Part 1 out of 4
Transcribed from the 1913 Hodder and Stoughton edition by David
Price, email email@example.com
It was a bright, hot, August Saturday in the market town of
Eastthorpe, in the eastern Midlands, in the year 1840. Eastthorpe
lay about five miles on the western side of the Fens, in a very
level country on the banks of a river, broad and deep, but with only
just sufficient fall to enable its long-lingering waters to reach
the sea. It was an ancient market town, with a six-arched stone
bridge, and with a High Street from which three or four smaller and
narrower streets connected by courts and alleys diverged at right
angles. In the middle of the town was the church, an immense
building, big enough to hold half Eastthorpe, and celebrated for its
beautiful spire and its peal of eight bells. Round the church lay
the churchyard, fringed with huge elms, and in the Abbey Close, as
it was called, which was the outer girdle of the churchyard on three
sides, the fourth side of the square being the High Street, there
lived in 1840 the principal doctor, the lawyer, the parson, and two
aged gentlewomen with some property, who were daughters of one of
the former partners in the bank, had been born in Eastthorpe, and
had scarcely ever quitted it. Here also were a young ladies'
seminary and an ancient grammar school for the education of forty
boys, sons of freemen of the town. The houses in the Close were not
of the same class as the rest; they were mostly old red brick, with
white sashes, and they all had gardens, long, narrow, and shady,
which, on the south side of the Close, ran down to the river. One
of these houses was even older, black-timbered, gabled, plastered,
the sole remains, saving the church, of Eastthorpe as it was in the
reign of Henry the Eighth.
Just beyond the church, going from the bridge, the High Street was
so wide that the houses on either side were separated by a space of
over two hundred feet. This elongated space was the market-place.
In the centre was the Moot Hall, a quaint little building, supported
on oak pillars, and in the shelter underneath the farmers assembled
on market day. All round the Moot Hall, and extending far up and
down the street, were cattle-pens and sheep-pens, which were never
removed. Most of the shops were still bow-windowed, with small
panes of glass, but the first innovation, indicative of the new era
at hand, had just been made. The druggist, as a man of science and
advanced ideas, had replaced his bow-window with plate-glass, had
put a cornice over it, had stuccoed his bricks, and had erected a
kind of balustrade of stucco, so as to hide as much as possible the
attic windows, which looked over, meekly protesting. Nearly
opposite the Moot Hall was the Bell Inn, the principal inn in the
town. There were other inns, respectable enough, such as the Bull,
a little higher up, patronised by the smaller commercial travellers
and farmers, but the entrance passage to the Bull had sand on the
floor, and carriers made it a house of call. To the Bell the two
coaches came which went through Eastthorpe, and there they changed
horses. Both the Bull and the Bell had market dinners, but at the
Bell the charge was three-and-sixpence; sherry was often drunk, and
there the steward to the Honourable Mr. Eaton, the principal
landowner, always met the tenants. The Bell was Tory and the Bull
was Whig, but no stranger of respectability, Whig or Tory, visiting
Eastthorpe could possibly hesitate about going to the Bell, with its
large gilded device projecting over the pathway, with its broad
archway at the side always freshly gravelled, and its handsome
balcony on the first floor, from which the Tory county candidates,
during election times, addressed the free and independent electors
Eastthorpe was a malting town, and down by the water were two or
three large malthouses. The view from the bridge was not
particularly picturesque, but it was pleasant, especially in summer,
when the wind was south-west. The malthouses and their cowls, the
wharves and the gaily painted sailing barges alongside, the fringe
of slanting willows turning the silver-gray sides of their foliage
towards the breeze, the island in the middle of the river with
bigger willows, the large expanse of sky, the soft clouds distinct
in form almost to the far distant horizon, and, looking eastwards,
the illimitable distance towards the fens and the sea--all this made
up a landscape, more suitable perhaps to some persons than rock or
waterfall, although no picture had ever been painted of it, and
nobody had ever come to see it.
Such was Eastthorpe. For hundreds of years had the shadow of St.
Mary's swept slowly over the roofs underneath it, and, of all those
years, scarcely a line of its history survived, save what was
written in the churchyard or in the church registers. The town had
stood for the Parliament in the days of the Civil War, and there had
been a skirmish in the place; but who fought in it, who were killed
in it, and what the result was, nobody knew. Half a dozen old
skulls of much earlier date and of great size were once found in a
gravel pit two miles away, and were the subject of much talk, some
taking them for Romans, some for Britons, some for Saxons, and some
for Danes. As it was impossible to be sure if they were Christian,
they could not be put in consecrated ground; they were therefore
included in an auction of dead and live stock, and were bought by
the doctor. Surnames survived in Eastthorpe with singular
pertinacity, for it was remote from the world, but what was the
relationship between the scores of Thaxtons, for example, whose
deaths were inscribed on the tombstones, some of them all awry and
weather-worn, and the Thaxtons of 1840, no living Thaxton could
tell, every spiritual trace of them having disappeared more utterly
than their bones. Their bones, indeed, did not disappear, and were
a source of much trouble to the sexton, for in digging a new grave
they came up to the surface in quantities, and had to be shovelled
in and covered up again, so that the bodily remains of successive
generations were jumbled together, and Puritan and Georgian Thaxtons
were mixed promiscuously with their descendants. Nevertheless,
Eastthorpe had really had a history. It had known victory and
defeat, love, hatred, intrigue, hope, despair, and all the passions,
just as Elizabeth, King Charles, Cromwell, and Queen Anne knew them,
but they were not recorded.
It was a bright, hot, August Saturday, as we have said, and it was
market day. Furthermore, it was half-past two in the afternoon, and
the guests at Mr. Furze's had just finished their dinner. Mr. Furze
was the largest ironmonger in Eastthorpe, and sold not only
ironmongery, but ploughs and all kinds of agricultural implements.
At the back of the shop was a small foundry where all the foundry
work for miles round Eastthorpe was done. It was Mr. Furze's
practice always to keep a kind of open house on Saturday, and on
this particular day, at half-past two, Mr. Bellamy, Mr. Chandler,
Mr. Gosford, and Mr. Furze were drinking their whiskey-and-water and
smoking their pipes in Mr. Furze's parlour. The first three were
well-to-do farmers, and with them the whiskey-and-water was not a
pretence. Mr. Furze was a tradesman, and of a different build.
Strong tobacco and whiskey at that hour and in that heat were rather
too much for him, and he played with his pipe and drank very slowly.
The conversation had subsided for a while under the influence of the
beef, Yorkshire pudding, beer, and spirits, when Mr. Bellamy
"Old Bartlett's widow still a-livin' up at the Croft?"
"Yes," said Mr. Gosford, after filling his pipe again and pausing
for at least a minute, "Bartlett's dead."
"Bartlett wur a slow-coach," observed Mr. Chandler, after another
pause of a minute, "so wur his mare. I mind me I wur behind his
mare about five years ago last Michaelmas, and I wur well-nigh
perished. I wur a-goin' to give her a poke with my stick, and old
Bartlett says, 'Doan't hit her, doan't hit her; yer can't alter
The three worthy farmers roared with laughter, Mr. Furze smiling
"That was a good 'un," said Mr. Bellamy.
"Ah," replied Chandler, "I mind that as well as if it wur
Mr. Bellamy at this point had to leave, and Mr. Furze was obliged to
attend to his shop. Gosford and Chandler, however, remained, and
Gosford continued the subject of Bartlett's widow.
"What's she a-stayin' on for up there?"
"Old Bartlett's left her a goodish bit."
"She wur younger than he."
A dead silence of some minutes.
"She ain't a-goin' to take the Croft on herself," observed Gosford.
"Them beasts of the squire's," replied Chandler, "fetched a goodish
lot. Scaled just over ninety stone apiece."
"Why doan't you go in for the widow, Chandler?"
Mr. Chandler was a widower.
"Eh!" (with a nasal tone and a smile)--"bit too much for me."
"Too much? Why, there ain't above fourteen stone of her. Keep yer
warm o' nights up at your cold place."
Mr. Chandler took the pipe out of his mouth, put it inside the
fender, compressed his lips, rubbed his chin, and looked up to the
"Well, I must be a-goin'."
"I suppose I must too," and they both went their ways, to meet again
At five punctually all had again assembled, the additions to the
party being Mrs. Furze and her daughter Catharine, a young woman of
nineteen. Mrs. Furze was not an Eastthorpe lady; she came from
Cambridge, and Mr. Furze had first seen her when she was on a visit
in Eastthorpe. Her father was a draper in Cambridge, which was not
only a much bigger place than Eastthorpe, but had a university, and
Mrs. Furze talked about the university familiarly, so that, although
her education had been slender, a university flavour clung to her,
and the farmers round Eastthorpe would have been quite unable to
determine the difference between her and a senior wrangler, if they
had known what a senior wrangler was.
"Ha," observed Mr. Gosford, when they were seated, "I wur sayin',
Mrs. Furze, to Chandler as he ought to go in for old Bartlett's
widow. Now what do YOU think? Wouldn't they make a pretty pair?"
and he twisted Chandler's shoulders round a little till he faced
"Don't you be a fool, Gosford," said Chandler in good temper, but as
he disengaged himself, he upset his tea on Mrs. Furze's carpet.
"Really, Mr. Gosford," replied Mrs. Furze, with some dignity and
asperity, "I am no judge in such matters. They are best left to the
"No offence, ma'am, no offence."
Mrs. Furze was not quite a favourite with her husband's friends, and
he knew it, but he was extremely anxious that their dislike to her
should not damage his business relationships with them. So he
endeavoured to act as mediator.
"No doubt, my dear, no doubt, but at the same time there is no
reason why Mr. Gosford should not make any suggestion which may be
to our friend Chandler's advantage,"
But Mr. Gosford was checked and did not pursue the subject.
Catharine sat next to him.
"Mr. Gosford, when may I come to Moat Farm again?"
"Lord, my dear, whenever you like you know that. Me and Mrs. G. is
always glad to see you. WHENever you please," and Mr. Gosford
instantly recovered the good-humour which Mrs. Furze had suppressed.
"Don't forget us," chimed in Mr. Bellamy. "We'll turn out your room
and store apples in it if you don't use it oftener."
"Now, Mr. Bellamy," said Catharine, holding up her finger at him,
"you'll be sick of me at last. You've forgotten when I had that bad
cold at your house, and was in bed there for a week, and what a
bother I was to Mrs. Bellamy."
"Bother!" cried Bellamy--"bother! Lord have mercy on us! why the
missus was sayin' when you talked about bother, my missus says, 'I'd
sooner have Catharine here, and me have tea up there with her,
notwithstanding there must be a fire upstairs and I've had to send
Lucy to the infirmary with a whitlow on her thumb--yes, I would,
than be at a many tea-parties I know.'"
Mrs. Furze gave elaborate tea-parties, and was uncomfortably
uncertain whether or not the shaft was intended for her.
