Part 3 out of 9
Pity for one's self for being wasted is mostly present in these
moods of abnegation.
The meaning of all his allusions, his abruptness in telling her of
his love, his constraint at first, then his desperate manner of
speaking, was clear. They must have been the last flickerings of a
conscience not quite dead to all sense of perfidiousness and
fickleness. Now he had gone to London: she would be dismissed from
his memory, in the same way as Miss Aldclyffe had said. And here
she was in Edward's own parish, reminded continually of him by what
she saw and heard. The landscape, yesterday so much and so bright
to her, was now but as the banquet-hall deserted--all gone but
Miss Aldclyffe had wormed her secret out of her, and would now be
continually mocking her for her trusting simplicity in believing
him. It was altogether unbearable: she would not stay there.
She went downstairs and found Miss Aldclyffe had gone into the
breakfast-room, but that Captain Aldclyffe, who rose later with
increasing infirmities, had not yet made his appearance. Cytherea
entered. Miss Aldclyffe was looking out of the window, watching a
trail of white smoke along the distant landscape--signifying a
passing train. At Cytherea's entry she turned and looked inquiry.
'I must tell you now,' began Cytherea, in a tremulous voice.
'Well, what?' Miss Aldclyffe said.
'I am not going to stay with you. I must go away--a very long way.
I am very sorry, but indeed I can't remain!'
'Pooh--what shall we hear next?' Miss Aldclyffe surveyed Cytherea's
face with leisurely criticism. 'You are breaking your heart again
about that worthless young Springrove. I knew how it would be. It
is as Hallam says of Juliet--what little reason you may have
possessed originally has all been whirled away by this love. I
shan't take this notice, mind.'
'Do let me go!'
Miss Aldclyffe took her new pet's hand, and said with severity, 'As
to hindering you, if you are determined to go, of course that's
absurd. But you are not now in a state of mind fit for deciding
upon any such proceeding, and I shall not listen to what you have to
say. Now, Cythie, come with me; we'll let this volcano burst and
spend itself, and after that we'll see what had better be done.'
She took Cytherea into her workroom, opened a drawer, and drew forth
a roll of linen.
'This is some embroidery I began one day, and now I should like it
She then preceded the maiden upstairs to Cytherea's own room.
'There,' she said, 'now sit down here, go on with this work, and
remember one thing--that you are not to leave the room on any
pretext whatever for two hours unless I send for you--I insist
kindly, dear. Whilst you stitch--you are to stitch, recollect, and
not go mooning out of the window--think over the whole matter, and
get cooled; don't let the foolish love-affair prevent your thinking
as a woman of the world. If at the end of that time you still say
you must leave me, you may. I will have no more to say in the
matter. Come, sit down, and promise to sit here the time I name.'
To hearts in a despairing mood, compulsion seems a relief; and
docility was at all times natural to Cytherea. She promised, and
sat down. Miss Aldclyffe shut the door upon her and retreated.
She sewed, stopped to think, shed a tear or two, recollected the
articles of the treaty, and sewed again; and at length fell into a
reverie which took no account whatever of the lapse of time.
4. TEN TO TWELVE O'CLOCK A.M.
A quarter of an hour might have passed when her thoughts became
attracted from the past to the present by unwonted movements
downstairs. She opened the door and listened.
There were hurryings along passages, opening and shutting of doors,
trampling in the stable-yard. She went across into another bedroom,
from which a view of the stable-yard could be obtained, and arrived
there just in time to see the figure of the man who had driven her
from the station vanishing down the coach-road on a black horse--
galloping at the top of the animal's speed.
Another man went off in the direction of the village.
Whatever had occurred, it did not seem to be her duty to inquire or
meddle with it, stranger and dependent as she was, unless she were
requested to, especially after Miss Aldclyffe's strict charge to
her. She sat down again, determined to let no idle curiosity
influence her movements.
Her window commanded the front of the house; and the next thing she
saw was a clergyman walk up and enter the door.
All was silent again till, a long time after the first man had left,
he returned again on the same horse, now matted with sweat and
trotting behind a carriage in which sat an elderly gentleman driven
by a lad in livery. These came to the house, entered, and all was
again the same as before.
The whole household--master, mistress, and servants--appeared to
have forgotten the very existence of such a being as Cytherea. She
almost wished she had not vowed to have no idle curiosity.
Half-an-hour later, the carriage drove off with the elderly
gentleman, and two or three messengers left the house, speeding in
various directions. Rustics in smock-frocks began to hang about the
road opposite the house, or lean against trees, looking idly at the
windows and chimneys.
A tap came to Cytherea's door. She opened it to a young maid-
'Miss Aldclyffe wishes to see you, ma'am.' Cytherea hastened down.
Miss Aldclyffe was standing on the hearthrug, her elbow on the
mantel, her hand to her temples, her eyes on the ground; perfectly
calm, but very pale.
'Cytherea,' she said in a whisper, 'come here.'
Cytherea went close.
'Something very serious has taken place,' she said again, and then
paused, with a tremulous movement of her mouth.
'Yes,' said Cytherea.
'My father. He was found dead in his bed this morning.'
'Dead!' echoed the younger woman. It seemed impossible that the
announcement could be true; that knowledge of so great a fact could
be contained in a statement so small.
'Yes, dead,' murmured Miss Aldclyffe solemnly. 'He died alone,
though within a few feet of me. The room we slept in is exactly
over his own.'
Cytherea said hurriedly, 'Do they know at what hour?'
'The doctor says it must have been between two and three o'clock
'Then I heard him!'
'Heard him die!'
'You heard him die? What did you hear?'
'A sound I heard once before in my life--at the deathbed of my
mother. I could not identify it--though I recognized it. Then the
dog howled: you remarked it. I did not think it worth while to
tell you what I had heard a little earlier.' She looked agonized.
'It would have been useless,' said Miss Aldclyffe. 'All was over by
that time.' She addressed herself as much as Cytherea when she
continued, 'Is it a Providence who sent you here at this juncture
that I might not be left entirely alone?'
Till this instant Miss Aldclyffe had forgotten the reason of
Cytherea's seclusion in her own room. So had Cytherea herself. The
fact now recurred to both in one moment.
'Do you still wish to go?' said Miss Aldclyffe anxiously.
'I don't want to go now,' Cytherea had remarked simultaneously with
the other's question. She was pondering on the strange likeness
which Miss Aldclyffe's bereavement bore to her own; it had the
appearance of being still another call to her not to forsake this
woman so linked to her life, for the sake of any trivial vexation.
Miss Aldclyffe held her almost as a lover would have held her, and
'We get more and more into one groove. I now am left fatherless and
motherless as you were.' Other ties lay behind in her thoughts, but
she did not mention them.
'You loved your father, Cytherea, and wept for him?'
'Yes, I did. Poor papa!'
'I was always at variance with mine, and can't weep for him now!
But you must stay here always, and make a better woman of me.'
The compact was thus sealed, and Cytherea, in spite of the failure
of her advertisements, was installed as a veritable Companion. And,
once more in the history of human endeavour, a position which it was
impossible to reach by any direct attempt, was come to by the
seeker's swerving from the path, and regarding the original object
as one of secondary importance.
VII. THE EVENTS OF EIGHTEEN DAYS
1. AUGUST THE SEVENTEENTH
The time of day was four o'clock in the afternoon. The place was
the lady's study or boudoir, Knapwater House. The person was Miss
Aldclyffe sitting there alone, clothed in deep mourning.
The funeral of the old Captain had taken place, and his will had
been read. It was very concise, and had been executed about five
years previous to his death. It was attested by his solicitors,
Messrs. Nyttleton and Tayling, of Lincoln's Inn Fields. The whole
of his estate, real and personal, was bequeathed to his daughter
Cytherea, for her sole and absolute use, subject only to the payment
of a legacy to the rector, their relative, and a few small amounts
to the servants.
Miss Aldclyffe had not chosen the easiest chair of her boudoir to
sit in, or even a chair of ordinary comfort, but an uncomfortable,
high, narrow-backed, oak framed and seated chair, which was allowed
to remain in the room only on the ground of being a companion in
artistic quaintness to an old coffer beside it, and was never used
except to stand in to reach for a book from the highest row of
shelves. But she had sat erect in this chair for more than an hour,
for the reason that she was utterly unconscious of what her actions
and bodily feelings were. The chair had stood nearest her path on
entering the room, and she had gone to it in a dream.
She sat in the attitude which denotes unflagging, intense,
concentrated thought--as if she were cast in bronze. Her feet were
together, her body bent a little forward, and quite unsupported by
the back of the chair; her hands on her knees, her eyes fixed
intently on the corner of a footstool.
At last she moved and tapped her fingers upon the table at her side.
Her pent-up ideas had finally found some channel to advance in.
Motions became more and more frequent as she laboured to carry
further and further the problem which occupied her brain. She sat
back and drew a long breath: she sat sideways and leant her
forehead upon her hand. Later still she arose, walked up and down
the room--at first abstractedly, with her features as firmly set as
ever; but by degrees her brow relaxed, her footsteps became lighter
and more leisurely; her head rode gracefully and was no longer
bowed. She plumed herself like a swan after exertion.
'Yes,' she said aloud. 'To get HIM here without letting him know
that I have any other object than that of getting a useful man--
that's the difficulty--and that I think I can master.'
She rang for the new maid, a placid woman of forty with a few grey
'Ask Miss Graye if she can come to me.'
Cytherea was not far off, and came in.
