Part 2 out of 8
sleeping under a coverlet of real Brussels lace! Every thing in the
house, however, is magnificent, or was so once, before it was damaged by
barbarous revel. Such orgies as I have witnessed to-night would seem
incredible, if I wrote them; the _Modern Midnight Entertainment_ of old
Hogarth will supply you with the _dramatis personae_; but the splendor
of the surroundings immensely heightened the effect of it all. Carew and
his friends might have sat for Alaric and his Goths carousing amidst the
wreck of the art treasures of Rome. Nothing that he has affords him any
satisfaction; though, if it is of great cost, Chaplain Whymper tells me
that he derives a momentary pleasure from its willful damage. This man
and one other are the only persons of intelligence about Carew; but even
they have no influence with him that can be depended on. If madness were
always hereditary indeed, I might consider myself doomed. You were right
there, I own; but you must needs allow that in undertaking this
adventure contrary to your advice I have effected something. The
chaplain is already speculating upon my future fortunes, and he knows
his patron better than any body; at all events, if I am turned out of
doors to-morrow (which I am aware is quite on the cards), I shall have
three hundred pounds in my pocket, which Carew, with a 'Catch that,'
threw me in notes, exactly as you throw a chicken-bone to _Dandy_ as he
sits on his hind-legs, though I did not 'beg' for them, I do assure you.
The immediate cause of my being invited hither was as follows [here the
writer described his exploit with the stags]. This, with our match at
fisticuffs by moonlight, had greatly inclined Carew to favor me; yet,
when the disclosure of my identity was made, I thought for a moment all
my pains were lost. He resented the intrusion exceedingly; but then he
had himself invited me to be his guest; and he holds his word as good as
his bond. Indeed, by what the chaplain tells me, it will soon be held
something better, for even his vast estate is crumbling away, acre by
acre, beneath the load of lavish expenditure it has to bear. There must
be much, however, at the worst, to be picked up among the _debris_ of
such a fortune."
"I am aware that it is in the last degree improbable that Carew will be
persuaded to make a will in _any body's_ favor at present. He imagines,
I think, that the whole world is made for his sole enjoyment--it almost
might be so, for all he sees to the contrary--and never dreams that he
will die. But it is also certain that he will die early; and more than
likely that he will come to grief, when he has lost his nerve, in one or
other of the mad exploits which he will be too proud to discontinue.
Then will your Richard become the most assiduous and painstaking of
nurses that ever humored crack-brained patient. But there! I have made a
dozen programmes of what is to happen, and this is but a specimen. Who
can tell? I may be heir of Crompton yet, or I may come back to you
to-morrow like a bad penny, and with what the vulgar describe as a flea
in my ear."
"It will not surprise you to learn that you are personally held in great
disfavor here, though the chaplain (who has heard all from the Squire's
lips) speaks of you with due respect. The last thing that is desired at
Crompton is, of course, the return of its lawful mistress. Carew himself
is very bitter against you, which is doubtless owing to the good offices
of grandmamma. The clock has just struck four, which bids me close this
letter, though of all the Squire's guests, to judge by the wrangling
that is going on in the Library below stairs, the first to retire will
be your affectionate son, RICHARD YORKE."
"P.S.--I forgot to say that Carew made the most pointed inquiries as to
whether I had any other profession than that of landscape-painting.
Would it not be strangely comical if he should bestir himself to get me
some Civil appointment! I almost fancied he must have been thinking of
doing so, from some scraps of talk I heard him let fall at dinner.
Curiously enough, by-the-by, who should have been sitting at his
right-hand, but Frederick Chandos, Jack's brother! 'Good Heaven!' (you
will say), 'suppose it had been Jack himself;' however, it was not."
HOW BENEDICT BECAME A BACHELOR.
Notwithstanding the late hour at which Yorke retired to his sumptuous
couch, he was up the next morning betimes. He was restless, and eager to
explore the splendors of the house, that had been so nearly his
inheritance, for it was not without a stubborn contest that the law had
deprived him of what he still believed to be his rights. Nor had
Crompton, in his eyes (as we have hinted), only the interest of
Might-have-been; it had that of Might-be also. If not absolutely
sanguine, he was certainly far from hopeless of fortune making him that
great amends; at all events, while the opportunity was afforded him,
which he well knew might be lost forever by his own imprudence, or
through the caprice of another, he resolved not to neglect it. It was
broad daylight, yet not a soul was stirring in all the stately place;
nothing but the echo of his own footsteps, as he trod the corridor, and
entered the great Picture-gallery, met his attentive ear. The collection
of old masters at Crompton was varied and valuable; he could have spent
hours among them with infinite pleasure, if the intoxicating thought
that they all might be one day his own had not been present to mar their
charms. He regarded them less as an admiring disciple, or a connoisseur,
than as an appraiser. The homely life-scenes of Jan Stein, the saintly
creations of Paul Veronese, the warmth of Rubens, and the stateliness of
Vandyck, were all measured by one standard--that of price. The contents
of this one room alone, thought he, "represent no moderate fortune."
When his eye strayed to the tall windows, and rested on the wooded acres
which owned in mad Carew a nominal master, the beauty of dale and upland
touched him not at all. "I wonder now," sighed he, "how much of this is
dipped?" It was a good sign, he thought, that in one room he found a
cabinet containing no less than fifty antique cameos; for, if the
pressure of pecuniary difficulty had really begun to be severe, the
Squire would surely have parted with what must have been in his view
useless lumber, and was so easily convertible into cash. The Library
offered a strange spectacle: chairs thrown down, and broken glasses,
bore witness to the wildness of last night's revel; the splendid carpet
was strewn with the ends and ashes of cigars, and with packs of cards;
and on the table, scratched in all directions by the sharp spurs of
fighting-cocks, still lay the dice and caster. The atmosphere was so
heavy with the fumes of wine and smoke that Yorke was glad to escape
from it, through a half-opened window, into the morning air.
How bright and fresh it was! How much there was of bracing enjoyment, of
wholesome gayety, in the mere breath of it; how much of invigorating
delight in the mere sight of the glittering turf, the beaded trees, to
which the hoar-frost had lent its jewels! But such cheap luxuries are
not only unknown to those who are sleeping off their debauch of the past
night during the brightest hours of the day; they are also lost upon
those who rise early in the morning, to follow the strong drink of greed
and envious expectation. Richard Yorke enjoyed them not, save that he
felt his lungs play more freely. A couple of gardeners were at work upon
the lawn, of one of whom he asked the way to the stables, the report of
the completeness and perfection of which had often reached him. The
house and its furniture--nay, the house and its inmates--were of less
consequence in the Squire's eyes than the arrangements of his
loose-boxes. The old dynasty of Houyhnhnms was re-established at
Crompton; the Horse bare sway, or was at least held in higher account
than the Human. The Horse, the Hound, the Pheasant, the Bag-fox, and,
fifthly, Man, were there the gradations of rank; and a compound
being--half man, half brute--was, by a not unparalleled freak of
fortune, the master of all. Carew had never fed his mares with human
flesh, but there was a legend that he had rubbed a friend over with
anise-seed, and offered that dainty morsel to his dogs. The victim was
snatched away again, however, by some officious underling, who justified
his interference upon the ground that the hounds would have been spoiled
by such an indulgence; and the Squire had pardoned him. This was one of
the stories about the Master of Crompton which divided the country into
those who believed it and those who did not; but Walter Grange had told
it to Richard as a characteristic fact.
The stables were indeed a marvel, not only of cleanliness and comfort,
but, if it had been possible by any arts of daintiness to make them
cox-combs, such would Carew's horses have become. They had
looking-glasses in their own glossy coats, and yet it was not well for
one of them to be an especial favorite with its master, for it more than
once happened that he would ride such so often and so long that it fell
under him, killed with kindness, overwhelmed with his oppressive favor.
On such occasions, if the Squire happened to have been as devoted as
usual to his brandy flask, he would shed copious tears, which many
instanced as a proof that he was neither selfish nor cold-hearted.
The kennels were of vast proportions, hedged in by high palisades,
through the interstices of which many a black muzzle now protruded,
sniffing like ill-tempered women, or uttering shrill whines of despair.
As Yorke, with his hands buried in his pockets, for they were cold,
though his head was too well provided with clustering hair to be
conscious of the absence of a hat, was contemplating this spectacle with
cynical amusement, up strode the chaplain, wholesome and ruddy-looking.
"You are up betimes--as Crompton hours go--Mr. Yorke; I hope such good
habits will not be undermined by evil associations. How I envy you your
constitution, to be able to face this November mist with a bare head!"
"Nay, parson," rejoined the young man, "you must have risen early
yourself to know that there _was_ a mist. It's clear enough now all
round. I suppose our impatient friends yonder," pointing to the kennel,
where all the dogs, hearing the chaplain's voice, were now in full
chorus, "will have their will this morning?"
"Yes; it is this pack's turn to hunt."
"I wish, for your sake, Mr. Whymper, that there was only one pack,"
observed Yorke, with good-natured earnestness.
"Ah, you are referring to that foolish talk about the living last night.
Poor Ryll is quite broken-hearted about it this morning; and, in fact,
he did do me an ill turn, though, I am sure, without intending it. It is
the misfortune of a professed wit--and especially of a poor one--that he
can not afford to be silent."
"You take it more good-humoredly than I should," said Yorke. "I should
be inclined to charge something for a joke made at my own expense, where
the loss was so considerable."
"You don't look of a very revengeful disposition, neither," returned the
"I have never experienced the feeling of revenge," answered the young
man, frankly; "but I know what it is to feel wronged, and I think it is
lucky that it is the law, and not an individual, that has done me the
mischief--one can't have a vendetta against the law, you know. But, if
it were a man, ay, though he were my own flesh and blood, he should pay
for it--yes, sevenfold. I would not put up with injustice from any human
being; and where I could, if the law would not help me, I would right
myself with the strong hand."
It was curious to see the effect which this objectless passion wrought
upon the young man's face, and even figure. His lithe limbs seemed to
grow rigid; his right hand was clenched convulsively; his handsome
Spanish countenance was lit up with a sort of dusky glow.
"My dear young friend," said the chaplain, quietly, "my profession,
perhaps, ought to suggest to me some serious arguments against the
disposition which you so unmistakably evince; but I will confine myself
to saying that such a temper as yours is not to be kept for nothing. It
is only men in your father's position who can indulge themselves in such
a luxury, I do assure you. You'll come to grief with it some day."
Yorke laughed, good-humoredly. "What must be, will be. Let us hope there
will be no occasion for the display of my fire-works. I suppose, what
with his two packs of hounds and the rest of it, even my father will be
brought to behave himself demurely, sooner or later."
"I should like to see Carew demure," said the chaplain, smiling;
"although not reduced to that state by the extremities of poverty. Yes,
as you say," he added, in a graver tone, "the pace at which he has been
going these twenty years has begun to tell on his fortune. But it is not
the dogs that will ruin him (as they ruined poor Ryll, with his few
thousands), nor yet his hunters. It is his race-horses on the Downs
yonder that will bring him to his piece of bread."
"I suppose so," said Yorke, sighing, not so much on Carew's account as
on his own; "he backs a horse because it is his own. That is his
"Your tie of relationship, Mr. Yorke, does not, I perceive, make you
blind to your father's foibles."
"Why should it?" rejoined the young man, passionately. "Am I to feel
grateful to him for begetting me? What has he done to make me feel that
I owe him aught? Do you suppose I thank him for being admitted here,
unacknowledged, uninvited in my own proper person? For being permitted
to take my fill at the common trough along with his drunken swine?"