"My dear Catharine, I shall be delighted if you go either to Mr.
Gosford's or to Mr. Bellamy's, but you must consider your wardrobe a
little. You will remember that the last time on each occasion a
dress was torn in pieces."
"But, mother, are not dresses intended to keep thorns from our legs;
or, at any rate, isn't that ONE reason why we wear them?"
"Suppose it to be so, my dear, there is no reason why you should
plunge about in thorns."
Catharine had a provoking way of saving "yes" or "no" when she
wished to terminate a controversy. She stated her own opinion, and
then, if objection was raised, at least by some people, her father
and mother included, she professed agreement by a simple
monosyllable, either because she was lazy, or because she saw that
there was no chance of further profit in the discussion. It was
irritating, because it was always clear she meant nothing. At this
instant a servant opened the door, and Alice, a curly brown
retriever, squeezed herself in, and made straight for Catharine,
putting her head on Catharine's lap.
"Catharine, Catharine!" cried her mother, with a little scream,
"she's dripping wet. Do pray, my child, think of the carpet."
But Catharine put her lips to Alice's face and kissed it
deliberately, giving her a piece of cake.
"Mr. Gosford, my poor bitch has puppies--three of them--all as true
as their mother, for we know the father."
"Ah!" replied Gosford, "you're lucky, then, Miss Catharine, for
dogs, especially in a town--"
Mrs. Furze at this moment hastily rang the bell, making an unusual
clatter with the crockery: Mr. Furze said the company must excuse
him, and the three worthy farmers rose to take their departure.
It was Mr. Furze's custom on Sunday to go to sleep for an hour
between dinner and tea upstairs in what was called the drawing-room,
while Mrs. Furze sat and read, or said she read, a religious book.
On hot summer afternoons Mr. Furze always took off his coat before
he had his nap, and sometimes divested himself of his waistcoat.
When the coat and waistcoat were taken off, Mrs. Furze invariably
drew down the blinds. She had often remonstrated with her husband
for appearing in his shirt-sleeves, and objected to the neighbours
seeing him in this costume. There was a sofa in the room, but it
was horsehair, with high ends both alike, not comfortable, which
were covered with curious complications called antimacassars, that
slipped off directly they were touched, so that anybody who leaned
upon them was engaged continually in warfare with them, picking them
up from the floor or spreading them out again. There was also an
easy chair, but it was not easy, for it matched the sofa in
horsehair, and was so ingeniously contrived, that directly a person
placed himself in it, it gently shot him forwards. Furthermore, it
had special antimacassars, which were a work of art, and Mrs. Furze
had warned Mr. Furze off them. "He would ruin them," she said, "if
he put his head upon them." So a windsor chair with a high back was
always carried by Mr. Furze upstairs after dinner, together with a
common kitchen chair, and on these he slumbered. The room was never
used, save on Sundays and when Mrs. Furze gave a tea-party. It
overlooked the market-place, and, although on a Sunday afternoon the
High Street was almost completely silent, Mrs. Furze liked to sit so
near the window that she could peep out at the edge of the blind
when she was not dozing. It is true no master nor mistress ever
stirred at that hour, but every now and then a maidservant could be
seen, and she was better than nothing for the purpose of criticism.
A round table stood in the middle of the room with a pink vase on it
containing artificial flowers, and on the mantelpiece were two other
pink vases and two great shells. Over the mantelpiece was a
portrait of His Majesty King George the Fourth in his robes, and
exactly opposite was a picture of the Virgin Mary, which was old and
valuable. Mr. Furze bought it at a sale with some other things, and
did not quite like it. It savoured of Popery, which he could not
abide; but the parson one day saw it and told Mrs. Furze it was
worth something; whereupon she put it in a new maple frame, and had
it hung in a place of honour second to that occupied by King George,
and so arranged that he and the Virgin were always looking at one
another. On the other side of the room were a likeness of Mr. Eaton
in hunting array, with the dogs, and a mezzotint of the Deluge.
Mr. Furze had just awaked on the Sunday afternoon following the day
of which the history is partly given in the first chapter.
"My dear," said his wife, "I have been thinking a good deal of
Catharine. She is not quite what I could wish."
"No," replied Mr. Furze, with a yawn.
"To begin with, she uses bad language. I was really quite shocked
yesterday to hear the extremely vulgar word, almost--almost,--I do
not know what to call it--profane, I may say, which she applied to
her dog when talking of it to Mr. Gosford. Then she goes in the
foundry; and I firmly believe that all the money which has been
spent on her music is utterly thrown away."
"The thing is--what is to be done?"
"Now, I have a plan."
In order to make Mrs. Furze's plan fully intelligible, it may be as
well to explain that, up to the year 1840, the tradesmen of
Eastthorpe had lived at their shops. But a year or two before that
date some houses had been built at the north end of the town and
called "The Terrace." A new doctor had taken one, the brewer
another, and a third had been taken by the grocer, a man reputed to
be very well off, who not only did a large retail business, but
supplied the small shops in the villages round.
"Well, my dear, what is your plan?"
"Your connection is extending, and you want more room. Now, why
should you not move to the Terrace? If we were to go there,
Catharine would be withdrawn from the society in which she at
present mixes. You could not continue to give market dinners, and
gradually her acquaintance with the persons whom you now invite
would cease. I believe, too, that if we were in the Terrace Mrs.
Colston would call on us. As the wife of a brewer, she cannot do so
now. Then there is just another thing which has been on my mind for
a long time. It is settled that Mr. Jennings is to leave, for he
has accepted an invitation from the cause at Ely. I do not think we
shall like anybody after Mr. Jennings, and it would be a good
opportunity for us to exchange the chapel for the church. We have
attended the chapel regularly, but I have always felt a kind of
prejudice there against us, or at least against myself, and there is
no denying that the people who go to church are vastly more genteel,
and so are the service and everything about it--the vespers--the
bells--somehow there is a respectability in it."
Mr. Furze was silent. At last he said, "It is a very serious
matter. I must consider it in all its bearings."
It WAS a serious matter, and he did consider it--but not in all its
bearings, for he did nothing but think about it, so that it
enveloped him, and he could not put himself at such a distance that
he could see its real shape. He was now well over fifty and was the
kind of person with whom habits become firmly fixed. He was fixed
even in his dress. He always wore a white neckcloth, and his shirt
was frilled--fashions which were already beginning to die out in
Eastthorpe. His manner of life was most regular: breakfast at
eight, dinner at one, tea at five, supper at nine with a pipe
afterwards, was his unvarying round. He never left Eastthorpe for a
holiday, and read no books of any kind. He was a most respectable
member of a Dissenting congregation, but he was not a member of the
church, and was never seen at the week-night services or the prayer-
meetings. He went through the ceremony of family worship morning
and evening, but he did not pray extempore, as did the elect, and
contented himself with reading prayers from a book called "Family
Devotions." The days were over for Eastthorpe when a man like Mr.
Furze could be denounced, a man who paid his pew-rent regularly, and
contributed to the missionary societies. The days were over when
any expostulations could be addressed to him, or any attempts made
to bring him within the fold, and Mr. Jennings therefore called on
him, and religion was not mentioned. It may seem extraordinary
that, without convictions based on any reasoning process, Mr.
Furze's outward existence should have been so correct and so moral.
He had passed through the usually stormy period of youth without
censure. It is true he was married young, but before his marriage
nobody had ever heard a syllable against him, and, after marriage,
he never drank a drop too much, and never was guilty of a single
dishonest action. Day after day passed by like all preceding days,
in unbroken, level succession, without even the excitement of
meeting-house emotion. Naturally, therefore, his wife's proposals
made him uneasy, and even alarmed him. He shrank from them
unconsciously, and yet his aversion was perfectly wise; more so,
perhaps, than any action for which he could have assigned a definite
motive. With men like Mr. Furze the unconscious reason, which is
partly a direction by past and forgotten experiences, and partly
instinct, is often more to be trusted than any mental operation,
strictly so-called. An attempt to use the mind actively on subjects
which are too large, or with which it has not been accustomed to
deal, is pretty nearly sure to mislead. He knew, or it knew,
whatever we like to call it, that to break him from his surroundings
meant that he himself was to be broken, for they were a part of him.
His wife attacked him again the next day. She was bent upon moving,
and it is only fair to her to say that she did really wish to go for
Catharine's sake. She loved the child in her own way, but she also
wanted to go for many other reasons.
"Well, my dear, what have you to say to my little scheme?"
"How about my dinner and tea?"
"Come home to the Terrace. How far is it?"
"Ten minutes' walk."
"An hour every day, in all weathers; and then there's the expense."
"As to the expense, I am certain we should save in the long run,
because you would not be expected to be continually asking people to
"I am afraid that the business might suffer."
"Nonsense! In what way, my dear? Your attention will be more fixed
upon it than it can be with the parlour always behind you."
There was something in that, and Mr. Furze was perplexed. He was
not sufficiently well educated to know that something, and a great
deal, too, can be said for anything, and he had not arrived at that
callousness to argument which is the last result of culture.
"Yes, but I was thinking that perhaps if we leave off chapel and go
to church some of our customers may not like it."
"Now, my good man, Furze, why you know you have as many customers
who go to church as to chapel."
"Ah! but those who go to chapel may drop off."
"Why should they? We have plenty of customers who go to church.
They don't leave us because we are Dissenters, and, as there are
five times as many church people as Dissenters, your connection will
Mrs. Furze was unanswerable, but her poor husband, after all, was
right. The change, when it took place, did not bring more people to
the shop, and some left who were in the habit of coming. His dumb,
dull presentiment was a prophecy, and his wife's logic was nothing
"Then there are all the rooms here; what shall we do with them?"
"I have told you; you want more space. Besides, you do not make
half enough show. You ought to go with the times. Why, at Cross's
at Cambridge their upstairs windows are hung full of spades and hoes
and such things, and you can see it is business up to the garret. I
should turn the parlour into a counting-house. It isn't the proper
thing for you to be standing always at that pokey little desk at the
end of the counter with a pen behind your ear. Turn the parlour, I
say, into a counting-house, and come out when Tom finds it necessary
to call you. That makes a much better impression. The rooms above
the drawing-room might be used for lighter goods, so as not to
weight the floors too much."
Mr. Furze was not sentimental, but he shuddered. In the big front
bedroom his father and he had been born. The first thing he could
remember was having measles there, and watching day by day, when he
was a little better, what went on in the street below. His brothers
and sisters were also born there. He remembered how his mother was
shut up there, and he was not allowed to enter; how, when he tried
the door, Nurse Judkins came and said he must be a good boy and go
away, and how he heard a little cry, and was told he had a new
sister, and he wondered how she got in. In that room his father had
died. He was very ill for a long time, and again Nurse Judkins
came. He sat up with his father there night after night, and heard
the church clock sound all the hours as the sick man lay waiting for
his last. He rallied towards the end, and, being very pious, he
made his son sit down by the bedside and read to him the ninety-
first Psalm. He then blessed his boy in that very room, and five
minutes afterwards he had rushed from it, choked with sobbing when
the last breath was drawn. He did not relish the thought of taking
down the old four-post bedstead and putting rakes and shovels in its
place, but all he could say was -
"I don't quite fall in with it."
