Part 8 out of 9
that belong to the family alone. The most loyal retainers--you
know what I mean."
"General, I was not aware that you belonged to the family. But
this way, Sir; this way, if you please. There is lath and plaster
to that wall, and a crack in the panel of the door, Sir. But here
is a room where I keep my jams, with double brick and patent locks,
from sweet-toothed lodgers. The 'scutcheon goes over the key-hole,
General. Perhaps you will see to that, while I roll up the carpet
outside; and then, if any retainers come, you will hear their
"Bless the woman, what a temper she has!" whispered the Major, in
dread of her ears. "Is she gone, Erema? She wants discipline."
"Yes, she is gone," I said, trying to be lightsome; "but you are
enough to frighten any one."
"So far from that, she has quite frightened me. But never mind
such trifles. Erema, since I saw you I have discovered, I may
almost say, every thing."
Coming upon me so suddenly, even with all allowance made for the
Major's sanguine opinion of his own deeds, this had such effect
upon my flurried brain that practice alone enabled me to stand
upright and gaze at him.
"Perhaps you imagined when you placed the matter in my hands, Miss
Castlewood," he went on, with sharp twinkles from the gables of his
eyes, but soft caresses to his whiskers, "that you would be left in
the hands of a man who encouraged a crop of hay under his feet.
Never did you or any body make a greater mistake. That is not my
character, Miss Castlewood."
"Why do you call me 'Miss Castlewood' so? You quite make me doubt
my own right to the name."
Major Hockin looked at me with surprise, which gladdened even more
than it shamed me. Clearly his knowledge of all, as he described
it, did not comprise the disgrace which I feared.
"You are almost like Mrs. Strouss to-day," he answered, with some
compassion. "What way is the wind? I have often observed that
when one female shows asperity, nearly all the others do the same.
The weather affects them more than men, because they know nothing
about it. But to come back--are you prepared to hear what I have
got to tell you?"
I bowed without saying another word. For he should be almost the
last of mankind to give a lecture upon irritation.
"Very well; you wish me to go on. Perceiving how sadly you were
upset by the result of those interviews, first with Handkin, and
then with Goad, after leaving you here I drove at once to the
office, studio, place of business, or whatever you please to call
it, of the famous fellow in the portrait line, whose anagram,
private mark, or whatever it is, was burned into the back of the
ivory. Handkin told me the fellow was dead, or, of course, his
work would be worth nothing; but the name was carried on, and the
register kept, at a little place somewhere in Soho, where, on the
strength of his old repute, they keep up a small trade with
inferior hands. I gave them a handsome order for a thing that will
never be handsome, I fear--my old battered physiognomy. And then I
produced the locket which in some queer state of mind you had given
me, and made them hunt out their old books, and at last discovered
the very entry. But to verify it I must go to Paris, where his son
"Whose son? Lord Castlewood's?"
"Erema, have you taken leave of your senses? What son has Lord
Castlewood? The artist's son, to be sure; the son of the man who
did the likeness. Is it the vellum and the stuff upon it that has
so upset your mind? I am glad that you showed it to me, because it
would have been mean to do otherwise. But show it to no one else,
my dear, except your cousin, Lord Castlewood. He has the first
right of all to know it, though he will laugh at it as I do.
Trumpery of that sort! Let them produce a certified copy of a
register. If they could do that, need they ever have shot that
raffish old lord--I beg pardon, my dear--your highly respected
grandfather? No, no; don't tell me. Nicholas Hockin was never in
any way famous for want of brains, my dear, and he tells you to
keep your pluck up."
"I never can thank you enough," I replied, "for such inspiriting
counsel. I have been rather miserable all this day. And I have
had such a letter from America!"
Without my intending any offer of the kind, or having such idea at
the furthest tip of any radius of mind, I found myself under a
weight about the waist, like the things the young girls put on now.
And this was the arm of the Major, which had been knocked about in
some actions, but was useful still to let other people know, both
in this way and that, what he thought of them. And now it let me
know that he pitied me.
This kindness from so old a soldier made me partial to him. He had
taken an age to understand me, because my father was out of the
army almost before I was born, and therefore I had no traditions.
Also, from want of drilling, I had been awkward to this officer,
and sometimes mutinous, and sometimes a coward. All that, however,
he forgave me when he saw me so downhearted; and while I was
striving to repress all signs, the quivering of my lips perhaps
suggested thoughts of kissing. Whereupon he kissed my forehead
with nice dry lips, and told me not to be at all afraid.
"How many times have you been brave?" he inquired, to set me
counting, knowing from all his own children, perhaps, that nothing
stops futile tears and the waste of sobs like prompt arithmetic.
"Six, if not seven, times you have displayed considerable valor.
Are you going to fall away through some wretched imagination of
your own? Now don't stop to argue--time will not allow it. I have
put Cosmopolitan Jack as well upon the track of Captain Brown. I
have not told you half of what I could tell, and what I am doing;
but never mind, never mind; it is better that you should not know
too much, my dear. Young minds, from their want of knowledge of
the world, are inclined to become uneasy. Now go to bed and sleep
soundly, Erema, for we have lots to do to-morrow, and you have had
a most worrying day to-day. To-morrow, of course, you must come
with me to Paris. You can parleyvoo better than I can."
However, as it happened, I did nothing of the kind, for when he
came back in the morning, and while he was fidgeting and hurrying
me, and vowing that we should lose the tidal train, a letter from
Bruntsea was put into my hand. I saw Mrs. Price's clear writing,
followed by good Aunt Mary's crooked lines, and knew that the
latter must have received it too late to be sent by her messenger.
In few words it told me that if I wished to see my cousin alive,
the only chance was to start immediately.
Shock and self-reproach and wonder came (as usual) before grief,
which always means to stay, and waits to get its mourning ready. I
loved and respected my cousin more deeply than any one living, save
Uncle Sam; and now to lose them both at once seemed much too
dreadful to be true. There was no time to think. I took the
Major's cab, and hurried off to Paddington, leaving him to catch
his tidal train.
Alas! when I got to Castlewood, there was but a house of mourning!
Faithful Stixon's eyes were dim, and he pointed upward and said,
"Hush!" I entered with great awe, and asked, "How long?" And he
said, "Four-and-twenty hours now; and a more peacefuller end was
never seen, and to lament was sinful; but he was blessed if he
could help it." I told him, through my tears, that this was
greatly to his credit, and he must not crush fine feelings, which
are an honor to our nature. And he said that I was mistress now,
and must order him to my liking.
I asked him to send Mrs. Price to me, if she was not too busy; and
he answered that he believed her to be a very good soul, and handy.
And if he ever had been thought to speak in a sense disparishing
of her, such things should not be borne in mind, with great
afflictions over us. Mrs. Price, hearing that I was come, already
was on her way to me, and now glanced at the door for Mr. Stixon to
depart, in a manner past misunderstanding.
"He gives himself such airs!" she said; "sometimes one would think--
but I will not trouble you now with that, Miss Castlewood, or Lady
Castlewood--which do you please to be called, miss? They say that
the barony goes on, when there is no more Viscount."
"I please to be called 'Miss Castlewood,' even if I have any right
to be called that. But don't let us talk of such trifles now. I
wish to hear only of my cousin."
"Well, you know, ma'am, what a sufferer he has been for years.
If ever an angel had pains all over, and one leg compulsory of a
walking-stick, that angel was his late lordship. He would stand up
and look at one, and give orders in that beautiful silvery voice of
his, just as if he was lying on a bed of down. And never a twitch,
nor a hitch in his face, nor his words, nor any other part of him.
I assure you, miss, that I have been quite amazed and overwhelmed
with interest while looking at his poor legs, and thinking--"
"I can quite enter into it. I have felt the same. But please to
come to what has happened lately."
"The very thing I was at the point of doing. Then last Sunday, God
alone knows why, the pain did not come on at all. For the first
time for seven years or more the pain forgot the time-piece. His
lordship thought that the clock was wrong; but waited with his
usual patience, though missing it from the length of custom,
instead of being happy. But when it was come to an hour too late
for the proper attack of the enemy, his lordship sent orders for
Stixon's boy to take a good horse and ride to Pangbourne for a
highly respectable lawyer. There was no time to fetch Mr. Spines,
you see, miss, the proper solicitor, who lives in London. The
gentleman from Pangbourne was here by eight o'clock; and then and
there his lordship made his will, to supersede all other wills. He
put it more clearly, the lawyer said, than he himself could have
put it, but not, of course, in such legal words, but doubtless far
more beautiful. Nobody in the house was forgotten; and the rule of
law being, it seems, that those with best cause to remember must
not witness, two of the tenants were sent for, and wrote down their
names legitimate. And then his lordship lay back and smiled, and
said, 'I shall have no more pain.'
"All that night and three days more he slept as sound as a little
child, to make up for so many years. We called two doctors in; but
they only whispered and looked dismal, and told us to have hot
water ready at any hour of the day or night. Nobody loved him as I
did, miss, from seeing so much of his troubles and miraculous way
of bearing them; and I sat by the hour and hour, and watched him,
trusting no paid nurses.
"It must have been eight o'clock on Wednesday morning--what is to-
day? Oh, Friday--then Thursday morning it must have been, when the
clouds opened up in the east, and the light of the sun was on the
window-sill, not glaring or staring, but playing about, with
patterns of leaves between it; and I went to screen it from his
poor white face; but he opened his eyes, as if he had been half
awake, half dreaming, and he tried to lift one of his thin, thin
hands to tell me not to do it. So I let the curtain stay as it
was, and crept back, and asked, very softly, 'Will your lordship
have some breakfast?'
"He did not seem to comprehend me, but only watched the window; and
if ever a blessed face there was, looking toward heaven's glory,
his lordship had it, so that I could scarcely keep from sobbing.
For I never had seen any living body die, but knew that it must be
so. He heard me catching my breath, perhaps, or at any rate he
looked at me; and the poor angel knew that I was a woman; and being
full of high respect, as he always was for females--in spite of the
way they had served him--it became apparent to his mind that the
pearl button of his neck was open, as ordered by the doctors. And
he tried to lift his hand to do it; and then he tried to turn away,
but could not manage either. Poor dear! the only movement he could
make was to a better world.
"Then I drew the sheet across his chest, and he gave me a little
smile of thanks, and perhaps he knew whose hand it was. But the
look of his kind soft eyes was flickering--not steady, I mean,
miss--but glancing and stopping and going astray, as drops of rain
do on the window-glass. But I could not endure to examine him
much; at such a holy time I felt that to watch death was unholy.
"Perhaps I ought to have rung the bell for others to be present.
But his lordship was always shy, you know, miss; and with none of
his kindred left, and no wife to say 'good-by' to him, right or
wrong I resolved alone to see him depart to his everlasting rest.
