Part 3 out of 4
persuade the doctor it was entirely Ellinor's doing, and the wisest
and best thing she could have done, as he was not good enough for
her, only a poor barrister struggling for a livelihood. Like many
other kind-hearted people, she fell into the blunder of lowering the
moral character of those whom it is their greatest wish to exalt.
But Dr. Moore knew Ellinor too well to believe the whole of what Miss
Monro said; she would never act from interested motives, and was all
the more likely to cling to a man because he was down and
unsuccessful. No! there had been a lovers' quarrel; and it could not
have happened at a sadder time.
Before the June roses were in full bloom, Mr. Wilkins was dead. He
had left his daughter to the guardianship of Mr. Ness by some will
made years ago; but Mr. Ness had caught a rheumatic fever with his
Easter fishings, and been unable to be moved home from the little
Welsh inn where he had been staying when he was taken ill. Since his
last attack, Mr. Wilkins's mind had been much affected; he often
talked strangely and wildly; but he had rare intervals of quietness
and full possession of his senses. At one of these times he must
have written a half-finished pencil note, which his nurse found under
his pillow after his death, and brought to Ellinor. Through her
tear-blinded eyes she read the weak, faltering words:
"I am very ill. I sometimes think I shall never get better, so I
wish to ask your pardon for what I said the night before I was taken
ill. I am afraid my anger made mischief between you and Ellinor, but
I think you will forgive a dying man. If you will come back and let
all be as it used to be, I will make any apology you may require. If
I go, she will be so very friendless; and I have looked to you to
care for her ever since you first--" Then came some illegible and
incoherent writing, ending with, "From my deathbed I adjure you to
stand her friend; I will beg pardon on my knees for anything--"
And there strength had failed; the paper and pencil had been laid
aside to be resumed at some time when the brain was clearer, the hand
stronger. Ellinor kissed the letter, reverently folded it up, and
laid it among her sacred treasures, by her mother's half-finished
sewing, and a little curl of her baby sister's golden hair.
Mr. Johnson, who had been one of the trustees for Mrs. Wilkins's
marriage settlement, a respectable solicitor in the county town, and
Mr. Ness, had been appointed executors of his will, and guardians to
Ellinor. The will itself had been made several years before, when he
imagined himself the possessor of a handsome fortune, the bulk of
which he bequeathed to his only child. By her mother's marriage-
settlement, Ford Bank was held in trust for the children of the
marriage; the trustees being Sir Frank Holster and Mr. Johnson.
There were legacies to his executors; a small annuity to Miss Monro,
with the expression of a hope that it might be arranged for her to
continue living with Ellinor as long as the latter remained
unmarried; all his servants were remembered, Dixon especially, and
What remained of the handsome fortune once possessed by the testator?
The executors asked in vain; there was nothing. They could hardly
make out what had become of it, in such utter confusion were all the
accounts, both personal and official. Mr. Johnson was hardly
restrained by his compassion for the orphan from throwing up the
executorship in disgust. Mr. Ness roused himself from his
scholarlike abstraction to labour at the examination of books,
parchments, and papers, for Ellinor's sake. Sir Frank Holster
professed himself only a trustee for Ford Bank.
Meanwhile she went on living at Ford Bank, quite unconscious of the
state of her father's affairs, but sunk into a deep, plaintive
melancholy, which affected her looks and the tones of her voice in
such a manner as to distress Miss Monro exceedingly. It was not that
the good lady did not quite acknowledge the great cause her pupil had
for grieving--deserted by her lover, her father dead--but that she
could not bear the outward signs of how much these sorrows had told
on Ellinor. Her love for the poor girl was infinitely distressed by
seeing the daily wasting away, the constant heavy depression of
spirits, and she grew impatient of the continual pain of sympathy.
If Miss Monro could have done something to relieve Ellinor of her
woe, she would have been less inclined to scold her for giving way to
The time came when Miss Monro could act; and after that, there was no
more irritation on her part. When all hope of Ellinor's having
anything beyond the house and grounds of Ford Bank was gone; when it
was proved that all the legacies bequeathed by Mr. Wilkins not one
farthing could ever be paid; when it came to be a question how far
the beautiful pictures and other objects of art in the house were not
legally the property of unsatisfied creditors, the state of her
father's affairs was communicated to Ellinor as delicately as Mr.
Ness knew how.
She was drooping over her work--she always drooped now--and she left
off sewing to listen to him, leaning her head on the arm which rested
on the table. She did not speak when he had ended his statement.
She was silent for whole minutes afterwards; he went on speaking out
of very agitation and awkwardness.
"It was all the rascal Dunster's doing, I've no doubt," said he,
trying to account for the entire loss of Mr. Wilkins's fortune.
To his surprise she lifted up her white stony face, and said slowly
and faintly, but with almost solemn calmness:
"Mr. Ness, you must never allow Mr. Dunster to be blamed for this!"
"My dear Ellinor, there can be no doubt about it. Your father
himself always referred to the losses he had sustained by Dunster's
Ellinor covered her face with her hands. "God forgive us all," she
said, and relapsed into the old unbearable silence. Mr. Ness had
undertaken to discuss her future plans with her, and he was obliged
to go on.
"Now, my dear child--I have known you since you were quite a little
girl, you know--we must try not to give way to feeling"--he himself
was choking; she was quite quiet--"but think what is to be done. You
will have the rent of this house, and we have a very good offer for
it--a tenant on lease of seven years at a hundred and twenty pounds a
"I will never let this house," said she, standing up suddenly, and as
if defying him.
"Not let Ford Bank! Why? I don't understand it--I can't have been
clear--Ellinor, the rent of this house is all you will have to live
"I can't help it, I can't leave this house. Oh, Mr. Ness, I can't
leave this house."
"My dear child, you shall not be hurried--I know how hardly all these
things are coming upon you (and I wish I had never seen Corbet, with
all my heart I do!)"--this was almost to himself, but she must have
heard it, for she quivered all over--"but leave this house you must.
You must eat, and the rent of this house must pay for your food; you
must dress, and there is nothing but the rent to clothe you. I will
gladly have you to stay at the Parsonage as long as ever you like;
but, in fact, the negotiations with Mr. Osbaldistone, the gentleman
who offers to take the house, are nearly completed--"
"It is my house!" said Ellinor, fiercely. "I know it is settled on
"No, my dear. It is held in trust for you by Sir Frank Holster and
Mr. Johnson; you to receive all moneys and benefits accruing from
it"--he spoke gently, for he almost thought her head was turned--"but
you remember you are not of age, and Mr. Johnson and I have full
Ellinor sat down, helpless.
"Leave me," she said, at length. "You are very kind, but you don't
know all. I cannot stand any more talking now," she added, faintly.
Mr. Ness bent over her and kissed her forehead, and withdrew without
another word. He went to Miss Monro.
"Well! and how did you find her?" was her first inquiry, after the
usual greetings had passed between them. "It is really quite sad to
see how she gives way; I speak to her, and speak to her, and tell her
how she is neglecting all her duties, and it does no good."
"She has had to bear a still further sorrow to-day," said Mr. Ness.
"On the part of Mr. Johnson and myself I have a very painful duty to
perform to you as well as to her. Mr. Wilkins has died insolvent. I
grieve to say there is no hope of your ever receiving any of your
Miss Monro looked very blank. Many happy little visions faded away
in those few moments; then she roused up and said, "I am but forty; I
have a good fifteen years of work in me left yet, thank God.
Insolvent! Do you mean he has left no money?"
"Not a farthing. The creditors may be thankful if they are fully
"Ellinor will have the rent of this house, which is hers by right of
her mother's settlement, to live on."
"How much will that be?"
"One hundred and twenty pounds."
Miss Monro's lips went into a form prepared for whistling. Mr. Ness
"She is at present unwilling enough to leave this house, poor girl.
It is but natural; but she has no power in the matter, even were
there any other course open to her. I can only say how glad, how
honoured, I shall feel by as long a visit as you and she can be
prevailed upon to pay me at the Parsonage."
"Where is Mr. Corbet?" said Miss Monro.
"I do not know. After breaking off his engagement he wrote me a long
letter, explanatory, as he called it; exculpatory, as I termed it. I
wrote back, curtly enough, saying that I regretted the breaking-off
of an intercourse which had always been very pleasant to me, but that
he must be aware that, with my intimacy with the family at Ford Bank,
it would be both awkward and unpleasant to all parties if he and I
remained on our previous footing. Who is that going past the window?
Miss Monro went to the window. "Yes! I am thankful to see her on
horseback again. It was only this morning I advised her to have a
"Poor Dixon! he will suffer too; his legacy can no more be paid than
the others; and it is not many young ladies who will be as content to
have so old-fashioned a groom riding after them as Ellinor seems to
As soon as Mr. Ness had left, Miss Monro went to her desk and wrote a
long letter to some friends she had at the cathedral town of East
Chester, where she had spent some happy years of her former life.
Her thoughts had gone back to this time even while Mr. Ness had been
speaking; for it was there her father had lived, and it was after his
death that her cares in search of a subsistence had begun. But the
recollections of the peaceful years spent there were stronger than
the remembrance of the weeks of sorrow and care; and, while Ellinor's
marriage had seemed a probable event, she had made many a little plan
of returning to her native place, and obtaining what daily teaching
she could there meet with, and the friends to whom she was now
writing had promised her their aid. She thought that as Ellinor had
to leave Ford Bank, a home at a distance might be more agreeable to
her, and she went on to plan that they should live together, if
possible, on her earnings, and the small income that would be
Ellinor's. Miss Monro loved her pupil so dearly, that, if her own
pleasure only were to be consulted, this projected life would be more
agreeable to her than if Mr. Wilkins's legacy had set her in
independence, with Ellinor away from her, married, and with interests
in which her former governess had but little part.
As soon as Mr. Ness had left her, Ellinor rang the bell, and startled
the servant who answered it by her sudden sharp desire to have the
horses at the door as soon as possible, and to tell Dixon to be ready
to go out with her.
She felt that she must speak to him, and in her nervous state she
wanted to be out on the free broad common, where no one could notice
or remark their talk. It was long since she had ridden, and much
wonder was excited by the sudden movement in kitchen and stable-yard.
But Dixon went gravely about his work of preparation, saying nothing.
They rode pretty hard till they reached Monk's Heath, six or seven
miles away from Hamley. Ellinor had previously determined that here
she would talk over the plan Mr. Ness had proposed to her with Dixon,
and he seemed to understand her without any words passing between
them. When she reined in he rode up to her, and met the gaze of her
sad eyes with sympathetic, wistful silence.
"Dixon," said she, "they say I must leave Ford Bank."
"I was afeared on it, from all I've heerd say i' the town since the
"Then you've heard--then you know--that papa has left hardly any
money--my poor dear Dixon, you won't have your legacy, and I never
thought of that before!"
"Never heed, never heed," said he, eagerly; "I couldn't have touched
it if it had been there, for the taking it would ha' seemed too like-
-" Blood-money, he was going to say, but he stopped in time. She
guessed the meaning, though not the word he would have used.
"No, not that," said she; "his will was dated years before. But oh,
Dixon, what must I do? They will make me leave Ford Bank, I see. I
think the trustees have half let it already."
