, and
gi' me the ripe fruit, Sergeant."

However, he found love-making in his own fashion so pleasant, that, not
content with carrying Mrs. Vavasour's babies about all day long, he had
several times to be gently turned out of the nursery, where he wanted to
assist in washing and dressing them, on the ground that an old soldier
could turn his hand to anything.

So slipped away a fortnight and more, during which Valencia was the
cynosure of all eyes, and knew it also: for Claude Mellot, half to amuse
her, and half to tease Elsley, made her laugh many a time by retailing
little sayings and doings in her praise and dispraise, picked up from
rich Manchester gentlemen, who would fain have married her without a
penny, and from strong-minded Manchester ladies, who envied her beauty a
little, and set her down, of course, as an empty-minded worldling, and a
proud aristocrat. The majority of the reading-parties, meanwhile,
thought a great deal more about Valencia than about their books. The
Oxford men, it seemed, though of the same mind as the Cambridge men in
considering her the model of all perfection, were divided as to their
method of testifying the same. Two or three of them, who were given to
that simpering and flirting tone with young ladies to which Oxford
would-be-fine gentlemen are so pitiably prone, hung about the inn-door
to ogle her: contrived always to be walking in the garden when she was
there, dressed out as if for High Street at four o'clock on a May
afternoon; tormented Claude by fruitless attempts to get from him an
introduction, which he had neither the right nor the mind to give; and
at last (so Bowie told Claude one night, and Claude told the whole party
next morning) tried to bribe and flatter Valencia's maid into giving
them a bit of ribbon, or a cast-off glove, which had belonged to the
idol. Whereon that maiden, in virtuous indignation, told Mr. Bowie, and
complained moreover (as maids are bound to do to valets for whom they
have a penchant), of their having dared to compliment her on her own
good looks: by which act she succeeded, of course, in making Mr. Bowie
understand that other people still thought her pretty, if he did not;
and also in arousing in him that jealousy which is often the best
helpmate of sweet love. So Mr. Bowie went forth in his might that very
evening, and finding two of the Oxford men, informed them in plain
Scotch, that, "Gin he caught them, or any ither such skellums,
philandering after his leddies, or his leddies' maids, he'd jist knock
their empty pows togither." To which there was no reply but silence; for
Mr. Bowie stood six feet four without his shoes, and had but the week
before performed, for the edification of the Cambridge men, who held him
in high honour, a few old Guards' feats; such, as cutting in two at one
sword-blow a suspended shoulder of mutton; lifting a long table by his
teeth; squeezing a quart pewter pot flat between his fingers; and other
little recreations of those who are "born unto Rapha."

But the Cantabs, and a couple of gallant Oxford boating men who had
fraternised with them, testified their admiration in their simple honest
way, by putting down their pipes whenever they saw Valencia coming, and
just lifting their hats when they met her close. It was taking a
liberty, no doubt. "But I tell you, Mellot," said Wynd, as brave and
pure-minded a fellow as ever pulled in the University eight, "the Arabs,
when they see such a creature, say, 'Praise Allah for beautiful women,'
and quite right; they may remind some fellows of worse things, but they
always remind me of heaven and the angels; and my hat goes off to her by
instinct, just as it does when I go into a church."

That was all; simple chivalrous admiration, and delight in her
loveliness, as in that of a lake, or a mountain sunset; but nothing
more. The good fellows had no time, indeed, to fancy themselves in love
with her, or her with them, for every day was too short for them; what
with reading all the morning, and starting out in the afternoon in
strange garments (which became shabbier and more ragged very rapidly as
the weeks slipped on) upon all manner of desperate errands; walking
unheard-of-distances, and losing their way upon the mountains;
scrambling cliffs and now and then falling down them; camping all night
by unpronounceable lakes, in the hope of catching mythical trout; trying
in all ways how hungry, thirsty, dirty, and tired a man could make
himself, and how far he could go without breaking his neck, any approach
to which catastrophe was hailed (as were all other mishaps) as "all in
the day's work," and "the finest fun in the world," by that
unconquerable English "lebensglueckseligkeit," which is a perpetual
wonder to our sober German cousins. Ah, glorious twenty-one, with your
inexhaustible powers of doing and enjoying, eating and hungering,
sleeping and sitting up, reading and playing! Happy are those who still
possess you, and can take their fill of your golden cup, steadied, but
not saddened, by the remembrance, that for all things a good and loving
God will bring them into judgment. Happier still those who (like a few)
retain in body and soul the health and buoyancy of twenty-one on to the
very verge of forty, and seeming to grow younger-hearted as they grow
older-headed, can cast off care and work at a moment's warning, laugh
and frolic now as they did twenty years ago, and say with Wordsworth--

  "So was it when I was a boy,
  So let it be when I am old,
  Or let me die!"

Unfortunately, as will appear hereafter, Elsley's especial _betes
noirs_ were this very Wynd and his inseparable companion, Naylor, who
happened to be not only the best men of the set, but Mellot's especial
friends. Both were Rugby men, now reading for their degree. Wynd was a
Shropshire squire's son, a lissom fair-haired man, the handiest of
boxers, rowers, riders, shots, fishermen, with a noisy superabundance of
animal spirits, which maddened Elsley. Yet Wynd had sentiment in his
way, though he took good care never to show it Elsley; could repeat
Tennyson from end to end; spouted the Mort d'Arthur up hill and down
dale, and chaunted rapturously, "Come into the garden, Maud!" while he
expressed his opinion of Maud's lover in terms more forcible than
delicate. Naylor, fidus Achates, was a Gloucestershire parson's son, a
huge heavy-looking man, with a thick curling lip, and a sleepy eye; but
he had brains enough to become a first-rate classic; and in that same
sleepy eye and heavy lip lay an infinity of quiet humour; racy old
country stories, quaint scraps of out-of-the-way learning, jovial old
ballads, which he sang with the mellowest of voices, and a slang
vocabulary, which made him the dread of all bargees from Newnham pool to
Upware. Him also Elsley hated, because Naylor looked always as if he was
laughing at him, which indeed he was.

And the worst was, that Elsley had always to face them both at once. If
Wynd vaulted over a gate into his very face, with a "How de' do, Mr.
Vavasour? Had any verses this morning?" in the same tone as if he had
asked, "Had any sport?" Naylor's round face was sure to look over the
stone-wall, pipe in mouth, with a "Don't disturb the gentleman, Tom;
don't you see he's a composing of his rhymes!" in a strong provincial
dialect put on for the nonce. In fact, the two young rogues, having no
respect whatsoever for genius, perhaps because they had each of them a
little genius of their own, made a butt of the poet, as soon as they
found out that he was afraid of them.

But worse _betes noirs_ than either Wynd or Naylor were on their way to
fill up the cup of Elsley's discomfort. And at last, without a note of
warning, appeared in Beddgelert a phenomenon which rejoiced some hearts,
but perturbed also the spirits not only of the Oxford "philanderers,"
but those of Elsley Vavasour, and, what is more, of Valencia herself.

She was sitting one evening at the window with Lucia, looking out into
the village and the pleasure-grounds before the hotel. They were both
laughing and chatting over the groups of tourists in their pretty Irish
way, just as they had done when they were girls; for Lucia's heart was
expanding under the quiet beauty of the place, the freedom from
household care, and what was more, from money anxieties; for Valencia
had slipped into her hand a cheque for fifty pounds from Scoutbush, and
assured her that he would be quite angry if she spoke of paying the rent
of the rooms; Elsley was mooning down the river by himself; Claude was
entertaining his Cambridge acquaintances, as he did every night, with
his endless fun and sentiment. Gradually the tourists slipt in one by
one, as the last rays of the sun faded off the peaks of Aran, and the
mist settled down upon the dark valley beneath, and darkness fell upon
that rock-girdled paradise; when up to the door below there drove a car,
at sight whereof out rushed, not waiters only and landlady, but Mr.
Bowie himself, who helped out a very short figure in a pea-jacket and a
shining boating hat, and then a very tall one in a wild shooting-coat
and a military cap.

"My brother, and mon Saint Pere! Lucia! too delightful! This is why they
did not write." And Valencia sprang up, and was going to run down stairs
to them, when she paused at Lucia's call.

"Who have they with them'? Val,--come and look! who can it be?"

Campbell and Bowie were helping out carefully a tall man, covered up in
many wrappers. It was too dark to see the face; but a fancy crossed
Valencia's mind which made her look grave, in spite of her pleasure.

He was evidently weak, as from recent illness; for his two supporters
led him up the steps, and Scoutbush seemed full of directions and
inquiries, and fussed about with the landlady, till she was tired of
curtseying to "my lord."

A minute afterwards Bowie threw open the door grandly. "My lord, my
ladies!" and in trotted Scoutbush, and began kissing them fiercely, and
then dancing about.

"Oh my dears! Here at last--out of that horrid city of the plague! Such
sights as I have seen--" and then he paused. "Do you know, Val and
Lucia, I'm glad I've seen it: I don't know, but I feel as if I should be
a better man all my life; and those poor people, how well they did
behave! And the Major, he's an angel! And so's that brick of a doctor,
and the mad schoolmistress, and the curate. Everybody, I think, but me.
Hang it, Val! but your words shan't come true! I will be of some use yet
before I die! But I've--" and Valencia went up to him and kissed him,
while he ran on, and Lucia said,--

"You have been of use already, dear Fred. You have sent me and the dear
children to this sweet place, where we have been safer and happier
than--" (she checked herself); "and your generous present too. I feel quite
a girl again, thanks to you. Val and I have done nothing but laugh all day
long;" and she began kissing him too.

  "'How happy could I be with either,
  Were t'other dear charmer away!'"

broke out Scoutbush. "What a pity it is now, that I should have two such
sweet creatures making love to me, and can't marry either of them? Why
did ye go and be my father's daughters, mavourneen? I'd have made a
peeress of the one of ye, if ye'd had the sense to be anybody else's
sisters."

At which they all laughed, and laughed, and chattered broad Irish
together as they used to do for fun in old Kilanbaggan Castle, before
Lucia was a weary wife, and Valencia a worldly fine lady, and Scoutbush
a rackety guardsman, breaking half of the ten commandments every week,
rather from ignorance than vice.

"Well, I'm glad ye're pleased with me, asthore," said he at last to
Lucia; "but I've done another little good deed, I flatter myself; for
I've brought away the poor spalpeen of a priest, and have got him safe
in the house."

Valencia stopped short in her fun.

"Why, what have ye to say against that, Miss Val?"

"Why, won't he be a little in the way?" said Valencia, not knowing what
to say.

"Faith, he needn't trouble you; and I shall take very good care--I
wonder when the supper is coming--that neither he nor any else troubles
me. But really," said he, in his natural voice, and with some feeling,
"I was ashamed to go away and leave him there. He would have died if we
had. He worked day and night. Talk of saints and martyrs! Campbell
himself said he was an idler by the side of him."

"Oh! I hope Major Campbell has not over-exerted himself!"

"He? nothing hurts him. He's as hard as his own sword. But the poor
curate worked on till he got the cholera himself. He always expected it,
longed for it; Campbell said--wanted to die. Some love affair, I
suppose, poor fellow?--and a terrible bout he had for eight-and-forty
hours. Thurnall thought him gone again and again; but he pulled the poor
fellow through, after all, and we got some one (that is, Campbell did)
to take his duty; and brought him away, after a good deal of persuasion;
for he would not move as long as there was a fresh case in the town;
that is why we never wrote. We did not know till the last hour when we
should start; and we expected to be with you in two days, and give you a
pleasant surprise. He was half dead when we got him on board; but the
week's sea-air helped him through; so I must not grumble at these
northerly breezes. 'It's an ill wind that blows nobody good,' they say!"

Valencia heard all this as in a dream; and watched her chattering
brother with a stupefied air. She comprehended all now; and bitterly she
blamed herself. He had really loved her, then; set himself manfully to
die at his post, that he might forget her in a better world. How
shamefully she had trifled with that noble heart! How should she ever
meet--how have courage to look him in the face? And not love, or
anything like love, but sacred pity and self-abasement filled her heart,
as his fair, delicate face rose up before her, all wan and shrunken,
with sad upbraiding eyes; and round it such a halo, pure and pale, as
crowns, in some old German picture, a martyr's head.

"He has had the cholera! he has been actually dying?" asked she at last,
with that strange wish to hear over again bad news, which one knows too
well already.

"Of course he has. Why, you are not going away, Valencia? You need not
be afraid of infection. Campbell, and Thurnall, too, says that's all
nonsense; and they must know, having seen it so often. Here comes Bowie
at last with supper!"

"Has Mr. Headley had anything to eat?" asked Valencia, who longed to run
away to her own room, but dared not.

"He is eating now like any ged, ma'am; and Major Campbell's making him
eat too."

"He must be very ill," thought she, "for mon Saint Pere never to have
come near us yet:" and then she thought with terror that her Saint Pere
might have guessed the truth, and be angry with her. And yet she trusted
in Frank's secrecy. He would not betray her.

Take care, Valencia. When a woman has to trust a man not to betray her,
and does trust him, she may soon find it not only easy, but necessary,
to do more than trust him.

However, in five minutes Campbell came in. Valencia saw at once that
there was no change in his feelings to her: but he could talk of nothing
but Headley, his self-devotion, courage, angelic gentleness, and
humility; and every word of his praise was a fresh arrow in Valencia's
conscience; at last,--

"One knows well enough what is the matter," said he, almost bitterly--
"what is the matter, I sometimes think, with half the noblest men in the
world, and nine-tenths of the noblest women; and with many a one, too,
God help them! who is none of the noblest, and therefore does not know
how to take the bitter cup, as he knows--"

"What does the philosopher mean now?" asked Scoutbush, looking up from
the cold lamb. Valencia knew but too well what he meant.

"He has a history, my dear lord."

"A history? What! is he writing a book?"

Campbell laughed a quiet under-laugh, half sad, half humorous.

"I am very tired," said Valencia; "I really think I shall go to bed."

She went to her room; but to bed she did not go: she sat down and cried
till she could cry no more, and lay awake the greater part of the night,
tossing miserably. She would have done better if she had prayed; but
prayer, about such a matter, was what Valencia knew nothing of. She was
regular enough at church, of course, and said her prayers and confessed
her sins in a general way, and prayed about her "soul," as she had been
taught to do,--unless she was too tired: but to pray really, about a
real sorrow, a real sin like this, was a thought which never entered her
mind; and if it had, she would have driven it away again: just because
the anxiety was so real, practical, human, it was a matter which had
nothing to do with religion; which it seemed impertinent--almost wrong
to lay before the Throne of God.

So she came downstairs next morning, pale, restless, unrefreshed in body
or mind; and her peace of mind was not improved by seeing, seated at the
breakfast-table, Frank Headley, whom Lucia and Scoutbush were stuffing
with all manner of good things.

She blushed scarlet--do what she would she could not help it--when he
rose and bowed to her. Half choked, she came forward and offered her
hand. She was so "shocked to hear that he had been so dangerously ill,--
no one had even told them of it,--it had come upon them so suddenly;"
and so forth.

She spoke kindly, but avoided the least tone of tenderness: for she felt
that if she gave way, she might be only too tender; and to re-awaken
hope in his heart would be only cruelty. And, therefore, and for other
reasons also, she did not look him in the face as she spoke.

He answered so cheerfully that she was half disappointed, in spite of
her remorse, at his not being as miserable as she had expected. Still,
if he had overcome the passion, it was so much better for him. But yet
Valencia hardly wished that he should have overcome it, so
self-contradictory is woman's heart; and her pity had sunk to half-ebb,
and her self-complacency was rising with a flowing tide, as he chatted on
quietly, but genially, about the voyage, and the scenery, and Snowdon,
which he had never seen, and which he would ascend that very day.

"You will do nothing of the kind, Mr. Headley!" cried Lucia. "Is he not
mad, Major Campbell, quite mad?"

"I know I am mad, my dear Mrs. Vavasour; I have been so a long time: but
Snowdon ponies are in their sober senses,--and I shall take one of
them."

"Fulfil the old pun?--Begin beside yourself, and end beside your horse!
I am sure he is not strong enough to sit over those rocks. No, you shall
stay at home comfortably here; Valencia and I will take care of you."

"And mon Saint Pere too. I have a thousand things to say to him."

"And so has he to Queen Whims."

So Scoutbush sent Bowie for "John Jones Clerk," the fisherman (may his
days be as many as his salmon, and as good as his flies!), and the four
stayed at home, and talked over the Aberalva tragedies, till, as it
befell, both Lucia and Campbell left the room awhile.

Immediately Frank rose, and walking across to Valencia, laid the fatal
ring on the arm of her chair, and returned to his seat without a word.

"You are very--. I hope that it--," stammered Valencia.

"You hope that it was a comfort to me? It was; and I shall be always
grateful to you for it."

Valencia heard an emphasis on the "was." It checked the impulse (foolish
enough) which rose in her, to bid him keep the ring.

So, prim and dignified, she slipped it into its place on her finger, and
went on with her work; merely saying,--

"I need not say that I am happy that anything which I could do should
have been of use to you in such a fearful time."

"It was a fearful time! but for myself, I cannot be too glad of it. God
grant that it may have been as useful to others as to me! It cured me of
a great folly. Now I look back, I am astonished at my own absurdity,
rudeness, presumption.--You must let me say it!--I do not know how to
thank you enough, I cannot trust myself with the fit words, they would
be so strong: but I owe this confession to you, and to your exceeding
goodness and kindness, when you would have been justified in treating me
as a madman. I was mad, I believe: but I am in my right mind now, I
assure you," said he gaily. "Had I not been, I need hardly say you would
not have seen me here. What a prospect this is!" And he rose and looked
out of the window.

Valencia had heard all this with downcast eyes and unmoved face. Was she
pleased at it? Not in the least, the naughty child that she was; and
more, she grew quite angry with herself, ashamed of herself, for having
thought and felt so much about him the night before. "How silly of me!
He is very well, and does not care for me. And who is he, pray, that I
should even look at him?"

And, as if in order to put her words into practice, she looked at him
there and then. He was gazing out of the window, leaning gracefully and
yet feebly against the shutter, with the full glory of the forenoon sun
upon his sharp-cut profile and rich chestnut locks; and after all,
having looked at him once, she could not help looking at him again. He
was certainly a most gentleman-like man, elegant from head to foot;
there was not an ungraceful line about him, to his very boots, and the
white nails of his slender fingers; even the defects of his figure--the
too great length of the neck and slope of the shoulders--increased his
likeness to those saintly pictures with which he had been mixed up in
her mind the night before. He was at one extreme pole of the different
types of manhood, and that burly doctor who had saved his life at the
other: but her Saint Pere alone perfectly combined the two. There was
nobody like him, after all. Perhaps her wisest plan, as Headley had
forgotten his fancy, was to confess all to the Saint Pere (as she
usually did her little sins), and get some sort of absolution from him.

However, she must say something in answer--

"Yes, it is a very lovely view; but really I must say one more word
about this matter. I have to thank you, you know, for the good faith
which you have kept with me."

He looked round, seemingly amused. "_Cela va sans dire_!" and he bowed;
"pray do not say any more about the matter;" and he looked at her with
such humble and thankful eyes, that Valencia was sorry not to hear more
from him than--

"Pray tell me--for of course you know--the name of this exquisite valley
up which I am looking."

"Gwynnant. You must go up it when you are well enough; and see the
lakes; they are the only ones in Snowdon from the banks of which the
primaeval forest has not disappeared."

"Indeed? I must make shift to go there this very afternoon, for--do not
laugh at me--but I never saw a lake in my life."

"Never saw a lake?"

"No. I am a true Lowlander: born and bred among bleak Norfolk sands and
fens--so much the worse for this chest of mine; and this is my first
sight of mountains. It is all like a dream to me, and a dream which I
never expected to be realised."

"Ah, you should see our Irish lakes and mountains--you should see
Killarney!"

"I am content with these; I suppose it is as wrong to break the tenth
commandment about scenery, as about anything else."

"Ah, but it seems so hard that you, who I am sure would appreciate fine
scenery, should have been debarred from it, while hundreds of stupid
people run over the Alps and Italy every summer, and come home, as far
as I can see, rather more stupid than they went; having made confusion
worse confounded by filling their poor brains with hard names out of
Murray."

"Not quite so hard as that thousands, every day, who would enjoy a meat
dinner, should have nothing but dry bread, and not enough of that. I
fancy sometimes, that, in some mysterious way, that want will be made up
to them in the next life; and so with all the beautiful things which
travelled people talk of--I comfort myself with the fancy, that I see as
much as is good for me here, and that if I make good use of that, I
shall see the Alps and the Andes in the world to come, or something much
more worth seeing. Tell me now, how far may that range of crags be from
us? I am sure that I could walk there after luncheon, this mountain air
is strengthening me so."

"Walk thither? I assure you they are at least four miles off."

"Four? And I thought them one! So clear and sharp as they stand out
against the sky, one fancies that one could almost stretch out a hand
and touch those knolls and slabs of rock, as distinct as in a
photograph; and yet so soft and rich withal, dappled with pearly-grey
stone and purple heath. Ah!--So it must be, I suppose. The first time
that one sees a glorious thing, one's heart is lifted up towards it in
love and awe, till it seems near to one--ground on which one may freely
tread, because one appreciates and admires; and so one forgets the
distance between its grandeur and one's own littleness."

The allusion was palpable: but did he intend it? Surely not, after what
he had just said. And yet there was a sadness in the tone which made
Valencia fancy that some feeling for her might still linger: but he
evidently had been speaking to himself, forgetful, for the moment, of
her presence; for he turned to her with a start and a blush--"But now--I
have been troubling you too long with this stupid _tete-a-tete_
sentimentality of mine. I will make my bow, and find the Major. I am
afraid, if it be possible for him to forget any one, he has forgotten me
in some new moss or other."

He went out, and to Valencia's chagrin she saw him no more that day. He
spent the forenoon in the garden, and the afternoon in lying down, and
at night complained of fatigue, and stayed in his own room the whole
evening, while Campbell read him to sleep. Next morning, however, he
made his appearance at breakfast, well and cheerful.

"I must play at sick man no more, or I shall rob you, I see, of Major
Campbell's company; and I owe you all for too much already."

"Unless you are better than you were last night, you must play at sick
man," said the Major. "I cannot conceive what exhausted you so; unless
you ladies are better nurses, I must let no one come near him but
myself. If you had been scolding him the whole morning, instead of
praising him as he deserves, he could not have been more tired last
night."

"Pray do not!" cried Frank, evidently much pained; "I had such a
delightful morning, and every one is so kind--you only make me wretched,
when I feel all the trouble I am giving."

"My dear fellow," said Scoutbush _en grand serieux_, "after all that you
have done for our people at Aberalva, I should be very much shocked if
any of my family thought any service shown to you a trouble."

"Pray do not speak so," said Frank, "I am fallen among angels, when I
least expected."

"Scoutbush as an angel!" shrieked Lucia, clapping her hands. "Elsley,
don't you see the wings sprouting already, under his shooting jacket?"

"They are my braces, I suppose, of course," said Scoutbush, who never
understood a joke about himself, though he liked one about other people;
while Elsley, who hated all jokes, made no answer--at least none worth
recording. In fact, as the reader may have discovered, Elsley, save
_tete-a-tete_ with some one who took his fancy, was somewhat of a silent
and morose animal, and, as little Scoutbush confided to Mellot, there
was no getting a rise out of him. All which Lucia saw as keenly as any
one, and tried to pass off by chattering nervously and fussily for him,
as well as for herself; whereby she only made him the more cross, for he
could not the least understand her argument--"Why, my dear, if you don't
talk to people, I must!"

"But why should people be talked to?"

"Because they like it, and expect it!"

"The more foolish they. Much better to hold their tongues and think."

"Or read your poetry, I suppose?" And then would begin a squabble.

Meanwhile there was one, at least, of the party, who was watching Lucia
with most deep and painful interest. Lord Scoutbush was too busy with
his own comforts, especially with his fishing, to think much of this
moroseness of Elsley's. "If he suited Lucia, very well. His taste and
hers differed: but it was her concern, not his"--was a very easy way of
freeing himself from all anxiety on the matter: but not so with Major
Campbell. He saw all this; and knew enough of human nature to suspect
that the self-seeking which showed as moroseness in company, might show
as downright bad temper in private. Longing to know more of Elsley, if
possible, to guide and help him, he tried to be intimate with him, as he
had tried at Aberalva; paid him court, asked his opinion, talked to him
on all subjects which he thought would interest him. His conclusion was
more favourable to Elsley's head than to his heart. He saw that Elsley
was vain, and liked his attentions; and that lowered him in his eyes:
but he saw too that Elsley shrank from him; at first he thought it
pride, but he soon found that it was fear; and that lowered him still
more in his eyes.

Perhaps Campbell was too hard on the poet: but his own purity itself
told against Elsley. "Who am I, that any one should be afraid of me,
unless they have done something wrong?" So, with his dark suspicions
roused, he watched intently every word and every tone of Elsley's to his
wife; and here he came to a more unpleasant conclusion still. He saw
that they were, sometimes at least, not happy together; and from this he
took for granted, too hastily, that they were never happy together; that
Lucia was an utterly ill-used person; that Elsley was a bad fellow, who
ill-treated her: and a black and awful indignation against the man grew
up within him; all the more fierce because it seemed utterly righteous,
and because, too, it had, under heavy penalties, to be utterly concealed
beneath a courteous and genial manner: till many a time he felt inclined
to knock Elsley down for little roughnesses to her, which were really
the fruit of mere _gaucherie_; and then accused himself for a hypocrite,
because he was keeping up the courtesies of life with such a man. For
Campbell, like most men of his temperament, was over-stern, and
sometimes a little cruel and unjust, in demanding of others the same
lofty code which he had laid down for himself, and in demanding it, too,
of some more than of others, by a very questionable exercise of private
judgment. On the whole, he was right, no doubt, in being as indulgent as
he dared to the publicans and sinners like Scoutbush; and in being as
severe as he dared on all Pharisees, and pretentious persons whatsoever:
but he was too much inclined to draw between the two classes one of
those strong lines of demarcation which exist only in the fancies of the
human brain; for sins, like all diseased matters, are complicated and
confused matters; many a seeming Pharisee is at heart a self-condemned
publican, and ought to be comforted, and not cursed; while many a
publican is, in the midst of all his foul sins, a thorough exclusive and
self-complacent Pharisee, and needs not the right hand of mercy, but the
strong arm of punishment.

Campbell, like other men, had his faults: and his were those of a man
wrapped up in a pure and stately, but an austere and lonely creed,
distrusted with the world in all its forms, and looking down upon men in
general nearly as much as Thurnall did. So he set down Elsley for a bad
man, to whom he was forced by hard circumstances to behave as if he were
a good one.

The only way, therefore, in which he could vent his feeling, was by
showing to Lucia that studied attention which sympathy and chivalry
demand of a man toward an injured woman. Not that he dared, or wished,
to conduct himself with her as he did with Valencia, even had she not
been a married woman; he did not know her as intimately as he did her
sister; but still he had a right to behave as the most intimate friend
of her family, and he asserted that right; and all the more determinedly
because Elsley seemed now and then not to like it. "I will teach him how
to behave to a charming woman," said he to himself; and perhaps he had
been wiser if he had not said it: but every man has his weak point, and
chivalry was Major Campbell's.

"What do you think of that poet, Mellot?" said he once, on returning
from a pic-nic, during which Elsley had never noticed his wife; and, at
last, finding Valencia engaged with Headley, had actually gone off,
_pour pis aller_, to watch Lord Scoutbush fishing.

"Oh, clever enough, and to spare; and as well read a man as I know. One
of the Sturm-und-drang party, of course:--the express locomotive school,
scream-and-go-head: and thinks me, with my classicism, a benighted
pagan. Still, every man has a right to his opinion. Live and let live."

"I don't care about his taste," said the Major impatiently. "What sort
of man is he?--man, Claude?"

"Ahem, humph! 'Irritabile genus poetarum.' But one is so accustomed to
that among literary men, one never expects them to be like anybody else,
and so takes their whims and oddities for granted."

"And their sins too, eh?"

"Sins? I know of none on his part."

"Don't you call temper a sin?"

"No; I call it a determination of blood to the head, or of animal
spirits to the wrong place, or--my dear Major, I am no moralist. I take
people, you know, as I find them. But he is a bore; and I should not
wonder if that sweet little woman had found it out ere now."

Campbell ground something between his teeth. He fancied himself full of
righteous wrath: he was really in a very unchristian temper. Be it so:
perhaps there were excuses for him (as there are for many men) of which
we know nothing.

Elsley, meanwhile, watched Campbell with fast lowering brow. Losing a
woman's affections? He who does so deserves his fate. Had he been in the
habit of paying proper attention to Lucia, he would have liked Campbell
all the more for his conduct. There are few greater pleasures to a man
who is what he should be to his wife, than to see other men admiring
what he admires, and trying to rival him where he knows that he can have
no rival. Let them worship as much as they will. Let her make herself as
charming to them as she can. What matter? He smiles at them in his
heart; for has he not, over and above all the pretty things which he can
say and do ten times as well as they, a talisman--a dozen talismans
which are beyond their reach?--in the strength of which he will go home
and laugh over with her, amid sacred caresses, all which makes mean men
mad? But Elsley, alas for him, had neglected Lucia himself, and
therefore dreaded comparison with any other man; and the suspicions
which had taken root in him at Aberalva grew into ugly shape and
strength. However he was silent, and contented himself with coldness and
all but rudeness.

There were excuses for him. In the first place, it would have been an
ugly thing to take notice of any man's attentions to a wife; it could
not be done but upon the strongest grounds, and done in a way which
would make a complete rupture necessary, so breaking up the party in a
sufficiently unpleasant way. Besides, to move in the matter at all would
be to implicate Lucia; for, of whatsoever kind Campbell's attentions
were, she evidently liked them; and a quarrel with her on that score was
more than Elsley dared face. He was not a man of strong moral courage;
he hated a scene of any kind; and he was afraid of being worsted in any
really serious quarrel, not merely by Campbell, but by Lucia. It may
seem strange that he should be afraid of her, though not so that he
should be afraid of Campbell. But the truth is, that the man who bullies
his wife very often does so--as Elsley had done more than once--simply
to prove to himself his own strength, and hide his fear of her. He knew
well that woman's tongue, when once the "fair beast" is brought to bay,
is a weapon far too trenchant to be faced by any shield but that of a
very clear conscience toward her; which was more than Elsley had.

Beside--and it is an honour to Elsley Vavasour, amid all his weakness,
that he had justice and chivalry enough left to know what nine men out
of ten ignore--behind all, let the worst come to the worst, lay one
just and terrible rejoinder, which he, though he had been no worse than
the average of men, could only answer by silent shame,--

"At least, sir, I was pure when I came to you! You best know whether you
were so likewise."

And yet even that, so all-forgiving is woman, might, have been faced by
some means: but the miserable complication about the false name still
remained. Elsley believed that he was in his wife's power; that she
could, if she chose, turn upon him, and proclaim him to the world as a
scoundrel and an impostor. And, as it is of the nature of man to hate
those whom he fears, Elsley began to have dark and ugly feelings toward
Lucia. Instead of throwing them away, as a strong man would have done,
he pampered them almost without meaning to do so. For he let them run
riot through his too vivid imagination, in the form of possible
speeches, possible scenes, till he had looked and looked through a
hundred thoughts which no man has a right to entertain for a moment.
True; he had entertained them with horror; but he ought not to have
entertained them at all; he ought to have kicked them contemptuously out
and back to the devil, from whence they came. It may be again, that this
is impossible to man; that prayer is the only refuge against that
Walpurgis-dance of the witches and the fiends, which will, at hapless
moments, whirl unbidden through a mortal brain: but Elsley did not pray.

So, leaving these fancies in his head too long, he soon became
accustomed to them; and accustomed too, to the Nemesis which they bring
with them; of chronic moodiness and concealed rage. Day by day he was
lashing himself up into fresh fury, and yet day by day he was becoming
more careful to conceal that fury. He had many reasons: moral cowardice,
which made him shrink from the tremendous consequences of an explosion--
equally tremendous, were he right or wrong. Then the secret hope,
perhaps the secret consciousness, that he was wrong, and was only saying
to God, like the self-deceiving prophet, "I do well to be angry;" then
the honest fear of going too far; of being surprised at last into some
hideous and irreparable speech or deed, which he might find out too late
was utterly unjust: then at moments (for even that would cross him) the
devilish notion, that, by concealment, he might lure Lucia on to give
him a safe ground for attack. All these, and more, tormented him for a
wretched fortnight, during which he became, at such an expense of
self-control as he had not exercised for years, courteous to Campbell,
more than courteous to Lucia; hiding under a smiling face, wrath which
increased with the pressure brought to bear upon it.

Campbell and Lucia, Mellot, Valencia, and Frank, utterly deceived, went
on more merrily than ever, little dreaming that they walked and talked
daily with a man who was fast becoming glad to flee to the pit of hell,
but for the fear that "God would be there also." They, meanwhile,
chatted on, enjoying, as human souls are allowed to do at rare and
precious moments, the mere sensation of being; of which they would talk
at times in a way which led them down into deep matters: for instance,--

"How pleasant to sit here for ever!" said Claude, one afternoon, in the
inn garden at Beddgelert, "and say, not with Descartes, 'I think,
therefore I exist;' but simply, 'I enjoy, therefore I exist.' I almost
think those Emersonians are right at times, when they crave the 'life of
plants, and stones, and rain.' Stangrave said to me once, that his ideal
of perfect bliss was that of an oyster in the Indian seas, drinking the
warm salt water motionless, and troubling himself about nothing, while
nothing troubled itself about him."

"Till a diver came and tore him up for the sake of his pearls?" said
Valencia.

"He did not intend to contain any pearls. A pearl, you know, is a
disease of the oyster, the product of some irritation. He wished to be
the oyster pure and simple, a part of nature."

"And to be of no use?" asked Frank.

"Of none whatsoever. Nature had made him what he was, and all beside was
her business, and not his. I don't deny that I laughed at him, and made
him wroth by telling him that his doctrine was 'the apotheosis of
loafing.' But my heart went with him, and the jolly oyster too. It is
very beautiful after all, that careless nymph and shepherd life of the
old Greeks, and that Marquesas romance of Herman Melville's--to enjoy
the simple fact of living, like a Neapolitan lazzaroni, or a fly upon a
wall."

"But the old Greek heroes fought and laboured to till the land, and rid
it of giants and monsters," said Frank. "And as for the Marquesas, Mr.
Melville found out, did he not--as you did once--that they were only
petting and fattening him for the purpose of eating him? There is a dark
side to that pretty picture, Mr. Mellot."

"_Tant pis pour eux_! But that is an unnecessary appendage to the idea,
purely. It must be possible to realise such a simple, rich, healthy
life, without wickedness, if not without human sorrow. It is no dream,
and no one shall rob me of it. I have seen fragments of it scattered up
and down the world; and I believe they will all meet in Paradise--where
and when I care not; but they will meet. I was very happy in the South
Sea Islands, after that, when nobody meant to eat me; and I am very
happy here, and do not intend to be eaten, unless it will be any
pleasure to Miss St. Just. No; let man enjoy himself when he can, and
take his fill of those flaming red geraniums, and glossy rhododendrons,
and feathered crown-ferns, and the gold green lace of those acacias
tossing and whispering overhead, and the purple mountains sleeping there
aloft, and the murmur of the brook over the stones; and drink in scents
with every breath,--what was his nose made for, save to smell? I used to
torment myself once by asking them all what they meant. Now, I am
content to have done with symbolisms, and say, 'What you all mean, I
care not, all I know is, that I can draw pleasure from the mere sight of
you, as, perhaps, you do from the mere sight of me; so let us sit
together, Nature and I, and stare into each other's eyes like two young
lovers, careless of the morrow and its griefs.' I will not even take the
trouble to paint her. Why make ugly copies of perfect pictures? Let
those who wish to see her take a railway ticket, and save us
academicians colours and canvas. _Quant a moi_, the public must go to
the mountains, as Mahomet had to do; for the mountains shall not come to
the public."

"One of your wilful paradoxes, Mr. Mellot; why, you are photographing
them all day long."

"Not quite all day long, madam. And after all, _il faut vivre:_ I want a
few luxuries; I have no capacity for keeping a shop; photographing pays
better than painting, considering the time it takes; and it is only
Nature reproducing herself, not caricaturing her. But if any one will
ensure me a poor two thousand a year, I will promise to photograph no
more, but vanish to Sicily or Calabria, and sit with Sabina in an
orchard all my days, twining rose garlands for her pretty head, like
Theocritus and his friends, while the 'pears drop on our shoulders, and
the apples by our side.'"

"What do you think of all this?" asked Valencia of Frank.

"That I am too like the Emersonian oyster here, very happy, and very
useless; and, therefore, very anxious to be gone."

"Surely you have earned the right to be idle awhile?"

"No one has a right to be idle."

"Oh!" groaned Claude; "where did you find that eleventh commandment?"

"I have done with all eleventh commandments; for I find it quite hard
work enough to keep the ancient ten. But I find it, Mellot, in the
deepest abyss of all; in the very depth from which the commandments
sprang. But we will not talk about it here."

"Why not?" asked Valencia, looking up. "Are we so very naughty as to be
unworthy to listen?"

"And are these mountains," asked Claude, "so ugly and ill-made, that
they are an unfit pulpit for a sermon? No; tell me what you mean. After
all, I am half in jest"

"Do not courtesy, pity, chivalry, generosity, self-sacrifice,--in
short, being of use,--do not our hearts tell us that they are the most
beautiful, noble, lovely things in the world?"

"I suppose it is so," said Valencia.

"Why does one admire a soldier? Not for his epaulettes and red coat, but
because one knows that, coxcomb though he be at home here, there is the
power in him of that same self-sacrifice; that, when he is called, he
will go and die, that he may be of use to his country. And yet--it may
seem invidious to say so just now--but there are other sorts of
self-sacrifice, less showy, but even more beautiful."

"Oh, Mr. Headley, what can a man do more than die for his countrymen?"

"Live for them. It is a longer work, and therefore a more difficult and
a nobler one."

Frank spoke in a somewhat sad and abstracted tone.

"But, tell me," she said, "what all this has to do with--with the deep
matter of which you spoke?"

"Simply that it is the law of all earth, and heaven, and Him who made
them.--That God is perfectly powerful, because He is perfectly and
infinitely of use; and perfectly good, because he delights utterly and
always in being of use; and that, therefore, we can become like God--as
the very heathens felt that we can, and ought to become--only in
proportion as we become of use. I did not see it once. I tried to be
good, not knowing what good meant. I tried to be good, because I thought
it would pay me in the world to come. But, at last, I saw that all life,
all devotion, all piety, were only worth anything, only Divine, and
God-like, and God-beloved, as they were means to that one end--to be
of use."

"It is a noble thought, Headley," said Claude: but Valencia was silent.

"It is a noble thought, Mellot; and all thoughts become clear in the
light of it; even that most difficult thought of all, which so often
torments good people, when they feel, 'I ought to love God, and yet I do
not love him.' Easy to love Him, if one can once think of Him as the
concentration, the ideal perfection, of all which is most noble,
admirable, lovely in human character! And easy to work, too, when one
once feels that one is working for such a Being, and with such a Being;
as that! The whole world round us, and the future of the world too, seem
full of light even down to its murkiest and foulest depths, when we can
but remember that great idea,--An infinitely useful God over all, who is
trying to make each of us useful in his place. If that be not the
beatific vision of which old Mystics spoke so rapturously, one glimpse
of which was perfect bliss, I at least know none nobler, desire none
more blessed. Pray forgive me, Miss St. Just! I ought not to intrude
thus!"

"Go on!" said Valencia.

"I--I really have no more to say. I have said too much. I do not know
how I have been betrayed so far," stammered Frank, who had the just
dislike of his school of anything like display on such solemn matters.

"Can you tell us too much truth? Mr. Headley is right, Mr. Mellot, and
you are wrong."

"It will not be the first time, Miss St. Just. But what I spoke in jest,
he has answered in earnest."

"He was quite right. We are none of us half earnest enough. There is
Lucia with the children." And she rose and walked across the garden.

"You have moved the fair trifler somewhat," said Claude.

"God grant it! but I cannot think what made me."

"Why think? You spoke out nobly, and I shall not forget your sermon."

"I was not preaching at you, most affectionate and kindly of men."

"And laziest of men, likewise. What can I do now, at this moment, to be
of use to any one? Set me my task."

But Frank was following with his eyes Valencia, as she went hurriedly
across to Lucia. He saw her take two of the children at once off her
sister's hands, and carry them away down a walk. A few minutes
afterwards he could hear her romping with them; but he could not have
guessed, from the silver din of those merry voices, that Valencia's
heart was heavy within her.

For her conscience was really smitten. Of what use was she in the world?
Major Campbell had talked to her often about her duties to this person
and to that, of this same necessity of being useful; but she had escaped
from the thought, as we have seen her, in laughing at poor little
Scoutbush on the very same score. But why had not Major Campbell's
sermons touched her heart as this one had? Who can tell? Who is there
among us to whom an oft-heard truth has not become a tiresome and
superfluous commonplace, till one day it has flashed before us utterly
new, indubitable, not to be disobeyed, written in letters of fire across
the whole vault of heaven? All one can say is, that her time was not
come. Besides, she looked on Major Campbell as a being utterly superior
to herself; and that very superiority, while it allowed her to be as
familiar with him as she chose, excused her in her own eyes from opening
to him her real heart. She could safely jest with him, let him pet her,
play at being his daughter, while she felt that between him and her lay
a gulf as wide as between earth and heaven; and that very notion
comforted her in her naughtiness; for in that case, of course, his code
of morals was not meant for her; and while she took his warnings (as
many of them at least as she chose), she thought herself by no means
bound to follow his examples. She all but worshipped him as her guardian
angel: but she was not meant for an angel herself; so she could indulge
freely in those little escapades and frivolities for which she was born,
and then, whenever frightened, run for shelter under his wings. But to
hear the same, and even loftier words, from the lips of the curate, whom
she had made her toy, almost her butt, was to have them brought down
unexpectedly and painfully to her own level. If this was his ideal, why
ought it not to be hers? Was she not his equal, perhaps his superior?
And so her very pride humbled her, as she said to herself,--"Then I
ought to be useful. I can be;--will be!"

"Lucia," asked she, that very afternoon, "will you let me take the
children off your hands while Clara is busy in the morning?"

"Oh, you dear good creature? but it would be such a _gene_! They are
really stupid, I am afraid sometimes, or else I am. They make me so
miserably cross at times."

"I will take them. It would be a relief to you, would it not?"

"My clear!" said poor Lucia, with a doleful smile, which seemed to
Valencia's self-accusing heart to say, "Have you only now discovered
that fact?"

From that day Valencia courted Headley's company more and more. To fall
in love with him was of course absurd; and he had cured himself of his
passing fancy for her. There could be no harm, then, in her making the
most of conversation so different from what she heard in the world, and
which in her heart of hearts she liked so much better. For it was with
Valencia as with all women; in this common fault of frivolity, as in
most others, the men rather than they are to blame. Valencia had
cultivated in herself those qualities which she saw admired by the men
whom she met, and some one of whom, of course, she meant to marry; and
as their female ideal was a butterfly ideal, a butterfly she became. But
beneath all lay, deep and strong, the woman's love of nobleness and
wisdom, the woman's longing to learn and to be led, which has shown
itself in every age in so many a fantastic and even ugly shape, and
which is their real excuse for the flirting with, "geniuses," casting
themselves at the feet of directors; which had tempted her to coquette
with Elsley, and was now bringing her into "undesirable" intimacy with
the poor curate.

