Part 12 out of 12
when, after my father's death, Uncle Fred and his wife came and took
me away to live with them, and adopted me as their daughter. And
living with them, and being always surrounded by the society they
entertained, made me forget religion altogether. They never went to
church,--neither did any of the people they called their friends.
Indeed nobody I ever met in all the 'sets' of London, or Paris, or
New York ever seemed to think of God or a future life at all. Some
of them went in for what they called 'spiritualism' and deceived
each other in the most terrible way! I never heard people tell so
many dreadful lies! They used to joke about it afterwards. But no
one ever seemed to think that religion,--real religion--real
Christianity--was at all necessary or worth talking about. They
called it an 'exploded myth.' When I met Cicely Bourne I found that
SHE believed in it. And I was quite surprised! Because she had such
a hard life, and she had always been so cruelly treated, that I
wondered how she could believe in anything. But she told me that
when she knew she had a voice and a gift for music, she used to pray
that an angel might be sent to help her,--and when I asked her--'Did
the angel come?' she said that God had sent ME as the angel! Of
course it wasn't true, but it was very sweet of her to say it!"
She paused. Walden was quite silent. Leaning his elbow on the raised
head of her couch, he shaded his brow with one hand, thus partially
covering his eyes from the glow of the fire. There were tears in
those eyes, and he was afraid she would see them.
"Cicely was always so brave and contented,"--she presently
continued--"And as I learned to know more of her I began to wonder
if really after all, her religion helped her? And then there came a
time of great worry and trouble for me--and--I came home here to try
and find peace and rest--and I met YOU!"
He moved restlessly, but said nothing.
"To meet you was an event in my life!" she said, turning. towards
him a little, and laying her hand timidly on his coat sleeve--"It
He looked at her,--and a wave of warmth passed over his face.
"Was it?" he murmured.
"Of course it was!" she declared,--and almost she laughed--"You
won't understand me, I daresay!--but to meet you. for the first time
is a kind of event to most people! They begin to think about you,--
they can't help it! You are so different from the ordinary sort of
clergyman,--I don't know how or why,--but you are!"
He smiled a trifle sadly.
"Talk of yourself, not of me,"--he said, uneasily.
"Yes, but I cannot very well talk of myself now without bringing you
into it,"--she insisted,--"And you must let me tell my story in my
He shaded his eyes again from the firelight, and listened.
"After I met you that morning," she went on--"I heard many things
about you in the village. Everyone seemed to love you!--yes, even
the tiniest children! The poor people, the old and the sick, all
seemed to trust you as their truest and best friend! And when I knew
all this I began to think very earnestly about the religious faith
which seemed to make you what you are. I didn't go to church to hear
you preach--you know that!--I only went once--and I was late--you
remember?--So it has not been anything you have said in the pulpit
that has changed me so much. It is just YOU, yourself! It is because
you live your life as you do that I want to learn to live the rest
of mine just a little bit like it, even though I am crippled and
more or less useless. You will teach me, won't you? I want to have
your faith--your goodness---"
He interrupted her.
"Do not call me good!" he said, faintly--"I cannot bear it--I
She looked at him, and there were tears in her eyes.
"I'm afraid you will have to bear it!" she said, softly--"For you
ARE good!--you have always been good to ME! And I do honestly
believe that God means everything for the best as you say, because
now I am a cripple, I have escaped once and for all from the
marriage my aunt was trying to force me into with Lord Roxmouth. I
thank God every minute of my life for that!"
"You never loved him?"
John's voice was very low and tremulous as he asked this question.
"Never!" she answered, in the same low tone. "How could you think
"I did not know--I was not quite sure---" he murmured.
"No, I never loved him!" she said, earnestly--"I always feared and
hated him! And he did not love me,--he only cared for the money my
aunt would have left me had I married him. But I have always wanted
to be loved for myself--and this has been my great trouble. If
anyone had ever really cared for me, I think it would have made me
good and wise and full of trust in God--I should have been a much
better woman than I am--I am sure I should! People say that the love
I want is only found in poems and story books, and that my fancies
are quite ridiculous. Perhaps they are. But I can't help it. I am
just myself and no other!" She smiled a little--then went on--"Lord
Roxmouth has a great social position,--but, to my mind, he has
degraded it. I could not have married a man for whom I had no
respect. You see I can talk quite easily about all this because it
is past. For of course now I am a cripple, the very idea of marriage
for me is all over. And I am really very glad it is so. No one can
spread calumnies about me, or compromise my name any more. And even
the harm Lord Roxmouth meant to try and do to YOU, has been stopped.
So this time God HAS answered my prayers."
John looked up suddenly.
"Did you pray---?" he began in a choked voice-then checked himself,
and said quickly--"Dear child, I do not think Lord Roxmouth could
have ever done me any harm!"
"Ah, you don't know him as I do!" and she sighed--"He stops at
nothing. He will employ any base tool, any mean spy, to gain his own
immediate purposes. And--and--" she hesitated--"you know I wrote to
you about it---he saw us in the picture gallery---"
"Well!" said John, and his eyes kindled into a sudden light and
fire--"What if he did?"
"You were telling me how much you disliked seeing women smoke"--she
faltered--"And--and--you spoke of Psyche,--you remember---"
"I remember!" And John grew bolder and more resolute in spirit as he
saw the soft rose flush on her cheeks and listened to the dulcet
tremor of her voice--"I shall never forget!"
"And he thought--he thought---" here her words sank almost to a
whisper--"that I--that you---"
He turned suddenly and looked down upon her where she lay. Their
eyes met,--and in that one glance, love flashed a whole unwritten
history. Stooping over her, he caught her little hands in his own,
and pressed them against his heart with strong and passionate
"If he thought I loved you,"--he said--"he was right! I loved you
then--I love you now!--I shall love you for ever--till death, and
beyond it! My darling, my darling! You know I love you!"
A half sob, a little smile answered him,--and then soft, broken
"Yes--I know!--I always knew!"
He folded his arms about her, and drew her into an embrace from
which he wildly thought not Death itself should tear her.
"And you care?" he whispered.
"I care so much that I care for nothing else!" she said--then, all
suddenly she broke down and began to weep pitifully, clinging to him
and murmuring the grief she had till now so bravely restrained--"But
it is all too late!" she sobbed--"Oh my dearest, you love me,--and I
love you,--ah!--you will never know how much!--but it is too late!--
I can be of no use to you!--I can never be of use! I shall only be a
trouble to you,--a drag and a burden on your days!--oh John!--and a
little while ago I might have been your joy instead of your sorrow!"
He held her to him more closely.
"Hush, hush!" he said softly, soothing her as he would have soothed
a child,--and with mingled tenderness and reverence, he kissed the
sweet trembling lips, the wet eyes, the tear-stained cheeks--"Hush,
my little girl! You are all my joy in this world--can you not feel
that you are?" And he kissed her again and yet again. "And I am so
unworthy of you!--so old and worn and altogether unpleasing to a
woman--I am nothing! Yet you love me! How strange that seems!--how
wonderful!--for I have done nothing to deserve your love. And had
you been spared your health and strength, I should never have
spoken--never! I would not have clouded your sunny life with my
selfish shadow. No! I should have let you go on your way and have
kept silence to the end! For in all your vital brightness and beauty
I should never have dared to say I love you, Maryllia!"
