Part 5 out of 9
them, and they accordingly were gathered there.
6. HALF-PAST TWELVE TO ONE A.M.
Manston, when he retired to meditate, had walked round the
churchyard, and now entered the opened door of the building.
He mechanically pursued his way round the piers into his own seat in
the north aisle. The lower atmosphere of this spot was shaded by
its own wall from the shine which streamed in over the window-sills
on the same side. The only light burning inside the church was a
small tallow candle, standing in the font, in the opposite aisle of
the building to that in which Manston had sat down, and near where
the furniture was piled. The candle's mild rays were overpowered by
the ruddier light from the ruins, making the weak flame to appear
like the moon by day.
Sitting there he saw Farmer Springrove enter the door, followed by
his son Edward, still carrying his travelling-bag in his hand. They
were speaking of the sad death of Mrs. Manston, but the subject was
relinquished for that of the houses burnt.
This row of houses, running from the inn eastward, had been built
under the following circumstances:--
Fifty years before this date, the spot upon which the cottages
afterwards stood was a blank strip, along the side of the village
street, difficult to cultivate, on account of the outcrop thereon of
a large bed of flints called locally a 'lanch' or 'lanchet.'
The Aldclyffe then in possession of the estate conceived the idea
that a row of cottages would be an improvement to the spot, and
accordingly granted leases of portions to several respectable
inhabitants. Each lessee was to be subject to the payment of a
merely nominal rent for the whole term of lives, on condition that
he built his own cottage, and delivered it up intact at the end of
Those who had built had, one by one, relinquished their indentures,
either by sale or barter, to Farmer Springrove's father. New lives
were added in some cases, by payment of a sum to the lord of the
manor, etc., and all the leases were now held by the farmer himself,
as one of the chief provisions for his old age.
The steward had become interested in the following conversation:--
'Try not to be so depressed, father; they are all insured.'
The words came from Edward in an anxious tone.
'You mistake, Edward; they are not insured,' returned the old man
'Not?' the son asked.
'Not one!' said the farmer.
'In the Helmet Fire Office, surely?'
'They were insured there every one. Six months ago the office,
which had been raising the premiums on thatched premises higher for
some years, gave up insuring them altogether, as two or three other
fire-offices had done previously, on account, they said, of the
uncertainty and greatness of the risk of thatch undetached. Ever
since then I have been continually intending to go to another
office, but have never gone. Who expects a fire?'
'Do you remember the terms of the leases?' said Edward, still more
'No, not particularly,' said his father absently.
'Where are they?'
'In the bureau there; that's why I tried to save it first, among
'Well, we must see to that at once.'
'What do you want?'
They went into the south aisle, took the candle from the font, and
then proceeded to open the bureau, which had been placed in a corner
under the gallery. Both leant over upon the flap; Edward holding
the candle, whilst his father took the pieces of parchment from one
of the drawers, and spread the first out before him.
'You read it, Ted. I can't see without my glasses. This one will
be sufficient. The terms of all are the same.'
Edward took the parchment, and read quickly and indistinctly for
some time; then aloud and slowly as follows:--
'And the said John Springrove for himself his heirs executors and
administrators doth covenant and agree with the said Gerald
Fellcourt Aldclyffe his heirs and assigns that he the said John
Springrove his heirs and assigns during the said term shall pay unto
the said Gerald Fellcourt Aldclyffe his heirs and assigns the clear
yearly rent of ten shillings and sixpence. . . . at the several
times hereinbefore appointed for the payment thereof respectively.
And also shall and at all times during the said term well and
sufficiently repair and keep the said Cottage or Dwelling-house and
all other the premises and all houses or buildings erected or to be
erected thereupon in good and proper repair in every respect without
exception and the said premises in such good repair upon the
determination of this demise shall yield up unto the said Gerald
Fellcourt Aldclyffe his heirs and assigns.'
They closed the bureau and turned towards the door of the church
Manston also had come forward out of the gloom. Notwithstanding the
farmer's own troubles, an instinctive respect and generous sense of
sympathy with the steward for his awful loss caused the old man to
step aside, that Manston might pass out without speaking to them if
he chose to do so.
'Who is he?' whispered Edward to his father, as Manston approached.
'Mr. Manston, the steward.'
Manston came near, and passed down the aisle on the side of the
younger man. Their faces came almost close together: one large
flame, which still lingered upon the ruins outside, threw long
dancing shadows of each across the nave till they bent upwards
against the aisle wall, and also illuminated their eyes, as each met
those of the other. Edward had learnt, by a letter from home, of
the steward's passion for Cytherea, and his mysterious repression of
it, afterwards explained by his marriage. That marriage was now
nought. Edward realized the man's newly acquired freedom, and felt
an instinctive enmity towards him--he would hardly own to himself
why. The steward, too, knew Cytherea's attachment to Edward, and
looked keenly and inscrutably at him.
7. ONE TO TWO A.M.
Manston went homeward alone, his heart full of strange emotions.
Entering the house, and dismissing the woman to her own home, he at
once proceeded upstairs to his bedroom.
Reasoning worldliness, especially when allied with sensuousness,
cannot repress on some extreme occasions the human instinct to pour
out the soul to some Being or Personality, who in frigid moments is
dismissed with the title of Chance, or at most Law. Manston was
selfishly and inhumanly, but honestly and unutterably, thankful for
the recent catastrophe. Beside his bed, for that first time during
a period of nearly twenty years, he fell down upon his knees in a
passionate outburst of feeling.
Many minutes passed before he arose. He walked to the window, and
then seemed to remember for the first time that some action on his
part was necessary in connection with the sad circumstance of the
Leaving the house at once, he went to the scene of the fire,
arriving there in time to hear the rector making an arrangement with
a certain number of men to watch the spot till morning. The ashes
were still red-hot and flaming. Manston found that nothing could be
done towards searching them at that hour of the night. He turned
homeward again, in the company of the rector, who had considerately
persuaded him to retire from the scene for a while, and promised
that as soon as a man could live amid the embers of the Three
Tranters Inn, they should be carefully searched for the remains of
his unfortunate wife.
Manston then went indoors, to wait for morning.
XI. THE EVENTS OF FIVE DAYS
1. NOVEMBER THE TWENTY-NINTH
The search began at dawn, but a quarter past nine o'clock came
without bringing any result. Manston ate a little breakfast, and
crossed the hollow of the park which intervened between the old and
modern manor-houses, to ask for an interview with Miss Aldclyffe.
He met her midway. She was about to pay him a visit of condolence,
and to place every man on the estate at his disposal, that the
search for any relic of his dead and destroyed wife might not be
delayed an instant.
He accompanied her back to the house. At first they conversed as if
the death of the poor woman was an event which the husband must of
necessity deeply lament; and when all under this head that social
form seemed to require had been uttered, they spoke of the material
damage done, and of the steps which had better be taken to remedy
It was not till both were shut inside her private room that she
spoke to him in her blunt and cynical manner. A certain newness of
bearing in him, peculiar to the present morning, had hitherto
forbidden her this tone: the demeanour of the subject of her
favouritism had altered, she could not tell in what way. He was
entirely a changed man.
'Are you really sorry for your poor wife, Mr. Manston?' she said.
'Well, I am,' he answered shortly.
'But only as for any human being who has met with a violent death?'
He confessed it--'For she was not a good woman,' he added.
'I should be sorry to say such a thing now the poor creature is
dead,' Miss Aldclyffe returned reproachfully.
'Why?' he asked. 'Why should I praise her if she doesn't deserve
it? I say exactly what I have often admired Sterne for saying in
one of his letters--that neither reason nor Scripture asks us to
speak nothing but good of the dead. And now, madam,' he continued,
after a short interval of thought, 'I may, perhaps, hope that you
will assist me, or rather not thwart me, in endeavouring to win the
love of a young lady living about you, one in whom I am much
'You have been loving Cytherea all the while?'
Surprise was a preface to much agitation in her, which caused her to
rise from her seat, and pace to the side of the room. The steward
quietly looked on and added, 'I have been loving and still love
She came close up to him, wistfully contemplating his face, one hand
moving indecisively at her side.
'And your secret marriage was, then, the true and only reason for
that backwardness regarding the courtship of Cytherea, which, they
tell me, has been the talk of the village; not your indifference to
her attractions.' Her voice had a tone of conviction in it, as well
as of inquiry; but none of jealousy.
'Yes,' he said; 'and not a dishonourable one. What held me back was
just that one thing--a sense of morality that perhaps, madam, you
did not give me credit for.' The latter words were spoken with a
mien and tone of pride.
Miss Aldclyffe preserved silence.
'And now,' he went on, 'I may as well say a word in vindication of
my conduct lately, at the risk, too, of offending you. My actual
motive in submitting to your order that I should send for my late
wife, and live with her, was not the mercenary policy of wishing to
retain an office which brings me greater comforts than any I have
enjoyed before, but this unquenchable passion for Cytherea. Though
I saw the weakness, folly, and even wickedness of it continually, it
still forced me to try to continue near her, even as the husband of
He waited for her to speak: she did not.
'There's a great obstacle to my making any way in winning Miss
Graye's love,' he went on.
'Yes, Edward Springrove,' she said quietly. 'I know it, I did once
want to see them married; they have had a slight quarrel, and it
will soon be made up again, unless--' she spoke as if she had only
half attended to Manston's last statement.
'He is already engaged to be married to somebody else,' said the
'Pooh!' said she, 'you mean to his cousin at Peakhill; that's
nothing to help us; he's now come home to break it off.'