'Do you know anything about architects and surveyors?' said Miss
'Know anything?' replied Cytherea, poising herself on her toe to
consider the compass of the question.
'Yes--know anything,' said Miss Aldclyffe.
'Owen is an architect and surveyor's draughtsman,' the maiden said,
and thought of somebody else who was likewise.
'Yes! that's why I asked you. What are the different kinds of work
comprised in an architect's practice? They lay out estates, and
superintend the various works done upon them, I should think, among
'Those are, more properly, a land or building steward's duties--at
least I have always imagined so. Country architects include those
things in their practice; city architects don't.'
'I know that, child. But a steward's is an indefinite fast and
loose profession, it seems to me. Shouldn't you think that a man
who had been brought up as an architect would do for a steward?'
Cytherea had doubts whether an architect pure would do.
The chief pleasure connected with asking an opinion lies in not
adopting it. Miss Aldclyffe replied decisively--
'Nonsense; of course he would. Your brother Owen makes plans for
country buildings--such as cottages, stables, homesteads, and so
'Yes; he does.'
'And superintends the building of them?'
'Yes; he will soon.'
'And he surveys land?'
'And he knows about hedges and ditches--how wide they ought to be,
boundaries, levelling, planting trees to keep away the winds,
measuring timber, houses for ninety-nine years, and such things?'
'I have never heard him say that; but I think Mr. Gradfield does
those things. Owen, I am afraid, is inexperienced as yet.'
'Yes; your brother is not old enough for such a post yet, of course.
And then there are rent-days, the audit and winding up of
tradesmen's accounts. I am afraid, Cytherea, you don't know much
more about the matter than I do myself. . . . I am going out just
now,' she continued. 'I shall not want you to walk with me to-day.
Run away till dinner-time.'
Miss Aldclyffe went out of doors, and down the steps to the lawn:
then turning to the left, through a shrubbery, she opened a wicket
and passed into a neglected and leafy carriage-drive, leading down
the hill. This she followed till she reached the point of its
greatest depression, which was also the lowest ground in the whole
The trees here were so interlaced, and hung their branches so near
the ground, that a whole summer's day was scarcely long enough to
change the air pervading the spot from its normal state of coolness
to even a temporary warmth. The unvarying freshness was helped by
the nearness of the ground to the level of the springs, and by the
presence of a deep, sluggish stream close by, equally well shaded by
bushes and a high wall. Following the road, which now ran along at
the margin of the stream, she came to an opening in the wall, on the
other side of the water, revealing a large rectangular nook from
which the stream proceeded, covered with froth, and accompanied by a
dull roar. Two more steps, and she was opposite the nook, in full
view of the cascade forming its further boundary. Over the top
could be seen the bright outer sky in the form of a crescent, caused
by the curve of a bridge across the rapids, and the trees above.
Beautiful as was the scene she did not look in that direction. The
same standing-ground afforded another prospect, straight in the
front, less sombre than the water on the right or the trees all
around. The avenue and grove which flanked it abruptly terminated a
few yards ahead, where the ground began to rise, and on the remote
edge of the greensward thus laid open, stood all that remained of
the original manor-house, to which the dark margin-line of the trees
in the avenue formed an adequate and well-fitting frame. It was the
picture thus presented that was now interesting Miss Aldclyffe--not
artistically or historically, but practically--as regarded its
fitness for adaptation to modern requirements.
In front, detached from everything else, rose the most ancient
portion of the structure--an old arched gateway, flanked by the
bases of two small towers, and nearly covered with creepers, which
had clambered over the eaves of the sinking roof, and up the gable
to the crest of the Aldclyffe family perched on the apex. Behind
this, at a distance of ten or twenty yards, came the only portion of
the main building that still existed--an Elizabethan fragment,
consisting of as much as could be contained under three gables and a
cross roof behind. Against the wall could be seen ragged lines
indicating the form of other destroyed gables which had once joined
it there. The mullioned and transomed windows, containing five or
six lights, were mostly bricked up to the extent of two or three,
and the remaining portion fitted with cottage window-frames
carelessly inserted, to suit the purpose to which the old place was
now applied, it being partitioned out into small rooms downstairs to
form cottages for two labourers and their families; the upper
portion was arranged as a storehouse for divers kinds of roots and
The owner of the picturesque spot, after her survey from this point,
went up to the walls and walked into the old court, where the
paving-stones were pushed sideways and upwards by the thrust of the
grasses between them. Two or three little children, with their
fingers in their mouths, came out to look at her, and then ran in to
tell their mothers in loud tones of secrecy that Miss Aldclyffe was
coming. Miss Aldclyffe, however, did not come in. She concluded
her survey of the exterior by making a complete circuit of the
building; then turned into a nook a short distance off where round
and square timber, a saw-pit, planks, grindstones, heaps of building
stone and brick, explained that the spot was the centre of
operations for the building work done on the estate.
She paused, and looked around. A man who had seen her from the
window of the workshops behind, came out and respectfully lifted his
hat to her. It was the first time she had been seen walking outside
the house since her father's death.
'Strooden, could the Old House be made a decent residence of,
without much trouble?' she inquired.
The mechanic considered, and spoke as each consideration completed
'You don't forget, ma'am, that two-thirds of the place is already
pulled down, or gone to ruin?'
'Yes; I know.'
'And that what's left may almost as well be, ma'am.'
'Why may it?'
''Twas so cut up inside when they made it into cottages, that the
whole carcase is full of cracks.'
'Still by pulling down the inserted partitions, and adding a little
outside, it could be made to answer the purpose of an ordinary six
or eight-roomed house?'
'About what would it cost?' was the question which had invariably
come next in every communication of this kind to which the
superintending workman had been a party during his whole experience.
To his surprise, Miss Aldclyffe did not put it. The man thought her
object in altering an old house must have been an unusually
absorbing one not to prompt what was so instinctive in owners as
hardly to require any prompting at all.
'Thank you: that's sufficient, Strooden,' she said. 'You will
understand that it is not unlikely some alteration may be made here
in a short time, with reference to the management of the affairs.'
Strooden said 'Yes,' in a complex voice, and looked uneasy.
'During the life of Captain Aldclyffe, with you as the foreman of
works, and he himself as his own steward, everything worked well.
But now it may be necessary to have a steward, whose management will
encroach further upon things which have hitherto been left in your
hands than did your late master's. What I mean is, that he will
directly and in detail superintend all.'
'Then--I shall not be wanted, ma'am?' he faltered.
'O yes; if you like to stay on as foreman in the yard and workshops
only. I should be sorry to lose you. However, you had better
consider. I will send for you in a few days.'
Leaving him to suspense, and all the ills that came in its train--
distracted application to his duties, and an undefined number of
sleepless nights and untasted dinners, Miss Aldclyffe looked at her
watch and returned to the House. She was about to keep an
appointment with her solicitor, Mr. Nyttleton, who had been to
Budmouth, and was coming to Knapwater on his way back to London.
2. AUGUST THE TWENTIETH
On the Saturday subsequent to Mr. Nyttleton's visit to Knapwater
House, the subjoined advertisement appeared in the Field and the
'A gentleman of integrity and professional skill is required
immediately for the MANAGEMENT of an ESTATE, containing about 1000
acres, upon which agricultural improvements and the erection of
buildings are contemplated. He must be a man of superior education,
unmarried, and not more than thirty years of age. Considerable
preference will be shown for one who possesses an artistic as well
as a practical knowledge of planning and laying out. The
remuneration will consist of a salary of 22O pounds, with the old
manor-house as a residence--Address Messrs. Nyttleton and Tayling,
solicitors, Lincoln's Inn Fields.'
A copy of each paper was sent to Miss Aldclyffe on the day of
publication. The same evening she told Cytherea that she was
advertising for a steward, who would live at the old manor-house,
showing her the papers containing the announcement.
What was the drift of that remark? thought the maiden; or was it
merely made to her in confidential intercourse, as other
arrangements were told her daily. Yet it seemed to have more
meaning than common. She remembered the conversation about
architects and surveyors, and her brother Owen. Miss Aldclyffe knew
that his situation was precarious, that he was well educated and
practical, and was applying himself heart and soul to the details of
the profession and all connected with it. Miss Aldclyffe might be
ready to take him if he could compete successfully with others who
would reply. She hazarded a question:
'Would it be desirable for Owen to answer it?'
'Not at all,' said Miss Aldclyffe peremptorily.
A flat answer of this kind had ceased to alarm Cytherea. Miss
Aldclyffe's blunt mood was not her worst. Cytherea thought of
another man, whose name, in spite of resolves, tears, renunciations
and injured pride, lingered in her ears like an old familiar strain.
That man was qualified for a stewardship under a king.
'Would it be of any use if Edward Springrove were to answer it?' she
said, resolutely enunciating the name.
'None whatever,' replied Miss Aldclyffe, again in the same decided
'You are very unkind to speak in that way.'
'Now don't pout like a goosie, as you are. I don't want men like
either of them, for, of course, I must look to the good of the
estate rather than to that of any individual. The man I want must
have been more specially educated. I have told you that we are
going to London next week; it is mostly on this account.'
Cytherea found that she had mistaken the drift of Miss Aldclyffe's
peculiar explicitness on the subject of advertising, and wrote to
tell her brother that if he saw the notice it would be useless to
3. AUGUST THE TWENTY-FIFTH
Five days after the above-mentioned dialogue took place they went to
London, and, with scarcely a minute's pause, to the solicitors'
offices in Lincoln's Inn Fields.
