Part 5 out of 12
we're all going to heaven if we're good,--and they don't know
nothing about it,--and we're all going to hell if we're bad, and
they don't know nothing about that neither! I tell you, as I told
you at first, in town we've got beyond all that stuff--we're just
not taking any!"
He paused, and there was a deep silence, while he drank off his
second glass of ale. The thoughts of every man present were
apparently too deep for words.
"You're a smart chap!" said Bainton at last, breaking the mystic
spell and rising to take his leave--"An' I don't want to argify with
ye, for I'spect you're about right in what you sez about Sunday ways
in town--but I tell ye what, young feller!--you've got to 'ave a
deal o' patience an' a deal o' pity for they poor starveling sinners
wot gits boxed up in cities an' never ain't got no room to look at
the sky, or see the wide fields with all the daisies blowin' open to
the sun. No wonder they're so took up wi' their scinetific muddlins
over worms an' microbes an' sich-like, as to 'ave forgot what the
Almighty is doin' in the workin' o' the Universe,--but it's onny
jest like poor prisiners in a cell wot walks up an' down, up an'
down, countin' the stones in the wall with scinetific
multiplication-like, an' 'splainin' to their poor lonely selves as
how many stones makes a square foot, an' so many square feet makes a
square yard, an' on they goes a-walkin' their mis'able little round
an' countin' their mis'able little sums, an' all the time just
outside the prison the flowers is all bloomin' wild an' the birds
singin', an' the blue sky over it all with God smilin' behind it.
That's 'ow 'tis, Mr. Bennett!" and Bainton looked into the lining of
his cap as was his wont before he put it on his head--"I believe all
you say right enough, an' it don't put me out nohow--I've seen too
much o' natur to be shook off my 'old on the Almighty--for there's
no worm wot ain't sure of a rose or some kind o' flower an' fruit
somewhere, though m'appen the poor blind thing don't know where to
find it. It's case o' leadin' on, an' guidin' beyond our knowledge,
Mr. Bennett,--an' that's wot Passon Walden tells us. HE don't bother
us wi' no 'hows' nor 'whys' nor 'wherefores'--he says we can FEEL
God with us in our daily work, an' so we can, if we've a mind to!
Daily work and common things shows Him to us,--why look there!"--
here he pulled from his pocket a small paper-bag, and opening it,
showed some dry loose seed--"There ain't nothin' commoner than that!
That's pansy seed--a special stock too,--well now, if you didn't
know how common it is, wouldn't it seem a miracle as wonderful as
any in the Testymen, that out o' that handful o' dust like, the
finest flowers of purple an' yellow will come?--ay! some o' them two
to three inches across, an' every petal like velvet an' silk! If so
be you don't b'lieve in a God, Mr. Bennett, owin' to town opinions,
you try the gardenin' business! That'll make a man of ye! I allus
sez if Adam had stuck to the gardenin' business an' left the
tailorin' trade alone we'd have all been in Eden now!"
His eyes twinkled, as glancing round the company, he saw that his
words had made an impression and awakened a responsive smile--"Good-
night t'ye!" And touching Bennett on the shoulder in passing, he
added: "You come an' see me, my lad, when you feels like goin' a bit
in the scinetific line! Mebbe I can tell ye a few pints wot the
learned gentlemen in London don't know. Anyway, a little church-
goin' under Passon Walden won't do you no 'arm, nor your lady
neither, if she's what I takes her for, which is believin' her to be
all good as wimmin goes. An' when Passon warms to his work an' tells
ye plain as 'ow everything's ordained for the best, an' as 'ow every
flower's a miracle of the Lord, an' every bird's song a bit o' the
Lord's own special music, it 'eartens ye up an' makes ye more
'opeful o' your own poor mis'able self--it do reely now!"
With another friendly pat on the groom's shoulder, and a cheery
smile, Bainton passed out, and left the rest of the company in the
'Mother Huff' tap-room solemnly gazing upon one another.
"He speaks straight, he do," said Farmer Thorpe, "An' he ain't no
canter,--he's just plain Tummas, an' wot he sez he means."
"Here's to his 'elth,--a game old boy!" said Bennett good-
humouredly, ordering another glass of ale; "It's quite a treat to
meet a man like him, and I shan't be above owning that he's got a
deal of right on his side. But what he says ain't Orthodox Church
"Mebbe not," said Dan Kidley, "but it's Passon Walden's teachin',
an' if you ain't 'eard Passon yet, Mister Bennett, I'd advise ye to
go next Sunday. An' if your lady 'ud make up her mind to go too just
Bennett gave an expressive gesture.
"She won't go--you may depend on that!" he said; "She's had too much
of parsons as it is. Why Mrs. Fred--that's her American aunt--was
regular pestered with 'em coming beggin' of her for their churches
and their windows and their schools and their infants and their
poor, lame, blind, sick of all sorts, as well as for theirselves.