'He must not break it off,' said Manston, firmly and calmly.
His tone attracted her, startled her. Recovering herself, she said
haughtily, 'Well, that's your affair, not mine. Though my wish has
been to see her YOUR wife, I can't do anything dishonourable to
bring about such a result.'
'But it must be MADE your affair,' he said in a hard, steady voice,
looking into her eyes, as if he saw there the whole panorama of her
One of the most difficult things to portray by written words is that
peculiar mixture of moods expressed in a woman's countenance when,
after having been sedulously engaged in establishing another's
position, she suddenly suspects him of undermining her own. It was
thus that Miss Aldclyffe looked at the steward.
'You--know--something--of me?' she faltered.
'I know all,' he said.
'Then curse that wife of yours! She wrote and said she wouldn't
tell you!' she burst out. 'Couldn't she keep her word for a day?'
She reflected and then said, but no more as to a stranger, 'I will
not yield. I have committed no crime. I yielded to her threats in
a moment of weakness, though I felt inclined to defy her at the
time: it was chiefly because I was mystified as to how she got to
know of it. Pooh! I will put up with threats no more. O, can YOU
threaten me?' she added softly, as if she had for the moment
forgotten to whom she had been speaking.
'My love must be made your affair,' he repeated, without taking his
eyes from her.
An agony, which was not the agony of being discovered in a secret,
obstructed her utterance for a time. 'How can you turn upon me so
when I schemed to get you here--schemed that you might win her till
I found you were married. O, how can you! O!. . . O!' She wept;
and the weeping of such a nature was as harrowing as the weeping of
'Your getting me here was bad policy as to your secret--the most
absurd thing in the world,' he said, not heeding her distress. 'I
knew all, except the identity of the individual, long ago. Directly
I found that my coming here was a contrived thing, and not a matter
of chance, it fixed my attention upon you at once. All that was
required was the mere spark of life, to make of a bundle of
perceptions an organic whole.'
'Policy, how can you talk of policy? Think, do think! And how can
you threaten me when you know--you know--that I would befriend you
readily without a threat!'
'Yes, yes, I think you would,' he said more kindly; 'but your
indifference for so many, many years has made me doubt it.'
'No, not indifference--'twas enforced silence. My father lived.'
He took her hand, and held it gently.
* * *
'Now listen,' he said, more quietly and humanly, when she had become
calmer: 'Springrove must marry the woman he's engaged to. You may
make him, but only in one way.'
'Well: but don't speak sternly, AEneas!'
'Do you know that his father has not been particularly thriving for
the last two or three years?'
'I have heard something of it, once or twice, though his rents have
been promptly paid, haven't they?'
'O yes; and do you know the terms of the leases of the houses which
are burnt?' he said, explaining to her that by those terms she might
compel him even to rebuild every house. 'The case is the clearest
case of fire by negligence that I have ever known, in addition to
that,' he continued.
'I don't want them rebuilt; you know it was intended by my father,
directly they fell in, to clear the site for a new entrance to the
'Yes, but that doesn't affect the position, which is that Farmer
Springrove is in your power to an extent which is very serious for
'I won't do it--'tis a conspiracy.'
'Won't you for me?' he said eagerly.
Miss Aldclyffe changed colour.
'I don't threaten now, I implore,' he said.
'Because you might threaten if you chose,' she mournfully answered.
'But why be so--when your marriage with her was my own pet idea long
before it was yours? What must I do?'
'Scarcely anything: simply this. When I have seen old Mr.
Springrove, which I shall do in a day or two, and told him that he
will be expected to rebuild the houses, do you see the young man.
See him yourself, in order that the proposals made may not appear to
be anything more than an impulse of your own. You or he will bring
up the subject of the houses. To rebuild them would be a matter of
at least six hundred pounds, and he will almost surely say that we
are hard in insisting upon the extreme letter of the leases. Then
tell him that scarcely can you yourself think of compelling an old
tenant like his father to any such painful extreme--there shall be
no compulsion to build, simply a surrender of the leases. Then
speak feelingly of his cousin, as a woman whom you respect and love,
and whose secret you have learnt to be that she is heart-sick with
hope deferred. Beg him to marry her, his betrothed and your friend,
as some return for your consideration towards his father. Don't
suggest too early a day for their marriage, or he will suspect you
of some motive beyond womanly sympathy. Coax him to make a promise
to her that she shall be his wife at the end of a twelvemonth, and
get him, on assenting to this, to write to Cytherea, entirely
'She has already asked him to do that.'
'So much the better--and telling her, too, that he is about to
fulfil his long-standing promise to marry his cousin. If you think
it worth while, you may say Cytherea was not indisposed to think of
me before she knew I was married. I have at home a note she wrote
me the first evening I saw her, which looks rather warm, and which I
could show you. Trust me, he will give her up. When he is married
to Adelaide Hinton, Cytherea will be induced to marry me--perhaps
before; a woman's pride is soon wounded.'
'And hadn't I better write to Mr. Nyttleton, and inquire more
particularly what's the law upon the houses?'
'O no, there's no hurry for that. We know well enough how the case
stands--quite well enough to talk in general terms about it. And I
want the pressure to be put upon young Springrove before he goes
away from home again.'
She looked at him furtively, long, and sadly, as after speaking he
became lost in thought, his eyes listlessly tracing the pattern of
the carpet. 'Yes, yes, she will be mine,' he whispered, careless of
Cytherea Aldclyffe's presence. At last he raised his eyes
'I will do my best, AEneas,' she answered.
Talibus incusat. Manston then left the house, and again went
towards the blackened ruins, where men were still raking and
2. FROM NOVEMBER THE TWENTY-NINTH TO DECEMBER THE SECOND
The smouldering remnants of the Three Tranters Inn seemed to promise
that, even when the searchers should light upon the remains of the
unfortunate Mrs. Manston, very little would be discoverable.
Consisting so largely of the charcoal and ashes of hard dry oak and
chestnut, intermingled with thatch, the interior of the heap was one
glowing mass of embers, which, on being stirred about, emitted
sparks and flame long after it was dead and black on the outside.
It was persistently hoped, however, that some traces of the body
would survive the effect of the hot coals, and after a search
pursued uninterruptedly for thirty hours, under the direction of
Manston himself, enough was found to set at rest any doubts of her
The melancholy gleanings consisted of her watch, bunch of keys, a
few coins, and two charred and blackened bones.
Two days later the official inquiry into the cause of her death was
held at the Rising Sun Inn, before Mr. Floy, the coroner, and a jury
of the chief inhabitants of the district. The little tavern--the
only remaining one in the village--was crowded to excess by the
neighbouring peasantry as well as their richer employers: all who
could by any possibility obtain an hour's release from their duties
being present as listeners.
The jury viewed the sad and infinitesimal remains, which were folded
in a white cambric cloth, and laid in the middle of a well-finished
coffin lined with white silk (by Manston's order), which stood in an
adjoining room, the bulk of the coffin being completely filled in
with carefully arranged flowers and evergreens--also the steward's
Abraham Brown, of Hoxton, London--an old white-headed man, without
the ruddiness which makes white hairs so pleasing--was sworn, and
deposed that he kept a lodging-house at an address he named. On a
Saturday evening less than a month before the fire, a lady came to
him, with very little luggage, and took the front room on the second
floor. He did not inquire where she came from, as she paid a week
in advance, but she gave her name as Mrs. Manston, referring him, if
he wished for any guarantee of her respectability, to Mr. Manston,
Knapwater Park. Here she lived for three weeks, rarely going out.
She slept away from her lodgings one night during the time. At the
end of that time, on the twenty-eighth of November, she left his
house in a four-wheeled cab, about twelve o'clock in the day,
telling the driver to take her to the Waterloo Station. She paid
all her lodging expenses, and not having given notice the full week
previous to her going away, offered to pay for the next, but he only
took half. She wore a thick black veil, and grey waterproof cloak,
when she left him, and her luggage was two boxes, one of plain deal,
with black japanned clamps, the other sewn up in canvas.
Joseph Chinney, porter at the Carriford Road Station, deposed that
he saw Mrs. Manston, dressed as the last witness had described, get
out of a second-class carriage on the night of the twenty-eighth.
She stood beside him whilst her luggage was taken from the van. The
luggage, consisting of the clamped deal box and another covered with
canvas, was placed in the cloak-room. She seemed at a loss at
finding nobody there to meet her. She asked him for some person to
accompany her, and carry her bag to Mr. Manston's house, Knapwater
Park. He was just off duty at that time, and offered to go himself.
The witness here repeated the conversation he had had with Mrs.
Manston during their walk, and testified to having left her at the
door of the Three Tranters Inn, Mr. Manston's house being closed.
Next, Farmer Springrove was called. A murmur of surprise and
commiseration passed round the crowded room when he stepped forward.
The events of the few preceding days had so worked upon his
nervously thoughtful nature that the blue orbits of his eyes, and
the mere spot of scarlet to which the ruddiness of his cheeks had
contracted, seemed the result of a heavy sickness. A perfect
silence pervaded the assembly when he spoke.
His statement was that he received Mrs. Manston at the threshold,
and asked her to enter the parlour. She would not do so, and stood
in the passage whilst the maid went upstairs to see that the room
was in order. The maid came down to the middle landing of the
staircase, when Mrs. Manston followed her up to the room. He did
not speak ten words with her altogether.
