Part 3 out of 4
invaded its peaceful shores and stuffing themselves into adjacent if
inconvenient farmhouses, sketched it in water and oil, in the
common-place pencil, and the more ambitious charcoal. The results
are charming and you may see them any day in the studios of our
foremost artists or in the picture dealers' windows or haply on the
terra-cotta tinted walls of our esteemed collectors, the retired
grocers of Montreal, or the aesthetic lawyers of a more western and
more ambitious city. Still though the sketches are charming both in
conception and execution, I, were I a Canadian artist, eager to
secure Canadian subjects for my pencil, would hardly choose this
particular river as one likely to give the most correct idea of
Canadian scenery. No, I would chose the St. Maurice or the Richelieu,
the Lievre or the Saguenay, the Ottawa or portions of the St.
Lawrence, with the grim Azoic rocks, the turbulent rapids and the
somber pines. What a superb river system it is! Tell them off on
your fingers and you'll have to go on borrowing from them afterwards
and then all over again. Think of all those rivers that cluster in
the French Canada and feed the mighty Gulf of St. Lawrence. There
are the Ottawa, the Gatineau, the Rideau, the Richelieu, the Lievre,
the Matanne, the Metapedia, the Metis, the Saguenay. Those are the
ones we know. Then look at the Peribonka, the Maniconagan, all the
Ste. Anne's, all the Rouge or Red rivers, the Du Moine, the Coalonge,
the Vermilion, the St. Francis. Then, look at that cluster of great
Saxon named streams, the Churchill, the Nelson, the Severn, the
English, the Albany! Lastly, glance at the magnificent Saskatchewan
with the historic streams of Battle and Qu'Appelle Rivers! And now I
have omitted the Athabasca, the Peace, the Moose and the Assiniboine!
There is no end to them; they defy enumeration while they invite it.
Now, most of these Canadian rivers are Azoic in character; hence
their grim and formidable beauty. But my river has nothing the least
Azoic about it. It belongs to a more recent, a more comfortable,
more placid, more satisfying a formation. It is as idyllic a stream
as any English one that Tennyson noted in a contemplative ramble to
work up later into the "Brook."
Crossing the moss-grown bridge I have alluded to, a gradual ascent
presents itself on the opposite side, of firm white road well
macadamized and leading through small neat low houses, each with a
little garden in front, to a church with a needle-like spire on the
top of the hill, and the parson's house adjoining. On a June day,
for example, it made a pleasant picture. Pastoral and prosperous the
landscape, contented the people on foot, in the fields, at the
windows, and most delightful of all--a certain Old World haze
hanging over it.
This is what struck the Mr. Foxleys, driving out slowly from the
town one Saturday afternoon. George, the elder, pale with dark hair,
lay back in the phaeton with folded arms. Joseph, the younger,
fair-haired and freckled, sat up, driving. They had hardly exchanged
a word since entering the phaeton. For eight miles they had
proceeded in almost perfect silence. This did not mean that they
were out of sorts, or not on pleasant terms with one another. On the
contrary, it proved that they were the very best of friends, and
never bored each other. I may as well say at once that they were
Englishmen, which was easy to gather from their picturesque and
unusual attire of neat gray small-clothes meeting gray stockings at
the knee, low white shoes, a striped blue and white flannel shirt
and canoe-shaped hats of gray, each bearing a snow-white "puggree"
with blue and gold fringed ends. Such was the outward adorning of
the Mr. Foxleys. Behind the phaeton ran a pretty brown retriever
answering to the name of "Bess," and laid across the floor of the
little carriage were a couple of walking canes, a couple of fishing
rods and a gun case strapped together, while under the seat was a
medium-sized portmanteau, and a peculiar long box with a leather
handle. The eight miles having been traversed by them in silence,
George, the elder, broke it by remarking, as they slackened their
pace, before advancing over the bridge, "This is better."
"Very much so. Rather. I should think so," answered Joseph, the
younger, who had a slightly more lively manner than his brother, and
very laughing eyes. "It looks a little more like the--the Old Country."
The elder brother made no reply. A kind of weary smile flitted
across his face instead.
"It's a little bit after--Devonshire, don't you think?" went on
Joseph, surveying the green meadows, the neat painted fences, the
sleeping cows, the rising uplands in the distance leaning lovingly
next the sky, the bridge, the distant church, and the placid narrow
river with the overhanging willows and the stony amber floor.
"A long way after," said George, without unfolding his arms or
looking around him at all. He was gazing straight before him.
"But you don't half see the beauty of it," said the younger brother,
stopping the horse and standing up in the phaeton, "especially after
that horrid eight miles of half-cleared ugly-stumpy stubble! This is
really beautiful, such soft lines you know and little corners--oh!
quite English!" Some of his enthusiasm reached the quieter brother,
who apparently roused himself and looked around as directed. A faint
pink came into his pale cheeks, a new gleam into the weary eyes,
"Well, it is _better_, as I said before--you'll remember, I noticed
it first--but not English."
"Well, not English altogether of course, I know," said Joseph
gathering up his reins, "but its a jolly spot enough whatever it is,
and--I say, look at that now, that oak, on the other side of the road,
in front of that little cottage, we'll be up with it now in a minute."
"By Jove, what a splendid tree!" Now I do not in the least wonder at
the Mr. Foxleys stopping opposite this mighty oak to admire it,
because I myself am quite familiar with it and have seen it scores
of times, and must agree with them in pronouncing it one of the
finest trees I have ever seen anywhere. Of course it has no story
attached to it that the world knows, at least it never talked that I
am aware of, never hid or screened anybody of importance--or
anything of that sort--so naturally it has little or no interest
about it. And yet, for that very reason, it is so much easier to
think of it as a tree, to consider it and admire it, and learn to
love and understand it just as a tree. So the Mr. Foxleys thought,
as they gazed at its monstrous trunk, its glorious branches of deep,
dark glossy green with here and there an upstart arm of glowing
bronze or a smaller shoot of younger yellow.
"It might have grown in the _Manor Park_!" said the younger brother
airily with a keen sense of pleasure in the suggestion.
"It might have grown in the _Manor Park_, as you say", rejoined the
elder brother gravely.
Then they went on again, slowly up the hill, that they might the
better examine the church, the parsonage and the road beyond. What
they wanted now was an Inn. Presently they espied one, just on the
other side of a tiny bridge spanning a tinier brook. It was no
upstart brick building of flaring red with blind white windows and a
door flush with the street, a dirty stable at one side and a ragged
kitchen garden at the other. But low and white and irregular with a
verandah running along in front, it had red curtains that would draw
over the lower halves of the windows and hints of chintz at the
upper portions; the door was open and revealed a tall clock in the
hall, a stand of flowers, and a cat asleep in a large round chair;
at one side a flight of steps led down to the kitchen door at which
a buxom maid in bare arms stood in a pink gown and a pinker face,
and at the other side was the boarded square that held the pump--the
village pump--around which were gathered five or six bare-footed
children, the hostler of the Inn, the village butcher, tailor, and
cobbler. A sign swung out from the verandah.
"The Ipswich Inn, by M. Cox," said the younger Mr. Foxley. Then he
looked at his brother. His brother looked at him. They understood
one another at once, and Joseph pulled up in good style at the door.
The hostler, dressed in old corduroy and with a fiddle under his arm,
sprang forward to assist them. He dropped his H's. "Delightful,"
cried Mr. Joseph. So did the landlady, a cheery person of about
fifty in a silk apron. The brothers were so content that they
remained all night, "to look at the place."
Next morning, endless surprises awaited and greeted them. They found
that the large room in front was a kind of drawing-room, in which
rose-leaves, china-bowls, old engravings, a shining mahogany
book-case, and a yellow-keyed piano atoned for the shortcomings of
funeral horsehair and home-made carpets. They thought it on the
whole a charming room, only to be eclipsed by the kitchen. For the
kitchen, which was underneath the ground floor and nearly the entire
size of the house, was therefore very spacious and comfortable,
possessing three large pantries and an out-house or summer kitchen;
besides, moreover, it was dark-raftered, ham-hung, with
willow-pattern slates in a neat dresser, and peacock feathers over
the high mantel; with, in one corner--the darkest--a covered well,
into which I used to see myself the beautiful golden pats of butter
lowered twice a week in summer time. One window, a small one,
curtained with chintz and muslin drawn on a string, looked out on a
small terraced garden at the back leading to an orchard; the other
window, large and long, with twelve small panes and no curtains at
all, adjoined the door opening on the court or yard at the side of
the house. This yard was paved irregularly with grey stone slabs,
between which the grass had wedged itself, with an occasional root
of the persistent and omnipresent dandelion; it contained a cistern,
a table with flower-pots, a parrot in one cage, a monkey in another,
garden implements, rods, buckets, tins and tubs! A pleasant
untidiness prevailed in the midst of irreproachably clean and correct
surroundings, and the Mr. Foxleys having finished their breakfast
up-stairs in the public dining-room--a bare, almost ugly apartment,
devoid of anything in furniture or appointments to make it homelike,
except a box of mignonette set in the side-window, looked longingly
out at the little paved court-yard beneath. They had had the most
delicious rasher of ham, eggs _sans peur et sans reproche_, some new
and mysterious kind of breakfast cake, split and buttered while hot,
and light and white inside as it was golden and glazed outside, and
three glasses of fresh milk each! They had been waited on by the
buxom girl in a blue gown this time, against which her arms looked
pinker than ever, and during the meal the landlady of the inn had
looked in, with her hands too floury and her mind too full of coming
loaves to do more than inquire generally as to their comfort.
Looking over the mignonette, Mr. Joseph Foxley espied her presently
talking to the parrot and tending the monkey. This was more than the
frivolous Mr. Joseph could stand. He took his brother and made a
tour of the house accordingly, discovering in turn as I have said
the drawing-room, the kitchen, the court-yard, the garden and
orchard and lastly the bar! _That_ proved the most comfortable, most
enticing room of all. More red curtains, at the windows and over one
door, an old-fashioned hearth paved with red brick and bearing even
in June a couple of enormous logs against the possible cold of a
rainy evening, two cases of stuffed birds, a buffalo's head over the
fireplace, colored prints of Love Lies Bleeding, Stocks and
Bachelor's Buttons, and over all, that odour of hot lemons and water,
with something spirituous beyond, that completely won the refractory
heart of the elder Mr. Foxley and caused him to drop down in a
chair by the hearth with an incoherent expression of wonder and
relief that did not escape his brother.
"How long shall we say, George," he asked. "She will want to know,
because there are other men who come out here from town occasionally
it seems, and of course it's only fair to let her know about the room.
"What shall I say?" Mr. George Foxley crossed his long legs in
evident comfort and took in the entire room in a smiling gaze before
he answered. Outside it was beautifully quiet, in front of the house.
From the back there came the faintest sounds of crow and cackle and
farm-yard stir just audible, from the kitchen rose cheerful laughter,
and merry voices, the smell of baking, and a fainter odor of herbs.
Milly, the girl, in the blue gown, passed with a milk pail in either
hand. She looked in shyly. Mr. Joseph waved his hand gallantly then
laughed. Then Mr. George said, very slowly.
"Say? Oh, say that we will take the room--the one we have now, you
know--for the rest of the Summer."
"That is, you will take it, and remain here, while I knock about in
town and come out on Saturdays or whenever I can," said Joseph.
"Exactly," said his brother.
That afternoon Mr. Joseph returned to town in the neat hired phaeton
leaving his brother in full possession of the charming and
comfortable Inn. In a couple of days he came back, this time in the
stage that passed through Ipswich three times a week, and bringing
with him a couple of English trunks and a stout portmanteau. Thus
the Mr. Foxleys entered upon life in earnest in this dear placid
little village, not far from the river described in the beginning of
The Mr. Foxleys, after a week's sojourn or so at the Ipswich Inn,
made a mutual discovery. This was, that not only were the landlady
of the Inn, her son and the ostler all of English origin and descent,
but that the entire village appeared to be populated by people of
English extraction. The butcher was a Englishman, the blacksmith was
a Cockney answering to the name of 'Enry Ide, the cobbler was from
South Devon somewhere, and the parson was an undergraduate of Oxford.