They alighted opposite one of the characteristic entrances about the
place--a gate which was never, and could never be, closed, flanked
by lamp-standards carrying no lamp. Rust was the only active agent
to be seen there at this time of the day and year. The palings
along the front were rusted away at their base to the thinness of
wires, and the successive coats of paint, with which they were
overlaid in bygone days, had been completely undermined by the same
insidious canker, which lifted off the paint in flakes, leaving the
raw surface of the iron on palings, standards, and gate hinges, of a
But once inside the railings the picture changed. The court and
offices were a complete contrast to the grand ruin of the outwork
which enclosed them. Well-painted respectability extended over,
within, and around the doorstep; and in the carefully swept yard not
a particle of dust was visible.
Mr. Nyttleton, who had just come up from Margate, where he was
staying with his family, was standing at the top of his own
staircase as the pair ascended. He politely took them inside.
'Is there a comfortable room in which this young lady can sit during
our interview?' said Miss Aldclyffe.
It was rather a favourite habit of hers to make much of Cytherea
when they were out, and snub her for it afterwards when they got
'Certainly--Mr. Tayling's.' Cytherea was shown into an inner room.
Social definitions are all made relatively: an absolute datum is
only imagined. The small gentry about Knapwater seemed unpractised
to Miss Aldclyffe, Miss Aldclyffe herself seemed unpractised to Mr.
Nyttleton's experienced old eyes.
'Now then,' the lady said, when she was alone with the lawyer; 'what
is the result of our advertisement?'
It was late summer; the estate-agency, building, engineering, and
surveying worlds were dull. There were forty-five replies to the
Mr. Nyttleton spread them one by one before Miss Aldclyffe. 'You
will probably like to read some of them yourself, madam?' he said.
'Yes, certainly,' said she.
'I will not trouble you with those which are from persons manifestly
unfit at first sight,' he continued; and began selecting from the
heap twos and threes which he had marked, collecting others into his
'The man we want lies among these, if my judgment doesn't deceive
me, and from them it would be advisable to select a certain number
to be communicated with.'
'I should like to see every one--only just to glance them over--
exactly as they came,' she said suasively.
He looked as if he thought this a waste of his time, but dismissing
his sentiment unfolded each singly and laid it before her. As he
laid them out, it struck him that she studied them quite as rapidly
as he could spread them. He slyly glanced up from the outer corner
of his eye to hers, and noticed that all she did was look at the
name at the bottom of the letter, and then put the enclosure aside
without further ceremony. He thought this an odd way of inquiring
into the merits of forty-five men who at considerable trouble gave
in detail reasons why they believed themselves well qualified for a
certain post. She came to the final one, and put it down with the
Then the lady said that in her opinion it would be best to get as
many replies as they possibly could before selecting--'to give us a
wider choice. What do you think, Mr. Nyttleton?'
It seemed to him, he said, that a greater number than those they
already had would scarcely be necessary, and if they waited for
more, there would be this disadvantage attending it, that some of
those they now could command would possibly not be available.
'Never mind, we will run that risk,' said Miss Aldclyffe. 'Let the
advertisement be inserted once more, and then we will certainly
settle the matter.'
Mr. Nyttleton bowed, and seemed to think Miss Aldclyffe, for a
single woman, and one who till so very recently had never concerned
herself with business of any kind, a very meddlesome client. But
she was rich, and handsome still. 'She's a new broom in estate-
management as yet,' he thought. 'She will soon get tired of this,'
and he parted from her without a sentiment which could mar his
The two ladies then proceeded westward. Dismissing the cab in
Waterloo Place, they went along Pall Mall on foot, where in place of
the usual well-dressed clubbists--rubicund with alcohol--were to be
seen, in linen pinafores, flocks of house-painters pallid from white
lead. When they had reached the Green Park, Cytherea proposed that
they should sit down awhile under the young elms at the brow of the
hill. This they did--the growl of Piccadilly on their left hand--
the monastic seclusion of the Palace on their right: before them,
the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament, standing forth with a
metallic lustre against a livid Lambeth sky.
Miss Aldclyffe still carried in her hand a copy of the newspaper,
and while Cytherea had been interesting herself in the picture
around, glanced again at the advertisement.
She heaved a slight sigh, and began to fold it up again. In the
action her eye caught sight of two consecutive advertisements on the
cover, one relating to some lecture on Art, and addressed to members
of the Institute of Architects. The other emanated from the same
source, but was addressed to the public, and stated that the
exhibition of drawings at the Institute's rooms would close at the
end of that week.
Her eye lighted up. She sent Cytherea back to the hotel in a cab,
then turned round by Piccadilly into Bond Street, and proceeded to
the rooms of the Institute. The secretary was sitting in the lobby.
After making her payment, and looking at a few of the drawings on
the walls, in the company of three gentlemen, the only other
visitors to the exhibition, she turned back and asked if she might
be allowed to see a list of the members. She was a little connected
with the architectural world, she said, with a smile, and was
interested in some of the names.
'Here it is, madam,' he replied, politely handing her a pamphlet
containing the names.
Miss Aldclyffe turned the leaves till she came to the letter M. The
name she hoped to find there was there, with the address appended,
as was the case with all the rest.
The address was at some chambers in a street not far from Charing
Cross. 'Chambers,' as a residence, had always been assumed by the
lady to imply the condition of a bachelor. She murmured two words,
Another request had yet to be made, but it was of a more noticeable
kind than the first, and might compromise the secrecy with which she
wished to act throughout this episode. Her object was to get one of
the envelopes lying on the secretary's table, stamped with the die
of the Institute; and in order to get it she was about to ask if she
might write a note.
But the secretary's back chanced to be turned, and he now went
towards one of the men at the other end of the room, who had called
him to ask some question relating to an etching on the wall. Quick
as thought, Miss Aldclyffe stood before the table, slipped her hand
behind her, took one of the envelopes and put it in her pocket.
She sauntered round the rooms for two or three minutes longer, then
withdrew and returned to her hotel.
Here she cut the Knapwater advertisement from the paper, put it into
the envelope she had stolen, embossed with the society's stamp, and
directed it in a round clerkly hand to the address she had seen in
the list of members' names submitted to her:--
AENEAS MANSTON, ESQ.,
This ended her first day's work in London.
4. FROM AUGUST THE TWENTY-SIXTH TO SEPTEMBER THE FIRST
The two Cythereas continued at the Westminster Hotel, Miss Aldclyffe
informing her companion that business would detain them in London
another week. The days passed as slowly and quietly as days can
pass in a city at that time of the year, the shuttered windows about
the squares and terraces confronting their eyes like the white and
sightless orbs of blind men. On Thursday Mr. Nyttleton called,
bringing the whole number of replies to the advertisement. Cytherea
was present at the interview, by Miss Aldclyffe's request--either
from whim or design.
Ten additional letters were the result of the second week's
insertion, making fifty-five in all. Miss Aldclyffe looked them
over as before. One was signed--
133, TURNGATE STREET,
'Now, then, Mr. Nyttleton, will you make a selection, and I will add
one or two,' Miss Aldclyffe said.
Mr. Nyttleton scanned the whole heap of letters, testimonials, and
references, sorting them into two heaps. Manston's missive, after a
mere glance, was thrown amongst the summarily rejected ones.
Miss Aldclyffe read, or pretended to read after the lawyer. When he
had finished, five lay in the group he had selected. 'Would you
like to add to the number?' he said, turning to the lady.
'No,' she said carelessly. 'Well, two or three additional ones
rather took my fancy,' she added, searching for some in the larger
She drew out three. One was Manston's.
'These eight, then, shall be communicated with,' said the lawyer,
taking up the eight letters and placing them by themselves.
They stood up. 'If I myself, Miss Aldclyffe, were only concerned
personally,' he said, in an off-hand way, and holding up a letter
singly, 'I should choose this man unhesitatingly. He writes
honestly, is not afraid to name what he does not consider himself
well acquainted with--a rare thing to find in answers to
advertisements; he is well recommended, and possesses some qualities
rarely found in combination. Oddly enough, he is not really a
steward. He was bred a farmer, studied building affairs, served on
an estate for some time, then went with an architect, and is now
well qualified as architect, estate agent, and surveyor. That man
is sure to have a fine head for a manor like yours.' He tapped the
letter as he spoke. 'Yes, I should choose him without hesitation--
'And I think,' she said artificially, 'I should choose this one as a
matter of mere personal whim, which, of course, can't be given way
to when practical questions have to be considered.'
Cytherea, after looking out of the window, and then at the
newspapers, had become interested in the proceedings between the
clever Miss Aldclyffe and the keen old lawyer, which reminded her of
a game at cards. She looked inquiringly at the two letters--one in
Miss Aldclyffe's hand, the other in Mr. Nyttleton's.
'What is the name of your man?' said Miss Aldclyffe.
'His name--' said the lawyer, looking down the page; 'what is his
name?--it is Edward Springrove.'
Miss Aldclyffe glanced towards Cytherea, who was getting red and
pale by turns. She looked imploringly at Miss Aldclyffe.
'The name of my man,' said Miss Aldclyffe, looking at her letter in
turn; 'is, I think--yes--AEneas Manston.'
5. SEPTEMBER THE THIRD
The next morning but one was appointed for the interviews, which
were to be at the lawyer's offices. Mr. Nyttleton and Mr. Tayling
were both in town for the day, and the candidates were admitted one
by one into a private room. In the window recess was seated Miss
Aldclyffe, wearing her veil down.