"Nay, my friend," interposed the chaplain, coldly; "the food and wine
are of the best; and we should never scoff at good victual. If you have
so proud a stomach, why are you here? It embarrasses you to answer the
question. Let me, then, shape the reply. 'I have a sense of my own
dignity,' you would say, 'far keener than that of my father's flatterers
and favorites; but, on the other hand, I humiliate myself for a much
"_I_ humiliate myself?" reiterated the young man, angrily.
"You take money that is not very gracefully offered for your acceptance,
my young friend," said the chaplain, quietly.
"You saw him, did you?" cried Richard, hoarse with shame and passion.
"No; I did not; but I heard him swearing at you at the hazard-table for
having emptied his pockets; and I am familiar with his mode of bestowing
presents. You must forgive me, Mr. Yorke," added Parson Whymper, dryly;
"but you ought to know that when a man has lost his own self-respect, he
is, naturally averse to the profession of independence in another."
"If you deem yourself a dependent, Mr. Chaplain," replied Yorke,
bitterly, "you still permit yourself some frankness."
"Yes; that is one of the few virtues which are practiced at Crompton.
You will find me speak the truth."
There was irony in Parson Whymper's tone; and yet the young man felt
that he was not the subject of its cynicism. Was it possible that this
hard-drinking, hard-riding, hard-headed divine was scornful of himself,
and of his own degraded position? Yorke did not credit him with any such
fine feeling. He had read of Swift at Temple's, and could understand the
great Dean's bitterness against a shallow master and his insolent
guests, but that a man should become despicable to himself, was
unintelligible to him.
"Of course," continued the chaplain, smiling at his evident
bewilderment, "I could have been as smooth-spoken as you please, my
young friend; but I had estimated your good sense too highly to endeavor
to conciliate you by such vapid arts."
"I thank you," said Yorke, thoughtfully. "I hope you were right there; I
am sure at least that from your mouth I could hear home truths, which
from another's would be very unpalatable. You are good enough to speak
as though you would wish us to be friends. I am going to ask you,
therefore, to do me a favor."
"I will do any thing that lies in my power; but do not, for your own
sake, press me to influence your father----"
"No, no; it is not that," broke in the other, hastily. "It lies with
yourself to grant my request. I wish to hear from you the true story of
Carew's marriage with my mother."
"The _true story_?" echoed Parson Whymper. "Nay; I can not vouch for
being possessed of that. I have only heard it from your grandmother: the
counsel for the prosecution is scarcely a reliable authority for the
facts of a case."
"And I have only heard the defense," said Yorke. "Let me now, for the
first time, know what was urged upon the other side, and so weightily,"
the young man gloomily added, "that it made my mother an outcast, and
myself a disgraced and penniless lad. You see, I know exactly what was
the end of it all, so do not fear to shock me."
"There can be no disgrace where one has not one's self to blame," urged
"You think so?" broke in the other, bitterly. "What! not when one's
mother is to blame, for instance? Well, please begin."
"I had much rather not," said the chaplain. "It would be much better for
you to get the newspaper report of the case--I can tell you the exact
date--and read both _pro_ and _con_."
"No report was ever published, Mr. Whymper; the case was heard with
closed doors, or suppressed by Carew's influence. So much, perhaps--to
judge by your face--the better for me."
"I think it would be better for you not to hear it, even now, Mr.
Yorke," returned the chaplain, not without a touch of tenderness in his
tone. "But, if you insist upon it, come to my private room, and let us
breakfast together first, then we will have the story over our cigars."
Accordingly, the two repaired to the apartment in question--a very snug
one, on the ground-floor, but so strewn with documents and letters that
it resembled a lawyer's sanctum. The morning meal--which, in the host's
case, consisted of a game-pie and a tankard of strong ale--having been
here dispatched, and their cigars lighted, Parson Whymper began as
"It must have been in the autumn of 1821 that Carew finally left
school--the public school of Harton. He got into some difficulties with
the authorities--refused, I believe, to apologize for some
misdemeanor--so that he had to be privately withdrawn----"
"I beg your pardon there," remarked Yorke, hastily. "He was expelled, as
I happen to know for certain."
"Very likely," said the chaplain, slowly expelling the smoke from his
lips; "indeed, I should say most likely. But remember mine is
professedly an _ex parte_ statement. Mrs. Carew--I mean Mrs. Carew the
elder--is solely responsible for it. Of course, she softened down the
facts against her son, and I have no doubt made compensation for so
doing by highly coloring the offenses of her daughter-in-law. I told
you, you would not like the story. Is it still your wish that I should
proceed with it?"
"Yes, yes," said Yorke; "go on. I was a fool to interrupt you." But the
chaplain noticed that the young man held his open palm before his face,
under pretense of shielding it from the fire, and that his cheeks grew
scarlet as the tale went on, nevertheless.
"Carew was not seventeen then, when he left school for the house of a
gentleman of the name of Hardcastle, in Berkshire, as his private pupil.
It was understood that he was to have his particular care and attention,
but not his exclusive services. There were one or two other
pupils--rather queer ones as it would seem; but Mr. Hardcastle
advertised in the newspapers for lads of position, but neglected
education--young fellows, in short, who had proved unmanageable at
home--and undertook to reform them by his system. It was no wonder,
then, that Carew found some strange companions. The strangest of all,
however, under the circumstances, was surely the tutor's niece, Miss
"Why strangest?" interrupted Yorke.
"I think Mrs. Carew the elder meant to imply that this young lady, being
possessed of great physical advantages, should have been the last person
selected by Mr. Hardcastle as his housekeeper, and the companion of his
pupils, and the more so since he was well aware, as it afterward turned
out, that she had already succeeded in victimizing (such was Mrs.
Carew's expression) one of these very lads. That was years ago, it is
true; and it might well be imagined that a lady of the mature age of
five-and-thirty might have outlived her charms; but in her particular
case this was not so. Miss Hardcastle, as she was called, was still very
beautiful, high-spirited, and an excellent horsewoman. She was also--if
that had been necessary to obtain her purpose--well-read and
accomplished. Being clever, good-looking, and not easily shocked,
however, she was more than competent to secure the affections of young
Carew. She was, nevertheless, as I have said, literally old enough to be
his mother; and the idea of the affair having been a love-match, in the
usual sense of the expression, was simply preposterous. That Miss
Hardcastle was herself of this opinion seems evident from her having
enjoined secrecy upon her youthful bridegroom. They lived together as
man and wife, under Mr. Hardcastle's roof, for near six months before
their marriage was proclaimed. Then young Mrs. Carew took a bold step:
she persuaded her husband to bring her to his house, under the roof of
which his mother was then residing. But they did not come (as one might
have imagined) in the fashion of two runaway lovers, who seek
forgiveness for their youthful ardor with penitence and submission. The
bridegroom was full of wild mirth at having at last done something
seriously to astonish the world. He was fond of his mother, after his
own fashion; but so far from entreating her forgiveness, he did not even
perceive any particular necessity for conciliation. The bride was full
of triumph; she had not risked much, and she had won a great stake. It
would have been better for her could she have borne her success with
more modesty. Her mother-in-law was transported with rage, which she was
too wise to exhibit. She knew her son far better than his new wife did;
and she felt that opposition was for the present hopeless; but she took
counsel with her son's guardian, and bided her time. It came at last,
though very slowly. Carew was devoted to his spouse for a whole
twelvemonth--a longer time than youth and beauty combined have ever
enthralled him since. Even when her tender tones--for she had the
sweetest voice that ever woman possessed--failed to thrill him, and her
queenly form to charm, he would probably not have consented to take part
against her, but for her own imprudence. She lost her temper with him
upon a matter where it is difficult for the wisest of her sex to keep
it: she grew jealous."
"Without cause?" inquired Yorke, gloomily. His cigar had gone out,
though he still held it between his white lips.
"No; not without cause. That is a point, I fancy, about which my
informant had her reasons for not being explicit."
"What!" cried the young man, indignantly. "She threw some one in her
son's way, to divert his attention from his lawful wife?"
"Perhaps; I can't say for certain. I am not defending her, Mr. Yorke;
but remember, she loved her son. She beheld him a victim to an artful
woman. He was not in her eyes as he is in mine, and perhaps in yours. He
had, she argued, capabilities of good, an affectionate and trustful
nature; he was the best _parti_ in the county, and had chosen his
tutor's niece--a woman old enough to have borne him. Besides, she was
_not_ his lawful wife. The dowager had secretly taken legal opinion upon
that matter, and was only waiting for an opportunity to test it. It was
essential for this that her son should desire his own freedom; and at
last he did so. I have told you the occasion. In the whirlwind of her
wrath, your mother told Carew some home truths; above all, let him know
she despised him, and had inveigled him into marriage. He had no other
name for her, henceforth, but Serpent."
"I know," said Yorke. "Go on."
"It was within two months of your birth that this quarrel took place.
Had you been born, and especially here at Crompton, I think the rupture
would never have happened. Your grandmother felt that too, and did her
utmost to precipitate matters, and, as you know, she was successful. Her
daughter-in-law was compelled to leave the house, and an action was
commenced in an ecclesiastical court. The validity of the marriage was
contested on the ground of undue publication of the bans, both parties
having a knowledge of the fact. I am a parson, you know, and this bit of
law lies in my way. The bride appeared in the register as spinster,
whereas she was the widow of an old pupil of her uncle's, whose surname
you bear. It was not an easy victory by any means. The judge of the
Consistory Court held that the inaccuracy in question was insufficient
to invalidate the ceremony; but Carew, or rather your grandmother,
appealed to the Court of Arches, and got the decision reversed. The
marriage was therefore declared null and void. Very hard lines it was
for you, Mr. Yorke; and--and that's the whole story."
"I thank you," said the young man, gravely. "I can easily imagine that
it might have been told by other lips in harsher terms."
They were silent for full a minute, Yorke busying himself with the
titles of the documents upon the table, written out in the chaplain's
"Your mother must be a most remarkable woman," observed the latter,
thoughtfully. "Is she still young-looking for her age?"
"Yes; very. What a queer docket is here! '_Tin Mine. Refused_:' What does
"It is an application from one Trevethick, an inn-keeper, to purchase a
disused mine at Gethin, on the west coast of Cornwall, which Carew has
declined. Two thousand pounds was offered on the nail, a sum far beyond
its value; but it is one of his crazes that his property there is very
valuable, and it's evident that this Trevethick thinks so too--whereas
it is only picturesque. For grandeur of position, Gethin Castle, or
rather what is left of it, for it is a ruin, is indeed unequaled! You
should take your sketch-book down there, some day. May I ask, by-the-by,
are you only an amateur in that way, or a professional?"
"I am an artist by profession. I live by my pencil, save for what my
mother allows me out of Carew's pittance. That is small enough, you
know. Hollo! there are the hounds coming round to the front! I suppose
Carew and the rest of them will soon be in the saddle?"
"And you have never made money by any other means?" pursued the
"Never. Why do you ask?"
"Well, it seemed so strange that a lad like you should find purchasers
for his works," returned the chaplain, carelessly. "The Picture-gallery
here will be of service to you, no doubt."
"Yes. I shall get my education at Crompton, if I get nothing else," said
Yorke; "and indeed, as I have no desire to peril my neck out hunting, I
shall set to work at once. Good-morning, Mr. Chaplain, and many thanks."
And with a nod and a smile, the young man left the room.
Parson Whymper looked after him with a grave face. "I wonder whether
Fane was right," he muttered. "He seemed quite positive; though, 'tis
true, he owed him a grudge for potting him at pool. There was something
wrong in that young fellow's face as he said 'Never,' when I asked him
that question as to whether he gained money by other means. If he lied,
the lying must have come from the mother's side. That woman must be a
marvel. Well, I'm sorry, for I should have liked Richard Yorke to have
had his chance here."