The farmers were mostly Scotch, and the village store-keeper was
David Macpherson. The driver of the stage was an Irishman, and the
sexton of the pretty church on the hill was an odd product of that
odd corner of the world known as the Isle of Man. Certainly the two
brothers found and made themselves at home. Milly perhaps was the
only native Canadian that came in their way. It was a thoroughly
British settlement, and it is a noteworthy fact that the only
well-to-do man in the place was an American. It was he who lived in
the square, red brick house with white blinds always pulled down,
even in soft welcome spring days, and with plaster casts of lions
and deer couchant on futile little wooden pedestals in the garden.
It was he who owned the new and prosperous mill which had superseded
the worn-out one lower down the stream, the old mill that the
artists loved, and that reminded the Mr. Foxley's of home. It was he
who owned the only family carriage in the neighborhood, other people
had "buggies." It was his daughter who had been sent to New York for
her education--who now appeared in church on Sundays, in muslin
costumes garnished with a greater number of yards of ribbons in
myriads of bows and ends than the village store had ever possessed
at one time in its life. It was he who once or twice a year walked
as far as the Inn and sitting down stiffly in the stiff dining room
would hold a short conversation with the landlady on village matters
and subjects in general. On these occasions the good woman was
secretly amused and not a little bored. She knew gentlemen when she
saw them and he was not one--that is, he was not one according to
her knowledge of types. The aristocracy of money was as yet a phase
unknown to her simple English mind accustomed to move in traditional
and accepted groves. So not much interchange of civilities took
place between the mill and the Inn. Not for Mr. Simon P. Rattray did
the oleanders blossom in the big green tubs and the wall-flowers and
mignonette in the windows. Not for him did the Jessamine climb and
the one hawthorn tree at the back gate leading to the orchard yield
its sweet white May, not for him did the tall clock strike and the
parrot talk. Talk!! Why, the only time the creature was ever known
to be quiet was when Mr. Simon P. Rattray made his portentous
visits twice or three times a year. And as for the hidden sweetness
of the drawing-room or the comforts of the kitchen or the
fascinations of the bar, Mr. Simon P. Rattray knew nothing whatever
about them. He was a total abstainer you see, and the blue ribbon
appeared in his buttonhole on certain important ceremonial days and
even on Sundays, and he was known to be interested in the fortunes
of a cold, dismal little place built of plaster and presided over by
a male Methodist just outside the village limits, known as a
"Temperance Hotel." It will be easily gathered that the advent of
the Mr. Foxleys did not affect the fortunes of such a person as
Mr. Simon P. Rattray, nor was their subsequent career as residents
in Ipswich affected in any way by his existence, prejudices or
peculiarities. But to the remaining portions of the village, their
arrival proved full of interest The landlady took them to her heart
at once. They were _gentlemen_, she said, and that was enough for her.
Her son, a heavy lout, unlike his mother, accepted them as he did
everything and everybody by remaining outwardly profoundly
unconscious of their existence; the hostler adored them, especially
Mr. Joseph; when the latter was there, which he was every Saturday
till Monday, he would stroll over the stable with Squires--that was
the hostler's name--joking incessantly, and treating the latter to
an occasional cigar. Urbane Mr. Joseph would joke with anybody,
Mr. George was more severe and had according to the landlady, the
most perfect and distinguished manners.
"What they call _hawtoor_ in the Family Herald," she told Milly,
"only I never see it gone too far with." Milly of course was in
love with them both.
In time, the entire village succumbed to the charms of the Mr.
Foxleys. The parson called, accompanied by his eldest daughter who
was the organist of the choir and chief promoter of the Sunday-school.
They found the objects of their social consideration seated outside
the kitchen in the little paved yard that had rapidly grown dear.
When the brothers appeared upstairs in the drawing-room into which
rose-scented and chintz-hung apartment the reverend Mr. and Miss
had been shown in appreciation of their station, Mr. Joseph had
tuned his laughing eye to a decorum as new as it was unnatural. It
was a hot day in August and Mr. George was so excessively languid
and long and speechless that but for his brother conversation would
have been an impossibility. But he and the parson soon discovered
mutual friends at home, a cousin in the Engineers, and a friendly
coach at the University.
"Charles James Foxley? Oh! I knew him well, very well" said the Rev.
Mr. Higgs, referring to the latter. "It is a somewhat--ah--unusual
name. The only other time I remember meeting with the name was once--
let me see--it was a meet, I think, at Foxley Manor, in Derbyshire
it was, and a very beautiful place."
"In Nottinghamshire," said Mr. Joseph smiling. "Yes, that is--or was--
our home. My father still resides there."
"Indeed?" said Mr. ----. "Is it possible! And you have come out here?
Really, it is most interesting, most fortunate that you should have
chosen our little village, should have pitched your tent so to speak--
ah! quite so."
"My brother likes the country," said Mr. Joseph.
"Ah! yes, quite so. And there is much to see in this new country, in
Canada, much to see. You will remain some time?"
"We will remain as long as it suits my brother," said Mr. Joseph.
"At present, we can hardly tell."
"Quite so, quite so. I hope--I am sure my daughter concurs in the
hope, that we shall see you in church as often as you can come and
also--ah! at the Rectory. Such society as we can give you here you
may be assured we will endeavor to give with all our--ah! heart to
the best of our ability."
"Thanks very much" returned Mr. Joseph. "I am sure my brother and I
will be exceedingly glad to go and see you at the Rectory. About
church I will say that we never go very regularly anywhere, but when
it isn't too hot, too hot, you know, or too cold, or anything of
that sort, I am sure we'll try to turn up there as well."
The rector, smiled indulgently. No call to be hard on the Mr. Foxleys,
of Foxley Manor. Miss Maria left the Inn smitten for the fiftieth
"I knew I should marry an Englishman," she exclaimed ecstatically up
the road with her father.
"The dark one, oh! the dark one!"
"They are somewhat peculiar young men I fancy, Maria. Of course
Mrs. Cox is a very careful and a very good woman and--ah! her place
is a very respectable and comfortable one, and the order of
travellers one meets, that is, one would meet if one went there, is
quite proper indeed, but still, I thought, mind I do not say anything,
I do not express any opinion Maria, I simply say, I _thought_, that
they would have smoked for instance in the dinning-room or the, the
bar, or on the verandah instead of in that very conspicuous manner
just outside the kitchen door." But this was the first and last
stricture that the rector made as to the conduct of the Mr. Foxleys,
for by appearing in church two Sundays after his call and spending
an evening on the vine-covered verandah of the pretty Rectory, they
were speedily entered in the very best books kept by that worthy if
slightly common-place gentleman and his gushing daughter.
The next persons of distinction in the village were the Miss Dexters,
who lived with their father, at one time a prominent medical man, in
the little cottage graced by the presence of the mighty oak which
had so charmed the strangers when they first beheld it. Their father
was old, very old indeed, and slightly shaken in his mind. He was
also an Englishman and the daughters, not daring to enter upon life
in town with their small income and a helpless old man on their
hands into the bargain had retired to the country some ten years
before the advent of the Mr. Foxleys. Charlotte the elder was now
forty and Ellen over thirty-five. Neither of them had ever been
beautiful and now they were, more or less pinched and worn in their
aspect, but they were gentlewomen, neat and sweet spoken, and
capable of offering small evening entertainments of cribbage and hot
weak tea with bread and butter with a gracious and well bred air that
marked them off as people who had seen "better times." God help such
all over the world and thank Him too for the colonies, where such
people can retreat without being said to hide, and live down their
misfortunes or their follies or their weaknesses, and be of some use
to others after a while! It would be hard to say why the Mr.
Foxleys went as often as they did, especially Mr. Joseph--to the
Miss Dexters for tea. Perhaps the oak had much to do with it.
It had something I am sure, for indeed, it was the most beautiful
tree for miles around and it was worth a good deal to sit under its
cool shade in the Summer afternoons or to look up into its dark
vault in the slowly dusking twilights. I can't defend Mr. Joseph
further than this. For between cribbage and choir practice, Sunday
rambles in the woods and rows on the river, the lending of books and
the singing of songs, the handing of bread and butter and the
drinking of tea, Mr. Joseph had caused both the Miss Dexters to fall
hopelessly and indeed fatally in love with him. When the Xmas
holidays came, Joseph, who had a clerkship in town, spent his
vacation naturally at the Inn with his brother, and then ensued a
period of very mixed delight for the Miss Dexters.
For the callous Joseph made as violent love to the unresisting
Miss Higgs over the Xmas tree and carols as she herself would have
chosen to make to Mr. George had she been given the chance.
As for Mr. George, he was just as languid and silent as ever. He
hardly ever went into the town at all, but preferred to remain on
quietly at the inn, fishing, shooting and taking long walks in the
summer days when it was fine, and when it rained, lounging in
Mrs. Cox's kitchen. Here he always had his meals, for the kind
friend he had found in his landlady gratified every whim, and any
fancy he chose to profess, and cooked for him, washed for him and
waited on him with unceasing and in fact ever-increasing devotion.
Mr. Foxley's shirts and Mr. Foxley's socks, Mr. Foxley's white coats
and Mr. Foxley's jane boots, his dog, his gun, and his effects
generally were all sacred, all in irreproachable order, all objects
of the greatest value and interest to Mrs. Cox and her niece. You
see there were no children in this comfortable _menage_ and really,
when the baking and the washing and the preserving and the churning
were all done with early in the day or in the week there remained a
good deal of time on Mrs. Cox's hands, which in her earnest womanly
heart she felt she must fill up in some way. So it came that all
this time and energy and devotion were after a while centred on
Mr. George Foxley, late of Foxley Manor, Notts. As for Mr. Joseph,
the good woman oftener told him to "go along!" than anything else,
for though she liked him, his love of mischief and several practical
jokes he had played her which she termed "his ways," had rendered her
cautious and a little distrustful of him. Such an existence proved
very charming to all parties concerned, excepting perhaps the
Miss Dexters, and their companion in misery, at the rectory. For the
worst of it was, Xmas passed and Easter came, and another spring
dawned for the pretty little village of Ipswich and found the
Mr. Foxleys still there. They never spoke of going away and nobody
hinted it to them. The impression, natural in the extreme, that they
were a couple of wealthy young Englishmen going about for pleasure,
who just happening to come to Ipswich and being taken with it had
stayed a little longer than they intended, was fast giving way to
another. For it was a well-known fact that the Mr. Foxleys did not
spend too much money either on themselves or on other people. They
paid their way and that was all one could say about them. Squires
was not included in this arrangement, however, but was forced to
remain content with cigars, cast-off studs and a present at
Christmas-time of a collie pup. I grieve to think of those poor
Miss Dexters--foolish souls--going without butter on their bread
and sugar in their tea that they might have both to offer Mr. Joseph
when he might come in airily for a cup, and making their already too
thin gowns last another winter, that they might spend a little money
on a smoking cap for the same gentleman and a pair of knitted
wristlets for his brother. All these tokens of friendship and
attachment the brothers accepted in the most charming and
unconcerned way and never troubled themselves about returning the
compliment as we say. It was quite true that they had not much money,
but a little management of what they did possess would have left a
small sum over each year, which might have been expended on say a
pair of fur-lined gloves for Charlotte or a canary for Ellen, who
was fond of pets and used to keep Bess with her for days, feeding
the unconscious animal for its master's sake better than she was fed
herself. And all this time Mr. Joseph never proposed and never
hinted at his prospects or affairs in any way whatever!
