Part 2 out of 6
and the romance of Smilash's disguise gave her a sensation of
dreaming. Her imagination was already busy upon a drama, of which
she was the heroine and Smilash the hero, though, with the real
man before her, she could not indulge herself by attributing to
him quite as much gloomy grandeur of character as to a wholly
ideal personage. The plot was simple, and an old favorite with
her. One of them was to love the other and to die broken-hearted
because the loved one would not requite the passion. For Agatha,
prompt to ridicule sentimentality in her companions, and gifted
with an infectious spirit of farce, secretly turned for
imaginative luxury to visions of despair and death; and often
endured the mortification of the successful clown who believes,
whilst the public roar with laughter at him, that he was born a
tragedian. There was much in her nature, she felt, that did not
find expression in her popular representation of the soldier in
By three o'clock the local visitors had arrived, and tennis was
proceeding in four courts, rolled and prepared by Smilash. The
two curates were there, with a few lay gentlemen. Mrs. Miller,
the vicar, and some mothers and other chaperons looked on and
consumed light refreshments, which were brought out upon trays by
Smilash, who had borrowed and put on a large white apron, and was
making himself officiously busy.
At a quarter past the hour a message came from Miss Wilson,
requesting Miss Wylie's attendance. The visitors were at a loss
to account for the sudden distraction of the young ladies'
attention which ensued. Jane almost burst into tears, and
answered Josephs rudely when he innocently asked what the matter
was. Agatha went away apparently unconcerned, though her hand
shook as she put aside her racket.
In a spacious drawing-room at the north side of the college she
found her mother, a slight woman in widow's weeds, with faded
brown hair, and tearful eyes. With her were Mrs. Jansenius and
her daughter. The two elder ladies kept severely silent whilst
Agatha kissed them, and Mrs. Wylie sniffed. Henrietta embraced
"Where's Uncle John?" said Agatha. "Hasn't he come?"
"He is in the next room with Miss Wilson," said Mrs. Jansenius
coldly. "They want you in there."
"I thought somebody was dead," said Agatha, "you all look so
funereal. Now, mamma, put your handkerchief back again. If you
cry I will give Miss Wilson a piece of my mind for worrying you."
"No, no," said Mrs. Wylie, alarmed. "She has been so nice!"
"So good!" said Henrietta.
"She has been perfectly reasonable and kind," said Mrs.
"She always is," said Agatha complacently. "You didn't expect to
find her in hysterics, did you?"
"Agatha," pleaded Mrs. Wylie, "don't be headstrong and foolish."
"Oh, she won't; I know she won't," said Henrietta coaxingly.
"Will you, dear Agatha?"
"You may do as you like, as far as I am concerned," said Mrs.
Jansenius. "But I hope you have more sense than to throw away
your education for nothing."
"Your aunt is quite right," said Mrs. Wylie. "And your Uncle John
is very angry with you. He will never speak to you again if you
quarrel with Miss Wilson."
"He is not angry," said Henrietta, "but he is so anxious that you
should get on well."
"He will naturally be disappointed if you persist in making a
fool of yourself," said Mrs. Jansenius.
"All Miss Wilson wants is an apology for the dreadful things you
wrote in her book," said Mrs. Wylie. "You'll apologize, dear,
"Of course she will," said Henrietta.
"I think you had better," said Mrs. Jansenius.
"Perhaps I will," said Agatha.
"That's my own darling," said Mrs. Wylie, catching her hand.
"And perhaps, again, I won't."
"You will, dear," urged Mrs. Wylie, trying to draw Agatha, who
passively resisted, closer to her. "For my sake. To oblige your
mother, Agatha. You won't refuse me, dearest?"
Agatha laughed indulgently at her parent, who had long ago worn
out this form of appeal. Then she turned to Henrietta, and said,
"How is your caro sposo? I think it was hard that I was not a
The red in Henrietta's cheeks brightened. Mrs. Jansenius hastened
to interpose a dry reminder that Miss Wilson was waiting.
"Oh, she does not mind waiting," said Agatha, "because she thinks
you are all at work getting me into a proper frame of mind. That
was the arrangement she made with you before she left the room.
Mamma knows that I have a little bird that tells me these things.
I must say that you have not made me feel any goody-goodier so
far. However, as poor Uncle John must be dreadfully frightened
and uncomfortable, it is only kind to put an end to his suspense.
Good-bye!" And she went out leisurely. But she looked in again to
say in a low voice: "Prepare for something thrilling. I feel just
in the humor to say the most awful things." She vanished, and
immediately they heard her tapping at the door of the next room.
Mr. Jansenius was indeed awaiting her with misgiving. Having
discovered early in his career that his dignified person and fine
voice caused people to stand in some awe of him, and to move him
into the chair at public meetings, he had grown so accustomed to
deference that any approach to familiarity or irreverence
disconcerted him exceedingly. Agatha, on the other hand, having
from her childhood heard Uncle John quoted as wisdom and
authority incarnate, had begun in her tender years to scoff at
him as a pompous and purseproud city merchant, whose sordid mind
was unable to cope with her transcendental affairs. She had
habitually terrified her mother by ridiculing him with an
absolute contempt of which only childhood and extreme ignorance
are capable. She had felt humiliated by his kindness to her (he
was a generous giver of presents), and, with the instinct of an
anarchist, had taken disparagement of his advice and defiance of
his authority as the signs wherefrom she might infer surely that
her face was turned to the light. The result was that he was a
little tired of her without being quite conscious of it; and she
not at all afraid of him, and a little too conscious of it.
When she entered with her brightest smile in full play, Miss
Wilson and Mr. Jansenius, seated at the table, looked somewhat
like two culprits about to be indicted. Miss Wilson waited for
him to speak, deferring to his imposing presence. But he was not
ready, so she invited Agatha to sit down.
"Thank you," said Agatha sweetly. "Well, Uncle John, don't you
"I have heard with regret from Miss Wilson that you have been
very troublesome here," he said, ignoring her remark, though
secretly put out by it.
"Yes," said Agatha contritely. "I am so very sorry."
Mr. Jansenius, who had been led by Miss Wilson to expect the
utmost contumacy, looked to her in surprise.
"You seem to think," said Miss Wilson, conscious of Mr.
Jansenius's movement, and annoyed by it, "that you may transgress
over and over again, and then set yourself right with us," (Miss
Wilson never spoke of offences as against her individual
authority, but as against the school community) "by saying that
you are sorry. You spoke in a very different tone at our last
"I was angry then, Miss Wilson. And I thought I had a
grievance--everybody thinks they have the same one. Besides, we
were quarrelling--at least I was; and I always behave badly when
I quarrel. I am so very sorry."
"The book was a serious matter," said Miss Wilson gravely. "You
do not seem to think so."
"I understand Agatha to say that she is now sensible of the folly
of her conduct with regard to the book, and that she is sorry for
it," said Mr. Jansenius, instinctively inclining to Agatha's
party as the stronger one and the least dependent on him in a
pecuniary sense. Have you seen the book?" said Agatha eagerly.
"No. Miss Wilson has described what has occurred."
"Oh, do let me get it," she cried, rising. "It will make Uncle
John scream with laughing. May I, Miss Wilson?"
"There!" said Miss Wilson, indignantly. "It is this incorrigible
flippancy of which I have to complain. Miss Wylie only varies it
by downright insubordination."
Mr. Jansenius too was scandalized. His fine color mounted at the
idea of his screaming. "Tut, tut!" he said, "you must be serious,
and more respectful to Miss Wilson. You are old enough to know
better now, Agatha--quite old enough."
Agatha's mirth vanished. "What have I said What have I done?"
she asked, a faint purple spot appearing in her cheeks.
"You have spoken triflingly of--of the volume by which Miss
Wilson sets great store, and properly so."
"If properly so, then why do you find fault with me?"
"Come, come," roared Mr. Jansenius, deliberately losing his
temper as a last expedient to subdue her, "don't be impertinent,
Agatha's eyes dilated; evanescent flushes played upon her cheeks
and neck; she stamped with her heel. "Uncle John," she cried, "if
you dare to address me like that, I will never look at you, never
speak to you, nor ever enter your house again. What do you know
about good manners, that you should call me impertinent? I will
not submit to intentional rudeness; that was the beginning of my
quarrel with Miss Wilson. She told me I was impertinent, and I
went away and told her that she was wrong by writing it in the
fault book. She has been wrong all through, and I would have said
so before but that I wanted to be reconciled to her and to let
bygones be bygones. But if she insists on quarrelling, I cannot
"I have already explained to you, Mr. Jansenius," said Miss
Wilson, concentrating her resentment by an effort to suppress it,
"that Miss Wylie has ignored all the opportunities that have been
made for her to reinstate herself here. Mrs. Miller and I have
waived merely personal considerations, and I have only required a
simple acknowledgment of this offence against the college and its
"I do not care that for Mrs. Miller," said Agatha, snapping her
fingers. "And you are not half so good as I thought."
"Agatha," said Mr. Jansenius, "I desire you to hold your tongue."
Agatha drew a deep breath, sat down resignedly, and said: "There!
I have done. I have lost my temper; so now we have all lost our
"You have no right to lose your temper, Miss," said Mr.
Jansenius, following up a fancied advantage.
"I am the youngest, and the least to blame," she replied. "There
is nothing further to be said, Mr. Jansenius," said Miss Wilson,
determinedly. "I am sorry that Miss Wylie has chosen to break
"But I have not chosen to break with you, and I think it very
hard that I am to be sent away. Nobody here has the least quarrel
with me except you and Mrs. Miller. Mrs. Miller is annoyed
because she mistook me for her cat, as if that was my fault! And
really, Miss Wilson, I don't know why you are so angry. All the
girls will think I have done something infamous if I am expelled.
I ought to be let stay until the end of the term; and as to the
Rec--the fault book, you told me most particularly when I first
came that I might write in it or not just as I pleased, and that
you never dictated or interfered with what was written. And yet
the very first time I write a word you disapprove of, you expel
me. Nobody will ever believe now that the entries are voluntary."
Miss Wilson's conscience, already smitten by the coarseness and
absence of moral force in the echo of her own "You are
impertinent," from the mouth of Mr. Jansenius, took fresh alarm.
