Part 1 out of 12
Edited by Charles Aldarondo (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Stanbury Hill, remote but two hours' walk from a region blasted with
mine and factory and furnace, shelters with its western slope a fair
green valley, a land of meadows and orchard, untouched by poisonous
breath. At its foot lies the village of Wanley. The opposite side of
the hollow is clad with native wood, skirting for more than a mile
the bank of a shallow stream, a tributary of the Severn. Wanley
consists in the main of one long street; the houses are stone-built,
with mullioned windows, here and there showing a picturesque gable
or a quaint old chimney. The oldest buildings are four cottages
which stand at the end of the street; once upon a time they formed
the country residence of the abbots of Belwick. The abbey of that
name still claims for its ruined self a portion of earth's surface;
but, as it had the misfortune to be erected above the thickest
coal-seam in England, its walls are blackened with the fume of
collieries and shaken by the strain of mighty engines. Climb
Stanbury Hill at nightfall, and, looking eastward, you behold far
off a dusky ruddiness in the sky, like the last of an angry sunset;
with a glass you can catch glimpses of little tongues of flame,
leaping and quivering on the horizon. That is Belwick. The good
abbots, who were wont to come out in the summer time to Wanley,
would be at a loss to recognise their consecrated home in those
sooty relics. Belwick, with its hundred and fifty fire-vomiting
blast-furnaces, would to their eyes more nearly resemble a certain
igneous realm of which they thought much in their sojourn upon
earth, and which, we may assure ourselves, they dream not of in the
quietness of their last long sleep.
A large house, which stands aloof from the village and a little
above it, is Wanley Manor. The county history tells us that Wanley
was given in the fifteenth century to that same religious
foundation, and that at the dissolution of monasteries the Manor
passed into the hands of Queen Catherine. The house is
half-timbered; from the height above it looks old and peaceful amid
its immemorial trees. Towards the end of the eighteenth century it
became the home of a family named Eldon, the estate including the
greater part of the valley below. But an Eldon who came into
possession when William IV. was King brought the fortunes of his
house to a low ebb, and his son, seeking to improve matters by
abandoning his prejudices and entering upon commercial speculation,
in the end left a widow and two boys with little more to live upon
than the income which arose from Mrs. Eldon's settlements. The Manor
was shortly after this purchased by a Mr. Mutimer, a Belwick
ironmaster; but Mrs. Eldon and her boys still inhabited the house,
in consequence of certain events which will shortly be narrated.
Wanley would have mourned their departure; they were the aristocracy
of the neighbourhood, and to have them ousted by a name which no one
knew, a name connected only with blast-furnaces, would have made a
distinct fall in the tone of Wanley society. Fortunately no changes
were made in the structure by its new owner. Not far from it you see
the church and the vicarage, these also unmolested in their quiet
age. Wanley, it is to be feared, lags far behind the times--painfully
so, when one knows for a certainty that the valley upon which it
looks conceals treasures of coal, of ironstone--blackband, to be
technical--and of fireclay. Some ten years ago it seemed as if
better things were in store; there was a chance that the vale
might for ever cast off its foolish greenery, and begin vomiting
smoke and flames in humble imitation of its metropolis beyond the
hills. There are men in Belwick who have an angry feeling whenever
Wanley is mentioned to them.
After the inhabitants of the Manor, the most respected of those who
dwelt in Wanley were the Walthams. At the time of which I speak,
this family consisted of a middle-aged lady; her son, of
one-and-twenty; and her daughter, just eighteen. They had resided
here for little more than two years, but a gentility which marked
their speech and demeanour, and the fact that they were well
acquainted with the Eldons, from the first caused them to be looked
up to. It was conjectured, and soon confirmed by Mrs. Waltham's own
admissions, that they had known a larger way of living than that to
which they adapted themselves in the little house on the side of
Stanbury Hill, whence they looked over the village street. Mr.
Waltham had, in fact, been a junior partner in a Belwick firm, which
came to grief. He saved enough out of the wreck to: make a modest
competency for his family, and would doubtless in time have
retrieved his fortune, but death was beforehand with him. His wife,
in the second year of her widowhood, came with her daughter Adela to
Wanley; her son Alfred had gone to commercial work in Belwick. Mrs.
Waltham was a prudent woman, and tenacious of ideas which
recommended themselves to her practical instincts; such an idea had
much to do with her settlement in the remote village, which she
would not have chosen for her abode out of love of its old-world
quietness. But at the Manor was Hubert Eldon. Hubert was four years
older than Adela. He had no fortune of his own, but it was tolerably
certain that some day he would be enormously rich, and there was
small likelihood that he would marry till that expected change in
his position came about.
On the afternoon of a certain Good Friday, Mrs. Waltham sat at her
open window, enjoying the air and busy with many thoughts, among
other things wondering who was likely to drop in for a cup of tea.
It was a late Easter, and warm spring weather had already clothed
the valley with greenness; to-day the sun was almost hot, and the
west wind brought many a sweet odour from gardens near and far. From
her sitting-room Mrs. Waltham had the best view to be obtained from
any house in Wanley; she looked, as I have said, right over the
village street, and on either hand the valley spread before her a
charming prospect. Opposite was the wooded slope, freshening now
with exquisite shades of new-born leafage; looking north, she saw
fruit-gardens, making tender harmonies; southwards spread verdure
and tillage. Yet something there was which disturbed the otherwise
perfect unity of the scene, an unaccustomed trouble to the eye. In
the very midst of the vale, perhaps a quarter of a mile to the south
of the village, one saw what looked like the beginning of some
engineering enterprise--a great throwing-up of earth, and the
commencement of a roadway on which metal rails were laid. What was
being done? The work seemed too extensive for a mere scheme of
drainage. Whatever the undertaking might be, it was now at a
standstill, seeing that old Mr. Mutimer, the owner of the land, had
been in his grave just three days, and no one as yet could say
whether his heir would or would not pursue this novel project. Mrs.
Waltham herself felt that the view was spoilt, though her
appreciation of nature was not of the keenest, and she would never
have thought of objecting to a scheme which would produce money at
the cost of the merely beautiful.
'I scarcely think Hubert will continue it,' she was musing to
herself. 'He has enough without that, and his tastes don't lie in
She had on her lap a local paper, at which she glanced every now and
then; but her state of mind was evidently restless. The road on
either side of which stood the houses of the village led on to the
Manor, and in that direction Mrs. Waltham gazed frequently. The
church clock chimed half-past four, and shortly after a rosy-cheeked
young girl came at a quick step up the gravelled pathway which made
the approach to the Walthams' cottage. She saw Mrs. Waltham at the
window, and, when she was near, spoke.
'Is Adela at home?'
'No, Letty; she's gone for a walk with her brother.'
'I'm so sorry!' said the girl, whose voice was as sweet as her face
was pretty. 'We wanted her to come for croquet. Yet I was half
afraid to come and ask her whilst Mr. Alfred was at home.'
She laughed, and at the same time blushed a little.
'Why should you be afraid of Alfred?' asked Mrs. Waltham graciously.
'Oh, I don't know.'
She turned it off and spoke quickly of another subject.
'How did you like Mr. Wyvern this morning?'
It was a new vicar, who had been in Wanley but a couple of days, and
had this morning officiated for the first time at the church.
'What a voice be has!' was the lady's reply.
'Hasn't he? And such a hairy man! They say he's very learned; but
his sermon was very simple--didn't you think so?'
'Yes, I liked it. Only he pronounces certain words strangely.'
'Oh, has Mr. Eldon come yet?' was the young lady's next question.
'He hadn't arrived this morning. Isn't it extraordinary? He must be
out of England.'
'But surely Mrs. Eldon knows his address, and he can't be so very
As she spoke she looked down the pathway by which she had come, and
of a sudden her face exhibited alarm.
'Oh, Mrs. Waltham!' she whispered hurriedly. 'If Mr. Wyvern isn't
coming to see you! I'm afraid to meet him. Do let me pop in and hide
till I can get away without being seen.'
The front door stood ajar, and the girl at once ran into the house.
Mrs. Waltham came into the passage laughing.
'May I go to the top of the stairs?' asked the other nervously. 'You
know how absurdly shy I am. No, I'll run out into the garden behind;
then I can steal round as soon as he comes in.'
She escaped, and in a minute or two the new vicar presented himself
at the door. A little maid might well have some apprehension in
facing him, for Mr. Wyvern was of vast proportions and leonine in
aspect. With the exception of one ungloved hand and the scant
proportions of his face which were not hidden by hair, he was wholly
black in hue; an enormous beard, the colour of jet, concealed the
linen about his throat, and a veritable mane, dark as night, fell
upon his shoulders. His features were not ill-matched with this
sable garniture; their expression was a fixed severity; his eye
regarded you with stern scrutiny, and passed from the examination to
a melancholy reflectiveness. Yet his appearance was suggestive of
anything but ill-nature; contradictory though it may seem, the face
was a pleasant one, inviting to confidence, to respect; if be could
only have smiled, the tender humanity which lurked in the lines of
his countenance would have become evident. His age was probably a
little short of fifty.
A servant replied to his knock, and, after falling back in a
momentary alarm, introduced him to the sitting-room. He took Mrs.
Waltham's hand silently, fixed upon her the full orbs of his dark
eyes, and then, whilst still retaining her fingers, looked
thoughtfully about the room. It was a pleasant little parlour, with
many an evidence of refinement in those who occupied it. Mr. Wyvern
showed something like a look of satisfaction. He seated himself, and
the chair creaked ominously beneath him. Then he again scrutinised
She was a lady of fair complexion, with a double chin. Her dress
suggested elegant tastes, and her hand was as smooth and delicate as
a lady's should be. A long gold chain descended from her neck to the
watch-pocket at her waist, and her fingers exhibited several rings.