And people may talk about hirelings, but I think nobody loved him
as I did."
Here Mrs. Price broke fairly down, and I could not help admiring
her. To a faithful servant's humility and duty she had added a
woman's pure attachment to one more gifted than herself, and ruined
for life by her own sex. But she fell away frightened and ashamed
beneath my look, as if I had caught her in sacrilege.
"Well, miss, we all must come and go," she began again, rather
clumsily; "and, good and great as he was, his lordship has left few
to mourn for him. Only the birds and beasts and animals that he
was so good to; they will miss him, if men don't. There came one
of his favorite pigeons, white as snow all over, and sat on the
sill of the window, and cooed, and arched up its neck for his
fingers. And he tried to put his fingers out, but they were ice
already. Whether that or something else brought home his thoughts,
who knows, miss? but he seemed to mix the pigeon up with some of
his own experience.
"'Say that I have forgiven her, if ever she did harm to me,' he
whispered, without moving lips. 'Times and times, when I was
young, I was not always steady;' and then he seemed to wander in
his mind among old places; and he would have laughed at something
if his voice had been sufficient.
"'Bitter grief and pain shall never come again,' he seemed to
breathe, with a calm, soft smile, like a child with its rhyme about
the rain when the sun breaks out; and sure enough, the sun upon the
quilt above his heart was shining, as if there could be no more
clouds. Then he whispered a few short words to the Lord, more in
the way of thanks than prayer, and his eyes seemed to close of
their own accord, or with some good spirit soothing them. And when
or how his sleep passed from this world into the other there was
scarcely the flutter of a nerve to show. There he lies, like an
image of happiness. Will you come and see him?"
I followed her to the bedroom, and am very glad that I did so; for
it showed me the bliss of a good man's rest, and took away my fear
When business and the little cares of earthly life awoke again,
every one told me (to my great surprise and no small terror at
first, but soon to increasing acquiescence) that I was now the
mistress of the fair estates of Castlewood, and, the male line
being extinct, might claim the barony, if so pleased me; for that,
upon default of male heirs, descended by the spindle. And as to
the property, with or without any will of the late Lord Castlewood,
the greater part would descend to me under unbarred settlement,
which he was not known to have meddled with. On the contrary, he
confirmed by his last will the settlement--which they told me was
quite needless--and left me all that he had to leave, except about
a thousand pounds distributed in legacies. A private letter to me
was sealed up with his will, which, of course, it would not behoove
me to make public. But thus much--since our family history is,
alas! so notorious--in duty to him I should declare. He begged me,
if his poor lost wife--of whom he had never spoken to me--should
re-appear and need it, to pay her a certain yearly sum, which I
thought a great deal too much for her, but resolved to obey him
Neither the will nor the letter contained any reference to my
grandfather, or the possibility of an adverse claim. I could not,
however, be quit of deep uneasiness and anxiety, but stanchly
determined that every acre should vanish in folds of "the long
robe" rather than pass to a crafty villain who had robbed me of all
my kindred. My hatred of that man deepened vastly, as he became
less abstract, while my terror decreased in proportion. I began to
think that, instead of being the reckless fiend I had taken him
for, he was only a low, plotting, cold-blooded rogue, without even
courage to save him. By this time he must have heard all about me,
my pursuit of him, and my presence here--then why not come and
shoot me, just as he shot my grandfather?
The idea of this was unwelcome; still, I felt no sort of gratitude,
but rather a lofty contempt toward him for not having spirit to try
it. In Shoxford church-yard he had expressed (if Sexton Rigg was
not then deceived) an unholy wish to have me there, at the feet of
my brothers and sisters. Also he had tried to get hold of me--
doubtless with a view to my quietude--when I was too young to
defend myself, and left at haphazard in a lawless land. What was
the reason, if his mind was still the same, for ceasing to follow
me now? Was I to be treated with contempt as one who had tried her
best and could do nothing, as a feeble creature whose movements
were not even worth inquiry? Anger at such an idea began to
supersede fear, as my spirits returned.
Meanwhile Major Hockin was making no sign as to what had befallen
him in Paris, or what Cosmopolitan Jack was about. But, strangely
enough, he had sent me a letter from Bruntsea instead of Paris, and
addressed in grand style to no less a person than "The right
honorable Baroness Castlewood"--a title which I had resolved, for
the present, neither to claim nor acknowledge. In that letter the
Major mingled a pennyweight of condolence with more congratulation
than the post could carry for the largest stamp yet invented. His
habit of mind was to magnify things; and he magnified my small
grandeur, and seemed to think nothing else worthy of mention.
Through love of the good kind cousin I had lost, even more than
through common and comely respect toward the late head of the
family, I felt it impossible to proceed, for the present, with any
inquiries, but left the next move to the other side. And the other
side made it, in a manner such as I never even dreamed of.
About three weeks after I became, in that sad way, the mistress,
escaping one day from lawyers and agents, who held me in dreary
interview, with long computations of this and of that, and
formalities almost endless, I went, for a breath of good earnest
fresh air, beyond precinct of garden or shrubbery. To me these
seemed in mild weather to temper and humanize the wind too
strictly, and take the wild spirit out of it; and now, for the turn
of the moment, no wind could be too rough to tumble in. After long
months of hard trouble, and worry, and fear, and sad shame, and
deep sorrow, the natural spring of clear youth into air and freedom
set me upward. For the nonce there was nothing upon my selfish
self to keep it downward; troubles were bubbles, and grief a low
thief, and reason almost treason. I drank the fine fountain of air
unsullied, and the golden light stamped with the royalty of sun.
Hilarious moments are but short, and soon cold sense comes back
again. Already I began to feel ashamed of young life's selfish
outburst, and the vehement spring of mere bodily health. On this
account I sat down sadly in a little cove of hill, whereto the soft
breeze from the river came up, with a tone of wavelets, and a
sprightly water-gleam. And here, in fern and yellow grass and
tufted bights of bottom growth, the wind made entry for the sun,
and they played with one another.
Besting here, and thinking, with my face between my hands, I
wondered what would be the end. Nothing seemed secure or certain,
nothing even steady or amenable to foresight. Even guess-work or
the wider cast of dreams was always wrong. To-day the hills and
valleys, and the glorious woods of wreathen gold, bright garnet,
and deep amethyst, even that blue river yet unvexed by autumn's
turbulence, and bordered with green pasture of a thousand sheep and
cattle--to-day they all were mine (so far as mortal can hold
ownership)--to-morrow, not a stick, or twig, or blade of grass, or
fallen leaf, but might call me a trespasser. To see them while
they still were mine, and to regard them humbly, I rose and took my
black hat off--a black hat trimmed with mourning gray. Then
turning round, I met a gaze, the wildest, darkest, and most awful
ever fixed on human face.
"Who are you? What do you want here?" I faltered forth, while
shrinking back for flight, yet dreading or unable to withdraw my
gaze from his. The hollow ground barred all escape; my own land
was a pit for me, and I must face this horror out. Here, afar from
house or refuge, hand of help, or eye of witness, front to front I
must encounter this atrocious murderer.
For moments, which were ages to me, he stood there without a word;
and daring not to take my eyes from his, lest he should leap at me,
I had no power (except of instinct), and could form no thought of
him, for mortal fear fell over me. If he would only speak, would
only move his lips, or any thing!
"The Baroness is not brave," he said at last, as if reproachfully;
"but she need have no fear now of me. Does her ladyship happen to
know who I am?"
"The man who murdered my grandfather."
"Yes, if you put a false color on events. The man who punished a
miscreant, according to the truer light. But I am not here to
argue points. I intend to propose a bargain. Once for all, I will
not harm you. Try to listen calmly. Your father behaved like a
man to me, and I will be no worse to you. The state of the law in
this country is such that I am forced to carry fire-arms. Will it
conduce to your peace of mind if I place myself at your mercy?"
I tried to answer; but my heart was beating so that no voice came,
only a flutter in my trembling throat. Wrath with myself for want
of courage wrestled in vain with pale, abject fear. The hand which
offered me the pistol seemed to my dazed eyes crimson still with
the blood of my grandfather.
"You will not take it? Very well; it lies here at your service.
If your father's daughter likes to shoot me, from one point of view
it will be just; and but for one reason, I care not. Don't look at
me with pity, if you please. For what I have done I feel no
remorse, no shadow of repentance. It was the best action of my
life. But time will fail, unless you call upon your courage
speedily. None of your family lack that; and I know that you
possess it. Call your spirit up, my dear."
"Oh, please not to call me that! How dare you call me that?"
"That is right. I did it on purpose. And yet I am your uncle.
Not by the laws of men, but by the laws of God--if there are such
things. Now, have you the strength to hear me?"
"Yes; I am quite recovered now. I can follow every word you say.
But--but I must sit down again."
"Certainly. Sit there, and I will stand. I will not touch or come
nearer to you than a story such as mine requires. You know your
own side of it; now hear mine.
"More than fifty years ago there was a brave young nobleman,
handsome, rich, accomplished, strong, not given to drink or
gambling, or any fashionable vices. His faults were few, and
chiefly three--he had a headstrong will, loved money, and possessed
no heart at all. With chances in his favor, this man might have
done as most men do who have such gifts from fortune. But he
happened to meet with a maiden far beneath him in this noble world,
and he set his affections--such as they were--upon that poor young
"This was Winifred Hoyle, the daughter of Thomas Hoyle, a farmer,
in a lonely part of Hampshire, and among the moors of Rambledon.
The nobleman lost his way, while fishing, and being thirsty, went
to ask for milk. What matter how it came about? He managed to win
her heart before she heard of his rank and title. He persuaded her
even to come and meet him in the valley far from her father's
house, where he was wont to angle; and there, on a lonely wooden
bridge across a little river, he knelt down (as men used to do) and
pledged his solemn truth to her. His solemn lie--his solemn lie!
"Such love as his could not overleap the bars of rank or the pale
of wealth--are you listening to me carefully?--or, at any rate, not
both of them. If the poor farmer could only have given his
Winifred 50,000 pounds, the peer would have dropped his pride,
perhaps, so far as to be honest. But farmers in that land are
poor, and Mr. Hoyle could give his only child his blessing only.
And this he did in London, where his simple mind was all abroad,
and he knew not church from chapel. He took his daughter for the
wife of a lord, and so she took herself, poor thing! when she was
but his concubine. In 1809 such tricks were easily played by
villains upon young girls so simple.
"But he gave her attestation and certificate under his own hand;
and her poor father signed it, and saw it secured in a costly case,
and then went home as proud as need be for the father of a peer,
but sworn to keep it three years secret, till the king should give
consent. Such foul lies it was the pride of a lord to tell to a
"You do not exclaim--of course you do not. The instincts of your
race are in you, because you are legitimate. Those of the robbed
side are in me, because I am of the robbed. I am your father's
elder brother. Which is the worse, you proud young womam, the
dastard or the bastard?"