The lawyer had, in his letters to the selected number, timed each
candidate at an interval of ten or fifteen minutes from those
preceding and following. They were shown in as they arrived, and
had short conversations with Mr. Nyttleton--terse, and to the point.
Miss Aldclyffe neither moved nor spoke during this proceeding; it
might have been supposed that she was quite unmindful of it, had it
not been for what was revealed by a keen penetration of the veil
covering her countenance--the rays from two bright black eyes,
directed towards the lawyer and his interlocutor.
Springrove came fifth; Manston seventh. When the examination of all
was ended, and the last man had retired, Nyttleton, again as at the
former time, blandly asked his client which of the eight she
personally preferred. 'I still think the fifth we spoke to,
Springrove, the man whose letter I pounced upon at first, to be by
far the best qualified, in short, most suitable generally.'
'I am sorry to say that I differ from you; I lean to my first notion
still--that Mr--Mr. Manston is most desirable in tone and bearing,
and even specifically; I think he would suit me best in the long-
Mr. Nyttleton looked out of the window at the whitened wall of the
'Of course, madam, your opinion may be perfectly sound and reliable;
a sort of instinct, I know, often leads ladies by a short cut to
conclusions truer than those come to by men after laborious round-
about calculations, based on long experience. I must say I
shouldn't recommend him.'
'Well, let us look first at his letter of answer to the
advertisement. He didn't reply till the last insertion; that's one
thing. His letter is bold and frank in tone, so bold and frank that
the second thought after reading it is that not honesty, but
unscrupulousness of conscience dictated it. It is written in an
indifferent mood, as if he felt that he was humbugging us in his
statement that he was the right man for such an office, that he
tried hard to get it only as a matter of form which required that he
should neglect no opportunity that came in his way.'
'You may be right, Mr. Nyttleton, but I don't quite see the grounds
of your reasoning.'
'He has been, as you perceive, almost entirely used to the office
duties of a city architect, the experience we don't want. You want
a man whose acquaintance with rural landed properties is more
practical and closer--somebody who, if he has not filled exactly
such an office before, has lived a country life, knows the ins and
outs of country tenancies, building, farming, and so on.'
'He's by far the most intellectual looking of them all.'
'Yes; he may be--your opinion, Miss Aldclyffe, is worth more than
mine in that matter. And more than you say, he is a man of parts--
his brain power would soon enable him to master details and fit him
for the post, I don't much doubt that. But to speak clearly' (here
his words started off at a jog-trot) 'I wouldn't run the risk of
placing the management of an estate of mine in his hands on any
account whatever. There, that's flat and plain, madam.'
'But, definitely,' she said, with a show of impatience, 'what is
'He is a voluptuary with activity; which is a very bad form of man--
as bad as it is rare.'
'Oh. Thank you for your explicit statement, Mr. Nyttleton,' said
Miss Aldclyffe, starting a little and flushing with displeasure.
Mr. Nyttleton nodded slightly, as a sort of neutral motion, simply
signifying a receipt of the information, good or bad.
'And I really think it is hardly worth while to trouble you further
in this,' continued the lady. 'He's quite good enough for a little
insignificant place like mine at Knapwater; and I know that I could
not get on with one of the others for a single month. We'll try
'Certainly, Miss Aldclyffe,' said the lawyer. And Mr. Manston was
written to, to the effect that he was the successful competitor.
'Did you see how unmistakably her temper was getting the better of
her, that minute you were in the room?' said Nyttleton to Tayling,
when their client had left the house. Nyttleton was a man who
surveyed everybody's character in a sunless and shadowless northern
light. A culpable slyness, which marked him as a boy, had been
moulded by Time, the Improver, into honourable circumspection.
We frequently find that the quality which, conjoined with the
simplicity of the child, is vice, is virtue when it pervades the
knowledge of the man.
'She was as near as damn-it to boiling over when I added up her
man,' continued Nyttleton. 'His handsome face is his qualification
in her eyes. They have met before; I saw that.'
'He didn't seem conscious of it,' said the junior.
'He didn't. That was rather puzzling to me. But still, if ever a
woman's face spoke out plainly that she was in love with a man, hers
did that she was with him. Poor old maid, she's almost old enough
to be his mother. If that Manston's a schemer he'll marry her, as
sure as I am Nyttleton. Let's hope he's honest, however.'
'I don't think she's in love with him,' said Tayling. He had seen
but little of the pair, and yet he could not reconcile what he had
noticed in Miss Aldclyffe's behaviour with the idea that it was the
bearing of a woman towards her lover.
'Well, your experience of the fiery phenomenon is more recent than
mine,' rejoined Nyttleton carelessly. 'And you may remember the
nature of it best.'
VIII. THE EVENTS OF EIGHTEEN DAYS
1. FROM THE THIRD TO THE NINETEENTH OF SEPTEMBER
Miss Aldclyffe's tenderness towards Cytherea, between the hours of
her irascibility, increased till it became no less than doting
fondness. Like Nature in the tropics, with her hurricanes and the
subsequent luxuriant vegetation effacing their ravages, Miss
Aldclyffe compensated for her outbursts by excess of generosity
afterwards. She seemed to be completely won out of herself by close
contact with a young woman whose modesty was absolutely unimpaired,
and whose artlessness was as perfect as was compatible with the
complexity necessary to produce the due charm of womanhood.
Cytherea, on her part, perceived with honest satisfaction that her
influence for good over Miss Aldclyffe was considerable. Ideas and
habits peculiar to the younger, which the elder lady had originally
imitated as a mere whim, she grew in course of time to take a
positive delight in. Among others were evening and morning prayers,
dreaming over out-door scenes, learning a verse from some poem
Yet try to force her sympathies as much as she would, Cytherea could
feel no more than thankful for this, even if she always felt as much
as thankful. The mysterious cloud hanging over the past life of her
companion, of which the uncertain light already thrown upon it only
seemed to render still darker the unpenetrated remainder, nourished
in her a feeling which was scarcely too slight to be called dread.
She would have infinitely preferred to be treated distantly, as the
mere dependent, by such a changeable nature--like a fountain, always
herself, yet always another. That a crime of any deep dye had ever
been perpetrated or participated in by her namesake, she would not
believe; but the reckless adventuring of the lady's youth seemed
connected with deeds of darkness rather than of light.
Sometimes Miss Aldclyffe appeared to be on the point of making some
absorbing confidence, but reflection invariably restrained her.
Cytherea hoped that such a confidence would come with time, and that
she might thus be a means of soothing a mind which had obviously
known extreme suffering.
But Miss Aldclyffe's reticence concerning her past was not imitated
by Cytherea. Though she never disclosed the one fact of her
knowledge that the love-suit between Miss Aldclyffe and her father
terminated abnormally, the maiden's natural ingenuousness on
subjects not set down for special guard had enabled Miss Aldclyffe
to worm from her, fragment by fragment, every detail of her father's
history. Cytherea saw how deeply Miss Aldclyffe sympathized--and it
compensated her, to some extent, for the hasty resentments of other
Thus uncertainly she lived on. It was perceived by the servants of
the House that some secret bond of connection existed between Miss
Aldclyffe and her companion. But they were woman and woman, not
woman and man, the facts were ethereal and refined, and so they
could not be worked up into a taking story. Whether, as old critics
disputed, a supernatural machinery be necessary to an epic or no, an
ungodly machinery is decidedly necessary to a scandal.
Another letter had come to her from Edward--very short, but full of
entreaty, asking why she would not write just one line--just one
line of cold friendship at least? She then allowed herself to
think, little by little, whether she had not perhaps been too harsh
with him; and at last wondered if he were really much to blame for
being engaged to another woman. 'Ah, Brain, there is one in me
stronger than you!' she said. The young maid now continually pulled
out his letter, read it and re-read it, almost crying with pity the
while, to think what wretched suspense he must be enduring at her
silence, till her heart chid her for her cruelty. She felt that she
must send him a line--one little line--just a wee line to keep him
alive, poor thing; sighing like Donna Clara--
'Ah, were he now before me,
In spite of injured pride,
I fear my eyes would pardon
Before my tongue could chide.'
2. SEPTEMBER THE TWENTIETH. THREE TO FOUR P.M.
It was the third week in September, about five weeks after
Cytherea's arrival, when Miss Aldclyffe requested her one day to go
through the village of Carriford and assist herself in collecting
the subscriptions made by some of the inhabitants of the parish to a
religious society she patronized. Miss Aldclyffe formed one of what
was called a Ladies' Association, each member of which collected
tributary streams of shillings from her inferiors, to add to her own
pound at the end.
Miss Aldclyffe took particular interest in Cytherea's appearance
that afternoon, and the object of her attention was, indeed,
gratifying to look at. The sight of the lithe girl, set off by an
airy dress, coquettish jacket, flexible hat, a ray of starlight in
each eye and a war of lilies and roses in each cheek, was a palpable
pleasure to the mistress of the mansion, yet a pleasure which
appeared to partake less of the nature of affectionate satisfaction
than of mental gratification.
Eight names were printed in the report as belonging to Miss
Aldclyffe's list, with the amount of subscription-money attached to
'I will collect the first four, whilst you do the same with the last
four,' said Miss Aldclyffe.
The names of two tradespeople stood first in Cytherea's share: then
came a Miss Hinton: last of all in the printed list was Mr.
Springrove the elder. Underneath his name was pencilled, in Miss
Aldclyffe's handwriting, 'Mr. Manston.'
