VICTORIAN SHORT STORIES
Stories of Courtship, by Various
ANGELA, An Inverted Love Story, by William Schwenk Gilbert
THE PARSON'S DAUGHTER OF OXNEY COLNE, by Anthony Trollope
ANTHONY GARSTIN'S COURTSHIP, by Hubert Crackanthorpe
A LITTLE GREY GLOVE, by George Egerton (Mary Chavelita [Dunne] Bright)
THE WOMAN BEATER, by Israel Zangwill
An Inverted Love Story
By William Schwenk Gilbert
(The Century Magazine, September 1890)
I am a poor paralysed fellow who, for many years past, has been confined
to a bed or a sofa. For the last six years I have occupied a small room,
giving on to one of the side canals of Venice, and having no one about
me but a deaf old woman, who makes my bed and attends to my food; and
there I eke out a poor income of about thirty pounds a year by making
water-colour drawings of flowers and fruit (they are the cheapest models
in Venice), and these I send to a friend in London, who sells them to a
dealer for small sums. But, on the whole, I am happy and content.
It is necessary that I should describe the position of my room rather
minutely. Its only window is about five feet above the water of the
canal, and above it the house projects some six feet, and overhangs the
water, the projecting portion being supported by stout piles driven into
the bed of the canal. This arrangement has the disadvantage (among
others) of so limiting my upward view that I am unable to see more than
about ten feet of the height of the house immediately opposite to me,
although, by reaching as far out of the window as my infirmity will
permit, I can see for a considerable distance up and down the canal,
which does not exceed fifteen feet in width. But, although I can see but
little of the material house opposite, I can see its reflection upside
down in the canal, and I take a good deal of inverted interest in such
of its inhabitants as show themselves from time to time (always upside
down) on its balconies and at its windows.
When I first occupied my room, about six years ago, my attention was
directed to the reflection of a little girl of thirteen or so (as nearly
as I could judge), who passed every day on a balcony just above the
upward range of my limited field of view. She had a glass of flowers and
a crucifix on a little table by her side; and as she sat there, in fine
weather, from early morning until dark, working assiduously all the
time, I concluded that she earned her living by needle-work. She was
certainly an industrious little girl, and, as far as I could judge by
her upside-down reflection, neat in her dress and pretty. She had an old
mother, an invalid, who, on warm days, would sit on the balcony with
her, and it interested me to see the little maid wrap the old lady in
shawls, and bring pillows for her chair, and a stool for her feet, and
every now and again lay down her work and kiss and fondle the old lady
for half a minute, and then take up her work again.
Time went by, and as the little maid grew up, her reflection grew down,
and at last she was quite a little woman of, I suppose, sixteen or
seventeen. I can only work for a couple of hours or so in the brightest
part of the day, so I had plenty of time on my hands in which to watch
her movements, and sufficient imagination to weave a little romance
about her, and to endow her with a beauty which, to a great extent, I
had to take for granted. I saw—or fancied that I could see—that she
began to take an interest in my reflection (which, of course, she
could see as I could see hers); and one day, when it appeared to me that
she was looking right at it—that is to say when her reflection appeared
to be looking right at me—I tried the desperate experiment of nodding
to her, and to my intense delight her reflection nodded in reply. And so
our two reflections became known to one another.
It did not take me very long to fall in love with her, but a long time
passed before I could make up my mind to do more than nod to her every
morning, when the old woman moved me from my bed to the sofa at the
window, and again in the evening, when the little maid left the balcony
for that day. One day, however, when I saw her reflection looking at
mine, I nodded to her, and threw a flower into the canal. She nodded
several times in return, and I saw her direct her mother's attention to
the incident. Then every morning I threw a flower into the water for
'good morning', and another in the evening for 'goodnight', and I soon
discovered that I had not altogether thrown them in vain, for one day
she threw a flower to join mine, and she laughed and clapped her hands
when she saw the two flowers join forces and float away together. And
then every morning and every evening she threw her flower when I threw
mine, and when the two flowers met she clapped her hands, and so did I;
but when they were separated, as they sometimes were, owing to one of
them having met an obstruction which did not catch the other, she threw
up her hands in a pretty affectation of despair, which I tried to
imitate but in an English and unsuccessful fashion. And when they were
rudely run down by a passing gondola (which happened not unfrequently)
she pretended to cry, and I did the same. Then, in pretty pantomime, she
would point downwards to the sky to tell me that it was Destiny that had
caused the shipwreck of our flowers, and I, in pantomime, not nearly so
pretty, would try to convey to her that Destiny would be kinder next
time, and that perhaps tomorrow our flowers would be more fortunate—and
so the innocent courtship went on. One day she showed me her crucifix
and kissed it, and thereupon I took a little silver crucifix that always
stood by me, and kissed that, and so she knew that we were one in
One day the little maid did not appear on her balcony, and for several
days I saw nothing of her; and although I threw my flowers as usual, no
flower came to keep it company. However, after a time, she reappeared,
dressed in black, and crying often, and then I knew that the poor
child's mother was dead, and, as far as I knew, she was alone in the
world. The flowers came no more for many days, nor did she show any sign
of recognition, but kept her eyes on her work, except when she placed
her handkerchief to them. And opposite to her was the old lady's chair,
and I could see that, from time to time, she would lay down her work and
gaze at it, and then a flood of tears would come to her relief. But at
last one day she roused herself to nod to me, and then her flower came,
day by day, and my flower went forth to join it, and with varying
fortunes the two flowers sailed away as of yore.
But the darkest day of all to me was when a good-looking young
gondolier, standing right end uppermost in his gondola (for I could see
him in the flesh), worked his craft alongside the house, and stood
talking to her as she sat on the balcony. They seemed to speak as old
friends—indeed, as well as I could make out, he held her by the hand
during the whole of their interview which lasted quite half an hour.
Eventually he pushed off, and left my heart heavy within me. But I soon
took heart of grace, for as soon as he was out of sight, the little maid
threw two flowers growing on the same stem—an allegory of which I could
make nothing, until it broke upon me that she meant to convey to me
that he and she were brother and sister, and that I had no cause to be
sad. And thereupon I nodded to her cheerily, and she nodded to me, and
laughed aloud, and I laughed in return, and all went on again as before.
Then came a dark and dreary time, for it became necessary that I should
undergo treatment that confined me absolutely to my bed for many days,
and I worried and fretted to think that the little maid and I should see
each other no longer, and worse still, that she would think that I had
gone away without even hinting to her that I was going. And I lay awake
at night wondering how I could let her know the truth, and fifty plans
flitted through my brain, all appearing to be feasible enough at night,
but absolutely wild and impracticable in the morning. One day—and it
was a bright day indeed for me—the old woman who tended me told me that
a gondolier had inquired whether the English signor had gone away or had
died; and so I learnt that the little maid had been anxious about me,
and that she had sent her brother to inquire, and the brother had no
doubt taken to her the reason of my protracted absence from the window.
From that day, and ever after during my three weeks of bed-keeping, a
flower was found every morning on the ledge of my window, which was
within easy reach of anyone in a boat; and when at last a day came when
I could be moved, I took my accustomed place on my sofa at the window,
and the little maid saw me, and stood on her head (so to speak) and
clapped her hands upside down with a delight that was as eloquent as my
right-end-up delight could be. And so the first time the gondolier
passed my window I beckoned to him, and he pushed alongside, and told
me, with many bright smiles, that he was glad indeed to see me well
again. Then I thanked him and his sister for their many kind thoughts
about me during my retreat, and I then learnt from him that her name was
Angela, and that she was the best and purest maiden in all Venice, and
that anyone might think himself happy indeed who could call her sister,
but that he was happier even than her brother, for he was to be married
to her, and indeed they were to be married the next day.
Thereupon my heart seemed to swell to bursting, and the blood rushed
through my veins so that I could hear it and nothing else for a while.
I managed at last to stammer forth some words of awkward congratulation,
and he left me, singing merrily, after asking permission to bring his
bride to see me on the morrow as they returned from church.
'For', said he, 'my Angela has known you very long—ever since she was a
child, and she has often spoken to me of the poor Englishman who was a
good Catholic, and who lay all day long for years and years on a sofa at
a window, and she had said over and over again how dearly she wished she
could speak to him and comfort him; and one day, when you threw a flower
into the canal, she asked me whether she might throw another, and I told
her yes, for he would understand that it meant sympathy for one sorely
And so I learned that it was pity, and not love, except indeed such love
as is akin to pity, that prompted her to interest herself in my welfare,
and there was an end of it all.
For the two flowers that I thought were on one stem were two flowers
tied together (but I could not tell that), and they were meant to
indicate that she and the gondolier were affianced lovers, and my
expressed pleasure at this symbol delighted her, for she took it to
mean that I rejoiced in her happiness.
And the next day the gondolier came with a train of other gondoliers,
all decked in their holiday garb, and on his gondola sat Angela, happy,
and blushing at her happiness. Then he and she entered the house in
which I dwelt, and came into my room (and it was strange indeed, after
so many years of inversion, to see her with her head above her feet!),
and then she wished me happiness and a speedy restoration to good health
(which could never be); and I in broken words and with tears in my eyes,
gave her the little silver crucifix that had stood by my bed or my table
for so many years. And Angela took it reverently, and crossed herself,
and kissed it, and so departed with her delighted husband.
And as I heard the song of the gondoliers as they went their way—the
song dying away in the distance as the shadows of the sundown closed
around me—I felt that they were singing the requiem of the only love
that had ever entered my heart.
THE PARSON'S DAUGHTER OF OXNEY COLNE
By Anthony Trollope
(London Review, 2 March 1861)
The prettiest scenery in all England—and if I am contradicted in that
assertion, I will say in all Europe—is in Devonshire, on the southern
and southeastern skirts of Dartmoor, where the rivers Dart and Avon and
Teign form themselves, and where the broken moor is half cultivated, and
the wild-looking uplands fields are half moor. In making this assertion
I am often met with much doubt, but it is by persons who do not really
know the locality. Men and women talk to me on the matter who have
travelled down the line of railway from Exeter to Plymouth, who have
spent a fortnight at Torquay, and perhaps made an excursion from
Tavistock to the convict prison on Dartmoor. But who knows the glories
of Chagford? Who has walked through the parish of Manaton? Who is
conversant with Lustleigh Cleeves and Withycombe in the moor? Who has
explored Holne Chase? Gentle reader, believe me that you will be rash in
contradicting me unless you have done these things.
There or thereabouts—I will not say by the waters of which little river
it is washed—is the parish of Oxney Colne. And for those who would wish
to see all the beauties of this lovely country a sojourn in Oxney Colne
would be most desirable, seeing that the sojourner would then be brought
nearer to all that he would delight to visit, than at any other spot in
the country. But there is an objection to any such arrangement. There
are only two decent houses in the whole parish, and these are—or were
when I knew the locality—small and fully occupied by their possessors.
The larger and better is the parsonage in which lived the parson and his
daughter; and the smaller is the freehold residence of a certain Miss Le
Smyrger, who owned a farm of a hundred acres which was rented by one
Farmer Cloysey, and who also possessed some thirty acres round her own
house which she managed herself, regarding herself to be quite as great
in cream as Mr. Cloysey, and altogether superior to him in the article of
cider. 'But yeu has to pay no rent, Miss,' Farmer Cloysey would say, when
Miss Le Smyrger expressed this opinion of her art in a manner too
defiant. 'Yeu pays no rent, or yeu couldn't do it.' Miss Le Smyrger was
an old maid, with a pedigree and blood of her own, a hundred and thirty
acres of fee-simple land on the borders of Dartmoor, fifty years of age,
a constitution of iron, and an opinion of her own on every subject under
And now for the parson and his daughter. The parson's name was
Woolsworthy—or Woolathy as it was pronounced by all those who lived
around him—the Rev. Saul Woolsworthy; and his daughter was Patience
Woolsworthy, or Miss Patty, as she was known to the Devonshire world of
those parts. That name of Patience had not been well chosen for her for
she was a hot-tempered damsel, warm in her convictions, and inclined to
express them freely. She had but two closely intimate friends in the
world, and by both of them this freedom of expression had been fully
permitted to her since she was a child. Miss Le Smyrger and her father
were well accustomed to her ways, and on the whole well satisfied with
them. The former was equally free and equally warm-tempered as herself,
and as Mr. Woolsworthy was allowed by his daughter to be quite paramount
on his own subject—for he had a subject—he did not object to his
daughter being paramount on all others. A pretty girl was Patience
Woolsworthy at the time of which I am writing, and one who possessed
much that was worthy of remark and admiration had she lived where beauty
meets with admiration, or where force of character is remarked. But at
Oxney Colne, on the borders of Dartmoor, there were few to appreciate
her, and it seemed as though she herself had but little idea of carrying
her talent further afield, so that it might not remain for ever wrapped
in a blanket.
She was a pretty girl, tall and slender, with dark eyes and black hair.
Her eyes were perhaps too round for regular beauty, and her hair was
perhaps too crisp; her mouth was large and expressive; her nose was
finely formed, though a critic in female form might have declared
it to be somewhat broad. But her countenance altogether was very
attractive—if only it might be seen without that resolution for
dominion which occasionally marred it, though sometimes it even added
to her attractions.
It must be confessed on behalf of Patience Woolsworthy that the
circumstances of her life had peremptorily called upon her to exercise
dominion. She had lost her mother when she was sixteen, and had had
neither brother nor sister. She had no neighbours near her fit either
from education or rank to interfere in the conduct of her life,
excepting always Miss Le Smyrger. Miss Le Smyrger would have done
anything for her, including the whole management of her morals and
of the parsonage household, had Patience been content with such an
arrangement. But much as Patience had ever loved Miss Le Smyrger, she
was not content with this, and therefore she had been called on to put
forth a strong hand of her own. She had put forth this strong hand
early, and hence had come the character which I am attempting to
describe. But I must say on behalf of this girl that it was not only
over others that she thus exercised dominion. In acquiring that power
she had also acquired the much greater power of exercising rule over
But why should her father have been ignored in these family
arrangements? Perhaps it may almost suffice to say, that of all living
men her father was the man best conversant with the antiquities of the
county in which he lived. He was the Jonathan Oldbuck of Devonshire, and
especially of Dartmoor,—but without that decision of character which
enabled Oldbuck to keep his womenkind in some kind of subjection, and
probably enabled him also to see that his weekly bill did not pass their
proper limits. Our Mr. Oldbuck, of Oxney Colne, was sadly deficient in
these respects. As a parish pastor with but a small cure he did his duty
with sufficient energy to keep him, at any rate, from reproach. He was
kind and charitable to the poor, punctual in his services, forbearing
with the farmers around him, mild with his brother clergymen, and
indifferent to aught that bishop or archdeacon might think or say of
him. I do not name this latter attribute as a virtue, but as a fact. But
all these points were as nothing in the known character of Mr.
Woolsworthy, of Oxney Colne. He was the antiquarian of Dartmoor. That
was his line of life. It was in that capacity that he was known to the
Devonshire world; it was as such that he journeyed about with his humble
carpetbag, staying away from his parsonage a night or two at a time; it
was in that character that he received now and again stray visitors in
the single spare bedroom—not friends asked to see him and his girl
because of their friendship—but men who knew something as to this
buried stone, or that old land-mark. In all these things his daughter
let him have his own way, assisting and encouraging him. That was his
line of life, and therefore she respected it. But in all other matters
she chose to be paramount at the parsonage.
Mr. Woolsworthy was a little man, who always wore, except on Sundays,
grey clothes—clothes of so light a grey that they would hardly have
been regarded as clerical in a district less remote. He had now reached
a goodly age, being full seventy years old; but still he was wiry and
active, and shewed but few symptoms of decay. His head was bald, and the
few remaining locks that surrounded it were nearly white. But there was
a look of energy about his mouth, and a humour in his light grey eye,
which forbade those who knew him to regard him altogether as an old man.
As it was, he could walk from Oxney Colne to Priestown, fifteen long
Devonshire miles across the moor; and he who could do that could hardly
be regarded as too old for work.
But our present story will have more to do with his daughter than with
him. A pretty girl, I have said, was Patience Woolsworthy; and one, too,
in many ways remarkable. She had taken her outlook into life, weighing
the things which she had and those which she had not, in a manner very
unusual, and, as a rule, not always desirable for a young lady. The
things which she had not were very many. She had not society; she had
not a fortune; she had not any assurance of future means of livelihood;
she had not high hope of procuring for herself a position in life by
marriage; she had not that excitement and pleasure in life which she
read of in such books as found their way down to Oxney Colne Parsonage.
It would be easy to add to the list of the things which she had not; and
this list against herself she made out with the utmost vigour. The
things which she had, or those rather which she assured herself of
having, were much more easily counted. She had the birth and education
of a lady, the strength of a healthy woman, and a will of her own. Such
was the list as she made it out for herself, and I protest that I assert
no more than the truth in saying that she never added to it either
beauty, wit, or talent.
I began these descriptions by saying that Oxney Colne would, of all
places, be the best spot from which a tourist could visit those parts
of Devonshire, but for the fact that he could obtain there none of the
accommodation which tourists require. A brother antiquarian might,
perhaps, in those days have done so, seeing that there was, as I have
said, a spare bedroom at the parsonage. Any intimate friend of Miss Le
Smyrger's might be as fortunate, for she was also so provided at Oxney
Colne, by which name her house was known. But Miss Le Smyrger was not
given to extensive hospitality, and it was only to those who were bound
to her, either by ties of blood or of very old friendship, that she
delighted to open her doors. As her old friends were very few in number,
as those few lived at a distance, and as her nearest relations were
higher in the world than she was, and were said by herself to look down
upon her, the visits made to Oxney Colne were few and far between.
But now, at the period of which I am writing, such a visit was about to
be made. Miss Le Smyrger had a younger sister who had inherited a
property in the parish of Oxney Colne equal to that of the lady who
lived there; but this younger sister had inherited beauty also, and she
therefore, in early life, had found sundry lovers, one of whom became
her husband. She had married a man even then well to do in the world,
but now rich and almost mighty; a Member of Parliament, a Lord of this
and that board, a man who had a house in Eaton Square, and a park in the
north of England; and in this way her course of life had been very much
divided from that of our Miss Le Smyrger. But the Lord of the Government
board had been blessed with various children, and perhaps it was now
thought expedient to look after Aunt Penelope's Devonshire acres. Aunt
Penelope was empowered to leave them to whom she pleased; and though it
was thought in Eaton Square that she must, as a matter of course, leave
them to one of the family, nevertheless a little cousinly intercourse
might make the thing more certain. I will not say that this was the sole
cause for such a visit, but in these days a visit was to be made by
Captain Broughton to his aunt. Now Captain John Broughton was the second
son of Alfonso Broughton, of Clapham Park and Eaton Square, Member of
Parliament, and Lord of the aforesaid Government Board.
And what do you mean to do with him? Patience Woolsworthy asked of Miss
Le Smyrger when that lady walked over from the Colne to say that her
nephew John was to arrive on the following morning.
'Do with him? Why, I shall bring him over here to talk to your father.'
'He'll be too fashionable for that, and papa won't trouble his head
about him if he finds that he doesn't care for Dartmoor.'
'Then he may fall in love with you, my dear.'
'Well, yes; there's that resource at any rate, and for your sake I dare
say I should be more civil to him than papa. But he'll soon get tired of
making love to me, and what you'll do then I cannot imagine.'
That Miss Woolsworthy felt no interest in the coming of the Captain I
will not pretend to say. The advent of any stranger with whom she would
be called on to associate must be matter of interest to her in that
secluded place; and she was not so absolutely unlike other young ladies
that the arrival of an unmarried young man would be the same to her as
the advent of some patriarchal pater-familias. In taking that outlook
into life of which I have spoken she had never said to herself that she
despised those things from which other girls received the excitement,
the joys, and the disappointment of their lives. She had simply given
herself to understand that very little of such things would come in her
way, and that it behoved her to live—to live happily if such might be
possible—without experiencing the need of them. She had heard, when
there was no thought of any such visit to Oxney Colne, that John
Broughton was a handsome clever man—one who thought much of himself and
was thought much of by others—that there had been some talk of his
marrying a great heiress, which marriage, however had not taken place
through unwillingness on his part, and that he was on the whole a man of
more mark in the world than the ordinary captains of ordinary regiments.
Captain Broughton came to Oxney Colne, stayed there a fortnight—the
intended period for his projected visit having been fixed at three or
four days—and then went his way. He went his way back to his London
haunts, the time of the year then being the close of the Easter
holy-days; but as he did so he told his aunt that he should assuredly
return to her in the autumn.
'And assuredly I shall be happy to see you, John—if you come with a
certain purpose. If you have no such purpose, you had better remain
'I shall assuredly come,' the Captain had replied, and then he had gone
on his journey.
The summer passed rapidly by, and very little was said between Miss Le
Smyrger and Miss Woolsworthy about Captain Broughton. In many
respects—nay, I may say, as to all ordinary matters,—no two women
could well be more intimate with each other than they were; and more
than that, they had the courage each to talk to the other with absolute
truth as to things concerning themselves—a courage in which dear
friends often fail. But, nevertheless, very little was said between them
about Captain John Broughton. All that was said may be here repeated.