"You have wrongs, most bitter wrongs," I answered, meeting fierce
eyes mildly; "but you should remember that I am guiltless of those
wrongs, and so was my father. And I think that if you talk of
birth so, you must know that gentlemen speak quietly to ladies."
"What concern is that of mine? A gentleman is some one's son. I
am the son of nobody. But to you I will speak quietly, for the
sake of your poor father. And you must listen quietly. I am not
famous for sweet temper. Well, this great lord took his toy to
Paris, where he had her at his mercy. She could not speak a word
of French; she did not know a single soul. In vain she prayed him
to take her to his English home; or, if not that, to restore her to
her father. Not to be too long about it--any more than he was--a
few months were enough for him. He found fault with her manners,
with her speech, her dress, her every thing--all which he had
right, perhaps, to do, but should have used it earlier. And she,
although not born to the noble privilege of weariness, had been an
old man's darling, and could not put up with harshness. From words
they came to worse, until he struck her, told her of her shame, or
rather his own infamy, and left her among strangers, helpless,
penniless, and brokenhearted, to endure the consequence.
"There and thus I saw the light beneath most noble auspices. But I
need not go on with all that. As long as human rules remain, this
happy tale will always be repeated with immense applause. My
mother's love was turned to bitter hatred of his lordship, and,
when her father died from grief, to eager thirst for vengeance.
And for this purpose I was born.
"You see that--for a bastard--I have been fairly educated; but not
a farthing did his lordship ever pay for that, or even to support
his casual. My grandfather Hoyle left his little all to his
daughter Winifred; and upon that, and my mother's toil and mine, we
have kept alive. Losing sight of my mother gladly--for she was
full of pride, and hoped no more to trouble him, after getting her
father's property--he married again, or rather he married for the
first time without perjury, which enables the man to escape from
it. She was of his own rank--as you know--the daughter of an earl,
and not of a farmer. It would not have been safe to mock her,
would it? And there was no temptation.
"The history of my mother and myself does not concern you. Such
people are of no account until they grow dangerous to the great.
We lived in cheap places and wandered about, caring for no one, and
cared for by the same. Mrs. Hoyle and Thomas Hoyle we called
ourselves when we wanted names; and I did not even know the story
of our wrongs till the heat and fury of youth were past. Both for
her own sake and mine my mother concealed it from me. Pride and
habit, perhaps, had dulled her just desire for vengeance; and,
knowing what I was, she feared--the thing which has befallen me.
But when I was close upon thirty years old, and my mother eight-
and-forty--for she was betrayed in her teens--a sudden illness
seized her. Believing her death to be near, she told me, as calmly
as possible, every thing, with all those large, quiet views of the
past, which at such a time seem the regular thing, but make the
wrong tenfold blacker. She did not die; if she had, it might have
been better both for her and me, and many other people. Are you
tired of my tale? Or do you want to hear the rest?"
"You can not be asking me in earnest," I replied, while I watched
his wild eyes carefully. "Tell me the rest, if you are not
"Afraid, indeed! Then, for want of that proper tendance and
comfort which a few pounds would have brought her, although she
survived, she survived as a wreck, the mere relic and ruin of her
poor unhappy self. I sank my pride for her sake, and even deigned
to write to him, in rank and wealth so far above me, in every thing
else such a clot below my heel. He did the most arrogant thing a
snob can do--he never answered my letter.
"I scraped together a little money, and made my way to England, and
came to that house--which you now call yours--and bearded that
noble nobleman--that father to be so proud of! He was getting on
now in years, and growing, perhaps, a little nervous, and my first
appearance scared him. He got no obeisance from me, you may be
certain, but still I did not revile him. I told him of my mother's
state of mind, and the great care she required, and demanded that,
in common justice, he, having brought her to this, should help her.
But nothing would he promise, not a sixpence even, in the way of
regular allowance. Any thing of that sort could only be arranged
by means of his solicitors. He had so expensive a son, with a very
large and growing family, that he could not be pledged to any
yearly sum. But if I would take a draft for 100 pounds, and sign
an acquittance in full of all claims, I might have it, upon proving
"What identity had I to prove? He had taken good care of that. I
turned my back on him and left the house, without even asking for
his curse, though as precious as a good man's blessing.
"It was a wild and windy night, but with a bright moon rising, and
going across this park--or whatever it is called--I met my brother.
At a crest of the road we met face to face, with the moon across
our foreheads. We had never met till now, nor even heard of one
another; at least he had never heard of me. He started back as if
at his own ghost; but I had nothing to be startled at, in this
world or the other.
"I made his acquaintance, with deference, of course, and we got on
very well together. At one time it seemed good luck for him to
have illegitimate kindred; for I saved his life when he was tangled
in the weeds of this river while bathing. You owe me no thanks. I
thought twice about it, and if the name would have ended with him,
I would never have used my basket-knife. By trade I am a basket-
maker, like many another 'love-child.'
"However, he was grateful, if ever any body was, for I ran some
risk in doing it; and he always did his very best for me, and
encouraged me to visit him. Not at his home--of course that would
never do--but when he was with his regiment. Short of money as he
always was, through his father's nature and his own, which in some
points were the very opposite, he was even desirous to give me some
of that; but I never took a farthing from him. If I had it at all,
I would have it from the proper one. And from him I resolved to
"How terrified you look! I am coming to it now. Are you sure that
you can bear it? It is nothing very harrowing; but still, young
"I feel a little faint," I could not help saying; "but that is
nothing. I must hear the whole of it. Please to go on without
"For my own sake I will not, as well as for yours. I can not have
you fainting, and bringing people here. Go to the house and take
food, and recover your strength, and then come here again. I
promise to be here, and your father's daughter will not take
advantage of my kindness."
Though his eyes were fierce (instead of being sad) and full of
strange tempestuous light, they bore some likeness to my father's,
and asserted power over me. Reluctant as I was, I obeyed this man,
and left him there, and went slowly to the house, walking as if in
a troubled dream.
FOR LIFE, DEATH
Upon my return, I saw nothing for a time but fans and feathers of
browning fern, dark shags of ling, and podded spurs of broom and
furze, and wisps of grass. With great relief (of which I felt
ashamed while even breathing it), I thought that the man was afraid
to tell the rest of his story, and had fled; but ere my cowardice
had much time for self-congratulation a tall figure rose from the
ground, and fear compelled me into courage. For throughout this
long interview more and more I felt an extremely unpleasant
conviction. That stranger might not be a downright madman, nor
even what is called a lunatic; but still it was clear that upon
certain points--the laws of this country, for instance, and the
value of rank and station--his opinions were so outrageous that his
reason must be affected. And, even without such proofs as these,
his eyes and his manner were quite enough. Therefore I had need of
no small caution, not only concerning my words and gestures, but as
to my looks and even thoughts, for he seemed to divine these last
as quickly as they flashed across me. I never had learned to
conceal my thoughts, and this first lesson was an awkward one.
"I hope you are better," he said, as kindly as it was possible for
him to speak. "Now have no fear of me, once more I tell you. I
will not sham any admiration, affection, or any thing of that kind;
but as for harming you--why, your father was almost the only kind
heart I ever met!"
"Then why did you send a most vile man to fetch me, when my father
was dead in the desert?"
"I never did any thing of the sort. It was done in my name, but
not by me; I never even heard of it until long after, and I have a
score to settle with the man who did it."
"But Mr. Goad told me himself that you came and said you were the
true Lord Castlewood, and ordered him at once to America. I never
saw truth more plainly stamped on a new situation--the face of a
rogue--than I saw it then on the face of Mr. Goad."
"You are quite right; he spoke the truth--to the utmost of his
knowledge. I never saw Goad, and he never saw me. I never even
dreamed of pretending to the title. I was personated by a mean,
low friend of Sir Montague Hockin; base-born as I am, I would never
stoop to such a trick. You will find out the meaning of that by-
and-by. I have taken the law into my own hands--it is the only way
to work such laws--I have committed what is called a crime. But,
compared with Sir Montague Hockin, I am whiter than yonder
shearling on his way to the river for his evening drink."
I gazed at his face, and could well believe it. The setting sun
shone upon his chin and forehead--good, resolute, well-marked
features; his nose and mouth were keen and clear, his cheeks curt
and pale (though they would have been better for being a trifle
cleaner). There was nothing suggestive of falsehood or fraud, and
but for the wildness of the eyes and flashes of cold ferocity, it
might have been called a handsome face.
"Very well," he began again, with one of those jerks which had
frightened me, "your father was kind to me, very kind indeed; but
he knew the old lord too well to attempt to interpose on my behalf.
On the other hand, he gave no warning of my manifest resolve;
perhaps he thought it a woman's threat, and me no better than a
woman! And partly for his sake, no doubt, though mainly for my
mother's, I made the short work which I made; for he was horribly
straitened--and in his free, light way he told me so--by his hard
curmudgeon of a father.
"To that man, hopeless as he was, I gave fair grace, however, and
plenty of openings for repentance. None of them would he embrace,
and he thought scorn of my lenity. And I might have gone on with
such weakness longer, if I had not heard that his coach-and-four
was ordered for the Moonstock Inn.
"That he should dare thus to pollute the spot where he had so
forsworn himself! I resolved that there he should pay justice,
either with his life or death. And I went to your father's place
to tell him to prepare for disturbances; but he was gone to see his
wife, and I simply borrowed a pistol.
"Now you need not be at all afraid nor shrink away from me like
that. I was bound upon stricter justice than any judge that sets
forth on circuit; and I meant to give, and did give, what no judge
affords to the guilty--the chance of leading a better life. I had
brought my mother to England, and she was in a poor place in
London; her mind was failing more and more, and reverting to her
love-time, the one short happiness of her life. 'If I could but
see him, if I could but see him, and show him his tall and clever
son, he would forgive me all my sin in thinking ever to be his
wife. Oh, Thomas! I was too young to know it. If I could but see
him once, just once!'
"How all this drove me no tongue can tell. But I never let her
know it; I only said, 'Mother, he shall come and see you if he ever
sees any body more!' And she trusted me and was satisfied. She
only said, 'Take my picture, Thomas, to remind him of the happy
time, and his pledge to me inside of it.' And she gave me what she
had kept for years in a bag of chamois leather, the case of which I
spoke before, which even in our hardest times she would never send
to the pawn-shop.
"The rest is simple enough. I swore by the God, or the Devil, who
made me, that this black-hearted man should yield either his
arrogance or his life. I followed him to the Moon valley, and fate
ordained that I should meet him where he forswore himself to my
mother; on that very plank where he had breathed his deadly lies he
breathed his last. Would you like to hear all about it?"
For answer I only bowed my head. His calm, methodical way of
telling his tale, like a common adventure with a dog, was more
shocking than any fury.