It was the evening of the day after Yorke had listened to his own
biography, and night had long fallen upon the shivering woods of
Crompton; the rain fell heavily also upon roof and sky-light with thud
and splash. It was a wretched night, even in town, where man has sought
out so many inventions to defy foul weather and the powers of darkness.
The waste-pipes could not carry off the water from the houses fast
enough, choke and gurgle as they would; the contents of the gutters
overflowed the streets; and wherever the gas-lights shone was reflected
a damp glimmer. In a large room on the ground-floor of Rupert Street,
Bloomsbury, sat a woman writing, and undisturbed by the dull beating of
the rain without. She often raised her head, intermitted her occupation,
and appeared to listen; but it was to the voices of her Past that she
was giving heed, and not to the ceaseless patter of the rain. What power
they have with us, those voices! While they speak to us we hear nothing
else; we know of nothing that is taking place; there is no Present at
all; we are living our lives again. If purely, so much the better for
us; if vilely, viciously, there is no end to the contaminating
association. It is to escape this that some men work, and others pray.
The furniture of the room was peculiar to the neighborhood; massive, yet
cheap. It had been good once; but long before it came into the hands of
her who now owned it. There was the round bulging looking-glass; the
side-board was adapted for quite a magnificent show of plate and
tankards--only there were none; a horse-hair sofa, from which you would
have seen the intestines protruding had it not been for the continuous
gloom. If the sun ever visited Rupert Street, it shone on the other side
of the way. On the mantel-piece were two of those huge shells in which
the tropic deep is ever murmuring. Who that has taken lodgings in London
does not know them? Who has not sometimes forgotten the commonplaces of
his life in listening to those cold lifeless lips? If you take them up
on their own tropic shore, they will tell you of the roar of London
There were two articles in the room, however, which were peculiar to
itself. The one was a human skull--to all appearance, the same as all
other skulls, the virtue of which has gone out of them, though it had
once belonged to no common man. The second object could still less be
termed an ornament than the first, although it was a picture. It
depicted a woman of frightful aspect, having but one eye, and a
hare-lip; she was standing up, and appeared to be declaiming or
dictating; while an old cripple, at a table beside her, took down her
words in writing. If you had gone all over the rest of the house--and it
was a large one--you would have found nothing else remarkable, or which
did not smack of Bloomsbury. It was, indeed, nothing but a
lodging-house, and the room we have described was the private apartment
of its mistress. She might consult her own private taste, she
considered, in her own room, else the skull and the picture occasionally
rather shocked "the daintier sense" of the new lodgers, to whom the
landlady gave audience in this apartment. She is as little like a
lodging-house keeper, to look at, as can be imagined. Her cheeks are
firm and fresh-colored, her teeth white and shining, her eyes quite
bright, and her hands plump. To one who knows her age, as we do--she is
fifty-three--she looks like an old woman who has found out the secret of
perpetual youth, but has kept it for her own use, as, in such a case,
every woman probably would do. There is only one piece of deception in
her appearance; her black hair, which clusters over her forehead like a
girl's, is dyed of that color: it is in reality as white as snow. By
lamp-light, as you see her now, she might be a woman of five-and-twenty,
penning a letter to her love. But she is, in fact, writing to her son;
for it is Mrs. Yorke. Writing to him, but not thinking of him, surely,
when she frowns as now, and leans back in her chair with that menacing
and angry look. No; her anger is not directed against _him_, although he
has left her and home, long since, upon an adventure of which she
"You will gain nothing for yourself, Richard," was her warning; "and,
perhaps, may wreck even _my_ scanty fortunes." But, as we know, her son
had taken his own way (as he was wont to do), and had so far prospered.
She was writing a reply to the letter she had received from him from
Crompton that very morning, and the task was one that naturally evoked
some bitter memories.
"So he put him in the ebony chamber, did he?" they ran on. "Ay, that was
_my_ room once. What a pretty chime that serpent-clock had; and how
often have I heard it in the early morning as I lay there--alone! If it
had not been for that hateful woman, I might have been listening to it
now! He seems as mad as ever, by Dick's account, and, I do not doubt, as
brutal and as selfish! And yet it was _he_ that suffered, _he_ that was
wronged, _he_ that was to be pitied! His wife was the adventuress,
forsooth! who deserved all she got. Oh, these men, these men, that treat
us as they please, because they are so sure of sympathy, even from our
fellow-slaves and sisters!"
She bent again to her occupation, but only for a minute. "All this is
labor in vain, Dick," muttered she, laying down her pen; "the luck is
gone both from you and from me. If I were thirty years younger, indeed,
and might have my chance once more, I would tame your father yet. I
ought to have beaten his meek-faced mother out of doors; I ought to have
trained his bold-eyed girl to work my will with him. She should have
been my accomplice, and not hers; but, now, what boots it that old age
has spared me? Yonder is the only woman!"--she looked toward the
picture--"who has found a way to win mankind, save as their toy. My
reign has been longer than that of most; but it is over." She rose, and,
holding up the lamp, surveyed herself, with a mocking face, in the round
glass. "And this was once Jane Hardcastle, was it? _This_ was her face,
and _this_ her figure! No drunkard, staggering home through such a night
as this, could take me for her now! She had wits too; and better for me
had I lost them with all the rest; then I should not have the sense to
be so bitter! What a future she must once have had before her, if she
had but known what men were made of! It is only when too late that such
women discover what they have missed. This mad Carew was tinder to a
flash of these bright eyes; and the fool Yorke, except in his wild
creeds, as pliant as a hazel twig. I used to think yonder woman was an
idiot, because she believed in a place of torment; but she was right
there. Yes, Joanna," she continued, apostrophizing the picture, "I'm
compelled to confess that you are right; for, being in hell, it is idle
to deny its existence."
She placed the lamp once more upon the table, yet did not seat herself
beside it, but walked hastily up and down the room. "To be young no
more, to be poor and powerless, to have no hope in this world nor belief
in a better, to have lost even belief in one's self--is not that to be
in Gehenna? I am punished for my sins, men say. Hypocrites! liars! Why
is _he_ not punished? Why is he proud, and strong, and prosperous? Sins?
If Judgment-day should come to-morrow, my soul would be as pure as snow
beside that man's! ay, and beside most men's! Joanna here knew _that_--I
suppose by inspiration; for how else should she? What's that?"
Amidst the pelting of the rain, which had increased within the last few
hours rather than diminished, the pulling of the house-bell could be
heard. Mrs. Yorke drew forth her watch--a jeweled trinket of exquisite
beauty, one of the few relics of her palmy time. "Past midnight," she
murmured, "and all the lodgers are within. Who can it be?"
The bell pealed forth again.
She went into the hall, where the gas was burning, and unlocked the
door. At the same time somebody flung himself violently against it, but
the chain was up.
"Who is it?" inquired she; and it was strange, at such a moment, to hear
how very soft and musically she spoke, although, when talking to herself
a while ago, her tones had been harsh and bitter as her mood.
"It is I, mother," returned the voice from outside.
She unhitched the chain and let him in. "I knew it would be so, Dick,"
said she, quietly.
Richard was pale and haggard, and shone from head to foot with the rain,
which poured off his water-proof coat in streams.
"You were right, mother," said he, as he kissed her cheek. "No
reproaches. Let me have food and fire."
She brought him socks and slippers, made a cheerful blaze, and set cold
meat and spirits upon the table.
He ate voraciously, and drank his hot brandy-and-water, while Mrs. Yorke
worked busily at an antimacassar, in silence.
"You are not disappointed at seeing me, that's one thing, mother?"
"No. Read that." She pushed across to him the letter she had been
writing to him that evening, and pointed to this sentence: "You have my
good wishes, but _not_ my hopes--I have no hopes. I shall be surprised
if I do not have you back again before the week is out."
"Just so," said the young man, cynically. "You have the pleasure, then,
which your dear friend Joanna there never enjoyed, of seeing your own
prophecy accomplished; and I, for my part, have three hundred pounds to
solace myself with for what has certainly been a disappointment."
"I am glad you are so philosophic, Dick. It is the best thing we can be,
if we can't be religious. How did it all happen?"
"I scarcely know the plot (for there _was_ a plot), but only the
_denouement_. I had offended a certain Mr. Fane, toady-in-ordinary to
"Ah!" cried Mrs. Yorke, shaking her head.
"Yes; you were right again, mother, there--the whole affair is a tribute
to your sagacity, if you will only permit me to narrate it to you. I say
that this fellow Fane, when walking with his patron's brother, stupid
Jack, had me pointed out to him in town one day as the man who had
'pulled him through,' as he called it. Can you imagine how even such a
fool as he could have been so mad? It was an act of suicide, which, so
far as I know, fools never commit. Well, Fane was pretty certain of the
identity of your humble servant, which he was, moreover, anxious to
establish, because I had beaten him at pool, and given him the rough
side of my tongue."
"Oh, Dick, Dick! have skillful hand and ready speech been only given you
to make enemies?"
Richard laughed, and lighted a cigar.
"Well, sometimes, mother, the most prudent of us are carried away by our
own genius. I am told that even you, for instance, lost your temper upon
a certain occasion down at Crompton--gave a 'piece of your mind' to my
father, which, it seems, he took as a sample of the whole of it. There,
don't be angry: the provocation, it must be allowed, was in your case
greater than mine; but then you pique yourself on your self-control!
However, this Fane did hate me, and told the chaplain of his suspicions;
the good parson was my friend, however, and all might have gone well,
but for this oaf--this idiot Jack--coming down to Carew's in person. He
could never get any coin out of 'Fred,' it appears, by letter; or,
perhaps, he couldn't 'write!' But there he was in the big drawing-room
when I went in last night, and Carew saw his jaw drop at the sight of
me. He had not the sense to shut it even afterward, though I told him he
had made a mistake, and gave him every chance. I could have persuaded
him, indeed, out of his own identity--and much more mine--only that he
appealed to Fane; and then the game was up. It would have made me laugh
had I not been so savage. Carew turned us both out of the house
together. His love of truth would not permit him, it seems, to harbor
us. So Jack and I went to the inn, played _ecarte_ all night, and parted
the best of friends this morning. But I'll be even with that fellow
Fane--yes; by Heaven, I will, if it's a score of years hence!"
Perhaps the light satiric tone which the young man had used throughout
his narrative was little in accordance with the feelings which really
agitated him; but, at all events, his last few words were full of
"Be even, Dick, by all means, with every body," observed Mrs. Yorke,
coolly, "but do not indulge yourself in revenge. Revenge is like a game
at battle-door, wherein one can never tell who will have the last hit."
"At the same time, it is one of those few luxuries which those who have
least to lose can best afford," said Richard, with the air of a
"It is not cheap, however, even to them," returned Mrs. Yorke, still
busy with her antimacassar. "It may cost one one's life, for instance."
"And what then?" inquired Richard, carelessly.
"Nobody knows 'what then,' Dick. Our fanatic yonder had one opinion; our
philosopher there"--she pointed to the skull--"another. Both of them
know by this time, and yet can not tell us. It is the one case where the
experience of others can not benefit ourselves."
This subject had no charms for Richard. When we are what is vulgarly
called "in the sulks," and displeased (if we were to own it) with the
system of universal government in this world, the next seems of but
little importance. There may be a miscarriage of justice (that is, a
thwarting of our particular wishes) even _there_. Perhaps Mrs. Yorke was
aware that her son's clouded face did not portend religious or
metaphysical speculation, for she abruptly changed the subject.