The second summer of his stay saw old Mr. Dexter die. After his
death Ellen drooped visibly. General disgust at life, insufficient
food and sleep, and a hopeless passion for Mr. Joseph sapped a
naturally weak constitution, and her sister soon realized another
bitter shock when she helped Ellen to her bed one sultry September
night from which she never rose again. The windows of the little
cottage were open, and the unhappy girl could see the giant oak
outside their door. How often she had sat there with her cruel friend,
her hand on his shoulder, and her eyes fixed on his sharp, clear-cut
features and laughing eyes! He had seemed so gentle, so earnest, so
winning--had talked so cleverly, so hopefully, so gleefully. He had
been the sunshine of her life, and alas!--of Charlotte's too! Each
knew the other's secret, but by intuitive sympathy they had never
alluded to it. They referred to him only as "Mr. Joseph," and on her
death-bed Ellen sent her "kindest wishes to Mr. Joseph." She
lingered till near the Christmas season, and then one day a small
packet per English mail arrived. They occasionally heard from
friends in the Old Country, and this special parcel contained a
couple of silk handkerchiefs and a sprig of holly. Charlotte took
them up to her in the evening, spreading them out on the bed. Ellen
sat up, eagerly pressing the holly to her lips. Alas! what were the
recollections it brought that the poor, weak frame and the poor,
tired spirit could not brook them? Perhaps--not perhaps--O most
certainly, most truly of home and of England; of the mother so long
vanished, dimly remembered, almost forgotten; of winding green
lanes and of ivied walls, of little solemn churchyards--in none of
which she would never lie; of peeps of blue sea from the middle of a
wood; of a primrose at the foot of a tree; of the crowded coach and
the sounding horn; and lastly of the recreant one whom she could not
even call her lover, but who had made her love him so that her very
life was eaten away by sickness of fear, of apprehension, of despair!
With the holly pressed to her lips, Ellen Dexter passed out of this
world into another.
Did Mr. Joseph Foxley care? Who knows? I should know if anybody ever
did, but I do not hold Mr. Joseph so very much to blame after all.
For a man is often innocent of love-making at the very moment a
woman is fancying herself violently in love with him, and fancying,
moreover, that he is in love with her. Can anything be more fatal,
more pernicious, more terrible? And yet I believe there is nothing
more common. There are some men who press more tenderly than the
requirements of ordinary social intercourse call for or allow, the
hand of every woman they meet They are not necessarily flirts.
Perhaps they never go farther than that clinging hand-pressure. It
is a relic of the customs of the days of chivalry--a little more and
this man will kiss the hand. Let the lady be beautiful, gracious,
the hour dusk, or close on midnight, the room a pretty one, and the
environment pleasing, he will bend over the hand, and if he does not
kiss it he will retain it just long enough to make her wish he had
kissed it. If she is a woman of the world she will laugh as she
returns the pressure, making it purposely as thrilling as she can--
then she will forget it completely the next moment as she dispenses
five o'clock tea or late coffee and cake to her husband or brother.
But if she be not a woman of the world, then God help her on her
tear-wet pillow, or before her slowly-dying fire as she thinks of
that hand-pressure. It is enough to last her all her life, she thinks--
and yet, should it not come again? But--_should_ it come again! And
the pillow is wet with fresh tears, or the brow is prematurely
wrinkled watching the decaying embers, while the man--let us do him
justice--is as blindly unconscious--unconscious! Why, at that very
moment he is making love--what _he_ calls making love--to the woman
of his choice, his wife, his mistress, or his _fiancee_! These are
the men who do the most mischief in the world. Your brute, your beast,
your groveller in ditches, is not nearly so dangerous. Women recoil
from him. They understand him. But the man who presses their hand
awakes them, rouses their susceptibility, causes the tender trouble
to steal over them that so often ends in grief, or despair, or death!
And this is because neither sex is as yet properly trained in the
vital duty of responsibility, by which I mean that faculty of
self-repression which will cause a woman to try and understand what
a man means when he presses her hand, and cause the man to try and
understand what a woman feels when he does so. As for poor Ellen
Dexter, it is dear that she was not a woman of the world; but her
sister Charlotte and Miss Maria at the Rectory, if not precisely
women of the world, were yet made of much sterner stuff than she had
been, and consequently, after much reflection, decided that they
were not going to be made fools of, in village parlance. Miss Maria
had, of course, long ago given up Mr. George Foxley altogether.
"He is not human," she said to her father, "and I don't believe he
_is_ one of the Foxleys of Foxley Manor at all." "There can be no
doubt about that, my dear," answered the actor. "Difficulties I
should say--ah--difficulties have brought these young men out here,
but we must do our duty by them, we must do our duty. Their father
is a fine old gentleman, and well off, and a stanch Tory, my dear.
Patience, my dear Maria. The photographs are quite correct and the
seals bear quite the proper crest--ah--quite so." So Miss Maria
transferred her affections to Mr. Joseph. The second Christmas
passed away, and a third spring dawned for Ipswich. The Inn was just
as comfortable as ever and so were apparently the two Mr. Foxleys
but for one fact and that was, Mr. George's health was not as good
as it had been. Always delicate, he had gradually failed, growing
more and more languid, more and more whimsical in spite of his
comfortable abode and the diligent care of his landlady. Poor Milly!
How she worked for him too, between hours, after hours, before hours!
When the attacks of pleurisy, painful in the extreme, from which he
suffered, came on either in the night or during the day, Milly was
always near with her strong young arms, not quite so pink as they
used to be, and her quick young eyes, a shade more subtle than they
used to be, ready to apprehend and quiet the pain before it came.
How Miss Maria at the Rectory and Charlotte Dexter in her lonely
cottage would have envied her had they known, but though there were
gossips in plenty in the village, nothing that occurred in the
rose-scented drawing-room ever went out into that tattling little
"Are your young gentlemen with you yet, Mrs. Cox? And one of 'em not
over strong? Deary me! that makes it hard for you and the young gal
But you be standing it remarkable well. And gentlemen born you say!
They do say that the other one wi' the specked skin be making fools
of Miss Maria up at the Rectory and old Miss Dexter at the cottage.
Well! well! Poor Miss Ellen was gone afore we knew it like, poor soul,
that was so kind!"
Much of this cunning volubility sprung upon Mrs. Cox in pumping
fashion failed to extort from her anything but good-humoured smiles
and laughs. If I have not taken the trouble to describe this beloved
Mrs. Cox to you before this, it is because I fear you will say the
picture is Unreal, no such landlady, no such woman could exist out
of England But why not? My story, remember, deals with people and
things as they were twenty years ago. Twenty years ago there were
such Inns, though few at number, to be found in Western Canada--ay--
and as English as any that a certain Mrs. Lupin presided over in
fascinating fiction, and much more English than many Inns of the
present day in England. Twenty years ago there was such a landlady,
rosy and plump and cheerful, wearing a flowered gown, a black silk
apron and a cap with a purple pansy in it and broad and comfortable
lappets, who, when her work was done, would sit in her small private
room opposite the bar also hung with red curtains, making patchwork
quilts or playing a demure rubber with the Scotch store-keeper, or
Irish stage driver, or an occasional gentleman from town. Such was
Mrs. Cox, widow of Captain Cox, able seaman, but bad lot, who died
when they had been five years in Canada, leaving her with her one
child. The public business had attracted her after her loss and she
accordingly went into it on the advice of her numerous friends.
People who despise her calling need not listen to me if I allude to--
for I have not time to recount--all her kindness, her cheerfulness,
her powers of dispensing comfort, and warmth, and happiness, and
promoting the direct and indirect welfare of everyone who came in
her path. By what strange coincidence the brothers Foxley had been
led to her glowing fireside and her motherly arms brimming over with
zeal and kindness for the whole human race, does not matter. It is
sufficient that they found her and found with her a sense of
comparative peace and security which compensated for the one big
slice of trouble Fortune had treated them to before their departure
from England. For them did the wall flowers bloom and the mignonette
at the window, for them did the oleander blossom and the old clock
strike, for them did the jessamine climb and the one hawthorn tree
yield its annual soft white drift of snow, and yet who shall say
that they were altogether unworthy, even, if with that picture of
poor Ellen Dexter in my mind, I have to say that they did not
If Mr. Joseph Foxley had but known the sentiments animating the
couple of maiden breasts that awaited his Saturday visits in Ipswich,
he would have been genuinely surprised. The truth is Mr. Joseph was
rather what is termed a general lover. He liked the sex in its
entirety. Collectively he loved all women and belonged to that
hand-pressing section of humanity which I have alluded to as
mischievous. Were there not at least five young ladies in town, at
whose houses he visited, and who were more or less interested in the
young Englishman as he in them? Did Miss Charlotte dream of them or
Miss Maria at the rectory? If so, they never dared to ask Mr. Joseph
to give any account of his doings in town, although they managed to
glean what he did with himself in the village. He respected
Charlotte Dexter enough to intend at some future day to tell her a
little more about himself and his brother than he had yet done; as
for Miss Maria, she only bored him and fed his contempt.
"When a rather elderly old girl giggles after everything she says,
conversation is difficult and sympathy out of the question," he had
said to his brother! When Mr. Joseph had known these young ladies
for four years, Miss Maria took her revenge in _her_ way, that was
by marrying the younger brother of Mr. Simon P. Rattray, partner in
the mill and the red brick house by the river. The vision of
becoming the cherished wife of an English aristocrat and going home
to reside in a manor house built in the sixteenth century, with
occasional visits to London and glimpses of the Royal Family had
gradually faded, and she accepted the less rose-coloured lot that
Mr. Lyman B. Rattray offered her, sitting in her father's study,
with his hair very much brushed up on one side and very much
flattened down on the other, a white tie and light-yellow duster
adorning his spare person.
Such was the American of those days--twenty years ago--there are
none such now I allow.
Miss Maria, who was considered "very English," shuddered as she
regarded him. It so fell out that it being Saturday, Mr. Joseph was
just then passing--"kind of happening along" Mr. Rattray would have
said--_en route_ to the Inn and his brother, on foot in spite of the
dusty road and the hot August sun, clad in trim tight knickerbockers
and carrying an immense bunch of red field lilies, a gun, and a
leather satchel over his shoulder. Slight and straight and cool, he
looked the picture of a contented cheerful energetic young English man.
Along the road he came whistling an old country tune. Miss Maria who
had sighted him afar off, begged her visitor's pardon and went to
the window to arrange the blind. How her heart warmed to that cruel
Mr. Joseph, how she loved him then just for that last moment!
Her heart--that foolish old maid's heart--beat quickly, beat thickly,
she remembered to have read something somewhere about people who
could will other people to look at them, to speak to them, to even
think of them, to move across a room at their pleasure. If she could
but do that! She did try, with her fingers clenched on the blind,
and her eyes fixed on Mr. Joseph, she did wish with all her might
that he would turn his head and see her at the window and wave his
hand gallantly as he had done on one or two previous occasions.
Then she would beckon and he would run across and entering the room
disconcert this odious Mr. Lyman B. Rattray and put an end to his
stony wooing. But alas! for Miss Maria and her mesmeric powers! The
harder she tried, the less she succeeded. On came Mr. Joseph,
supremely unconscious of the injured heart beating behind the
windowpane. At one moment it seemed as if he were about to turn and
look in her direction. A very brilliant wild yellow canary crossed
over his head and lit on a small shrub just inside the garden paling.
Had it remained there, would Miss Maria have ever become the wife
of Mr. Lyman B. Rattray? No one knows, for the canary flew away
again to the other side of the road and Mr. Joseph's eyes followed
it In a moment he was past, and the chance was gone for ever.