She had heard that day, with some sorrow, his announcement that he
wished to be gone; but as he did not refer to it again, she left the
thought alone, and all but forgot it. The subject, however, was renewed
about a week afterwards. "When you return to Aberalva," she had said, in
reference to some commission.

"I shall never return to Aberalva."

"Not return?"

"No; I have already resigned the curacy. I believe your uncle has
appointed to it the man whom Campbell found for me: and an excellent
man, I hear, he is. At least, he will do better there than I."

"But what could have induced you? How sorry all the people will be!"

"I am not sure of that," said he with a smile. "I did what I could at
last to win back at least their respect, and to leave at least not
hatred behind me: but I am unfit for them. I did not understand them. I
meant--no matter what I meant? but I failed. God forgive me! I shall now
go somewhere where I shall have simpler work to do, where I shall at
least have a chance of practising the lesson which I learnt there. I
learnt it all, strange to say, from the two people in the parish from
whom I expected to learn least."

"Whom do you mean?"

"The doctor and the schoolmistress."

"Why from them less than from any in the parish? She so good, and he so
clever?"

"That I shall never tell to any one now. Suffice it that I was
mistaken."

Valencia could obtain no further answer; and so the days ran on, every
one becoming more and more intimate, till a certain afternoon, on which
they were all to go and pic-nic, under Claude's pilotage, above the lake
of Gwynnant. Scoutbush was to have been with them; but a heavy day's
rain in the meanwhile swelled the streams into fishing order, so the
little man ordered a car, and started at three in the morning for Bettws
with Mr. Bowie, who, however loth to give up the arrangement of plates
and the extraction of champagne corks, considered his presence by the
river-side a natural necessity.

"My dear Miss Clara, ye see, there'll be nobody to see that his lordship
pits on dry stockings; and he's always getting over the tops of his
water-boots, being young and daft, as we've all been, and no offence to
you; and to tell you truth, I can stand all temptations--in moderation,
that is, save an' except the chance o' cleiking a fish."




CHAPTER XX.

BOTH SIDES OF THE MOON AT ONCE.


The spot which Claude had chosen for the pic-nic was on one of the lower
spurs of that great mountain of The Maiden's Peak, which bounds the vale
of Gwynnant to the south. Above, a wilderness of gnarled volcanic dykes,
and purple heather ledges; below, broken into glens, in which still
linger pale green ashwoods, relics of that great primaeval forest in
which, in Bess's days, great Leicester used to rouse the hart with hound
and horn.

Among these Claude had found a little lawn, guarded by great rocks, out
of every cranny of which the ashes grew as freely as on flat ground.
Their feet were bedded deep in sweet fern and wild raspberries, and
golden-rod, and purple scabious, and tall blue campanulas. Above them,
and before them, and below them, the ashes shook their green filigree in
the bright sunshine; and through them glimpses were seen of the purple
cliffs above, and, right in front, of the great cataract of Nant
Gwynnant, a long snow-white line zigzagging down coal-black cliffs for
many a hundred feet, and above it, depth beyond depth of purple shadow
away into the very heart of Snowdon, up the long valley of Cwm-dyli, to
the great amphitheatre of Clogwyn-y-Garnedd; while over all the cone of
Snowdon rose, in perfect symmetry, between his attendant peaks of
Lliwedd and Crib Coch.

There they sat, and laughed, and talked, the pleasant summer afternoon,
in their pleasant summer bower; and never regretted the silence of the
birds, so sweetly did Valencia's song go up, in many a rich sad Irish
melody; while the lowing of the milch kine, and the wild cooing of the
herd-boys, came softly up from the vale below, "and all the air was
filled with pleasant noise of waters."

Then Claude must needs photograph them all, as they sat, and group them
first according to his fancy; and among his fancies was one, that
Valencia should sit as queen, with Headley and the Major at her feet.
And Headley lounged there, and looked into the grass, and thought it
well for him could he lie there for ever.

Then Claude must photograph the mountain itself; and all began to talk
of it.

"See the breadth of light and shadow," said Claude; "how the purple
depth of the great lap of the mountain is thrown back by the sheet of
green light on Lliwedd, and the red glory on the cliffs of Crib Coch,
till you seem to look away into the bosom of the hill, mile after mile."

"And so you do," said Headley. "I have learnt to distinguish mountain
distances since I have been here. That peak is four miles from us now;
and yet the shadowed cliffs at its foot seem double that distance."

"And look, look," said Valencia, "at the long line of glory with which
the western sun is gilding the edge of the left hand slope, bringing it
nearer and nearer to us every moment, against the deep blue sky!"

"But what a form! Perfect lightness, perfect symmetry!" said Claude.
"Curve sweeping over curve, peak towering over peak, to the highest
point, and then sinking down again as gracefully as they rose. One can
hardly help fancying that the mountain moves; that those dancing lines
are not instinct with life."

"At least," said Headley, "that the mountain is a leaping wave, frozen
just ere it fell."

"Perfect," said Valencia. "That is the very expression! So concise, and
yet so complete."

And Headley, poor fool, felt as happy as if he had found a gold mine.

"To me," said Elsley, "the fancy rises of some great Eastern monarch
sitting in royal state; with ample shoulders sloping right and left, he
lays his purple-mantled arms upon the heads of two of those Titan guards
who stand on either side his footstool."

"While from beneath his throne," said Headley, "as Eastern poets would
say, flow everlasting streams, life-giving, to fertilise broad lands
below."

"I did not know that you, too, were a poet," said Valencia. "Nor I,
madam. But if such scenes as these, and in such company, cannot inspire
the fancy of even a poor country curate to something of exaltation, he
must be dull indeed."

"Why not put some of these thoughts into poetry?"

"What use?" answered he in so low, sad, and meaning a tone, meant only
for her ear, that Valencia looked down at him: but he was gazing
intently upon the glorious scene. Was he hinting at the vanity and
vexation of poor Elsley's versifying? Or did he mean that he had now no
purpose in life,--no prize for which it was worth while to win honour?

She did not answer him: but he answered himself,--perhaps to explain
away his own speech,--

"No, madam! God has written the poetry already; and there it is before
me. My business is not to re-write it clumsily but to read it humbly,
and give Him thanks for it."

More and more had Valencia been attracted by Headley, during the last
few weeks. Accustomed to men who tried to make the greatest possible
show of what small wits they possessed, she was surprised to find one
who seemed to think it a duty to keep his knowledge and taste in the
background. She gave him credit for more talent than appeared; for more,
perhaps, than he really had. She was piqued, too, at his very modesty
and self-restraint. Why did not he, like the rest who dangled about her,
spread out his peacock's train for her eyes; and try to show his worship
of her, by setting himself off in his brightest colours? And yet this
modesty awed her into respect of him; for she could not forget that,
whether he had sentiment much or little, sentiment was not the staple of
his manhood: she could not forget his cholera work; and she knew that,
under that delicate and bashful outside, lay virtue and heroism, enough
and to spare.

"But, if you put these thoughts into words, you would teach others to
read that poetry."

"My business is to teach people to do right; and if I cannot, to pray
God to find some one who can."

"Right, Headley!" said Major Campbell, laying his hand on the Curate's
shoulder. "God dwells no more in books written with pens than in temples
made with hands; and the sacrifice which pleases Him is not verse, but
righteousness. Do you recollect, Queen Whims, what I wrote once in your
album?

  'Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever
  Do noble things, not dream them, all day long,
  So making life, death, and that vast for ever,
  One grand, sweet song.'"

"But, you naughty, hypocritical Saint Pere, you write poetry yourself,
and beautifully."

"Yes, as I smoke my cigar, to comfort my poor rheumatic old soul. But if
I lived only to write poetry, I should think myself as wise as if I
lived only to smoke tobacco."

Valencia's eyes could not help glancing at Elsley, who had wandered away
to the neighbouring brook, and was gazing with all his eyes upon a ferny
rock, having left Lucia to help Claude with his photographing.

Frank saw her look, and read its meaning; and answered her thoughts,
perhaps too hastily.

"And what a really well-read and agreeable man he is, all the while!
What a mine of quaint learning, and beautiful old legend!--If he would
but bring it into the common stock for every one's amusement, instead of
hoarding it up for himself!" "Why, what else does he do but bring it
into the common stock, when he publishes a book which every one can
read!" said Valencia, half out of the spirit of contradiction.

"And few understand," said Headley, quietly.

"You are very unjust; he is a very discerning and agreeable person, and
I shall go and talk to him." And away went Valencia to Elsley, somewhat
cross. Woman-like, she allowed, for the sake of her sister's honour, no
one but herself to depreciate Vavasour, and chose to think it
impertinent on Headley's part.

Headley began quietly talking to Major Campbell about botany, while
Valencia, a little ashamed of herself all the while, took her revenge on
Elsley by scolding him for his unsocial ways, in the very terms which
Headley had been using.

At last Claude, having finished his photographing, departed downward to
get some new view from the road below, and Lucia returned to the rest of
the party. Valencia joined them at once, bringing up Elsley, who was not
in the best of humours after her diatribes; and the whole party wandered
about the woodland, and scrambled down beside the torrent beds.

At last they came to a point where they could descend no further; for
the stream, falling over a cliff, had worn itself a narrow chasm in the
rock, and thundered down it into a deep narrow pool.

Lucia, who was basking in the sunshine and the flowers as simple as a
child, would needs peep over the brink, and made Elsley hold her while
she looked down. A quiet happiness, as of old recollections, came into
her eyes, as she watched the sparkling and foaming water--

  "And beauty, born of murmuring sound,
  Did pass into her face."

Campbell started. The Lucia of seven years ago seemed to bloom out
again in that pale face and wrinkled forehead; and a smile came over his
face, too, as he looked.

"Just like the dear old waterfall at Kilanbaggan. You recollect it,
Major Campbell?"

Elsley always disliked recollections of Kilanbaggan; recollections of
her life before he knew her; recollections of pleasures in which he had
not shared: especially recollections of her old acquaintance with the
Major.

"I do not, I am ashamed to say," replied the Major.

"Why, you were there a whole summer. Ah! I suppose you thought about
nothing but your salmon fishing. If Elsley had been there he would not
have forgotten a rock or a pool. Would you, Elsley?"

"Really, in spite of all salmon, I have not forgotten a rock or a pool
about the place which I ever saw: but at the waterfall I never was."

"So he has not forgotten? What cause had he to remember so carefully?"
thought Elsley.

"Oh, Elsley, look! What is that exquisite flower, like a ball of gold,
hanging just over the water?"

If Elsley had not had the evil spirit haunting about him, he would have
joined in Lucia's admiration of the beautiful creature, as it dropped
into the foam from its narrow ledge, with its fan of palmate leaves
bright green against the black mosses of the rock, and its golden petals
glowing like a tiny sun in the darkness of the chasm: as it was, he
answered--

"Only a buttercup."

"I am sure it's not a buttercup! It is three times as large, and a so
much paler yellow! Is it a buttercup, now, Major Campbell?"

Campbell looked down.

"Very nearly one, after all: but its real name is the globe flower. It
is common enough here in spring; you may see the leaves in every
pasture. But I suppose this plant, hidden from the light, has kept its
flowers till the autumn."

"And till I came to see it, darling that it is! I should like to reward
it by wearing it home."

"I daresay it would be very proud of the honour; especially if Mr.
Vavasour would embalm it in verse, after it had done service to you."

"It is doing good enough service where it is," said Elsley. "Why pluck
out the very eye of that perfect picture?"

"Strange," said Lucia, "that such, a beautiful thing should be born
there all alone upon these rocks, with no one to look at it."

"It enjoys itself sufficiently without us, no doubt," said Elsley.

"Yes; but I want to enjoy it. Oh, if you could but get it for me?"

Elsley looked down. There were fifteen feet of somewhat slippery rock;
then a ragged ledge a foot broad, in a crack of which the flower grew;
then the dark boiling pool. Elsley shrugged his shoulders, and said,
smiling, as if it were a fine thing to say--"Really, my dear, all men
are not knight errants enough to endanger their necks for a bit of weed;
and I cannot say that such rough _tours de force_ are at all to my
fancy."

Lucia turned away: but she was vexed. Campbell could see that a strange
fancy for the plant had seized her. As she walked from the spot, he
could hear her talking about its beauty to Valencia.

Campbell's blood boiled. To be asked by that woman--by any woman--to get
her that flower: and to be afraid! It was bad enough to be ill-tempered;
but to be a coward, and to be proud thereof! He yielded to a temptation,
which he had much better have left alone, seeing that Lucia had not
asked him; swung himself easily enough down the ledge; got the flower,
and put it, quietly bowing, into Mrs. Vavasour's hand.

He was frightened when he had done it; for he saw, to his surprise, that
she was frightened. She took the flower, smiling thanks, and expressing
a little commonplace horror and astonishment at his having gone down
such a dangerous cliff: but she took it to Elsley, drew his arm through
hers, and seemed determined to make as much of him as possible for the
rest of the afternoon. "The fellow was jealous, then, in addition to his
other sins!" And Campbell, who felt that he had put himself
unnecessarily forward between husband and wife, grew more and more
angry; and somehow, unlike his usual wont, refused to confess himself in
the wrong, because he was in the wrong. Certainly it was not pleasant
for poor Elsley; and so Lucia felt, and bore with him when he refused to
be comforted, and rendered blessing for railing when he said to her more
than one angry word; but she had been accustomed to angry words by this
time.

All might have passed off, but for that careless Valencia, who had not
seen the details of what had passed; and so advised herself to ask where
Lucia got that beautiful plant?

"Major Campbell picked it up for her from the cliff," said Elsley,
drily.

"Ah? at the risk of his neck, I don't doubt. He is the most matchless
_cavalier servente_."

"I shall leave Mrs. Vavasour to his care, then--that is, for the
present," said Elsley, drawing his arm from Lucia's.

"I assure you," answered she, roused in her turn by his determined bad
temper, "I am not the least afraid of being left in the charge of so old
a friend."

Elsley made no answer, but sprang down through the thickets, calling
loudly to Claude Mellot.

It was very naughty of Lucia, no doubt: but even a worm will turn; and
there are times when people who have not courage to hold their peace
must say something or other; and do not always, in the hurry, get out
what they ought, but only what they have time to think of. And she
forgot what she had said the next minute, in Major Campbell's question--

"Am I, then, so old a friend, Mrs. Vavasour?"

"Of course; who older?"

Campbell was silent a moment. If he was inclined to choke, at least
Lucia did not see it.

"I trust I have not offended your--Mr. Vavasour?"

"Oh!" she said, with a forced gaiety, "only one of his poetic fancies.
He wanted so much to see Mr. Mellot photograph the waterfall. I hope he
will be in time to find him."

"I am a plain soldier, Mrs. Vavasour, and I only ask because I do not
understand. What are poetic fancies?"

Lucia looked up in his face puzzled, and saw there an expression so
grave, pitying, tender, that her heart leaped up toward him, and then
sank back again.

"Why do you ask? Why need you know? You are no poet."

"And for that very cause I ask you."

"Oh, but," said she, guessing at what was in his mind, and trying,
woman-like, to play purposely at cross purposes, and to defend her
husband at all risks; "he has an extraordinary poetic faculty; all the
world agrees to that, Major Campbell."

"What matter?" said he. Lucia would have been very angry, and perhaps
ought to have been so; for what business of Campbell's was it whether
her husband were kind to her or not? But there was a deep sadness,
almost despair, in the tone, which disarmed her.

"Oh, Major Campbell, is it not a glorious thing to be a poet? And is it
not a glorious thing to be a poet's wife? Oh, for the sake of that--if I
could but see him honoured, appreciated, famous, as he will be some day!
Though I think" (and she spoke with all a woman's pride) "he is somewhat
famous now, is he not?"

"Famous? Yes," answered Campbell, with an abstracted voice, and then
rejoined quickly, "If you could but see that, what then?"

"Why then," said she, with a half smile (for she had nearly entrapped
herself into an admission of what she was determined to conceal)--"why
then, I should be still more what I am now, his devoted little wife, who
cares for nobody and nothing but putting his study to rights, and
bringing up his children."

"Happy children!" said he, after a pause, and half to himself, "who have
such a mother to bring them up."

"Do you really think so? But flattery used not to be one of your sins.
Ah, I wish you could give me some advice about how I am to teach them."

"So it is she who has the work of education, not he!" thought Campbell
to himself; and then answered gaily,--

"My dear madam, what can a confirmed old bachelor like me know about
children?"

"Oh, don't you know" (and she gave one of her pretty Irish laughs) "that
it is the old maids who always write the children's books, for the
benefit of us poor ignorant married women? But" (and she spoke earnestly
again) "we all know how wise and good you are. I did not know it in old
times. I am afraid I used to torment you when I was young and foolish."

"Where on earth can Mellot and Mr. Vavasour be?" asked Campbell.

"Oh, never mind! Mr. Mellot has gone wandering down the glen with his
apparatus, and my Elsley has gone wandering after him, and will find him
in due time, with his head in a black bag, and a great bull just going
to charge him from behind, like that hapless man in 'Punch.' I always
tell Mr. Mellot that will be his end."

Campbell was deeply shocked to hear the light tone in which she talked
of the passionate temper of a man whom she so surely loved. How many
outbursts of it there must have been; how many paroxysms of
astonishment, shame, and grief,--perhaps, alas! counterbursts of anger--
ere that heart could have become thus proof against the ever-lowering
thunder-storm!

"Well," he said, "all we can do is to walk down to the car, and let them
follow; and, meanwhile, I will give you my wise opinion about this
education question, whereof I know nothing."

"It will be all oracular to me, for I know nothing either;" and she put
her arm through his, and walked on.

"Did you hurt yourself then? I am sure you are in pain."

"I? Never less free from it, with many thanks to you. What made you
think so?"

"I heard you breathe so hard, and quite stamp your feet, I thought. I
suppose it was fancy."

It was not fancy, nevertheless. Major Campbell was stamping down
something; and succeeded too in crushing it.

They walked on toward the car, Valencia and Headley following them: ere
they arrived at the place where they were to meet it, it was quite dark:
but what was more important, the car was not there.

"The stupid man must have mistaken his orders, and gone home."

"Or let his horse go home of itself, while he was asleep inside. He was
more than half tipsy when we started."

So spoke the Major, divining the exact truth. There was nothing to be
done but to walk the four miles home, and let the two truants follow as
they could.

"We shall have plenty of time for our educational lecture," said Lucia.

"Plenty of time to waste, then, my clear lady."

"Oh, I never talk with you five minutes--I do not know why--without
feeling wiser and happier. I envy Valencia for having seen so much of
you of late."

Little thought poor Lucia, as she spoke those innocent words, that
within four yards of her, crouched behind the wall, his face and every
limb writhing with mingled curiosity and rage, was none other but her
husband.

He had given place to the devil: and the devil (for the "superstitious"
and "old-world" notion which attributes such frenzies to the devil has
not yet been superseded by a better one) had entered into him, and
concentrated all the evil habits and passions which he had indulged for
years into one flaming hell within him.

Miserable man! His torments were sevenfold: and if he had sinned, he was
at least punished. Not merely by all which a husband has a right to feel
in such a case, or fancies that he has a right; not merely by tortured
vanity and self-conceit, by the agony of seeing any man preferred to
him, which to a man of Elsley's character was of itself unbearable;--not
merely by the loss of trust in one whom he hail once trusted utterly:--
but, over and above all, and worst of all, by the feeling of shame,
self-reproach, self-hatred, which haunts a jealous man, and which ought
to haunt him; for few men lose the love of women who have once loved
them, save by their own folly or baseness:--by the recollection that he
had traded on her trust; that he had drugged his own conscience with the
fancy that she must love him always, let him do what he would; and had
neglected and insulted her affection, because he fancied, in his
conceit, that it was inalienable. And with the loss of self-respect,
came recklessness of it, and drove him on, as it has jealous men in all
ages, to meannesses unspeakable, which have made them for centuries,
poor wretches, the butts of worthless playwrights, and the scorn of
their fellow-men.

Elsley had wandered, he hardly knew how or whither, for his calling to
Mellot was the merest blind,--stumbling over rocks, bruising himself
against tree-trunks, to this wall. He knew they must pass it. He waited
for them, and had his reward. Blind with rage, he hardly waited for the
sound of their footsteps to die away, before he had sprung into the
road, and hurried up in the opposite direction,--anywhere, everywhere,--
to escape from them, and from self. Whipt by the furies, he fled along
the road and up the vale, he cared not whither.

And what were Headley and Valencia, who of necessity had paired off
together, doing all the while? They walked on silently side by side for
ten minutes; then Frank said,--

"I have been impertinent, Miss St. Just, and I beg your pardon."

"No, you have not," said she, quite hastily. "You were right, too
right,--has it not been proved within the last five minutes? My poor
sister! What can be done to mend Mr. Vavasour's temper? I wish you could
talk to him, Mr. Headley."

"He is beyond my art. His age, and his talents, and his--his
consciousness of them," said Frank, using the mildest term he could
find, "would prevent so insignificant a person as me having any
influence. But what I cannot do, God's grace may."

"Can it change a man's character, Mr. Headley? It may make good men
better--but can it cure temper?"

"Major Campbell must have told you that it can do anything."

"Ah, yes: with men as wise, and strong, and noble as he is; but with
such a weak, vain man--"

"Miss St. Just, I know one who is neither wise, nor strong, nor noble:
but as weak and vain as any man; in whom God has conquered--as He may
conquer yet in Mr. Vavasour--all which makes man cling to life."

"What all?" asked she, suspecting, and not wrongly, that he spoke of
himself.

"All, I suppose, which it is good for them to have crushed. There are
feelings which last on, in spite of all struggles to quench them--I
suppose, because they ought to last; because, while they torture, they
still ennoble. Death will quench them: or if not, satisfy them: or if
not, set them at rest somehow."

"Death?" answered she, in a startled tone.

"Yes. Our friend, Major Campbell's friend, Death. We have been seeing a
good deal of him together lately, and have come to the conclusion that
he is the most useful, pleasant, and instructive of all friends."

"Oh, Mr. Headley, do not speak so! Are you in earnest?"

"So much in earnest, that I have resolved to go out as an army chaplain,
to see in the war somewhat more of my new friend."

"Impossible! Mr. Headley; it will kill you!--All that horrible fever and
cholera!"

"And what possible harm can it do me, if it does kill me, Miss St.
Just!"

"Mr. Headley, this is madness! I--we cannot allow you to throw away your
life thus--so young, and--and such prospects before you! And there is
nothing that my brother would not do for you, were it only for your
heroism at Aberalva. There is not one of the family who does not love
and respect you, and long to see all the world appreciating you as we
do; and your poor mother--"

"I have told my mother all, Miss St. Just. And she has said 'Go; it is
your only hope.' She has other sons to comfort her. Let us say no more
of it. Had I thought that you would have disapproved of it, I would
never have mentioned the thing."

"Disapprove of--your going to die? You shall not! And for me, too: for I
guess all--all is my fault!"

"All is mine," said he quietly: "who was fool enough to fancy that I
could forget you--conquer my love for;" and at these words his whole
voice and manner changed in an instant into wildest passion. "I must
speak--now and never more--I love you still, fool that I am! Would God I
had never seen you! No, not that. Thank God for that to the last: but
would God I had died of that cholera! that I had never come here,
conceited fool that I was, fancying that it was possible, after having
once--No! Let me go, go anywhere, where I may burden you no more with my
absurd dreams!--You, who have had the same thing said to you, and in
finer words, a hundred times, by men who would not deign to speak to
me!" and covering his face in his hands, he strode on, as if to escape.

"I never had the same thing said to me!"

"Never? How often have fine gentlemen, noblemen, sworn that they were
dying for you?"

"They never have said to me what you have done."

"No--I am clumsy, I suppose--"

"Mr. Headley, indeed you are unjust to yourself--unjust to me!"

"I--to you? Never! I know you better than you know yourself--see in you
what no one else sees. Oh, what fools they are who say that love is
blind! Blind? He sees souls in God's own light; not as they have become:
but as they ought to become--can become--are already in the sight of Him
who made them!"

"And what might I become?" asked she, half-frightened by the new
earnestness of his utterance.

"How can I tell! Something infinitely too high for me, at least, who
even now am not worthy to kiss the dust off your feet."

"Oh, do not speak so: little do you know--! No, Mr. Headley, it is you
who are too good for me; too noble, single-eyed, self-sacrificing, to
endure my vanity and meanness for a day."

"Madam, do not speak thus! Give me no word which my folly can distort
into a ray of hope, unless you wish to drive me mad. No! it is
impossible; and, were it possible, what but ruin to my soul? I should
live for you, and not for my work. I should become a schemer, ambitious,
intriguing, in the vain hope of proving myself to the world worthy of
you. No; let it be. 'Let the dead bury their dead, and follow thou me.'"

She made no answer--what answer was there to make? And he strode on by
her side in silence for full ten minutes. At last she was forced to
speak.

"Mr. Headley, recollect that this conversation has gone too far for us
to avoid coming to some definite understanding--"

"Then it shall, Miss St. Just. Then it shall, once and for all: formally
and deliberately, it shall end now. Suppose,--I only say suppose,--that
I could, without failing in my own honour, my duty to my calling, make
myself such a name among good men that, poor parson though I be, your
family need be ashamed of nothing about me, save my poverty? Tell me,
now and for ever, could it be possible--"

He stopped. She walked on, silent, in her turn.

"Say no, as a matter of course, and end it!" said he, bitterly.

She drew a long breath, as if heaving off a weight.

"I cannot--dare not say it."

"It? Which of the two? yes, or no?"

She was silent.

He stopped, and spoke calmly and slowly. "Say that again, and tell me
that I am not dreaming. You? the admired! the worshipped! the
luxurious!--and no blame to you that you are what you were born--could
you endure a little parsonage, the teaching village school-children,
tending dirty old women, and petty cares the whole year round?"

"Mr. Headley," answered she, slowly and calmly, in her turn, "I could
endure a cottage,--a prison, I fancy, at moments,--to escape from this
world, of which I am tired, which will soon be tired of me: from women
who envy me, impute to me ambitions as base as their own; from men who
admire--not me, for they do not know me, and never will--but what in me
--I hate them!--will give them pleasure. I hate it all, despise it all;
despise myself for it all every morning when I wake! What does it do for
me, but rouse in me the very parts of my own character which are most
despicable, most tormenting? If it goes on, I feel I could become as
frivolous, as mean, aye, as wicked as the worst. You do not know--you do
not know--. I have envied the nuns their convents. I have envied Selkirk
his desert island. I envy now the milkmaids there below: anything to
escape and be in earnest, anything for some one to teach me to be of
use! Yes, this cholera--and this war--though only, only its coming
shadow has passed over me,--and your words too--" cried she, and stopped
and hesitated, as if afraid to tell too much--"they have wakened me--to
a new life--at least to the dream of a new life!"

"Have you not Major Campbell?" said Headley, with a terrible effort of
will.

"Yes--but has he taught me? He is dear, and good, and wise; but he is
too wise, too great for me. He plays with me as a lion might with a
mouse; he is like a grand angel far above in another planet, who can
pity and advise, but who cannot--What am I saying?" and she covered her
face with her hand.

She dropped her glove as she did so. Headley picked it up and gave it to
her: as he did so their hands met; and their hands did not part again.

"You know that I love you, Valencia St. Just."

"Too well! too well!"

"But you know, too, that you do not love me."

"Who told you so? What do you know? What do I know? Only that I long for
some one to make me--to make me as good as you are!" and she burst into
tears.

"Valencia, will you trust me?"

"Yes!" cried she, looking up at him suddenly: "if you will not go to the
war."

"No--no--no! Would you have me turn traitor and coward to God; and now,
of all moments in my life?"

"Noble creature!" said she; "you will make me love you whether I wish or
not."

What was it, after all, by which Frank Headley won Valencia's love? I
cannot tell. Can you tell, sir, how you won the love of your wife? As
little as you can tell of that still greater miracle--how you have kept
her love since she found out what manner of man you were.

So they paced homeward, hand in hand, beside the shining ripples, along
the Dinas shore. The birches breathed fragrance on them; the night-hawk
churred softly round their path; the stately mountains smiled above them
in the moonlight, and seemed to keep watch and ward over their love, and
to shut out the noisy world, and the harsh babble and vain fashions of
the town. The summer lightning flickered to the westward; but round them
the rich soft night seemed full of love,--as full of love as their own
hearts were, and, like them, brooding silently upon its joy. At last the
walk was over; the kind moon sank low behind the hills; and the darkness
hid their blushes as they paced into the sleeping village, and their
hands parted unwillingly at last.

When they came into the hall, through the group of lounging gownsmen and
tourists, they found Bowie arguing with Mrs. Lewis, in his dogmatic
Scotch way,--

"So ye see, madam, there's no use defending the drunken loon any-more at
all; and here will my leddies have just walked their bonny legs off, all
through that carnal sin of drunkenness, which is the curse of your Welsh
populaaation."

"And not quite unknown north of Tweed either, Bowie," said Valencia,
laughing. "There now, say no more about it. We have had a delightful
walk, and nobody is the least tired. Don't say any more, Mrs. Lewis: but
tell them to get us some supper. Bowie, so my lord has come in?"

"This half-hour good!"

"Has he had any sport?"

"Sport! aye, troth! Five fish in the day. That's a river indeed at
Bettws! Not a pawky wee burn, like this Aberglaslyn thing."

"Only five fish?" said Valencia, in a frightened tone.

"Fish, my leddy, not trouts, I said. I thought ye knew better than that
by this time."

"Oh, salmon?" cried Valencia, relieved. "Delightful. I'll go to him
this moment."

And upstairs to Scoutbush's room she went.

He was sitting in dressing-gown and slippers, sipping his claret, and
fondling his fly-book (the only one he ever studied _con amore_), with a
most complacent face. She came in and stood demurely before him, holding
her broad hat in both hands before her knees, like a school-girl, her
face half-hidden in the black curls. Scoutbush looked up and smiled
affectionately, as he caught the light of her eyes and the arch play of
her lips.

"Ah! there you are, at a pretty time of night! How beautiful you look,
Val! I wish my wife may be half as pretty!"

Valencia made him a prim curtsey.

"I am delighted to hear of my lord's good sport. He will choose to be in
a good humour, I suppose."

"Good humour? _ca va sans dire_! Three stone of fish in three hours!"

"Then his little sister is going to do a very foolish thing, and wants
his leave to do it; which if he will grant, she will let him do as many
foolish things as he likes without scolding him, as long as they both
shall live."

"Do it then, I beg. What is it? Do you want to go up Snowdon with
Headley to-morrow, to see the sun rise? You'll kill yourself!"

"No," said Valencia very quietly; "I only want to marry him."

"Marry him?" cried Scoutbush, starting up.

"Don't try to look majestic, my dear little brother, for you are really
not tall enough; as it is, you have only hooked all your flies into your
dressing-gown."

Scoutbush dashed himself down into his chair again.

"I'll be shot if you shall!"

"You may be shot just as surely, whether I do or not," said she softly;
and she knelt down before him, and put her arms round him, and laid her
head upon his lap. "There, you can't run away now; so you must hear me
quietly. And you know it may not be often that we shall be together
again thus; and oh, Scoutbush! brother! if anything was to happen to
you--I only say if--in this horrid war, you would not like to think that
you had refused the last thing your little Val asked for, and that she
was miserable and lonely at home."

"I'll be shot if you shall!" was all the poor Viscount could get out.

"Yes, miserable and lonely; you gone away, and mon Saint Pere too: and
Lucia, she has her children--and I am so wild and weak--I must have some
one to guide me and protect me--indeed I must!"

"Why, that was what I always said! That was why I wanted you so to marry
this season! Why did not you take Chalkclere, or half-a-dozen good
matches who were dying for you, and not this confounded black parson, of
all birds in the air?"

"I did not take Lord Chalkclere for the very reason that I do take Mr.
Headley. I want a husband who will guide me, not one whom I must guide."

"Guide?" said Scoutbush bitterly, with one of those little sparks of
practical shrewdness which sometimes fell from him. "Aye, I see how it
is! These intriguing rascals of parsons--they begin as father
confessors, like so many popish priests; and one fine morning they
blossom out into lovers, and so they get all the pretty women, and all
the good fortunes,--the sneaking, ambitious, low-bred--"

"He is neither! You are unjust, Scoutbush!" cried Valencia, looking up.
"He is the very soul of honour. He might be rich now, and have had a
fine living, if he had not been too conscientious to let his uncle buy
him one; and that offended his uncle, and he would allow him nothing.
And as for being low-bred, he is a gentleman, as you know; and if his
uncle be in business, his mother is a lady, and he will be well enough
off one day."

"You seem to know a great deal about his affairs."

"He told me all, months ago--before there was any dream of this. And, my
dear," she went on, relapsing into her usual arch tone, "there is no
fear but his uncle will be glad enough to patronise him again, when he
finds that he has married a viscount's sister."

Scoutbush laughed. "You scheming little Irish rogue! But I won't! I've
said it, and I won't. It's enough to have one sister married to a poor
poet, without having another married to a poor parson. Oh! what have I
done that I should be bothered in this way? Isn't it bad enough to be a
landlord, and to have an estate, and be responsible for a lot of people
that will die of the cholera, and have to vote in the house about a lot
of things I don't understand, or anybody else, I believe, but that, over
and above, I must be the head of the family, and answerable to all the
world for whom my mad sisters many? I won't, I say!"

"Then I shall just go and marry without your leave! I'm of age, you
know, and my fortune's my own; and then we shall come in as the runaway
couples do in a play, while you sit there in your dressing-gown as the
stern father--Won't you borrow a white wig for the occasion, my lord?--
And we shall fall down on our knees so,"--and she put herself in the
prettiest attitude in the world,--"and beg your blessing--please forgive
us this time, and we'll never do so any more! And then you will turn
your face away, like the baron in the ballad,--

  'And brushed away the springing tear
  He proudly strove to hide,'

Et cetera, et cetera,--Finish the scene for yourself, with a 'Bless ye,
my children; bless ye!'"

"Go along, and marry the cat if you like! You are mad; and I am mad; and
all the world's mad, I think."

"There," she said, "I knew that he would be a good boy at last!" And she
sprang up, threw her arms round his neck, and, to his great
astonishment, burst into the most violent fit of crying.

"Good gracious, Valencia! do be reasonable! You'll go into a fit, or
somebody will hear you! You know how I hate a scene. Do be good, there's
a darling! Why didn't you tell me at first how much you wished for it,
and I would have said yes in a moment."

"Because I didn't know myself," cried she passionately. "There, I will
be good, and love you better than all the world, except one. And if you
let those horrid Russians hurt you, I will hate you as long as I live,
and be miserable all my life afterwards."

"Why, Valencia, do you know, that sounds very like a bull?"

"Am I not a wild Irish girl?" said she, and hurried out, leaving
Scoutbush to return to his flies.

She bounded into Lucia's room, there to pour out a bursting heart--and
stopped short.

Lucia was sitting on the bed, her shawl and bonnet tossed upon the
floor, her head sunk on her bosom, her arms sunk by her side.

"Lucia, what is it? Speak to me, Lucia!"

She pointed faintly to a letter on the floor--Valencia caught it up--
Lucia made a gesture as if to stop her.

"No, you must not read it. Too dreadful!"

But Valencia read it; while Lucia covered her face in her hands, and
uttered a long, low, shuddering moan of bitter agony.

Valencia read, with flashing eyes and bursting brow. It was a hideous
letter. The words of a man trying to supply the place of strength by
virulence. A hideous letter, unfit to be written here.

"Valencia! Valencia! It is false--a mistake--he is dreaming. You know it
is false! You will not leave me too!"

Valencia dashed it on the ground, clasped her sister in her arms, and
covered her head with kisses.

"My Lucia! My own sweet good sister! Base, cowardly," sobbed she, in her
rage; while Lucia's agony began to find a vent in words, and she moaned
on--

"What have I done? All that flower, that horrid flower: but who would
have dreamed--and Major Campbell, too, of all men upon earth! Valencia,
it is some horrid delusion of the devil. Why, he was there all the
while--and you too. Could he think that I should before his very face?
What must he fancy me? Oh, it is a delusion of the devil, and nothing
else!"

"He is a wretch! I will take the letter to my brother; he shall right
you!"

"Ah no! no! never! Let me tear it to atoms--hide it! It is all a
mistake! He did not mean it! He will recollect himself to-morrow and
come back."

"Let him come back if he dare!" cried Valencia, in a tone which said, "I
could kill him with my own hands!"

"Oh, he will come back! He cannot have the heart to leave his poor
little Lucia. Oh, cruel, cowardly, not to have said one word--not one
word to explain all--but it was all my fault, my wicked, odious temper;
and after I had seen how vexed he was, too!--Oh, Elsley, Elsley, come
back, only come back, and I will beg your pardon on my knees! anything?
Scold me, beat me, if you will! I deserve it all! Only come back, and
let me see your face, and hear your voice, instead of leaving me here
all alone, and the poor children too! Oh, what shall I say to them
to-morrow, when they wake and find no father!"

Valencia's indignation had no words. She could only sit on the bed, with
Lucia in her arms, looking defiance at all the world above that fair
head which one moment dropped on her bosom, and the next gazed up into
her face in pitiful child-like pleading.

"Oh, if I but knew where he was gone! If I could but find him! One word
--one word would set all right! It always did, Valencia, always! He was
so kind, so dear in a moment, when I put away my naughty, naughty
temper, and smiled in his face like a good wife. Wicked creature that I
was! and this is my punishment. Oh, Elsley, one word, one word! I must
find him if I went barefoot over the mountains--I must go, I must--"

And she tried to rise: but Valencia held her down, while she entreated
piteously--

"I will go, and see about finding him!" she said at last as her only
resource. "Promise me to be quiet here, and I will."

"Quiet? Yes! quiet here!" and she threw herself upon her face on the
floor.

She looked up eagerly. "You will not tell Scoutbush?"

"Why not?"

"He is so--so hasty. He will kill him! Valencia, he will kill him!
Promise me not to tell him, or I shall go mad!" And she sat up again,
pressing her hands upon her head, and rocking from side to side.

"Oh, Valencia, if I dared only scream! but keeping it in kills me. It is
like a sword through my brain now!"

"Let me call Clara."

"No, no! not Clara. Do not tell her, I will be quiet; indeed I will;
only come back soon, soon; for I am all alone, alone!" And she threw
herself down again upon her face.

Valencia went out. Certain as she was of her sister's innocence, there
was one terrible question in her heart which must be answered, or her
belief in all truth, goodness, religion, would reel and rock to its very
foundations. And till she had an answer to that, she could not sit still
by Lucia.

She walked hurriedly, with compressed lips, but quivering limbs, down
stairs, and into the sitting-room. Scoutbush was gone to bed. Campbell
and Mellot sat chatting still.

"Where is my brother?"

"Gone to bed, as some one else ought to be; for it is past twelve. Is
Vavasour come in yet?"

"No."

"Very odd," said Claude; "I never saw him after I left you."

"He said certainly that he was going to find you," said Campbell.

"There is no need for speculating," said Valencia quietly; "my sister
has a note from Mr. Vavasour at Pen-y-gwryd."

"Pen-y-gwryd?" cried both men at once.

"Yes. Major Campbell, I wish to show it to you."

Valencia's tone and manner was significant enough to make Claude Mellot
bid them both good-night.

When he had shut the door behind him, Valencia put the letter into the
Major's hand.

He was too much absorbed in it to look up at her; but if he had done so,
he would have been startled by the fearful capacity of passion which
changed, for the moment, that gay Queen Whims into a terrible Roxana, as
she stood, leaning against the mantelpiece, but drawn up to her full
height, her lips tight shut, eyes which gazed through and through him in
awful scrutiny, holding her very breath, while a nervous clutching of
the little hand said, "If you have tampered with my sister's heart,
better for you that you were dead!"

He read it through, once, twice, with livid face; then clashed it on the
floor.

"Fool!--cur!--liar!--she is as pure as God's sunlight."

"You need not tell me that," said Valencia, through her closed teeth.

"Fool!--fool!" And then, in a moment, his voice changed from indignation
to the bitterest self-reproach.

"And fool I; thrice fool! Who am I, to rail on him? Oh God! what have I
done?" And he covered his face with his hands.

"What have you done?" literally shrieked Valencia.

"Nothing that you or man can blame, Miss St. Just! Can you dream that,
sinful as I am, I could ever harbour a thought toward her of which I
should be ashamed before the angels of God?"

He looked up as he spoke, with an utter humility and an intense honesty,
which unnerved her at once.

"Oh, my Saint Pere!" and she held out both her hands. "Forgive me, if--
only for a moment--"

"I am not your Saint Pere, nor any one's! I am a poor, weak, conceited,
miserable man, who by his accursed impertinence has broken the heart of
the being whom he loves best on earth."

Valencia started: but ere she could ask for an explanation, he rejoined
wildly--

"How is she? Tell me only that, this once! Has it killed her? Does she
hate him?"

"Adores him more than ever. Oh, Major Campbell! it is too piteous, too
piteous."

He covered his face with his hands, shuddering. "Thank God! yes, thank
God! So it should be. Let her love him to the last, and win her martyr's
crown! Now, Valencia St. Just, sit down, if but for five minutes; and
listen, once for all, to the last words, perhaps, you will ever hear me
speak; unless she wants you--?"

"No, no! Tell me all, Saint Pere!" said Valencia, "for I am walking in a
dream--a double dream!" as the new thought of Headley, and that walk,
came over her. "Tell me all at once, while I have wits left to
comprehend."

"Miss St. Just," said he, in a clear calm voice, "it is fit, for her
honour and for mine, that you should know all. The first day that I ever
saw your sister, I loved her; as a man loves who can never cease to
love, or love a second time. I was a raw awkward Scotchman then, and she
used to laugh at me. Why not? I kept my secret, and determined to become
a man at whom no one would wish to laugh. I was in the Company's service
then. You recollect her jesting once about the Indian army, and my
commanding black people, and saying that the Line only was fit for--some
girl's jest?"

"No; I recollect nothing of it."

"I never forgot it. I threw up all my prospects, and went into the Line.
Whether I won honour there or not I need not tell you. I came back to
England years after, not unworthy, as I fancied, to look your sister in
the face as an equal. I found her married."

He paused a little, and then went on, in a quiet, business-like tone.

"Good. Her choice was sure to be a worthy one, and that was enough for
me. You need not doubt that I kept my secret then more sacredly than
ever. I returned to India, and tried to die. I dared not kill myself,
for I was a soldier and a Christian, and belonged to God and my Queen.
The Sikhs would not kill me, do what I would to help them. Then I threw
myself into science, that I might stifle passion; and I stifled it. I
fancied myself cured, and I was cured; and I returned to England again.
I loved your brother for her sake; I loved you at first for her sake,
then for your own. But I presumed upon my cure; I accepted your
brother's invitation; I caught at the opportunity of seeing her again--
happy--as I fancied; and of proving to myself my own soundness. I
considered myself a sort of Melchisedek, neither young nor old, without
passions, without purpose on earth--a fakeer who had licence to do and
to dare what others might not. But I kept my secret proudly inviolate. I
do not believe at this moment she dreams that--Do you?"