"WHY not? Now, my dear, I will make a bargain with you. If you can
assign a good reason, I will give it up; but, if you cannot, then,
of course, we ought to go, because _I_ have plenty of reasons for
going. Nothing can be fairer than that."
Mr. Furze was not quite clear about the "ought," although it was so
fair, but he was mute, and, after a pause, went into his shop. An
accident decided the question. Catharine was the lightest sleeper
in the house, notwithstanding her youth. Two nights after this
controversy she awoke suddenly and smelt something burning. She
jumped out of bed, flung her dressing-gown over her, opened her
door, and found the landing full of smoke. Without a moment's
hesitation she rushed out and roused her parents. They were both
bewildered, and hesitated, ejaculating all sorts of useless things.
Catharine was impatient.
"Now, then, not a second; upstairs through Jane's bedroom, out into
the gutter, and through Hopkins's attic. You cannot go downstairs."
Still there was trembling and indecision.
"But the tin box," gasped Mr. Furze; "it is in the wardrobe. I must
Catharine replied by literally driving them before her. They picked
up the maid-servant, crept behind the high parapet, and were soon in
safety. By this time the smoke was pouring up thick and fast,
although no flame had appeared. Suddenly Catharine cried -
"But where is Tom?"
Tom was the assistant, and slept in an offset at the back.
Underneath him was the kitchen, and beyond was the lower offset of
the scullery. Catharine darted towards the window.
"Catharine!" shrieked her mother, "where are you going? You cannot;
you are not dressed."
But she answered not a word, and had vanished before anybody could
arrest her. The smoke was worse, and almost suffocating, but she
wrapped her face and nose in her woollen gown, and reached Tom's
door. He never slept with it fastened, and the amazed youth was
awakened by a voice which he knew to be that of Miss Furze. Escape
by the way she had come was hopeless. The staircase was now opaque.
Fortunately Tom's casement, instead of being in the side wall, was
at the end, and the drop to the scullery roof was not above four
feet. Catharine reached it easily, and, Tom coming after her,
helped her to scramble down into the yard. The gate was unbarred,
and in another minute they were safe with their neighbours. The
town was now stirring, and a fire-engine came, a machine which
attended fires officially, and squirted on them officially, but was
never known to do anything more, save to make the road sloppy. The
thick, brick party walls of the houses adjoining saved them, but Mr.
Furze's house was gutted from top to bottom. It was surrounded by a
crowd the next day, which stared unceasingly. The fire-engine still
operated on the ashes, and a great steam and smother arose. A
charred oak beam hung where it had always hung, but the roof had
disappeared entirely, and the walls of the old bedchamber, which had
seen so much of sweetness and of sadness, of the mysteries of love,
birth, and death, lay bare to the sky and the street.
The stone bridge was deeply recessed, and in each recess was a stone
seat. In the last recess but one, at the north end, and on the east
side, there sat daily, some few years before 1840, a blind man,
Michael Catchpole by name, selling shoelaces. He originally came
out of Suffolk, but he had lived in Eastthorpe ever since he was a
boy, and had worked for Mr. Furze's father. He was blinded by a
splash of melted iron, and was suddenly left helpless, a widower
with one boy, Tom, fifteen years old. His employer, the present Mr.
Furze, did nothing for him, save sending him two bottles of lotion
which he had heard were good for the eyes, and Mike for a time was
confounded. His club helped him so long as he was actually
suffering and confined to his house, but their pay did not last
above six weeks. In these six weeks Mike learned much. He was
brought face to face with a blank wall with the pursuer behind him--
an experience which teaches more than most books, and he was on the
point of doing what some of us have been compelled to do--that is to
say, to recognise that the worst is inevitable, throw up the arms
and bravely yield. But Mike also learned that this is not always
necessary to a man with courage, and that very often escape lies in
the last moment, the very last, when endurance seems no longer
possible. His deliverance did not burst upon him in rainbow colours
out of the sky complete. It was a very slow affair. He heard that
an old woman had died who lived in Parker's Alley and sold old
clothes, old iron, bottles, and such like trash. Parker's Alley was
not very easy to find. Going up High Street from the bridge, you
first turned to the right through Cross Street, and then to the
right again down Lock Lane, and out of Lock Lane ran the alley, a
little narrow gutter of a place, dark and squalid, paved with round
stones, through which slops of all kinds perpetually percolated, and
gave forth on the cleanest days a faint and sickening odour. Mike
thought he could buy the stock for five shillings; the rent was only
half a crown a week, and with the help of Tom, a remarkably sharp
boy, who could tell him in what condition the goods were which were
offered him for purchase, he hoped he could manage to make way. It
was a dreadful trial. The old woman had lived amongst all her
property. She had eaten and drunk and slept amidst the dirty rags
of Eastthorpe, but Mike could not. Fortunately the cottage was at
the end of the alley. One window looked out on it, but the door was
in a kind of indentation in it round the corner. On the right-hand
side of the door was the room looking into the alley, and this Mike
made his shop; on the left was a little cupboard of a living-room.
He kept the shop window open, so that no customer came through the
doorway, and he begged some scarlet geranium cuttings, which, in due
time, bloomed into brilliant colour on his sitting-room window-sill,
proclaiming that from their possessor hope and delight in life had
not departed. Alas! the enterprise was a failure. Mike was no hand
at driving hard bargains, and frequently, when the Jew from
Cambridge came round to sweep up what Mike had been unable to sell
in the town, he found himself the worse for his purchases. The
unscalable wall was again in front of him, and his foe at his heels,
closer than before, and raging for his blood. He had gone out one
morning, Tom leading him, and was passing the bank, when the cashier
ran out. Miss Foster, one of the maiden ladies who, it will be
remembered, lived in the Abbey Close, had left a sovereign on the
counter, and the cashier was exceedingly anxious to show his zeal by
promptly returning it, for Miss Foster, it will also be remembered,
was a daughter of a former partner in the bank, and still, as it was
supposed, retained some interest in it. She had gone too far,
however, and the cashier could not venture to leave his post and
follow her. Knowing Mike and Tom perfectly well, he asked Mike to
take the sovereign at once to the lady. He promptly obeyed, and was
in time to restore it to its owner before it was missed. She was
not particularly sensitive, but the sight of Mike and Tom standing
at the hall entrance rather touched her, and she rewarded them with
a shilling. She was also pleased to inquire how Mike was getting
on, and he briefly told her he did not get on in any way, save as
the most unsuccessful happily get on, and so at last terminate their
perplexities. Miss Foster, although well-to-do, kept neither
footman nor page, and a thought struck her. She abhorred male
servants, but it was very often inconvenient to send her maids on
errands. She therefore suggested to Mike that, if he and Tom could
station themselves within call, they would not only be useful, but
earn something of a livelihood. The bank wanted an odd man
occasionally, and she was sure that other people in the town would
employ him. Accordingly Mike and Tom one morning established
themselves in the recess of the bridge, after having given notice to
everybody who would be likely to assist them, and Mike set up a
stock of boot-laces and shoe-laces of all kinds. He thus managed to
pick up a trifle. He wrapped sacking round his legs to keep off the
cold as he sat, and had for a footstool a box with straw in it. He
also rigged up a little awning on some sticks to keep off the sun
and a shower, but of course when a storm came he was obliged to
retreat. He was then allowed a shelter in the bank. The dust was a
nuisance, for it was difficult to predict its capricious eddies, but
he learnt its laws at last, and how to choose his station so as to
diminish annoyance. At first he was depressed at the thought of
sitting still for so many hours with nothing to do, but he was not
left to himself so much as he anticipated. Two hours on the average
were spent on errands; then there was his dinner: Tom talked to
him; people went by and said a word or two, and thus he discovered
that a foreseen trouble may look impenetrable, but when we near it,
or become immersed in it, it is often at least semi-transparent, and
even sometimes admits a ray of sunshine. Gradually his employment
became sweet to him; he was a part of the town; he heard all its
news; it was gentle within him; even the rough boys never molested
him: he tamed a black kitten to stay with him, and a red ribbon and
a bell were provided for her by a friend. When the kitten grew to
be a cat she gravely watched under Mike's awning during his short
absences with Tom, and not a soul ever touched the property she
guarded. Country folk who came to market on Saturday invariably
saluted Mike with their kind country friendliness, and brought him
all sorts of little gifts in the shape of fruit, and even of
something more substantial when a pig was killed. Thus with Mike
time and the hour wore out the roughest day.
Two years had now passed since his accident, and Tom was about
seventeen, when Miss Catharine crossed the bridge one fine Monday
morning in June with the servant, and, as was her wont, stopped to
have a word or two with her friend Mike. Mike was always at his
best on Monday morning. Sunday was a day of rest, but he preferred
Monday. It was a delight to him to hear again the carts and the
noise of feet, and to feel that the world was alive once more.
Sunday with its enforced quietude and inactivity was a burden to
"Well, Miss Catharine, how are you to-day?"
"How did you know I was Miss Catharine? I hadn't spoken."
"Lord, Miss, I could tell. Though it's only about two years since I
lost my eyes, I could tell. I can make out people's footsteps.
What a lovely morning! What's going on now down below?"
Mike always took much interest in the wharves by the side of the
"Why, Barnes's big lighter is loading malt."
"Ah! what, the new one with the yellow band round it! that's a
beautiful lighter, that is."
Mike had never seen it.
"What days do you dislike the most? Foggy, damp, dull, dark days?"
These foggy, damp, dull, dark days were particularly distasteful to
"No, Miss, I can't say I do, for, you know, I don't see them."
"Cold, bitter days?"
"They are a bit bad; but somehow I earn more money on cold days than
on any other; how it is I don't know."
"I hate the dust."
"Ah now! that IS unpleasant, but there again, Miss, I dodge it, and
it's my belief that it wouldn't worry people half so much if they
wouldn't look at it."
"How much have you earned this morning?"
"Not a penny yet, Miss, but it will come."
"I want two pairs of shoe-laces," and Miss Catharine, selecting two
pairs, put down a fourpenny-piece, part of her pocket-money, twice
the market value of the laces, and tripped over the bridge. When
she was at dinner with her father and mother that day she suddenly
"Father, didn't Mike Catchpole lose his sight in our foundry?"
"Have you been talking with him again?" interposed Mrs. Furze. "I
wish you would not stop on the bridge as you do. It does not look
nice for a girl like you to stay and gossip with Mike."
Catharine took no notice.