Miss Maria left her window and sat down opposite her visitor. There
was nothing to keep her now, nothing to give her courage and hope
for the future, new fire for her faded eyes, new strength for her
jaded limbs. Yet she was only thirty-four. How strange it is that
some unmarried women are old at that age, even while living in
luxury and surrounded by every care and all affection, while many a
married woman, though beset with trials and weaknesses and perhaps a
brood of restless little ones to pull her gown and get in the way of
her busy feet, retains her figure and her step, her smile and her
complexion, her temper and her nerves!
It but remained for Charlotte Dexter to take her revenge in her way.
Going very seldom out of her house, and never visiting at the Inn
she was really very ignorant of the doings of either Mr. George or
Mr. Joseph Foxley. Towards the one she had never been greatly drawn,
for the other she felt all the passion that only a supremely lonely
woman can feel in middle age for a man younger than herself who
charms her as a child, while he captivates her as a lover. Of
Mrs. Cox and Milly moreover, she hardly ever thought, and in fact
had not seen the latter for a long time. If she had it is not likely
she would even have recognized in the tall pale shapely young woman
with braids of dark hair and white linen cuffs fastened--must I tell
it? with a pair of antique monogram studs, the plump little
handmaiden of four years back. As it was, she only waited on day
after day, to hear Mr. Joseph speak. Instead of Mr. Joseph however
appeared another and less welcome confidante. This was the most
malignant gossip in the village, Mrs. Woods, the wife of the butcher,
a tall red faced woman with high cheek-bones on which the color
seemed to have been badly smirched, watery eyes and a couple of
protruding yellow teeth. She looked more like a butcher than the
butcher himself who was a mild little man with soft silky fair hair
and small nervous fluttering hands. Yet he managed to summon
sufficient character to go on a tremendous burst--I know of no other
word, every third or fourth month and disappear for a week When
these periodical eclipses took place, his wife would come flying
into the Inn with her bonnet hanging round her neck and a large
green and red plaid shawl streaming out behind her.
"Where's Woods?" She would say. "Where's Woods? Give me Woods! Give
'im up, I tell you; give 'im up now!"
But Woods was never found inside Mrs. Cox's neat dwelling, nor
indeed anywhere, although it had been whispered on, one occasion
that he had been seen in the back room of the little "Temperance
Hotel" with the male Methodist in attendance. This, of course, was
It was this Mrs. Woods then that stopped at Dexter's Oak one Friday
morning with her donkey-cart and a small piece of the neck of mutton
in it. She was not an entirely bad woman, though a downright
cunning virago, and perhaps some inkling of the nature of the blow
that was about to fall on Miss Dexter's head caused her to come
prepared by an acceptable present to somewhat mitigate its appalling
"I be at the Inn bright and early this morning Miss," she began,
"and brought 'em their bit of fresh meat. And I'm bringin' you a bit
as was over, and it is'nt a bad piece for a stew, if you like a stew,
Miss, with an onion or two."
"Thank you very much, Mrs. Woods," said Charlotte, who had come out
to the front door and now stood on the lower step, looking over the
cart. "I'm afraid I can't settle with you just at present," she said
further, with some effort, "you can call some other time when you
are passing. Will that do? and is it weighed?"
"It is, miss, and I'll not say a word about the payin'! Six pound
and a 'alf, and Woods gone agen--I weighed it myself."
"Oh! I am sorry to hear that," said Charlotte. "Your husband gives
you a great deal of trouble. I am very sorry, and he is not at the
If Charlotte was guilty at that moment of purposely leading the
conversation up to this always for her most enthralling, most
engrossing subject, she soon enough received her punishment. On she
went to her own destruction.
"At the inn!" repeated the butcher's wife, with ineffable scorn on
her cruel mouth. She wiped her watery eyes and settled the
refractory bonnet before going on.
"No miss, he's not at the inn, and if he was sober, he wouldn't be
at the inn, and you'll never see him, nor me, nor 'Ide yonder, nor
anyone on us at all no more at the inn. For the inn's changed 'ands,
miss. There's an end of Mrs. Cox, who was a mother to many, if not
to Woods. There's an end to good old times and dancin' and singin',
and honest Robert, though he was a cross 'un--there's an end to it
all now, miss, for the inn's changed 'ands, and I'm the first in the
village as knows it"
"Good gracious. Is it possible?" said Charlotte, genuinely surprised.
"Who can have succeeded Mrs. Cox and why? I thought she was so
popular and making so much money, and what--what will become of the
Mrs. Woods gave a triumphant grin. "It's them, theirselves, miss;
it's them that 'as it now. And the younger one will be marrying
Milly in a little while and settling down comfortable in the inn.
It's gentlefolks and aristocrats we'll have now at the inn, miss,
and 'ard workin' people like me and Woods may trudge all day and
freeze all night, and never a pot of beer or a warm at the kitchen
fire and meat paid regular for year in, year out!"
Charlotte stood aghast. The woman's injured volubility rushed past
her as a scene outside a railway car rushes past us, leaving only
one idea, one word caught at, as from the window through which we
apprehend the landscape, one scene or portion of a scene enchains
the eye and lingers in the mind though other scenes fly past in
"Marry?" she repeated. "Marry! Milly, did you say? That is the girl,
isn't it, Mrs. Cox's niece? Which--"
"Ay," said the woman, "that's Milly, the 'ired girl; she's no I more
than that, if she be her aunt's niece. And 'ard work for one's niece.
Me and Woods, if we'd 'ad one, would have done better for her nor
that, makin' her work like a slave or a dummy. Cows, and pigs, and
poultry, and dish-washing, and scrubbing, and lamps, and starched
fronts, and fine gentlemen--but she's well paid, she's well paid.
She's to marry one of the fine gentlemen, Mr. Joseph it is, and
they're to live on at the Inn with Milly as mistress, and her fine
husband behind the bar, very like. Well, good-mornin', Miss Dexter;
I wish you joy of the mutton. Me and Woods often says--we'll take
this or that little Dexter's Oak, but it's most times forgot, for
Woods is 'alf crazed, Miss Dexter, and I've got to do the whole.
Having adjusted her bonnet and the donkey-cart to her satisfaction,
Mrs. Woods drove off rather disappointed on the whole at Miss Dexter's
calm demeanour. Astonishment, perplexity, doubt, contempt and disgust
she had undoubtedly shown, but not a single sigh of weakness.
Charlotte Dexter was not the woman to swoon or lament or even turn
pale as her sister Ellen would have done. But when she came into her
house and sat down in her lonely parlour, she enacted a scene which
would have petrified with astonishment any inhabitant of the prosy
little village in which she had dwelt so long and indeed many other
people as well, for when you and I, dear reader, go to see one of
these emotional plays in which the French actress writhes on the
sofa; grovels on the floor, rolls up her handkerchief into a ball
or tears it into strips, prays, weeps, curses, censures, implores,
looks at herself in the glass until she is on the point of going
mad, and strides about the stage as no woman in real life has ever
been seen to stride, ending by throwing herself across an arm-chair
as rigid as marble thereby assuring the audience that she is in a
"dead faint"--I say, that when we see all this performed by a
travelling "star," and her truly eclectic Company, comprising a
Diva, a Duenna, a Diner-out and a Devil, we are apt to look around
at the placid Canadian or the matter-of-fact American audience
and wonder if they understand the drift of the thing at all, the
situations, the allusions, even in the slightest degree, forgetting
that perhaps the most placid, most commonplace person in the theatre
has gone through some crisis, some tragedy as thrilling, as subtle
and as terrible as the scene we have just witnessed. "Not out of
Paris," we say, "can such things happen?" Do we know what we are
saying? Is it only in Paris that hearts are won and tossed aside
this night--as in the play? Is it only in Paris that honor is
forgotten and promises are broken this night--as in the play? Is it
only in Paris that money allures and rank dazzles, and a dark eye or
a light step entrances, this night--as in the play? Is it only in
Paris that nature is human and that humanity is vile, or weak, or
pure, or firm, as this night in the play? Oh! in that obscure little
Canadian village, a lonely old maid locked her door that morning and
pulled down her blind that the daylight might not come in and see
her misery, might not mock even more malignantly than the ignorant,
impertinent and hard-hearted woman who had dealt her this blow. Like
most women in such a crisis, she lost the habit of thought. Reason
entirely deserted her, and she never dreamed but that it was true.
For when a women has to own to herself that she holds no dominion
over a man, that it is only too perfectly clear that the impulse of
loving is all on her side and that she has neither anything to
expect nor anything to fear from him, since indifference is the
keynote of his attitude to her, she will all the more readily
believe that he loves elsewhere, worthily or unworthily the same to
her. A woman is not a noble object in such a situation. All trusting
feminine instincts, all sweet emotions of hope, all sentiment, all
passion even, retreat and fall away from her, leaving either a cold,
bitter, heartless petrifaction, in a woman's clinging robe, or the
Fury that is the twin sister of every little red-lipped, clear-eyed
girl born into the world. She never dreamed but that this story was
true. In fact so entirely had her woman's wit deserted her, she
said to herself of _course_ it was true. Her brain could work
sufficiently to conjure up hints, phrases, words, looks, events,
accidents that all bore testimony to the truth of the extraordinary
tale. For it was extraordinary. Miss Dexter herself was the great
grand-daughter of an Admiral, and the grand-daughter of a judge, and
as such, respected all these accidents of birth which we are
supposed to ignore or at least not expected to recognize in a new
country. That such men as the Mr. Foxleys could make themselves as
completely at home in the Inn as rumor had frequently asserted, and
with truth, seemed at all times monstrous to her. She had lived so
long out of England, over thirty years now, that she had forgotten
the sweet relations that prevailed there between the aristocracy or
landed gentry and their inferiors. The Mr. Foxleys were simply doing
in Canada what they would have done had they been still in England,
only they were assisted in so doing by the unusually English
surroundings in which they found themselves. Miss Dexter looked
around her in the yellow inclosed light. There was a sampler in a
frame, worked by herself when a little child, another exactly similar,
worked by Ellen, a couple of fine old family portraits in heavy gilt
frames, half a dozen ivory miniatures scattered about on the walls,
some good carvings in ivory, a rare old Indian shawl festooned over
the wooden mantle-board, a couple of skins on the floor, a corner
piece of furniture known as a "whatnot" crowded with bits of
egg-shell china, birds' eggs and nests, a few good specimens of spar
and coral and a profusion of plants everywhere. It was all neat,
respectable, even dignified, superior. There was no such other room
in the village. In the village? There were not many at that time
even in the town. Sooner than part with the eggshell china or the
Indian shawl the Miss Dexters had suffered the pains of poverty and
hunger; these cherished reminders of an absent father and an
artistic youth could never be lost or borne away by the hands of a
stranger. And how glad those foolish Miss Dexters had been to
possess such beautiful and interesting objects when it pleased
Mr. George Foxley to drink tea out of the cups on summer afternoons
on the verandah of the little cottage looking up into the splendid
vault of the mighty oak, or when Mr. Joseph would wind the Indian
shawl round his silly head in the winter evenings when the draughts
of cold air would rush in through the thin walls. These and other
memories crowded into Charlotte Dexter's brain as she looked around
her room, crowded thick and fast, crowded fast and furious, surged,
broke, leaving an empty moment of perfect blankness, then crowded
again thicker, faster, surged and seethed and then broke again,
leaving in the void of perfect blankness this time a fixed idea, a
resolve, a determination, seen in the dark like a luminous point of
That afternoon as Farmer Wise was driving slowly along the road, the
main road leading through Ipswich to the town, he was accosted by
Miss Dexter from her verandah. She had her jacket on and held her
bonnet in her hand.
"Can you give me a seat as far as the Albion?" said she. "I would
have sent a message to you yesterday if I had known I was going. But
if it will not trouble you--"
"Oh! no trouble no trouble at all, Miss Dexter," replied Farmer Wise.
"I'm sorry I've only the waggon to offer ye. But I'm takin' in
apples as you see, nine barrel of 'em, and only a waggon will do for
"Certainly, certainly," said Miss Dexter, hurriedly trying on her
bonnet. "Can you wait a moment? I won't be longer, Mr. Wise, it is
just to lock the back door."