"Then it was this. I watched him from the Moonstock Inn to a house
in the village, where he dined with company; and I did not even
know that it was the house of his son, your father--so great a gulf
is fixed between the legitimate and the bastard! He had crossed
the wooden bridge in going, and was sure to cross it in coming
back. How he could tread those planks without contrition and
horror--but never mind. I resolved to bring him to a quiet parley
there, and I waited in the valley.
"The night was soft, and dark in patches where the land or wood
closed in; and the stream was brown and threw no light, though the
moon was on the uplands. Time and place alike were fit for our
little explanation. The path wound down the meadow toward me, and
I knew that he must come. My firm intention was to spare him, if
he gave me a chance of it; but he never had the manners to do that.
"Here I waited, with the cold leaves fluttering around me, until I
heard a firm, slow step coming down the narrow path. Then a figure
appeared in a stripe of moonlight, and stopped, and rested on a
staff. Perhaps his lordship's mind went back some five-and-thirty
years, to times when he told pretty stories here; and perhaps he
laughed to himself to think how well he had got out of it.
Whatever his meditations were, I let him have them out, and waited.
"If he had even sighed, I might have felt more kindness toward him;
but he only gave something between a cough and a grunt, and I
clearly heard him say, 'Gout to-morrow morning! what the devil did
I drink port-wine for!' He struck the ground with his stick and
came onward, thinking far more of his feet than heart.
"Then, as he planted one foot gingerly on the timber and stayed
himself, I leaped along the bridge and met him, and without a word
looked at him. The moon was topping the crest of the hills and
threw my shadow upon him, the last that ever fell upon his body to
"'Fellow, out of the way!' he cried, with a most commanding voice
and air, though only too well he knew me; and my wrath against him
began to rise.
"'You pass not here, and you never make another live step on this
earth,' I said, as calmly as now I speak, 'unless you obey my
"He saw his peril, but he had courage--perhaps his only virtue.
'Fool! whoever you are,' he shouted, that his voice might fetch him
help; 'none of these moon-struck ways with me! If you want to rob
me, try it!'
"'You know too well who I am,' I answered, as he made to push me
back. 'Lord Castlewood, here you have the choice--to lick the
dust, or be dust! Here you forswore yourself; here you pay for
perjury. On this plank you knelt to poor Winifred Hoyle, whom you
ruined and cast by; and now on this plank you shall kneel to her
son and swear to obey him--or else you die!'
"In spite of all his pride, he trembled as if I had been Death
himself, instead of his own dear eldest son.
"'What do you want!' As he asked, he laid one hand on the rickety
rail and shook it, and the dark old tree behind him shook. 'How
much will satisfy you?'
"'Miser, none of your money for us! it is too late for your half
crowns! We must have a little of what you have grudged--having
none to spare--your honor. My demands are simple, and only two.
My mother is fool enough to yearn for one more sight of your false
face; you will come with me and see her.'
"'And if I yield to that, what next?'
"'The next thing is a trifle to a nobleman like you. Here I have,
in this blue trinket (false gems and false gold, of course), your
solemn signature to a lie. At the foot of that you will have the
truth to write, "I am a perjured liar!" and proudly sign it
"Castlewood," in the presence of two witnesses. This can not hurt
your feelings much, and it need not be expensive.'
"Fury flashed in his bright old eyes, but he strove to check its
outbreak. The gleaning of life, after threescore years, was
better, in such lordly fields, than the whole of the harvest we
got. He knew that I had him all to myself, to indulge my filial
"'You have been misled; you have never heard the truth; you have
only heard your mother's story. Allow me to go back and to sit in
a dry place; I am tired, and no longer young; you are bound to hear
my tale as well. I passed a dry stump just now; I will go back:
there is no fear of interruption.' My lord was talking against
"'From this bridge you do not budge until you have gone on your
knees and sworn what I shall dictate to you; this time it shall be
no perjury. Here I hold your cursed pledge--'
"He struck at me, or at the locket--no matter which--but it flew
away. My right arm was crippled by his heavy stick; but I am left-
handed, as a bastard should be. From my left hand he took his
death, and I threw the pistol after him: such love had he earned
from his love-child!"
Thomas Castlewood, or Hoyle, or whatever else his name was, here
broke off from his miserable words, and, forgetting all about my
presence, set his gloomy eyes on the ground. Lightly he might try
to speak, but there was no lightness in his mind, and no spark of
light in his poor dead soul. Being so young, and unacquainted with
the turns of life-worn mind, I was afraid to say a word except to
myself, and to myself I only said, "The man is mad, poor fellow;
and no wonder!"
The sun was setting, not upon the vast Pacific from desert heights,
but over the quiet hills and through the soft valleys of tame
England; and, different as the whole scene was, a certain other sad
and fearful sunset lay before me: the fall of night upon my dying
father and his helpless child, the hour of anguish and despair!
Here at last was the cause of all laid horribly before me; and the
pity deeply moving me passed into cold abhorrence. But the man was
lost in his own visions.
"So in your savage wrath," I said, "you killed your own father, and
in your fright left mine to bear the brunt of it."
He raised his dark eyes heavily, and his thoughts were far astray
from mine. He did not know what I had said, though he knew that I
had spoken. The labor of calling to mind and telling his treatment
of his father had worked upon him so much that he could not freely
"I came for something, something that can be only had from you," he
said, "and only since your cousin's death, and something most
important. But will you believe me? it is wholly gone, gone from
mind and memory!"
"I am not surprised at that," I answered, looking at his large wan
face, and while I did so, losing half my horror in strange sadness.
"Whatever it is, I will do it for you; only let me know by post."
"I see what you mean--not to come any more. You are right about
that, for certain. But your father was good to me, and I loved
him, though I had no right to love any one. My letter will show
that I wronged him never. The weight of the world is off my mind
since I have told you every thing; you can send me to the gallows,
if you think fit, but leave it till my mother dies. Good-by, poor
child. I have spoiled your life, but only by chance consequence,
not in murder-birth--as I was born."
Before I could answer or call him back, if I even wished to do so,
he was far away, with his long, quiet stride; and, like his life,
his shadow fell, chilling, sombre, cast away.
Thus at last--by no direct exertion of my own, but by turn after
turn of things to which I blindly gave my little help--the mystery
of my life was solved. Many things yet remained to be fetched up
to focus and seen round; but the point of points was settled.
Of all concerned, my father alone stood blameless and heroic. What
tears of shame and pride I shed, for ever having doubted him!--not
doubting his innocence of the crime itself, but his motives for
taking it upon him. I had been mean enough to dream that my dear
father outraged justice to conceal his own base birth!
That ever such thought should have entered my mind may not make me
charitable to the wicked thoughts of the world at large, but, at
any rate, it ought to do so. And the man in question, my own
father, who had starved himself to save me! Better had I been the
most illegal child ever issued into this cold world, than dare to
think so of my father, and then find him the model of every thing.
To hide the perjury, avarice, and cowardice of his father, and to
appease the bitter wrong, he had even bowed to take the dark
suspicion on himself, until his wronged and half-sane brother (to
whom, moreover, he owed his life) should have time to fly from
England. No doubt he blamed himself as much as he condemned the
wretched criminal, because he had left his father so long unwarned
and so unguarded, and had thoughtlessly used light words about him,
which fell not lightly on a stern, distempered mind. Hence,
perhaps, the exclamation which had told against him so.
And then when he broke jail--which also told against him terribly--
to revisit his shattered home, it is likely enough that he meant
after that to declare the truth, and stand his trial as a man
should do. But his wife, perhaps, in her poor weak state, could
not endure the thought of it, knowing how often jury is injury, and
seeing all the weight against him. She naturally pledged him to
pursue his flight, "for her sake," until she should be better able
to endure his trial, and until he should have more than his own
pure word and character to show. And probably if he had then been
tried, with so many things against him, and no production of that
poor brother, his tale would have seemed but a flimsy invention,
and "Guilty" would have been the verdict. And they could not know
that, in such case, the guilty man would have come forward, as we
shall see that he meant to do.
When my father heard of his dear wife's death, and believed, no
doubt, that I was buried with the rest, the gloom of a broken and
fated man, like polar night, settled down on him. What matter to
him about public opinion or any thing else in the world just now?
The sins of his father were on his head; let them rest there,
rather than be trumpeted by him. He had nothing to care for; let
him wander about. And so he did for several years, until I became
a treasure to him--for parental is not intrinsic value--and then,
for my sake, as now appeared, he betook us both to a large kind
Revolving these things sadly, and a great many more which need not
be told, I thought it my duty to go as soon as possible to
Bruntsea, and tell my good and faithful friends what I was loath to
write about. There, moreover, I could obtain what I wanted to
confirm me--the opinion of an upright, law-abiding, honorable man
about the course I proposed to take. And there I might hear
something more as to a thing which had troubled me much in the
deepest of my own troubles--the melancholy plight of dear Uncle
Sam. Wild, and absurd as it may appear to people of no gratitude,
my heart was set upon faring forth in search of the noble Sawyer,
if only it could be reconciled with my duty here in England. That
such a proceeding would avail but little, seemed now, alas! too
manifest; but a plea of that kind generally means that we have no
mind to do a thing.
Be that as it will, I made what my dear Yankees--to use the Major's
impertinent phrase--call "straight tracks" for that ancient and
obsolete town, rejuvenized now by its Signor. The cause of my good
friend's silence--not to use that affected word "reticence"--was
quite unknown to me, and disturbed my spirit with futile guesses.
Resolute, therefore, to pierce the bottom of every surviving
mystery, I made claim upon "Mr. Stixon, junior"--as "Stixon's boy"
had now vindicated his right to be called, up to supper-time--and
he with high chivalry responded. Not yet was he wedded to Miss
Polly Hopkins, the daughter of the pickled-pork man; otherwise
would he or could he have made telegraphic blush at the word
"Bruntsea?" And would he have been quite so eager to come?
Such things are trifling, compared to our own, which naturally fill
the universe. I was bound to be a great lady now, and patronize
and regulate and drill all the doings of nature. So I durst not
even ask, though desiring much to do so, how young Mr. Stixon was
getting on with his delightful Polly. And his father, as soon as
he found me turned into the mistress, and "his lady" (as he would
have me called thenceforth, whether or no on my part), not another
word would he tell me of the household sentiments, politics, or
romances. It would have been thought a thing beneath me to put any
nice little questions now, and I was obliged to take up the tone
which others used toward me. But all the while I longed for
freedom, Uncle Sam, Suan Isco, and even Martin of the Mill.
Law business, however, and other hinderances, kept me from starting
at once for Bruntsea, impatient as I was to do so. Indeed, it was
not until the morning of the last Saturday in November that I was
able to get away. The weather had turned to much rain, I remember,
with two or three tempestuous nights, and the woods were almost
bare of leaves, and the Thames looked brown and violent.