"But you'll have the rent on't, I reckon?" asked he, anxiously.
"I've many a time heerd 'em say as it was settled on the missus
first, and then on you."
"Oh, yes, it is not that; but you know, under the beech-tree--"
"Ay!" said he, heavily. "It's been oftentimes on my mind, waking,
and I think there's ne'er a night as I don't dream of it."
"But how can I leave it!" Ellinor cried. "They may do a hundred
things--may dig up the shrubbery. Oh! Dixon, I feel as if it was
sure to be found out! Oh! Dixon, I cannot bear any more blame on
papa--it will kill me--and such a dreadful thing, too!"
Dixon's face fell into the lines of habitual pain that it had always
assumed of late years whenever he was thinking or remembering
"They must ne'er ha' reason to speak ill of the dead, that's for
certain," said he. "The Wilkinses have been respected in Hamley all
my lifetime, and all my father's before me, and--surely, missy,
there's ways and means of tying tenants up from alterations both in
the house and out of it, and I'd beg the trustees, or whatever they's
called, to be very particular, if I was you, and not have a thing
touched either in the house, or the gardens, or the meadows, or the
stables. I think, wi' a word from you, they'd maybe keep me on i'
the stables, and I could look after things a bit; and the Day o'
Judgment will come at last, when all our secrets will be made known
wi'out our having the trouble and the shame o' telling 'em. I'm
getting rayther tired o' this world, Miss Ellinor."
"Don't talk so," said Ellinor, tenderly. "I know how sad it is, but,
oh! remember how I shall want a friend when you're gone, to advise me
as you have done to-day. You're not feeling ill, Dixon, are you?"
she continued, anxiously.
"No! I'm hearty enough, and likely for t' live. Father was eighty-
one, and mother above the seventies, when they died. It's only my
heart as is got to feel so heavy; and as for that matter, so is
yours, I'll be bound. And it's a comfort to us both if we can serve
him as is dead by any care of ours, for he were such a bright
handsome lad, with such a cheery face, as never should ha' known
They rode on without much more speaking. Ellinor was silently
planning for Dixon, and he, not caring to look forward to the future,
was bringing up before his fancy the time, thirty years ago, when he
had first entered the elder Mr. Wilkins's service as stable-lad, and
pretty Molly, the scullery-maid, was his daily delight. Pretty Molly
lay buried in Hamley churchyard, and few living, except Dixon, could
have gone straight to her grave.
In a few days Miss Monro obtained a most satisfactory reply to her
letter of inquiries as to whether a daily governess could find
employment in East Chester. For once the application seemed to have
come just at the right time. The canons were most of them married
men, with young families; those at present in residence welcomed the
idea of such instruction as Miss Monro could offer for their
children, and could almost answer for their successors in office.
This was a great step gained. Miss Monro, the daughter of a
precentor to this very cathedral, had a secret unwillingness to being
engaged as a teacher by any wealthy tradesman there; but to be
received into the canons' families, in almost any capacity, was like
going home. Moreover, besides the empty honour of the thing, there
were many small pieces of patronage in the gift of the Chapter--such
as a small house opening on to the Close, which had formerly belonged
to the verger, but which was now vacant, and was offered to Miss
Monro at a nominal rent.
Ellinor had once more sunk into her old depressed passive state; Mr.
Ness and Miss Monro, modest and undecided as they both were in
general, had to fix and arrange everything for her. Her great
interest seemed to be in the old servant Dixon, and her great
pleasure to lie in seeing him, and talking over old times; so her two
friends talked about her, little knowing what a bitter, stinging pain
her "pleasure" was. In vain Ellinor tried to plan how they could
take Dixon with them to East Chester. If he had been a woman it
would have been a feasible step; but they were only to keep one
servant, and Dixon, capable and versatile as he was, would not do for
that servant. All this was what passed through Ellinor's mind: it
is still a question whether Dixon would have felt his love of his
native place, with all its associations and remembrances, or his love
for Ellinor, the stronger. But he was not put to the proof; he was
only told that he must leave, and seeing Ellinor's extreme grief at
the idea of their separation, he set himself to comfort her by every
means in his power, reminding her, with tender choice of words, how
necessary it was that he should remain on the spot, in Mr.
Osbaldistone's service, in order to frustrate, by any small influence
he might have, every project of alteration in the garden that
contained the dreadful secret. He persisted in this view, though
Ellinor repeated, with pertinacious anxiety, the care which Mr.
Johnson had taken, in drawing up the lease, to provide against any
change or alteration being made in the present disposition of the
house or grounds.
People in general were rather astonished at the eagerness Miss
Wilkins showed to sell all the Ford Bank furniture. Even Miss Monro
was a little scandalized at this want of sentiment, although she said
nothing about it; indeed justified the step, by telling every one how
wisely Ellinor was acting, as the large, handsome, tables and chairs
would be very much out of place and keeping with the small, oddly-
shaped rooms of their future home in East Chester Close. None knew
how strong was the instinct of self-preservation, it may almost be
called, which impelled Ellinor to shake off, at any cost of present
pain, the incubus of a terrible remembrance. She wanted to go into
an unhaunted dwelling in a free, unknown country--she felt as if it
was her only chance of sanity. Sometimes she thought her senses
would not hold together till the time when all these arrangements
were ended. But she did not speak to any one about her feelings,
poor child; to whom could she speak on the subject but to Dixon? Nor
did she define them to herself. All she knew was, that she was as
nearly going mad as possible; and if she did, she feared that she
might betray her father's guilt. All this time she never cried, or
varied from her dull, passive demeanour. And they were blessed tears
of relief that she shed when Miss Monro, herself weeping bitterly,
told her to put her head out of the post-chaise window, for at the
next turning of the road they would catch the last glimpse of Hamley
Late one October evening, Ellinor had her first sight of East Chester
Close, where she was to pass the remainder of her life. Miss Monro
had been backwards and forwards between Hamley and East Chester more
than once, while Ellinor remained at the parsonage; so she had not
only the pride of proprietorship in the whole of the beautiful city,
but something of the desire of hospitably welcoming Ellinor to their
joint future home.
"Look! the fly must take us a long round, because of our luggage; but
behind these high old walls are the canons' gardens. That high-
pitched roof, with the clumps of stonecrop on the walls near it, is
Canon Wilson's, whose four little girls I am to teach. Hark! the
great cathedral clock. How proud I used to be of its great boom when
I was a child! I thought all the other church clocks in the town
sounded so shrill and poor after that, which I considered mine
especially. There are rooks flying home to the elms in the Close. I
wonder if they are the same that used to be there when I was a girl.
They say the rook is a very long-lived bird, and I feel as if I could
swear to the way they are cawing. Ay, you may smile, Ellinor, but I
understand now those lines of Gray's you used to say so prettily -
"I feel the gales that from ye blow.
A momentary bliss bestow,
And breathe a second spring."
Now, dear, you must get out. This flagged walk leads to our front-
door; but our back rooms, which are the pleasantest, look on to the
Close, and the cathedral, and the lime-tree walk, and the deanery,
and the rookery."
It was a mere slip of a house; the kitchen being wisely placed close
to the front-door, and so reserving the pretty view for the little
dining-room, out of which a glass-door opened into a small walled-in
garden, which had again an entrance into the Close. Upstairs was a
bedroom to the front, which Miss Monro had taken for herself, because
as she said, she had old associations with the back of every house in
the High-street, while Ellinor mounted to the pleasant chamber above
the tiny drawing-room both of which looked on to the vast and solemn
cathedral, and the peaceful dignified Close. East Chester Cathedral
is Norman, with a low, massive tower, a grand, majestic nave, and a
choir full of stately historic tombs. The whole city is so quiet and
decorous a place, that the perpetual daily chants and hymns of praise
seemed to sound far and wide over the roofs of the houses. Ellinor
soon became a regular attendant at all the morning and evening
services. The sense of worship calmed and soothed her aching weary
heart, and to be punctual to the cathedral hours she roused and
exerted herself, when probably nothing else would have been
sufficient to this end.
By-and-by Miss Monro formed many acquaintances; she picked up, or was
picked up by, old friends, and the descendants of old friends. The
grave and kindly canons, whose children she taught, called upon her
with their wives, and talked over the former deans and chapters, of
whom she had both a personal and traditional knowledge, and as they
walked away and talked about her silent delicate-looking friend Miss
Wilkins, and perhaps planned some little present out of their
fruitful garden or bounteous stores, which should make Miss Monro's
table a little more tempting to one apparently so frail as Ellinor,
for the household was always spoken of as belonging to Miss Monro,
the active and prominent person. By-and-by, Ellinor herself won her
way to their hearts, not by words or deeds, but by her sweet looks
and meek demeanour, as they marked her regular attendance at
cathedral service: and when they heard of her constant visits to a
certain parochial school, and of her being sometimes seen carrying a
little covered basin to the cottages of the poor, they began to try
and tempt her, with more urgent words, to accompany Miss Monro in her
frequent tea-drinkings at their houses. The old dean, that courteous
gentleman and good Christian, had early become great friends with
Ellinor. He would watch at the windows of his great vaulted library
till he saw her emerge from the garden into the Close, and then open
the deanery door, and join her, she softly adjusting the measure of
her pace to his. The time of his departure from East Chester became
a great blank in her life, although she would never accept, or allow
Miss Monro to accept, his repeated invitations to go and pay him a
visit at his country-place. Indeed, having once tasted comparative
peace again in East Chester Cathedral Close, it seemed as though she
was afraid of ever venturing out of those calm precincts. All Mr.
Ness's invitations to visit him at his parsonage at Hamley were
declined, although he was welcomed at Miss Monro's, on the occasion
of his annual visit, by every means in their power. He slept at one
of the canon's vacant houses, and lived with his two friends, who
made a yearly festivity, to the best of their means, in his honour,
inviting such of the cathedral clergy as were in residence: or, if
they failed, condescending to the town clergy. Their friends knew
well that no presents were so acceptable as those sent while Mr. Ness
was with them; and from the dean, who would send them a hamper of
choice fruit and flowers from Oxton Park, down to the curate, who
worked in the same schools as Ellinor, and who was a great fisher,
and caught splendid trout--all did their best to help them to give a
welcome to the only visitor they ever had. The only visitor they
ever had, as far as the stately gentry knew. There was one, however,
who came as often as his master could give him a holiday long enough
to undertake a journey to so distant a place; but few knew of his
being a guest at Miss Monro's, though his welcome there was not less
hearty than Mr. Ness's--this was Dixon. Ellinor had convinced him
that he could give her no greater pleasure at any time than by
allowing her to frank him to and from East Chester. Whenever he came
they were together the greater part of the day; she taking him hither
and thither to see all the sights that she thought would interest or
please him; but they spoke very little to each other during all this
companionship. Miss Monro had much more to say to him. She
questioned him right and left whenever Ellinor was out of the room.
She learnt that the house at Ford Bank was splendidly furnished, and
no money spared on the garden; that the eldest Miss Hanbury was very
well married; that Brown had succeeded to Jones in the haberdasher's
shop. Then she hesitated a little before making her next inquiry:
"I suppose Mr. Corbet never comes to the Parsonage now?"