The farmer nodded and drew up under the shade of Dexter's oak. It
was a beautiful afternoon late in November, characterized by the
clear cold air, the blue and gold of the sky, and the russet
coloring of the foliage that mark the close of the Autumnal season.
He looked in at Miss Dexter's little garden, admirably neat and
well-trimmed; dahlias, hollyhocks, sweet William and asters, though
done with blossoms, still bore their green leaves unsmitten by the
frost. The windows appeared full of flowers too, but the blinds were
skimp and faded and drawn down behind them. He started when he
noticed this, for he knew the outer aspect of the house well, and
had never seen such a thing before, except in case of sickness or
death. The honest farmer thought and thought until Miss Dexter
reappeared and assisted by him, got up in her place beside him. Even
after that he went on thinking, and I must here tell you that it was
not the first time Farmer Wise's thoughts had dwelt so persistently
upon his companion and her house and personal history. For twelve
years he had nursed a kind of mild distant passion for Miss Dexter
at the Oak, unguessed at by her and his family, and only half
understood by himself. He could not have said he was in love with her.
He had been in love once when he married his first wife, who bore
him a triad of splendid sons, one "keeping store" in the Western
States and the other two at home on the farm, all three great giants
of fellows, handsome in the fields or at barn-doors or in
market-waggons, but plain on Sundays in black coats or at evening
dances in the big ball-room at the Inn, when they would shuffle
noisily through cotillons or labor clumsily through a Highland
For himself, Farmer Wise was an honest, sincere, good-hearted man, a
maker of money and a spender thereof--witness the fine red ploughs,
the painted barns, the handsome team, Kentucky bred, and the inner
decorations of his house, situated about five miles out of Ipswich,
on the main-road. After Mr. Simon P. Rattray, he was the
representative man of the district, although he did not come so
closely into contact with the villagers. This _penchant_ for the
elder Miss Dexter had been a gradual, a slow but very sure and
steady thing. Her father's death had increased it, so had that of
Ellen her sister, and the farmer lived too far away to know as much
as other people knew about the advent of the Mr. Foxleys. Had there
been a sister or a daughter, or a wife or a mother, or an aunt or a
cousin about the farm, he would have known very quickly. As it was,
the girl who did the housework on the farm was as ignorant of gossip,
its existence and the laws which govern its nature, as any male farm
hand could be. When Farmer Wise put up his horses at the Inn three
or four times a year, and sat down in the cheerful bar-room to drink
a glass of whisky with his feet to the fire if it were winter, or a
taller glass of Belfast ginger ale if it were summer, did he never
notice Mrs. Cox? Mrs. Cox, well-to-do and popular herself, fresh,
blooming and hearty, a young woman yet, and just the woman one would
say, for him, and above all, the woman who thought most of him and
ran to change her cap--the black one with the knot of rusty widow's
crape--for the smart new one that held the velvet pansy when she saw
the team coming. There's where he should have chosen the second time,
there was the woman he should have noticed instead of poor, proud,
foolish Charlotte Dexter, whom he half feared as a "lady born," and
who held in her heart, had he only knew it, the image of Mr. Joseph
Foxley. The farmer got on with the English gentlemen at the Inn
whenever he saw them "first-rate," and it was of them he began most
unsuspiciously to talk when he and Miss Dexter had crossed the bridge,
ascended the hill on the other side of the river, and the team were
settling to their work as they entered upon the dreary eight miles
called the Plains which lay between them and the city. The farmer
was consciously happy as he moved his ponderous body slightly nearer
to his companion and tucked her in with his great hands, a single
touch of one of them hurting her thin frame as if they were made of
iron or stiff rope. He thought he was gentle too--poor man--but long
years of manual labor had changed the natural soft flesh to the
consistency of leather, in which immense muscles and joints
seemingly of marble had been imbedded.
Besides, there was the delicate touch of another hand, as fine, as
soft as a woman's and yet almost as strong as the farmer's, in her
mind, a hand whiter than her own, though somewhat freckled, a hand
that had taper fingers and well-kept nails, a hand that bore an
antique seal ring and a fine pearl, a hand alas that had often
retained her own in its warm clinging pressure, and once--only once,
and that was three years ago--clasped her unresisting waist for a
moment in the dark under the Oak while her sister fumbled at the gate.
And just as she cherished these memories of Mr. Joseph, so did the
widowed farmer retain the few occasions in his mind on which he had
met Miss Dexter, spoken with her, given her a "lift" into town or up
the road to the village store, for this was not the first use she
had made of his gallant good nature and the Kentucky team.
He looked down at her now as they drove along in silence and noticed
her thin black gown, her short jacket, her bit of black veil drawn
over her bonnet, and her dingy travelling-bag with its tarnished
clasp, and he heaved a sigh.
Charlotte was a "sizeable woman" thought Farmer Wise "and wants a
good live garment sometimes, to bring her figure out and make more
of it and do justice to it. A shawl now! How much would a good shawl
be? I miss a woman round the place; I wouldn't know what to ask for.
I might ha' stopped nigh the Inn and asked Mrs. Cox." Ay, you might
Farmer Wise, and have done another mischievous thing, upsetting
Mrs. Cox for a week as she waited for a parcel from town and
breaking her heart altogether as day after day followed and no
"I ha' never seen the ekil of those Mr. Foxleys yonder," began the
honest farmer as something to start a conversation with. "I ha' never
seen their ekil."
"Oh!" said Miss Dexter. "Yes? In what way?"
"So gentle and so funny as they be. Gentlemen both of them with
delicate hands and fine clothes--"
"Yes, yes," murmured Miss Dexter under her breath, clutching at her
bag and closing her eyes.
"And not above anybody or anything going. I see the pale one this day,
and pale he is and weak they say, enough to be walked about on the
girl's shoulder--I see him to-day as I passed the Inn, he was on a
long chair out in the bit of paved yard, you know Miss Dexter, and
when he saw me he raises his head and says 'Farmer Wise, is that you?'"
May be you don't remember just how he speaks. He speaks better now nor
when he came, and his brother too. At first It was all in a jumble
like one word run into the other and hard to understand at least for
us country folks. But now 'tis a bit clearer, more as you speak,
begging your pardon, Miss Dexter, for noticing that or anything else
that concerns you, Miss Dexter. And I says, stopping these fellows a
bit. "Yes it's me. I'm on my way to town with nine barrels of apples."
"How many?" he calls out again.
"Nine," I replies.
"Let's taste one," he says.
"A barrel?" I says, and Milly, the girl, she come oat by the
door, with another quilt to put over him, laughing, and showing
her teeth, rare ones too, they be and says she. "Throw us down one,
Farmer Wise," and I did, for I had a couple in my pocket, and here's
the tother, "now Miss Dexter, if you see your way to eatin' it now
in the waggon alongside of me, or will you wait till we get to the
Albion?" Charlotte Dexter put her hand out mechanically and took the
apple, a large red one, from the farmer who again managed to hurt
her as his great wrist touched her fingers for an instant. He
blushed perceptibly and moved a little nearer still. And how
unconscious Charlotte Dexter was of his mere presence, let alone
tender thoughts, except when he hurt her!
"I have heard this morning, that is I believe everyone has known for
some time, though it is only spoken about generally today, for the
first time, that Mrs. Cox is giving up the Inn. Her niece, the girl
you mention, is going to be married--indeed, it is one of those
gentlemen--the Mr. Foxleys--whom she is to marry, and they will take
the Inn out of Mrs. Cox's hands."
The farmer was as surprised as she had been.
"Well," he ejaculated "didn't I say I'd never seen their ekil?
Milly's going to marry one of the Mr. Foxleys? Which--"
"It is Mr. Joseph," returned Miss Dexter, staring down at the apple
in her lap. "The youngest one, you know. He is a very merry young
gentleman and always has something to say. I daresay it will be a
very comfortable arrangement."
"But it's a great thing for Milly," said her companion, "it'll be a
great thing for her. She'll live in the tone, no doubt and may be
cross the ocean to see his home and his parents--it'll be a great
thing for Milly. A gentleman born! Ay, ay; ay, ay!"
"No, no," said Miss Dexter, irritably. "Don't I tell you, Farmer Wise,
that they will live on at the Inn? These young gentlemen like comfort,
like being waited upon. They do this in order to insure--in order to--
oh! it is difficult to explain my meaning, but you must see, Farmer
Wise, that it is not a proper marriage at all, it is a very sad
thing for the girl, I should consider, and some one--some friend
should tell her so. She can never be a lady, and what kind of life
will it be for him, a gentleman born, as you say, when he could have
chosen too, where he liked. My great grandfather, Mr. Wise, was an
Admiral, and my grandfather was a Judge. My father was a member of a
respected profession, although not brought up to it in early life,
and _none_ of my relations, or ancestors _ever_ married out of their
own proper circle, except my poor father. He made a most perverse
and foolish marriage, Farmer Wise, which though only lasting a few
years, brought sorrow and trouble and poverty and oppression to his
"Ay, ay," said the farmer, softly. He was thinking still about those
"Ay, ay. You're right in the main, Miss Dexter--yes, you're right in
the main. Now, I thought I'd ask ye--I said to myself this morning,
when I see Miss Dexter the next time, her as is a lady, and no mistake,
I'll ask her--what would you say, or what your sister have said if
someone here right in this village, that is, there in Ipswich, I
mean of course, someone who wanted to just be kind and lend an
'elpin 'and, had asked ye--or her--say her--had asked her anytime to
marry him, startin' fair, startin' fair, with a year to think on it.
And a comfortable 'ome awaitin' 'er with two 'ired girls to do the
work and plenty of hands on the farm and the best of cheese and
butter and the Harmonium in the parlor and drives to and fro' the
Church and behind it all a--solid man--a solid man--what do ye think
she'd 'uv said?"
Was ever man more in earnest, now that it had suddenly broken from
him after all these years, than honest Farmer Wise? The team jogged
on, but the reins were lying loosely in their owner's hands.
"I thought I'd ask ye," he repeated looking away from his companion.
"I thought I'd ask ye."
Miss Dexter had hardly gathered the import of his speech. She looked
"My sister?" she said with increased irritability. "Ask my sister?
What do you mean? I never knew that anybody here, in the village,
had proposed to her, or dared--dared to think of her at all as a
possible mate--wife, whatever it is you mean. Surely you don't mean
yourself, Farmer Wise! It would never enter your head, I am sure, to
propose to my sister!"
"No it never did," said the farmer quietly.
"Then it is someone else? Really, you must tell me, if you know
anything about it, Farmer Wise. But I think you are making some
mistake, it is quite impossible that anyone in the village--any
native of the village, or indeed any native of this country should
so far forget himself as to propose to my sister."
"Of course," said the farmer as quietly, "it is quite impossible. No
one 'ud 'av done it. No one did do it, that I know on. But I thought
I'd ask ye. And about yourself, too? There'd be no gettin' ye to
forget all--all that has been and to take up with things as they be,
to be makin' a new start, startin' fair, as I said, startin' fair,
both parties agreed to think a year on it, and one party to save up
and buy nothin' till the year 'd be out and then the other party to
give the word for both to take 'ands and make the start together!
For what's past is past, and what's done is done, and ye can't make
this out the old country any more nor ye can bring back those that
are gone, which they wouldn't be, I 'low to say, if they'd stayed
behind in it. This" said the farmer, in a louder firmer voice,
indicating with his whip the dreary pine forests that bordered the
road on either side, "isn't the old country. I come from it myself,
and I know it taint. Them rustlin' leaves ain't the old country,
heaps of brown and yella up to your knees after a while, nor yet
this road, nor that sky, nor this waggon, nor them apples, nor them
horses. Nor me myself. I'm no longer old country. I'm fond of it--sho!
