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A Life's Morning by George Gissing

Part 3 out of 8

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mind is what you say, he will by then have fully accepted your views. I
respect your father. I owe him consideration; he is prejudiced against
me now, and I would gain his goodwill. Just because we are perfectly
independent let us have regard for others; better, a thousand times
better, that he should be reconciled to our marriage before it takes
place than perforce afterwards. Is it for my constancy, or your own,
that you fear?'

'I do not doubt your love, and my own is unalterable. I fear
circumstances; but what has fear to do with it; I wish to make you my
own; the empire of my passion is all-subduing. I will not wait! If you
refuse me, I have been mistaken; you do not love me.'

'Those are only words,' she answered, a proud smile lighting the trouble
of her countenance. 'You have said that you do not doubt my love, and in
your heart you cannot. Answer me one question, Wilfrid: have you made
little of your father's opposition, in order to spare me pain? Is it
more serious than you are willing to tell me?'

The temptation was strong to reply with an affirmative. If she believed
his father to be utterly irreconcilable, there could be no excuse for
lingering; yet his nobler self prevailed, to her no word of falseness.

'I have told you the truth. His opposition is temporary. When you are my
wife he will be to you as to any wife I could have chosen, I am
convinced of it.'

'Then more than ever I entreat you to wait, only till his return to
England. If you fail then, I will resist no longer. Show him this much
respect, dearest; join him abroad now; let him see that you desire his
kindness. Is he not disappointed that you mean to break off your career
at Oxford? Why should you do that? You promised me--did you not promise
me, Wilfrid, that you would go on to the end?'

'I cannot! I have no longer the calmness, no longer the old
ambitions,--how trivial they were!'

'And yet there will come a day when you will regret that you left your
course unfinished, just because you fell in love with a foolish girl.'

'Do not speak like that, Emily; I hate that way of regarding love! My
passion for you is henceforth my life; if it is trifling, so is my whole
being, my whole existence. There is no sacrifice possible for me that I
should ever regret. Our love is what we choose to make it. Regard it as
a foolish pastime, and we are no better than the vulgar crowd--we know
how they speak of it. What detestable thoughts your words brought to my
mind! Have you not heard men and women, those who have outlived such
glimpses of high things as nature ever sent them, making a jest of love
in young lives, treating it, from the height of their wisdom forsooth,
as a silly dream of boys and girls? If we ever live to speak or think
like that, it will indeed be time to have done with the world. Even as I
love you now, my heart's darling, I shall love you when years of
intimacy are like some happy journey behind us, and on into the very
portal of death. Regret! How paltry all will seem that was not of the
essence of our love! And who knows how short our time may be? When the
end comes, will it be easy to bear, the thought that we lost one day,
one moment of union, out of respect for idle prejudices which vanish as
soon as they find themselves ineffectual? Will not the longest life be
all too short for us?'

'Forgive me the words, dear. Love is no less sacred to me.'

Her senses were playing the traitor; or--which you will--were seconding
love's triumph.

'I shall come home with you now,' he said. 'You will let me?'

Why was he not content to win her promise? This proposal, by reminding
her most strongly of the inevitable difficulties her marriage would
entail, forced her again into resistance.

'Not now, Wilfrid. I have not said a word of this; I must prepare them
for it.'

'You have not spoken of me?'

'I would not do so till I--till everything was more certain.'

'Certain!' he cried impatiently. 'Why do you torture me so, Emily? What
uncertainty is there? Everything is uncertain, if you like to make it
so. Is there something in your mind that I do not understand?'

'You must remember, Wilfrid, that this is a strange, new thing in my
life. It has come to me so suddenly, that even yet I cannot make it part
of my familiar self. It has been impossible to speak of it to others.'

'Do you think I take it as a matter of course? Is your love less a magic
gift to me? I wake in a terror lest I have only dreamed of it; but then
the very truth comes back, and shall I make myself miserable with
imagining uncertainties, when there need be none?'

Emily hesitated before speaking again.

'I have told you very little about my home,' she said. 'You know that we
are very poor.'

She could not say it as simply as she wished; she was angry with herself
to recognise how nearly her feeling was one of shame, what a long habit
of reason it needed to expel the unintelligent prejudice which the world
bestows at birth.

'I could almost say I am glad of it,' Wilfrid replied. 'We shall have it
in our power, you and I, to help so much.'

'There are many reasons,' she continued, too much occupied with her
thoughts to dwell on what he said, 'why I should have time to prepare my
father and mother. You will let me write the things which it is not very
easy to say.'

'Say what you will, and keep silence on what you will, Emily. I cannot
give so much consequence to these external things. You and I are living
souls, and as such we judge each other. Shall I fret about the
circumstances in which chance has cased your life? As reasonable if I
withdrew my love from you because one day the colour of your glove did
not please me. Time you need. You shall have it; a week, ten days. Then
I will come myself and fetch you,--or you shall come to London alone, as
you please.'

'Let it be till your father returns.'

'But he will be two months away.'

'You will join him in Switzerland. Your health requires it.'

'My health! Oh, how tired I am of that word! Spare it me, you at least,
Emily. I am well in body and mind; your love would have raised me if I
had lain at the point of death. I cannot leave England alone; I have
made up my mind that you shall go with me. Have I then no power to
persuade you? You will not indeed refuse?'

He looked at her almost in despair. He had not anticipated more than the
natural hesitancy which he would at once overcome by force of passion.
There was something terrible to him in the disclosure of a quiet force
of will equal to his own. Frustration of desire joined with irritated
instincts of ascendency to agitate him almost beyond endurance.

Emily gazed at him with pleading as passionate as his own need.

'Do you distrust me?' he asked suddenly, overcome with an intolerable
suspicion. At the same moment he dropped her hand, and his gaze grew
cold.

'Distrust you?' She could not think that she understood him.

'Do you fear to come to London with me?'

'Wilfrid?'

Her bosom heaved with passionate resentment of his thought.

'Is _that_ how you understand my motives?' she asked, with tremulous,
subdued earnestness, fixing upon him a gaze which he could not meet.

'Yes,' he answered, below his breath, 'in a moment when love of you has
made me mad.'

He turned away, leaning with one hand upon the trunk. In the silence
which followed he appeared to be examining the shapeless ruins, which,
from this point of view, stood out boldly against the sky.

'When was this castle destroyed?' he asked presently, in a steady voice.

He received no answer, and turned his eyes to her again. Emily's face
was strung into a hard intensity. He laid his hand once more upon hers,
and spoke with self-control.

'You do not know the strength of a man's love. In that moment it touched
the borders of hate. I know that your mind is incapable of such a
suspicion; try to think what it meant to be possessed for an instant by
such frenzy.'

'You felt able to hate me?' she said, with a shake in her voice which
might have become either a laugh or a sob. 'Then there are things in
love that I shall never know.'

'Because your soul is pure as that of the angels they dream of. I could
not love yen so terribly if you were not that perfection of womanhood to
which all being is drawn. Send me to do your bidding; I will have no
will but yours.'

How the light of rapture flashed athwart her face! It was hard for her
to find words that would not seem too positive, too insubmissive.

'Only till you have lived with your father in the thought of this
thing,' she murmured, 'and until I have taught myself to bear my
happiness. Are we not one already, dear? Why should you needlessly make
your life poorer by the loss--if only for a time--of all the old
kindnesses? I think, I know, that in a few days your mind will be the
same as my own. Do you remember how long it is since we first spoke to
each other?'

'Not so many days as make a week,' he answered, smiling.

'Is not that hard to believe? And hard to realise that the new world is
still within the old?'

'Sweet, still eyes--give to me seine of your wisdom! But you have a
terrible way of teaching calmness.'

'You will go straight to the Continent, Wilfrid?'

'Only with one promise.'

'And that?'

'You will bow to my judgment when I return.'

'My fate shall be in your hands.'

They talked still, while the shadows of the ruins moved ever towards
them. All the afternoon no footsteps had come near; it was the sight of
two strangers which at length bade Emily think of the time. It was after
six o'clock.

'Wilfrid, I must go. My absence will seem so strange what fables I shall
have to invent on the way home. Do you know of any train that you can
leave by?'

'No; it matters very little; I suppose there is a mail some time
to-night? I will go back to Dunfield and take my chance.'

'How tired you will be! Two such journeys in one day.'

'And a draught of the water of life between them. But even now there is
something more I ask for.'

'Something more?'

'One touch of the lips that speak so nobly.'

It was only then that her eyes gleamed for a moment through moisture.
But she strengthened herself to face the parting. in spite of a
heaviness at the heart like that which she had felt on leaving The Firs.
She meant at first to go no further than the stile into the lane, and
there Wilfrid held out his hand. She used it to aid herself in stepping
over.

'I must go as far as Pendal station,' she said. 'Then you can look at
the time-table, and tell me what train you will take.'

They walked the length of the lane almost in silence, glancing at each
other once or twice. At the village station, Wilfrid discovered that a
good train left Dunfield shortly after nine o'clock. From Pendal to
Dunfield there would be a train in a quarter of an hour.

They stood together under the station shed. No other passenger was
waiting, and the official had not yet arrived to open the
booking-office.

'When shall I hear from you?' Emily asked, putting off from instant to
instant the good-bye, which grew ever harder to say.

'In less than a week. I shall leave London early tomorrow morning.'

'But it will give you no time for rest.'

'I am not able to rest. Go as often as you can to the castle, that I may
think of you as sitting there.'

'I will go very often.'

She could not trust herself to utter more than a few words. As she
spoke, the station-master appeared. They moved away to the head of the
stairs by which Emily had to leave.

'I shall see your train to-night as it passes Pendal,' she said.

Then there was the clasp of hands, and--good-bye. To Emily the way was
dark before her as she hurried onward....

Mrs. Hood had subsided into the calm of hitter resignation. Emily found
her in the kitchen, engaged in polishing certain metal articles, an
occupation to which she always had recourse when the legitimate work of
the day was pretty well over. Years ago, Mrs. Hood had not lacked
interest in certain kinds of reading, but the miseries of her life had
killed all that; the need of mechanical exertion was constantly upon
her; an automatic conscience refused to allow her repose. When she heard
Emily entering by the front door, a sickly smile fixed itself upon her
lips, and with this she silently greeted the girl.

'It is too bad of me, mother,' Emily said, trying to assume playfulness,
which contrasted strangely with an almost haggard weariness on her face.
'You will give me up as hopeless; I will promise, like the children,
that it shall never happen again.'

'It is your holiday, my dear,' was the reply, as Mrs. Hood went to stir
the fire. 'You must amuse yourself in your own way.'

'Of course you have had tea. I really want nothing till supper-time.'

'It was not worth while to make tea for one,' said her mother, with a
sigh.

'And you have had none? Then I will make it this minute. When will
father be home?'

'It is quite uncertain. He gets more and more irregular.'

'Why should he be kept so beyond the proper time? It is really too bad.'