Afterwards, whilst he was standing at the door listening for his son
Edward's return, he saw her light extinguished, having first caught
sight of her shadow moving about the room.
THE CORONER: 'Did her shadow appear to be that of a woman
SPRINGROVE: 'I cannot say, as I didn't take particular notice. It
moved backwards and forwards; she might have been undressing or
merely pacing up and down the room.'
Mrs. Fitler, the ostler's wife and chambermaid, said that she
preceded Mrs. Manston into the room, put down the candle, and went
out. Mrs. Manston scarcely spoke to her, except to ask her to bring
a little brandy. Witness went and fetched it from the bar, brought
it up, and put it on the dressing-table.
THE CORONER: 'Had Mrs. Manston begun to undress, when you came
'No, sir; she was sitting on the bed, with everything on, as when
she came in.'
'Did she begin to undress before you left?'
'Not exactly before I had left; but when I had closed the door, and
was on the landing I heard her boot drop on the floor, as it does
sometimes when pulled off?'
'Had her face appeared worn and sleepy?'
'I cannot say as her bonnet and veil were still on when I left, for
she seemed rather shy and ashamed to be seen at the Three Tranters
'And did you hear or see any more of her?'
'No more, sir.'
Mrs. Crickett, temporary servant to Mr. Manston, said that in
accordance with Mr. Manston's orders, everything had been made
comfortable in the house for Mrs. Manston's expected return on
Monday night. Mr. Manston told her that himself and Mrs. Manston
would be home late, not till between eleven and twelve o'clock, and
that supper was to be ready. Not expecting Mrs. Manston so early,
she had gone out on a very important errand to Mrs. Leat the
Mr. Manston deposed that in looking down the columns of Bradshaw he
had mistaken the time of the train's arrival, and hence was not at
the station when she came. The broken watch produced was his
wife's--he knew it by a scratch on the inner plate, and by other
signs. The bunch of keys belonged to her: two of them fitted the
locks of her two boxes.
Mr. Flooks, agent to Lord Claydonfield at Chettlewood, said that Mr.
Manston had pleaded as his excuse for leaving him rather early in
the evening after their day's business had been settled, that he was
going to meet his wife at Carriford Road Station, where she was
coming by the last train that night.
The surgeon said that the remains were those of a human being. The
small fragment seemed a portion of one of the lumbar vertebrae--the
other the head of the os femoris--but they were both so far gone
that it was impossible to say definitely whether they belonged to
the body of a male or female. There was no moral doubt that they
were a woman's. He did not believe that death resulted from burning
by fire. He thought she was crushed by the fall of the west gable,
which being of wood, as well as the floor, burnt after it had
fallen, and consumed the body with it.
Two or three additional witnesses gave unimportant testimony.
The coroner summed up, and the jury without hesitation found that
the deceased Mrs. Manston came by her death accidentally through the
burning of the Three Tranters Inn.
3. DECEMBER THE SECOND. AFTERNOON
When Mr. Springrove came from the door of the Rising Sun at the end
of the inquiry, Manston walked by his side as far as the stile to
the park, a distance of about a stone's-throw.
'Ah, Mr. Springrove, this is a sad affair for everybody concerned.'
'Everybody,' said the old farmer, with deep sadness, ''tis quite a
misery to me. I hardly know how I shall live through each day as it
breaks. I think of the words, "In the morning thou shalt say, Would
God it were even! and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were
morning! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and
for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see."' His voice
'Ah--true. I read Deuteronomy myself,' said Manston.
'But my loss is as nothing to yours,' the farmer continued.
'Nothing; but I can commiserate you. I should be worse than
unfeeling if I didn't, although my own affliction is of so sad and
solemn a kind. Indeed my own loss makes me more keenly alive to
yours, different in nature as it is.'
'What sum do you think would be required of me to put the houses in
'I have roughly thought six or seven hundred pounds.'
'If the letter of the law is to be acted up to,' said the old man,
with more agitation in his voice.
'Do you know enough of Miss Aldclyffe's mind to give me an idea of
how she means to treat me?'
'Well, I am afraid I must tell you that though I know very little of
her mind as a rule, in this matter I believe she will be rather
peremptory; she might share to the extent of a sixth or an eighth
perhaps, in consideration of her getting new lamps for old, but I
should hardly think more.'
The steward stepped upon the stile, and Mr. Springrove went along
the road with a bowed head and heavy footsteps towards his niece's
cottage, in which, rather against the wish of Edward, they had
temporarily taken refuge.
The additional weight of this knowledge soon made itself
perceptible. Though indoors with Edward or Adelaide nearly the
whole of the afternoon, nothing more than monosyllabic replies could
be drawn from him. Edward continually discovered him looking
fixedly at the wall or floor, quite unconscious of another's
presence. At supper he ate just as usual, but quite mechanically,
and with the same abstraction.
4. DECEMBER THE THIRD
The next morning he was in no better spirits. Afternoon came: his
son was alarmed, and managed to draw from him an account of the
conversation with the steward.
'Nonsense; he knows nothing about it,' said Edward vehemently.
'I'll see Miss Aldclyffe myself. Now promise me, father, that
you'll not believe till I come back, and tell you to believe it,
that Miss Aldclyffe will do any such unjust thing.'
Edward started at once for Knapwater House. He strode rapidly along
the high-road, till he reached a wicket where a footpath allowed of
a short cut to the mansion. Here he leant down upon the bars for a
few minutes, meditating as to the best manner of opening his speech,
and surveying the scene before him in that absent mood which takes
cognizance of little things without being conscious of them at the
time, though they appear in the eye afterwards as vivid impressions.
It was a yellow, lustrous, late autumn day, one of those days of the
quarter when morning and evening seem to meet together without the
intervention of a noon. The clear yellow sunlight had tempted forth
Miss Aldclyffe herself, who was at this same time taking a walk in
the direction of the village. As Springrove lingered he heard
behind the plantation a woman's dress brushing along amid the
prickly husks and leaves which had fallen into the path from the
boughs of the chestnut trees. In another minute she stood in front
He answered her casual greeting respectfully, and was about to
request a few minutes' conversation with her, when she directly
addressed him on the subject of the fire. 'It is a sad misfortune
for your father' she said, 'and I hear that he has lately let his
'He has, madam, and you are probably aware that either by the
general terms of his holding, or the same coupled with the origin of
the fire, the disaster may involve the necessity of his rebuilding
the whole row of houses, or else of becoming a debtor to the estate,
to the extent of some hundreds of pounds?'
She assented. 'I have been thinking of it,' she went on, and then
repeated in substance the words put into her mouth by the steward.
Some disturbance of thought might have been fancied as taking place
in Springrove's mind during her statement, but before she had
reached the end, his eyes were clear, and directed upon her.
'I don't accept your conditions of release,' he said.
'They are not conditions exactly.'
'Well, whatever they are not, they are very uncalled-for remarks.'
'Not at all--the houses have been burnt by your family's
'I don't refer to the houses--you have of course the best of all
rights to speak of that matter; but you, a stranger to me
comparatively, have no right at all to volunteer opinions and wishes
upon a very delicate subject, which concerns no living beings but
Miss Graye, Miss Hinton, and myself.'
Miss Aldclyffe, like a good many others in her position, had plainly
not realized that a son of her tenant and inferior could have become
an educated man, who had learnt to feel his individuality, to view
society from a Bohemian standpoint, far outside the farming grade in
Carriford parish, and that hence he had all a developed man's
unorthodox opinion about the subordination of classes. And fully
conscious of the labyrinth into which he had wandered between his
wish to behave honourably in the dilemma of his engagement to his
cousin Adelaide and the intensity of his love for Cytherea,
Springrove was additionally sensitive to any allusion to the case.
He had spoken to Miss Aldclyffe with considerable warmth.
And Miss Aldclyffe was not a woman likely to be far behind any
second person in warming to a mood of defiance. It seemed as if she
were prepared to put up with a cold refusal, but that her
haughtiness resented a criticism of her conduct ending in a rebuke.
By this, Manston's discreditable object, which had been made hers by
compulsion only, was now adopted by choice. She flung herself into
A fiery man in such a case would have relinquished persuasion and
tried palpable force. A fiery woman added unscrupulousness and
evolved daring strategy; and in her obstinacy, and to sustain
herself as mistress, she descended to an action the meanness of
which haunted her conscience to her dying hour.
'I don't quite see, Mr. Springrove,' she said, 'that I am altogether
what you are pleased to call a stranger. I have known your family,
at any rate, for a good many years, and I know Miss Graye
particularly well, and her state of mind with regard to this
Perplexed love makes us credulous and curious as old women. Edward
was willing, he owned it to himself, to get at Cytherea's state of
mind, even through so dangerous a medium.
'A letter I received from her' he said, with assumed coldness,
'tells me clearly enough what Miss Graye's mind is.'
'You think she still loves you? O yes, of course you do--all men
are like that.'
'I have reason to.' He could feign no further than the first
'I should be interested in knowing what reason?' she said, with
Edward felt he was allowing her to do, in fractional parts, what he
rebelled against when regarding it as a whole; but the fact that his
antagonist had the presence of a queen, and features only in the
early evening of their beauty, was not without its influence upon a
keenly conscious man. Her bearing had charmed him into toleration,
as Mary Stuart's charmed the indignant Puritan visitors. He again
answered her honestly.
'The best of reasons--the tone of her letter.'
'Pooh, Mr. Springrove!'