"And what are you going to do, Dick, now that this Crompton plan has
He did not answer, but stood with his back to the fire, moodily stroking
his silken mustache.
"Richard"--she rose, and placed her plump white hand upon his
shoulder;--"it is very, very seldom that I ask a favor of you, but I am
about to do so now. Promise me that you will never again undertake for
another what you undertook for this man Chandos."
He laughed, as he had laughed before, in bitter fashion. "Why not? It
was fifty pounds down; and apparently no risk: that is, no risk from the
law, which has omitted to provide for the contingency. Next to being
above the law is surely to be ahead of it. Besides, I am really a public
benefactor. Without my help, the state would already have been deprived
of the services of four young gentlemen, all of excellent families. Of
course, such a calling has its disadvantages. It is very difficult to
obtain clients. The offer of one's valuable assistance is liable to be
declined uncivilly--it requires the talents of a diplomatist to convey
it without offense--still, I possess those talents. Again, undoubtedly
the profession is in itself temporary, can never be permanent; but then,
has not nature especially favored me for it, after my mother's model?
Shall I not be a boy at forty, and blooming at fifty-three? The idea of
you being fifty-three, mother!"
As they stood together side by side it seemed, indeed, impossible that
this young man could be her son, far less the offspring of her middle
age. She smiled upon him sadly, patting his handsome cheek. "And is my
Richard so full-grown a man," said she, "as, to flatter, and not to
grant?" It was impossible to imagine a more winsome voice, or a more
"Nay, mother; I will promise, if you please," said the young fellow,
kissing her. "And now, let us divide this Crompton spoil together." He
pulled out his purse, and counted the contents. "There is Carew's three
hundred, a few pounds I won at pool, and dull Jack's IOU for
twenty--worth, perhaps, five. Come, we two are partners in the game of
life, you know, and must share alike."
"No, Dick, no," returned his mother, tenderly; "it is enough for me to
see you win." She shut the purse, and forced it back into his unwilling
hand. "Some day, I trust, you will sweep away a great stake--though not
as you gained this."
"Ah, you mean an heiress! You think that every woman must needs fall in
love with me, because _you_ have done so, mother."
His rage and bitterness had vanished, as though by magic; her tone and
touch had spirited them away.
"Perhaps I do, dear. Go to bed, and dream of one. You must be very
tired. I ought not to say that I am glad to see you back, Dick; yet how
can I help it?"
OVER THE EMBERS.
It was one of the peculiarities of Jane Yorke that she took but little
sleep. The household had long retired, and she put the remains of her
son's meal away with her own hands, then sat down by the fire, thinking.
She had more subject for thought than most women; her life had been
eventful, her experience strange. We know what her second husband--the
man who repudiated her and her child--had been and was. Her first
husband had been scarcely less remarkable. Leonard Yorke was a young man
of respectable family, and of tolerable means. His parents were dead,
and his relatives and himself had parted company early. They were sober,
steady people, connected with the iron trade: a share in their house of
business at Birmingham, carried on in the name of his two uncles, was
the only tie between him and them, save that of kinship. They were
strong Unitarians, strong political economists, strong in their rugged
material fashion every way. They did not know what to do with a nephew
who was a religious zealot, and thought all the world was out of joint;
and they had characteristically sought for assistance in the advertising
columns of the _Times_. Mr. Hardcastle therein proclaimed himself as
having a specialty for the reduction and reform of intractable young
gentlemen, and they had consigned Leonard to his establishment. It was
the best thing that they could think of--for they were genuinely
conscientious men--and they did not grudge the money, though the tutor's
terms were high. Jane was then a very young girl--so young, indeed, that
parents and guardians would scarcely have taken alarm had they been
aware of her being beneath the same roof with their impressionable
charges; and she was childish-looking even for her tender years. Leonard
Yorke, gentle and good-humored, was moved with compassion toward the
orphan girl, as guileless-eyed as a saint in a picture; he pitied her
poverty, and, still more, the worldly character of her uncle and her
surroundings. She was wholly ignorant of the spiritual matters which
engrossed his being, and yet so willing to be taught. She sat at his
feet, and listened by the hour to the outpourings of his fervid zeal. If
she did not understand them, she was in no worse position than himself.
His tongue was fluent. His words were like a lambent flame, playing with
some indestructible material. His mind was weak, and devoted to
metaphysical speculations--mysticisms: the _arcana coelestia_ of
Swedenborg was Holy Writ to him. He believed in three heavens, and their
opposites. Jane's endeavors were directed to make him believe in a
fourth heaven. Childlike and immature in appearance, she was in
character exceedingly precocious. Her intelligence was keen and
practical. In very early years it had been instilled into her that her
future welfare would depend upon her own exertions, and she never forgot
the lesson. Her uncle was very generous to her; but he was not the man
to have saved money for his own offspring, if he had had any, and far
less for his niece; he spent every shilling of his income. Little Jane
would secretly have preferred to receive in hard cash the sums which he
lavished upon her in indulgences; she would have dispensed with her
pony, and kept a steed in the stable for herself of another sort. The
rainy day was certain to come some time or other to her, and she would
have liked to have made provision for it--a difficult matter for most of
us, and for her impossible. She was wise enough, even then, to know how
Uncle Hardcastle would have received any suggestion of a prudential
nature, and she held her tongue.
In Leonard Yorke, if she did not comprehend his doctrine of "perpetual
subsistence," she perceived a provision for her future. At
one-and-twenty, indeed, he made his pupil his wife, to the astonishment
rather than the scandal of the neighborhood. They opined that it was
only in the East, or in royal families who wedded by proxy, that brides
ran so young. Jane Hardcastle, however, was in reality eighteen years of
Yorke Brothers, of Birmingham, had nothing to say against the match, but
they objected to a Swedenborgian partner in the iron trade, and bought
their nephew at a fair price out of the business. They did not offer to
take him back again, when, five years later, he became a true believer
in the faith of Mary Joanna Southcott and the coming of the young
Shiloh. This lady, whose portrait, with that of her spiritual
amanuensis, hung in Mrs. Yorke's sitting-room, had been her only rival
in the affections of her husband. She had not been jealous of her upon
that account, feeling pretty certain, perhaps, that the "affinity"
between them was Platonic; but she had rather grudged the money with
which he had so lavishly relieved the "perplexities" of "the handmaid."
The amanuensis used to issue I O U's at Joanna's dictation, to be paid
with enormous interest Hereafter, and Leonard Yorke was always ready to
discount her paper. There was no one that subscribed more munificently
than he did toward the famous "cradle," or looked more devoutly for its
expected tenant. Even when that long-looked-for 19th of October had come
and gone without sign, and two months later his poor deluded idol passed
away into that future with which she had been so rashly familiar, he was
faithful to her yet, and kept the "seal" which she had given him--his
passport to the realms of bliss--as his dearest treasure. He had
scarcely any other "effects" by that time, for, actuated by his too
fervent faith, he had been living upon the principle of his fortune; and
at five-and-thirty years of age Mrs. Yorke found herself a widow, with a
stock of very varied experience indeed, but not much more of worldly
wealth than she had had to start with. It was hard, after half a
lifetime, to resume the same semi-relative, semi-dependent position
under her uncle's roof which she had occupied before; but no better
offered itself, and she was glad to accept it. Her natural attractions
were still wondrously preserved to her; and, perhaps, on the occasion of
her second nuptials (and the fact of her first was carefully concealed),
her age excited less astonishment than her youth had done in the former
Yet now at fifty-three, this woman, as remarkable for her talents as for
her beauty, and who, if but for a brief period, had once stood "on
fortune's crowning slope," found herself with little beyond a bare
subsistence, which she received without gratitude from the hands of
Carew. What she derived from her lodging-house defrayed the somewhat
lavish expenditure of her son Richard. She was far, however, from
complaining of his extravagances. She wished him to live like a
gentleman, and not to soil his hands with ignoble, pursuits. She felt a
genuine pleasure--only known to mothers--in gathering toilsomely
together what she knew he would lightly spend. She was for the present
amply repaid by the reflection that her Dick was as handsome and
well-appointed a young fellow as was to be seen in London, with an air
and manner that would become a prince. It was only a question of time,
she thought, when the princess should appear, be captivated, and raise
him to the sphere for which she had taken care to fit him. In the mean
time, it was only natural that he should enjoy himself after the manner
of other youth of great expectations. She was not averse to his
dissipations, for in them indeed lay his best chance of getting
acquainted with young men of this class; nor, so far, had she been
disappointed. It would be surprising to many a stately pater-familias to
learn how easily acquaintanceship, and even friendship, is contracted
with his male offspring, if they be among the pleasure-seekers of the
town. A young man of good address and exterior, with plenty of money in
his pocket, does not require introduction. The club door soon flies open
to him, but not that of the home. Richard was on tolerably intimate
terms with Chandos, and other young men of the same class--but he had
never been introduced to their sisters. It was here that Mrs. Yorke made
her mistake: she thought she understood society because she had studied
two exceptional phases of it. There is nobody more short-sighted than
the Bohemian, who imagines he is a citizen of the world; his round of
life may have no fence in the shape of convention, yet it is often, very
limited, and it is outside every other.
Mrs. Yorke judged of all men by her knowledge of her late husband and of
Carew, and of women by herself. If it had not been for the
artificialities of society, she might have been right; but they are
powerful, and she knew little about them. In some matters she was
exceedingly sagacious. She did not entertain the alarm which would have
been felt by some mothers with respect to her son's morals, probably
exposed to some danger by his mode of life; perhaps she had not their
scruples; and yet it is strange to see how light those weigh, even with
our severest matrons, when any question of "position" is in the other
scale: they will not only permit their sons to herd with _roues_,
provided they are persons of distinction, but even accept them for their
sons-in-law. Mrs. Yorke, being daughterless, had no temptation to commit
this latter crime, but she was not displeased to imagine her Richard a
man of gallantry; he would in that case be less likely to fall a victim
to undowered charms. "It is not your man-about-town who sacrifices his
future in a love-match," was her reflection. On the other hand, no one
knew better than herself what an easy prey to woman's wiles is a young
gentleman without experience. It was for this reason, as well as because
she loved to have her boy about her, that she had opposed Richard's
going to Midlandshire. She knew Carew too well to hope that he would
ever take into favor a son of hers, and she distrusted the country, with
its opportunities for ensnaring youth into matrimonial engagements.
Thirty years ago, in a fortnight of village life together, she would
have backed herself to have got a promise of marriage out of the Pope;
and she did not believe this to be one of the lost arts among young
persons of her sex.
Thus Mrs. Yorke had strained every nerve to get the necessary funds to
make town-life pleasant to her son, and yet she had not succeeded. It
was not so much that he found his allowance insufficient, for he had
various means of supplementing it, one of them (at which we have already
hinted) a strange one enough; but the wayward fit was on him that takes
so many of us in the early dawn of manhood; he was restless and eager
for change, and the lessons which his mother had caused him to receive
in landscape-painting furnished him with an excuse for wandering. She
had had him taught to sketch, because it was a likely sort of
accomplishment to aid the scheme of life which she had planned for him;
and he had taken up with the art more seriously than with any thing
else. But it was not in Richard's nature to apply himself with assiduity
to any pursuit. Such callings as lay within his means and opportunities
he was incapacitated for by education and temper. He could not have
occupied any subordinate position that required respectful
behavior--submission to the will of a master. He had had to put the
greatest restraint upon himself during his brief residence at Crompton,
and it was more than doubtful if he could have maintained his position
there as a dependent in any case. He was gentle and good-humored, genial
and agreeable, when pleased; but he had that personal pride which is as
stubborn as any haughtiness of descent, and infinitely more inflammable.