I'm fonder of it now than I was forty years ago, when I come away
from it, I'm fonder of it every year that goes by. But it's the New
Country that's made me, that's give me all I have and more than all
I want, and accordin' I'm grateful to it, and wouldn't turn my back
on it. No Miss Dexter I wouldn't, and so I says, to all as come out to
it, it's better to try and forget the past, or at least as much of it
as 'll bear forgetting in order to let you live, and to take up with
things as they be, and not lookin' always to things as they were,
and to make the best of what the New World has to offer to ye And I
don't think that in England--God bless her--to-day, you 'll find a
finer team, nor redder apples, nor an easier going waggon, nor even
a prettier sky, than that there yella light breakin' all over the
There was perfect silence after that. It had suddenly dawned upon
Charlotte Dexter with accession of disgust and embittered hostility
that the farmer's words related to himself. What new and hateful
complication was this to be reminded by such an ill-timed
declaration of the ironical in her life which had always been near
enough to her apprehensions! Anything and everything but what she
wanted, she could have. It had always been so. A dark frown gathered
on her forehead, she clutched her bag and drew herself away from the
side of the honest farmer.
"I do not know what you are talking about," she cried. "Such words
can have nothing to do with me. I could not disgrace myself and my
father's family by allying myself with anybody out here, least of all,
one of the working classes, or a farmer. You are very inconsiderate,
Farmer Wise, and I must ask you to distinctly understand that even
conversation on such a subject is quite out of the question. I
cannot even discuss it with you or with anyone in your position. I
have told you what my connections are; what my family is, you have
now, I hope, some correct idea, and you will see how utterly
impossible it is that I should, even to better my circumstances
which I admit are somewhat precarious, make such a _mesalliance_--
such a mistake, I mean, as you refer to.
"Well," said the farmer very quietly this time. "You're right in the
main, Miss Dexter, you're right in the main. But I thought I'd ask ye,
I thought I'd ask ye. Far from harm bein' done, there's only good,
there's only good, for now you understand me and I understand
_you_ and thank ye for your confidences and there's an end on it."
So begun, so ended the honest man's wooing. Did he suffer
disappointment as Miss Dexter's contemptuous eye and her irritated
tone showed him--ah! how plainly--she was forever out of his reach?
Was an idol broken, a dream dissolved, a blossom nipped, or hope
murdered, just as much, in the case of this comfortable placid
unimaginative elderly farmer as in the case of younger, warmer, more
impetuous, more idealistic men? If so, Farmer Wise was as
self-contained as the best actor among them and handed Miss Dexter
out at the Albion with as gallant, though cautious politeness and
sat as far away from her at the hotel tea table and met her in the
hall afterwards with as severe an air, as if the situation were
perfectly pleasant and completely ordinary. He asked her when she
would be going back, and learnt that she would pass the night at the
Albion, returning to the village by the Saturday's stage.
"Then shall I take a seat for ye?" asked the willing farmer.
"No" said Miss Dexter, who appeared to be in a great hurry,
"I can arrange in the morning, thank you."
"In any case, ye're sure ye won't want a 'lift' again, Miss Dexter,"
said the farmer respectfully, though there might have been the least
tinge of irony in the tone. "I'm not goin' back myself till to morrow."
"No, thank you," returned Miss Dexter for the last time.
The Albion was a small hotel or tavern situated just on the
outskirts of the town, which did a flourishing business with the
country people. Two roads, the Ipswich and the Richmond, formed a
sort of junction before its door, one leading into the fine
agricultural district or valley of Richmond, Guernsey and Trenton,
and the other following, the dreary Plains through Ipswich to
Orangetown, a thriving little community of mills and saws and booms
and planks picturesquely situated on the Upper Orange River.
There was always a knot of farmers round the Albion, all of them
English or Scotch or native Canadians born of British parents. A
French-Canadian would have been hoisted on a table and examined
minutely all over, hair, eye, skin and costume, had one been present.
But though the men were respectable and decent and hard-working and
most of them earned a good income and few of them drank or gambled
it away, they were noisy, smoky, staring fellows for companions and
Miss Dexter, having walked some distance to a shop, made a purchase,
and returned to the parlor of the hotel while it was yet light,
uncertain what to do with herself or where to go to escape the
bustle and clatter of tongues. Farmer Wise was smoking in the bar,
she had seen him as she passed in, and the mere sight of him, with
his head up against the counter, and his legs out on a chair made
her shudder. She sat in the parlor listening to the intolerable noise,
heavy delf and cutlery being momentarily banged down on tables and
chairs, an occasional broken plate and whirling pewter mug or
kitchen spoon reaching her ear with more than usual reverberation.
Then would come a volley of laughter, oaths, and bets on next week's
races from the bar, then more breaking of china from the scullery,
the stamping of horses in the stable, then the bar door would be
closed and comparative silence ensue. In one of these intervals, the
girl who had waited at the tea-table appeared in the parlor and
inquired of Miss Dexter if she would like a fire put in the wood
stove that stood on a square of zinc in the middle of the room. It
came as a relief from the nervous broodings that were settling down
on her mind occupied in introspection neither healthy nor cheerful,
and she eagerly assented.
When the fire burned up, she opened the door that she might see the
blaze and spread out her thin hands to it and put her cold feet to
its warmth. Then for the first time she unclasped her bag and taking
out her purchase, looked at it. The shop she had gone into was a
druggist's, and her purchase had been a small bottle of a bluish
fluid that she now held up to the light and looked at long and
steadily but with no change in her countenance. The bar-door opened
with a creak and closed with a bang. She started and replaced the
bottle in the bag and put the bag over her arm as before. For a long
time she sat before the fire warming first one foot, then the other
and never looking away from the blaze. When half-past ten came, so
did the girl with a lamp and two damp towels for Miss Dexter who
took them without opening her mouth much to the astonishment of the
girl, who though taciturn herself was well used to speech and
"language" from all she came in contact with, and who was also
struck with the fact that the strange lady had never removed her
bonnet or jacket "since she come in the house."
She would have had additional ground for surprise had she known that
the strange lady did not remove them even upon reaching her own room,
but lowering the lamp, lay down fully dressed upon the bed still
clasping her small travelling bag in her hands, and slept until
seven o'clock in the morning. She then rose and hastily
straightening her attire, descended to the dining-room, partook of
ham and eggs. Upon the close of this meal, she went up again to the
parlor and sat slightly back from the window that overlooked the
main road until twelve o'clock, when she partook of the dinner
served to the travellers at the Albion, including Farmer Wise who
had sold his apples and soon after dinner hitched up ready to go
homewards. After dinner she went up as before to the parlor and sat
there again. Two o'clock came, half past two, three o'clock, and
Miss Dexter began to look along the road in the direction of the town.
Half-past three found her, still looking along the road. Four
o'clock came, half-past four, then five. She grew visibly uneasy,
walked to and fro in the little parlor, sat down again. Half-past
five, the clatter in the kitchen which had been silent for a little
while renewed itself. Six!! The men stumped into their tea, and the
girl ascending asked Miss Dexter if she was coming down to hers.
"No," said Miss Dexter, "I expect to have a late tea at home, thank
you. And I am just going in a moment or two."
Ten minutes past six. The late November afternoon had almost
entirely faded, it would soon be dark. A quarter past six and
Miss Dexter, looking continuously out of her window perceived the
figure she had waited for so long at length approaching. Gay,
Mr. Joseph, you have thrown off the fetters of town and work and
dull care and responsibility, and here you are free and untrammelled
as the air, good humored, cheerful, humming your Old Country tunes
as usual, brisk, _debonnair_, untouched by thought of present
trouble or evil, unthinking and unsuspecting! Gay Mr. Joseph,
urbane Mr. Joseph, what have you got in your hand this time? Last
time it was a bunch of the red field lily. Now it is, or it looks
like--yes, it is--a genuine florist's bouquet. Something to open the
eyes of the Ipswich villagers. A gorgeous wired platoon of roses,
and smilax tuberose and mignonette--Mr. Joseph, Mr. Joseph, what
does this mean, who is this for? On he came, brisker, more _debonnair_,
more smiling than Miss Dexter had ever seen him in her life. Her
breath came fast as he neared the window. Exchanging a word with the
hostler and a couple of laboring men who stood almost in the centre
of the road Mr. Joseph passed on, looking down with a smile at the
bouquet in his hand. Miss Dexter then arose and quietly settling her
bonnet at a glass walked out of the hotel having paid her small bill
She walked steadily on in the direction of Ipswich in the wake of
Mr. Joseph who did not appear to be walking as fast as usual himself.
So by straining every nerve as we say--in reality, walking as she
had never attempted to and dreamt of walking in her life--she slowly
but surely gained upon the unconscious Mr. Joseph. They were about
in the middle of the plains, that dreary bit of road bordered by
pine forests on either side when Miss Dexter found she could
distinguish the _clink, clink_ or jingle of his watch-chain, a thing
of steel links which she knew well by sight as well as by sound as
it struck against the buttons of his coat. Slowly Miss Dexter gained
on him, until it was necessary either to accost him or pass him.
Which did she mean to do? Dark as it was rapidly growing, Mr. Joseph,
in half turning his head to observe something in the trees or sky,
became conscious of a figure close behind him. The path was narrow,
for he had left the middle of the road since passing the Albion, and
he stepped aside with his usual ready politeness to allow the lady
room to go on before him. But in a moment he recognized Miss Dexter.
She waited for him to speak.
"I--really, why--is it possible it is you, my dear Miss Dexter? I
never knew you took such lonely walks so far from home. You don't
mean to say you've walked out from town?"
For an answer, Miss Dexter, who had previously unclasped her bag and
taken out the bottle, lifted her right hand and threw the contents
over Mr. Joseph.
"In the name of God!" shrieked the unfortunate man, warding off as
he imagined a second attack. But Miss Dexter had done her work and
stood rigid, unmovable, stony as marble, the bag fallen at her feet,
her hands fallen straight down at her sides. Mr. Joseph had sunk
upon the ground moaning and writhing, but through all the torture of
the terrible pain he was suffering, he thought of nothing but the
inconceivable brutality of the act itself. Why had she done it?
"I suppose it is vitriol," he gasped. "Was it an accident--or--did
you--mean--to--do it? How have--I--injured--you? Oh--say--say--"
He could get no further for a few moments in the appalling
consciousness of that living fire which had burnt into his poor eyes
and played round his poor temples. Otherwise he was not injured, for
Miss Dexter's aim had been a faulty one and nearly all the contents
of the bottle had in reality descended on the ground.
"Say--say" he went on. "Which it is? My--dear--Miss Dexter--I am--
sorrier for you--than--for--myself, and cannot imagine--oh! Good God,
I shall be blind, blind--ah!!--"
Charlotte Dexter still stood in the rapidly darkening air, a stem,
rigid, immovable figure. It was too soon for remorse. That would
come in good time. But a certain pity stole over her as she gazed at
the huddled mass on the ground before her, which a short time ago,
had been the gay, laughing, upright Mr. Joseph.
"Are you suffering very much?" She said at length in her ordinary
"Good God! How--how--can you ask? Again--tell me--was it--an
"No," she replied still in her most ordinary voice. "No. It was no
accident. It _is_ vitriol, and I _did_ mean to throw it."
"It is horrible," groaned Mr. Joseph, still in agony on the ground
where he had sunk at first. "And you will not--fiend that you appear
now to be--though Heaven knows--I thought you sweet and womanly
enough once--you will not--tell me why! It is infamous!"