'John says that he shall return here in August,' Miss Le Smyrger said
as Patience was sitting with her in the parlour at Oxney Colne, on the
morning after that gentleman's departure.
'He told me so himself,' said Patience; and as she spoke her round dark
eyes assumed a look of more than ordinary self-will. If Miss Le Smyrger
had intended to carry the conversation any further she changed her mind
as she looked at her companion. Then, as I said, the summer ran by, and
towards the close of the warm days of July, Miss Le Smyrger, sitting in
the same chair in the same room, again took up the conversation.
'I got a letter from John this morning. He says that he shall be here on
'He is very punctual to the time he named.'
'Yes; I fancy that he is a punctual man,' said Patience.
'I hope that you will be glad to see him,' said Miss Le Smyrger.
'Very glad to see him,' said Patience, with a bold clear voice; and then
the conversation was again dropped, and nothing further was said till
after Captain Broughton's second arrival in the parish.
Four months had then passed since his departure, and during that time
Miss Woolsworthy had performed all her usual daily duties in their
accustomed course. No one could discover that she had been less careful
in her household matters than had been her wont, less willing to go
among her poor neighbours, or less assiduous in her attentions to her
father. But not the less was there a feeling in the minds of those
around her that some great change had come upon her. She would sit
during the long summer evenings on a certain spot outside the parsonage
orchard, at the top of a small sloping field in which their solitary cow
was always pastured, with a book on her knees before her, but rarely
reading. There she would sit, with the beautiful view down to the
winding river below her, watching the setting sun, and thinking,
thinking, thinking—thinking of something of which she had never spoken.
Often would Miss Le Smyrger come upon her there, and sometimes would
pass her even without a word; but never—never once did she dare to ask
of the matter of her thoughts. But she knew the matter well enough. No
confession was necessary to inform her that Patience Woolsworthy was in
love with John Broughton—ay, in love, to the full and entire loss of
her whole heart.
On one evening she was so sitting till the July sun had fallen and
hidden himself for the night, when her father came upon her as he
returned from one of his rambles on the moor. 'Patty,' he said, 'you
are always sitting there now. Is it not late? Will you not be cold?'
'No papa,' she said, 'I shall not be cold.'
'But won't you come to the house? I miss you when you come in so late
that there's no time to say a word before we go to bed.'
She got up and followed him into the parsonage, and when they were in
the sitting-room together, and the door was closed, she came up to him
and kissed him. 'Papa,' she said, 'would it make you very unhappy if I
were to leave you?'
'Leave me!' he said, startled by the serious and almost solemn tone of
her voice. 'Do you mean for always?'
'If I were to marry, papa?'
'Oh, marry! No; that would not make me unhappy. It would make me very
happy, Patty, to see you married to a man you would love;—very, very
happy; though my days would be desolate without you.'
'That is it, papa. What would you do if I went from you?'
'What would it matter, Patty? I should be free, at any rate, from a
load which often presses heavy on me now. What will you do when I shall
leave you? A few more years and all will be over with me. But who is it,
love? Has anybody said anything to you?'
'It was only an idea, papa. I don't often think of such a thing; but I
did think of it then.' And so the subject was allowed to pass by. This
had happened before the day of the second arrival had been absolutely
fixed and made known to Miss Woolsworthy.
And then that second arrival took place. The reader may have understood
from the words with which Miss Le Smyrger authorized her nephew to make
his second visit to Oxney Colne that Miss Woolsworthy's passion was not
altogether unauthorized. Captain Broughton had been told that he was not
to come unless he came with a certain purpose; and having been so told,
he still persisted in coming. There can be no doubt but that he well
understood the purport to which his aunt alluded. 'I shall assuredly
come,' he had said. And true to his word, he was now there.
Patience knew exactly the hour at which he must arrive at the station at
Newton Abbot, and the time also which it would take to travel over those
twelve up-hill miles from the station to Oxney. It need hardly be said
that she paid no visit to Miss Le Smyrger's house on that afternoon; but
she might have known something of Captain Broughton's approach without
going thither. His road to the Colne passed by the parsonage-gate, and
had Patience sat even at her bedroom window she must have seen him. But
on such an evening she would not sit at her bedroom window;—she would
do nothing which would force her to accuse herself of a restless longing
for her lover's coming. It was for him to seek her. If he chose to do
so, he knew the way to the parsonage.
Miss Le Smyrger—good, dear, honest, hearty Miss Le Smyrger, was in a
fever of anxiety on behalf of her friend. It was not that she wished her
nephew to marry Patience,—or rather that she had entertained any such
wish when he first came among them. She was not given to match-making,
and moreover thought, or had thought within herself, that they of Oxney
Colne could do very well without any admixture from Eaton Square. Her
plan of life had been that when old Mr. Woolsworthy was taken away from
Dartmoor, Patience should live with her, and that when she also shuffled
off her coil, then Patience Woolsworthy should be the maiden-mistress
of Oxney Colne—of Oxney Colne and of Mr. Cloysey's farm—to the utter
detriment of all the Broughtons. Such had been her plan before nephew
John had come among them—a plan not to be spoken of till the coming of
that dark day which should make Patience an orphan. But now her nephew
had been there, and all was to be altered. Miss Le Smyrger's plan would
have provided a companion for her old age; but that had not been her
chief object. She had thought more of Patience than of herself, and now
it seemed that a prospect of a higher happiness was opening for her
'John,' she said, as soon as the first greetings were over, 'do you
remember the last words that I said to you before you went away?' Now,
for myself, I much admire Miss Le Smyrger's heartiness, but I do not
think much of her discretion. It would have been better, perhaps, had
she allowed things to take their course.
'I can't say that I do,' said the Captain. At the same time the Captain
did remember very well what those last words had been.
'I am so glad to see you, so delighted to see you, if—if—if—,' and
then she paused, for with all her courage she hardly dared to ask her
nephew whether he had come there with the express purport of asking Miss
Woolsworthy to marry him.
To tell the truth—for there is no room for mystery within the limits of
this short story,—to tell, I say, at a word the plain and simple truth,
Captain Broughton had already asked that question. On the day before he
left Oxney Colne he had in set terms proposed to the parson's daughter,
and indeed the words, the hot and frequent words, which previously to
that had fallen like sweetest honey into the ears of Patience
Woolsworthy, had made it imperative on him to do so. When a man in such
a place as that has talked to a girl of love day after day, must not he
talk of it to some definite purpose on the day on which he leaves her?
Or if he do not, must he not submit to be regarded as false, selfish,
and almost fraudulent? Captain Broughton, however, had asked the
question honestly and truly. He had done so honestly and truly, but in
words, or, perhaps, simply with a tone, that had hardly sufficed to
satisfy the proud spirit of the girl he loved. She by that time had
confessed to herself that she loved him with all her heart; but she had
made no such confession to him. To him she had spoken no word, granted
no favour, that any lover might rightfully regard as a token of love
returned. She had listened to him as he spoke, and bade him keep such
sayings for the drawing-rooms of his fashionable friends. Then he had
spoken out and had asked for that hand,—not, perhaps, as a suitor
tremulous with hope,—but as a rich man who knows that he can command
that which he desires to purchase.
'You should think more of this,' she had said to him at last. 'If you
would really have me for your wife, it will not be much to you to return
here again when time for thinking of it shall have passed by.' With
these words she had dismissed him, and now he had again come back to
Oxney Colne. But still she would not place herself at the window to look
for him, nor dress herself in other than her simple morning country
dress, nor omit one item of her daily work. If he wished to take her at
all, he should wish to take her as she really was, in her plain country
life, but he should take her also with full observance of all those
privileges which maidens are allowed to claim from their lovers. He
should curtail no ceremonious observance because she was the daughter of
a poor country parson who would come to him without a shilling, whereas
he stood high in the world's books. He had asked her to give him all
that she had, and that all she was ready to give, without stint. But the
gift must be valued before it could be given or received. He also was to
give her as much, and she would accept it as being beyond all price. But
she would not allow that that which was offered to her was in any degree
the more precious because of his outward worldly standing.
She would not pretend to herself that she thought he would come to her
that afternoon, and therefore she busied herself in the kitchen and
about the house, giving directions to her two maids as though the day
would pass as all other days did pass in that household. They usually
dined at four, and she rarely, in these summer months, went far from the
house before that hour. At four precisely she sat down with her father,
and then said that she was going up as far as Helpholme after dinner.
Helpholme was a solitary farmhouse in another parish, on the border of
the moor, and Mr. Woolsworthy asked her whether he should accompany her.
'Do, papa,' she said, 'if you are not too tired.' And yet she had
thought how probable it might be that she should meet John Broughton on
her walk. And so it was arranged; but, just as dinner was over, Mr.
Woolsworthy remembered himself.
'Gracious me,' he said, 'how my memory is going! Gribbles, from
Ivybridge, and old John Poulter, from Bovey, are coming to meet here by
appointment. You can't put Helpholme off till tomorrow?'
Patience, however, never put off anything, and therefore at six o'clock,
when her father had finished his slender modicum of toddy, she tied on
her hat and went on her walk. She started forth with a quick step, and
left no word to say by which route she would go. As she passed up along
the little lane which led towards Oxney Colne she would not even look to
see if he was coming towards her; and when she left the road, passing
over a stone stile into a little path which ran first through the upland
fields, and then across the moor ground towards Helpholme, she did not
look back once, or listen for his coming step.
She paid her visit, remaining upwards of an hour with the old bedridden
mother of the farmer of Helpholme. 'God bless you, my darling!' said the
old lady as she left her; 'and send you someone to make your own path
bright and happy through the world.' These words were still ringing in
her ears with all their significance as she saw John Broughton waiting
for her at the first stile which she had to pass after leaving the
'Patty,' he said, as he took her hand, and held it close within both his
own, 'what a chase I have had after you!'
'And who asked you, Captain Broughton?' she answered, smiling. 'If the
journey was too much for your poor London strength, could you not have
waited till tomorrow morning, when you would have found me at the
parsonage?' But she did not draw her hand away from him, or in any way
pretend that he had not a right to accost her as a lover.
'No, I could not wait. I am more eager to see those I love than you seem
'How do you know whom I love, or how eager I might be to see them? There
is an old woman there whom I love, and I have thought nothing of this
walk with the object of seeing her.' And now, slowly drawing her hand
away from him, she pointed to the farmhouse which she had left.
'Patty,' he said, after a minute's pause, during which she had looked
full into his face with all the force of her bright eyes; 'I have come
from London today, straight down here to Oxney, and from my aunt's
house close upon your footsteps after you to ask you that one question.
Do you love me?'
'What a Hercules?' she said, again laughing. 'Do you really mean that
you left London only this morning? Why, you must have been five hours in
a railway carriage and two in a post-chaise, not to talk of the walk
afterwards. You ought to take more care of yourself, Captain Broughton!'
He would have been angry with her,—for he did not like to be
quizzed,—had she not put her hand on his arm as she spoke, and the
softness of her touch had redeemed the offence of her words.
'All that have I done,' said he, 'that I may hear one word from you.'
'That any word of mine should have such potency! But, let us walk on, or
my father will take us for some of the standing stones of the moor. How
have you found your aunt? If you only knew the cares that have sat on
her dear shoulders for the last week past, in order that your high
mightyness might have a sufficiency to eat and drink in these desolate
'She might have saved herself such anxiety. No one can care less for
such things than I do.'
'And yet I think I have heard you boast of the cook of your club.' And
then again there was silence for a minute or two.
'Patty,' said he, stopping again in the path; 'answer my question. I
have a right to demand an answer. Do you love me?'
'And what if I do? What if I have been so silly as to allow your
perfections to be too many for my weak heart? What then, Captain
'It cannot be that you love me, or you would not joke now.'
'Perhaps not, indeed,' she said. It seemed as though she were resolved
not to yield an inch in her own humour. And then again they walked on.
'Patty,' he said once more, 'I shall get an answer from you
tonight,—this evening; now, during this walk, or I shall return
tomorrow, and never revisit this spot again.'
'Oh, Captain Broughton, how should we ever manage to live without you?'
'Very well,' he said; 'up to the end of this walk I can bear it
all;—and one word spoken then will mend it all.'
During the whole of this time she felt that she was ill-using him. She
knew that she loved him with all her heart; that it would nearly kill
her to part with him; that she had heard his renewed offer with an
ecstasy of joy. She acknowledged to herself that he was giving proof of
his devotion as strong as any which a girl could receive from her lover.
And yet she could hardly bring herself to say the word he longed to
hear. That word once said, and then she knew that she must succumb to
her love for ever! That word once said, and there would be nothing for
her but to spoil him with her idolatry! That word once said, and she
must continue to repeat it into his ears, till perhaps he might be tired
of hearing it! And now he had threatened her, and how could she speak it
after that? She certainly would not speak it unless he asked her again
without such threat. And so they walked on again in silence.
'Patty,' he said at last. 'By the heavens above us you shall answer me.
Do you love me?'
She now stood still, and almost trembled as she looked up into his face.
She stood opposite to him for a moment, and then placing her two hands
on his shoulders, she answered him. 'I do, I do, I do,' she said, 'with
all my heart; with all my heart—with all my heart and strength.' And
then her head fell upon his breast.
Captain Broughton was almost as much surprised as delighted by the
warmth of the acknowledgment made by the eager-hearted passionate girl
whom he now held within his arms. She had said it now; the words had
been spoken; and there was nothing for her but to swear to him over and
over again with her sweetest oaths, that those words were true—true as
her soul. And very sweet was the walk down from thence to the parsonage
gate. He spoke no more of the distance of the ground, or the length of
his day's journey. But he stopped her at every turn that he might press
her arm the closer to his own, that he might look into the brightness of
her eyes, and prolong his hour of delight. There were no more gibes now
on her tongue, no raillery at his London finery, no laughing comments on
his coming and going. With downright honesty she told him everything:
how she had loved him before her heart was warranted in such a passion;
how, with much thinking, she had resolved that it would be unwise to
take him at his first word, and had thought it better that he should
return to London, and then think over it; how she had almost repented
of her courage when she had feared, during those long summer days, that
he would forget her; and how her heart had leapt for joy when her old
friend had told her that he was coming.
'And yet,' said he, 'you were not glad to see me!'
'Oh, was I not glad? You cannot understand the feelings of a girl who
has lived secluded as I have done. Glad is no word for the joy I felt.
But it was not seeing you that I cared for so much. It was the knowledge
that you were near me once again. I almost wish now that I had not seen
you till tomorrow.' But as she spoke she pressed his arm, and this
caress gave the lie to her last words.
'No, do not come in tonight,' she said, when she reached the little
wicket that led up the parsonage. 'Indeed you shall not. I could not
behave myself properly if you did.'
'But I don't want you to behave properly.'
'Oh! I am to keep that for London, am I? But, nevertheless, Captain
Broughton, I will not invite you either to tea or to supper tonight.'
'Surely I may shake hands with your father.'
'Not tonight—not till—. John, I may tell him, may I not? I must tell
him at once.'
'Certainly,' said he.
'And then you shall see him tomorrow. Let me see—at what hour shall I
bid you come?'
'No, indeed. What on earth would your aunt do with her broiled turkey
and the cold pie? I have got no cold pie for you.'
'I hate cold pie.'
'What a pity! But, John, I should be forced to leave you directly after
breakfast. Come down—come down at two, or three; and then I will go
back with you to Aunt Penelope. I must see her tomorrow.' And so at last
the matter was settled, and the happy Captain, as he left her, was
hardly resisted in his attempt to press her lips to his own.
When she entered the parlour in which her father was sitting, there
still were Gribbles and Poulter discussing some knotty point of Devon
lore. So Patience took off her hat, and sat herself down, waiting till
they should go. For full an hour she had to wait, and then Gribbles and
Poulter did go. But it was not in such matters as this that Patience
Woolsworthy was impatient. She could wait, and wait, and wait, curbing
herself for weeks and months, while the thing waited for was in her eyes
good; but she could not curb her hot thoughts or her hot words when
things came to be discussed which she did not think to be good.
'Papa,' she said, when Gribbles' long-drawn last word had been spoken at
the door. 'Do you remember how I asked you the other day what you would
say if I were to leave you?'
'Yes, surely,' he replied, looking up at her in astonishment.
'I am going to leave you now,' she said. 'Dear, dearest father, how am I
to go from you?'
'Going to leave me,' said he, thinking of her visit to Helpholme, and
thinking of nothing else.
Now there had been a story about Helpholme. That bedridden old lady
there had a stalwart son, who was now the owner of the Helpholme
pastures. But though owner in fee of all those wild acres and of the
cattle which they supported, he was not much above the farmers around
him, either in manners or education. He had his merits, however; for he
was honest, well to do in the world, and modest withal. How strong love
had grown up, springing from neighbourly kindness, between our Patience
and his mother, it needs not here to tell; but rising from it had come
another love—or an ambition which might have grown to love. The young
man, after much thought, had not dared to speak to Miss Woolsworthy, but
he had sent a message by Miss Le Smyrger. If there could be any hope for
him, he would present himself as a suitor—on trial. He did not owe a
shilling in the world, and had money by him—saved. He wouldn't ask the
parson for a shilling of fortune. Such had been the tenor of his
message, and Miss Le Smyrger had delivered it faithfully. 'He does not
mean it,' Patience had said with her stern voice. 'Indeed he does, my
dear. You may be sure he is in earnest,' Miss Le Smyrger had replied;
'and there is not an honester man in these parts.'
'Tell him,' said Patience, not attending to the latter portion of her
friend's last speech, 'that it cannot be,—make him understand, you
know—and tell him also that the matter shall be thought of no more.'
The matter had, at any rate, been spoken of no more, but the young
farmer still remained a bachelor, and Helpholme still wanted a
mistress. But all this came back upon the parson's mind when his
daughter told him that she was about to leave him.
'Yes, dearest,' she said; and as she spoke, she now knelt at his knees.
'I have been asked in marriage, and I have given myself away.'
'Well, my love, if you will be happy—'
'I hope I shall; I think I shall. But you, papa?'
'You will not be far from us.'
'Oh, yes; in London.'
'Captain Broughton lives in London generally.'
'And has Captain Broughton asked you to marry him?'
'Yes, papa—who else? Is he not good? Will you not love him? Oh, papa,
do not say that I am wrong to love him?'
He never told her his mistake, or explained to her that he had not
thought it possible that the high-placed son of the London great man
shall have fallen in love with his undowered daughter; but he embraced
her, and told her, with all his enthusiasm, that he rejoiced in her joy,
and would be happy in her happiness. 'My own Patty,' he said, 'I have
ever known that you were too good for this life of ours here.' And then
the evening wore away into the night, with many tears but still with
Captain Broughton, as he walked back to Oxney Colne, made up his mind
that he would say nothing on the matter to his aunt till the next
morning. He wanted to think over it all, and to think it over, if
possible, by himself. He had taken a step in life, the most important
that a man is ever called on to take, and he had to reflect whether or
no he had taken it with wisdom.
'Have you seen her?' said Miss Le Smyrger, very anxiously, when he came
into the drawing-room.
'Miss Woolsworthy you mean,' said he. 'Yes, I've seen her. As I found
her out I took a long walk and happened to meet her. Do you know, aunt,
I think I'll go to bed; I was up at five this morning, and have been on
the move ever since.'
Miss Le Smyrger perceived that she was to hear nothing that evening, so
she handed him his candlestick and allowed him to go to his room.
But Captain Broughton did not immediately retire to bed, nor when he
did so was he able to sleep at once. Had this step that he had taken
been a wise one? He was not a man who, in worldly matters, had allowed
things to arrange themselves for him, as is the case with so many men.
He had formed views for himself, and had a theory of life. Money for
money's sake he had declared to himself to be bad. Money, as a
concomitant to things which were in themselves good, he had declared to
himself to be good also. That concomitant in this affair of his
marriage, he had now missed. Well; he had made up his mind to that, and
would put up with the loss. He had means of living of his own, though
means not so extensive as might have been desirable. That it would be
well for him to become a married man, looking merely to that state of
life as opposed to his present state, he had fully resolved. On that
point, therefore, there was nothing to repent. That Patty Woolsworthy
was good, affectionate, clever, and beautiful, he was sufficiently
satisfied. It would be odd indeed if he were not so satisfied now,
seeing that for the last four months he had declared to himself daily
that she was so with many inward asseverations. And yet though he
repeated now again that he was satisfied, I do not think that he was so
fully satisfied of it as he had been throughout the whole of those four
months. It is sad to say so, but I fear—I fear that such was the case.
When you have your plaything how much of the anticipated pleasure
vanishes, especially if it have been won easily!