It was no idle brag when he told the Crompton chaplain that he would put
up with injustice from no man (if he could help it), and would repay his
wrong-doer sevenfold (if he got the chance). His sense of right was very
acute and sensitive, especially as respected himself. All his passions
were strong. Much of this might probably be said of any young gentleman
of position accustomed to have his own way: lads of spirit (who can
afford it) do not put up with slights; young noblemen in moments of
exhilaration may even pitch into policemen; and generally, where there
is no temptation to offend, much is forgiven. The danger in Richard
Yorke's case was that his position was far from assured, while he had
done some things which might prove great obstacles to his ever winning
one. He had all the sensitiveness and impatience of one born to fortune,
without the money.
Mrs. Yorke was too wise a woman not to be acquainted with her son's
character. Her love for him was very great; as great and disinterested
as that with which the most religious and well-principled of women
regard their offspring; but it did not blind her to his faults. Her
experience of life had not led her to expect perfection; her standard of
morals was of very moderate height, and Dick came fully up to it; yet
she felt that her son was headstrong, impulsive, and occasionally
ungovernable. He had taken his own line in respect to his dealings with
Chandos and with others, in spite of her urgent entreaties. Her
opposition, though fruitless, had indeed been so strenuous that the
subject was a sore one between them; and had the opportunity been less
palpable, she would scarcely have ventured to revert to it that night.
She had done so, however, and carried her point. He had passed his word
to her that he would undertake no more such hazards, and Dick's word was
as steadfast as Carew's. He was aimless and indolent; but as a mean man,
who brings himself to perform some act of munificence, will effect it
unsparingly, or a selfish man, "when he is about it," will be all
self-abnegation; so, when he _had_ made up his mind, his determination
was rock. Mrs. Yorke then felt sure of her son so far, and rejoiced at
it. But she was disturbed about him on other accounts. Perhaps,
notwithstanding her assertion to the contrary, she may have had some
scanty hopes of her son's success at Crompton; or perhaps his want of it
placed before her for the first time the gigantic obstacles that lay in
his social path. Were the times really gone by which she had known,
wherein personal beauty, and youth, and grace of manner could win their
way to any height? Or did she misjudge her own sex, while so sagacious
an observer of the other? Her Dick was still very young; but his
appearance should surely have done something for him even now; yet
hitherto it had won him nothing but friendships of doubtful value, one
of which, indeed, had just done him infinite hurt. Were girls with
fortunes, then, as prudent and calculating as those who were penniless,
as she had been? It did not strike her that they were infinitely more
unapproachable; or rather, such was her estimation of her son's
attractions, that she thought he had only to be seen in his opera-stall
to become the magnet of every female heart. Had she been mistaken
altogether in her plan for his future?
As she sat over the dropping embers of the fire, while the ceaseless
rain huddled against the pane without, a terrible vision crossed her
mind. She saw her son, no longer young, wan with dissipation and excess,
peevish and fretting for the luxuries which she herself, old and
decrepit, could no longer procure for him. She even heard a voice
reproaching her as the cause of their common ruin: "Why did you humor
me, woman, when I should have been corrected? Why did you bring me up to
beggary, as though I had been a prince? why have taught me nothing
whereby I could now at least earn my daily bread? Why did you let me
lavish in my youth the money which, frugally husbanded, might now have
supported us in comfort? Why did you do all this--you who were so
boastful of your worldly wisdom?" For a moment, so great was her mental
anguish, that she almost looked her age--not that the picture had any
terrors for herself, but upon her son's account alone. She may not have
been penitent, as good folks are, but her heart was full of another's
woe, and had no room left for one selfish regret. She had (in her
vision) ruined both; but it was only for dear Dick that her tears fell.
If the guardian angel, which is said to watch for a time by every one of
us, had not given up his disappointing vigil at poor Mrs. Yorke's elbow,
a tremor of delight then stirred him limb and wing. Nay, perhaps in the
Great Day, when all our plans shall be scrutinized, whether they have
been carried out or not, this poor, impotent, fallacious one, which
worldly Mrs. Yorke had formed for her son's future, will stand,
perchance, when others which recommend themselves better to human eyes
have toppled down, because built on the rotten foundations of self.
There will certainly be many worse ones. She did not propose to sell her
offspring, as match-making mothers do, to evil bidders. In her doting
thought her Dick would make any woman happy as his wife. At all events,
right or wrong, judicious or otherwise, her scheme must now be adhered
to: it was too late to take up with any other. The vision of its failure
had faded away, and she could think the matter out with her usual
The gray dawn creeping through the shutter-chinks found her thinking
still; but ere the dull sounds of awakening life were heard above
stairs, and before the coming of the sleepy, slatternly maid to "do the
parlor," Mrs. York had arrived at her conclusion.
The early matin prime, she was wont to say, was always her brightest
hour, but it found her, on the present occasion, white and worn, not
with her long vigil, but because it was "borne in upon her," as poor
Joanna used to say, that her son and she must part for his own good: so
soon as the spring should come she would bid him go. London, where all
was prudence and constraint, was no place to win the bride she sought
for him. He should go forth into the country, where even heiresses were
still girls, and win her, as troubadour of old, but with sketch-book in
hand instead of harp. Not a promising scheme, one might say; but then,
what schemes for a young man's future, who has no money, _are_ promising
nowadays? Moreover, it could be said of it (as can not be often said)
that, such as it was, her Richard was by nature adapted for it;
and--though this was a less satisfactory reflection--was adapted for
THE GUIDE TO GETHIN.
It is the spring-time, that time of all the year when those "in city
pent" desire most to leave it, if only for a day or two, and breathe the
air of the mountain or the sea; the time when the freshest incense
arises from the great altar of Nature, and all men would come to worship
at it if they could. Even the old, who so far from the East have
traveled that they have well-nigh forgotten their priesthood, feel the
sacred longing; in their sluggish blood there still beats a pulse in
spring-time, as the sap stirs in the ancient tree; but the young turn to
the open fields with rapture, and drink the returning sunbeams in like
wine. To draw breath beneath the broad sky is to them an intoxication,
and the very air kisses their cheek like the red lips of love.
With his face set ever southward or westward, Richard Yorke has traveled
afoot for days, nor yet has tired; neither coach nor train has carried
him, and all the luggage that he possesses is in the knapsack on his
back, to which is strapped his sketch-book, like a shield. He is
striding across a heath-clad moor, with stony ridges, and here and there
a distant mine-chimney--a desolate barren scene enough, but with
sunshine, and a breeze from the unseen sea. It is classic ground, for
here, or hereabouts, twelve centuries ago, was fought "that last weird
battle in the west," wherein King Arthur perished, and many a gallant
knight, Lancelot, or Galahad, may have pricked across that Cornish moor
before him on a less promising quest than even his. How silent and how
solitary it was; for even what men were near were underground, and not a
roof to be seen any where, nor track of man nor beast, nor even a tree.
There had been men enough, and beasts and trees too, in old
times--heathen and ravening creatures, and huge forests; but it seemed,
as the wayfarer looked around him, as though all things had been as he
now beheld them from the beginning of creation. Richard, artist though
he was by calling, had not the soul to take pleasure in a picture for
the filling in of which so much imagination was required; and he turned
aside to one of the stony hills, and climbed it, in hopes to see some
dwelling-place of man. He was gregarious by nature, and, besides, he was
in want of his mid-day meal.
There was feast enough before him for his eyes.
In front lay a great table-land, indented here and there with three
chasm-like bays, which showed how high the cliffs were which they cut.
In one, nestled a fishing-town, with its harbor; in another, a low white
range of cottages hung on the green hill-side; and in the third, at sea,
as it appeared, stood up an ancient castle, huge and rugged. This last
object was of such enormous size that Richard rubbed his eyes like one
in a dream. He had heard of Cornish giants, and certainly here was a
habitation fit for the king of them. A lonely church upon the clifftop
beyond it, by affording him some measure of the probable size of this
edifice, increased his incredulity. He looked again, and saw that it was
not a castle, though the sun yet seemed to light up tower and battlement
quite vividly, but only one isolated rock of vast size and picturesque
proportions; upon the crown of which, however, there were certainly
walls, and what looked to be broken towers. "That must be Gethin," said
the young man, cheerily. "I must be at the end of my journey." Unless,
indeed, he should take ship, there was not much more opportunity for
travel. Before him stretched in all directions the limitless sea.
So magnificent had been the prospect that, when Richard descended and
pursued his trackless way again along the moor, he half doubted whether
that fair vision had not been a mere figment of his brain; the more so,
since what view there was about him seemed now to contract rather than
to expand; the horizon grew more limited; and presently nor sea, nor
land, nor even sky was to be seen. There was no rain, but his hair and
mustache were wet with a fog that was as thick as wool. By touch rather
than by sight he presently became aware that he had left the heath, and
was walking on down-land. Suppose he were nearing the verge of that line
of cliff's which he had just seen, and should come to it before he was
aware! As he paused, in some apprehension of this, all of a sudden a
song broke upon his ear, like a solemn chant:
"Keep us, O keep us, King of kings,
Under thine own almighty wings."
He did not recognize the words, but the tone in which they were sung,
though muffled by the dense atmosphere, struck him as especially sweet
and earnest. The next instant, walking rapidly, with a light and
graceful motion, the dim figure of a young girl passed in front of him,
and the mist closed behind her, though he still heard her pious psalm.
Richard stood like one enchanted. Was she an angel sent to warn him of
his peril, or an evil spirit clothed in beauty and holiness to lure him
on to it? He gave a great shout, and the harmonious voice, already
faint, grew still at once. He cried out again: "I am a stranger here,
and have lost my way; pray, help me."
Then once more through the mist came the young girl, this time without
her song, and stood before him; she was very beautiful, but with a pale
face and frightened eyes. "She is crazed, poor soul," thought Richard;
and he smiled upon her with genuine pity. She put her hand to her side,
as though in pain, or to repress some tumult of her heart.
"Where is it you wish to go, Sir?"
"To Gethin; where there is an inn, I believe. Is it not so?"
"Yes, Sir." Her words were sane and concise enough, but the tone in
which they were spoken was tremulous and alarmed.
"You are not afraid of me, are you?" said Richard, in the voice that he
had inherited from his mother.
"No, Sir, no," answered she, hurriedly; "only the fog was so thick, and
I was startled. I did not expect to find any body here. It is very
lonely about Gethin, and we do not in general see any of the quality who
come to sketch and such like"--and she pointed to his portfolio--"until
much later in the year."
"I am not the quality," rejoined Richard, smiling, "but only a wandering
artist, who has heard of the beauties of Gethin. What has been told me,
however, comes far short of the reality, believe me;" and he cast a
glance of genuine admiration upon the blushing girl.
A slender fair-haired maiden she was, with soft blue eyes, over which
the lids were modestly but attractively drooped. One who had a great
experience of the sex--if not a very respectable one--has left on record
a warning against eyelids. "A wicked woman," says he, "will take you
with her eyelids."
It does not, however, require wickedness to ensnare a young gentleman by
these simple means.
"I wish, my pretty damsel," said Richard, softly, "that I painted
figures instead of landscapes, for then I should ask you to be my
It was not modesty so much as sheer ignorance which kept the young girl
silent; she had never heard of a painter's model; but the tone in which
her new acquaintance spoke implied a compliment, and she looked more
confused than ever.
"Have you often so thick a fog as this at Gethin?"
"Not often, Sir; this is a very bad one, and you might have come to harm
in it. Some folks believe that in such weather the Pixies come abroad,
as they do at night, to mislead travelers who have lost their way; and,
indeed, the clifftop lies not a hundred yards in front of you."