'My dear, your father is never satisfied with doing his own work; he's
always taking somebody else's as well. Of course, they find that out,
and they put upon him. I've talked and talked, but it's no use; I
suppose it'll go on in the same way to the end.'

Half an hour later Mr. Hood reached home, as usual, worn out. The last
half mile of the walk from Dunfield was always a struggle with
exhaustion. He had to sit several minutes before he was able to go
upstairs to refresh himself with cold water.

'I met Mrs. Cartwright,' he said, when an unexpected cup of tea from
Emily's hands had put him into good spirits. 'Jessie got home on
Saturday, and wants you to go and see her, Emily. I half promised you
would call to-morrow morning.'

'Yes, I will,' said Emily.

'I don't think it's altogether right,' remarked Mrs. Hood, 'that Emily
should have to work in her holidays; and I'm sure it's all no use;
Jessie Cartwright will never do any good if she has lessons from now to
Doomsday.'

'Well, it's very necessary she should,' replied Mr. Hood. 'How ever they
live as they do passes my comprehension. There was Mrs. Cartwright
taking home fruit and flowers which cost a pretty penny, I'll be bound.
And her talk! I thought I should never get away. There's one thing, she
never has any but good-natured gossip; I never leave her without feeling
that she is one of the best-hearted women I know.'

'I can't say that her daughters take after her,' Mrs. Hood remarked,
soothed, as always, by comment upon her acquaintances. 'Amy was here the
other afternoon, and all the time she never ceased making fun of those
poor Wilkinses; it really was all I could do to keep from telling her
she ought to be ashamed of herself. Mary Wilkins, at all events, makes
no pretences; she may be plain, but she's a good girl, and stays at home
to do what's required of her. As for the Cartwright girls--well, we
shall see what'll happen some day. It can't go on, that's quite
certain.'

'I don't think there's any real harm in them. They're thoughtless, but
then they're very young. They oughtn't to have so much of their own way.
What's your opinion of Jessie, Emily? Do you think she'll ever be fit to
teach?'

'She might, if she could live apart from her mother and sisters for a
time. I think she'll have to come here for her lessons; it's out of the
question to do anything at that house.'

It was Mr. Hood's habit to spend his evenings in a little room at the
top of the house, which he called his laboratory. It was furnished with
a deal table, a couple of chairs, and some shelves. On the table was his
apparatus for the study of electricity, mostly the product of his own
ingenuity; also a number of retorts, crucibles, test-tubes, and the
like, wherewith he experimented chemically. The shelves exhibited
bottles and jars, and the dozen or so volumes which made his scientific
library. These tastes he had kept up from boyhood; there was something
pathetic in the persistency with which he clung to the pretence of
serious study, though the physical fatigue which possessed him during
his few hours of freedom would in any case have condemned him to mere
trifling. Often he came upstairs, lit his lamp, and sat for a couple of
hours doing nothing more than play with his instruments, much as a child
might; at other times a sudden revival of zeal would declare itself, and
he would read and experiment till late in the night, always in fear of
the inevitable lecture on his reckless waste of lamp-oil. In the winter
time the temperature of this garret was arctic, and fireplace there was
none; still he could not intermit his custom of spending at least an
hour in what he called scientific study, with the result that he went to
bed numbed and shivering. It was but another illustration of
possibilities rendered futile by circumstances. It was more than likely
that the man might, with fair treatment, have really done something in
one or other branch of physics. To Emily, who strove to interest herself
in his subjects out of mere love and compassion, he appeared to have
gained not a little knowledge of facts and theories. She liked to
encourage herself in the faith that his attainments were solid as far as
they went, and that they might have been the foundation of good
independent work; it helped her to respect her father.

'Will you come up to-night, Emily?' he asked, with the diffidence which
he always put into this request.

She assented with apparent cheerfulness, and they climbed the stairs
together. The last portion of them was uncarpeted, and their footsteps
sounded with hollow echoes under the roof. It was all but dark by this
time; Mr. Hood found matches on the table and lit the lamp, which
illuminated the bare whitewashed walls and sloping ceiling with a dreary
dimness. There was no carpet on the floor, which creaked as they moved
here and there. When her father was on the point of drawing down the
blind, Emily interposed.

'Do you mind leaving it up, father?'

'Of course I will,' he assented with a smile. 'But why?'

'The last daylight in the sky is pleasant to look at.'

On the landing below stood an old eight-day clock. So much service had
it seen that its voice was grown faint, and the strokes of each hour
that it gave forth were wheezed with intervals of several seconds. It
was now striking nine, and the succession of long-drawn ghostly notes
seemed interminable.

The last daylight--how often our lightest words are omens!--faded out of
the sky. Emily kept her eyes upon the windows none the less. She tried
to understand what her father was saying sufficiently to put in a word
now and then, but her sense of hearing was strained to its utmost for
other sounds. There was no traffic in the road below, and the house
itself was hushed; the ticking of the old clock, performed with such
painful effort that it ever seemed on the point of failing, was the only
sign of life outside the garret. At length Emily's ear caught a remote
rushing sound; her father's low voice did not overcome it.

'These compounds of nitrogen and oxygen,' he was saying, 'are very
interesting. Nitrous oxide, you know, is what they call Laughing Gas.
You heat solid nitrate of ammonia, and that makes protoxide of nitrogen
and water.'

The words conveyed no sense to her, though she heard them. The rushing
sound had become a dull continuous thunder. Her eyes strained into the
darkness. Of a sudden the horizon flamed. A train was passing a quarter
of a mile away, and the furnace-door of the engine had just been opened
to feed the fire, whose strength sped the carriages to far-off London. A
streaming cloud of smoke reflected the glare; it was as though some
flying dragon vomited crimson fumes. Involuntarily the girl half rose
from her seat and pointed.

'What is it?' asked her father, looking round. 'Ah! pretty sight that
fire on the smoke. Well, this protoxide of nitrogen, you see--'

CHAPTER VII

ON THE LEVELS

Not the least of many mysteries in the natural history of the
Cartwrights was, how they all managed to bestow themselves in the house
which they occupied. To be sure, the family--omitting Mr. Cartwright,
seldom at home--were all of one sex, which perhaps made the difficulty
less insuperable; but the fact remained that Mrs. Cartwright and her
five grown-up daughters, together with a maid-servant, lived, moved, and
had their being in an abode consisting of six rooms, a cellar, and a
lumber closet. A few years ago they had occupied a much more roomy
dwelling on the edge of the aristocratic region of Dunfield; though not
strictly in St. Luke's--the Belgravia of the town--they of course spoke
of it as if it were. A crisis in the fortunes of the family had
necessitated a reduction of their establishment; the district in which
they now dwelt was humbler, but then it could always be described as
'near North Parade, you know'; North Parade being an equivalent of
Mayfair. The uppermost windows commanded a view of the extensive
cattle-market, of a long railway viaduct, and of hilly fields beyond.

The five Misses Cartwright did not greatly relish the change; they were
disposed even to resist, to hold their ground on the verge of St.
Luke's, to toll their father that he must do his duty and still maintain
them in that station of life for which they were clearly designed by
Providence. But Mr. Cartwright, after many cries of 'Wolf,' found
himself veritably at close quarters with the animal, and female argument
had to yield to the logic of fact. 'Be thankful,' exclaimed the
hard-driven paterfamilias, when his long patience came to an end, 'that
we haven't all to go to the Union. It 'll come to that yet, mark my
word!' And, indeed, few people in Dunfield would have expressed surprise
at the actual incidence of this calamity. Mr. Cartwright was ostensibly
a commercial traveller, but obviously he must have joined with this main
pursuit many odds and ends of money-making activity, seeing that the
family kept out of debt, and still indulged themselves in extravagances
which many substantial households would have declared themselves unable
to afford. If the town were visited by an opera company, or by some
dramatic star going the round of the provinces, the Cartwrights were
sure to have prominent seats, and to exhibit themselves in becoming
costume. If a bazaar were held, their ready-money was always
forthcoming. At flower shows, galas, croquet parties, they challenged
comparison with all who were not confessedly of the Dunfield _elite_.
They regularly adorned their pew in the parish church, were liberal at
offertories, exerted themselves, not without expense, in the Sunday
school feast, and the like. How--cried all Dunfield--how in the name of
wonder was it done?

We are not concerned to probe the mystery; suffice it that the situation
be exhibited as it appeared to the eyes of the world. When the
afore-mentioned crisis declared itself, though every one enjoyed the
opportunity of exclaiming 'I told you so!' there were few who did not
feel really sorry for the Cartwrights, so little of envy mingled with
the incessant gossip of which the family were the subject. Mrs.
Cartwright was held in more or less affection by every one who knew her.
She was a woman of fifty, of substantial frame, florid, and somewhat
masculine in manner; a thorough Yorkshire-woman, her tone and demeanour
were marked by a frank good-nature which often exaggerated itself into
bluffness, and was never consistent with the delicacy of refined taste,
but which unmistakably evinced a sound and benevolent disposition. When
her sharp temper was stirred--and her daughters gave it abundant
exercise--she expressed herself in a racy and vigorous vernacular which
there was no opposing; never coarse, never, in the large sense,
unwomanly, she made her predominance felt with an emphasis which would
fain have been rivalled by many of the mothers of Dunfield. Lavishly
indulgent to her girls, she yet kept them thoroughly in hand, and won,
if not their tenderness, at all events their affection and respect. The
girls themselves were not outwardly charming; Jessie, the youngest but
one, had perhaps a certain claim to prettiness, but, like all her
sisters, she was of coarse type. Their education had been of the most
haphazard kind; their breeding was not a little defective; but a certain
tact, common to the family, enabled them to make the very most of
themselves, so that they more than passed muster among the middle-class
young ladies of the town. As long as they sojourned on the borders of
St. Luke's, nothing was farther from the thoughts of any one of them
than the idea that they might have to exert themselves to earn their own
living; it was only of late that certain emphatic representations on the
part of their father had led Mrs. Cartwright to consider which of the
girls was good for anything. Amy, the eldest, had rather a weak
constitution; it was plain that neither in body nor in mind could she be
called upon to exert herself. Eleanor who came next, had musical
faculties; after terrific family debates it was decided that she must
give lessons on the piano, and a first pupil was speedily found. Barbara
was good for nothing whatever, save to spend money on her personal
adornment; considering that she was the plainest of the family--her
sisters having repeatedly decided the point--her existence appeared on
the whole singularly superfluous. Then came Jessie. Of Jessie her father
had repeatedly said that she was the only girl of his who had brains;
those brains, if existent, must now be turned to account. But Jessie had
long since torn up her school-books into curl-papers, and, as learning
accumulated outside her head, it vanished from the interior. When she
declared that arithmetic was all but a mystery to her, and that she had
forgotten what French she ever knew, there was an unprecedented outbreak
of parental wrath: this was the result of all that had been spent on her
education! She must get it back as best she could, for, as sure as fate,
she should be packed off as a governess. Look at Emily Hood: why, that
girl was keeping herself, and, most likely, paying her mother's
butcher's bill into the bargain, and her advantages had been fewer than
Jessie's. After storms beyond description, Jessie did what her mother
called 'buckle to,' but progress was slight. 'You must get Emily Hood to
help you when she comes home for her holidays,' was Mrs. Cartwright's
hopeful suggestion one night that the girl had fairly broken down and
given way to sobs and tears. Emily was written to, and promised aid. The
remaining daughter, Geraldine, was held to be too young as yet for
responsible undertakings; she was only seventeen, and, besides, there
was something rather hopeful going on between her and young Baldwin, the
solicitor, who had just begun practice in Dunfield. So that, on the
whole, Geraldine's lot looked the most promising of all.