He had told none of his family what were his intentions in this second
visit to Devonshire, and now he had to bethink himself whether they
would be satisfied. What would his sister say, she who had married the
Honourable Augustus Gumbleton, gold-stick-in-waiting to Her Majesty's
Privy Council? Would she receive Patience with open arms, and make much
of her about London? And then how far would London suit Patience, or
would Patience suit London? There would be much for him to do in
teaching her, and it would be well for him to set about the lesson
without loss of time. So far he got that night, but when the morning
came he went a step further, and began mentally to criticize her manner
to himself. It had been very sweet, that warm, that full, that ready
declaration of love. Yes; it had been very sweet; but—but—; when,
after her little jokes, she did confess her love, had she not been a
little too free for feminine excellence? A man likes to be told that he
is loved, but he hardly wishes that the girl he is to marry should fling
herself at his head!
Ah me! yes; it was thus he argued to himself as on that morning he went
through the arrangements of his toilet. 'Then he was a brute,' you say,
my pretty reader. I have never said that he was not a brute. But this I
remark, that many such brutes are to be met with in the beaten paths of
the world's high highway. When Patience Woolsworthy had answered him
coldly, bidding him go back to London and think over his love; while it
seemed from her manner that at any rate as yet she did not care for him;
while he was absent from her, and, therefore, longing for her, the
possession of her charms, her talent, and bright honesty of purpose had
seemed to him a thing most desirable. Now they were his own. They had,
in fact, been his own from the first. The heart of this country-bred
girl had fallen at the first word from his mouth. Had she not so
confessed to him? She was very nice,—very nice indeed. He loved her
dearly. But had he not sold himself too cheaply?
I by no means say that he was not a brute. But whether brute or no he
was an honest man, and had no remotest dream, either then, on that
morning, or during the following days on which such thoughts pressed
more thickly on his mind—of breaking away from his pledged word. At
breakfast on that morning he told all to Miss Le Smyrger, and that lady,
with warm and gracious intentions, confided to him her purpose regarding
her property. 'I have always regarded Patience as my heir,' she said,
'and shall do so still.'
'Oh, indeed,' said Captain Broughton.
'But it is a great, great pleasure to me to think that she will give
back the little property to my sister's child. You will have your
mother's, and thus it will all come together again.'
'Ah!' said Captain Broughton. He had his own ideas about property, and
did not, even under existing circumstances, like to hear that his aunt
considered herself at liberty to leave the acres away to one who was by
blood quite a stranger to the family.
'Does Patience know of this?' he asked.
'Not a word,' said Miss Le Smyrger. And then nothing more was said upon
On that afternoon he went down and received the parson's benediction and
congratulations with a good grace. Patience said very little on the
occasion, and indeed was absent during the greater part of the
interview. The two lovers then walked up to Oxney Colne, and there were
more benedictions and more congratulations. 'All went merry as a
marriage bell', at any rate as far as Patience was concerned. Not a word
had yet fallen from that dear mouth, not a look had yet come over that
handsome face, which tended in any way to mar her bliss. Her first day
of acknowledged love was a day altogether happy, and when she prayed for
him as she knelt beside her bed there was no feeling in her mind that
any fear need disturb her joy.
I will pass over the next three or four days very quickly, merely saying
that Patience did not find them so pleasant as that first day after her
engagement. There was something in her lover's manner—something which
at first she could not define—which by degrees seemed to grate against
her feelings. He was sufficiently affectionate, that being a matter on
which she did not require much demonstration; but joined to his
affection there seemed to be—; she hardly liked to suggest to herself a
harsh word, but could it be possible that he was beginning to think that
she was not good enough for him? And then she asked herself the
question—was she good enough for him? If there were doubt about that,
the match should be broken off, though she tore her own heart out in the
struggle. The truth, however, was this,—that he had begun that teaching
which he had already found to be so necessary. Now, had any one essayed
to teach Patience German or mathematics, with that young lady's free
consent, I believe that she would have been found a meek scholar. But it
was not probable that she would be meek when she found a self-appointed
tutor teaching her manners and conduct without her consent.
So matters went on for four or five days, and on the evening of the
fifth day, Captain Broughton and his aunt drank tea at the parsonage.
Nothing very especial occurred; but as the parson and Miss Le Smyrger
insisted on playing backgammon with devoted perseverance during the
whole evening, Broughton had a good opportunity of saying a word or two
about those changes in his lady-love which a life in London would
require—and some word he said also—some single slight word, as to the
higher station in life to which he would exalt his bride. Patience bore
it—for her father and Miss Le Smyrger were in the room—she bore it
well, speaking no syllable of anger, and enduring, for the moment, the
implied scorn of the old parsonage. Then the evening broke up, and
Captain Broughton walked back to Oxney Colne with his aunt. 'Patty,' her
father said to her before they went to bed, 'he seems to me to be a most
excellent young man.' 'Dear papa,' she answered, kissing him. 'And
terribly deep in love,' said Mr. Woolsworthy. 'Oh, I don't know about
that,' she answered, as she left him with her sweetest smile. But though
she could thus smile at her father's joke, she had already made up her
mind that there was still something to be learned as to her promised
husband before she could place herself altogether in his hands. She
would ask him whether he thought himself liable to injury from this
proposed marriage; and though he should deny any such thought, she would
know from the manner of his denial what his true feelings were.
And he, too, on that night, during his silent walk with Miss Le Smyrger,
had entertained some similar thoughts. 'I fear she is obstinate', he had
said to himself, and then he had half accused her of being sullen also.
'If that be her temper, what a life of misery I have before me!'
'Have you fixed a day yet?' his aunt asked him as they came near to her
'No, not yet; I don't know whether it will suit me to fix it before I
'Why, it was but the other day you were in such a hurry.'
'Ah—yes-I have thought more about it since then.'
'I should have imagined that this would depend on what Patty thinks,'
said Miss Le Smyrger, standing up for the privileges of her sex. 'It is
presumed that the gentleman is always ready as soon as the lady will
'Yes, in ordinary cases it is so; but when a girl is taken out of her
'Her own sphere! Let me caution you, Master John, not to talk to Patty
about her own sphere.'
'Aunt Penelope, as Patience is to be my wife and not yours, I must claim
permission to speak to her on such subjects as may seem suitable to me.'
And then they parted—not in the best humour with each other.
On the following day Captain Broughton and Miss Woolsworthy did not meet
till the evening. She had said, before those few ill-omened words had
passed her lover's lips, that she would probably be at Miss Le
Smyrger's house on the following morning. Those ill-omened words did
pass her lover's lips, and then she remained at home. This did not come
from sullenness, nor even from anger, but from a conviction that it
would be well that she should think much before she met him again. Nor
was he anxious to hurry a meeting. His thought—his base thought—was
this; that she would be sure to come up to the Colne after him; but she
did not come, and therefore in the evening he went down to her, and
asked her to walk with him.
They went away by the path that led by Helpholme, and little was said
between them till they had walked some mile together. Patience, as she
went along the path, remembered almost to the letter the sweet words
which had greeted her ears as she came down that way with him on the
night of his arrival; but he remembered nothing of that sweetness then.
Had he not made an ass of himself during these last six months? That was
the thought which very much had possession of his mind.
'Patience,' he said at last, having hitherto spoken only an indifferent
word now and again since they had left the parsonage, 'Patience, I hope
you realize the importance of the step which you and I are about to
'Of course I do,' she answered: 'what an odd question that is for you to
'Because,' said he, 'sometimes I almost doubt it. It seems to me as
though you thought you could remove yourself from here to your new home
with no more trouble than when you go from home up to the Colne.'
'Is that meant for a reproach, John?'
'No, not for a reproach, but for advice. Certainly not for a reproach.'
'I am glad of that.'
'But I should wish to make you think how great is the leap in the world
which you are about to take.' Then again they walked on for many steps
before she answered him.
'Tell me, then, John,' she said, when she had sufficiently considered
what words she would speak;—and as she spoke a dark bright colour
suffused her face, and her eyes flashed almost with anger. 'What leap do
you mean? Do you mean a leap upwards?'
'Well, yes; I hope it will be so.'
'In one sense, certainly, it would be a leap upwards. To be the wife of
the man I loved; to have the privilege of holding his happiness in my
hand; to know that I was his own—the companion whom he had chosen out
of all the world—that would, indeed, be a leap upward; a leap almost to
heaven, if all that were so. But if you mean upwards in any other
'I was thinking of the social scale.'
'Then, Captain Broughton, your thoughts were doing me dishonour.'
'Doing you dishonour!'
'Yes, doing me dishonour. That your father is, in the world's esteem, a
greater man than mine is doubtless true enough. That you, as a man, are
richer than I am as a woman is doubtless also true. But you dishonour
me, and yourself also, if these things can weigh with you now.'
'Patience,—I think you can hardly know what words you are saying to
'Pardon me, but I think I do. Nothing that you can give me—no gifts of
that description—can weigh aught against that which I am giving you. If
you had all the wealth and rank of the greatest lord in the land, it
would count as nothing in such a scale. If—as I have not doubted—if in
return for my heart you have given me yours, then—then—then, you have
paid me fully. But when gifts such as those are going, nothing else can
count even as a make-weight.'
'I do not quite understand you,' he answered, after a pause. 'I fear you
are a little high-flown.' And then, while the evening was still early,
they walked back to the parsonage almost without another word.
Captain Broughton at this time had only one more full day to remain at
Oxney Colne. On the afternoon following that he was to go as far as
Exeter, and thence return to London. Of course it was to be expected,
that the wedding day would be fixed before he went, and much had been
said about it during the first day or two of his engagement. Then he had
pressed for an early time, and Patience, with a girl's usual diffidence,
had asked for some little delay. But now nothing was said on the
subject; and how was it probable that such a matter could be settled
after such a conversation as that which I have related? That evening,
Miss Le Smyrger asked whether the day had been fixed. 'No,' said Captain
Broughton harshly; 'nothing has been fixed.' 'But it will be arranged
before you go.' 'Probably not,' he said; and then the subject was
dropped for the time.
'John,' she said, just before she went to bed, 'if there be anything
wrong between you and Patience, I conjure you to tell me.'
'You had better ask her,' he replied. 'I can tell you nothing.'
On the following morning he was much surprised by seeing Patience on the
gravel path before Miss Le Smyrger's gate immediately after breakfast.
He went to the door to open it for her, and she, as she gave him her
hand, told him that she came up to speak to him. There was no hesitation
in her manner, nor any look of anger in her face. But there was in her
gait and form, in her voice and countenance, a fixedness of purpose
which he had never seen before, or at any rate had never acknowledged.
'Certainly,' said he. 'Shall I come out with you, or will you come
'We can sit down in the summer-house,' she said; and thither they both
'Captain Broughton,' she said—and she began her task the moment that
they were both seated—'You and I have engaged ourselves as man and
wife, but perhaps we have been over rash.'
'How so?' said he.
'It may be—and indeed I will say more—it is the case that we have made
this engagement without knowing enough of each other's character.'
'I have not thought so.'
'The time will perhaps come when you will so think, but for the sake of
all that we most value, let it come before it is too late. What would be
our fate—how terrible would be our misery, if such a thought should
come to either of us after we have linked our lots together.'
There was a solemnity about her as she thus spoke which almost repressed
him,—which for a time did prevent him from taking that tone of
authority which on such a subject he would choose to adopt. But he
recovered himself. 'I hardly think that this comes well from you,' he
'From whom else should it come? Who else can fight my battle for me;
and, John, who else can fight that same battle on your behalf? I tell
you this, that with your mind standing towards me as it does stand at
present you could not give me your hand at the altar with true words and
a happy conscience. Is it not true? You have half repented of your
bargain already. Is it not so?'
He did not answer her; but getting up from his seat walked to the front
of the summer-house, and stood there with his back turned upon her. It
was not that he meant to be ungracious, but in truth he did not know how
to answer her. He had half repented of his bargain.
'John,' she said, getting up and following him so that she could put her
hand upon his arm, 'I have been very angry with you.'
'Angry with me!' he said, turning sharp upon her.
'Yes, angry with you. You would have treated me like a child. But that
feeling has gone now. I am not angry now. There is my hand;—the hand of
a friend. Let the words that have been spoken between us be as though
they had not been spoken. Let us both be free.'
'Do you mean it?' he asked.
'Certainly I mean it.' As she spoke these words her eyes were filled
with tears in spite of all the efforts she could make to restrain them;
but he was not looking at her, and her efforts had sufficed to prevent
any sob from being audible.
'With all my heart,' he said; and it was manifest from his tone that he
had no thought of her happiness as he spoke. It was true that she had
been angry with him—angry, as she had herself declared; but
nevertheless, in what she had said and what she had done, she had
thought more of his happiness than of her own. Now she was angry once
'With all your heart, Captain Broughton! Well, so be it. If with all
your heart, then is the necessity so much the greater. You go tomorrow.
Shall we say farewell now?'
'Patience, I am not going to be lectured.'
'Certainly not by me. Shall we say farewell now?'
'Yes, if you are determined.'
'I am determined. Farewell, Captain Broughton. You have all my wishes
for your happiness.' And she held out her hand to him.
'Patience!' he said. And he looked at her with a dark frown, as though
he would strive to frighten her into submission. If so, he might have
saved himself any such attempt.
'Farewell, Captain Broughton. Give me your hand, for I cannot stay.' He
gave her his hand, hardly knowing why he did so. She lifted it to her
lips and kissed it, and then, leaving him, passed from the summer-house
down through the wicket-gate, and straight home to the parsonage.
During the whole of that day she said no word to anyone of what had
occurred. When she was once more at home she went about her household
affairs as she had done on that day of his arrival. When she sat down to
dinner with her father he observed nothing to make him think that she
was unhappy, nor during the evening was there any expression in her
face, or any tone in her voice, which excited his attention. On the
following morning Captain Broughton called at the parsonage, and the
servant-girl brought word to her mistress that he was in the parlour.
But she would not see him. 'Laws miss, you ain't a quarrelled with your
beau?' the poor girl said. 'No, not quarrelled,' she said; 'but give him
that.' It was a scrap of paper containing a word or two in pencil. 'It
is better that we should not meet again. God bless you.' And from that
day to this, now more than ten years, they have never met.
'Papa,' she said to her father that afternoon, 'dear papa, do not be
angry with me. It is all over between me and John Broughton. Dearest,
you and I will not be separated.'
It would be useless here to tell how great was the old man's surprise
and how true his sorrow. As the tale was told to him no cause was given
for anger with anyone. Not a word was spoken against the suitor who had
on that day returned to London with a full conviction that now at least
he was relieved from his engagement. 'Patty, my darling child,' he said,
'may God grant that it be for the best!'
'It is for the best,' she answered stoutly. 'For this place I am fit;
and I much doubt whether I am fit for any other.'
On that day she did not see Miss Le Smyrger, but on the following
morning, knowing that Captain Broughton had gone off,—having heard the
wheels of the carriage as they passed by the parsonage gate on his way
to the station,—she walked up to the Colne.
'He has told you, I suppose?' said she.
'Yes,' said Miss Le Smyrger. 'And I will never see him again unless he
asks your pardon on his knees. I have told him so. I would not even give
him my hand as he went.'
'But why so, thou kindest one? The fault was mine more than his.'
'I understand. I have eyes in my head,' said the old maid. 'I have
watched him for the last four or five days. If you could have kept the
truth to yourself and bade him keep off from you, he would have been at
your feet now, licking the dust from your shoes.'
'But, dear friend, I do not want a man to lick dust from my shoes.'
'Ah, you are a fool. You do not know the value of your own wealth.'
'True; I have been a fool. I was a fool to think that one coming from
such a life as he has led could be happy with such as I am. I know the
truth now. I have bought the lesson dearly—but perhaps not too dearly,
seeing that it will never be forgotten.'
There was but little more said about the matter between our three
friends at Oxney Colne. What, indeed, could be said? Miss Le Smyrger for
a year or two still expected that her nephew would return and claim his
bride; but he has never done so, nor has there been any correspondence
between them. Patience Woolsworthy had learned her lesson dearly. She
had given her whole heart to the man; and, though she so bore herself
that no one was aware of the violence of the struggle, nevertheless the
struggle within her bosom was very violent. She never told herself that
she had done wrong; she never regretted her loss; but yet—yet!—the
loss was very hard to bear. He also had loved her, but he was not
capable of a love which could much injure his daily peace. Her daily
peace was gone for many a day to come.
Her father is still living; but there is a curate now in the parish. In
conjunction with him and with Miss Le Smyrger she spends her time in the
concerns of the parish. In her own eyes she is a confirmed old maid; and
such is my opinion also. The romance of her life was played out in that
summer. She never sits now lonely on the hillside thinking how much she
might do for one whom she really loved. But with a large heart she loves
many, and, with no romance, she works hard to lighten the burdens of
those she loves.
As for Captain Broughton, all the world knows that he did marry that
great heiress with whom his name was once before connected, and that he
is now a useful member of Parliament, working on committees three or
four days a week with zeal that is indefatigable. Sometimes, not often,
as he thinks of Patience Woolsworthy a smile comes across his face.
ANTHONY GARSTIN'S COURTSHIP
By Hubert Crackanthorpe
(Savoy, July 1896)
A stampede of huddled sheep, wildly scampering over the slaty shingle,
emerged from the leaden mist that muffled the fell-top, and a shrill
shepherd's whistle broke the damp stillness of the air. And presently a
man's figure appeared, following the sheep down the hillside. He halted
a moment to whistle curtly to his two dogs, who, laying back their ears,
chased the sheep at top speed beyond the brow; then, his hands deep in
his pockets, he strode vigorously forward. A streak of white smoke from
a toiling train was creeping silently across the distance: the great,
grey, desolate undulations of treeless country showed no other sign of
The sheep hurried in single file along a tiny track worn threadbare amid
the brown, lumpy grass: and, as the man came round the mountain's
shoulder, a narrow valley opened out beneath him—a scanty patchwork of
green fields, and, here and there, a whitewashed farm, flanked by a dark
cluster of sheltering trees.
The man walked with a loose, swinging gait. His figure was spare and
angular: he wore a battered, black felt hat and clumsy, iron-bound
boots: his clothes were dingy from long exposure to the weather. He had
close-set, insignificant eyes, much wrinkled, and stubbly eyebrows
streaked with grey. His mouth was close-shaven, and drawn by his
abstraction into hard and taciturn lines; beneath his chin bristled an
unkempt fringe of sandy-coloured hair.
When he reached the foot of the fell, the twilight was already blurring
the distance. The sheep scurried, with a noisy rustling, across a flat,
swampy stretch, over-grown with rushes, while the dogs headed them
towards a gap in a low, ragged wall built of loosely-heaped boulders.
The man swung the gate to after them, and waited, whistling
peremptorily, recalling the dogs. A moment later, the animals
reappeared, cringing as they crawled through the bars of the gate. He
kicked out at them contemptuously, and mounting a stone stile a few
yards further up the road, dropped into a narrow lane.
Presently, as he passed a row of lighted windows, he heard a voice call
to him. He stopped, and perceived a crooked, white-bearded figure,
wearing clerical clothes, standing in the garden gateway.
'Good-evening, Anthony. A raw evening this.'
'Ay, Mr. Blencarn, it is a bit frittish,' he answered. 'I've jest bin
gittin' a few lambs off t'fell. I hope ye're keepin' fairly, an' Miss
Rosa too.' He spoke briefly, with a loud, spontaneous cordiality.
'Thank ye, Anthony, thank ye. Rosa's down at the church, playing over
the hymns for tomorrow. How's Mrs. Garstin?'
'Nicely, thank ye, Mr. Blencarn. She's wonderful active, is mother.'
'Well, good night to ye, Anthony,' said the old man, clicking the gate.
'Good night, Mr. Blencarn,' he called back.
A few minutes later the twinkling lights of the village came in sight,
and from within the sombre form of the square-towered church, looming by
the roadside, the slow, solemn strains of the organ floated out on the
evening air. Anthony lightened his tread: then paused, listening; but,
presently, becoming aware that a man stood, listening also, on the
bridge some few yards distant, he moved forward again. Slackening his
pace, as he approached, he eyed the figure keenly; but the man paid no
heed to him, remaining, with his back turned, gazing over the parapet
into the dark, gurgling stream.
Anthony trudged along the empty village street, past the gleaming
squares of ruddy gold, starting on either side out of the darkness. Now
and then he looked furtively backwards. The straight open road lay
behind him, glimmering wanly: the organ seemed to have ceased: the
figure on the bridge had left the parapet, and appeared to be moving
away towards the church. Anthony halted, watching it till it had
disappeared into the blackness beneath the churchyard trees. Then, after
a moment's hesitation, he left the road, and mounted an upland meadow
towards his mother's farm.
It was a bare, oblong house. In front, a whitewashed porch, and a narrow
garden-plot, enclosed by a low iron railing, were dimly discernible:
behind, the steep fell-side loomed like a monstrous, mysterious curtain
hung across the night. He passed round the back into the twilight of a
wide yard, cobbled and partially grass-grown, vaguely flanked by the
shadowy outlines of long, low farm-buildings. All was wrapped in
darkness: somewhere overhead a bat fluttered, darting its puny scream.