"No, not he. I don't think as how Mr. Ness would have him; but they
write letters to each other by times. Old Job--you'll recollect old
Job, ma'am, he that gardened for Mr Ness, and waited in the parlour
when there was company--did say as one day he heerd them speaking
about Mr. Corbet; and he's a grand counsellor now--one of them as
goes about at assize-time, and speaks in a wig."
"A barrister, you mean," said Miss Monro.
"Ay; and he's something more than that, though I can't rightly
Ellinor could have told them both. They had The Times lent to them
on the second day after publication by one of their friends in the
Close, and Ellinor, watching till Miss Monro's eyes were otherwise
engaged, always turned with trembling hands and a beating heart to
the reports of the various courts of law. In them she found--at
first rarely--the name she sought for, the name she dwelt upon, as if
every letter were a study. Mr. Losh and Mr. Duncombe appeared for
the plaintiff, Mr. Smythe and Mr. Corbet for the defendant. In a
year or two that name appeared more frequently, and generally took
the precedence of the other, whatever it might be; then on special
occasions his speeches were reported at full length, as if his words
were accounted weighty; and by-and-by she saw that he had been
appointed a Queen's counsel. And this was all she ever heard or saw
about him; his once familiar name never passed her lips except in
hurried whispers to Dixon, when he came to stay with them. Ellinor
had had no idea when she parted from Mr. Corbet how total the
separation between them was henceforward to be, so much seemed left
unfinished, unexplained. It was so difficult, at first, to break
herself of the habit of constant mental reference to him; and for
many a long year she kept thinking that surely some kind fortune
would bring them together again, and all this heart-sickness and
melancholy estrangement from each other would then seem to both only
as an ugly dream that had passed away in the morning light.
The dean was an old man, but there was a canon who was older still,
and whose death had been expected by many, and speculated upon by
some, any time for ten years at least. Canon Holdsworth was too old
to show active kindness to any one; the good dean's life was full of
thoughtful and benevolent deeds. But he was taken, and the other
left. Ellinor looked out at the vacant deanery with tearful eyes,
the last thing at night, the first in the morning. But it is pretty
nearly the same with church dignitaries as with kings; the dean is
dead, long live the dean! A clergyman from a distant county was
appointed, and all the Close was astir to learn and hear every
particular connected with him. Luckily he came in at the tag-end of
one of the noble families in the peerage; so, at any rate, all his
future associates could learn with tolerable certainty that he was
forty-two years of age, married, and with eight daughters and one
son. The deanery, formerly so quiet and sedate a dwelling of the one
old man, was now to be filled with noise and merriment. Iron
railings were being placed before three windows, evidently to be the
nursery. In the summer publicity of open windows and doors, the
sound of the busy carpenters was perpetually heard all over the
Close: and by-and-by waggon-loads of furniture and carriage-loads of
people began to arrive. Neither Miss Monro nor Ellinor felt
themselves of sufficient importance or station to call on the new
comers, but they were as well acquainted with the proceedings of the
family as if they had been in daily intercourse; they knew that the
eldest Miss Beauchamp was seventeen, and very pretty, only one
shoulder was higher than the other; that she was dotingly fond of
dancing, and talked a great deal in a tete-a-tete, but not much if
her mamma was by, and never opened her lips at all if the dean was in
the room; that the next sister was wonderfully clever, and was
supposed to know all the governess could teach her, and to have
private lessons in Greek and mathematics from her father; and so on
down to the little boy at the preparatory school and the baby-girl in
arms. Moreover, Miss Monro, at any rate, could have stood an
examination as to the number of servants at the deanery, their
division of work, and the hours of their meals. Presently, a very
beautiful, haughty-looking young lady made her appearance in the
Close, and in the dean's pew. She was said to be his niece, the
orphan daughter of his brother, General Beauchamp, come to East
Chester to reside for the necessary time before her marriage, which
was to be performed in the cathedral by her uncle, the new dignitary.
But as callers at the deanery did not see this beautiful bride elect,
and as the Beauchamps had not as yet fallen into habits of intimacy
with any of their new acquaintances, very little was known of the
circumstances of this approaching wedding beyond the particulars
Ellinor and Miss Monro sat at their drawing-room window, a little
shaded by the muslin curtains, watching the busy preparations for the
marriage, which was to take place the next day. All morning long,
hampers of fruit and flowers, boxes from the railway--for by this
time East Chester had got a railway--shop messengers, hired
assistants, kept passing backwards and forwards in the busy Close.
Towards afternoon the bustle subsided, the scaffolding was up, the
materials for the next day's feast carried out of sight. It was to
be concluded that the bride elect was seeing to the packing of her
trousseau, helped by the merry multitude of cousins, and that the
servants were arranging the dinner for the day, or the breakfast for
the morrow. So Miss Monro had settled it, discussing every detail
and every probability as though she were a chief actor, instead of
only a distant, uncared-for spectator of the coming event. Ellinor
was tired, and now that there was nothing interesting going on, she
had fallen back to her sewing, when she was startled by Miss Memo's
"Look, look! here are two gentlemen coming along the lime-tree walk!
it must be the bridegroom and his friend." Out of much sympathy, and
some curiosity, Ellinor bent forward, and saw, just emerging from the
shadow of the trees on to the full afternoon sunlit pavement, Mr.
Corbet and another gentleman; the former changed, worn, aged, though
with still the same fine intellectual face, leaning on the arm of the
younger taller man, and talking eagerly. The other gentleman was
doubtless the bridegroom, Ellinor said to herself; and yet her
prophetic heart did not believe her words. Even before the bright
beauty at the deanery looked out of the great oriel window of the
drawing-room, and blushed, and smiled, and kissed her hand--a gesture
replied to by Mr. Corbet with much empressement, while the other man
only took off his hat, almost as if he saw her there for the first
time--Ellinor's greedy eyes watched him till he was hidden from sight
in the deanery, unheeding Miss Monro's eager incoherent sentences, in
turn entreating, apologising, comforting, and upbraiding. Then she
slowly turned her painful eyes upon Miss Monro's face, and moved her
lips without a sound being heard, and fainted dead away. In all her
life she had never done so before, and when she came round she was
not like herself; in all probability the persistence and wilfulness
she, who was usually so meek and docile, showed during the next
twenty-four hours, was the consequence of fever. She resolved to be
present at the wedding; numbers were going; she would be unseen,
unnoticed in the crowd; but whatever befell, go she would, and
neither the tears nor the prayers of Miss Monro could keep her back.
She gave no reason for this determination; indeed, in all probability
she had none to give; so there was no arguing the point. She was
inflexible to entreaty, and no one had any authority over her,
except, perhaps, distant Mr. Ness. Miss Monro had all sorts of
forebodings as to the possible scenes that might come to pass. But
all went on as quietly as though the fullest sympathy pervaded every
individual of the great numbers assembled. No one guessed that the
muffled, veiled figure, sitting in the shadow behind one of the great
pillars, was that of one who had once hoped to stand at the altar
with the same bridegroom, who now cast tender looks at the beautiful
bride; her veil white and fairy-like, Ellinor's black and shrouding
as that of any nun.
Already Mr. Corbet's name was known through the country as that of a
great lawyer; people discussed his speeches and character far and
wide; and the well-informed in legal gossip spoke of him as sure to
be offered a judgeship at the next vacancy. So he, though grave, and
middle-aged, and somewhat grey, divided attention and remark with his
lovely bride, and her pretty train of cousin bridesmaids. Miss Monro
need not have feared for Ellinor: she saw and heard all things as in
a mist--a dream; as something she had to go through, before she could
waken up to a reality of brightness in which her youth, and the hopes
of her youth, should be restored, and all these weary years of
dreaminess and woe should be revealed as nothing but the nightmare of
a night. She sat motionless enough, still enough, Miss Monro by her,
watching her as intently as a keeper watches a madman, and with the
same purpose--to prevent any outburst even by bodily strength, if
such restraint be needed. When all was over; when the principal
personages of the ceremony had filed into the vestry to sign their
names; when the swarm of townspeople were going out as swiftly as
their individual notions of the restraints of the sacred edifice
permitted; when the great chords of the "Wedding March" clanged out
from the organ, and the loud bells pealed overhead--Ellinor laid her
hand in Miss Monro's. "Take me home," she said softly. And Miss
Monro led her home as one leads the blind.
There are some people who imperceptibly float away from their youth
into middle age, and thence pass into declining life with the soft
and gentle motion of happy years. There are others who are whirled,
in spite of themselves, down dizzy rapids of agony away from their
youth at one great bound, into old age with another sudden shock; and
thence into the vast calm ocean where there are no shore-marks to
tell of time.
This last, it seemed, was to be Ellinor's lot. Her youth had gone in
a single night, fifteen years ago, and now she appeared to have
become an elderly woman; very still and hopeless in look and
movement, but as sweet and gentle in speech and smile as ever she had
been in her happiest days. All young people, when they came to know
her, loved her dearly, though at first they might call her dull, and
heavy to get on with; and as for children and old people, her ready
watchful sympathy in their joys as well as their sorrows was an
unfailing passage to their hearts. After the first great shock of
Mr. Corbet's marriage was over, she seemed to pass into a greater
peace than she had known for years; the last faint hope of happiness
was gone; it would, perhaps, be more accurate to say, of the bright
happiness she had planned for herself in her early youth.
Unconsciously, she was being weaned from self-seeking in any shape,
and her daily life became, if possible, more innocent and pure and
holy. One of the canons used to laugh at her for her constant
attendance at all the services, and for her devotion to good works,
and call her always the reverend sister. Miss Monro was a little
annoyed at this faint clerical joke; Ellinor smiled quietly. Miss
Monro disapproved of Ellinor's grave ways and sober severe style of
"You may be as good as you like, my dear, and yet go dressed in some
pretty colour, instead of those perpetual blacks and greys, and then
there would be no need for me to be perpetually telling people you
are only four-and-thirty (and they don't believe me, though I tell
them so till I am black in the face). Or, if you would but wear a
decent-shaped bonnet, instead of always wearing those of the poky
shape in fashion when you were seventeen."
The old canon died, and some one was to he appointed in his stead.
These clerical preferments and appointments were the all-important
interests to the inhabitants of the Close, and the discussion of
probabilities came up invariably if any two met together, in street
or house, or even in the very cathedral itself. At length it was
settled, and announced by the higher powers. An energetic, hard-
working clergyman from a distant part of the diocese, Livingstone by
name, was to have the vacant canonry.
Miss Monro said that the name was somehow familiar to her, and by
degrees she recollected the young curate who had come to inquire
after Ellinor in that dreadful illness she had had at Hamley in the
year 1829. Ellinor knew nothing of that visit; no more than Miss
Monro did of what had passed between the two before that anxious
night. Ellinor just thought it possible it might be the same Mr.