At this she checked her sobs, and looked up at him in vague
"You would never have spoken?"
"You would have let me live on here, quite close to you, seeing you
every day, perhaps, without a word of the love in your heart?"
He kissed her, half-smiling.
"I think I should!"
"Then"--said Maryllia, with grave sweetness--"I know that God does
mean everything for the best--and I thank Him for having made me a
cripple! Because if my trouble has warmed your heart,--your cold,
cold heart, John!"--and she smiled at him through her tears--"and
has made you say you love me, then it is the most blessed and
beautiful trouble I could possibly have, and has brought me the
greatest happiness of my life! I am glad of it and proud of it,--I
glory in it! For I would rather know that you love me than be the
straightest, brightest, loveliest woman in the world! I would rather
be here in your arms--so--" and she nestled close against him--"than
have all the riches that were ever counted!--and--listen, John!"
Here, with her clinging, caressing arms, she drew his head down
close to her breast--"Even if I have to die and leave you soon, I
shall know that all is right with my soul!--yes, dear, dear John!--
because you will have taken away all its faults and made it
beautiful with your love!--and God will love it for love's sake,
almost as much as He must love you for your own, John!"
There was only one way--there never has been more than one way--to
answer such tender words, and John took that way by silencing the
sweet lips that spoke them with a kiss in which the pent-up passion
of his soul was concentrated. The shadows of the winter gloaming
deepened;--the firelight died down to a mass of rosy embers;-and
when Cicely softly opened the door an hour later, the room was
almost dark. But the scent of violets was in the air--she heard soft
whisperings, and saw that two human beings at least, out of all a
seeking world, had found the secret of happiness. And she stole away
unseen, smiling, yet with glad tears in her eyes, and a little
unuttered song in her heart--
"If to love is the best of all things known,
We have gain'd the best in the world, mine own!
We have touch'd the summit of love--and live
God Himself has no more to give!"
The prime of youth is said to be the only time of life when lovers
are supposed by poets and romancists to walk 'on air,' so as John
Walden was long past the age when men are called young, it is
difficult to determine the kind of buoyant element on which he trod
when he left the Manor that evening. Youth!--what were its vague
inchoate emotions, its trembling hesitations, its more or less
selfish jealousies, doubts and desires, compared to the strong,
glowing and tender passion which filled the heart of this man, so
long a solitary in the world, who now awaking to the consciousness
of love in its noblest, purest form, knew that from henceforth he
was no longer alone! A life,--delicate and half broken by cruel
destiny, hung on his for support, help and courage,--a soul, full of
sweetness and purity, clung to him for its hope of Heaven! The glad
blood quickened in his veins,--he was twice a man,--never had he
felt so proud, so powerful, and withal so young. Like the Psalmist
he could have said 'My days are renewed upon the earth'--and he
devoutly thanked God for the blessing and glory of the gift of love
which above all others makes existence sweet.
"My darling!" he murmured, as he walked joyously along the little
distance stretching between the lodge gates of the Manor and his own
home--"She shall never miss one joy that I can give her! How
fortunate it is that I am tall and strong, for when the summer days
come I can lift her from her couch and carry her out into the garden
like a little child in my arms, and she will rest under the trees,
and perhaps gradually get accustomed to the loss of her own bright
vitality if I do my utmost best to be all life to her! I will fill
her days with varied occupations and try to make the time pass
sweetly,--she shall keep all her interests in the village--nothing
shall be done without her consent--ah yes!--I know I shall be able
to make her happier than she would be if left to bear her trouble
quite alone! If she were strong and well, I should be no fit partner
for her--but as it is--perhaps my love may comfort her, and my
unworthiness be forgiven!"
Thus thinking, he arrived at his rectory, and entering, pushed open
the door of his study. There, somewhat to his surprise, he found Dr.
'Jimmy' Forsyth standing in a meditative attitude with his back to
"Hullo, Walden!" he said--"Here you are at last! I've been waiting
for you ever so long!"
"Have you?" and John, smiling radiantly, threw off his hat, and
pushed back his grey-brown curls from his forehead--"I'm sorry!
Anything wrong?" Dr. 'Jimmy' shrugged his shoulders.
"Nothing particular. Oliver Leach is dead,--that's all!"
Walden started back. The smile passed from his face, for,
remembering the scarcely veiled threats of his parishioners, he
began to fear lest they should have taken some unlawful vengeance on
the object of their hatred.
"Dead!" he echoed amazedly--"Surely no one--no one has killed him?"
"Not a bit of it!" said Forsyth, complacently--"It just happened!"
"Well, it appears that the rascal has been lying low for a
considerable time in the house of our reverend friend, Putwood
Leveson. That noble soul has been playing 'sanctuary' to him, and no
doubt warned him of the very warm feeling with which the villagers
of St. Rest regarded him. He has been maturing certain plans, and
waiting till an opportunity should arise for him to get away to
Riversford, where apparently he intended to take up his future
abode, Mordaunt Appleby the brewer having offered him a situation as
brewery accountant. The opportunity occurred last night, so I hear.
He managed to get off with his luggage in a trap, and duly arrived
at the Crown Inn. There he was set upon in the taproom by certain
old friends and gambling associates, who accused him of wilfully
attempting to injure Miss Vancourt. He denied it. Thereupon they
challenged him to drink ten glasses of raw whiskey, one on top of
another, to prove his innocence. It was a base and brutal business,
but he accepted the challenge. At the eighth glass he fell down
unconscious. His companions thought he was merely drunk--but--as it
turned out--he was dead." [Footnote: This incident happened lately
in a village in the south of England.]
Walden heard in silence.
"It's horrible!" he said at last--"Yet--I cannot say sorry! I
suppose as a Christian minister I ought to be,--but I'm not! I only
hope none of my people were concerned in the matter?"
"You may be quite easy on that score,"--replied Forsyth--"Of course
there will be an inquest, and a severe reproof will be administered
to the men who challenged him,--but there the affair will end. I
really don't think we need grieve ourselves unduly over the exit of
one scoundrel from a world already overburdened with his species."
With that, he turned and poked the fire into a brighter blaze. "Let
us talk of something else"--he said. "I called in to tell you that
Santori is in London, and that I have taken the responsibility upon
myself of sending for him to see Miss Vancourt."
Walden was instantly all earnest attention.
"Who is Santori?" he asked.
"Santori," replied Forsyth, "is a great Italian, whose scientific
researches into medicine and surgery have won him the honour of all
nations, save and except the British. We are very insular, my dear
Walden!--we never will tolerate the 'furriner' even if he brings us
health and healing in his hand! Santori is a medical 'furriner,'
therefore he is generally despised by the English medical
profession. But I'm a Scotsman--I've no prejudices except my own!"