"The fault book," she said, "is for the purpose of recording
self-reproach alone, and is not a vehicle for accusations against
"I am quite sure that neither Jane nor Gertrude nor I reproached
ourselves in the least for going downstairs as we did, and yet
you did not blame us for entering that. Besides, the book
represented moral force--at least you always said so, and when
you gave up moral force, I thought an entry should be made of
that. Of course I was in a rage at the time, hut when I came to
myself I thought I had done right, and I think so still, though
it would perhaps have been better to have passed it over."
"Why do you say that I gave up moral force?"
"Telling people to leave the room is not moral force. Calling
them impertinent is not moral force."
"You think then that I am bound to listen patiently to whatever
you choose to say to me, however unbecoming it may be from one in
your position to one in mine ?"
"But I said nothing unbecoming," said Agatha. Then, breaking off
restlessly, and smiling again, she said: "Oh, don't let us argue.
I am very sorry, and very troublesome, and very fond of you and
of the college; and I won't come back next term unless you like."
"Agatha," said Miss Wilson, shaken, "these expressions of regard
cost you so little, and when they have effected their purpose,
are so soon forgotten by you, that they have ceased to satisfy
me. I am very reluctant to insist on your leaving us at once. But
as your uncle has told you, you are old and sensible enough to
know the difference between order and disorder. Hitherto you have
been on the side of disorder, an element which was hardly known
here until you came, as Mrs. Trefusis can tell you. Nevertheless,
if you will promise to be more careful in future, I will waive
all past cause of complaint, and at the end of the term I shall
be able to judge as to your continuing among us."
Agatha rose, beaming. "Dear Miss Wilson," she said, "you are so
good! I promise, of course. I will go and tell mamma."
Before they could add a word she had turned with a pirouette to
the door, and fled, presenting herself a moment later in the
drawing-room to the three ladies, whom she surveyed with a
whimsical smile in silence.
"Well?" said Mrs. Jansenius peremptorily.
"Well, dear?" said Mrs. Trefusis, caressingly.
Mrs. Wylie stifled a sob and looked imploringly at her daughter.
"I had no end of trouble in bringing them to reason," said
Agatha, after a provoking pause. "They behaved like children, and
I was like an angel. I am to stay, of course."
"Blessings on you, my darling," faltered Mrs. Wylie, attempting a
kiss, which Agatha dexterously evaded.
"I have promised to be very good, and studious, and quiet, and
decorous in future. Do you remember my castanet song, Hetty?
"'Tra! lalala, la! la! la! Tra! lalala, la! la! la! Tra!
And she danced about the room, snapping her fingers instead of
"Don't be so reckless and wicked, my love," said Mrs. Wylie. "You
will break your poor mother's heart."
Miss Wilson and Mr. Jansenius entered just then, and Agatha
became motionless and gazed abstractedly at a vase of flowers.
Miss Wilson invited her visitors to join the tennis players. Mr.
Jansenius looked sternly and disappointedly at Agatha, who
elevated her left eyebrow and depressed her right simultaneously;
but he, shaking his head to signify that he was not to be
conciliated by facial feats, however difficult or contrary to
nature, went out with Miss Wilson, followed by Mrs. Jansenius and
"How is your Hubby?" said Agatha then, brusquely, to Henrietta.
Mrs. Trefusis's eyes filled with tears so quickly that, as she
bent her head to hide them, they fell, sprinkling Agatha's hand.
"This is such a dear old place," she began. "The associations of
"What is the matter between you and Hubby?" demanded Agatha,
interrupting her. "You had better tell me, or I will ask him when
I meet him."
"I was about to tell you, only you did not give me time."
"That is a most awful cram," said Agatha. "But no matter. Go on."
Henrietta hesitated. Her dignity as a married woman, and the
reality of her grief, revolted against the shallow acuteness of
the schoolgirl. But she found herself no better able to resist
Agatha's domineering than she had been in her childhood, and much
more desirous of obtaining her sympathy. Besides, she had already
learnt to tell the story herself rather than leave its narration
to others, whose accounts did not, she felt, put her case in the
proper light. So she told Agatha of her marriage, her wild love
for her husband, his wild love for her, and his mysterious
disappearance without leaving word or sign behind him. She did
not mention the letter.
"Have you had him searched for?" said Agatha, repressing an
inclination to laugh.
"But where? Had I the remotest clue, I would follow him barefoot
to the end of the world."
"I think you ought to search all the rivers--you would have to do
that barefoot. He must have fallen in somewhere, or fallen down
"No, no. Do you think I should be here if I thought his life in
danger? I have reasons--I know that he is only gone away."
"Oh, indeed! He took his portmanteau with him, did he? Perhaps he
has gone to Paris to buy you something nice and give you a
"No," said Henrietta dejectedly. "He knew that I wanted nothing."
"Then I suppose he got tired of you and ran away."
Henrietta's peculiar scarlet blush flowed rapidly over her cheeks
as she flung Agatha's arm away, exclaiming, "How dare you say so!
You have no heart. He adored me."
"Bosh!" said Agatha. "People always grow tired of one another. I
grow tired of myself whenever I am left alone for ten minutes,
and I am certain that I am fonder of myself than anyone can be of
"I know you are," said Henrietta, pained and spiteful. "You have
always been particularly fond of yourself."
"Very likely he resembles me in that respect. In that case he
will grow tired of himself and come back, and you will both coo
like turtle doves until he runs away again. Ugh! Serve you right
for getting married. I wonder how people can be so mad as to do
it, with the example of their married acquaintances all warning
them against it."
"You don't know what it is to love," said Henrietta, plaintively,
and yet patronizingly. "Besides, we were not like other couples."
"So it seems. But never mind, take my word for it, he will return
to you as soon as he has had enough of his own company. Don't
worry thinking about him, but come and have a game at lawn
During this conversation they had left the drawing-room and made
a detour through the grounds. They were now approaching the
tennis courts by a path which wound between two laurel hedges
through the shrubbery. Meanwhile, Smilash, waiting on the guests
in his white apron and gloves (which he had positively refused to
take off, alleging that he was a common man, with common hands
such as born ladies and gentlemen could not be expected to take
meat and drink from), had behaved himself irreproachably until
the arrival of Miss Wilson and her visitors, which occurred as he
was returning to the table with an empty tray, moving so swiftly
that he nearly came into collision with Mrs. Jansenius. Instead
of apologizing, he changed countenance, hastily held up the tray
like a shield before his face, and began to walk backward from
her, stumbling presently against Miss Lindsay, who was running to
return a ball. Without heeding her angry look and curt rebuke, he
half turned, and sidled away into the shrubbery, whence the tray
presently rose into the air, flew across the laurel hedge, and
descended with a peal of stage thunder on the stooped shoulders
of Josephs. Miss Wilson, after asking the housekeeper with some
asperity why she had allowed that man to interfere in the
attendance, explained to the guests that he was the idiot of the
countryside. Mr. Jansenius laughed, and said that he had not seen
the man's face, but that his figure reminded him forcibly of some
one; he could not just then recollect exactly whom.
Smilash, making off through the shrubbery, found the end of his
path blocked by Agatha and a young lady whose appearance alarmed
him more than had that of Mrs. Jansenius. He attempted to force
his tray through the hedge, but in vain; the laurel was
impenetrable, and the noise he made attracted the attention of
the approaching couple. He made no further effort to escape, but
threw his borrowed apron over his head and stood bolt upright
with his back against the bushes.
"What is that man doing there?" said Henrietta, stopping
Agatha laughed, and said loudly, so that he might hear: "It is
only a harmless madman that Miss Wilson employs. He is fond of
disguising himself in some silly way and trying to frighten us.
Don't be afraid. Come on."
Henrietta hung back, but her arm was linked in Agatha's, and she
was drawn along in spite of herself. Smilash did not move. Agatha
strolled on coolly, and as she passed him, adroitly caught the
apron between her finger and thumb and twitched it from his face.
Instantly Henrietta uttered a piercing scream, and Smilash caught
her in his arms.
"Quick," he said to Agatha, "she is fainting. Run for some water.
Run!" And he bent over Henrietta, who clung to him frantically.
Agatha, bewildered by the effect of her practical joke, hesitated
a moment, and then ran to the lawn.
"What is the matter?" said Fairholme.
"Nothing. I want some water--quick, please. Henrietta has fainted
in the shrubbery, that is all."
"Please do not stir," said Miss Wilson authoritatively, "you will
crowd the path and delay useful assistance. Miss Ward, kindly get
some water and bring it to us. Agatha, come with me and point out
where Mrs. Trefusis is. You may come too, Miss Carpenter; you are
so strong. The rest will please remain where they are."
Followed by the two girls, she hurried into the shrubbery, where
Mr. Jansenius was already looking anxiously for his daughter. He
was the only person they found there. Smilash and Henrietta were
At first the seekers, merely puzzled, did nothing but question
Agatha incredulously as to the exact spot on which Henrietta had
fallen. But Mr. Jansenius soon made them understand that the
position of a lady in the hands of a half-witted laborer was one
of danger. His agitation infected them, and when Agatha
endeavored to reassure him by declaring that Smilash was a
disguised gentleman, Miss Wilson, supposing this to be a mere
repetition of her former idle conjecture, told her sharply to
hold her tongue, as the time was not one for talking nonsense.
The news now spread through the whole company, and the excitement
became intense. Fairholme shouted for volunteers to make up a
searching party. All the men present responded, and they were
about to rush to the college gates in a body when it Occurred to
the cooler among them that they had better divide into several
parties, in order that search might be made at once in different
quarters. Ten minutes of confusion followed. Mr. Jansenius
started several times in quest of Henrietta, and, when he had
gone a few steps, returned and begged that no more time should be
wasted. Josephs, whose faith was simple, retired to pray, and did
good, as far as it went, by withdrawing one voice from the din of
plans, objections, and suggestions which the rest were making;
each person trying to be heard above the others.
At last Miss Wilson quelled the prevailing anarchy. Servants were
sent to alarm the neighbors and call in the village police.
Detachments were sent in various directions under the command of
Fairholme and other energetic spirits. The girls formed parties
among themselves, which were reinforced by male deserters from
the previous levies. Miss Wilson then went indoors and conducted
a search through the interior of the college. Only two persons
were left on the tennis ground--Agatha and Mrs. Jansenius, who
had been surprisingly calm throughout.
"You need not be anxious," said Agatha, who had been standing
aloof since her rebuff by Miss Wilson. "I am sure there is no
danger. It is most extraordinary that they have gone away; but
the man is no more mad than I am, and I know he is a gentleman He
told me so."