Manston had arrived on the estate, in the capacity of steward, three
or four days previously, and occupied the old manor-house, which had
been altered and repaired for his reception.
'Call on Mr. Manston,' said the lady impressively, looking at the
name written under Cytherea's portion of the list.
'But he does not subscribe yet?'
'I know it; but call and leave him a report. Don't forget it.'
'Say you would be pleased if he would subscribe?'
'Yes--say I should be pleased if he would,' repeated Miss Aldclyffe,
smiling. 'Good-bye. Don't hurry in your walk. If you can't get
easily through your task to-day put off some of it till to-morrow.'
Each then started on her rounds: Cytherea going in the first place
to the old manor-house. Mr. Manston was not indoors, which was a
relief to her. She called then on the two gentleman-farmers' wives,
who soon transacted their business with her, frigidly indifferent to
her personality. A person who socially is nothing is thought less
of by people who are not much than by those who are a great deal.
She then turned towards Peakhill Cottage, the residence of Miss
Hinton, who lived there happily enough, with an elderly servant and
a house-dog as companions. Her father, and last remaining parent,
had retired thither four years before this time, after having filled
the post of editor to the Casterbridge Chronicle for eighteen or
twenty years. There he died soon after, and though comparatively a
poor man, he left his daughter sufficiently well provided for as a
modest fundholder and claimant of sundry small sums in dividends to
maintain herself as mistress at Peakhill.
At Cytherea's knock an inner door was heard to open and close, and
footsteps crossed the passage hesitatingly. The next minute
Cytherea stood face to face with the lady herself.
Adelaide Hinton was about nine-and-twenty years of age. Her hair
was plentiful, like Cytherea's own; her teeth equalled Cytherea's in
regularity and whiteness. But she was much paler, and had features
too transparent to be in place among household surroundings. Her
mouth expressed love less forcibly than Cytherea's, and, as a
natural result of her greater maturity, her tread was less elastic,
and she was more self-possessed.
She had been a girl of that kind which mothers praise as not
forward, by way of contrast, when disparaging those warmer ones with
whom loving is an end and not a means. Men of forty, too, said of
her, 'a good sensible wife for any man, if she cares to marry,' the
caring to marry being thrown in as the vaguest hypothesis, because
she was so practical. Yet it would be singular if, in such cases,
the important subject of marriage should be excluded from
manipulation by hands that are ready for practical performance in
every domestic concern besides.
Cytherea was an acquisition, and the greeting was hearty.
'Good afternoon! O yes--Miss Graye, from Miss Aldclyffe's. I have
seen you at church, and I am so glad you have called! Come in. I
wonder if I have change enough to pay my subscription.' She spoke
Adelaide, when in the company of a younger woman, always levelled
herself down to that younger woman's age from a sense of justice to
herself--as if, though not her own age at common law, it was in
'It doesn't matter. I'll come again.'
'Yes, do at any time; not only on this errand. But you must step in
for a minute. Do.'
'I have been wanting to come for several weeks.'
'That's right. Now you must see my house--lonely, isn't it, for a
single person? People said it was odd for a young woman like me to
keep on a house; but what did I care? If you knew the pleasure of
locking up your own door, with the sensation that you reigned
supreme inside it, you would say it was worth the risk of being
called odd. Mr. Springrove attends to my gardening, the dog attends
to robbers, and whenever there is a snake or toad to kill, Jane does
'How nice! It is better than living in a town.'
'Far better. A town makes a cynic of me.'
The remark recalled, somewhat startlingly, to Cytherea's mind, that
Edward had used those very words to herself one evening at Budmouth.
Miss Hinton opened an interior door and led her visitor into a small
drawing-room commanding a view of the country for miles.
The missionary business was soon settled; but the chat continued.
'How lonely it must be here at night!' said Cytherea. 'Aren't you
'At first I was, slightly. But I got used to the solitude. And you
know a sort of commonsense will creep even into timidity. I say to
myself sometimes at night, "If I were anybody but a harmless woman,
not worth the trouble of a worm's ghost to appear to me, I should
think that every sound I hear was a spirit." But you must see all
over my house.'
Cytherea was highly interested in seeing.
'I say you MUST do this, and you MUST do that, as if you were a
child,' remarked Adelaide. 'A privileged friend of mine tells me
this use of the imperative comes of being so constantly in nobody's
society but my own.'
'Ah, yes. I suppose she is right.'
Cytherea called the friend 'she' by a rule of ladylike practice; for
a woman's 'friend' is delicately assumed by another friend to be of
their own sex in the absence of knowledge to the contrary; just as
cats are called she's until they prove themselves he's.
Miss Hinton laughed mysteriously.
'I get a humorous reproof for it now and then, I assure you,' she
'"Humorous reproof:" that's not from a woman: who can reprove
humorously but a man?' was the groove of Cytherea's thought at the
remark. 'Your brother reproves you, I expect,' said that innocent
'No,' said Miss Hinton, with a candid air. ''Tis only a
professional man I am acquainted with.' She looked out of the
Women are persistently imitative. No sooner did a thought flash
through Cytherea's mind that the man was a lover than she became a
Miss Aldclyffe in a mild form.
'I imagine he's a lover,' she said.
Miss Hinton smiled a smile of experience in that line.
Few women, if taxed with having an admirer, are so free from vanity
as to deny the impeachment, even if it is utterly untrue. When it
does happen to be true, they look pityingly away from the person who
is so benighted as to have got no further than suspecting it.
'There now--Miss Hinton; you are engaged to be married!' said
Adelaide nodded her head practically. 'Well, yes, I am,' she said.
The word 'engaged' had no sooner passed Cytherea's lips than the
sound of it--the mere sound of her own lips--carried her mind to the
time and circumstances under which Miss Aldclyffe had used it
towards herself. A sickening thought followed--based but on a mere
surmise; yet its presence took every other idea away from Cytherea's
mind. Miss Hinton had used Edward's words about towns; she
mentioned Mr. Springrove as attending to her garden. It could not
be that Edward was the man! that Miss Aldclyffe had planned to
reveal her rival thus!
'Are you going to be married soon?' she inquired, with a steadiness
the result of a sort of fascination, but apparently of indifference.
'Not very soon--still, soon.'
'Ah-ha! In less than three months?' said Cytherea.
Now that the subject was well in hand, Adelaide wanted no more
prompting. 'You won't tell anybody if I show you something?' she
said, with eager mystery.
'O no, nobody. But does he live in this parish?'
Nothing proved yet.
'What's his name?' said Cytherea flatly. Her breath and heart had
begun their old tricks, and came and went hotly. Miss Hinton could
not see her face.
'What do you think?' said Miss Hinton.
'George?' said Cytherea, with deceitful agony.
'No,' said Adelaide. 'But now, you shall see him first; come here;'
and she led the way upstairs into her bedroom. There, standing on
the dressing table in a little frame, was the unconscious portrait
of Edward Springrove.
'There he is,' Miss Hinton said, and a silence ensued.
'Are you very fond of him?' continued the miserable Cytherea at
'Yes, of course I am,' her companion replied, but in the tone of one
who 'lived in Abraham's bosom all the year,' and was therefore
untouched by solemn thought at the fact. 'He's my cousin--a native
of this village. We were engaged before my father's death left me
so lonely. I was only twenty, and a much greater belle than I am
now. We know each other thoroughly, as you may imagine. I give him
a little sermonizing now and then.'
'O, it's only in fun. He's very naughty sometimes--not really, you
know--but he will look at any pretty face when he sees it.'
Storing up this statement of his susceptibility as another item to
be miserable upon when she had time, 'How do you know that?'
Cytherea asked, with a swelling heart.
'Well, you know how things do come to women's ears. He used to live
at Budmouth as an assistant-architect, and I found out that a young
giddy thing of a girl who lives there somewhere took his fancy for a
day or two. But I don't feel jealous at all--our engagement is so
matter-of-fact that neither of us can be jealous. And it was a mere
flirtation--she was too silly for him. He's fond of rowing, and
kindly gave her an airing for an evening or two. I'll warrant they
talked the most unmitigated rubbish under the sun--all shallowness
and pastime, just as everything is at watering places--neither of
them caring a bit for the other--she giggling like a goose all the
Concentrated essence of woman pervaded the room rather than air.
'She DIDN'T! and it WASN'T shallowness!' Cytherea burst out, with
brimming eyes. ''Twas deep deceit on one side, and entire
confidence on the other--yes, it was!' The pent-up emotion had
swollen and swollen inside the young thing till the dam could no
longer embay it. The instant the words were out she would have
given worlds to have been able to recall them.
'Do you know her--or him?' said Miss Hinton, starting with suspicion
at the warmth shown.
The two rivals had now lost their personality quite. There was the
same keen brightness of eye, the same movement of the mouth, the
same mind in both, as they looked doubtingly and excitedly at each
other. As is invariably the case with women when a man they care
for is the subject of an excitement among them, the situation
abstracted the differences which distinguished them as individuals,
and left only the properties common to them as atoms of a sex.
Cytherea caught at the chance afforded her of not betraying herself.
'Yes, I know her,' she said.
'Well,' said Miss Hinton, 'I am really vexed if my speaking so
lightly of any friend of yours has hurt your feelings, but--'
'O, never mind,' Cytherea returned; 'it doesn't matter, Miss Hinton.
I think I must leave you now. I have to call at other places. Yes-
-I must go.'