In the fly from Newport to Bruntsea I heard great rollers
thundering heavily upon the steep bar of shingle, and such a lake
of water shone in the old bed of the river that I quite believed at
first that the Major had carried out his grand idea, and brought
the river back again. But the flyman shook his head, and looked
very serious, and told me that he feared bad times were coming.
What I saw was the work of the Lord in heaven, and no man could
prevail against it. He had always said, though no concern of his--
for he belonged to Newport--that even a British officer could not
fly in the face of the Almighty. He himself had a brother on the
works, regular employed, and drawing good money, and proud enough
about it; and the times he had told him across a pint of ale--
howsomever, our place was to hope for the best; but the top of the
springs was not come yet, and a pilot out of Newport told him the
water was making uncommon strong; but he did hope the wind had nigh
blowed itself out; if not, they would have to look blessed sharp
tomorrow. He had heard say that in time of Queen Elizabeth
sixscore of houses was washed clean away, and the river itself
knocked right into the sea; and a thing as had been once might just
come to pass again, though folk was all so clever now they thought
they wor above it. But, for all that, their grandfathers' goggles
might fit them. But here we was in Bruntsea town, and, bless his
old eyes--yes! If I pleased to look along his whip, I might see
ancient pilot come, he did believe, to warn of them!
Following his guidance, I descried a stout old man, in a sailor's
dress, weather-proof hat, and long boots, standing on a low
seawall, and holding vehement converse with some Bruntsea boatmen
and fishermen who were sprawling on the stones as usual.
"Driver, you know him. Take the lower road," I said, "and ask what
his opinion is."
"No need to ask him," the flyman answered; "old Banks would never
be here, miss, if he was of two opinions. He hath come to fetch
his daughter out of harm, I doubt, the wife of that there Bishop
Jim, they call him--the chap with two nails to his thumb, you know.
Would you like to hear how they all take it, miss?"
With these words he turned to the right, and drove into Major
Hockin's "Sea Parade." There we stopped to hear what was going on,
and it proved to be well worth our attention. The old pilot
perhaps had exhausted reason, and now was beginning to give way to
wrath. The afternoon was deepening fast, with heavy gray clouds
lowering, showing no definite edge, but streaked with hazy lines,
and spotted by some little murky blurs or blots, like tar pots,
"Hath Noah's Ark ever told a lie?" the ancient pilot shouted,
pointing with one hand at these, and with a clinched fist at the
sea, whence came puffs of sullen air, and turned his gray locks
backward. "Mackerel sky when the sun got up, mermaiden's eggs at
noon, and now afore sunset Noah's Arks! Any of them breweth a gale
of wind, and the three of them bodes a tempest. And the top of the
springs of the year to-morrow. Are ye daft, or all gone upon the
spree, my men? Your fathers would 'a knowed what the new moon
meant. Is this all that cometh out of larning to read?"
"Have a pinch of 'bacco, old man," said one, "to help you off with
that stiff reel. What consarn can he be of yourn?"
"Don't you be put out, mate," cried another. "Never came sea as
could top that bar, and never will in our time. Go and calk your
old leaky craft, Master Banks."
"We have rode out a good many gales without seeking prophet from
Newport--a place never heerd on when this old town was made."
"Come and wet your old whistle at the 'Hockin Arms,' Banks. You
must want it, after that long pipe."
"'Hockin Arms,' indeed!" the pilot answered, turning away in a rage
from them. "What Hockin Arms will there be this time to-morrow?
Hockin legs wanted, more likely, and Hockin wings. And you poor
grinning ninnies, as ought to have four legs, ye'll be praying that
ye had them to-morrow. However, ye've had warning, and ye can't
blame me. The power of the Lord is in the air and sea. Is this
the sort of stuff ye trust in?"
He set one foot against our Major's wall--an action scarcely honest
while it was so green--and, coming from a hale and very thickset
man, the contemptuous push sent a fathom of it outward. Rattle,
rattle went the new patent concrete, starting up the lazy-pated
fellows down below.
"You'll try the walls of a jail," cried one. "You go to Noah's
Ark," shouted another. The rest bade him go to a place much worse;
but he buttoned his jacket in disdain, and marched away, without
spoiling the effect by any more weak words.
"Right you are," cried my flyman--"right you are, Master Banks.
Them lubbers will sing another song to-morrow. Gee up, old hoss,
All this, and the ominous scowl of the sky and menacing roar of the
sea (already crowding with black rollers), disturbed me so that I
could say nothing, until, at the corner of the grand new hotel, we
met Major Hockin himself, attired in a workman's loose jacket, and
carrying a shovel. He was covered with mud and dried flakes of
froth, and even his short white whiskers were incrusted with
sparkles of brine; but his face was ruddy and smiling, and his
manner as hearty as ever.
"You here, Erema! Oh, I beg pardon--Baroness Castlewood, if you
please. My dear, again I congratulate you."
"You have as little cause to do that as I fear I can find in your
case. You have no news for me from America? How sad! But what a
poor plight you yourself are in!"
"Not a bit of it. At first sight you might think so; and we
certainly have had a very busy time. Send back the fly. Leave
your bag at our hotel. Porter, be quick with Lady Castlewood's
luggage. One piece of luck befalls me--to receive so often this
beautiful hand. What a lot of young fellows now would die of
"I am glad that you still can talk nonsense," I said; "for I truly
was frightened at this great lake, and so many of your houses even
standing in the water."
"It will do them good. It will settle the foundations and
crystallize the mortar. They will look twice as well when they
come out again, and never have rats or black beetles. We were
foolish enough to be frightened at first; and there may have been
danger a fortnight ago. But since that tide we have worked day and
night, and every thing is now so stable that fear is simply
ridiculous. On the whole, it has been a most excellent thing--
quite the making, in fact, of Bruntsea."
"Then Bruntsea must be made of water," I replied, gazing sadly at
the gulf which parted us from the Sea Parade, the Lyceum, and
Baths, the Bastion Promenade, and so on; beyond all which the
streaky turmoil and misty scud of the waves were seen.
"Made of beer, more likely," he retorted, with a laugh. "If my
fellows worked like horses--which they did--they also drank like
fishes. Their mouths were so dry with the pickle, they said. But
the total abstainers were the worst, being out of practice with the
can. However, let us make no complaints. We ought to be truly
thankful; and I shall miss the exercise. That is why you have
heard so little from me. You see the position at a glance. I have
never been to Paris at all, Erema. I have not rubbed up my
parleywoo, with a blast from Mr. Bellows. I was stopped by a
telegram about this job--acrior illum. I had some Latin once,
quite enough for the House of Commons, but it all oozed out at my
elbows; and to ladies (by some superstition) it is rude--though
they treat us to bad French enough. Never mind. What I want to
say is this, that I have done nothing, but respected your sad
trouble; for you took a wild fancy to that poor bedridden, who
never did you a stroke of good except about Cosmopolitan Jack, and
whose removal has come at the very nick of time. For what could
you have done for money, with the Yankees cutting each other's
throats, and your nugget quite sure to be annexed, or, at the very
best, squared up in greenbacks?"
"You ought not to speak so, Major Hockin. If all your plans were
not under water, I should be quite put out with you. My cousin was
not bedridden; neither was he at all incapable, as you have called
him once or twice. He was an infinitely superior man to--to what
one generally sees; and when you have heard what I have to tell, in
his place you would have done just as he did. And as for money,
and 'happy release'--as the people who never want it for themselves
express it--such words simply sicken me; at great times they are so
"What is there in this world that is not sordid--to the young in
one sense, and to the old in another?"
Major Hockin so seldom spoke in this didactic way, and I was so
unable to make it out, that, having expected some tiff on his part
at my juvenile arrogance, I was just in the mould for a deep
impression from sudden stamp of philosophy. I had nothing to say
in reply, and he went up in my opinion greatly.
He knew it; and he said, with touching kindness, "Erema, come and
see your dear aunt Mary. She has had an attack of rheumatic gout
in her thimble-finger, and her maids have worried her out of her
life, and by far the most brilliant of her cocks (worth 20 pounds
they tell me) breathed his last on Sunday night, with gapes, or
croup, or something. This is why you have not heard again from
her. I have been in the trenches day and night, stoning out the
sea with his own stones, by a new form of concrete discovered by
myself. And unless I am very much mistaken--in fact, I do not
hesitate to say--But such things are not in your line at all. Let
us go up to the house. Our job is done, and I think Master Neptune
may pound away in vain. I have got a new range in the kitchen now,
partly of my own invention; you can roast, or bake, or steam, or
stew, or frizzle kabobs--all by turning a screw. And not only
that, but you can keep things hot, piping hot, and ripening, as it
were, better than when they first were done. Instead of any burned
iron taste, or scum on the gravy, or clottiness, they mellow by
waiting, and make their own sauce. If I ever have time I shall
patent this invention; why, you may burn brick-dust in it, Bath-
brick, hearth-stone, or potsherds! At any hour of the day or
night, while the sea is in this condition, I may want my dinner;
and there we have it. We say grace immediately, and down we sit.
Let us take it by surprise, if it can be taken so. Up through my
chief drive, instanter! I think that I scarcely ever felt more
hungry. The thought of that range always sets me off. And one of
its countless beauties is the noble juicy fragrance."
Major Hockin certainly possessed the art--so meritorious in a host--
of making people hungry; and we mounted the hill with alacrity,
after passing his letter-box, which reminded me of the mysterious
lady. He pointed to "Desolate Hole," as he called it, and said
that he believed she was there still, though she never came out now
to watch their house. And a man of dark and repelling aspect had
been seen once or twice by his workmen, during the time of their
night relays, rapidly walking toward Desolate Hole. How any one
could live in such a place, with the roar and the spray of the sea,
as it had been, at the very door, and through the windows, some
people might understand, but not the Major.
Good Mrs. Hockin received me with her usual warmth and kindness,
and scolded me for having failed to write more to her, as all
people seem to do when conscious of having neglected that duty
themselves. Then she showed me her thimble-finger, which certainly
was a little swollen; and then she poured forth her gratitude for
her many blessings, as she always did after any little piece of
grumbling. And I told her that if at her age I were only a quarter
as pleasant and sweet of temper, I should consider myself a
blessing to any man.
After dinner my host produced the locket, which he had kept for the
purpose of showing it to the artist's son in Paris, and which he
admired so intensely that I wished it were mine to bestow on him.
Then I told him that, through a thing wholly unexpected--the
confession of the criminal himself--no journey to Paris was needful
now. I repeated that strange and gloomy tale, to the loud
accompaniment of a rising wind and roaring sea, while both my
friends listened intently.
"Now what can have led him so to come to you?" they asked; "and
what do you mean to do about it?"