'Not at all, Miss Aldclyffe! Miss Graye desired that we should be
strangers to each other for the simple practical reason that
intimacy could only make wretched complications worse, not from lack
of love--love is only suppressed.'
'Don't you know yet, that in thus putting aside a man, a woman's
pity for the pain she inflicts gives her a kindness of tone which is
often mistaken for suppressed love?' said Miss Aldclyffe, with soft
This was a translation of the ambiguity of Cytherea's tone which he
had certainly never thought of; and he was too ingenuous not to own
'I had never thought of it,' he said.
'And don't believe it?'
'Not unless there was some other evidence to support the view.'
She paused a minute and then began hesitatingly--
'My intention was--what I did not dream of owning to you--my
intention was to try to induce you to fulfil your promise to Miss
Hinton not solely on her account and yours (though partly). I love
Cytherea Graye with all my soul, and I want to see her happy even
more than I do you. I did not mean to drag her name into the affair
at all, but I am driven to say that she wrote that letter of
dismissal to you--for it was a most pronounced dismissal--not on
account of your engagement. She is old enough to know that
engagements can be broken as easily as they can be made. She wrote
it because she loved another man; very suddenly, and not with any
idea or hope of marrying him, but none the less deeply.'
'Good ---! I can't listen to you for an instant, madam; why, she
hadn't seen him!'
'She had; he came here the day before she wrote to you; and I could
prove to you, if it were worth while, that on that day she went
voluntarily to his house, though not artfully or blamably; stayed
for two hours playing and singing; that no sooner did she leave him
than she went straight home, and wrote the letter saying she should
not see you again, entirely because she had seen him and fallen
desperately in love with him--a perfectly natural thing for a young
girl to do, considering that he's the handsomest man in the county.
Why else should she not have written to you before?'
'Because I was such a--because she did not know of the connection
between me and my cousin until then.'
'I must think she did.'
'On what ground?'
'On the strong ground of my having told her so, distinctly, the very
first day she came to live with me.'
'Well, what do you seek to impress upon me after all? This--that
the day Miss Graye wrote to me, saying it was better that we should
part, coincided with the day she had seen a certain man--'
'A remarkably handsome and talented man.'
'Yes, I admit that.'
'And that it coincided with the hour just subsequent to her seeing
'Yes, just when she had seen him.'
'And been to his house alone with him.'
'It is nothing.'
'And stayed there playing and singing with him.'
'Admit that, too,' he said; 'an accident might have caused it.'
'And at the same instant that she wrote your dismissal she wrote a
letter referring to a secret appointment with him.'
'Never, by God, madam! never!'
'What do you say, sir?'
'There's no accounting for beliefs, and the whole history is a very
trivial matter; but I am resolved to prove that a lady's word is
truthful, though upon a matter which concerns neither you nor
herself. You shall learn that she DID write him a letter concerning
an assignation--that is, if Mr. Manston still has it, and will be
considerate enough to lend it me.'
'But besides,' continued Edward, 'a married man to do what would
cause a young girl to write a note of the kind you mention!'
She flushed a little.
'That I don't know anything about,' she stammered. 'But Cytherea
didn't, of course, dream any more than I did, or others in the
parish, that he was married.'
'Of course she didn't.'
'And I have reason to believe that he told her of the fact directly
afterwards, that she might not compromise herself, or allow him to.
It is notorious that he struggled honestly and hard against her
attractions, and succeeded in hiding his feelings, if not in
'We'll hope that he did.'
'But circumstances are changed now.'
'Very greatly changed,' he murmured abstractedly.
'You must remember,' she added more suasively, 'that Miss Graye has
a perfect right to do what she likes with her own--her heart, that
is to say.'
Her descent from irritation was caused by perceiving that Edward's
faith was really disturbed by her strong assertions, and it
Edward's thoughts flew to his father, and the object of his
interview with her. Tongue-fencing was utterly distasteful to him.
'I will not trouble you by remaining longer, madam,' he remarked,
gloomily; 'our conversation has ended sadly for me.'
'Don't think so,' she said, 'and don't be mistaken. I am older than
you are, many years older, and I know many things.'
Full of miserable doubt, and bitterly regretting that he had raised
his father's expectations by anticipations impossible of fulfilment,
Edward slowly went his way into the village, and approached his
cousin's house. The farmer was at the door looking eagerly for him.
He had been waiting there for more than half-an-hour. His eye
'Well, Ted, what does she say?' he asked, in the intensely sanguine
tones which fall sadly upon a listener's ear, because, antecedently,
they raise pictures of inevitable disappointment for the speaker, in
some direction or another.
'Nothing for us to be alarmed at,' said Edward, with a forced
'But must we rebuild?'
'It seems we must, father.'
The old man's eyes swept the horizon, then he turned to go in,
without making another observation. All light seemed extinguished
in him again. When Edward went in he found his father with the
bureau open, unfolding the leases with a shaking hand, folding them
up again without reading them, then putting them in their niche only
to remove them again.
Adelaide was in the room. She said thoughtfully to Edward, as she
watched the farmer--
'I hope it won't kill poor uncle, Edward. What should we do if
anything were to happen to him? He is the only near relative you
and I have in the world.' It was perfectly true, and somehow Edward
felt more bound up with her after that remark.
She continued: 'And he was only saying so hopefully the day before
the fire, that he wouldn't for the world let any one else give me
away to you when we are married.'
For the first time a conscientious doubt arose in Edward's mind as
to the justice of the course he was pursuing in resolving to refuse
the alternative offered by Miss Aldclyffe. Could it be selfishness
as well as independence? How much he had thought of his own heart,
how little he had thought of his father's peace of mind!
The old man did not speak again till supper-time, when he began
asking his son an endless number of hypothetical questions on what
might induce Miss Aldclyffe to listen to kinder terms; speaking of
her now not as an unfair woman, but as a Lachesis or Fate whose
course it behoved nobody to condemn. In his earnestness he once
turned his eyes on Edward's face: their expression was woful: the
pupils were dilated and strange in aspect.
'If she will only agree to that!' he reiterated for the hundredth
time, increasing the sadness of his listeners.
An aristocratic knocking came to the door, and Jane entered with a
'MR. EDWARD SPRINGROVE, Junior.'
'Charles from Knapwater House brought it,' she said.
'Miss Aldclyffe's writing,' said Mr. Springrove, before Edward had
recognized it himself. 'Now 'tis all right; she's going to make an
offer; she doesn't want the houses there, not she; they are going to
make that the way into the park.'
Edward opened the seal and glanced at the inside. He said, with a
supreme effort of self-command--
'It is only directed by Miss Aldclyffe, and refers to nothing
connected with the fire. I wonder at her taking the trouble to send
His father looked absently at him and turned away again. Shortly
afterwards they retired for the night. Alone in his bedroom Edward
opened and read what he had not dared to refer to in their presence.
The envelope contained another envelope in Cytherea's handwriting,
addressed to '---- Manston, Esq., Old Manor House.' Inside this was
the note she had written to the steward after her detention in his
house by the thunderstorm--
'I find I cannot meet you at seven o'clock by the waterfall as I
promised. The emotion I felt made me forgetful of realities.
Miss Aldclyffe had not written a line, and, by the unvarying rule
observable when words are not an absolute necessity, her silence
seemed ten times as convincing as any expression of opinion could
He then, step by step, recalled all the conversation on the subject
of Cytherea's feelings that had passed between himself and Miss
Aldclyffe in the afternoon, and by a confusion of thought, natural
enough under the trying experience, concluded that because the lady
was truthful in her portraiture of effects, she must necessarily be
right in her assumption of causes. That is, he was convinced that
Cytherea--the hitherto-believed faithful Cytherea--had, at any rate,
looked with something more than indifference upon the extremely
handsome face and form of Manston.
Did he blame her, as guilty of the impropriety of allowing herself
to love the newcomer in the face of his not being free to return her
love? No; never for a moment did he doubt that all had occurred in
her old, innocent, impulsive way; that her heart was gone before she
knew it--before she knew anything, beyond his existence, of the man
to whom it had flown. Perhaps the very note enclosed to him was the
result of first reflection. Manston he would unhesitatingly have
called a scoundrel, but for one strikingly redeeming fact. It had
been patent to the whole parish, and had come to Edward's own
knowledge by that indirect channel, that Manston, as a married man,
conscientiously avoided Cytherea after those first few days of his
arrival during which her irresistibly beautiful and fatal glances
had rested upon him--his upon her.
Taking from his coat a creased and pocket-worn envelope containing
Cytherea's letter to himself, Springrove opened it and read it
through. He was upbraided therein, and he was dismissed. It bore
the date of the letter sent to Manston, and by containing within it
the phrase, 'All the day long I have been thinking,' afforded
justifiable ground for assuming that it was written subsequently to
the other (and in Edward's sight far sweeter one) to the steward.
But though he accused her of fickleness, he would not doubt the
genuineness, in its kind, of her partiality for him at Budmouth. It
was a short and shallow feeling--not perfect love:
'Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds.'
But it was not flirtation; a feeling had been born in her and had
died. It would be well for his peace of mind if his love for her
could flit away so softly, and leave so few traces behind.
Miss Aldclyffe had shown herself desperately concerned in the whole
matter by the alacrity with which she had obtained the letter from
Manston, and her labours to induce himself to marry his cousin.
Taken in connection with her apparent interest in, if not love for,
Cytherea, her eagerness, too, could only be accounted for on the
ground that Cytherea indeed loved the steward.