In previous years; the family had never failed to betake themselves for
three weeks or so to Scarborough, or Whitby, or Bridlington; this year
they had for the first time contented themselves with humbler
recreation; Mrs. Cartwright and four of the girls managed a week at
Ilkley, Jessie was fortunate enough to be invited to stay for a
fortnight with friends at the seaside. She was the latest to return.
Emily being now at home, there was no longer an excuse for postponing
study; books were procured, and Jessie, by way of preparation,
endeavoured to fathom the abysses of her ignorance.

We have heard Emily's opinion as to the possibility of studious
application in the house of the Cartwrights. Her own visits thither were
made as few as possible; she declared that she never came away without a
headache. In spite of restricted space, the Cartwrights found it
impossible to relinquish the habit of universal hospitality. As if
discontented with the narrow proportions of her own family, Mrs.
Cartwright was never thoroughly at ease unless she had three or four
friends to occupy every available square foot of floor in her diminutive
sitting-room, and to squeeze around the table when meals were served. In
vain did acquaintances hold apart from a sense of consideration, or time
their visits when eating and drinking could scarcely be in question;
they were given plainly to understand that their delicacy was an
offence, and that, if they stayed away, it would be put down to their
pride. It was almost impossible to hit an hour for calling at which the
family would be alone; generally, as soon as the front door opened, the
ear of the visitor was assailed with laughter loud and long, with
multitudinous vociferation, Mrs. Cartwright's rich voice high above all
others. The room itself was a spectacle for men and gods. Not a member
of the family had the most rudimentary instinct of order; no article,
whether of ornament or use, had its recognised station. Needlework lay
in heaps on table, chairs, and floor; you stretched out your legs too
far, and came in contact with a casual flower-vase, put down to be out
of the way; you desired to open the piano, and had first to remove a
tray of wineglasses. To listen to the girls' conversation for five
minutes was to understand their surroundings; they were hopelessly
feather-brained, they chattered and gabbled with deafening persistency.
If there was no good in their talk, there could scarcely be said to be
any harm; they lived so completely on the surface of things that they
impressed one as incapable even of a doubtful thought. One reason why
Geraldine was the only one who had yet definitely attracted a male
admirer might lie in the fact that there was no air of femininity about
the girls, nothing whatever to touch the most susceptible imagination; a
parcel of schoolboys would have been as provocative. And this
notwithstanding that they talked incessantly of love-making, of
flirtations, of the making and breaking of matches; it was the very
freedom and shallowness of such gossip that made it wholly unexciting;
their mother's presence put no check on the talk--she, indeed, was very
much like her daughters in choice of subject--and the young men who
frequented the house joined in discussion of sexual entanglements with a
disengaged air which, if it impugned their delicacy, at all events
seemed to testify to practical innocence.

Those young men! Dunfield was at that time not perhaps worse off in its
supply of marriageable males than other small provincial towns, but, to
judge from the extensive assortment which passed through the
Cartwrights' house, the lot of Dunfield maidens might beheld pathetic.
They were not especially ignorant or vulgar, these budding townsmen,
simply imbecile. One could not accuse them of positive faults, for they
had no positive qualities, unless it were here and there a leaning to
physical fatuity. Their interests were concerned with the pettiest of
local occurrences; their favouritisms and animosities were those of
overgrown infants. They played practical jokes on each other in the open
streets; they read the local newspapers to extract the feeblest of
gossip; they had a game which they called polities, and which consisted
in badging themselves with blue or yellow, according to the choice of
their fathers before them; they affected now and then to. haunt
bar-parlours and billiard-rooms, and made good resolutions when they had
smoked or drunk more than their stomachs would support. If any Dunfield
schoolboy exhibited faculties of a kind uncommon in the town, he was
despatched to begin life on a more promising scene; those who remained,
who became the new generation of business men, of town councillors, of
independent electors, were such as could not by any possibility have
made a living elsewhere. Those elders who knew Dunfield best could not
point to a single youth of fair endowments who looked forward to
remaining in his native place.

The tone of Dunfield society was not high.

No wonder that Emily Hood had her doubts as to the result of study taken
up by one of the Cartwrights. Still, she held it a duty to give what
help she could, knowing how necessary it was that Jessie should, if
possible, qualify herself to earn a living. The first thing after
breakfast on Tuesday morning she set forth to visit her friends. It was
not quite ten o'clock when she reached the house, and she looked forward
with some assurance of hope to finding the family alone. Jessie herself
opened the door, and Emily; passing at once into the sitting-room,
discovered that not only had a visitor arrived before her, but this the
very person she would most have desired to avoid. Mr. Richard Dagworthy
was seated in conversation with Mrs. Cartwright and her daughters or
rather he had been conversing till Emily's arrival caused a momentary
silence. He had called thus early, on his way to the mill, to inquire
for Mr. Cartwright's present address having occasion to communicate with
him on business matters.

The room was so small that Emily had a difficulty in reaching Mrs.
Cartwright to shake hands with her, owing to Dagworthy's almost blocking
the only available way round the table. He stood up and drew back,
waiting his turn for greeting; when it came, he assumed the manner of an
old friend. A chair was found for Emily, and conversation, or what
passed for such, speedily regathered volume. The breakfast things were
still on the table, and Miss Geraldine, who was always reluctant to rise
of a, morning, was engaged upon her meal.

'You see what it's come to, Mr. Dagworthy,' exclaimed the mother of the
family, with her usual lack of reticence. 'Jessie can't or won't learn
by herself, so she has to bother Emily to come and teach her. It's too
bad, I call it, just in her holiday time. She looks as if she wanted to
run about and get colour in her cheeks, don't _you_ think so?'

'Well, mother,' cried Jessie, 'you needn't speak as if Emily was a child
in short clothes.'

The other girls laughed.

'I dare say Emily wishes she was,' pursued Mrs. Cartwright. 'When you're
little ones, you're all for being grown up, and when you _are_ grown up,
then you see how much better off you were before,--that is, if you've
got common sense. I wish my girls had half as much all put together as
Emily has.'

'I'm sure I don't wish I was a child,' remarked Geraldine, as she bit
her bread-and-butter.

'Of course you don't, Geraldine,' replied Dagworthy, who was on terms of
much familiarity with all the girls. 'If you were, your mother wouldn't
let you come down late to breakfast, would she?'

'I never remember being in time for breakfast since I was born,' cried
the girl.

'I dare say your memory doesn't go far enough back,' rejoined Dagworthy,
with the smile of one who trifled from a position of superior age and
experience.

Mrs. Cartwright laughed with a little embarrassment. Amy, the eldest
girl, was quick with an inquiry whether Emily had been as yet to the
Agricultural Show, the resort at present of all pleasure-seeking
Dunfieldians. Emily replied that she had not, and to this subject the
talk strayed. Mr. Dagworthy had dogs on exhibition at the show. Barbara
wanted to know how much he would take for a certain animal which had
captivated her; if she had some idea that this might lead to an offer of
the dog as a present, she was doomed to disappointment, for Dagworthy
named his price in the most matter-of-fact way. But nothing had excited
so much interest in these young ladies as the prize pigs; they were in
raptures at the incredible degree of fatness attained; they delighted to
recall that some of the pigs were fattened to such a point that rollers
had to be placed under their throats to keep their heads up and prevent
them from being choked by the pressure of their own superabundant flesh.
In all this conversation Dagworthy took his part, but not quite with the
same freedom as before Emily's arrival. His eyes turned incessantly in
her direction, and once or twice he only just saved himself from
absent-mindedness when a remark was addressed to him. It was with
obvious reluctance that he at length rose to leave.

'When are you all coming to see me?' he asked, as he stood smoothing his
felt hat with the back of his hand. 'I suppose I shall have to give a
croquet party, and have some of the young fellows, then you'll come fast
enough. Old men like myself you care nothing about.'

'I should think not, indeed,' replied Barbara the plain. 'Why, your
hair's going grey. If you didn't shave, you'd have had grey whiskers
long ago.'

'When I invite the others,' he returned, laughing, 'you may consider
yourself excepted.'

Amid delicate banter of this kind he took his departure. Of course he
was instantly the subject of clamorous chatter.

'Will he really give a croquet party?' demanded one, eagerly.

'Not he!' was the reply from another. 'It would cost him too much in tea
and cakes.'

'Nonsense!' put in Mrs. Cartwright. 'He doesn't care for society, that's
what it is. I believe he's a good deal happier living there by himself
than he was when his wife was alive.'

'That isn't very wonderful,' exclaimed Amy. 'A proud, stuck-up thing,
she was! Served him right if she made him uncomfortable; he only married
her because her people were grand.'

'I don't believe they ever go near him now,' said the mother.

'What did they quarrel about, mother?' asked Jessie. 'I believe he used
his wife badly, that's the truth of it.'

'How do _you_ know what the truth of it is?' returned her mother,
contemptuously. 'I know very well he did nothing of the kind; whatever
his faults are, he's not that sort of man.'

'Well, you must confess, mother, he's downright mean; and you've often
enough said Mrs. Dagworthy spent more money than pleased him. I know
very well I shouldn't like to be his wife.'

'You wait till he asks you, Jessie,' cried Barbara, with sisterly
reproof.

'I don't suppose he's very likely to ask any of you,' said Mrs.
Cartwright, with a laugh which was not very hearty. 'Now, Geraldine,
_when_ are you going to have done your breakfast? Here's ten o'clock,
and you seem as if you'd never stop eating. I won't have this
irregularity. Now tomorrow morning I'll have the table cleared at nine
o'clock, and if you're not down you'll go without breakfast altogether,
mind what I say.'

The threat was such an old one that Geraldine honoured it with not the
least attention, but helped herself abundantly to marmalade, which she
impasted solidly on buttered toast, and consumed with much relish.

'Now you've got Emily here,' pursued Mrs. Cartwright, turning her attack
upon Jessie, 'what are you going to do with her? Are you going to have
your lessons in this room?'

'I don't know. What do _you_ say, Emily?'

Emily was clearly of Opinion that lessons under such conditions were
likely to be of small profit.

'If it were not so far,' she said, 'I should propose that you came to me
every other day; I should think that will be often enough.'

'Why, it's just as far for you to come here,' exclaimed Mrs. Cartwright.
'If you're good enough to teach her--great, lazy thing that she is!--the
least she can do is to save you all the trouble she can.'

'I've got an idea,' observed Jessie. 'Why shouldn't we have lessons in
the garden?'