"Let us hope for the best," said Mrs. Jansenius, smoothly. "I
think I will sit down--I feel so tired. Thanks." (Agatha had
handed her a chair.) "What did you say he told you--this man?"
Agatha related the circumstances of her acquaintance with
Smilash, adding, at Mrs. Jansenius's request, a minute
description of his personal appearance. Mrs. Jansenius remarked
that it was very singular, and that she was sure Henrietta was
quite safe. She then partook of claret-cup and sandwiches.
Agatha, though glad to find someone disposed to listen to her,
was puzzled by her aunt's coolness, and was even goaded into
pointing out that though Smilash was not a laborer, it did not
follow that he was an honest man. But Mrs. Jansenius only said:
"Oh, she is safe--quite safe! At least, of course, I can only
hope so. We shall have news presently," and took another
The searchers soon began to return, baffled. A few shepherds, the
only persons in the vicinity, had been asked whether they had
seen a young lady and a laborer. Some of them had seen a young
woman with a basket of clothes, if that mout be her. Some thought
that Phil Martin the carrier would see her if anybody would. None
of them had any positive information to give.
As the afternoon wore on, and party after party returned tired
and unsuccessful, depression replaced excitement; conversation,
no longer tumultuous, was carried on in whispers, and some of the
local visitors slipped away to their homes with a growing
conviction that something unpleasant had happened, and that it
would be as well not to be mixed up in it. Mr. Jansenius, though
a few words from his wife had surprised and somewhat calmed him,
was still pitiably restless and uneasy.
At last the police arrived. At sight of their uniforms excitement
revived; there was a general conviction that something effectual
would be done now. But the constables were only mortal, and in a
few moments a whisper spread that they were fooled. They doubted
everything told them, and expressed their contempt for amateur
searching by entering on a fresh investigation, prying with the
greatest care into the least probable places. Two of them went
off to the chalet to look for Smilash. Then Fairholme, sunburnt,
perspiring, and dusty, but still energetic, brought back the
exhausted remnant of his party, with a sullen boy, who scowled
defiantly at the police, evidently believing that he was about to
be delivered into their custody.
Fairholme had been everywhere, and, having seen nothing of the
missing pair, had come to the conclusion that they were nowhere.
He had asked everybody for information, and had let them know
that he meant to have it too, if it was to be had. But it was not
to be had. The sole resort of his labor was the evidence of the
boy whom he didn't believe.
"'Im!" said the inspector, not quite pleased by Fairholme's zeal,
and yet overborne by it. "You're Wickens's boy, ain't you?"
"Yes, I am Wickens's boy," said the witness, partly fierce,
partly lachrymose, "and I say I seen him, and if anyone sez I
didn't see him, he's a lie."
"Come," said the inspector sharply, "give us none of your cheek,
but tell us what you saw, or you'll have to deal with me
"I don't care who I deal with," said the boy, at bay. "I can't be
took for seein' him, because there's no lor agin it. I was in the
gravel pit in the canal meadow--"
"What business had you there?" said the inspector, interrupting.
"I got leave to be there," said the boy insolently, but
"Who gave you leave?" said the inspector, collaring him. "Ah," he
added, as the captive burst into tears, "I told you you'd have to
deal with me. Now hold your noise, and remember where you are and
who you're speakin' to; and perhaps I mayn't lock you up this
time. Tell me what you saw when you were trespassin' in the
"I sor a young 'omen and a man. And I see her kissin' him; and
the gentleman won't believe me."
"You mean you saw him kissing her, more likely."
"No, I don't. I know wot it is to have a girl kiss you when you
don't want. And I gev a screech to friken 'em. And he called me
and gev me tuppence, and sez, 'You go to the devil,' he sez, 'and
don't tell no one you seen me here, or else,' he sez, 'I might be
tempted to drownd you,' he sez, 'and wot a shock that would be to
your parents! ' 'Oh, yes, very likely,' I sez, jes' like that.
Then I went away, because he knows Mr. Wickens, and I was afeerd
of his telling on me."
The boy being now subdued, questions were put to him from all
sides. But his powers of observation and description went no
further. As he was anxious to propitiate his captors, he answered
as often as possible in the affirmative. Mr. Jansenius asked him
whether the young woman he had seen was a lady, and he said yes.
Was the man a laborer? Yes--after a moment's hesitation. How was
she dressed? He hadn't taken notice. Had she red flowers in her
hat? Yes. Had she a green dress? Yes. Were the flowers in her hat
yellow? (Agatha's question.) Yes. Was her dress pink? Yes. Sure
it wasn't black? No answer.
"I told you he was a liar," said Fairholme contemptuously.
"Well, I expect he's seen something," said the inspector, "but
what it was, or who it was, is more than I can get out of him."
There was a pause, and they looked askance upon Wickens's boy.
His account of the kissing made it almost an insult to the
Janseniuses to identify with Henrietta the person he had seen.
Jane suggested dragging the canal, but was silenced by an
indignant "sh-sh-sh," accompanied by apprehensive and sympathetic
glances at the bereaved parents. She was displaced from the focus
of attention by the appearance of the two policemen who had been
sent to the chalet. Smilash was between them, apparently a
prisoner. At a distance, he seemed to have suffered some
frightful injury to his head, but when he was brought into the
midst of the company it appeared that he had twisted a red
handkerchief about his face as if to soothe a toothache. He had a
particularly hangdog expression as he stood before the inspector
with his head bowed and his countenance averted from Mr.
Jansenius, who, attempting to scrutinize his features, could see
nothing but a patch of red handkerchief.
One of the policemen described how they had found Smilash in the
act of entering his dwelling; how he had refused to give any
information or to go to the college, and had defied them to take
him there against his will; and how, on their at last proposing
to send for the inspector and Mr. Jansenius, he had called them
asses, and consented to accompany them. The policeman concluded
by declaring that the man was either drunk or designing, as he
could not or would not speak sensibly.
"Look here, governor," began Smilash to the inspector, "I am a
common man--no commoner goin', as you may see for--"
"That's 'im," cried Wickens's boy, suddenly struck with a sense
of his own importance as a witness. "That's 'im that the lady
kissed, and that gev me tuppence and threatened to drownd me."
"And with a 'umble and contrite 'art do I regret that I did not
drownd you, you young rascal," said Smilash. "It ain't manners to
interrupt a man who, though common, might be your father for
years and wisdom."
"Hold your tongue," said the inspector to the boy. "Now, Smilash,
do you wish to make any statement? Be careful, for whatever you
say may be used against you hereafter."
"If you was to lead me straight away to the scaffold, colonel, I
could tell you no more than the truth. If any man can say that he
has heard Jeff Smilash tell a lie, let him stand forth."
"We don't want to hear about that," said the inspector. "As you
are a stranger in these parts, nobody here knows any bad of you.
No more do they know any good of you neither."
"Colonel," said Smilash, deeply impressed, "you have a
penetrating mind, and you know a bad character at sight. Not to
deceive you, I am that given to lying, and laziness, and
self-indulgence of all sorts, that the only excuse I can find for
myself is that it is the nature of the race so to be; for most
men is just as bad as me, and some of 'em worsen I do not speak
pers'nal to you, governor, nor to the honorable gentlemen here
assembled. But then you, colonel, are a hinspector of police,
which I take to be more than merely human; and as to the
gentlemen here, a gentleman ain't a man--leastways not a common
man--the common man bein' but the slave wot feeds and clothes the
gentleman beyond the common."
"Come," said the inspector, unable to follow these observations,
"you are a clever dodger, but you can't dodge me. Have you any
statement to make with reference to the lady that was last seen
in your company?"
"Take a statement about a lady!" said Smilash indignantly. "Far
be the thought from my mind!"
"What have you done with her?" said Agatha, impetuously. "Don't
"You're not bound to answer that, you know," said the inspector,
a little put out by Agatha's taking advantage of her
irresponsible unofficial position to come so directly to the
point. "You may if you like, though. If you've done any harm,
you'd better hold your tongue. If not, you'd better say so."
"I will set the young lady's mind at rest respecting her
honorable sister," said Smilash. "When the young lady caught
sight of me she fainted. Bein' but a young man, and not used to
ladies, I will not deny but that I were a bit scared, and that my
mind were not open to the sensiblest considerations. When she
unveils her orbs, so to speak, she ketches me round the neck, not
knowin' me from Adam the father of us all, and sez, 'Bring me
some water, and don't let the girls see me.' Through not 'avin'
the intelligence to think for myself, I done just what she told
me. I ups with her in my arms--she bein' a light weight and a
slender figure--and makes for the canal as fast as I could. When
I got there, I lays her on the bank and goes for the water. But
what with factories, and pollutions, and high civilizations of
one sort and another, English canal water ain't fit to sprinkle
on a lady, much less for her to drink. Just then, as luck would
have it, a barge came along and took her aboard, and--"
"To such a thing," said Wickens's boy stubbornly, emboldened by
witnessing the effrontery of one apparently of his own class. "I
sor you two standin' together, and her a kissin' of you. There
worn's no barge."
"Is the maiden modesty of a born lady to be disbelieved on the
word of a common boy that only walks the earth by the sufferance
of the landlords and moneylords he helps to feed?" cried Smilash
indignantly. "Why, you young infidel, a lady ain't made of common
brick like you. She don't know what a kiss means, and if she did,
is it likely that she'd kiss me when a fine man like the
inspector here would be only too happy to oblige her. Fie, for
shame! The barge were red and yellow, with a green dragon for a
figurehead, and a white horse towin' of it. Perhaps you're
color-blind, and can't distinguish red and yellow. The bargee was
moved to compassion by the sight of the poor faintin' lady, and
the offer of 'arf-a-crown, and he had a mother that acted as a
mother should. There was a cabin in that barge about as big as
the locker where your ladyship keeps your jam and pickles, and in
that locker the bargee lives, quite domestic, with his wife and
mother and five children. Them canal boats is what you may call
the wooden walls of England."
"Come, get on with your story," said the inspector. "We know what
barges is as well as you."
"I wish more knew of 'em," retorted Smilash; "perhaps it 'ud
lighten your work a bit. However, as I was sayin', we went right
down the canal to Lyvern, where we got off, and the lady she took
the railway omnibus and went away in it. With the noble
openhandedness of her class, she gave me sixpence; here it is, in
proof that my words is true. And I wish her safe home, and if I
was on the rack I could tell no more, except that when I got back
I were laid hands on by these here bobbies, contrary to the
British constitooshun, and if your ladyship will kindly go to
where that constitooshun is wrote down, and find out wot it sez
about my rights and liberties--for I have been told that the
working-man has his liberties, and have myself seen plenty took
with him --you will oblige a common chap more than his education
will enable him to express."