And he laughed--"And I acknowledge Santori as one of the greatest
men of the age. He is a scientist as well as a surgeon--and his
great 'speciality' is the spine and nerves. Now I have never quite
explained to you the nature of Miss Vancourt's injuries, and there
is no need even now to particularise them. The main point of her
case is that in the condition she is now, she must remain a cripple
for life,--and" here he hesitated,--"that life cannot, I fear, be a
very long one."
Walden turned his head away for a moment.
"Go on!" he said huskily.
"At the same time," continued Dr. Forsyth, gently--"there are no
bones broken,--all the mischief is centred in damage to the spine. I
sent, as you know, for Wentworth Glynn, our best specialist in this
country, and he assured me there was no hope whatever of any change
for the better. Yesterday, I happened to see in the papers that
Santori had arrived in London for a few weeks, and, acting on a
sudden inspiration, I wrote him a letter at once, explaining the
whole case, and asking him to meet me in consultation. He has wired
an answer to-day, saying he will be here to-morrow."
Walden's eyes were full of sorrowful pain and yearning.
"Well!" he said, with a slight sigh--"And what then?"
"What then?" responded Dr. 'Jimmy' cheerfully--"Why nothing,--except
that it will be more satisfactory to everyone concerned,--and to me
particularly--to have his opinion."
There was a pause. John gazed down into the fire as though he saw a
whole world of mingled grief and joy reflected in its crimson glow.
Then, suddenly lifting his head, he looked his friend full in the
"Forsyth,"--he said--"I think I ought to tell you--you ought to
know--I am going to marry her!"
Without a word, 'Jimmy' gripped his hand and pressed it hard. Then
he turned very abruptly, and walked up and down the little room. And
presently he drew out his glasses and polished them vigorously
though they were in no need of this process.
"I thought you would!" he said, after a while--"Of course I saw how
the land lay! I knew you loved her---"
"I suppose that was easy to guess!" said John, a warm flush of
colour rising to his brows as he spoke--"But you could not have
imagined for a moment that she would love me! Yet she does! That is
the wonder of it! I am such an old humdrum fellow--and she is so
young and bright and pretty! It seems so strange that she should
Dr. Forsyth looked at him with an appreciative twinkle in his eye.
Then he laid a friendly hand upon his shoulder,
"You are a quaint creature, John!" he said--"Yet, do you know, I
rather like your humdrum ways? I do, positively! And if I were a
woman, I think I should esteem myself fortunate if I got you for a
husband! I really should! You certainly don't suffer from swelled
head, John--that's a great point in your favour!"
He laughed,--and John laughed with him. Then, drawing their chairs
to opposite sides of the fire, they talked for an hour or more on
the subject that was most interesting to them both, John was for
marrying Maryllia as soon as possible--"in order that I may have the
right to watch over her," he urged, and Forsyth agreed.
"But wait till Santori has seen her, and given his opinion,"--he
said--"If he comes, as his telegram says he will to-morrow, we can
take him entirely into our confidence, to decide what is best for
her peace and pleasure. The ceremony of marriage can be gone through
privately at the Manor,--by the way, why don't you ask your friend
the Bishop to officiate? I suppose he knows the position?"
"He knows much, but not all,"--said John--"I wrote to him about the
accident of course--and have written to him frequently since, but I
did not think I should ever have such news to tell him as I have
now!" His eyes darkened with deep feeling. "He has had his own
tragedy--he will understand mine!"
A silence fell between them,--and soon after, Forsyth took his
leave. Walden, left alone, and deeply conscious of the new
responsibility he had taken upon his life, set to work to get
through his parish business for the evening, in order to have time
to devote to Maryllia the next day, and, writing a long letter to
Bishop Brent, he told him all the history of his late-found
happiness,--his hopes, his sorrows, his fears--and his intention to
show what a man's true love could be to a woman whom unkind destiny
had deprived of all the natural joys of living. He added to this
letter a few words referring to Forsyth's information respecting the
Italian specialist, Santori, who had been sent for to see Maryllia
and pronounce on her condition--"but I fear," he wrote, "that there
is nothing to be done, save to resign ourselves to the apparently
cruel and incomprehensible will of God, which in this case has
declared itself in favour of allowing the innocent to suffer."
Next morning he awoke to find the sun shining brightly from a sky
almost clear blue, save for a few scattered grey fleecy clouds,--
and, stepping out into his garden, the first thing he noticed was a
root of primroses breaking shyly into flower. Seeing Bainton
trimming the shrubbery close by, he called his attention to it.
"Spring is evidently on the way, Bainton!" he said cheerily, "We are
getting past the white into the gold again!"
"Ay, Passon, that we be!" rejoined Bainton, with a smile--"An'
please the Lord, we'll soon get from the gold into the blue, an'
from the blue into the rose! For that's allus the way o' the year,--
first little white shaky blossoms wot's a bit afraid of theirselves,
lest the frost should nip 'em,--and then the deep an' the pale an'
the bright gold blossoms, which just laughs at dull weather--an'
then the blue o' the forget-me-nots an' wood-bells,--an' the red o'
the roses to crown all. An' mebbe," he continued, with a shrewd
upward glance at his master's face--"when the roses come, there'll
be a bit of orange-blossom to keep 'em company---"
John started,--and then his kind smile, so warm and sunny and sweet,
shone like a beam of light itself across his features.
"What, Bainton!" he said--"So you know all about it already!"
Bainton began to chuckle irrepressibly.
"Well, if the village ain't a liar from its one end to its
t'otherest, then I knows!" he declared triumphantly--"Lord love ye,
Passon, you don't s'pose ye can keep any secrets in this 'ere
parish? They knows all about ye 'fore ye knows yerself!--an' Missis
Spruce she came down from the Manor last night in such a state o'
fluster as never was, an' she sez, all shakin' like an' smilin'--
'Miss Maryllia's goin' to be married,' sez she, an' we up an' sez to
'er--'What, is the Dook goin' to 'ave her just the same though she
can't walk no more?' an' she sez: 'Dook, not a bit of it! There's a
better man than any Dook close by an' it's 'im she's goin' to 'ave
an' nobody else, an' it's Passon Walden,' sez she, an' with that we
all gives a big shout, an' she busts out cryin' an' laughin'
together, an' we all doos the same like the nesh fools we are when a
bit o' news pleases us like,--an'--an'---" Here Bainton's voice grew
rather husky and tremulous as he proceeded--"so of course the news
went right through the village two minutes arterwards. An' it's all
we could do to keep from comin' up outside 'ere an' givin' ye a
rousin' cheer 'fore goin' to bed, onny Mr. Netlips 'e said it
wouldn't be 'commensurate,' wotever that is, so we just left it.
Howsomever, I made up my mind I'd be the first to wish ye joy,
Passon!--an' I wish it true!"
Silently Walden held out his hand. Bainton grasped it with
affectionate respect in his own horny palm.
"Not that I'd 'ave ever thought you'd a' bin a marryin' man,
Passon!" he averred, his shrewd eyes lighting up with the kindliest
humour--"But it's never too late to mend!"