"She does not."

"Thank God! I was a most conceited fool, puffed up with spiritual pride,
tempting God needlessly. I went, I saw her. Heaven is my witness, that
as far as passion goes, my heart is as pure as yours: but I found that I
still cared more for her than for any being on earth: and I found too
the sort of man upon whom--God forgive me! I must not talk of that--I
despised him, hated him, pretended to teach him his duty, by behaving
better to her than he did--the spiritual coxcomb that I was! What
business had I with it? Why not have left all to God and her good sense?
The devil tempted me to-day, in the shape of an angel of courtesy and
chivalry; and here the end is come. I must find that man, Miss St. Just,
if I travel the world in search of him. I must ask his pardon frankly,
humbly, for my impertinence. Perhaps so I may bring him back to her, and
not die with a curse on my head for having parted those whom God has
joined. And then to the old fighting-trade once more--the only one, I
believe, I really understand; and see whether a Russian bullet will not
fly straighter than a clumsy Sikh's."

Valencia listened, awe-stricken; and all the more so because this was
spoken in a calm, half-abstracted voice, without a note of feeling, save
where he alluded to his own mistakes. When it was over, she rose without
a word, and took both his hands in her own, sobbing bitterly.

"You forgive me, then, all the misery which I have caused!"

"Do not talk so! Only forgive me having fancied for one moment that you
were anything but what you are, an angel out of heaven."

Campbell hung down his head.

"Angel, truly! Azrael, the angel of death, then. Go to her now--go, and
leave a humbled penitent man alone with God."

"Oh, my Saint Pere!" cried she, bursting into tears. "This is too
wretched--all a horrid dream--and when, too--when I had been counting on
telling you something so different!--I cannot now, I have not the
heart."

"What, more misery?"

"Oh no! no! no! You will know all to-morrow. Ask Scoutbush."

"I shall be gone in search of that man long before Scoutbush is awake."

"Impossible! you do not know whither he is gone."

"If I employ every detective in Bow Street, I will find him."

"Wait, only wait, till the post comes in to-morrow. He will surely
write, if not to her,--wretch that he is!--at least to some of us."

"If he be alive. No. I must go up to Pen-y-gwryd, where he was last
seen, and find out what I can."

"They will be all in bed at this hour of the night; and if--if anything
has happened, it will be over by now," added she with a shudder.

"God forgive me! It will indeed: but he may write--perhaps to me. He is
no coward, I believe: and he may send me a challenge. Yes, I will wait
for the post."

"Shall you accept it if he does?"

Major Campbell smiled sadly.

"No, Miss St. Just; you may set your mind at rest upon that point. I
have done quite enough harm already to your family. Now, good-bye! I
will wait for the post to-morrow: do you go to your sister."

Valencia went, utterly bewildered. She had forgotten Frank, but Frank
had not forgotten her. He had hurried to his room; lay till morning,
sleepless with delight, and pouring out his pure spirit in thanks for
this great and unexpected blessing. A new life had begun for him, even
in the jaws of death. He would still go to the East. It seemed easy to
him to go there in search of a grave; how much more now, when he felt so
full of magic life, that fever, cholera, the chances of war, could not
harm him! After this proof of God's love, how could he doubt, how fear?

Little he thought that three doors off from him, Valencia was sitting up
the whole night through, vainly trying to quiet Lucia, who refused to
undress, and paced up and down her room, hour after hour in wild misery,
which I have no skill to detail.




CHAPTER XXI.

NATURE'S MELODRAMA.


What, then, had become of Elsley? And whence had he written the fatal
letter? He had hurried up the high road for half an hour and more, till
the valley on the left sloped upward more rapidly, in dark dreary bogs,
the moonlight shining on their runnels; while the mountain on his right
sloped downwards more rapidly in dark dreary down, strewn with rocks
which stood out black against the sky. He was nearing the head of the
watershed; soon he saw slate roofs glittering in the moonlight, and
found himself at the little inn of Pen-y-gwryd, at the meeting of the
three great valleys, the central heart of the mountains.

And a genial, jovial little heart it is, and an honest, kindly little
heart too, with warm life-blood within. So it looked that night, with
every window red with comfortable light, and a long stream of glare
pouring across the road from the open door, gilding the fir-tree tops in
front: but its geniality only made him shudder. He had been there more
than once, and knew the place and the people; and knew, too, that of all
people in the world, they were the least like him. He hurried past the
doorway, and caught one glimpse of the bright kitchen. A sudden thought
struck him. He would go in and write his letter there. But not yet--he
could not go in yet; for through the open door came some sweet Welsh
air, so sweet, that even he paused to listen. Men were singing in three
parts, in that rich metallic temper of voice, and that perfect time and
tune, which is the one gift still left to that strange Cymry race, worn
out with the long burden of so many thousand years. He knew the air; it
was "The Rising of the Lark." Heavens! what a bitter contrast to his own
thoughts! But he stood rooted, as if spell-bound, to hear it to the end.
The lark's upward flight was over; and Elsley heard him come quivering
down from heaven's gate, fluttering, sinking, trilling self-complacently,
springing aloft in one bar, only to sink lower in the next, and call
more softly to his brooding mate below; till, worn out with his ecstasy,
he murmured one last sigh of joy, and sank into the nest. The picture
flashed through Elsley's brain as swiftly as the notes did through his
ears. He breathed more freely when it vanished with the sounds. He
strode hastily in, and down the little passage to the kitchen.

It was a low room, ceiled with dark beams, from which hung bacon and
fishing-rods, harness and drying stockings, and all the miscellanea of a
fishing inn kept by a farmer, and beneath it the usual happy, hearty,
honest group. There was Harry Owen, bland and stalwart, his baby in his
arms, smiling upon the world in general; old Mrs. Pritchard, bending
over the fire, putting the last touch to one of those miraculous
soufflets, compact of clouds and nectar, which transport alike palate
and fancy, at the first mouthful, from Snowdon to Belgrave Square. A
sturdy fair-haired Saxon Gourbannelig sat with his back to the door, and
two of the beautiful children on his knee, their long locks flowing over
the elbows of his shooting jacket, as, with both arms round them, he
made Punch for them with his handkerchief and his fingers, and chattered
to them in English, while they chattered in Welsh. By him sat another
Englishman, to whom the three tuneful Snowdon guides, their music-score
upon their knees, sat listening approvingly, as he rolled out, with
voice as of a jolly blackbird, or jollier monk of old, the good old
Wessex song:--

  "My dog he has his master's nose,
  To smell a knave through silken hose;
  If friends or honest men go by,
  Welcome, quoth my dog and I!

  "Of foreign tongues let scholars brag,
  With fifteen names for a pudding-bag:
  Two tongues I know ne'er told a lie;
  And their wearers be, my dog and I!"

"That ought to be Harry's song, and the colly's too, eh?" said he,
pointing to the dear old dog, who sat with his head on Owen's knee--"eh,
my men? Here's a health to the honest man and his dog!"

And all laughed and drank; while Elsley's dark face looked in at the
doorway, and half turned to escape. Handsome lady-like Mrs. Owen,
bustling out of the kitchen with a supper-tray, ran full against him,
and uttered a Welsh scream.

"Show me a room, and bring me a pen and paper," said he; and then
started in his turn, as all had started at him; for the two Englishmen
looked round, and, behold, to his disgust, the singer was none other
than Naylor; the actor of Punch was Wynd.

To have found his _betes noires_ even here, and at such a moment! And
what was worse, to hear Mrs. Owen say,--"We have no room, sir, unless
these gentlemen--"

"Of course," said Wynd, jumping up, a child under each arm. "Mr.
Vavasour! we shall be most happy to have your company,--for a week if
you will!"

"Ten minutes' solitude is all I ask, sir, if I am not intruding too
far."

"Two hours, if you like. We'll stay here. Mrs. Owen,--the thicker the
merrier." But Elsley had vanished into a chamber bestrewn with plaids,
pipes, hob-nail boots, fishing-tackle, mathematical books, scraps of
ore, and the wild confusion of a gownsman's den.

"The party is taken ill with a poem," said Wynd.

Naylor stuck out his heavy under-lip and glanced sidelong at his friend.

"With something worse, Ned. That man's eye and voice had something
uncanny in them. Mellot said he would go crazed some day; and be hanged
if I don't think he is so now."

Another five minutes, and Elsley rang the bell violently for hot
brandy-and-water.

Mrs. Owen came back looking a little startled, a letter in her hand.

"The gentleman had drunk the liquor off at one draught, and ran out of
the house like a wild man. Harry Owen must go down to Beddgelert
instantly with the letter; and there was five shillings to pay for all."

Harry Owen rises, like a strong and patient beast of burden, ready for
any amount of walking, at any hour in the twenty-four. He has been up
Snowdon once to-day already. He is going up again at twelve to-night,
with a German who wants to see the sun rise; he deputes that office to
John Roberts and strides out.

"Which way did the gentleman go, Mrs. Owen?" asks Naylor.

"Capel Curig road."

Naylor whispers to Wynd, who sets the two little girls on the table, and
hurries out with him. They look up the road, and see no one; run a
couple of hundred yards, where they catch a sight of the next turn,
clear in the moonlight. There is no one on the road.

"Run to the bridge, Wynd," whispers Naylor. "He may have thrown himself
over."

"Tally ho!" whispers Wynd in return, laying his hand on Naylor's arm,
and pointing to the left of the road.

A hundred yards from them, over the boggy upland, among scattered
boulders, a dark figure is moving. Now he stops short, gesticulating;
turns right and left irresolutely. At last he hurries on and upward; he
is running, springing from stone to stone.

"There is but one thing, Wynd. After him, or he'll drown himself in Llyn
Cwn Fynnon."

"No, he's striking to the right. Can he be going up the Glyder?"

"We'll see that in five minutes. All in the day's work, my boy. I could
go up Mont Blanc with such a dinner in me."

The two gallant men run in, struggle into their wet boots again, and
provisioned with meat and bread, whiskey, tobacco, and plaids, are away
upon Elsley's tracks, having left Mrs. Owen disconsolate by their
announcement, that a sudden fancy to sleep on the Glyder has seized
them. Nothing more will they tell her, or any one; being gentlemen,
however much slang they may talk in private.

Elsley left the door of Pen-y-gwryd, careless whither he went, if he
went only far enough.

In front of him rose the Glyder Vawr, its head shrouded in soft mist,
through which the moonlight gleamed upon the chequered quarries of that
enormous desolation, the dead bones of the eldest-born of time. A wild
longing seized him; he would escape up thither; up into those clouds, up
anywhere to be alone--alone with his miserable self. That was dreadful
enough: but less dreadful than having a companion,--ay, even a stone by
him--which could remind him of the scene which he had left; even remind
him that there was another human being on earth beside himself. Yes,--to
put that cliff between him and all the world! Away he plunged from the
high road, splashing over boggy uplands, scrambling among scattered
boulders, across a stony torrent bed, and then across another and
another:--when would he reach that dark marbled wall, which rose into
the infinite blank,--looking within a stone-throw of him, and yet no
nearer after he had walked a mile?

He reached it at last, and rushed up the talus of boulders, springing
from stone to stone; till his breath failed him, and he was forced to
settle into a less frantic pace. But upward he would go, and upward he
went, with a strength which he never had felt before. Strong? How should
he not be strong, while every vein felt filled with molten lead; while
some unseen power seemed not so much to attract him upwards, as to drive
him by magical repulsion from all that he had left below?

So upward and upward ever, driven on by the terrible gad-fly, like Io of
old he went; stumbling upwards along torrent beds of slippery slate,
writhing himself upward through crannies where the waterfall splashed
cold upon his chest and face, yet could not cool the inward fire;
climbing, hand and knee, up cliffs of sharp-edged rock; striding over
downs where huge rocks lay crouched in the grass, like fossil monsters
of some ancient world, and seemed to stare at him with still and angry
brows. Upward still, to black terraces of lava, standing out hard and
black against the grey cloud, gleaming like iron in the moonlight, stair
above stair, like those over which Vathek and the Princess climbed up to
the halls of Eblis. Over their crumbling steps, up through their cracks
and crannies, out upon a dreary slope of broken stones, and then,--
before he dives upward into the cloud ten yards above his head,--one
breathless look back upon the world.

The horizontal curtain of mist; gauzy below, fringed with white tufts
and streamers, deepening above into the blackness of utter night. Below
it a long gulf of soft yellow haze in which, as in a bath of gold, lie
delicate bars of far-off western cloud; and the faint glimmer of the
western sea, above long knotted spurs of hill, in deepest shades, like a
bunch of purple grapes flecked here and there from behind with gleams of
golden light; and beneath them again, the dark woods sleeping over
Gwynnant, and their dark double sleeping in the bright lake below.

On the right hand Snowdon rises. Vast sheets of utter blackness--vast
sheets of shining light. He can see every crag which juts from the green
walls of Galt-y-Wennalt; and far past it into the Great Valley of Cwn
Dyli; and then the red peak, now as black as night, shuts out the world
with its huge mist-topped cone. But on the left hand all is deepest
shade. From the highest saw-edges, where Moel Meirch cuts the golden
sky, down to the very depth of the abyss, all is lustrous darkness,
sooty, and yet golden still. Let the darkness lie upon it for ever!
Hidden be those woods where she stood an hour ago! Hidden that road down
which, even now, they may be pacing home together!--Curse the thought!
He covers his face in his hands, and shudders in every limb.

He lifts his hands from his eyes at last:--what has befallen?

Before the golden haze a white veil is falling fast. Sea, mountain,
lake, are vanishing, fading as in a dream. Soon he can see nothing, but
the twinkle of a light in Pen-y-gwryd, a thousand feet below; happy
children are nestling there in innocent sleep. Jovial voices are
chatting round the fire. What has he to do with youth, and health, and
joy? Lower, lower, ye clouds!--Shut out that insolent and intruding
spark, till nothing be seen but the silver sheet of Cwm Fynnon, and the
silver zig-zag lines which wander into it among black morass, while down
the mountain side go, softly sliding, troops of white mist-angels.
Softly they slide, swift and yet motionless, as if by some inner will,
which needs no force of limbs; gliding gently round the crags, diving
gently off into the abyss, their long white robes trailing about their
feet in upward-floating folds. "Let us go hence," they seem to whisper
to the God-forsaken, as legends say they whispered, when they left their
doomed shrine in old Jerusalem. Let the white fringe fall between him
and the last of that fair troop; let the grey curtain follow, the black
pall above descend; till he is alone in darkness that may be felt, and
in the shadow of death.

Now he is safe at last; hidden from all living things--hidden it may be,
from God; for at least God is hidden from him. He has desired to be
alone: and he is alone; the centre of the universe, if universe there
be. All created things, suns and planets, seem to revolve round him, and
he a point of darkness, not of light. He seems to float self-poised in
the centre of the boundless nothing, upon an ell-broad slab of stone--
and yet not even on that: for the very ground on which he stands he does
not feel. He does not feel the mist which wets his cheek, the blood
which throbs within his veins. He only is; and there is none beside.

Horrible thought! Permitted but to few, and to them--thank God!--but
rarely. For two minutes of that absolute self-isolation would bring
madness; if, indeed, it be not the very essence of madness itself.

There he stood; he knew not how long; without motion, without thought,
without even rage or hate, now--in one blank paralysis of his whole
nature; conscious only of self, and of a dull, inward fire, as if his
soul were a dark vault, lighted with lurid smoke.

       *       *       *       *       *

What was that? He started: shuddered--as well he might. Had he seen
heaven opened? or another place? So momentary was the vision, that he
scarce knew what he saw. There it was again! Lasting but for a moment: but
long enough to let him see the whole western heaven transfigured into
one sheet of pale blue gauze, and before it Snowdon towering black as
ink, with every saw and crest cut out, hard and terrible, against the
lightning-glare:--and then the blank of darkness.

Again! The awful black giant, towering high in air, before the gates of
that blue abyss of flame: but a black crown of cloud has settled upon
his head; and out of it the lightning sparks leap to and fro, ringing
his brows with a coronet of fire.

Another moment, and the roar of that great battle between earth and
heaven crashed full on Elsley's ears.

He heard it leap from Snowdon, sharp and rattling, across the gulf
toward him, till it crashed full upon the Glyder overhead, and rolled
and flapped from crag to crag, and died away along the dreary downs. No!
There it boomed out again, thundering full against Siabod on the left;
and Siabod tossed it on to Moel Meirch, who answered from all her clefts
and peaks with a long confused battle-growl, and then tossed it across
to Aran; and Aran, with one dull, bluff report from her flat cliff, to
nearer Lliwedd; till, worn out with the long bufferings of that giant
ring, it sank and died on Gwynnant far below--but ere it died, another
and another thunder-crash burst, sharper and nearer every time, to hurry
round the hills after the one which roared before it.

Another minute, and the blue glare filled the sky once more: but no
black Titan towered before it now. The storm had leapt Llanberris pass,
and all around Elsley was one howling chaos of cloud, and rain, and
blinding flame. He turned and fled again.

By the sensation of his feet, he knew that he was going up hill; and if
he but went upward, he cared not whither he went. The rain gushed
through, where the lightning pierced the cloud, in drops like musket
balls. He was drenched to the skin in a moment; dazzled and giddy from
the flashes; stunned by the everlasting roar, peal over-rushing peal,
echo out-shooting echo, till rocks and air quivered alike beneath the
continuous battle-cannonade.--"What matter? What fitter guide for such a
path as mine than the blue lightning flashes?"

Poor wretch! He had gone out of his way for many a year, to give himself
up, a willing captive, to the melodramatic view of Nature, and had let
sights and sounds, not principles and duties, mould his feelings for
him: and now, in his utter need and utter weakness, he had met her in a
mood which was too awful for such as he was to resist. The Nemesis had
come; and swept away helplessly, without faith and hope, by those
outward impressions of things on which he had feasted his soul so long,
he was the puppet of his own eyes and ears; the slave of glare and
noise.

Breathless, but still untired, he toiled up a steep incline, where he
could feel beneath him neither moss nor herb. Now and then his feet
brushed through a soft tuft of parsley fern: but soon even that sign of
vegetation ceased; his feet only rasped over rough bare rock, and he was
alone in a desert of stone.

What was that sudden apparition above him, seen for a moment dim and
gigantic through the mist, hid the next in darkness? The next flash
showed him a line of obelisks, like giants crouching side by side,
staring down on him from the clouds. Another five minutes, he was at
their feet, and past them; to see above them again another line of awful
watchers through the storms and rains of many a thousand years, waiting,
grim and silent, like those doomed senators in the Capitol of Rome, till
their own turn should come, and the last lightning stroke hurl them too
down, to lie for ever by their fallen brothers, whose mighty bones
bestrewed the screes below.

He groped his way between them; saw some fifty yards beyond a higher
peak; gained it by fierce struggles and many falls; saw another beyond
that; and, rushing down and up two slopes of moss, reached a region
where the upright lava-ledges had been split asunder into chasms,
crushed together again into caves, toppled over each other, hurled up
into spires, in such chaotic confusion, that progress seemed impossible.

A flash of lightning revealed a lofty cairn above his head. There was
yet, then, a higher point! He would reach it, if he broke every limb in
the attempt! and madly he hurried on, feeling his way from ledge to
ledge, squeezing himself through crannies, crawling on hands and knees
along the sharp chines of the rocks, till he reached the foot of the
cairn; climbed it, and threw himself at full length on the summit of the
Glyder Vawr.

An awful place it always is; and Elsley saw it at an awful time, as the
glare unveiled below him a sea of rock-waves, all sharp on edge,
pointing toward him on every side: or rather one wave-crest of a sea;
for twenty yards beyond, all sloped away into the abysmal dark.

Terrible were those rocks below; and ten times more terrible as seen
through the lurid glow of his distempered brain. All the weird peaks and
slabs seemed pointing up at him: sharp-toothed jaws gaped upward--
tongues hissed upward--arms pointed upward--hounds leaped upward--
monstrous snake-heads peered upward out of cracks and caves. Did he not
see them move, writhe? or was it the ever-shifting light of the flashes?
Did he not hear them howl, yell at him? or was it but the wind, tortured
in their labyrinthine caverns?

The next moment, and all was dark again; but the images which had been
called up remained, and fastened on his brain, and grew there; and when,
in the light of the next flash, the scene returned, he could see the red
lips of the phantom hounds, the bright eyes of the phantom snakes; the
tongues wagged in mockery; the hands brandished great stones to hurl at
him; the mountain-top was instinct with fiendish life,--a very
Blocksberg of all hideous shapes and sins.

And yet he did not shrink. Horrible it was; he was going mad before it.
And yet he took a strange and fierce delight in making it more horrible;
in maddening himself yet more and more; in clothing those fantastic
stones with every fancy which could inspire another man with dread. But
he had no dread. Perfect rage, like perfect love, casts out fear. He
rejoiced in his own misery, in his own danger. His life hung on a
thread; any instant might hurl him from that cairn, a blackened corpse.

What better end? Let it come! He was Prometheus on the peak of Caucasus,
hurling defiance at the unjust Jove! His hopes, his love, his very
honour--curse it!--ruined! Let the lightning stroke come! He were a
coward to shrink from it. Let him face the worst, unprotected,
bare-headed, naked, and do battle, himself, and nothing but himself,
against the universe! And, as men at such moments will do, in the mad
desire to free the self-tortured spirit from some unseen and choking
bond, he began wildly tearing off his clothes.

But merciful nature brought relief, and stopped him in his mad efforts,
or he had been a frozen corpse long ere the dawn. His hands, stiff with
cold, refused to obey him; as he delayed he was saved. After the
paroxysm came the collapse; he sank upon the top of the cairn half
senseless. He felt himself falling over its edge; and the animal
instinct of self-preservation, unconsciously to him, made him slide down
gently, till he sank into a crack between two rocks, sheltered somewhat,
as it befell happily, from the lashing of the rain.

Another minute, and he slept a dreamless sleep.

But there are two men upon that mountain, whom neither rock nor rain,
storm nor thunder have conquered, because they are simply brave honest
men; and who are, perhaps, far more "poetic" characters at this moment
than Elsley Vavasour, or any dozen of mere verse-writers, because they
are hazarding their lives, on an errand of mercy, and all the while have
so little notion that they are hazarding their lives, or doing anything
dangerous or heroic, that, instead of being touched for a moment by
Nature's melodrama, they are jesting at each other's troubles, greeting
each interval of darkness with mock shouts of misery and despair,
likening the crags to various fogies of their acquaintance, male and
female, and only pulling the cutty pipes out of their mouths to chant
snatches of jovial songs. They are Wynd and Naylor, the two Cambridge
boating-men, in bedrabbled flannel trousers, and shooting-jackets
pocketful of water; who are both fully agreed, that hunting a mad poet
over the mountains in a thunder-storm is, on the whole, "the jolliest
lark they ever had in their lives."

"He must have gone up here somewhere. I saw the poor beggar against the
sky as plain as I see you,--which I don't--" for darkness cut the speech
short.

"Where be you, William? says the keeper."

"Here I be, sir, says the beater, with my 'eels above my 'ed."

"Wery well, William; when you get your 'ed above your 'eels, gae on."

"But I'm stuck fast between two stones! Hang the stones!" And Naylor
bursts into an old seventeenth century ditty of the days of "three-man
glees."

  "They stoans, they stoans, they stoans, they stoans--
  They stoans that built George Riddler's oven,
  O they was fetched from Blakeney quarr';
  And George he was a jolly old man,
  And his head did grow above his har'.

  "One thing in George Riddler I must commend,
  And I hold it for a valiant thing;
  With any three brothers in Gloucestershire
  He swore that his three sons should sing.

  "There was Dick the tribble, and Tom the mane,
  Let every man sing in his own place;
  And William he was the eldest brother,
  And therefore he should sing the base.--

I'm down again! This is my thirteenth fall."

"So am I! I shall just lie and light a pipe."

"Come on, now, and look round the lee side of this crag. We shall find
him bundled up under the lee of one of them."

"He don't know lee from windward, I dare say." "He'll soon find out the
difference by his skin;--if it's half as wet, at least, as mine is."

"I'll tell you what, Naylor, if the poor fellow has crossed the ridge,
and tried to go down on the Twll du, he's a dead man by this time."

"He'll have funked it, when he comes to the edge, and sees nothing but
mist below. But if he has wandered on to the cliffs above Trifaen, he's
a dead man, then, at all events. Get out of the way of that flash! A
close shave, that! I believe my whiskers are singed."

"'Pon my honour, Wynd, we ought to be saying our prayers rather than
joking in this way."

"We may do both, and be none the worse. As for coming to grief, old boy,
we're on a good errand, I suppose, and the devil himself can't harm us.
Still, shame to him who's ashamed of saying his prayers, as Arnold used
to say."

And all the while, these two brave lads have been thrusting their
lanthorn into every crack and cranny, and beating round every crag
carefully and cunningly, till long past two in the morning.

"Here's the ordnance cairn, at last; and--here am I astride of a
carving-knife, I think! Come and help me off, or I shall be split to the
chin!"

"I'm coming! What's this soft under my feet? Who-o-o-oop! Run him to
earth at last!"

And diving down into a crack, Wynd drags out by the collar the
unconscious Elsley.

"What a swab! Like a piece of wet blotting-paper. Lucky he's not made of
salt."

"He's dead!" says Naylor.

"Not a bit. I can feel his heart. There's life in the old dog yet."

And they begin, under the lee of a rock, chafing him, wrapping him in
their plaids, and pouring whiskey down his throat.

It was some time before Vavasour recovered his consciousness. The first
use which he made of it was to bid his preservers leave him; querulously
at first; and then fiercely, when he found out who they were.

"Leave me, I say! Cannot I be alone if I choose? What right have you to
dog me in this way?"

"My dear sir, we have as much right here as any one else; and if we find
a man dying here of cold and fatigue--"

"What business of yours, if I choose to die?"

"There is no harm in your dying, sir," says Naylor. "The harm is in our
letting you die; I assure you it is entirely to satisfy our own
consciences we are troubling you thus;" and he begins pressing him to
take food.

"No, sir; nothing from you! You have shown me impertinence enough in the
last few weeks, without pressing on me benefits for which I do not wish.
Let me go! If you will not leave me, I shall leave you!"

And he tried to rise: but, stiffened with cold, sank back again upon the
rock.

In vain they tried to reason with him; begged his pardon for all past
jests: he made effort after effort to get up; and at last, his limbs,
regaining strength by the fierceness of his passion, supported him; and
he struggled onward toward the northern slope of the mountain.

"You must not go down till it is light; it is as much as your life is
worth."

"I am going to Bangor, sir; and go I will!"

"I tell you, there is fifteen hundred feet of slippery screes below
you."

"As steep as a house-roof, and with every tile on it loose. You will
roll from top to bottom before you have gone a hundred yards."

"What care I? Let me go, I say! Curse you, sir! Do you mean to use
force?"

"I do," said Wynd quietly, as he took him round arms and body, and set
him down on the rock like a child.

"You have assaulted me, sir! The law shall avenge this insult, if there
be law in England!"

"I know nothing about law: but I suppose it will justify me in saving
any man's life who is rushing to certain death."

"Look here, sir!" said Naylor. "Go down, if you will, when it grows
light: but from this place you do not stir yet. Whatever you may think
of our conduct to-night, you will thank us for it to-morrow morning,
when you see where you are."

The unhappy man stamped with rage. The red glare of the lanthorn showed
him his two powerful warders, standing right and left. He felt that
there was no escape from them, but in darkness; and suddenly he dashed
at the lanthorn, and tried to tear it out of Wynd's hands.

"Steady, sir!" said Wynd, springing back, and parrying his outstretched
hand. "If you wish us to consider you in your senses, you will be
quiet."

"And if you don't choose to appear sane," said Naylor, "you must not be
surprised if we treat you as men are treated who--you understand me."

Elsley was silent awhile; his rage, finding itself impotent, subsided
into dark cunning. "Really, gentlemen," he said at length, "I believe
you are right; I have been very foolish, and you very kind; but you
would excuse my absurdities if you knew their provocation."

"My dear sir," said Naylor, "we are bound to believe that you have good
cause enough for what you are doing. We have no wish to interfere
impertinently. Only wait till daylight, and wrap yourself in one of our
plaids, as the only possible method of carrying out your own intentions;
for dead men can't go to Bangor, whithersoever else they may go."

"You really are too kind; but I believe I must accept your offer, under
penalty of being called mad;" and Elsley laughed a hollow laugh; for he
was by no means sure that he was not mad. He took the proffered wrapper;
lay down; and seemed to sleep.

Wynd and Naylor, congratulating themselves on his better mind, lay down
also beneath the other plaid, intending to watch him. But worn out with
fatigue, they were both fast asleep ere ten minutes had passed.

Elsley had determined to keep himself awake at all risks; and he paid a
bitter penalty for so doing; for now that the fury had passed away, his
brain began to work freely again, and inflicted torture so exquisite,
that he looked back with regret on the unreasoning madness of last
night, as a less fearful hell than that of thought; of deliberate, acute
recollections, suspicions, trains of argument, which he tried to thrust
from him, and yet could not. Who has not known in the still, sleepless
hours of night, how dark thoughts will possess the mind with terrors,
which seem logical, irrefragable, inevitable?

So it was then with the wretched Elsley; within his mind a whole train
of devil's advocates seemed arguing, with triumphant subtlety, the
certainty of Lucia's treason; and justifying to him his rage, his
hatred, his flight, his desertion of his own children,--if indeed (so
far had the devil led him astray) they were his own. At last he could
bear it no longer. He would escape to Bangor, and then to London, cross
to France, to Italy, and there bury himself amid the forests of the
Apennines, or the sunny glens of Calabria. And for a moment the vision
of a poet's life in that glorious land brightened his dark imagination.
Yes! He would escape thither, and be at peace; and if the world heard of
him again, it should be in such a thunder-voice, as those with which
Shelley and Byron, from their southern seclusion, had shaken the
ungrateful motherland which cast them out. He would escape; and now was
the time to do it! For the rain had long since ceased; the dawn was
approaching fast; the cloud was thinning from black to pearly grey. Now
was his time--were it not for those two men! To be kept, guarded,
stopped by them, or by any man! Shameful! intolerable! He had fled
hither to be free, and even here he found himself a prisoner. True, they
had promised to let him go if he waited till daylight; but perhaps they
were deceiving him, as he was deceiving them--why not? They thought him
mad. It was a ruse, a stratagem, to keep him quiet awhile, and then
bring him back,--"restore him to his afflicted friends." His friends,
truly! He would be too cunning for them yet. And even if they meant to
let him go, would he accept liberty from them, or any man? No; he was
free! He had a right to go; and go he would, that moment!

He raised himself cautiously. The lanthorn had burned to the socket: and
he could not see the men, though they were not four yards off; but by
their regular and heavy breathing he could tell that they both slept
soundly. He slipped from under the plaid; drew off his shoes, for fear
of noise among the rocks, and rose. What if he did make a noise? What if
they woke, chased him, brought him back by force? Curse the thought!--
And gliding close to them, he listened again to their heavy breathing.

How could he prevent their following him?

A horrible, nameless temptation came over him. Every vein in his body
throbbed fire; his brain seemed to swell to bursting; and ere he was
aware, he found himself feeling about in the darkness for a loose stone.

He could not find one. Thank God that he could not find one! But after
that dreadful thought had once crossed his mind, he must flee from that
place ere the brand of Cain be on his brow.

With a cunning and activity utterly new to him, he glided away, like a
snake; downward over crags and boulders, he knew not how long or how
far; all he knew was, that he was going down, down, down, into a dim
abyss. There was just light enough to discern the upper surface of a
rock within arm's length; beyond that all was blank. He seemed to be
hours descending; to be going down miles after miles: and still he
reached no level spot. The mountain-side was too steep for him to stand
upright, except at moments. It seemed one uniform quarry of smooth
broken slate, slipping down for ever beneath his feet.--Whither? He grew
giddy, and more giddy; and a horrible fantastic notion seized him, that
he had lost his way; that somehow, the precipice had no bottom, no end
at all; that he was going down some infinite abyss, into the very depths
of the earth, and the molten roots of the mountains, never to reascend.
He stopped, trembling, only to slide down again; terrified, he tried to
struggle upward: but the shale gave way beneath his feet, and go he
must.

What was that noise above his head? A falling stone? Were his enemies in
pursuit? Down to the depth of hell rather than that they should take
him! He drove his heels into the slippery shale, and rushed forward
blindly, springing, slipping, falling, rolling, till he stopped
breathless on a jutting slab. And lo! below him, through the thin pearly
veil of cloud, a dim world of dark cliffs, blue lakes, grey mountains
with their dark heads wrapped in cloud, and the straight vale of Nant
Francon, magnified in mist, till it seemed to stretch for hundreds of
leagues towards the rosy north-east dawning and the shining sea.

With a wild shout he hurried onward. In five minutes he was clear of the
cloud. He reached the foot of that enormous slope, and hurried over
rocky ways, till he stopped at the top of a precipice, full six hundred
feet above the lonely tarn of Idwal.

Never mind. He knew where he was now; he knew that there was a passage
somewhere, for he had once seen one from below. He found it, and almost
ran along the boggy shore of Idwal, looking back every now and then at
the black wall of the Twll du, in dread lest he should see two moving
specks in hot pursuit.

And now he had gained the shore of Ogwen, and the broad coach-road; and
down it he strode, running at times, past the roaring cataract, past the
enormous cliffs of the Carnedds, past Tin-y-maes, where nothing was
stirring but a barking dog; on through the sleeping streets of Bethesda,
past the black stairs of the Penrhyn quarry. The huge clicking ant-heap
was silent now, save for the roar of Ogwen, as he swirled and bubbled
down, rich coffee-brown from last night's rain.

On, past rich woods, past trim cottages, gardens gay with flowers; past
rhododendron shrubberies, broad fields of golden stubble, sweet clover,
and grey swedes, with Ogwen making music far below. The sun is up at
last, and Colonel Pennant's grim slate castle, towering above black
woods, glitters metallic in its rays, like Chaucer's house of fame. He
stops, to look back once. Far up the vale, eight miles away, beneath a
roof of cloud, the pass of Nant Francon gapes high in air between the
great jaws of the Carnedd and the Glyder, its cliffs marked with the
upright white line of the waterfall. He is clear of the mountains; clear
of that cursed place, and all its cursed thoughts! On, past Llandegai
and all its rose-clad cottages; past yellow quarrymen walking out to
their work, who stare as they pass at his haggard face, drenched
clothes, and streaming hair. He does not see them. One fixed thought is
in his mind, and that is, the railway station at Bangor.

He is striding through Bangor streets now, beside the summer sea, from
which fresh scents of shore-weed greet him. He had rather smell the
smoke and gas of the Strand.

The station is shut. He looks at the bill outside. There is no train for
full two hours; and he throws himself, worn out with fatigue, upon the
doorstep.

Now a new terror seizes him. Has he money enough to reach London? Has he
his purse at all? Too dreadful to find himself stopped short, on the
very brink of deliverance! A cold perspiration breaks from his forehead,
as he feels in every pocket. Yes, his purse is there: but he turns sick
as he opens it, and dare hardly look. Hurrah! Five pounds, six--eight!
That will take him as far as Paris. He can walk; beg the rest of the
way, if need be.

What will he do now? Wander over the town, and gaze vacantly at one
little object and another about the house fronts. One thing he will not
look at; and that is the bright summer sea, all golden in the sun rays,
flecked with gay white sails. From all which is bright and calm, and
cheerful, his soul shrinks as from an impertinence; he longs for the
lurid gas-light of London, and the roar of the Strand, and the
everlasting stream of faces among whom he may wander free, sure that no
one will recognise him, the disgraced, the desperate.

The weary hours roll on. Too tired to stand longer, he sits down on the
shafts of a cart, and tries not to think. It is not difficult. Body and
mind are alike worn out, and his brain seems filled with uniform dull
mist.

A shop-door opens in front of him; a boy comes out. He sees bottles
inside, and shelves, the look of which he knows too well.

The bottle-boy, whistling, begins to take the shutters down. How often,
in Whitbury of old, had Elsley done the same! Half amused, he watched
the lad, and wondered how he spent his evenings, and what works he read,
and whether he ever thought of writing poetry.

And as he watched, all his past life rose up before him, ever since he
served out medicines fifteen years ago;--his wild aspirations, heavy
labours, struggles, plans, brief triumphs, long disappointments: and
here was what it had all come to,--a failure,--a miserable, shameful
failure! Not that he thought of it with repentance, with a single wish
that he had done otherwise: but only with disappointed rage. "Yes!" he
said bitterly to himself--

  "'We poets in our youth begin in gladness,
  But after come despondency and madness.'

This is the way of the world with all who have nobler feelings in them
than will fit into its cold rules. Curse the world! what on earth had I
to do with mixing myself up in it, and marrying a fine lady? Fool that I
was! I might have known from the first that she could not understand me;
that she would go back to her own! Let her go! I will forget her, and
the world, and everything--and I know how!"

And springing up, he walked across to the druggist's shop.

Years before, Elsley had tried opium, and found, unhappily for him, that
it fed his fancy without inflicting those tortures of indigestion which
keep many, happily for them, from its magic snare. He had tried it more
than once of late: but Lucia had had a hint of the fact from Thurnall;
and in just terror had exacted from him a solemn promise never to touch
opium again. Elsley was a man of honour, and the promise had been kept.
But now--"I promised her, and therefore I will break my promise! She has
broken hers, and I am free!"

And he went in and bought his opium. He took a little on the spot to
allay the cravings of hunger. He reserved a full dose for the
railway-carriage. It would bridge over the weary gulf of time which lay
between him and town.

He took his second-class place at last; not without stares and whispers
from those round at the wild figure which was starting for London,
without bag or baggage. But as the clerks agreed, "If he was running
away from his creditors, it was a shame to stop him. If he was running
from the police, they would have the more sport the longer the run. At
least it was no business of theirs."

There was one thing more to do, and he did it. He wrote to Campbell a
short note.

"If, as I suppose, you expect from me 'the satisfaction of a gentleman,'
you will find me at ... Adelphi. I am not escaping from you but from the
whole world. If, by shooting me you can quicken my escape, you will do
me the first and last favour which I am likely to ask from you."

He posted his letter, settled himself in a corner of the carriage, and
took his second dose of opium. From that moment he recollected little
more. A confused whirl of hedges and woods, rattling stations, screaming
and flashing trains, great red towns, white chalk cuttings; while the
everlasting roar and rattle of the carriages shaped themselves in his
brain into a hundred snatches of old tunes, all full of a strange
merriment, as if mocking at his misery, striving to keep him awake and
conscious of who and what he was. He closed his eyes and shut out the
hateful garish world: but that sound he could not shut out. Too tired to
sleep, too tired even to think, he could do nothing but submit to the
ridiculous torment; watching in spite of himself every note, as one
jig-tune after another was fiddled by all the imps close to his ear,
mile after mile, and county after county, for all that weary day, which
seemed full seven years long.

At Euston Square the porter called him several times ere he could rouse
him. He could hear nothing for awhile but that same imps' melody, even
though it had stopped. At last he got out, staring round him, shook
himself awake by one strong effort, and hurried away, not knowing
whither he went.

Wrapt up in self, he wandered on till dark, slept on a doorstep, and
awoke, not knowing at first where he was. Gradually all the horror came
back to him, and with the horror the craving for opium wherewith to
forget it.

He looked round to see his whereabouts. Surely this must be Golden
Square? A sudden thought struck him. He went to a chemist's shop, bought
a fresh supply of his poison, and, taking only enough to allay the
cravings of his stomach, hurried tottering in the direction of Drury
Lane.




CHAPTER XXII.

FOND, YET NOT FOOLISH.


Next morning, only Claude and Campbell made their appearance at
breakfast.

Frank came in; found that Valencia was not down: and, too excited to
eat, went out to walk till she should appear. Neither did Lord Scoutbush
come. Where was he?

Ignorant of the whole matter, he had started at four o'clock to fish in
the Traeth Mawr; half for fishing's sake, half (as he confessed) to gain
time for his puzzled brains before those explanations with Frank
Headley, of which he stood in mortal fear.

Mellot and Campbell sat down together to breakfast; but in silence.
Claude saw that something had gone very wrong; Campbell ate nothing, and
looked nervously out of the window every now and then.

At last Bowie entered with the letters and a message. There were two
gentlemen from Pen-y-gwryd must speak with Mr. Mellot immediately.

He went out and found Wynd and Naylor. What they told him we know
already. He returned instantly, and met Campbell leaving the room.

"I have news of Vavasour," whispered he. "I have a letter from him.
Bowie, order me a car instantly for Bangor. I am off to London, Claude.
You and Bowie will take care of my things, and send them after me."

"Major Cawmill has only to command," said Bowie, and vanished down the
stairs.

"Now, Claude, quick; read that and counsel me. I ought to ask
Scoutbush's opinion; but the poor dear fellow is out, you see."

Claude read the note written at Bangor.

"Fight him I will not! I detest the notion: a soldier should never fight
a duel. His life is the Queen's, and not his own. And yet if the honour
of the family has been compromised by my folly, I must pay the penalty,
if Scoutbush thinks it proper."

So said Campbell, who, in the over-sensitiveness of his conscience, had
actually worked himself round during the past night into this new fancy,
as a chivalrous act of utter self-abasement. The proud self-possession
of the man was gone, and nothing but self-distrust and shame remained.

"In the name of all wit and wisdom, what is the meaning of all this?"

"You do not know, then, what passed last night?"

"I? I can only guess that Vavasour has had one of his rages."

"Then you must know," said Campbell with an effort; "for you must
explain all to Scoutbush when he returns; and I know no one more fit for
the office." And he briefly told him the story.

Mellot was much affected. "The wretched ape! Campbell, your first
thought was the true one: you must not fight that cur. After all, it's a
farce: you won't fire at him, and he can't hit you--so leave ill alone.
Beside, for Scoutbush's sake, her sake, every one's sake, the thing must
be hushed up. If the fellow chooses to duck under into the London mire,
let him lie there, and forget him!"

"No, Claude; his pardon I must beg, ere I go out to the war: or I shall
die with a sin upon my soul."

"My dear, noble creature! if you must go, I go with you. I must see fair
play between you and that madman; and give him a piece of my mind, too,
while I am about it. He is in my power: or if not quite that, I know one
in whose power he is! and to reason he shall be brought."

"No; you must stay here. I cannot trust Scoutbush's head, and these poor
dear souls will have no one to look to but you. I can trust you with
them, I know. Me you will perhaps never see again."

"You can trust me!" said the affectionate little painter, the tears
starting to his eyes, as he wrung Campbell's hand.

"Mind one thing! If that Vavasour shows his teeth, there is a spell will
turn him to stone. Use it!"

"Heaven forbid! Let him show his teeth. It is I who am in the wrong. Why
should I make him more my enemy than he is?"

"Be it so. Only, if the worst comes to the worst, call him not Elsley
Vavasour, but plain John Briggs--and see what follows."

Valencia entered.

"The post has come in! Oh, dear Major Campbell, is there a letter?"

He put the note into her hand in silence. She read it, and darted back
to Lucia's room.

"Thank God that she did not see that I was going! One more pang on earth
spared!" said Campbell to himself.

Valencia hurried to Lucia's door. She was holding it ajar and looking
out with pale face, and wild hungry eyes.--"A letter? Don't be silent or
I shall go mad! Tell me the worst! Is he alive?"