She bore the reverend gentleman's scrutiny with modest grace. almost
as if it flattered her. And indeed there was nothing whatever of
ill-breeding in Mr. Wyvern's mode of instituting acquaintance with
his parishioner; one felt that he was a man of pronounced
originality, and that he might be trusted in his variance from the
The view from the windows gave him a subject for his first remarks.
Mrs. Waltham had been in some fear of a question which would go to
the roots of her soul's history; it would have been in keeping with
his visage. But, with native acuteness, she soon discovered that Mr.
Wyvern's gaze had very little to do with the immediate subject of
his thought, or, what was much the same thing, that he seldom gave
the whole of his attention to the matter outwardly calling for it.
He was a man of profound mental absences; he could make replies,
even put queries, and all the while be brooding intensely upon a
wholly different subject. Mrs. Waltham did not altogether relish it;
she was in the habit of being heard with deference; but, to be sure,
a clergyman only talked of worldly things by way of concession. It
certainly seemed so in this clergyman's case.
'Your prospect,' Mr. Wyvern remarked presently, 'will not be
improved by the works below.'
His voice was very deep, and all his words were weighed in the
utterance. This deliberation at times led to peculiarities of
emphasis in single words. Probably he was a man of philological
crotchets; he said, for instance, 'pro-spect.'
'I scarcely think Mr. Eldon will go on with the mining,' replied
'Ah! you think not?'
'I am quite sure he said that unconsciously,' the lady remarked to
herself. 'He's thinking of some quite different affair.'
'Mr. Eldon,' the clergyman resumed, fixing upon her an absent eye,
'is Mr. Mutimer's son-in-law, I understand?'
'His brother, Mr. Godfrey Eldon, was.' Mrs. Waltham corrected.
'Ah! the one that died?'
He said it questioningly; then added--
'I have a difficulty in mastering details of this kind. You would do
me a great kindness in explaining to me briefly of whom the family
at the Manor at present consists?'
Mrs. Waltham was delighted to talk on such a subject.
'Only of Mrs. Eldon and her son, Mr. Hubert Eldon. The elder son,
Godfrey, was lost in a shipwreck, on a voyage to New Zealand.'
'He was a sailor?'
'Oh, no!' said the lady, with a smile. 'He was in business at
Belwick. It was shortly after his marriage with Miss Mutimer that he
took the voyage--partly for his health, partly to examine some
property his father had had an interest in. Old Mr. Eldon engaged in
speculations--I believe it was flax-growing. The results,
unfortunately, were anything but satisfactory. It was that which led
to his son entering business--quite a new thing in their family.
Wasn't it very sad? Poor Godfrey and his young wife both drowned!
The marriage was, as you may imagine, not altogether a welcome one
to Mrs. Eldon; Mr. Mutimer was quite a self-made man, quite. I
understand he has relations in London of the very poorest
'They probably benefit by his will?'
'I can't say. In any case, to a very small extent. It has for a long
time been understood that Hubert Eldon inherits.'
'Singular!' murmured the clergyman, still in the same absent way.
'Is it not? He took so to the young fellows; no doubt he was
flattered to be allied to them. And then he was passionately devoted
to his daughter; if only for her sake, he would have done his utmost
for the family.'
'I understand that Mr. Mutimer purchased the Manor from them?'
'That was before the marriage. Godfrey Eldon sold it; he had his
father's taste for speculation, I fancy, and wanted capital. Then
Mr. Mutimer begged them to remain in the house. He certainly was a
wonderfully kind old--old gentleman; his behaviour to Mrs. Eldon was
always the perfection of courtesy. A stranger would find it
difficult to understand how she could get on so well with him, but
their sorrows brought them together, and Mr. Mutimer's generosity
was really noble. If I had not known his origin, I should certainly
have taken him for a county gentleman.'
'Yet he proposed to mine in the valley,' observed Mr. Wyvern, half
to himself, casting a glance at the window.
Mrs. Waltham did not at first see the connection between this and
what she had been saying. Then it occurred to her that Mr. Wyvern
was aristocratic in his views.
'To be sure,' she said, 'one expects to find a little of the
original--of the money-making spirit. Of course such a thing would
never have suggested itself to the Eldons. And in fact very little
of the lands remained to them. Mr. Mutimer bought a great deal from
As Mr. Wyvern sat brooding, Mrs. Waltham asked--
'You have seen Mrs. Eldon?'
' Not yet. She is too unwell to receive visits.'
'Yes, poor thing, she is a great invalid. I thought, perhaps, you--.
But I know she likes to be very quiet. What a strange thing about
Mr. Eldon, is it not? You know that he has never come yet; not even
to the funeral.'
'An inexplicable thing! There has never been a shadow of
disagreement between them.'
'Mr. Eldon is abroad, I believe?' said the clergyman musingly.
'Abroad? Oh dear, no! At least, I--. Is there news of his being
Mr. Wyvern merely shook his head.
'As far as we know,' Mrs. Waltham continued, rather disturbed by the
suggestion, 'he is at Oxford.'
'Yes. He is quite a youth--only two-and-twenty.'
There was a knock at the door, and a maid-servant entered to ask if
she should lay the table for tea. Mrs. Waltham assented; then, to
'You will do us the pleasure of drinking a cup of tea, Mr. Wyvern?
we make a meal of it, in the country way. My boy and girl are sure
to be in directly.'
'I should like to make their acquaintance,' was the grave response.
'Alfred, my son,' the lady proceeded, 'is with us for his Easter
holiday. Belwick is so short a distance away, and yet too far to
allow of his living here, unfortunately.'
'The same age as my own boy.'
'Oh, you have a son?'
'A youngster, studying music in Germany. I have just been spending a
fortnight with him.'
'How delightful! If only poor Alfred could have pursued some
more--more liberal occupation! Unhappily, we had small choice.
Friends were good enough to offer him exceptional advantages not
long after his father's death, and I was only too glad to accept the
opening. I believe he is a clever boy; only such a dreadful
Radical.' She laughed, with a deprecatory motion of the hands. 'Poor
Adela and he are at daggers drawn; no doubt it is some terrible
argument that detains them now on the road. I can't think how he got
his views; certainly his father never inculcated them.'
'The air, Mrs. Waltham, the air,' murmured the clergyman.
The lady was not quite sure that she understood the remark, but the
necessity of reply was obviated by the entrance of the young man in
question. Alfred was somewhat undergrown, but of solid build. He
walked in a sturdy and rather aggressive way, and his plump face
seemed to indicate an intelligence, bright, indeed, but of the less
refined order. His head was held stiffly, and his whole bearing
betrayed a desire to make the most of his defective stature. His
shake of the hand was an abrupt downward jerk, like a pull at a
bell-rope. In the smile with which he met Mr. Wyvern a supercilious
frame of mind was not altogether concealed; he seemed anxious to
have it understood that in _him_ the clerical attire inspired
nothing whatever of superstitious reverence. Reverence, in truth,
was not Mr. Waltham's failing.
Mr. Wyvern, as his habit was at introductions, spoke no words, but
held the youth's hand for a few moments and looked him in the eyes.
Alfred turned his head aside uneasily, and was a trifle ruddy in the
cheeks when at length he regained his liberty.
'By-the-by,' he remarked to his mother when he had seated himself,
with crossed legs, 'Eldon has turned up at last. He passed us in a
cab, or so Adela said. I didn't catch a glimpse of the individual.'
'Really!' exclaimed Mrs. Waltham. 'He was coming from Agworth
'I suppose so. There was a trunk on the four-wheeler. Adela says he
looked ill, though I don't see how she discovered so much.'
'I have no doubt she is right. He must have been ill.'
Mr. Wyvern, in contrast with his habit, was paying marked attention;
he leaned forward, with a hand on each knee. In the meanwhile the
preparations for tea had progressed, and as Mrs. Waltham rose at the
sight of the teapot being brought in, her daughter entered the room.
Adela was taller by half a head than her brother; she was slim and
graceful. The air had made her face bloom, and the smile which was
added as she drew near to the vicar enhanced the charm of a
countenance at all times charming. She was not less than ladylike in
self-possession, but Mr. Wyvern's towering sableness clearly awed
her a little. For an instant her eyes drooped, but at once she
raised them and met the severe gaze with unflinching orbs. Releasing
her hand, Mr. Wyvern performed a singular little ceremony: he laid
his right palm very gently on her nutbrown hair, and his lips moved.
At the same time he all but smiled.
Alfred's face was a delightful study the while; it said so clearly,
'Confound the parson's impudence!' Mrs. Waltham, on the other hand,
looked pleased as she rustled to her place at the tea-tray.
'So Mr. Eldon has come?' she said, glancing at Adela. 'Alfred says
he looks ill.'
'Mother,' interposed the young man, 'pray be accurate. I distinctly
stated that I did not even see him, and should not have known that
it was he at all. Adela is responsible for that assertion.'
'I just saw his face,' the girl said naturally. 'I thought he looked
Mr. Wyvern addressed to her a question about her walk, and for a few
minutes they conversed together. There was a fresh simplicity in
Adela's way of speaking which harmonised well with her appearance
and with the scene in which she moved. A gentle English girl, this
dainty home, set in so fair and peaceful a corner of the world, was
just the abode one would have chosen for her. Her beauty seemed a
part of the burgeoning spring-time, She was not lavish of her
smiles; a timid seriousness marked her manner to the clergyman, and
she replied to his deliberately-posed questions with a gravity
respectful alike of herself and of him.
In front of Mr. Wyvern stood a large cake, of which a portion was
already sliced. The vicar, at Adela's invitation, accepted a piece
of the cake; having eaten this, he accepted another; then yet
another. His absence had come back upon him, and he talked he
continued to eat portions of the cake, till but a small fraction of
the original structure remained on the dish. Alfred, keenly
observant of what was going on, pursed his lips from time to time
and looked at his mother with exaggerated gravity, leading her eyes
to the vanishing cake. Even Adela could not but remark the reverend
gentleman's abnormal appetite, but she steadily discouraged her
brother's attempts to draw her into the joke. At length it came to
pass that Mr. Wyvern himself, stretching his hand mechanically to
the dish, became aware that he had. exhibited his appreciation of
the sweet food in a degree not altogether sanctioned by usage. He
fixed his eyes on the tablecloth, and was silent for a while.