"Did you ever do anything for him?"
"What an odd question!" again interposed Mrs. Furze. "What should
we do? There was his club besides, we sent him the lotion."
"Why cannot you take Tom as an apprentice?"
"Because," said her father, "there is nobody to pay the premium; you
know what that means. When a boy is bound apprentice the master has
a sum of money for teaching him the business."
Catharine did not quite comprehend, inasmuch as there were two boys
in the back shop who were paid wages, and who were learning their
trade. She was quiet for a few minutes, but presently returned to
"You MUST take Tom. Why shouldn't you give him what you give the
"Really, Catharine," said her mother, "why MUST?"
"Must!" cried the little miss--"yes, I say MUST, because Mike lost
his eyes for you, and you've done nothing for him; it's a shame."
"Catharine, Catharine!" said her father, but in accordance with his
usual habit he said nothing more, and the mother, also in accordance
with her usual habit, collapsed.
Miss Catharine generally, even at that early age, carried all before
her, much to her own detriment. Her parents unfortunately were
perpetually making a brief show of resistance and afterwards
yielding. Frequently they had no pretext for resistance, for
Catharine was right and they were wrong. Consequently the child
grew up accustomed to see everything bend to her own will, and
accustomed to believe that what she willed was in accordance with
the will of the universe--not a healthy education, for the time is
sure to come when a destiny which will not bend stands in the path
before us, and we are convinced by the roughest processes that what
we purpose is to a very small extent the purpose of Nature. The
shock then is serious, especially if the collision be postponed till
mature years. The parental opposition, such as it was, was worse
than none, because it enabled her to feel her strength. She
continued to press her point, and not only was victorious, but was
empowered to tell Mike that his son would be taken into the foundry
and paid five shillings and sixpence a week--"a most special case,"
as Mr. Furze told Mike, in order to stimulate his gratitude.
Mike was now able to find his way about by himself, but before the
date of the first chapter in this history he had left the bridge,
and Tom supported him.
The morning after the fire beheld the Furze family at breakfast with
the hospitable Hopkins. They had saved scarcely any clothes, but
Tom and his master were equipped from a ready-made shop. The women
had to remain indoors in borrowed garments till they could be made
presentable by the dressmaker. Mr. Furze was so unfitted to deal
with events which did not follow in anticipated, regular order, that
he was bewildered. He and Tom went out to look at the ruins, and
everything which had to be done seemed to crowd in upon him at once,
one thing tumbling incessantly over the other, and nothing staying
long enough before him to be settled. Although his business had
been fairly large, he had nothing of the faculty of the captain or
the manager, who can let details alone and occupy himself with
principles. He had a stock of copper bolt-stave in the front shop,
and he poked about and pestered the men to know if any of it could
be found melted. Then it occurred to him the next instant, and
before the inquiry about the bolt-stave could be answered, that he
had lost his account-books, and he began to try to recollect what
one of his principal customers owed him. Before his memory was
fairly exercised on the subject it struck him that the men in the
foundry--which was untouched--would not know what to do, and he
hurried in, but came out again without leaving any directions. At
last he became so confused that he would have broken down if Tom had
not come to the rescue, and gently laid hold of his arm.
"Let us go into the Bell"; and into the Bell they went, into the
large, empty coffee-room, very quiet at that time of the morning.
"We are better here," said Tom, "if we want to know what we ought to
do. The first thing is to write to the insurance company."
"Of course, of course!"
"We will do that at once; I will write the letter, and you sign it."
In less than ten minutes this stage of the business was passed.
"The next thing is to find a shop while they are rebuilding."
That was not quite so easy a matter. There was not one in the High
Street to be let. At last an idea struck Tom.
"There is the Moot Hall--underneath it, I mean. We shall have to
buy fittings, but I will have them so arranged that they will do for
the new building. All that is necessary is to obtain leave; but we
shall be sure to get it: only half of it is wanted on market days,
and that's the part that isn't shut off. We'll then write to
Birmingham and Sheffield about the stock. We'd better have a few
posters stuck about at once, saying that business will be carried on
in the Hall for the present."
Mr. Furze saw the complexity unravel itself, and the knot in his
head began to loosen, but he did not quite like to reflect that he
owed his relief to Tom, and that Tom had seen his agitation.
Accordingly, when a proof of the poster was brought, he was the
master, most particularly the master, and observed with much dignity
and authority that it ought not to have been set up without the
benefit of his revision; that it would not do by any means as it
stood, and that it had better be left with him.
Mr. and Mrs. Hopkins insisted upon continuing their hospitality
until a new home could be found, and Mrs. Furze urged her project of
the Terrace with such eagerness, that at last her husband consented.
"I think," said Mrs. Furze, when the debate was concluded, "that
Catharine had better go away for a short time until we are settled
in the Terrace and the shop is rebuilt. She would not be of much
use in the new house, and would only knock herself up."
That was not Mrs. Furze's reason. She had said nothing to
Catharine, but she instinctively dreaded her hostility to the
scheme. Mr. Furze knew that was not Mrs. Furze's reason, but he
accepted it. Mrs. Furze knew it was not her own reason, but she
also accepted it, and believed it to be the true reason. Such
contradictions are quite possible in that mystery of mysteries the
"My dear Catharine," quoth her mother that evening, "you look
worried and done up. No wonder, considering what we have gone
through. A change would do you good, and you had better go and stay
with your aunt at Ely till we have a roof of our own over our heads
once more. She will be delighted to see you."
Catharine particularly objected to her aunt at Ely. She was a
maiden lady and elder sister to Mrs. Furze. She had a small
annuity, had turned herself into a most faithful churchwoman, and
went to live at Ely because it was cheap and a cathedral city.
Every day, morning and afternoon, was Aunt Matilda to be seen at the
cathedral services, and frequently she was the only attendant, save
the choir and officials.
"Why do you want me out of the way?" said Catharine, dismissing
without the least notice the alleged pretext.
"I have told you, my dear."
"I cannot go to Ely. If you wish me to go anywhere, I will go to
"My dear, that is not a sufficient change for you. Ely is a
different climate, and I cannot consent to quartering you on a
stranger for so long."
"Mrs. Bellamy will not object. Will the new house be like the old
"Well, really, may dear, nothing at present is quite determined; no
doubt your father will take the opportunity of making a few
"My bedroom, I hope, will be what it was before, and in the same
"Oh, I--I trust there will be no serious alteration, except what--
what will be agreeable to us all, but your father is so much
bothered now; perhaps you will have a room which is a little larger,
but I really do not know. I cannot say anything: how can you
EXPECT me to say anything just at present, my dear child?"
Again there was the same contradiction. Mrs. Furze knew this was
wrong, but she believed it was right. There was, however, a slight
balance in favour of what she knew against what she believed, and
she hastened to appease her conscience by a mental promise that, as
soon as possible, she would tell Catharine that, upon full
consideration, they had determined, &c., &c. That would put
everything straight morally. Had Catharine put her question
yesterday--so Mrs. Furze argued--the answer now given would have
been perfectly right. She was doing nothing more than giving a
reply which was a trifle in arrear of the facts, and, if she
rectified it at the earliest date, the impropriety would be nothing.
It is sometimes thought that it is those who habitually speak the
truth who are most easily deceived. It is not quite so. If the
deceivers are not entirely deceived, they profess acquiescence, and
perpetual acquiescence induces half-deception. It is, perhaps, more
correct to say that the word deception has no particular meaning for
them, and implies a standard which is altogether inapplicable.
There is a tacit agreement through all society to say things which
nobody believes, and that being the constitution under which we
live, it is absurd to talk of truth or falsity in the strict sense
of the terms. A thing is true when it is in accordance with the
system and on a level with it, and false when it is below it. Every
now and then at rarest intervals a creature is introduced to us who
speaks the veritable reality and wakes in us the slumbering
conviction of universal imposture. We know that he is not as other
men are; we look into his eyes and see that they penetrate us
through and through, but we cannot help ourselves, and we jabber to
him as we jabber to the rest of the world. It was ridiculous that
her mother should talk as she did to Catharine. Mrs. Furze was
perfectly aware that she was not deluding her daughter; but she
assumed that the delusion was complete.
"Well, mother, I say I cannot go to Ely."
Catharine again had her own way. She went to Mrs. Bellamy's, and
Mrs. Furze, after having told Mrs. Bellamy what was going to happen,
begged her not to say anything to Catharine about it.
Mr. Bellamy's farm of Westchapel--Chapel Farm it was usually called-
-lay about half a mile from Lampson's Ford, and about five miles
from Eastthorpe. The road from Eastthorpe running westerly and
parallel with the river at a distance of about a mile from it sends
out at the fourth milestone a byroad to the south, which crosses the
river by a stone bridge, and there is no doubt that before the
bridge existed there was a ford, and that there was also a chapel
hard by where people probably commended their souls to God before
taking the water. In the angle formed by the main road, the lane,
and the river, lay Chapel Farm. The house stood on a gentle slope,
just enough to lift it above the range of the worst of winter
floods, and faced the south. It was not in the lane, but on a kind
of private road or cart-track which issued from it; went through a
gate and under a hedge; expanded itself in an open space of
carefully weeded gravel just opposite the front door, and became a
more insignificant and much rougher track on the other side, passing
by the stacks into the field, and finally disappearing altogether.
From the hand-post on the main road to the gate was half a mile, and
from the gate to the farm nearly another half-mile. In driving from
Chapel Farm you feel, when you reach the gate, you are in the busy
world again, and when you reach the hand-post and turn to Eastthorpe
you are in the full tide of life, although not a soul is to be seen.
Opposite the house were the farm-buildings and the farmyard. The
gate to the right of the farm-buildings led into the meadow, and
thus anybody sitting in the front rooms could see the barges slowly
and silently towed from the sea to the uplands and back again, the
rising ground beyond, and so on to Thingleby, whose little spire
just emerged above the horizon. The river, deep and sluggish for
the most part, was fringed with willows on the side opposite the
towing-path. At the bridge, just where the ford used to be, it was
broken into shallows, over which the stream slipped faster, and here
and there there were not above two or three feet of water, so that
sometimes the barges were almost aground. The farmhouse was not
quite ideal. It was plain red brick, now grey and lichen-covered,
about a hundred years old; the windows were white-painted, with
heavy frames, and the only attempt at ornament was a kind of porch
over the front door, supported by brackets, but with no sides to it.