"Yes."

She gasped, and staggered against the door-post.

"Where? Why does he not come back to me?" asked she, in a confused,
abstracted way.

It was best to tell the truth, and have it over.

"He has gone to London, Lucia. He will think over it all there, and be
sorry for it, and then all will be well again."

But Lucia did not hear the end of that sentence. Murmuring to herself,
"To London! To London!" she hurried back into the room.

"Clara! Clara! have the children had their breakfast?"

"Yes, ma'am!" says Clara, appearing from the inner room.

"Then help me to pack up, quick! Your master is gone to London on
business; and we are to follow him immediately."

And she began bustling about the room.

"My dearest Lucia, you are not fit to travel now!"

"I shall die if I stay here; die if I do nothing! I must find him!"
whispered she. "Don't speak loud, or Clara will hear. I can find him,
and nobody can but me! Why don't you help me to pack, Valencia?"

"My dearest! but what will Scoutbush say when he comes home, and finds
you gone?"

"What right has he to interfere? I am Elsley's wife, am I not? and may
follow my husband if I like:" and she went on desperately collecting,
not her own things, but Elsley's.

Valencia watched her with tear-brimming eyes; collecting all his papers,
counting over his clothes, murmuring to herself that he would want this
and that in London. Her sanity seemed failing her, under the fixed idea
that she had only to see him, and set all right with, a word.

"I will go and get you some breakfast," said she at last.

"I want none. I am too busy to eat. Why don't you help me?"

Valencia had not the heart to help, believing, as she did, that Lucia's
journey would be as bootless as it would be dangerous to her health.

"I will bring you some breakfast, and you must try; then I will help to
pack:" and utterly bewildered she went out; and the thought uppermost in
her mind was,--"Oh, that I could find Frank Headley?"

Happy was it for Frank's love, paradoxical as it may seem, that it had
conquered just at that moment of terrible distress. Valencia's
acceptance of him had been hasty, founded rather on sentiment and
admiration than on deep affection; and her feeling might have faltered,
waned, died away in self-distrust of its own reality, if giddy
amusement, if mere easy happiness, had followed it. But now the fire of
affliction was branding in the thought of him upon her softened heart.

Living at the utmost strain of her character, Campbell gone, her brother
useless, and Lucia and the children depending utterly on her, there was
but one to whom she could look for comfort while she needed it most
utterly; and happy for her and for her lover that she could go to him.

"Poor Lucia! thank God that I have some one who will never treat me so!
who will lift me up and shield me, instead of crushing me!--dear
creature!--Oh that I may find him!" And her heart went out after Frank
with a gush of tenderness which she had never felt before.

"Is this, then, love?" she asked herself; and she found time to slip
into her own room for a moment and arrange her dishevelled hair, ere she
entered the breakfast-room.

Frank was there, luckily alone, pacing nervously up and down. He hurried
up to her, caught both her hands in his, and gazed into her wan and
haggard face with the intensest tenderness and anxiety.

Valencia's eyes looked into the depths of his, passive and confiding,
till they failed before the keenness of his gaze, and swam in glittering
mist.

"Ah!" thought she; "sorrow is a light price to pay for the feeling of
being so loved by such a man!"

"You are tired,--ill? What a night you must have had! Mellot has told me
all."

"Oh, my poor sister!" and wildly she poured out to Frank her wrath
against Elsley, her inability to comfort Lucia, and all the misery and
confusion of the past night.

"This is a sad dawning for the day of my triumph!" thought Frank, who
longed to pour out his heart to her on a thousand very different
matters: but he was content; it was enough for him that she could tell
him all, and confide in him; a truer sign of affection than any selfish
love-making; and he asked, and answered, with such tenderness and
thoughtfulness for poor Lucia, with such a deep comprehension of
Elsley's character, pitying while he blamed, that he won his reward at
last.

"Oh! it would he intolerable, if I had not through it all the thought"
and blushing crimson, her head drooped on her bosom. She seemed ready to
drop with exhaustion.

"Sit down, sit down, or you will fall!" said Frank, leading her to a
chair; and as he led her, he whispered with fluttering heart, new to its
own happiness, and longing to make assurance sure--"What thought?"

She was silent still; but he felt her hand tremble in his.

"The thought of me?"

She looked up in his face; how beautiful! And in another moment, neither
knew how, she was clasped to his bosom.

He covered her face, her hair with kisses: she did not move; from that
moment she felt that he was her husband.

"Oh, guide me! counsel me! pray for me!" sobbed she. "I am all alone,
and my poor sister, she is going mad, I think, and I have no one to
trust but you; and you--you will leave me to go to those dreadful wars;
and then, what will become of me? Oh, stay! only a few days!" and
holding him convulsively, she answered his kisses with her own.

Frank stood as in a dream, while the room reeled round and vanished; and
he was alone for a moment upon earth with her and his great love.

"Tell me," said he, at last, trying to awaken himself to action. "Tell
me! Is she really going to seek him?"

"Yes, selfish and forgetful that I am! You must help me! she will go to
London, nothing can stop her;--and it will kill her!"

"It may drive her mad to keep her here."

"It will! and that drives me mad also. What can I choose!"

"Follow where God leads. It is she, after all, who must reclaim him.
Leave her in God's hands, and go with her to London."

"But my brother?"

"Mellot or I will see him. Let it be me. Mellot shall go with you to
London."

"Oh that you were going!"

"Oh that I were! I will follow, though. Do you think that I can be long
away from you?... But I must tell your brother. I had a very different
matter on which to speak to him this morning," said he, with a sad
smile: "but better as it is. He shall find me, I hope, reasonable and
trustworthy in this matter; perhaps enough so to have my Valencia
committed to me. Precious jewel! I must learn to be a man now, at least;
now that I have you to care for."

"And yet you go and leave me?"

"Valencia! Because God has given us to each other, shall our
thank-offering be to shrink cowardly from His work?"

He spoke more sternly than he intended, to awe into obedience rather
himself than her; for he felt, poor fellow, his courage failing fast,
while he held that treasure in his arms.

She shuddered in silence.

"Forgive me!" he cried; "I was too harsh, Valencia!"

"No!" she cried, looking up at him with a glorious smile. "Scold me! Be
harsh to me! It is so delicious now to be reproved by you!" and as she
spoke she felt as if she would rather endure torture from that man's
hand than bliss from any other. How many strange words of Lucia's that
new feeling explained to her; words at which she had once grown angry,
as doting weaknesses, unjust and degrading to self-respect. Poor Lucia!
She might be able to comfort her now, for she had learnt to sympathise
with her by experience the very opposite to hers. Yet there must have
been a time when Lucia clung to Elsley as she to Frank. How horrible to
have her eyes opened thus!--To be torn and flung away from the bosom
where she longed to rest! It could never happen to her. Of course her
Frank was true, though all the world were false: but poor Lucia! She
must go to her. This was mere selfishness at such a moment.

"You will find Scoutbush, then!"

"This moment. I will order the car now, if you will only eat. You must!"

And he rang the bell, and then made her sit down and eat, almost feeding
her with his own hand. That, too, was a new experience; and one so
strangely pleasant, that when Bowie entered, and stared solemnly at the
pair, she only looked up smiling, though blushing a little.

"Get a car instantly," said she.

"For Mrs. Vavasour, my lady? She has ordered hers already."

"No; for Mr. Headley. He is going to find my lord. Frank, pour me out a
cup of tea for Lucia."

Bowie vanished, mystified. "It's no concern of mine; but better tak' up
wi' a godly meenister than a godless pawet," said the worthy warrior to
himself as he marched down stairs.

"You see that I am asserting our rights already before all the world,"
said she, looking up.

"I see you are not ashamed of me."

"Ashamed of you?"

"And now I must go to Lucia."

"And to London."

Valencia began to cry like any baby; but rose and carried away the tea
in her hand. "Must I go? and before you come back, too?"

"Is she determined to start instantly?"

"I cannot stop her. You see she has ordered the car."

"Then go, my darling! My own! my Valencia! Oh, a thousand things to ask
you, and no time to ask them in! I can write?" said Frank, with an
inquiring smile.

"Write? Yes; every day,--twice a day. I shall live upon those letters.
Good-bye!" And out she went, while Frank sat himself down at the table,
and laid his head upon his hands, stupefied with delight, till Bowie
entered.

"The car, sir."

"Which? Who?" asked Frank, looking up as from a dream.

"The car, sir."

Frank rose, and walked downstairs abstractedly. Bowie kept close to his
side.

"Ye'll pardon me, sir," said he in a low voice; "but I see how it is,--
the more blessing for you. Ye'll be pleased, I trust, to take more care
of this jewel than others have of that one: or--"

"Or you'll shoot me yourself, Bowie?" said Frank, half amused, half
awed, too, by the stern tone of the guardsman. "I'll give you leave to
do it if I deserve it"

"It's no my duty, either as a soldier or as a valet. And, indeed, I've
that opeenion of you, sir, that I don't think it'll need to be any one's
else's duty either."

And so did Mr. Bowie signify his approbation of the new family romance,
and went off to assist Mrs. Clara in getting the trunks down stairs.

Clara was in high dudgeon. She had not yet completed her flirtation with
Mr. Bowie, and felt it hard to have her one amusement in life snatched
out of her hard-worked hands.

"I'm sure I don't know why we're moving. I don't believe it's business.
Some of his tantrums, I daresay. I heard her walking up and down the
room all last night, I'll swear. Neither she nor Miss Valencia have been
to bed. He'll kill her at last, the brute!"

"It's no concern of either of us, that. Have ye got another trunk to
bring down?"

"No concern? Just like your hard-heartedness, Mr. Bowie. And as soon as
I'm gone, of course you will be flirting with these impudent Welshwomen,
in their horrid hats."

"Maybe, yes; maybe, no. But flirting's no marrying, Mrs. Clara."

"True for you, sir! Men were deceivers ever," quoth Clara, and flounced
up stairs; while Bowie looked after her with a grim smile, and caught
her, when she came down again, long enough to give her a great kiss; the
only language which he used in wooing, and that but rarely.

"Dinna fash, lassie. Mind your lady and the poor bairns like a godly
handmaiden, and I'll buy the ring when the sawmon fishing's over, and
we'll just be married ere I start for the Crimee"

"The sawmon!" cried Clara. "I'll see you turned into a mermaid first,
and married to a sawmon!"

"And ye won't do anything o' the kind," said Bowie to himself, and
shouldered a valise.

In ten minutes the ladies were packed into the carriage, and away, under
Mellot's care. Frank watched Valencia looking back, and smiling through
her tears, as they rolled through the village; and then got into his
car, and rattled down the southern road to Pont Aberglaslyn, his hand
still tingling with the last pressure of Valencia's.




CHAPTER XXIII.

THE BROAD STONE OF HONOUR.


But where has Stangrave been all this while?

Where any given bachelor has been, for any given month, is difficult to
say, and no man's business but his own. But where he happened to be on a
certain afternoon in the first week of October, on which he had just
heard the news of Alma, was,--upon the hills between Ems and Coblentz.
Walking over a high table-land of stubbles, which would be grass in
England; and yet with all its tillage is perhaps not worth more than
English grass would be, thanks to that small-farm system much be-praised
by some who know not wheat from turnips. Then along a road, which might
be a Devon one, cut in the hill-side, through authentic "Devonian"
slate, where the deep chocolate soil is lodged on the top of the upright
strata, and a thick coat of moss and wood sedge clusters about the
oak-scrub roots, round which the delicate and rare oak-fern mingles its
fronds with great blue campanulas; while the "white admirals" and
silver-washed "fritillaries" flit round every bramble bed, and the great
"purple emperors" come down to drink in the road puddles, and sit,
fearless flashing off their velvet wings a blue as of that empyrean
which is "dark by excess of light."

Down again through cultivated lands, corn and clover, flax and beet, and
all the various crops with which the industrious German yeoman ekes out
his little patch of soil. Past the thrifty husbandman himself, as he
guides the two milch-kine in his tiny plough, and stops at the furrow's
end, to greet you with the hearty German smile and bow; while the little
fair-haired maiden, walking beneath the shade of standard cherries,
walnuts, and pears, all grey with fruit, fills the cows' mouths with
chicory, and wild carnations, and pink saintfoin, and many a fragrant
weed which richer England wastes.

Down once more, into a glen; but such a glen as neither England nor
America has ever seen; or, please God, ever will see, glorious as it is.
Stangrave, who knew all Europe well, had walked the path before; but he
stopped then, as he had done the first time, in awe. On the right, slope
up the bare slate downs, up to the foot of cliffs; but only half of
those cliffs God has made. Above the grey slate ledges rise cliffs of
man's handiwork, pierced with a hundred square black embrasures; and
above them the long barrack-ranges of a soldier's town; which a foeman
stormed once, when it was young: but what foeman will ever storm it
again [Transcriber's note: punctuation missing from the end of this
sentence in original. Possibly question mark.] What conqueror's foot
will ever tread again upon the "broad stone of honour," and call
Ehrenbreitstein his? On the left the clover and the corn range on,
beneath the orchard boughs, up to yon knoll of chestnut and acacia, tall
poplar, feathered larch:--but what is that stonework which gleams grey
beneath their stems'? A summer-house for some great duke, looking out
over the glorious Rhine vale, and up the long vineyards of the bright
Moselle, from whence he may bid his people eat, drink, and take their
ease, for they have much goods laid up for many years?--

Bank over bank of earth and stone, cleft by deep embrasures, from which
the great guns grin across the rich gardens, studded with standard
fruit-trees, which close the glacis to its topmost edge. And there,
below him, lie the vineyards: every rock-ledge and narrow path of soil
tossing its golden tendrils to the sun, grey with ripening clusters,
rich with noble wine; but what is that wall which winds among them, up
and down, creeping and sneaking over every ledge and knoll of vantage
ground, pierced with eyelet-holes, backed by strange stairs and
galleries of stone; till it rises close before him, to meet the low
round tower full in his path, from whose deep casemates, as from dark
scowling eye-holes, the ugly cannon-eyes stare up the glen?

Stangrave knows them all--as far as any man can know. The wards of the
key which locks apart the nations; the yet maiden Troy of Europe; the
greatest fortress of the world.

He walks down, turns into the vineyards, and lies down beneath the
mellow shade of vines. He has no sketch-book--articles forbidden; his
passport is in his pocket; and he speaks all tongues of German men. So,
fearless of gendarmes and soldiers, he lies down, in the blazing German
afternoon, upon the shaly soil; and watches the bright-eyed lizards hunt
flies along the roasting-walls, and the great locusts buzz and pitch and
leap; green locusts with red wings, and grey locusts with blue wings; he
notes the species, for he is tired and lazy, and has so many thoughts
within his head, that he is glad to toss them all away, and give up his
soul, if possible, to locusts and lizards, vines and shade.

And far below him fleets the mighty Rhine, rich with the memories of two
thousand stormy years; and on its further bank the grey-walled Coblentz
town, and the long arches of the Moselle-bridge, and the rich flats of
Kaiser Franz, and the long poplar-crested uplands, which look so gay,
and are so stern; for everywhere between the poplar-stems the
saw-toothed outline of the western forts cuts the blue sky.

And far beyond it all sleeps, high in air, the Eifel with its hundred
crater peaks; blue mound behind blue mound, melting into white haze.--
Stangrave has walked upon those hills, and stood upon the crater-lip of
the great Moselkopf, and dreamed beside the Laacher See, beneath the
ancient abbey walls; and his thoughts flit across the Moselle flats
towards his ancient haunts, as he asks himself--How long has that old
Eifel lain in such soft sleep? How long ere it awake again?

It may awake, geologists confess,--why not? and blacken all the skies
with smoke of Tophet, pouring its streams of boiling mud once more to
dam the Rhine, whelming the works of men in flood, and ash, and fire.
Why not? The old earth seems so solid at first sight: but look a little
nearer, and this is the stuff of which she is made!--The wreck of past
earthquakes, the leavings of old floods, the washings of cold cinder
heaps--which are smouldering still below.

Stangrave knew that well enough. He had climbed Vesuvius, Etna,
Popocatepetl. He had felt many an earthquake shock; and knew how far to
trust the everlasting hills. And was old David right, he thought that
day, when he held the earthquake and the volcano as the truest symbols
of the history of human kind, and of the dealings of their Maker with
them? All the magnificent Plutonic imagery of the Hebrew poets, had it
no meaning for men now? Did the Lord still uncover the foundations of
the world, spiritual as well as physical, with the breath of His
displeasure? Was the solfa-tara of Tophet still ordained for tyrants?
And did the Lord still arise out of His place to shake terribly the
earth? Or, had the moral world grown as sleepy as the physical one had
seemed to have done? Would anything awful, unexpected, tragical, ever
burst forth again from the heart of earth, or from the heart of man?

Surprising question! What can ever happen henceforth, save infinite
railroads and crystal palaces, peace and plenty, cockaigne and
dilettantism, to the end of time? Is it not full sixty whole years since
the first French revolution, and six whole years since the revolution of
all Europe? Bah!--change is a thing of the past, and tragedy a myth of
our forefathers; war a bad habit of old barbarians, eradicated by the
spread of an enlightened philanthropy. Men know now how to govern the
world far too well to need any divine visitations, much less divine
punishments; and Stangrave was an Utopian dreamer, only to be excused by
the fact that he had in his pocket the news that three great nations
were gone forth to tear each other as of yore.

Nevertheless, looking round upon those grim earth-mounds and embrasures,
he could not but give the men who put them there credit for supposing
that they might be wanted. Ah! but that might be only one of the direful
necessities of the decaying civilisation of the old world. What a
contrast to the unarmed and peaceful prosperity of his own country!
Thank heaven, New England needed no fortresses, military roads, or
standing armies! True, but why that flush of contemptuous pity for the
poor old world, which could only hold its own by such expensive and ugly
methods?

He asked himself that very question, a moment after, angrily; for he was
out of humour with himself, with his country, and indeed with the
universe in general. And across his mind flashed a memorable
conversation at Constantinople long since, during which he had made some
such unwise remark to Thurnall, and received from him a sharp answer,
which parted them for years.

It was natural enough that that conversation should come back to him
just then; for, in his jealousy, he was thinking of Tom Thurnall often
enough every day; and in spite of his enmity, he could not help
suspecting more and more that Thurnall had had some right on his side of
the quarrel.

He had been twitting Thurnall with the miserable condition of the
labourers in the south of England, and extolling his own country at the
expense of ours. Tom, unable to deny the fact, had waxed all the more
wroth at having it pressed on him; and at last had burst forth--

"Well, and what right have you to crow over us on that score? I suppose,
if you could hire a man in America for eighteen-pence a day instead of a
dollar and a half, you would do it? You Americans are not accustomed to
give more for a thing than it's worth in the market, are you?"

"But," Stangrave had answered, "the glory of America is, that you cannot
get the man for less than the dollar and a half; that he is too well
fed, too prosperous, too well educated, to be made a slave of."

"And therefore makes slaves of the niggers instead? I'll tell you what,
I'm sick of that shallow fallacy--the glory of America! Do you mean by
America, the country, or the people? You boast, all of you, of your
country, as if you had made it yourselves; and quite forget that God
made America, and America has made you."

"Made us, sir?" quoth Stangrave fiercely enough.

"Made you!" replied Thurnall, exaggerating his half truth from anger.
"To what is your comfort, your high feeding, your very education, owing,
but to your having a thin population, a virgin soil, and unlimited means
of emigration? What credit to you if you need no poor laws, when you
pack off your children, as fast as they grow up, to clear more ground
westward? What credit to your yeomen that they have read more books than
our clods have, while they can earn more in four hours than our poor
fellows in twelve? It all depends on the mere physical fact of your
being in a new country, and we in an old one: and as for moral
superiority, I shan't believe in that while I see the whole of the
northern states so utterly given up to the 'almighty dollar,' that they
leave the honour of their country to be made ducks and drakes of by a
few southern slaveholders. Moral superiority? We hold in England that
an honest man is a match for three rogues. If the same law holds good in
the United States, I leave you to settle whether Northerners or
Southerners are the honester men."

Whereupon (and no shame to Stangrave) there was a heavy quarrel, and the
two men had not met since.

But now, those words of Thurnall's, backed by far bitterer ones of
Marie's, were fretting Stangrave's heart.--What if they were true? They
were not the whole truth. There was beside, and above them all, a
nobleness in the American heart, which could, if it chose, and when it
chose, give the lie to that bitter taunt: but had it done so already?

At least he himself had not.... If Thurnall and Marie were unjust to his
nation, they had not been unjust to him. He, at least, had been making,
all his life, mere outward blessings causes of self-congratulation, and
not of humility. He had been priding himself on wealth, ease, luxury,
cultivation, without a thought that these were God's gifts, and that God
would require an account of them. If Thurnall were right, was he himself
too truly the typical American? And bitterly enough he accused at once
himself and his people.

"Noble? Marie is right! We boast of our nobleness: better to take the
only opportunity of showing it which we have had since we have become a
nation! Heaped with every blessing which God could give; beyond the
reach of sorrow, a check, even an interference; shut out from all the
world in God's new Eden, that we might freely eat of all the trees of
the garden, and grow and spread, and enjoy ourselves like the birds of
heaven--God only laid on us one duty, one command, to right one simple,
confessed, conscious wrong....

"And what have we done?--what have even I done? We have steadily,
deliberately cringed at the feet of the wrong-doer, even while we
boasted our superiority to him at every point, and at last, for the sake
of our own selfish ease, helped him to forge new chains for his victims,
and received as our only reward fresh insults. White slaves! We,
perhaps, and not the English peasant, are the white slaves! At least, if
the Irishman emigrates to England, or the Englishman to Canada, he is
not hunted out with blood-hounds, and delivered back to his landlord to
be scourged and chained. He is not practically out of the pale of law,
unrepresented, forbidden even the use of books; and even if he were,
there is an excuse for the old country; for she was founded on no
political principles, but discovered what she knows step by step, a sort
of political Topsy, as Claude Mellot calls her, who has 'kinder growed,'
doing from hand to mouth what seemed best. But that we, who profess to
start as an ideal nation, on fixed ideas of justice, freedom, and
equality--that we should have been stultifying ever since every great
principle of which we so loudly boast!--"

       *       *       *       *       *

"The old Jew used to say of his nation, 'It is God that hath made us,
and not we ourselves.' We say, 'It is we that have made ourselves, while
God--?'--Ah, yes; I recollect. God's work is to save a soul here and a
soul there, and to leave America to be saved by the Americans who made
it. We must have a broader and deeper creed than that if we are to work
out our destiny. The battle against Middle Age slavery was fought by the
old Catholic Church, which held the Jewish notion, and looked on the
Deity as the actual King of Christendom, and every man in it as God's
own child. I see now!--No wonder that the battle in America has as yet
been fought by the Quakers, who believe that there is a divine light and
voice in every man; while the Calvinist preachers, with their isolating
and individualising creed, have looked on with folded hands, content to
save a negro's soul here and there, whatsoever might become of the
bodies and the national future of the whole negro race. No wonder, while
such men have the teaching of the people, that it is necessary still in
the nineteenth century, in a Protestant country, amid sane human beings,
for such a man as Mr. Sumner to rebut, in sober earnest, the argument
that the negro was the descendant of Canaan, doomed to eternal slavery
by Noah's curse!"

       *       *       *       *       *

He would rouse himself. He would act, speak, write, as many a noble
fellow-countryman was doing. He had avoided them of old as bores and
fanatics who would needs wake him from his luxurious dreams. He had even
hated them, simply because they were more righteous than he. He would be
a new man henceforth.

He strode down the hill through the cannon-guarded vineyards, among the
busy groups of peasants.

"Yes, Marie was right. Life is meant for work, and not for ease; to
labour in danger and in dread; to do a little good ere the night comes,
when no man can work: instead of trying to realise for oneself a
Paradise; not even Bunyan's shepherd-paradise, much less Fourier's
Casino-paradise; and perhaps least of all, because most selfish and
isolated of all, my own heart-paradise--the apotheosis of loafing, as
Claude calls it. Ah, Tennyson's Palace of Art is a true word--too true,
too true!

"Art? What if the most necessary human art, next to the art of
agriculture, be, after all, the art of war? It has been so in all ages.
What if I have been befooled--what if all the Anglo-Saxon world has been
befooled by forty years of peace? We have forgotten that the history of
the world has been as yet written in blood; that the story of the human
race is the story of its heroes and its martyrs--the slayers and the
slain. Is it not becoming such once more in Europe now? And what divine
exemption can we claim from the law? What right have we to suppose that
it will be aught else, as long as there are wrongs unredressed on earth;
as long as anger and ambition, cupidity and wounded pride, canker the
hearts of men? What if the wise man's attitude, and the wise nation's
attitude, is that of the Jews rebuilding their ruined walls,--the tool
in one hand, and the sword in the other; for the wild Arabs are close
outside, and the time is short, and the storm has only lulled awhile in
mercy, that wise men may prepare for the next thunder-burst? It is an
ugly fact: but I have thrust it away too long, and I must accept it now
and henceforth. This, and not luxurious Broadway; this, and not the
comfortable New England village, is the normal type of human life; and
this is the model city!--Armed industry, which tills the corn and vine
among the cannons' mouths; which never forgets their need, though it may
mask and beautify their terror: but knows that as long as cruelty and
wrong exist on earth, man's destiny is to dare and suffer, and, if it
must be so, to die....

"Yes, I will face my work; my danger, if need be. I will find Marie. I
will tell her that I accept her quest; not for her sake, but for its
own. Only I will demand the right to work at it as I think best,
patiently, moderately, wisely if I can; for a fanatic I cannot be, even
for her sake. She may hate these slaveholders,--she may have her
reasons,--but I cannot. I cannot deal with them as _feras naturae_. I
cannot deny that they are no worse men than I; that I should have done
what they are doing, have said what they are saying, had I been bred up,
as they have been, with irresponsible power over the souls and bodies of
human beings. God! I shudder at the fancy! The brute that I might have
been--that I should have been!

"Yes; one thing at least I have learnt, in all my experiments on poor
humanity;--never to see a man do a wrong thing, without feeling that I
could do the same in his place. I used to pride myself on that once,
fool that I was, and call it comprehensiveness. I used to make it an
excuse for sitting by, and seeing the devil have it all his own way, and
call that toleration. I will see now whether I cannot turn the said
knowledge to a better account, as common sense, patience, and charity;
and yet do work of which neither I nor my country need be ashamed."

He walked down, and on to the bridge of boats. They opened in the
centre; as he reached it a steamer was passing. He lounged on the rail
as the boat passed through, looking carelessly at the groups of
tourists.

Two ladies were standing on the steamer; close to him; looking up at
Ehrenbreitstein. Was it?--yes, it was Sabina, and Marie by her!

But ah, how changed! The cheeks were pale and hollow; dark rings--he
could see them but too plainly as the face was lifted up toward the
light--were round those great eyes, bright no longer. Her face was
listless, careworn; looking all the more sad and impassive by the side
of Sabina's, as she pointed smiling and sparkling, up to the fortress;
and seemed trying to interest Marie in it, but in vain.

He called out. He waved his hand wildly, to the amusement of the
officers and peasants who waited by his side; and who, looking first at
his excited face, and then at the two beautiful women, were not long in
making up their minds about him; and had their private jests
accordingly.

They did not see him, but turned away to look at Coblentz; and the
steamer swept by.

Stangrave stamped with rage--upon a Prussian officer's thin boot.

"Ten thousand pardons!"

"You are excused, dear sir, you are excused," says the good-natured
German, with a wicked smile, which raises a blush on Stangrave's cheek.
"Your eyes were dazzled; why not? it is not often that one sees two such
suns together in the same sky. But calm yourself; the boat stops at
Coblentz."

Stangrave could not well call the man of war to account for his
impertinence; he had had his toes half crushed, and had a right to
indemnify himself as he thought fit. And with a hundred more apologies,
Stangrave prepared to dart across the bridge as soon as it was closed.

Alas! after the steamer, as the fates would have it, came lumbering down
one of those monster timber rafts; and it was a full half hour before
Stangrave could get across, having suffered all the while the torments
of Tantalus, as he watched the boat sweep round to the pier, and
discharge its freight, to be scattered whither he knew not. At last he
got across, and went in chase to the nearest hotel: but they were not
there; thence to the next, and the next, till he had hunted half the
hotels in the town; but hunted all in vain.

He is rushing wildly back again, to try if he can obtain any clue at the
steam-boat pier, through the narrow, dirty street at the back of the
Rhine Cavalier, when he is stopped short by a mighty German embrace, and
a German kiss on either cheek, as the kiss of a housemaid's broom; while
a jolly voice shouts in English:--

"Ah, my dear, dear friend! and you would pass me! Whither the hangman so
fast are you running in the mud!"

"My dear Salomon! But let me go, I beseech you; I am in search--"

"In search?" cries the jolly Jew banker,--"for the philosopher's stone?
You had all that man could want a week since, except that. Search no
more, but come home with me; and we will have a night as of the gods on
Olympus!"

"My dearest fellow, I am looking for two ladies!"

"Two? ah, rogue! shall not one suffice?"

"Don't, my dearest fellow! I am looking for two English ladies."

"Potz! You shall find two hundred in the hotels, ugly and fair; but the
two fairest are gone this two hours."

"When?--which?" cries Stangrave, suspecting at once.

"Sabina Mellot, and a Sultana--I thought her of The Nation, and would
have offered my hand on the spot: but Madame Mellot says she is a
Gentile."

"Gone? And you have seen them! Where?"

"To Bertrich. They had luncheon with my mother, and then started by
private post."

"I must follow."

"_Ach lieber_? But it will be dark in an hour."

"What matter?"

"But you shall find them to-morrow, just as well as to-day. They stay at
Bertrich for a fortnight more. They have been there now a month, and
only left it last week for a pleasure tour, across to the Ahrthal, and
so back by Andernach."

"Why did they leave Coblentz, then, in such hot haste?"

"Ah, the ladies never give reasons. There were letters waiting for them
at our house; and no sooner read, but they leaped up, and would forth.
Come home now, and go by the steamer to-morrow morning."

"Impossible! most hospitable of Israelites."

"To go to-night,--for see the clouds!--Not a postilion will dare to
leave Coblentz, under that quick-coming _allgemein und ungeheuer
henker-hund-und-teufel's-gewitter_."

Stangrave looked up, growling; and gave in. A Rhine-storm was rolling up
rapidly.

"They will be caught in it."

"No. They are far beyond its path by now; while you shall endure the
whole visitation; and if you try to proceed, pass the night in a
flea-pestered post-house, or in a ditch of water."

So Stangrave went home with Herr Salomon, and heard from him, amid
clouds of Latakia, of wars and rumours of wars, distress of nations, and
perplexity, seen by the light, not of the Gospel, but of the
stock-exchange; while the storm fell without in lightning, hail, rain,
of right Rhenish potency.




CHAPTER XXIV.

THE THIRTIETH OF SEPTEMBER.


We must go back a week or so, to England, and to the last day of
September. The world is shooting partridges, and asking nervously, when
it comes home, What news from the Crimea? The flesh who serves it is
bathing at Margate. The devil is keeping up his usual correspondence
with both. Eaton Square is a desolate wilderness, where dusty sparrows
alone disturb the dreams of frowzy charwomen, who, like Anchorites amid
the tombs of the Thebaid, fulfil the contemplative life each in her
subterranean cell. Beneath St. Peter's spire the cabman sleeps within
his cab, the horse without: the waterman, seated on his empty bucket,
contemplates the untrodden pavement between his feet, and is at rest.
The blue butcher's boy trots by with empty cart, five miles an hour,
instead of full fifteen, and stops to chat with the red postman, who,
his occupation gone, smokes with the green gatekeeper, and reviles the
Czar. Along the whole north pavement of the square only one figure
moves, and that is Major Campbell.

His face is haggard and anxious; he walks with a quick, excited step;
earnest enough, whoever else is not. For in front of Lord Scoutbush's
house the road is laid with straw. There is sickness there, anxiety,
bitter tears. Lucia has not found her husband, but she has lost her
child.

Trembling, Campbell raises the muffled knocker, and Bowie appears. "What
news to-day?" he whispers.

"As well as can be expected, sir, and as quiet as a lamb now, they say.
But it has been a bad time, and a bad man is he that caused it."

"A bad time, and a bad man. How is Miss St. Just?"

"Just gone to lie down, sir. Mrs. Clara is on the stairs, if you'd like
to see her."

"No; tell Miss St. Just that I have no news yet." And the Major turns
wearily away.

Clara, who has seen him from above, hurries down after him into the
street, and coaxes him to come in. "I am sure you have had no breakfast,
sir: and you look so ill and worn. And Miss St. Just will be so vexed
not to see you. She will get up the moment she hears you are here."

"No, my good Miss Clara," says Campbell, looking down with a weary
smile. "I should only make gloom more gloomy. Bowie, tell his lordship
that I shall be at the afternoon train to-morrow, let what will happen."

"Ay, ay, sir. We're a' ready to march. The Major looks very ill, Miss
Clara. I wish he'd have taken your counsel. And I wish ye'd take mine,
and marry me ere I march, just to try what it's like."

"I must mind my mistress, Mr. Bowie," says Clara.

"And how should I interfere with that, as I've said twenty times, when
I'm safe in the Crimea? I'll get the licence this day, say what ye will:
and then you would not have the heart to let me spend two pounds twelve
and sixpence for nothing."

Whether the last most Caledonian argument conquered or not, Mr. Bowie
got the licence, was married before breakfast the next morning, and
started for the Crimea at four o'clock in the afternoon; most
astonished, as he confided in the train to Sergeant MacArthur, "to see a
lassie that never gave him a kind word in her life, and had not been
married but barely six hours, greet and greet at his going, till she
vanished away into hystericals. They're a very unfathomable species,
Sergeant, are they women; and if they were taken out o' man, they took
the best part o' Adam wi' them, and left us to shift with the worse."

But to return to Campbell. The last week has altered him frightfully. He
is no longer the stern, self-possessed warrior which he was; he no
longer even walks upright; his cheek is pale, his eye dull; his whole
countenance sunken together. And now that the excitement of anxiety is
past, he draws his feet along the pavement slowly, his hands clasped
behind him, his eyes fixed on the ground, as if the life was gone from
out of him, and existence was a heavy weight.

"She is safe, at least, then! One burden off my mind. And yet had it not
been better if that pure spirit had returned to Him who gave it, instead
of waking again to fresh misery? I must find that man! Why, I have been
saying so to myself for seven days past, and yet no ray of light. Can
the coward have given me a wrong address? Yet why give me an address at
all if he meant to hide from me? Why, I have been saying that too, to
myself every day for the last week? Over and over again the same dreary
round of possibilities and suspicions. However, I must be quiet now, if
I am a man. I can hear nothing before the detective comes at two. How to
pass the weary, weary time? For I am past thinking--almost past praying
--though not quite, thank God!"

He paces up still noisy Piccadilly, and then up silent Bond Street;
pauses to look at some strange fish on Groves's counter--anything to
while away the time; then he plods on toward the top of the street, and
turns into Mr. Pillischer's shop, and upstairs to the microscopic
club-room. There, at least, he can forget himself for an hour.

He looks round the neat pleasant little place, with its cases of
curiosities, and its exquisite photographs, and bright brass
instruments; its glass vases stocked with delicate water-plants and
animalcules, with the sunlight gleaming through the green and purple
seaweed fronds, while the air is fresh and fragrant with the seaweed
scent; a quiet, cool little hermitage of science amid that great noisy,
luxurious west-end world. At least, it brings back to him the thought of
the summer sea, and Aberalva, and his shore-studies: but he cannot think
of that any more. It is past; and may God forgive him!

At one of the microscopes on the slab opposite him stands a sturdy
bearded man, his back toward the Major; while the wise little German,
hopeless of customers, is leaning over him in his shirt sleeves.

"But I never have seen its like; it had just like a painter's easel in
its stomach yesterday!"

"Why, it's an Echinus Larva: a sucking sea-urchin! Hang it, if I had
known you hadn't seen one, I'd have brought up half-a-dozen of them!"

"May I look, sir?" asked the Major; "I, too, never have seen an Echinus
Larva."

The bearded man looks up.

"Major Campbell!"

"Mr. Thurnall! I thought I could not be mistaken in the voice."

"This is too pleasant, sir, to renew our watery loves together here,"
said Tom: but a second look at the Major's face showed him that he was
in no jesting mood. "How is the party at Beddgelert? I fancied you with
them still."

"They are all in London, at Lord Scoutbush's house, in Eaton Square."

"In London, at this dull time? I trust nothing unpleasant has brought
them here."

"Mrs. Vavasour is very ill. We had thoughts of sending for you, as the
family physician was out of town: but she was out of danger, thank God,
in a few hours. Now let me ask in turn after you. I hope no unpleasant
business brings you up three hundred miles from your practice?"

"Nothing, I assure you. Only I have given up my Aberalva practice. I am
going to the East."

"Like the rest of the world."

"Not exactly. You go as a dignified soldier of her Majesty's; I as an
undignified Abel Drugger, to dose Bashi-bazouks."

"Impossible! and with such an opening as you had there! You must excuse
me; but my opinion of your prudence must not be so rudely shaken."

"Why do you not ask the question which Balzac's old Tourangeois judge
asks, whenever a culprit is brought before him,--'Who is she?'"

"Taking for granted that there was a woman at the bottom of every
mishap? I understand you," said the Major, with a sad smile. "Now let
you and me walk a little together, and look at the Echinoid another day
--or when I return from Sevastopol--"

Tom went out with him. A new ray of hope had crossed the Major's mind.
His meeting with Thurnall might he providential; for he recollected now,
for the first time, Mellot's parting hint.

"You knew Elsley Vavasour well?"

"No man better."

"Did you think that there was any tendency to madness in him?"

"No more than in any other selfish, vain, irritable man, with a strong
imagination left to run riot."

"Humph! you seem to have divined his character. May I ask you if you
knew him before you met him at Aberalva?"

Tom looked up sharply in the Major's face.

"You would ask, what cause I have for inquiring? I will tell you
presently. Meanwhile I may say, that Mellot told me frankly that you had
some power over him; and mentioned, mysteriously, a name--John Briggs, I
think--which it appears that he once assumed."

"If Mellot thought fit to tell you anything, I may frankly tell you all.
John Briggs is his real name. I have known him from childhood." And then
Tom poured into the ears of the surprised and somewhat disgusted Major
all he had to tell.

"You have kept your secret mercifully, and used it wisely, sir; and I
and others shall be always your debtors for it. Now I dare tell you in
turn, in strictest confidence of course--"

"I am far too poor to afford the luxury of babbling."

And the Major told him what we all know.

"I expected as much," said he drily. "Now, I suppose that you wish me to
exert myself in finding the man?"

"I do."

"Were Mrs. Vavasour only concerned, I should say--Not I! Better
that she should never set eyes on him again."

"Better, indeed!" said he bitterly: "but it is I who must see him, if
but for five minutes. I must!"

"Major Campbell's wish is a command. Where have you searched for him?"

"At his address, at his publisher's, at the houses of various literary
friends of his, and yet no trace."

"Has he gone to the Continent?"

"Heaven knows! I have inquired at every passport office for news of any
one answering his description; indeed, I have two detectives, I may tell
you, at this moment, watching every possible place. There is but one
hope, if he be alive. Can he have gone home to his native town?"

"Never! Anywhere but there."

"Is there any old friend of the lower class with whom he may have taken
lodgings?"

Tom pondered.

"There was a fellow, a noisy blackguard, whom Briggs was asking after
this very summer--a fellow who went off from Whitbury with some players.
I know Briggs used to go to the theatre with him as a boy--what was his
name? He tried acting, but did not succeed; and then became a
scene-shifter, or something of the kind, at the Adelphi. He has some
complaint, I forget what, which made him an out-patient at St.
Mumpsimus's, some months every year. I know that he was there this
summer, for I wrote to ask, at Briggs's request, and Briggs sent him a
sovereign through me."

"But what makes you fancy that he can have taken shelter with such a
man, and one who knows his secret?"

"It is but a chance: but he may have done it from the mere feeling of
loneliness--just to hold by some one whom he knows in this great
wilderness; especially a man in whose eyes he will be a great man, and
to whom he has done a kindness; still, it is the merest chance."

"We will take it, nevertheless, forlorn hope though it be."

They took a cab to the hospital, and, with some trouble, got the man's
name and address, and drove in search of him. They had some difficulty
in finding his abode, for it was up an alley at the back of Drury Lane,
in the top of one of those foul old houses which hold a family in every
room; but, by dint of knocking at one door and the other, and bearing
meekly much reviling consequent thereon, they arrived, "_per modum
tollendi_" at a door which must be the right one, as all the rest were
wrong.

"Does John Barker live here?" asks Thurnall, putting his head in
cautiously for fear of drunken Irishmen, who might be seized with the
national impulse to "slate" him.

"What's that to you?" answers a shrill voice from among soapsuds and
steaming rags.

"Here is a gentleman wants to speak to him."

"So do a many as won't have that pleasure, and would be little the
better for it if they had. Get along with you, I knows your lay."

"We really want to speak to him, and to pay him, if he will--"

"Go along! I'm up to the something to your advantage dodge, and to the
mustachio dodge too. Do you fancy I don't know a bailiff, because he's
dressed like a swell?"

"But, my good woman!" said Tom, laughing.

"You put your crocodile foot in here, and I'll hit the hot water over
the both of you!" and she caught up the pan of soapsuds.

"My dear soul! I am a doctor belonging to the hospital which your
husband goes to; and have known him since he was a boy, down in
Berkshire."

"You?" and she looked keenly at him.

"My name is Thurnall. I was a medical man once in Whitbury, where your
husband was born."

"You?" said she again, in a softened tone, "I knows that name well
enough."

"You do? What was your name, then?" said Tom, who recognised the woman's
Berkshire accent beneath its coat of cockneyism.

"Never you mind: I'm no credit to it, so I'll let it be. But come in,
for the old county's sake. Can't offer you a chair, he's pawned 'em all.
Pleasant old place it was down there, when I was a young girl; they say
it's grow'd a grand place now, wi' a railroad. I think many times I'd
like to go down and die there." She spoke in a rough, sullen, careless
tone, as if life-weary.

"My good woman," said Major Campbell, a little impatiently, "can you
find your husband for us?"

"Why then?" asked she sharply, her suspicion seeming to return.

"If he will answer a few questions, I will give him five shillings. If
he can find out for me what I want, I will give him five pounds."

"Shouldn't I do as well? If you gi' it he, it's little out of it I shall
see, but he coming home tipsy when it's spent. Ah, dear! it was a sad
day for me when I first fell in with they play-goers!"

"Why should she not do it as well?" said Thurnall. "Mrs. Barker, do you
know anything of a person named Briggs--John Briggs, the apothecary's
son, at Whitbury?"

She laughed a harsh bitter laugh.

"Know he? yes, and too much reason. That was where it all begun, along
of that play-going of he's and my master's."

"Have you seen him lately?" asked Campbell, eagerly.

"I seen 'un? I'd hit this water over the fellow, and all his play-acting
merryandrews, if ever he sot a foot here!"

"But have you heard of him?"

"Ees--" said she carelessly; "he's round here now, I heard my master
say, about the 'Delphy, with my master: a drinking, I suppose. No good,
I'll warrant."