"He came to me, no doubt, to propose some bargain, which could not
be made in my cousin's lifetime. But the telling of his tale made
him feel so strange that he really could not remember what it was.
As to what I am to do, I must beg for your opinion; such a case is
beyond my decision." Mrs. Hockin began to reply, but stopped,
looking dutifully at her lord.
"There is no doubt what you are bound to do, at least in one way,"
the Major said. "You are a British subject, I suppose, and you
must obey the laws of the country. A man has confessed to you a
murder--no matter whether it was committed twenty years ago or two
minutes; no matter whether it was a savage, cold-blooded,
premeditated crime, or whether there were things to palliate it.
Your course is the same; you must hand him over. In fact, you
ought never to have let him go."
"How could I help it?" I pleaded, with surprise. "It was
impossible for me to hold him."
"Then you should have shot him with his own pistol. He offered it
to you. You should have grasped it, pointed it at his heart, and
told him that he was a dead man if he stirred."
"Aunt Mary, would you have done that?" I asked. "It is so easy to
talk of fine things! But in the first place, I had no wish to stop
him; and in the next, I could not if I had."
"My dear," Mrs. Hockin replied, perceiving my distress at this view
of the subject, "I should have done exactly what you did. If the
laws of this country ordain that women are to carry them out
against great strong men, who, after all, have been sadly injured,
why, it proves that women ought to make the laws, which to my mind
is simply ridiculous."
Little sleep had I that night. Such conflict was in my mind about
the proper thing to be done next, and such a war of the wind
outside, above and between the distant uproar of the long
tumultuous sea. Of that sound much was intercepted by the dead
bulk of the cliff, but the wind swung fiercely over this, and
rattled through all shelter. In the morning the storm was furious;
but the Major declared that his weather-glass had turned, which
proved that the gale was breaking. The top of the tide would be at
one o'clock, and after church we should behold a sight he was
rather proud of--the impotent wrath of the wind and tide against
his patent concrete.
"My dear, I scarcely like such talk," Mrs. Hockin gently
interposed. "To me it seems almost defiant of the power of the
Lord. Remember what happened to poor Smeaton--at least I think his
name was Smeaton, or Stanley, was it? But I dare say you know
best. He defied the strength of the Lord, like the people at the
mouth of their tent, and he was swallowed up."
"Mary, my dear, get your prayer-book. Rasper's fly is waiting for
us, and the parson has no manners. When he drops off, I present to
the living; and I am not at all sure that I shall let George have
it. He is fond of processions, and all that stuff. The only
procession in the Church of England is that of the lord of the
manor to his pew. I will be the master in my own church."
"Of course, dear, of course; so you ought to be. It always was so
in my father's parish. But you must not speak so of our poor
George. He may be 'High-Church,' as they call it; but he knows
what is due to his family, and he has a large one coming."
We set off hastily for the church, through blasts of rain and
buffets of wind, which threatened to overturn the cab, and the
seaward window was white, as in a snowstorm, with pellets of froth,
and the drift of sea-scud. I tried to look out, but the blur and
the dash obscured the sight of every thing. And though in this
lower road we were partly sheltered by the pebble ridge, the driver
was several times obliged to pull his poor horse up and face the
wind, for fear of our being blown over.
That ancient church, with its red-tiled spire, stands well up in
the good old town, at the head of a street whose principal object
now certainly is to lead to it. Three hundred years ago that
street had business of its own to think of, and was brave perhaps
with fine men and maids at the time of the Spanish Armada. Its
only bravery now was the good old church, and some queer gables,
and a crypt (which was true to itself by being buried up to the
spandrels), and one or two corners where saints used to stand,
until they were pelted out of them, and where fisher-like men, in
the lodging season, stand selling fish caught at Billingsgate. But
to Bruntsea itself the great glory of that street was rather of
hope than of memory. Bailiff Hopkins had taken out three latticed
windows, and put in one grand one of plate-glass, with "finishing"
blinds all varnished. And even on a Sunday morning Bruntsea wanted
to know what ever the bailiff was at behind them. Some said that
he did all his pickling on a Sunday; and by putting up "spectacle
glass" he had challenged the oldest inhabitant to come and try his
Despite all the rattle and roar of the wind, we went on in church
as usual. The vicar had a stout young curate from Durham, who
could outshout any tempest, with a good stone wall between them;
and the Bruntsea folk were of thicker constitution than to care an
old hat for the weather. Whatever was "sent by the Lord" they took
with a grumble, but no excitement. The clock in front of the
gallery told the time of the day as five minutes to twelve, when
the vicar, a pleasant old-fashioned man, pronounced his text, which
he always did thrice over to make us sure of it. And then he
hitched up his old black gown, and directed his gaze at the lord of
the manor, to impress the whole church with authority. Major
Hockin acknowledged in a proper manner this courtesy of the
minister by rubbing up his crest, and looking even more wide-awake
than usual; whereas Aunt Mary, whose kind heart longed to see her
own son in that pulpit, calmly settled back her shoulders, and
arranged her head and eyes so well as to seem at a distance in rapt
attention, while having a nice little dream of her own. But
suddenly all was broken up. The sexton (whose license as warden of
the church, and even whose duty it was to hear the sermon only
fitfully, from the tower arch, where he watched the boys, and
sniffed the bakehouse of his own dinner)--to the consternation of
every body, this faithful man ran up the nave, with his hands above
his head, and shouted,
"All Brownzee be awash, awash"--sounding it so as to rhyme with
"lash"--"the zea, the zea be all over us!"
The clergyman in the pulpit turned and looked through a window
behind him, while all the congregation rose.
"It is too true," the preacher cried; "the sea is in over the bank,
my friends. Every man must rush to his own home. The blessing of
the Lord be on you through His fearful visitation!"
He had no time to say more; and we thought it very brave of him to
say that, for his own house was in the lower village, and there he
had a wife and children sick. In half a minute the church was
empty, and the street below it full of people, striving and
struggling against the blast, and breasting it at an incline like
swimmers, but beaten back ever and anon and hurled against one
another, with tattered umbrellas, hats gone, and bonnets hanging.
And among them, like gulls before the wind, blew dollops of spray
and chunks of froth, with every now and then a slate or pantile.
All this was so bad that scarcely any body found power to speak, or
think, or see. The Major did his very best to lead us, but could
by no means manage it. And I screamed into his soundest ear to
pull Aunt Mary into some dry house--for she could not face such
buffeting--and to let me fare for myself as I might. So we left
Mrs. Hockin in the bailiff's house, though she wanted sadly to come
with us, and on we went to behold the worst. And thus, by running
the byes of the wind, and craftily hugging the corners, we got to
the foot of the street at last, and then could go no further.
For here was the very sea itself, with furious billows panting.
Before us rolled and ran a fearful surf of crested whiteness, torn
by the screeching squalls, and tossed in clashing tufts and
pinnacles. And into these came, sweeping over the shattered chine
of shingle, gigantic surges from the outer deep, towering as they
crossed the bar, and combing against the sky-line, then rushing
onward, and driving the huddle of the ponded waves before them.
The tide was yet rising, and at every blow the wreck and the havoc
grew worse and worse. That long sweep of brick-work, the "Grand
Promenade," bowed and bulged, with wall and window knuckled in and
out, like wattles; the "Sea Parade" was a parade of sea; and a
bathing-machine wheels upward lay, like a wrecked Noah's Ark, on
the top of the "Saline-Silico-Calcareous Baths."
The Major stood by me, while all his constructions "went by the
board," as they say at sea; and verily every thing was at sea. I
grieved for him so that it was not the spray alone that put salt
drops on my cheeks. And I could not bear to turn and look at his
good old weather-beaten face. But he was not the man to brood upon
his woes in silence. He might have used nicer language, perhaps,
but his inner sense was manful.
"I don't care a damn," he shouted, so that all the women heard him.
"I can only say I am devilish glad that I never let one of those
There was a little band of seamen, under the shelter of a garden
wall, crouching, or sitting, or standing (or whatever may be the
attitude, acquired by much voyaging and experience of bad weather,
which can not be solved, as to centre of gravity, even by the man
who does it), and these men were so taken with the Major's
manifesto, clinched at once and clarified to them by strong, short
language, that they gave him a loud "hurrah," which flew on the
wings of the wind over house-tops. So queer and sound is English
feeling that now Major Hockin became in truth what hitherto he was
in title only--the lord and master of Bruntsea.
"A boat! a boat!" he called out again. "We know not who are
drowning. The bank still breaks the waves; a stout boat surely
could live inside it."
"Yes, a boat could live well enough in this cockle, though never
among them breakers," old Barnes, the fisherman, answered, who used
to take us out for whiting; "but Lord bless your honor, all the
boats are thumped to pieces, except yonner one, and who can get at
Before restoring his hands to their proper dwelling-place--his
pockets--he jerked his thumb toward a long white boat, which we had
not seen through the blinding scud. Bereft of its brethren, or
sisters--for all fluctuating things are feminine--that boat
survived, in virtue of standing a few feet higher than the rest.
But even so, and mounted on the last hump of the pebble ridge, it
was rolling and reeling with stress of the wind and the wash of
wild water under it.
"How nobly our Lyceum stands!" the Major shouted, for any thing
less than a shout was dumb. "This is the time to try institutions.
I am proud of my foundations."
In answer to his words appeared a huge brown surge, a mountain
ridge, seething backward at the crest with the spread and weight of
onset. This great wave smote all other waves away, or else
embodied them, and gathered its height against the poor worn pebble
bank, and descended. A roar distinct above the universal roar
proclaimed it; a crash of conflict shook the earth, and the
shattered bank was swallowed in a world of leaping whiteness. When
this wild mass dashed onward into the swelling flood before us,
there was no sign of Lyceum left, but stubs of foundation, and a
mangled roof rolling over and over, like a hen-coop.
"Well, that beats every thing I ever saw," exclaimed the gallant
Major. "What noble timber! What mortise-work! No London scamping
there, my lads. But what comes here? Why, the very thing we
wanted! Barnes, look alive, my man. Run to your house, and get a
pair of oars and a bucket."
It was the boat, the last surviving boat of all that hailed from
Bruntsea. That monstrous billow had tossed it up like a school-
boy's kite, and dropped it whole, with an upright keel, in the
inland sea, though nearly half full of water. Driven on by wind
and wave, it labored heavily toward us; and more than once it
seemed certain to sink as it broached to and shipped seas again.
But half a dozen bold fishermen rushed with a rope into the short
angry surf--to which the polled shingle bank still acted as a
powerful breakwater, else all Bruntsea had collapsed--and they
hauled up the boat with a hearty cheer, and ran her up straight
with, "Yo--heave--oh!" and turned her on her side to drain, and
then launched her again, with a bucket and a man to bail out the
rest of the water, and a pair of heavy oars brought down by Barnes,
and nobody knows what other things.