'That's just as bad. Emily 'll have the same distance to walk. Don't
hear of it, Emily; you make her come to Banbrigg!'

'I don't in the least mind the walk,' Emily said. 'Perhaps we might take
it in turns, one lesson in the garden and the next at Banbrigg.'

After ten minutes' vociferous discussion, during which Emily held her
peace, this plan was eventually agreed upon.

Jessie ran upstairs to prepare herself to go forth.

'Now don't you let her waste your time, Emily,' said Mrs. Cartwright, in
the girl's absence. 'If you see she's doing no good, just give it up. I
don't half like the thought of making you drudge in this way in your
holidays. I'm sure it's very kind of you to have offered to do it, and
it's certain she'll mind you more than she would any one else. She
doesn't care a scrap for all I say to her, though she knows well enough
it's as much as her father can do to keep things going at all. There
never was such bad times in _my_ recollection! How are things in London?
Did you hear much complaint?'

Emily found it hard to resist a smile at the thought of Mr. Athel or any
of those belonging to him indulging in complaints of this nature.

'And what sort of people are they you've got with this time?' the other
went on to ask. 'Do they treat you well?'

'Very well indeed.'

It would have been difficult for a stranger, comparing Emily, her tone
and bearing, with the members of the Cartwright family, to believe that
she came of the same class and had lived through her girlhood under
precisely similar conditions. So marked a difference could not but
impress even the Cartwrights themselves; the girls did not behave with
entire freedom in her presence, and influences to which they were
anything but readily susceptible were apparent in the tone they adopted
in addressing her. In spite of themselves, they bowed to a superiority
but vaguely understood. Jessie, perhaps, exhibited less of this
instinctive reverence than the others, although, in point of fact, her
endowments were decidedly above those of her sisters; the reason being,
no doubt, that acknowledged precedence in intellect had fostered in her
the worst kind of self-confidence. The girl was intolerably conceited.
Emily almost disliked her; she would have found it a more agreeable task
to endeavour to teach any one of the more stupid sisters. It was in the
certainty of a couple of hours' moral suffering that she left the house
with Jessie.

The garden which was to be the scene of study was ten minutes' walk away
from the house. To reach it, they had to pass along a road which
traversed the cattle market, a vast area of pens, filled on one day in
each week with multitudes of oxen, sheep, and swine. Beyond the market,
and in the shadow of the railway viaduct previously referred to, lay
three or four acres of ground divided up by hedges into small gardens,
leased by people who had an ambition to grow their own potatoes and
cabbages, but had no plot attached to their houses. Jessie opened a
rough wooden door, made fast by a padlock, and, closing it again behind
them, led the way along a narrow path between high hedges, a second
wooden door was reached, which opened into the garden itself. This was
laid out with an eye less to beauty than to usefulness. In the centre
was a patch of grass, lying between two pear trees; the rest of the
ground was planted with the various requisites of the kitchen, and in
one corner was a well. In the tool house were kept several Windsor
chairs; two of these were now brought forth and placed on the grass
between the pear trees. But Jessie was not disposed to apply herself on
the instant to the books which she had brought in a satchel; her first
occupation was to hunt for the ripest gooseberries and currants, and to
try her teeth in several pears which she knocked down with the handle of
a rake. When at length she seated herself, her tongue began to have its
way.

'How I do dislike that Mr. Dagworthy!' she said, with transparent
affectation. 'I wonder what he came for this morning. He said he wanted
father's address, but I know that was only an excuse. He hasn't been to
see us for months. It was like his impudence to ever come at all, after
the way he behaved when he married that stuck-up Miss Hanmer.'

'Will you tell me how many of these French exercises you have written?'
Emily asked as soon as a pause gave her the opportunity.

'Oh, I don't know,' was the answer; 'about ten, I think. Do you know, I
really believe he thinks himself good-looking? And he's as plain as he
can be. Don't you think so, Emily?'

'I really have no opinion.'

'It was strange he should come this morning. It was only yesterday I met
him over there by the mill,'--Dagworthy's mill stood at one end of the
cattle-market,--'and you can't think the impudent way he talked. And,
oh, how did he know that you were going to give me lessons?'

'I can't say.'

'Well, he did know, somehow; I was astonished. Perhaps your father told
him?'

'That is not very likely.'

'Well, he knew. I wonder who he'll marry next. You may depend upon it he
did treat his wife badly; everybody said so. If he were to propose to
me, I should answer like that woman did to Henry the Eighth, you know.'
She tittered. 'I can't fancy marrying a man who's been married before,
could you? I said that to Mrs. Tichborne one day, at Bridlington, and
what do you think she answered? Oh, she said, they're the best husbands.
Only a good-natured fool marries a second time.'

This was the kind of talk that Emily knew she would have to endure; it
was unutterably repugnant to her. She had observed in successive
holidays the growth of a spirit in Jessie Cartwright more distinctly
offensive than anything which declared itself in her sisters' gabble,
however irritating that might be. The girl's mind seemed to have been
sullied by some contact, and previous indications disposed Emily to
think that this Mrs. Tichborne was very probably a source of evil. She
was the wife of an hotel-keeper, the more vulgar for certain
affectations of refinement acquired during bar-maidenhood in London, and
her intimacy with the Cartwrights was now of long standing. It was
Jessie whom she specially affected; with her Jessie had just been
spending a fortnight at the seaside. The evil caught from Mrs.
Tichborne, or from some one of similar character, did not associate
itself very naturally with the silly _naivete_ which marked the girl;
she had the air of assuming the objectionable tone as a mark of
cleverness. Emily could not trust herself to utter the kind of comment
which would naturally have risen to her lips; it would be practically
useless, and her relations to Jessie were not such as could engender
affectionate zeal in a serious attempt to overcome evil influences.
Emily was not of the women whose nature it is to pursue missionary
enterprise; instead of calling forth her energies, a situation like the
present threw her back upon herself; she sought a retreat from disgust
in the sheltered purity of her own heart. Outwardly she became cold; her
face expressed that severity which was one side of her character.

'Don't you think it would be better if we made a beginning this
morning?' she said, as soon as another pause in the flow of chatter gave
her opportunity.

'What a one you are for work!' Jessie protested. 'You seem to take to it
naturally, and yet I'm sure it isn't a natural thing. Just think of
having to muddle over French grammar at my age! And I know very well it
'll never come to anything. Can you imagine me teaching? I always hated
school, and I hate the thought of being a governess. It's different with
you; you're right down clever, and you make people take an interest in
you. But just think of me! Why I should be thought no more of than a
servant. I suppose I should have to make friends with the milkman and
the butcher's boy; I don't see who else I should have to talk to. How's
a girl to get married if she spends all her time in a nursery teaching
children grammar? You don't seem to care whether you're ever married or
not, but I do, and it's precious hard to have all my chances taken away.

This was Jessie's incessant preoccupation; she could not talk for five
minutes without returning to it. Herein she only exaggerated her
sisters' habits of mind. The girls had begun to talk of 'sweethearts'
and husbands before they were well out of the nursery. In earlier years
Emily had only laughed at what she called such foolishness; she could
not laugh now. Such ways of thinking and speaking were a profanation of
all she held holiest; words which she whispered in trembling to her
heart were vulgarised and defiled by use upon these tinkling tongues; it
was blasphemy against her religion.

Once more she endeavoured to fix the girl's thoughts on the work in
hand, and by steady persistence conquered at length some semblance of
attention. But an hour proved the utmost limit of Jessie's patience,
then her tongue got its way again, and the inevitable subjects were
resumed. She talked of the 'gentlemen' whose acquaintance, in a greater
or less degree, she had made at the seaside; described their manoeuvres
to obtain private interviews with her, repeated jokes of their
invention, specified her favourites, all at headlong speed of disjointed
narrative. Emily sat beneath the infliction, feeling that to go through
this on alternate days for some weeks would be beyond her power. She
would not rise and depart, for a gathering warmth within encouraged her
to await a moment when speech would come to her aid. It did so at
length; her thought found words almost involuntarily.

'Jessie, I'm afraid we shall not do much good if we always spend our
mornings like this!'

'Oh, but I thought we'd done enough for to-day.'

'Perhaps so, but--What I want to say is this. Will you, as a kindness
to me, forget these subjects when we are together? I don't mind what
else you talk about, but stories of this kind make me fidgety; I feel as
if I should be obliged to get up and run away.'

'Do you really mean it? You don't like me to talk about gentlemen? What
a queer girl you are, Emily! Why, you're not settling down to be an old
maid at your age, are you?'

'We'll say so; perhaps that explains it.'

'Well, that's queer. I can't see, myself, what else there is to talk
about. Grammar's all very well when we're children, but it seems to me
that what a grown-up girl has to do is to look out for a husband. How
you can be satisfied with books'--the infinite contempt she put into the
word!--'is more than I can make out.'

'But you will do what I ask, as a kindness? I am in earnest; I shall be
afraid of seeing you if you can't help talking of such things.'

Jessie laughed extravagantly; such a state of mind was to her comical
beyond expression.

'You _are_ a queer one! Of course I'll do as you wish; you shan't hear
me mention a single gentleman's name, and I'll tell all the others to be
careful whenever you come.'

Emily averted her face; it was reddened with annoyance at the thought of
being discussed in this way by all the Cartwright household.

'You can do that if you like,' she said coldly, 'though it's no part of
my wish. I spoke of the hours when we are together for study.'

'Very well, I won't say anything,' replied the girl, who was
good-natured enough beneath all her vulgarities. 'And now what shall we
do till dinner-time?'

'I must make the best of my way home.'

'Oh, nonsense! Why, you're going to have dinner with us; of course that
was understood.'

Not by Emily, however. It cost a good deal of firmness, for the
Cartwrights one and all would lay hands on you rather than lose a guest;
but Emily made good her escape. Once well on her way to Banbrigg, she
took in great breaths of free air, as if after a close and unwholesome
atmosphere. She cried mentally for an ounce of civet. There was upon
her, too, that uneasy sense of shame which is apt to possess a reticent
nature when it has been compelled, or tempted, to some unwonted freedom
of speech. Would it not have been better, she asked herself, to merely
avoid the talk she found so hateful by resolutely advancing other
topics? Perhaps not; it was just possible that her words might bear some
kind of fruit. But she wished heartily that this task of hopeless
teaching had never been proposed to her; it would trouble her waking
every other day, and disturb with a profitless annoyance the ideal
serenity for which she was striving.