"Oh, you think I was misled by a bad fairy, do you?" returned Richard,
in an amused and bantering tone. "Well, at all events, I have now met
with a good one; and may I ask what name she goes by?"
"My name is Trevethick, Sir," said the damsel, simply. "I am no angel,
but I am going to the place you seek; it is this way, Sir."
It was evident that his banter had not pleased her. The same tone that
is found agreeable in the town does not always prove welcome in the
country. She motioned with her hand to the southward, and began to walk
so fast that Richard could not easily keep pace with her.
"But are there really fairies about here?" inquired he, seriously. "I am
quite a stranger to these parts, and should be glad to learn all I can."
"Nay, Sir, I can not say; I have myself never seen one, though I know
some who have, or say they have. There are tales of worse than Pixies
told about that moor you have come across. You might have met the Demon
Horse that tempts the tired traveler to mount him, and then carries him
nobody knows whither; but, for certain, he is never seen again."
"Then the spirits about here are all bad, are they? I suppose to make up
for the goodness and the beauty of the mortals, eh?"
"Nay, they are not all bad, Sir," continued the young girl, gravely;
"the Spriggans, who guard the buried treasures of the giants, have often
helped a poor man out of their store; or, at least, 'tis said so."
"And the giants--are they all dead?"
"Yes, indeed, Sir, long ago," answered the damsel; "though that they
lived here once is true enough. There's Bonza's Chair, you must have
passed before the fog came on, and could not but have noticed; and the
hurling-stones he used to throw for pastime with his brother, they are
to be seen still; but all that about his having such long arms that he
could snatch the sailors from the decks of ships as they went by, is, in
my judgment, but an old wife's tale, and I don't credit it. There, see,
Sir; the fog is thinning; that is the castle yonder. When you see it
thus in air it is a sign of storm."
The mist, instead of lifting, was growing less dense above, as it melted
before the rays of the sun, and the ruin which Richard had seen from the
hill-range was now once more visible, without the pedestal of rock on
which it was placed. It was a glorious sight, though weird and spectral,
and the young painter halted in mute admiration. The scene seemed
scarcely of the earth at all.
"Most folks are pleased with that when they first see it," remarked his
companion, with the flattered air of one who exhibits some wonder of his
own to a well-pleased stranger. "You are very lucky, Sir; it is not
often one gets so good a view."
"I am lucky, too, in having so fair a guide to show it me," said
Richard, gallantly. "There is a church in air too: what is that?"
"That is Gethin church, Sir. It stands all by itself, a mile from the
village; but folks say that the tower was first built for a landmark for
the ships, and that the church and church-yard were added afterward."
"Then people die here, do they, even in this land of dreams?" said
Richard, half to himself.
"Die, Sir? Oh yes," answered the young girl, sadly; "my own mother died
two years ago, and lies buried there in yonder lonesome place. But it is
not usual for Gethin folks to die so young, except by shipwreck."
"Are there many wrecks here, then?"
"Yes, Sir, and will be to all time; our church-yard is half full of
drowned men. On the nights before storm, up yonder, you may hear them
calling out each other's names."
"Have _you_ ever heard them?"
"Not I, Sir, thanks be to Heaven. I would not venture there at night for
the best cargo that ever came to Turlock."
"Where is Turlock?"
"The port there behind us, Sir; you can see the houses now, but not the
harbor. It winds beneath the cliff, so that a ship can scarcely make it,
save in smooth weather, though, when it once does so, it is safe enough.
To see the great green waves rush in and turn, and turn, and waste
themselves in their wild fury, as though they searched for it in
anger--ah! it's an awful sight."
"That is in winter-time only, I suppose?"
"Nay, Sir; we have storms at other seasons. Whenever I see such a sign
as the castle without the crag--it's all clear now, you see, because the
wind is rising--then am I thankful that my father is no sailor. Most
folk are such at Gethin that are not miners."
"Then your father is a miner, is he?"
"No, Sir, not now, though he once was. Every body knows John Trevethick
about here, and why he don't work underground."
"How was that, then?" inquired Richard, with interest. "You must
remember I am a stranger, and know nothing."
"Well, Sir, it was years ago, and before I was born. Father was just
married, though he was not a young man for a bridegroom, and was down
Turlock pit-hole with Harry Coe (Solomon's father), putting in shot for
blasting. They had worked underground together for five-and-twenty
years, and were fast friends, though Coe was an older man, and a
widower, with Solomon almost of age. They were deep down in the shaft,
and one at a time was all that the man at the windlass above could haul
up; and they had put in their shot, and given them the signal. One was
to go up first, of course, and then the second to light the match, and
follow him with all speed. Now, while they were still both at the
bottom, it struck Coe that the match was too long, and he took a couple
of stones, a flat and a sharp one, to cut it shorter. He did cut it
shorter, but at the same time kindled the match. Both shouted their
loudest, and sprang at the basket, but the man at the windlass could not
lift the double weight. You see, Sir, it was certain death to both of
them, unless one should give way. Then Coe jumped out, crying to father
'Go aloft, John. In one minute I shall be in heaven.' It was he who had
caused the disaster, and therefore, as he doubtless thought, should be
the one to suffer for it; besides, he reflected, perhaps, that he was an
old man, and had no bride at home to mourn for him; still, it was a
noble deed, and I never denied it."
"Denied it!" exclaimed Richard; "I should think not. Why should you?"
and he looked up with wonder into his companion's face. It was one blush
from brow to chin.
"Well, Sir," continued she, disregarding his interruption, "my father
was hurried up; and as he looked over the basket the charge exploded,
and the great stones flew up and blackened his face. In a minute more he
was safe above-ground."
"But the poor man below?"
"He was dead, Sir. It could not have been otherwise. Father took it so
to heart that he never did a day's work underground again. And when I
was born, a few months afterward, I was christened Harry--though that's
a lad's name--in memory of the friend that saved his life by the
sacrifice of his own."
"He might well have done that, and even more," said Richard, "if more
could have been done."
"That's just what father says, Sir," answered the young girl, quietly.
"But when things have happened so long ago--before one was born--they
don't come home to one quite so strong, you see. Father keeps not only
his old gratitude, but his old tastes. He cares more for mines and
machinery and such like than for any thing else; he is a better mechanic
than any in Turlock, where I have just been to the watch-maker's to get
him some steel springs. You should see the locks he makes, and the rings
he turns. He will be so pleased if you ask him to show them to you."
"I shall certainly ask him to do so, if I get the chance," said Richard,
eagerly. "Is that your house with the pretty garden?"
"No, Sir; that's the parson's. Nobody can get flowers to grow as he
does. The next house at the top of the hill is ours."
"Why, I thought that would be the inn!" exclaimed Richard, looking at
the little white-washed house, with its sign-board, or what seemed to be
such, swinging in the rising breeze.
"It _is_ the inn," said his companion, quietly, but not without a
roguish smile. "Father keeps the _Gethin Castle_, although he has many
"And is that he, at the door yonder?" inquired Richard, pointing to a
tall, thick-set man of middle age, who was standing beneath the little
portico, with a pipe in his mouth.
"No, Sir, that is not father," replied the girl, with sudden gravity;
"that is Solomon Coe."
A PERILOUS CLIMB.
"Is father in?" inquired the young girl of Solomon, as he stood in the
doorway, without moving aside to let Richard pass into the house.
"No, he is not," returned the person addressed, his keen blue eye fixed
suspiciously on the stranger. "As you were so long on your errand, he
gave up his lock-work, and has gone off to the pit. He said he had never
known you loiter so."
"I did not loiter at all," returned the maiden, indignantly; "if it had
not been for the fog, I should have been home an hour ago; but one can't
walk through wool as if it were air. You had the fog here yourselves,
It was strange to note the change in the girl's speech; not only were
her air and tone quite different from what they had been--her modesty or
shyness exchanged for a confidence and even a touch of defiance--but her
phraseology had become blunt and provincial.
"Well, any way he was angered, Harry," returned Solomon, "until I told
him of the new copper lode, as I whispered to you of this morning (you
were the first to learn it, Harry), when off he set, in good-humor
enough with all the world.--You'll come across John Trevethick, if you
want him, young man, over at Dunloppel, though I doubt whether you will
find him much of a customer--unless you are in the iron and steel line."
"I am in the knife-and-fork line just at present," answered Richard,
good-humoredly; "and, if you will be good enough to move aside, I should
like to order my dinner."
"I ax pardon," said Solomon, sulkily, withdrawing himself from the
doorway. "I did not know I was hindering custom.--Who is this young
spark, Harry?" added he, in a low tone, as the other entered the house.
"Well, he's a young gentleman, Solomon, as you could see very well if
you chose," answered the girl, angrily. "He don't look much like a
bagman, I think, any ways. I am sure father would not like you to treat
his customers in that fashion."
"I am sure he wouldn't like your escorting such customers over Turlock
"That's father's business, and not yours, at present, Solomon," retorted
the girl, tartly; "and perhaps it never may be yours. You take as much
upon yourself because of your new copper vein as if it was gold."
"Nay, don't say that, Harry," replied the other, with an admiring look,
from which every trace of ill feeling seemed to have departed. "If it
_were_ gold, I should be more pleased upon your account than my own, you
may depend upon it. You think I am jealous, now, of yonder bit of a lad,
"I think nothing of the kind," answered Harry, impetuously.
"Well, well," returned Solomon, soothingly; "then we'll say no more
about it. Trevethick wanted me to be away with him to pit, but I said:
'No; I'll wait for Harry, and bring her with me to Dunloppel.' It's a
great find, my girl, and may be the making of us all."
"Nay, a walk to Turlock and back is enough for one day's work, Solomon;
and, besides, I'm wet through with the fog, and must change my
things.--Hannah! Hannah!" and, raising her voice to landlady pitch, she
addressed some one within doors, "didn't you hear the parlor bell
ringing?--So never mind me, Solomon; I dare say I shall hear enough
about the lode when you and father come back;" and with that, and a
careless nod of her shapely head, the young girl pushed past her
disappointed swain, and ran up stairs.
The _Gethin Castle Inn_ was a much better house of entertainment than
might have been looked for in a spot so secluded from the world, and far
from the great arteries of travel. A coast-road passed through the
little village leading from Turlock to the now almost disused harbor at
Polwheel, and that was the sole means of getting to Gethin save on foot
or horseback. There was no traffic--to be called such--in the district.
Dunloppel, always a productive mine, was, like its more famous brother,
Botallack, situated on the sea-coast, so that neither road nor tramway
had been created for its needs; the land about was barren, except in
minerals; and not a tree was to be seen for miles. Indeed, with the
exception of the parson's garden, there was scarcely a cultivated spot
in the whole parish. The graceful sprays of the sea-tamarisk, however,
flourished every where, in lieu of foliage, and in places where
certainly foliage is seldom seen. Not only did it grow luxuriantly on
banks and similar exposed positions, as though the roaring sea-winds,
which cut off all other vegetation, favored and nourished it, but waved
its triumphant pennant upon walls and house-tops. Stony places have a
special attraction for this weed; and it takes root so readily that the
story of its importation into Gethin might have had more foundation in
fact than some other local legends equally credited. Only a few years
back the plant had been unknown there, but a wagoner of the place, on
his return journey, had plucked a sprig of it in some locality where it
grew, to serve the purpose of a whip; and, when he reached home, had
thrown it carelessly on the top of an earthen wall, where it had struck
root, and multiplied.