Inside, a blazing peat-fire scattered capering shadows across the
smooth, stone floor, flickered among the dim rows of hams suspended from
the ceiling and on the panelled cupboards of dark, glistening oak. A
servant-girl, spreading the cloth for supper, clattered her clogs in and
out of the kitchen: old Mrs. Garstin was stooping before the hearth,
tremulously turning some girdle-cakes that lay roasting in the embers.
At the sound of Anthony's heavy tread in the passage, she rose, glancing
sharply at the clock above the chimney-piece. She was a heavy-built
woman, upright, stalwart almost, despite her years. Her face was gaunt
and sallow; deep wrinkles accentuated the hardness of her features. She
wore a black widow's cap above her iron-grey hair, gold-rimmed
spectacles, and a soiled, chequered apron.
'Ye're varra late, Tony,' she remarked querulously.
He unloosened his woollen neckerchief, and when he had hung it
methodically with his hat behind the door, answered:
''Twas terrible thick on t' fell-top, an' them two bitches be that
She caught his sleeve, and, through her spectacles, suspiciously
scrutinized his face.
'Ye did na meet wi' Rosa Blencarn?'
'Nay, she was in church, hymn-playin', wi' Luke Stock hangin' roond
door,' he retorted bitterly, rebuffing her with rough impatience.
She moved away, nodding sententiously to herself. They began supper:
neither spoke: Anthony sat slowly stirring his tea, and staring moodily
into the flames: the bacon on his plate lay untouched. From time to time
his mother, laying down her knife and fork, looked across at him in
unconcealed asperity, pursing her wide, ungainly mouth. At last,
abruptly setting down her cup, she broke out:
'I wonder ye hav'na mare pride, Tony. For hoo lang are ye goin' t'
continue settin' mopin' and broodin' like a seck sheep? Ye'll jest mak
yesself ill, an' then I reckon what ye'll prove satisfied. Ay, but I
wonder ye hav'na more pride.'
But he made no answer, remaining unmoved, as if he had not heard.
Presently, half to himself, without raising his eyes, he murmured:
'Luke be goin' South, Monday.'
'Well, ye canna tak' oop wi' his leavin's anyways. It hasna coom't that,
has it? Ye doan't intend settin' all t' parish a laughin' at ye a second
He flushed dully, and bending over his plate, mechanically began his
'Wa dang it,' he broke out a minute later, 'd'ye think I heed the
cacklin' o' fifty parishes? Na, not I,' and, with a short, grim laugh,
he brought his fist down heavily on the oak table.
'Ye're daft, Tony,' the old woman blurted.
'Daft or na daft, I tell ye this, mother, that I be forty-six year o'
age this back-end, and there be some things I will na listen to. Rosa
Blencarn's bonny enough for me.'
'Ay, bonny enough—I've na patience wi' ye. Bonny enough—tricked oot
in her furbelows, gallivantin' wi' every royster fra Pe'rith. Bonny
enough—that be all ye think on. She's bin a proper parson's niece—the
giddy, feckless creature, an she'd mak' ye a proper sort o' wife, Tony
Garstin, ye great, fond booby.'
She pushed back her chair, and, hurriedly clattering the crockery, began
to clear away the supper.
'T' hoose be mine, t' Lord be praised,' she continued in a loud, hard
voice, 'an' as long as he spare me, Tony, I'll na see Rosa Blencarn set
foot inside it.'
Anthony scowled, without replying, and drew his chair to the hearth. His
mother bustled about the room behind him. After a while she asked:
'Did ye pen t' lambs in t' back field?'
'Na, they're in Hullam bottom,' he answered curtly.
The door closed behind her, and by and by he could hear her moving
overhead. Meditatively blinking, he filled his pipe clumsily, and
pulling a crumpled newspaper from his pocket, sat on over the
smouldering fire, reading and stolidly puffing.
The music rolled through the dark, empty church. The last, leaden
flicker of daylight glimmered in through the pointed windows, and beyond
the level rows of dusky pews, tenanted only by a litter of prayer-books,
two guttering candles revealed the organ pipes, and the young girl's
She played vigorously. Once or twice the tune stumbled, and she
recovered it impatiently, bending over the key-board, showily
flourishing her wrists as she touched the stops. She was bare-headed
(her hat and cloak lay beside her on a stool). She had fair, fluffy
hair, cut short behind her neck; large, round eyes, heightened by a
fringe of dark lashes; rough, ruddy cheeks, and a rosy, full-lipped,
unstable mouth. She was dressed quite simply, in a black, close-fitting
bodice, a little frayed at the sleeves. Her hands and neck were coarsely
fashioned: her comeliness was brawny, literal, unfinished, as it were.
When at last the ponderous chords of the Amen faded slowly into the
twilight, flushed, breathing a little quickly, she paused, listening to
the stillness of the church. Presently a small boy emerged from behind
'Good evenin', Miss Rosa', he called, trotting briskly away down the
'Good night, Robert', she answered, absently.
After a while, with an impatient gesture, as if to shake some
importunate thought from her mind, she rose abruptly, pinned on her hat,
threw her cloak round her shoulders, blew out the candles, and groped
her way through the church, towards the half-open door. As she hurried
along the narrow pathway that led across the churchyard, of a sudden, a
figure started out of the blackness.
'Who's that?' she cried, in a loud, frightened voice.
A man's uneasy laugh answered her.
'It's only me, Rosa. I didna' think t' scare ye. I've bin waitin' for
ye, this hoor past.'
She made no reply, but quickened her pace. He strode on beside her.
'I'm off, Monday, ye know,' he continued. And, as she said nothing,
'Will ye na stop jest a minnit? I'd like t' speak a few words wi' ye
before I go, an tomorrow I hev t' git over t' Scarsdale betimes,' he
'I don't want t' speak wi' ye: I don't want ever to see ye agin. I jest
hate the sight o' ye.' She spoke with a vehement, concentrated
'Nay, but ye must listen to me. I will na be put off wi' fratchin
And gripping her arm, he forced her to stop.
'Loose me, ye great beast,' she broke out.
'I'll na hould ye, if ye'll jest stand quiet-like. I meant t' speak fair
t' ye, Rosa.'
They stood at a bend in the road, face to face quite close together.
Behind his burly form stretched the dimness of a grey, ghostly field.
'What is't ye hev to say to me? Hev done wi' it quick,' she said
'It be jest this, Rosa,' he began with dogged gravity. 'I want t' tell
ye that ef any trouble comes t'ye after I'm gone—ye know t' what I
refer—I want t' tell ye that I'm prepared t' act square by ye. I've
written out on an envelope my address in London. Luke Stock, care o'
Purcell and Co., Smithfield Market, London.'
'Ye're a bad, sinful man. I jest hate t' sight o' ye. I wish ye were
'Ay, but I reckon what ye'd ha best thought o' that before. Ye've
changed yer whistle considerably since Tuesday. Nay, hould on,' he
added, as she struggled to push past him. 'Here's t' envelope.'
She snatched the paper, and tore it passionately, scattering the
fragments on to the road. When she had finished, he burst out angrily:
'Ye cussed, unreasonable fool.'
'Let me pass, ef ye've nought mare t'say,' she cried.
'Nay, I'll na part wi' ye this fashion. Ye can speak soft enough when ye
choose.' And seizing her shoulders, he forced her backwards against the
'Ye do look fine, an' na mistake, when ye're jest ablaze wi' ragin','
he laughed bluntly, lowering his face to hers.
'Loose me, loose me, ye great coward,' she gasped, striving to free her
Holding her fast, he expostulated:
'Coom, Rosa, can we na part friends?'
'Part friends, indeed,' she retorted bitterly. 'Friends wi' the likes o'
you. What d'ye tak me for? Let me git home, I tell ye. An' please God
I'll never set eyes on ye again. I hate t' sight o' ye.'
'Be off wi' ye, then,' he answered, pushing her roughly back into the
road. 'Be off wi' ye, ye silly. Ye canna say I hav na spak fair t' ye,
an', by goom, ye'll na see me shally-wallyin this fashion agin. Be off
wi' ye: ye can jest shift for yerself, since ye canna keep a civil
tongue in yer head.'
The girl, catching at her breath, stood as if dazed, watching his
retreating figure; then starting forward at a run, disappeared up the
hill, into the darkness.
Old Mr. Blencarn concluded his husky sermon. The scanty congregation, who
had been sitting, stolidly immobile in their stiff, Sunday clothes,
shuffled to their feet, and the pewful of school children, in clamorous
chorus, intoned the final hymn. Anthony stood near the organ, absently
contemplating, while the rude melody resounded through the church,
Rosa's deft manipulation of the key-board. The rugged lines of his face
were relaxed to a vacant, thoughtful limpness, that aged his expression
not a little: now and then, as if for reference, he glanced
questioningly at the girl's profile.
A few minutes later the service was over, and the congregation sauntered
out down the aisle. A gawky group of men remained loitering by the
church door: one of them called to Anthony; but, nodding curtly, he
passed on, and strode away down the road, across the grey upland
meadows, towards home. As soon as he had breasted the hill, however, and
was no longer visible from below, he turned abruptly to the left, along
a small, swampy hollow, till he had reached the lane that led down from
He clambered over a rugged, moss-grown wall, and stood, gazing
expectantly down the dark, disused roadway; then, after a moment's
hesitation, perceiving nobody, seated himself beneath the wall, on a
projecting slab of stone.
Overhead hung a sombre, drifting sky. A gusty wind rollicked down from
the fell—huge masses of chilly grey, stripped of the last night's mist.
A few dead leaves fluttered over the stones, and from off the fell-side
there floated the plaintive, quavering rumour of many bleating sheep.
Before long, he caught sight of two figures coming towards him, slowly
climbing the hill. He sat awaiting their approach, fidgeting with his
sandy beard, and abstractedly grinding the ground beneath his heel. At
the brow they halted: plunging his hands deep into his pockets, he
strolled sheepishly towards them.
'Ah! good day t' ye, Anthony,' called the old man, in a shrill,
breathless voice. ''Tis a long hill, an' my legs are not what they were.
Time was when I'd think nought o' a whole day's tramp on t' fells. Ay,
I'm gittin' feeble, Anthony, that's what 'tis. And if Rosa here wasn't
the great, strong lass she is, I don't know how her old uncle'd manage;'
and he turned to the girl with a proud, tremulous smile.
'Will ye tak my arm a bit, Mr. Blencarn? Miss Rosa'll be tired, likely,'
'Nay, Mr. Garstin, but I can manage nicely,' the girl interrupted
Anthony looked up at her as she spoke. She wore a straw hat, trimmed
with crimson velvet, and a black, fur-edged cape, that seemed to set off
mightily the fine whiteness of her neck. Her large, dark eyes were fixed
upon him. He shifted his feet uneasily, and dropped his glance.
She linked her uncle's arm in hers, and the three moved slowly forward.
Old Mr. Blencarn walked with difficulty, pausing at intervals for breath.
Anthony, his eyes bent on the ground, sauntered beside him, clumsily
kicking at the cobbles that lay in his path.
When they reached the vicarage gate, the old man asked him to come
'Not jest now, thank ye, Mr. Blencarn. I've that lot o' lambs t' see to
before dinner. It's a grand marnin', this,' he added, inconsequently.
'Uncle's bought a nice lot o' Leghorns, Tuesday,' Rosa remarked.
Anthony met her gaze; there was a grave, subdued expression on her face
this morning, that made her look more of a woman, less of a girl.
'Ay, do ye show him the birds, Rosa. I'd be glad to have his opinion on
The old man turned to hobble into the house, and Rosa, as she supported
his arm, called back over her shoulder:
'I'll not be a minute, Mr. Garstin.'
Anthony strolled round to the yard behind the house, and waited,
watching a flock of glossy-white poultry that strutted, perkily pecking,
over the grass-grown cobbles.
'Ay, Miss Rosa, they're a bonny lot,' he remarked, as the girl joined
'Are they not?' she rejoined, scattering a handful of corn before her.
The birds scuttled across the yard with greedy, outstretched necks. The
two stood, side by side, gazing at them.
'What did he give for 'em?' Anthony asked.
'Ay,' he assented, nodding absently.
'Was Dr. Sanderson na seein' o' yer father yesterday?' he asked, after a
'He came in t' forenoon. He said he was jest na worse.'
'Ye knaw, Miss Rosa, as I'm still thinkin' on ye,' he began abruptly,
without looking up.
'I reckon it ain't much use,' she answered shortly, scattering another
handful of corn towards the birds. 'I reckon I'll never marry. I'm jest
weary o' bein' courted—'
'I would na weary ye wi' courtin',' he interrupted.
She laughed noisily.
'Ye are a queer customer, an' na mistake.'
'I'm a match for Luke Stock anyway,' he continued fiercely. 'Ye think
nought o' taking oop wi' him—about as ranty, wild a young feller as
The girl reddened, and bit her lip.
'I don't know what you mean, Mr. Garstin. It seems to me ye're might
hasty in jumpin' t' conclusions.'
'Mabbe I kin see a thing or two,' he retorted doggedly.
'Luke Stock's gone to London, anyway.'
'Ay, an' a powerful good job too, in t' opinion o' some folks.'
'Ye're jest jealous,' she exclaimed, with a forced titter. 'Ye're jest
jealous o' Luke Stock.'
'Nay, but ye need na fill yer head wi' that nonsense. I'm too deep set
on ye t' feel jealousy,' he answered, gravely.
The smile faded from her face, as she murmured:
'I canna mak ye out, Mr. Garstin.'
'Nay, that ye canna. An' I suppose it's natural, considerin' ye're
little more than a child, an' I'm a'most old enough to be yer father,'
he retorted, with blunt bitterness.
'But ye know yer mother's took that dislike t' me. She'd never abide the
sight o' me at Hootsey.'
He remained silent a moment, moodily reflecting.
'She'd jest ha't' git ower it. I see nought in that objection,' he
'Nay, Mr. Garstin, it canna be. Indeed it canna be at all. Ye'd best jest
put it right from yer mind, once and for all.'
'I'd jest best put it off my mind, had I? Ye talk like a child!' he
burst out scornfully. 'I intend ye t' coom t' love me, an' I will na tak
ye till ye do. I'll jest go on waitin' for ye, an', mark my words, my
day 'ull coom at last.'
He spoke loudly, in a slow, stubborn voice, and stepped suddenly towards
her. With a faint, frightened cry she shrank back into the doorway of
'Ye talk like a prophet. Ye sort o' skeer me.'
He laughed grimly, and paused, reflectively scanning her face. He seemed
about to continue in the same strain; but, instead, turned abruptly on
his heel, and strode away through the garden gate.
For three hundred years there had been a Garstin at Hootsey: generation
after generation had tramped the grey stretch of upland, in the
spring-time scattering their flocks over the fell-sides, and, at the
'back-end', on dark, winter afternoons, driving them home again, down
the broad bridle-path that led over the 'raise'. They had been a race of
few words, 'keeping themselves to themselves', as the phrase goes;
beholden to no man, filled with a dogged, churlish pride—an upright,
old-fashioned race, stubborn, long-lived, rude in speech, slow of
Anthony had never seen his father, who had died one night, upon the
fell-top, he and his shepherd, engulfed in the great snowstorm of 1849.
Folks had said that he was the only Garstin who had failed to make old
After his death, Jake Atkinson, from Ribblehead in Yorkshire, had come
to live at Hootsey. Jake was a fine farmer, a canny bargainer, and very
handy among the sheep, till he took to drink, and roystering every week
with the town wenches up at Carlisle. He was a corpulent, deep-voiced,
free-handed fellow: when his time came, though he died very hardly, he
remained festive and convivial to the last. And for years afterwards, in
the valley, his memory lingered: men spoke of him regretfully, recalling
his quips, his feats of strength, and his choice breed of Herdwicke
rams. But he left behind him a host of debts up at Carlisle, in Penrith,
and in almost every market town—debts that he had long ago pretended to
have paid with money that belonged to his sister. The widow Garstin sold
the twelve Herdwicke rams, and nine acres of land: within six weeks she
had cleared off every penny, and for thirteen months, on Sundays, wore
her mourning with a mute, forbidding grimness: the bitter thought that,
unbeknown to her, Jake had acted dishonestly in money matters, and that
he had ended his days in riotous sin, soured her pride, imbued her with
a rancorous hostility against all the world. For she was a very proud
woman, independent, holding her head high, so folks said, like a Garstin
bred and born; and Anthony, although some reckoned him quiet and of
little account, came to take after her as he grew into manhood.
She took into her own hands the management of the Hootsey farm, and set
the boy to work for her along with the two farm servants. It was
twenty-five years now since his uncle Jake's death: there were grey
hairs in his sandy beard; but he still worked for his mother, as he had
done when a growing lad.
And now that times were grown to be bad (of late years the price of
stock had been steadily falling; and the hay harvests had drifted from
bad to worse) the widow Garstin no longer kept any labouring men; but
lived, she and her son, year in and year out, in a close parsimonious
That had been Anthony Garstin's life—a dull, eventless sort of
business, the sluggish incrustation of monotonous years. And until Rosa
Blencarn had come to keep house for her uncle, he had never thought
twice on a woman's face.
The Garstins had always been good church-goers, and Anthony, for years,
had acted as churchwarden. It was one summer evening, up at the
vicarage, whilst he was checking the offertory account, that he first
set eyes upon her. She was fresh back from school at Leeds: she was
dressed in a white dress: she looked, he thought, like a London lady.
She stood by the window, tall and straight and queenly, dreamily gazing
out into the summer twilight, whilst he and her uncle sat over their
business. When he rose to go, she glanced at him with quick curiosity;
he hurried away, muttering a sheepish good night.
The next time that he saw her was in church on Sunday. He watched her
shyly, with a hesitating, reverential discretion: her beauty seemed to
him wonderful, distant, enigmatic. In the afternoon, young Mrs. Forsyth,
from Longscale, dropped in for a cup of tea with his mother, and the two
set off gossiping of Rosa Blencarn, speaking of her freely, in tones of
acrimonious contempt. For a long while he sat silent, puffing at his
pipe; but at last, when his mother concluded with, 'She looks t' me fair
stuck-oop, full o' toonish airs an' graces,' despite himself, he burst
out: 'Ye're jest wastin' yer breath wi' that cackle. I reckon Miss
Blencarn's o' a different clay to us folks.' Young Mrs. Forsyth tittered
immoderately, and the next week it was rumoured about the valley that
'Tony Garstin was gone luny over t' parson's niece.'
But of all this he knew nothing—keeping to himself, as was his wont,
and being, besides, very busy with the hay harvest—until one day, at
dinner-time, Henry Sisson asked if he'd started his courting; Jacob
Sowerby cried that Tony'd been too slow in getting to work, for that the
girl had been seen spooning in Crosby Shaws with Curbison the
auctioneer, and the others (there were half-a-dozen of them lounging
round the hay-waggon) burst into a boisterous guffaw. Anthony flushed
dully, looking hesitatingly from the one to the other; then slowly put
down his beer-can, and of a sudden, seizing Jacob by the neck, swung him
heavily on the grass. He fell against the waggon-wheel, and when he rose
the blood was streaming from an ugly cut in his forehead. And
henceforward Tony Garstin's courtship was the common jest of all the
As yet, however, he had scarcely spoken to her, though twice he had
passed her in the lane that led up to the vicarage. She had given him a
frank, friendly smile; but he had not found the resolution to do more
than lift his hat. He and Henry Sisson stacked the hay in the yard
behind the house; there was no further mention made of Rosa Blencarn;
but all day long Anthony, as he knelt thatching the rick, brooded over
the strange sweetness of her face, and on the fell-top, while he tramped
after the ewes over the dry, crackling heather, and as he jogged along
the narrow, rickety road, driving his cartload of lambs into the auction
Thus, as the weeks slipped by, he was content with blunt, wistful
ruminations upon her indistinct image. Jacob Sowerby's accusation, and
several kindred innuendoes let fall by his mother, left him coolly
incredulous; the girl still seemed to him altogether distant; but from
the first sight of her face he had evolved a stolid, unfaltering
conception of her difference from the ruck of her sex.
But one evening, as he passed the vicarage on his way down from the
fells, she called to him, and with a childish, confiding familiarity
asked for advice concerning the feeding of the poultry. In his eagerness
to answer her as best he could, he forgot his customary embarrassment,
and grew, for the moment, almost voluble, and quite at his ease in her
presence. Directly her flow of questions ceased, however, the returning
perception of her rosy, hesitating smile, and of her large, deep eyes
looking straight into his face, perturbed him strangely, and, reddening,
he remembered the quarrel in the hay-field and the tale of Crosby Shaws.
After this, the poultry became a link between them—a link which he
regarded in all seriousness, blindly unconscious that there was aught
else to bring them together, only feeling himself in awe of her, because
of her schooling, her townish manners, her ladylike mode of dress. And
soon, he came to take a sturdy, secret pride in her friendly familiarity
towards him. Several times a week he would meet her in the lane, and
they would loiter a moment together; she would admire his dogs, though
he assured her earnestly that they were but sorry curs; and once,
laughing at his staidness, she nick-named him 'Mr. Churchwarden'.