Miss Hinton, in a perplexed state of mind, showed her visitor
politely downstairs to the door. Here Cytherea bade her a hurried
adieu, and flitted down the garden into the lane.
She persevered in her duties with a wayward pleasure in giving
herself misery, as was her wont. Mr. Springrove's name was next on
the list, and she turned towards his dwelling, the Three Tranters
3. FOUR TO FIVE P.M.
The cottages along Carriford village street were not so close but
that on one side or other of the road was always a hedge of hawthorn
or privet, over or through which could be seen gardens or orchards
rich with produce. It was about the middle of the early apple-
harvest, and the laden trees were shaken at intervals by the
gatherers; the soft pattering of the falling crop upon the grassy
ground being diversified by the loud rattle of vagrant ones upon a
rail, hencoop, basket, or lean-to roof, or upon the rounded and
stooping backs of the collectors--mostly children, who would have
cried bitterly at receiving such a smart blow from any other
quarter, but smilingly assumed it to be but fun in apples.
The Three Tranters Inn, a many-gabled, mediaeval building,
constructed almost entirely of timber, plaster, and thatch, stood
close to the line of the roadside, almost opposite the churchyard,
and was connected with a row of cottages on the left by thatched
outbuildings. It was an uncommonly characteristic and handsome
specimen of the genuine roadside inn of bygone times; and standing
on one of the great highways in this part of England, had in its
time been the scene of as much of what is now looked upon as the
romantic and genial experience of stage-coach travelling as any
halting-place in the country. The railway had absorbed the whole
stream of traffic which formerly flowed through the village and
along by the ancient door of the inn, reducing the empty-handed
landlord, who used only to farm a few fields at the back of the
house, to the necessity of eking out his attenuated income by
increasing the extent of his agricultural business if he would still
maintain his social standing. Next to the general stillness
pervading the spot, the long line of outbuildings adjoining the
house was the most striking and saddening witness to the passed-away
fortunes of the Three Tranters Inn. It was the bulk of the original
stabling, and where once the hoofs of two-score horses had daily
rattled over the stony yard, to and from the stalls within, thick
grass now grew, whilst the line of roofs--once so straight--over the
decayed stalls, had sunk into vast hollows till they seemed like the
cheeks of toothless age.
On a green plot at the other end of the building grew two or three
large, wide-spreading elm-trees, from which the sign was suspended--
representing the three men called tranters (irregular carriers),
standing side by side, and exactly alike to a hair's-breadth, the
grain of the wood and joints of the boards being visible through the
thin paint depicting their forms, which were still further
disfigured by red stains running downwards from the rusty nails
Under the trees now stood a cider-mill and press, and upon the spot
sheltered by the boughs were gathered Mr. Springrove himself, his
men, the parish clerk, two or three other men, grinders and
supernumeraries, a woman with an infant in her arms, a flock of
pigeons, and some little boys with straws in their mouths,
endeavouring, whenever the men's backs were turned, to get a sip of
the sweet juice issuing from the vat.
Edward Springrove the elder, the landlord, now more particularly a
farmer, and for two months in the year a cider-maker, was an
employer of labour of the old school, who worked himself among his
men. He was now engaged in packing the pomace into horsehair bags
with a rammer, and Gad Weedy, his man, was occupied in shovelling up
more from a tub at his side. The shovel shone like silver from the
action of the juice, and ever and anon, in its motion to and fro,
caught the rays of the declining sun and reflected them in bristling
stars of light.
Mr. Springrove had been too young a man when the pristine days of
the Three Tranters had departed for ever to have much of the host
left in him now. He was a poet with a rough skin: one whose
sturdiness was more the result of external circumstances than of
intrinsic nature. Too kindly constituted to be very provident, he
was yet not imprudent. He had a quiet humorousness of disposition,
not out of keeping with a frequent melancholy, the general
expression of his countenance being one of abstraction. Like Walt
Whitman he felt as his years increased--
'I foresee too much; it means more than I thought.'
On the present occasion he wore gaiters and a leathern apron, and
worked with his shirt-sleeves rolled up beyond his elbows,
disclosing solid and fleshy rather than muscular arms. They were
stained by the cider, and two or three brown apple-pips from the
pomace he was handling were to be seen sticking on them here and
The other prominent figure was that of Richard Crickett, the parish
clerk, a kind of Bowdlerized rake, who ate only as much as a woman,
and had the rheumatism in his left hand. The remainder of the
group, brown-faced peasants, wore smock-frocks embroidered on the
shoulders with hearts and diamonds, and were girt round their middle
with a strap, another being worn round the right wrist.
'And have you seen the steward, Mr. Springrove?' said the clerk.
'Just a glimpse of him; but 'twas just enough to show me that he's
not here for long.'
'Why mid that be?'
'He'll never stand the vagaries of the female figure holden the
'She d' pay en well,' said a grinder; 'and money's money.'
'Ah--'tis: very much so,' the clerk replied.
'Yes, yes, naibour Crickett,' said Springrove, 'but she'll vlee in a
passion--all the fat will be in the fire--and there's an end o't. .
. . Yes, she is a one,' continued the farmer, resting, raising his
eyes, and reading the features of a distant apple.
'She is,' said Gad, resting too (it is wonderful how prompt a
journeyman is in following his master's initiative to rest) and
reflectively regarding the ground in front of him.
'True: a one is she,' the clerk chimed in, shaking his head
'She has such a temper,' said the farmer, 'and is so wilful too.
You may as well try to stop a footpath as stop her when she has
taken anything into her head. I'd as soon grind little green crabs
all day as live wi' her.'
''Tis a temper she hev, 'tis,' the clerk replied, 'though I be a
servant of the Church that say it. But she isn't goen to flee in a
passion this time.'
The audience waited for the continuation of the speech, as if they
knew from experience the exact distance off it lay in the future.
The clerk swallowed nothing as if it were a great deal, and then
went on, 'There's some'at between 'em: mark my words, naibours--
there's some'at between 'em.'
'D'ye mean it?'
'I d' know it. He came last Saturday, didn't he?'
''A did, truly,' said Gad Weedy, at the same time taking an apple
from the hopper of the mill, eating a piece, and flinging back the
remainder to be ground up for cider.
'He went to church a-Sunday,' said the clerk again.
'And she kept her eye upon en all the service, her face flickeren
between red and white, but never stoppen at either.'
Mr. Springrove nodded, and went to the press.
'Well,' said the clerk, 'you don't call her the kind o' woman to
make mistakes in just trotten through the weekly service o' God?
Why, as a rule she's as right as I be myself.'
Mr. Springrove nodded again, and gave a twist to the screw of the
press, followed in the movement by Gad at the other side; the two
grinders expressing by looks of the greatest concern that, if Miss
Aldclyffe were as right at church as the clerk, she must be right
'Yes, as right in the service o' God as I be myself,' repeated the
clerk. 'But last Sunday, when we were in the tenth commandment,
says she, "Incline our hearts to keep this law," says she, when
'twas "Laws in our hearts, we beseech Thee," all the church through.
Her eye was upon HIM--she was quite lost--"Hearts to keep this law,"
says she; she was no more than a mere shadder at that tenth time--a
mere shadder. You mi't ha' mouthed across to her "Laws in our
hearts we beseech Thee," fifty times over--she'd never ha' noticed
ye. She's in love wi' the man, that's what she is.'
'Then she's a bigger stunpoll than I took her for,' said Mr.
Springrove. 'Why, she's old enough to be his mother.'
'The row'll be between her and that young Curlywig, you'll see. She
won't run the risk of that pretty face be-en near.'
'Clerk Crickett, I d' fancy you d' know everything about everybody,'
'Well so's,' said the clerk modestly. 'I do know a little. It
comes to me.'
'And I d' know where from.'
'That wife o' thine. She's an entertainen woman, not to speak
'She is: and a winnen one. Look at the husbands she've had--God
'I wonder you could stand third in that list, Clerk Crickett,' said
'Well, 't has been a power o' marvel to myself oftentimes. Yes,
matrimony do begin wi' "Dearly beloved," and ends wi' "Amazement,"
as the prayer-book says. But what could I do, naibour Springrove?
'Twas ordained to be. Well do I call to mind what your poor lady
said to me when I had just married. "Ah, Mr. Crickett," says she,
"your wife will soon settle you as she did her other two: here's a
glass o' rum, for I shan't see your poor face this time next year."
I swallered the rum, called again next year, and said, "Mrs.
Springrove, you gave me a glass o' rum last year because I was going
to die--here I be alive still, you see." "Well said, clerk! Here's
two glasses for you now, then," says she. "Thank you, mem," I
said, and swallered the rum. Well, dang my old sides, next year I
thought I'd call again and get three. And call I did. But she
wouldn't give me a drop o' the commonest. "No, clerk," says she,
"you be too tough for a woman's pity.". . . Ah, poor soul, 'twas
true enough! Here be I, that was expected to die, alive and hard as
a nail, you see, and there's she moulderen in her grave.'
'I used to think 'twas your wife's fate not to have a liven husband
when I zid 'em die off so,' said Gad.
'Fate? Bless thy simplicity, so 'twas her fate; but she struggled
to have one, and would, and did. Fate's nothen beside a woman's
'I suppose, then, that Fate is a He, like us, and the Lord, and the
rest o' 'em up above there,' said Gad, lifting his eyes to the sky.
'Hullo! Here's the young woman comen that we were a-talken about
by-now,' said a grinder, suddenly interrupting. 'She's comen up
here, as I be alive!'