"Sir," cried Mr. Jansenius suddenly, "will you hold up your head
and look me in the face?"
Smilash did so, and immediately started theatrically, exclaiming,
"Whom do I see?"
"You would hardly believe it," he continued, addressing the
company at large, "but I am well beknown to this honorable
gentleman. I see it upon your lips, governor, to ask after my
missus, and I thank you for your condescending interest. She is
well, sir, and my residence here is fully agreed upon between us.
What little cloud may have rose upon our domestic horizon has
past away; and, governor"---here Smilash's voice fell with graver
emphasis--"them as interferes betwixt man and wife now will incur
a nevvy responsibility. Here I am, such as you see me, and here I
mean to stay, likewise such as you see me. That is, if what you
may call destiny permits. For destiny is a rum thing, governor. I
came here thinking it was the last place in the world I should
ever set eyes on you in, and blow me if you ain't a'most the
first person I pops on."
"I do not choose to be a party to this mummery of--"
"Asking your leave to take the word out of your mouth, governor,
I make you a party to nothink. Respecting my past conduct, you
may out with it or you may keep it to yourself. All I say is that
if you out with some of it I will out with the rest. All or none.
You are free to tell the inspector here that I am a bad 'un. His
penetrating mind have discovered that already. But if you go into
names and particulars, you will not only be acting against the
wishes of my missus, but you will lead to my tellin' the whole
story right out afore everyone here, and then goin' away where no
one won't never find me."
"I think the less said the better," said Mrs. Jansenius, uneasily
observant of the curiosity and surprise this dialogue was
causing. "But understand this, Mr.--"
"Smilash, dear lady; Jeff Smilash."
"Mr. Smilash, whatever arrangement you may have made with your
wife, it has nothing to do with me. You have behaved infamously,
and I desire to have as little as possible to say to you in
future! I desire to have nothing to say to you--nothing" said Mr.
Jansenius. "I look on your conduct as an insult to me,
personally. You may live in any fashion you please, and where you
please. All England is open to you except one place--my house.
Come, Ruth." He offered his arm to his wife; she took it, and
they turned away, looking about for Agatha, who, disgusted at the
gaping curiosity of the rest, had pointedly withdrawn beyond
earshot of the conversation.
Miss Wilson looked from Smilash--who had watched Mr. Jansenius's
explosion of wrath with friendly interest, as if it concerned him
as a curious spectator only--to her two visitors as they
retreated. "Pray, do you consider this man's statement
satisfactory?" she said to them. "I do not."
"I am far too common a man to be able to make any statement that
could satisfy a mind cultivated as yours has been," said Smilash,
"but I would 'umbly pint out to you that there is a boy yonder
with a telegram trying to shove hisself through the 'iborn
"Miss Wilson!" cried the boy shrilly.
She took the telegram; read it; and frowned. "We have had all our
trouble for nothing, ladies and gentlemen," she said, with
suppressed vexation. "Mrs. Trefusis says here that she has gone
back to London. She has not considered it necessary to add any
There was a general murmur of disappointment.
"Don't lose heart, ladies," said Smilash. "She may be drowned or
murdered for all we know. Anyone may send a telegram in a false
name. Perhaps it's a plant. Let's hope for your sakes that some
little accident--on the railway, for instance--may happen yet."
Miss Wilson turned upon him, glad to find someone with whom she
might justly be angry. "You had better go about your business,"
she said. "And don't let me see you here again."
"This is 'ard," said Smilash plaintively. "My intentions was
nothing but good. But I know wot it is. It's that young varmint
a-saying that the young lady kissed me."
"Inspector," said Miss Wilson, "will you oblige me by seeing that
he leaves the college as soon as possible?"
"Where's my wages?" he retorted reproachfully. "Where's my lawful
wages? I am su'prised at a lady like you, chock full o' moral
science and political economy, wanting to put a poor man off.
Where's your wages fund? Where's your remuneratory capital?"
"Don't you give him anything, ma'am," said the inspector. "The
money he's had from the lady will pay him very well. Move on
here, or we'll precious soon hurry you."
"Very well," grumbled Smilash. "I bargained for ninepence, and
what with the roller, and opening the soda water, and shoving
them heavy tables about, there was a decomposition of tissue in
me to the tune of two shillings. But all I ask is the ninepence,
and let the lady keep the one and threppence as the reward of
abstinence. Exploitation of labor at the rate of a hundred and
twenty-five per cent., that is. Come, give us ninepence, and I'll
go straight off."
"Here is a shilling," said Miss Wilson. "Now go."
"Threppence change!" cried Smilash. "Honesty has ever been--"
"You may keep the change."
"You have a noble 'art, lady; but you're flying in the face of
the law of supply and demand. If you keep payin' at this rate,
there'll be a rush of laborers to the college, and competition'll
soon bring you down from a shilling to sixpence, let alone
ninepence. That's the way wages go down and death rates goes up,
worse luck for the likes of hus, as has to sell ourselves like
pigs in the market."
He was about to continue when the policeman took him by the arm,
turned him towards the gate, and pointed expressively in that
direction. Smilash looked vacantly at him for a moment. Then,
with a wink at Fairholme, he walked gravely away, amid general
staring and silence.
What had passed between Smilash and Henrietta remained unknown
except to themselves. Agatha had seen Henrietta clasping his neck
in her arms, but had not waited to hear the exclamation of
"Sidney, Sidney," which followed, nor to see him press her face
to his breast in his anxiety to stifle her voice as he said, "My
darling love, don't screech I implore you. Confound it, we shall
have the whole pack here in a moment. Hush!"
"Don't leave me again, Sidney," she entreated, clinging faster to
him as his perplexed gaze, wandering towards the entrance to the
shrubbery, seemed to forsake her. A din of voices in that
direction precipitated his irresolution.
"We must run away, Hetty," he said "Hold fast about my neck, and
don't strangle me. Now then." He lifted her upon his shoulder and
ran swiftly through the grounds. When they were stopped by the
wall, he placed her atop of it, scrabbled over, and made her jump
into his arms. Then he staggered away with her across the fields,
gasping out in reply to the inarticulate remonstrances which
burst from her as he stumbled and reeled at every hillock, "Your
weight is increasing at the rate of a stone a second, my love. If
you stoop you will break my back. Oh, Lord, here's a ditch!"
"Let me down," screamed Henrietta in an ecstasy of delight and
apprehension. "You will hurt yourself, and--Oh, DO take--"
He struggled through a dry ditch as she spoke, and came out upon
a grassy place that bordered the towpath of the canal. Here, on
the bank of a hollow where the moss was dry and soft, he seated
her, threw himself prone on his elbows before her, and said,
"Nessus carrying off Dejanira was nothing to this! Whew! Well, my
darling, are you glad to see me?"
"But me no buts, unless you wish me to vanish again and for ever.
Wretch that I am, I have longed for you unspeakably more than
once since I ran away from you. You didn't care, of course?"
"I did. I did, indeed. Why did you leave me, Sidney?"
"Lest a worse thing might befall. Come, don't let us waste in
explanations the few minutes we have left. Give me a kiss."
"Then you are going to leave me again. Oh, Sidney--"
"Never mind to-morrow, Hetty. Be like the sun and the meadow,
which are not in the least concerned about the coming winter. Why
do you stare at that cursed canal, blindly dragging its load of
filth from place to place until it pitches it into the sea--just
as a crowded street pitches its load into the cemetery? Stare at
ME, and give me a kiss."
She gave him several, and said coaxingly, with her arm still upon
his shoulder: "You only talk that way to frighten me, Sidney; I
know you do."
"You are the bright sun of my senses," he said, embracing her. "I
feel my heart and brain wither in your smile, and I fling them to
you for your prey with exultation. How happy I am to have a wife
who does not despise me for doing so--who rather loves me the
"Don't be silly," said Henrietta, smiling vacantly. Then, stung
by a half intuition of his meaning, she repulsed him and said
angrily, "YOU despise ME."
"Not more than I despise myself. Indeed, not so much; for many
emotions that seem base from within seem lovable from without."
"You intend to leave me again. I feel it. I know it."
"You think you know it because you feel it. Not a bad reason,
"Then you ARE going to leave me?"
"Do you not feel it and know it? Yes, my cherished Hetty, I
She broke into wild exclamations of grief, and he drew her head
down and kissed her with a tender action which she could not
resist, and a wry face which she did not see.
"My poor Hetty, you don't understand me."
"I only understand that you hate me, and want to go away from
"That would be easy to understand. But the strangeness is that I
LOVE you and want to go away from you. Not for ever. Only for a
"But I don't want you to go away. I won't let you go away," she
said, a trace of fierceness mingling with her entreaty. "Why do
you want to leave me if you love me?"
"How do I know? I can no more tell you the whys and wherefores of
myself than I can lift myself up by the waistband and carry
myself into the next county, as some one challenged a speculator
in perpetual motion to do. I am too much a pessimist to respect
my own affections. Do you know what a pessimist is?"
"A man who thinks everybody as nasty as himself, and hates them
"So, or thereabout. Modern English polite society, my native
sphere, seems to me as corrupt as consciousness of culture and
absence of honesty can make it. A canting, lie-loving,
fact-hating, scribbling, chattering, wealth-hunting,
pleasure-hunting, celebrity-hunting mob, that, having lost the
fear of hell, and not replaced it by the love of justice, cares
for nothing but the lion's share of the wealth wrung by threat of
starvation from the hands of the classes that create it. If you
interrupt me with a silly speech, Hetty, I will pitch you into
the canal, and die of sorrow for my lost love afterwards. You
know what I am, according to the conventional description: a
gentleman with lots of money. Do you know the wicked origin of
that money and gentility?"
"Oh, Sidney; have you been doing anything?"
"No, my best beloved; I am a gentleman, and have been doing
nothing. That a man can do so and not starve is nowadays not even
a paradox. Every halfpenny I possess is stolen money; but it has
been stolen legally, and, what is of some practical importance to
you, I have no means of restoring it to the rightful owners even
if I felt inclined to. Do you know what my father was?"