"Yes, it _is_ infamous," returned Charlotte Dexter. "It _is_ horrible,
and I am a fiend. I am not a woman any longer. I once was, as you say,
sweet and womanly enough for--for what? Joseph Foxley. For you to
come to any house and my sister's house, and blast _her_ life and
strike _her_ down as you thought you would strike me, for this and
that and for much more, but not enough for truth and honesty and an
offer of marriage in fair form, not enough for common respect and
"My dear lady," said Mr. Joseph with great difficulty, "there was no
"And all that time, when I thought you at least free, at least your
own master, at least unbiased and unbound, for unlike a gentleman
you never hinted to me of these--other ties--you were engaged to
this miserable girl, this common drudge, the scullery-maid of a
country inn. You, you, you!"
"My dear lady," said Mr. Joseph again with greater difficulty than
before, "I--upon my word--I have--I--"
Charlotte Dexter, suddenly regaining the use of her limbs, bent down
quickly and peered into the poor sightless face. Mr. Joseph had
fainted. She owned no fear yet however, though it was now quite dark,
and five miles lay between them and her own door. Pity was just
giving away to remorse. What if she had killed him? She bent
down again but found that there was no fear of that and even
consciousness appeared to be returning. At this moment the sound of
wheels struck her ear. Nearer and nearer it came and she soon
descried a waggon coming along the road sharply in which sat one man.
The rest of the waggon was empty and as it was proceeding in the
direction of the village, into that, she made up her mind, should
Mr. Joseph be put. As it drew near, she stepped out of the dark
shade of the pines and bade the man stop.
"Whose there!" said he, "What's here? What's the matter? Why, if it
ain't Miss Dexter!"
"Yes," said she, stooping to assist her unfortunate companion.
"How do you do, Farmer Wise! I--do you know Mr. Foxley--Mr. Joseph
Foxley--is here--can you just see him--if you have a lantern, or,
will you help me to get him into the waggon?"
Farmer Wise forgot Miss Dexter and her family pride in an instant,
though at first sight the feeling of injury had somewhat revived,
and he made haste to come to her relief. He found Mr. Joseph just
coming to himself.
"Why, why, what's the matter?" said the Farmer. "It minds me of old
times, this, when highway-men and tramps were a-infestin' the road
and a-lyin' in wait for honest travellers--in the Old Country of
course, Miss Dexter, not here, not here. Yet somethin's been at work
here, eh! Mr. Joseph, or else I'm much mistaken. Here, lend an 'and,
Miss Dexter; now, sir, can you see me?"
"Not very well," gasped poor Mr. Joseph. "It's dark, I know," said
the farmer, "and I hadn't begun carrying my lantern yet. Never mind
Here, now, place your foot there--are ye hurt anywhere that I may
touch ye--tell me where I hurt ye, if I do--now then, the other foot--
"There, now it's done! Miss Dexter, ma'am there's an old blanket at
the back there, lie him on that. Put his head down and let him look
straight up at them stars and he'll soon get himself, I warrant. If
I knew where ye were hurt, perhaps I could bind ye up. There's no
"No," said Mr. Joseph. "Thank you, Farmer Wise. I am--much--better--
really. I was unconscious!" "Ay," said the farmer, "A little, and
can you stand the joltin' now, are ye sure? For if ye are, we'll
"Stay a moment," said Mr. Joseph. "I had some flowers--a bouquet--
in my hands when I--fell. I can't see--very well--in this light--
look for me, will you!"
"I do spy somethin' white on yonder ground where you was when I came
up. Maybe it's a pocket-handkerchief, may be it's the flowers you
The former sprang down and returned with two articles one of which--
the bouquet he gave to Mr. Joseph, the other, a small bottle--he put
in his own pocket The bouquet was as fresh and untumbled as when it
emerged from the careful florist who had prepared it. Not a single
drop of the fiery liquid had fallen upon it nor scorched its
fragrant beauty and it presently lay upon the face of the suffering
man, healing with its cool moist sweet leaves and petals his poor
"I won't ask him," thought the farmer, "I won't ask him. But what
are they doin' here together? Well, I won't ask that neither. And
why did not she came out by the stage as she said? I won't ask that
neither. There's three things I needn't go for to enquire into. But
a little general conversation in a nice kind of way, neither spyin'
nor lyin' may do him good and not be altogether despised by the--the
other party." He looked back and could dimly see Mr. Joseph sitting
up on the blanket. He had removed his hat, and his hands were
pressed to his head. Charlotte Dexter was in the furthest corner of
the waggon, a dark, stern, ominous figure.
"Strange that you and me _are_ goin' home together, Miss Dexter,
after all," said the farmer.
"Miss Dexter drove in to the Albion alongside of me yesterday, sir,
and I ask her if so be she need a second lift back to-day, and she
"Ah!" said Mr. Joseph. "Yesterday, did you say? I was--to have--
come out--yesterday--in answer to my brother's note--but I could
not manage--it. I wish," with a grim attempt at the old humor--
"I had, 'pon my soul I do."
"Your brother is well, I hope, sir?" said the farmer. "Don't talk
too much, I beg of ye, Mr. Joseph. To see ye with yer hands like that!"
"It is--better--easier--that way," returned Mr. Joseph. "My brother
is well for him, thank you. You know, he is--not strong he--is--never--
"D--" said the farmer to himself. "Of course, of course, I know. I
see him yesterday morning, pale like and weak, but smiling and
lookin' happy enough too, I tell ye."
"Ah, yes" said Mr. Joseph, again lying down and pressing the flowers
to his hot lips. "I--these flowers--are for him and--her."
"Her!" said the farmer.
"Milly, you know. Ah--perhaps you haven't heard. My brother is going
to--marry Milly, Mrs. Cox's niece, you know."
An absolutely death-like stillness prevailed in the waggon. The
Kentucky team jogged on. The stars shone down on poor Mr. Joseph
turning up his sightless orbs to their beauty and majesty, and on
the passion of grief and remorse that now surged in Miss Dexter's
"It may be vanity," thought Farmer Wise as the bridge and the river
and Dexter's Oak came in sight one after the other, "it may be vanity,
though I'm too old a man to be much given to that, but I can't help
thinkin' I'm a wiser man than I was yesterday by a good lot. I don't
half know what's happened, but somethin's goin' on, whether it's
understandable or not to me and the likes of me, I don't know as yet,
and I don't think I'll try to find out. If ifs bad it'll come out
fast enough, and if it's good, leavin' it alone maybe will make it a
little better. But here we are," he continued aloud, "at Dexter's Oak.
What's to be done, Miss Dexter, now, and with you, Mr. Joseph? Of
course, I'll take you straight to the Inn--as for Miss Dexter--"
"I will get out at once," said the unhappy woman. "You are sure you
can take him to the Inn all right and--and--lift--that is--without--"
"Oh, I guess so," said the farmer, grimly relapsing into an
Americanism that was just beginning to leaven the whole country.
"I guess I'll take care on him, and as for gettin' him out at the Inn,
there's plenty there. Good-night Miss Dexter, take care there!--now
you're all right"
Charlotte Dexter, with a long look at the prostrate form of Mr.
Joseph, leapt from the waggon and sped through the gate up to her
"Ah!" sighed the farmer to himself, one great long sigh that stirred
his hardy frame to its centre. He never sighed like that again
either for Charlotte Dexter or any other woman.
The next mile they traversed in silence broken only by occasional
moans from Mr. Joseph which moved the old farmer to wonder and
dismay that almost unnerved him.
Presently Mr. Joseph murmured some word the farmer did not catch all
"Is he out of his mind on top of it all!" he said to himself, and
"Farmer Wise," said the same low voice, "are we near the Inn?"
"Just there, Mr. Joseph."
"On the little bridge yet?"
"Just come on it, Mr. Joseph."
"Ah! Can you--stop your horses?"
"Certainly. There! Now what is it?" Mr. Joseph sat up.
"I am in your waggon--the market waggon, Farmer Wise, I think?"
"Yes, Mr. Joseph. You can't tell where we are, I see, being so much
"No. That's not it," said Mr. Joseph. "I--are you on the seat--the
front seat, Farmer Wise?"
"Yes, Mr. Joseph. You can't make me out by this queer light, and I
don't wonder. The stars is beautiful, but they don't make up for
havin' no moon."
"No. That's not it either, Farmer Wise. Did you say the stars were
shining? Orion, I suppose, and the Bull and the rest of them! Can't
you--try--like a dear old fellow--can't you--tell what's the matter
with me? You say you are sitting on the front seat, and I--have no
doubt but that you are, but your voice sounds so much further away--
so very much further away than that--and when one--can't--see you,
A frightful pause.
"Can't see me, can't see me! Mr. Joseph, Mr. Joseph! Not blind--God
forgive me for sayin' the word out to ye like that! But I thought it,
I thought it, and so, out it come! But it is'nt that! Ye'll forgive
me for sayin' the word out to ye like that! It isn't that!"
"I'm afraid it is, Farmer Wise. It can be--nothing--else.'
"If, as you say, the stars are shining and to be sure they generally
are about--this time--of night, and if, as you say, you are sitting
directly opposite me on the front seat of your waggon, and I have no
reason to doubt it, if this is so, and I--can see neither--these
stars shining--nor you--yourself--dear old fellow--on the seat
before me--it can be, I fear--nothing else."
"Ah! I can't--quite remember. Some time, perhaps, I'll tell you how--
shall I go to my brother or--how can I?"
"Mr. Joseph," entreated the farmer, seizing one of those delicate
hands and patting it as if it had been his own. "Will you come with
me? I'll make you comfortable, and have ye seen to and we'll find
out about it and what can be done, and that'll save your brother,
look, and he not strong! Come, Mr. Joseph! Lie down there as you was,
just as ye was--God forgive me for tellin' you to look up at them
stars--and I'll speak a word for you at the Inn, as we're passing.
Won't that do, nor be better than goin' in like that? Not knowin'
either just what is the matter. Come, Mr. Joseph! I'll drive
straight home after that and make ye comfortable for the night, and
there'll be no--womankind, or, or anyone to disturb ye, just me and
the two boys--come, Mr. Joseph!"
"I am willing enough to go, old fellow," answered Mr. Joseph with a
groan. "Willing enough to go anywhere, but where my brother--my poor
brother--is. Yes, it will be best. Drive on."
The warm cheery Inn soon appeared in view. The firelight from the
bar and the lamp-light from the other rooms beamed out from the
red-curtained windows. The scrape of a fiddle came from the kitchen.
"Squires," murmured Mr. Joseph, feebly. "He's always at it." The
farmer pulled up the team at the pump corner one instant and looking
around descried not a soul in view. He got down and went to the side
door leading to the bar and opening it put his head in. Mrs. Cox
herself was dispensing early gin and water to three or four indolent
but talkative gentlemen before the fire. But she was not so busy as
not to perceive the farmer. Had she already had that cap on in which
bloomed the violet velvet pansy, Mr. Joseph's whereabouts might have
been discovered, for invariably on those occasions she accompanied
the farmer not only to the door but even to the very feet of the
horses as he straightened up one thing or loosened another and would
often joke about the empty waggon or the purchases made in the town
which might happen to fill it.
But Farmer Wise left her no time even to adjust her head-dress, far
from changing it.
"Good evening, ma'am," said he, with his head in the door. "No.
Don't trouble about Squires. He's hard at work, I can hear, and
besides, I don't want him. I'm late, and the boys will wait for
their supper. I just have to tell ye that I see Mr. Foxley in town,
Mr. Joseph Foxley, and he says how he can't come out till--say--
Monday. He was stuck full of work--he was indeed--and said positive--
he couldn't come. But he give me this for his brother and for--her,"
producing the bouquet, which caused a thrill of amazement and awe to
pervade the loungers in the bar. "For his brother and for--her,"
said the farmer, taking a long stride across the little room and
giving it to Mrs. Cox. "I congratulate you, ma'am, I do indeed."
Before she could well answer, he had shut the door and mounting the
waggon drove away as quickly as he could. He was too full of
thoughts and plans concerning Mr. Joseph to notice that quick as he
was, Mrs. Cox, not waiting this time to change her cap, had come out
to the door and with her hand shading her eyes, was looking
wistfully after the departing team.