Livingstone, and would rather it were not, because she did not feel
as if she could bear the frequent though not intimate intercourse she
must needs have, if such were the case, with one so closely
associated with that great time of terror which she was striving to
bury out of sight by every effort in her power. Miss Monro, on the
contrary, was busy weaving a romance for her pupil; she thought of
the passionate interest displayed by the fair young clergyman fifteen
years ago, and believed that occasionally men could be constant, and
hoped that if Mr. Livingstone were the new canon, he might prove the
rara avis which exists but once in a century. He came, and it was
the same. He looked a little stouter, a little older, but had still
the gait and aspect of a young man. His smooth fair face was
scarcely lined at all with any marks of care; the blue eyes looked so
kindly and peaceful, that Miss Monro could scarcely fancy they were
the same which she had seen fast filling with tears; the bland calm
look of the whole man needed the ennoblement of his evident
devoutness to be raised into the type of holy innocence which some of
the Romanists call the "sacerdotal face." His entire soul was in his
work, and he looked as little likely to step forth in the character
of either a hero of romance or a faithful lover as could be imagined.
Still Miss Monro was not discouraged; she remembered the warm,
passionate feeling she had once seen break through the calm exterior,
and she believed that what had happened once might occur again.
Of course, while all eyes were directed on the new canon, he had to
learn who the possessors of those eyes were one by one; and it was
probably some time before the idea came into his mind that Miss
Wilkins, the lady in black, with the sad pale face, so constant an
attendant at service, so regular a visitor at the school, was the
same Miss Wilkins as the bright vision of his youth. It was her
sweet smile at a painstaking child that betrayed her--if, indeed,
betrayal it might be called where there was no wish or effort to
conceal anything. Canon Livingstone left the schoolroom almost
directly, and, after being for an hour or so in his house, went out
to call on Mrs. Randall, the person who knew more of her neighbours'
affairs than any one in East Chester.
The next day he called on Miss Wilkins herself. She would have been
very glad if he had kept on in his ignorance; it was so keenly
painful to be in the company of one the sight of whom, even at a
distance, had brought her such a keen remembrance of past misery; and
when told of his call, as she was sitting at her sewing in the
dining-room, she had to nerve herself for the interview before going
upstairs into the drawing-room, where he was being entertained by
Miss Monro with warm demonstrations of welcome. A little contraction
of the brow, a little compression of the lips, an increased pallor on
Ellinor's part, was all that Miss Monro could see in her, though she
had put on her glasses with foresight and intention to observe. She
turned to the canon; his colour had certainly deepened as he went
forwards with out-stretched hand to meet Ellinor. That was all that
was to be seen; but on the slight foundation of that blush, Miss
Monro built many castles; and when they faded away, one after one,
she recognised that they were only baseless visions. She used to put
the disappointment of her hopes down to Ellinor's unvaried calmness
of demeanour, which might be taken for coldness of disposition; and
to her steady refusal to allow Miss Monro to invite Canon Livingstone
to the small teas they were in the habit of occasionally giving. Yet
he persevered in his calls; about once every fortnight he came, and
would sit an hour or more, looking covertly at his watch, as if as
Miss Monro shrewdly observed to herself, he did not go away at last
because he wished to do so, but because he ought. Sometimes Ellinor
was present, sometimes she was away; in this latter case Miss Monro
thought she could detect a certain wistful watching of the door every
time a noise was heard outside the room. He always avoided any
reference to former days at Hamley, and that, Miss Monro feared, was
a bad sign.
After this long uniformity of years without any event closely
touching on Ellinor's own individual life, with the one great
exception of Mr. Corbet's marriage, something happened which much
affected her. Mr. Ness died suddenly at his parsonage, and Ellinor
learnt it first from Mr. Brown, a clergyman, whose living was near
Hamley, and who had been sent for by the Parsonage servants as soon
as they discovered that it was not sleep, but death, that made their
master so late in rising.
Mr. Brown had been appointed executer by his late friend, and wrote
to tell Ellinor that after a few legacies were paid, she was to have
a life-interest in the remainder of the small property which Mr. Ness
had left, and that it would be necessary for her, as the residuary
legatee, to come to Hamley Parsonage as soon as convenient, to decide
upon certain courses of action with regard to furniture, books, &c.
Ellinor shrank from this journey, which her love and duty towards her
dead friend rendered necessary. She had scarcely left East Chester
since she first arrived there, sixteen or seventeen years ago, and
she was timorous about the very mode of travelling; and then to go
back to Hamley, which she thought never to have seen again! She
never spoke much about any feelings of her own, but Miss Monro could
always read her silence, and interpreted it into pretty just and
forcible words that afternoon when Canon Livingstone called. She
liked to talk about Ellinor to him, and suspected that he liked to
hear. She was almost annoyed this time by the comfort he would keep
giving her; there was no greater danger in travelling by railroad
than by coach, a little care about certain things was required, that
was all, and the average number of deaths by accidents on railroads
was not greater than the average number when people travelled by
coach, if you took into consideration the far greater number of
travellers. Yes! returning to the deserted scenes of one's youth was
very painful . . . Had Miss Wilkins made any provision for another
lady to take her place as visitor at the school? He believed it was
her week. Miss Monro was out of all patience at his entire calmness
and reasonableness. Later in the day she became more at peace with
him, when she received a kind little note from Mrs. Forbes, a great
friend of hers, and the mother of the family she was now teaching,
saying that Canon Livingstone had called and told her that Ellinor
had to go on a very painful journey, and that Mrs. Forbes was quite
sure Miss Monro's companionship upon it would be a great comfort to
both, and that she could perfectly be set at liberty for a fortnight
or so, for it would fall in admirably with the fact that "Jeanie was
growing tall, and the doctor had advised sea air this spring; so a
month's holiday would suit them now even better than later on." Was
this going straight to Mrs. Forbes, to whom she should herself
scarcely have liked to name it, the act of a good, thoughtful man, or
of a lover? questioned Miss Monro; but she could not answer her own
inquiry, and had to be very grateful for the deed, without accounting
for the motives.
A coach met the train at a station about ten miles from Hamley, and
Dixon was at the inn where the coach stopped, ready to receive them.
The old man was almost in tears at the sight of them again in a
familiar place. He had put on his Sunday clothes to do them honour;
and to conceal his agitation he kept up a pretended bustle about
their luggage. To the indignation of the inn-porters, who were of a
later generation, he would wheel it himself to the Parsonage, though
he broke down from fatigue once or twice on the way, and had to stand
and rest, his ladies waiting by his side, and making remarks on the
alterations of houses and the places of trees, in order to give him
ample time to recruit himself, for there was no one to wait for them
and give them a welcome to the Parsonage, which was to be their
temporary home. The respectful servants, in deep mourning, had all
prepared, and gave Ellinor a note from Mr. Brown, saying that he
purposely refrained from disturbing them that day after their long
journey, but would call on the morrow, and tell them of the
arrangements he had thought of making, always subject to Miss
These were simple enough; certain legal forms to be gone through, any
selection from books or furniture to be made, and the rest to be sold
by auction as speedily as convenient, as the successor to the living
might wish to have repairs and alterations effected in the old
parsonage. For some days Ellinor employed herself in business in the
house, never going out except to church. Miss Monro, on the
contrary, strolled about everywhere, noticing all the alterations in
place and people, which were never improvements in her opinion.
Ellinor had plenty of callers (her tenants, Mr. and Mrs. Osbaldistone
among others), but, excepting in rare cases--most of them belonged to
humble life--she declined to see every one, as she had business
enough on her hands: sixteen years makes a great difference in any
set of people. The old acquaintances of her father in his better
days were almost all dead or removed; there were one or two
remaining, and these Ellinor received; one or two more, old and
infirm, confined to their houses, she planned to call upon before
leaving Hamley. Every evening, when Dixon had done his work at Mr.
Osbaldistone's, he came up to the Parsonage, ostensibly to help her
in moving or packing books, but really because these two clung to
each other--were bound to each other by a bond never to be spoken
about. It was understood between them that once before Ellinor left
she should go and see the old place, Ford Bank. Not to go into the
house, though Mr. and Mrs. Osbaldistone had begged her to name her
own time for revisiting it when they and their family would be
absent, but to see all the gardens and grounds once more; a solemn,
miserable visit, which, because of the very misery it involved,
appeared to Ellinor to be an imperative duty.
Dixon and she talked together as she sat making a catalogue one
evening in the old low-browed library; the casement windows were open
into the garden, and the May showers had brought out the scents of
the new-leaved sweetbriar bush just below. Beyond the garden hedge
the grassy meadows sloped away down to the liver; the Parsonage was
so much raised that, sitting in the house, you could see over the
boundary hedge. Men with instruments were busy in the meadow.
Ellinor, pausing in her work, asked Dixon what they were doing.
"Them's the people for the new railway," said he. "Nought would
satisfy the Hamley folk but to have a railway all to themselves--
coaches isn't good enough now-a-days."
He spoke with a tone of personal offence natural to a man who had
passed all his life among horses, and considered railway-engines as
their despicable rivals, conquering only by stratagem.
By-and-by Ellinor passed on to a subject the consideration of which
she had repeatedly urged upon Dixon, and entreated him to come and
form one of their household at East Chester. He was growing old, she
thought older even in looks and feelings than in years, and she would
make him happy and comfortable in his declining years if he would but
come and pass them under her care. The addition which Mr. Ness's
bequest made to her income would enable her to do not only this, but
to relieve Miss Monro of her occupation of teaching; which, at the
years she had arrived at, was becoming burdensome. When she proposed
the removal to Dixon he shook his head.
"It's not that I don't thank you, and kindly, too; but I'm too old to
go chopping and changing."
"But it would be no change to come back to me, Dixon," said Ellinor.
"Yes, it would. I were born i' Hamley, and it's i' Hamley I reckon
On her urging him a little more, it came out that he had a strong
feeling that if he did not watch the spot where the dead man lay
buried, the whole would be discovered; and that this dread of his had
often poisoned the pleasure of his visit to East Chester.
"I don't rightly know how it is, for I sometimes think if it wasn't
for you, missy, I should be glad to have made it all clear before I
go; and yet at times I dream, or it comes into my head as I lie awake
with the rheumatics, that some one is there, digging; or that I hear
'em cutting down the tree; and then I get up and look out of the loft
window--you'll mind the window over the stables, as looks into the
garden, all covered over wi' the leaves of the jargonelle pear-tree?
That were my room when first I come as stable-boy, and tho' Mr.
Osbaldistone would fain give me a warmer one, I allays tell him I
like th' old place best. And by times I've getten up five or six
times a-night to make sure as there was no one at work under the
Ellinor shivered a little. He saw it, and restrained himself in the
relief he was receiving from imparting his superstitious fancies.
"You see, missy, I could never rest a-nights if I didn't feel as if I
kept the secret in my hand, and held it tight day and night, so as I
could open my hand at any minute and see as it was there. No! my own
little missy will let me come and see her now and again, and I know
as I can allays ask her for what I want: and if it please God to lay
me by, I shall tell her so, and she'll see as I want for nothing.
But somehow I could ne'er bear leaving Hamley. You shall come and
follow me to my grave when my time comes."
"Don't talk so, please, Dixon," said she.
"Nay, it'll be a mercy when I can lay me down and sleep in peace:
though I sometimes fear as peace will not come to me even there." He
was going out of the room, and was now more talking to himself than
to her. "They say blood will out, and if it weren't for her part in
it, I could wish for a clear breast before I die."