That the girl was not liked in the valley he suspected, curtly
attributing her unpopularity to the women's senseless jealousy. Of
gossip concerning her he heard no further hint; but instinctively, and
partly from that rugged, natural reserve of his, shrank from mentioning
her name, even incidentally, to his mother.
Now, on Sunday evenings, he often strolled up to the vicarage, each time
quitting his mother with the same awkward affectation of casualness;
and, on his return, becoming vaguely conscious of how she refrained from
any comment on his absence, and appeared oddly oblivious of the
existence of parson Blencarn's niece.
She had always been a sour-tongued woman; but, as the days shortened
with the approach of the long winter months, she seemed to him to grow
more fretful than ever; at times it was almost as if she bore him some
smouldering, sullen resentment. He was of stubborn fibre, however,
toughened by long habit of a bleak, unruly climate; he revolved the
matter in his mind deliberately, and when, at last, after much plodding
thought, it dawned upon him that she resented his acquaintance with Rosa
Blencarn, he accepted the solution with an unflinching phlegm, and
merely shifted his attitude towards the girl, calculating each day the
likelihood of his meeting her, and making, in her presence, persistent
efforts to break down, once for all, the barrier of his own timidity. He
was a man not to be clumsily driven, still less, so he prided himself, a
man to be craftily led.
It was close upon Christmas time before the crisis came. His mother was
just home from Penrith market. The spring-cart stood in the yard, the
old grey horse was steaming heavily in the still, frosty air.
'I reckon ye've come fast. T' ould horse is over hot,' he remarked
bluntly, as he went to the animal's head.
She clambered down hastily, and, coming to his side, began breathlessly:
'Ye ought t' hev coom t' market, Tony. There's bin pretty goin's on in
Pe'rith today. I was helpin' Anna Forsyth t' choose six yards o'
sheetin' in Dockroy, when we sees Rosa Blencarn coom oot o' t' 'Bell and
Bullock' in company we' Curbison and young Joe Smethwick. Smethwick was
fair reelin' drunk, and Curbison and t' girl were a-houldin' on to him,
to keep him fra fallin'; and then, after a bit, he puts his arm round
the girl t' stiddy hisself, and that fashion they goes off, right oop t'
He continued to unload the packages, and to carry them mechanically one
by one into the house. Each time, when he reappeared, she was standing
by the steaming horse, busy with her tale.
'An' on t' road hame we passed t' three on' em in Curbison's trap, with
Smethwick leein' in t' bottom, singin' maudlin' songs. They were passin'
Dunscale village, an't' folks coom runnin' oot o' houses t' see 'em go
He led the cart away towards the stable, leaving her to cry the
remainder after him across the yard.
Half-an-hour later he came in for his dinner. During the meal not a word
passed between them, and directly he had finished he strode out of the
house. About nine o'clock he returned, lit his pipe, and sat down to
smoke it over the kitchen fire.
'Where've ye bin, Tony?' she asked.
'Oop t' vicarage, courtin', he retorted defiantly, with his pipe in his
This was ten months ago; ever since he had been doggedly waiting. That
evening he had set his mind on the girl, he intended to have her; and
while his mother gibed, as she did now upon every opportunity, his
patience remained grimly unflagging. She would remind him that the farm
belonged to her, that he would have to wait till her death before he
could bring the hussy to Hootsey: he would retort that as soon as the
girl would have him, he intended taking a small holding over at
Scarsdale. Then she would give way, and for a while piteously upbraid
him with her old age, and with the memory of all the years she and he
had spent together, and he would comfort her with a display of brusque,
But, none the less, on the morrow, his thoughts would return to dwell on
the haunting vision of the girl's face, while his own rude, credulous
chivalry, kindled by the recollection of her beauty, stifled his
misgivings concerning her conduct.
Meanwhile she dallied with him, and amused herself with the younger men.
Her old uncle fell ill in the spring, and could scarcely leave the
house. She declared that she found life in the valley intolerably dull,
that she hated the quiet of the place, that she longed for Leeds, and
the exciting bustle of the streets; and in the evenings she wrote long
letters to the girl-friends she had left behind there, describing with
petulant vivacity her tribe of rustic admirers. At the harvest-time she
went back on a fortnight's visit to friends; the evening before her
departure she promised Anthony to give him her answer on her return.
But, instead, she avoided him, pretended to have promised in jest, and
took up with Luke Stock, a cattle-dealer from Wigton.
It was three weeks since he had fetched his flock down from the fell.
After dinner he and his mother sat together in the parlour: they had
done so every Sunday afternoon, year in and year out, as far back as he
A row of mahogany chairs, with shiny, horse-hair seats, were ranged
round the room. A great collection of agricultural prize-tickets were
pinned over the wall; and, on a heavy, highly-polished sideboard stood
several silver cups. A heap of gilt-edged shavings filled the unused
grate: there were gaudily-tinted roses along the mantelpiece, and, on a
small table by the window, beneath a glass-case, a gilt basket filled
with imitation flowers. Every object was disposed with a scrupulous
precision: the carpet and the red-patterned cloth on the centre table
were much faded. The room was spotlessly clean, and wore, in the chilly
winter sunlight, a rigid, comfortless air.
Neither spoke, or appeared conscious of the other's presence. Old Mrs.
Garstin, wrapped in a woollen shawl, sat knitting: Anthony dozed
fitfully on a stiff-backed chair.
Of a sudden, in the distance, a bell started tolling. Anthony rubbed his
eyes drowsily, and taking from the table his Sunday hat, strolled out
across the dusky fields. Presently, reaching a rude wooden seat, built
beside the bridle-path, he sat down and relit his pipe. The air was very
still; below him a white filmy mist hung across the valley: the
fell-sides, vaguely grouped, resembled hulking masses of sombre shadow;
and, as he looked back, three squares of glimmering gold revealed the
lighted windows of the square-towered church.
He sat smoking; pondering, with placid and reverential contemplation,
on the Mighty Maker of the world—a world majestically and inevitably
ordered; a world where, he argued, each object—each fissure in the
fells, the winding course of each tumbling stream—possesses its
mysterious purport, its inevitable signification….
At the end of the field two rams were fighting; retreating, then running
together, and, leaping from the ground, butting head to head and horn to
horn. Anthony watched them absently, pursuing his rude meditations.
… And the succession of bad seasons, the slow ruination of the farmers
throughout the country, were but punishment meted out for the
accumulated wickedness of the world. In the olden time God rained
plagues upon the land: nowadays, in His wrath, He spoiled the produce of
the earth, which, with His own hands, He had fashioned and bestowed upon
He rose and continued his walk along the bridle-path. A multitude of
rabbits scuttled up the hill at his approach; and a great cloud of
plovers, rising from the rushes, circled overhead, filling the air with
a profusion of their querulous cries. All at once he heard a rattling of
stones, and perceived a number of small pieces of shingle bounding in
front of him down the grassy slope.
A woman's figure was moving among the rocks above him. The next moment,
by the trimming of crimson velvet on her hat, he had recognized her. He
mounted the slope with springing strides, wondering the while how it was
she came to be there, that she was not in church playing the organ at
Before she was aware of his approach, he was beside her.
'I thought ye'd be in church—' he began.
She started: then, gradually regaining her composure, answered, weakly
'Mr. Jenkinson, the new schoolmaster, wanted to try the organ.'
He came towards her impulsively: she saw the odd flickers in his eyes as
she stepped back in dismay.
'Nay, but I will na harm ye,' he said. 'Only I reckon what 'tis a
special turn o' Providence, meetin' wi' ye oop here. I reckon what ye'll
hev t' give me a square answer noo. Ye canna dilly-dally everlastingly.'
He spoke almost brutally; and she stood, white and gasping, staring at
him with large, frightened eyes. The sheep-walk was but a tiny
threadlike track: the slope of the shingle on either side was very
steep: below them lay the valley; distant, lifeless, all blurred by the
evening dusk. She looked about her helplessly for a means of escape.
'Miss Rosa,' he continued, in a husky voice, 'can ye na coom t' think on
me? Think ye, I've bin waitin' nigh upon two year for ye. I've watched
ye tak oop, first wi' this young fellar, and then wi' that, till
soomtimes my heart's fit t' burst. Many a day, oop on t' fell-top, t'
thought o' ye's nigh driven me daft, and I've left my shepherdin' jest
t' set on a cairn in t' mist, picturin' an' broodin' on yer face. Many
an evenin' I've started oop t' vicarage, wi' t' resolution t' speak
right oot t' ye; but when it coomed t' point, a sort o' timidity seemed
t' hould me back, I was that feared t' displease ye. I knaw I'm na
scholar, an' mabbe ye think I'm rough-mannered. I knaw I've spoken
sharply to ye once or twice lately. But it's jest because I'm that mad
wi' love for ye: I jest canna help myself soomtimes—'
He waited, peering into her face. She could see the beads of sweat above
his bristling eyebrows: the damp had settled on his sandy beard: his
horny fingers were twitching at the buttons of his black Sunday coat.
She struggled to summon a smile; but her under-lip quivered, and her
large dark eyes filled slowly with tears.
And he went on:
'Ye've coom t' mean jest everything to me. Ef ye will na hev me, I care
for nought else. I canna speak t' ye in phrases: I'm jest a plain,
unscholarly man: I canna wheedle ye, wi' cunnin' after t' fashion o'
toon folks. But I can love ye wi' all my might, an' watch over ye, and
work for ye better than any one o' em—'
She was crying to herself, silently, while he spoke. He noticed nothing,
however: the twilight hid her face from him.
'There's nought against me,' he persisted. 'I'm as good a man as any one
on 'em. Ay, as good a man as any one on 'em,' he repeated defiantly,
raising his voice.
'It's impossible, Mr. Garstin, it's impossible. Ye've been very kind to
me—' she added, in a choking voice.
'Wa dang it, I didna mean t' mak ye cry, lass,' he exclaimed, with a
softening of his tone. 'There's nought for ye t' cry ower.'
She sank on to the stones, passionately sobbing in hysterical and
defenceless despair. Anthony stood a moment, gazing at her in clumsy
perplexity: then, coming close to her, put his hand on her shoulder, and
'Coom, lass, what's trouble? Ye can trust me.'
She shook her head faintly.
'Ay, but ye can though,' he asserted, firmly. 'Come, what is't?'
Heedless of him, she continued to rock herself to and fro, crooning in
'Oh! I wish I were dead!… I wish I could die!'
—'Wish ye could die?' he repeated. 'Why, whatever can't be that's
troublin' ye like this? There, there, lassie, give ower: it 'ull all
coom right, whatever it be—'
'No, no,' she wailed. 'I wish I could die!… I wish I could die!'
Lights were twinkling in the village below; and across the valley
darkness was draping the hills. The girl lifted her face from her hands,
and looked up at him with a scared, bewildered expression.
'I must go home: I must be getting home,' she muttered.
'Nay, but there's sommut mighty amiss wi' ye.'
'No, it's nothing… I don't know—I'm not well… I mean it's
nothing… it'll pass over… you mustn't think anything of it.'
'Nay, but I canna stand by an see ye in sich trouble.'
'It's nothing, Mr. Garstin, indeed it's nothing,' she repeated.
'Ay, but I canna credit that,' he objected stubbornly.
She sent him a shifting, hunted glance.
'Let me get home… you must let me get home.'
She made a tremulous, pitiful attempt at firmness. Eyeing her keenly, he
barred her path: she flushed scarlet, and looked hastily away across the
'If ye'll tell me yer distress, mabbe I can help ye.'
'No, no, it's nothing… it's nothing.'
'If ye'll tell me yer distress, mabbe I can help ye,' he repeated, with
a solemn, deliberate sternness. She shivered, and looked away again,
vaguely, across the valley.
'You can do nothing: there's nought to be done,' she murmured drearily.
'There's a man in this business,' he declared.
'Let me go! Let me go!' she pleaded desperately.
'Who is't that's bin puttin' ye into this distress?' His voice sounded
loud and harsh.
'No one, no one. I canna tell ye, Mr. Garstin…. It's no one,' she
protested weakly. The white, twisted look on his face frightened her.
'My God!' he burst out, gripping her wrist, 'an' a proper soft fool
ye've made o' me. Who is't, I tell ye? Who's t' man?'
'Ye're hurtin' me. Let me go. I canna tell ye.'
'And ye're fond o' him?'
'No, no. He's a wicked, sinful man. I pray God I may never set eyes on
him again. I told him so.'
'But ef he's got ye into trouble, he'll hev t' marry ye,' he persisted
with a brutal bitterness.
'I will not. I hate him!' she cried fiercely.
'But is he willin' t' marry ye?'
'I don't know … I don't care … he said so before he went
away … But I'd kill myself sooner than live with him.'
He let her hands fall and stepped back from her. She could only see his
figure, like a sombre cloud, standing before her. The whole fell-side
seemed still and dark and lonely. Presently she heard his voice again:
'I reckon what there's one road oot o' yer distress.'
She shook her head drearily.
'There's none. I'm a lost woman.'
'An' ef ye took me instead?' he said eagerly.
'I—I don't understand—'
'Ef ye married me instead of Luke Stock?'
'But that's impossible—the—the—'
'Ay, t' child. I know. But I'll tak t' child as mine.'
She remained silent. After a moment he heard her voice answer in a
queer, distant tone:
'You mean that—that ye're ready to marry me, and adopt the child?'
'I do,' he answered doggedly.
'But people—your mother—?'
'Folks 'ull jest know nought about it. It's none o' their business. T'
child 'ull pass as mine. Ye'll accept that?'
'Yes,' she answered, in a low, rapid voice.
'Ye'll consent t' hev me, ef I git ye oot o' yer trouble?'
'Yes,' she repeated, in the same tone.
She heard him draw a long breath.
'I said 't was a turn o' Providence, meetin' wi' ye oop here,' he
exclaimed, with half-suppressed exultation.
Her teeth began to chatter a little: she felt that he was peering at
her, curiously, through the darkness.
'An' noo,' he continued briskly, 'ye'd best be gettin' home. Give me
ye're hand, an' I'll stiddy ye ower t' stones.'
He helped her down the bank of shingle, exclaiming: 'By goom, ye're
stony cauld.' Once or twice she slipped: he supported her, roughly
gripping her knuckles. The stones rolled down the steps, noisily,
disappearing into the night.
Presently they struck the turf bridle-path, and, as they descended
silently towards the lights of the village, he said gravely:
'I always reckoned what my day 'ud coom.'
She made no reply; and he added grimly:
'There'll be terrible work wi' mother over this.'
He accompanied her down the narrow lane that led past her uncle's house.
When the lighted windows came in sight he halted.
'Good night, lassie,' he said kindly. 'Do ye give ower distressin'
'Good night, Mr. Garstin,' she answered, in the same low, rapid voice in
which she had given him her answer up on the fell.
'We're man an' wife plighted now, are we not?' he blurted timidly.
She held her face to his, and he kissed her on the cheek, clumsily.
The next morning the frost had set in. The sky was still clear and
glittering: the whitened fields sparkled in the chilly sunlight: here
and there, on high, distant peaks, gleamed dainty caps of snow. All
the week Anthony was to be busy at the fell-foot, wall-building against
the coming of the winter storms: the work was heavy, for he was
single-handed, and the stone had to be fetched from off the fell-side.
Two or three times a day he led his rickety, lumbering cart along the
lane that passed the vicarage gate, pausing on each journey to glance
furtively up at the windows. But he saw no sign of Rosa Blencarn; and,
indeed, he felt no longing to see her: he was grimly exultant over the
remembrance of his wooing of her, and over the knowledge that she was
his. There glowed within him a stolid pride in himself: he thought of
the others who had courted her, and the means by which he had won her
seemed to him a fine stroke of cleverness.
And so he refrained from any mention of the matter; relishing, as he
worked, all alone, the days through, the consciousness of his secret
triumph, and anticipating, with inward chucklings, the discomforted
cackle of his mother's female friends. He foresaw without misgiving, her
bitter opposition: he felt himself strong; and his heart warmed towards
the girl. And when, at intervals, the brusque realization that, after
all, he was to possess her swept over him, he gripped the stones, and
swung them almost fiercely into their places.
All around him the white, empty fields seemed slumbering breathlessly.
The stillness stiffened the leafless trees. The frosty air flicked his
blood: singing vigorously to himself he worked with a stubborn,
unflagging resolution, methodically postponing, till the length of the
wall should be completed, the announcement of his betrothal.
After his reticent, solitary fashion, he was very happy, reviewing his
future prospects, with a plain and steady assurance, and, as the
week-end approached, coming to ignore the irregularity of the whole
business: almost to assume, in the exaltation of his pride, that he had
won her honestly; and to discard, stolidly, all thought of Luke Stock,
of his relations with her, of the coming child that was to pass for his
And there were moments too, when, as he sauntered homewards through the
dusk at the end of his day's work, his heart grew full to overflowing of
a rugged, superstitious gratitude towards God in Heaven who had granted
About three o'clock on the Saturday afternoon he finished the length of
wall. He went home, washed, shaved, put on his Sunday coat; and,
avoiding the kitchen, where his mother sat knitting by the fireside,
strode up to the vicarage.
It was Rosa who opened the door to him. On recognizing him she started,
and he followed her into the dining-room. He seated himself, and began,
'I've coom, Miss Rosa, t' speak t' Mr. Blencarn.'
Then added, eyeing her closely:
'Ye're lookin' sick, lass.'
Her faint smile accentuated the worn, white look on her face.
'I reckon ye've been frettin' yeself,' he continued gently, 'leein'
awake o' nights, hev'n't yee, noo?'
She smiled vaguely.
'Well, but ye see I've coom t' settle t' whole business for ye. Ye
thought mabbe that I was na a man o' my word.'
'No, no, not that,' she protested, 'but—but—'
'But what then?'
'Ye must not do it, Mr. Garstin … I must just bear my own trouble the
best I can—' she broke out.
'D'ye fancy I'm takin' ye oot of charity? Ye little reckon the sort o'
stuff my love for ye's made of. Nay, Miss Rosa, but ye canna draw back
'But ye cannot do it, Mr. Garstin. Ye know your mother will na have me at
Hootsey…. I could na live there with your mother…. I'd sooner bear
my trouble alone, as best I can…. She's that stern is Mrs. Garstin. I
couldn't look her in the face…. I can go away somewhere…. I could
keep it all from uncle.'
Her colour came and went: she stood before him, looking away from him,
dully, out of the window.
'I intend ye t' coom t' Hootsey. I'm na lad: I reckon I can choose my
own wife. Mother'll hev ye at t' farm, right enough: ye need na distress
yeself on that point—'
'Nay, Mr. Garstin, but indeed she will not, never… I know she will
not… She always set herself against me, right from the first.'
'Ay, but that was different. T' case is all changed noo,' he objected
'She'll support the sight of me all the less,' the girl faltered.
'Mother'll hev ye at Hootsey—receive ye willin' of her own free
wish—of her own free wish, d'ye hear? I'll answer for that.'
He struck the table with his fist heavily. His tone of determination
awed her: she glanced at him hurriedly, struggling with her
'I knaw hoo t' manage mother. An' now,' he concluded, changing his tone,
'is yer uncle about t' place?'
'He's up the paddock, I think,' she answered.
'Well, I'll jest step oop and hev a word wi' him.'
'Ye're … ye will na tell him.'
'Tut, tut, na harrowin' tales, ye need na fear, lass. I reckon ef I can
tackle mother, I can accommodate myself t' parson Blencarn.'
He rose, and coming close to her, scanned her face.
'Ye must git t' roses back t' yer cheeks,' he exclaimed, with a short
laugh, 'I canna be takin' a ghost t' church.'
She smiled tremulously, and he continued, laying one hand affectionately
on her shoulder:
'Nay, but I was but jestin'. Roses or na roses, ye'll be t' bonniest
bride in all Coomberland. I'll meet ye in Hullam lane, after church
time, tomorrow,' he added, moving towards the door.
After he had gone, she hurried to the backdoor furtively. His retreating
figure was already mounting the grey upland field. Presently, beyond
him, she perceived her uncle, emerging through the paddock gate. She ran
across the poultry yard, and mounting a tub, stood watching the two
figures as they moved towards one another along the brow, Anthony
vigorously trudging, with his hands thrust deep in his pockets; her
uncle, his wideawake tilted over his nose, hobbling, and leaning stiffly
on his pair of sticks. They met; she saw Anthony take her uncle's arm:
the two, turning together, strolled away towards the fell.
She went back into the house. Anthony's dog came towards her, slinking
along the passage. She caught the animal's head in her hands, and bent
over it caressingly, in an impulsive outburst of almost hysterical
The two men returned towards the vicarage. At the paddock gate they
halted, and the old man concluded:
'I could not have wished a better man for her, Anthony. Mabbe the
Lord'll not be minded to spare me much longer. After I'm gone Rosa'll
hev all I possess. She was my poor brother Isaac's only child. After her
mother was taken, he, poor fellow, went altogether to the bad, and until
she came here she mostly lived among strangers. It's been a wretched
sort of childhood for her—a wretched sort of childhood. Ye'll take care
of her, Anthony, will ye not? … Nay, but I could not hev wished for a
better man for her, and there's my hand on 't.'