The cliffs, and the sea, and, above all, the ruined castle upon the
rock, were the sole attractions then which Gethin possessed--and that
they _did_ attract was an unceasing subject of wonder to its
inhabitants. Whatever could the fine folk see in a heap of stones or a
waste of water, to bring them there for hundreds of miles, was a mystery
unexplained; but the villagers were no more unwilling than professional
spiritualists to take a practical advantage of the Inexplicable. In the
winter they reaped the harvest of the sea, or explored the bowels of the
earth; in the summer they transformed themselves into "guides," and set
up curiosity-shops of shells and minerals; while, to supply
accommodation to the increasing throng of Visitors, John Trevethick, who
had always a keen eye for profit, had leased the village beer-house, and
enlarged it to the dimensions of a respectable inn. Even now, however,
the house exhibited a curious ignorance or disregard of the tastes of
those for whose use it was built--the windows of all its sitting-rooms
opened upon the straggling street, while the glorious prospect of cliff
and ocean which it commanded behind was totally ignored. Thus Richard
Yorke found himself located in an apartment which, though otherwise
tolerably comfortable, might as well have been in Bloomsbury for the
view which it afforded. The walls were ornamented by colored pictures of
the Royal Exchange and of the Thames Tunnel, London; and upon the
mantel-piece was an equestrian figure (in china) of Field-marshal the
Duke of Wellington as he appears upon the arch of Constitution Hill. The
only attempt at "local coloring" was found in the book-case--composed of
two boards and a cat's cradle--in which three odd volumes of the "Tales
of the Castle" had been placed, no doubt with reference to the grand old
ruin whose tottering walls beckoned "the quality" to Gethin.
His simple meal of bacon and eggs having been dispatched, and gratitude
failing to invest with interest the lean pigs that searched in vain for
cabbage-stalks, or the dyspeptic fowls that were moulting digestive
pebbles in the street without, Richard lit a cigar, and prepared to
saunter forth. The fog had vanished; all the sky was blue and bright.
The keen and gusty air increased in him that elasticity of spirit with
which luncheon at all stages of their life-journey inspires mankind.
"I suppose," said he, looking in at the window of the room he had just
left, and where Hannah, who was waiting-maid as well as cook, except "in
the season," was clearing away the remnants of the repast, "one can get
to the castle without a guide?"
"Nay, Sir; you must get the key first, for the man don't bide at the
cottage, except in summer-time, and the gate has got spikes at the top.
Miss Harry has got it somewheres, if you'll wait a minute."
Miss Harry herself brought it out to him. She had changed her attire for
what was an even more becoming one than that she had worn before, and
her bright brown hair was arranged with greater care, and perhaps with
more view to effect.
"The guide has not begun his duties yet, Sir," she explained, with a
smile; "and so we keep the key here. You can't fail to find the road;
but the precipice-path is a bit awkward in a wind like this, and you
must be careful to take the right one; the old ledge was broken in by
the storm last month, and has an ugly gap."
"But why not show me the way yourself, Miss Harry?" pleaded the young
fellow. "You know how easily I lose myself; and if I should come to
harm, by taking the wrong turning, you would be sorry, I'm sure."
"Indeed I should, Sir," returned the young girl, simply; "and I doubt
whether you will find any body else in the village. This news from the
mine has taken them all off, it seems; and you wouldn't know rock from
castle, unless you had one to tell you, they are so alike."
The fact was that Harry's conscience smote her for her wish to be of
service to this handsome young fellow, since she had just refused to
accompany Solomon to Dunloppel, on the score of fatigue. It was level
walking, or nearly so, to the pit-mouth, and it was a climb of many
hundreds of feet to the ruin. Still, she felt no longer tired, if she
had done so a while ago, and the stranger _might_ come to harm without a
"But you're not coming without a bonnet?" exclaimed Richard.
"Nay, Sir; I should come home without one if I went up yonder in such a
wind as this," answered she, laughing; "and I recommend you to fasten on
_your_ hat, if you wish to see it again."
"But you'll catch cold," urged Richard.
"We don't mind air at Gethin, Sir; and this shawl will cover my head, if
It really was Harry Trevethick's custom to go bareheaded in fine weather
about her own home, though, perhaps, the consciousness that she never
looked so well in even her Sunday head-gear, as with her own ample
tresses for a covering, may have influenced her resolve. Chignons were
unknown at that time, and never had the young man beheld such wealth of
gold-tinged locks as that which blew about his fair companion's brow,
and presently streamed out behind her, as they neared the cliffs, and
met the full force of that Atlantic breeze. It blew freshly and shrilly
enough up the winding gorge through which they had to descend to the
foot of the castled rock; but by the time they reached the beach the
wind had risen to a gale. They stopped a minute within shelter of a
hollowed cliff to view the place. It was a noble spectacle. The great
waves came roaring in, and dashed themselves against the walls of slate
in sheets of foam, to fall back baffled and groaning. They had eaten the
cliff away in two dark frowning spots, which his guide said were
caverns, approachable at low-water; but the rock itself on which the
castle stood defied them; they had only succeeded in insulating it,
except for a narrow tongue of land, which now formed the sole access to
it from the shore. Even without any historical or poetic association,
the object before them--rising bare and sheer into the air to such a
height--on which a swarm of gulls, shrunk to the size of bees, were
clanging faintly, was grand and striking; but the place had been the
hold of knights and kings a thousand years ago and more. The young girl
pointed out to Richard where the main-land cliff had once projected so
as to meet the rock, and showed him on the former's brow some fragments
of rude masonry. "That was the ancient barbacan," she said, "once joined
to the castle by a draw-bridge, as was supposed, which, when drawn up,
left Gethin so that neither man nor beast could approach it without
permission of its defenders. Even now, with none to hinder one, it is a
steep and perilous way, especially in a wind like this. Perhaps it would
be better not to venture."
"But you shall take my arm, Harry," said Richard; "only let me pin your
shawl about your head first, lest those long locks of yours blind us
"I can do that myself, Sir, thank you," said Harry, austerely; then
added, with a smile, to reassure him--for why should she be angry?--"you
would only have pricked your fingers, as Solomon does. No man is clever
with his hands, excepting father."
"And you say that to a painter, do you, Miss Harry--a man who lives by
"I forgot that," said Harry, penitently; "besides, I was only saying
what Solomon says."
"That was the gentleman who took me for a peddler, eh?" said Richard.
"He is not quite so wise as his namesake--is he?"
"Oh yes, Sir; Solomon Coe has a long head: the longest, father says, of
any in these parts. He has made his own way famously in the world--or,
rather, under it, for he is a miner. He used to work in the coal-pits up
Durham way, but--"
"Is that why he looks so black?" interposed Richard, laughing.
"Nay, Sir, I didn't notice _that_," said Harry, simply. "Very likely he
was down Dunloppel this morning. It half belongs to him, father says;
and if this lode turns out well, he will be very rich."
"And your father would be glad of that, would he not?"
"Yes, indeed, Sir; for Solomon is the son of his old friend and
preserver, as I told you."
"But it would not please _you_ quite so much--eh, Miss Harry?"
"Not so much as father--certainly not," answered the girl, gravely. "It
seems to me folks are rich enough when they don't spend half they get;
just as other folk--like Mr. Carew, who owns all about here--are poor
enough, with all their wealth, who pay out of their purse twice what
comes into it."
"Mr. Carew is known here for a spendthrift, is he, then?"
"Well, Sir, it's only gossip, for he has never set foot here in his
life, I reckon; but, from what we hear, he must fling away his money
finely. However, as father says, there's one excuse for him--he has
neither chick nor child of his own. Eh, but you're looking white, Sir;
Gethin air is apt to nip pretty sharp those who are not accustomed to
it. You had best not try the castle to-day."
"Yes, yes; we will go at once," cried Richard, impatiently; and, drawing
the girl's hesitating arm through his own, he moved rapidly along the
wind-swept way. Under the circumstances, there really was some danger;
but, had there been twice the peril, he would not have shrunk from it at
that moment--the chance observation of the young girl about Carew's
having no offspring had turned his blood to a white heat of wrath.
Although his mother had studiously instilled in him how foolish it was
to indulge in any expectations with respect to the Squire, he had always
entertained some secret hopes in that quarter until he had proved their
fallacy by experiment; and the failure of his expedition to Crompton
rankled in his mind. He regarded his father with the bitterest
resentment; he did not altogether forgive his mother for the share which
she had had (through her misrepresentation of her own position in the
register) in depriving him of his birth-right, and he felt himself at
odds with all the world. He had come to Gethin partly on account of what
Parson Whymper had told him of its picturesqueness, but chiefly because
it was an out-of-the-way spot, unfrequented by that society with whom he
had such good grounds for quarrel, and where he was not likely to have
his pride wounded afresh by any reference to his position; and yet he
had not been two hours in the place before the only person in it in whom
he was likely to be interested had galled him keenly. He could not long
be angry with her, however, for her involuntary offense, nor angry at
all in such fair company. She clung to him, perforce, upon the narrow
causeway, and shrank with him into whatever shelter was afforded, here
and there, upon their toilsome path, when they took breath, and gathered
strength together for once again confronting that pitiless blast. If
either of them had known how fierce a gale was imminent, they would not
certainly have ventured upon such an expedition; but, having done so,
they were resolved to go through with it. Harry had plenty of courage,
and fought her way with practiced eye and hand along the winding ledge;
and Richard was not one to own himself vanquished by difficulties before
which a woman did not quail. Twice and thrice, however, they were both
driven back again round some comparatively sheltered corner by the mere
fury of the wind, which battled with them as stubbornly as though it
were the disembodied spirits, of the ancient defenders of the place; and
when, mechanically, and almost of necessity, Richard's arm sought the
young girl's waist, whose garments made it more difficult for her to
advance than for him, she did not reject its welcome aid. Then, just as
his disengaged hand was clinging to a pinnacle of rock, his hat blew
off, exactly as she had predicted, and his dark curls mixed with hers in
wild confusion. Thus, foot by foot, they won their way, and reached at
last the iron-spiked door, the only work of modern hands on that gray
rock. This screened them from the gale; and, as they stood a while to
rest beneath its shelter, she showed him what a handsome key her father
had made for it, with cunning wards, more suitable for a banker's safe
than for such ancient relics as they guarded, and told him how the gate
was put there to exclude the summer visitors, who would otherwise enter
"Nay, but I will pay my fee," said Richard, gallantly; and, since their
cheeks were almost touching as it was, the debt was easily discharged on
her ripe lips.
"For shame, Sir!" cried the girl, indignantly; and there was something
in her face and voice which showed him that her anger was not feigned.
"I am sorry I brought you here, mistaking you for a gentleman. Here is
the key, Sir; but I go back alone." And she freed herself roughly from
his arm, and turned to go.
"For Heaven's sake, don't!" cried Richard, earnestly. "You may call me
any thing you please, but do not let my rudeness prove your peril. I
_was_ rude, but, on my honor, I did not intend to be so. I meant no
harm, although I see I have vexed you. Forgive me, pray; I did not mean
to be either ungenerous or ungrateful. Is it thought so very wrong at
Gethin--even with such great temptation--"
"Yes, Sir, it is," she broke in, vehemently; "and I was wrong to come
"Nay, don't say that," pleaded the young fellow. "How could you be wrong
to do so great a kindness to a stranger as you have done to me? It was
my sense of it--my heartfelt sense, believe me, of the trouble and toil
you have undergone for my sake; and I don't deny, Harry, your beauty
too, of which I have never seen the like. But there, I am offending you
again. Pray, come into the shelter; it makes me sick to see you in such
danger;" and to make room for her, and at the same time to stand as much
apart from her as possible, he stepped back, forgetting the scanty space
on which he stood, and--fell!