"What difference can that make now? Don't be disagreeable and
full of ridiculous fads, Sidney dear. I didn't marry your
"No; but you married--only incidentally, of course--my father's
fortune. That necklace of yours was purchased with his money; and
I can almost fancy stains of blood "
"Stop, Sidney. I don't like this sort of romancing. It's all
nonsense. DO be nice to me."
"There are stains of sweat on it, I know."
"You nasty wretch!"
"I am thinking, not of you, my dainty one, but of the unfortunate
people who slave that we may live idly. Let me explain to you why
we are so rich. My father was a shrewd, energetic, and ambitious
Manchester man, who understood an exchange of any sort as a
transaction by which one man should lose and the other gain. He
made it his object to make as many exchanges as possible, and to
be always the gaining party in them. I do not know exactly what
he was, for he was ashamed both of his antecedents and of his
relatives, from which I can only infer that they were honest,
and, therefore, unsuccessful people. However, he acquired some
knowledge of the cotton trade, saved some money, borrowed some
more on the security of his reputation for getting the better of
other people in business, and, as he accurately told me
afterwards, started FOR HIMSELF. He bought a factory and some raw
cotton. Now you must know that a man, by laboring some time on a
piece of raw cotton, can turn it into a piece of manufactured
cotton fit for making into sheets and shifts and the like. The
manufactured cotton is more valuable than the raw cotton, because
the manufacture costs wear and tear of machinery, wear and tear
of the factory, rent of the ground upon which the factory is
built, and human labor, or wear and tear of live men, which has
to be made good by food, shelter, and rest. Do you understand
"We used to learn all about it at college. I don't see what it
has to do with us, since you are not in the cotton trade."
"You learned as much as it was thought safe to teach you, no
doubt; but not quite all, I should think. When my father started
for himself, there were many men in Manchester who were willing
to labor in this way, but they had no factory to work in, no
machinery to work with, and no raw cotton to work on, simply
because all this indispensable plant, and the materials for
producing a fresh supply of it, had been appropriated by earlier
comers. So they found themselves with gaping stomachs, shivering
limbs,, and hungry wives and children, in a place called their
own country, in which, nevertheless, every scrap of ground and
possible source of subsistence was tightly locked up in the hands
of others and guarded by armed soldiers and policemen. In this
helpless condition, the poor devils were ready to beg for access
to a factory and to raw cotton on any conditions compatible with
life. My father offered them the use of his factory, his
machines, and his raw cotton on the following conditions: They
were to work long and hard, early and late, to add fresh value to
his raw cotton by manufacturing it. Out of the value thus created
by them, they were to recoup him for what he supplied them with:
rent, shelter, gas, water, machinery, raw cotton--everything, and
to pay him for his own services as superintendent, manager, and
salesman. So far he asked nothing but just remuneration. But
after this had been paid, a balance due solely to their own labor
remained. 'Out of this,' said my father, 'you shall keep just
enough to save you from starving, and of the rest you shall make
me a present to reward me for my virtue in saving money. Such is
the bargain I propose. It is, in my opinion, fair and calculated
to encourage thrifty habits. If it does not strike you in that
light, you can get a factory and raw cotton for yourselves; you
shall not use mine.' In other words, they might go to the devil
and starve--Hobson's choice!--for all the other factories were
owned by men who offered no better terms. The Manchesterians
could not bear to starve or to see their children starve, and so
they accepted his terms and went into the factory. The terms, you
see, did not admit of their beginning to save for themselves as
he had done. Well, they created great wealth by their labor, and
lived on very little, so that the balance they gave for nothing
to my father was large. He bought more cotton, and more
machinery, and more factories with it; employed more men to make
wealth for him, and saw his fortune increase like a rolling
snowball. He prospered enormously, but the work men were no
better off than at first, and they dared not rebel and demand
more of the money they had made, for there were always plenty of
starving wretches outside willing to take their places on the old
terms. Sometimes he met with a check, as, for instance, when, in
his eagerness to increase his store, he made the men manufacture
more cotton than the public needed; or when he could not get
enough of raw cotton, as happened during the Civil War in
America. Then he adapted himself to circumstances by turning away
as many workmen as he could not find customers or cotton for; and
they, of course, starved or subsisted on charity. During the
war-time a big subscription was got up for these poor wretches,
and my father subscribed one hundred pounds, in spite, he said,
of his own great losses. Then he bought new machines; and, as
women and children could work these as well as men, and were
cheaper and more docile, he turned away about seventy out of
every hundred of his HANDS (so he called the men), and replaced
them by their wives and children, who made money for him faster
than ever. By this time he had long ago given up managing the
factories, and paid clever fellows who had no money of their own
a few hundreds a year to do it for him. He also purchased shares
in other concerns conducted on the same principle; pocketed
dividends made in countries which he had never visited by men
whom he had never seen; bought a seat in Parliament from a poor
and corrupt constituency, and helped to preserve the laws by
which he had thriven. Afterwards, when his wealth grew famous, he
had less need to bribe; for modern men worship the rich as gods,
and will elect a man as one of their rulers for no other reason
than that he is a millionaire. He aped gentility, lived in a
palace at Kensington, and bought a part of Scotland to make a
deer forest of. It is easy enough to make a deer forest, as trees
are not necessary there. You simply drive off the peasants,
destroy their houses, and make a desert of the land. However, my
father did not shoot much himself; he generally let the forest
out by the season to those who did. He purchased a wife of gentle
blood too, with the unsatisfactory result now before you. That is
how Jesse Trefusis, a poor Manchester bagman, contrived to be
come a plutocrat and gentleman of landed estate. And also how I,
who never did a stroke of work in my life, am overburdened with
wealth; whilst the children of the men who made that wealth are
slaving as their fathers slaved, or starving, or in the
workhouse, or on the streets, or the deuce knows where. What do
you think of that, my love?"
"What is the use of worrying about it, Sidney? It cannot be
helped now. Besides, if your father saved money, and the others
were improvident, he deserved to make a fortune."
"Granted; but he didn't make a fortune. He took a fortune that
others made. At Cambridge they taught me that his profits were
the reward of abstinence--the abstinence which enabled him to
save. That quieted my conscience until I began to wonder why one
man should make another pay him for exercising one of the
virtues. Then came the question: what did my father abstain from?
The workmen abstained from meat, drink, fresh air, good clothes,
decent lodging, holidays, money, the society of their families,
and pretty nearly everything that makes life worth living, which
was perhaps the reason why they usually died twenty years or so
sooner than people in our circumstances. Yet no one rewarded them
for their abstinence. The reward came to my father, who abstained
from none of these things, but indulged in them all to his
heart's content. Besides, if the money was the reward of
abstinence, it seemed logical to infer that he must abstain ten
times as much when he bad fifty thousand a year as when he had
only five thousand. Here was a problem for my young mind.
Required, something from which my father abstained and in which
his workmen exceeded, and which he abstained from more and more
as he grew richer and richer. The only thing that answered this
description was hard work, and as I never met a sane man willing
to pay another for idling, I began to see that these prodigious
payments to my father were extorted by force. To do him justice,
he never boasted of abstinence. He considered himself a
hard-worked man, and claimed his fortune as the reward of his
risks, his calculations, his anxieties, and the journeys he had
to make at all seasons and at all hours. This comforted me
somewhat until it occurred to me that if he had lived a century
earlier, invested his money in a horse and a pair of pistols, and
taken to the road, his object--that of wresting from others the
fruits of their labor without rendering them an equivalent--would
have been exactly the same, and his risk far greater, for it
would have included risk of the gallows. Constant travelling with
the constable at his heels, and calculations of the chances of
robbing the Dover mail, would have given him his fill of activity
and anxiety. On the whole, if Jesse Trefusis, M.P., who died a
millionaire in his palace at Kensington, had been a highwayman, I
could not more heartily loathe the social arrangements that
rendered such a career as his not only possible, but eminently
creditable to himself in the eyes of his fellows. Most men make
it their business to imitate him, hoping to become rich and idle
on the same terms. Therefore I turn my back on them. I cannot sit
at their feasts knowing how much they cost in human misery, and
seeing how little they produce of human happiness. What is your
opinion, my treasure?"
Henrietta seemed a little troubled. She smiled faintly, and said
caressingly, "It was not your fault, Sidney. _I_ don't blame
"Immortal powers!" he exclaimed, sitting bolt upright and
appealing to the skies, "here is a woman who believes that the
only concern all this causes me is whether she thinks any the
worse of me personally on account of it!"
"No, no, Sidney. It is not I alone. Nobody thinks the worse of
you for it."
"Quite so," he returned, in a polite frenzy. "Nobody sees any
harm in it. That is precisely the mischief of it."
"Besides," she urged, "your mother belonged to one of the oldest
families in England."
"And what more can man desire than wealth with descent from a
county family! Could a man be happier than I ought to be, sprung
as I am from monopolists of all the sources and instruments of
production--of land on the one side, and of machinery on the
other? This very ground on which we are resting was the property
of my mother's father. At least the law allowed him to use it as
such. When he was a boy, there was a fairly prosperous race of
peasants settled here, tilling the soil, paying him rent for
permission to do so, and making enough out of it to satisfy his
large wants and their own narrow needs without working themselves
to death. But my grandfather was a shrewd man. He perceived that
cows and sheep produced more money by their meat and wool than
peasants by their husbandry. So he cleared the estate. That is,
he drove the peasants from their homes, as my father did
afterwards in his Scotch deer forest. Or, as his tombstone has
it, he developed the resources of his country. I don't know what
became of the peasants; HE didn't know, and, I presume, didn't
care. I suppose the old ones went into the workhouse, and the
young ones crowded the towns, and worked for men like my father
in factories. Their places were taken by cattle, which paid for
their food so well that my grandfather, getting my father to take
shares in the enterprise, hired laborers on the Manchester terms
to cut that canal for him. When it was made, he took toll upon
it; and his heirs still take toll, and the sons of the navvies
who dug it and of the engineer who designed it pay the toll when
they have occasion to travel by it, or to purchase goods which
have been conveyed along it. I remember my grandfather well. He
was a well-bred man, and a perfect gentleman in his manners; but,
on the whole, I think he was wickeder than my father, who, after
all, was caught in the wheels of a vicious system, and had either
to spoil others or be spoiled by them. But my grandfather--the
old rascal!--was in no such dilemma. Master as he was of his bit
of merry England, no man could have enslaved him, and he might at
least have lived and let live. My father followed his example in
the matter of the deer forest, but that was the climax of his
wickedness, whereas it was only the beginning of my
grandfather's. Howbeit, whichever bears the palm, there they
were, the types after which we all strive."