The two grinders stood and regarded Cytherea as if she had been a
ship tacking into a harbour, nearly stopping the mill in their new
'Stylish accoutrements about the head and shoulders, to my thinken,'
said the clerk. 'Sheenen curls, and plenty o' em.'
'If there's one kind of pride more excusable than another in a young
woman, 'tis being proud of her hair,' said Mr. Springrove.
'Dear man!--the pride there is only a small piece o' the whole. I
warrant now, though she can show such a figure, she ha'n't a stick
o' furniture to call her own.'
'Come, Clerk Crickett, let the maid be a maid while she is a maid,'
said Farmer Springrove chivalrously.
'O,' replied the servant of the Church; 'I've nothen to say against
'"The chimney-sweeper's daughter Sue
As I have heard declare, O,
Although she's neither sock nor shoe
Will curl and deck her hair, O."'
Cytherea was rather disconcerted at finding that the gradual
cessation of the chopping of the mill was on her account, and still
more when she saw all the cider-makers' eyes fixed upon her except
Mr. Springrove's, whose natural delicacy restrained him. She neared
the plot of grass, but instead of advancing further, hesitated on
Mr. Springrove perceived her embarrassment, which was relieved when
she saw his old-established figure coming across to her, wiping his
hands in his apron.
'I know your errand, missie,' he said, 'and am glad to see you, and
attend to it. I'll step indoors.'
'If you are busy I am in no hurry for a minute or two,' said
'Then if so be you really wouldn't mind, we'll wring down this last
filling to let it drain all night?'
'Not at all. I like to see you.'
'We are only just grinding down the early pickthongs and griffins,'
continued the farmer, in a half-apologetic tone for detaining by his
cider-making any well-dressed woman. 'They rot as black as a
chimney-crook if we keep 'em till the regulars turn in.' As he
spoke he went back to the press, Cytherea keeping at his elbow.
'I'm later than I should have been by rights,' he continued, taking
up a lever for propelling the screw, and beckoning to the men to
come forward. 'The truth is, my son Edward had promised to come to-
day, and I made preparations; but instead of him comes a letter:
"London, September the eighteenth, Dear Father," says he, and went
on to tell me he couldn't. It threw me out a bit.'
'Of course,' said Cytherea.
'He's got a place 'a b'lieve?' said the clerk, drawing near.
'No, poor mortal fellow, no. He tried for this one here, you know,
but couldn't manage to get it. I don't know the rights o' the
matter, but willy-nilly they wouldn't have him for steward. Now
mates, form in line.'
Springrove, the clerk, the grinders, and Gad, all ranged themselves
behind the lever of the screw, and walked round like soldiers
'The man that the old quean hev got is a man you can hardly get upon
your tongue to gainsay, by the look o' en,' rejoined Clerk Crickett.
'One o' them people that can contrive to be thought no worse o' for
stealen a horse than another man for looken over hedge at en,' said
'Well, he's all there as steward, and is quite the gentleman--no
doubt about that.'
'So would my Ted ha' been, for the matter o' that,' the farmer said.
'That's true: 'a would, sir.'
'I said, I'll give Ted a good education if it do cost me my eyes,
and I would have done it.'
'Ay, that you would so,' said the chorus of assistants solemnly.
'But he took to books and drawing naturally, and cost very little;
and as a wind-up the womenfolk hatched up a match between him and
'When's the wedden to be, Mr. Springrove?'
'Uncertain--but soon, I suppose. Edward, you see, can do anything
pretty nearly, and yet can't get a straightforward living. I wish
sometimes I had kept him here, and let professions go. But he was
such a one for the pencil.'
He dropped the lever in the hedge, and turned to his visitor.
'Now then, missie, if you'll come indoors, please.'
Gad Weedy looked with a placid criticism at Cytherea as she withdrew
with the farmer.
'I could tell by the tongue o' her that she didn't take her degrees
in our county,' he said in an undertone.
'The railways have left you lonely here,' she observed, when they
Save the withered old flies, which were quite tame from the
solitude, not a being was in the house. Nobody seemed to have
entered it since the last passenger had been called out to mount the
last stage-coach that had run by.
'Yes, the Inn and I seem almost a pair of fossils,' the farmer
replied, looking at the room and then at himself.
'O, Mr. Springrove,' said Cytherea, suddenly recollecting herself;
'I am much obliged to you for recommending me to Miss Aldclyffe.'
She began to warm towards the old man; there was in him a gentleness
of disposition which reminded her of her own father.
'Recommending? Not at all, miss. Ted--that's my son--Ted said a
fellow-draughtsman of his had a sister who wanted to be doing
something in the world, and I mentioned it to the housekeeper,
that's all. Ay, I miss my son very much.'
She kept her back to the window that he might not see her rising
'Yes,' he continued, 'sometimes I can't help feeling uneasy about
him. You know, he seems not made for a town life exactly: he gets
very queer over it sometimes, I think. Perhaps he'll be better when
he's married to Adelaide.'
A half-impatient feeling arose in her, like that which possesses a
sick person when he hears a recently-struck hour struck again by a
slow clock. She had lived further on.
'Everything depends upon whether he loves her,' she said
'He used to--he doesn't show it so much now; but that's because he's
older. You see, it was several years ago they first walked together
as young man and young woman. She's altered too from what she was
when he first courted her.'
'O, she's more sensible by half. When he used to write to her she'd
creep up the lane and look back over her shoulder, and slide out the
letter, and read a word and stand in thought looking at the hills
and seeing none. Then the cuckoo would cry--away the letter would
slip, and she'd start wi' fright at the mere bird, and have a red
skin before the quickest man among ye could say, "Blood rush up."'
He came forward with the money and dropped it into her hand. His
thoughts were still with Edward, and he absently took her little
fingers in his as he said, earnestly and ingenuously--
''Tis so seldom I get a gentlewoman to speak to that I can't help
speaking to you, Miss Graye, on my fears for Edward; I sometimes am
afraid that he'll never get on--that he'll die poor and despised
under the worst mental conditions, a keen sense of having been
passed in the race by men whose brains are nothing to his own, all
through his seeing too far into things--being discontented with
make-shifts--thinking o' perfection in things, and then sickened
that there's no such thing as perfection. I shan't be sorry to see
him marry, since it may settle him down and do him good. . . . Ay,
we'll hope for the best.'
He let go her hand and accompanied her to the door saying, 'If you
should care to walk this way and talk to an old man once now and
then, it will be a great delight to him, Miss Graye. Good-evening
to ye. . . . Ah look! a thunderstorm is brewing--be quick home. Or
shall I step up with you?'
'No, thank you, Mr. Springrove. Good evening,' she said in a low
voice, and hurried away. One thought still possessed her; Edward
had trifled with her love.
4. FIVE TO SIX P.M.
She followed the road into a bower of trees, overhanging it so
densely that the pass appeared like a rabbit's burrow, and presently
reached a side entrance to the park. The clouds rose more rapidly
than the farmer had anticipated: the sheep moved in a trail, and
complained incoherently. Livid grey shades, like those of the
modern French painters, made a mystery of the remote and dark parts
of the vista, and seemed to insist upon a suspension of breath.
Before she was half-way across the park the thunder rumbled
The direction in which she had to go would take her close by the old
manor-house. The air was perfectly still, and between each low
rumble of the thunder behind she could hear the roar of the
waterfall before her, and the creak of the engine among the bushes
hard by it. Hurrying on, with a growing dread of the gloom and of
the approaching storm, she drew near the Old House, now rising
before her against the dark foliage and sky in tones of strange
On the flight of steps, which descended from a terrace in front to
the level of the park, stood a man. He appeared, partly from the
relief the position gave to his figure, and partly from fact, to be
of towering height. He was dark in outline, and was looking at the
sky, with his hands behind him.
It was necessary for Cytherea to pass directly across the line of
his front. She felt so reluctant to do this, that she was about to
turn under the trees out of the path and enter it again at a point
beyond the Old House; but he had seen her, and she came on
mechanically, unconsciously averting her face a little, and dropping
her glance to the ground.
Her eyes unswervingly lingered along the path until they fell upon
another path branching in a right line from the path she was
pursuing. It came from the steps of the Old House. 'I am exactly
opposite him now,' she thought, 'and his eyes are going through me.'
A clear masculine voice said, at the same instant--
'Are you afraid?'
She, interpreting his question by her feelings at the moment,
assumed himself to be the object of fear, if any. 'I don't think I
am,' she stammered.
He seemed to know that she thought in that sense.
'Of the thunder, I mean,' he said; 'not of myself.'
She must turn to him now. 'I think it is going to rain,' she
remarked for the sake of saying something.
He could not conceal his surprise and admiration of her face and
bearing. He said courteously, 'It may possibly not rain before you
reach the House, if you are going there?'
'Yes, I am,'
'May I walk up with you? It is lonely under the trees.'
'No.' Fearing his courtesy arose from a belief that he was
addressing a woman of higher station than was hers, she added, 'I am
Miss Aldclyffe's companion. I don't mind the loneliness.'
'O, Miss Aldclyffe's companion. Then will you be kind enough to
take a subscription to her? She sent to me this afternoon to ask me
to become a subscriber to her Society, and I was out. Of course
I'll subscribe if she wishes it. I take a great interest in the
'Miss Aldclyffe will be glad to hear that, I know.'
'Yes; let me see--what Society did she say it was? I am afraid I
haven't enough money in my pocket, and yet it would be a
satisfaction to her to have practical proof of my willingness. I'll
get it, and be out in one minute.'