Nevertheless, it had its charms. Save on the northern side, where
it was backed by the huge elms in the home-field, it lay bare to the
winds, breezy, airy, full of light. In summer the front door was
always open, and even when it was shut in cold weather no knocker
was ever used. If a visitor came by daylight he was always seen,
and if after dark he was heard. The garden, which lay on the west
side of the house and at the back, was rather warm in hot weather,
but was delicious. Under the wall on the north side the apricot and
Orleans plum ripened well, and round to the right was the dairy,
always cool, sweet, and clean, with the big elder trees before the
The mistress of the house, Mrs. Bellamy, was not a very robust
woman. She was generally ailing, but never very seriously ill. She
had had two children, but they had both died. Mrs. Bellamy's mind,
unoccupied with parental cares, with politics, or with literature,
let itself loose upon her house, her dairy, and her fowls. She
established a series of precautions to prevent dirt, and the
precautions themselves became objects to be protected. There was a
rough scraper intervening on behalf of the black-leaded scraper;
there was a large mat to preserve the mat beyond it: and although a
drugget coveted the stair carpet, Mrs. Bellamy would have been
sorely vexed if she had found a footmark upon it. If a friend was
expected she put some straw outside the garden gate, and she asked
him in gentle tones when he dismounted if he would kindly "just take
the worst off" there. The kitchen was scoured and scrubbed till it
was fleckless. It was theoretically the living-room, and a defence
for the parlour, but it also was defended in its turn like the
scraper, and the back kitchen, which had a fireplace, was used for
cooking, the fire in the state kitchen not being lighted in summer
time. Partly Mrs. Bellamy's excessive neatness was due to the need
of an occupation. She brooded much, and the moment she had nothing
to do she became low-spirited and unwell. Partly also it was due to
a touch of poetry. She polished her verses in beeswax and
turpentine, and sought on her floors and tables for that which the
poet seeks in Eden or Atlantis. It must not be imagined that
because she was so particular she was stingy. She was one of the
most open-handed creatures that ever breathed. She loved plenty.
The jug was always full to overflowing with beer, and the dishes
were always heaped up with good things, so that nobody was ever
afraid of robbing his neighbour.
Catharine was never weary of Chapel Farm. She was busy from morning
to night, and the living creatures on it were her especial delight.
Naturally, as is the case with all country girls, the circumference
of her knowledge embraced a region which a town matron would have
veiled from her daughters with the heaviest curtains.
"How's the foal going on?" said Mrs. Bellamy to her husband one
evening when he came in to supper.
"Oh, the foal's all right; he'll be just like his father--just the
same broad hind-quarters. Lord! we shall hardly get him into the
shafts. You remember, Miss Catharine, as I showed you what
extrornary quarters King Tom had when he came here? It is a curious
thing, there ain't one of his foals that hasn't got that mark of
him. I allus likes a horse, I do, that leaves his mark strong. If
you pay pretty heavy you ought to have something for your money.
The mother, though, is in a bad way: my belief is she'll have milk-
"That mare never seemed healthy to me," said Catharine.
"No; she was brought up anyhow. When she was about a fortnight old
her mother died. They didn't know how to manage her, and half
"I don't believe in starvin' creatures when they are young," said
Mrs. Bellamy, who was herself a very small eater.
"Nor I, either, and yet that mare, although, as you say, Miss
Catharine, she was never healthy, has the most wonderful pluck, as
you know. I remember once I had two ton o' muck in the waggon, and
we were stuck. Jack and Blossom couldn't stir it, and, after a bit,
chucked up. I put in Maggie--you should have seen her! She moved
it, a'most all herself, aye, as far as from here to the gate, and
then of course the others took it up. That's blood! What a thing
blood is!--you may load it, but you can't break it. Never a touch
of the whip would she stand, and yet it's quite true she isn't
right, and never was. Maybe the foal will be like her; the shape
goes after the father mostly, but the sperrit and temper after the
The next morning Maggie was worse. Catharine was in the stable as
soon as anybody was stirring, and the poor creature was trembling
violently. She was watched with the most tender care, and when she
became too weak to stand to eat or drink she was slung with soft
bands and pads. Her groans were dreadful. After about a week of
cruel misery she died. It was evening, and Catharine sat down and
looked at what was left of her friend. She had never before even
partly realised what death meant. She was too young to feel its
full force. The time was yet to come when death would mean despair-
-when the insolubility of the problem would induce carelessness to
all other problems and their solution. Furthermore, this was only a
horse. Still, the contrast struck her between the corpse before her
and Maggie with her bright eyes and vivid force. What had become of
all that strength; what had become of HER?--and the girl mused, as
countless generations had mused before her. Then there was the
pathos of it. She thought of the brave animal which she had so
often seen, apparently for the mere love of difficulty, struggling
as if its sinews would crack. She thought of its glad recognition
when she came into the stable, and of its evident affection, half
human, or perhaps wholly human, and imprisoned in a form which did
not permit full expression. She looked at its body as it lay there
extended, quiet, pleading as it were against the doom of man and of
beast, and tears came to her eyes as she noted the appeal--tears not
altogether of sorrow, but partly of revolt.
Mr. Bellamy came in.
"Ah, Miss Catharine, I don't wonder at it. There's many a human as
I should less have missed than Maggie. I can't make out at times
why we should love the beasts so as perish."
"Perhaps they don't."
"Really, Miss, of course they do. What's the Lord to do with all
the dead horses and cows?"
Catharine thought, "Or with the dead men and women," but she said
nothing. The subject was new to her. She took her scissors and cut
off a wisp of Maggie's beautiful mane, twisted it up, put it
carefully in a piece of paper, and placed it in a little pocket-book
which she always carried. The next morning as soon as it was
daylight a man came over from Eastthorpe; Maggie was hoisted into a
cart, her legs dangling down outside, and was driven away to be
converted into food for dogs.
One of Catharine's favourite haunts was a meadow by the bridge. She
was not given to reading, but she liked a stroll and, as there were
plenty of rats, the dog enjoyed the stroll too. Not a week after
Maggie's death she had wandered to this point without her usual
companion. A barge had gone down just before she arrived, and for
some reason or other had made fast to the bank about a quarter of a
mile below her on the side opposite to the towing-path. She sat
down under a willow with her face to the water and back to the sun,
for it was very hot, and in a few minutes she was half dozing.
Suddenly she started, and one of the bargemen stood close by her.
"Hullo, my beauty! Why, you was asleep! Wot's the time?"
"I haven't a watch."
"Haven't a watch! Now that's a shame; if you was mine, my love, you
should 'ave one o' gold."
"It is time I was at home," said Catharine, rising with as much
presence of mind as she could muster; "and I should think it must be
"Damn my dinner-hour, when I've got the chance of sittin' alongside
a gal with sich eyes as yourn, my beauty. Why, you make me all of a
tremble. Sit down for a bit."
Catharine moved away, but the bargee caught her round the waist.
"Sit down, I tell yer, jist for a minute. Who's a-goin' to hurt
It was of no use to resist, and she did not scream. She sat down,
and his arm relaxed its hold to pick up his pipe which had fallen on
the other side. Instantly, without a second's hesitation she leaped
up, and, before his heavy bulk could lift itself, she had turned and
rushed along the bank. Had she made for the bridge, he would have
overtaken her in the lane, but she went the other way. About fifty
yards down the stream, and in the direction of Chapel Farm, was a
deep hole in the river bed, about five feet wide. On the other side
of it there were not more than eighteen inches of water at any
point. Catharine knew that hole well, as the haunt of the jack and
the perch. She reached it, cleared it at a bound, and alighted on
the bit of shingle just beyond it. Her pursuer came up and stared
at her silently, with his mouth half open. Just at that moment the
instant sound of wheels was heard, and he slowly sauntered back to
his barge. Catharine boldly waded over the intervening shallows,
and was across just as the cart reached the top of the bridge, but
her shoes remained behind her in the mud. It proved to be her
father's cart, and to contain Tom, who had been over to Thingleby
that morning to see what chance there was of getting any money out
of a blacksmith who was largely in Mr. Furze's debt. He saw there
was something wrong, and dismounted.
"Why, Miss Catharine, you are all wet! What is the matter?"
"I slipped down."
She could not tell the truth, although usually so straightforward.
Tom looked at her inquiringly as if he was not quite sure, but there
was something in her face which forbade further investigation.
"You've lost your shoes; you cannot walk home; will you let me give
you a lift to Chapel Farm?"
"They do not matter a straw: it is grass nearly the whole way."
"I'll fish them out, if you will show me where they are."
"Carried down by this time ever so far."
"But you will hurt your feet; it isn't all grass; you had better get
She thought suddenly of the bargee again, and reflected that the
barge might still be moored where it was an hour ago.
"Very well, then, I will go."
She essayed to put her foot upon the step, but the mud on her
stocking was greasy, and she fell backwards. Tom caught her in his
arms, and a strange thrill passed through him when he felt that the
whole weight of her body rested on him. Many a man there is who can
call to mind, across forty years, a silly passage like this in his
life. His hair has whitened; all passion ought long ago to have
died out of him; thousands of events of infinitely greater
consequence have happened; he has read much in philosophy and
religion, and has forgotten it all, and a slip on the ice when
skating together, or a stumble on the stair, or the pressure of a
hand prolonged just for a second in parting, is felt with its
original intensity, and the thought of it drives warm blood once
more through the arteries.
"Let me get in first," said Tom, putting some straw on the step.
He got into the cart, and he gently pulled her up, relinquishing her
very carefully, and, in fact, not until after his assistance was no
"How DID you manage it?"
"You know how these things happen: it was all-over in a minute:
how are father and mother?"
"They are very well."
There was a pause for a minute or two.
"Well, how are things going on at Eastthorpe?"
"Oh, pretty well; the building is three parts done. I don't think,
Miss Catharine, you'll ever go back to the old spot again."
"What do you mean?"
"I don't think your father and mother will leave the Terrace."
"Very likely," she replied, decisively. "It will be better,
perhaps, that they should not. I am sure that whatever they do will
be quite right."
"Of course, Miss Catharine, but _I_ shall be sorry. I wish my
bedroom could have been built up again between the old walls. In
that bedroom you saved my life."
"Rubbish! Even suppose _I_ had done it, as you say, I should have
done just the same for my silkworms, and then, somehow when I do a
thing on a sudden like that, I always feel as if _I_ had not done
it. I am sure I didn't do it."
The last few words were spoken in a strangely different tone, much
softer and sweeter.
"I don't quite understand."
"I mean," said Catharine, speaking slowly, as if half surprised at
what had occurred to her, and half lost in looking at it--"I mean
that I do not a bit reflect at such times upon what I do. It is as
if something or somebody took hold of me, and, before I know where I
am, the thing is done, and yet there is no something nor somebody--
at least, so far as I can see. It is wonderful, for after all it is
I who do it."
Tom looked intently at her. She seemed to be taking no notice of
him and to be talking to herself. He had never seen her in that
mood before, although he had often seen her abstracted and heedless
of what was passing. In a few moments she recovered herself, and
the usual everyday accent returned with an added hardness.
"Here we are at Chapel Farm. Mind you say nothing to father or
mother; it will only frighten them."
Mrs. Bellamy came to the gate.
"Lor' bless the child! wherever have you been!"