She did not hear the latter part of this mumbled sentence. She was
looking at a letter just brought in and requiring an immediate
answer. It was from Mr. Brown. Notes from him were of daily
occurrence, but this contained an open letter the writing of which
was strangely familiar to her--it did not need the signature "Ralph
Corbet," to tell her whom the letter came from. For some moments she
could not read the words. They expressed a simple enough request,
and were addressed to the auctioneer who was to dispose of the rather
valuable library of the late Mr. Ness, and whose name had been
advertised in connection with the sale, in the Athenaeum, and other
similar papers. To him Mr. Corbet wrote, saying that he should be
unable to be present when the books were sold, but that he wished to
be allowed to buy in, at any price decided upon, a certain rare folio
edition of Virgil, bound in parchment, and with notes in Italian.
The book was fully described. Though no Latin scholar, Ellinor knew
the book well--remembered its look from old times, and could
instantly have laid her hand upon it. The auctioneer had sent the
request onto his employer, Mr. Brown. That gentleman applied to
Ellinor for her consent. She saw that the fact of the intended sale
must be all that Mr. Corbet was aware of, and that he could not know
to whom the books belonged. She chose out the book, and wrapped and
tied it up with trembling hands. HE might be the person to untie the
knot. It was strangely familiar to her love, after so many years, to
be brought into thus much contact with him. She wrote a short note
to Mr. Brown, in which she requested him to say, as though from
himself; and without any mention of her name, that he, as executor,
requested Mr. Corbet's acceptance of the Virgil, as a remembrance of
his former friend and tutor. Then she rang the bell, and gave the
letter and parcel to the servant.
Again alone, and Mr. Corbet's open letter on the table. She took it
up and looked at it till the letters dazzled crimson on the white
paper. Her life rolled backwards, and she was a girl again. At last
she roused herself; but instead of destroying the note--it was long
years since all her love-letters from him had been returned to the
writer--she unlocked her little writing-case again, and placed this
letter carefully down at the bottom, among the dead rose-leaves which
embalmed the note from her father, found after his death under his
pillow, the little golden curl of her sister's, the half-finished
sewing of her mother.
The shabby writing-case itself was given her by her father long ago,
and had since been taken with her everywhere. To be sure, her
changes of place had been but few; but if she had gone to Nova
Zembla, the sight of that little leather box on awaking from her
first sleep, would have given her a sense of home. She locked the
case up again, and felt all the richer for that morning.
A day or two afterwards she left Hamley. Before she went she
compelled herself to go round the gardens and grounds of Ford Bank.
She had made Mrs. Osbaldistone understand that it would be painful
for her to re-enter the house; but Mr. Osbaldistone accompanied her
in her walk.
"You see how literally we have obeyed the clause in the lease which
ties us out from any alterations," said he, smiling. "We are living
in a tangled thicket of wood. I must confess that I should have
liked to cut down a good deal; but we do not do even the requisite
thinnings without making the proper application for leave to Mr.
Johnson. In fact, your old friend Dixon is jealous of every pea-
stick the gardener cuts. I never met with so faithful a fellow. A
good enough servant, too, in his way; but somewhat too old-fashioned
for my wife and daughters, who complain of his being surly now and
"You are not thinking of parting with him?" said Ellinor, jealous for
"Oh, no; he and I are capital friends. And I believe Mrs.
Osbaldistone herself would never consent to his leaving us. But some
ladies, you know, like a little more subserviency in manner than our
friend Dixon can boast."
Ellinor made no reply. They were entering the painted flower garden,
hiding the ghastly memory. She could not speak. She felt as if,
with all her striving, she could not move--just as one does in a
nightmare--but she was past the place even as this terror came to its
acme; and when she came to herself, Mr. Osbaldistone was still
blandly talking, and saying -
"It is now a reward for our obedience to your wishes, Miss Wilkins,
for if the projected railway passes through the ash-field yonder we
should have been perpetually troubled with the sight of the trains;
indeed, the sound would have been much more distinct than it will be
now coming through the interlacing branches. Then you will not go
in, Miss Wilkins?" Mrs. Osbaldistone desired me to say how happy--
Ah! I can understand such feelings--Certainly, certainly; it is so
much the shortest way to the town, that we elder ones always go
through the stable-yard; for young people, it is perhaps not quite so
desirable. Ha! Dixon," he continued, "on the watch for the Miss
Ellinor we so often hear of! This old man," he continued to Ellinor,
"is never satisfied with the seat of our young ladies, always
comparing their way of riding with that of a certain missy--"
"I cannot help it, sir; they've quite a different style of hand, and
sit all lumpish-like. Now, Miss Ellinor, there -"
"Hush, Dixon," she said, suddenly aware of why the old servant was
not popular with his mistress. "I suppose I may be allowed to ask
for Dixon's company for an hour or so; we have something to do
together before we leave."
The consent given, the two walked away, as by previous appointment,
to Hamley churchyard, where he was to point out to her the exact spot
where he wished to be buried. Trampling over the long, rank grass,
but avoiding passing directly over any of the thickly-strewn graves,
he made straight for one spot--a little space of unoccupied ground
close by, where Molly, the pretty scullery-maid, lay:
Sacred to the Memory of
Born 1797. Died 1818.
"We part to meet again."
"I put this stone up over her with my first savings," said he,
looking at it; and then, pulling out his knife, he began to clean out
the letters. "I said then as I would lie by her. And it'll be a
comfort to think you'll see me laid here. I trust no one'll be so
crabbed as to take a fancy to this 'ere spot of ground."
Ellinor grasped eagerly at the only pleasure which her money enabled
her to give to the old man: and promised him that she would take
care and buy the right to that particular piece of ground. This was
evidently a gratification Dixon had frequently yearned after; he kept
saying, "I'm greatly obleeged to ye, Miss Ellinor. I may say I'm
truly obleeged." And when he saw them off by the coach the next day,
his last words were, "I cannot justly say how greatly I'm obleeged to
you for that matter of the churchyard." It was a much more easy
affair to give Miss Monro some additional comforts; she was as
cheerful as ever; still working away at her languages in any spare
time, but confessing that she was tired of the perpetual teaching in
which her life had been spent during the last thirty years. Ellinor
was now enabled to set her at liberty from this, and she accepted the
kindness from her former pupil with as much simple gratitude as that
with which a mother receives a favour from a child. "If Ellinor were
but married to Canon Livingstone, I should be happier than I have
ever been since my father died," she used to say to herself in the
solitude of her bedchamber, for talking aloud had become her wont in
the early years of her isolated life as a governess. "And yet," she
went on, "I don't know what I should do without her; it is lucky for
me that things are not in my hands, for a pretty mess I should make
of them, one way or another. Dear! how old Mrs. Cadogan used to hate
that word 'mess,' and correct her granddaughters for using it right
before my face, when I knew I had said it myself only the moment
before! Well! those days are all over now. God be thanked!"
In spite of being glad that "things were not in her hands" Miss Monro
tried to take affairs into her charge by doing all she could to
persuade Ellinor to allow her to invite the canon to their "little
sociable teas." The most provoking part was, that she was sure he
would have come if he had been asked; but she could never get leave
to do so. "Of course no man could go on for ever and ever without
encouragement," as she confided to herself in a plaintive tone of
voice; and by-and-by many people were led to suppose that the
bachelor canon was paying attention to Miss Forbes, the eldest
daughter of the family to which the delicate Jeanie belonged. It
was, perhaps, with the Forbeses that both Miss Monro and Ellinor were
the most intimate of all the families in East Chester. Mrs. Forbes
was a widow lady of good means, with a large family of pretty,
delicate daughters. She herself belonged to one of the great houses
in --shire, but had married into Scotland; so, after her husband's
death, it was the most natural thing in the world that she should
settle in East Chester; and one after another of her daughters had
become first Miss Monro's pupil and afterwards her friend. Mrs.
Forbes herself had always been strongly attracted by Ellinor, but it
was long before she could conquer the timid reserve by which Miss
Wilkins was hedged round. It was Miss Monro, who was herself
incapable of jealousy, who persevered in praising them to one
another, and in bringing them together; and now Ellinor was as
intimate and familiar in Mrs. Forbes's household as she ever could be
with any family not her own.
Mrs. Forbes was considered to be a little fanciful as to illness; but
it was no wonder, remembering how many sisters she had lost by
consumption. Miss Monro had often grumbled at the way in which her
pupils were made irregular for very trifling causes. But no one so
alarmed as she, when, in the autumn succeeding Mr. Ness's death, Mrs.
Forbes remarked to her on Ellinor's increased delicacy of appearance,
and shortness of breathing. From that time forwards she worried
Ellinor (if any one so sweet and patient could ever have been
worried) with respirators and precautions. Ellinor submitted to all
her friend's wishes and cares, sooner than make her anxious, and
remained a prisoner in the house through the whole of November. Then
Miss Monro's anxiety took another turn. Ellinor's appetite and
spirits failed her--not at all an unnatural consequence of so many
weeks' confinement to the house. A plan was started, quite suddenly,
one morning in December, that met with approval from everyone but
Ellinor, who was, however, by this time too languid to make much
Mrs. Forbes and her daughters were going to Rome for three or four
months, so as to avoid the trying east winds of spring; why should
not Miss Wilkins go with them? They urged it, and Miss Monro urged
it, though with a little private sinking of the heart at the idea of
the long separation from one who was almost like a child to her.
Ellinor was, as it were, lifted off her feet and borne away by the
unanimous opinion of others--the doctor included--who decided that
such a step was highly desirable; if not absolutely necessary. She
knew that she had only a life interest both in her father's property
and in that bequeathed to her by Mr. Ness. Hitherto she had not felt
much troubled by this, as she had supposed that in the natural course
of events she should survive Miss Monro and Dixon, both of whom she
looked upon as dependent upon her. All she had to bequeath to the
two was the small savings, which would not nearly suffice for both
purposes, especially considering that Miss Monro had given up her
teaching, and that both she and Dixon were passing into years.
Before Ellinor left England she had made every arrangement for the
contingency of her death abroad that Mr. Johnson could suggest. She
had written and sent a long letter to Dixon; and a shorter one was
left in charge of Canon Livingstone (she dared not hint at the
possibility of her dying to Miss Monro) to be sent to the old man.
As they drove out of the King's Cross station, they passed a
gentleman's carriage entering. Ellinor saw a bright, handsome lady,
a nurse, and baby inside, and a gentleman sitting by them whose face
she could never forget. It was Mr. Corbet taking his wife and child
to the railway. They were going on a Christmas visit to East Chester
deanery. He had been leaning back, not noticing the passers-by, not
attending to the other inmates of the carriage, probably absorbed in
the consideration of some law case. Such were the casual glimpses
Ellinor had of one with whose life she had once thought herself bound
Who so proud as Miss Monro when a foreign letter came? Her
correspondent was not particularly graphic in her descriptions, nor
were there any adventures to be described, nor was the habit of mind
of Ellinor such as to make her clear and definite in her own
impressions of what she saw, and her natural reserve kept her from
being fluent in communicating them even to Miss Monro. But that lady
would have been pleased to read aloud these letters to the assembled
dean and canons, and would not have been surprised if they had
invited her to the chapter-house for that purpose. To her circle of
untravelled ladies, ignorant of Murray, but laudably desirous of
information, all Ellinor's historical reminiscences and rather formal
details were really interesting. There was no railroad in those days
between Lyons and Marseilles, so their progress was slow, and the
passage of letters to and fro, when they had arrived in Rome, long
and uncertain. But all seemed going on well. Ellinor spoke of
herself as in better health; and Canon Livingstone (between whom and
Miss Monro great intimacy had sprung up since Ellinor had gone away,
and Miss Monro could ask him to tea) confirmed this report of Miss
Wilkins's health from a letter which he had received from Mrs.