A yard--a mile--he scarcely could say which, so overwhelming for the
instant was his sense of peril! He only knew that he was flying through
space. Then, suddenly, his feet found foothold, and his hands clung to
the gray rock, and the driving wind beat on his body ceaselessly, and
seemed to nail him where he clung.
Was it the scream of gull, or piercing cry of some spirit of the air,
that rang through his brain? or was it, indeed, the agonizing shriek of
a woman? He heard it plainly; but Harry never knew whether she had
shrieked or not. She was aware of nothing except that this unhappy man
was perishing--had, perhaps, already perished--for her sake; through
fear for her safety, and his wish not to give her offense. She was on
her knees upon the ledge, and craning over it with horror-stricken face
the next instant, and could see him plainly. His feet had fallen upon
that very part of the old path which the storms of last winter had torn
and jagged away. A few jolting fragments of rock were all that was left
of it--insufficient even for a practiced cragsman to make his way along
on either side. His head--she could not see his face--was but a yard
beneath her; but how could she get at him?
"I am here," she cried. "Be of good courage, Sir."
She had nothing to offer in the way of help at the moment; but she was
well aware of what vital importance it was that he should not lose
heart. She lay down with her face on the bare rock, and strove to reach
him; but, even had her arm been long enough, he had no hand to spare to
clasp her own. The whole force of the gale was full upon her, and
carried her hair to windward like a whip.
"Do not come too near the edge, brave girl," cried Richard, beginning to
be conscious of her efforts. "Is there no rope nor ladder?"
"Yes," answered the girl. "Keep heart. Do not look down. I must be five
minutes gone--not more."
She was up, and with the gate-key in her hand, ere she had done
speaking. Great Heaven! would that door never open? How her trembling
hands missed the keyhole; and when the key was in, how the rusty wards
opposed its turning. Then when the door was opened, it seemed as though
the winds had husbanded their strength behind it for one wild sortie,
with such fury did they rush out to beat her back. But she struggled in
somehow, and on across the howling waste of clifftop to a little hut of
stone, which formed the covering of a well. There, as she expected, she
found a rope coiled up, which was used to draw up water in an iron cup,
to gratify the curiosity of visitors as much as to quench their thirst;
for it was strange, indeed, to meet with fresh water there, the presence
of which, no doubt, had caused the place to be chosen for a fastness in
old time. With this she hurried back; and fixing one end firmly round
the door-post, she looped the other in a slip-knot, and lowered it
carefully to Richard. "Put this beneath your arms," she said; "the rope
is strong and firmly fastened. You must climb up by it, hand over hand."
It was not so easy a task for the young artist as for a Gethin man; but
he was strong and active; and where his chief difficulty lay, which was
at the clifftop, the girl's willing arms assisted him.
"You have saved my life, Harry," were his first words, when he stood in
safety. "How shall I ever repay you?"
Then this brave girl, who had never faltered where action was necessary,
began to sob and cry.
He took her hand and covered it with kisses. "I may kiss this," said he,
plaintively, "may I not?"
She did not withdraw her fingers, but neither did she cease from
weeping. Her grief seemed to be something more than that resulting from
the tension of strong feelings suddenly relaxed.
"Let me go home, let me go home!" was her sole reply to all his
entreaties that she should rest a while, and strive to calm herself. It
was with difficulty that he could support her down the steep, so
violently did she tremble. When they reached the foot of it she turned
to Richard and murmured: "I have one favor to ask of you, Sir. Will you
grant it to me?"
"Most certainly, dear girl. It would be gross ingratitude indeed if I
"Then never speak," returned she, earnestly, "of what has occurred
to-day. Never show by your manner that you feel--as you say--grateful
for what service I have been able to be to you. Let not father nor
Solomon ever know."
"It will be very hard, Harry, to keep silence--to owe you so great a
debt, without acknowledging it," said Richard, tenderly; "but, since
such is your wish, I will obey it."
"Thank you, Sir. And now I will go home alone. I was deterred by the
wind, the steepness--any thing you please--from accompanying you up
yonder; remember that. You will not mind waiting a while behind me?"
"Surely not," said Richard, wonderingly.
And the next moment she had hurried round an angle of the main-land
cliff, and was gone.
FISHING FOR AN INVITATION.
"What a strange girl!" muttered Richard, as he stood in the same
hollowed rock, alone, where Harry and he had first taken shelter. "What
a compound of strength and weakness--as my mother says all girls are,
though I have never known them strong before! How eager she seemed to
part company with me, and how anxious to get home without me--and I am
never to speak of what has happened, to her father nor to Solomon! This
Solomon is her unwelcome wooer, that is clear. He is neither young nor
handsome--nor attractive in any way in her eyes, I reckon. And what a
beauty she is, to be thrown away on such a boor!"
The recollection that the door at the top of the rock had been left
open, and the key inside it, here flashed upon him. "She will be sorry
about that key," he thought; "and glad and grateful to me if I go back
and fetch it. The old man will be wroth with her for having trusted a
stranger with such a treasure. This Trevethick must be an ingenious
fellow, and a long-sighted one, no doubt. It was he who applied to
Parson Whymper for a lease of the old mine, if I remember right. Perhaps
the chaplain may help me to get it him, for I owe him something for his
daughter's sake. The idea of his having such a daughter! What rubbish is
this we artists talk of birth and beauty! Neither in life nor on canvas
have I ever seen one so fair as this girl." He meditated for a moment,
then cried out, angrily: "Heaven curse me, if I harm her! What an
ungrateful villain should I be! If there be a Gehenna, and but one man
in it, I should deserve to be that man!"
Then he began to climb the rock. He did not tarry this time for breath
nor shelter, though the wind had no whit abated, but trod right on till
he reached the spot where the catastrophe which had been so near fatal
to him had occurred. "It was a narrow escape," mused he, looking down
upon the place, not without a slight shudder. "What odd things come into
the head when Death is whispering in the ear! If it had not been for my
fair guide, where should I have been by this time? Beneath the sea, for
certain. But what else? How strange it seems that if there is any
'else,' no one, from the beginning of time till now, of all the millions
who have experienced it, should have come back to tell us! And yet there
was a man who came back from the grave once. Who was he? I recollect his
picture by Haydon; his talk must have been better worth listening to
than that of most. Is nothing true that one hears or reads, I wonder?
Here is where I kissed her! I wouldn't kiss her again, if I had the
chance; I swear I would not. I am a good boy now--all morality, if not
religion--for they do say that hell is paved with good intentions--which
seems hard. If one is to be punished for one's wicked thoughts--even if
they do not bear fruit--it is surely but reasonable that one's good
ones--even if never carried into practice--should be set down on the
credit side of the ledger."
With an exclamation of contempt or impatience, he turned from the dizzy
sight of cliff and sea, and shouldered his way through the wind-kept
doorway on to the open summit of the rock. It was a wild waste place
indeed, yet not without ample indications of having been inhabited in
days of old. Low but massive walls sketched out the ground-plan of many
a chamber, the respective uses of which could only now be guessed at.
But beneath one broken arch there was a heap of rude steps with a stone
something on it, which Richard rightly imagined had once formed an
altar. Man had worshiped there thirteen hundred years ago. Nay, not far
off, and in the very centre of this desolate hold, there was a
burial-ground, with a low wall of earth about it, which neither time,
nor the curious barbarism which marks our epoch, had much defaced. The
archaeologists had been there, of course, and discovered evidence which
had satisfied them of the presence of the remains of their
fellow-creatures; but with that they had been content. The dead had, for
the most part, been left undisturbed in their rocky graves, to await the
summons in the faith of which--and perhaps even for it--they had died.
For these were King Arthur's men (as Richard had read)--the warriors who
had helped the blameless king "to drive the heathen and to slay the
beast, to fell the forest and let in the sun."
The lonely desolation of the place, and its natural sublimity, combined
with the recollection of his late deadly peril, tinged the young man's
thoughts with an unusual seriousness; and yet he could not restrain the
cynicism that was habitual to him whenever his attention was compelled
to solemn subjects.
"Now, are these poor folks--whose creed must have been any thing but
orthodox, by all accounts--all in eternal torments, I wonder, or only
waiting to be so, for a few hundreds of years longer? Such was my
mother's friend, Joanna's, comfortable creed, and it is shared, as I
understand, by all the most excellent people. How much better (if so)
would it have been for them to have been born and cradled on this rock
as sea-gulls! Gad, to dwell here and fight for a king about whose very
existence posterity is to be in doubt in this world, and then to go to
the devil! What a nightmare view of life it seems! If, an hour ago or
so, things had turned out otherwise with _me_, I should have solved the
problem for myself. I almost wish I had. And yet it was not so when I
was clinging tooth and nail to the cliff yonder; and these folks would
not have died if they could have helped it, neither. There's something
ugly in black Death that disinclines man to woo her. This wind bites to
the marrow, and I'll go. I've seen Gethin now, and there's an end." He
turned, and walked as slowly as the blast would let him toward the gate.
"And yet, if it was warmer, and summer-time," continued he, "I should
like to sketch these things, or some of them, especially if Harry were
with me." He came out, and locked the door, and once more stood in the
shelter of it, with the key in his hand. "She'll be glad I went back for
this, and know that it was done for her sake. If she had but money,
now--this girl--and was a lady, and all that! Or if I could choose whom
I would!" He began to descend slowly, step by step; the furious gale
forgotten; his late escape from death unremembered; one thought alone
monopolizing his mind--the thought that monopolizes all men's minds (or
nearly all) at his age. It was here that his hat had blown off, and her
soft curls had played about his face; it was there that he had first
clasped her waist, and had not been rebuked. Then he fell to thinking of
all that had happened between them during the few hours that were
already an epoch in his life. Why had she looked so frightened at first
seeing him? Had he seemed to come upon her as her "fate," as some girls
say? He would ask her that some day--perhaps up yonder amidst the ruins.
He had not missed the look of annoyance which she wore when Solomon had
spoken to him so roughly, nor failed to couple it with the expressions
she had before made use of with reference to Coe the elder, and the
gratitude with which her father regarded his memory. This Solomon might
be a suitor who was backed by the old man, but certainly not encouraged
by Harry. Was she already engaged to him, tacitly or otherwise? It was
impossible, being what she was, that she should not have been wooed by
Richard Yorke was not one of those exacting characters who demand that
the object of their affections should never have attracted those of
another; he was even reasonable enough to have forgiven her (if
necessary) for having returned them, in ignorance of the existence of a
more worthy admirer in himself. There are many more varieties of Love
than even the poets have classified; and perhaps it is in despair of
dealing with this Proteus that we elders so often ignore him in our
The day was darkening by the time Richard reached the village. Around
the inn door were a group of miners, who stared at his bare head hard
enough, but gave way to him civilly. They were talking and laughing
loudly, and wiping their mouths with the backs of their hands. It was
evident that somebody had been "standing treat" in the narrow passage;
and leaning their elbows on the sill of the little bar window were more
miners, each with his pint pot of ale.
"Here's luck to Trevethick and Coe," said one, "for a parting toast."
"Ha, ha, that's good!" cried another, in appreciation of this commercial
epigram; "Trevethick and Coe; to be sure."
"Trevethick and Coe, and may the copper last!"
But one, emboldened by the liquor, or naturally more audacious than the
rest, put his head and shoulders through the open window, and, making a
trumpet of his two hands, whispered in a hoarse voice, audible to every
one: "And is it to be Coe and Trevethick also, Miss Harry--eh?"
Then the window was slammed down with no gentle hand, and the men went
out laughing heartily, and for the first time leaving room for Richard