"Not all, Sidney. Not we two. I hate tradespeople and country
squires. We belong to the artistic and cultured classes, and we
can keep aloof from shopkeepers."
"Living, meanwhile, at the rate of several thousand a year on
rent and interest. No, my dear, this is the way of those people
who insist that when they are in heaven they shall be spared the
recollection of such a place as hell, but are quite content that
it shall exist outside their consciousness. I respect my father
more--I mean I despise him less--for doing his own sweating and
filching than I do the sensitive sluggards and cowards who lent
him their money to sweat and filch with, and asked no questions
provided the interest was paid punctually. And as to your friends
the artists, they are the worst of all."
"Oh, Sidney, you are determined not to be pleased. Artists don't
"No; but the factory is only a part of the machinery of the
system. Its basis is the tyranny of brain force, which, among
civilized men, is allowed to do what muscular force does among
schoolboys and savages. The schoolboy proposition is: 'I am
stronger than you, therefore you shall fag for me.' Its grown up
form is: 'I am cleverer than you, therefore you shall fag for
me.' The state of things we produce by submitting to this, bad
enough even at first, becomes intolerable when the mediocre or
foolish descendants of the clever fellows claim to have inherited
their privileges. Now, no men are greater sticklers for the
arbitrary dominion of genius and talent than your artists. The
great painter is not satisfied with being sought after and
admired because his hands can do more than ordinary hands, which
they truly can, but he wants to be fed as if his stomach needed
more food than ordinary stomachs, which it does not. A day's work
is a day's work, neither more nor less, and the man who does it
needs a day's sustenance, a night's repose, and due leisure,
whether he be painter or ploughman. But the rascal of a painter,
poet, novelist, or other voluptuary in labor, is not content with
his advantage in popular esteem over the ploughman; he also wants
an advantage in money, as if there were more hours in a day spent
in the studio or library than in the field; or as if he needed
more food to enable him to do his work than the ploughman to
enable him to do his. He talks of the higher quality of his work,
as if the higher quality of it were of his own making--as if it
gave him a right to work less for his neighbor than his neighbor
works for him--as if the ploughman could not do better without
him than he without the ploughman--as if the value of the most
celebrated pictures has not been questioned more than that of any
straight furrow in the arable world--as if it did not take an
apprenticeship of as many years to train the hand and eye of a
mason or blacksmith as of an artist--as if, in short, the fellow
were a god, as canting brain worshippers have for years past been
assuring him he is. Artists arc the high priests of the modern
Moloch. Nine out of ten of them are diseased creatures, just sane
enough to trade on their own neuroses. The only quality oś theirs
which extorts my respect is a certain sublime selfishness which
makes them willing to starve and to let their families starve
sooner than do any work they don't like."
"INDEED you are quite wrong, Sidney. There was a girl at the
Slade school who supported her mother and two sisters by her
drawing. Besides, what can you do? People were made so."
"Yes; I was made a landlord and capitalist by the folly of the
people; but they can unmake me if they will. Meanwhile I have
absolutely no means of escape from my position except by giving
away my slaves to fellows who will use them no better than I, and
becoming a slave myself; which, if you please, you shall not
catch me doing in a hurry. No, my beloved, I must keep my foot on
their necks for your sake as well as for my own. But you do not
care about all this prosy stuff. I am consumed with remorse for
having bored my darling. You want to know why I am living here
like a hermit in a vulgar two-roomed hovel instead of tasting the
delights of London society with my beautiful and devoted young
"But you don't intend to stay here, Sidney?"
"Yes, I do; and I will tell you why. I am helping to liberate
those Manchester laborers who were my father's slaves. To bring
that about, their fellow slaves all over the world must unite in
a vast international association of men pledged to share the
world's work justly; to share the produce of the work justly; to
yield not a farthing--charity apart--to any full-grown and
able-bodied idler or malingerer, and to treat as vermin in the
commonwealth persons attempting to get more than their share of
wealth or give less than their share of work. This is a very
difficult thing to accomplish, because working-men, like the
people called their betters, do not always understand their own
interests, and will often actually help their oppressors to
exterminate their saviours to the tune of 'Rule Britannia,' or
some such lying doggerel. We must educate them out of that, and,
meanwhile, push forward the international association of laborers
diligently. I am at present occupied in propagating its
principles. Capitalism, organized for repressive purposes under
pretext of governing the nation, would very soon stop the
association if it understood our aim, but it thinks that we are
engaged in gunpowder plots and conspiracies to assassinate
crowned heads; and so, whilst the police are blundering in search
of evidence of these, our real work goes on unmolested. Whether I
am really advancing the cause is more than I can say. I use heaps
of postage stamps, pay the expenses of many indifferent
lecturers, defray the cost of printing reams of pamphlets and
hand-bills which hail the laborer flatteringly as the salt of the
earth, write and edit a little socialist journal, and do what
lies in my power generally. I had rather spend my ill-gotten
wealth in this way than upon an expensive house and a retinue of
servants. And I prefer my corduroys and my two-roomed chalet here
to our pretty little house, and your pretty little ways, and my
pretty little neglect of the work that my heart is set upon. Some
day, perhaps, I will take a holiday; and then we shall have a new
For a moment Henrietta seemed about to cry. Suddenly she
exclaimed with enthusiasm: "I will stay with you, Sidney. I will
share your work, whatever it may be. I will dress as a dairymaid,
and have a little pail to carry milk in. The world is nothing to
me except when you are with me; and I should love to live here
and sketch from nature."
He blenched, and partially rose, unable to conceal his dismay.
She, resolved not to be cast off, seized him and clung to him.
This was the movement that excited the derision of Wickens's boy
in the adjacent gravel pit. Trefusis was glad of the
interruption; and, when he gave the boy twopence and bade him
begone, half hoped that he would insist on remaining. But though
an obdurate boy on most occasions, he proved complaisant on this,
and withdrew to the high road, where he made over one of his
pennies to a phantom gambler, and tossed with him until recalled
from his dual state by the appearance of Fairholme's party.
In the meantime, Henrietta urgently returned to her proposition.
"We should be so happy," she said. "I would housekeep for you,
and you could work as much as you pleased. Our life would be a
"My love," he said, shaking his head as she looked beseechingly
at him, "I have too much Manchester cotton in my constitution for
long idylls. And the truth is, that the first condition of work
with me is your absence. When you are with me, I can do nothing
but make love to you. You bewitch me. When I escape from you for
a moment, it is only to groan remorsefully over the hours you
have tempted me to waste and the energy you have futilized."
"If you won't live with me you had no right to marry me."
"True. But that is neither your fault nor mine. We have found
that we love each other too much-- that our intercourse hinders
our usefulness--and so we must part. Not for ever, my dear; only
until you have cares and business of your own to fill up your
life and prevent you from wasting mine."
"I believe you are mad," she said petulantly. "The world is mad
nowadays, and is galloping to the deuce as fast as greed can goad
it. I merely stand out of the rush, not liking its destination.
Here comes a barge, the commander of which is devoted to me
because he believes that I am organizing a revolution for the
abolition of lock dues and tolls. We will go aboard and float
down to Lyvern, whence you can return to London. You had better
telegraph from the junction to the college; there must be a hue
and cry out after us by this time. You shall have my address, and
we can write to one another or see one another whenever we
please. Or you can divorce me for deserting you."
"You would like me to, I know," said Henrietta, sobbing.
"I should die of despair, my darling," he said complacently.
"Ship aho-o-o-y! Stop crying, Hetty, for God's sake. You lacerate
my very soul."
"Ah-o-o-o-o-o-o-oy, master!" roared the bargee.
"Good arternoon, sir," said a man who, with a short whip in his
hand, trudged beside the white horse that towed the barge. "Come
up!" he added malevolently to the horse.
"I want to get on board, and go up to Lyvern with you," said
Trefusis. "He seems a well fed brute, that."
"Better fed nor me," said the man. "You can't get the work out of
a hunderfed 'orse that you can out of a hunderfed man or woman.
I've bin in parts of England where women pulled the barges. They
come cheaper nor 'orses, because it didn't cost nothing to get
new ones when the old ones we wore out."
"Then why not employ them?" said Trefusis, with ironical gravity.
"The principle of buying laborforce in the cheapest market and
selling its product in the dearest has done much to make
Englishmen--what they are."
"The railway comp'nies keeps 'orspittles for the like of 'IM,"
said the man, with a cunning laugh, indicating the horse by
smacking him on the belly with the butt of the whip. "If ever you
try bein' a laborer in earnest, governor, try it on four legs.
You'll find it far preferable to trying on two."
"This man is one of my converts," said Trefusis apart to
Henrietta. "He told me the other day that since I set him
thinking he never sees a gentleman without feeling inclined to
heave a brick at him. I find that socialism is often
misunderstood by its least intelligent supporters and opponents
to mean simply unrestrained indulgence of our natural propensity
to heave bricks at respectable persons. Now I am going to carry
you along this plank. If you keep quiet, we may reach the barge.
If not, we shall reach the bottom of the canal."
He carried her safely over, and exchanged some friendly words
with the bargee. Then he took Henrietta forward, and stood
watching the water as they were borne along noiselessly between
the hilly pastures of the country.
"This would be a fairy journey," he said, "if one could forget
the woman down below, cooking her husband's dinner in a stifling
hole about as big as your wardrobe, and--"
"Oh, don't talk any more of these things," she said crossly; "I
cannot help them. I have my own troubles to think of. HER husband
lives with her."
"She will change places with you, my dear, if you make her the
She had no answer ready. After a pause he began to speak
poetically of the scenery and to offer her loverlike speeches and
compliments. But she felt that he intended to get rid of her, and
he knew that it was useless to try to hide that design from her.
She turned away and sat down on a pile of bricks, only writhing
angrily when he pressed her for a word. As they neared the end of
her voyage, and her intense protest against desertion remained,
as she thought, only half expressed, her sense of injury grew
They landed on a wharf, and went through an unswept,
deeply-rutted lane up to the main street of Lyvern. Here he
became Smilash again, walking deferentially a little before her,
as if she had hired him to point out the way. She then saw that
her last opportunity of appealing to him had gone by, and she
nearly burst into tears at the thought. It occurred to her that
she might prevail upon him by making a scene in public. But the
street was a busy one, and she was a little afraid of him.