Forbes. Curiosity about that letter was Miss Monro's torment. What
could they have had to write to each other about? It was a very odd
proceeding; although the Livingstones and Forbeses were distantly
related, after the manner of Scotland. Could it have been that he
had offered to Euphemia, after all, and that her mother had answered;
or, possibly, there was a letter from Effie herself, enclosed. It
was a pity for Miss Monro's peace of mind that she did not ask him
straight away. She would then have learnt what Canon Livingstone had
no thought of concealing, that Mrs. Forbes had written solely to give
him some fuller directions about certain charities than she had had
time to think about in the hurry of starting. As it was, and when, a
little later on, she heard him speak of the possibility of his going
himself to Rome, as soon as his term of residence was over, in time
for the Carnival, she gave up her fond project in despair, and felt
very much like a child whose house of bricks had been knocked down by
the unlucky waft of some passing petticoat.
Meanwhile, the entire change of scene brought on the exquisite
refreshment of entire change of thought. Ellinor had not been able
so completely to forget her past life for many years; it was like a
renewing of her youth; cut so suddenly short by the shears of Fate.
Ever since that night, she had had to rouse herself on awakening in
the morning into a full comprehension of the great cause she had for
much fear and heavy grief. Now, when she wakened in her little room,
fourth piano, No. 36, Babuino, she saw the strange, pretty things
around her, and her mind went off into pleasant wonder and
conjecture, happy recollections of the day before, and pleasant
anticipations of the day to come. Latent in Ellinor was her father's
artistic temperament; everything new and strange was a picture and a
delight; the merest group in the street, a Roman facchino, with his
cloak draped over his shoulder, a girl going to market or carrying
her pitcher back from the fountain, everything and every person that
presented it or himself to her senses, gave them a delicious shock,
as if it were something strangely familiar from Pinelli, but unseen
by her mortal eyes before. She forgot her despondency, her ill-
health disappeared as if by magic; the Misses Forbes, who had taken
the pensive, drooping invalid as a companion out of kindness of
heart, found themselves amply rewarded by the sight of her amended
health, and her keen enjoyment of everything, and the half-quaint,
half naive expressions of her pleasure.
So March came round; Lent was late that year. The great nosegays of
violets and camellias were for sale at the corner of the Condotti,
and the revellers had no difficulty in procuring much rarer flowers
for the belles of the Corso. The embassies had their balconies; the
attaches of the Russian Embassy threw their light and lovely presents
at every pretty girl, or suspicion of a pretty girl, who passed
slowly in her carriage, covered over with her white domino, and
holding her wire mask as a protection to her face from the showers of
lime confetti, which otherwise would have been enough to blind her;
Mrs. Forbes had her own hired balcony, as became a wealthy and
respectable Englishwoman. The girls had a great basket full of
bouquets with which to pelt their friends in the crowd below; a store
of moccoletti lay piled on the table behind, for it was the last day
of Carnival, and as soon as dusk came on the tapers were to be
lighted, to be as quickly extinguished by every means in everyone's
power. The crowd below was at its wildest pitch; the rows of stately
contadini alone sitting immovable as their possible ancestors, the
senators who received Brennus and his Gauls. Masks and white
dominoes, foreign gentlemen, and the riffraff of the city, slow-
driving carriages, showers of flowers, most of them faded by this
time, everyone shouting and struggling at that wild pitch of
excitement which may so soon turn into fury. The Forbes girls had
given place at the window to their mother and Ellinor, who were
gazing half amused, half terrified, at the mad parti-coloured
movement below; when a familiar face looked up, smiling a
recognition; and "How shall I get to you?" was asked in English, by
the well-known voice of Canon Livingstone. They saw him disappear
under the balcony on which they were standing, but it was some time
before he made his appearance in their room. And when he did, he was
almost overpowered with greetings; so glad were they to see an East
"When did you come? Where are you? What a pity you did not come
sooner! It is so long since we have heard anything; do tell us
everything! It is three weeks since we have had any letters; those
tiresome boats have been so irregular because of the weather." "How
was everybody--Miss Monro in particular?" Ellinor asks.
He, quietly smiling, replied to their questions by slow degrees. He
had only arrived the night before, and had been hunting for them all
day; but no one could give him any distinct intelligence as to their
whereabouts in all the noise and confusion of the place, especially
as they had their only English servant with them, and the canon was
not strong in his Italian. He was not sorry he had missed all but
this last day of carnival, for he was half blinded and wholly
deafened, as it was. He was at the "Angleterre;" he had left East
Chester about a week ago; he had letters for all of them, but had not
dared to bring them through the crowd for fear of having his pocket
picked. Miss Monro was very well, but very uneasy at not having
heard from Ellinor for so long; the irregularity of the boats must be
telling both ways, for their English friends were full of wonder at
not hearing from Rome. And then followed some well-deserved abuse of
the Roman post, and some suspicion of the carelessness with which
Italian servants posted English letters. All these answers were
satisfactory enough, yet Mrs. Forbes thought she saw a latent
uneasiness in Canon Livingstone's manner, and fancied once or twice
that he hesitated in replying to Ellinor's questions. But there was
no being quite sure in the increasing darkness, which prevented
countenances from being seen; nor in the constant interruptions and
screams which were going on in the small crowded room, as wafting
handkerchiefs, puffs of wind, or veritable extinguishers, fastened to
long sticks, and coming from nobody knew where, put out taper after
taper as fast as they were lighted.
"You will come home with us," said Mrs. Forbes. "I can only offer
you cold meat with tea; our cook is gone out, this being a universal
festa; but we cannot part with an old friend for any scruples as to
"Thank you. I should have invited myself if you had not been good
enough to ask me."
When they had all arrived at their apartment in the Babuino (Canon
Livingstone had gone round to fetch the letters with which he was
entrusted), Mrs. Forbes was confirmed in her supposition that he had
something particular and not very pleasant to say to Ellinor, by the
rather grave and absent manner in which he awaited her return from
taking off her out-of-door things. He broke off, indeed, in his
conversation with Mrs. Forbes to go and meet Ellinor, and to lead her
into the most distant window before he delivered her letters.
"From what you said in the balcony yonder, I fear you have not
received your home letters regularly?"
"No!" replied she, startled and trembling, she hardly knew why.
"No more has Miss Monro heard from you; nor, I believe, has some one
else who expected to hear. Your man of business--I forget his name."
"My man of business! Something has gone wrong, Mr. Livingstone.
Tell me--I want to know. I have been expecting it--only tell me."
She sat down suddenly, as white as ashes.
"Dear Miss Wilkins, I'm afraid it is painful enough, but you are
fancying it worse than it is. All your friends are quite well; but
an old servant--"
"Well!" she said, seeing his hesitation, and leaning forwards and
griping at his arm.
"Is taken up on a charge of manslaughter or murder. Oh! Mrs. Forbes,
For Ellinor had fainted, falling forwards on the arm she had held.
When she came round she was lying half undressed on her bed; they
were giving her tea in spoonfuls.
"I must get up," she moaned. "I must go home."
"You must lie still," said Mrs. Forbes, firmly.
"You don't know. I must go home," she repeated; and she tried to sit
up, but fell back helpless. Then she did not speak, but lay and
thought. "Will you bring me some meat?" she whispered. "And some
wine?" They brought her meat and wine; she ate, though she was
choking. "Now, please, bring me my letters, and leave me alone; and
after that I should like to speak to Canon Livingstone. Don't let
him go, please. I won't be long--half an hour, I think. Only let me
There was a hurried feverish sharpness in her tone that made Mrs.
Forbes very anxious, but she judged it best to comply with her
The letters were brought, the lights were arranged so that she could
read them lying on her bed; and they left her. Then she got up and
stood on her feet, dizzy enough, her arms clasped at the top of her
head, her eyes dilated and staring as if looking at some great
horror. But after a few minutes she sat down suddenly, and began to
read. Letters were evidently missing. Some had been sent by an
opportunity that had been delayed on the journey, and had not yet
arrived in Rome. Others had been despatched by the post, but the
severe weather, the unusual snow, had, in those days, before the
railway was made between Lyons and Marseilles, put a stop to many a
traveller's plans, and had rendered the transmission of the mail
extremely uncertain; so, much of that intelligence which Miss Monro
had evidently considered as certain to be known to Ellinor was
entirely matter of conjecture, and could only be guessed at from what
was told in these letters. One was from Mr. Johnson, one from Mr.
Brown, one from Miss Monro; of course the last mentioned was the
first read. She spoke of the shock of the discovery of Mr. Dunster's
body, found in the cutting of the new line of railroad from Hamley to
the nearest railway station; the body so hastily buried long ago, in
its clothes, by which it was now recognised--a recognition confirmed
by one or two more personal and indestructible things, such as his
watch and seal with his initials; of the shock to everyone, the
Osbaldistones in particular, on the further discovery of a fleam or
horse-lancet, having the name of Abraham Dixon engraved on the
handle; how Dixon had gone on Mr. Osbaldistone's business to a horse-
fair in Ireland some weeks before this, and had had his leg broken by
a kick from an unruly mare, so that he was barely able to move about
when the officers of justice went to apprehend him in Tralee.
At this point Ellinor cried out loud and shrill.
"Oh, Dixon! Dixon! and I was away enjoying myself."
They heard her cry, and came to the door, but it was bolted inside.
"Please, go away," she said; "please, go. I will be very quiet;
only, please, go."
She could not bear just then to read any more of Miss Monro's letter;
she tore open Mr. Johnson's--the date was a fortnight earlier than
Miss Monro's; he also expressed his wonder at not hearing from her,
in reply to his letter of January 9; but he added, that he thought
that her trustees had judged rightly; the handsome sum the railway
company had offered for the land when their surveyor decided on the
alteration of the line, Mr. Osbaldistone, &c. &c. She could not read
anymore; it was Fate pursuing her. Then she took the letter up again
and tried to read; but all that reached her understanding was the
fact that Mr. Johnson had sent his present letter to Miss Monro,
thinking that she might know of some private opportunity safer than
the post. Mr. Brown's was just such a letter as he occasionally sent
her from time to time; a correspondence that arose out of their
mutual regard for their dead friend Mr. Ness. It, too, had been sent
to Miss Monro to direct. Ellinor was on the point of putting it
aside entirely, when the name of Corbet caught her eye: "You will be
interested to hear that the old pupil of our departed friend, who was
so anxious to obtain the folio Virgil with the Italian notes, is
appointed the new judge in room of Mr. Justice Jenkin. At least I
conclude that Mr. Ralph Corbet, Q.C., is the same as the Virgil
"Yes," said Ellinor, bitterly; "he judged well; it would never have
done." They were the first words of anything like reproach which she
ever formed in her own mind during all these years. She thought for
a few moments of the old times; it seemed to steady her brain to
think of them. Then she took up and finished Miss Monro's letter.