As soon as the vicar had taken his departure Alfred threw himself
into a chair, thrust out his legs, and exploded in laughter.
'By Jove!' he shouted. 'If that man doesn't experience symptoms of
disorder! Why, I should be prostrate for a week if I consumed a
quarter of what he has put out of sight.'
'Alfred, you are shockingly rude,' reproved his mother, though
herself laughing. 'Mr. Wyvern is absorbed in thought.'
'Well, he has taken the best means, I should say, to remind himself
of actualities,' rejoined the youth. 'But what a man he is! How did
he behave in church this morning?'
'You should have come to see,' said Mrs. Waltham, mildly censuring
her son's disregard of the means of grace.
'I like Mr. Wyvern,' observed Adela, who was standing at the window
looking out upon the dusking valley.
'Oh, you would like any man in parsonical livery,' scoffed her
Alfred shortly betook himself to the garden, where, in spite of a
decided freshness in the atmosphere, he walked for half-an-hour
smoking a pipe. When he entered the house again, he met Adela at the
foot of the stairs.
'Mrs. Mewling has just come in,' she whispered.
'All right, I'll come up with you,' was the reply. 'Heaven defend me
from her small talk!'
They ascended to a very little room, which made a kind of boudoir
for Adela. Alfred struck a match and lit a lamp, disclosing a nest
of wonderful purity and neatness. On the table a drawing-board was
slanted; it showed a text of Scripture in process of 'illumination.'
'Still at that kind of thing!' exclaimed Alfred. 'My good child, if
you want to paint, why don't you paint in earnest? Really, Adela, I
must enter a protest! Remember that you are eighteen years of age.'
'I don't forget it, Alfred.'
'At eight-and-twenty, at eight-and-thirty, you propose still to be
at the same stage of development?'
'I don't think we'll talk of it,' said the girl quietly. 'We don't
understand each other.'
'Of course not, but we might, if only you'd read sensible books that
I could give you.'
Adela shook her head. The philosophical youth sank into his
favourite attitude--legs extended, hands in pockets, nose in air.
'So, I suppose,' he said presently, 'that fellow really has been
Adela was sitting in thought; she looked up with a shadow of
annoyance on her face.
'Eldon, you know.'
'I want to ask you a question,' said his sister, interlocking her
fingers and pressing them against her throat. 'Why do you always
speak in a contemptuous way of Mr. Eldon?'
'You know I don't like the individual.'
'What cause has "the individual" given you?'
'He's a snob.'
'I'm not sure that I know what that means,' replied Adela, after
thinking for a moment with downcast eyes.
'Because you never read anything. He's a fellow who raises a great
edifice of pretence on rotten foundations.'
'What can you mean? Mr. Eldon is a gentleman. What pretence is he
'Gentleman!' uttered her brother with much scorn. 'Upon my word,
that _is_ the vulgarest of denominations! Who doesn't call himself
so nowadays! A man's a man, I take it, and what need is there to
lengthen the name? Thank the powers, we don't live in feudal ages.
Besides, he doesn't seem to me to be what you imply.'
Adela had taken a book; in turning over the pages, she said--
'No doubt you mean, Alfred, that, for some reason, you are
determined to view him with prejudice.'
'The reason is obvious enough. The fellow's behaviour is detestable;
he looks at you from head to foot as if you were applying for a
place in his stable. Whenever I want an example of a contemptible
aristocrat, there's Eldon ready-made. Contemptible, because he's
such a sham; as if everybody didn't know his history and his
'Everybody doesn't regard them as you do. There is nothing whatever
dishonourable in his position.'
'Not in sponging on a rich old plebeian, a man he despises, and
living in idleness at his expense?'
'I don't believe Mr. Eldon does anything of the kind. Since his
brother's death he has had a sufficient income of his own, so mother
'Sufficient income of his own! Bah! Five or six hundred a year;
likely he lives on that! Besides, haven't they soaped old Mutimer
into leaving them all his property? The whole affair is the best
illustration one could possibly have of what aristocrats are brought
to in a democratic age. First of all, Godfrey Eldon marries
Mutimer's daughter; you are at liberty to believe, if you like, that
he would have married her just the same if she hadn't had a penny.
The old fellow is flattered. They see the hold they have, and stick
to him like leeches. All for want of money, of course. Our
aristocrats begin to see that they can't get on without money
nowadays; they can't live on family records, and they find that
people won't toady to them in the old way just on account of their
name. Why, it began with Eldon's father--didn't he put his pride in
his pocket, and try to make cash by speculation? Now I can respect
him: he at all events faced the facts of the case honestly. The
despicable thing in this Hubert Eldon is that, having got money once
more, and in the dirtiest way, he puts on the top-sawyer just as if
there was nothing to be ashamed of. If he and his mother were living
in a small way on their few hundreds a year, he might haw-haw as
much as he liked, and I should only laugh at him; he'd be a fool,
but an honest one. But catch them doing that! Family pride's too
insubstantial a thing, you see. Well, as I said, they illustrate the
natural course of things, the transition from the old age to the
new. If Eldon has sons, they'll go in for commerce, and make
themselves, if they can, millionaires; but by that time they'll
dispense with airs and insolence--see if they don't.'
Adela kept her eyes on the pages before her, but she was listening
intently. A sort of verisimilitude in the picture drawn by her
Radical-minded brother could not escape her; her thought was
troubled. When she spoke it was without resentment, but gravely.
'I don't like this spirit in judging of people. You know quite well,
Alfred, how easy it is to see the whole story in quite another way.
You begin by a harsh and worldly judgment, and it leads you to
misrepresent all that follows. I refuse to believe that Godfrey
Eldon married Mrs. Mutimer's daughter for her money.'
Alfred laughed aloud.
'Of course you do, sister Adela! Women won't admit such things;
that's _their_ aristocratic feeling!'
'And that is, too, worthless and a sham? Will that, too, be done
away with in the new age?'
'Oh, depend upon it! When women are educated, they will take the
world as it is, and decline to live on illusions.'
'Then how glad I am to have been left without education!'
In the meantime a conversation of a very lively kind was in progress
between Mrs. Waltham and her visitor, Mrs. Mewling. The latter was a
lady whose position much resembled Mrs. Waltham's: she inhabited a
small house in the village street, and spent most of her time in
going about to hear or to tell some new thing. She came in this
evening with a look presageful of news indeed.
'I've been to Belwick to-day,' she began, sitting very close to Mrs.
Waltham, whose lap she kept touching as she spoke with excited
fluency. 'I've seen Mrs. Yottle. My dear, what do you think she has
Mrs. Yottle was the wife of a legal gentleman who had been in Mr.
Mutimer's confidence. Mrs. Waltham at once divined intelligence
affecting the Eldons.
'What?' she asked eagerly.
'You'd never dream such a thing! what _will_ come to pass! An
unthought-of possibility!' She went on _crescendo_. 'My dear Mrs.
Waltham, Mr. Mutimer has left no will!'
It was as if an electric shock had passed from the tips of her
fingers into her hearer's frame. Mrs. Waltham paled.
'That cannot be true!' she whispered, incapable of utterance above
'Oh, but there's not a doubt of it!' Knowing that the news would be
particularly unpalatable to Mrs. Waltham, she proceeded to dwell
upon it with dancing eyes. 'Search bas been going on since the day
of the death: not a corner that hasn't been rummaged, not a drawer
that hasn't been turned out, not a book in the library that hasn't
been shaken, not a wall that hasn't been examined for secret doors!
Mr. Mutimer has died intestate!'
The other lady was mute.
'And shall I tell you how it came about? Two days before his death,
he had his will from Mr. Yottle, saying he wanted to make change--
probably to execute a new will altogether. My dear, he destroyed it,
and death surprised him before he could make another.'
'He wished to make changes?'
'Ah!' Mrs. Mewling drew out the exclamation, shaking her raised
finger, pursing her lips. 'And of that, too, I can tell you the
reason. Mr. Mutimer was anything but pleased with young Eldon. That
young man, let me tell you, has been conducting himself--oh,
shockingly! Now you wouldn't dream of repeating this?'
'It seems that news came not so very long ago of a certain actress,
singer,--something of the kind, you understand? Friends thought it
their duty--rightly, of course,--to inform Mr. Mutimer. I can't say
exactly who did it; but we know that Hubert Eldon is not regarded
affectionately by a good many people. My dear, he has been out of
England for more than a month, living--oh, such extravagance! And
the moral question, too? You know--those women! Someone, they say,
of European reputation; of course no names are breathed. For my
part, I can't say I am surprised. Young men, you know; and
particularly young men of that kind! Well, it has cost him a pretty
penny; he'll remember it as long as he lives.
'Then the property will go--'
'Yes, to the working people in London; the roughest of the rough,
they say! What _will_ happen? It will be impossible for us to live
here if they come and settle at the Manor. The neighbourhood will be
intolerable. Think of the rag-tag-and-bobtail they will bring with
'But Hubert!' ejaculated Mrs. Waltham, whom this vision of barbaric
onset affected little in the crashing together of a great airy
'Well, my dear, after all he still has more to depend upon than many
we could instance. Probably he will take to the law,--that is, if
he ever returns to England.'
'He is at the Manor,' said Mrs. Waltham, with none of the pleasure
it would ordinarily have given her to be first with an item of news.
'He came this afternoon.'
'He did! Who has seen him?'
'Alfred and Adela passed him on the road. He was in a cab.'