Yet it had one good result; her mother's follies and weaknesses were
very easy to bear in comparison, and, when the midday meal was over, she
enjoyed with more fulness the peace of her father's room upstairs, where
she had arranged a table for her own work. Brilliant sunlight made the
bare garret, with its outlook over the fields towards Pendal, a cheerful
and homelike retreat. Here, whilst the clock below wheezed and panted
after the relentless hours, Emily read hard at German, or, when her mind
called for rest, sheltered herself beneath the wing of some poet, who
voiced for her the mute hymns of her soul. But the most sacred hour was
when her parents had gone to rest, and she sat in her bedroom, writing
her secret thoughts for Wilfrid some day to read. She had resolved to
keep for him a journal of her inner life from day to day. In this way
she might hope to reveal herself more truthfully than spoken words would
ever allow; she feared that never, not even in the confidence of their
married life, would her tongue learn to overcome the fear of its own
utterances. How little she had told him of herself, of her love! In
Surrey she had been so timid; she had scarcely done more than allow him
to guess her thoughts; and at their last meeting she had been compelled
into opposition of his purpose, so that brief time had been left for
free exchange of tenderness. But some day she would put this little book
of manuscript into his hands, and the shadowy bars between him and her
would vanish. She could only write in it late at night, when the still
voice within spoke clearly amid the hush. The only sound from the outer
world was that of a train now and then speeding by, and that carried her
thoughts to Wilfrid, who had journeyed far from her into other
countries. Emily loved silence, the nurse of the soul; the earliest and
the latest hours were to her most dear. It had never been to her either
an impulse or a joy to realise the existence of the mass of mankind; she
had shrunk, after the first excitement, from the thronged streets of
London, passing from them with delight to the quiet country. Others
might find their strength in the sense of universal human fellowship;
she would fain live apart, kindly disposed to all, but understanding
well that her first duty was to tend the garden of her mind. That it was
also her first joy was, by the principles of her religion, justification
in pursuing it.

In a few days she obliged her mother to concede to her a share in the
work of the house. She had nothing of the common feminine interest in
such work for its own sake, but it was a pleasure to lessen her mother's
toil. There was very little converse between them; for evidently they
belonged to different worlds. When Mrs. Hood took her afternoon's
repose, it was elsewhere than in the room where Emily sat, and Emily
herself did not seek to alter this habit, knowing that she often, quite
involuntarily, caused her mother irritation, and that to reduce their
intercourse as far as could be without marked estrangement was the best
way to make it endurable to both. But the evening hours she invariably
devoted to her father; the shortness of the time that she was able to
give him was a reason for losing no moment of this communion. She knew
that the forecast of the evening's happiness sustained him through the
long day, and even so slight a pleasure as that she bestowed in opening
the door at his arrival, she would not willingly have suffered him to
lose. It did not appear that Mrs. Hood reflected on this exclusive
attachment in Emily; it certainly troubled her not at all. This order in
the house was of long standing; it had grown to seem as natural as
poverty and hopelessness. Emily and her father reasoned as little about
their mutual affection; to both it was a priceless part of life, given
to them by the same dark powers that destroy and deprive. It behoved
them to enjoy it while permitted to do so.

Had she known the recent causes of trouble which weighed upon her
parents, Emily would scarcely have been able to still keep her secret
from them. The anxiety upon her father's face and her mother's ceaseless
complaining were too familiar to suggest anything unusual. She had come
home with the resolve to maintain silence, if only because her marriage
seemed remote and contingent upon many circumstances; and other reasons
had manifested themselves to her even before Wilfrid's visit. At any
time she would find a difficulty in speaking upon such a subject with
her mother; strange though it may sound, the intimacy. between them was
not near enough to encourage such a disclosure, with all the
explanations it would involve. Nor yet to her father would she willingly
speak of what had happened, until it became necessary to do so. Emily's
sense of the sanctity of relations such as those between Wilfrid and
herself had, through so different a cause, very much the same effects as
what we call false shame. The complex motives of virgin modesty had with
her become a conscious sustaining power, a faith; of all beautiful
things that the mind could conceive, this mystery was the loveliest, and
the least capable of being revealed to others, however near, without
desecration. Perhaps she had been aided in the nurturing of this ideal
by her loneliness; no friend had ever tempted her to confidences; her
gravest and purest thoughts had never been imparted to any. Thus she had
escaped that blunting of fine perceptions which is the all but
inevitable result of endeavouring to express them. Not to speak of mere
vulgarity such as Jessie Cartwright exhibited, Emily's instinct shrank
from things which usage has, for most people, made matters of course;
the public ceremony of marriage, for instance, she deemed a barbarism.
As a sacrament, the holiest of all, its celebration should, she felt, be
in the strictest privacy; as for its aspect as a legal contract, let
that concession to human misery be made with the smallest, not the
greatest, violation of religious feeling. Thinking thus, it was natural
that she should avail herself of every motive for delay. And in that
very wretchedness of her home which her marriage would, she trusted, in
a great measure alleviate, she found one of the strongest. The
atmosphere of sordid suffering depressed her; it was only by an effort
that she shook off the influences which assailed her sadder nature; at
times her fears were wrought upon, and it almost exceeded her power to
believe in the future Wilfrid had created for her. The change from the
beautiful home in Surrey to the sad dreariness of Banbrigg had followed
too suddenly upon the revelation of her blessedness. It indisposed her
to make known what was so dreamlike. For the past became more dreadful
viewed from the ground of hope. Emily came to contemplate it as some
hideous beast, which, though she seemed to be escaping its reach, might
even yet spring upon her. How had she borne that past so lightly? Her
fear of all its misery was at moments excessive. Looking at her unhappy
parents, she felt that their lot would crush her with pity did she not
see the relief approaching. She saw it, yet too often trembled with the
most baseless fears. She tried to assure herself that she had acted
rightly in resisting Wilfrid's proposal of an immediate marriage, yet
she often wished her conscience had not spoken against it. Wilfrid's own
words, though merely prompted by his eagerness, ceaselessly came back to
her--that it is ill to refuse a kindness offered by fate, so seldom
kind. The words were true enough, and their truth answered to that
melancholy which, when her will was in abeyance, coloured her views of
life.

But here at length was a letter from Wilfrid, a glad, encouraging
letter. His father had concluded that he was staying behind in England
to be married, and evidently would not have disturbed himself greatly
even if such had been the case. All was going well. Nothing of the past
should be sacrificed, and the future was their own.

CHAPTER VIII

A STERNER WOOING

It was an unusual thing for the middle of August to find Richard
Dagworthy still in Dunfield. Through all the other months of the year he
stuck closely to the mill, but the best three weeks of August were his
holiday; as a rule, he went to Scotland, sometimes in company with a
friend, more often alone. In the previous year he had taken a wider
flight, and made his first visit to the Continent, but this was not
likely to be repeated for some time. He always referred to it as more or
less of a feat. The expense, to begin with, was greater than he could
readily reconcile himself to, and the indulgence of his curiosity, not
inactive, hardly compensated for his lack of ease amid the unfamiliar
conditions of foreign travel. Richard represented an intermediate stage
of development between the hard-headed operative who conquers wealth,
and his descendant who shall know what use to make of it. Therein lay
the significance of the man's life.

Its pathos, moreover. Looking at him casually from the outside, one
found small suggestion of the pathetic in his hard face and brusque
manners; nearer companionship revealed occasional glimpses of a mood out
of harmony with the vulgar pursuits and solicitudes which for the most
part seemed to absorb him. One caught a hint of loneliness in his
existence; his reticences, often very marked in the flow of his
unpolished talk, seemed to indicate some disappointment, and a dislike
to dwell upon it. In point of fact, his life was rather lonely; his two
sisters were married in other towns, and, since the death of his wife,
he had held no communications with her relatives. The child was all he
had of family, and, though his paternal affections were strong, he was
not the man to content his hours of leisure with gambols in a nursery.
His dogs were doubtless a great resource, and in a measure made up to
him for the lack of domestic interests; yet there sometimes passed days
during which he did not visit the kennels, always a sign to the servants
to beware of his temper, which at such seasons was easily roused to
fury. The reputation he had in Dunfield for brutality of behaviour dated
from his prosecution for violent assault by a groom, whom, in one of his
fits of rage, he had all but pounded to a jelly. The incident occurred
early in his married life, and was, no doubt, the origin of the very
prevalent belief that he had ruled his wife by similar methods. Dunfield
society was a little shy of him for some time after, until, indeed, by
becoming a widower, he presented himself once more in an interesting
light. Though he possibly brought about his wife's death by ill-usage,
that did not alter the fact that he had a carriage and pair to offer to
the lady whom he might be disposed to make her successor.

His marriage had been of a kind that occasioned general surprise, and,
in certain circles, indignation. There had come to live, in one of the
smaller houses upon the Heath, a family consisting of a middle-aged lady
and her two daughters; their name was Hanmer, and their previous home
had been in Hebsworth, the large manufacturing town which is a sort of
metropolis to Dunfield and other smaller centres round about. Mr. Hanmer
was recently dead; he had been a banker, but suffered grave losses in a
period of commercial depression, and left his family poorly off. Various
reasons led to his widow's quitting Hebsworth; Dunfield inquirers
naturally got hold of stories more or less to the disgrace of the
deceased Mr. Hanmer. The elder of the two daughters Richard Dagworthy
married, after an acquaintance of something less than six months.
Dunfield threw up its hands in amazement: such a proceeding on young
Dagworthy's part was not only shabby to the families which had upon him
the claim of old-standing expectancy, but was in itself inexplicable.
Miss Hanmer might be good-looking, but Richard (always called 'young' to
distinguish him from his father) had surely outgrown such a very
infantile reason of choice, when other attractions were, to the Dunfield
mind, altogether wanting. The Hanmers were not only poor, but, more
shameful still, positively 'stuck up' in their poverty. They came
originally from the south of England, forsooth, and spoke in an affected
way, pronouncing their vowels absurdly. Well, the consoling reflection
was that his wife would soon make him see that she despised him, for if
ever there was a thorough Yorkshireman, it was Richard.

Dunfield comments on Mrs. Dagworthy seemed to find some justification in
the turn things took. Richard distinctly began to neglect those of his
old friends who smacked most of the soil; if they visited his house, his
wife received them with an affected graciousness which was so
unmistakably 'stuck up' that they were in no hurry to come again, and
her behaviour, when she returned visits, was felt to be so offensive
that worthy ladies--already prejudiced--had a difficulty in refraining
from a kind of frankness which would have brought about a crisis. The
town was perpetually busy with gossip concerning the uncomfortableness
of things in the house on the Heath. Old Mr. Dagworthy, it was declared,
had roundly bidden his son seek a domicile elsewhere, since joint
occupancy of the home had become impossible. Whether such a change was
in reality contemplated could never be determined; the old man's death
removed the occasion. Mrs. Dagworthy survived him little more than half
a year. So there, said Dunfield, was a mistake well done with; and it
was disposed to let bygones be bygones.