It was as Mr. Joseph had said. His brother, George Albert Dacre
Foxley, of Foxley Manor, Notts, was indeed contemplating marriage
with Milly, niece of Mrs. Cox, landlady of the Ipswich Inn. If it
seem strange, remember that he had passed the meridian of his years,
health was gone, life rapidly passing away and it was impossible now
for him to make any new departure in his life or habits. He had
become firmly attached to Mrs. Cox's comfortable _menage_ and wanted
nothing more. Never in England, even while in the enjoyment of
fairly good health and luxurious surroundings had he ever felt so
completely at rest, satisfied with himself and his small immediate
world, every want cared for, every wish guessed at, and the best of
company to his idea--company that called for nothing but pure
naturalness. He could smoke for hours in Mrs. Cox's kitchen, or in
her neat yard or even in the chintz-hung drawing-room and no one
would interrupt him with dissertations on politics, art or literature.
Like all Englishmen of the quiet country-loving stamp, he cared
little about politics except when some general crisis assented itself,
and knew less about art or literature. He thought Wilkie and
Landseer about the summit of the one and Byron the chief modern
pillar of the other. Twenty years ago, Tennyson had not made a very
deep impression on a mind of his calibre. Yet this handsome, quiet,
delicate gentleman when he did choose to talk had such an audience
as is not given to many men, for Mrs. Cox would leave her work
(if she dared) and Milly would listen with her young eyes fastened
in a kind of ecstasy on the dark ones turned to hers, and Squires
would come along with his hands in his trousers pockets and his
fiddle under his arm, and Bess would put her paws upon her master's
knees and devour him with her own dark eyes--a quintette of friends
unsurpassed in the world for loyal attachment and generous devotion.
What if what he had to tell was but some simple story of hunting
England, or some bald description of London life seen under the
surveillance of a tutor fifteen or twenty years previous to the
time of narration--he was their oracle, prophet, God, what you will,
and they were his dearest, yes, his very dearest friends. When
Mr. Joseph appeared as one of this happy circle, it became more
boisterous of course though not necessarily any happier, for it was
already as happy as it could be. But the news from town and the
occasional English mail, flowers and a cheap new novel--these were
some of the simple delights that Mr. Joseph used to bring with him.
During the first couple of years, both the brothers would saunter
out to the Miss Dexters' or to the Rectory, Mr. Joseph in particular,
never failing to appear on Saturday nights at choir-practice and
Sunday evening service--but Mr. George gradually discontinued his
visits as I have hinted and towards the fourth year of his stay
hardly ever went beyond the Inn. For at the back the small terraced
garden met the orchard, and the orchard sloping down met a small
pebbly brook, and the brook flowing along in sweet rippling fashion
met the most charming of wheat covered golden meadows in which it
was pleasant and good to stroll and which moreover all belonged to
that matchless paragon among landladies, Mrs. Cox. In those days
people grew their own kitchen stuff, and their own fruit and their
own grain, fed their own live stock, made their own butter and cheese,
cured their own hams, laid their own eggs, even brewed their own beer.
Now, everything is different, and let no confiding Englishman,
allured by my tempting picture come out to Canada today in search
of such a Utopia for he will not find it. Moreover all this pleasant
prospect of wood and stream and meadow and orchard lay well _behind_
the Inn, let it be understood, and it was perfectly possible for
Mr. George Foxley to have all the air, walking and exploration he
desired and even a little shooting and fishing if he wanted them
without, as I have said, going beyond it. When he grew really weak,
he was obliged to give up both the latter occupations of course, but
he still walked or strolled a great deal, generally with Milly by
his side. She would leave anything she was at when he called her and
opening the little gate by the one hawthorn tree leading into the
orchard, see him safe down the slope to the side of the little brook
where she would give him her arm, and thus their walk would commence
in earnest. Four years had brought a great change in Milly. New ideas,
new habits, association with such thorough and high-bred gentleman
and the natural desire to improve and grow worthy of such dearly
esteemed company, had altered her completely. Where before she had
been pink, now she was pale; thin, where she had been plump; her
features actually aquiline from the girlish snub of the rounded
contour four years back, her hair, three shades darker, her dress,
almost that of a lady. The most perfect sympathy appeared to exist,
and really did, between these two strangely met natures.
One day, they had sat down at the side of the brook as a couple of
children would have done to cast in sticks and leaves and watch them
float by. Sometimes these would get caught in the numberless little
eddies that such a stream possesses and be whirled round and round
until it was necessary to dislodge them and send them on their way
after the others. One fine yellow leaf on this November day
attracted Mr. Foxley's attention particularly, for it was obstinate
in returning again and again to a cosy little bay formed by a couple
of large stones. Often as he poked it out, back it came into the bay
and anchored itself contentedly on the calm water.
"He has found a haven," said Mr. George. "Yes, without doubt he has
found his haven. What do you think, Milly?"
"I think so, sir."
"Don't call me sir, child. What makes you do so?"
"There is nothing else I can call you, is there,--sir."
"Ah!" said Mr. Foxley. He lay back at full length on the grass and
put his hands over his eyes. The river rippled on and Milly watched
him anxiously. "Is the leaf there still, Milly?"
"Now!" said Mr. Foxley in a warning tone. "I tell you I won't have it."
"No, sir--I beg your pardon, Mr. George."
"Nor that either," said Mr. Foxley, slowly rising into a sitting
posture again. He had another poke at the yellow leaf. "Call me Dacre,
my child, will you?" Milly no longer watched him with those loving,
anxious, eyes. She was trembling from head to foot and had she spoken,
she must have wept. Mr. Foxley's voice was of itself enough to make
any woman weep, it was so soft, so tender, so subdued and indrawn.
Once more he said, "Call me Dacre, my child!" That pleading voice,
so low, so musical, and that it should plead to her? They were so
close together that he could feel her tremble. Weak as he was, he
was the stronger of the two for a moment, and turning slightly
towards her met her rapturous eyes, and heard her call him the name
he wanted to hear. The same instant they kissed, a long thrilling
dark-enfolding kiss that was the first Milly had ever known from a
man and might have been, for its purity and restraint, the first
also that he had ever given to a woman.
"Have I found my haven too, like the wise leaf of autumn? Have I!
Tell me, my child, my darling!"
"O sir, dearest sir--I mean, dear Dacre, it is I who have found mine.
If indeed you care for me, sir!"
Mr. Foxley laid his head just on her shoulder, then let it slide
into her lap, taking her trembling hands and putting them over his
"I do more than care for you, my child. I love you. Stoop and kiss me.
There. Don't take your head away again like that. Leave it. Your
face against mine. Your lips on mine. Is it a haven, child? Truly,
yes or no?"
"You know it is. And I have always wanted so much to--to--care for
you, but I did not dare."
"Dare! There is no dare about it my child. If you will give me your
young life--how old are you now, love?"
"Nineteen," whispered Milly into his ear.
"Only nineteen, and such a tall girl, with such long hair--if you
will give it to me and be happy in giving it, child, that must be
thought of, there is no one else--"
"You know there is not, sir."
"Then I will do all I can to deserve it. And nobody must call you
Milly any more. You are Mildred now. Miss Mildred if you like and
soon, very soon, to bear another name, mine. It is a good one, child."
"I am sure of it, dear Dacre, and too good--far too good--for me."
"Do you know how old I am, my child?"
"I heard your brother say."
"And did he dare? What did he say it was, my age?"
"He said--you were forty-one."
"Then he was out. It is more than that I am exactly forty-three; I
say exactly, for, Milly, this is my birthday, and--I cannot hope--
neither of as must dare to hope, child--that I shall see many more.
You will marry me whenever I say, my love?"
The girl bent over him in a passion of weeping.
"There is nothing I would not do for you, dear sir--"
"Except call me by my dearly-beloved third name!"
It began to turn cold as they sat by the stream and Milly or Mildred
as she is henceforth to be called, drying her eyes, fell into a
fever over her lover and besought him to return to the house.
Standing face to face, he put her arms around his neck.
"Before we go, dear child, you are sure you love me?"
"O do not ask me again, dear Dacre!"
"That is right. And you know how old I am?"
"And that you are to marry me whenever I say?"
"If I can."
"Of course you can. And that you are to give me all the love you
possibly have to give and more and more. I shall be exacting!"
"Very well. Remember all those clauses, and now take me back to the
house. And some day, my child, I will tell you all my life and what
it was--or rather who it was--that sent me out of England, dear
"Ah! you love it still," murmured Mildred, looking at the ground.
"I shall always love it _now_, since I have found my happiness in
Canada, but once I hated it, Milly, yes, I hated it!"
So was accomplished the wooing of Mr. George Foxley. He was
earnestly and sincerely in love. The girl had grown up under his eye
as it were and was in fact almost a part of himself already.
Marriage would complete the refining and gilding process. The tones
of her voice, her accent, her pronunciation, her habits of sitting,
of standing, of walking were all more or less unconsciously imitated
from him, she had modelled herself upon him, she was indeed his
"child" as he loved to call her. For a month these two people
enjoyed as pure and perfect and isolated an happiness as can be
experienced on earth. Then it became necessary to inform Mr. Joseph
and worthy Mrs. Cox. As if Mr. Joseph and Mrs. Cox didn't know!
There are two things that nothing can hide in this life. One is, the
light in the eyes of a girl who has found herself loved by the man
she adores, and the other is, the unutterable content in the mien of
that man himself. And there is no phase of passion sweeter, nor purer,
nor warmer, nor more satisfying, than that which is the result of a
young girl's affection for a man many years older than herself.
As for the telling, Mr. George, though he could talk fast enough
and fluently enough to Mildred, hated much talk or fuss about
anything and so made everything the easier by informing his brother,
Mr. Joseph, by note. A few lines sufficed as preparation for the
news and he ended by requesting him to purchase some small and
inexpensive gift as from himself in appreciation of the occasion.
Mr. Joseph with characteristic good taste and delicate feeling,
concluded that flowers, though perishable, were the most appropriate
purchase he could light upon, and consequently walked out from town
a certain Saturday afternoon late in November with a monster affair
in smilax and roses in his hand. When it was placed, though not by
himself, in Mildred's hands she felt a disappointment she could not
"Never mind," said Mr. George at full length on a sofa with Milly
beside him on a chair. He did indeed prove a most exacting lover.
For a long time her share of daily work in the Inn and out of it,
had been growing less and less, until now she hardly did anything at
all besides wait on her master, lover and friend, prepare what he eat,
read to him, and sit by him for hours, never leaving him in the
evenings till long after twelve and then it was understood that in
case of night attacks of the dreadful pleurisy and asthma combined
that were slowing killing him, she would always be at hand to come
at the sound of his bell--or indeed his voice, for Milly, sleeping
in the room opposite his own, always left both doors open and would
lie fully dressed on her bed night after night, listening in the dark,
with wide open eyes and strained ears, for the slightest cough or
sigh that came from that worshipped one across the narrow hall.
"Never mind," said he on that Saturday night "My brother _is_ busy
just now. Don't you remember, he found it difficult to come out last
week. It's an awful grind for Joseph, poor Joseph! But he enjoys life,
I think; at the present moment I expect he is flirting audaciously
in town with some charming girl. Or some fearfully plain one. You
never know who next, with my brother. He'll turn up on Monday."
And Mr. Joseph did turn up on Monday. Farmer Wise had fetched some
doctor from Orangetown on Sunday, who after examining his injury,
pronounced it incurable. Mr. Joseph was as stoical as Englishmen are
generally expected to be and saw that it was absolutely imperative
to tell his brother.
"I brought it on myself" he said to the farmer, "At least I try to
believe I did. By Jove! to think--to think of some men! Well, I
_must_ tell my brother."
When he did tell him late on Monday night, having been driven