'I feel for his poor mother. What a meeting it will be! But then we
must remember that they had no actual claim on the inheritance. Of
course it will be a most grievous disappointment, but what is life
made of? I'm afraid some people will be anything but grieved. We
must confess that Hubert has not been exactly popular; and I rather
wonder at it; I'm sure he might have been if he had liked. Just a
little too--too self-conscious, don't you think? Of course it was
quite a mistake, but people had an idea that he presumed on wealth
which was not his own. Well, well, we quiet folk look on, don't we?
It's rather like a play.'
Presently Mrs. Mewling leaned forward yet more confidentially.
'My dear, you won't be offended? You don't mind a question? There
wasn't anything definite?--Adela, I mean.'
'Nothing, nothing whatever!' Mrs. Waltham asserted with vigour.
'Ha!' Mrs. Mewling sighed deeply. 'How relieved I am! I did so
'Nothing whatever,' the other lady repeated.
'Thank goodness! Then there is no need to breathe a word of those
shocking matters. But they do get abroad so!'
A reflection Mrs. Mewling was justified in making.
The cab which had passed Adela and her brother at a short distance
from Wanley brought faces to the windows or door of almost every
house as it rolled through the village street. The direction in
which it was going, the trunk on the roof, the certainty that it had
come from Agworth station, suggested to everyone that young Eldon
sat within. The occupant bad, however, put up both windows just
before entering the village, and sight of him was not obtained.
Wanley had abundant matter for gossip that evening. Hubert's return,
giving a keener edge to the mystery of his so long delay, would
alone have sufficed to wagging tongues; hut, in addition, Mrs.
Mewling was on the warpath, and the intelligence she spread was of a
kind to run like wildfire.
The approach to the Manor was a carriage-road, obliquely ascending
the bill from a point some quarter of a mile beyond the cottages
which once housed Belwick's abbots. Of the house scarcely a glimpse
could be caught till you were well within the gates, so thickly was
it embosomed in trees. This afternoon it wore a cheerless face; most
of the blinds were still down, and the dwelling might have been
unoccupied, for any sign of human activity that the eye could catch.
There was no porch at the main entrance, and the heavy nail-studded
door greeted a visitor somewhat sombrely. On the front of a gable
stood the words 'Nisi Dominus.'
The vehicle drew up, and there descended a young man of pale
countenance, his attire indicating long and hasty travel. He pulled
vigorously at the end of a hanging bell-chain, and the door was
immediately opened by a man-servant in black. Hubert, for he it was,
pointed to his trunk, and, whilst it was being carried into the
house, took some loose coin from his pocket. He handed the driver a
'I have no change, sir,' said the man, after examining the coin. But
Hubert had already turned away; he merely waved his hand, and
entered the house. For a drive of two miles, the cabman held himself
The hall was dusky, and seemed in need of fresh air. Hubert threw
off his hat, gloves, and overcoat; then for the first time spoke to
the servant, who stood in an attitude of expectancy.
'Mrs. Eldon is at home?'
'At home, sir, but very unwell. She desires me to say that she fears
she may not be able to see you this evening.'
'Is there a fire anywhere?'
'Only in the library, sir.'
'I will dine there. And let a fire be lit in my bedroom.'
'Yes, sir. Will you dine at once, sir?'
'In an hour. Something light; I don't care what it is.'
'Shall the fire be lit in your bedroom at once, sir?'
'At once, and a hot bath prepared. Come to the library and tell me
when it is ready.'
The servant silently departed. Hubert walked across the hall, giving
a glance here and there, and entered the library. Nothing had been
altered here since his father's, nay, since his grandfather's time.
That grandfather--his name Hubert--had combined strong intellectual
tendencies with the extravagant tastes which gave his already
tottering house the decisive push. The large collection of
superbly-bound books which this room contained were nearly all of
his purchasing, for prior to his time the Eldons had not been wont
to concern themselves with things of the mind. Hubert, after walking
to the window and looking out for a moment on the side lawn, pushed
a small couch near to the fireplace, and threw himself down at full
length, his hands beneath his head. In a moment his position seemed
to have become uneasy; he turned upon his side, uttering an
exclamation as if of pain. A minute or two and again he moved, this
time with more evident impatience. The next thing he did was to
rise, step to the bell, and ring it violently.
The same servant appeared.
'Isn't the bath ready?' Hubert asked. His former mode of speaking
had been brief and decided; he was now almost imperious.
'I believe it will be in a moment, sir,' was the reply, marked,
perhaps, by just a little failure in the complete subservience
Hubert looked at the man for an instant with contracted brows, but
merely said--'Tell them to be quick.'
The man returned in less than three minutes with a satisfactory
announcement, and Eldon went upstairs to refresh himself.
Two hours later he had dined, with obvious lack of appetite, and was
deriving but slight satisfaction from a cigar, when the servant
entered with a message from Mrs. Eldon: she desired to see her son.
Hubert threw his cigar aside, and made a gesture expressing his wish
to be led to his mother's room. The man conducted him to the landing
at the head of the first flight of stairs; there a female servant
was waiting, who, after a respectful movement, led the way to a door
at a few yards' distance. She opened it and drew back. Hubert passed
into the room.
It was furnished in a very old-fashioned style--heavily, richly, and
with ornaments seemingly procured rather as evidences of wealth than
of taste; successive Mrs. Eldons had used it as a boudoir. The
present lady of that name sat in a great chair near the fire. Though
not yet fifty, she looked at least ten years older; her hair had
streaks of white, and her thin delicate features were much lined and
wasted. It would not be enough to say that she had evidently once
been beautiful, for in truth she was so still, with a spiritual
beauty of a very rare type. Just now her face was set in a sternness
which did not seem an expression natural to it; the fine lips were
much more akin to smiling sweetness, and the brows accepted with
repugnance anything but the stamp of thoughtful charity.
After the first glance at Hubert she dropped her eyes. He, stepping
quickly across the floor, put his lips to her cheek; she did not
move her head, nor raise her hand to take his.
'Will you sit there, Hubert?' she said, pointing to a chair which
was placed opposite hers. The resemblance between her present mode
of indicating a wish and her son's way of speaking to the servant
below was very striking; even the quality of their voices had much
in common, for Hubert's was rather high-pitched. In face, however,
the young man did not strongly evidence their relation to each
other: he was not handsome, and had straight low brows, which made
his aspect at first forbidding.
'Why have you not come to me before this?' Mrs. Eldon asked when her
son had seated himself, with his eyes turned upon the fire.
'I was unable to, mother. I have been ill.'
She cast a glance at him. There was no doubting the truth of what he
said; at this moment he looked feeble and pain-worn.
'Where did your illness come upon you?' she asked, her tone
'In Germany. I started only a few hours after receiving the letter
in which you told me of the death.'
'My other letters you paid no heed to?'
'I could not reply to them.'
He spoke after hesitation, but firmly, as one does who has something
to brave out.
'It would have been better for you if you had been able, Hubert.
Your refusal has best you dear.'
He looked up inquiringly.
'Mr. Mutimer,' his mother continued, a tremor in her voice,
'destroyed his will a day or two before he died.'
Hubert said nothing. His fingers, looked together before him,
twitched a little; his face gave no sign.
'Had you come to me at once,' Mrs. Eldon pursued, 'had you listened
to my entreaties, to my commands'--her voice rang right
queenly--'this would not have happened. Mr. Mutimer behaved as
generously as he always has. As soon as there came to him certain
news of you, he told me everything. I refused to believe what people
were saying, and he too wished to do so. He would not write to you
himself; there was one all sufficient test, he held, and that was a
summons from your mother. It was a test of your honour, Hubert--and
you failed under it.'
He made no answer.
'You received my letters?' she went on to ask. 'I heard you had gone
from England, and could only hope your letters would be forwarded.
Did you get them?'
'With the delay of only a day or two.'
'And deliberately you put me aside?'
She looked at him now for several moments. Her eyes grew moist. Then
she resumed, in a lower voice--
'I said nothing of what was at stake, though I knew. Mr. Mutimer was
perfectly open with me. "I have trusted him implicitly," he said,
"because I believe him as staunch and true as his brother. I make no
allowances for what are called young man's follies: he must be above
anything of that kind. If he is not--well, I have been mistaken in
him, and I can't deal with him as I wish to do." You know what he
was, Hubert, and you can imagine him speaking those words. We
waited. The bad news was confirmed, and from you there came nothing.
I would not hint at the loss you were incurring; of my own purpose I
should have refrained from doing so, and Mr. Mutimer forbade me to
appeal to anything but your better self. If you would not come to me
because I wished it, I could not involve you and myself in shame by
seeing you yield to sordid motives.'
Hubert raised his head. A choking voice kept him silent for a moment
'Mother, the loss is nothing to you; you are above regrets of that
kind; and for myself, I am almost glad to have lost it.'
'In very truth,' answered the mother, 'I care little about the
wealth you might have possessed. What I do care for is the loss of
all the hopes I had built upon you. I thought you honour itself; I
thought you high-minded. Young as you are, I let you go from me
without a fear. Hubert, I would have staked my life that no shadow
of disgrace would ever fall upon your head! You have taken from me
the last comfort of my age.'
He uttered words she could not catch.
'The purity of your soul was precious to me,' she continued, her
accents struggling against weakness; 'I thought I had seen in you a
love of that chastity without which a man is nothing; and I ever did
my best to keep your eyes upon a noble ideal of womanhood. You have
fallen. The simpler duty, the point of every-day honour, I could not
suppose that you would fail in. From the day when you came of age,
when Mr. Mutimer spoke to you, saying that in every respect you
would be as his son, and you, for your part, accepted what he
offered, you owed it to him to respect the lightest of his
reasonable wishes. The wish which was supreme in him you have
utterly disregarded. Is it that you failed to understand him? I have
thought of late of a way you had now and then when you spoke to me
about him; it has occurred to me that perhaps you did him less than
justice. Regard his position and mine, and tell me whether you think
he could have become so much to us if he had not been a gentleman in
the highest sense of the word. When Godfrey first of all brought me
that proposal from him that we should still remain in this house, it
seemed to me the most impossible thing. You know what it was that
induced me to assent, and what led to his becoming so intimate with
us. Since then it has been hard for me to remember that he was not
one of our family. His weak points it was not difficult to discover;
but I fear you did not understand what was noblest in his character.