What was the truth of all this? That Dagworthy married hastily and found
his wife uncongenial, and that Mrs. Dagworthy passed the last two years
of her life in mourning over a fatal mistake, was all that could be
affirmed as fact, and probably the two persons most nearly concerned
would have found it difficult to throw more light upon the situation.
Outwardly it was as commonplace a story as could be told; even the
accession of interest which would have come of Dagworthy's cruelty was
due to the imagination of Dunfield gossips. Richard was miserable enough
in his home, and frequently bad-tempered, but his wife had nothing worse
from him than an angry word now and then. After the first few months of
their marriage, the two lived, as far as possible, separate lives; Mrs.
Dagworthy spent the days with her mother and sister, Richard at the
mill, and the evenings were got through with as little friction as might
be between two people neither of whom could speak half a dozen words
without irritating or disgusting the other. The interesting feature of
the case was the unexpectedness of Dagworthy's choice. It evinced so
much more originality than one looked for in such a man. It was, indeed,
the outcome of ambitions which were not at all clear to their possessor.
Miss Hanmer had impressed him as no other woman had done, simply because
she had graces and accomplishments of a kind hitherto unknown to him;
Richard felt that for the first time in his life he was in familiar
intercourse with a 'lady.' Her refined modes of speech, her little
personal delicacies, her unconscious revelation of knowledge which he
deemed the result of deep study, even her pretty and harmless witticisms
at the expense of Dunfield dignitaries, touched his slumbering
imagination with singular force. Miss Hanmer, speedily observing her
power, made the most of it; she was six-and-twenty, and poverty rendered
her position desperate. Dagworthy at first amused her as a specimen of
the wealthy boor, but the evident delight he found in her society
constrained her to admit that the boor possessed the elements of good
taste. The courtship was of rapid progress, the interests at stake being
so simply defined on either side, and circumstances presenting no kind
of obstacle. The lady accepted him without hesitation, and triumphed in
her good fortune.

Dagworthy conceived that his end was gained; in reality it was the
beginning of his disillusion. It speedily became clear to him that he
did not really care for his wife, that he had been the victim of some
self-deception, which was all the more exasperating because difficult to
be explained. The danger of brutality on his part really lay in this
first discovery of his mistake; the presence of his father in the house
was a most fortunate circumstance; it necessitated self-control at a
time when it was hardest to maintain. Later, he was too much altered
from the elementary creature he had been to stand in danger of grossly
ill-using his wife. His marriage developed the man surprisingly; it made
him self-conscious in a degree he could not formerly have conceived. He
had fully believed that this woman was in love with him, and the belief
had flattered him inexpressibly; to become aware that she regarded him
with disgust, only kept under by fear, was to receive light on many
things besides the personal relations between himself and her. If he had
not in reality regarded her at any time with strong feeling, what had
made him so bent on gaining her for his wife? To puzzle this over--the
problem would not quit his mind--was to become dimly aware of what he
had hoped for and what he had missed. It was not her affection: he felt
that the absence of this was not the worst thing he had to bear.
Gradually he came to understand that he had been deceived by
artificialities which mocked the image of something for which he really
longed, and that something was refinement, within and without, a life
directed by other motives and desires than those he had known, a spirit
aiming at things he did not understand, yet which he would gladly have
had explained to him. There followed resentment of the deceit that had
been practised on him; the woman had been merely caught by his money,
and it followed that she was contemptible. Instead of a higher, he had
wedded a lower than himself; she did not care even to exercise the
slight hypocrisy by which she might have kept his admiration; the
cruelest feature of the wrong he had suffered was that, by the
disclosure of her unworthiness, his wife was teaching him the real value
of that which he had aimed at blindly and so deplorably failed to gain.
Dagworthy had a period almost of despair; it was then that, in an access
of fury, he committed the brutality which created so many myths about
his domestic life. To be hauled into the police-court, and to be well
aware what Dunfield was saying about him, was not exactly an agreeable
experience, but it had, like his marriage, an educational value; he knew
that the thrashing administered to the groom had been a vicarious one,
and this actively awakened sense of a possible inner meaning of things
was not without its influence upon him. It was remarked that he heard
the imposition of his fine with a suppressed laugh. Dunfield, repeating
the story with florid circumstance, of course viewed it as an
illustration of his debauched state of mind; in reality the laugh came
of a perception of the solemn absurdity of the proceedings, and Richard
was by so much the nearer to understanding himself and the world.

His wife's death came as an unhoped-for relief; he felt like a man
beginning the world anew. He had no leaning to melancholy, and a
prolongation of his domestic troubles would not have made him less
hearty in his outward bearing, but the progress of time had developed
elements in his nature which were scarcely compatible with a continuance
of the life he had been leading. He had begun to put to himself ominous
questions; such, for instance, as--What necessity was he under to
maintain the appearance of a cheerful domesticity? If things got just a
trifle more unbearable, why should he not make for himself somewhere
else a new home? He was, it is true, startled at his own audacity, and
only some strangely powerful concurrence of motives--such as he was yet
to know--could in reality have made him reckless. For the other features
of his character, those which tended to stability, were still strong
enough to oppose passions which had not found the occasion for their
full development. He was not exactly avaricious, but pursuit of money
was in him an hereditary instinct. By mere force of habit he stuck
zealously to his business, and, without thinking much about his wealth,
disliked unusual expenditure. His wife had taunted him with meanness,
with low money-grubbing; the effect had been to make him all the more
tenacious of habits which might have given way before other kinds of
reproof. So he had gone on living the ordinary life, to all appearances
well contented, in reality troubled from time to time by a reawakening
of those desires which he had understood only to have them frustrated.
He groped in a dim way after things which, by chance perceived, seemed
to have a certain bearing on his life. The discovery in himself of an
interest in architecture was an instance; but for his visit to the
Continent he might never have been led to think of the subject. Then
there was his fondness for the moors and mountains, the lochs and
islands, of the north. On the whole, he preferred to travel in Scotland
by himself; the scenery appealed to a poetry that was in him, if only he
could have brought it into consciousness. Already he had planned for the
present August a tour among the Hebrides, and had made it out with his
maps and guidebooks, not without careful consideration of expense. Why
did he linger beyond the day on which he had decided to set forth?

For several days it had been noticed at the mill that he lacked
something of his wonted attention in matters of business. Certainly his
occupation about eleven o'clock one morning had little apparent bearing
on the concerns of his office; he was standing at the window of his
private room, which was on the first floor of the mill, with a large
field-glass at his eyes. The glass was focussed upon the Cartwrights'
garden, in which sat Jessie with Emily Hood. They were but a short
distance away, and Dagworthy could observe them closely; he had done so,
intermittently, for almost an hour, and this was the second morning that
he had thus amused himself. Yet, to judge from his face, when he turned
away, amusement was hardly his state of mind; his features had a
hard-set earnestness, an expression almost savage. And then he walked
about the little room, regarding objects absently.

Four days later he was again with his glass at the window; it wanted a
few minutes of ten o'clock. Emily Hood had just reached the garden; he
saw her enter and begin to pace about the walks, waiting for Jessie's
arrival. Dagworthy of a sudden put the glass aside, took his hat, and
hastened away from the mill. He walked along the edge of the
cattle-market, till he came into the road by which Jessie must approach
the garden; he saw her coming, and went on at a brisk pace towards her.
The girl was not hurrying, though she would be late; these lessons were
beginning to tax her rather too seriously; Emily was so exacting.
Already she had made a change in the arrangements, whereby she saved
herself the walk to Banbrigg; in the garden, too, it was much easier to
find excuses for trifling away time than when she was face to face with
Emily at a table. So she came along the road at a very moderate pace,
and, on seeing who it was that neared her, put on her pleasantest smile,
doubly glad of the meeting; it was always something to try her devices
on Richard Dagworthy, and at present the chat would make a delay for
which she could urge reasonable excuse.

'The very person I wanted to meet!' Dagworthy exclaimed. 'You've saved
me a run all the way up to your house. What are you doing this way?
Going to school?'

He pointed to the books she carried.

'Something like it,' replied Jessie, with a wry movement of her lips.
'Why did you want to meet me, though?'

'Because I want you to do something for me--that is, if you will. But,
really, where were you going? Perhaps you can't spare time?'

'I was going to the garden,' she said, pointing in that direction. 'I
have lessons there with Emily Hood. Beastly shame that I should have to
do lessons, isn't it? I feel too old for that; I've got other things to
think about.'

She put her head on one side, and rustled the pages of a French grammar,
at last throwing a glance at Richard from the corners of her eyes.

'But do you expect Miss Hood to come soon?' Dagworthy asked, playing his
part very well, in spite of a nervousness which possessed him.

'No doubt she's in the garden already. I've given her a key, so that if
she gets there first--But what do you want me to do?'

'Why, I was going to ask you to walk to the station and meet the ten
thirty-five train from Hebsworth. Your father will get in by it, I
expect, and I want him to come and see me at once at the mill.'

'All right,' Jessie exclaimed with eagerness, 'I'll go. Just let me run
and tell Emily--'

Dagworthy was consulting his watch.

'You've only bare time to get to the station, walking as quickly as you
can? Which is your garden? Let me go and tell her you are not coming.'

'Will you? The second door round the corner there, You'll have to
apologize properly--I hope you know how to.'

This was Jessie's maidenly playfulness; she held out her hand, with many
graces, to take leave.

'If he doesn't come,' said Dagworthy, 'will you just walk over to the
mill to let me know?'

'I don't know that I shall; I don't think it would be proper.'

'Ho, ho! I like that! But you'll have to be off, or you'll never get
there in time.'

She ran away, rejoicing in her escape from the lesson, Of course she
looked back several times; the first glance showed her Dagworthy still
gazing after her, at the second she saw that he was walking towards the
garden.

He pushed open the wooden door, and passed between the hedges; the next
door stood open, and he already saw Emily; she had seated herself under
one of the pear trees, and was reading. As soon as his eyes discovered
her he paused; his hands clasped themselves nervously behind him. Then
he proceeded more slowly. As soon as he stepped within the garden, Emily
heard his approach, and turned her head with a smile, expectant of
Jessie, At the sight of Dagworthy the smile vanished instantly, she
became noticeably pale, and at length rose with a startled motion.

Dagworthy drew near to her; when close enough to hold out his hand, he
could no longer keep his eyes upon her face; they fell, and his visage
showed an embarrassment which, even in her confusion--her all but
dread--Emily noticed as a strange thing. She was struggling to command
herself, to overcome by reason the fear which always attacked her in
this man's presence. She felt it as a relief to be spared the steady
gaze which, on former meetings, he had never removed from her.

'You are surprised to see me here?' he began, taking hold of the chair
which Emily had risen from and swaying it backwards and forwards. Even
his voice was more subdued than she had ever known it. 'I have come to
apologise to you for sending Miss Cartwright to meet her father at the
station. I met her by chance just out there in the road, and as I wanted
a messenger very badly I took advantage of her good-nature. But she
wouldn't go unless I promised to come here and explain her absence.'

'Thank you,' Emily replied, as naturally as she could. 'Will she still
come back for her lesson, do you think?'

'I'm afraid not; she said I had better ask you to excuse her this
morning.'

Emily gathered up two or three books which lay on the other chair.

'You find her rather troublesome to teach, I should be afraid,'
Dagworthy pursued, watching her every moment. 'Jessie isn't much for
study, is she?'

'Perhaps she is a little absent now and then,' replied Emily, saying the
first thing that occurred to her.

She had collected her books and was about to fasten a strap round them.