"That's true, Bainton! It's never too late to repent of one's
follies and begin to be wise! Thank you for all your good wishes--
they come from the heart, I know! But"--and his smile softened into
an earnest gravity of expression--"they must be for her--for Miss
Maryllia--not for me! I am already happier than I deserve--but she
needs everyone's good thoughts and prayers to help her to bear her
enforced helplessness--she is very brave--yet--it is hard---"
He broke off, not trusting himself to say more.
"It's hard--it's powerful hard!" agreed Bainton, sympathetically--
"Such a wife as she'd a' made t'ye, Passon, if she'd been as she was
when she come in smilin' an' trippin' across this lawn by your side,
an' ye broke off a bit o' your best lilac for her! There's the very
bush--all leafless twigs now, but strong an' 'elthy an' ready to
bloom again! Ah! I remember that day well!--'twas the same day as ye
sat under the apple tree arter she was gone an' fastened a
threepenny bit with a 'ole in it to ye're watch chain! I seed it!
An' I was fair mazed over that 'oley bit,--but I found out all about
it!--hor-hor-hor!" and Bainton began to laugh with exceeding delight
at his own perspicuity--"A few minutes' gossip with old Missis
Tapple at the post-office did it!--hor-hor-hor! for she told me,
bless 'er heart!--as 'ow Miss Vancourt 'ad given it t'ye for fun, as
a sort o' reward like for sendin' off some telegrams for 'er! Hor-
hor! There's naught like a village for findin' out everybody's
little secrets, an' our village beats every other one I ever heard
tell on at that kind o' work, it do reely now! I say, Passon, when
they was spreadin' all the stories round about you an' Miss
Vancourt, I could a' told a tale about the 'oley bit, couldn't I?"
"You could indeed!" laughed John, good-naturedly--"and yet--I
suppose you didn't!"
"Not I!" said Bainton, stoutly--"I do talk a bit, but I ain't Missis
Spruce, nor I ain't turned into a telephone tube yet. Mebbe I will
when I'm a bit older. 'Ave ye heard, Passon, as 'ow Oliver Leach is
"Yes,--Dr. Forsyth told me last night."
"Now d'ye think a man like 'im is gone to Heaven!" demanded Bainton-
-"Honest an' true, d'ye think the Lord Almighty wants 'im?"
John was rather non-plussed. His garrulous gardener watched his face
with attentive interest.
"Don't ye answer unless ye like, Passon!" he observed, sagaciously--
"I don't want to make ye say things which ain't orthodox! You keep a
still tongue, an' I shall understand!"
John took the hint. He 'kept a still tongue'--and turned back from
the garden into the house. Bainton chuckled softly.
"Passon can't lie!" he said to himself--"He couldn't do it to save
his life! That's just the best of 'im! Now if he'd begun tellin' me
that he was sure that blackhearted rascal 'ad gone to keep company
with the angels I'd a nigh despised im!--I would reely now!"
That same morning, when John walked up to the Manor again, he
entered it as a privileged person, invested with new authority.
Cicely ran to meet him, and frankly put up her face to be kissed.
"A thousand and one congratulations!" she said--"I knew this would
come!--I was sure of it! But the credit of the first guess is due to
the Mooncalf,--Julian, you know!--he's a poet, and he made up a
whole romance about you and Maryllia the first day he ever saw you
"Did he?"--and Walden smiled--"Well, he was right! I am very happy,
"So am I!" And the 'Goblin' clasped her hands affectionately across
his arm--"You are just the very man I should have chosen for
Maryllia!--the only man, in fact--I've never met anybody else worthy
of her! But oh, if she were only strong and well! Do you know that
Dr. Forsyth is bringing another specialist to see her this
"Yes, I know!"
"And there's other news for you this morning"--pursued Cicely, a
broad smile lighting up her face and eyes--"Very amusing news! Lord
Roxmouth is married!"
"Married!" exclaimed Walden, incredulously--"Not possible!"
"Come and see the wedding cards!"--and Cicely, laughing outright,
caught his hand, and pulled him along into the morning room, where
Maryllia, with her couch turned so that she could see the first
glimpse of her lover as he entered the doorway, was eagerly awaiting
his approach--"Maryllia, here's John! Prove to him at once please
that Mrs. Fred's millions are lost to you forever!"
Maryllia laughed, and blushed sweetly too, as John bent over her and
kissed her with a very expressive look of tenderness, not to say
"It's true, John!" she said--"Lord Roxmouth has married Aunt Emily!"
John's blue eyes lighted with sudden laughter.
"Well done!" he exclaimed, gaily--"Anything for the millions,
evidently! What a comfort to think he has secured them at last! And
so you have become the niece instead of the wife of the future duke,
my Maryllia! When and where were they married?"
"Last week at the Embassy in Paris. Cicely wrote to Aunt Emily at
New Year, telling her that though I was much better, the doctors had
said I should be a cripple for life. Well, we never had any answer
at all to that letter,--not a word of regret, or affection or
sympathy. Then,--this morning--behold!--the Roxmouth wedding cards!"
She took a silver-bordered envelope lying on a little table close
beside her, and drawing out from it the cards in question, held them
up to his view. Walden glanced at them with a touch of contempt.
"Shall I wire our united heartiest congratulations?" he queried,
smiling--"And add that we are engaged to be married?"
"Do!" said Maryllia, clasping his hand in her own and kissing it--
"Go and send the wire off through dear old Mrs. Tapple! And then all
the village will know how happy I am!"
"How happy WE are,"--corrected John--"I think they know that
already, Maryllia! But it shall be well impressed upon them!"
Later on, when he was in the village, making his usual round of
visits among the sick and poor, and receiving the affectionate good
wishes of many who had heard the news of his betrothal, he saw Dr.
Forsyth driving up to the Manor in his gig with another man beside
him, who, as he rightly guessed, was no other than the celebrated
Italian specialist, Santori. Forsyth had promised to come and tell
him the result of the consultation as soon as he knew it himself,
and Walden waited for him hour after hour with increasing
impatience. At last he appeared,--pale, and evidently under the
influence of some strongly suppressed excitement.
"Walden,"--he said, without preface or hesitation--"are you prepared
to face a great crisis?"
Walden's heart almost stood still. Had anything happened to Maryllia
in the short space of time which had elapsed since he saw her last?
"What do you mean?!" he faltered--"I could not bear to lose her--
"You must lose her in a year at the utmost, if you do not run the
risk of losing her to save her now,"--said Forsyth, bluntly--
"Santori has seen her--and--keep cool, John!--he says there is just
one chance of restoring her to her former health and activity again,
but it is a chance fraught with imminent danger to her life. He will
not risk it without her full consent,--and (knowing you are her
betrothed husband)--yours. It is a very serious and difficult
operation,--she may live through it, and she may not."
"I will not have it!" said Walden, quickly, almost fiercely, "She
shall not be touched---"
"Wait!" continued Forsyth, regarding him steadily--"In her present
condition, she will die in a year. She must. There is no help for
it. If Santori operates--and he is quite willing to undertake it--
she may live,--and not only may she live, but she may be absolutely
strong and well again,--able to walk and ride, and enjoy her life to
the full. It rests with her and with you to decide,--yes or no!"
Walden was silent.