Uprightness, clean-heartedness, good faith--these things he prized
before everything. In you, in one of your birth, he looked to find
them in perfection. Hubert, I stood shamed before him.'
The young man breathed hard, as if in physical pain. His eyes were
fixed in a wide absent gaze. Mrs. Eldon had lost all the severity of
her face; the profound sorrow of a pure and noble nature was alone
to be read there now.
'What,' she continued--'what is this class distinction upon which we
pride ourselves? What does it mean, if not that our opportunities
lead us to see truths to which the eyes of the poor and ignorant are
blind? Is there nothing in it, after all--in our pride of birth and
station? That is what people are saying nowadays: you yourself have
jested to me about our privileges. You almost make me dread that you
were right. Look back at that man, whom I came to honour as my own
father. He began life as a toiler with his hands. Only a fortnight
ago he was telling me stories of his boyhood, of seventy years
since. He was without education; his ideas of truth and goodness he
had to find within his own heart. Could anything exceed the noble
simplicity of his respect for me, for you boys? We were poor, but it
seemed to him that we had from nature what no money could buy. He
was wrong; his faith misled him. No, not wrong with regard to all of
us; my boy Godfrey was indeed all that he believed. But think of
himself; what advantage have we over him? I know no longer what to
believe. Oh, Hubert!'
He left his chair and walked to a more distant part of the room,
where he was beyond the range of lamp and firelight. Standing here,
he pressed his hand against his side, still breathing hard, and with
difficulty suppressing a groan.
He came a step or two nearer.
'Mother,' he said, hurriedly, 'I am still far from well. Let me
leave you: speak to me again to-morrow.'
Mrs. Eldon made an effort to rise, looking anxiously into the gloom
where he stood. She was all but standing upright--a thing she had
not done for a long time--when Hubert sprang towards her, seizing
her hands, then supporting her in his arms. Her self-command gave
way at length, and she wept.
Hubert placed her gently in the chair and knelt beside her. He could
find no words, but once or twice raised his face and kissed her.
'What caused your illness?' she asked, speaking as one wearied with
suffering. She lay back, and her eyes were closed.
'I cannot say,' he answered. 'Do not speak of me. In your last
letter there was no account of how he died.'
'It was in church, at the morning service. The pew-opener found him
sitting there dead, when all had gone away.'
'But the vicar could see into the pew from the pulpit? The death
must have been very peaceful.'
'No, he could not see; the front curtains were drawn.'
'Why was that, I wonder?'
Mrs. Eldon shook her head.
'Are you in pain?' she asked suddenly. 'Why do you breathe so
'A little pain. Oh, nothing; I will see Manns to-morrow.'
His mother gazed long and steadily into his eyes, and this time he
bore her look.
'Mother, you have not kissed me,' he whispered.
'And cannot, dear. There is too much between us.'
His head fell upon her lap.
He pressed her hand.
'How shall I live when you have gone from me again? When you say
good-bye, it will be as if I parted from you for ever.'
Hubert was silent.
'Unless,' she continued--'unless I have your promise that you will
no longer dishonour yourself.'
He rose from her side and stood in front of the fire; his mother
looked and saw that he trembled.
'No promise, Hubert,' she said, 'that you cannot keep. Rather than
that, we will accept our fate, and be nothing to each other.'
'You know very well, mother, that that is impossible. I cannot speak
to you of what drove me to disregard your letters. I love and honour
you, and shall have to change my nature before I cease to do so.'
'To me, Hubert, you seem already to have changed. I scarcely know
'I can't defend myself to you,' he said sadly. 'We think so
differently on subjects which allow of no compromise, that, even if
I could speak openly, you would only condemn me the more.'
His mother turned upon him a grief-stricken and wondering face.
'Since when have we differed so?' she asked. 'What has made us
strangers to each other's thoughts? Surely, surely you are at one
with me in condemning all that has led to this? If your character
has been too weak to resist temptation, you cannot have learnt to
make evil your good?'
He kept silence.
'You refuse me that last hope?'
Hubert moved impatiently.
'Mother, I can't see beyond to-day! I know nothing of what is before
me. It is the idlest trifling with words to say one will do this or
that, when action in no way depends on one's own calmer thought. In
this moment I could promise anything you ask; if I had my choice, I
would be a child again and have no desire but to do your will, to be
worthy in your eyes. I hate my life and the years that have parted
me from you. Let us talk no more of it.'
Neither spoke again for some moments; then Hubert asked coldly--
'What has been done?'
'Nothing,' replied Mrs. Eldon, in the same tone. 'Mr. Yottle has
waited for your return before communicating with the relatives in
'I will go to Belwick in the morning,' he said. Then, after
reflection, 'Mr. Mutimer told you that he had destroyed his will?'
'No. He had it from Mr. Yottle two days before his death, and on the
day after--the Monday--Mr. Yottle was to have come to receive
instructions for a new one. It is nowhere to be found: of course it
'I suppose there is no doubt of that?' Hubert asked, with a show of
'There can be none. Mr. Yottle tells me that a will which existed.
before Godfrey's marriage was destroyed in the same way.'
'Who is the heir?'
'A great-nephew bearing the same name. The will contained provision
for him and certain of his family. Wanley is his; the personal
property will be divided among several.'
'The people have not come forward?'
'We presume they do not even know of Mr. Mutimer's death. There has
been no direct communication between him and them for many years.'
Hubert's next question was, 'What shall you do, mother?'
'Does it interest you, Hubert? I am too feeble to move very far. I
must find a home either here in the village or at Agworth.'
He looked at her with compassion, with remorse.
'And you, my boy?' asked his mother, raising her eyes gently.
'I? Oh, the selfish never come to harm, be sure! Only the gentle and
helpless have to suffer; that is the plan of the world's ruling.'
'The world is not ruled by one who thinks our thoughts, Hubert.'
He had it on his lips to make a rejoinder, but checked the impulse.
'Say good-night to me,' his mother continued. 'You must go and rest.
If you still feel unwell in the morning, a messenger shall go to
Belwick. You are very, very pale.'
Hubert held his hand to her and bent his head. Mrs. Eldon offered
her cheek; he kissed it and went from the room.
At seven o'clock on the following morning a bell summoned a servant
to Hubert's bedroom. Though it was daylight, a lamp burned near the
bed; Hubert lay against pillows heaped high.
'Let someone go at once for Dr. Manns,' he said, appearing to speak
with difficulty. 'I wish to see him as soon as possible. Mrs. Eldon
is to know nothing of his visit--you understand me!'
The servant withdrew. In rather less than an hour the doctor made
his appearance, with every sign of having been interrupted in his
repose. He was a spare man, full bearded and spectacled.
'Something wrong?' was his greeting as he looked keenly at his
summoner. 'I didn't know you were here.'
'Yes,' Hubert replied, 'something is confoundedly wrong. I have been
playing strange tricks in the night, I fancy.'
'As a consequence of something else. I shall have to tell you what
must be repeated to no one, as of course you will see. Let me see,
when was it?--Saturday to-day? Ten days ago, I had a pistol-bullet
just here,'--he touched his right side. 'It was extracted, and I
seemed to be not much the worse. I have just come from Germany.'
Dr. Manns screwed his face into an expression of sceptical
'At present,' Hubert continued, trying to laugh, 'I feel
considerably the worse. I don't think I could move if I tried. In a
few minutes, ten to one, I shall begin talking foolery. You must
keep people away; get what help is needed. I may depend upon you?'
The doctor nodded, and, whistling low, began an examination.
On the dun borderland of Islington and Hoxton, in a corner made by
the intersection of the New North Road and the Regent's Canal, is
discoverable an irregular triangle of small dwelling-houses, bearing
the name of Wilton Square. In the midst stands an amorphous
structure, which on examination proves to be a very ugly house and a
still uglier Baptist chapel built back to back. The pair are
enclosed within iron railings, and, more strangely, a circle of
trees, which in due season do veritably put forth green leaves. One
side of the square shows a second place of worship, the resort, as
an inscription declares, of 'Welsh Calvinistic Methodists.' The
houses are of one storey, with kitchen windows looking upon small
areas; the front door is reached by an ascent of five steps.
The canal--_maladetta e sventurata fossa_--stagnating in utter
foulness between coal-wharfs and builders' yards, at this point
divides two neighbourhoods of different aspects. On the south is
Hoxton, a region of malodorous market streets, of factories, timber
yards, grimy warehouses, of alleys swarming with small trades and
crafts, of filthy courts and passages leading into pestilential
gloom; everywhere toil in its most degrading forms; the
thoroughfares thundering with high-laden waggons, the pavements
trodden by working folk of the coarsest type, the corners and
lurking-holes showing destitution at its ugliest. Walking
northwards, the explorer finds himself in freer air, amid broader
ways, in a district of dwelling-houses only; the roads seem
abandoned to milkmen, cat's-meat vendors, and costermongers. Here
will be found streets in which every window has its card advertising
lodgings: others claim a higher respectability, the houses
retreating behind patches of garden-ground, and occasionally showing
plastered pillars and a balcony. The change is from undisguised
struggle for subsistence to mean and spirit-broken leisure; hither
retreat the better-paid of the great slave-army when they are free
to eat and sleep. To walk about a neighbourhood such as this is the
dreariest exercise to which man can betake himself; the heart is
crushed by uniformity of decent squalor; one remembers that each of
these dead-faced houses, often each separate blind window,
represents a 'home,' and the associations of the word whisper blank
Wilton Square is on the north side of the foss, on the edge of the
quieter district, and in one of its houses dwelt at the time of
which I write the family on whose behalf Fate was at work in a
valley of mid-England. Joseph Mutimer, nephew to the old man who had
just died at Wanley Manor, had himself been at rest for some five
years; his widow and three children still lived together in the home
they had long occupied. Joseph came of a family of mechanics; his
existence was that of the harmless necessary artisan. He earned a
living by dint of incessant labour, brought up his family in an
orderly way, and departed with a certain sense of satisfaction at
having fulfilled obvious duties--the only result of life for which
he could reasonably look. With his children we shall have to make
closer acquaintance; but before doing so, in order to understand
their position and follow with intelligence their several stories,
it will be necessary to enter a little upon the subject of ancestry.