5. DECEMBER THE FOURTH
Edward passed the night he scarcely knew how, tossing feverishly
from side to side, the blood throbbing in his temples, and singing
in his ears.
Before the day began to break he dressed himself. On going out upon
the landing he found his father's bedroom door already open. Edward
concluded that the old man had risen softly, as was his wont, and
gone out into the fields to start the labourers. But neither of the
outer doors was unfastened. He entered the front room, and found it
empty. Then animated by a new idea, he went round to the little
back parlour, in which the few wrecks saved from the fire were
deposited, and looked in at the door. Here, near the window, the
shutters of which had been opened half way, he saw his father
leaning on the bureau, his elbows resting on the flap, his body
nearly doubled, his hands clasping his forehead. Beside him were
ghostly-looking square folds of parchment--the leases of the houses
His father looked up when Edward entered, and wearily spoke to the
young man as his face came into the faint light.
'Edward, why did you get up so early?'
'I was uneasy, and could not sleep.'
The farmer turned again to the leases on the bureau, and seemed to
become lost in reflection. In a minute or two, without lifting his
eyes, he said--
'This is more than we can bear, Ted--more than we can bear! Ted,
this will kill me. Not the loss only--the sense of my neglect about
the insurance and everything. Borrow I never will. 'Tis all misery
now. God help us--all misery now!'
Edward did not answer, continuing to look fixedly at the dreary
'Ted,' the farmer went on, 'this upset of be-en burnt out o' home
makes me very nervous and doubtful about everything. There's this
troubles me besides--our liven here with your cousin, and fillen up
her house. It must be very awkward for her. But she says she
doesn't mind. Have you said anything to her lately about when you
are going to marry her?'
'Nothing at all lately.'
'Well, perhaps you may as well, now we are so mixed in together.
You know, no time has ever been mentioned to her at all, first or
last, and I think it right that now, since she has waited so
patiently and so long--you are almost called upon to say you are
ready. It would simplify matters very much, if you were to walk up
to church wi' her one of these mornings, get the thing done, and go
on liven here as we are. If you don't I must get a house all the
sooner. It would lighten my mind, too, about the two little
freeholds over the hill--not a morsel a-piece, divided as they were
between her mother and me, but a tidy bit tied together again. Just
think about it, will ye, Ted?'
He stopped from exhaustion produced by the intense concentration of
his mind upon the weary subject, and looked anxiously at his son.
'Yes, I will,' said Edward.
'But I am going to see her of the Great House this morning,' the
farmer went on, his thoughts reverting to the old subject. 'I must
know the rights of the matter, the when and the where. I don't like
seeing her, but I'd rather talk to her than the steward. I wonder
what she'll say to me.'
The younger man knew exactly what she would say. If his father
asked her what he was to do, and when, she would simply refer him to
Manston: her character was not that of a woman who shrank from a
proposition she had once laid down. If his father were to say to
her that his son had at last resolved to marry his cousin within the
year, and had given her a promise to that effect, she would say,
'Mr. Springrove, the houses are burnt: we'll let them go: trouble
no more about them.'
His mind was already made up. He said calmly, 'Father, when you are
talking to Miss Aldclyffe, mention to her that I have asked Adelaide
if she is willing to marry me next Christmas. She is interested in
my union with Adelaide, and the news will be welcome to her.'
'And yet she can be iron with reference to me and her property,' the
farmer murmured. 'Very well, Ted, I'll tell her.'
6. DECEMBER THE FIFTH
Of the many contradictory particulars constituting a woman's heart,
two had shown their vigorous contrast in Cytherea's bosom just at
It was a dark morning, the morning after old Mr. Springrove's visit
to Miss Aldclyffe, which had terminated as Edward had intended.
Having risen an hour earlier than was usual with her, Cytherea sat
at the window of an elegant little sitting-room on the ground floor,
which had been appropriated to her by the kindness or whim of Miss
Aldclyffe, that she might not be driven into that lady's presence
against her will. She leant with her face on her hand, looking out
into the gloomy grey air. A yellow glimmer from the flapping flame
of the newly-lit fire fluttered on one side of her face and neck
like a butterfly about to settle there, contrasting warmly with the
other side of the same fair face, which received from the window the
faint cold morning light, so weak that her shadow from the fire had
a distinct outline on the window-shutter in spite of it. There the
shadow danced like a demon, blue and grim.
The contradiction alluded to was that in spite of the decisive mood
which two months earlier in the year had caused her to write a
peremptory and final letter to Edward, she was now hoping for some
answer other than the only possible one a man who, as she held, did
not love her wildly, could send to such a communication. For a
lover who did love wildly, she had left one little loophole in her
otherwise straightforward epistle. Why she expected the letter on
some morning of this particular week was, that hearing of his return
to Carriford, she fondly assumed that he meant to ask for an
interview before he left. Hence it was, too, that for the last few
days, she had not been able to keep in bed later than the time of
the postman's arrival.
The clock pointed to half-past seven. She saw the postman emerge
from beneath the bare boughs of the park trees, come through the
wicket, dive through the shrubbery, reappear on the lawn, stalk
across it without reference to paths--as country postmen do--and
come to the porch. She heard him fling the bag down on the seat,
and turn away towards the village, without hindering himself for a
Then the butler opened the door, took up the bag, brought it in, and
carried it up the staircase to place it on the slab by Miss
Aldclyffe's dressing-room door. The whole proceeding had been
depicted by sounds.
She had a presentiment that her letter was in the bag at last. She
thought then in diminishing pulsations of confidence, 'He asks to
see me! Perhaps he asks to see me: I hope he asks to see me.'
A quarter to eight: Miss Aldclyffe's bell--rather earlier than
usual. 'She must have heard the post-bag brought,' said the maiden,
as, tired of the chilly prospect outside, she turned to the fire,
and drew imaginative pictures of her future therein.
A tap came to the door, and the lady's-maid entered.
'Miss Aldclyffe is awake,' she said; 'and she asked if you were
moving yet, miss.'
'I'll run up to her,' said Cytherea, and flitted off with the
utterance of the words. 'Very fortunate this,' she thought; 'I
shall see what is in the bag this morning all the sooner.'
She took it up from the side table, went into Miss Aldclyffe's
bedroom, pulled up the blinds, and looked round upon the lady in
bed, calculating the minutes that must elapse before she looked at
'Well, darling, how are you? I am glad you have come in to see me,'
said Miss Aldclyffe. 'You can unlock the bag this morning, child,
if you like,' she continued, yawning factitiously.
'Strange!' Cytherea thought; 'it seems as if she knew there was
likely to be a letter for me.'
From her bed Miss Aldclyffe watched the girl's face as she
tremblingly opened the post-bag and found there an envelope
addressed to her in Edward's handwriting; one he had written the day
before, after the decision he had come to on an impartial, and on
that account torturing, survey of his own, his father's, his cousin
Adelaide's, and what he believed to be Cytherea's, position.
The haughty mistress's soul sickened remorsefully within her when
she saw suddenly appear upon the speaking countenance of the young
lady before her a wan desolate look of agony.
The master-sentences of Edward's letter were these: 'You speak
truly. That we never meet again is the wisest and only proper
course. That I regret the past as much as you do yourself, it is
hardly necessary for me to say.'
XII. THE EVENTS OF TEN MONTHS
1. DECEMBER TO APRIL
Week after week, month after month, the time had flown by.
Christmas had passed; dreary winter with dark evenings had given
place to more dreary winter with light evenings. Thaws had ended in
rain, rain in wind, wind in dust. Showery days had come--the period
of pink dawns and white sunsets; with the third week in April the
cuckoo had appeared, with the fourth, the nightingale.
Edward Springrove was in London, attending to the duties of his new
office, and it had become known throughout the neighbourhood of
Carriford that the engagement between himself and Miss Adelaide
Hinton would terminate in marriage at the end of the year.
The only occasion on which her lover of the idle delicious days at
Budmouth watering-place had been seen by Cytherea after the time of
the decisive correspondence, was once in church, when he sat in
front of her, and beside Miss Hinton.
The rencounter was quite an accident. Springrove had come there in
the full belief that Cytherea was away from home with Miss
Aldclyffe; and he continued ignorant of her presence throughout the
It is at such moments as these, when a sensitive nature writhes
under the conception that its most cherished emotions have been
treated with contumely, that the sphere-descended Maid, Music,
friend of Pleasure at other times, becomes a positive enemy--
racking, bewildering, unrelenting. The congregation sang the first
Psalm and came to the verse--
'Like some fair tree which, fed by streams,
With timely fruit doth bend,
He still shall flourish, and success
All his designs attend.'
Cytherea's lips did not move, nor did any sound escape her; but
could she help singing the words in the depths of her being,
although the man to whom she applied them sat at her rival's side?
Perhaps the moral compensation for all a woman's petty cleverness
under thriving conditions is the real nobility that lies in her
extreme foolishness at these other times; her sheer inability to be
simply just, her exercise of an illogical power entirely denied to
men in general--the power not only of kissing, but of delighting to
kiss the rod by a punctilious observance of the self-immolating
doctrines in the Sermon on the Mount.
As for Edward--a little like other men of his temperament, to whom,
it is somewhat humiliating to think, the aberrancy of a given love
is in itself a recommendation--his sentiment, as he looked over his
cousin's book, was of a lower rank, Horatian rather than Psalmodic--
'O, what hast thou of her, of her
Whose every look did love inspire;
Whose every breathing fanned my fire,
And stole me from myself away!'