"I may as well tell you,"--went on Forsyth--"that she--Miss Vancourt
herself,--is ready to risk it. Santori has gone back to London to-
night,--but if we agree to place her under his hands he will come
and perform the operation next week."
"Next week!" murmured Walden, faintly--"Must it be so soon?"
"The sooner the better,"--said Forsyth, quietly, yet firmly, "Come,
John, face this thing out! I am thinking of the chance of her
happiness as well as yours. Is it worth while to sacrifice the whole
of a young life's possible activity for the sake of one year's
certainty of helplessness with death at the end? Wrestle the facts
out with yourself;--go and see her to-night. And after you have
talked it over together, let me know."
He went out then, and left Walden alone to face this new dark cloud
of anxiety and suspense that seemed to loom over a sky which he
imagined had just cleared. But when he saw Maryllia that evening,
her face reflected nothing but sunshine, and her eyes were radiant
"I must take this chance, John!" she said--"Do not withhold your
consent! Think what it means to us both if this great surgeon is
able to set me on my feet again!--and he is so kind and gentle!--he
says he has every hope of success! What happiness it will be for me
if I can be all in all to you, John!--a real true wife, instead of a
poor helpless invalid dependent on your daily care!--oh John, let me
show you how much I love you by facing this ordeal, and trying to
save my life for your sake!"
He drew her into his arms, and folded her close to his heart.
"My child--my darling! If you wish it, it shall be done!" he
murmured brokenly--"And may God in His great mercy be good to us
both! But if you die, my Maryllia, I shall die too--so we shall
still be together!"
So it was settled; and Dr. Forsyth, vacillating uneasily between
hope and fear, communicated the decision at once to the famous
Italian surgeon, who, without any delay or hesitation responded by
promptly fixing a day in the ensuing week for his performance of the
critical task which was either to kill or cure a woman who to one
man was the dearest of all earth's creatures. And with such dreadful
rapidity did the hours fly towards that day that Walden experienced
in himself all the trembling horrors of a condemned criminal who
knows that his execution is fixed for a certain moment to which Time
itself seems racing like a relentless bloodhound, sure of its
quarry. Writing to Bishop Brent he told him all, and thus concluded
"If I lose her now--now, after the joy of knowing that she loves me-
-I shall kneel before you broken-hearted and implore your
forgiveness for ever having called you selfish in the extremity of
your grief and despair for the loss of love. For I am myself utterly
selfish to the heart's core, and though I say every night in my
prayers 'Thy Will be done,' I know that if she is taken from me I
shall rebel against that Will! For I am only human,--and make no
pretence to be more than a man who loves greatly."
During this interval of suspense Cicely and Julian were thrown much
together. Every moment that Walden could spare from his parish work,
he passed by the side of his beloved, knowing that his presence made
her happy, and fearing that these days might be his last with her on
earth. Maryllia herself however seemed to have no such forebodings.
She was wonderfully bright and cheerful, and though her body was so
helpless her face was radiant with such perfect happiness that it
looked as fair as that of any pictured angel. Cicely, recognising
the nature of the ordeal through which these two lovers were
passing, left them as much by themselves as possible, and laid upon
Julian the burden of her own particular terrors which she was at no
pains to conceal. And unfortunately Julian did not, under the
immediate circumstances, prove a very cheery comforter.
"I hate the knife!" he said, gloomily--"Everyone is cut up or
slashed about in these days--there's too much of it altogether. If
ever a fruit pip goes the way it should not go into my interior
mechanism, I hope it may be left there to sprout up into a tree if
it likes--I don't mind, so long as I'm not sliced up for
appendicitis or pipcitis or whatever it is."
"I wonder what our great-grandparents used to do when they were
ill?" queried Cicely, with a melancholy stare in her big, pitiful
"They let blood,"--replied Julian--"They used to go to the barber's
and get a vein cut at the same time as their hair. Of course it was
all wrong. We all know now that it was very wrong. In another
hundred years or so we shall find out that twentieth-century surgery
was just as wrong."
Cicely clasped her hands nervously.
"Oh, don' you think Maryllia will come through the operation all
right?" she implored, for about the hundredth time in the course of
Julian looked away from her.
"I don't know--and I don't like to express any opinion about it,"--
he answered, with careful gentleness--"But there is danger--and--if
the worst should happen---"
"It won't happen! It shan't happen!" cried Cicely passionately.
"Dear little singing Goblin, I wish you could control fate!" And,
taking her hand, he patted it affectionately. "Everything would be
all right for everybody if you could make it so, I'm sure!--even for
me! Wouldn't it?"
Cicely blushed suddenly.
"I don't know,"--she said--"I never think about you!"
"Don't you? Well,--perhaps some day you will! When you are a great
prima donna, you will read the poems and verses I shall write about
you in all the newspapers and magazines, and you will say as you
take kings' and emperors' diamonds out of your hair: 'Who is this
fellow? Ah yes! I remember him! He was a chum of mine down in the
little village of St. Rest. I called him Mooncalf, and he called me
Goblin. And--he was very fond of me!'"
She laughed a little, and drew away her hand from his.
"Don't talk nonsense!" she said--"Think of Maryllia--and of Mr.
"I do think of them,--I think of them all the time!" declared Julian
earnestly--"And that is why I am so uneasy. For--if the worst should
happen, it will break Walden's heart."
Cicely's eyes filled with tears. She hurried away from him without
another word or glance.
The fateful morning dawned. Walden had parted from Maryllia the
previous night, promising himself that he would see her again before
she passed into the surgeon's hands,--but Forsyth would not permit
"She does not wish it, John,"--he said--"And she has asked me to
tell you so. Stay away from the Manor--keep quiet in your own house,
if you feel unable to perform your usual round of work. It will be
best for her and for you. I will let you know directly the operation
is over. Santori is already here. Now"--and he gave Walden's hand a
close and friendly grip--"steady, John! Say your prayers if you
like,--we want all the help God can give us!"
The door opened and closed again--he was gone. A great silence,--a
horrible oppression and loneliness fell upon Walden's heart. He sank
into his accustomed chair and stared before him with unseeing eyes,-
-mechanically patting his dog Nebbie while gently pushing the animal
back in its attempts to clamber on his knee.
"My God, my God!" he muttered--"What shall I do without her?"
Someone opened the door again just then. He started, thinking that
Forsyth had returned perhaps to tell him something he had forgotten.
But the tall attenuated form that confronted him was not that of
Forsyth. A look of amazed recognition, almost of awe, flashed into
"Brent!" he cried,--and he caught at the pale hands extended to
him,--hands like those of a saint whose flesh is worn by fasting and
prayer;--then, with something of a sob, exclaimed again--"Harry!
How--why did you come?"
Brent's eyes met his with a world of sympathy and tenderness in
their dark and melancholy depths.
"I have come,"--he said,--and his musical voice, grave and sweet,
trembled with deep feeling--"because I think this is your dark hour,
John!--and because---perhaps---you may need me!"