"My good woman," said Campbell, panting for breath, "bring me face to
face with that man, and I'll put a five-pound note in your hand there
and then."

"Five pounds is a sight to me: but it's a sight more than the sight of
he's worth," said she suspiciously again.

"That's the gentleman's concern," said Tom. "The money's yours. I
suppose you know the worth of it by now?"

"Ees, none better. But I don't want he to get hold of it; he's made away
with enough already;" and she began to think.

"Curiously impassive people, we Wessex worthies, when we are a little
ground down with trouble. You must give her time, and she will do our
work. She wants the money, but she is long past being excited at the
prospect of it."

"What's that you're whispering?" asked she sharply.

Campbell stamped with impatience.

"You don't trust us yet, eh?--then, there!" and he took five sovereigns
from his pocket, and tossed them on the table. "There's your money! I
trust you to do the work, as you've been paid beforehand."

She caught up the gold, rang every piece on the table to see if it was
sound; and then--

"Sally, you go down with these gentlemen to the Jonson's Head, and if he
ben't there, go to the Fighting Cocks; and if he ben't there, go to the
Duke of Wellington; and tell he there's two gentlemen has heard of his
poetry, and wants to hear 'un excite. And then you give he a glass of
liquor, and praise up his nonsense, and he'll tell you all he knows, and
a sight more. Gi' un plenty to drink. It'll be a saving and a charity,
for if he don't get it out of you, he will out of me."

And she returned doggedly to her washing.

"Can't I do anything for you?" asked Tom, whose heart always yearned
over a Berkshire soul. "I have plenty of friends down at Whitbury
still."

"More than I have. No, sir," said she sadly, and with the first touch of
sweetness they had yet heard in her voice. "I've cured my own bacon, and
I must eat it. There's none down there minds me, but them that would be
ashamed of me. And I couldn't go without he, and they wouldn't take he
in; so I must just bide." And she went on washing.

"God help her!" said Campbell, as he went downstairs.

"Misery breeds that temper, and only misery, in our people. I can show
you as thorough gentlemen and ladies, people round Whitbury, living on
ten shillings a week, as you will show me in Belgravia living on five
thousand a year."

"I don't doubt it," said Campbell.... "So 'she couldn't go without he,'
drunken dog as he is! Thus it is with them all the world over."

"So much the worse for them," said Tom cynically, "and for the men too.
They make fools of us first with our over-fondness of them; and then
they let us make fools of ourselves with their over-fondness of us."

"I fancy sometimes that they were all meant to be the mates of angels,
and stooped to men as a _pis aller_; reversing the old story of the sons
of heaven and the daughters of men."

"And accounting for the present degeneracy. When the sons of heaven
married the daughters of men, their offspring were giants and men of
renown. Now the sons of men marry the daughters of heaven, and the
offspring is Wiggle, Waggle, Windbag, and Redtape."

They visited one public-house after another, till the girl found for
them the man they wanted, a shabby, sodden-visaged fellow, with a
would-be jaunty air of conscious shrewdness and vanity, who stood before
the bar, his thumbs in his armholes, and laying down the law to a group
of coster-boys, for want of a better audience.

The girl, after sundry plucks at his coat-tail, stopped him in the midst
of his oration, and explained her errand somewhat fearfully.

Mr. Barker bent down his head on one side, to signify that he was
absorbed in attention to her news; and then drawing himself up once
more, lifted his greasy hat high in air, bowed to the very floor, and
broke forth:--

  "Most potent, grave, and reverend signiors:
  A man of war, and eke a man of peace--
  That is, if you come peaceful; and if not,
  Have we not Hiren here?"

And the fellow put himself into a fresh attitude.

"We come in peace, my good sir," said Tom; "first to listen to your
talented effusions, and next for a little private conversation on a
subject on which--" but Mr. Barker interrupted,--

  "To listen, and to drink? The muse is dry,
  And Pegasus doth thirst for Hippocrene,
  And fain would paint--imbibe the vulgar call--
  Or hot or cold, or long or short--Attendant!"

The bar girl, who knew his humour, came forward.

  "Glasses all round--these noble knights will pay--
  Of hottest hot, and stiffest stiff. Thou mark'st me?
  Now to your quest!"

And he faced round with a third attitude.

"Do you know Mr. Briggs?" asked the straightforward Major. He rolled
his eyes to every quarter of the seventh sphere, clapped his hand upon
his heart, and assumed an expression of angelic gratitude:--

  "My benefactor! Were the world a waste,
  A thistle-waste, ass-nibbled, goldfinch-pecked,
  And all the men and women merely asses,
  I still could lay this hand upon this heart,
  And cry, 'Not yet alone! I know a man--
  A man Jove-fronted, and Hyperion-curled--
  A gushing, flushing, blushing human heart!'"

"As sure as you live, sir," said Tom, "if you won't talk honest prose,
I won't pay for the brandy and water."

  "Base is the slave who pays, and baser prose--
  Hang uninspired patter! 'Tis in verse
  That angels praise, and fiends in Limbo curse."

"And asses bray, I think," said Tom, in despair. "Do you know where Mr.
Briggs is now?"

  "And why the devil do you want to know?
  For that's a verse, sir, although somewhat slow."

The two men laughed in spite of themselves.

"Better tell the fellow the plain truth," said Campbell to Thurnall.

"Come out with us, and I will tell you." And Campbell threw down the
money, and led him off, after he had gulped down his own brandy, and
half Tom's beside.

"What? leave the nepenthe untasted?"

They took him out, and he tucked his arms through theirs, and strutted
down Drury Lane.

"The fact is, sir,--I speak to you, of course, in confidence, as one
gentleman to another--"

Mr. Barker replied by a lofty and gracious bow.

"That his family are exceedingly distressed at his absence, and his
wife, who, as you may know, is a lady of high family, dangerously ill;
and he cannot be aware of the fact. This gentleman is the medical man of
her family, and I--I am an intimate friend. We should esteem it
therefore the very greatest service if you would give us any information
which--"

  "Weep no more, gentle shepherds, weep no more;
  For Lycidas your sorrow is not dead,
  Sunk though he be upon a garret floor,
  With fumes of Morpheus' crown about his head."

"Fumes of Morpheus' crown?" asked Thurnall.

  "That crimson flower which crowns the sleepy god,
  And sweeps the soul aloft, though flesh may nod."

"He has taken to opium!" said Thurnall to the bewildered Major. "What I
should have expected."

"God help him! we must save him out of that last lowest deep!" cried
Campbell. "Where is he, sir?"

  "A vow! a vow! I have a vow in heaven!
  Why guide the hounds toward the trembling hare?
  Our Adonais hath drunk poison; Oh!
  What deaf and viperous murderer could crown
  Life's early cup with such a draught of woe?"

"As I live, sir," cried Campbell, losing his self-possession in disgust
at the fool; "you may rhyme your own nonsense as long as you will, but
you shan't quote the Adonais about that fellow in my presence."

Mr. Barker shook himself fiercely free of Campbell's arm, and faced
round at him in a fighting attitude. Campbell stood eyeing him sternly,
but at his wit's end.

"Mr. Barker," said Tom blandly, "will you have another glass of brandy
and water, or shall I call a policeman?"

"Sir," sputtered he, speaking prose at last, "this gentleman has
insulted me! He has called my poetry nonsense, and my friend a fellow.
And blood shall not wipe out--what liquor may?"

The hint was sufficient; but ere he had drained another glass, Mr.
Barker was decidedly incapable of managing his affairs, much less
theirs; and became withal exceedingly quarrelsome, returning angrily to
the grievance of Briggs having been called a fellow; in spite of all
their entreaties, he talked himself into a passion, and at last, to
Campbell's extreme disgust, rushed out of the bar into the street.

"This is too vexations! To have kept half-an-hour's company with such an
animal, and then to have him escape me after all! A just punishment on
me for pandering to his drunkenness."

Tom made no answer, but went quietly to the door, and peeped out.

"Pay for his liquor, Major, and follow. Keep a few yards behind me;
there will be less chance of his recognising us than if he saw us both
together."

"Why, where do you think he's going?"

"Not home, I can see. Ten to one that he will go raging off straight to
Briggs, to put him on his guard against us. Just like a drunkard's
cunning it would be. There, he has turned up that side street. Now
follow me quick. Oh that he may only keep his legs!"

They gained the bottom of that street before he had turned out of it;
and so through another, and another, till they ran him to earth in one
of the courts out of St. Martin's Lane.

Into a doorway he went, and up a stair. Tom stood listening at the
bottom, till he heard the fellow knock at a door far above, and call out
in a drunken tone. Then he beckoned to Campbell, and both, careless of
what might follow, ran upstairs, and pushing him aside, entered the room
without ceremony.

Their chances of being on the right scent were small enough, considering
that, though every one was out of town, there were a million and a half
of people in London at that moment; and, unfortunately, at least fifty
thousand who would have considered Mr. John Barker a desirable visitor;
but somehow, in the excitement of the chase, both had forgotten the
chances against them, and the probability that they would have to retire
downstairs again, apologising humbly to some wrathful Joseph Buggins,
whose convivialities they might have interrupted. But no; Tom's cunning
had, as usual, played him true; and as they entered the door, they
beheld none other than the lost Elsley Vavasour, alias John Briggs.

Major Campbell advanced bowing, hat in hand, with a courteous apology on
his lips.

It was a low lean-to garret; there was a deal table and an old chair in
it, but no bed. The windows were broken; the paper hanging down in
strips. Elsley was standing before the empty fireplace, his hand in his
bosom, as if he had been startled by the scuffle outside. He had not
shaved for some days.

So much Tom could note; but no more. He saw the glance of recognition
pass over Elsley's face, and that an ugly one. He saw him draw something
from his bosom, and spring like a cat almost upon the table. A flash--a
crack. He had fired a pistol full in Campbell's face.

Tom was startled, not at the thing, but that such a man should have done
it. He had seen souls, and too many, flit out of the world by that same
tiny crack, in Californian taverns, Arabian deserts, Australian gullies.
He knew all about that: but he liked Campbell; and he breathed more
freely the next moment, when he saw him standing still erect, a quiet
smile on his face, and felt the plaster dropping from the wall upon his
own head. The bullet had gone over the Major. All was right.

"He is not man enough for a second shot," thought Tom quietly, "while
the Major's eye is on him."

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Vavasour," he heard the Major say, in a gentle
unmoved voice, "for this intrusion. I assure you that there is no cause
for any anger on your part; and I am come to entreat you to forget and
forgive any conduct of mine which may have caused you to mistake either
me or the lady whom I am unworthy to mention."

"I am glad the beggar fired at him," thought Tom. "One spice of danger,
and he's himself again, and will overawe the poor cur by mere civility.
I was afraid of some abject methodist parson humility, which would give
the other party a handle."

Elsley heard him with a stupefied look, like that of a trapped wild
beast, in which rage, shame, suspicion, and fear, were mingled with the
vacant glare of the opium-eater's eye. Then his eye drooped beneath
Campbell's steady gentle gaze, and he looked uneasily round the room,
still like a trapped wild beast, as if for a hole to escape by; then up
again, but sidelong, at Major Campbell.

"I assure you, sir, on the word of a Christian and a soldier, that you
are labouring under an entire misapprehension. For God's sake and Mrs.
Vavasour's sake, come back, sir, to those who will receive you with
nothing but affection! Your wife has been all but dead; she thinks of no
one but you, asks for no one but you. In God's name, sir, what are you
doing here, while a wife who adores you is dying from your--I do not
wish to be rude, sir, but let me say at least--neglect?"

Elsley looked at him still askance, puzzled, inquiring. Suddenly his
great beautiful eyes opened to preternatural wideness, as if trying to
grasp a new thought. He started, shifted his feet to and fro, his arms
straight down by his sides, his fingers clutching after something. Then
he looked up hurriedly again at Campbell; and Thurnall looked at him
also; and his face was as the face of an angel.

"Miserable ass!" thought Tom, "if he don't see innocence in that man's
countenance, he wouldn't see it in his own child's."

Elsley suddenly turned his back to them, and thrust his hand into his
bosom. Now was Tom's turn.

In a moment he had vaulted over the table, and seized Elsley's wrist,
ere he could draw the second pistol.

"No, my dear Jack," whispered he quietly, "once is enough in a day!"

"Not for him, Tom, for myself!" moaned Elsley.

"For neither, dear lad! Let bygones be bygones, and do you be a new man,
and go home to Mrs. Vavasour."

"Never, never, never, never, never, never!" shrieked Elsley like a baby,
every word increasing in intensity, till the whole house rang; and then
threw himself into the crazy chair, and dashed his head between his
hands upon the table.

"This is a case for me, Major Campbell. I think you had better go now."

"You will not leave him?"

"No, sir. It is a very curious psychological study, and he is a Whitbury
man."

Campbell knew quite enough of the would-be cynical doctor, to understand
what all that meant. He came up to Elsley.

"Mr. Vavasour, I am going to the war, from which I expect never to
return. If you believe me, give me your hand before I go."

Elsley, without lifting his head, beat on the table with his hand.

"I wish to die at peace with you and all the world. I am innocent in
word, in thought. I shall not insult another person by saying that she
is so. If you believe me, give me your hand."

Elsley stretched his hand, his head still buried. Campbell took it, and
went silently downstairs.

"Is he gone?" moaned he, after a while.

"Yes."

"Does she--does she care for him?"

"Good heavens! How did you ever dream such an absurdity?"

Elsley only beat upon the table.

"She has been ill?"

"Is ill. She has lost her child."

"Which?" shrieked Elsley.

"A boy whom she should have had."

Elsley only beat on the table; then--

"Give me the bottle, Tom!"

"What bottle?"

"The laudanum;--there in the cupboard."

"I shall do no such thing. You are poisoning yourself."

"Let me then! I must, I tell you! I can live on nothing else. I shall go
mad if I do not have it. I should have been mad by now. Nothing else
keeps off these fits;--I feel one coming now. Curse you! give me the
bottle!"

"What fits?"

"How do I know? Agony and torture--ever since I got wet on that
mountain."

Tom knew enough to guess his meaning, and felt Elsley's pulse and
forehead.

"I tell you it turns every bone to red-hot iron!" almost screamed he.

"Neuralgia; rheumatic, I suppose," said Tom to himself. "Well, this is
not the thing to cure you: but you shall have it to keep you quiet." And
he measured him out a small dose.

"More, I tell you, more!" said Elsley, lifting up his head, and looking
at it.

"Not more while you are with me."

"With you! Who the devil sent you here?"

"John Briggs, John Briggs, if I did not mean you good, should I be here
now? Now do, like a reasonable man, tell me what you intend to do."

"What is that to you, or any man?" said Elsley, writhing with neuralgia.

"No concern of mine, of course: but your poor wife--you must see her."

"I can't, I won't!--that is, not yet! I tell you I cannot face the
thought of her, much less the sight of her, and her family,--that
Valencia! I'd rather the earth should open and swallow me! Don't talk to
me, I say!"

And hiding his face in his hands, he writhed with pain, while Thurnall
stood still patiently watching him, as a pointer dog does a partridge.
He had found his game, and did not intend to lose it.

"I am better now; quite well!" said he, as the laudanum began to work.
"Yes! I'll go--that will be it--go to ---- at once. He'll give me an
order for a magazine article; I'll earn ten pounds, and then off to
Italy."

"If you want ten pounds, my good fellow, you can have them without
racking your brains over an article." Elsley looked up proudly.

"I do not borrow, sir!"

"Well--I'll give you five for those pistols. They are of no use to you,
and I shall want a spare brace for the East."

"Ah! I forgot them. I spent my last money on them," said he with a
shudder; "but I won't sell them to you at a fancy price--no dealings
between gentleman and gentleman. I'll go to a shop, and get for them
what they are worth."

"Very good. I'll go with you, if you like. I fancy I may get you a
better price for them than you would yourself: being rather a knowing
one about the pretty little barkers." And Tom took his arm, and walked
him quietly down into the street.

"If you ever go up those kennel-stairs again, friend," said he to
himself, "my name's not Tom Thurnall."

They walked to a gunsmith's shop in the Strand, where Tom had often
dealt, and sold the pistols for some three pounds.

"Now then let's go into 333, and get a mutton chop."

"No."

Elsley was too shy; he was "not fit to be seen."

"Come to my rooms, then, in the Adelphi, and have a wash and a shave. It
will make you as fresh as a lark again, and then we'll send out for the
eatables, and have a quiet chat."

Elsley did not say no. Thurnall took the thing as a matter of course,
and he was too weak and tired to argue with him. Beside, there was a
sort of relief in the company of a man who, though he knew all, chatted
on to him cheerily and quietly, as if nothing had happened; who at least
treated him as a sane man. From any one else he would have shrunk, lest
they should find him out: but a companion, who knew the worst, at least
saved him suspicion and dread.

His weakness, now that the collapse after passion had come on, clung to
any human friend. The very sound of Tom's clear sturdy voice seemed
pleasant to him, after long solitude and silence. At least it kept off
the fiends of memory.

Tom, anxious to keep Elsley's mind employed on some subject which should
not be painful, began chatting about the war and its prospects. Elsley
soon caught the cue, and talked with wild energy and pathos, opium-fed,
of the coming struggle between despotism and liberty, the arising of
Poland and Hungary, and all the grand dreams which then haunted minds
like his.

"By Jove!" said Tom, "you are yourself again now. Why don't you put all
that into a book!"

"I may perhaps," said Elsley proudly.

"And if it comes to that, why not come to the war, and see it for
yourself? A new country--one of the finest in the world. New scenery,
new actors,--Why, Constantinople itself is a poem! Yes, there is
another 'Revolt of Islam' to be written yet. Why don't you become our
war poet? Come and see the fighting; for there'll be plenty of it, let
them say what they will. The old bear is not going to drop his dead
donkey without a snap and a hug. Come along, and tell people what it's
all really like. There will be a dozen Cockneys writing battle songs,
I'll warrant, who never saw a man shot in their lives, not even a hare.
Come and give us the real genuine grit of it,--for if you can't, who
can?"

"It is a grand thought! The true war poets, after all, have been
warriors themselves. Koerner and Alcaeus fought as well as sang, and sang
because they fought. Old Homer, too,--who can believe that he had not
hewn his way through the very battles which he describes, and seen every
wound, every shape of agony? A noble thought, to go out with that army
against the northern Anarch, singing in the van of battle, as Taillefer
sang the song of Roland before William's knights, and to die like him,
the proto-martyr of the Crusade, with the melody yet upon one's lips!"

And his face blazed up with excitement.

"What a handsome fellow he is, after all, if there were but more of
him?" said Tom to himself. "I wonder if he'd fight, though, when the
singing-fever was off him."

He took Elsley upstairs into his bed-room, got him washed and shaved:
and sent out the woman of the house for mutton chops and stout, and
began himself setting out the luncheon table, while Elsley in the room
within chanted to himself snatches of poetry.

"The notion has taken: he's composing a war song already, I believe."
It actually was so: but Elsley's brain was weak and wandering; and he
was soon silent; and motionless so long, that Tom opened the door and
looked in anxiously.

He was sitting on a chair, his hands fallen on his lap, the tears
running down his face.

"Well?" asked Tom smilingly, not noticing the tears; "how goes on the
opera? I heard through the door the orchestra tuning for the prelude."

Elsley looked up in his face with a puzzled piteous expression.

"Do you know, Thurnall, I fancy at moments that my mind is not what it
was. Fancies flit from me as quickly as they come. I had twenty verses
five minutes ago, and now I cannot recollect one."

"No wonder," thought Tom to himself. "My clear fellow, recollect all
that you have suffered with this neuralgia. Believe me all you want is
animal strength. Chops and porter will bring all the verses back, or
better ones instead of them."

He tried to make Elsley eat; and Elsley tried himself: but failed. The
moment the meat touched his lips he loathed it, and only courtesy
prevented his leaving the room to escape the smell. The laudanum had
done its work upon his digestion. He tried the porter, and drank a
little: then, suddenly stopping, he pulled out a phial, dropped a heavy
dose of his poison into the porter, and tossed it off.

"Sold am I?" said Tom to himself. "He must have hidden the bottle as he
came out of the room with me. Oh, the cunning of those opium-eaters?
However, it will keep him quiet just now, and to Eaton Square I must
go."

"You had better be quiet now, my dear fellow, after your dose; talking
will only excite you. Settle yourself on my bed, and I'll be back in an
hour."

So he put Elsley on his bed, carefully removing razors and pistols (for
he had still his fears of an outburst of passion), then locked him in,
ran down into the Strand, threw himself into a cab for Eaton Square, and
asked for Valencia.

Campbell had been there already; so Tom took care to tell nothing which
he had not told, expecting, and rightly, that he would not mention
Elsley's having fired at him. Lucia was still all but senseless, too
weak even to ask for Elsley; to attempt any meeting between her and her
husband would be madness.

"What will you do with the unhappy man, Mr. Thurnall?"

"Keep him under my eye, day and night, till he is either rational again,
or--"

"Do you think that he may?--Oh my poor sister!"

"I think that he may yet end very sadly, madam. There is no use
concealing the truth from you. All I can promise is, that I will treat
him as my own brother."

Valencia held out her fair hand to the young doctor. He stooped, and
lifted the tips of her fingers to his lips.

"I am not worthy of such an honour, madam. I shall study to deserve it."
And he bowed himself out, the same sturdy, self-confident Tom, doing
right, he hardly knew why, save that it was all in the way of business.

And now arose the puzzle, what to do with Elsley? He had set his heart
on going down to Whitbury the next day. He had been in England nearly
six months, and had not yet seen his father; his heart yearned, too,
after the old place, and Mark Armsworth, and many an old friend, whom he
might never see again. "However, that fellow I must see to, come what
will: business first and pleasure afterwards. If I make him all right--
if I even get him out of the world decently, I get the Scoutbush
interest on my side--though I believe I have it already. Still, it's as
well to lay people under as heavy an obligation as possible. I wish Miss
Valencia had asked me whether Elsley wanted any money: it's expensive
keeping him myself. However, poor thing, she has other matters to think
of: and I dare say, never knew the pleasures of an empty purse. Here we
are! Three-and-sixpence--eh, cabman? I suppose you think I was born
Saturday night? There's three shillings. Now, don't chaff me, my
excellent friend, or you will find you have met your match, and a leetle
more!"

And Tom hurried into his rooms, and found Elsley still sleeping.

He set to work, packing and arranging, for with him every moment found
its business: and presently heard his patient call faintly from the next
room.

"Thurnall!" said he; "I have been a long journey. I have been to
Whitbury once more, and followed my father about his garden, and sat
upon my mother's knee. And she taught me one text, and no more. Over and
over again she said it, as she looked down at me with still sad eyes,
the same text which she spoke the day I left her for London. I never saw
her again. 'By this, my son, be admonished; of making of books there is
no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. Let us hear the
conclusion of the whole matter. Fear God and keep His commandments; for
this is the whole duty of man.'.... Yes, I will go down to Whitbury,
and he a little child once more. I will take poor lodgings, and crawl
out day by day, down the old lanes, along the old river-banks, where I
fed my soul with fair and mad dreams, and reconsider it all from the
beginning;--and then die. No one need know me; and if they do, they
need not be ashamed of me, I trust--ashamed that a poet has risen up
among them, to speak words which have been heard across the globe. At
least, they need never know my shame--never know that I have broken the
heart of an angel, who gave herself to me, body and soul--attempted the
life of a man whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose--never know that I
have killed my own child!--that a blacker brand than Cain's is on my
brow!--Never know--Oh, my God, what care I? Let them know all, as long
as I can have done with shams and affectations, dreams, and vain
ambitions, and he just my own self once more, for one day, and then
die!"

And he burst into convulsive weeping.

"No, Tom, do not comfort me! I ought to die, and I shall die. I cannot
face her again; let her forget me, and find a husband who will--and be a
father to the children whom I neglected! Oh, my darlings, my darlings!
If I could but see you once again: but no! you too would ask me where I
had been so long. You too would ask me--your innocent faces at least
would--why I had killed your little brother!--Let me weep it out,
Thurnall; let me face it all! This very misery is a comfort, for it will
kill me all the sooner."

"If you really mean to go to Whitbury, my poor dear fellow," said Tom at
last, "I will start with you to-morrow morning. For I too must go; I
must see my father."

"You will really?" asked Elsley, who began to cling to him like a child.

"I will indeed. Believe me, you are right; you will find friends there,
and admirers too. I know one."

"You do?" asked he, looking up.

"Mary Armsworth, the banker's daughter."

"What! That purse-proud, vulgar man?"

"Don't be afraid of him. A truer and more delicate heart don't beat. No
one has more cause to say so than I. He will receive you with open arms,
and need be told no more than is necessary; while, as his friend, you
may defy gossip, and do just what you like."

Tom slipped out that afternoon, paid Elsley's pittance of rent at his
old lodgings; bought him a few necessary articles, and lent him, without
saying anything, a few more. Elsley sat all day as one in a dream,
moaning to himself at intervals, and following Tom vacantly with his
eyes, as he moved about the room. Excitement, misery, and opium were
fast wearing out body and mind, and Tom put him to bed that evening, as
he would have put a child.

Tom walked out into the Strand to smoke in the fresh air, and think, in
spite of himself, of that fair saint from whom he was so perversely
flying. Gay girls slithered past him, looked round at him, but in vain;
those two great sad eyes hung in his fancy, and he could see nothing
else. Ah--if she had but given him back his money--why, what a fool he
would have made of himself! Better as it was. He was meant to be a
vagabond and an adventurer to the last; and perhaps to find at last the
luck which had flitted away before him.

He passed one of the theatre doors; there was a group outside, more
noisy and more earnest than such groups are wont to be; and ere he could
pass through them, a shout from within rattled the doors with its mighty
pulse, and seemed to shake the very walls. Another; and another!--What
was it? Fire?

No. It was the news of Alma.

And the group surged to and fro outside, and talked, and questioned, and
rejoiced; and smart gents forgot their vulgar pleasures, and looked for
a moment as if they too could have fought--had fought--at Alma; and
sinful girls forgot their shame, and looked more beautiful than they had
done for many a day, as, beneath the flaring gas-light, their faces
glowed for a while with noble enthusiasm, and woman's sacred pity, while
they questioned Tom, taking him for an officer, as to whether he thought
there were many killed.

"I am no officer: but I have been in many a battle, and I know the
Russians well, and have seen how they fight; and there is many a brave
man killed, and many a one more will be."

"Oh, does it hurt them much?" asked one poor thing.

"Not often," quoth Tom.

"Thank God, thank God!" and she turned suddenly away, and with the
impulsive nature of her class, burst into violent sobbing and weeping.

Poor thing! perhaps among the men who fought and fell that day was he to
whom she owed the curse of her young life; and after him her lonely
heart went forth once more, faithful even in the lowest pit.

"You are strange creatures, women, women!" thought Tom: "but I knew that
many a year ago. Now then--the game is growing fast and furious, it
seems. Oh, that I may find myself soon in the thickest of it!"

So said Tom Thurnall; and so said Major Campbell, too, that night, as he
prepared everything to start next morning to Southampton. "The better
the day, the better the deed," quoth he. "When a man is travelling to a
better world, he need not be afraid of starting on a Sunday."




CHAPTER XXV.

THE BANKER AND HIS DAUGHTER.


Tom and Elsley are safe at Whitbury at last; and Tom, ere he has seen
his father, has packed Elsley safe away in lodgings with an old dame
whom he can trust. Then he asks his way to his father's new abode; a
small old-fashioned house, with low bay windows jutting out upon the
narrow pavement.

Tom stops, and looks in the window. His father is sitting close to it,
in his arm-chair, his hands upon his knees, his face lifted to the
sunlight, with chin slightly outstretched, and his pale eyes feeling for
the light. The expression would have been painful, but for its perfect
sweetness and resignation. His countenance is not, perhaps, a strong
one; but its delicacy, and calm, and the high forehead, and the long
white locks, are most venerable. With a blind man's exquisite sense, he
feels Tom's shadow fall on him, and starts, and calls him by name; for
he has been expecting him, and thinking of nothing else all the morning,
and takes for granted that it must be he.

In another moment Tom is at his father's side. What need to describe the
sacred joy of those first few minutes, even if it were possible? But
unrestrained tenderness between man and man, rare as it is, and, as it
were, unaccustomed to itself, has no passionate fluency, no metaphor or
poetry, such as man pours out to woman, and woman again to man. All its
language lies in the tones, the looks, the little half-concealed
gestures, hints which pass themselves off modestly in jest; and such was
Tom's first interview with his father; till the old Isaac, having felt
Tom's head and hands again and again, to be sure whether it were his
very son or no, made him sit down by him, holding him still fast, and
began--

"Now, tell me, tell me, while Jane gets you something to eat. No, Jane,
you mustn't talk to Master Tom yet, to bother about how much he's
grown;--nonsense, I must have him all to myself, Jane. Go and get him
some dinner. Now, Tom," as if he was afraid of losing a moment; "you
have been a dear boy to write to me every week; but there are so many
questions which only word of mouth will answer, and I have stored up
dozens of them! I want to know what a coral reef really looks like, and
if you saw any trepangs upon them? And what sort of strata is the gold
really in? And you saw one of those giant rays; I want a whole hour's
talk about the fellow. And--What an old babbler I am! talking to you
when you should be talking to me. Now begin. Let us have the trepangs
first. Are they real Holothurians or not?"

And Tom began, and told for a full half-hour, interrupted then by some
little comment of the old man's, which proved how prodigious was the
memory within, imprisoned and forced to feed upon itself.

"You seem to know more about Australia than I do, father," said Tom at
last.

"No, child; but Mary Armsworth, God bless her! comes down here almost
every evening to read your letters to me; and she has been reading to me
a book of Mrs. Lee's Adventures in Australia, which reads like a novel;
delicious book--to me at least. Why, there is her step outside, I do
believe, and her father's with her!"

The lighter woman's step was inaudible to Tom; but the heavy, deliberate
waddle of the banker was not. He opened the house-door, and then the
parlour-door, without knocking; but when he saw the visitor, he stopped
on the threshold with outstretched arms.

"Hillo, ho! who have we here? Our prodigal son returned, with his
pockets full of nuggets from the diggings. Oh, mum's the word, is it?"
as Tom laid his finger on his lips. "Come here, then, and let's have a
look at you!" and he catches both Tom's hands in his, and almost shakes
them off. "I knew you were coming, old boy! Mary told me--she's in all
the old man's secrets. Come along, Mary, and see your old playfellow.
She has got a little fruit for the old gentleman. Mary, where are you I
always colloguing with Jane."

Mary comes in: a little dumpty body, with a yellow face, and a red nose,
the smile of an angel, and a heart full of many little secrets of other
people's--and of one great one of her own, which is no business of any
man's--and with fifty thousand pounds as her portion, for she is an only
child. But no man will touch that fifty thousand; for "no one would
marry me for myself," says Mary; "and no one shall marry me for my
money."

So she greets Tom shyly and humbly, without looking in his face, yet
very cordially; and then slips away to deposit on the table a noble
pine-apple.

"A little bit of fruit from her greenhouse," says the old man in a
disparaging tone: "and, oh Jane, bring me a saucer. Here's a sprat I
just capered out of Hemmelford mill-pit; perhaps the Doctor would like
it fried for supper, if it's big enough not to fall through the
gridiron."

Jane, who knows Mark Armsworth's humour, brings in the largest dish in
the house, and Mark pulls out of his basket a great three-pound trout.

"Aha! my young rover; Old Mark's right hand hasn't forgot its cunning,
eh? And this is the month for them; fish all quiet now. When fools go
a-shooting, wise men go a-fishing! Eh? Come here, and look me over. How
do I wear, eh? As like a Muscovy duck as ever, you young rogue? Do you
recollect asking me, at the Club dinner, why I was like a Muscovy duck?
Because I was a fat thing in green velveteen, with a bald red head, that
was always waddling about the river bank. Ah, those were days! We'll
have some more of them. Come up to-night and try the old '21 bin."

"I must have him myself to-night; indeed I must, Mark," says the Doctor.

"All to yourself you selfish old rogue?"

"Why--no--"

"We'll come down, then, Mary and I, and bring the '21 with us, and hear
all his cock-and-bull stories. Full of travellers' lies as ever, eh?
Well, I'll come, and smoke my pipe with you. Always the same old Mark,
my lad," nudging Tom with his elbow; "one fellow comes and borrows my
money, and goes out and calls me a stingy old hunks because I won't let
him cheat me; another comes, and eats my pines, and drinks my port, goes
home, and calls me a purse-proud upstart, because he can't match 'em.
Never mind; old Mark's old Mark; sound in the heart, and sound in the
liver, just the same as thirty years ago, and will be till he takes his
last quietus est--

  'And drops into his grassy nest.'

Bye, bye, Doctor! Come, Mary!"

And out he toddled, with silent little Mary at his heels.

"Old Mark wears well, body and soul," said Tom.

"He is a noble, generous fellow, and as delicate-hearted as a woman
withal, in spite of his conceit and roughness. Fifty and odd years now,
Tom, have we been brothers, and I never found him change. And brothers
we shall be, I trust, a few years more, till I see you back again from
the East, comfortably settled. And then--"

"Don't talk of that, sir, please!" said Tom, quite quickly and sharply.
"How ill poor Mary looks!"

"So they say, poor child; and one hears it in her voice. Ah, Tom, that
girl is an angel; she has been to me daughter, doctor, clergyman, eyes
and library; and would have been nurse too, if it had not been for
making old Jane jealous. But she is ill. Some love affair, I suppose--"

"How quaint it is, that the father has kept all the animal vigour to
himself, and transmitted none to the daughter."

"He has not kept the soul to himself, Tom, or the eyes either. She will
bring me in wild flowers, and talk to me about them, till I fancy I can
see them as well as ever. Ah, well! It is a sweet world still, Tom, and
there are sweet souls in it. A sweet world: I was too fond of looking at
it once, I suppose, so God took away my sight, that I might learn to
look at Him." And the old man lay back in his chair, and covered his
face with his handkerchief, and was quite still awhile. And Tom watched
him, and thought that he would give all his cunning and power to be like
that old man.

Then Jane came in, and laid the cloth,--a coarse one enough,--and Tom
picked a cold mutton bone with a steel fork, and drank his pint of beer
from the public-house, and lighted his father's pipe, and then his own,
and vowed that he had never dined so well in his life, and began his
traveller's stories again.

And in the evening Mark came in, with a bottle of the '21 in his
coat-tail pocket; and the three sat and chatted, while Mary brought out
her work, and stitched listening silently, till it was time to lead the
old man upstairs.

Tom put his father to bed, and then made a hesitating request--

"There is a poor sick man whom I brought down with me, sir, if you could
spare me half-an-hour. It really is a professional case; he is under my
charge, I may say."

"What is it, boy?"

"Well, laudanum and a broken heart."

"Exercise and ammonia for the first. For the second, God's grace and the
grave: and those latter medicines you can't exhibit, my dear boy. Well,
as it is professional duty, I suppose you must: but don't exceed the
hour; I shall lie awake till you return, and then you must talk me to
sleep."

So Tom went out and homeward with Mark and Mary, for their roads lay
together; and as he went, he thought good to tell them somewhat of the
history of John Briggs, alias Elsley Vavasour.

"Poor fool!" said Mark, who listened in silence to the end. "Why didn't
he mind his bottles, and just do what Heaven sent him to do? Is he in
want of the rhino, Tom?"

"He had not five shillings left after he had paid his fare; and he
refuses to ask his wife for a farthing."

"Quite right--very proper spirit." And Mark walked on in silence a few
minutes.

"I say, Tom, a fool and his money are soon parted. There's a five-pound
note for him, you begging, insinuating dog, and be hanged to you both! I
shall die in the workhouse at this rate."

"Oh father, you will never miss--"

"Who told you I thought I should, pray? Don't you go giving another five
pounds out of your pocket-money behind my back, ma'am. I know your
tricks of old. Tom, I'll come and see the poor beggar to-morrow with you,
and call him Mr. Vavasour--Lord Vavasour, if he likes--if you'll warrant
me against laughing in his face." And the old man did laugh, till he
stopped and held his sides again.

"Oh, father, father, don't be so cruel. Remember how wretched the poor
man is."

"I can't think of anything but old Bolus's boy turned poet. Why did you
tell me, Tom, you bad fellow? It's too much for a man at my time of
life, and after his dinner too."

And with that he opened the little gate by the side of the grand one,
and turned to ask Tom--

"Won't come in, boy, and have one more cigar?"

"I promised my father to be back as quickly as possible."

"Good lad--that's the plan to go on--

  'You'll be churchwarden before all's over,
  And so arrive at wealth and fame.'

Instead of writing po-o-o-etry? Do you recollect that morning, and the
black draught? Oh dear, my side!"

And Tom heard him keckling to himself up the garden walk to his house;
went off to see that Elsley was safe; and then home, and slept like a
top; no wonder, for he would have done so the night before his
execution.

And what was little Mary doing all the while?

She had gone up to the room, after telling her father, with a kiss, not
to forget to say his prayers. And then she fed her canary bird, and made
up the Persian cat's bed; and then sat long at the open window, gazing
out over the shadow-dappled lawn, away to the poplars sleeping in the
moonlight, and the shining silent stream, and the shining silent stars,
till she seemed to become as one of them, and a quiet heaven within her
eyes took counsel with the quiet heaven above. And then she drew in
suddenly, as if stung by some random thought, and shut the window. A
picture hung over her mantelpiece--a portrait of her mother, who had
been a country beauty in her time. She glanced at it, and then at the
looking-glass. Would she have given her fifty thousand pounds to have
exchanged her face for such a face as that?

She caught up her little Thomas a Kempis, marked through and through
with lines and references, and sat and read steadfastly for an hour and
more. That was her school, as it has been the school of many a noble
soul. And, for some cause or other, that stinging thought returned no
more; and she knelt and prayed like a little child; and like a little
child slept sweetly all the night, and was away before breakfast the
next morning, after feeding the canary and the cat, to old women who
worshipped her as their ministering angel, and said, looking after her:
"That dear Miss Mary, pity she is so plain! Such a match as she might
have made! But she'll be handsome enough, when she is a blessed angel in
heaven."

Ah, true sisters of mercy, whom the world sneers at as "old maids," if
you pour out on cats and dogs and parrots, a little of the love which is
yearning to spend itself on children of your own flesh and blood! As
long as such as you walk this lower world, one needs no Butler's Analogy
to prove to us that there is another world, where such as you will have
a fuller and a fairer (I dare not say a juster) portion.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next morning Mark started with Tom to call on Elsley, chatting and
puffing all the way.

"I'll butter him, trust me. Nothing comforts a poor beggar like a bit of
praise when he's down; and all fellows that take to writing are as
greedy after it as trout after the drake, even if they only scribble in
county newspapers. I've watched them when I've been electioneering, my
boy!"

"Only," said Tom, "don't be angry with him if he is proud and peevish.
The poor fellow is all but mad with misery."

"Poh! quarrel with him? whom did I ever quarrel with? If he barks, I'll
stop his mouth with a good dinner. I suppose he's gentleman enough, to
invite?"

"As much a gentleman as you and I; not of the very first water, of
course. Still he eats like other people, and don't break many glasses
during a sitting. Think! he couldn't have been a very great cad to marry
a nobleman's daughter!"

"Why, no. Speaks well for him, that, considering his breeding. He must
be a very clever fellow to have caught the trick of the thing so soon."

"And so he is, a very clever fellow; too clever by half; and a very
fine-hearted fellow, too, in spite of his conceit and his temper. But
that don't prevent his being an awful fool!"

"You speak like a book, Tom!" said old Mark, clapping him on the back.
"Look at me! no one can say I was ever troubled with genius: but I can
show my money, pay my way, eat my dinner, kill my trout, hunt my hounds,
help a lame dog over a stile" (which was Mark's phrase for doing a
generous thing), "and thank God for all; and who wants more, I should
like to know? But here we are--you go up first!"

They found Elsley crouched up over the empty grate, his head in his
hands, and a few scraps of paper by him, on which he had been trying to
scribble. He did not look up as they came in, but gave a sort of
impatient half-turn, as if angry at being disturbed. Tom was about to
announce the banker; but he announced himself.

"Come to do myself the honour of calling on you, Mr. Vavasour. I am
sorry to see you so poorly; I hope our Whitbury air will set all right."

"You mistake me, sir; my name is Briggs!" said Elsley, without turning
his head; but a moment after he looked up angrily.

"Mr. Armsworth? I beg your pardon, sir; but what brings you here? Are
you come, sir, to use the rich successful man's right, and lecture me in
my misery?"

"'Pon my word, sir, you must have forgotten old Mark Armsworth, indeed,
if you fancy him capable of any such dirt. No, sir, I came to pay my
respects to you, sir, hoping that you'd come up and take a family
dinner. I could do no less," ran on the banker, seeing that Elsley was
preparing a peevish answer, "considering the honour that, I hear, you
have been to your native town. A very distinguished person, our friend
Tom tells me; and we ought to be proud of you, and behave to you as you
deserve, for I am sure we don't send too many clever fellows out of
Whitbury."

"Would that you had never sent me!" said Elsley in his bitter way.

"Ah, sir, that's matter of opinion! You would never have been heard of
down here, never have had justice done you, I mean; for heard of you
have been. There's my daughter has read your poems again and again--
always quoting them; and very pretty they sound too. Poetry is not in my
line, of course; still, it's a credit to a man to do anything well, if
he has the gift; and she tells me that you have it, and plenty of it.
And though she's no fine lady, thank Heaven, I'll back her for good
sense against any woman. Come up, sir, and judge for yourself if I don't
speak the truth; she will be delighted to meet you, and bade me say so."

By this time good Mark had talked himself out of breath; and Elsley
flushing up, as of old, at a little praise, began to stammer an excuse.
"His nerves were so weak, and his spirits so broken with late troubles."

"My dear sir, that's the very reason I want you to come. A bottle of
port will cure the nerves, and a pleasant chat the spirits. Nothing like
forgetting all for a little time; and then to it again with a fresh
lease of strength, and beat it at last like a man."

"Too late, my dear sir; I must pay the penalty of my own folly," said
Elsley, really won by the man's cordiality.

"Never too late, sir, while there's life left in us. And," he went on in
a gentler tone, "if we all were to pay for our own follies, or lie down
and die when we saw them coming full cry at our heels, where would any
one of us be by now? I have been a fool in my time, young gentleman,
more than once or twice; and that too when I was old enough to be your
father: and down I went, and deserved what I got: but my rule always
was--Fight fair; fall soft; know when you've got enough; and don't cry
out when you've got it: but just go home; train again; and say--better
luck next fight." And so old Mark's sermon ended (as most of them did)
in somewhat Socratic allegory, savouring rather of the market than of
the study; but Elsley understood him, and looked up with a smile.

"You too are somewhat of a poet in your way, I see, sir!"

"I never thought to live to hear that, sir. I can't doubt now that you
are cleverer than your neighbours, for you have found out something
which they never did. But you will come?--for that's my business."

Elsley looked inquiringly at Tom; he had learnt now to consult his eye,
and lean on him like a child. Tom looked a stout yes, and Elsley said
languidly,--

"You have given me so much new and good advice in a few minutes, sir,
that I must really do myself the pleasure of coming and hearing more."

"Well done, our side!" cried old Mark. "Dinner at half-past five. No
London late hours here, sir. Miss Armsworth will be out of her mind when
she hears you're coming."

And off he went.