"Slipped into the water and left my shoes behind me, that's all";
and she ran indoors, jumping from mat to mat, and without even so
much as bidding Tom goodbye, who rode home, not thinking much about
his business, but lost in a muddle of most contradictory
presentations, a constant glimmer of Catharine's ankles, wonderment
at her accident--was it all true?--the strange look when she
disclaimed the honour of his rescue and expounded her philosophy,
and the fall between his shoulders. When he slept, his sleep was
usually dreamless, but that night he dreamed as he hardly ever
dreamed before. He perpetually saw the foot on the step, and she
was slipping into his arms continually, until he awoke with the sun.
Catherine went home, or rather to the Terrace, soon afterwards, and
found that there was no intention of removing to the High Street,
although, notwithstanding their three months' probation in the
realms of respectability, Mrs. Colston had not called, and Mrs.
Furze was beginning to despair. The separation from the chapel was
nearly complete. It had been done by degrees. On wet days Mrs.
Furze went to church because it was a little nearer, and Mr. Furze
went to chapel; then Mrs. Furze went on fine days, and, after a
little interval, Mr. Furze went on a fine day. A fund had been set
going to "restore" the church: the heavy roof was to be removed,
and a much lighter and handsomer roof covered with slate was to be
substituted; the stonework of many of the windows, which the rector
declared had begun to show "signs of incipient decay," was to be cut
out and replaced with new, so as to make, to use the builder's
words, "a good job of it," and a memorial window was to be put in
near the great west window with its stained glass, the Honourable
Mr. Eaton having determined upon this mode of commemorating the
services of his nephew, Lieutenant Eaton, who had died of dysentery
in India, brought on by inattention to tropical rules of eating and
drinking, particularly the latter. Oliver Cromwell, it was said,
had stabled his horses in the church. This, however, is doubtful,
for the quantity of stable accommodation he must have required
throughout the country, to judge from vergers and guidebooks, must
have been much larger than his armies would have needed, if they had
been entirely composed of cavalry; and the evidence is not strong
that his horses were so ubiquitous. It was further affirmed that,
during the Cromwellian occupation, the west window was mutilated;
but there was also a tradition that, in the days of George the
Third, there were complaints of dinginess and want of light, and
that part of the stained glass was removed and sold. Anyhow, there
was stained glass in the Honourable Mr. Eaton's mansion wonderfully
like that at Eastthorpe. It was now proposed to put new stained
glass in the defective lights. Some of the more advanced of the
parishioners, including the parson and the builder, thought the old
glass had better all come out, "the only way to make a good job of
it"; but at an archidiaconal visitation the archdeacon protested,
and he was allowed to have his own way. Then there was the warming,
and this was a great difficulty, because no natural exit for the
pipe could be found. At last it was settled to have three stoves,
one at the west end of the nave, and one in each transept. With
regard to the one in the nave there was no help for it but to bore a
hole through the wall. The builder undertook "to give the pipe
outside a touch of the Gothic, so that it wouldn't look bad," and as
for the other stoves, there were two windows just handy. By cutting
out the head of Matthew in one and that of Mark in another, the
thing was done, and, as Mrs. Colston observed, "the general confused
effect remained the same." There were one or two other
improvements, such as pointing all over outside, also strongly
recommended by the builder, and the shifting some of the tombs, and
repairing the tracery, so that altogether the sum to be raised was
considerable. Mrs. Colston was one of the collectors, and Mrs.
Furze called on her after two months' residence in the Terrace, and
intimated her wish to subscribe. Mrs. Colston took the money very
affably, but still she did not return the visit.
Meanwhile Mrs. Furze was doing everything she could to make herself
genteel. The Terrace contained about a dozen houses; the two in the
centre were higher than the rest, and above them, flanked by a large
scroll at either end, were the words "THE TERRACE," moulded out of
the stucco; up to each door was a flight of stone steps; before each
front window on the dining-room floor and the floor above was a
balcony protected by cast-iron filigree work, and between each house
and the road was a little piece of garden surrounded by dwarf wall
and arrow-head railings. Mrs. Furze's old furniture had, nearly
all, been discarded or sold, and two new carpets had been bought.
The one in the dining-room was yellow and chocolate, and the one
upstairs in the drawing-room was a lovely rose-pattern, with large
full-blown roses nine inches in diameter in blue vases. The heavy
chairs had disappeared, and nice light elegant chairs were bought,
insufficient, however, for heavy weights, for one of Mr. Furze's
affluent customers being brought to the Terrace as a special mark of
respect, and sitting down with a flop, as was his wont, smashed the
work of art like card-board and went down on the door with a curse,
vowing inwardly never again to set foot in Furze's Folly, as he
called it. The pictures, too, were all renewed. The "Virgin Mary"
and "George the Fourth" went upstairs to the spare bedroom, and some
new oleographs, "a rising art," Mrs. Furze was assured, took their
places. They had very large margins, gilt frames, and professed to
represent sunsets, sunrises, and full moons, at Tintern, Como, and
other places not named, which Mrs. Furze, in answer to inquiries,
always called "the Continent."
Mr. Furze had had a longish walk one morning, and was rather tired.
When he came home to dinner he found the house upset by one of its
periodical cleanings, and consequently dinner was served upstairs,
and not in the half-underground breakfast-room, as it was called,
which was the real living-room of the family. Mr. Furze, being late
and weary, prolonged his stay at home till nearly four o'clock, and,
notwithstanding a rebuke from Mrs. Furze, insisted on smoking his
pipe in the dining-room. Presently he took off his coat and put his
feet on a chair, Sunday fashion.
"My dear," said his wife. "I don't want to interfere with your
comfort, but don't you think you might give up that practice of
sitting in your shirt-sleeves now we have moved?"
"Why because we've moved?" interposed Catharine.
"Catharine, I did not address you; you have no tact, you do not
"Coat doesn't smell so much of smoke," replied Mr. Furze, giving, of
course, any reason but the true reason.
"My dear if that is the reason, put on another coat, or, better
still, buy a proper coat and a smoking-cap. Nothing could be more
appropriate than some of those caps we saw at the restoration
"Really, mother, would you like to see father in a velvet jacket and
one of those red-tasselled things on his head? I prefer the shirt-
"No doubt you do; you are a Furze, every inch of you."
There is no saying to what a height the quarrel would have risen if
a double knock had not been heard. A charwoman was in the passage
with a pail of water and answered the door at once, before she could
be cautioned. In an instant she appeared, apron tucked up.
"Mrs. Colston, mum," and in Mrs. Colston walked.
Mrs. Furze made a dash at her husband's clay pipe, forgetting that
its destruction would not make matters better; but she only
succeeded in upsetting the chair on which his legs rested, and in
the confusion he slipped to the ground.
"Oh, Mrs. Colston, I am so sorry you have taken us by surprise; our
house is being cleaned; pray walk upstairs--but oh dear, now I
recollect the drawing-room is also turned out; what WILL you do, and
the smell of the smoke, too!"
"Pray do not disconcert yourself," replied the brewer's wife,
patronisingly; "I do not mind the smoke, at least for a few
Mrs. Colston herself had objected strongly to calling on Mrs. Furze,
but Mr. Colston had urged it as a matter of policy, with a view to
Mr. Furze's contributions to Church revenues.
"I have come purely on a matter of business, Mrs. Furze, and will
not detain you."
Mr. Furze had retreated into a dark corner, and was putting on his
waistcoat with his back to his distinguished guest. Catharine sat
at the window quite immovable. Suddenly Mrs. Furze bethought
herself she ought to introduce her husband and daughter.
"My husband and daughter, Mrs. Colston."
Mr. Furze turned half round, put his other arm into his waistcoat,
and bowed. He had, of course, spoken to her scores of times in his
shop, but he was not supposed to have seen her till that minute.
Catharine rose, bowed, and sat down again.
"Take a chair, Mrs. Colston, take a chair," said Mr. Furze, although
he had again turned towards the curtain, and was struggling with his
coat. Mrs. Furze, annoyed that her husband had anticipated her,
pulled the easy-chair forward.
"I am afraid I deprived you of your seat," said the lady, alluding,
as Mrs. Furze had not the slightest doubt, to his tumble.
"Not a bit, ma'am, not a bit," and he moved towards Catharine,
feeling very uncomfortable, and not knowing what to do with his
hands and legs.
"We are so much obliged to you, Mrs. Furze, for your subscription to
the restoration fund, we find that a new pulpit is much required;
the old pulpit, you will remember, is much decayed in parts, and
will be out of harmony with the building when it is renovated.
Young Mr. Cawston, who is being trained as an architect--the
builder's son, you know--has prepared a design which is charming,
and the ladies wish to make the new pulpit a present solely from
themselves." The smoke got into Mrs. Colston's throat, and she
coughed. "We want you, therefore, to help us."
"With the greatest pleasure."
"Then how much shall I say? Five pounds?"
"Would you allow me just to look at the subscription list?"
interposed Mr. Furze, humbly; but before it could be handed to him
Mrs. Furze had settled the matter.
"Five pounds--oh yes, certainly, Mrs. Colston. Mr. Cawston is, I
believe, a young man of talent?"
"Undoubtedly, and he deserves encouragement. It must be most
gratifying to his father to see his son endeavouring to raise
himself from a comparatively humble occupation and surroundings into
something demanding ability and education, from a mere trade into a
Catharine shifted uneasily, raised her eyes, and looked straight at
Mrs. Colston but said nothing.
Meanwhile Mr. Furze was perusing the list with both elbows on his
knees. The difficulty with his hands and legs increased. He was
conscious to a most remarkable degree that he had them, and yet they
seemed quite foreign members of his body which he could not control.
"Well, ma'am, I think I must be going. I'll bid you good-bye."
"I have finished my errand, Mr. Furze, and I must be going too."
"Oh, pray, do not go yet," said Mrs. Furze, hoping, in the absence
of her husband, to establish some further intimacy. Mr. Furze shook
Mrs. Colston's hand with its lemon-coloured glove and departed.
Catharine noticed that Mrs. Colston looked at the glove--for the
ironmonger had left a mark on it--and that she wiped it with her
"I wish to ask," said Mrs. Furze, in her mad anxiety to secure Mrs.
Colston, "if you do not think a new altar-cloth would be acceptable.
I should be so happy--I will not say to give one myself, but to
undertake the responsibility, and to contribute my share. The old
altar-cloth will look rather out of place."
"Thank you, Mrs. Furze; I am sure I can answer at once. It will be
most acceptable. You will not, I presume, object to adopting the
design of the committee! We will send you a correct pattern. We
have thought about the matter for some time, but had at last
determined to wait indefinitely on the ground of the expense."
The expense! Poor Mrs. Furze had made her proposal on the spur of
the moment. She, in her ignorance, had not thought an altar-cloth a
very costly affair, and now she remembered that she had no friends
who were not Dissenters. Moreover, to be on the committee was the
object of her ambition, and it was clear that not only had nobody
thought of putting her on it, but that she was to pay and take its
"I believe," continued Mrs. Colston, "that the altar-cloth which we
had provisionally adopted can be had in London for 20 pounds."