Neither consideration would have checked her in one of her
ungovernable moods, but now she was in an abject one. Her moods
seemed to come only when they were harmful to her. She suffered
herself to be put into the railway omnibus, which was on the
point of starting from the innyard when they arrived there, and
though he touched his hat, asked whether she had any message to
give him, and in a tender whisper wished her a safe journey, she
would not look at or speak to him. So they parted, and he
returned alone to the chalet, where he was received by the two
policemen who subsequently brought him to the college.
The year wore on, and the long winter evenings set in. The
studious young ladies at Alton College, elbows on desk and hands
over ears, shuddered chillily in fur tippets whilst they loaded
their memories with the statements of writers on moral science,
or, like men who swim upon corks, reasoned out mathematical
problems upon postulates. Whence it sometimes happened that the
more reasonable a student was in mathematics, the more
unreasonable she was in the affairs of real life, concerning
which few trustworthy postulates have yet been ascertained.
Agatha, not studious, and apt to shiver in winter, began to break
Rule No. 17 with increasing frequency. Rule No. 17 forbade the
students to enter the kitchen, or in any way to disturb the
servants in the discharge of their duties. Agatha broke it
because she was fond of making toffee, of eating it, of a good
fire, of doing any forbidden thing, and of the admiration with
which the servants listened to her ventriloquial and musical
feats. Gertrude accompanied her because she too liked toffee, and
because she plumed herself on her condescension to her inferiors.
Jane went because her two friends went, and the spirit of
adventure, the force of example, and the love of toffee often
brought more volunteers to these expeditions than Agatha thought
it safe to enlist. One evening Miss Wilson, going downstairs
alone to her private wine cellar, was arrested near the kitchen
by sounds of revelry, and, stopping to listen, overheard the
castanet dance (which reminded her of the emphasis with which
Agatha had snapped her fingers at Mrs. Miller), the bee on the
window pane, "Robin Adair" (encored by the servants), and an
imitation of herself in the act of appealing to Jane Carpenter's
better nature to induce her to study for the Cambridge Local. She
waited until the cold and her fear of being discovered spying
forced her to creep upstairs, ashamed of having enjoyed a silly
entertainment, and of conniving at a breach of the rules rather
than face a fresh quarrel with Agatha.
There was one particular in which matters between Agatha and the
college discipline did not go on exactly as before. Although she
had formerly supplied a disproportionately large number of the
confessions in the fault book, the entry which had nearly led to
her expulsion was the last she ever made in it. Not that her
conduct was better--it was rather the reverse. Miss Wilson never
mentioned the matter, the fault book being sacred from all
allusion on her part. But she saw that though Agatha would not
confess her own sins, she still assisted others to unburden their
consciences. The witticisms with which Jane unsuspectingly
enlivened the pages of the Recording Angel were conclusive on
Smilash had now adopted a profession. In the last days of autumn
he had whitewashed the chalet, painted the doors, windows, and
veranda, repaired the roof and interior, and improved the place
so much that the landlord had warned him that the rent would be
raised at the expiration of his twelvemonth's tenancy, remarking
that a tenant could not reasonably expect to have a pretty,
rain-tight dwelling-house for the same money as a hardly
habitable ruin. Smilash had immediately promised to dilapidate it
to its former state at the end of the year. He had put up a board
at the gate with an inscription copied from some printed cards
which he presented to persons who happened to converse with him.
PAINTER, DECORATOR, GLAZIER, PLUMBER & GARDENER. Pianofortes
tuned. Domestic engineering in all its Branches. Families waited
upon at table or otherwise.
CHAMOUNIX VILLA, LYVERN. (N.B. Advice Gratis. No Reasonable offer
The business thus announced, comprehensive as it was, did not
flourish. When asked by the curious for testimony to his
competence and respectability, he recklessly referred them to
Fairholme, to Josephs, and in particular to Miss Wilson, who, he
said, had known him from his earliest childhood. Fairholme, glad
of an opportunity to show that he was no mealy mouthed parson,
declared, when applied to, that Smilash was the greatest rogue in
the country. Josephs, partly from benevolence, and partly from a
vague fear that Smilash might at any moment take an action
against him for defamation of character, said he had no doubt
that he was a very cheap workman, and that it would be a charity
to give him some little job to encourage him. Miss Wilson
confirmed Fairholme's account; and the church organist, who had
tuned all the pianofortes in the neighborhood once a year for
nearly a quarter of a century, denounced the newcomer as Jack of
all trades and master of none. Hereupon the radicals of Lyvern, a
small and disreputable party, began to assert that there was no
harm in the man, and that the parsons and Miss Wilson, who lived
in a fine house and did nothing but take in the daughters of rich
swells as boarders, might employ their leisure better than in
taking the bread out of a poor work man's mouth. But as none of
this faction needed the services of a domestic engineer, he was
none the richer for their support, and the only patron he
obtained was a housemaid who was leaving her situation at a
country house in the vicinity, and wanted her box repaired, the
lid having fallen off. Smilash demanded half-a-crown for the job,
but on her demurring, immediately apologized and came down to a
shilling. For this sum he repainted the box, traced her initials
on it, and affixed new hinges, a Bramah lock, and brass handles,
at a cost to himself of ten shillings and several hours' labor.
The housemaid found fault with the color of the paint, made him
take off the handles, which, she said, reminded her of a coffin,
complained that a lock with such a small key couldn't be strong
enough for a large box, but admitted that it was all her own
fault for not employing a proper man. It got about that he had
made a poor job of the box; and as he, when taxed with this,
emphatically confirmed it, he got no other commission; and his
signboard served thenceforth only for the amusement of pedestrian
tourists and of shepherd boys with a taste for stone throwing.
One night a great storm blew over Lyvern, and those young ladies
at Alton College who were afraid of lightning, said their prayers
with some earnestness. At half-past twelve the rain, wind, and
thunder made such a din that Agatha and Gertrude wrapped
themselves in shawls, stole downstairs to the window on the
landing outside Miss Wilson's study, and stood watching the
flashes give vivid glimpses of the landscape, and discussing in
whispers whether it was dangerous to stand near a window, and
whether brass stair-rods could attract lightning. Agatha, as
serious and friendly with a single companion as she was
mischievous and satirical before a larger audience, enjoyed the
scene quietly. The lightning did not terrify her, for she knew
little of the value of life, and fancied much concerning the
heroism of being indifferent to it. The tremors which the more
startling flashes caused her, only made her more conscious of her
own courage and its contrast with the uneasiness of Gertrude, who
at last, shrinking from a forked zigzag of blue flame, said:
"Let us go back to bed, Agatha. I feel sure that we are not safe
"Quite as safe as in bed, where we cannot see anything. How the
house shakes! I believe the rain will batter in the windows
"Hush," whispered Gertrude, catching her arm in terror. "What was
"I am sure I heard the bell--the gate bell. Oh, do let us go back
"Nonsense! Who would be out on such a night as this? Perhaps the
wind rang it."
They waited for a few moments; Gertrude trembling, and Agatha
feeling, as she listened in the darkness, a sensation familiar to
persons who are afraid of ghosts. Presently a veiled clangor
mingled with the wind. A few sharp and urgent snatches of it came
unmistakably from the bell at the gate of the college grounds. It
was a loud bell, used to summon a servant from the college to
open the gates; for though there was a porter's lodge, it was
"Who on earth can it be?" said Agatha. "Can't they find the
wicket, the idiots?"
"Oh, I hope not! Do come upstairs, Agatha."
"No, I won't. Go you, if you like." But Gertrude was afraid to go
alone. "I think I had better waken Miss Wilson, and tell her,"
continued Agatha. "It seems awful to shut anybody out on such a
night as this."
"But we don't know who it is."
"Well, I suppose you are not afraid of them, in any case," said
Agatha, knowing the contrary, but recognizing the convenience of
shaming Gertrude into silence.
They listened again. The storm was now very boisterous, and they
could not hear the bell. Suddenly there was a loud knocking at
the house door. Gertrude screamed, and her cry was echoed from
the rooms above, where several girls had heard the knocking also,
and had been driven by it into the state of mind which
accompanies the climax of a nightmare. Then a candle flickered on
the stairs, and Miss Wilson's voice, reassuringly firm, was
"Who is that?"
"It is I, Miss Wilson, and Gertrude. We have been watching the
storm, and there is some one knocking at the--" A tremendous
battery with the knocker, followed by a sound, confused by the
gale, as of a man shouting, interrupted her.
"They had better not open the door," said Miss Wilson, in some
alarm. "You are very imprudent, Agatha, to stand here. You will
catch your death of--Dear me! What can be the matter? She hurried
down, followed by Agatha, Gertrude, and some of the braver
students, to the hall, where they found a few shivering servants
watching the housekeeper, who was at the keyhole of the house
door, querulously asking who was there. She was evidently not
heard by those without, for the knocking recommenced whilst she
was speaking, and she recoiled as if she had received a blow on
the mouth. Miss Wilson then rattled the chain to attract
attention, and demanded again who was there.
"Let us in," was returned in a hollow shout through the keyhole.
"There is a dying woman and three children here. Open the door."
Miss Wilson lost her presence of mind. To gain time, she replied,
"I--I can't hear you. What do you say?"
"Damnation!" said the voice, speaking this time to some one
outside. "They can't hear." And the knocking recommenced with
increased urgency. Agatha, excited, caught Miss Wilson's dressing
gown, and repeated to her what the voice had said. Miss Wilson
had heard distinctly enough, and she felt, without knowing
clearly why, that the door must be opened, but she was almost
over-mastered by a vague dread of what was to follow. She began
to undo the chain, and Agatha helped with the bolts. Two of the
servants exclaimed that they were all about to be murdered in
their beds, and ran away. A few of the students seemed inclined
to follow their example. At last the door, loosed, was blown wide
open, flinging Miss Wilson and Agatha back, and admitting a
whirlwind that tore round the hall, snatched at the women's
draperies, and blew out the lights. Agatha, by a hash of
lightning, saw for an instant two men straining at the door like
sailors at a capstan. Then she knew by the cessation of the
whirlwind that they had shut it. Matches were struck, the candles
relighted, and the newcomers clearly perceived.