"Do you think he'll come up to the scratch, Tom?"

"I am very much afraid his courage will fail him. I will see him again,
and bring him up with me: but now, my dear Mr. Armsworth, do remember
one thing; that if you go on with him at your usual rate of hospitality,
the man will as surely be drunk, as his nerves and brain are all but
ruined; and if he is so, he will most probably destroy himself to-morrow
morning."

"Destroy himself?"

"He will. The shame of making a fool of himself just now before you will
be more than he could bear. So be stingy for once. He will not wish for
it unless you press him; but if he talks (and he will talk after the
first half-hour), he will forget himself, and half a bottle will make
him mad; and then I won't answer for the consequences."

"Good gracious! why, these poets want as tender handling as a bag of
gunpowder over the fire."

"You speak like a book there in your turn." And Tom went home to his
father.

He returned in due time. A new difficulty had arisen. Elsley, under the
excitement of expectation, had gone out and deigned to buy laudanum--so
will an unhealthy craving degrade a man!--of old Bolus himself, who
luckily did not recognise him. He had taken his fullest dose, and was
now unable to go anywhere or do anything. Tom did not disturb him: but
went away, sorely perplexed, and very much minded to tell a white lie to
Armsworth, in whose eyes this would be an offence--not unpardonable, for
nothing with him was unpardonable, save lying or cruelty--but very
grievous. If a man had drunk too much wine in his house, he would have
simply kept his eye on him afterwards, as a fool who did not know when
he had his "quotum;" but laudanum drinking,--involving, too, the
breaking of an engagement, which, well managed, might have been of
immense use to Elsley,--was a very different matter. So Tom knew not
what to say or do; and not knowing, determined to wait on Providence,
smartened himself as best he could, went up to the great house, and
found Miss Mary.

"I'll tell her. She will manage it somehow, if she is a woman; much more
if she is an angel, as my father says."

Mary looked very much shocked and grieved; answered hardly a word; but
said at last, "Come in, while I go and see my father." He came into the
smart drawing-room, which he could see was seldom used; for Mary lived
in her own room, her father in his counting-house, or in his "den." In
ten minutes she came down. Tom thought she had been crying.

"I have settled it. Poor unhappy man! We will talk of something more
pleasant. Tell me about your shipwreck, and that place,--Aberalva, is it
not? What a pretty name!"

Tom told her, wondering then, and wondering long afterwards, how she had
"settled it" with her father. She chatted on artlessly enough, till the
old man came in, and to dinner, in capital humour, without saying one
word of Elsley.

"How has the old lion been tamed?" thought Tom. "The two greatest
affronts you could offer him in old times were, to break an engagement,
and to despise his good cheer." He did not know what the quiet oil on
the waters of such a spirit as Mary's can effect.

The evening passed pleasantly enough till nine, in chatting over old
times, and listening to the history of every extraordinary trout and fox
which had been killed within twenty miles, when the footboy entered with
a somewhat scared face.

"Please, sir, is Mr. Vavasour here?"

"Here? Who wants him?"

"Mrs. Brown, sir, in Hemmelford Street. Says he lodges with her, and has
been to seek for him at Dr. Thurnall's."

"I think you had better go, Mr. Thurnall," said Mary, quietly.

"Indeed you had, boy. Bother poets, and the day they first began to
breed in Whitbury! Such an evening spoilt! Have a cup of coffee? No?
then a glass of sherry?"

Out went Tom. Mrs. Brown had been up, and seen him seemingly sleeping;
then had heard him run downstairs hurriedly. He passed her in the
passage, looking very wild. "Seemed, sir, just like my nevy's wife's
brother, Will Ford, before he made away with hes'self."

Tom goes off post haste, revolving many things in a crafty heart. Then
he steers for Bolus's shop. Bolus is at "The Angler's Arms;" but his
assistant is in.

"Did a gentleman call here just now, in a long cloak, with a felt
wide-awake?"

"Yes." And the assistant looks confused enough for Tom to rejoin,--

"And you sold him laudanum?"

"Why--ah--"

"And you had sold him laudanum already this afternoon, you young rascal?
How dare you, twice in six hours? I'll hold you responsible for the
man's life!"

"You dare call me a rascal?" blusters the youth, terror-stricken at
finding how much Tom knows.

"I am a member of the College of Surgeons," says Tom, recovering his
coolness, "and have just been dining with Mr. Armsworth. I suppose you
know him?"

The assistant shook in his shoes at the name of that terrible justice of
the peace and of the war also; and meekly and contritely he replied,--

"Oh sir, what shall I do?"

"You're in a very neat scrape; you could not have feathered your nest
better," says Tom, quietly filling his pipe, and thinking. "As you
behave now, I will get you out of it, or leave you to--you know what, as
well as I. Get your hat."

He went out, and the youth followed trembling, while Tom formed his
plans in his mind.

"The wild beast goes home to his lair to die, and so may he; for I fear
it's life and death now. I'll try the house where he was born. Somewhere
in Water Lane it is I know."

And toward Water Lane he hurried. It was a low-lying offshoot of the
town, leading along the water meadows, with a straggling row of houses
on each side, the perennial haunts of fever and ague. Before them, on
each side the road, and fringed with pollard willows and tall poplars,
ran a tiny branch of the Whit, to feed some mill below; and spread out,
meanwhile, into ponds and mires full of offal and duckweed and rank
floating grass. A thick mist hung knee-deep over them, and over the
gardens right and left; and as Tom came down on the lane from the main
street above, he could see the mist spreading across the water-meadows
and reflecting the moon-beams like a lake; and as he walked into it, he
felt as if he were walking down a well. And he hurried down the lane,
looking out anxiously ahead for the long cloak.

At last he came to a better sort of house. That might be it. He would
take the chance. There was a man of the middle class, and two or three
women, standing at the gate. He went up--

"Pray, sir, did a medical man named Briggs ever live here?"

"What do you want to know for?"

"Why"--Tom thought matters were too serious for delicacy--"I am looking
for a gentleman, and thought he might have come here."

"And so he did, if you mean one in a queer hat and a cloak."

"How long since?"

"Why, he came up our garden an hour or more ago; walked right into the
parlour without with your leave, or by your leave, and stared at us all
round like one out of his mind; and so away, as soon as ever I asked him
what he was at--"

"Which way?"

"To the river, I expect: I ran out, and saw him go down the lane, but I
was not going far by night alone with any such strange customers."

"Lend me a lanthorn then, for Heaven's sake!"

The lanthorn is lent, and Tom starts again down the lane.

Now to search. At the end of the lane is a cross road parallel to the
river. A broad still ditch lies beyond it, with a little bridge across,
where one gets minnows for bait: then a broad water-meadow; then silver
Whit.

The bridge-gate is open. Tom hurries across the road to it. The lanthorn
shows him fresh footmarks going into the meadow. Forward!

Up and down in that meadow for an hour or more did Tom and the trembling
youth beat like a brace of pointer dogs, stumbling into gripes, and over
sleeping cows; and more than once stopping short just in time, as they
were walking into some broad and deep feeder.

Almost in despair, and after having searched down the river bank for
full two hundred yards, Tom was on the point of returning, when his eye
rested on a part of the stream where the mist lay higher than usual, and
let the reflection of the moonlight off the water reach his eye; and in
the moonlight ripples, close to the farther bank of the river--what was
that black lump?

Tom knew the spot well; the river there is very broad, and very shallow,
flowing round low islands of gravel and turf. It was very low just now
too, as it generally is in October: there could not be four inches of
water where the black lump lay, but on the side nearest him the water
was full knee deep.

The thing, whatever it was, was forty yards from him; and it was a cold
night for wading. It might be a hassock of rushes; a tuft of the great
water-dock; a dead dog; one of the "hangs" with which the club-water was
studded, torn up and stranded: but yet, to Tom, it had not a canny look.

"As usual! Here am I getting wet, dirty, and miserable, about matters
which are not the slightest concern of mine! I believe I shall end by
getting hanged or shot in somebody else's place, with this confounded
spirit of meddling. Yah! how cold the water is!"

For in he went, the grumbling honest dog; stepped across to the black
lump; and lifted it up hastily enough,--for it was Elsley Vavasour.

Drowned?

No. But wet through, and senseless from mingled cold and laudanum.

Whether he had meant to drown himself, and lighting on the shallow, had
stumbled on till he fell exhausted: or whether he had merely blundered
into the stream, careless whither he went, Tom knew not, and never knew;
for Elsley himself could not recollect.

Tom took him in his arms, carried him ashore and up through the water
meadow; borrowed a blanket and a wheelbarrow at the nearest cottage;
wrapped him up; and made the offending surgeon's assistant wheel him to
his lodgings.

He sat with him there an hour; and then entered Mark's house again with
his usual composed face, to find Mark and Mary sitting up in great
anxiety.

"Mr. Armsworth, does the telegraph work at this time of night?"

"I'll make it, if it is wanted. But what's the matter?"

"You will indeed?"

"'Gad, I'll go myself and kick up the station-master. What's the
matter?"

"That if poor Mrs. Vavasour wishes to see her husband alive, she must be
here in four-and-twenty hours. I'll tell you all presently--"

"Mary, my coat and comforter!" cries Mark, jumping up.

"And, Mary, a pen and ink to write the message," says Tom.

"Oh! cannot I be of any use?" says Mary.

"No, you angel."

"You must not call me an angel, Mr. Thurnall. After all, what can I do
which you have not done already?"

Tom started. Grace had once used to him the very same words. By the by,
what was it in the two women which made them so like? Certainly, neither
face nor fortune. Something in the tones of their voices.

"Ah! if Grace had Mary's fortune, or Mary Grace's face!" thought Tom, as
he hurried back to Elsley, and Mark rushed down to the station.

Elsley was conscious when he returned, and only too conscious. All night
he screamed in agonies of rheumatic fever; by the next afternoon he was
failing fast; his heart was affected; and Tom knew that he might die any
hour.

The evening train brings two ladies, Valencia and Lucia. At the risk of
her life, the poor faithful wife has come.

A gentleman's carriage is waiting for them, though they have ordered
none; and as they go through the station-room, a plain little
well-dressed body comes humbly up to them--

"Are either of these ladies Mrs. Vavasour?"

"Yes! I!--I!--is he alive?" gasps Lucia.

"Alive, and better! and expecting you--"

"Better?--expecting me?" almost shrieks she, as Valencia and Mary (for
it is she) help her to the carriage. Mary puts them in, and turns away.

"Are you not coming too?" asks Valencia, who is puzzled.

"No, thank you, madam; I am going to take a walk. John, you know where
to drive these ladies."

Little Mary does not think it necessary to say that she, with her
father's carriage, has been down to two other afternoon trains, upon the
chance of finding them.

But why is not Frank Headley with them, when he is needed most? And why
are Valencia's eyes more red with weeping than even her sister's sorrow
need have made them?

Because Frank Headley is rolling away in a French railway, on his road
to Marseilles, and to what Heaven shall find for him to do.

Yes, he is gone Eastward Ho among the many; will he come Westward Ho
again, among the few?

They are at the door of Elsley's lodgings now. Tom Thurnall meets them
there, and bows them upstairs silently. Lucia is so weak that she has to
cling to the banister a moment; and then, with a strong shudder, the
spirit conquers the flesh, and she hurries up before them both.

It is a small low room--Valencia had expected that: but she had
expected, too, confusion and wretchedness: for a note from Major
Campbell, ere he started, had told her of the condition in which Elsley
had been found. Instead, she finds neatness--even gaiety; fresh damask
linen, comfortable furniture, a vase of hothouse flowers, while the air
was full of cool perfumes. No one is likely to tell her that Mary has
furnished all at Tom's hint--"We must smarten up the place, for the poor
wife's sake. It will take something off the shock; and I want to avoid
shocks for her."

So Tom had worked with his own hands that morning; arranging the room as
carefully as any woman, with that true doctor's forethought and
consideration, which often issues in the loftiest, because the most
unconscious, benevolence.

He paused at the door--

"Will you go in?" whispered he to Valencia, in a tone which meant--"you
had better not."

"Not yet--I daresay he is too weak."

Lucia darted in, and Tom shut the door behind her, and waited at the
stair-head. "Better," thought he, "to let the two poor creatures settle
their own concerns. It must end soon, in any case."

Lucia rushed to the bed-side, drew back the curtains--

"Tom!" moaned Elsley.

"Not Tom!--Lucia!"

"Lucia?--Lucia St. Just!" answered he, in a low abstracted voice, as if
trying to recollect.

"Lucia Vavasour!--your Lucia!"

Elsley slowly raised himself upon his elbow, and looked into her face
with a sad inquiring gaze.

"Elsley--darling Elsley!--don't you know me?"

"Yes, very well indeed; better than you know me. I am not Vavasour at
all. My name is Briggs--John Briggs, the apothecary's son, come home to
Whitbury to die."

She did not hear, or did not care for those last words.

"Elsley! I am your wife!--your own wife!--who never loved any one but
you--never, never, never!"

"Yes, my wife, at least!--Curse them, that they cannot deny!" said he,
in the same abstracted voice.

"Oh God! is he mad?" thought she. "Elsley, speak to me!--I am your
Lucia--your love--"

And she tore off her bonnet, and threw herself beside him on the bed,
and clasped him in her arms, murmuring,--"Your wife! who never loved any
one but you!"

Slowly his frozen heart and frozen brain melted beneath the warmth of
her great love: but he did not speak: only he passed his weak arm round
her neck; and she felt that his cheek was wet with tears, while she
murmured on, like a cooing dove, the same sweet words again--

"Call me your love once more, and I shall know that all is past."

"Then call me no more Elsley, love!" whispered he. "Call me John Briggs,
and let us have done with shams for ever."

"No; you are my Elsley--my Vavasour! and I am your wife once more!" and
the poor thing fondled his head as it lay upon the pillow. "My own
Elsley, to whom I gave myself, body and soul; for whom I would die now,
--oh, such a death!--any death!"

"How could I doubt you?--fool that I was!"

"No, it was all my fault. It was all my odious temper! But we will be
happy now, will we not?"

Elsley smiled sadly, and began babbling--Yes, they would take a farm,
and he would plough, and sow, and be of some use before he died; "But
promise me one thing!" cried he, with sudden strength.

"What?"

"That you will go home and burn all the poetry--all the manuscripts,
and never let the children write a verse--a verse--when I am dead?" And
his head sank back, and his jaw dropped.

"He is dead!" cried the poor impulsive creature, with a shriek which
brought in Tom and Valencia.

"He is not dead, madam: but you must be very gentle with him, if we are
to--"

Tom saw that there was little hope.

"I will do anything,--only save him!--save him! Mr. Thurnall, till I
have atoned for all."

"You have little enough to atone for, madam," said Tom, as he busied
himself about the sufferer. He saw that all would soon be over, and
would have had Mrs. Vavasour withdraw: but she was so really good a
nurse as long as she could control herself, that he could hardly spare
her.

So they sat together by the sick-bed side, as the short hours passed
into the long, and the long hours into the short again, and the October
dawn began to shine through the shutterless window.

A weary eventless night it was, a night as of many years, as worse and
worse grew the weak frame; and Tom looked alternately at the heaving
chest, and shortening breath, and rattling throat, and then at the pale
still face of the lady.

"Better she should sit by (thought he), and watch him till she is tired
out. It will come on her the more gently, after all. He will die at
sunrise, as so many die."

At last be began gently feeling for Elsley's pulse.

Her eye caught his movement, and she half sprang up; but at a gesture
from him she sank quietly on her knees, holding her husband's hand in
her own.

Elsley turned toward her once, ere the film of death had fallen, and
looked her full in the face, with his beautiful eyes full of love. Then
the eyes paled and faded; but still they sought for her painfully long
after she had buried her head in the coverlet, unable to bear the sight.

And so vanished away Elsley Vavasour, poet and genius, into his own
place.

"Let us pray," said a deep voice from behind the curtain: it was Mark
Armsworth's. He had come over with the first dawn, to bring the ladies
food; had slipped upstairs to ask what news, found the door open, and
entered in time to see the last gasp.

Lucia kept her head still buried: and Tom, for the first time for many a
year, knelt, as the old banker commended to God the soul of our dear
brother just departing this life. Then Mark glided quietly downstairs,
and Valencia, rising, tried to lead Mrs. Vavasour away.

But then broke out in all its wild passion the Irish temperament. Let us
pass it over; why try to earn a little credit by depicting the agony and
the weakness of a sister?

At last Thurnall got her downstairs. Mark was there still, having sent
off for his carriage. He quietly put her arm through his, led her off,
worn out and unresisting, drove her home, delivered her and Valencia
into Mary's keeping, and then asked Tom to stay and sit with him.

"I hope I've no very bad conscience, boy; but Mary's busy with the poor
young thing, mere child she is, too, to go through such a night; and,
somehow, I don't like to be left alone after such a sight as that!"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Tom!" said Mark, as they sat smoking in silence, after breakfast, in
the study. "Tom!"

"Yes, sir!"

"That was an awful death-bed, Tom!"

Tom was silent.

"I don't mean that he died hard, as we say; but so young, Tom. And I
suppose poets' souls are worth something, like other people's--perhaps
more. I can't understand 'em; but my Mary seems to, and people, like
her, who think a poet the finest thing in the world. I laugh at it all
when I am jolly, and call it sentiment and cant: but I believe that they
are nearer heaven than I am: though I think they don't quite know where
heaven is, nor where" (with a wicked wink, in spite of the sadness of
his tone)--"where they themselves are either."

"I'll tell you, sir. I have seen men enough die--we doctors are hardened
to it: but I have seen unprofessional deaths--men we didn't kill
ourselves; I have seen men drowned, shot, hanged, run over, and worse
deaths than that, sir, too;--and, somehow, I never felt any death like
that man's. Granted, he began by trying to set the world right, when he
hadn't yet set himself right; but wasn't it some credit to see that the
world was wrong?"

"I don't know that. The world's a very good world."

"To you and me; but there are men who have higher notions than I of
what this world ought to be; and, for aught I know, they are right.
That Aberalva curate, Headley, had; and so had Briggs, in his own way.
I thought him once only a poor discontented devil, who quarrelled with
his bread and butter because he hadn't teeth to eat it with: but there
was more in the fellow, coxcomb as he was. 'Tisn't often that I let
that croaking old bogy, Madam might have been, trouble me; but I cannot
help thinking that if, fifteen years ago, I had listened to his
vapourings more, and bullied him about them less, he might have been
here still."

"You wouldn't have been then. Well for you that you didn't catch his
fever."

"And write verses too? Don't make me laugh, sir, on such a day as this;
I always comfort myself with--'it's no business of mine:' but, somehow,
I can't do so just now." And Tom sat silent, more softened than he had
been for years.

"Let's talk of something else," said Mark at last. "You had the cholera
very bad down there, I hear?"

"Oh, sharp, but short," said Tom, who disliked any subject which brought
Grace to his mind.

"Any on my lord's estate with the queer name?"

"Not a case. We stopped the devil out there, thanks to his lordship."

"So did we here. We were very near in for it, though, I fancy.--At
least, I chose to fancy so--thought it a good opportunity to clean
Whitbury once for all."

"It's just like you. Well?"

"Well, I offered the Town-council to drain the whole town at my own
expense, if they'd let me have the sewage. And that only made things
worse; for as soon as the beggars found out the sewage was worth
anything, they were down on me, as if I wanted to do them--I, Mark
Armsworth!--and would sooner let half the town rot with an epidemic,
than have reason to fancy I'd made any money out of them. So a pretty
fight I had, for half-a-dozen meetings, till I called in my lord; and,
sir, he came down by the next express, like a trump, all the way from
town, and gave them such a piece of his mind--was going to have the
Board of Health down, and turn on the Government tap, commissioners and
all, and cost 'em hundreds: till the fellows shook in their shoes;--and
so I conquered, and here we are, as clean as a nut,--and a fig for the
cholera!--except down in Water-lane, which I don't know what to do with;
for if tradesmen will run up houses on spec in a water-meadow, who can
stop them? There ought to be a law for it, say I; but I say a good many
things in the twelve months that nobody minds. But, my dear boy, if one
man in a town has pluck and money, he may do it. It'll cost him a few:
I've had to pay the main part myself, after all: but I suppose God will
make it up to a man somehow. That's old Mark's faith, at least. Now I
want to talk to you about yourself. My lord comes into town to-day, and
you must see him."

"Why, then? He can't help me with the Bashi-bazouks, can he?"

"Bashi-fiddles! I say, Tom, the more I think over it, the more it won't
do. It's throwing yourself away. They say that Turkish contingent is
getting on terribly ill."

"More need of me to make them well."

"Hang it--I mean--hasn't justice done it, and so on. The papers are full
of it."

"Well," quoth Tom, "and why should it?"

"Why, man alive, if England spends all this money on the men, she ought
to do her duty by them."

"I don't see that. As Pecksniff says, 'if England expects every man to
do his duty, she's very sanguine, and will be much disappointed.' They
don't intend to do their duty by her, any more than I do; so why should
she do her duty by them?"

"Don't intend to do your duty?"

"I'm going out because England's money is necessary to me; and England
hires me because my skill is necessary to her. I didn't think of duty
when I settled to go, and why should she? I'll get all out of her I can
in the way of pay and practice, and she may get all she can out of me in
the way of work. As for being ill-used, I never expect to be anything
else in this life. I'm sure I don't care; and I'm sure she don't; so
live and let live; talk plain truth, and leave Bunkum for right
honourables who keep their places thereby. Give me another weed."

"Queer old philosopher you are; but go you shan't!"

"Go I will, sir; don't stop me. I've my reasons, and they're good ones
enough."

The conversation was interrupted by the servant;--Lord Minchampstead was
waiting at Mr. Armsworth's office.

"Early bird, his lordship, and gets the worm accordingly," says Mark, as
he hurries off to attend on his ideal hero. "You come over to the shop
in half-an-hour, mind."

"But why?"

"Confound you, sir! you talk of having your reasons: I have mine!"

Mark looked quite cross; so Tom gave way, and went in due time to the
bank.

Standing with his back to the fire in Mark's inner room, he saw the old
cotton prince.

"And a prince he looks like," quoth Tom to himself, as he waited in the
bank outside, and looked through the glass screen. "How well the old man
wears! I wonder how many fresh thousands he has made since I saw him
last, seven years ago."

And a very noble person Lord Minchampstead did look; one to whom hats
went off almost without their owners' will; tall and portly, with a
soldier-like air of dignity and command, which was relieved by the
good-nature of the countenance. Yet it was a good-nature which would
stand no trifling. The jaw was deep and broad, though finely shaped; the
mouth firm set; the nose slightly aquiline; the brow of great depth and
height, though narrow;--altogether a Julius Caesar's type of head; that
of a man born to rule self, and therefore to rule all he met.

Tom looked over his dress, not forgetting, like a true Englishman, to
mark what sort of boots he wore. They were boots not quite fashionable,
but carefully cleaned on trees; trousers strapped tightly over them,
which had adopted the military stripe, but retained the slit at the
ankle which was in vogue forty years ago; frock coat with a velvet
collar, buttoned up, but not too far; high and tight blue cravat below
an immense shirt collar; a certain care and richness of dress
throughout, but soberly behind the fashion: while the hat was a very
shabby and broken one, and the whip still more shabby and broken; all
which indicated to Tom that his lordship let his tailor and his valet
dress him; and though not unaware that it behoved him to set out his
person as it deserved, was far too fine a gentleman to trouble himself
about looking fine.

Mark looks round, sees Tom, and calls him in.

"Mr. Thurnall, I am glad to meet you, sir. You did me good service at
Pentremochyn, and did it cheaply. I was agreeably surprised, I confess,
at receiving a bill for four pounds seven shillings and sixpence, where
I expected one of twenty or thirty."

"I charged according to what my time was really worth there, my lord. I
heartily wish it had been worth more."

"No doubt," says my lord, in the blandest, but the driest tone.

Some men would have, under a sense of Tom's merits, sent him a cheque
off-hand for five-and-twenty pounds: but that is not Lord
Minchampstead's way of doing business. He had paid simply the sum asked:
but he had set Tom down in his memory as a man whom he could trust to do
good work, and to do it cheaply; and now--

"You are going to join the Turkish contingent?"

"I am."

"You know that part of the world well, I believe?"

"Intimately."

"And the languages spoken there?"

"By no means all. Russian and Tartar well; Turkish tolerably; with a
smattering of two or three Circassian dialects."

"Humph! A fair list. Any Persian?"

"Only a few words."

"Humph! If you can learn one language I presume you can learn another.
Now, Mr. Thurnall, I have no doubt that you will do your duty in the
Turkish contingent."

Tom bowed.

"But I must ask you if your resolution to join it is fixed?"

"I only join it because I can get no other employment at the seat of
war."

"Humph! You wish to go then, in any case, to the seat of war?"

"Certainly."

"No doubt you have sufficient reasons.... Armsworth, this puts the
question in a new light."

Tom looked round at Mark, and, behold, his face bore a ludicrous mixture
of anger and disappointment, and perplexity. He seemed to be trying to
make signals to Tom, and to be afraid of doing so openly before the
great man.

"He is as wilful and as foolish as a girl, my lord; and I've told him
so."

"Everybody knows his own business best, Armsworth; Mr. Thurnall, have
you any fancy for the post of Queen's messenger?"

"I should esteem myself only too happy as one."

"They are not to be obtained now as easily as they were fifty years ago;
and are given, as you may know, to a far higher class of men than they
were formerly. But I shall do my best to obtain you one, when an
opportunity offers"

Tom was beginning his profusest thanks: for was not his fortune made?
but Lord Minchampstead stopped him with an uplifted finger.

"And, meanwhile, there are foreign employments of which neither those
who bestow them, nor those who accept them, are expected to talk much:
but for which you, if I am rightly informed, would be especially
fitted."

Tom bowed; and his face spoke a hundred assents.

"Very well; if you will come over to Minchampstead to-morrow, I will
give you letters to friends of mine in town. I trust that they may give
you a better opportunity than the Bashi-bazouks will, of displaying that
courage, address, and self-command, which, I understand, you possess in
so uncommon a degree. Good morning!" And forth the great man went.

Most opposite were the actions of the two whom he had left behind him.

Tom dances about the room, hurrahing in a whisper--

"My fortune's made! The secret service! Oh, what bliss! The thing I've
always longed for!"

Mark dashes himself desperately back in his chair, and shoots his angry
legs straight out, almost tripping up Tom.

"You abominable ass! You have done it with a vengeance! Why, he has been
pumping me about you this month! One word from you to say you'd have
stayed, and he was going to make you agent for all his Cornish
property."

"Don't he wish he may get it? Catch a fish climbing trees! Catch me
staying at home when I can serve my Queen and my country, and find a
sphere for the full development of my talents! Oh, won't I be as wise as
a serpent? Won't I be complimented by ---- himself as his best lurcher,
worth any ten needy Poles, greedy Armenians, traitors, renegades,
rag-tag and bob-tail! I'll shave my head to-morrow, and buy me an
assortment of wigs of every hue!"

Take care, Tom Thurnall. After pride comes a fall; and he who digs a pit
may fall into it himself. Has this morning's death-bed given you no
lesson that it is as well not to cast ourselves down from where God has
put us, for whatsoever seemingly fine ends of ours, lest, doing so, we
tempt God once too often?

Your father quoted that text to John Briggs, here, many years ago. Might
he not quote it now to you? True, not one word of murmuring, not even of
regret, or fear, has passed his good old lips about your self-willed
plan. He has such utter confidence in you, such utter carelessness about
himself, such utter faith in God, that he can let you go without a sigh.
But will you make his courage an excuse for your own rashness? Again,
beware; after pride may come a fall.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the fourth day Elsley was buried. Mark and Tom were the only
mourners; Lucy and Valencia stayed at Mark's house, to return next day
under Tom's care to Eaton Square.

The two mourners walked back sadly from the churchyard. "I shall put a
stone over him, Tom. He ought to rest quietly now; for he had little
rest enough in this life....

"Now, I want to talk to you about something; when I've taken off my
hatband, that is; for it would be hardly lucky to mention such matters
with a hatband on."

Tom looked up, wondering.

"Tell me about his wife, meanwhile. What made him marry her? Was she a
pretty woman?"

"Pretty enough, I believe, before she married: but I hardly think he
married her for her face."

"Of course not!" said the old man with emphasis; "of course not!
Whatever faults he had, he'd be too sensible for that. Don't you marry
for a face, Tom! I didn't."

Tom opened his eyes at this last assertion; but humbly expressed his
intention of not falling into that snare.

"Ah? you don't believe me: well, she was a beautiful woman.--I'd like to
see her fellow now in the county!--and I won't deny I was proud of her.
But she had ten thousand pounds, Tom. And as for her looks, why, if
you'll believe me, after we'd been married three months, I didn't know
whether she had any looks or not. What are you smiling at, you young
rogue?"

"Report did say that one look of Mrs. Armsworth's, to the last, would do
more to manage Mr. Armsworth than the opinions of the whole bench of
bishops."

"Report's a liar, and you're a puppy! You don't know yet whether it was
a pleasant look, or a cross one, lad. But still--well, she was an angel,
and kept old Mark straighter than he's ever been since: not that he's so
very bad, now. Though I sometimes think Mary's better even than her
mother. That girl's a good girl, Tom."

"Report agrees with you in that, at least."

"Fool if it didn't. And as for looks--I can speak to you as to my own
son--Why, handsome is that handsome does."

"And that handsome has; for you must honestly put that into the
account."

"You think so? So do I! Well, then, Tom,"--and here Mark was seized
with a tendency to St. Vitus's dance, and began overhauling every button
on his coat, twitching up his black gloves, till (as undertakers' gloves
are generally meant to do) they burst in half-a-dozen places; taking off
his hat, wiping his head fiercely, and putting the hat on again behind
before; till at last he snatched his arm from Tom's, and gripping him by
the shoulder, recommenced--

"You think so, eh? Well, I must say it, so I'd better have it out now,
hatband or none! What do you think of the man who married my daughter,
face and all?"

"I should think," quoth Tom, wondering who the happy man could be, "that
he would be so lucky in possessing such a heart, that he would be a fool
to care about the face."

"Then be as good as your word, and take her yourself. I've watched you
this last week, and you'll make her a good husband. There, I have
spoken; let me hear no more about it."

And Mark half pushed Tom from him, and puffed on by his side, highly
excited.

If Mark had knocked the young Doctor down, he would have been far less
astonished and far less puzzled too. "Well," thought he, "I fancied
nothing could throw my steady old engine off the rails; but I am off
them now, with a vengeance." What to say he knew not; at last--

"It is just like your generosity, sir; you have been a brother to my
father; and now--"

"And now I'll be a father to you! Old Mark does nothing by halves."

"But, sir, however lucky I should be in possessing Miss Armsworth's
heart, what reason have I to suppose that I do so? I never spoke a word
to her. I needn't say that she never did to me--which--"

"Of course she didn't, and of course you didn't. Should like to have
seen you making love to my daughter, indeed! No, sir; it's my will and
pleasure. I've settled it, and done it shall be! I shall go home and
tell Mary, and she'll obey me--I should like to see her do anything
else! Hoity, toity, fathers must be masters, sir! even in these fly-away
new times, when young ones choose their own husbands, and their own
politics, and their own hounds, and their own religion too, and be
hanged to them!"

What did this unaccustomed bit of bluster mean? for unaccustomed it was;
and Tom knew well that Mary Armsworth had her own way, and managed her
father as completely as he managed Whitbury.

"Humph! It is impossible; and yet it must be. This explains his being so
anxious that Lord Minchampstead should approve of me. I have found
favour in the poor dear thing's eyes, I suppose: and the good old fellow
knows it, and won't betray her, and so shams tyrant. Just like him!"
But--that Mary Armsworth should care for him! Vain fellow that he was to
fancy it! And yet, when he began to put things together, little
silences, little looks, little nothings, which all together might make
something. He would not slander her to himself by supposing that her
attentions to his father were paid for his sake: but he could not forget
that it was she, always, who read his letters aloud to the old man: or
that she had taken home and copied out the story of his shipwreck.
Beside, it was the only method of explaining Mark's conduct, save on the
supposition that he had suddenly been "changed by the fairies" in his
old age, instead of in the cradle, as usual.

It was a terrible temptation; and to no man more than to Thomas
Thurnall. He was no boy, to hanker after mere animal beauty; he had no
delicate visions or lofty aspirations; and he knew (no man better) the
plain English of fifty thousand pounds, and Mark Armsworth's daughter--a
good house, a good consulting practice (for he would take his M.D. of
course), a good station in the county, a good clarence with a good pair
of horses, good plate, a good dinner with good company thereat; and,
over and above all, his father to live with him; and with Mary, whom he
loved as a daughter, in luxury and peace to his life's end.--Why, it was
all that he had ever dreamed of, three times more than he ever hoped to
gain!--Not to mention (for how oddly little dreams of selfish pleasure
slip in at such moments!)--that he would buy such a Ross's microscope!
and keep such a horse for a sly by-day with the Whitford Priors! Oh, to
see once again a fox break from Coldharbour gorse!

And then rose up before his imagination those drooping steadfast eyes;
and Grace Harvey, the suspected, the despised, seemed to look through
and through his inmost soul, as through a home which belonged of right
to her, and where no other woman must dwell, or could dwell; for she was
there; and he knew it; and knew that, even if he never married till his
dying day, he should sell his soul by marrying any one but her. "And why
should I not sell my soul?" asked he, almost fiercely. "I sell my
talents, my time, my strength; I'd sell my life to-morrow, and go to be
shot for a shilling a day, if it would make the old man comfortable for
life; and why not my soul too? Don't that belong to me as much as any
other part of me? Why am I to be condemned to sacrifice my prospects in
life to a girl of whose honesty I am not even sure? What is this
intolerable fascination? Witch! I almost believe in mesmerism now!--
Again, I say, why should I not sell my soul, as I'd sell my coat, if the
bargain's but a good one?"

And if he did, who would ever know?--Not even Grace herself. The secret
was his, and no one else's.

Or if they did know, what matter? Dozens of men sell their souls every
year, and thrive thereon; tradesmen, lawyers, squires, popular
preachers, great noblemen, kings and princes. He would be in good
company, at all events: and while so many live in glass houses, who dare
throw stones?

But then, curiously enough, there came over him a vague dread of
possible evil, such as he had never felt before. He had been trying for
years to raise himself above the power of fortune; and he had succeeded
ill enough: but he had never lost heart. Robbed, shipwrecked, lost in
deserts, cheated at cards, shot in revolutions, begging his bread, he
had always been the same unconquerable light-hearted Tom, whose motto
was, "Fall light, and don't whimper: better luck next round." But now,
what if he played his last court-card, and Fortune, out of her
close-hidden hand, laid down a trump thereon with quiet sneering smile?
And she would! He knew, somehow, that he should not thrive. His children
would die of the measles, his horses break their knees, his plate be
stolen, his house catch fire, and Mark Armsworth die insolvent. What a
fool he was, to fancy such nonsense! Here he had been slaving all his
life to keep his father: and now he could keep him; why, he would be
justified, right, a good son, in doing the thing. How hard, how unjust
of those upper Powers in which he believed so vaguely, to forbid his
doing it!

And how did he know that they forbid him? That is too deep a question to
be analysed here: but this thing is noteworthy, that there came next
over Tom's mind a stranger feeling still--a fancy that if he did this
thing, and sold his soul, he could not answer for himself thenceforth on
the score of merest respectability; could not answer for himself not to
drink, gamble, squander his money, neglect his father, prove unfaithful
to his wife; that the innate capacity for blackguardism, which was as
strong in him as in any man, might, and probably would, run utterly riot
thenceforth. He felt as if he should cast away his last anchor, and
drift helplessly down into utter shame and ruin. It may have been very
fanciful: but so he felt; and felt it so strongly too, that in less time
than I have taken to write this he had turned to Mark Armsworth:--

"Sir, you are what I have always found you. Do you wish me to be what
you have always found me?"

"I'd be sorry to see you anything else, boy."

"Then, sir, I can't do this. In honour, I can't."

"Are you married already?" thundered Mark.

"Not quite as bad as that;" and in spite of his agitation Tom laughed,
but hysterically, at the notion. "But fool I am; for I am in love with
another woman. I am, sir," went he on hurriedly. "Boy that I am! and she
don't even know it: but if you be the man I take you for, you may be
angry with me, but you'll understand me. Anything but be a rogue to you
and to Mary, and to my own self too. Fool I'll be, but rogue I won't!"

Mark strode on in silence, frightfully red in the face for full five
minutes. Then he turned sharply on Tom, and catching him by the
shoulder, thrust him from him.

"There,--go! and don't let me see or hear of you; that is, till I tell
you! Go along, I say! Hum-hum!" (in a tone half of wrath, and half of
triumph), "his father's child! If you will ruin yourself, I can't help
it."

"Nor I, sir," said Tom, in a really piteous tone, bemoaning the day he
ever saw Aberalva, as he watched Mark stride into his own gate. "If I
had but had common luck! If I had but brought my L1500 safe home here,
and never seen Grace, and married this girl out of hand! Common luck is
all I ask, and I never get it!"

And Tom went home sulkier than a bear: but he did not let his father
find out his trouble. It was his last evening with the old man.
To-morrow he must go to London, and then--to scramble and twist about
the world again till he died! "Well, why not? A man must die somehow:
but it's hard on the poor old father," said Tom.

As Tom was packing his scanty carpet-bag next morning, there was a knock
at the door. He looked out, and saw Armsworth's clerk. What could that
mean? Had the old man determined to avenge the slight, and to do so on
his father, by claiming some old debt? There might be many between him
and the doctor. And Tom's heart beat fast, as Jane put a letter into his
hand.

"No answer, sir, the clerk says."

Tom opened it, and turned over the contents more than once ere he could
believe his own eyes.

It was neither more nor less than a cheque on Mark's London banker for
just five hundred pounds.

A half-sheet was wrapped round it, on which were written these words:--

"To Thomas Thurnall, Esq., for behaving like a gentleman. The cheque
will be duly honoured at Messrs. Smith, Brown, and Jones, Lombard
Street. No acknowledgment is to be sent. Don't tell your father. MARK
ARMSWORTH."

"Queer old world it is!" said Tom, when the first burst of childish
delight was over. "And jolly old flirt, Dame Fortune, after all! If I
had written this in a book now, who'd have believed it?"

"Father," said he, as he kissed the old man farewell, "I've a little
money come in. I'll send you fifty from London in a day or two, and
lodge a hundred and fifty more with Smith and Co. So you'll be quite in
clover while I am poisoning the Turkeys, or at some better work."

The old man thanked God for his good son, and only hoped that he was not
straitening himself to buy luxuries for a useless old fellow.

Another sacred kiss on that white head, and Tom was away for London,
with a fuller purse, and a more self-contented heart too, than he had
known for many a year.

And Elsley was left behind, under the grey church spire, sleeping with
his fathers, and vexing his soul with poetry no more. Mark has covered
him now with a fair Portland slab. He took Claude Mellot to it this
winter before church time, and stood over it long with a puzzled look,
as if dimly discovering that there were more things in heaven and earth
than were dreamed of in his philosophy.

"Wonderful fellow he was, after all! Mary shall read us out some of his
verses to-night. But, I say, why should people be born clever, only to
make them all the more miserable?"

"Perhaps they learn the more, papa, by their sorrows," said quiet little
Mary; "and so they are the gainers after all."

And none of them having any better answer to give, they all three went
into the church, to see if one could be found there.

And so Tom Thurnall, too, went Eastward-Ho, to take, like all the rest,
what God might send.




CHAPTER XXVI.

TOO LATE.


And how was poor Grace Harvey prospering the while? While comfortable
folks were praising her, at their leisure, as a heroine, Grace Harvey
was learning, so she opined, by fearful lessons, how much of the
unheroic element was still left in her. The first lesson had come just a
week after the yacht sailed for Port Madoc, when the cholera had all but
subsided; and it came in this wise. Before breakfast one morning she had
to go up to Heale's shop for some cordial. Her mother had passed, so she
said, a sleepless night, and come downstairs nervous and without
appetite, oppressed with melancholy, both in the spiritual and the
physical sense of the word. It was not often so with her now. She had
escaped the cholera. The remoteness of her house; her care never to
enter the town; the purity of the water, which trickled always fresh
from the cliff close by; and last, but not least, the scrupulous
cleanliness which (to do her justice) she had always observed, and in
which she had trained up Grace,--all these had kept her safe.

But Grace could see that her dread of the cholera was intense. She even
tried at first to prevent Grace from entering an infected house; but
that proposal was answered by a look of horror which shamed her into
silence, and she contented herself with all but tabooing Grace; making
her change her clothes whenever she came in; refusing to sit with her,
almost to eat with her. But, over and above all this, she had grown
moody, peevish, subject to violent bursts of crying, fits of
superstitious depression; spent, sometimes, whole days in reading
experimental books, arguing with the preachers, gadding to and fro to
every sermon, Arminian or Calvinist; and at last even to Church--walking
in dry places, poor soul; seeking rest, and finding none.

All this betokened some malady of the mind, rather than of the body; but
what that malady was, Grace dare not even try to guess. Perhaps it was
one of the fits of religious melancholy so common in the West country--
like her own, in fact: perhaps it was all "nerves." Her mother was
growing old, and had a great deal of business to worry her; and so Grace
thrust away the horrible suspicion by little self-deceptions.

She went into the shop. Tom was busy upon his knees behind the counter.
She made her request.

"Ah, Miss Harvey!" and he sprang up. "It will be a pleasure to serve you
once more in one's life. I am just going."

"Going where?"

"To Turkey. I find this place too pleasant and too poor. Not work
enough, and certainly not pay enough. So I have got an appointment as
surgeon in the Turkish contingent, and shall be off in an hour."

"To Turkey! to the war?"

"Yes. It's a long time since I have seen any fighting. I am quite out of
practice in gunshot wounds. There is the medicine. Good-bye! You will
shake hands once, for the sake of our late cholera work together."

Grace held out her hand mechanically across the counter, and he took it.
But she did not look into his face. Only she said, half to herself,--

"Well, better so. I have no doubt you will be very useful among them."

"Confound the icicle!" thought Tom. "I really believe that she wants to
get rid of me." And he would have withdrawn his hand in a pet: but she
held it still.

Quaint it was; those two strong natures, each loving the other better
than anything else on earth, and yet parted by the thinnest pane of ice,
which a single look would have melted. She longing to follow that man
over the wide world, slave for him, die for him; he longing for the
least excuse for making a fool of himself, and crying, "Take me, as I
take you, without a penny, for better, for worse!" If their eyes had but
met! But they did not meet; and the pane of ice kept them asunder as
surely as a wall of iron.

Was it that Tom was piqued at her seeming coldness: or did he expect,
before he made any advances, that she should show that she wished at
least for his respect, by saying something to clear up the ugly question
which lay between them? Or was he, as I suspect, so ready to melt, and
make a fool of himself, that he must needs harden his own heart by help
of the devil himself? And yet there are excuses for him. It would have
been a sore trial to any man's temper to quit Aberalva in the belief
that he left fifteen hundred pounds behind him. Be that as it may, he
said carelessly, after a moment's pause,--

"Well, farewell! And, by the bye, about that little money matter. The
month of which you spoke once was up yesterday. I suppose I am not
worthy yet; so I shall be humble, and wait patiently. Don't hurry
yourself, I beg of you, on my account."