And John, meeting that sad and steadfast gaze, and shaken beyond
control by his pent-up suffering and suspense, suddenly fell on his
"Help me!" he cried, appealingly, with the tears struggling in his
throat--"You are right--I need you! Help me to be strong--you are
nearer God than I am! Pray for me!"
Gently the Bishop withdrew his hands from the fevered clasp that
held them, and laid them tenderly on the bowed head. His lips moved,
but he uttered no words. There was a solemn pause, broken only by
the slow ticking of the clock in the outer hall.
Presently, rising in obedience to his friend's persuasive touch,
Walden stood awhile with face turned away, trying to master himself,
yet trembling in every nerve, despite his efforts.
"Brent,"--he began, huskily--"I am ashamed that you should see me
like this---so weak---"
"A weakness that will make you stronger by and by, John!" and the
Bishop linked a friendly arm within his own--"Come into the church
with me, will you? I feel the influence of your enshrined Saint upon
me! Let us wait for news, good or bad, at the altar,--and while
waiting, we will pray. Do you remember what I said to you when you
came to see me last summer? 'Some day, when we are in very desperate
straits, we will see what your Saint can do for us'? Come!"
Without a word of demur, John obeyed. They passed out of the house
together and took the private by-path to the church. It was then
about noon, and the sun shone through a soft mist that threatened
rain without permitting it to fall. The faint piping of a thrush in
the near distance suggested the music of the coming Spring, and the
delicate odour of plant-life pushing its way through the earth gave
a pungent freshness to the quiet air. Arriving at the beautiful
little sanctuary, they entered it by the vestry, though the public
door stood open according to invariable custom. A singularly
brilliant glare of luminance reflected from the plain clear glass
that filled the apertures of the rose-window above the altar, struck
aslant on the old-world sarcophagus which doubtless contained the
remains of one who, all 'miraculous' attributes apart, had nobly
lived and bravely died,--and as the Bishop moved reverently round it
to the front of the altar-rails, his eyes were uplifted and full of
"Kneel here with me, John!" he said--"And with all our hearts and
all our minds, let us pray to God for the life of the beloved woman
whom God has given you,--given, surely, not to take away again, but
to be more completely made your own! Let us pray, as the faithful
servants of Christ prayed in the early days of the Church,--not
hesitatingly, not doubtingly, not fearingly!--but believing and
making sure that our prayers will, if good for us, be granted!"
They knelt together. Walden, folding his arms on the altar-rails,
hid his face,--but the Bishop, clasping his hands and fixing his
eyes on the word 'Resurget' that flashed out of the worn alabaster--
wherein the unknown 'Saint' reposed, seemed to gather to himself all
the sunlight that poured through the window above him, and to exhale
from his own slight worn frame something like the mystic halo of
glory pictured round the figure of an apostle or evangelist.
The minutes slowly ebbed away. The church clock chimed the half-hour
after noon--and they remained absorbed in a trance of speechless,
passionate prayer. They were unaware that some of Walden's
parishioners, moved by the same idea of praying for Maryllia while
she was undergoing the operation which was to save or slay, had come
to the church also for that purpose, but were brought to a pause on
the threshold of the building by the sight they saw within. That
their own beloved 'Passon' should be kneeling at the altar in the
agony of his own heart's Gethsemane was too much for their simple
and affectionate souls,--and they withdrew in haste and silence,
many of them with tears in their eyes. They were considerably awed
too by the discovery that no less a personage than the Bishop of the
diocese himself was companioning Walden in his trouble,--and, moving
away in little groups of twos and threes, they stood about here and
there in the churchyard, waiting for they knew not what, and all
affected by the same thrill of mingled suspense, hope and fear.
Among them was Bainton, who, when he had peered into the white
silence of the church and had seen for himself that it was indeed
his master who was praying there beside his Bishop, made no pretence
to hide his emotion.
"We be all fools together,"--he said to Adam Frost in hoarse
accents, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand--"We ain't no
stronger nor wiser than a lot o' chitterin' sparrows on a housetop!
Old Josey, he be too weak an' ailin' to get out in this kind o'
weather, but he sez he's prayin' 'ard, which I truly believe he is,
though he ain't in church. All the village is on its knees this
marnin' I reckon, whether it's workin' in fields or gardens, or
barns or orchards, an' if the Lord A'mighty don't take no notice of
us, He must be powerful 'ard of 'earin'!"
Adam Frost coughed warningly,--jerked his thumb in the direction of
the church, and was silent.
Suddenly a lark sang. Rising from the thick moss and jgrass which
quilted over the grave of 'th' owld Squire,' Maryllia's father, the
bird soared hoveringly aloft into the sun-warmed February air,--and
by one common impulse the villagers looked up, watching the
quivering of its wings.
"Bless us! That's the first skylark of the year!" said Mrs. Frost,
who, holding her blue-eyed 'Baby Hippolyta,' otherwise Ipsie, by the
hand, stood near the church porch--"Ain't it singin' sweet?"
"Fine!" murmured one or two of her gossips near her,--"Seems a good
sign o' smilin' weather!"
There was a silence then among the merely human company, while the
bird of heaven sang on more and more exultingly, and soared higher
and higher into the misty grey-blue of the sky.
All at once the clock struck with a sharp clang 'one.' Inside the
church, its deep reverbation startled the watchers from their
prayers with an abrupt shock--and Walden lifted his head from his
folded arms, showing in the bright shaft of strong sunshine that now
bathed him in its radiance, his sad eyes, heavy and swollen with
restrained tears. Suddenly there was a murmur of voices outside,--a
smothered cry,--and then a little flying figure, breathless,
hatless, with wild sparkling eyes and dark hair streaming loose in
the wind, rushed into the church. It was Cicely. "It's all over!"
Walden sprang up, sick and dizzy. Bishop Brent rose from his knees
slowly, his delicate right hand clutching nervously at the altar
rail. Like men in a dream, they heard and gazed, stricken by a
mutual horror too paralysing for speech.
"All over!"--muttered John, feebly--"My God!--my God! All over!"
Cicely sprang to him and caught his arm.
"Yes!--Don't you understand?" and her voice shook with excitement--
"All over! She is safe!--quite safe!--she will be well!--Mr.
Walden!--John!--don't look at me like that! oh dear!" and she turned
a piteous glance on Bishop Brent who was, to her, a complete
stranger--"He doesn't seem to hear me--please speak to him!--do make
him understand! Everything has been done successfully--and Maryllia
will live--she will be her own dear bright self again! As soon as I
heard the good news, I raced down here to tell you and everybody!--
oh John!--poor John!"
For, with a great sigh and a sudden stretching upward of his arms as
though he sought to reach all Heaven with his soul's full measure of
gratitude, John staggered blindly a few steps from the altar of the
Saint's Rest and fell,--senseless.
* * * * * * * *
Again the merry month of May came in rejoicing. Again the May-pole
glorious with blossoms and ribbons, made its nodding royal progress
through the village of St. Rest, escorted by well-nigh a hundred
children, who, with laughter and song carried it triumphantly up to
Abbot's Manor, and danced round it in a ring on the broad grassy
terrace facing the open windows of Maryllia's favourite morning
room, where Maryllia herself, sweet and fair as a very queen of
spring, stood watching them, with John Walden at her side. Again
their fresh young voices, gay with the musical hilarity of
happiness, carolled the Mayer's song:--
"We have been rambling all this night,
And almost all this day;
And now returning back again,
We bring you in the May!