'Thank ee, Mr. Blencarn, thank ee,' Anthony answered huskily, gripping
the old man's hand.
And he started off down the lane homewards.
His heart was full of a strange, rugged exaltation. He felt with a
swelling pride that God had entrusted to him this great charge—to tend
her; to make up to her, tenfold, for all that loving care, which, in her
childhood, she had never known. And together with a stubborn confidence
in himself, there welled up within him a great pity for her—a tender
pity, that, chastening with his passion, made her seem to him, as he
brooded over that lonely childhood of hers, the more distinctly
beautiful, the more profoundly precious. He pictured to himself,
tremulously, almost incredulously, their married life—in the winter,
his return home at nightfall to find her awaiting him with a glad,
trustful smile; their evenings, passed together, sitting in silent
happiness over the smouldering logs; or, in summer-time, the midday rest
in the hay-fields when, wearing perhaps a large-brimmed hat fastened
with a red ribbon, beneath her chin, he would catch sight of her,
carrying his dinner, coming across the upland.
She had not been brought up to be a farmer's wife: she was but a child
still, as the old parson had said. She should not have to work as other
men's wives worked: she should dress like a lady, and on Sundays, in
church, wear fine bonnets, and remain, as she had always been, the belle
of all the parish.
And, meanwhile, he would farm as he had never farmed before,
watching his opportunities, driving cunning bargains, spending
nothing on himself, hoarding every penny that she might have what
she wanted…. And, as he strode through the village, he seemed to
foresee a general brightening of prospects, a sobering of the fever
of speculation in sheep, a cessation of the insensate glutting, year
after year, of the great winter marts throughout the North, a slackening
of the foreign competition followed by a steady revival of the price
of fatted stocks—a period of prosperity in store for the farmer at
last…. And the future years appeared to open out before him, spread
like a distant, glittering plain, across which, he and she, hand in
hand, were called to travel together….
And then, suddenly, as his iron-bound boots clattered over the cobbled
yard, he remembered, with brutal determination, his mother, and the
stormy struggle that awaited him.
He waited till supper was over, till his mother had moved from the table
to her place by the chimney corner. For several minutes he remained
debating with himself the best method of breaking the news to her. Of a
sudden he glanced up at her: her knitting had slipped on to her lap: she
was sitting, bunched of a heap in her chair, nodding with sleep. By the
flickering light of the wood fire, she looked worn and broken: he felt a
twinge of clumsy compunction. And then he remembered the piteous, hunted
look in the girl's eyes, and the old man's words when they had parted at
the paddock gate, and he blurted out:
'I doot but what I'll hev t' marry Rosa Blencarn after all.'
She started, and blinking her eyes, said:
'I was jest takin' a wink o' sleep. What was 't ye were saying, Tony?'
He hesitated a moment, puckering his forehead into coarse rugged lines,
and fidgeting noisily with his tea-cup. Presently he repeated:
'I doot but what I'll hev t' marry Rosa Blencarn after all.'
She rose stiffly, and stepping down from the hearth, came towards him.
'Mabbe I did na hear ye aright, Tony.' She spoke hurriedly, and though
she was quite close to him, steadying herself with one hand clutching
the back of his chair, her voice sounded weak, distant almost.
'Look oop at me. Look oop into my face,' she commanded fiercely.
He obeyed sullenly.
'Noo oot wi 't. What's yer meanin', Tony?'
'I mean what I say,' he retorted doggedly, averting his gaze.
'What d'ye mean by sayin' that ye've got t' marry her?'
'I tell yer I mean what I say,' he repeated dully.
'Ye mean ye've bin an' put t' girl in trouble?'
He said nothing; but sat staring stupidly at the floor.
'Look oop at me, and answer,' she commanded, gripping his shoulder and
He raised his face slowly, and met her glance.
'Ay, that's aboot it,' he answered.
'This'll na be truth. It'll be jest a piece o' wanton trickery!' she
'Nay, but't is truth,' he answered deliberately.
'Ye will na swear t' it?' she persisted.
'I see na necessity for swearin'.'
'Then ye canna swear t' it,' she burst out triumphantly.
He paused an instant; then said quietly:
'Ay, but I'll swear t' it easy enough. Fetch t' Book.'
She lifted the heavy, tattered Bible from the chimney-piece, and placed
it before him on the table. He laid his lumpish fist on it.
'Say,' she continued with a tense tremulousness, 'say, I swear t' ye,
mother, that 't is t' truth, t' whole truth, and noat but t' truth,
s'help me God.'
'I swear t' ye, mother, it's truth, t' whole truth, and nothin' but t'
truth, s'help me God,' he repeated after her.
'Kiss t' Book,' she ordered.
He lifted the Bible to his lips. As he replaced it on the table, he
burst out into a short laugh:
'Be ye satisfied noo?'
She went back to the chimney corner without a word. The logs on the
hearth hissed and crackled. Outside, amid the blackness the wind was
rising, hooting through the firs, and past the windows.
After a long while he roused himself, and drawing his pipe from his
pocket almost steadily, proceeded leisurely to pare in the palm of his
hand a lump of black tobacco.
'We'll be asked in church Sunday,' he remarked bluntly.
She made no answer.
He looked across at her.
Her mouth was drawn tight at the corners: her face wore a queer, rigid
aspect. She looked, he thought, like a figure of stone.
'Ye're not feeling poorly, are ye, mother?' he asked.
She shook her head grimly: then, hobbling out into the room, began to
speak in a shrill, tuneless voice.
'Ye talked at one time o' takin' a farm over Scarsdale way. But ye'd
best stop here. I'll no hinder ye. Ye can have t' large bedroom in t'
front, and I'll move ower to what used to be my brother Jake's room. Ye
knaw I've never had no opinion of t' girl, but I'll do what's right by
her, ef I break my sperrit in t' doin' on't. I'll mak' t' girl welcome
here: I'll stand by her proper-like: mebbe I'll finish by findin' soom
good in her. But from this day forward, Tony, ye're na son o' mine. Ye've
dishonoured yeself: ye've laid a trap for me—ay, laid a trap, that's t'
word. Ye've brought shame and bitterness on yer ould mother in her ould
age. Ye've made me despise t' varra sect o' ye. Ye can stop on here, but
ye shall niver touch a penny of my money; every shillin' of 't shall go
t' yer child, or to your child's children. Ay,' she went on, raising her
voice, 'ay, ye've got yer way at last, and mebbe ye reckon ye've chosen a
mighty smart way. But time 'ull coom when ye'll regret this day, when ye
eat oot yer repentance in doost an' ashes. Ay, Lord 'ull punish ye, Tony,
chastize ye properly. Ye'll learn that marriage begun in sin can end in
nought but sin. Ay,' she concluded, as she reached the door, raising her
skinny hand prophetically, 'ay, after I'm deed and gone, ye mind ye o' t'
words o' t' apostle—"For them that hev sinned without t' law, shall also
perish without t' law."'
And she slammed the door behind her.
A LITTLE GREY GLOVE
By George Egerton (Mary Chavelita [Dunne] Bright)
(Keynotes, London: Elkin Mathews and John Lane, Vigo Street, 1893)
The book of life begins with a man and woman in a garden and ends—with
Yes, most fellows' book of life may be said to begin at the chapter
where woman comes in; mine did. She came in years ago, when I was a raw
undergraduate. With the sober thought of retrospective analysis, I may
say she was not all my fancy painted her; indeed now that I come to
think of it there was no fancy about the vermeil of her cheeks, rather
an artificial reality; she had her bower in the bar of the Golden Boar,
and I was madly in love with her, seriously intent on lawful wedlock.
Luckily for me she threw me over for a neighbouring pork butcher, but at
the time I took it hardly, and it made me sex-shy. I was a very poor man
in those days. One feels one's griefs more keenly then, one hasn't the
wherewithal to buy distraction. Besides, ladies snubbed me rather, on
the rare occasions I met them. Later I fell in for a legacy, the
forerunner of several; indeed, I may say I am beastly rich. My tastes
are simple too, and I haven't any poor relations. I believe they are of
great assistance in getting rid of superfluous capital, wish I had some!
It was after the legacy that women discovered my attractions. They found
that there was something superb in my plainness (before, they said
ugliness), something after the style of the late Victor Emanuel,
something infinitely more striking than mere ordinary beauty. At least
so Harding told me his sister said, and she had the reputation of being
a clever girl. Being an only child, I never had the opportunity other
fellows had of studying the undress side of women through familiar
intercourse, say with sisters. Their most ordinary belongings were
sacred to me. I had, I used to be told, ridiculous high-flown notions
about them (by the way I modified those considerably on closer
acquaintance). I ought to study them, nothing like a woman for
developing a fellow. So I laid in a stock of books in different
languages, mostly novels, in which women played title roles, in order to
get up some definite data before venturing amongst them. I can't say I
derived much benefit from this course. There seemed to be as great a
diversity of opinion about the female species as, let us say, about the
My friend Ponsonby Smith, who is one of the oldest fly-fishers in the
three kingdoms, said to me once: Take my word for it, there are only
four true salmo; the salar, the trutta, the fario, the ferox; all the
rest are just varieties, subgenuses of the above; stick to that. Some
writing fellow divided all the women into good-uns and bad-uns. But as a
conscientious stickler for truth, I must say that both in trout as in
women, I have found myself faced with most puzzling varieties, that were
a tantalizing blending of several qualities. I then resolved to study
them on my own account. I pursued the Eternal Feminine in a spirit of
purely scientific investigation. I knew you'd laugh sceptically at that,
but it's a fact. I was impartial in my selection of subjects for
observation—French, German, Spanish, as well as the home product.
Nothing in petticoats escaped me. I devoted myself to the freshest
ingenue as well as the experienced widow of three departed; and I may
as well confess that the more I saw of her, the less I understood her.
But I think they understood me. They refused to take me au sérieux.
When they weren't fleecing me, they were interested in the state of my
soul (I preferred the former), but all humbugged me equally, so I gave
them up. I took to rod and gun instead, pro salute animae; it's
decidedly safer. I have scoured every country in the globe; indeed I can
say that I have shot and fished in woods and waters where no other white
man, perhaps ever dropped a beast or played a fish before. There is no
life like the life of a free wanderer, and no lore like the lore one
gleans in the great book of nature. But one must have freed one's spirit
from the taint of the town before one can even read the alphabet of its
What has this to do with the glove? True, not much, and yet it has a
connection—it accounts for me.
Well, for twelve years I have followed the impulses of the wandering
spirit that dwells in me. I have seen the sun rise in Finland and gild
the Devil's Knuckles as he sank behind the Drachensberg. I have caught
the barba and the gamer yellow fish in the Vaal river, taken muskelunge
and black-bass in Canada, thrown a fly over guapote and cavallo in
Central American lakes, and choked the monster eels of the Mauritius
with a cunningly faked-up duckling. But I have been shy as a chub at the
shadow of a woman.
Well, it happened last year I came back on business—another confounded
legacy; end of June too, just as I was off to Finland. But Messrs.
Thimble and Rigg, the highly respectable firm who look after my affairs,
represented that I owed it to others, whom I kept out of their share of
the legacy, to stay near town till affairs were wound up. They told me,
with a view to reconcile me perhaps, of a trout stream with a decent inn
near it; an unknown stream in Kent. It seems a junior member of the firm
is an angler, at least he sometimes catches pike or perch in the Medway
some way from the stream where the trout rise in audacious security from
artificial lures. I stipulated for a clerk to come down with any papers
to be signed, and started at once for Victoria. I decline to tell the
name of my find, firstly because the trout are the gamest little fish
that ever rose to fly and run to a good two pounds. Secondly, I have
paid for all the rooms in the inn for the next year, and I want it to
myself. The glove is lying on the table next me as I write. If it isn't
in my breast-pocket or under my pillow, it is in some place where I can
see it. It has a delicate grey body (suède, I think they call it) with a
whipping of silver round the top, and a darker grey silk tag to fasten
it. It is marked 5-3/4 inside, and has a delicious scent about it, to
keep off moths, I suppose; naphthaline is better. It reminds me of a
'silver-sedge' tied on a ten hook. I startled the good landlady of the
little inn (there is no village fortunately) when I arrived with the
only porter of the tiny station laden with traps. She hesitated about a
private sitting-room, but eventually we compromised matters, as I was
willing to share it with the other visitor. I got into knickerbockers at
once, collared a boy to get me worms and minnow for the morrow, and as I
felt too lazy to unpack tackle, just sat in the shiny armchair (made
comfortable by the successive sitting of former occupants) at the open
window and looked out. The river, not the trout stream, winds to the
right, and the trees cast trembling shadows into its clear depths. The
red tiles of a farm roof show between the beeches, and break the
monotony of blue sky background. A dusty waggoner is slaking his thirst
with a tankard of ale. I am conscious of the strange lonely feeling that
a visit to England always gives me. Away in strange lands, even in
solitary places, one doesn't feel it somehow. One is filled with the
hunter's lust, bent on a 'kill', but at home in the quiet country, with
the smoke curling up from some fireside, the mowers busy laying the hay
in swaths, the children tumbling under the trees in the orchards, and a
girl singing as she spreads the clothes on the sweetbriar hedge, amidst
a scene quick with home sights and sounds, a strange lack creeps in and
makes itself felt in a dull, aching way. Oddly enough, too, I had a
sense of uneasiness, a 'something going to happen'. I had often
experienced it when out alone in a great forest, or on an unknown lake,
and it always meant 'ware danger' of some kind. But why should I feel it
here? Yet I did, and I couldn't shake it off. I took to examining the
room. It was a commonplace one of the usual type. But there was a
work-basket on the table, a dainty thing, lined with blue satin. There
was a bit of lace stretched over shiny blue linen, with the needle
sticking in it; such fairy work, like cobwebs seen from below, spun from
a branch against a background of sky. A gold thimble, too, with
initials, not the landlady's, I know. What pretty things, too, in the
basket! A scissors, a capital shape for fly-making; a little file, and
some floss silk and tinsel, the identical colour I want for a new fly I
have in my head, one that will be a demon to kill. The northern devil I
mean to call him. Some one looks in behind me, and a light step passes
upstairs. I drop the basket, I don't know why. There are some reviews
near it. I take up one, and am soon buried in an article on Tasmanian
fauna. It is strange, but whenever I do know anything about a subject,
I always find these writing fellows either entirely ignorant or damned
After supper, I took a stroll to see the river. It was a silver grey
evening, with just the last lemon and pink streaks of the sunset
staining the sky. There had been a shower, and somehow the smell of the
dust after rain mingled with the mignonette in the garden brought back
vanished scenes of small-boyhood, when I caught minnows in a bottle, and
dreamt of a shilling rod as happiness unattainable. I turned aside from
the road in accordance with directions, and walked towards the stream.
Holloa! someone before me, what a bore! The angler is hidden by an
elder-bush, but I can see the fly drop delicately, artistically on the
water. Fishing upstream, too! There is a bit of broken water there, and
the midges dance in myriads; a silver gleam, and the line spins out, and
the fly falls just in the right place. It is growing dusk, but the
fellow is an adept at quick, fine casting—I wonder what fly he has
on—why, he's going to try downstream now? I hurry forward, and as I
near him, I swerve to the left out of the way. S-s-s-s! a sudden sting
in the lobe of my ear. Hey! I cry as I find I am caught; the tail fly is
fast in it. A slight, grey-clad woman holding the rod lays it carefully
down and comes towards me through the gathering dusk. My first impulse
is to snap the gut and take to my heels, but I am held by something less
tangible but far more powerful than the grip of the Limerick hook in my
'I am very sorry!' she says in a voice that matched the evening, it was
so quiet and soft; 'but it was exceedingly stupid of you to come behind
'I didn't think you threw such a long line; I thought I was safe,' I
'Hold this!' she says, giving me a diminutive fly-book, out of which she
has taken a scissors. I obey meekly. She snips the gut.
'Have you a sharp knife? If I strip the hook you can push it through; it
is lucky it isn't in the cartilage.'
I suppose I am an awful idiot, but I only handed her the knife, and she
proceeded as calmly as if stripping a hook in a man's ear were an
everyday occurrence. Her gown is of some soft grey stuff, and her grey
leather belt is silver clasped. Her hands are soft and cool and steady,
but there is a rarely disturbing thrill in their gentle touch. The
thought flashed through my mind that I had just missed that, a woman's
voluntary tender touch, not a paid caress, all my life.
'Now you can push it through yourself. I hope it won't hurt much.'
Taking the hook, I push it through, and a drop of blood follows it.
'Oh!' she cries, but I assure her it is nothing, and stick the hook
surreptitiously in my coat sleeve. Then we both laugh, and I look at her
for the first time. She has a very white forehead, with little tendrils
of hair blowing round it under her grey cap, her eyes are grey. I didn't
see that then, I only saw they were steady, smiling eyes that matched
her mouth. Such a mouth, the most maddening mouth a man ever longed to
kiss, above a too-pointed chin, soft as a child's; indeed, the whole
face looks soft in the misty light.
'I am sorry I spoilt your sport!' I say.
'Oh, that don't matter, it's time to stop. I got two brace, one a
She is winding in her line, and I look in her basket; they are
beauties, one two-pounder, the rest running from a half to a pound.
'Yellow dun took that one, but your assailant was a partridge spider.' I
sling her basket over my shoulder; she takes it as a matter of course,
and we retrace our steps. I feel curiously happy as we walk towards the
road; there is a novel delight in her nearness; the feel of woman works
subtly and strangely in me; the rustle of her skirt as it brushes the
black-heads in the meadow-grass, and the delicate perfume, partly
violets, partly herself, that comes to me with each of her movements is
a rare pleasure. I am hardly surprised when she turns into the garden of
the inn, I think I knew from the first that she would.
'Better bathe that ear of yours, and put a few drops of carbolic in the
water.' She takes the basket as she says it, and goes into the kitchen.
I hurry over this, and go into the little sitting-room. There is a tray
with a glass of milk and some oaten cakes upon the table. I am too
disturbed to sit down; I stand at the window and watch the bats flitter
in the gathering moonlight, and listen with quivering nerves for her
step—perhaps she will send for the tray, and not come after all. What a
fool I am to be disturbed by a grey-clad witch with a tantalizing mouth!
That comes of loafing about doing nothing. I mentally darn the old fool
who saved her money instead of spending it. Why the devil should I be
bothered? I don't want it anyhow. She comes in as I fume, and I forget
everything at her entrance. I push the armchair towards the table, and
she sinks quietly into it, pulling the tray nearer. She has a wedding
ring on, but somehow it never strikes me to wonder if she is married or
a widow or who she may be. I am content to watch her break her biscuits.
She has the prettiest hands, and a trick of separating her last fingers
when she takes hold of anything. They remind me of white orchids I saw
somewhere. She led me to talk; about Africa, I think. I liked to watch
her eyes glow deeply in the shadow and then catch light as she bent
forward to say something in her quick responsive way.
'Long ago when I was a girl,' she said once.
'Long ago?' I echo incredulously, 'surely not?'
'Ah, but yes, you haven't seen me in the daylight,' with a soft little
laugh. 'Do you know what the gipsies say? "Never judge a woman or a
ribbon by candle-light." They might have said moonlight equally well.'
She rises as she speaks, and I feel an overpowering wish to have her put
out her hand. But she does not, she only takes the work-basket and a
book, and says good night with an inclination of her little head.
I go over and stand next to her chair; I don't like to sit in it, but I
like to put my hand where her head leant, and fancy, if she were there,
how she would look up.
I woke next morning with a curious sense of pleasurable excitement. I
whistled from very lightness of heart as I dressed. When I got down I
found the landlady clearing away her breakfast things. I felt
disappointed and resolved to be down earlier in future. I didn't feel
inclined to try the minnow. I put them in a tub in the yard and tried to
read and listen for her step. I dined alone. The day dragged terribly. I
did not like to ask about her, I had a notion she might not like it. I
spent the evening on the river. I might have filled a good basket, but I
let the beggars rest. After all, I had caught fish enough to stock all
the rivers in Great Britain. There are other things than trout in the
world. I sit and smoke a pipe where she caught me last night. If I half
close my eyes I can see hers, and her mouth, in the smoke. That is one
of the curious charms of baccy, it helps to reproduce brain pictures.
After a bit, I think 'perhaps she has left'. I get quite feverish at the
thought and hasten back. I must ask. I look up at the window as I pass;
there is surely a gleam of white. I throw down my traps and hasten up.
She is leaning with her arms on the window-ledge staring out into the
gloom. I could swear I caught a suppressed sob as I entered. I cough,
and she turns quickly and bows slightly. A bonnet and gloves and lace
affair and a lot of papers are lying on the table. I am awfully afraid
she is going. I say—
'Please don't let me drive you away, it is so early yet. I half expected
to see you on the river.'
'Nothing so pleasant; I have been up in town (the tears have certainly
got into her voice) all day; it was so hot and dusty, I am tired out.'
The little servant brings in the lamp and a tray with a bottle of
'Mistress hasn't any lemons, 'm, will this do?'