She snatched her hand from his without a word, and rushed out of the
shop.

He returned to his packing, whistling away as shrill as any blackbird.

Little did he think that Grace's heart was bursting, as she hurried down
the street, covering her face in her veil, as if every one would espy
her dark secret in her countenance.

But she did not go home to hysterics and vain tears. An awful purpose
had arisen in her mind, under the pressure of that great agony. Heavens,
how she loved that man! To be suspected by him was torture. But she
could bear that. It was her cross; she could carry it, lie down on it,
and endure: but wrong him she could not--would not! It was sinful enough
while he was there; but doubly, unbearably sinful, when he was going to
a foreign country, when he would need every farthing he had. So not for
her own sake, but for his, she spoke to her mother when she went home,
and found her sitting over her Bible in the little parlour, vainly
trying to find a text which suited her distemper.

"Mother, you have the Bible before you there."

"Yes, child! Why? What?" asked she, looking up uneasily.

Grace fixed her eyes on the ground. She could not look her mother in the
face.

"Do you ever read the thirty-second Psalm, mother?"

"Which? Why not, child?"

"Let us read it together then, now."

And Grace, taking up her own Bible, sat quietly down and read, as none
in that parish save she could read:

"Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is
covered.

"Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in
whose spirit there is no guile.

"When I kept silence, my bones waxed old, through my groaning all the
day long.

"For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me; my moisture is turned to
the drought of summer.

"I acknowledge my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid.

"I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and Thou
forgavest the iniquity of my sin."

Grace stopped, choked with tears which the pathos of her own voice had
called up. She looked at her mother. There were no tears in her eyes:
only a dull thwart look of terror and suspicion. The shaft, however
bravely and cunningly sped, had missed its mark.

Poor Grace! Her usual eloquence utterly failed her, as most things do in
which one is wont to trust, before the pressure of a real and horrible
evil. She had no heart to make fine sentences, to preach a brilliant
sermon of commonplaces. What could she say that her mother had not known
long before she was born? And throwing herself on her knees at her
mother's feet, she grasped both her hands and looked into her face
imploringly,--"Mother! mother! mother!" was all that she could say: but
their tone meant more than all words.--Reproof, counsel, comfort, utter
tenderness, and under-current of clear deep trust, bubbling up from
beneath all passing suspicions, however dark and foul, were in it: but
they were vain.

Baser terror, the parent of baser suspicion, had hardened that woman's
heart for the while; and all she answered was,--

"Get up! what is this foolery?"

"I will not! I will not rise till you have told me."

"What?"

"Whether"--and she forced the words slowly out in a low whisper,
"whether you know--anything of--of--Mr. Thurnall's money--his belt?"

"Is the girl mad! Belt! Money? Do you take me for a thief, wench!"

"No! no! no! Only say you--you know nothing of it!"

"Psha! girl! Go to your school:" and the old woman tried to rise.

"Only say that! only let me know that it is a dream--a hideous dream
which the devil put into my wicked, wicked heart--and let me know that I
am the basest, meanest of daughters for harbouring such a thought a
moment! It will be comfort, bliss, to what I endure! Only say that, and
I will crawl to your feet, and beg for your forgiveness,--ask you to
beat me, like a child, as I shall deserve! Drive me out, if you will,
and let me die, as I shall deserve! Only say the word, and take this
fire from before my eyes, which burns day and night,--till my brain is
dried up with misery and shame! Mother, mother, speak!"

But then burst out the horrible suspicion, which falsehood, suspecting
all others of being false as itself, had engendered in that mother's
heart.

"Yes, viper! I see your plan! Do you think I do not know that you are in
love with that fellow?"

Grace started as if she had been shot, and covered her face with her
hands.

"Yes! and want me to betray myself--to tell a lie about myself, that you
may curry favour with him--a penniless, unbelieving--"

"Mother!" almost shrieked Grace, "I can bear no more! Say that it is a
lie, and then kill me if you will!"

"It is a lie, from beginning to end! What else should it be?" And the
woman, in the hurry of her passion, confirmed the equivocation with an
oath; and then ran on, as if to turn her own thoughts, as well as
Grace's, into commonplaces about "a poor old mother, who cares for
nothing but you; who has worked her fingers to the bone for years to
leave you a little money when she is gone! I wish I were gone! I wish I
were out of this wretched ungrateful world, I do! To have my own child
turn against me in my old age!"

Grace lifted her hands from her face, and looked steadfastly at her
mother. And behold, she knew not how or why, she felt that her mother
had forsworn herself. A strong shudder passed through her; she rose and
was leaving the room in silence.

"Where are you going, hussy? Stop!" screamed her mother between her
teeth, her rage and cruelty rising, as it will with weak natures, in the
very act of triumph,--"to your young man?"

"To pray," said Grace, quietly; and locking herself into the empty
schoolroom, gave vent to all her feelings, but not in tears.

How she upbraided herself!--She had not used her strength; she had not
told her mother all her heart. And yet how could she tell her heart? How
face her mother with such vague suspicions, hardly supported by a single
fact? How argue it out against her like a lawyer, and convict her to her
face? What daughter could do that, who had human love and reverence left
in her? No! to touch her inward witness, as the Quakers well and truly
term it, was the only method: and it had failed. "God help me!" was her
only cry: but the help did not come yet; there came over her instead a
feeling of utter loneliness. Willis dead; Thurnall gone; her mother
estranged; and, like a child lost upon a great moor, she looked round
all heaven and earth, and there was none to counsel, none to guide--
perhaps not even God. For would He help her as long as she lived in sin?
And was she not living in sin, deadly sin, as long as she knew what she
was sure she knew, and left the wrong unrighted?

It is sometimes true, the popular saying, that sunshine comes after
storm. Sometimes true, or who could live? but not always: not even
often. Equally true is the popular antithet, that misfortunes never come
single; that in most human lives there are periods of trouble, blow
following blow, wave following wave, from opposite and unexpected
quarters, with no natural or logical sequence, till all God's billows
have gone over the soul.

How paltry and helpless, in such dark times, are all theories of mere
self-education; all proud attempts, like that of Goethe's Wilhelm
Meister, to hang self-poised in the centre of the abyss, and there
organise for oneself a character by means of circumstances! Easy enough,
and graceful enough does that dream look, while all the circumstances
themselves--all which stands around--are easy and graceful, obliging and
commonplace, like the sphere of petty experiences with which Goethe
surrounds his insipid hero. Easy enough it seems for a man to educate
himself without God, as long as he lies comfortably on a sofa, with a
cup of coffee and a review: but what if that "daemonic element of the
universe," which Goethe confessed, and yet in his luxuriousness tried to
ignore, because he could not explain--what if that broke forth over the
graceful and prosperous student, as it may any moment! What if some
thing, or some person, or many things, or many persons, one after the
other (questions which he must get answered then, or die), took him up
and dashed him down, again, and again, and again, till he was ready to
cry, "I reckoned till morning that like a lion he will break all my
bones; from morning till evening he will make an end of me"? What if he
thus found himself hurled perforce amid the real universal experiences
of humanity; and made free, in spite of himself, by doubt and fear and
horror of great darkness, of the brotherhood of woe, common alike to the
simplest peasant-woman, and to every great soul perhaps, who has left
his impress and sign manual upon the hearts of after generations? Jew,
Heathen, or Christian; men of the most opposite creeds and aims; whether
it be Moses or Socrates, Isaiah or Epictetus, Augustine or Mohammed,
Dante or Bernard, Shakspeare or Bacon, or Goethe's self, no doubt, though
in his tremendous pride he would not confess it even to himself,--each
and all of them have this one fact in common--that once in their lives,
at least, they have gone down into the bottomless pit, and "stato all'
inferno"--as the children used truly to say of Dante; and there, out of
the utter darkness, have asked the question of all questions--"Is there
a God? And if there be, what is he doing with me?"

What refuge then in self-education; when a man feels himself powerless
in the gripe of some unseen and inevitable power, and knows not whether
it be chance, or necessity, or a devouring fiend? To wrap himself
sternly in himself, and cry, "I will endure, though all the universe be
against me;"--how fine it sounds!--But who has done it? Could a man do
it perfectly but for one moment,--could he absolutely and utterly for
one moment isolate himself, and accept his own isolation as a fact, he
were then and there a madman or a suicide. As it is, his nature, happily
too weak for that desperate self-assertion, falls back recklessly on
some form, more or less graceful according to the temperament, of the
ancient panacea, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die." Why
should a man educate self, when he knows not whither he goes, what will
befall him to-night? No. There is but one escape, one chink through
which we may see light; one rock on which our feet may find
standing-place, even in the abyss: and that is the belief, intuitive,
inspired, due neither to reasoning nor to study, that the billows are
God's billows; and that though we go down to hell, He is there also;--
the belief that not we, but He, is educating us; that these seemingly
fantastic and incoherent miseries, storm following earthquake, and
earthquake fire, as if the caprice of all the demons were let loose
against us, have in His Mind a spiritual coherence, an organic unity and
purpose (though we see it not); that sorrows do not come singly, only
because He is making short work with our spirits; and because the more
effect He sees produced by one blow, the more swiftly He follows it up
by another; till, in one great and varied crisis, seemingly long to us,
but short enough compared with immortality, our spirits may be--

  "Heated hot with burning fears,
  And bathed in baths of hissing tears,
  And battered with the strokes of doom,
  To shape and use."

And thus, perhaps, it was with poor Grace Harvey. At least, happily for
her, she began after a while to think that it was so. Only after a
while, though. There was at first a phase of repining, of doubt, almost
of indignation against high heaven. Who shall judge her? What blame if
the crucified one writhe when the first nail is driven? What blame if
the stoutest turn sick and giddy at the first home-thrust of that sword
which pierces the joints and marrow, and lays bare to self the secrets
of the heart? God gives poor souls time to recover their breaths, ere He
strikes again; and if He be not angry, why should we condemn?

Poor Grace! Her sorrows had been thickening fast during the last few
months. She was schoolmistress again, true; but where were her children?
Those of them whom she loved best, were swept away by the cholera; and
could she face the remnant, each in mourning for a parent or a brother?
That alone was grief enough for her; and yet that was the lightest of
all her griefs. She loved Tom Thurnall--how much, she dared not tell
herself; she longed to "save" him. She had thought, and not untruly,
during the past cholera weeks, that he was softened, opened to new
impressions: but he had avoided her more than ever--perhaps suspected
her again more than ever--and now he was gone, gone for ever. That, too,
was grief enough alone. But darkest and deepest of all, darker and
deeper than the past shame of being suspected by him she loved, was the
shame of suspecting her own mother--of believing herself, as she did,
privy to that shameful theft, and yet unable to make restitution. There
was the horror of all horrors, the close prison which seemed to stifle
her whole soul. The only chink through which a breath of air seemed to
come, and keep her heart alive, was the hope that somehow, somewhere,
she might find that belt, and restore it without her mother's knowledge.

But more--the first of September was come and gone; the bill for
five-and-twenty pounds was due, and was not met. Grace, choking down her
honest pride, went off to the grocer, and, with tears which he could not
resist, persuaded him to renew the bill for one month more; and now that
month was all but past, and yet there was no money. Eight or ten people
who owed Mrs. Harvey money had died of the cholera. Some, of course, had
left no effects; and all hope of their working out their debts was gone.
Some had left money behind them: but it was still in the lawyer's hands,
some of it at sea, some on mortgage, some in houses which must be sold;
till their affairs were wound up--(a sadly slow affair when a country
attorney has a poor man's unprofitable business to transact)--nothing
could come in to Mrs. Harvey. To and fro she went with knitted brow and
heavy heart; and brought home again only promises, as she had done a
hundred times before. One day she went up to Mrs. Heale. Old Heale owed
her thirteen pounds and more: but that was not the least reason for
paying. His cholera patients had not paid him; and whether Heale had the
money by him or not, he was not going to pay his debts till other people
paid theirs. Mrs. Harvey stormed; Mrs. Heale gave her as good as she
brought; and Mrs. Harvey threatened to County Court her husband; whereon
Mrs. Heale, _en revanche_ dragged out the books, and displayed to the
poor widow's horror-struck eyes an account for medicine and attendance,
on her and Grace, which nearly swallowed up the debt. Poor Grace was
overwhelmed when her mother came home and upbraided her, in her despair,
with being a burden. Was she not a burden? Must she not be one
henceforth? No, she would take in needlework, labour in the fields,
heave ballast among the coarse pauper-girls on the quay-pool, anything
rather: but how to meet the present difficulty?

"We must sell our furniture, mother!"

"For a quarter of what it's worth? Never, girl! No! The Lord will
provide," said she, between her clenched teeth, with a sort of hysteric
chuckle. "The Lord will provide!"

"I believe it; I believe it," said poor Grace; "but faith is weak, and
the day is very dark, mother."

"Dark, ay? And may be darker, yet; but the Lord will provide. He
prepares a table in the wilderness for his saints that the world don't
think of."

"Oh, mother! and do you think there is any door of hope?"

"Go to bed, girl; go to bed, and leave me to see to that. Find my
spectacles. Wherever have you laid them to, now? I'll look over the
books awhile."

"Do let me go over them for you."

"No, you sha'n't! I suppose you'll be wanting to make out your poor old
mother's been cheating somebody. Why not, if I'm a thief, Miss, eh?"

"Oh, mother! mother! don't say that again."

And Grace glided out meekly to her own chamber, which was on the
ground-floor adjoining the parlour, and there spent more than one hour
in prayer, from which no present comfort seemed to come; yet who shall
say that it was all unanswered?

At last her mother came upstairs, and put her head in angrily:--"Why
ben't you in bed, girl? sitting up this way?"

"I was praying, mother," says Grace, looking up as she knelt.

"Praying! What's the use of praying? and who'll hear you if you pray?
What you want's a husband, to keep you out of the workhouse; and you
won't get that by kneeling here. Get to bed, I say, or I'll pull you
up?"

Grace obeyed uncomplaining, but utterly shocked; though she was not
unacquainted with those frightful fits of morose unbelief, even of
fierce blasphemy, to which the excitable West-country mind is liable,
after having been over-strained by superstitious self-inspection, and by
the desperate attempt to prove itself right and safe from frames and
feelings, while fact and conscience proclaim it wrong.

The West-country people are apt to attribute these paroxysms to the
possession of a devil; and so did Grace that night.

Trembling with terror and loving pity, she lay down, and began to pray
afresh for that poor wild mother.

At last the fear crossed her that her mother might make away with
herself. But a few years before, another class-leader in Aberalva had
attempted to do so, and had all but succeeded. The thought was
intolerable. She must go to her; face reproaches, blows, anything. She
rose from her bed, and went to the door. It was fastened on the outside.

A cold perspiration stood on her forehead. She opened her lips to shriek
to her mother: but checked herself when she heard her stirring gently in
the outer room. Her pulses throbbed too loudly at first for her to hear
distinctly: but she felt that it was no moment for giving way to
emotion; by a strong effort of will, she conquered herself; and then,
with that preternatural acuteness of sense which some women possess, she
could hear everything her mother was doing. She heard her put on her
shawl, her bonnet; she heard her open the front door gently. It was now
long past midnight. Whither could she be going at that hour?

She heard her go gently to the left, past the window; and yet her
footfall was all but inaudible. No rain had fallen, and her shoes ought
to have sounded on the hard earth. She must have taken them off. There,
she was stopping, just by the school-door. Now she moved again. She must
have stopped to put on her shoes; for now Grace could hear her steps
distinctly, down the earth bank, and over the rattling shingle of the
beach. Where was she going? Grace must follow!

The door was fast: but in a moment she had removed the table, opened the
shutter and the window.

"Thank God that I stayed here on the ground floor, instead of going back
to my own room when Major Campbell left. It is a providence! The Lord
has not forsaken me yet!" said the sweet saint, as, catching up her
shawl, she wrapped it round her, and slipping through the window,
crouched under the shadow of the house, and looked for her mother.

She was hurrying over the rocks, a hundred yards off. Whither? To drown
herself in the sea? No; she held on along the mid-beach, right across
the cove, toward Arthur's Nose. But why? Grace must know.

She felt, she knew not why, that this strange journey, that wild "The
Lord will provide," had to do with the subject of her suspicion. Perhaps
this was the crisis; perhaps all will he cleared up to-night, for joy or
for utter shame.

The tide was low; the beach was bright in the western moonlight: only
along the cliff foot lay a strip of shadow a quarter of a mile long,
till the Nose, like a great black wall, buried the corner of the cove in
darkness.

Along that strip of shadow she ran, crouching; now stumbling over a
boulder, now crushing her bare feet between the sharp pebbles, as,
heedless where she stepped, she kept her eye fixed on her mother. As if
fascinated, she could see nothing else in heaven or earth but that dark
figure, hurrying along with a dogged determination, and then stopping a
moment to look round, as if in fear of a pursuer. And then Grace lay
down on the cold stones, and pressed herself into the very earth; and
the moment her mother turned to go forward, sprang up and followed.

And then a true woman's thought flashed across her, and shaped itself
into a prayer. For herself she never thought: but if the Coast Guardsman
above should see her mother, stop her, question her? God grant that he
might be on the other side of the point! And she hurried on again.

Near the Nose the rocks ran high and jagged; her mother held on to them,
passed through a narrow chasm, and disappeared.

Grace now, not fifty yards from her, darted out of the shadow into the
moonlight, and ran breathlessly toward the spot where she had seen her
mother last. Like Anderssen's little sea-maiden she went, every step on
sharp knives, across the rough beds of barnacles; but she felt no pain,
in the greatness of her terror and her love.

She crouched between the rocks a moment; heard her mother slipping and
splashing among the pools; and glided after her like a ghost--a guardian
angel rather--till she saw her emerge again for a moment into the
moonlight, upon a strip of beach beneath the Nose.

It was a weird and lonely spot; and a dangerous spot withal. For only at
low spring-tide could it be reached from the land, and then the flood
rose far up the cliff, covering all the shingle, and filling the mouth
of a dark cavern. Had her mother gone to that cavern? It was impossible
to see, so utterly was the cliff shrouded in shadow.

Shivering with cold and excitement, Grace crouched down, and gazed into
the gloom, till her eyes swam, and a hundred fantastic figures, and
sparks of fire, seemed to dance between her and the rock. Sparks of
fire!--yes; but that last one was no fancy. An actual flash; the crackle
and sputter of a match! What could it mean? Another match was lighted;
and a moment after, the glare of a lanthorn showed her mother entering
beneath the polished arch of rock which glared lurid overhead, like the
gateway of the pit of fire.

The light vanished into the windings of the cave. And then Grace, hardly
knowing what she did, rushed up the beach, and crouched down once more
at the cave's mouth. There she sat, she knew not how long, listening,
listening, like a hunted hare; her whole faculties concentrated in the
one sense of hearing; her eyes wandering vacantly over the black saws of
rock, and glistening oar-weed beds, and bright phosphoric sea. Thank
Heaven, there was not a ripple to break the silence. Ah, what was that
sound within? She pressed her ear against the rock, to hear more surely.
A rumbling as of stones rolled down. And then,--was it a fancy, or were
her powers of hearing, intensified by excitement, actually equal to
discern the chink of coin? Who knows? but in another moment she had
glided in, silently, swiftly, holding her very breath; and saw her
mother kneeling on the ground, the lanthorn by her side, and in her hand
the long-lost belt.

She did not speak, she did not move. She always knew, in her heart of
hearts, that so it was: but when the sin took bodily shape, and was
there before her very eyes, it was too dreadful to speak of, to act upon
yet. And amid the most torturing horror and disgust of that great sin,
rose up in her the divinest love for the sinner; she felt--strange
paradox--that she had never loved her mother as she did at that moment.
"Oh, that it had been I who had done it, and not she!" And her mother's
sin was to her her own sin, her mother's shame her shame, till all sense
of her mother's guilt vanished in the light of her divine love. "Oh,
that I could take her up tenderly, tell her that all is forgiven and
forgotten by man and God!--serve her as I have never served her yet!--
nurse her to sleep on my bosom, and then go forth and bear her
punishment, even if need be on the gallows-tree!" And there she stood,
in a silent agony of tender pity, drinking her portion of the cup of Him
who bore the sins of all the world.

Silently she stood; and silently she turned to go, to go home and pray
for guidance in that dark labyrinth of confused duties. Her mother heard
the rustle; looked up; and sprang to her feet with a scream, dropping
gold pieces on the ground.

Her first impulse was wild terror. She was discovered; by whom, she knew
not. She clasped her evil treasure to her bosom, and thrusting Grace
against the rock, fled wildly out.

"Mother! Mother!" shrieked Grace, rushing after her. The shawl fell from
her shoulders. Her mother looked back, and saw the white figure.

"God's angel! God's angel, come to destroy me! as he came to Balaam!"
and in the madness of her guilty fancy she saw in Grace's hand the fiery
sword which was to smite her.

Another step, looking backward still, and she had tripped over a stone.
She fell, and striking the back of her head against the rock, lay
senseless.

Tenderly Grace lifted her up: went for water to a pool near by; bathed
her face, calling on her by every term of endearment. Slowly the old
woman recovered her consciousness, but showed it only in moans. Her head
was cut and bleeding. Grace bound it up, and then taking that fatal
belt, bound it next to her own heart, never to be moved from thence till
she should put it into the hands of him to whom it belonged.

And then she lifted up her mother.

"Come home, darling mother;" and she tried to make her stand and walk.

The old woman only moaned, and waved her away impatiently. Grace put her
on her feet; but she fell again. The lower limbs seemed all but
paralysed.

Slowly that sweet saint lifted her, and laid her on her own back; and
slowly she bore her homeward, with aching knees and bleeding feet; while
before her eyes hung the picture of Him who bore his cross up Calvary,
till a solemn joy and pride in that sacred burden seemed to intertwine
itself with her deep misery. And fainting every moment with pain and
weakness, she still went on, as if by supernatural strength: and
murmured--

"Thou didst bear more for me, and shall not I bear even this for Thee?"

Surely, if blest spirits can weep and smile over the woes and heroisms
of us mortal men, faces brighter than the stars looked down on that fair
girl that night, and in loving sympathy called her, too, blest.

At last it was over. Undiscovered she reached home, laid her mother on
the bed, and tended her till morning; but long ere morning dawned stupor
had changed into delirium, and Grace's ears were all on fire with words
--which those who have ever heard will have no heart to write.

And now, by one of those strange vagaries, in which epidemics so often
indulge, appeared other symptoms; and by day-dawn cholera itself.

Heale, though recovering, was still too weak to be of use: but, happily,
the medical man sent down by the Board of Health was still in the town.

Grace sent for him; but he shook his head after the first look. The
wretched woman's ravings at once explained the case, and made it, in his
eyes, all but hopeless.

The sudden shock to body and mind, the sudden prostration of strength,
had brought out the disease which she had dreaded so intensely, and
against which she had taken so many precautions, and which yet lay, all
the while, lurking unfelt in her system.

A hideous eight-and-forty hours followed. The preachers and
class-leaders came to pray over the dying woman: but she screamed to
Grace to send them away. She had just sense enough left to dread that
she might betray her own shame. Would she have the new clergyman then?
No; she would have no one;--no one could help her! Let her only die
in peace!

And Grace closed the door upon all but the doctor, who treated the wild
sufferer's wild words as the mere fancies of delirium; and then Grace
watched and prayed, till she found herself alone with the dead.

She wrote a letter to Thurnall--

"Sir--I have found your belt, and all the money, I believe and trust,
which it contained. If you will be so kind as to tell me where and how I
shall send it to you, you will take a heavy burden off the mind of

"Your obedient humble Servant, who trusts that you will forgive her
having been unable to fulfil her promise."

She addressed the letter to Whitbury; for thither Tom had ordered his
letters to be sent; but she received no answer.

The day after Mrs. Harvey was buried, the sale of all her effects was
announced in Aberalva.

Grace received the proceeds, went round to all the creditors, and paid
them all which was due. She had a few pounds left. What to do with that
she knew full well.

She showed no sign of sorrow: but she spoke rarely to any one. A dead
dull weight seemed to hang over her. To preachers, class-leaders,
gossips, who upbraided her for not letting them see her mother, she
replied by silence. People thought her becoming idiotic.

The day after the last creditor was paid she packed up her little box:
hired a cart to take her to the nearest coach; and vanished from
Aberalva, without bidding farewell to a human being, even to her
School-children.

       *       *       *       *       *

Vavasour had been buried more than a week. Mark and Mary were sitting in
the dining-room, Mark at his port and Mary at her work, when the footboy
entered.

"Sir, there's a young woman wants to speak with you."

"Show her in, if she looks respectable," said Mark, who had slippers on,
and his feet on the fender, and was, therefore, loth to move.

"Oh, quite respectable, sir, as ever I see;" and the lad ushered in a
figure, dressed and veiled in deep black.

"Well, ma'am, sit down, pray; and what can I do for you!"

"Can you tell me, sir," answered a voice of extraordinary sweetness and
gentleness, very firm, and composed withal, "if Mr. Thomas Thurnall is
in Whitbury?"

"Thurnall? He has sailed for the East a week ago. May I ask your
business with him? Can I help you in it?"

The black damsel paused so long, that both Mary and her father felt
uneasy, and a cloud passed over Mark's brow.

"Can the boy have been playing tricks?" said he to himself.

"Then, sir, as I hear that you have influence, can you get me a
situation as one of the nurses who are going out thither, so I hear?"

"Get you a situation? Yes, of course, if you are competent."

"Thank you, sir. Perhaps, if you could be so very kind as to tell me to
whom I am to apply in town; for I shall go thither to-night."

"My goodness!" cried Mark. "Old Mark don't do things in this off-hand,
cold-blooded way. Let us know who you are, my dear, and about Mr.
Thurnall. Have you anything against him?"

She was silent.

"Mary, just step into the next room."

"If you please, sir," said the same gentle voice, "I had sooner that the
lady should stay. I have nothing against Mr. Thurnall, God knows. He has
rather something against me."

Another pause.

Mary rose, and went up to her and took her hand.

"Do tell us who you are, and if we can do anything for you."

And she looked winningly up into her face.

The stranger drew a long breath and lifted her veil. Mary and Mark both
started at the beauty of the countenance which she revealed--but in a
different way. Mark gave a grunt of approbation: Mary turned pale as
death.

"I suppose that it is but right and reasonable that I should tell you,
at least give proof of my being an honest person. For my capabilities as
a nurse--I believe you know Mrs. Vavasour? I heard that she has been
staying here"

"Of course. Do you know her?"

A sad smile passed over her face.

"Yes, well enough, at least for her to speak for me. I should have asked
her or Miss St. Just to help me to a nurse's place: but I did not like
to trouble them in their distress. How is the poor lady now, sir?"

"I know who she is!" cried Mary by a sudden inspiration. "Is not your
name Harvey! Are you not the schoolmistress who saved Mr. Thurnall's
life? who behaved so nobly in the cholera? Yes! I knew you were! Come
and sit down, and tell me all! I have so longed to know you! Dear
creature, I have felt as if you were my own sister. He--Mr. Thurnall--
wrote often about all your heroism."

Grace seemed to choke down somewhat: and then answered steadfastly--

"I did not come here, my dear lady, to hear such kind words, but to do
an errand to Mr. Thurnall. You have heard, perhaps, that when he was
wrecked last spring he lost some money. Yes! Then it was stolen.
Stolen!" she repeated with a great gasp: "never mind by whom. Not by
me."

"You need not tell us that, my dear," interrupted Mark.

"God kept it. And I have it; here!" and she pressed her hands tight over
her bosom. "And here I must keep it till I give it into his hands, if I
follow him round the world!" And as she spoke her eyes shone in the
lamplight, with an unearthly brilliance which made Mary shudder.

Mark Armsworth poured a libation to the goddess of Puzzledom, in the
shape of a glass of port, which first choked him, and then descended
over his clean shirt front. But after he had coughed himself black in
the face, he began:--

"My good girl, if you are Grace Harvey, you're welcome to my roof and an
honour to it, say I: but as for taking all that money with you across
the seas, and such a pretty helpless young thing as you are, God help
you, it mustn't be, and shan't be, and that's flat."

"But I must go to him!" said she in so naive half-wild a fashion, that
Mary, comprehending all, looked imploringly at her father, and putting
her arm round Grace, forced her into a seat.

"I must go, sir, and tell him--tell him myself. No one knows what I know
about it."

Mark shook his head.

"Could I not write to him? He knows me as well as he knows his own
father."

Grace shook her head, and pressed her hand upon her heart, where Tom's
belt lay.

"Do you think, madam, that after having had the dream of this belt, the
shape of this belt, and of the money which is in it, branded into my
brain for months--years it seems like--by God's fire of shame and
suspicion;--and seen him poor, miserable, fretful, unbelieving, for the
want of it--O God! I can't tell even your sweet face all.--Do you think
that now I have it in my hands, I can part with it, or rest, till it is
in his? No, not though I walk barefoot after him to the ends of the
earth."

"Let his father have the money, then, and do you take him the belt as a
token, if you must--"

"That's it, Mary!" shouted Mark Armsworth, "you always come in with the
right hint, girl!" and the two, combining their forces, at last talked
poor Grace over. But upon going out herself she was bent. To ask his
forgiveness in her mother's name, was her one fixed idea. He might die,
and not know all, not have forgiven all, and go she must.

"But it is a thousand to one against your seeing him. We, even, don't
know exactly where he is gone."

Grace shuddered a moment; and then recovered her calmness.

"I did not expect this: but be it so. I shall meet him if God wills; and
if not, I can still work--work."

"I think, Mary, you'd better take the young woman upstairs, and make her
sleep here to-night," said Mark, glad of an excuse to get rid of them;
which, when he had done, he pulled his chair round in front of the fire,
put a foot on each hob, and began rubbing his eyes vigorously.

"Dear me! Dear me! What a lot of good people there are in this old
world, to be sure! Ten times better than me, at least--make one ashamed
of oneself:--and if one isn't even good enough for this world, how's one
to be good enough for heaven?"

And Mary carried Grace upstairs, and into her own bed-room. A bed should
be made up there for her. It would do her good just to have anything so
pretty sleeping in the same room. And then she got Grace supper, and
tried to make her talk: but she was distrait, reserved; for a new and
sudden dread had seized her, at the sight of that fine house, fine
plate, fine friends. These were his acquaintances, then: no wonder that
he would not look on such as her. And as she cast her eye round the
really luxurious chamber, and (after falteringly asking Mary whether she
had any brothers and sisters) guessed that she must be the heiress of
all that wealth, she settled in her heart that Tom was to marry Mary;
and the intimate tone in which Mary spoke of him to her, and her
innumerable inquiries about him, made her more certain that it was a
settled thing. Handsome she was not, certainly; but so sweet and good;
and that her own beauty (if she was aware that she possessed any) could
have any weight with Tom, she would have considered as an insult to his
sense; so she made up her mind slowly, but steadily, that thus it was to
be; and every fresh proof of Mary's sweetness and goodness was a fresh
pang to her, for it showed the more how probable it was that Tom loved
her.

Therefore she answered all Mary's questions carefully and honestly, as
to a person who had a right to ask; and at last went to her bed, and,
worn out in body and mind, was asleep in a moment. She had not remarked
the sigh which escaped Mary, as she glanced at that beautiful head, and
the long black tresses which streamed down for a moment over the white
shoulders ere they were knotted back for the night, and then at her own
poor countenance in the glass opposite.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was long past midnight when Grace woke, she knew not how, and looking
up, saw a light in the room, and Mary sitting still over a book, her
head resting on her hands. She lay quiet and thought she heard a sob.
She was sure she heard tears drop on the paper. She stirred, and Mary
was at her side in a moment.

"Did you want anything?"

"Only to--to remind you, ma'am, it is not wise to sit up so late."

"Only that?" said Mary, laughing. "I do that every night, alone with
God; and I do not think He will be the farther off for your being here!"

"One thing I had to ask," said Grace. "It would lesson my labour so, if
you could give me any hint of where he might be."

"We know, as we told you, as little as you. His letters are to be sent
to Constantinople. Some from Aberalva are gone thither already."

"And mine among them!" thought Grace. "It is God's will!... Madam, if it
would not seem forward on my part--if you could tell him the truth, and
what I have for him, and where I am, in case he might wish--wish to see
me--when you were writing."

"Of course I will, or my father will," said Mary, who did not like to
confess either to herself or to Grace, that it was very improbable that
she would ever write again to Tom Thurnall.

And so the two sweet maidens, so near that moment to an explanation,
which might have cleared up all, went on each in her ignorance; for so
it was to be.

The next morning Grace came down to breakfast, modest, cheerful,
charming. Mark made her breakfast with them; gave her endless letters of
recommendation; wanted to take her to see old Doctor Thurnall, which she
declined, and then sent her to the station in his own carriage, paid her
fare first-class to town, and somehow or other contrived, with Mary's
help, that she should find in her bag two ten-pound notes, which she had
never seen before. After which he went out to his counting-house, only
remarking to Mary--

"Very extraordinary young woman, and very handsome, too. Will make some
man a jewel of a wife, if she don't go mad, or die of the hospital
fever."

To which Mary fully assented. Little she guessed, and little did her
father, that it was for Grace's sake that Tom had refused her hand.

A few days more, and Grace Harvey also had gone Eastward Ho.




CHAPTER XXVII.

A RECENT EXPLOSION IN AN ANCIENT CRATER.


It is, perhaps, a pity for the human race in general, that some
enterprising company cannot buy up the Moselle (not the wine, but the
river), cut it into five-mile lengths, and distribute them over Europe,
wherever there is a demand for lovely scenery. For lovely is its proper
epithet; it is not grand, not exciting--so much the better; it is
scenery to live and die in; scenery to settle in, and study a single
landscape, till you know every rock, and walnut-tree, and vine-leaf by
heart: not merely to run through in one hasty steam-trip, as you now do,
in a long burning day, which makes you not "drunk"--but weary--"with
excess of beauty." Besides, there are two or three points so superior to
the rest, that having seen them, one cares to see nothing more. That
paradise of emerald, purple, and azure, which opens behind Treis; and
that strange heap of old-world houses at Berncastle, which have
scrambled up to the top of a rock to stare at the steamer, and have
never been able to get down again--between them, and after them, one
feels like a child who, after a great mouthful of pine-apple jam, is
condemned to have poured down its throat an everlasting stream of
treacle.

So thought Stangrave on board the steamer, as he smoked his way up the
shallows, and wondered which turn of the river would bring him to his
destination. When would it all be over? And he never leaped on shore
more joyfully than he did at Alf that afternoon, to jump into a
carriage, and trundle up the gorge of the Issbach some six lonely weary
miles, till he turned at last into the wooded caldron of the
Romer-kessel, and saw the little chapel crowning the central knoll, with
the white high-roofed houses of Bertrich nestling at its foot.

He drives up to the handsome old Kurhaus, nestling close beneath
heather-clad rocks, upon its lawn shaded with huge horse-chestnuts, and
set round with dahlias, and geraniums, and delicate tinted German
stocks, which fill the air with fragrance; a place made only for young
lovers:--certainly not for those black, petticoated worthies, each with
that sham of a sham, the modern tonsure, pared down to a poor florin's
breadth among their bushy, well-oiled curls, who sit at little tables,
passing the lazy day "a muguetter les bourgeoises" of Sarrebruck and
Treves, and sipping the fragrant Josephshofer--perhaps at the good
bourgeois' expense.

Past them Stangrave slips angrily; for that "development of humanity"
can find no favour in his eyes; being not human at all, but professedly
superhuman, and therefore, practically, sometimes inhuman.

He hurries into the public room; seizes on the visitor's book.

The names are there, in their own handwriting: but where are they?

Waiters are seized and questioned. The English ladies came back last
night, and are gone this afternoon.

"Where are they gone?"

Nobody recollects: not even the man from whom they hired the carriage.
But they are not gone far. Their servants and their luggage are still
here. Perhaps the Herr Ober-Badmeister, Lieutenant D---- will know. "Oh,
it will not trouble him. An English gentleman? Der Herr Lieutenant will
be only too happy;" and in ten minutes der Herr Lieutenant appears,
really only too happy; and Stangrave finds himself at once in the
company of a soldier and a gentleman. Had their acquaintance been a
longer one, he would have recognised likewise the man of taste and of
piety.

"I can well appreciate, sir," says he, in return to Stangrave's anxious
inquiries, "your impatience to rejoin your lovely countrywomen, who have
been for the last three weeks the wonder and admiration of our little
paradise; and whose four days' absence was regarded, believe me, as a
public calamity."

"I can well believe it; but they are not countrywomen of mine. The one
lady is an Englishwoman; the other--I believe--an Italian."

"And der Herr?"

"An American."

"Ah! A still greater pleasure, sir. I trust that you will carry back
across the Atlantic a good report of a spot all but unknown, I fear, to
your compatriots. You will meet one, I think, on the return of the
ladies."

"A compatriot?"

"Yes. A gentleman who arrived here this morning, and who seemed, from
his conversation with them, to belong to your noble fatherland. He went
out driving with them this afternoon, whither I unfortunately know not.
Ah! good Saint Nicholas!--For though I am a Lutheran, I must invoke him
now--Look out yonder!"

Stangrave looked, and joined in the general laugh of lieutenant,
waiters, priests, and bourgeoises.

For under the chestnuts strutted, like him in Struwelpeter, as though he
were a very king of Ashantee, Sabina's black boy, who had taken to
himself a scarlet umbrella, and a great cigar; while after him came,
also like them in Struwelpeter, Caspar, bretzel in hand, and Ludwig with
his hoop, and all the naughty boys of Bertrich town, hooting and singing
in chorus, after the fashion of German children.

The resemblance to the well-known scene in the German child's book was
perfect, and as the children shouted,--

  "Ein kohlpechrabenschwarzer Mohr,
  Die Sonne schien ihm ins gehirn,
  Da nahm er seinen Sonnenschirm"--

more than one grown person joined therein.

Stangrave longed to catch hold of the boy, and extract from him all
news; but the blackamoor was not quite in respectable company enough at
that moment; and Stangrave had to wait till he strutted proudly up to
the door, and entered the hall with a bland smile, evidently having
taken the hooting as a homage to his personal appearance.

"Ah? Mas' Stangrave? glad see you, sir! Quite a party of us, now, 'mong
dese 'barian heathen foreigners. Mas' Thurnall he come dis mornin'; gone
up picken' bush wid de ladies. He! he! Not seen him dis tree year
afore."

"Thurnall!" Stangrave's heart sank within him. His first impulse was to
order a carriage, and return whence he came; but it would look so odd,
and, moreover, be so foolish, that he made up his mind to stay and face
the worst. So he swallowed a hasty dinner, and then wandered up the
narrow valley, with all his suspicions of Thurnall and Marie seething
more fiercely than ever in his heart.

Some half-mile up, a path led out of the main road to a wooden bridge
across the stream. He followed it, careless whither he went; and in five
minutes found himself in the quaintest little woodland cavern he ever
had seen.

It was simply a great block of black lava, crowned with brushwood, and
supported on walls and pillars of Dutch cheeses, or what should have
been Dutch cheeses by all laws of shape and colour, had not his fingers
proved to them that they were stone. How they got there, and what they
were, puzzled him; for he was no geologist; and finding a bench inside,
he sat down and speculated thereon.

There was more than one doorway to the "Cheese Cellar." It stood beneath
a jutting knoll, and the path ran right through; so that, as he sat, he
could see up a narrow gorge to his left, roofed in with trees; and down
into the main valley on his right, where the Issbach glittered clear and
smooth beneath red-berried mountain-ash and yellow leaves.

There he sat, and tried to forget Marie in the tinkling of the streams,
and the sighing of the autumn leaves, and the cooing of the sleepy
doves; while the ice-bird, as the Germans call the water-ouzel, sat on a
rock in the river below, and warbled his low sweet song, and then
flitted up the grassy reach to perch and sing again on the next rock
above.

And, whether, it was that he did forget Marie awhile; or whether he were
tired, as he well might have been; or whether he had too rapidly
consumed his bottle of red Walporzheimer, forgetful that it alone of
German wines combines the delicacy of the Rhine sun with the potency of
its Burgundian vinestock, transplanted to the Ahr by Charlemagne;--
whether it were any of these causes, or whether it were not, Stangrave
fell fast asleep in the Kaise-kellar, and slept till it was dark, at the
risk of catching a great cold.

How long he slept he knew not: but what wakened him he knew full well.
Voices of people approaching; and voices which he recognised in a
moment.

Sabina? Yes; and Marie too, laughing merrily; and among their shriller
tones the voice of Thurnall. He had not heard it for years; but,
considering the circumstances under which he had last heard it, there
was no fear of his forgetting it again.

They came down the side-glen; and before he could rise, they had turned
the sharp corner of the rock, and were in the Kaise-kellar, close to
him, almost touching him. He felt the awkwardness of his position. To
keep still was, perhaps, to overhear, and that too much. To discover
himself was to produce a scene; and he could not trust his temper that
the scene would not be an ugly one, and such as women must not witness.

He was relieved to find that they did not stop. They were laughing about
the gloom; about being out so late.

"How jealous some one whom I know would be," said Sabina, "if he found
you and Tom together in this darksome den!"

"I don't care," said Tom; "I have made up my mind to shoot him out of
hand, and marry Marie myself. Sha'n't I now, my--" and they passed on;
and down to their carriage, which had been waiting for them in the road
below.

What Marie's answer was, or by what name Thurnall was about to address
her, Stangrave did not hear: but he had heard quite enough.

He rose quietly after a while, and followed them.

He was a dupe, an ass! The dupe of those bad women, and of his ancient
enemy! It was maddening! Yet, how could Sabina be in fault? She had not
known Marie till he himself had introduced her; and he could not believe
her capable of such baseness. The crime must lie between the other two.
Yet--

However that might be mattered little to him now. He would return, order
his carriage once more, and depart, shaking off the dust of his feet
against them! "Pah! There were other women in the world; and women, too,
who would not demand of him to become a hero."

He reached the Kurhaus, and went in; but not into the public room, for
fear of meeting people whom he had no heart to face.

He was in the passage, in the act of settling his account with the
waiter, when Thurnall came hastily out, and ran against him.

Stangrave stood by the passage lamp, so that he saw Tom's face at once.

Tom drew back; begged a thousand pardons; and saw Stangrave's face in
turn.

The two men looked at each other for a few seconds. Stangrave longed to
say, "You intend to shoot me? Then try at once;" but he was ashamed, of
course, to make use of words which he had so accidentally overheard.

Tom looked carefully at Stangrave, to divine his temper from his
countenance. It was quite angry enough to give Tom excuse for saying to
himself--

"The fellow is mad at being caught at last. Very well."

"I think, sir," said he, quietly enough, "that you and I had better walk
outside for a few minutes. Allow me to retract the apology I just made,
till we have had some very explicit conversation on other matters."

"Curse his impudence!" thought Stangrave. "Does he actually mean to
bully me into marrying her?" and he replied haughtily enough,--

"I am aware of no matters on which I am inclined to be explicit with Mr.
Thurnall, or on which Mr. Thurnall has a right to be explicit with me."

"I am, then," quoth Tom, his suspicion increasing in turn. "Do you wish,
sir, to have a scene before this waiter and the whole house, or will you
be so kind as to walk outside with me?"

"I must decline, sir; not being in the habit of holding intercourse with
an actress's bully."