That excellent friend had done all which she thought Ellinor would
have wished without delay. She had written to Mr. Johnson, and
charged him to do everything he could to defend Dixon and to spare no
expense. She was thinking of going to the prison in the county town,
to see the old man herself, but Ellinor could perceive that all these
endeavours and purposes of Miss Monro's were based on love for her
own pupil, and a desire to set her mind at ease as far as she could,
rather than from any idea that Dixon himself could be innocent.
Ellinor put down the letters, and went to the door, then turned back,
and locked them up in her writing-case with trembling hands; and
after that she entered the drawing-room, looking liker to a ghost
than to a living woman.
"Can I speak to you for a minute alone?" Her still, tuneless voice
made the words into a command. Canon Livingstone arose and followed
her into the little dining-room. "Will you tell me all you know--all
you have heard about my--you know what?"
"Miss Monro was my informant--at least at first--it was in the Times
the day before I left. Miss Monro says it could only have been done
in a moment of anger if the old servant is really guilty; that he was
as steady and good a man as she ever knew, and she seems to have a
strong feeling against Mr. Dunster, as always giving your father much
unnecessary trouble; in fact, she hints that his disappearance at the
time was supposed to be the cause of a considerable loss of property
to Mr. Wilkins."
"No!" said Ellinor, eagerly, feeling that some justice ought to be
done to the dead man; and then she stopped short, fearful of saying
anything that should betray her full knowledge. "I mean this," she
went on; "Mr. Dunster was a very disagreeable man personally--and
papa--we none of us liked him; but he was quite honest--please
The canon bowed, and said a few acquiescing words. He waited for her
to speak again.
"Miss Monro says she is going to see Dixon in--"
"Oh, Mr. Livingstone, I can't bear it!"
He let her alone, looking at her pitifully, as she twisted and wrung
her hands together in her endeavour to regain the quiet manner she
had striven to maintain through the interview. She looked up at him
with a poor attempt at an apologetic smile:
"It is so terrible to think of that good old man in prison!"
"You do not believe him guilty!" said Canon Livingstone, in some
surprise. "I am afraid, from all I heard and read, there is but
little doubt that he did kill the man; I trust in some moment of
irritation, with no premeditated malice."
Ellinor shook her head.
"How soon can I get to England?" asked she. "I must start at once."
"Mrs. Forbes sent out while you were lying down. I am afraid there
is no boat to Marseilles till Thursday, the day after to-morrow."
"But I must go sooner!" said Ellinor, starting up. "I must go;
please help me. He may be tried before I can get there!"
"Alas! I fear that will be the case, whatever haste you make. The
trial was to come on at the Hellingford Assizes, and that town stands
first on the Midland Circuit list. To-day is the 27th of February;
the assizes begin on the 7th of March."
"I will start to-morrow morning early for Civita; there may be a boat
there they do not know of here. At any rate, I shall be on my way.
If he dies, I must die too. Oh! I don't know what I am saying, I am
so utterly crushed down! It would be such a kindness if you would go
away, and let no one come to me. I know Mrs. Forbes is so good, she
will forgive me. I will say good-by to you all before I go to-morrow
morning; but I must think now."
For one moment he stood looking at her as if he longed to comfort her
by more words. He thought better of it, however, and silently left
For a long time Ellinor sat still; now and then taking up Miss
Monro's letter, and re-reading the few terrible details. Then she
bethought her that possibly the canon might have brought a copy of
the Times, containing the examination of Dixon before the
magistrates, and she opened the door and called to a passing servant
to make the inquiry. She was quite right in her conjecture; Dr.
Livingstone had had the paper in his pocket during his interview with
her; but he thought the evidence so conclusive, that the perusal of
it would only be adding to her extreme distress by accelerating the
conviction of Dixon's guilt, which he believed she must arrive at
sooner or later.
He had been reading the report over with Mrs. Forbes and her
daughters, after his return from Ellinor's room, and they were all
participating in his opinion upon it, when her request for the Times
was brought. They had reluctantly agreed, saying there did not
appear to be a shadow of doubt on the fact of Dixon's having killed
Mr. Dunster, only hoping there might prove to be some extenuating
circumstances, which Ellinor had probably recollected, and which she
was desirous of producing on the approaching trial.
Ellinor, having read the report of Dixon's examination in the
newspaper, bathed her eyes and forehead in cold water, and tried to
still her poor heart's beating, that she might be clear and collected
enough to weigh the evidence.
Every line of it was condemnatory. One or two witnesses spoke of
Dixon's unconcealed dislike of Dunster, a dislike which Ellinor knew
had been entertained by the old servant out of a species of loyalty
to his master, as well as from personal distaste. The fleam was
proved beyond all doubt to be Dixon's; and a man, who had been
stable-boy in Mr. Wilkins's service, swore that on the day when Mr.
Dunster was missed, and when the whole town was wondering what had
become of him, a certain colt of Mr. Wilkins's had needed bleeding,
and that he had been sent by Dixon to the farrier's for a horse-
lancet, an errand which he had remarked upon at the time, as he knew
that Dixon had a fleam of his own.
Mr. Osbaldistone was examined. He kept interrupting himself
perpetually to express his surprise at the fact of so steady and
well-conducted a man as Dixon being guilty of so heinous a crime, and
was willing enough to testify to the excellent character which he had
borne during all the many years he had been in his (Mr.
Osbaldistone's) service; but he appeared to be quite convinced by the
evidence previously given of the prisoner's guilt in the matter, and
strengthened the case against him materially by stating the
circumstance of the old man's dogged unwillingness to have the
slightest interference by cultivation with that particular piece of
Here Ellinor shuddered. Before her, in that Roman bed-chamber, rose
the fatal oblong she knew by heart--a little green moss or lichen,
and thinly-growing blades of grass scarcely covering the caked and
undisturbed soil under the old tree. Oh, that she had been in
England when the surveyors of the railway between Ashcombe and Hamley
had altered their line; she would have entreated, implored, compelled
her trustees not to have sold that piece of ground for any sum of
money whatever. She would have bribed the surveyors, done she knew
not what--but now it was too late; she would not let her mind wander
off to what might have been; she would force herself again to attend
to the newspaper columns. There was little more: the prisoner had
been asked if he could say anything to clear himself, and properly
cautioned not to say anything to incriminate himself. The poor old
man's person was described, and his evident emotion. "The prisoner
was observed to clutch at the rail before him to steady himself, and
his colour changed so much at this part of the evidence that one of
the turnkeys offered him a glass of water, which he declined. He is
a man of a strongly-built frame, and with rather a morose and sullen
cast of countenance."
"My poor, poor Dixon!" said Ellinor, laying down the paper for an
instant, and she was near crying, only she had resolved to shed no
tears till she had finished all, and could judge of the chances.
There were but a few lines more: "At one time the prisoner seemed to
be desirous of alleging something in his defence, but he changed his
mind, if such had been the case, and in reply to Mr. Gordon (the
magistrate) he only said, 'You've made a pretty strong case out again
me, gentlemen, and it seems for to satisfy you; so I think I'll not
disturb your minds by saying anything more.' Accordingly, Dixon now
stands committed for trial for murder at the next Hellingford
Assizes, which commence on March the seventh, before Baron Rushton
and Mr. Justice Corbet."
"Mr. Justice Corbet!" The words ran through Ellinor as though she
had been stabbed with a knife, and by an irrepressible movement she
stood up rigid. The young man, her lover in her youth, the old
servant who in those days was perpetually about her--the two who had
so often met in familiar if not friendly relations, now to face each
other as judge and accused! She could not tell how much Mr. Corbet
had conjectured from the partial revelation she had made to him of
the impending shame that hung over her and hers. A day or two ago
she could have remembered the exact words she had used in that
memorable interview; but now, strive as she would, she could only
recall facts, not words. After all, the Mr. Justice Corbet might not
be Ralph. There was one chance in a hundred against the identity of
While she was weighing probabilities in her sick dizzy mind, she
heard soft steps outside her bolted door, and low voices whispering.
It was the bedtime of happy people with hearts at ease. Some of the
footsteps passed lightly on; but there was a gentle rap at Ellinor's
door. She pressed her two hot hands hard against her temples for an
instant before she went to open the door. There stood Mrs. Forbes in
her handsome evening dress, holding a lighted lamp in her hand.
"May I come in, my dear?" she asked. Ellinor's stiff dry lips
refused to utter the words of assent which indeed did not come
readily from her heart.
"I am so grieved at this sad news which the canon brings. I can well
understand what a shock it must be to you; we have just been saying
it must be as bad for you as it would be to us if our old Donald
should turn out to have been a hidden murderer all these years that
he has lived with us; I really could have as soon suspected Donald as
that white-haired respectable old man who used to come and see you at
Ellinor felt that she must say something. "It is a terrible shock--
poor old man! and no friend near him, even Mr. Osbaldistone giving
evidence again him. Oh, dear, dear! why did I ever come to Rome?"
"Now, my dear, you must not let yourself take an exaggerated view of
the case. Sad and shocking as it is to have been so deceived, it is
what happens to many of us, though not to so terrible a degree; and
as to your coming to Rome having anything to do with it--"
(Mrs. Forbes almost smiled at the idea, so anxious was she to banish
the idea of self-reproach from Ellinor's sensitive mind, but Ellinor
interrupted her abruptly:)
"Mrs. Forbes! did he--did Canon Livingstone tell you that I must
leave to-morrow? I must go to England as fast as possible to do what
I can for Dixon."
"Yes, he told us you were thinking of it, and it was partly that made
me force myself in upon you to-night. I think, my love, you are
mistaken in feeling as if you were called upon to do more than what
the canon tells me Miss Monro has already done in your name--engaged
the best legal advice, and spared no expense to give the suspected
man every chance. What could you do more even if you were on the
spot? And it is very possible that the trial may have come on before
you get home. Then what could you do? He would either have been
acquitted or condemned; if the former, he would find public sympathy
all in his favour; it always is for the unjustly accused. And if he
turns out to be guilty, my dear Ellinor, it will be far better for
you to have all the softening which distance can give to such a
dreadful termination to the life of a poor man whom you have
respected so long."
But Ellinor spoke again with a kind of irritated determination, very
foreign to her usual soft docility:
"Please just let me judge for myself this once. I am not ungrateful.
God knows I don't want to vex one who has been so kind to me as you
have been, dear Mrs. Forbes; but I must go--and every word you say to
dissuade me only makes me more convinced. I am going to Civita to-
morrow. I shall be that much on the way. I cannot rest here."
Mrs. Forbes looked at her in grave silence. Ellinor could not bear
the consciousness of that fixed gaze. Yet its fixity only arose from
Mrs. Forbes' perplexity as to how best to assist Ellinor, whether to
restrain her by further advice--of which the first dose had proved so
useless--or to speed her departure. Ellinor broke on her
"You have always been so kind and good to me,--go on being so--
please, do! Leave me alone now, dear Mrs. Forbes, for I cannot bear
talking about it, and help me to go to-morrow, and you do not know
how I will pray to God to bless you!"
Such an appeal was irresistible. Mrs. Forbes kissed her very
tenderly, and went to rejoin her daughters, who were clustered
together in their mother's bedroom awaiting her coming.
"Well, mamma, how is she? What does she say?"