Joseph Mutimer's father, Henry by name, was a somewhat remarkable
personage. He grew to manhood in the first decade of our century,
and wrought as a craftsman in a Midland town. He had a brother,
Richard, some ten years his junior, and the two were of such
different types of character, each so pronounced in his kind, that,
after vain attempts to get along together, they parted for good,
heedless of each other henceforth, pursuing their sundered
destinies. Henry was by nature a political enthusiast, of
insufficient ballast, careless of the main chance, of hot and ready
tongue; the Chartist movement gave him opportunities of action which
he used to the utmost, and he became a member of the so-called
National Convention, established in Birmingham in 1839. Already he
had achieved prominence by being imprisoned as the leader of a
torch-light procession, and this taste of martyrdom naturally
sharpened his zeal. He had married young, but only visited his
family from time to time. His wife for the most part earned her own
living, and ultimately betook herself to London with her son Joseph,
the single survivor of seven children. Henry pursued his career of
popular agitation, supporting himself in miscellaneous ways, writing
his wife an affectionate letter once in six months, and making
himself widely known as an uncompromising Radical of formidable
powers. Newspapers of that time mention his name frequently; he was
always in hot water, and once or twice narrowly escaped
transportation. In 1842 he took active part in the riots of the
Midland Counties, and at length was unfortunate enough to get his
head broken. He died in hospital before any relative could reach
Richard Mutimer regarded with detestation the principles to which
Henry had sacrificed his life. From childhood he was staid, earnest,
and iron-willed; to whatsoever he put his hand, he did it
thoroughly, and it was his pride to receive aid from no man.
Intensely practical, he early discerned the truth that a man's first
object must be to secure himself a competency, seeing that to one
who lacks money the world is but a great debtors' prison. To make
money, therefore, was his aim, and anything that interfered with the
interests of commerce and industry from the capitalist's point of
view he deemed unmitigated evil. When his brother Henry was leading
processions and preaching the People's Charter, Richard enrolled
himself as a special constable, cursing the tumults which drew him
from business, but determined, if he got the opportunity, to strike
a good hard blow in defence of law and order. Already he was well on
the way to possess a solid stake in the country, and the native
conservatism of his temperament grew stronger as circumstances bent
themselves to his will; a proletarian conquering wealth and
influence naturally prizes these things in proportion to the effort
their acquisition has cost him. When he heard of his brother's
death, he could in conscience say nothing more than 'Serve him
right!' For all that, he paid the funeral expenses of the
Chartist--angrily declining an offer from Henry's co-zealots, who
would have buried the martyr at their common charges--and proceeded
to inquire after the widow and son. Joseph Mutimer, already one- or
two-and-twenty, was in no need of help; he and his mother, naturally
prejudiced against the thriving uncle, declared themselves satisfied
with their lot, and desired no further connection with a relative
who was practically a stranger to them.
So Richard went on his way and heaped up riches. When already
middle-aged he took to himself a wife, his choice being marked with
characteristic prudence. The woman he wedded was turned thirty, had
no money, and few personal charms, but was a lady. Richard was fully
able to appreciate education and refinement; to judge from the
course of his later life, one would have said that he had sought
money only as a means, the end he really aimed at being the
satisfaction of instincts which could only have full play in a
higher social sphere. No doubt the truth was that success sweetened
his character, and developed, as is so often the case, those
possibilities of his better nature which a fruitless struggle would
have kept in the germ or altogether crushed. His excellent wife
influenced him profoundly; at her death the work was continued by
the daughter she left him. The defects of his early education could
not of course be repaired, but it is never too late for a man to go
to school to the virtues which civilise. Remaining the sturdiest of
Conservatives, he bowed in sincere humility to those very claims
which the Radical most angrily disallows: birth, hereditary station,
recognised gentility--these things made the strongest demand upon
his reverence. Such an attitude was a testimony to his own capacity
for culture, since he knew not the meaning of vulgar adulation, and
did in truth perceive the beauty of those qualities to which the
uneducated Iconoclast is wholly blind. It was a joyous day for him
when he saw his daughter the wife of Godfrey Eldon. The loss which
so soon followed was correspondingly hard to bear, and but for Mrs.
Eldon's gentle sympathy he would scarcely have survived the blow. We
know already how his character had impressed that lady; such respect
was not lightly to be won, and he came to regard it as the most
precious thing that life had left him.
But the man was not perfect, and his latest practical undertaking
curiously enough illustrated the failing which he seemed most
completely to have outgrown. It was of course a deplorable error to
think of mining in the beautiful valley which had once been the
Eldons' estate. Richard Mutimer could not perceive that. He was a
very old man, and possibly the instincts of his youth revived as his
mind grew feebler; he imagined it the greatest kindness to Mrs.
Eldon and her son to increase as much as possible the value of the
property he would leave at his death. They, of course, could not
even hint to him the pain with which they viewed so barbarous a
scheme; he did not as much as suspect a possible objection.
Intensely happy in his discovery and the activity to which it led,
he would have gone to his grave rich in all manner of content but
for that fatal news which reached him from London, where Hubert
Eldon was sup posed to be engaged in sober study in an interval of
University work. Doubtless it was this disappointment that caused
his sudden death, and so brought about a state of things which could
he have foreseen it, would have occasioned him the bitterest grief.
He had never lost sight of his relatives in London, and had made for
them such modest provision as suited his view of the fitness of
things. To leave wealth to young men of the working class would have
seemed to him the most inexcusable of follies; if such were to rise
at all, it must be by their own efforts and in consequence of their
native merits; otherwise, let them toil on and support themselves
honestly. From secret sources he received information of the
capabilities and prospects of Joseph Mutimer's children, and the
items of his will were regulated accordingly.
So we return to the family in Wilton Square. Let us, before
proceeding with the story, enumerate the younger Mutimers. The
first-born, now aged five-and-twenty, had his great-uncle's name;
Joseph Mutimer, married, and no better off in worldly possessions
than when be had only himself to support, came to regret the
coldness with which he had received the advances of his uncle the
capitalist, and christened his son Richard, with half a hope that
some day the name might stand the boy in stead. Richard was a
mechanical engineer, employed in certain ironworks where hydraulic
machinery was made. The second child was a girl, upon whom had been
bestowed the names Alice Maud, after one of the Queen's daughters;
on which account, and partly with reference to certain personal
characteristics, she was often called 'the Princess.' Her age was
nineteen, and she had now for two years been employed in the
show-rooms of a City warehouse. Last comes Henry, a lad of
seventeen; he had been suffered to aim at higher things than the
rest of the family. In the industrial code of precedence the rank of
clerk is a step above that of mechanic, and Henry--known to
relatives and friends as 'Arry--occupied the proud position of clerk
in a drain-pipe manufactory.
At ten o'clock on the evening of Easter Sunday, Mrs. Mutimer was
busy preparing supper. She had laid the table for six, had placed at
one end of it a large joint of cold meat, at the other a vast
flee-pudding, already diminished by attack, and she was now slicing
a conglomerate mass of cold potatoes and cabbage prior to heating it
in the frying-pan, which hissed with melted dripping just on the
edge of the fire. The kitchen was small, and everywhere reflected
from some bright surface either the glow of the open grate or the
yellow lustre of the gas-jet; red curtains drawn across the window
added warmth and homely comfort to the room. It was not the kitchen
of pinched or slovenly working folk; the air had a scent of
cleanliness, of freshly scrubbed boards and polished metal, and the
furniture was super-abundant. On the capacious dresser stood or hung
utensils innumerable; cupboards and chairs had a struggle for wall
space; every smallest object was in the place assigned to it by use
The housewife was an active woman of something less than sixty;
stout, fresh-featured, with a small keen eye, a firm mouth, and the
look of one who, conscious of responsibilities, yet feels equal to
them; on the whole a kindly and contented face, if lacking the
suggestiveness which comes of thought. At present she seemed on the
verge of impatience; it was supper time, but her children lingered.
'There they are, and there they must wait, I s'pose,' she murmured
to herself as she finished slicing the vegetables and went to remove
the pan a little from the fire.
A knock at the house door called her upstairs. She came down again,
followed by a young girl of pleasant countenance, though pale and
anxious-looking. The visitor's dress was very plain, and indicated
poverty; she wore a long black jacket, untrimmed, a boa of cheap
fur, tied at the throat with black ribbon, a hat of grey felt, black
'No one here?' she asked, seeing the empty kitchen.
'Goodness knows where they all are. I s'pose Dick's at his meeting;
but Alice and 'Arry had ought to be back by now. Sit you down to the
table, and I'll put on the vegetables; there's no call to wait for
them. Only I ain't got the beer.'
'Oh, but I didn't mean to come for supper,' said the girl, whose
name was Emma Vine. 'I only ran in to tell you poor Jane's down
again with rheumatic fever.'
Mrs. Mutimer was holding the frying-pan over the fire, turning the
contents over and over with a knife.
'You don't mean that!' she exclaimed, looking over her shoulder.
'Why, it's the fifth time, ain't it?'
'It is indeed, and worse to get through every time. We didn't expect
she'd ever be able to walk again last autumn.'
'Dear, dear! what a thing them rheumatics is, to be sure! And you've
heard about Dick, haven't you?'