Then, without letting him see her, Cytherea slipt out of church
early, and went home, the tones of the organ still lingering in her
ears as she tried bravely to kill a jealous thought that would
nevertheless live: 'My nature is one capable of more, far more,
intense feeling than hers! She can't appreciate all the sides of
him--she never will! He is more tangible to me even now, as a
thought, than his presence itself is to her!' She was less noble
But she continually repressed her misery and bitterness of heart
till the effort to do so showed signs of lessening. At length she
even tried to hope that her lost lover and her rival would love one
another very dearly.
The scene and the sentiment dropped into the past. Meanwhile,
Manston continued visibly before her. He, though quiet and subdued
in his bearing for a long time after the calamity of November, had
not simulated a grief that he did not feel. At first his loss
seemed so to absorb him--though as a startling change rather than as
a heavy sorrow--that he paid Cytherea no attention whatever. His
conduct was uniformly kind and respectful, but little more. Then,
as the date of the catastrophe grew remoter, he began to wear a
different aspect towards her. He always contrived to obliterate by
his manner all recollection on her side that she was comparatively
more dependent than himself--making much of her womanhood, nothing
of her situation. Prompt to aid her whenever occasion offered, and
full of delightful petits soins at all times, he was not officious.
In this way he irresistibly won for himself a position as her
friend, and the more easily in that he allowed not the faintest
symptom of the old love to be apparent.
Matters stood thus in the middle of the spring when the next move on
his behalf was made by Miss Aldclyffe.
2. THE THIRD OF MAY
She led Cytherea to a summer-house called the Fane, built in the
private grounds about the mansion in the form of a Grecian temple;
it overlooked the lake, the island on it, the trees, and their
undisturbed reflection in the smooth still water. Here the old and
young maid halted; here they stood, side by side, mentally imbibing
The month was May--the time, morning. Cuckoos, thrushes,
blackbirds, and sparrows gave forth a perfect confusion of song and
twitter. The road was spotted white with the fallen leaves of
apple-blossoms, and the sparkling grey dew still lingered on the
grass and flowers. Two swans floated into view in front of the
women, and then crossed the water towards them.
'They seem to come to us without any will of their own--quite
involuntarily--don't they?' said Cytherea, looking at the birds'
'Yes, but if you look narrowly you can see their hips just beneath
the water, working with the greatest energy.'
'I'd rather not see that, it spoils the idea of proud indifference
to direction which we associate with a swan.'
'It does; we'll have "involuntarily." Ah, now this reminds me of
'Of a human being who involuntarily comes towards yourself.'
Cytherea looked into Miss Aldclyffe's face; her eyes grew round as
circles, and lines of wonderment came visibly upon her countenance.
She had not once regarded Manston as a lover since his wife's sudden
appearance and subsequent death. The death of a wife, and such a
death, was an overwhelming matter in her ideas of things.
'Is it a man or woman?' she said, quite innocently.
'Mr. Manston,' said Miss Aldclyffe quietly.
'Mr. Manston attracted by me NOW?' said Cytherea, standing at gaze.
'Didn't you know it?'
'Certainly I did not. Why, his poor wife has only been dead six
'Of course he knows that. But loving is not done by months, or
method, or rule, or nobody would ever have invented such a phrase as
"falling in love." He does not want his love to be observed just
yet, on the very account you mention; but conceal it as he may from
himself and us, it exists definitely--and very intensely, I assure
'I suppose then, that if he can't help it, it is no harm of him,'
said Cytherea naively, and beginning to ponder.
'Of course it isn't--you know that well enough. She was a great
burden and trouble to him. This may become a great good to you
A rush of feeling at remembering that the same woman, before
Manston's arrival, had just as frankly advocated Edward's claims,
checked Cytherea's utterance for awhile.
'There, don't look at me like that, for Heaven's sake!' said Miss
Aldclyffe. 'You could almost kill a person by the force of reproach
you can put into those eyes of yours, I verily believe.'
Edward once in the young lady's thoughts, there was no getting rid
of him. She wanted to be alone.
'Do you want me here?' she said.
'Now there, there; you want to be off, and have a good cry,' said
Miss Aldclyffe, taking her hand. 'But you mustn't, my dear.
There's nothing in the past for you to regret. Compare Mr.
Manston's honourable conduct towards his wife and yourself, with
Springrove towards his betrothed and yourself, and then see which
appears the more worthy of your thoughts.'
3. FROM THE FOURTH OF MAY TO THE TWENTY-FIRST OF JUNE
The next stage in Manston's advances towards her hand was a clearly
defined courtship. She was sadly perplexed, and some contrivance
was necessary on his part in order to meet with her. But it is next
to impossible for an appreciative woman to have a positive
repugnance towards an unusually handsome and gifted man, even though
she may not be inclined to love him. Hence Cytherea was not so
alarmed at the sight of him as to render a meeting and conversation
with her more than a matter of difficulty.
Coming and going from church was his grand opportunity. Manston was
very religious now. It is commonly said that no man was ever
converted by argument, but there is a single one which will make any
Laodicean in England, let him be once love-sick, wear prayer-books
and become a zealous Episcopalian--the argument that his sweetheart
can be seen from his pew.
Manston introduced into his method a system of bewitching flattery,
everywhere pervasive, yet, too, so transitory and intangible, that,
as in the case of the poet Wordsworth and the Wandering Voice,
though she felt it present, she could never find it. As a foil to
heighten its effect, he occasionally spoke philosophically of the
evanescence of female beauty--the worthlessness of mere appearance.
'Handsome is that handsome does' he considered a proverb which
should be written on the looking-glass of every woman in the land.
'Your form, your motions, your heart have won me,' he said, in a
tone of playful sadness. 'They are beautiful. But I see these
things, and it comes into my mind that they are doomed, they are
gliding to nothing as I look. Poor eyes, poor mouth, poor face,
poor maiden! "Where will her glories be in twenty years?" I say.
"Where will all of her be in a hundred?" Then I think it is cruel
that you should bloom a day, and fade for ever and ever. It seems
hard and sad that you will die as ordinarily as I, and be buried; be
food for roots and worms, be forgotten and come to earth, and grow
up a mere blade of churchyard-grass and an ivy leaf. Then, Miss
Graye, when I see you are a Lovely Nothing, I pity you, and the love
I feel then is better and sounder, larger and more lasting than that
I felt at the beginning.' Again an ardent flash of his handsome
It was by this route that he ventured on an indirect declaration and
offer of his hand.
She implied in the same indirect manner that she did not love him
enough to accept it.
An actual refusal was more than he had expected. Cursing himself
for what he called his egregious folly in making himself the slave
of a mere lady's attendant, and for having given the parish, should
they know of her refusal, a chance of sneering at him--certainly a
ground for thinking less of his standing than before--he went home
to the Old House, and walked indecisively up and down his back-yard.
Turning aside, he leant his arms upon the edge of the rain-water-
butt standing in the corner, and looked into it. The reflection
from the smooth stagnant surface tinged his face with the greenish
shades of Correggio's nudes. Staves of sunlight slanted down
through the still pool, lighting it up with wonderful distinctness.
Hundreds of thousands of minute living creatures sported and tumbled
in its depth with every contortion that gaiety could suggest;
perfectly happy, though consisting only of a head, or a tail, or at
most a head and a tail, and all doomed to die within the twenty-four
'Damn my position! Why shouldn't I be happy through my little day
too? Let the parish sneer at my repulses, let it. I'll get her, if
I move heaven and earth to do it!'
Indeed, the inexperienced Cytherea had, towards Edward in the first
place, and Manston afterwards, unconsciously adopted bearings that
would have been the very tactics of a professional fisher of men who
wished to have them each successively dangling at her heels. For if
any rule at all can be laid down in a matter which, for men
collectively, is notoriously beyond regulation, it is that to snub a
petted man, and to pet a snubbed man, is the way to win in suits of
both kinds. Manston with Springrove's encouragement would have
become indifferent. Edward with Manston's repulses would have
sheered off at the outset, as he did afterwards. Her supreme
indifference added fuel to Manston's ardour--it completely disarmed
his pride. The invulnerable Nobody seemed greater to him than a
4. FROM THE TWENTY-FIRST OF JUNE TO THE END OF JULY
Cytherea had in the meantime received the following letter from her
brother. It was the first definite notification of the enlargement
of that cloud no bigger than a man's hand which had for nearly a
twelvemonth hung before them in the distance, and which was soon to
give a colour to their whole sky from horizon to horizon.
'DARLING SIS,--I have delayed telling you for a long time of a
little matter which, though not one to be seriously alarmed about,
is sufficiently vexing, and it would be unfair in me to keep it from
you any longer. It is that for some time past I have again been
distressed by that lameness which I first distinctly felt when we
went to Lulstead Cove, and again when I left Knapwater that morning
early. It is an unusual pain in my left leg, between the knee and
the ankle. I had just found fresh symptoms of it when you were here
for that half-hour about a month ago--when you said in fun that I
began to move like an old man. I had a good mind to tell you then,
but fancying it would go off in a few days, I thought it was not
worth while. Since that time it has increased, but I am still able
to work in the office, sitting on the stool. My great fear is that
Mr. G. will have some out-door measuring work for me to do soon, and
that I shall be obliged to decline it. However, we will hope for
the best. How it came, what was its origin, or what it tends to, I
cannot think. You shall hear again in a day or two, if it is no
better. . .--Your loving brother, OWEN.'