'Yes,' she says wearily, she is shading her eyes with her hand;
'anything; I am fearfully thirsty.'
'Let me concoct you a drink instead. I have lemons and ice and things.
My man sent me down supplies today; I leave him in town. I am rather a
dab at drinks; I learnt it from the Yankees; about the only thing I did
learn from them I care to remember. Susan!' The little maid helps me to
get the materials, and she watches me quietly. When I give it to her
she takes it with a smile (she has been crying). That is an ample
thank you. She looks quite old. Something more than tiredness called up
those lines in her face.
* * * * *
Well, ten days passed, sometimes we met at breakfast, sometimes at
supper, sometimes we fished together or sat in the straggling orchard
and talked; she neither avoided me nor sought me. She is the most
charming mixture of child and woman I ever met. She is a dual creature.
Now I never met that in a man. When she is here without getting a letter
in the morning or going to town, she seems like a girl. She runs about
in her grey gown and little cap and laughs, and seems to throw off all
thought like an irresponsible child. She is eager to fish, or pick
gooseberries and eat them daintily, or sit under the trees and talk. But
when she goes to town—I notice she always goes when she gets a lawyer's
letter, there is no mistaking the envelope—she comes home tired and
haggard-looking, an old woman of thirty-five. I wonder why. It takes
her, even with her elasticity of temperament, nearly a day to get young
again. I hate her to go to town; it is extraordinary how I miss her; I
can't recall, when she is absent, her saying anything very wonderful,
but she converses all the time. She has a gracious way of filling the
place with herself, there is an entertaining quality in her very
presence. We had one rainy afternoon; she tied me some flies (I shan't
use any of them); I watched the lights in her hair as she moved, it is
quite golden in some places, and she has a tiny mole near her left ear
and another on her left wrist. On the eleventh day she got a letter but
she didn't go to town, she stayed up in her room all day; twenty times I
felt inclined to send her a line, but I had no excuse. I heard the
landlady say as I passed the kitchen window: 'Poor dear! I'm sorry to
lose her!' Lose her? I should think not. It has come to this with me
that I don't care to face any future without her; and yet I know nothing
about her, not even if she is a free woman. I shall find that out the
next time I see her. In the evening I catch a glimpse of her gown in the
orchard, and I follow her. We sit down near the river. Her left hand is
lying gloveless next to me in the grass.
'Do you think from what you have seen of me, that I would ask a question
out of any mere impertinent curiosity?'
She starts. 'No, I do not!'
I take up her hand and touch the ring. 'Tell me, does this bind you to
I am conscious of a buzzing in my ears and a dancing blurr of water and
sky and trees, as I wait (it seems to me an hour) for her reply. I felt
the same sensation once before, when I got drawn into some rapids and
had an awfully narrow shave, but of that another time.
The voice is shaking.
'I am not legally bound to anyone, at least; but why do you ask?' she
looks me square in the face as she speaks, with a touch of haughtiness
I never saw in her before.
Perhaps the great relief I feel, the sense of joy at knowing she is
free, speaks out of my face, for hers flushes and she drops her eyes,
her lips tremble. I don't look at her again, but I can see her all the
same. After a while she says—
'I half intended to tell you something about myself this evening, now I
must. Let us go in. I shall come down to the sitting-room after your
supper.' She takes a long look at the river and the inn, as if fixing
the place in her memory; it strikes me with a chill that there is a
goodbye in her gaze. Her eyes rest on me a moment as they come back,
there is a sad look in their grey clearness. She swings her little grey
gloves in her hand as we walk back. I can hear her walking up and down
overhead; how tired she will be, and how slowly the time goes. I am
standing at one side of the window when she enters; she stands at the
other, leaning her head against the shutter with her hands clasped
before her. I can hear my own heart beating, and, I fancy, hers through
the stillness. The suspense is fearful. At length she says—
'You have been a long time out of England; you don't read the papers?'
'No.' A pause. I believe my heart is beating inside my head.
'You asked me if I was a free woman. I don't pretend to misunderstand
why you asked me. I am not a beautiful woman, I never was. But there
must be something about me, there is in some women, "essential
femininity" perhaps, that appeals to all men. What I read in your eyes
I have seen in many men's before, but before God I never tried to rouse
it. Today (with a sob), I can say I am free, yesterday morning I could
not. Yesterday my husband gained his case and divorced me!' she closes
her eyes and draws in her under-lip to stop its quivering. I want to
take her in my arms, but I am afraid to.
'I did not ask you any more than if you were free!'
'No, but I am afraid you don't quite take in the meaning. I did not
divorce my husband, he divorced me, he got a decree nisi; do you
understand now? (she is speaking with difficulty), do you know what that
I can't stand her face any longer. I take her hands, they are icy cold,
and hold them tightly.
'Yes, I know what it implies, that is, I know the legal and social
conclusion to be drawn from it—if that is what you mean. But I never
asked you for that information. I have nothing to do with your past. You
did not exist for me before the day we met on the river. I take you from
that day and I ask you to marry me.'
I feel her tremble and her hands get suddenly warm. She turns her head
and looks at me long and searchingly, then she says—
'Sit down, I want to say something!'
I obey, and she comes and stands next the chair. I can't help it, I
reach up my arm, but she puts it gently down.
'No, you must listen without touching me, I shall go back to the
window. I don't want to influence you a bit by any personal magnetism
I possess. I want you to listen—I have told you he divorced me, the
co-respondent was an old friend, a friend of my childhood, of my
girlhood. He died just after the first application was made, luckily for
me. He would have considered my honour before my happiness. I did not
defend the case, it wasn't likely—ah, if you knew all? He proved his
case; given clever counsel, willing witnesses to whom you make it worth
while, and no defence, divorce is always attainable even in England. But
remember: I figure as an adulteress in every English-speaking paper. If
you buy last week's evening papers—do you remember the day I was in
town?'—I nod—'you will see a sketch of me in that day's; someone,
perhaps he, must have given it; it was from an old photograph. I bought
one at Victoria as I came out; it is funny (with an hysterical laugh) to
buy a caricature of one's own poor face at a news-stall. Yet in spite of
that I have felt glad. The point for you is that I made no defence to
the world, and (with a lifting of her head) I will make no apology, no
explanation, no denial to you, now nor ever. I am very desolate and your
attention came very warm to me, but I don't love you. Perhaps I could
learn to (with a rush of colour), for what you have said tonight, and it
is because of that I tell you to weigh what this means. Later, when your
care for me will grow into habit, you may chafe at my past. It is from
that I would save you.'
I hold out my hands and she comes and puts them aside and takes me by
the beard and turns up my face and scans it earnestly. She must have
been deceived a good deal. I let her do as she pleases, it is the wisest
way with women, and it is good to have her touch me in that way. She
seems satisfied. She stands leaning against the arm of the chair and
'I must learn first to think of myself as a free woman again, it almost
seems wrong today to talk like this; can you understand that feeling?'
I nod assent.
'Next time I must be sure, and you must be sure,' she lays her fingers
on my mouth as I am about to protest, 'S-sh! You shall have a year to
think. If you repeat then what you have said today, I shall give you
your answer. You must not try to find me. I have money. If I am living,
I will come here to you. If I am dead, you will be told of it. In the
year between I shall look upon myself as belonging to you, and render an
account if you wish of every hour. You will not be influenced by me in
any way, and you will be able to reason it out calmly. If you think
better of it, don't come.'
I feel there would be no use trying to move her, I simply kiss her hands
'As you will, dear woman, I shall be here.'
We don't say any more; she sits down on a footstool with her head
against my knee, and I just smooth it. When the clocks strike ten
through the house, she rises and I stand up. I see that she has been
crying quietly, poor lonely little soul. I lift her off her feet and
kiss her, and stammer out my sorrow at losing her, and she is gone. Next
morning the little maid brought me an envelope from the lady, who left
by the first train. It held a little grey glove; that is why I carry it
always, and why I haunt the inn and never leave it for longer than a
week; why I sit and dream in the old chair that has a ghost of her
presence always; dream of the spring to come with the May-fly on the
wing, and the young summer when midges dance, and the trout are growing
fastidious; when she will come to me across the meadow grass, through
the silver haze, as she did before; come with her grey eyes shining to
exchange herself for her little grey glove.
THE WOMAN BEATER
By Israel Zangwill
(The Grey Wig/Stories and Novelettes, New York: The Macmillan Company,
She came 'to meet John Lefolle', but John Lefolle did not know he was
to meet Winifred Glamorys. He did not even know he was himself the
meeting-point of all the brilliant and beautiful persons, assembled in
the publisher's Saturday Salon, for although a youthful minor poet, he
was modest and lovable. Perhaps his Oxford tutorship was sobering. At
any rate his head remained unturned by his precocious fame, and to meet
these other young men and women—his reverend seniors on the slopes of
Parnassus—gave him more pleasure than the receipt of 'royalties'. Not
that his publisher afforded him much opportunity of contrasting the two
pleasures. The profits of the Muse went to provide this room of old
furniture and roses, this beautiful garden a-twinkle with Japanese
lanterns, like gorgeous fire-flowers blossoming under the white
crescent-moon of early June.
Winifred Glamorys was not literary herself. She was better than a
poetess, she was a poem. The publisher always threw in a few realities,
and some beautiful brainless creature would generally be found the
nucleus of a crowd, while Clio in spectacles languished in a corner.
Winifred Glamorys, however, was reputed to have a tongue that matched
her eye; paralleling with whimsies and epigrams its freakish fires and
witcheries, and, assuredly, flitting in her white gown through the dark
balmy garden, she seemed the very spirit of moonlight, the subtle
incarnation of night and roses.
When John Lefolle met her, Cecilia was with her, and the first
conversation was triangular. Cecilia fired most of the shots; she was
a bouncing, rattling beauty, chockful of confidence and high spirits,
except when asked to do the one thing she could do—sing! Then she
became—quite genuinely—a nervous, hesitant, pale little thing.
However, the suppliant hostess bore her off, and presently her rich
contralto notes passed through the garden, adding to its passion and
mystery, and through the open French windows, John could see her
standing against the wall near the piano, her head thrown back, her eyes
half-closed, her creamy throat swelling in the very abandonment of
'What a charming creature!' he exclaimed involuntarily.
'That is what everybody thinks, except her husband,' Winifred laughed.
'Is he blind then?' asked John with his cloistral naïveté.
'Blind? No, love is blind. Marriage is never blind.'
The bitterness in her tone pierced John. He felt vaguely the passing of
some icy current from unknown seas of experience. Cecilia's voice soared
'Then, marriage must be deaf,' he said, 'or such music as that would
She smiled sadly. Her smile was the tricksy play of moonlight among
clouds of faëry.
'You have never been married,' she said simply.
'Do you mean that you, too, are neglected?' something impelled him to
'Worse,' she murmured.
'It is incredible!' he cried. 'You!'
'Hush! My husband will hear you.'
Her warning whisper brought him into a delicious conspiracy with her.
'Which is your husband?' he whispered back.
'There! Near the casement, standing gazing open-mouthed at Cecilia. He
always opens his mouth when she sings. It is like two toys moved by the
He looked at the tall, stalwart, ruddy-haired Anglo-Saxon. 'Do you mean
to say he—?'
'I mean to say nothing.'
'But you said—'
'I said "worse".'
'Why, what can be worse?'
She put her hand over her face. 'I am ashamed to tell you.' How adorable
was that half-divined blush!
'But you must tell me everything.' He scarcely knew how he had leapt
into this role of confessor. He only felt they were 'moved by the same
Her head drooped on her breast. 'He—beats—me.'
'What!' John forgot to whisper. It was the greatest shock his recluse
life had known, compact as it was of horror at the revelation, shamed
confusion at her candour, and delicious pleasure in her confidence.
This fragile, exquisite creature under the rod of a brutal bully!
Once he had gone to a wedding reception, and among the serious presents
some grinning Philistine drew his attention to an uncouth club—'a
wife-beater' he called it. The flippancy had jarred upon John terribly:
this intrusive reminder of the customs of the slums. It grated like
Billingsgate in a boudoir. Now that savage weapon recurred to him—for a
lurid instant he saw Winifred's husband wielding it. Oh, abomination of
his sex! And did he stand there, in his immaculate evening dress, posing
as an English gentleman? Even so might some gentleman burglar bear
through a salon his imperturbable swallow-tail.
Beat a woman! Beat that essence of charm and purity, God's best gift to
man, redeeming him from his own grossness! Could such things be? John
Lefolle would as soon have credited the French legend that English wives
are sold in Smithfield. No! it could not be real that this flower-like
figure was thrashed.
'Do you mean to say—?' he cried. The rapidity of her confidence alone
made him feel it all of a dreamlike unreality.
'Hush! Cecilia's singing!' she admonished him with an unexpected smile,
as her fingers fell from her face.
'Oh, you have been making fun of me.' He was vastly relieved. 'He beats
you—at chess—or at lawn-tennis?'
'Does one wear a high-necked dress to conceal the traces of chess, or
He had not noticed her dress before, save for its spiritual whiteness.
Susceptible though he was to beautiful shoulders, Winifred's enchanting
face had been sufficiently distracting. Now the thought of physical
bruises gave him a second spasm of righteous horror. That delicate
rose-leaf flesh abraded and lacerated!
'The ruffian! Does he use a stick or a fist?'
'Both! But as a rule he just takes me by the arms and shakes me like a
terrier a rat. I'm all black and blue now.'
'Poor butterfly!' he murmured poetically.
'Why did I tell you?' she murmured back with subtler poetry.
The poet thrilled in every vein. 'Love at first sight', of which he had
often read and often written, was then a reality! It could be as mutual,
too, as Romeo's and Juliet's. But how awkward that Juliet should be
married and her husband a Bill Sykes in broad-cloth!
Mrs. Glamorys herself gave 'At Homes', every Sunday afternoon, and so, on
the morrow, after a sleepless night mitigated by perpended sonnets, the
love-sick young tutor presented himself by invitation at the beautiful
old house in Hampstead. He was enchanted to find his heart's mistress
set in an eighteenth-century frame of small-paned windows and of high
oak-panelling, and at once began to image her dancing minuets and
playing on virginals. Her husband was absent, but a broad band of velvet
round Winifred's neck was a painful reminder of his possibilities.
Winifred, however, said it was only a touch of sore throat caught in the
garden. Her eyes added that there was nothing in the pathological
dictionary which she would not willingly have caught for the sake of
those divine, if draughty moments; but that, alas! it was more than a
mere bodily ailment she had caught there.
There were a great many visitors in the two delightfully quaint rooms,
among whom he wandered disconsolate and admired, jealous of her
scattered smiles, but presently he found himself seated by her side on
a 'cosy corner' near the open folding-doors, with all the other guests
huddled round a violinist in the inner room. How Winifred had managed it
he did not know but she sat plausibly in the outer room, awaiting
newcomers, and this particular niche was invisible, save to a determined
eye. He took her unresisting hand—that dear, warm hand, with its
begemmed artistic fingers, and held it in uneasy beatitude. How
wonderful! She—the beautiful and adored hostess, of whose sweetness and
charm he heard even her own guests murmur to one another—it was her
actual flesh-and-blood hand that lay in his—thrillingly tangible. Oh,
adventure beyond all merit, beyond all hoping!
But every now and then, the outer door facing them would open on some
newcomer, and John had hastily to release her soft magnetic fingers and
sit demure, and jealously overhear her effusive welcome to those
innocent intruders, nor did his brow clear till she had shepherded them
within the inner fold. Fortunately, the refreshments were in this
section, so that once therein, few of the sheep strayed back, and the
jiggling wail of the violin was succeeded by a shrill babble of tongues
and the clatter of cups and spoons. 'Get me an ice, please—strawberry,'
she ordered John during one of these forced intervals in manual
flirtation; and when he had steered laboriously to and fro, he found a
young actor beside her in his cosy corner, and his jealous fancy almost
saw their hands dispart. He stood over them with a sickly smile, while
Winifred ate her ice. When he returned from depositing the empty saucer,
the player-fellow was gone, and in remorse for his mad suspicion he
stooped and reverently lifted her fragrant finger-tips to his lips. The
door behind his back opened abruptly.
'Goodbye,' she said, rising in a flash. The words had the calm
conventional cadence, and instantly extorted from him—amid all his
dazedness—the corresponding 'Goodbye'. When he turned and saw it was Mr.
Glamorys who had come in, his heart leapt wildly at the nearness of his
escape. As he passed this masked ruffian, he nodded perfunctorily and
received a cordial smile. Yes, he was handsome and fascinating enough
externally, this blonde savage.
'A man may smile and smile and be a villain,' John thought. 'I wonder
how he'd feel, if he knew I knew he beats women.'
Already John had generalized the charge. 'I hope Cecilia will keep him
at arm's length,' he had said to Winifred, 'if only that she may not
smart for it some day.'
He lingered purposely in the hall to get an impression of the brute, who
had begun talking loudly to a friend with irritating bursts of laughter,
speciously frank-ringing. Golf, fishing, comic operas—ah, the Boeotian!
These were the men who monopolized the ethereal divinities.
But this brusque separation from his particular divinity was
disconcerting. How to see her again? He must go up to Oxford in the
morning, he wrote her that night, but if she could possibly let him
call during the week he would manage to run down again.
* * * * *
'Oh, my dear, dreaming poet,' she wrote to Oxford, 'how could you
possibly send me a letter to be laid on the breakfast-table beside The
Times! With a poem in it, too. Fortunately my husband was in a hurry to
get down to the City, and he neglected to read my correspondence. (The
unchivalrous blackguard,' John commented. 'But what can be expected of a
woman beater?') Never, never write to me again at the house. A letter,
care of Mrs. Best, 8A Foley Street, W.C., will always find me. She is my
maid's mother. And you must not come here either, my dear handsome
head-in-the-clouds, except to my 'At Homes', and then only at judicious
intervals. I shall be walking round the pond in Kensington Gardens at
four next Wednesday, unless Mrs. Best brings me a letter to the contrary.
And now thank you for your delicious poem; I do not recognize my humble
self in the dainty lines, but I shall always be proud to think I
inspired them. Will it be in the new volume? I have never been in print
before; it will be a novel sensation. I cannot pay you song for song,
only feeling for feeling. Oh, John Lefolle, why did we not meet when I
had still my girlish dreams? Now, I have grown to distrust all men—to
fear the brute beneath the cavalier….'
* * * * *
Mrs. Best did bring her a letter, but it was not to cancel the
appointment, only to say he was not surprised at her horror of the male
sex, but that she must beware of false generalizations. Life was still a
wonderful and beautiful thing—vide poem enclosed. He was counting the
minutes till Wednesday afternoon. It was surely a popular mistake that
only sixty went to the hour.
This chronometrical reflection recurred to him even more poignantly in
the hour that he circumambulated the pond in Kensington Gardens. Had she
forgotten—had her husband locked her up? What could have happened? It
seemed six hundred minutes, ere, at ten past five she came tripping
daintily towards him. His brain had been reduced to insanely devising
problems for his pupils—if a man walks two strides of one and a half
feet a second round a lake fifty acres in area, in how many turns will
he overtake a lady who walks half as fast and isn't there?—but the
moment her pink parasol loomed on the horizon, all his long misery
vanished in an ineffable peace and uplifting. He hurried, bare-headed,
to clasp her little gloved hand. He had forgotten her unpunctuality, nor
did she remind him of it.
'How sweet of you to come all that way,' was all she said, and it was a
sufficient reward for the hours in the train and the six hundred minutes
among the nursemaids and perambulators. The elms were in their glory,
the birds were singing briskly, the water sparkled, the sunlit sward
stretched fresh and green—it was the loveliest, coolest moment of the
afternoon. John instinctively turned down a leafy avenue. Nature and
Love! What more could poet ask?
'No, we can't have tea by the Kiosk,' Mrs. Glamorys protested. 'Of course
I love anything that savours of Paris, but it's become so fashionable.
There will be heaps of people who know me. I suppose you've forgotten
it's the height of the season. I know a quiet little place in the High
Street.' She led him, unresisting but bemused, towards the gate, and
into a confectioner's. Conversation languished on the way.
'Tea,' he was about to instruct the pretty attendant.
'Strawberry ices,' Mrs. Glamorys remarked gently. 'And some of those nice
The ice restored his spirits, it was really delicious, and he had got so
hot and tired, pacing round the pond. Decidedly Winifred was a practical
person and he was a dreamer. The pastry he dared not touch—being a
genius—but he was charmed at the gaiety with which Winifred crammed
cake after cake into her rosebud of a mouth. What an enchanting
creature! how bravely she covered up her life's tragedy!
The thought made him glance at her velvet band—it was broader than
'He has beaten you again!' he murmured furiously. Her joyous eyes
saddened, she hung her head, and her fingers crumbled the cake. 'What is
his pretext?' he asked, his blood burning.
'Jealousy,' she whispered.
His blood lost its glow, ran cold. He felt the bully's blows on his own
skin, his romance turning suddenly sordid. But he recovered his
courage. He, too, had muscles. 'But I thought he just missed seeing me
kiss your hand.'