Tom did not knock him down: but replied smilingly enough--

"I am far too much in earnest in this matter, sir, to be stopped by any
coarse expressions. Waiter, you may go. Now, will you fight me to-morrow
morning, or will you not?"

"I may fight a gentleman: but not you."

"Well, I shall not call you a coward, because I know that you are none;
and I shall not make a row here, for a gentleman's reasons, which you,
calling yourself a gentleman, seem to have forgotten. But this I will
do; I will follow you till you do fight me, if I have to throw up my own
prospects in life for it. I will proclaim you, wherever we meet, for
what you are--a mean and base intriguer; I will insult you in Kursaals,
and cane you on public places; I will be Frankenstein's man to you day
and night, till I have avenged the wrongs of this poor girl, the dust of
whose feet you are not worthy to kiss off."

Stangrave was surprised at his tone. It was certainly not that of a
conscious villain: but he only replied sneeringly,--

"And pray what may give Mr. Thurnall the right to consider himself the
destined avenger of this frail beauty's wrongs?"

"I will tell you that after we have fought; and somewhat more.
Meanwhile, that expression, 'frail beauty,' is a fresh offence, for
which I should certainly cane you, if she were not in the house."

"Well," drawled Stangrave, feigning an ostentatious yawn, "I believe the
wise method of ridding oneself of impertinents is to grant their
requests. Have you pistols? I have none."

"I have both duellers and revolvers at your service."

"Ah? I think we'll try the revolvers then," said Stangrave, savage from
despair, and disbelief in all human goodness. "After what has passed,
five or six shots apiece will be hardly _outre_."

"Hardly, I think," said Tom. "Will you name your second'?"

"I know no one. I have not been here two hours; but I suppose they do
not matter much."

"Humph! it is as well to have witnesses in case of accident. There are a
couple of roystering Burschen in the public room, who, I think, would
enjoy the office. Both have scars on their faces, so they will be _au
fait_ at the thing. Shall I have the honour of sending one of them to
you?"

"As you will, sir; my number is 34." And the two fools turned on their
respective heels, and walked off.

At sunrise next morning Tom and his second are standing on the
Falkenhohe, at the edge of the vast circular pit, blasted out by some
explosion which has torn the slate into mere dust and shivers, now
covered with a thin coat of turf.

"Schoene aussicht!" says the Bursch, waving his hand round, in a tone
which is benevolently meant to withdraw Tom's mind from painful
considerations.

"Very pretty prospect indeed. You're sure you understand that revolver
thoroughly?"

The Bursch mutters to himself something about English nonchalance, and
assures Thurnall that he is competently acquainted with the weapon; as
indeed he ought to be; for having never seen one before, he has been
talking and thinking of nothing else since they left Bertrich.

And why does not Tom care to look at the prospect? Certainly not because
he is afraid. He slept as soundly as ever last night; and knows not what
fear means. But somehow, the glorious view reminds him of another
glorious view, which he saw last summer walking by Grace Harvey's side
from Tolchard's farm. And that subject he will sternly put away. He is
not sure but what it might unman even him.

The likeness certainly exists; for the rock, being the same in both
places, has taken the same general form; and the wanderer in
Rhine-Prussia and Nassau might often fancy himself in Devon or Cornwall.
True, here there is no sea: and there no Moselkopf raises its huge
crater-cone far above the uplands, all golden in the level sun. But that
brown Tannus far away, or that brown Hundsruck opposite, with its
deep-wooded gorges barred with level gleams of light across black gulfs of
shade, might well be Dartmoor, or Carcarrow moor itself, high over
Aberalva town, which he will see no more. True, in Cornwall there would
be no slag-cliffs of the Falkenley beneath his feet, as black and
blasted at this day as when yon orchard meadow was the mouth of hell,
and the south-west wind dashed the great flame against the cinder cliff
behind, and forged it into walls of time-defying glass. But that might
well be Alva stream, that Issbach in its green gulf far below, winding
along toward the green gulf of the Moselle--he will look at it no more,
lest he see Grace herself come to him across the down, to chide him,
with sacred horror, for the dark deed which he has come to do.

And yet he does not wish to kill Stangrave. He would like to "wing him."
He must punish him for his conduct to Marie; punish him for last night's
insult. It is a necessity, but a disagreeable one; he would be sorry to
go to the war with that man's blood upon his hand. He is sorry that he
is out of practice.

"A year ago I could have counted on hitting him where I liked. I trust I
shall not blunder against his vitals now. However, if I do, he has
himself to blame!"

The thought that Stangrave may kill him never crosses his mind. Of
course, out of six shots, fired at all distances from forty paces to
fifteen, one may hit him: but as for being killed!...

Tom's heart is hardened; melted again and again this summer for a
moment, only to freeze again. He all but believes that he bears a
charmed life. All the miraculous escapes of his past years, instead of
making him believe in a living, guiding, protecting Father, have become
to that proud hard heart the excuse for a deliberate, though
unconscious, atheism. His fall is surely near.

At last Stangrave and his second appear. Stangrave is haggard, not from
fear, but from misery, and rage, and self-condemnation. This is the end
of all his fine resolves! Pah! what use in them? What use in being a
martyr in this world? All men are liars, and all women too!

Tom and Stangrave stand a little apart from each other, while one of the
seconds paced the distance. He steps out away from them, across the
crater floor, carrying Tom's revolver in his hand, till he reaches the
required point, and turns.

He turns: but not to come back. Without a gesture or an exclamation
which could explain his proceedings, he faces about once more, and
rushes up the slope as hard as legs and wind permitted.

Tom is confounded with astonishment: either the Bursch is seized with
terror at the whole business, or he covets the much-admired revolver; in
either case, he is making off with it before the owner's eyes.

"Stop! Hillo! Stop thief! He's got my pistol!" and away goes Thurnall in
chase after the Bursch, who, never looking behind, never sees that he is
followed: while Stangrave and the second Bursch look on with wide eyes.

Now the Bursch is a "gymnast," and a capital runner; and so is Tom
likewise; and brilliant is the race upon the Falkenhohe. But the
victory, after a while, becomes altogether a question of wind; for it
was all up-hill. The crater, being one of "explosion, and not of
elevation," as the geologists would say, does not slope downward again,
save on one side, from its outer lip: and Tom and the Bursch were
breasting a fair hill, after they had emerged from the "kessel" below.

Now, the Bursch had had too much Thronerhofberger the night before; and
possibly, as Burschen will in their vacations, the night before that
also; whereby his diaphragm surrendered at discretion, while his heels
were yet unconquered; and he suddenly felt a strong gripe, and a
stronger kick, which rolled him over on the turf.

The hapless youth, who fancied himself alone upon the mountain tops,
roared mere incoherences; and Tom, too angry to listen, and too hurried
to punish, tore the revolver out of his grasp; whereon one barrel
exploded--

"I have done it now!"

No: the ball had luckily buried itself in the ground.

Tom turned, to rush down hill again, and meet the impatient Stangrave.

Crack--whing--g--g!

"A bullet!"

Yes! And, prodigy on prodigy, up the hill towards him charged, as he
would upon a whole army, a Prussian gendarme, with bayonet fixed.

Tom sat down upon the mountain-side, and burst into inextinguishable
laughter, while the gendarme came charging up, right toward his very
nose.

But up to his nose he charged not; for his wind was short, and the noise
of his roaring went before him. Moreover, he knew that Tom had a
revolver, and was a "mad Englishman." Now, he was not afraid of Tom, or
of a whole army: but he was a man of drills and of orders, of rules and
of precedents, as a Prussian gendarme ought to be; and for the modes of
attacking infantry, cavalry, and artillery, man, woman, and child, thief
and poacher, stray pig, or even stray wolf, he had drill and orders
sufficient: but for attacking a Colt's revolver, none.

Moreover, for arresting all manner of riotous Burschen, drunken boors,
French red Republicans, Mazzini-hatted Italian refugees, suspect Polish
incendiaries, or other feras naturse, he had precedent and regulation:
but for arresting a mad Englishman, none. He held fully the opinion of
his superiors, that there was no saying what an Englishman might not,
could not, and would not do. He was a sphinx, a chimera, a lunatic broke
loose, who took unintelligible delight in getting wet, and dirty, and
tired, and starved, and all but lolled; and called the same "taking
exercise:" who would see everything that nobody ever cared to see, and
who knew mysteriously everything about everywhere; whose deeds were like
his opinions, utterly subversive of all constituted order in heaven and
earth; being, probably, the inhabitant of another planet; possibly the
man in the moon himself, who had been turned out, having made his native
satellite too hot to hold him. All that was to be done with him was to
inquire whether his passport was correct, and then (with a due regard to
self-preservation) to endure his vagaries in pitying wonder.

So the gendarme paused panting; and not daring to approach, walked
slowly and solemnly round Tom, keeping the point of his bayonet
carefully towards him, and roaring at intervals--

"You have murdered the young man!"

"But I have not!" said Tom. "Look and see."

"But I saw him fall!"

"But he has got up again, and run away."

"So! Then where is your passport?"

That one other fact cognisable by the mind of a Prussian gendarme,
remained as an anchor for his brains under the new and trying
circumstances, and he used it. "Here!" quoth Tom, pulling it out.

The gendarme stepped cautiously forward.

"Don't be frightened. I'll stick it on your bayonet-point;" and suiting
the action to the word, Tom caught the bayonet-point, put the passport
on it, and pulled out his cigar-case.

"Mad Englishman!" murmured the gendarme. "So! The passport is correct.
But der Herr must consider himself under arrest. Der Herr will give up
his death-instrument."

"By all means," says Tom: and gives up the revolver.

The gendarme takes it very cautiously; meditates awhile how to carry it;
sticks the point of his bayonet into its muzzle, and lifts it aloft.

"Schon! Das kriegt! Has der Herr any more death-instruments?"

"Dozens!" says Tom, and begins fumbling in his pockets; from whence he
pulls a case of surgical instruments, another of mathematical ones,
another of lancets, and a knife with innumerable blades, saws, and
pickers, every one of which he opens carefully, and then spreads the
whole fearful array upon the grass before him.

The gendarme scratches his head over those too plain proofs of some
tremendous conspiracy.

"So! Man must have a dozen hands! He is surely Palmerston himself; or at
least Hecker, or Mazzini!" murmurs he, as he meditates how to stow them
all.

He thinks now that the revolver may be safe elsewhere; and that the
knife will do best on the bayonet-point So he unships the revolver.

Bang goes barrel number two, and the ball goes into the turf between his
feet.

"You will shoot yourself soon, at that rate," says Tom.

"So? Der Herr speaks German like a native," says the gendarme, growing
complimentary in his perplexity. "Perhaps der Herr would be so good as
to carry his death-instruments himself, and attend on the Herr
Polizeirath, who is waiting to see him."

"By all means!" And Tom picks up his tackle, while the prudent gendarme
reloads; and Tom marches down the hill, the gendarme following, with his
bayonet disagreeably near the small of Tom's back.

"Don't stumble! Look out for the stones, or you'll have that skewer
through me!"

"So! Der Herr speaks German like a native," says the gendarme, civilly.
"It is certainly der Palmerston," thinks he, "his manners are so
polite."

Once at the crater edge, and able to see into the pit, the mystery is,
in part at least, explained: for there stand not only Stangrave and
Bursch number two, but a second gendarme, two elderly gentlemen, two
ladies, and a black boy.

One is Lieutenant D----, by his white moustache. He is lecturing the
Bursch, who looks sufficiently foolish. The other is a portly and
awful-looking personage in uniform, evidently the Polizeirath of those
parts, armed with the just terrors of the law: but Justice has, if not
her eyes bandaged, at least her hands tied; for on his arm hangs Sabina,
smiling, chatting, entreating. The Polizeirath smiles, bows, ogles,
evidently a willing captive. Venus had disarmed Rhadamanthus, as she has
Mars so often; and the sword of Justice must rust in its scabbard.

Some distance behind them is Stangrave, talking in a low voice,
earnestly, passionately,--to whom but to Marie?

And lastly, opposite each other, and like two dogs who are uncertain
whether to make friends or fight, are a gendarme and Sabina's black boy:
the gendarme, with shouldered musket, is trying to look as stiff and
cross as possible, being scandalised by his superior officer's defection
from the path of duty; and still more by the irreverence of the black
boy, who is dancing, grinning, snapping his fingers, in delight at
having discovered and prevented the coming tragedy.

Tom descends, bowing courteously, apologises for having been absent when
the highly distinguished gentleman arrived; and turning to the Bursch,
begs him to transmit to his friend who has run away his apologies for
the absurd mistake which led him to, etc. etc.

The Polizeirath looks at him with much the same blank astonishment as
the gendarme had done; and at last ends by lifting up his hands, and
bursting into an enormous German laugh; and no one on earth can laugh as
a German can, so genially and lovingly, and with such intense
self-enjoyment.

"Oh, you English! you English! You are all mad, I think! Nothing can
shame you, and nothing can frighten you! Potz! I believe when your
Guards at Alma walked into that battery the other day, every one of them
was whistling your Jim Crow, even after he was shot dead!" And the jolly
Polizeirath laughed at his own joke, till the mountain rang. "But you
must leave the country, sir; indeed you must. We cannot permit such
conduct here--I am very sorry."

"I entreat you not to apologise, sir. In any case, I was going to Alf by
eight o'clock, to meet the steamer for Treves. I am on my way to the war
in the East, via Marseilles. If you would, therefore, be so kind as to
allow the gendarme to return me that second revolver, which also belongs
to me--"

"Give him his pistol!" shouted the magistrate.

"Potz! Let us be rid of him at any cost, and live in peace, like honest
Germans. Ah, poor Queen Victoria! What a lot! To have the government of
five-and-twenty million such!"

"Not five-and-twenty millions," says Sabina.

"That would include the ladies; and we are not mad too, surely, your
Excellency?"

The Polizeirath likes to be called your Excellency, of course, or any
other mighty title which does or does not belong to him; and that Sabina
knows full well.

"Ah, my dear madam, how do I know that? The English ladies do every day
here what no other dames would dare or dream--what then, must you be at
home? Ach! your poor husbands!"

"Mr. Thurnall!" calls Marie, from behind. "Mr. Thurnall!"

Tom comes, with a quaint, dogged smile on his face.

"You see him, Mr. Stangrave! You see the man who risked for me liberty,
life,--who rescued me from slavery, shame, suicide,--who was to me a
brother, a father, for years!--without whose disinterested heroism you
would never have set eyes on the face which you pretend to love. And you
repay him by suspicion--insult--Apologise to him, sir! Ask his pardon
now, here, utterly, humbly: or never speak to Marie Lavington again!"

Tom looked first at her, and then at Stangrave. Marie was convulsed with
excitement; her thin cheeks were crimson, her eyes flashed very flame.
Stangrave was pale--calm outwardly, but evidently not within. He was
looking on the ground, in thought so intense that he hardly seemed to
hear Marie. Poor fellow! he had heard enough in the last ten minutes to
bewilder any brain.

At last he seemed to have strung himself for an effort, and spoke,
without looking up.

"Mr. Thurnall!"

"Sir?"

"I have done you a great wrong!"

"We will say no more about it, sir. It was a mistake, and I do not wish
to complicate the question. My true ground of quarrel with you is your
conduct to Miss Lavington. She seems to have told you her true name, so
I shall call her by it."

"What I have done, I have undone!" said Stangrave, looking up. "If I
have wronged her, I have offered to right her; if I have left her, I
have sought her again; and if I left her when I knew nothing, now that I
know all, I ask her here, before you, to become my wife!"

Tom looked inquiringly at Marie.

"Yes; I have told him all--all?" and she hid her face in her hands.

"Well," said Tom, "Mr. Stangrave is a very enviable person; and the
match in a worldly point of view, is a most fortunate one for Miss
Lavington; and that stupid rascal of a gendarme has broken my revolver."

"But I have not accepted him," cried Marie; "and I will not unless you
give me leave."

Tom saw Stangrave's brow lower, and pardonably enough, at this.

"My dear Miss Lavington, as I have never been able to settle my own love
affairs satisfactorily to myself, I do not feel at all competent to
settle other people's. Good-bye! I shall be late for the steamer." And,
bowing to Stangrave and Marie, he turned to go.

"Sabina! Stop him!" cried she; "he is going, without even a kind word!"

"Sabina," whispered Tom as he passed her,--"a had business--selfish
coxcomb; when her beauty goes, won't stand her temper and her
flightiness: but I know you and Claude will take care of the poor thing,
if anything happens to me."

"You're wrong--prejudiced--indeed!"

"Tut, tut, tut!--Good-bye, you sweet little sunbeam. Good morning,
gentlemen!"

And Tom hurried up the slope and out of sight, while Marie burst into an
agony of weeping.

"Gone, without a kind word!"

Stangrave bit his lip, not in anger, but in manly self-reproach.

"It is my fault, Marie! my fault! He knew me too well of old, and had
too much reason to despise me! But he shall have reason no longer. He
will come back, and find me worthy of you; and all will be forgotten.
Again I say it, I accept your quest, for life and death. So help me God
above, as I will not fail or falter, till I have won justice for you and
for your race! Marie?"

He conquered: how could he but conquer! for he was man, and she was
woman; and he looked more noble in her eyes, while he was confessing his
past weakness, than he had ever done in his proud assertion of strength.

But she spoke no word in answer. She let him take her hand, pass her arm
through his, and lead her away, as one who had a right.

They walked down the hill behind the rest of the party, blest, but
silent and pensive; he with the weight of the future, she with that of
the past.

"It is very wonderful," she said at last. "Wonderful ... that you can
care for me.... Oh, if I had known how noble you were, I should have
told you all at once."

"Perhaps I should have been as ignoble as ever," said Stangrave, "if
that young English Viscount had not put me on my mettle by his own
nobleness."

"No! no! Do not belie yourself. You know what he does not;--what I would
have died sooner than tell him."

Stangrave drew the arm closer through his, and clasped the hand. Marie
did not withdraw it.

"Wonderful, wonderful love!" she said quite humbly. Her theatric
passionateness had passed;--

  "Nothing was left of her,
  Now, but pure womanly."

"That you can love me--me, the slave; me, the scourged; the scarred--Oh
Stangrave! it is not much--not much really;--only a little mark or
two...."

"I will prize them," he answered, smiling through tears, "more than all
your loveliness. I will see in them God's commandment to me, written not
on tables of stone, but on fair, pure, noble flesh. My Marie! You shall
have cause even to rejoice in them!"

"I glory in them now; for, without them, I never should have known all
your worth."

The next day Stangrave, Marie, and Sabina were hurrying home to England!
while Tom Thurnall was hurrying to Marseilles, to vanish Eastward Ho.

He has escaped once more: but his heart is hardened still. What will his
fall be like?




CHAPTER XXVIII.

LAST CHRISTMAS EVE.


And now two years and more are past and gone; and all whose lot it was
have come Westward Ho once more, sadder and wiser men to their lives'
end; save one or two, that is, from whom not even Solomon's pestle and
mortar discipline would pound out the innate folly.

Frank has come home stouter and browner, as well as heartier and wiser,
than he went forth. He is Valencia's husband now, and rector, not
curate, of Aberalva town; and Valencia makes him a noble rector's wife.

She, too, has had her sad experiences;--of more than absent love; for
when the news of Inkerman arrived, she was sitting by Lucia's death-bed;
and when the ghastly list came home, and with it the news of Scoutbush
"severely wounded by a musket-ball," she had just taken her last look of
the fair face, and seen in fancy the fair spirit greeting in the eternal
world the soul of him whom she loved unto the death. She had hurried out
to Scutari, to nurse her brother; had seen there many a sight--she best
knows what she saw. She sent Scoutbush back to the Crimea, to try his
chance once more; and then came home to be a mother to those three
orphan children, from whom she vowed never to part. So the children went
with Frank and her to Aberalva, and Valencia had learnt half a mother's
duties, ere she had a baby of her own.

And thus to her, as to all hearts, has the war brought a discipline from
heaven.

Frank shrank at first from returning to Aberalva, when Scoutbush offered
him the living on old St. Just's death. But Valencia all but commanded
him; so he went: and, behold his return was a triumph.

All was understood now, all forgiven, all forgotten, save his conduct in
the cholera, by the loving, honest, brave West-country hearts; and when
the new-married pair were rung into the town, amid arches and garlands,
flags and bonfires, the first man to welcome Frank into his rectory was
old Tardrew.

Not a word of repentance or apology ever passed the old bulldog's lips.
He was an Englishman, and kept his opinions to himself. But he had had
his lesson like the rest, two years ago, in his young daughter's death;
and Frank had thenceforth no faster friend than old Tardrew.

Frank is still as High Church as ever; and likes all pomp and
circumstance of worship. Some few whims he has given up, certainly, for
fear of giving offence; but he might indulge them once more, if he
wished, without a quarrel. For now that the people understand him, he
does just what he likes. His congregation is the best in the
archdeaconry; one meeting-house is dead, and the other dying. His choir
is admirable; for Valencia has had the art of drawing to her all the
musical talent of the tuneful West-country folk; and all that he needs,
he thinks, to make his parish perfect, is to see Grace Harvey
schoolmistress once more.

What can have worked the change? It is difficult to say, unless it be
that Frank has found out, from cholera and hospital experiences, that
his parishioners are beings of like passions with himself; and found
out, too, that his business is to leave the Gospel of damnation to those
whose hapless lot it is to earn their bread by pandering to popular
superstition; and to employ his independent position, as a free rector,
in telling his people the Gospel of salvation--that they have a Father
in heaven.

Little Scoutbush comes down often to Aberalva now, and oftener to his
Irish estates. He is going to marry the Manchester lady after all, and
to settle down; and try to be a good landlord; and use for the benefit
of his tenants the sharp experience of human hearts, human sorrows, and
human duty, which he gained in the Crimea two years ago.

And Major Campbell?

Look on Cathcart's Hill. A stone is there, which is the only earthly
token of that great experience of all experiences which Campbell gained
two years ago.

A little silk bag was found, hung round his neck, and lying next his
heart. He seemed to have expected his death; for he had put a label on
it--

"To be sent to Viscount Scoutbush for Miss St. Just."

Scoutbush sent it home to Valencia, who opened it, blind with tears.

It was a note, written seven years before; but not by her; by Lucia ere
her marriage. A simple invitation to dinner in Eaton Square, written for
Lady Knockdown, but with a postscript from Lucia, herself: "Do come, and
I will promise not to tease you as I did last night."

That was, perhaps, the only kind or familiar word which he had ever had
from his idol; and he had treasured it to the last. Women can love, as
this book sets forth: but now and then men can love too, if they be men,
as Major Campbell was.

And Trebooze of Trebooze?

Even Trebooze got his new lesson two years ago. Terrified into sobriety,
he went into the militia, and soon took delight therein. He worked, for
the first time in his life, early and late, at a work which was suited
for him. He soon learnt not to swear and rage, for his men would not
stand it; and not to get drunk, for his messmates would not stand it. He
got into better society and better health than he ever had had before.
With new self-discipline has come new self-respect; and he tells his
wife frankly, that if he keeps straight henceforth, he has to thank for
it his six months at Aldershott.

And Mary?

When you meet Mary in heaven, you can ask her there.

But Frank's desire, that Grace should become his schoolmistress once
more, is not fulfilled.

How she worked at Scutari and at Balaklava, there is no need to tell.
Why mark her out from the rest, when all did more than nobly? The lesson
which she needed was not that which hospitals could teach; she had
learnt that already. It was a deeper and more dreadful lesson still. She
had set her heart on finding Tom; on righting him, on righting herself.
She had to learn to be content not to find him; not to right him, not to
right herself.

And she learnt it. Tearless, uncomplaining, she "trusted in God, and
made no haste." She did her work, and read her Bible; and read too,
again and again, at stolen moments of rest, a book which some one lent
her, and which was to her as the finding of an unknown sister--
Longfellow's Evangeline. She was Evangeline; seeking as she sought,
perhaps to find as she found--No! merciful God! Not so! yet better so
than not at all. And often and often, when a new freight of agony was
landed, she looked round from bed to bed, if his face too, might be
there. And once, at Balaklava, she knew she saw him: but not on a sick
bed.

Standing beneath the window, chatting merrily with a group of officers--
It was he! Could she mistake that figure, though the face was turned
away? Her head swam, her pulses beat like church bells, her eyes were
ready to burst from their sockets. But--she was assisting at an
operation. It was God's will, and she must endure.

When the operation was over, she darted wildly down the stairs without a
word.

He was gone.

Without a word she came back to her work, and possessed her soul in
patience.

Inquiries, indeed, she made, as she had a right to do; but no one knew
the name. She questioned, and caused to be questioned, men from Varna,
from Sevastopol, from Kerteh, from the Circassian coast; English,
French, and Sardinian, Pole and Turk. No one had ever heard the name.
She even found at last, and questioned, one of the officers who had
formed that group beneath the window.

"Oh! that man? He was a Pole, Michaelowyzcki, or some such name. At
least, so he said; but he suspected the man to be really a Russian spy."

Grace knew that it was Tom: but she went back to her work again, and in
due time went home to England.

Home, but not to Aberalva. She presented herself one day at Mark
Armsworth's house in Whitbury, and humbly begged him to obtain her a
place as servant to old Dr. Thurnall. What her purpose was therein she
did not explain; perhaps she hardly knew herself.

Jane, the old servant who had clung to the doctor through his reverses,
was growing old and feeble, and was all the more jealous of an intruder:
but Grace disarmed her.

"I do not want to interfere; I will be under your orders. I will be
kitchen-maid--maid-of-all-work. I want no wages. I have brought home a
little money with me; enough to last me for the little while I shall be
here."

And, by the help of Mark and Mary, she took up her abode in the old
man's house; and ere a month was past she was to him as a daughter.

Perhaps she had told him all. At least, there was some deep and pure
confidence between them; and yet one which, so perfect was Grace's
humility, did not make old Jane jealous. Grace cooked, swept, washed,
went to and fro as Jane bade her; submitted to all her grumblings and
tossings; and then came at the old man's bidding to read to him every
evening, her hand in his; her voice cheerful, her face full of quiet
light. But her hair was becoming streaked with gray. Her face, howsoever
gentle, was sharpened, as if with continual pain. No wonder; for she had
worn that belt next her heart for now two years and more, till it had
almost eaten into the heart above which it lay. It gave her perpetual
pain: and yet that pain was a perpetual joy--a perpetual remembrance of
him, and of that walk with him from Tolchard's farm.

Mary loved her--wanted to treat her as an equal--to call her sister: but
Grace drew back lovingly, but humbly, from all advances; for she had
divined Mary's secret with the quick eye of woman; she saw how Mary grew
daily paler, thinner, sadder, and knew for whom she mourned. Be it so;
Mary had a right to him, and she had none.

       *       *       *       *       *

And where was Tom Thurnall all the while?

No man could tell.

Mark inquired; Lord Minchampstead inquired; great personages who had
need of him at home and abroad inquired: but all in vain.

A few knew, and told Lord Minchampstead, who told Mark, in confidence,
that he had been heard of last in the Circassian mountains, about
Christmas, 1854: but since then all was blank. He had vanished into the
infinite unknown.

Mark swore that he would come home some day: but two full years were
past, and Tom came not.

The old man never seemed to regret him; never mentioned his name after a
while.

"Mark," he said once, "remember David. Why weep for the child? I shall
go to him, but he will not come to me."

None knew, meanwhile, why the old man needed not to talk of Tom to his
friends and neighbours; it was because he and Grace never talked of
anything else.

       *       *       *       *       *

So they had lived, and so they had waited, till that week before last
Christmas-day, when Mellot and Stangrave made their appearance in
Whitbury, and became Mark Armsworth's guests.

The week slipped on. Stangrave hunted on alternate days; and on the
others went with Claude, who photographed (when there was sun to do it
with) Stangrave End, and Whitford Priory, interiors and exteriors; not
forgetting the Stangrave monuments in Whitbury church; and sat, too, for
many a pleasant hour with the good Doctor, who took to him at once, as
all men did. It seemed to give fresh life to the old man to listen to
Tom's dearest friend. To him, as to Grace, he could talk openly about
the lost son, and live upon the memory of his prowess and his virtues;
and ere the week was out, the Doctor, and Grace too, had heard a hundred
gallant feats, to tell all which would add another volume to this book.

And Grace stood silently by the old man's chair, and drank all in
without a smile, without a sigh, but not without full many a prayer.

It is the blessed Christmas Eve; the light is failing fast; when down
the high street comes the mighty Roman-nosed rat-tail which carries
Mark's portly bulk, and by him Stangrave, on a right good horse.

They shog on side by side--not home, but to the Doctor's house. For
every hunting evening Mark's groom meets him at the Doctor's door to
lead the horses home, while he, before he will take his bath and dress,
brings to his blind friend the gossip of the field, and details to him
every joke, fence, find, kill, hap and mishap of the last six hours.

The old man, meanwhile, is sitting quietly, with Claude by him, talking
--as Claude can talk. They are not speaking of Tom just now: but the
eloquent artist's conversation suits well enough the temper of the good
old man, yearning after fresh knowledge, even on the brink of the grave;
but too feeble now, in body and in mind, to do more than listen. Claude
is telling him about the late Photographic Exhibition; and the old man
listens with a triumphant smile to wonders which he will never behold
with mortal eyes. At last,--

"This is very pleasant--to feel surer and surer, day by day, that one is
not needed; that science moves forward swift and sure, under a higher
guidance than one's own; that the sacred torch-race never can stand
still; that He has taken the lamp out of old and failing hands, only to
put it into young and brave ones, who will not falter till they reach
the goal."

Then he lies back again, with closed eyes, waiting for more facts from
Claude.

"How beautiful!" says Claude--"I must compliment you, sir--to see the
child-like heart thus still beating fresh beneath the honours of the
grey head, without envy, without vanity, without ambition, welcoming
every new discovery, rejoicing to see the young outstripping them."

"And what credit, sir, to us? Our knowledge did not belong to us, but to
Him who made us, and the universe; and our sons' belonged to Him
likewise. If they be wiser than their teachers, it is only because they,
like their teachers, have made His testimonies their study. When we
rejoice in the progress of science, we rejoice not in ourselves, not in
our children, but in God our Instructor."

And all the while, hidden in the gloom behind, stands Grace, her arms
folded over her bosom, watching every movement of the old man; and
listening, too, to every word. She can understand but little of it: but
she loves to hear it, for it reminds her of Tom Thurnall. Above all she
loves to hear about the microscope, a mystery inseparable in her
thoughts from him who first showed her its wonders.

At last the old man speaks again:--

"Ah! How delighted my boy will be when he returns, to find that so much
has been done during his absence."

Claude is silent awhile, startled.

"You are surprised to hear me speak so confidently? Well, I can only
speak as I feel. I have had, for some days past, a presentiment--you
will think me, doubtless, weak for yielding to it. I am not
superstitious."

"Not so," said Claude, "but I cannot deny that such things as
presentiments may be possible. However miraculous they may seem, are
they so very much more so than the daily fact of memory? I can as little
guess why we can remember the past as why we may not, at times, be able
to foresee the future."

"True. You speak, if not like a physician, yet like a metaphysician; so
you will not laugh at me, and compel the weak old man and his fancy to
take refuge with a girl--who is not weak.--Grace, darling, you think
still that he is coming?"

She came forward and leaned over him.

"Yes," she half whispered. "He is coming soon to us: or else we are soon
going to him. It may mean that, sir. Perhaps it is better that it
should."

"It matters little, child, if he be near, as near he is. I tell you, Mr.
Mellot, this conviction has become so intense during the last week,
that--that I believe I should not be thrown off my balance if he entered
at this moment.... I feel him so near me, sir, that--that I could swear,
did I not know how the weak brain imitates expected sounds, that I heard
his footstep outside now."

"I heard horses' footsteps," says Claude.--"Ah, there comes Stangrave
and our host."

"I heard them: but I heard my boy's likewise," said the old man quietly.

The next minute he seemed to have forgotten the fancy, as the two
hunters entered, and Mark began open-mouthed as usual--

"Well, Ned! In good company, eh? That's right. Mortal cold I am! We
shall have a white Christmas, I expect. Snow's coming."

"What sport?" asked the doctor blandly.

"Oh! Nothing new. Bothered about Sidricstone till one. Got away at last
with an old fox, and over the downs into the vale. I think Mr. Stangrave
liked it?"

"Mr. Stangrave likes the vale better than the vale likes him. I have
fallen into two brooks following, Claude; to the delight of all the
desperate Englishmen."

"Oh! You rode straight enough, sir! You must pay for your fun in the
vale:--but then you have your fun. But there were a good many falls the
last ton minutes: ground heavy, and pace awful; old rat-tail had enough
to do to hold his own. Saw one fellow ride bang into a pollard-willow,
when there was an open gate close to him--cut his cheek open, and lay;
but some one said it was only Smith of Ewebury, so I rode on."

"I hope you English showed more pity to your wounded friends in the
Crimea," quoth Stangrave, laughing, "I wanted to stop and pick him up:
but Mr. Armsworth would not hear of it."

"Oh, sir, if it had been a stranger like you, half the field would have
been round you in a minute: but Smith don't count--he breaks his neck on
purpose three days a week:--by the by, Doctor, got a good story of him
for you. Suspected his keepers last month. Slips out of bed at two in
the morning; into his own covers, and blazes away for an hour. Nobody
comes. Home to bed, and tries the same thing next night. Not a soul
comes near him. Next morning has up keepers, watchers, beaters, the
whole posse; and 'Now, you rascals! I've been poaching my own covers two
nights running, and you've been all drunk in bed. There are your wages
to the last penny; and vanish! I'll be my own keeper henceforth; and
never let me see your faces again!"

The old Doctor laughed cheerily. "Well: but did you kill your fox?"

"All right: but it was a burster,--just what I always tell Mr.
Stangrave. Afternoon runs are good runs; pretty sure of an empty fox and
a good scent after one o'clock."

"Exactly," answered a fresh voice from behind; "and fox-hunting is an
epitome of human life. You chop or lose your first two or three: but
keep up your pluck, and you'll run into one before sun-down; and I seem
to have run into a whole earthful!"

All looked round; for all knew that voice.

Yes! There he was, in bodily flesh and blood; thin, sallow, bearded to
the eyes, dressed in ragged sailor's clothes: but Tom himself.

Grace uttered a long, low, soft, half-laughing cry, full of the
delicious agony of sudden relief; a cry as of a mother when her child is
born; and then slipped from the room past the unheeding Tom, who had no
eyes but for his father. Straight up to the old man he went, took both
his hands, and spoke in the old cheerful voice,--

"Well, my dear old daddy! So you seem to have expected me; and gathered,
I suppose, all my friends to bid me welcome. I'm afraid I have made you
very anxious: but it was not my fault; and I knew you would be certain I
should come at last, eh?"

"My son! my son! Let me feel whether thou be my very son Esau or not!"
murmured the old man, finding half-playful expression in the words of
Scripture, for feelings beyond his failing powers.

Tom knelt down: and the old man passed his hands in silence over and
over the forehead, and face, and beard; while all stood silent.

Mark Armsworth burst out blubbering like a great boy:

"I said so! I always said so! The devil could not kill him, and God
wouldn't!"

"You won't go away again, dear boy? I'm getting old--and--and forgetful;
and I don't think I could bear it again, you see."

Tom saw that the old man's powers were failing. "Never again, as long as
I live, daddy!" said he, and then, looking round,--"I think that we are
too many for my father. I will come and shake hands with you all
presently."

"No, no," said the Doctor. "You forget that I cannot see you, and so
must only listen to you. It will be a delight to hear your voice and
theirs;--they all love you."

A few moments of breathless congratulation followed, during which Mark
had seized Tom by both his shoulders, and held him admiringly at arm's
length.

"Look at him, Mr. Mellot! Mr. Stangrave! Look at him! As they said of
Liberty Wilkes, you might rob him, strip him, and hit him over London
Bridge: and you find him the next day in the same place, with a laced
coat, a sword by his side, and money in his pocket! But how did you come
in without our knowing?"

"I waited outside, afraid of what I might hear--for how could I tell!"
said he, lowering his voice; "but when I saw you go in, I knew all was
right, and followed you; and when I heard my father laugh, I knew that
he could bear a little surprise. But, Stangrave, did you say? Ah! this
is too delightful, old fellow! How's Marie and the children?"

Stangrave, who was very uncertain as to how Tom would receive him, had
been about to make his amende honorable in a fashion graceful,
magnificent, and, as he expressed it afterwards laughingly to Thurnall
himself, "altogether highfalutin:" but what chivalrous and courtly words
had arranged themselves upon the tip of his tongue, were so utterly
upset by Tom's matter-of-fact bonhomie, and by the cool way in which he
took for granted the fact of his marriage, that he burst out laughing,
and caught both Tom's hands in his.

"It is delightful; and all it needs to make it perfect is to have Marie
and the children here."

"How many?" asked Tom.

"Two."

"Is she as beautiful as ever!"

"More so, I think."

"I dare say you're right; you ought to know best, certainly."

"You shall judge for yourself. She is in London at this moment."

"Tom!" says his father, who has been sitting quietly, his face covered
in his handkerchief, listening to all, while holy tears of gratitude
steal down his face.

"Sir!"

"You have not spoken to Grace yet!"

"Grace?" cries Tom, in a very different tone from that in which he had
yet spoken.

"Grace Harvey, my boy. She was in the room when you came in."

"Grace? Grace? What is she doing here?"

"Nursing him, like an angel as she is!" said Mark.

"She is my daughter now, Tom; and has been these twelve months past."

Tom was silent, as one astonished.

"If she is not, she will be soon," said he quietly, between his clenched
teeth. "Gentlemen, if you'll excuse me for five minutes, and see to my
father:"--and he walked straight out of the room, closing the door
behind him--to find Grace waiting in the passage.

She was trembling from head to foot, stepping to and fro, her hands and
face all but convulsed; her left hand over her bosom, clutching at her
dress, which seemed to have been just disarranged; her right drawn back,
holding something; her lips parted, struggling to speak; her great eyes
opened to preternatural wideness, fixed on him with an intensity of
eagerness;--was she mad?

At last words bubbled forth: "There! there! There it is!--the belt!--
your belt! Take it! take it, I say!"

He stood silent and wondering; she thrust it into his hand.

"Take it! I have carried it for you--worn it next my heart, till it has
all but eaten into my heart. To Varna, and you were not there!--Scutari,
Balaklava, and you were not there!--I found it, only a week after!--I
told you I should! and you were gone!--Cruel, not to wait! And Mr.
Armsworth has the money--every farthing--and the gold:--he has had it
these two years!--I would give you the belt myself; and now I have done
it, and the snake is unclasped from my heart at last, at last, at last!"

Her arms dropped by her side, and she burst into an agony of tears.

Tom caught her in his arms: but she put him back, and looked up in his
face again.

"Promise me!" she said, in a low clear voice; "promise me this one thing
only, as you are a gentleman; as you have a man's pity, a man's
gratitude in you"

"Anything!"

"Promise me that you will never ask, or seek to know, who had that
belt."

"I promise: but, Grace!--"

"Then my work is over," said she in a calm collected voice. "Amen. So
lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace. Good-bye, Mr. Thurnall. I must
go and pack up my few things now. You will forgive and forget?"

"Grace!" cried Tom; "stay!" and he girdled her in a grasp of iron. "You
and I never part more in this life, perhaps not in all lives to come!"

"Me? I?--let me go! I am not worthy of you!"

"I have heard that once already;--the only folly which ever came out of
those sweet lips. No! Grace, I love you, as man can love but once; and
you shall not refuse me! You will not have the heart, Grace! You will
not dare, Grace! For you have begun the work; and you must finish it."

"Work? What work?"

"I don't know," said Tom. "How should I? I want you to tell me that."

She looked up in his face, puzzled. His old self-confident look seemed
strangely past away.

"I will tell _you_" he said, "because I love you. I don't like to show
it to them; but I've been frightened, Grace, for the first time in my
life."

She paused for an explanation; but she did not straggle to escape from
him.

"Frightened; beat; run to earth myself, though I talked so bravely of
running others to earth just now. Grace, I've been in prison!"

"In prison? In a Russian prison? Oh, Mr. Thurnall!"

"Ay, Grace, I'd tried everything but that; and I could not stand it.
Death was a joke to that. Not to be able to get out!--To rage up and
down for hours like a wild beast; long to fly at one's gaoler and tear
his heart out;--beat one's head against the wall in the hope of knocking
one's brains out;--anything to get rid of that horrid notion, night and
day over one--I can't get out!"

Grace had never seen him so excited.

"But you are safe now," said she soothingly. "Oh, those horrid
Russians!"

"But it was not Russians!--If it had been, I could have borne it.--That
was all in my bargain,--the fair chance of war: but to be shut up by a
mistake!--at the very outset, too--by a boorish villain of a khan, on a
drunken suspicion;--a fellow whom I was trying to serve, and who
couldn't, or wouldn't, or daren't understand me--Oh, Grace, I was caught
in my own trap! I went out full blown with self-conceit. Never was any
one so cunning as I was to be!--Such a game as I was going to play, and
make my fortune by it!--And this brute to stop me short--to make a fool
of me--to keep me there eighteen months threatening to cut my head off
once a quarter, and wouldn't understand me, let me talk with the tongue
of the old serpent!"

"He didn't stop you: God stopped you!"

"You're right, Grace; I saw that at last! I found out that I had been
trying for years which was the stronger, God or I; I found out I had
been trying whether I could not do well enough without Him: and there I
found that I could not, Grace;--could not! I felt like a child who had
marched off from home, fancying it can find its way, and is lost at
once. I felt like a lost child in Australia once, for one moment: but
not as I felt in that prison; for I had not heard you, Grace, then. I
did not know that I had a Father in heaven, who had been looking after
me, when I fancied that I was looking after myself;--I don't half
believe it now--If I did, I should not have lost my nerve as I have
done!--Grace, I dare hardly stir about now, lest some harm should come
to me. I fancy at every turn, what if that chimney fell? what if that
horse kicked out?--and, Grace, you, and you only, can cure me of my new
cowardice. I said in that prison, and all the way home,--if I can but
find her!--let me but see her--ask her--let her teach me; and I shall be
sure! Let her teach me, and I shall be brave again! Teach me, Grace! and
forgive me!"

Grace was looking at him with her great soft eyes opening slowly, like a
startled hind's, as if the wonder and delight were too great to be taken
in at once. The last words unlocked her lips.

"Forgive you? What! Do you forgive me?"

"You? It is I am the brute; ever to have suspected you. My conscience
told me all along I was a brute! And you--have you not proved it to me
in this last minute, Grace?--proved to me that I am not worthy to kiss
the dust from off your feet?"

Grace lay silent in his arms: but her eyes were fixed upon him; her
hands were folded on her bosom; her lips moved as if in prayer.

He put back her long tresses tenderly, and looked into her deep glorious
eyes.

"There! I have told you all. Will you forgive my baseness; and take me,
and teach me, about this Father in heaven, through poverty and wealth,
for better, for worse, as my wife--my wife?"

She leapt up at him suddenly, as if waking from a dream, and wreathed
her arms about his neck.

"Oh, Mr. Thurnall! my dear, brave, wise, wonderful Mr. Thurnall! come
home again!--home to God!--and home to me! I am not worthy! Too much
happiness, too much, too much:--but you will forgive, will you not,--and
forget--forget?"

And so the old heart passed away from Thomas Thurnall: and instead of it
grew up a heart like his father's; even the heart of a little child.





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