A ring at the front bell during this interesting conversation had
not been noticed. The charwoman, still busy with broom and pail
outside, knocked at the door with a knock which might have been
given with the broom-handle and announced another visitor.
"Mrs. Bellamy, mum."
Catharine leaped up, rushed to meet her friend, caught her round the
neck, and kissed her eagerly.
"Well, Miss Catherine, glad to see you looking so well; still kept
the colour of Chapel Farm. This is the first time I've seen you in
your new house, Mrs. Furze. I had to come over to Eastthorpe along
with Bellamy, and I said I MUST go and see my Catharine, though--and
her mother--though they DO live in the Terrace, but I couldn't get
Bellamy to come--no, he said the Terrace warn't for him; he'd go and
smoke a pipe and have something to drink at your old shop, or rather
your new shop, but it's in the old place in the High Street--
leastways if you keep any baccy and whiskey there now--and he'd call
for me with the gig, and I said as I knew my Catharine--her mother--
would give me a cup of tea; and, Miss Catharine, you remember that
big white hog as you used to look at always when you went out into
the meadow?--well, he's killed, and I know Mr. Furze likes a bit of
good, honest, country pork--none of your nasty town-fed stuff--you
never know what hogs eat in towns--so Bellamy has a leg about
fourteen pounds in the gig, but I thought I'd bring you about two or
three pounds of the sausages myself in my basket here," and Mrs.
Bellamy pointed to a basket she had on her arm. She paused and
became aware that there was a stranger sitting near the fireplace.
"But you've got a visitor here; p'r'aps I shall be in the way."
"In the way!" said Catharine. "Never, never; give me your basket
and your bonnet; or stay, Mrs. Bellamy, I will go upstairs with you,
and you shall take off your things."
And so, before Mrs. Furze had spoken a syllable, Catharine and Mrs.
Bellamy marched out of the room.
"Who is that--that person?" said Mrs. Colston. "I fancy I have seen
her before. She seems on intimate terms with your daughter."
"She is a farmer's wife, of humble origin, at whose house my
daughter--lodged--for the benefit of her health."
"I must bid you good-day, Mrs. Furze. If you will kindly send a
cheque for the five pounds to me, the receipt shall be returned to
you in due course, and the drawing of the altar-cloth shall follow.
I can assure you of the committee's thanks."
Mrs. Furze recollected she ought to ring the bell, but she also
recollected the servant could not appear in proper costume.
Accordingly she opened the dining-room door herself.
"Let me move that ere pail, mum, or you'll tumble over it," said the
charwoman to Mrs. Colston, "and p'r'aps you won't mind steppin' on
this side of the passage, 'cause that side's all wet. 'Ere, Mrs.
Furze, don't you come no further, I'll open the front door"; and
this she did.
Mrs. Furze felt rather unwell, and went to her bedroom, where she
sat down, and, putting her face on the bedclothes, gave way to a
long fit of hysterical sobbing. She would not come down to tea, and
excused herself on the ground of sickness. Catharine went up to her
mother and inquired what was the matter, but was repulsed.
"Nothing is the matter--at least, nothing you can understand. I am
very unwell; I am better alone; go down to Mrs. Bellamy."
"But, mother, it will do you good to be downstairs. Mrs. Bellamy
will be so glad to see you, and she was so kind to me; it will be
odd if you don't come."
"Go AWAY, I tell you; I am best by myself; I can endure in solitude;
you cannot comprehend these nervous attacks, happily for you; go
AWAY, and enjoy yourself with Mrs. Bellamy and your sausages."
Catharine had had some experience of these nervous attacks, and left
her mother to herself. Mrs. Bellamy and Catharine consequently had
tea alone, Mr. Furze remaining at his shop that afternoon, as he had
been late in arrival.
"Sorry mother's so poorly, Catharine. Well, how do you like the
"I hate it. I detest every atom of the filthy, stuck-up, stuccoed
hovel. I hate --" Catharine was very excited, and it is not easy
to tell what she might have said if Mrs. Bellamy had not interrupted
"Now, Miss Catharine, don't say that; it's a bad thing to hate what
we must put up with. You never heard, did you, as Bellamy had a
sister a good bit older than myself? She WAS a tartar, and no
mistake. She lived with Bellamy and kept house for him, and when we
married, Bellamy said she must stay with us. She used to put on him
as you never saw, but he, somehow, seemed never to mind it; some men
don't feel such things, and some do, but most on 'em don't when it's
a woman, but I think a woman's worse. Well, what was I saying?--she
put on me just in the same way and come between me and the servant-
girl and the men, and when I told them to go and do one thing, went
and told them to do another, and I was young, and I thought when I
was married I was going to be mistress, and she called me 'a chit'
to her brother, and I mind one day I went upstairs and fell on my
knees and cried till I thought my heart would break, and I said, 'O
my God, when will it please Thee to take that woman to Thyself!'
Now to wish anybody dead is bad enough, but to ask the Lord to take
'em is awful; but then it was so hard to bear 'cause I couldn't say
nothing about it, and I'm one of them as can't keep myself bottled
up like ginger-beer. You don't remember old Jacob? He had been at
Chapel Farm in Bellamy's father's time, and always looked on Bellamy
as his boy, and used to be very free with him, notwithstanding he
was the best creature as ever lived. He took a liking to me, and I
needn't say that, liking of me, he didn't like Bellamy's sister.
Well, I came down, and I went out of doors to get a bit of fresh
air--for I'm always better out of doors--and I went up by the cart-
shed, and being faint a bit, sat down on the waggon shafts. Old
Jacob, he came by; I can see him now; it was just about Michaelmas
time, a-getting dark after tea, though I hadn't had any, and he said
to me, 'Hullo, missus, what are here for? and you've been a-cryin','
for I had my face toward the sky and was looking at it. I never
spoke. 'I know what's the matter with you,' says he; 'do you think
I don't? Now if you go on chafing of yourself, you'll worrit
yourself into your grave, that's all. Last week there was something
the matter with that there dog, and she howled night after night,
and I never slept a wink. The first morning after she'd been a-
yelping I was in a temper, and had half a mind to kill her. I felt
as if she'd got a spite against me; but it come to me as she'd got
no spite against ME, and then all my worriting went away. I don't
say as I slept much till she was better, but I didn't WORRIT. Now
Bellamy's sister don't mean nothing against you. That's the way
God-a-mighty made her.' I've never forgot what Jacob said, and I
know it made a difference, but the Lord took her not long
"But I don't see what that has to do with me. It isn't the same
"Yes, that's just what Bellamy says. He says I always go on with
anything that comes into my head; but then it has nothing to do with
anything he is saying, and maybe that's true, for one thing seems
always to draw me on to another, and so I go round like, and I don't
know myself where I am when I've finished. A little more tea, my
dear, if you please. And yet," continued Mrs. Bellamy, when she had
finished half of her third cup, "what I meant to say really has to
do with you. It's all the same. You wouldn't hate the Terrace so
much if you knew that nobody meant to spite you, as Jacob says.
Suppose your father was driven to the Terrace and couldn't help it,
and there wasn't another house for him, you wouldn't hate it so much
then. It isn't the Terrace altogether. Now, Miss Catharine, you
won't mind my speaking out to you. You know you are my girl," and
Mrs. Bellamy turned and kissed her; "you mustn't, you really
mustn't. I've seen what was coming for a long time. Your mother
and you ain't alike, but you mustn't rebel. I'm a silly old fool,
and I know I haven't got a head, and what is in it is all mixed up
somehow, but you'll be ever so much better if you leave your mother
out of it, and don't, as I've told you before, go on dreaming she
came here because you didn't want to come, or that she set herself
up on purpose against you. And then you can always run over to
Chapel Farm just whenever you like, my pet, and there's your own
room always waiting for you."
An hour afterwards, when Mrs. Bellamy had left, Mr. Furze came home.
Mrs. Furze was still upstairs, but consented to be coaxed down to
supper. She passed the drawing-room; the door was wide open, and
she reflected bitterly upon the new carpet, the oleographs, and the
schemes erected thereon. To think on what she had spent and what
she had done, and then that Mrs. Colston should be received by a
charwoman with a pail, should be shown into the room downstairs, and
find it like a public-house bar! If Mr. Furze had been there alone
it would not so much have mattered, but the presence of wife and
daughter sanctioned the vulgarity, not to say indecency. Mrs.
Colston would naturally conclude they were accustomed to that sort
of thing--that the pipe, Mrs. Bellamy and the sausages, the absence
of Mr. Furze's coat and waistcoat, were the "atmosphere," as Mrs.
Furze put it, in which they lived.
"That's right; glad to see you are able to come down," said Mr.
"I must say that Catharine is partly the cause of my suffering.
When Mrs. Colston called here Catharine sat like a statue and said
not a word, but when her friend Mrs. Bellamy came she precipitated
herself--yes, I say precipitated herself--into her arms. I've
nothing to say against Mrs. Bellamy, but Catharine knows perfectly
well that Mrs. Colston's intimacy is desired, and THAT'S the way she
chose to behave. Mrs. Bellamy was the last person I should have
wished to see here this afternoon; an uneducated woman, a woman whom
we could not pretend to know if we moved in Mrs. Colston's circle;
and what we have done was all done for my child's benefit. She, I
presume, would prefer decent society to that of peasants."
Catharine stopped eating.
"Mrs. Bellamy was the last person _I_ should have wished to see
"I don't know quite what you mean, but it is probably something
disobedient and cruel," and Mrs. Furze became slightly hysterical
Catharine made no offer of any sympathy, but, leaving her supper
unfinished, rose without saying good-night, and appeared no more
"My dear," said Mrs. Furze to her husband the next night when they
were alone, "I think Catharine would be much better if she were sent
away from home for a time. Her education is very imperfect, and
there are establishments where young ladies are taken at her age and
finished. It would do her a world of good."
Mr. Furze was not quite sure about the finishing. It savoured of a
region outside the modest enclosure within which he was born and
"The expense, I am afraid, will be great, and I cannot afford it
just now. There is no denying that business is no better; in fact,
it is not so good as it was, notwithstanding the alterations."
"You cannot expect it to recover at once. Something must be done to
put Catharine on a level with the young women in her position, and
my notion is that everything which will help to introduce us into
society will help you. Why does Mrs. Butcher go out so much? It is
because she knows it is a good investment."
"An ironmonger is not a doctor."
"Who said he was?" replied Mrs. Furze, triumphant in the
consciousness of mental superiority. "Furze," she once said to him,
when it was proposed to elect him a guardian of the poor, "take my
advice and refuse. Your forte is not argument: you will never held
your own in debate."