"She is in a very excited state, poor thing! and has got so strong an
impression that it is her duty to go back to England and do all she
can for this wretched old man, that I am afraid we must not oppose
her. I am afraid that she really must go on Thursday."
Although Mrs. Forbes secured the services of a travelling-maid, Dr.
Livingstone insisted on accompanying Ellinor to England, and it would
have required more energy than she possessed at this time to combat a
resolution which both words and manner expressed as determined. She
would much rather have travelled alone with her maid; she did not
feel the need of the services he offered; but she was utterly
listless and broken down; all her interest was centred in the thought
of Dixon and his approaching trial, and perplexity as to the mode in
which she must do her duty.
They embarked late that evening in the tardy Santa Lucia, and Ellinor
immediately went to her berth. She was not sea-sick; that might
possibly have lessened her mental sufferings, which all night long
tormented her. High-perched in an upper berth, she did not like
disturbing the other occupants of the cabin till daylight appeared.
Then she descended and dressed, and went on deck; the vessel was just
passing the rocky coast of Elba, and the sky was flushed with rosy
light, that made the shadows on the island of the most exquisite
purple. The sea still heaved with yesterday's storm, but the motion
only added to the beauty of the sparkles and white foam that dimpled
and curled on the blue waters. The air was delicious, after the
closeness of the cabin, and Ellinor only wondered that more people
were not on deck to enjoy it. One or two stragglers came up, time
after time, and began pacing the deck. Dr. Livingstone came up
before very long; but he seemed to have made a rule of not obtruding
himself on Ellinor, excepting when he could be of some use. After a
few words of common-place morning greeting, he, too, began to walk
backwards and forwards, while Ellinor sat quietly watching the lovely
island receding fast from her view--a beautiful vision never to be
seen again by her mortal eyes.
Suddenly there was a shock and stound all over the vessel, her
progress was stopped, and a rocking vibration was felt everywhere.
The quarter-deck was filled with blasts of steam, which obscured
everything. Sick people came rushing up out of their berths in
strange undress; the steerage passengers--a motley and picturesque
set of people, in many varieties of gay costume--took refuge on the
quarter-deck, speaking loudly in all varieties of French and Italian
patois. Ellinor stood up in silent, wondering dismay. Was the Santa
Lucia going down on the great deep, and Dixon unaided in his peril?
Dr. Livingstone was by her side in a moment. She could scarcely see
him for the vapour, nor hear him for the roar of the escaping steam.
"Do not be unnecessarily frightened," he repeated, a little louder.
"Some accident has occurred to the engines. I will go and make
instant inquiry, and come back to you as soon as I can. Trust to
He came back to where she sat trembling.
"A part of the engine is broken, through the carelessness of these
Neapolitan engineers; they say we must make for the nearest port--
return to Civita, in fact."
"But Elba is not many miles away," said Ellinor. "If this steam were
but away, you could see it still."
"And if we were landed there we might stay on the island for many
days; no steamer touches there; but if we return to Civita, we shall
be in time for the Sunday boat."
"Oh, dear, dear!" said Ellinor. "To-day is the second--Sunday will
be the fourth--the assizes begin on the seventh; how miserably
"Yes!" he said, "it is. And these things always appear so doubly
unfortunate when they hinder our serving others! But it does not
follow that because the assizes begin at Hellingford on the seventh,
Dixon's trial will come on so soon. We may still get to Marseilles
on Monday evening; on by diligence to Lyons; it will--it must, I
fear, be Thursday, at the earliest, before we reach Paris--Thursday,
the eighth--and I suppose you know of some exculpatory evidence that
has to be hunted up?"
He added this unwillingly; for he saw that Ellinor was jealous of the
secresy she had hitherto maintained as to her reasons for believing
Dixon innocent; but he could not help thinking that she, a gentle,
timid woman, unaccustomed to action or business, would require some
of the assistance which he would have been so thankful to give her;
especially as this untoward accident would increase the press of time
in which what was to be done would have to be done.
But no. Ellinor scarcely replied to his half-inquiry as to her
reasons for hastening to England. She yielded to all his directions,
agreed to his plans, but gave him none of her confidence, and he had
to submit to this exclusion from sympathy in the exact causes of her
Once more in the dreary sala, with the gaudy painted ceiling, the
bare dirty floor, the innumerable rattling doors and windows!
Ellinor was submissive and patient in demeanour, because so sick and
despairing at heart. Her maid was ten times as demonstrative of
annoyance and disgust; she who had no particular reason for wanting
to reach England, but who thought it became her dignity to make it
seem as though she had.
At length the weary time was over; and again they sailed past Elba,
and arrived at Marseilles. Now Ellinor began to feel how much
assistance it was to her to have Dr. Livingstone for a "courier," as
he had several times called himself.
"Where now?" said the canon, as they approached the London Bridge
"To the Great Western," said she; "Hellingford is on that line, I
see. But, please, now we must part."
"Then I may not go with you to Hellingford? At any rate, you will
allow me to go with you to the railway station, and do my last office
as courier in getting you your ticket and placing you in the
So they went together to the station, and learnt that no train was
leaving for Hellingford for two hours. There was nothing for it but
to go to the hotel close by, and pass away the time as best they
Ellinor called for her maid's accounts, and dismissed her. Some
refreshment that the canon had ordered was eaten, and the table
cleared. He began walking up and down the room, his arms folded, his
eyes cast down. Every now and then he looked at the clock on the
mantelpiece. When that showed that it only wanted a quarter of an
hour to the time appointed for the train to start, he came up to
Ellinor, who sat leaning her head upon her hand, her hand resting on
"Miss Wilkins," he began--and there was something peculiar in his
tone which startled Ellinor--"I am sure you will not scruple to apply
to me if in any possible way I can help you in this sad trouble of
"No indeed I won't!" said Ellinor, gratefully, and putting out her
hand as a token. He took it, and held it; she went on, a little more
hastily than before: "You know you were so good as to say you would
go at once and see Miss Monro, and tell her all you know, and that I
will write to her as soon as I can."
"May I not ask for one line?" he continued, still holding her hand.
"Certainly: so kind a friend as you shall hear all I can tell; that
is, all I am at liberty to tell."
"A friend! Yes, I am a friend; and I will not urge any other claim
just now. Perhaps--"
Ellinor could not affect to misunderstand him. His manner implied
even more than his words.
"No!" she said, eagerly. "We are friends. That is it. I think we
shall always be friends, though I will tell you now--something--this
much--it is a sad secret. God help me! I am as guilty as poor
Dixon, if, indeed, he is guilty--but he is innocent--indeed he is!"
"If he is no more guilty than you, I am sure he is! Let me be more
than your friend, Ellinor--let me know all, and help you all that I
can, with the right of an affianced husband."
"No, no!" said she, frightened both at what she had revealed, and his
eager, warm, imploring manner. "That can never be. You do not know
the disgrace that may be hanging over me."
"If that is all," said he, "I take my risk--if that is all--if you
only fear that I may shrink from sharing any peril you may be exposed
"It is not peril--it is shame and obloquy--" she murmured.
"Well! shame and obloquy. Perhaps, if I knew all I could shield you
"Don't, pray, speak any more about it now; if you do, I must say
She did not perceive the implied encouragement in these words; but he
did, and they sufficed to make him patient.
The time was up, and he could only render her his last services as
"courier," and none other but the necessary words at starting passed
But he went away from the station with a cheerful heart; while she,
sitting alone and quiet, and at last approaching near to the place
where so much was to be decided, felt sadder and sadder, heavier and
All the intelligence she had gained since she had seen the Galignani
in Paris, had been from the waiter at the Great Western Hotel, who,
after returning from a vain search for an unoccupied Times, had
volunteered the information that there was an unusual demand for the
paper because of Hellingford Assizes, and the trial there for murder
that was going on.
There was no electric telegraph in those days; at every station
Ellinor put her head out, and enquired if the murder trial at
Hellingford was ended. Some porters told her one thing, some
another, in their hurry; she felt that she could not rely on them.
"Drive to Mr. Johnson's in the High street--quick, quick. I will
give you half-a-crown if you will go quick."
For, indeed, her endurance, her patience, was strained almost to
snapping; yet at Hellingford station, where doubtless they could have
told her the truth, she dared not ask the question. It was past
eight o'clock at night. In many houses in the little country town
there were unusual lights and sounds. The inhabitants were showing
their hospitality to such of the strangers brought by the assizes, as
were lingering there now that the business which had drawn them was
over. The Judges had left the town that afternoon, to wind up the
circuit by the short list of a neighbouring county town.
Mr. Johnson was entertaining a dinner-party of attorneys when he was
summoned from dessert by the announcement of a "lady who wanted to
speak to him immediate and particular."
He went into his study in not the best of tempers. There he found
his client, Miss Wilkins, white and ghastly, standing by the
fireplace, with her eyes fixed on the door.
"It is you, Miss Wilkins! I am very glad--"
"Dixon!" said she. It was all she could utter.
Mr. Johnson shook his head.
"Ah; that's a sad piece of business, and I'm afraid it has shortened
your visit at Rome."
"Ay, I'm afraid there's no doubt of his guilt. At any rate, the jury
found him guilty, and--"
"And!" she repeated, quickly, sitting down, the better to hear the
words that she knew were coming -
"He is condemned to death."
"The Saturday but one after the Judges left the town, I suppose--it's
the usual time."
"Who tried him?"
"Judge Corbet; and, for a new judge, I must say I never knew one who
got through his business so well. It was really as much as I could
stand to hear him condemning the prisoner to death. Dixon was
undoubtedly guilty, and he was as stubborn as could be--a sullen old
fellow who would let no one help him through. I'm sure I did my best
for him at Miss Monro's desire and for your sake. But he would
furnish me with no particulars, help us to no evidence. I had the
hardest work to keep him from confessing all before witnesses, who
would have been bound to repeat it as evidence against him. Indeed,
I never thought he would have pleaded 'Not Guilty.' I think it was
only with a desire to justify himself in the eyes of some old Hamley
acquaintances. Good God, Miss Wilkins! What's the matter? You're
not fainting!" He rang the bell till the rope remained in his hands.
"Here, Esther! Jerry! Whoever you are, come quick! Miss Wilkins
has fainted! Water! Wine! Tell Mrs. Johnson to come here
Mrs. Johnson, a kind, motherly woman, who had been excluded from the
"gentleman's dinner party," and had devoted her time to
superintending the dinner her husband had ordered, came in answer to
his call for assistance, and found Ellinor lying back in her chair
white and senseless.
"Bessy, Miss Wilkins has fainted; she has had a long journey, and is
in a fidget about Dixon, the old fellow who was sentenced to be hung
for that murder, you know. I can't stop here, I must go back to
those men. You bring her round, and see her to bed. The blue room
is empty since Horner left. She must stop here, and I'll see her in
the morning. Take care of her, and keep her mind as easy as you can,
will you, for she can do no good by fidgeting."
And, knowing that he left Ellinor in good hands, and with plenty of
assistance about her, he returned to his friends.
Ellinor came to herself before long.
"It was very foolish of me, but I could not help it," said she,
"No; to be sure not, dear. Here, drink this; it is some of Mr.
Johnson's best port wine that he has sent out on purpose for you. Or
would you rather have some white soup--or what? We've had everything