Smilash, bareheaded, without a coat, his corduroy vest and
trousers heavy with rain; a rough-looking, middle-aged man,
poorly dressed like a shepherd, wet as Smilash, with the
expression, piteous, patient, and desperate, of one hard driven
by ill-fortune, and at the end of his resources; two little
children, a boy and a girl, almost naked, cowering under an old
sack that had served them as an umbrella; and, lying on the
settee where the two men had laid it, a heap of wretched wearing
apparel, sacking, and rotten matting, with Smilash's coat and
sou'wester, the whole covering a bundle which presently proved to
be an exhausted woman with a tiny infant at her breast. Smilash's
expression, as he looked at her, was ferocious.
"Sorry fur to trouble you, lady," said the man, after glancing
anxiously at Smilash, as if he had expected him to act as
spokesman; "but my roof and the side of my house has gone in the
storm, and my missus has been having another little one, and I am
sorry to ill-convenience you, Miss; but--but--"
"Inconvenience!" exclaimed Smilash. "It is the lady's privilege
to relieve you--her highest privilege!"
The little boy here began to cry from mere misery, and the woman
roused herself to say, "For shame, Tom! before the lady," and
then collapsed, too weak to care for what might happen next in
the world. Smilash looked impatiently at Miss Wilson, who
hesitated, and said to him:
"What do you expect me to do?"
"To help us," he replied. Then, with an explosion of nervous
energy, he added: "Do what your heart tells you to do. Give your
bed and your clothes to the woman, and let your girls pitch their
books to the devil for a few days and make something for these
poor little creatures to wear. The poor have worked hard enough
to clothe THEM. Let them take their turn now and clothe the
"No, no. Steady, master," said the man, stepping forward to
propitiate Miss Wilson, and evidently much oppressed by a sense
of unwelcomeness. "It ain't any fault of the lady's. Might I make
so bold as to ask you to put this woman of mine anywhere that may
be convenient until morning. Any sort of a place will do; she's
accustomed to rough it. Just to have a roof over her until I find
a room in the village where we can shake down." Here, led by his
own words to contemplate the future, he looked desolately round
the cornice of the hall, as if it were a shelf on which somebody
might have left a suitable lodging for him.
Miss Wilson turned her back decisively and contemptuously on
Smilash. She had recovered herself. "I will keep your wife here,"
she said to the man. "Every care shall be taken of her. The
children can stay too."
"Three cheers for moral science!" cried Smilash, ecstatically
breaking into the outrageous dialect he had forgotten in his
wrath. "Wot was my words to you, neighbor, when I said we should
bring your missus to the college, and you said, ironical-like,
'Aye, and bloomin' glad they'll be to see us there.' Did I not
say to you that the lady had a noble 'art, and would show it when
put to the test by sech a calamity as this?"
"Why should you bring my hasty words up again' me now, master,
when the lady has been so kind?" said the man with emotion. "I am
humbly grateful to you, Miss; and so is Bess. We are sensible of
the ill-convenience we--"
Miss Wilson, who had been conferring with the housekeeper, cut
his speech short by ordering him to carry his wife to bed, which
he did with the assistance of Smilash, now jubilant. Whilst they
were away, one of the servants, bidden to bring some blankets to
the woman's room, refused,saying that she was not going to wait
on that sort of people. Miss Wilson gave her warning almost
fiercely to quit the college next day. This excepted, no ill-will
was shown to the refugees. The young ladies were then requested
to return to bed.
Meanwhile the man, having laid his wife in a chamber palatial in
comparison with that which the storm had blown about her ears,
was congratulating her on her luck, and threatening the children
with the most violent chastisement if they failed to behave
themselves with strict propriety whilst they remained in that
house. Before leaving them he kissed his wife; and she, reviving,
asked him to look at the baby. He did so, and pensively
apostrophized it with a shocking epithet in anticipation of the
time when its appetite must be satisfied from the provision shop
instead of from its mother's breast. She laughed and cried shame
on him; and so they parted cheerfully. When he returned to the
hall with Smilash they found two mugs of beer waiting for them.
The girls had retired, and only Miss Wilson and the housekeeper
"Here's your health, mum," said the man, before drinking; "and
may you find such another as yourself to help you when you're in
trouble, which Lord send may never come!"
"Is your house quite destroyed?" said Miss Wilson. "Where will
you spend the night?"
"Don't you think of me, mum. Master Smilash here will kindly put
me up 'til morning."
"His health!" said Smilash, touching the mug with his lips.
"The roof and south wall is browed right away," continued the
man, after pausing for a moment to puzzle over Smilash's meaning.
"I doubt if there's a stone of it standing by this."
"But Sir John will build it for you again. You are one of his
herds, are you not?"
"I am, Miss. But not he; he'll be glad it's down. He don't like
people livin' on the land. I have told him time and again that
the place was ready to fall; but he said I couldn't expect him to
lay out money on a house that he got no rent for. You see, Miss,
I didn't pay any rent. I took low wages; and the bit of a hut was
a sort of set-off again' what I was paid short of the other men.
I couldn't afford to have it repaired, though I did what I could
to patch and prop it. And now most like I shall be blamed for
letting it be blew down, and shall have to live in half a room in
the town and pay two or three shillin's a week, besides walkin'
three miles to and from my work every day. A gentleman like Sir
John don't hardly know what the value of a penny is to us
laborin' folk, nor how cruel hard his estate rules and the like
comes on us."
"Sir John's health!" said Smilash, touching the mug as before.
The man drank a mouthful humbly, and Smilash continued, "Here's
to the glorious landed gentry of old England: bless 'em!"
"Master Smilash is only jokin'," said the man apologetically.
"It's his way."
"You should not bring a family into the world if you are so
poor," said Miss Wilson severely. "Can you not see that you
impoverish yourself by doing so--to put the matter on no higher
"Reverend Mr. Malthus's health!" remarked Smilash, repeating his
"Some say it's the children, and some say it's the drink, Miss,"
said the man submissively. "But from what I see, family or no
family, drunk or sober, the poor gets poorer and the rich richer
"Ain't it disgustin' to hear a man so ignorant of the improvement
in the condition of his class?" said Smilash, appealing to Miss
"If you intend to take this man home with you," she said, turning
sharply on him, "you had better do it at once."
"I take it kind on your part that you ask me to do anythink,
after your up and telling Mr. Wickens that I am the last person
in Lyvern you would trust with a job."
"So you are--the very last. Why don't you drink your beer?"
"Not in scorn of your brewing, lady; but because, bein' a common
man, water is good enough for me."
"I wish you good-night, Miss," said the man; "and thank you
kindly for Bess and the children."
"Good-night," she replied, stepping aside to avoid any salutation
from Smilash. But he went up to her and said in a low voice, and
with the Trefusis manner and accent:
"Good-night, Miss Wilson. If you should ever be in want of the
services of a dog, a man, or a domestic engineer, remind Smilash
of Bess and the children, and he will act for you in any of those
They opened the door cautiously, and found that the wind,
conquered by the rain, had abated. Miss Wilson's candle, though
it flickered in the draught, was not extinguished this time; and
she was presently left with the housekeeper, bolting and chaining
the door, and listening to the crunching of feet on the gravel
outside dying away through the steady pattering of the rain.
Agatha was at this time in her seventeenth year. She had a lively
perception of the foibles of others, and no reverence for her
seniors, whom she thought dull, cautious, and ridiculously
amenable by commonplaces. But she was subject to the illusion
which disables youth in spite of its superiority to age. She
thought herself an exception. Crediting Mr. Jansenius and the
general mob of mankind with nothing but a grovelling
consciousness of some few material facts, she felt in herself an
exquisite sense and all-embracing conception of nature, shared
only by her favorite poets and heroes of romance and history.
Hence she was in the common youthful case of being a much better
judge of other people's affairs than of her own. At the
fellow-student who adored some Henry or Augustus, not from the
drivelling sentimentality which the world calls love, but because
this particular Henry or Augustus was a phoenix to whom the laws
that govern the relations of ordinary lads and lasses did not
apply, Agatha laughed in her sleeve. The more she saw of this
weakness in her fellows, the more satisfied she was that, being
forewarned, she was also forearmed against an attack of it on
herself, much as if a doctor were to conclude that he could not
catch smallpox because he had seen many cases of it; or as if a
master mariner, knowing that many ships are wrecked in the
British channel, should venture there without a pilot, thinking
that he knew its perils too well to run any risk of them. Yet, as
the doctor might hold such an opinion if he believed himself to
be constituted differently from ordinary men; or the shipmaster
adopt such a course under the impression that his vessel was a
star, Agatha found false security in the subjective difference
between her fellows seen from without and herself known from
within. When, for instance, she fell in love with Mr. Jefferson
Smilash (a step upon which she resolved the day after the storm),
her imagination invested the pleasing emotion with a sacredness
which, to her, set it far apart and distinct from the frivolous
fancies of which Henry and Augustus had been the subject, and she
"I can look at him quite coolly and dispassionately," she said to
herself. "Though his face has a strange influence that must, I
know, correspond to some unexplained power within me, yet it is
not a perfect face. I have seen many men who are, strictly
speaking, far handsomer. If the light that never was on sea or
land is in his eyes, yet they are not pretty eyes--not half so
clear as mine. Though he wears his common clothes with a nameless
grace that betrays his true breeding at every step, yet he is not
tall, dark, and melancholy, as my ideal hero would be if I were
as great a fool as girls of my age usually are. If I am in love,
I have sense enough not to let my love blind my judgment."
She did not tell anyone of her new interest in life. Strongest in
that student community, she had used her power with good-nature
enough to win the popularity of a school leader, and occasionally
with unscrupulousness enough to secure the privileges of a school
bully. Popularity and privilege, however, only satisfied her when
she was in the mood for them. Girls, like men, want to be petted,
pitied, and made much of, when they are diffident, in low
spirits, or in unrequited love. These are services which the weak
cannot render to the strong and which the strong will not render
to the weak, except when there is also a difference of sex.
Agatha knew by experience that though a weak woman cannot
understand why her stronger sister should wish to lean upon her,
she may triumph in the fact without understanding it, and give
chaff instead of consolation. Agatha wanted to be understood and
not to be chaffed. Finding herself unable to satisfy both these
conditions, she resolved to do without sympathy and to hold her
tongue. She had often had to do so before, and she was helped on
this occasion by a sense of the ridiculous appearance her passion
might wear in the vulgar eye. Her secret kept itself, as she was
supposed in the college to be insensible to the softer emotions.