'Oh, I thought maybe it had got to you. He's lost his work, that's
'Lost his work?' the girl repeated, with dismay. 'Why?'
'Why? What else had he to expect? 'Tain't likely they'll keep a man
as goes about making all his mates discontented and calling his
employers names at every street corner. I've been looking for it
every week. Yesterday one of the guvnors calls him up and tells
him--just in a few civil words--as perhaps it 'ud be better for all
parties if he'd find a place where he was more satisfied. "Well an'
good," says Dick--you know his way--and there he is.'
The girl had seated herself, and listened to this story with
downcast eyes. Courage seemed to fail her; she drew a long, quiet
sigh. Her face was of the kind that expresses much sweetness in
irregular features. Her look was very honest and gentle, with
pathetic meanings for whoso had the eye to catch them; a peculiar
mobility of the lips somehow made one think that she had often to
exert herself to keep down tears. She spoke in a subdued voice,
always briefly, and with a certain natural refinement in the use of
uncultured language. When Mrs. Mutimer ceased, Emma kept silence,
and smoothed the front of her jacket with an unconscious movement of
Mrs. Mutimer glanced at her and showed commiseration.
'Well, well, don't you worrit about it, Emma,' she said; 'you've
quite enough on your hands. Dick don't care--not he; be couldn't
look more high-flyin' if someone had left him a fortune. He says
it's the best thing as could happen. Nay, I can't explain; he'll
tell you plenty soon as he gets in. Cut yourself some meat, child,
do, and don't wait for me to help you. See, I'll turn you out some
potatoes; you don't care for the greens, I know.'
The fry had hissed vigorously whilst this conversation went on; the
results were brown and unctuous.
'Now, if it ain't too bad!' cried the old woman, losing
self-control. 'That 'Arry gets later every Sunday, and be knows very
well as I have to wait for the beer till he comes.'
I'll fetch it,' said Emma, rising.
'You indeed! I'd like to see Dick if he caught me a-sending you to
'He won't mind it for once.'
'You get on with your supper, do. It's only my fidgetiness; I can do
very well a bit longer. And Alice, where's she off to, I wonder?
What it is to have a girl that age! I wish they was all like you,
Emma. Get on with your supper, I tell you, or you'll make me angry.
Now, it ain't no use taking it to 'eart in that way. I see what
you're worritin' over. Dick ain't the man to be out o' work long.'
'But won't it be the same at his next place?' Emma inquired. She was
trying to eat, but it was a sad pretence.
'Nay, there's no telling. It's no good my talkin' to him. Why don't
you see what you can do, Emma? 'Tain't as if he'd no one but his own
self to think about Don't you think you could make him see that? If
anyone has a right to speak, it's you. Tell him as he'd ought to
have a bit more thought. It's wait, wait, wait, and likely to be if
things go on like this. Speak up and tell him as--'
'Oh, I couldn't do that!' murmured Emma. 'Dick knows best.'
She stopped to listen; there was a noise above as of people entering
'Here they come at last,' said Mrs. Mutimer. 'Hear him laughin'?
Now, don't you be so ready to laugh with him. Let him see as it
ain't such good fun to everybody.'
Heavy feet tramped down the stone stairs, amid a sound of loud
laughter and excited talk. The next moment the kitchen door was
thrown open, and two young men appeared. The one in advance was
Richard Mutimer; behind him came a friend of the family, Daniel
'Well, what do you think of this?' Richard exclaimed as he shook
Emma's hands rather carelessly. 'Mother been putting you out of
spirits, I suppose? Why, it's grand; the best thing that could have
happened! What a meeting we've had to-night! What do _you_ say,
Richard represented--too favourably to make him anything but an
exception--the best qualities his class can show. He was the English
artisan as we find him on rare occasions, the issue of a good strain
which has managed to procure a sufficiency of food for two or three
generations. His physique was admirable; little short of six feet in
stature, he had shapely shoulders, an erect well-formed head, clean
strong limbs, and a bearing which in natural ease and dignity
matched that of the picked men of the upper class--those fine
creatures whose career, from public school to regimental quarters,
is one exclusive course of bodily training. But the comparison, on
the whole, was to Richard's advantage. By no possibility could he
have assumed that aristocratic vacuity of visage which comes of
carefully induced cerebral atrophy. The air of the workshop suffered
little colour to dwell upon his cheeks; but to features of so
pronounced and intelligent a type this pallor added a distinction.
He had dark brown hair, thick and long, and a cropped beard of hue
somewhat lighter. His eyes were his mother's--keen and direct; but
they had small variety of expression; you could not imagine them
softening to tenderness, or even to thoughtful dreaming. Terribly
wide awake, they seemed to be always looking for the weak points of
whatever they regarded, and their brightness was not seldom
suggestive of malice. His voice was strong and clear; it would ring
out well in public places, which is equivalent to saying that it
hardly invited too intimate conference. You will take for granted
that Richard displayed, alike in attitude and tone, a distinct
consciousness of his points of superiority to the men among whom he
lived; probably he more than suspected that he could have held his
own in spheres to which there seemed small chance of his being
Just now he showed at once the best and the weakest of his points.
Coming in a state of exaltation from a meeting of which he had been
the eloquent hero, such light as was within him flashed from his
face freely; all the capacity and the vigour which impelled him to
strain against the strait bonds of his lot set his body quivering
and made music of his utterance. At the same time, his free
movements passed easily into swagger, and as he talked on, the false
notes were not few. A working man gifted with brains and comeliness
must, be sure of it, pay penalties for his prominence.
Quite another man was Daniel Dabbs: in him you saw the proletarian
pure and simple. He was thick-set, square-shouldered, rolling in
gait; he walked with head bent forward and eyes glancing uneasily,
as if from lack of self-confidence. His wiry black hair shone with
grease, and no accuracy of razor-play would make his chin white. A
man of immense strength, but bull-necked and altogether
ungainly--his heavy fist, with its black veins and terrific
knuckles, suggested primitive methods of settling dispute; the
stumpy fingers, engrimed hopelessly, and the filthy broken nails,
showed how he wrought for a living. His face, if you examined it
without prejudice, was not ill to look upon; there was much good
humour about the mouth, and the eyes, shrewd enough, could glimmer a
kindly light His laughter was roof-shaking--always a good sign in a
'And what have _you_ got to say of these fine doings, Mr. Dabbs?'
Mrs. Mutimer asked him.
'Why, it's like this 'era, Mrs. Mutimer,' Daniel began, having
seated himself, with hands on widely-parted knees. 'As far as the
theory goes, I'm all for Dick; any man must be as knows his two
times two. But about the Longwoods; well, I tell Dick they've a
perfect right to get rid of him, finding him a dangerous enemy, you
see. It was all fair and above board. Young Stephen Longwood ups an'
says--leastways not in these words, but them as means the same--says
he, "Look 'ere, Mutimer," he says, "we've no fault to find with you
as a workman, but from what we hear of you, it seems you don't care
much for us as employers. Hadn't you better find a shop as is run on
Socialist principles?" That's all about it, you see; it's a case of
incompatible temperaments; there's no ill-feelin', not as between
man and man, And that's what I say, too.'
'Now, Dick,' said Mrs. Mutimer, 'before you begin your sermon, who's
a-going to fetch my beer?'
'Right, Mrs. Mutimer!' cried Daniel, slapping his leg. 'That's what
I call coming from theory to practice. Beer squares all--leastways
for the time being--only for the time being, Dick. Where's the jug?
Better give me two jugs; we've had a thirsty night of it.'
'We'll make capital of this!' said Richard, walking about the room
in Daniel's absence. 'The great point gained is, they've shown
they're afraid of me. We'll write it up in the paper next week, see
if we don't! It'll do us a sight of good.'
'And where's your weekly wages to come from?' inquired his mother.
'Oh, I'll look after that. I only wish they'd refuse me all round;
the more of that kind of thing the better for us. I'm not afraid but
I can earn my living.'
Through all this Emma Vine had sat with her thoughtful eyes
constantly turned on Richard. It was plain how pride struggled with
anxiety in her mind. When Richard had kept silence for a moment, she
ventured to speak, having tried in vain to meet his look.
'Jane's ill again, Richard,' she said.
Mutimer had to summon his thoughts from a great distance; his
endeavour to look sympathetic was not very successful.
'Not the fever again?'
'Yes, it is,' she replied sadly.
'Going to work in the wet, I suppose?'
He shrugged his shoulders; in his present mood the fact was not so
much personally interesting to him as in the light of another case
against capitalism. Emma's sister had to go a long way to her daily
employment, and could not afford to ride; the fifth attack of
rheumatic fever was the price she paid for being permitted to earn
ten shillings a week.
Daniel returned with both jugs foaming, his face on a broad grin of
anticipation. There was a general move to the table. Richard began
to carve roast beef like a freeman, not by any means like the serf
he had repeatedly declared himself in the course of the evening's
'Her Royal 'Ighness out?' asked Daniel, with constraint not solely
due to the fact that his mouth was full.
'She's round at Mrs. Took's, I should think,' was Mrs. Mutimer's
reply. 'Staying supper, per'aps.'
Richard, after five minutes of surprising trencher-work, recommenced
conversation. The proceedings of the evening at the hall, which was
the centre for Socialist gatherings in this neighbourhood, were
discussed by him and Daniel with much liveliness. Dan was disposed
to take the meeting on its festive and humorous side; for him,
economic agitation was a mode of passing a few hours amid congenial
uproar. Whenever stamping and shouting were called for, Daniel was
your man. Abuse of employers, it was true, gave a zest to the
occasion, and to applaud the martyrdom of others was as cheery an
occupation as could he asked; Daniel had no idea of sacrificing his
own weekly wages, and therein resembled most of those who had been
loud in uncompromising rhetoric. Richard, on the other hand, was
unmistakably zealous. His sense of humour was not strong, and in any
case he would have upheld the serious dignity of his own position.