"Naught to steer with. Rudder gone!" cried one of the men, as the
furious gale drove the boat, athwart the street, back again.
"Wants another oar," said Barnes. "What a fool I were to bring
"Here you are!" shouted Major Hockin. "One of you help me to pull
up this pole."
Through a shattered gate they waded into a little garden, which had
been the pride of the season at Bruntsea; and there from the ground
they tore up a pole, with a board at the top nailed across it, and
the following not rare legend: "Lodgings to let. Inquire within.
First floor front, and back parlors."
"Fust-rate thing to steer with! Would never have believed you had
the sense!" So shouted Barnes--a rough man, roughened by the
stress of storm and fright. "Get into starn-sheets if so liketh.
Ye know, ye may be useful."
"I defy you to push off without my sanction. Useful, indeed! I am
the captain of this boat. All the ground under it is mine. Did
you think, you set of salted radicals, that I meant to let you go
without me? And all among my own houses!"
"Look sharp, governor, if you has the pluck, then. Mind, we are
more like to be swamped than not."
As the boat swung about, Major Hockin jumped in, and so, on the
spur of the moment, did I. We staggered all about with the heave
and roll, and both would have fallen on the planks, or out over, if
we had not tumbled, with opposite impetus, into the arms of each
other. Then a great wave burst and soaked us both, and we fell
into sitting on a slippery seat.
Meanwhile two men were tugging at each oar, and Barnes himself
steering with the sign-board; and the head of the boat was kept
against the wind and the billows from our breakwater. Some of
these seemed resolved (though shorn of depth and height in
crossing) to rush all over us and drown us in the washer-women's
drying ground. By skill and presence of mind, our captain, Barnes,
foiled all their violence, till we got a little shelter from the
ruins of the "Young Men's Christian Institute."
"Hold all!" cried Barnes; "only keep her head up, while I look
about what there is to do."
The sight was a thing to remember; and being on the better side now
of the scud, because it was flying away from us, we could make out
a great deal more of the trouble which had befallen Bruntsea. The
stormy fiord which had usurped the ancient track of the river was
about a furlong in width, and troughed with white waves vaulting
over. And the sea rushed through at the bottom as well, through
scores of yards of pebbles, as it did in quiet weather even, when
the tide was brimming. We in the tossing boat, with her head to
the inrush of the outer sea, were just like people sitting upon the
floats or rafts of a furious weir; and if any such surge had topped
the ridge as the one which flung our boat to us, there could be no
doubt that we must go down as badly as the Major's houses.
However, we hoped for the best, and gazed at the desolation inland.
Not only the Major's great plan, but all the lower line of old
Bruntsea, was knocked to pieces, and lost to knowledge in freaks of
wind-lashed waters. Men and women were running about with favorite
bits of furniture, or feather-beds, or babies' cradles, or whatever
they had caught hold of. The butt ends of the three old streets
that led down toward the sea-ground were dipped, as if playing
seesaw in the surf, and the storm made gangways of them and
lighthouses of the lamp-posts. The old public-house at the corner
was down, and the waves leaping in at the post-office door, and
wrecking the globes of the chemist.
"Drift and dash, and roar and rush, and the devil let loose in the
thick of it. My eyes are worn out with it. Take the glass, Erema,
and tell us who is next to be washed away. A new set of clothes-
props for Mrs. Mangles I paid for the very day I came back from
With these words, the lord of the submarine manor (whose strength
of spirit amazed me) offered his pet binocular, which he never went
without upon his own domain. And fisherman Barnes, as we rose and
fell, once more saved us from being "swamped" by his clever way of
paddling through a scallop in the stern, with the board about the
first floor front to let.
The seamen, just keeping way on the boat, sheltered their eyes with
their left hands, and fixed them on the tumultuous scene.
I also gazed through the double glass, which was a very clear one;
but none of us saw any human being at present in any peril.
"Old pilot was right, after all," said one; "but what a good job as
it come o' middle day, and best of all of a Sunday!"
"I have heered say," replied another, "that the like thing come to
pass nigh upon three hunder years agone. How did you get your
things out, Jem Bishop?"
Jem, the only one of them whose house was in the havoc, regarded
with a sailor's calmness the entry of the sea through his bedroom
window, and was going to favor us with a narrative, when one of his
"What do I see yonner, lads? Away beyond town altogether. Seemeth
to me like a fellow swimming. Miss, will you lend me spy-glass?
Never seed a double-barreled one before. Can use him with one eye
shut, I s'pose?"
"No good that way, Joe," cried Barnes, with a wink of superior
knowledge, for he often had used this binocular. "Shut one eye for
one barrel--stands to reason, then, you shut both for two, my son."
"Stow that," said the quick-eyed sailor, as he brought the glass to
bear in a moment. "It is a man in the water, lads, and swimming to
save the witch, I do believe."
"Bless me!" cried the Major; "how stupid of us! I never thought
once of that poor woman. She must be washed out long ago. Pull
for your lives, my friends. A guinea apiece if you save her."
"And another from me," I cried. Whereupon the boat swept round,
and the tough ash bent, and we rushed into no small danger. For
nearly half a mile had we to pass of raging and boisterous water,
almost as wild as the open sea itself at the breaches of the pebble
ridge. And the risk of a heavy sea boarding us was fearfully
multiplied by having thus to cross the storm instead of breasting
it. Useless and helpless, and only in the way, and battered about
by wind and sea, so that my Sunday dress was become a drag, what
folly, what fatuity, what frenzy, I might call it, could ever have
led me to jump into that boat? "I don't know. I only know that I
always do it," said my sensible self to its mad sister, as they
both shut their eyes at a great white wave. "If I possibly
survive, I will try to know better. But ever from my childhood I
am getting into scrapes."
The boat labored on, with a good many grunts, but not a word from
any one. More than once we were obliged to fetch up as a great
billow topped the poor shingle bank; and we took so much water on
board that the men said afterward that I saved them. I only
remember sitting down and working at the bucket with both hands,
till much of the skin was gone, and my arms and many other places
ached. But what was that to be compared with drowning?
At length we were opposite "Desolate Hole," which was a hole no
longer, but filled and flooded with the churning whirl and reckless
dominance of water. Tufts and tussocks of shattered brush and
rolling wreck played round it, and the old gray stone of mullioned
windows split the wash like mooring-posts. We passed and gazed;
but the only sound was the whistling of the tempest, and the only
living sight a sea-gull, weary of his wings, and drowning.
"No living creature can be there," the Major broke our long
silence. "Land, my friends, if land we may. We risk our own lives
The men lay back on their oars to fetch the gallant boat to the
wind again, when through a great gap in the ruins they saw a sight
that startled manhood. At the back of that ruin, on the landward
side, on a wall which, tottered under them, there were two figures
standing. One a tall man, urging on, the other a woman shrinking.
At a glance, or with a thought, I knew them both. One was Lord
Castlewood's first love, the other his son and murderer.
Our men shouted with the whole power of their hearts to tell that
miserable pair to wait till succor should be brought to them. And
the Major stood up and waved his hat, and in doing so tumbled back
again. I can not tell--how could I tell in the thick of it?--but
an idea or a flit of fancy touched me (and afterward became
conviction) that while the man heard us not at all, and had no
knowledge of us, his mother turned round and saw us all, and faced
the storm in preference.
Whatever the cause may have been, at least she suddenly changed her
attitude. The man had been pointing to the roof, which threatened
to fall in a mass upon them, while she had been shuddering back
from the depth of eddying waves below her. But now she drew up her
poor bent figure, and leaned on her son to obey him.
Our boat, with strong arms laboring for life, swept round the old
gable of the ruin; but we were compelled to "give it wide berth,"
as Captain Barnes shouted; and then a black squall of terrific wind
and hail burst forth. We bowed our heads and drew our bodies to
their tightest compass, and every rib of our boat vibrated as a
violin does; and the oars were beaten flat, and dashed their drip
into fringes like a small-toothed comb.
That great squall was either a whirlwind or the crowning blast of a
hurricane. It beat the high waves hollow, as if it fell from the
sky upon them; and it snapped off one of our oars at the hilt, so
that two of our men rolled backward. And when we were able to look
about again the whole roof of "Desolate Hole" was gone, and little
of the walls left standing. And how we should guide our course, or
even save our lives, we knew not.
We were compelled to bring up--as best we might--with the boat's
head to the sea, and so to keep it by using the steering gear
against the surviving oar. As for the people we were come to save,
there was no chance whatever of approaching them. Even without the
mishap to the oar, we never could have reached them.
And indeed when first we saw them again they seemed better off than
ourselves were. For they were not far from dry land, and the man
(a skillful and powerful swimmer) had a short piece of plank, which
he knew how to use to support his weak companion.
"Brave fellow! fine fellow!" the Major cried, little knowing whom
he was admiring. "See how he keeps up his presence of mind! Such
a man as that is worth any thing. And he cares more for her than
he does for himself. He shall have the Society's medal. One more
long and strong stroke, my noble friend. Oh, great God! what has
In horror and pity we gazed. The man had been dashed against
something headlong. He whirled round and round in white water, his
legs were thrown up, and we saw no more of him. The woman cast off
the plank, and tossed her helpless arms in search of him. A
shriek, ringing far on the billowy shore, declared that she had
lost him; and then, without a struggle, she clasped her hands, and
the merciless water swallowed her.
"It is all over," cried Major Hockin, lifting his drenched hat
solemnly. "The Lord knoweth best. He has taken them home."
A DEAD LETTER
With that great tornado, the wind took a leap of more points of the
compass than I can tell. Barnes, the fisherman, said how many; but
I might be quite wrong in repeating it. One thing, at any rate,
was within my compass--it had been blowing to the top of its
capacity, direct from the sea, but now it began to blow quite as
hard along the shore. This rough ingratitude of wind to waves,
which had followed each breath of its orders, produced extraordinary
passion, and raked them into pointed wind-cocks.
"Captain, we can't live this out," cried Barnes; "we must run her
ashore at once; tide has turned; we might be blown out to sea, with
one oar, and then the Lord Himself couldn't save us."
Crippled as we were, we contrived to get into a creek, or
backwater, near the Major's gate. Here the men ran the boat up,
and we all climbed out, stiff, battered, and terrified, but doing
our best to be most truly thankful.
"Go home, Captain, as fast as you can, and take the young lady
along of you," said Mr. Barnes, as we stood and gazed at the
weltering breadth of disaster. "We are born to the drip, but not
you, Sir; and you are not so young as you was, you know."
"I am younger than ever I was," the lord of the manor answered,
sternly, yet glancing back to make sure of no interruption from his
better half--who had not even heard of his danger. "None of that
nonsense to me, Barnes. You know your position, and I know mine.