He entered the house and was at her side again within the time he
had named. 'This is it,' he said pleasantly.
She held up her hand. The soft tips of his fingers brushed the palm
of her glove as he placed the money within it. She wondered why his
fingers should have touched her.
'I think after all,' he continued, 'that the rain is upon us, and
will drench you before you reach the House. Yes: see there.'
He pointed to a round wet spot as large as a nasturtium leaf, which
had suddenly appeared upon the white surface of the step.
'You had better come into the porch. It is not nearly night yet.
The clouds make it seem later than it really is.'
Heavy drops of rain, followed immediately by a forked flash of
lightning and sharp rattling thunder compelled her, willingly or no,
to accept his invitation. She ascended the steps, stood beside him
just within the porch, and for the first time obtained a series of
short views of his person, as they waited there in silence.
He was an extremely handsome man, well-formed, and well-dressed, of
an age which seemed to be two or three years less than thirty. The
most striking point in his appearance was the wonderful, almost
preternatural, clearness of his complexion. There was not a blemish
or speck of any kind to mar the smoothness of its surface or the
beauty of its hue. Next, his forehead was square and broad, his
brows straight and firm, his eyes penetrating and clear. By
collecting the round of expressions they gave forth, a person who
theorized on such matters would have imbibed the notion that their
owner was of a nature to kick against the pricks; the last man in
the world to put up with a position because it seemed to be his
destiny to do so; one who took upon himself to resist fate with the
vindictive determination of a Theomachist. Eyes and forehead both
would have expressed keenness of intellect too severely to be
pleasing, had their force not been counteracted by the lines and
tone of the lips. These were full and luscious to a surprising
degree, possessing a woman-like softness of curve, and a ruby
redness so intense, as to testify strongly to much susceptibility of
heart where feminine beauty was concerned--a susceptibility that
might require all the ballast of brain with which he had previously
been credited to confine within reasonable channels.
His manner was rather elegant than good: his speech well-finished
The pause in their discourse, which had been caused by the peal of
thunder was unbroken by either for a minute or two, during which the
ears of both seemed to be absently following the low roar of the
waterfall as it became gradually rivalled by the increasing rush of
rain upon the trees and herbage of the grove. After her short looks
at him, Cytherea had turned her head towards the avenue for a while,
and now, glancing back again for an instant, she discovered that his
eyes were engaged in a steady, though delicate, regard of her face
At this moment, by reason of the narrowness of the porch, their
dresses touched, and remained in contact.
His clothes are something exterior to every man; but to a woman her
dress is part of her body. Its motions are all present to her
intelligence if not to her eyes; no man knows how his coat-tails
swing. By the slightest hyperbole it may be said that her dress has
sensation. Crease but the very Ultima Thule of fringe or flounce,
and it hurts her as much as pinching her. Delicate antennae, or
feelers, bristle on every outlying frill. Go to the uppermost: she
is there; tread on the lowest: the fair creature is there almost
Thus the touch of clothes, which was nothing to Manston, sent a
thrill through Cytherea, seeing, moreover, that he was of the nature
of a mysterious stranger. She looked out again at the storm, but
still felt him. At last to escape the sensation she moved away,
though by so doing it was necessary to advance a little into the
'Look, the rain is coming into the porch upon you,' he said. 'Step
inside the door.'
'Perfectly safe, I assure you,' he added, laughing, and holding the
door open. 'You shall see what a state of disorganization I am in--
boxes on boxes, furniture, straw, crockery, in every form of
transposition. An old woman is in the back quarters somewhere,
beginning to put things to rights. . . . You know the inside of the
house, I dare say?'
'I have never been in.'
'O well, come along. Here, you see, they have made a door through,
here, they have put a partition dividing the old hall into two, one
part is now my parlour; there they have put a plaster ceiling,
hiding the old chestnut-carved roof because it was too high and
would have been chilly for me; you see, being the original hall, it
was open right up to the top, and here the lord of the manor and his
retainers used to meet and be merry by the light from the monstrous
fire which shone out from that monstrous fire-place, now narrowed to
a mere nothing for my grate, though you can see the old outline
still. I almost wish I could have had it in its original state.'
'With more romance and less comfort.'
'Yes, exactly. Well, perhaps the wish is not deep-seated. You will
see how the things are tumbled in anyhow, packing-cases and all.
The only piece of ornamental furniture yet unpacked is this one.'
'Yes, an organ. I made it myself, except the pipes. I opened the
case this afternoon to commence soothing myself at once. It is not
a very large one, but quite big enough for a private house. You
play, I dare say?'
'The piano. I am not at all used to an organ.'
'You would soon acquire the touch for an organ, though it would
spoil your touch for the piano. Not that that matters a great deal.
A piano isn't much as an instrument.'
'It is the fashion to say so now. I think it is quite good enough.'
'That isn't altogether a right sentiment about things being good
'No--no. What I mean is, that the men who despise pianos do it as a
rule from their teeth, merely for fashion's sake, because cleverer
men have said it before them--not from the experience of their
Now Cytherea all at once broke into a blush at the consciousness of
a great snub she had been guilty of in her eagerness to explain
herself. He charitably expressed by a look that he did not in the
least mind her blunder, if it were one; and this attitude forced him
into a position of mental superiority which vexed her.
'I play for my private amusement only,' he said. 'I have never
learned scientifically. All I know is what I taught myself.'
The thunder, lightning, and rain had now increased to a terrific
force. The clouds, from which darts, forks, zigzags, and balls of
fire continually sprang, did not appear to be more than a hundred
yards above their heads, and every now and then a flash and a peal
made gaps in the steward's descriptions. He went towards the organ,
in the midst of a volley which seemed to shake the aged house from
foundations to chimney.
'You are not going to play now, are you?' said Cytherea uneasily.
'O yes. Why not now?' he said. 'You can't go home, and therefore
we may as well be amused, if you don't mind sitting on this box.
The few chairs I have unpacked are in the other room.'
Without waiting to see whether she sat down or not, he turned to the
organ and began extemporizing a harmony which meandered through
every variety of expression of which the instrument was capable.
Presently he ceased and began searching for some music-book.
'What a splendid flash!' he said, as the lightning again shone in
through the mullioned window, which, of a proportion to suit the
whole extent of the original hall, was much too large for the
present room. The thunder pealed again. Cytherea, in spite of
herself, was frightened, not only at the weather, but at the general
unearthly weirdness which seemed to surround her there.
'I wish I--the lightning wasn't so bright. Do you think it will
last long?' she said timidly.
'It can't last much longer,' he murmured, without turning, running
his fingers again over the keys. 'But this is nothing,' he
continued, suddenly stopping and regarding her. 'It seems brighter
because of the deep shadow under those trees yonder. Don't mind it;
now look at me--look in my face--now.'
He had faced the window, looking fixedly at the sky with his dark
strong eyes. She seemed compelled to do as she was bidden, and
looked in the too-delicately beautiful face.
The flash came; but he did not turn or blink, keeping his eyes fixed
as firmly as before. 'There,' he said, turning to her, 'that's the
way to look at lightning.'
'O, it might have blinded you!' she exclaimed.
'Nonsense--not lightning of this sort--I shouldn't have stared at it
if there had been danger. It is only sheet-lightning now. Now,
will you have another piece? Something from an oratorio this time?'
'No, thank you--I don't want to hear it whilst it thunders so.' But
he had begun without heeding her answer, and she stood motionless
again, marvelling at the wonderful indifference to all external
circumstance which was now evinced by his complete absorption in the
music before him.
'Why do you play such saddening chords?' she said, when he next
'H'm--because I like them, I suppose,' said he lightly. 'Don't you
like sad impressions sometimes?'
'Yes, sometimes, perhaps.'
'When you are full of trouble.'
'Well, why shouldn't I when I am full of trouble?'
'Are you troubled?'
'I am troubled.' He said this thoughtfully and abruptly--so
abruptly that she did not push the dialogue further.
He now played more powerfully. Cytherea had never heard music in
the completeness of full orchestral power, and the tones of the
organ, which reverberated with considerable effect in the
comparatively small space of the room, heightened by the elemental
strife of light and sound outside, moved her to a degree out of
proportion to the actual power of the mere notes, practised as was
the hand that produced them. The varying strains--now loud, now
soft; simple, complicated, weird, touching, grand, boisterous,
subdued; each phase distinct, yet modulating into the next with a
graceful and easy flow--shook and bent her to themselves, as a
gushing brook shakes and bends a shadow cast across its surface.
The power of the music did not show itself so much by attracting her
attention to the subject of the piece, as by taking up and
developing as its libretto the poem of her own life and soul,
shifting her deeds and intentions from the hands of her judgment and
holding them in its own.
She was swayed into emotional opinions concerning the strange man
before her; new impulses of thought came with new harmonies, and
entered into her with a gnawing thrill. A dreadful flash of
lightning then, and the thunder close upon it. She found herself
involuntarily shrinking up beside him, and looking with parted lips
at his face.
He turned his eyes and saw her emotion, which greatly increased the
ideal element in her expressive face. She was in the state in which
woman's instinct to conceal has lost its power over her impulse to
tell; and he saw it. Bending his handsome face over her till his
lips almost touched her ear, he murmured, without breaking the
'Do you very much like this piece?'
'Very much indeed,' she said.
'I could see you were affected by it. I will copy it for you.'
'Thank you much.'
'I will bring it to the House to you to-morrow. Who shall I ask