One saw from his way of speaking, that he believed himself about to
become a popular hero; already in imagination he stood forth on
platforms before vast assemblies, and heard his own voice denouncing
capitalism with force which nothing could resist. The first taste of
applause had given extraordinary impulse to his convictions, and the
personal ambition with which they were interwoven. His grandfather's
blood was hot in him to-night. Henry Mutimer, dying in hospital of
his broken skull, would have found euthanasia, could he in vision
have seen this worthy descendant entering upon a career in
comparison with which his own was unimportant.
The high-pitched voices and the clatter of knives and forks allowed
a new-comer to enter the kitchen without being immediately observed.
It was a tall girl of interesting and vivacious appearance; she wore
a dress of tartan, a very small hat trimmed also with tartan and
with a red feather, a tippet of brown fur about her shoulders, and a
muff of the same material on one of her hands. Her figure was
admirable; from the crest of her gracefully poised head to the tip
of her well-chosen boot she was, in line and structure, the type of
mature woman. Her face, if it did not indicate a mind to match her
frame, was at the least sweet-featured and provoking; characterless
somewhat, but void of danger-signals; doubtless too good to be
merely played with; in any case, very capable of sending a ray, in
one moment or another, to the shadowy dreaming-place of graver
thoughts. Alice Maud Mutimer was nineteen. For two years she had
been thus tall, but the grace of her proportions had only of late
fully determined itself. Her work in the City warehouse was
unexacting; she had even a faint impress of rose-petal on each
cheek, and her eye was excellently clear. Her lips, unfortunately
never quite closed, betrayed faultless teeth. Her likeness to
Richard was noteworthy; beyond question she understood the charm of
her presence, and one felt that the consciousness might, in her
case, constitute rather a safeguard than otherwise.
She stood with one hand on the door, surveying the table. When the
direction of Mrs. Mutimer's eyes at length caused Richard and Daniel
to turn their heads, Alice nodded to each.
'What noisy people! I heard you out in the square.'
She was moving past the table, but Daniel, suddenly backing his
chair, intercepted her. The girl gave him her hand, and, by way of
being jocose, he squeezed it so vehemently that she uttered a shrill
'Leave go, Mr. Dabbs! Leave go, I tell you! How dare you? I'll hit
you as hard as I can!'
Daniel laughed obstreperously.
'Do! do!' he cried. 'What a mighty blow that 'ud be! Only the left
hand, though. I shall get over it.'
She wrenched herself away, gave Daniel a smart slap on the back, and
ran round to the other side of the table, where she kissed Emma
'How thirsty I am!' she exclaimed. 'You haven't drunk all the beer,
'I'm not so sure of that,' Dan replied. 'Why, there ain't more than
'arf a pint; that's not much use for a Royal 'Ighness.'
She poured it into a glass. Alice reached across the table, raised
the glass to her lips, and--emptied it. Then she threw off hat,
tippet, and gloves, and seated herself But in a moment she was up
and at the cupboard.
'Now, mother, you don't--you _don't_ say as there's not a pickle!'
Her tone was deeply reproachful.
'Why, there now,' replied her mother, laughing; 'I knew what it 'ud
be! I meant to a' got them last night. You'll have to make shift for
The Princess took her seat with an air of much dejection. Her pretty
lips grew mutinous; she pushed her plate away.
'No supper for me! The idea of cold meat without a pickle.'
'What's the time?' cried Daniel. 'Not closing time yet. I can get a
pickle at the "Duke's Arms." Give me a glass, Mrs. Mutimer.'
Alice looked up slily, half smiling, half doubtful.
'You may go,' she said. 'I like to see strong men make themselves
Dan rose, and was off at once. He returned with the tumbler full of
pickled walnuts. Alice emptied half a dozen into her plate, and put
one of them whole into her mouth. She would not have been a girl of
her class if she had not relished this pungent dainty. Fish of any
kind, green vegetables, eggs and bacon, with all these a drench of
vinegar was indispensable to her. And she proceeded to eat a supper
scarcely less substantial than that which had appeased her brother's
appetite. Start not, dear reader; the Princess is only a subordinate
heroine, and happens, moreover, to be a living creature.
'Won't you take a walnut, Miss Vine?' Daniel asked, pushing the
tumbler to the quiet girl, who had scarcely spoken through the meal.
She declined the offered dainty, and at the same time rose from the
table, saying aside to Mrs. Mutimer that she must be going.
'Yes, I suppose you must,' was the reply. 'Shall you have to sit up
'Not all night, I don't expect.'
Richard likewise left his place, and, when she offered to bid him
good-night, said that he would walk a little way with her. In the
passage above, which was gas-lighted, he found his hat on a nail,
and the two left the house together.
'Don't you really mind?' Emma asked, looking up into his face as
they took their way out of the square.
'Not I! I can get a job at Baldwin's any day. But I dare say I
shan't want one long.'
'Not want work?'
'Work? Oh, plenty of work; but perhaps not the same kind. We want
men who can give their whole time to the struggle--to go about
lecturing and the like. Of course, it isn't everybody can do it.'
The remark indicated his belief that he knew one man not incapable
of leading functions.
'And would they pay you?' Emma inquired, simply.
'Expenses of that kind are inevitable,' he replied.
Issuing into the New North Road, where there were still many people
hastening one way and the other, they turned to the left, crossed
the canal--black and silent--and were soon among narrow streets.
Every corner brought a whiff of some rank odour, which stole from
closed shops and warehouses, and hung heavily on the still air. The
public-houses had just extinguished their lights, and in the
neighbourhood of each was a cluster of lingering men and women,
merry or disputatious. Mid-Easter was inviting repose and festivity;
to-morrow would see culmination of riot, and after that it would
only depend upon pecuniary resources how long the muddled interval
between holiday and renewed labour should drag itself out.
The end of their walk was the entrance to a narrow passage, which,
at a few yards' distance, widened itself and became a street of
four-storeyed houses. At present this could not be discerned; the
passage was a mere opening into massive darkness. Richard had just
been making inquiries about Emma's sister.
'You've had the doctor?'
'Yes, we're obliged; she does so dread going to the hospital again.
Each time she's longer in getting well.'
Richard's hand was in his pocket; he drew it out and pressed
something against the girl's palm.
'Oh, how can I?' she said, dropping her eyes. 'No--don't--I'm
'That's all right,' he urged, not unkindly. 'You'll have to get her
what the doctor orders, and it isn't likely you and Kate can afford
'You're always so kind, Richard. But I am--I am ashamed!'
'I say, Emma, why don't you call me Dick? I've meant to ask you that
many a time.'
She turned her face away, moving as if abashed.
'I don't know. It sounds--perhaps I want to make a difference from
what the others call you.'
He laughed with a sound of satisfaction.
'Well, you mustn't stand here; it's a cold night. Try and come
Tuesday or Wednesday.'
'Yes, I will.'
'Good night!' he said, and, as he held her hand, bent to the lips
which were ready.
Emma walked along the passage, and for some distance up the middle
of the street. Then she stopped and looked up at one of the black
houses. There were lights, more or less curtain-dimmed, in nearly
all the windows. Emma regarded a faint gleam in the topmost storey.
To that she ascended.
Mutimer walked homewards at a quick step, whistling to himself. A
latch-key gave him admission. As he went down the kitchen stairs, he
heard his mother's voice raised in anger, and on opening the door he
found that Daniel had departed, and that the supper table was
already cleared. Alice, her feet on the fender and her dress raised
a little, was engaged in warming herself before going to bed. The
object of Mrs. Mutimer's chastisement was the youngest member of the
family, known as 'Arry; even Richard, who had learnt to be somewhat
careful in his pronunciation, could not bestow the aspirate upon his
brother's name. Henry, aged seventeen, promised to do credit to the
Mutimers in physical completeness; already he was nearly as tall as
his eldest brother; and, even in his lankness, showed the beginnings
of well-proportioned vigour. But the shape of his head, which was
covered with hair of the lightest hue, did not encourage hope of
mental or moral qualities. It was not quite fair to judge his face
as seen at present; the vacant grin of half timid, half insolent,
resentment made him considerably more simian of visage than was the
case under ordinary circumstances. But the features were unpleasant
to look upon; it was Richard's face, distorted and enfeebled with
impress of sensual instincts.
'As long as you live in this house, it shan't go on,' his mother was
saying. 'Sunday or Monday, it's no matter; you'll be home before
eleven o'clock, and you'll come home sober. You're no better than a
'Arry was seated in a far corner of the room, where he had dropped
his body on entering. His attire was such as the cheap tailors turn
out in imitation of extreme fashions: trousers closely moulded upon
the leg, a huff waistcoat, a short coat with pockets everywhere. A
very high collar kept his head up against his will; his necktie was
crimson, and passed through a brass ring; he wore a silver
watch-chain, or what seemed to be such. One hand was gloved, and a
cane lay across his knees. His attitude was one of relaxed muscles,
his legs very far apart, his body not quite straight.
'What d' you call sober, I'd like to know?' he replied, with
looseness of utterance. 'I'm as sober 's anybody in this room. If a
chap can't go out with 's friends 't Easter an' all--?'
'Easter, indeed! It's getting to be a regular thing, Saturday and
Sunday. Get up and go to bed! I'll have my say out with you in the
morning, young man.'
'Go to bed!' repeated the lad with scorn. 'Tell you I ain't had no
Richard had walked to the neighbourhood of the fireplace, and was
regarding his brother with anger and contempt. At this point of the
dialogue he interfered.
'And you won't have any, either, that I'll see to! What's more,
you'll do as your mother bids you, or I'll know the reason why. Go
upstairs at once!'
It was not a command to be disregarded. 'Arry rose, but
'What have you to do with it? You're not my master.'
'Do you hear what I say?' Richard observed, yet more autocratically.
'Take yourself off, and at once!'
The lad growled, hesitated, but approached the door. His motion was
slinking; he could not face Richard's eye. They heard him stumble up