A branch of May we have brought you,
And at your door it stands,
'Tis but a sprout,
But 'tis budded out,
By the work of our Lord's hands.
The heavenly gates are open wide,
Our paths are beaten plain;
And if a man be not too far gone,
He may return again!"
"That's true!" said John, slipping an arm round his beloved, and
whispering his words in the little delicate ear half-hidden by the
clustering gold-brown curls above it--"If a man be not too far gone
as a bachelor, he may perhaps 'return again' as a tolerable husband?
What do you think, my Maryllia?"
Her eyes sparkled with all their own mirth and mischief.
"I couldn't possibly say--yet!" she said--"You are quite perfect as
an engaged man,--I never heard of anybody quite so attentive--so--
well!--so nicely behaved!" and she laughed, "But how you will turn
out when you are married, I shouldn't like to prophesy!"
"If the children weren't looking at us, I should kiss you," he
observed, with a suggestive glance at her smiling lips.
"I'm sure you would!" she rejoined--"For an 'old' bachelor, John,
you are quite an adept at that kind of thing!"
Here the little village dancers slackened the speed of their
tripping measure and moved slowly round and round, allowing the
garlands and ribbons to drop from their hands one by one against the
May-pole, as they sang in softer tones--
"The moon shines bright, and the stars give light,
A little before it is day,
So God bless you all, both great and small,
And send you a merrie May!"
Ceasing at this, they all gathered in one group and burst out into
an ecstatic roar.
"Hurra! Three cheers for Passon!"
"Hurra! Hurra! Hurra!"
"Three cheers for Miss Vancourt!"
"Hurra!" But here there was a pause. Some one was obstructing the
wave of enthusiasm. Signs of mixed scuffling were apparent,--when
all suddenly the bold voice of Bob Keeley cried out:
"Not a bit of it! Three cheers for Missis Passon!"
Shouts of laughter followed this irreverent proposal, together with
much whooping and cheering as never was. Ipsie Frost, who of course
was present, no village revel being considered complete without her,
was dancing recklessly all by herself on the grass, chirping in her
baby voice a ballad of her own contriving which ran thus:
"Daisies white, violets blue,
I loves 'oo!
Little bird's nest
Up in a tree,
'Oo loves me!"
And it was after Ipsie that Maryllia ran, to cover her smiles and
blushes as the echo of the children's mirth pealed through the
garden,--and with the pretty blue-eyed little creature clinging to
her hand, she came back again sedately, with all her own winsome and
fairy-like stateliness to thank them for their good wishes.
"They mean it so well, John!" she said afterwards, when the
youngsters, still laughing and cheering, had gone away with their
crowned symbol of the dawning spring--"and they love you so much! I
never knew of any man that was loved so much by so many people in
one little place as you are, John! And to be loved by all the
children is a great thing;--I think--of course I cannot be quite
sure--but I think it is an exceptional thing--for a clergyman!"
* * * * * * *
* * * * *
* * *
With rose-crowned June, the rose-window in the church of St. Rest
was filled in and completed. Maryllia had found all the remaining
ancient stained glass that had been needed to give the finishing
touch to its beauty, and the loveliest deep gem-like hues shone
through the carven apertures like rare jewels in a perfect setting.
The rays of light filtering through them were wonderful and
mystical,--such as might fall from the pausing wings of some great
ministering angel,--and under the blaze of splendid colour, the
white sarcophagus with its unknown 'Saint' asleep, lay steeped in
soft folds of crimson and azure, gold and amethyst, while even the
hollow notches in the sculptured word 'Resurget' seemed filled with
delicate tints like those painted by old-world monks on treasured
missals. And presently one morning came,--warm with the breath of
summer, sunny and beautiful,--when the window was solemnly re-
consecrated by Bishop Brent at ten o'clock,--a consecration followed
by the loud and joyous ringing of the bells, and a further sacred
ceremony,--the solemnisation of matrimony between John Walden and
Maryllia Vancourt. All the village swarmed out like a hive of bees
from their honey-cells to see their 'Passon' married. Hundreds of
honest and affectionate eyes looked love on the bride, as clad in
the simplest of simple white gowns, with a plain white veil draping
her from head to foot, she came walking to the church across the
warm clover-scented fields, like any village maid, straight from the
Manor, escorted only by Cicely, her one bridesmaid. At the
churchyard gate, she was met by all the youngest girls of the
school, arrayed in white, who, carrying rush baskets full of wild
flowers, scattered them before her as she moved,--and when she
arrived at the church porch, she was followed by the little child
Ipsie, whose round fair cherub-like face reflected one broad smile
of delight, and who carried between her two tiny hands a basket full
to overflowing of old French damask roses, red as the wine-glow of a
summer sunset. The church was crowded,--not only by villagers but by
county folks,--for everyone from near or far that could be present
at what they judged to be a 'strange' wedding--namely a wedding for
love and love alone--had mustered in force for the occasion. One or
two had stayed away from a certain sense of discrepancy in
themselves, to which it is needless to refer. Sir Morton Pippitt was
among these. He felt,--but what he felt is quite immaterial. And so
far as his daughter was concerned, she, as Bainton expressed it, had
'gone a' visitin'.' The Ittlethwaites, of Ittlethwaite Park, in all
the glory of their Magnum Chartus forebears were present, as were
the Mandeville-Porehams--while to Julian Adderley was given the
honour of being Walden's 'best man.' He, as the music of the wedding
voluntary poured from the organ, through the flower-scented air,
wondered doubtfully whether poetic inspiration would ever assist him
in such wise as to enable him to express in language the exquisite
sweetness of Maryllia's face, as, standing beside the man whose
tender and loyal love she was surer of than any other possession in
this world she repeated in soft accents the vow: "to have and to
hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for
poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey
till death do us part!"
And when Bishop Brent placed her little hand in that of his old
college friend, and pressed them tenderly together, he felt, looking
at the heavenly light that beamed from her sweet eyes, that not even
death itself could part her fond soul from that of the man whom she
loved, and who loved her so purely and faithfully in God's sight.
Thus, when pronouncing the words--"Those whom God hath joined
together, let no man. put asunder!" he was deeply conscious that for
once at least in the troublous and uncertain ways of the modern
world, the holy bond of wedlock was approved of in such wise as to
be final and eternal.
Away in London, on this same marriage day, Lady Roxmouth, formerly
Mrs. Fred Vancourt, sat at luncheon in her sumptuously furnished
house in Park Lane, and looked across the table at her husband,
while he lazily sipped a glass of wine.
"That ridiculous girl Maryllia has married her parson by this time I
suppose,"--she said--"Of course it's perfectly scandalous. Lady
Beaulyon was quite disgusted when she heard of it--such an alliance
for a Vancourt! And Mr. and Mrs. Bludlip Courtenay tell me that the
man Walden is quite an objectionable person--positively boorish!