This she answered, begging to know the worst, which she could bear,
but suspense and anxiety never. In two days came another letter
from him, of which the subjoined paragraph is a portion:--
'I had quite decided to let you know the worst, and to assure you
that it was the worst, before you wrote to ask it. And again I give
you my word that I will conceal nothing--so that there will be no
excuse whatever for your wearing yourself out with fears that I am
worse than I say. This morning then, for the first time, I have
been obliged to stay away from the office. Don't be frightened at
this, dear Cytherea. Rest is all that is wanted, and by nursing
myself now for a week, I may avoid an illness of six months.'
After a visit from her he wrote again:--
'Dr. Chestman has seen me. He said that the ailment was some sort
of rheumatism, and I am now undergoing proper treatment for its
cure. My leg and foot have been placed in hot bran, liniments have
been applied, and also severe friction with a pad. He says I shall
be as right as ever in a very short time. Directly I am I shall run
up by the train to see you. Don't trouble to come to me if Miss
Aldclyffe grumbles again about your being away, for I am going on
capitally. . . . You shall hear again at the end of the week.'
At the time mentioned came the following:--
'I am sorry to tell you, because I know it will be so disheartening
after my last letter, that I am not so well as I was then, and that
there has been a sort of hitch in the proceedings. After I had been
treated for rheumatism a few days longer (in which treatment they
pricked the place with a long needle several times,) I saw that Dr.
Chestman was in doubt about something, and I requested that he would
call in a brother professional man to see me as well. They
consulted together and then told me that rheumatism was not the
disease after all, but erysipelas. They then began treating it
differently, as became a different matter. Blisters, flour, and
starch, seem to be the order of the day now--medicine, of course,
'Mr. Gradfield has been in to inquire about me. He says he has been
obliged to get a designer in my place, which grieves me very much,
though, of course, it could not be avoided.'
A month passed away; throughout this period, Cytherea visited him as
often as the limited time at her command would allow, and wore as
cheerful a countenance as the womanly determination to do nothing
which might depress him could enable her to wear. Another letter
from him then told her these additional facts:--
'The doctors find they are again on the wrong tack. They cannot
make out what the disease is. O Cytherea! how I wish they knew!
This suspense is wearing me out. Could not Miss Aldclyffe spare you
for a day? Do come to me. We will talk about the best course then.
I am sorry to complain, but I am worn out."
Cytherea went to Miss Aldclyffe, and told her of the melancholy turn
her brother's illness had taken. Miss Aldclyffe at once said that
Cytherea might go, and offered to do anything to assist her which
lay in her power. Cytherea's eyes beamed gratitude as she turned to
leave the room, and hasten to the station.
'O, Cytherea,' said Miss Aldclyffe, calling her back; 'just one
word. Has Mr. Manston spoken to you lately?'
'Yes,' said Cytherea, blushing timorously.
'And you refused him?'
'Tut, tut! Now listen to my advice,' said Miss Aldclyffe
emphatically, 'and accept him before he changes his mind. The
chance which he offers you of settling in life is one that may
possibly, probably, not occur again. His position is good and
secure, and the life of his wife would be a happy one. You may not
be sure that you love him madly; but suppose you are not sure? My
father used to say to me as a child when he was teaching me whist,
"When in doubt win the trick!" That advice is ten times as valuable
to a woman on the subject of matrimony. In refusing a man there is
always the risk that you may never get another offer.'
'Why didn't you win the trick when you were a girl?' said Cytherea.
'Come, my lady Pert; I'm not the text,' said Miss Aldclyffe, her
face glowing like fire.
Cytherea laughed stealthily.
'I was about to say,' resumed Miss Aldclyffe severely, 'that here is
Mr. Manston waiting with the tenderest solicitude for you, and you
overlooking it, as if it were altogether beneath you. Think how you
might benefit your sick brother if you were Mrs. Manston. You will
please me VERY MUCH by giving him some encouragement. You
understand me, Cythie dear?'
Cytherea was silent.
'And,' said Miss Aldclyffe, still more emphatically, 'on your
promising that you will accept him some time this year, I will take
especial care of your brother. You are listening, Cytherea?'
'Yes,' she whispered, leaving the room.
She went to Budmouth, passed the day with her brother, and returned
to Knapwater wretched and full of foreboding. Owen had looked
startlingly thin and pale--thinner and paler than ever she had seen
him before. The brother and sister had that day decided that
notwithstanding the drain upon their slender resources, another
surgeon should see him. Time was everything.
Owen told her the result in his next letter:--
'The three practitioners between them have at last hit the nail on
the head, I hope. They probed the place, and discovered that the
secret lay in the bone. I underwent an operation for its removal
three days ago (after taking chloroform). . . Thank God it is over.
Though I am so weak, my spirits are rather better. I wonder when I
shall be at work again? I asked the surgeons how long it would be
first. I said a month? They shook their heads. A year? I said.
Not so long, they said. Six months? I inquired. They would not, or
could not, tell me. But never mind.
'Run down, when you have half a day to spare, for the hours drag on
so drearily. O Cytherea, you can't think how drearily!'
She went. Immediately on her departure Miss Aldclyffe sent a note
to the Old House, to Manston. On the maiden's return, tired and
sick at heart as usual, she found Manston at the station awaiting
her. He asked politely if he might accompany her to Knapwater. She
tacitly acquiesced. During their walk he inquired the particulars
of her brother's illness, and with an irresistible desire to pour
out her trouble to some one, she told him of the length of time
which must elapse before he could be strong again, and of the lack
of comfort in lodgings.
Manston was silent awhile. Then he said impetuously: 'Miss Graye,
I will not mince matters--I love you--you know it. Stratagem they
say is fair in love, and I am compelled to adopt it now. Forgive
me, for I cannot help it. Consent to be my wife at any time that
may suit you--any remote day you may name will satisfy me--and you
shall find him well provided for.'
For the first time in her life she truly dreaded the handsome man at
her side who pleaded thus selfishly, and shrank from the hot
voluptuous nature of his passion for her, which, disguise it as he
might under a quiet and polished exterior, at times radiated forth
with a scorching white heat. She perceived how animal was the love
'I do not love you, Mr. Manston,' she replied coldly.
5. FROM THE FIRST TO THE TWENTY-SEVENTH OF AUGUST
The long sunny days of the later summer-time brought only the same
dreary accounts from Budmouth, and saw Cytherea paying the same sad
She grew perceptibly weaker, in body and mind. Manston still
persisted in his suit, but with more of his former indirectness, now
that he saw how unexpectedly well she stood an open attack. His was
the system of Dares at the Sicilian games--
'He, like a captain who beleaguers round
Some strong-built castle on a rising ground,
Views all the approaches with observing eyes,
This and that other part again he tries,
And more on industry than force relies.'
Miss Aldclyffe made it appear more clearly than ever that aid to
Owen from herself depended entirely upon Cytherea's acceptance of
her steward. Hemmed in and distressed, Cytherea's answers to his
importunities grew less uniform; they were firm, or wavering, as
Owen's malady fluctuated. Had a register of her pitiful
oscillations been kept, it would have rivalled in pathos the diary
wherein De Quincey tabulates his combat with Opium--perhaps as
noticeable an instance as any in which a thrilling dramatic power
has been given to mere numerals. Thus she wearily and monotonously
lived through the month, listening on Sundays to the wellknown round
of chapters narrating the history of Elijah and Elisha in famine and
drought; on week-days to buzzing flies in hot sunny rooms. 'So
like, so very like, was day to day.' Extreme lassitude seemed all
that the world could show her.
Her state was in this wise, when one afternoon, having been with her
brother, she met the surgeon, and begged him to tell the actual
truth concerning Owen's condition.
The reply was that he feared that the first operation had not been
thorough; that although the wound had healed, another attempt might
still be necessary, unless nature were left to effect her own cure.
But the time such a self-healing proceeding would occupy might be
'How long would it be?' she said.
'It is impossible to say. A year or two, more or less.'
'And suppose he submitted to another artificial extraction?'
'Then he might be well in four or six months.'
Now the remainder of his and her possessions, together with a sum he
had borrowed, would not provide him with necessary comforts for half
that time. To combat the misfortune, there were two courses open--
her becoming betrothed to Manston, or the sending Owen to the County
Thus terrified, driven into a corner, panting and fluttering about
for some loophole of escape, yet still shrinking from the idea of
being Manston's wife, the poor little bird endeavoured to find out
from Miss Aldclyffe whether it was likely Owen would be well treated
in the hospital.
'County Hospital!' said Miss Aldclyffe; 'why, it is only another
name for slaughter-house--in surgical cases at any rate. Certainly
if anything about your body is snapt in two they do join you
together in a fashion, but 'tis so askew and ugly, that you may as
well be apart again.' Then she terrified the inquiring and anxious
maiden by relating horrid stories of how the legs and arms of poor
people were cut off at a moment's notice, especially in cases where
the restorative treatment was likely to be long and tedious.
'You know how willing I am to help you, Cytherea,' she added
reproachfully. 'You know it. Why are you so obstinate then? Why
do you selfishly bar the clear, honourable, and only sisterly path
which leads out of this difficulty? I cannot, on my conscience,
countenance you; no, I cannot.'
Manston once more repeated his offer; and once more she refused, but
this time weakly, and with signs of an internal struggle. Manston's
eye sparkled; he saw for the hundredth time in his life, that
perseverance, if only systematic, was irresistible by womankind.