"I know an ironmonger is not a doctor," she continued. "_I_ of all
people have reason to know it; but what I do say is, that the more
we mix with superior people, the more likely you are to succeed, and
that if you bury yourself in these days you will fail."
The italicised "I" was an allusion to a fiction that once Mrs. Furze
might have married a doctor if she had liked, and thereby have
secured the pre-eminence which the wife of a drug-dispenser assumes
in a country town. The grades in Eastthorpe were very marked, and
no caste distinctions could have been more rigid. The county folk
near were by themselves. They associated with none of the
townsfolk, save with the rector, and even in that relationship there
was a slight tinge of ex-officiosity. Next to the rector were the
lawyer and the banker and the two maiden banker ladies in the Abbey
Close. Looked at from a distance these might be supposed to stand
level, but, on nearer approach, a difference was discernible. The
banker and the ladies, although they visited the lawyer, were a
shade beyond him. Then came the brewer. The days had not arrived
when brewing--at least, on the large scale--is considered to be more
respectable than a learned profession, and Mrs. Colston,
notwithstanding her wealth, was incessantly forced by the lawyer's
wife to confess subordination. The brewer kept three or four horses
for pleasure, and the lawyer kept only one; but "Colston's Entire"
was on a dozen boards in the town, and he supplied private families
and sent in bills. The position of Mrs. Butcher was perhaps the
most curious. She visited the rector, banker, lawyer, and brewer,
and was always well received, for she was clever, smart, young, and
well behaved. She had established her position solely by her wits.
She did not spend a quarter as much as Mrs. Colston, but she always
looked better. She was well shaped, to begin with, and the fit of
her garments was perfect. Not a wrinkle was to be seen in gown,
gloves, or shoes. Mrs. Colston's fashion was that imposed on her by
the dressmaker, but Ms. Butcher always had a style peculiarly her
own. She knew the secret that a woman's attractiveness, so far as
it is a matter of clothes, depends far more upon the manner in which
they are made and worn than upon costliness. It was always thought
that she ruled her husband and had just a spice of contempt for him.
She gained thereby in Eastthorpe, at least with the men, for her
superiority to him gave her an air which was slightly detached,
free, and fascinating. She always drove when she went out with him,
and it was really a sight worth seeing she bolt upright with her
hands well down, her pretty figure showing to the best advantage the
neat turn-out--for she was very particular on this point and
understood horses thoroughly--and Butcher, leaning back, submissive
but satisfied. She had made friends with the women too. She was
much too shrewd to incur their hostility by openly courting the
admiration of their husbands. She knew they did admire her, and
that was enough. She was most deferential to Mrs. Colston, so much
so that the brewer's wife openly expressed the opinion that she was
evidently well bred, and wondered how Butcher managed to secure her.
Furthermore she was useful, for her opinion, when anything had to be
done, was always the one to be followed, and without her the church
restoration would never have been such a success. Eastthorpe, like
Mrs. Colston, often marvelled that Butcher should have been so
fortunate. It mostly knew everything about the antecedents of
everybody in the town, but Mrs. Butcher's were not so well known.
She came from Cornwall, she always said, and Cornwall was a long way
off in those days. Her maiden name was Treherne, and Mrs. Colston
had been told that Treherne was good Cornish. Moreover, soon after
the marriage she found on the table, when she called on Mrs.
Butcher, a letter which she could not help partly reading, for it
lay wide open. All scruples were at once removed. It had a crest
at the top, was dated from Helston, addressed Mrs. Butcher by a
nickname, and was written in a most aristocratic hand--so Mrs.
Colston averred to her intimate friends. She could not finish the
perusal before Mrs. Butcher came into the room; but she had read
enough, and the doctor's elect was admitted at once without
reservation. Eastthorpe was slightly mistaken, but Mrs. Butcher's
history cannot be told here.
So much by way of digression on Eastthorpe society. Mrs. Furze
carried her point as usual. As for Catharine, she did not object,
for there was nothing in Eastthorpe attractive to her. The Limes,
Abchurch, was the "establishment" chosen. It was kept by the Misses
Ponsonby, Abchurch being a large village five miles farther
eastward. It was a peculiar institution. It was a school for
girls, but not for little girls, and it was also an educational home
for young ladies up to one- or two-and-twenty whose training had
been neglected or had to be completed beyond the usual limits. It
was widely-known, and, as its purpose was special, it had little or
no competition, and consequently flourished. Many parents who had
become wealthy, and who hardily knew the manners and customs of the
class to which they aspired, sent their daughters to the Limes. The
Misses Ponsonby--Mrs Ponsonby and Miss Adela Ponsonby --were of
Irish extraction, and had some dim connection with the family of
that name. They also preserved in their Calvinistic evangelicalism
a trace of the Cromwellian Ponsonby, the founder of the race. There
was a difference of two years in the age of the two ladies, but no
perceptible difference in their characters. The same necessity to
conceal or suppress all individuality on subjects disputable in
their own sect had been imposed on each. Both had the same "views"
on all matters religious and social, and both of them confessed that
on many points their "views" were "strict"--whatever that singular
phrase may have meant. Nevertheless, they displayed remarkable tact
in reconciling parents with the defects and peculiarities of their
children. There were always girls in the school of varying degrees
of intelligence, from absolute stupidity to brilliancy, but the
report at the end of the term was so fashioned that the father and
mother of the idiot were not offended, and the idiocy was so handled
that it appeared to have some advantages. If Miss Carter had been
altogether unable to master the French verbs, or to draw the model
vase until the teacher had put in nearly the whole of the outline,
there was a most happy counterpoise, as a rule, in her moral
conduct. In these days of effusive expression, when everybody
thinks it his duty to deliver himself of everything in him--doubts,
fears, passions--no matter whether he does harm thereby or good, the
Misses Ponsonby would be considered intolerably dull and limited.
They did not walk about without their clothes--figuratively
speaking--it was not then the fashion. They were, on the contrary,
heavily draped from head to foot, but underneath the whalebone and
padding, strange to say, were real live women's hearts. They knew
what it was to hope and despair; they knew what it was to reflect
that with each of them life might and ought to have been different;
they even knew what it was sometimes to envy the beggar-women on the
doorstep of the Limes who asked for a penny and clasped a child to
her breast. We mistake our ancestors who read Pope and the
Spectator. They were very much like ourselves essentially, but they
did not believe that there was nothing in us which should be
smothered or strangled. Perhaps some day we shall go back to them,
and find that the "Rape of the Lock" is better worth reading and
really more helpful than magazine metaphysics. Anyhow, it is
certain that the training which the Misses Ponsonby had received,
although it may have made them starched, prim, and even
uninteresting, had an effect upon their character not altogether
unwholesome, and prevented any public crying for the moon, or any
public charge of injustice against its Maker because it is
The number of girls was limited to thirty. The house was tall,
four-square, built of white brick about the year 1780, had a row of
little pillars running along the roof at the top, and a Grecian
portico. It was odd that there should be such a house in Abchurch,
but there it was. It was erected by a Spitalfields silk
manufacturer, whose family belonged to those parts. He thought to
live in it after his retirement, but he came there to die. The
studies of the pupils were superintended by the Misses Ponsonby and
sundry teachers, all female, except the drawing-master and the
music-master. The course embraced the usual branches of a superior
English education, French, Italian, deportment, and the use of the
globes, but, as the Misses Ponsonby truly stated in their
prospectus, their sole aim was not the inculcation of knowledge, but
such instruction as would enable the young ladies committed to their
charge to move with ease in the best society, and, above everything,
the impression of correct principles in morality and religion. In
this impression much assistance was given by the Reverend Theophilus
Cardew, the rector of the church in the village. The patronage was
in the hands of the Simeonite trustees, and had been bought by them
in the first fervour of the movement.
The thirty pupils occupied fifteen bedrooms, although each had a
separate bed, and to Catharine was allotted Miss Julia Arden, a
young woman with a pretty, pale face, and black hair worn in
ringlets. Her head was not firmly fixed on her shoulders, and was
always in motion, as if she had some difficulty in balancing it, the
reason being, not any physical defect, but a wandering imagination,
which never permitted her to look at any one thing steadily for an
instant. Nine-tenths of what she said was nonsense, but her very
shallowness gave occasionally a certain value and reality to her
talk, for the simple reason that she was incapable of the effort
necessary to conceal what she thought for the moment. In her
studies she made not the slightest progress, for her memory was
shocking. She confounded all she was taught, and never could
recollect whether the verb was conjugated and the noun declined, or
whether it was the other way round, to use one of her favourite
expressions, so that her preceptors were compelled to fall back,
more exclusively than with her schoolfellows, on her moral conduct,
which was outwardly respectable enough, but by the occupant of the
other bed might perhaps have been reported on in terms not quite so
satisfactory as those in the quarterly form signed by Miss Ponsonby.
Catharine's mother came with her on a Saturday afternoon, but left
in the evening. At half-past eight there were prayers. The girls
filed into the drawing-room, sat round in a ring, of which the
Misses Ponsonby formed a part, but with a break of about two feet
right and left, the servants sitting outside near the door: a
chapter was read, a prayer also read, and then, after a suitable
pause, the servants rose from their knees, the pupils rose next, and
the Misses Ponsonby last; the time which each division, servants,
pupils, and Ponsonbys, remained kneeling being graduated exactly in
proportion to rank. A procession to the supper-room was then
formed. Catharine found herself at table next to Miss Arden, with a
spotless napkin before her, with silver forks and spoons, and a
delicately served meal of stewed fruits, milk-puddings, bread-and-
butter, and cold water. Everything was good, sweet, and beautifully
clean, and there was enough. At half-past nine, in accordance with
the usual practice, one of the girls read from a selected book. On
Saturday a book, not exactly religious, but related to religion as
nearly as possible as Saturday is related to Sunday, was invariably
selected. On this particular Saturday it was Clarke's "Travels in
Palestine." Precisely as the chock struck ten the volume was closed
and the pupils went to bed.
"I am sure I shall like you," observed Miss Arden, as they were
undressing. "The girl who was here before was a brute, so dull and
so vulgar. I hope you will like me."
"I hope so too."
"It's dreadful here: so different to my mother's house in
Devonshire. We have a large place there near Torquay--do you know
Torquay? And I have a horse of my own, on which I tear about during
the holidays, and there are boats and sailing matches, and my
brothers have so many friends, and I have all sorts of little
affairs. I suppose you've had your affairs. Of course you won't
say. We never see a man here, except Mr. Cardew. Oh, isn't he
handsome? He's only a parson, but he's such a dear; you'll see him
to-morrow. I can't make him out: he's lovely, but he's queer, so
solemn at times, like an owl in daylight. I'm sure he's well
brought up. I wonder why he went into the church: he ought to have
been a gentleman."
"But is he not a gentleman?
"Oh, yes, of course he's a gentleman, but you know what I mean."