'Do let me do that for you,' said Dagworthy, and he forestalled her
assent, which she would probably not have given, by taking the books
from her hands. He put up his foot on the chair, as if for. the
convenience of doing the strapping on his knee, but before he had
finished it he spoke again.

'You are fond of teaching, I suppose?'

'Yes, I like it.'

She stood in expectant waiting, her hands held together before her, her
head just bent. The attitude was grace itself. Dagworthy raised his eyes
slowly from her feet to her face.

'But you wouldn't care to go on with it always?'

'I--I don't think about it,' she replied, nervousness again seizing her.
There was a new look in his eyes, a vehemence, a fervour, which she
dared not meet after the first glance. He would not finish the strapping
of the books, and she could not bid him do so. Had she obeyed her
instinct, she would have hastened away, heedless of anything but the
desire to quit his presence.

'How long will your holidays be?' he asked, letting the books fall to
the chair, as if by accident.

'Till the end of September, I think.'

'So long? I'm glad to hear that. You will come again some day to my
house with your father, won't you?'

The words trembled upon his lips; it was not like his own voice, he
could not control it.

'Thank you, Mr. Dagworthy,' she replied.

He bent to the books again, and this time succeeded in binding them
together. As he fastened the buckle, drops of perspiration fell from his
forehead.

Emily thanked him, and held forth her hand for the books. He took it in
his own.

'Miss Hood--'

She drew her hand away, almost by force, and retreated a step; his face
terrified her.

'I sent Jessie off on purpose,' he continued. 'I knew you were here, and
wanted to speak to you alone. Since I met you that day on the Heath, I
have had no rest--I've wanted so to see you again. The other morning at
the Cartwrights' it was almost more than I could do to go away. I don't
know what's come to me; I can't put you out of my thoughts for one
minute; I can't give my attention to business, to anything. I meant to
have gone away before now, but I've put it off, day after day; once or
twice I've all but come to your house, to ask to see you--'

He spoke in a hurried, breathless way, almost with violence; passion was
forcing the words from him, in spite of a shame which kept his face on
fire. There was something boyish in the simplicity of his phrases; he
seemed to be making a confession that was compelled by fear, and at
length his speech lost itself in incoherence. He stood with his eyes
fixed on the ground; perspiration covered his face.

'Mr. Dagworthy--'

Emily tried to break the intolerable silence. Her strength was answering
now to the demand upon it; his utter abashment before her could not but
help her to calmness. But the sound of her first word gave him voice
again.

'Let me speak first,' he broke forth, now looking full at her. 'That's
nothing of what I wanted to say; it sounds as if I wasn't man enough to
know my own mind. I know it well enough, and I must say all I have to
say, whilst you're here to listen to me. After all, you're only a girl;
but if you'd come here straight from heaven, I couldn't find it harder
to speak to you.'

'Mr. Dagworthy, don't speak like this--don't say more--I beg you not to!
I cannot listen as you would wish me to.'

'You can't listen? But you don't know what I have to say still,' he
urged, with hasty entreaty, his voice softer. 'I'm asking nothing yet; I
only want you to know how you've made me feel towards you. No feeling
will ever come to you like this that's come to me, but I want you to
know of it, to try and understand what it means--to try and think of
me. I don't ask for yes or no, it wouldn't be reasonable; you haven't
had to think of me in this way. But God knows how I shall live without
you; it would be the cruelest word woman ever said if you refused even
to give me a hope.'

'I cannot--do hear me--it is not in my power to give you hope.'

'Oh, you say that because you think you must, because I have come to you
so suddenly; I have offended you by talking in this way when we scarcely
know each other even as friends, and you have to keep me at a distance;
I see it on your face. Do you think there is a danger that I should be
less respectful to you than I ought? That's because you don't understand
me. I've spoken in rough, hasty words, because to be near you takes all
sense from me. Look, I'm quieter now. What I ought to have said at first
is this. You're prejudiced against me; you've heard all sorts of tales;
I know well enough what people say about me--well, I want you to know me
better. We'll leave all other feelings aside. We'll say I just wish you
to think of me in a just way, a friendly way, nothing more. It's
impossible for you to do more than that at first. No doubt even your
father has told you that I have a hasty temper, which leads me to say
and do things I'm soon sorry for. It's true enough, but that doesn't
prove that I am a brute, and that I can't mend myself. You've heard
things laid to my charge that are false--about my doings in my own
home--you know what I mean. Get to know me better, and some day I'll
tell you the whole truth. Now it's only this I ask of you--be just to
me. You're not a woman like these in Dunfield who talk and talk behind
one's back; though I have seen so little of you, don't I know the
difference between you and them? I'm ignorant enough, compared with you,
but I can feel what it is that puts you above all other women. It must
be that that makes me mad to gain a kind word from you. One word--that
you'll try to think of me; and I'll live on that as long as I can.'

The mere utterances help little to an understanding of the terrible
force of entreaty he put into this speech. His face, his hands, the
posture of his body, all joined in pleading. He had cast off all
shamefacedness, and spoke as if his life depended on the answer she
would return; the very lack of refinement in his tone, in his
pronunciation of certain words, made his appeal the more pathetic. With
the quickness of jealousy, he had guessed at the meaning there might lie
in Emily's reluctance to hear him, but he dared not entertain the
thought; it was his passionate instinct to plead it down. Whatever it
might be that she had in mind, she must first hear him. As he spoke, he
watched her features with the eagerness of desire, of fear; to do so was
but to inflame his passion. It was an extraordinary struggle between the
force of violent appetite and the constraint of love in the higher
sense. How the former had been excited, it would be hard to explain.
Wilfrid Athel had submitted to the same influence. Her beauty was of the
kind which, leaving the ordinary man untouched, addressed itself with
the strangest potency to an especially vehement nature here and there.
Her mind, uttering itself in the simplest phrases, laid a spell upon
certain other minds set apart and chosen. She could not speak but the
soul of this rude mill-owner was exalted beyond his own intelligence.

Forced to wait the end of his speech, Emily stood with her head bowed in
sadness. Fear had passed; she recognised the heart-breaking sincerity of
his words, and compassionated him. When he became silent, she could not
readily reply. He was speaking again, below his breath.

'You are thinking? I know how you can't help regarding me. Try only to
feel for me.'

'There is only one way in which I can answer you,' she said; 'I owe it
to you to hide nothing. I feel deeply the sincerity of all you have
said, and be sure, Mr. Dagworthy, that I will never think of you
unjustly or unkindly. But I can promise nothing more; I have already
given my love.'

Her voice faltered before the last word, the word she would never
lightly utter. But it must be spoken now; no paraphrase would confirm
her earnestness sufficiently.

Still keeping her eyes on the ground, she knew that he had started.

'You have promised to marry some one?' he asked, as if it were necessary
to have the fact affirmed in the plainest words before he could accept
it.

She hoped that silence might be her answer.

'Have you? Do you mean that?'

'I have.'

She saw that he was turning away from her, and with an effort she looked
at him. She wished she had not; his anguish expressed itself like an
evil passion; his teeth were set with a cruel savageness. It was worse
when he caught her look and tried to smile.

'Then I suppose that's--that's the end,' he said, as if he would make an
effort to joke upon it, though his voice all but failed in speaking the
few words.

He walked a little apart, then approached her again.

'You don't say this just to put me off?' he asked, with a roughness
which was rather the effect of his attempt to keep down emotion than
intentional.

'I have told you the truth,' Emily replied firmly.

'Do other people know it? Do the Cartwrights?'

'You are the only one to whom I have spoken of it.'

'Except your father and mother, you mean?'

'They do not know.'

Though so troubled, she was yet able to ask herself whether his delicacy
was sufficiently developed to enjoin silence. The man had made such
strange revelation of himself, she felt unable to predict his course. No
refinement in him would now have surprised her; but neither would any
outbreak of boorishness. He seemed capable of both. His next question
augured ill.

'Of course it is not any one in Dunfield?'

'It is not.'

Jealousy was torturing him. He was quite conscious that he should have
refrained from a single question, yet he could no more keep these back
than he could the utterance of his passion.

'Will you--'

He hesitated.

'May I leave you, Mr. Dagworthy?' Emily asked, seeing that he was not
likely to quit her. She moved to take the books from the chair.

'One minute more.--Will you tell me who it is?--I am a brute to ask you,
but--if you--Good God! How shall I bear this?'

He turned his back upon her; she saw him quiver. It was her impulse to
walk from the garden, but she feared to pass him.

He faced her again. Yes, the man could suffer.

'Will you tell me who it is?' he groaned rather than spoke. 'You don't
believe that I should speak of it? But I feel I could bear it better; I
should know for certain it was no use hoping.'

Emily could not answer.

'It is some one in London?'

'Yes, Mr. Dagworthy, I cannot tell you more than that. Please do not ask
more.'

'I won't. Of course your opinion of me is worse than ever. That doesn't
matter much.--If you could kill as easily as you can drive a man mad, I
would ask you to still have pity on me.--I'm forgetting: you want me to
go first, so that you can lock up the garden.--Good-bye!'

He did not offer his hand, but cast one look at her, a look Emily never
forgot, and walked quickly away.

Emily could not start at once homewards. When it was certain that
Dagworthy had left the garden, she seated herself; she had need of rest
and of solitude to calm her thoughts. Her sensation was that of having
escaped a danger, the dread of which thrilled in her. Though fear had
been allayed for an interval, it regained its hold upon her towards the
end of the dialogue; the passion she had witnessed was so rude, so
undisciplined, it seemed to expose elementary forces, which, if need be,
would set every constraint at defiance. It was no exaggeration to say
that she did not feel safe in the man's presence. The possibility of
such a feeling had made itself known to her even during the visit to his
house; to find herself suddenly the object of his almost frenzied desire
was to realize how justly her instinct had spoken. This was not love, as
she understood it, but a terrible possession which might find
assuagement in inflicting some fearful harm upon what it affected to
hold dear. The Love of Emily's worship was a spirit of passionate
benignity, of ecstatic calm, holy in renunciations, pure unutterably in
supreme attainment. Her knowledge of life was insufficient to allow her
to deal justly with love as exhibited in Dagworthy; its gross side was
too offensively prominent; her experience gave her no power of rightly
appreciating this struggle of the divine flame in a dense element.
Living, and having ever lived, amid idealisms, she was too subjective in
her interpretation of phenomena so new to her. It would have been easier
for her to judge impartially had she witnessed this passion directed
towards another; addressed to her, in the position she occupied, any
phase of wooing would have been painful; vehemence was nothing less than
abhorrent. Wholly ignorant of Dagworthy's inner life, and misled with
regard to the mere facts of his outward behaviour, it was impossible
that she should discern the most deeply significant features of the love
he expressed so ill, impossible for her to understand that what would be
brutality in another man was in him the working of the very means of
grace, could circumstances have favoured their action. One tribute her
instinct paid to the good which hid itself under so rude a guise; as she
pondered over her fear, analysing it as scrupulously as she always did
those feelings which she felt it behoved her to understand once for all,
she half discovered in it an element which only severe self-judgment
would allow; it seemed to her that the fear was, in an infinitesimal
degree, of herself, that, under other conditions, she might have known
what it was to respond to the love thus offered her. For she neither
scorned nor loathed the man, notwithstanding her abhorrence of his
passion as devoted to herself. She wished him well; she even found
herself thinking over those women in Dunfield whom she knew, if
perchance one of them might seem fitted to make his happiness. None the
less, it was terrible to reflect that she must live, perhaps for a long
time, so near to him, ever exposed to the risk of chance meetings, if
not to the danger of a surprise such as to-day's for she could not
assure herself that he would hold her answer final. One precaution she
must certainly take; henceforth she would never come to the garden save
in Jessie's company. She wondered how Dagworthy had known of her
presence here, and it occurred to her to doubt of Jessie; could the
latter have aided in bringing about this interview? Dagworthy,
confessing his own manoeuvre, would naturally conceal any conscious part
in it that Jessie might have taken.