She opened her eyes wide. 'It wasn't you, you darling old dreamer.'
He was relieved and disturbed in one.
'Somebody else?' he murmured. Somehow the vision of the player-fellow
She nodded. 'Isn't it lucky he has himself drawn a red-herring across
the track? I didn't mind his blows—you were safe!' Then, with one of
her adorable transitions, 'I am dreaming of another ice,' she cried with
'I was afraid to confess my own greediness,' he said, laughing. He
beckoned the waitress. 'Two more.'
'We haven't got any more strawberries,' was her unexpected reply.
'There's been such a run on them today.'
Winifred's face grew overcast. 'Oh, nonsense!' she pouted. To John the
moment seemed tragic.
'Won't you have another kind?' he queried. He himself liked any kind,
but he could scarcely eat a second ice without her.
Winifred meditated. 'Coffee?' she queried.
The waitress went away and returned with a face as gloomy as Winifred's.
'It's been such a hot day,' she said deprecatingly. 'There is only one
ice in the place and that's Neapolitan.'
'Well, bring two Neapolitans,' John ventured.
'I mean there is only one Neapolitan ice left.'
'Well, bring that. I don't really want one.'
He watched Mrs. Glamorys daintily devouring the solitary ice, and felt a
certain pathos about the parti-coloured oblong, a something of the
haunting sadness of 'The Last Rose of Summer'. It would make a graceful,
serio-comic triolet, he was thinking. But at the last spoonful, his
beautiful companion dislocated his rhymes by her sudden upspringing.
'Goodness gracious,' she cried, 'how late it is!'
'Oh, you're not leaving me yet!' he said. A world of things sprang to
his brain, things that he was going to say—to arrange. They had said
nothing—not a word of their love even; nothing but cakes and ices.
'Poet!' she laughed. 'Have you forgotten I live at Hampstead?' She
picked up her parasol.
'Put me into a hansom, or my husband will be raving at his lonely
He was so dazed as to be surprised when the waitress blocked his
departure with a bill. When Winifred was spirited away, he remembered
she might, without much risk, have given him a lift to Paddington. He
hailed another hansom and caught the next train to Oxford. But he was
too late for his own dinner in Hall.
He was kept very busy for the next few days, and could only exchange a
passionate letter or two with her. For some time the examination fever
had been raging, and in every college poor patients sat with wet towels
round their heads. Some, who had neglected their tutor all the term, now
strove to absorb his omniscience in a sitting.
On the Monday, John Lefolle was good-naturedly giving a special audience
to a muscular dunce, trying to explain to him the political effects of
the Crusades, when there was a knock at the sitting-room door, and the
scout ushered in Mrs. Glamorys. She was bewitchingly dressed in white,
and stood in the open doorway, smiling—an embodiment of the summer he
was neglecting. He rose, but his tongue was paralysed. The dunce became
suddenly important—a symbol of the decorum he had been outraging. His
soul, torn so abruptly from history to romance, could not get up the
right emotion. Why this imprudence of Winifred's? She had been so
'What a lot of boots there are on your staircase!' she said gaily.
He laughed. The spell was broken. 'Yes, the heap to be cleaned is rather
obtrusive,' he said, 'but I suppose it is a sort of tradition.'
'I think I've got hold of the thing pretty well now, sir.' The dunce
rose and smiled, and his tutor realized how little the dunce had to
learn in some things. He felt quite grateful to him.
'Oh, well, you'll come and see me again after lunch, won't you, if one
or two points occur to you for elucidation,' he said, feeling vaguely a
liar, and generally guilty. But when, on the departure of the dunce,
Winifred held out her arms, everything fell from him but the sense of
the exquisite moment. Their lips met for the first time, but only for an
instant. He had scarcely time to realize that this wonderful thing had
happened before the mobile creature had darted to his book-shelves and
was examining a Thucydides upside down.
'How clever to know Greek!' she exclaimed. 'And do you really talk it
with the other dons?'
'No, we never talk shop,' he laughed. 'But, Winifred, what made you come
'I had never seen Oxford. Isn't it beautiful?'
'There's nothing beautiful here,' he said, looking round his sober
'No,' she admitted; 'there's nothing I care for here,' and had left
another celestial kiss on his lips before he knew it. 'And now you must
take me to lunch and on the river.'
He stammered, 'I have—work.'
She pouted. 'But I can't stay beyond tomorrow morning, and I want so
much to see all your celebrated oarsmen practising.'
'You are not staying over the night?' he gasped.
'Yes, I am,' and she threw him a dazzling glance.
His heart went pit-a-pat. 'Where?' he murmured.
'Oh, some poky little hotel near the station. The swell hotels are
He was glad to hear she was not conspicuously quartered.
'So many people have come down already for Commem,' he said. 'I suppose
they are anxious to see the Generals get their degrees. But hadn't we
better go somewhere and lunch?'
They went down the stone staircase, past the battalion of boots, and
across the quad. He felt that all the windows were alive with eyes, but
she insisted on standing still and admiring their ivied picturesqueness.
After lunch he shamefacedly borrowed the dunce's punt. The necessities
of punting, which kept him far from her, and demanded much adroit
labour, gradually restored his self-respect, and he was able to look the
uncelebrated oarsmen they met in the eyes, except when they were
accompanied by their parents and sisters, which subtly made him feel
uncomfortable again. But Winifred, piquant under her pink parasol, was
singularly at ease, enraptured with the changing beauty of the river,
applauding with childish glee the wild flowers on the banks, or the
rippling reflections in the water.
'Look, look!' she cried once, pointing skyward. He stared upwards,
expecting a balloon at least. But it was only 'Keats' little rosy
cloud', she explained. It was not her fault if he did not find the
excursion unreservedly idyllic.
'How stupid,' she reflected, 'to keep all those nice boys cooped up
reading dead languages in a spot made for life and love.'
'I'm afraid they don't disturb the dead languages so much as you think,'
he reassured her, smiling. 'And there will be plenty of love-making
'I am so glad. I suppose there are lots of engagements that week.'
'Oh, yes—but not one per cent come to anything.'
'Really? Oh, how fickle men are!'
That seemed rather question-begging, but he was so thrilled by the
implicit revelation that she could not even imagine feminine
inconstancy, that he forebore to draw her attention to her inadequate
So childish and thoughtless indeed was she that day that nothing would
content her but attending a 'Viva', which he had incautiously informed
her was public.
'Nobody will notice us,' she urged with strange unconsciousness of her
loveliness. 'Besides, they don't know I'm not your sister.'
'The Oxford intellect is sceptical,' he said, laughing. 'It cultivates
But, putting a bold face on the matter, and assuming a fraternal air, he
took her to the torture-chamber, in which candidates sat dolefully on a
row of chairs against the wall, waiting their turn to come before the
three grand inquisitors at the table. Fortunately, Winifred and he were
the only spectators; but unfortunately they blundered in at the very
moment when the poor owner of the punt was on the rack. The central
inquisitor was trying to extract from him information about Becket,
almost prompting him with the very words, but without penetrating
through the duncical denseness. John Lefolle breathed more freely when
the Crusades were broached; but, alas, it very soon became evident that
the dunce had by no means 'got hold of the thing'. As the dunce passed
out sadly, obviously ploughed, John Lefolle suffered more than he. So
conscience-stricken was he that, when he had accompanied Winifred as
far as her hotel, he refused her invitation to come in, pleading the
compulsoriness of duty and dinner in Hall. But he could not get away
without promising to call in during the evening.
The prospect of this visit was with him all through dinner, at once
tempting and terrifying. Assuredly there was a skeleton at his feast, as
he sat at the high table, facing the Master. The venerable portraits
round the Hall seemed to rebuke his romantic waywardness. In the
common-room, he sipped his port uneasily, listening as in a daze to the
discussion on Free Will, which an eminent stranger had stirred up. How
academic it seemed, compared with the passionate realities of life. But
somehow he found himself lingering on at the academic discussion,
postponing the realities of life. Every now and again, he was impelled
to glance at his watch; but suddenly murmuring, 'It is very late,' he
pulled himself together, and took leave of his learned brethren. But in
the street the sight of a telegraph office drew his steps to it, and
almost mechanically he wrote out the message: 'Regret detained. Will
call early in morning.'
When he did call in the morning, he was told she had gone back to London
the night before on receipt of a telegram. He turned away with a bitter
pang of disappointment and regret.
Their subsequent correspondence was only the more amorous. The reason
she had fled from the hotel, she explained, was that she could not
endure the night in those stuffy quarters. He consoled himself with the
hope of seeing much of her during the Long Vacation. He did see her once
at her own reception, but this time her husband wandered about the two
rooms. The cosy corner was impossible, and they could only manage to
gasp out a few mutual endearments amid the buzz and movement, and to
arrange a rendezvous for the end of July. When the day came, he
received a heart-broken letter, stating that her husband had borne her
away to Goodwood. In a postscript she informed him that 'Quicksilver was
a sure thing'. Much correspondence passed without another meeting being
effected, and he lent her five pounds to pay a debt of honour incurred
through her husband's 'absurd confidence in Quicksilver'. A week later
this horsey husband of hers brought her on to Brighton for the races
there, and hither John Lefolle flew. But her husband shadowed her, and
he could only lift his hat to her as they passed each other on the
Lawns. Sometimes he saw her sitting pensively on a chair while her lord
and thrasher perused a pink sporting-paper. Such tantalizing proximity
raised their correspondence through the Hove Post Office to fever heat.
Life apart, they felt, was impossible, and, removed from the sobering
influences of his cap and gown, John Lefolle dreamed of throwing
everything to the winds. His literary reputation had opened out a new
career. The Winifred lyrics alone had brought in a tidy sum, and though
he had expended that and more on despatches of flowers and trifles to
her, yet he felt this extravagance would become extinguished under daily
companionship, and the poems provoked by her charms would go far towards
their daily maintenance. Yes, he could throw up the University. He would
rescue her from this bully, this gentleman bruiser. They would live
openly and nobly in the world's eye. A poet was not even expected to be
She, on her side, was no less ardent for the great step. She raged
against the world's law, the injustice by which a husband's cruelty was
not sufficient ground for divorce. 'But we finer souls must take the law
into our own hands,' she wrote. 'We must teach society that the ethics
of a barbarous age are unfitted for our century of enlightenment.' But
somehow the actual time and place of the elopement could never get
itself fixed. In September her husband dragged her to Scotland, in
October after the pheasants. When the dramatic day was actually fixed,
Winifred wrote by the next post deferring it for a week. Even the few
actual preliminary meetings they planned for Kensington Gardens or
Hampstead Heath rarely came off. He lived in a whirling atmosphere of
express letters of excuse, and telegrams that transformed the situation
from hour to hour. Not that her passion in any way abated, or her
romantic resolution really altered: it was only that her conception of
time and place and ways and means was dizzily mutable.
But after nigh six months of palpitating negotiations with the adorable
Mrs. Glamorys, the poet, in a moment of dejection, penned the prose
apophthegm, 'It is of no use trying to change a changeable person.'
But at last she astonished him by a sketch plan of the elopement, so
detailed, even to band-boxes and the Paris night route via Dieppe,
that no further room for doubt was left in his intoxicated soul, and he
was actually further astonished when, just as he was putting his
hand-bag into the hansom, a telegram was handed to him saying: 'Gone to
Homburg. Letter follows.'
He stood still for a moment on the pavement in utter distraction. What
did it mean? Had she failed him again? Or was it simply that she had
changed the city of refuge from Paris to Homburg? He was about to name
the new station to the cabman, but then, 'letter follows'. Surely that
meant that he was to wait for it. Perplexed and miserable, he stood with
the telegram crumpled up in his fist. What a ridiculous situation! He
had wrought himself up to the point of breaking with the world and his
past, and now—it only remained to satisfy the cabman!
He tossed feverishly all night, seeking to soothe himself, but really
exciting himself the more by a hundred plausible explanations. He was
now strung up to such a pitch of uncertainty that he was astonished for
the third time when the 'letter' did duly 'follow'.
* * * * *
'Dearest,' it ran, 'as I explained in my telegram, my husband became
suddenly ill'—('if she had only put that in the telegram,' he
groaned)—'and was ordered to Homburg. Of course it was impossible to
leave him in this crisis, both for practical and sentimental reasons.
You yourself, darling, would not like me to have aggravated his illness
by my flight just at this moment, and thus possibly have his death on my
conscience.' ('Darling, you are always right,' he said, kissing the
letter.) 'Let us possess our souls in patience a little longer. I need
not tell you how vexatious it will be to find myself nursing him in
Homburg—out of the season even—instead of the prospect to which I had
looked forward with my whole heart and soul. But what can one do? How
true is the French proverb, 'Nothing happens but the unexpected'! Write
to me immediately Poste Restante, that I may at least console myself
with your dear words.'
The unexpected did indeed happen. Despite draughts of Elizabeth-brunnen
and promenades on the Kurhaus terrace, the stalwart woman beater
succumbed to his malady. The curt telegram from Winifred gave no
indication of her emotions. He sent a reply-telegram of sympathy with
her trouble. Although he could not pretend to grieve at this sudden
providential solution of their life-problem, still he did sincerely
sympathize with the distress inevitable in connection with a death,
especially on foreign soil.
He was not able to see her till her husband's body had been brought
across the North Sea and committed to the green repose of the old
Hampstead churchyard. He found her pathetically altered—her face wan
and spiritualized, and all in subtle harmony with the exquisite black
gown. In the first interview, he did not dare speak of their love at
all. They discussed the immortality of the soul, and she quoted George
Herbert. But with the weeks the question of their future began to force
its way back to his lips.
'We could not decently marry before six months,' she said, when
definitely confronted with the problem.
'Six months!' he gasped.
'Well, surely you don't want to outrage everybody,' she said, pouting.
At first he was outraged himself. What! She who had been ready to
flutter the world with a fantastic dance was now measuring her
footsteps. But on reflection he saw that Mrs. Glamorys was right once
more. Since Providence had been good enough to rescue them, why should
they fly in its face? A little patience, and a blameless happiness lay
before them. Let him not blind himself to the immense relief he really
felt at being spared social obloquy. After all, a poet could be
unconventional in his work—he had no need of the practical outlet
demanded for the less gifted.
They scarcely met at all during the next six months—it had, naturally,
in this grateful reaction against their recklessness, become a sacred
period, even more charged with tremulous emotion than the engagement
periods of those who have not so nearly scorched themselves. Even in her
presence he found a certain pleasure in combining distant adoration with
the confident expectation of proximity, and thus she was restored to
the sanctity which she had risked by her former easiness. And so all was
for the best in the best of all possible worlds.
When the six months had gone by, he came to claim her hand. She was
quite astonished. 'You promised to marry me at the end of six months,'
he reminded her.
'Surely it isn't six months already,' she said.
He referred her to the calendar, recalled the date of her husband's
'You are strangely literal for a poet,' she said. 'Of course I said
six months, but six months doesn't mean twenty-six weeks by the clock.
All I meant was that a decent period must intervene. But even to myself
it seems only yesterday that poor Harold was walking beside me in the
Kurhaus Park.' She burst into tears, and in the face of them he could
not pursue the argument.
Gradually, after several interviews and letters, it was agreed that they
should wait another six months.
'She is right,' he reflected again. 'We have waited so long, we may as
well wait a little longer and leave malice no handle.'
The second six months seemed to him much longer than the first. The
charm of respectful adoration had lost its novelty, and once again his
breast was racked by fitful fevers which could scarcely calm themselves
even by conversion into sonnets. The one point of repose was that
shining fixed star of marriage. Still smarting under Winifred's reproach
of his unpoetic literality, he did not intend to force her to marry him
exactly at the end of the twelve-month. But he was determined that she
should have no later than this exact date for at least 'naming the day'.
Not the most punctilious stickler for convention, he felt, could deny
that Mrs. Grundy's claim had been paid to the last minute.
The publication of his new volume—containing the Winifred lyrics—had
served to colour these months of intolerable delay. Even the reaction of
the critics against his poetry, that conventional revolt against every
second volume, that parrot cry of over-praise from the very throats that
had praised him, though it pained and perplexed him, was perhaps really
helpful. At any rate, the long waiting was over at last. He felt like
Jacob after his years of service for Rachel.
The fateful morning dawned bright and blue, and, as the towers of
Oxford were left behind him he recalled that distant Saturday when he
had first gone down to meet the literary lights of London in his
publisher's salon. How much older he was now than then—and yet how much
younger! The nebulous melancholy of youth, the clouds of philosophy, had
vanished before this beautiful creature of sunshine whose radiance cut
out a clear line for his future through the confusion of life.
At a florist's in the High Street of Hampstead he bought a costly
bouquet of white flowers, and walked airily to the house and rang the
bell jubilantly. He could scarcely believe his ears when the maid told
him her mistress was not at home. How dared the girl stare at him so
impassively? Did she not know by what appointment—on what errand—he
had come? Had he not written to her mistress a week ago that he would
present himself that afternoon?
'Not at home!' he gasped. 'But when will she be home?'
'I fancy she won't be long. She went out an hour ago, and she has an
appointment with her dressmaker at five.'
'Do you know in what direction she'd have gone?'
'Oh, she generally walks on the Heath before tea.'
The world suddenly grew rosy again. 'I will come back again,' he said.
Yes, a walk in this glorious air—heathward—would do him good.
As the door shut he remembered he might have left the flowers, but he
would not ring again, and besides, it was, perhaps, better he should
present them with his own hand, than let her find them on the hall
table. Still, it seemed rather awkward to walk about the streets with a
bouquet, and he was glad, accidentally to strike the old Hampstead
Church, and to seek a momentary seclusion in passing through its avenue
of quiet gravestones on his heathward way.
Mounting the few steps, he paused idly a moment on the verge of this
green 'God's-acre' to read a perpendicular slab on a wall, and his face
broadened into a smile as he followed the absurdly elaborate biography
of a rich, self-made merchant who had taught himself to read, 'Reader,
go thou and do likewise,' was the delicious bull at the end. As he
turned away, the smile still lingering about his lips, he saw a dainty
figure tripping down the stony graveyard path, and though he was somehow
startled to find her still in black, there was no mistaking Mrs.
Glamorys. She ran to meet him with a glad cry, which filled his eyes
with happy tears.
'How good of you to remember!' she said, as she took the bouquet from
his unresisting hand, and turned again on her footsteps. He followed her
wonderingly across the uneven road towards a narrow aisle of graves on
the left. In another instant she has stooped before a shining white
stone, and laid his bouquet reverently upon it. As he reached her side,
he saw that his flowers were almost lost in the vast mass of floral
offerings with which the grave of the woman beater was bestrewn.
'How good of you to remember the anniversary,' she murmured again.
'How could I forget it?' he stammered, astonished. 'Is not this the end
of the terrible twelve-month?'
The soft gratitude died out of her face. 'Oh, is that what you were
'What else?' he murmured, pale with conflicting emotions.
'What else! I think decency demanded that this day, at least, should be
sacred to his memory. Oh, what brutes men are!' And she burst into
His patient breast revolted at last. 'You said he was the brute!' he
'Is that your chivalry to the dead? Oh, my poor Harold, my poor Harold!'
For once her tears could not extinguish the flame of his anger. 'But you
told me he beat you,' he cried.
'And if he did, I dare say I deserved it. Oh, my darling, my darling!'
She laid her face on the stone and sobbed.
John Lefolle stood by in silent torture. As he helplessly watched her
white throat swell and fall with the sobs, he was suddenly struck by the
absence of the black velvet band—the truer mourning she had worn in the
lifetime of the so lamented. A faint scar, only perceptible to his
conscious eye, added to his painful bewilderment.
At last she rose and walked unsteadily forward. He followed her in mute
misery. In a moment or two they found themselves on the outskirts of the
deserted heath. How beautiful stretched the gorsy rolling country! The
sun was setting in great burning furrows of gold and green—a panorama
to take one's breath away. The beauty and peace of Nature passed into
the poet's soul.
'Forgive me, dearest,' he begged, taking her hand.
She drew it away sharply. 'I cannot forgive you. You have shown yourself
in your true colours.'
Her unreasonableness angered him again. 'What do you mean? I only came
in accordance with our long-standing arrangement. You have put me off
'It is fortunate I did put you off long enough to discover what you
He gasped. He thought of all the weary months of waiting, all the long
comedy of telegrams and express letters, the far-off flirtations of the
cosy corner, the baffled elopement to Paris. 'Then you won't marry me?'
'I cannot marry a man I neither love nor respect.'
'You don't love me!' Her spontaneous kiss in his sober Oxford study
seemed to burn on his angry lips.
'No, I never loved you.'
He took her by the arms and turned her round roughly. 'Look me in the
face and dare to say you have never loved me.'
His memory was buzzing with passionate phrases from her endless letters.
They stung like a swarm of bees. The sunset was like blood-red mist
before his eyes.
'I have never loved you,' she said obstinately.
'You—!' His grasp on her arms tightened. He shook her.
'You are bruising me,' she cried.
His grasp fell from her arms as though they were red-hot. He had become
a woman beater.