On board of that boat you took the lead, and that may have misled
you. I am very much obliged to you, I am sure, for all your skill
and courage, which have saved the lives of all of us. But on land
you will just obey me."
"Sartinly, Captain. What's your orders?"
"Nothing at all. I give no orders. I only make suggestions. But
if your experience sees a way to recover those two poor bodies, let
us try it at once--at once, Barnes. Erema, run home. This is no
scene for you. And tell Margaret to put on the double-bottomed
boiler, with the stock she made on Friday, and a peck of patent
pease. There is nothing to beat pea soup; and truly one never
knows what may happen."
This was only too evident now, and nobody disobeyed him.
Running up his "drive" to deliver that message, at one of the many
bends I saw people from Bruntsea hurrying along a footpath through
the dairy-farm. While the flood continued this was their only way
to meet the boat's crew. On the steps of "Smuggler's Castle" (as
Bruntlands House was still called by the wicked) I turned again,
and the new sea-line was fringed with active searchers. I knew
what they were looking for, but, scared and drenched and shivering
as I was, no more would I go near them. My duty was rather to go
in and comfort dear Aunt Mary and myself. In that melancholy quest
I could do no good, but a great deal of harm, perhaps, if any thing
was found, by breaking forth about it.
Mrs. Hockin had not the least idea of the danger we had encountered.
Bailiff Hopkins had sent her home in Rasper's fly by an inland
road, and she kept a good scolding quite ready for her husband, to
distract his mind from disaster. That trouble had happened she
could not look out of her window without knowing; but could it be
right, at their time of life, to stand in the wet so, and challenge
Providence, and spoil the first turkey-poult of the season?
But when she heard of her husband's peril, in the midst of all his
losses, his self-command, and noble impulse first of all to rescue
life, she burst into tears, and hugged and kissed me, and said the
same thing nearly fifty times.
"Just like him. Just like my Nicholas. You thought him a
speculative, selfish man. Now you see your mistake, Erema."
When her veteran husband came home at last (thoroughly jaded, and
bringing his fishermen to gulp the pea soup and to gollop the
turkey), a small share of mind, but a large one of heart, is
required to imagine her doings. Enough that the Major kept saying,
"Pooh-pooh!" and the more he said, the less he got of it.
When feelings calmed down, and we returned to facts, our host and
hero (who, in plain truth, had not so wholly eclipsed me in
courage, though of course I expected no praise, and got none, for
people hate courage in a lady), to put it more simply, the Major
himself, making a considerable fuss, as usual--for to my mind he
never could be Uncle Sam--produced from the case of his little
"Church Service," to which he had stuck like a Briton, a sealed and
stamped letter, addressed to me at Castlewood, in Berkshire--
"stamped," not with any post-office tool, but merely with the red
thing which pays the English post.
Sodden and blurred as the writing was, I knew the clear, firm hand,
the same which on the envelope at Shoxford had tempted me to
meanness. This letter was from Thomas Hoyle; the Major had taken
it from the pocket of his corpse; all doubt about his death was
gone. When he felt his feet on the very shore, and turned to
support his mother, a violent wave struck the back of his head upon
Major Hockin's pillar-box.
Such sadness came into my heart--though sternly it should have been
gladness--that I begged their pardon, and went away, as if with a
private message. And wicked as it may have been, to read was more
than once to cry. The letter began abruptly:
"You know nearly all my story now. I have only to tell you what
brought me to you, and what my present offer is. But to make it
clear, I must enlarge a little.
"There was no compact of any kind between your father and myself.
He forbore at first to tell what he must have known, partly,
perhaps, to secure my escape, and partly for other reasons. If he
had been brought to trial, his duty to his family and himself would
have led him, no doubt, to explain things. And if that had failed,
I would have returned and surrendered myself. As things happened,
there was no need.
"Through bad luck, with which I had nothing to do, though doubtless
the whole has been piled on my head, your father's home was
destroyed, and he seems to have lost all care for every thing. Yet
how much better off was he than I! Upon me the curse fell at
birth; upon him, after thirty years of ease and happiness.
However, for that very reason, perhaps, he bore it worse than I
did. He grew imbittered against the world, which had in no way
ill-treated him; whereas its very first principle is to scorn all
such as I am. He seems to have become a misanthrope, and a
fatalist like myself. Though it might almost make one believe the
existence of such a thing as justice to see pride pay for its
wickedness thus--the injury to the outcast son recoil upon the
pampered one, and the family arrogance crown itself with the
ignominy of the family.
"In any case, there was no necessity for my interference; and being
denied by fate all sense of duty to a father, I was naturally
driven to double my duty to my mother, whose life was left hanging
upon mine. So we two for many years wandered about, shunning
islands and insular prejudice. I also shunned your father, though
(so far as I know) he neither sought me nor took any trouble to
clear himself. If the one child now left him had been a son, heir
to the family property and so on, he might have behaved quite
otherwise, and he would have been bound to do so. But having only
a female child, who might never grow up, and, if she did, was very
unlikely to succeed, he must have resolved at least to wait. And
perhaps he confirmed himself with the reflection that even if
people believed his tale (so long after date and so unvouched), so
far as family annals were concerned, the remedy would be as bad as
the disease. Moreover, he owed his life to me, at great risk of my
own; and to pay such a debt with the hangman's rope would scarcely
appear quite honorable, even in the best society.
"It is not for me to pretend to give his motives, although from my
knowledge of his character I can guess them pretty well, perhaps.
We went our several ways in the world, neither of us very
"One summer, in the Black Forest, I fell in with an outcast
Englishman, almost as great a vagabond as myself. He was under the
ban of the law for writing his father's name without license. He
did not tell me that, or perhaps even I might have despised him,
for I never was dishonest. But one great bond there was between
us--we both detested laws and men. My intimacy with him is the one
thing in life which I am ashamed of. He passed by a false name
then, of course. But his true name was Montague Hockin. My mother
was in very weak health then, and her mind for the most part
clouded; and I need not say that she knew nothing of what I had
done for her sake. That man pretended to take the greatest
interest in her condition, and to know a doctor at Baden who could
"We avoided all cities (as he knew well), and lived in simple
villages, subsisting partly upon my work, and partly upon the
little income left by my grandfather, Thomas Hoyle. But, compared
with Hockin, we were well off; and he did his best to swindle us.
Luckily all my faith in mankind was confined to the feminine
gender, and not much even of that survived. In a very little time
I saw that people may repudiate law as well from being below as
from being above it.
"Then he came one night, with the finest style and noblest contempt
of every thing. We must prepare ourselves for great news, and all
our kindness to him would be repaid tenfold in a week or two. Let
me go into Freyburg that time to-morrow night, and listen. I asked
him nothing as to what he meant, for I was beginning to weary of
him, as of every body. However, I thought it just worth while,
having some one who bought my wicker-work, to enter the outskirts
of the town on the following evening, and wait to be told if any
news was stirring. And the people were amazed at my not knowing
that last night the wife of an English lord--for so they called
him, though no lord yet--had run away with a golden-bearded man,
believed to be also English.
"About that you know more, perhaps, than I do. But I wish you to
know what that Hockin was, and to clear myself of complicity. Of
Herbert Castlewood I knew nothing, and I never even saw the lady.
And to say (as Sir Montague Hockin has said) that I plotted all
that wickedness, from spite toward all of the Castlewood name, is
to tell as foul a lie as even he can well indulge in.
"It need not be said that he does not know my story from any word
of mine. To such a fellow I was not likely to commit my mother's
fate. But he seems to have guessed at once that there was
something strange in my history; and then, after spying and low
prying at my mother, to have shaped his own conclusion. Then,
having entirely under his power that young fool who left a kind
husband for him, he conceived a most audacious scheme. This was no
less than to rob your cousin, the last Lord Castlewood, not of his
wife and jewels and ready money only, but also of all the
disposable portion of the Castlewood estates. For the lady's
mother had taken good care, like a true Hungarian, to have all the
lands settled upon her daughter, so far as the husband could deal
with them. And though, at the date of the marriage, he could not
really deal at all with them--your father being still alive--it
appears that his succession (when it afterward took place) was
bound, at any rate, as against himself. A divorce might have
canceled this--I can not say--but your late cousin was the last
man in the world to incur the needful exposure. Upon this they
"The new 'Lady Hockin' (as she called herself, with as much right
as 'Lady Castlewood') flirted about while her beauty lasted; but
even then found her master in a man of deeper wickedness. But if
her poor husband desired revenge--which he does not seem to have
done, perhaps--he could not have had it better. She was seized
with a loathsome disease, which devoured her beauty, like Herod and
his glory. I believe that she still lives, but no one can go near
her; least of all, the fastidious Montague."
At this part of the letter I drew a deep breath, and exclaimed,
"Thank God!" I know not how many times; and perhaps it was a crime
of me to do it even once.
"Finding his nice prospective game destroyed by this little
accident--for he meant to have married the lady after her husband's
death, and set you at defiance; but even he could not do that now,
little as he cares for opinion--what did he do but shift hands
altogether? He made up his mind to confer the honor of his hand on
you, having seen you somewhere in London, and his tactics became
the very opposite of what they had been hitherto. Your father's
innocence now must be maintained instead of his guiltiness.
"With this in view, he was fool enough to set the detective police
after me--me, who could snap all their noses off! For he saw how
your heart was all set on one thing, and expected to have you his
serf forever, by the simple expedient of hanging me. The
detectives failed, as they always do. He also failed in his
overtures to you.
"You did your utmost against me also, for which I bear you no
ill-will, but rather admire your courage. You acted in a
straightforward way, and employed no dirty agency. Of your simple
devices I had no fear. However, I thought it as well to keep an
eye upon that Hockin, and a worthy old fool, some relation of his,
who had brought you back from America. To this end I kept my head-
quarters near him, and established my mother comfortably. She was
ordered sea air, and has had enough. To-morrow I shall remove her.
By the time you receive this letter we shall both be far away, and
come back no more; but first I shall punish that Hockin. Without
personal violence this will be done.
"Now what I propose to you is simple, moderate, and most strictly
just. My mother's little residue of life must pass in ease and
comfort. She has wronged no one, but ever been wronged. Allow her
300 pounds a year, to be paid as I shall direct you. For myself I
will not take a farthing. You will also restore, as I shall
direct, the trinket upon which she sets great value, and for which
I sought vainly when we came back to England. I happen to know
that you have it now.
"In return for these just acts, you have the right to set forth the
whole truth publicly, to proclaim your father's innocence, and (as
people will say) his chivalry; and, which will perhaps rejoice you
also, to hear no more of
"P.S.--Of course I am trusting your honor in this. But your
father's daughter can be no sneak; as indeed I have already
WITH HIS OWN SWORD
"What a most wonderful letter!" cried the Major, when, after