Her spirits suffered depression as she communed thus with herself; all
the drearier aspects of her present life were emphasised; she longed,
longed with aching of the heart for the day which should set her free
for ever from these fears and sorrows. Another secret would henceforth
trouble her. Would that it might remain a secret! If Jessie indeed knew
of this morning's events, there was small likelihood that it would
remain unknown to others; then the whole truth must be revealed. Would
it not be better to anticipate any such discovery, to tell her father
this very day what had happened and why it was so painful to her? Yet to
speak of Dagworthy might make her father uneasy in his position at the
mill--would inevitably do so. Therein lay a new dread. Was Dagworthy
capable of taking revenge upon her father? Oh surely, surely not!--The
words passed her lips involuntarily. She would not, she could not,
believe so ill of him; had he not implored her to do him justice?...

When Mr. Hood returned from business on the following day, he brought
news that Dagworthy had at last gone for his holiday. It was time, he
said; Dagworthy was not looking himself; at the mill they had been in
mortal fear of one of his outbreaks.

'Did he speak harshly to you, father?' Emily was driven to ask, with
very slight emphasis on the 'you.'

'Fortunately,' was the reply, with the sad abortive laugh which was Mr.
Hood's nearest approach to mirth, 'fortunately he left me alone, and
spoke neither well nor ill. He didn't look angry, I thought, so much as
put out about something.'

Emily was relieved from one fear at least, and felt grateful to
Dagworthy. Moreover, by observation, she had concluded that Jessie could
not possibly be aware of what had taken place in the garden. And now
Dagworthy was likely to be away for three weeks. Her heart was lighter
again.

CHAPTER IX

CIRCUMSTANCE

Dagworthy was absent not quite a fortnight, and he returned looking
anything but the better for his holiday. The wholesome colour of his
cheeks had changed almost to sallowness those who met him in Dunfield
looked at him with surprise and asked what illness he had been
suffering. At the mill, they did not welcome his re-appearance; his
temper was worse than it had been since the ever-memorable week which
witnessed his prosecution for assault and battery. At home, the servants
did their best to keep out of his way, warned by Mrs. Jenkins. She, good
woman, had been rash enough to bring the child into the dining-room
whilst Dagworthy was refreshing himself with a biscuit and a glass of
wine upon his arrival; in a minute or two she retreated in high wrath.

'Let him dom me, if he loikes,' she went away exclaiming; 'ah'm ovver
auld to care much abaht such fond tantrums; but when he gets agaate o'
dommin his awn barn, it fair maaks my teeth dither ageean. The lad's aht
on his 'eead.'

That was seven o'clock in the evening. He dined an hour later, and when
it was dark left the house. Between then and midnight he was constantly
in and out, and Mrs. Jenkins, who was kept up by her fears that 't'
master' was seriously unwell, made at length another attempt to face
him. She knocked at the door of the sitting-room, having heard him enter
a minute or two before; no answer was vouchsafed, so she made bold to
open the door. Dagworthy was sitting with his head upon the table, his
arms stretched out; he appeared to be asleep.

'Mr. Richard!' she said softly. 'Mr. Richard!'

He looked up. 'Well? What is it?'

'Yo' scahr'd me; ah thowt summat 'ad come to yo'. What's wrong wi' yo',
Mr. Richard? You look as if you could hardly he'd your heead up.'

To her surprise he spoke quite calmly.

'Yes, I've got a bit of a headache. Get me some hot water, will you?
I'll have some brandy and go to bed.'

She began to advise other remedies, but Dagworthy speedily checked her.

'Get me some hot water, I tell you, and go to bed yourself. What are you
doing up at this hour?'

He went to business at the usual time next morning, and it seemed as if
the worst had blown over; at home he was sullen, but not violent.

The third day after his return, on entering his office at the mill, he
found Hood taking down one of a row of old ledgers which stood there
upon a shelf.

'What are you doing?' he asked abruptly, at the same time turning his
back upon the clerk.

Hood explained that he was under the necessity of searching through the
accounts for several years, to throw light upon a certain transaction
which was giving trouble.

'All right,' was the reply, as Dagworthy took his keys out to open his
desk.

A quarter of an hour later, he entered the room where Hood was busy over
the ledger. A second clerk was seated there, and him Dagworthy summoned
to the office, where he had need of him. Presently Hood came to replace
the ledger he had examined, and took away the succeeding volume. A few
minutes later Dagworthy said to the clerk who sat with him--

'I shall have to go away for an hour or so. I'm expecting a telegram
from Legge Brothers; if it doesn't come before twelve o'clock, you or
Hood must go to Hebsworth. It had better be Hood; you finish what you're
at. If there's no telegram, he must take the twelve-thirteen, and give
this note here to Mr. Andrew Legge; there'll be an answer. Mind you see
to this.'

At the moment when Dagworthy's tread sounded on the stairs, Mr. Hood was
on the point of making a singular discovery. In turning a page of the
ledger, he came upon an envelope, old and yellow, which had evidently
been shut up in the hook for several years; it was without address and
unsealed. He was going to lay it aside, when his fingers told him that
it contained something; the enclosure proved to be a ten-pound note,
also old and patched together in the manner of notes that have been sent
half at a time.

'Now I wonder how that got left there?' Hood mused. 'There's been rare
searching for that, I'll be bound. Here's something to put our friend
into a better temper.'

He turned the note over once or twice, tried in vain to decipher a
scribbled endorsement, then restored it to the envelope. With the letter
in his hand, he went to the office.

'Mr. Dagworthy out?' he asked of his fellow-clerk on looking round.

The clerk was a facetious youth. He rose from his seat, seized a ruler,
and began a species of sword-play about Hood's head, keeping up a
grotesque dance the while. Hood bore it with his wonted patience,
smiling faintly.

'Mr. Dagworthy out?' he repeated, as soon as he was free from
apprehension of a chance crack on the crown.

'He is, my boy. And what's more, there's a chance of your having a spree
in Hebsworth. Go down on your knees and pray that no telegram from Foot
Brothers--I mean, Legge--arrives during the next five-and-twenty
minutes.'

'Why?'

'If not, you're to takee this notee to Brother Andrew
Leggee,--comprenez? The boss was going to send me, but he altered his
mind, worse luck.'

'Twelve-thirteen?' asked Hood.

'Yes. And now if you're in the mind, I'll box you for half a
dollar--what say?'

He squared himself in pugilistic attitude, and found amusement in
delivering terrific blows which just stopped short of Hood's prominent
features. The latter beat a retreat.

Twelve o'clock struck, and no telegram had arrived; neither had
Dagworthy returned to the mill. Hood was indisposed to leave the
envelope to be given by other hands; he might as well have the advantage
of such pleasure as the discovery would no doubt excite. So he put it
safely in his pocket-book, and hastened to catch the train, taking with
him the paper of sandwiches which represented his dinner. These he would
eat on the way to Hebsworth.

It was a journey of ten miles, lying at first over green fields, with a
colliery vomiting blackness here and there, then through a region of
blight and squalor, finally over acres of smoke-fouled streets, amid the
roar of machinery; a journey that would have crushed the heart in one
fresh from the breath of heaven on sunny pastures. It was a slow train,
and there were half a dozen stoppages. Hood began to eat his sandwiches
at a point where the train was delayed for a few minutes by an adverse
signal; a coal-pit was close by, and the smoke from the chimney blew in
at the carriage windows, giving a special flavour to the bread and meat.
There was a drunken soldier in the same compartment, who was being
baited by a couple of cattle-drovers with racy vernacular not to be
rendered by the pen. Hood munched his smoky sandwich, and with his sad
eyes watched the great wheel of the colliery revolve, and the trucks
rise and descend. The train moved on again. The banter between the other
three passengers was taking an angry turn; to escape the foul language
as far as possible, Hood kept his head at the window. Of a sudden the
drunken soldier was pushed against him, and before he could raise his
hands, his hat had flown off on the breeze.

He turned round with angry remonstrance. The soldier had fallen back on
to the seat, and was grinning inanely; the drovers were enjoying the
joke beyond measure.

'Theer, lad!' one of them cried. 'Tha's doon it nah! Tha'll a' to buy
him a new 'at for his 'eead, soon as we get i'to Hebs'orth.'

''Appen he's got no brass,' suggested the other, guffawing.

It was the case; the soldier had a copper or two at most. The drovers of
course held themselves free of responsibility. Hood felt in his own
pocket; but he was well aware that a shilling and three-halfpence was
all he carried with him--save the bank-note in his pocket-book. Yet it
was impossible to go through Hebsworth with uncovered head, or to
present himself hatless at the office of Legge Brothers. Already the
train was slackening speed to enter the station. Would any hatter trust
him, on his representing whence he came? He feared not. Not the least
part of his trouble was the thought of having to buy a new hat at all;
such an expense was ill to be borne just now. Of course--he said to
himself, with dreary fatalism--a mishap is sure to come at the worst
time. It was the experience of his life.

Hood was a shy man; it was misery to have attention drawn to himself as
it naturally would be as soon as he stepped out on to the platform. But
there was no help; with a last angry look at the drunken soldier, he
nerved himself to face the ordeal. As he walked hurriedly out of the
crowd, the cry 'Cab, sir?' fell upon his ears. Impossible to say how he
brought himself to such a pitch of recklessness, but in a moment he was
seated in a hansom, having bidden the driver take him to the nearest
hatter's. The agony of embarrassment has driven shy men to strange
audacities, but who ever dared more than this? _He would be compelled to
change the note_!

Whatever might be the cause, whether it was the sudden sense of refuge
from observation, or the long unknown pleasure of riding in a cab, as he
sped along the streets he grew almost merry; at length he positively
laughed at the adventure which had befallen him. It mattered nothing
whether he gave Dagworthy the money in a note or in change, and, on
being told the story, his employer might even feel disposed to pay for
the hat. He _would_ pay for the hat! By the time the cab drew up, Hood
had convinced himself of this. He was in better spirits than he had been
for many a day.

'Can you change me a ten-pound note?' were his first words to the

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