6. THE TWENTY-SEVENTH OF AUGUST
On going to Budmouth three days later, she found to her surprise
that the steward had been there, had introduced himself, and had
seen her brother. A few delicacies had been brought him also by the
same hand. Owen spoke in warm terms of Manston and his free and
unceremonious call, as he could not have refrained from doing of any
person, of any kind, whose presence had served to help away the
tedious hours of a long day, and who had, moreover, shown that sort
of consideration for him which the accompanying basket implied--
antecedent consideration, so telling upon all invalids--and which he
so seldom experienced except from the hands of his sister.
How should he perceive, amid this tithe-paying of mint, and anise,
and cummin, the weightier matters which were left undone?
Again the steward met her at Carriford Road Station on her return
journey. Instead of being frigid as at the former meeting at the
same place, she was embarrassed by a strife of thought, and murmured
brokenly her thanks for what he had done. The same request that he
might see her home was made.
He had perceived his error in making his kindness to Owen a
conditional kindness, and had hastened to efface all recollection of
it. 'Though I let my offer on her brother's--my friend's--behalf,
seem dependent on my lady's graciousness to me,' he whispered
wooingly in the course of their walk, 'I could not conscientiously
adhere to my statement; it was said with all the impulsive
selfishness of love. Whether you choose to have me, or whether you
don't, I love you too devotedly to be anything but kind to your
brother. . . . Miss Graye, Cytherea, I will do anything,' he
continued earnestly, 'to give you pleasure--indeed I will.'
She saw on the one hand her poor and much-loved Owen recovering from
his illness and troubles by the disinterested kindness of the man
beside her, on the other she drew him dying, wholly by reason of her
self-enforced poverty. To marry this man was obviously the course
of common sense, to refuse him was impolitic temerity. There was
reason in this. But there was more behind than a hundred reasons--a
woman's gratitude and her impulse to be kind.
The wavering of her mind was visible in her tell-tale face. He
noticed it, and caught at the opportunity.
They were standing by the ruinous foundations of an old mill in the
midst of a meadow. Between grey and half-overgrown stonework--the
only signs of masonry remaining--the water gurgled down from the old
millpond to a lower level, under the cloak of rank broad leaves--the
sensuous natures of the vegetable world. On the right hand the sun,
resting on the horizon-line, streamed across the ground from below
copper-coloured and lilac clouds, stretched out in flats beneath a
sky of pale soft green. All dark objects on the earth that lay
towards the sun were overspread by a purple haze, against which a
swarm of wailing gnats shone forth luminously, rising upward and
floating away like sparks of fire.
The stillness oppressed and reduced her to mere passivity. The only
wish the humidity of the place left in her was to stand motionless.
The helpless flatness of the landscape gave her, as it gives all
such temperaments, a sense of bare equality with, and no superiority
to, a single entity under the sky.
He came so close that their clothes touched. 'Will you try to love
me? Do try to love me!' he said, in a whisper, taking her hand. He
had never taken it before. She could feel his hand trembling
exceedingly as it held hers in its clasp.
Considering his kindness to her brother, his love for herself, and
Edward's fickleness, ought she to forbid him to do this? How truly
pitiful it was to feel his hand tremble so--all for her! Should she
withdraw her hand? She would think whether she would. Thinking, and
hesitating, she looked as far as the autumnal haze on the marshy
ground would allow her to see distinctly. There was the fragment of
a hedge--all that remained of a 'wet old garden'--standing in the
middle of the mead, without a definite beginning or ending,
purposeless and valueless. It was overgrown, and choked with
mandrakes, and she could almost fancy she heard their shrieks. . .
Should she withdraw her hand? No, she could not withdraw it now; it
was too late, the act would not imply refusal. She felt as one in a
boat without oars, drifting with closed eyes down a river--she knew
He gave her hand a gentle pressure, and relinquished it.
Then it seemed as if he were coming to the point again. No, he was
not going to urge his suit that evening. Another respite.
7. THE EARLY PART OF SEPTEMBER
Saturday came, and she went on some trivial errand to the village
post-office. It was a little grey cottage with a luxuriant jasmine
encircling the doorway, and before going in Cytherea paused to
admire this pleasing feature of the exterior. Hearing a step on the
gravel behind the corner of the house, she resigned the jasmine and
entered. Nobody was in the room. She could hear Mrs. Leat, the
widow who acted as postmistress, walking about over her head.
Cytherea was going to the foot of the stairs to call Mrs. Leat, but
before she had accomplished her object, another form stood at the
half-open door. Manston came in.
'Both on the same errand,' he said gracefully.
'I will call her,' said Cytherea, moving in haste to the foot of the
'One moment.' He glided to her side. 'Don't call her for a
moment,' he repeated.
But she had said, 'Mrs. Leat!'
He seized Cytherea's hand, kissed it tenderly, and carefully
replaced it by her side.
She had that morning determined to check his further advances, until
she had thoroughly considered her position. The remonstrance was
now on her tongue, but as accident would have it, before the word
could be spoken Mrs. Leat was stepping from the last stair to the
floor, and no remonstrance came.
With the subtlety which characterized him in all his dealings with
her, he quickly concluded his own errand, bade her a good-bye, in
the tones of which love was so garnished with pure politeness that
it only showed its presence to herself, and left the house--putting
it out of her power to refuse him her companionship homeward, or to
object to his late action of kissing her hand.
The Friday of the next week brought another letter from her brother.
In this he informed her that, in absolute grief lest he should
distress her unnecessarily, he had some time earlier borrowed a few
pounds. A week ago, he said, his creditor became importunate, but
that on the day on which he wrote, the creditor had told him there
was no hurry for a settlement, that 'his SISTER'S SUITOR had
guaranteed the sum.' 'Is he Mr. Manston? tell me, Cytherea,' said
He also mentioned that a wheeled chair had been anonymously hired
for his especial use, though as yet he was hardly far enough
advanced towards convalescence to avail himself of the luxury. 'Is
this Mr. Manston's doing?' he inquired.
She could dally with her perplexity, evade it, trust to time for
guidance, no longer. The matter had come to a crisis: she must
once and for all choose between the dictates of her understanding
and those of her heart. She longed, till her soul seemed nigh to
bursting, for her lost mother's return to earth, but for one minute,
that she might have tender counsel to guide her through this, her
As for her heart, she half fancied that it was not Edward's to quite
the extent that it once had been; she thought him cruel in
conducting himself towards her as he did at Budmouth, cruel
afterwards in making so light of her. She knew he had stifled his
love for her--was utterly lost to her. But for all that she could
not help indulging in a woman's pleasure of recreating defunct
agonies, and lacerating herself with them now and then.
'If I were rich,' she thought, 'I would give way to the luxury of
being morbidly faithful to him for ever without his knowledge.'
But she considered; in the first place she was a homeless dependent;
and what did practical wisdom tell her to do under such desperate
circumstances? To provide herself with some place of refuge from
poverty, and with means to aid her brother Owen. This was to be Mr.
She did not love him.
But what was love without a home? Misery. What was a home without
love? Alas, not much; but still a kind of home.
'Yes,' she thought, 'I am urged by my common sense to marry Mr.
Did anything nobler in her say so too?
With the death (to her) of Edward her heart's occupation was gone.
Was it necessary or even right for her to tend it and take care of
it as she used to in the old time, when it was still a capable
By a slight sacrifice here she could give happiness to at least two
hearts whose emotional activities were still unwounded. She would
do good to two men whose lives were far more important than hers.
'Yes,' she said again, 'even Christianity urges me to marry Mr.
Directly Cytherea had persuaded herself that a kind of heroic self-
abnegation had to do with the matter, she became much more content
in the consideration of it. A wilful indifference to the future was
what really prevailed in her, ill and worn out, as she was, by the
perpetual harassments of her sad fortune, and she regarded this
indifference, as gushing natures will do under such circumstances,
as genuine resignation and devotedness.
Manston met her again the following day: indeed, there was no
escaping him now. At the end of a short conversation between them,
which took place in the hollow of the park by the waterfall,
obscured on the outer side by the low hanging branches of the limes,
she tacitly assented to his assumption of a privilege greater than
any that had preceded it. He stooped and kissed her brow.
Before going to bed she wrote to Owen explaining the whole matter.
It was too late in the evening for the postman's visit, and she
placed the letter on the mantelpiece to send it the next day.
The morning (Sunday) brought a hurried postscript to Owen's letter
of the day before:--
'September 9, 1865.
'DEAR CYTHEREA--I have received a frank and friendly letter from Mr.
Manston explaining the position in which he stands now, and also
that in which he hopes to stand towards you. Can't you love him?
Why not? Try, for he is a good, and not only that, but a cultured
man. Think of the weary and laborious future that awaits you if you
continue for life in your present position, and do you see any way
of escape from it except by marriage? I don't. Don't go against
your heart, Cytherea, but be wise.--Ever affectionately yours,
She thought that probably he had replied to Mr. Manston in the same
favouring mood. She had a conviction that that day would settle her
'So true a fool is love,'
that even now she nourished a half-hope that something would happen
at the last moment to thwart her deliberately-formed intentions, and
favour the old emotion she was using all her strength to thrust
8. THE TENTH OF SEPTEMBER
The Sunday was the thirteenth after Trinity, and the afternoon
service at Carriford was nearly over. The people were singing the
Manston was at church as usual in his accustomed place two seats