It's dreadful really! But who could ever have imagined she would
recover from that hunting spill? Wentworth Glynn said she was
crippled for life. He told me so himself."
"Well, he was wrong evidently,"--said Roxmouth, curtly. "English
surgeons are very clever, but they are not always infallible. This
time an Italian has beaten them."
"Perhaps she was not so seriously injured as the local man at St.
Rest made her out to be,"--pursued her ladyship reflectively.
Roxmouth said nothing. She studied his face with amused scrutiny.
"Perhaps it was another little ruse to get rid of you and your
wooing,"--she went on--"Dear me! What an extraordinary contempt
Maryllia always had for you to be sure!"
He moved restlessly, and she smiled--a hard little smile.
"I guess you're hankering after her still!" she hinted.
"Your remarks are in rather bad taste,"--he rejoined, coldly,
helping himself to another glass of wine.
She rose from her chair, and came round the table to where he sat,
laying a heavily jewelled hand on his shoulder.
"Well, you've got ME!" she said--"And all I'm worth! And you 'love'
me, don't you?"
She laughed a little.
He looked full at her,--at her worn, hard, artificially got-up face,
her fashionable frock, and her cold, expressionless eyes.
"Oh yes!" he answered, drily--"I 'love' you! You know I do. We
understand each other!"
"I guess we do!" she thought to herself as she left him--"And when
I'm tired of being called 'My lady' or 'Your Grace' I'll divorce
him! And I'll take care he isn't a penny the richer! There's always
that game to play, and you bet the Smart Set know how to play it!"
But of the ways, doings or saying of the Smart Set the village of
St. Rest knows little and cares less. It dozes peacefully with the
sun in its eyes, year in and year out, under the shadow of the
eastern hills, with its beloved 'Passon' and now its equally beloved
'Passon's wife,' as king and queen of its tiny governmental
concerns, drawing health and peace, contentment and tranquillity
from the influences of nature, unspoilt by contact with the busier
and wearier world. 'Passon Walden's' wedding-day was the chief great
historic event of its conscious life. For on that never-to-be-
forgotten and glorious occasion, the tenantry of Abbot's Manor,
together with all the villagers and the school-children were
entertained at an open-air festival and dance, which lasted all the
afternoon and evening, on the broad smooth greensward encircling the
famous 'Five Sister' beeches where bride and bridegroom had looked
upon each other for the first time. What a high tide of simple
revelry it was to be sure! Never had the delicate tremulous green
foliage of the rescued trees waved over a happier scene. 'Many a
kiss both odd and even' was exchanged among lads and lasses at that
blithe merry-making,--even Cicely and Julian Adderley were not
always to be found when they were wanted, having taken to 'composing
music and poetry together,' which no doubt quite accounted for their
long rambles together away from all the rest of the merry crowd.
Mrs. Spruce, with a circle of her gossips round her, sat talking the
whole livelong day on the 'ways o' the Lord bein' past findin' out.'
"For," said she, "when Miss Maryllia first come 'ome she 'adn't an
idee o' goin' to hear Passon Walden, an' sez I 'do-ee go an' hear
'im,' an' she sez--'No, Spruce, I cannot, I don't believe in it'--
an' I sez to myself, 'never mind, the Lord 'e knows 'is own, which
He do, but 'ard as are His ways I never did think He'd a' brought
her to be Passon's wife,--that do beat me, though it's just what it
should be, an' if the Lord don't know what should be why then no one
don't, an' that 'minds me o' when I sent for Passon to see me unpack
Miss Maryllia's boxes, he was that careful he made me pick up a pair
o' pink shoes what 'ad fell on the floor--'Take care o' them,' he
sez--Lor!--now I come to think of it, he was mortal struck over them
And Bainton commenting on general events observed:--
"Well, I did say once that if Passon were married he'd be a fine man
spoilt, but I've altered my mind now! I think he's a fine man full
growed at last, like a plant what's stopped a bit an' suddenly takes
a start an' begins to flower. An' so far as my own line goes, if
Missis Walden, bless 'er, comes round me talkin' about the rectory
garden, which is to be kep' up just the same as ever, an' fusses
like over the lilac bush what he broke a piece off of for her,
well!--I DID say I'd never 'ave a petticut round MY work--but a
pretty petticut's worth looking at, it is reely now!"
So the harmless chatter among the village folks went on, and the
feasting, dancing and singing lasted long. Chief of important
personages among all that gathered under the old beech-trees was
Josey Letherbarrow,--very feeble,--very dim of eye, but stout of
heart and firm of opinion as ever. Beside him sat Bishop Brent,--
with Walden himself and his bride,--for from his venerable hands
Maryllia had sought the first blessing on her marriage as soon as
the wedding ceremony had ended.
"Everything's all right if we'll only believe it!" he said now,
looking with a wistful tenderness from one to the other--"Life's all
right--death's all right! I'm sartin sure I'll find everything just
as I've hoped an' prayed for't when I gets to th' other side o' this
world, for I've 'ad my 'art's best wish given to me when all 'ope
seemed over--an' that was to see Squire's gel 'appy! An' she IS
'appy!--look at 'er, as fresh as a little rose all smilin' an' ready
to bloom on 'er husband's lovin' 'art! Ah! Th' owld Squire would a'
been proud to see 'em this bright day! And as for the Lord A'mighty
He knows what He's about I tell ye!" and Josey nodded his head with
great sagacity--"Some folks think He don't--but He do!"
The Bishop smiled.
"Verily I have not found so great a faith--no, not in Israel!"--he
murmured, as presently he rose and strolled away by himself for a
while to muse and meditate. Towards sunset Walden, going in search
of him found him in the rose garden, looking at the profuse red
clusters of bloom in the old French damask border.
"How they smile openly to the sun!" he said, pointing to them, as
John approached--"Like love!--or faith!"
John was silent a moment. Then he said suddenly--
"Are you going over to Rome, Harry?"
"No!" And Brent's eyes looked full into those of his friend,
straightly and steadfastly. "Not now. I will do the work appointed
for me to the end!"
"Thank God!" said Walden, simply. And their hands met in a close
grasp, thereby sealing a wordless compact, never to be broken.
The sun sank and the moon began to rise. Song and dance gradually
ceased, and the happy villagers began to disperse, and wend their
ways homeward. Love was in the air--love breathed in the perfume of
the flowers--love tuned the throats of the passionate nightingales
that warbled out their mating songs in every hazel copse and from
ever acacia bough in the Manor woods, and love seemed, as the poet
says, to 'sit astride o' the moon' as its silver orb peered over the
gables of the Manor itself and poured a white shower of glory on the
sweet face and delicate form of Maryllia, as she stood in the old
Tudor courtyard, now a veritable wilderness of flowers, with her
husband's arm round her, listening to the faint far-off singing of
the villagers returning to their homes through the scented green
"Everyone has been happy to-day!" she said, looking up with a smile-
-"All the world around us seems to thank God!"
"All the world would thank Him if it could but find what we have
found!" answered John, drawing her close to his heart--"All it
wants, all it needs, both for itself and others, for this world and
the next, is simply--Love!"