D'rectly they knew she was a millionaire lady' they 'adn't got but
one thought--how to get some of the millions out of her. There was
three secretaries kept when we was in London, and they'd hardly time
for bite nor sup with all the work they 'ad, refusin' scores of
churches and religious folks all together. Miss Maryllia's got a
complete scare o' parsons. Whenever she see a shovel-hat coming she
just flew! When she was in Paris it was the Catholics as wanted
money--nuns, sisters of the poor, priests as 'ad been turned out by
the Government,--and what not,--and out in America it was the
Christian Scientists all the time with such a lot of tickets for
lectures and fal-lals as you never saw,--then came the
Spiritooalists with their seeances; and altogether the Vancourt
family got to look on all sorts of religions merely as so many kinds
of beggin' boxes which if you dropped money into, you went straight
to the Holy-holies, and if you didn't you dropped down into the
great big D's. No!--I don't think anyone need expect to see my lady
at church--it's the last place she'd ever think of going to!"
This piece of information was received by his hearers with profound
gravity. No one spoke, and during the uncomfortable pause Bennett
gave a careless 'Good-night!'--and took his departure.
"Things is come to a pretty pass in this 'ere country," then said
Mr. Netlips grandiosely, "when the woman who is merely the elevation
of the man, exhibits in public a conviction to which her status is
unfitted. If the lady who now possesses the Manor were under the
submission of a husband, he would naturally assume the control which
is govemmentally retaliative and so compel her to include the
religious considerations of the minority in her communicative
Farmer Thorpe looked impressed, but slightly puzzled.
"You sez fine, Mr. Netlips,--you sez fine," he observed
respectfully. "Not that I altogether understands ye, but that's onny
my want of book-larnin' and not spellin' through the dictionary as I
oughter when I was a youngster. Howsomever I makes bold to guess wot
you're drivin' at and I dessay you may be right. But I'm fair bound
to own that if it worn't for Mr. Walden, I shouldn't be found in
church o' Sundays neither, but lyin' flat on my back in a field wi'
my face turned up to the sun, a-thinkin' of the goodness o' God, and
hopin' He'd put a hand out to 'elp make the crops grow as they
should do. Onny Passon he be a rare good man, and he do speak to the
'art of ye so wise-like and quiet, and that's why I goes to hear him
and sez the prayers wot's writ for me to say and doos as he asks me
to do. But if I'd been unfort'nit enough to live in the parish of
Badsworth under that old liar Leveson, I'd a put my fist in his
jelly face 'fore I'd a listened to a word he had to say! Them's my
sentiments, mates!--and you can read 'em how you like, Mr. Netlips.
God's in heaven we know,--but there's onny churches on earth, an' we
'as to make sure whether there's men or devils inside of 'em 'fore
we goes kneelin' and grubbin' in front of 'uman idols--Good-night
With these somewhat disjointed remarks Farmer Thorpe strode out of
the tap-room, whistling loudly to his dog as he reached the door.
The heavy tramp of his departing feet echoed along the outside lane
and died away, and Roger Buggins, glancing at the sheep-faced clock
in the bar, opined that it was 'near closin' hour.' All the company
rose and began to take their leave.
"Church or no church, Miss Vancourt's a real lady!" declared Dan
Bidley emphatically--"She may have her reasons, an' good ones too,
for not attending service, but she ain't no heathen, I'm sartin'
sure o' that."
"You cannot argumentarially be sure of what you do not know," said
Mr. Netlips, with a tight smile, buttoning on his overcoat--"A
heathen is a proscription of the law, and cannot enjoy the rights of
"There ain't no proscription of the law in stayin' away from
church," he said--"Nobody's bound to go. Lords nor commons can't
Mr. Netlips shook his head and frowned darkly, with the air of one
who could unveil a great mystery if he chose.
"Compulsion is a legal community," he said--"And while powerless to
bring affluence to the Christian conscience, it culminates in the
citizenship of the heathen. Miss Vancourt, as her father's daughter,
should be represented by the baptized spirit, and not by the
afflatus of the ungenerate! Good-night!"
Still puckering his brow into lines of mysterious suggestiveness,
the learned Netlips went his way, Roger Buggins gazing after him
"That man's reg'lar lost down 'ere,"--he observed--"He oughter ha'
been in Parliament."
"Ah, so he ought!" agreed Dan Ridley--"Where's there's fog he'd a
made it foggier, and where's there's no understandin' he'd a made it
less understandable. I daresay he'd a bin Prime Minister in no time-
-he's just the sort. They likes a good old muddler for that work--
someone as has the knack o' addlin' the people's brains an' makin'
them see a straight line as though'twere crooked. It keeps things
quiet an' yet worrity-like--first up, then down--this way, then that
way, an' never nothin' certain, but plenty o' big words rantin'
round. That's Netlips all over,--it's in the shape of his 'ed,--he
was born like it. I don't like his style myself,--but he'd make a
grand cab-nit minister!"
"Ay, so he would!" acquiesced Buggins, as he drew the little red
curtains across the windows of the tap-room and extinguished the
hanging lamp--"Easy rest ye, Dan!"
"Same to you, Mr. Buggins!" responded the tailor cheerfully, as he
turned out into the cool sweet dimness of the hawthorn-hedged lane
in which the 'Mother Huff' stood--"I make bold to say that church or
no church, Miss Vancourt's bein' at her own 'ouse 'ull be a gain an'
a blessing to the village."
"Mebbe so," returned Buggins laconically,--and closing his door he
barred it across for the night, while Dan Ridley, full of the half-
poetic, half philosophic thoughts which the subjects of religion and
religious worship frequently excite in a more or less untutored
rustic mind, trudged slowly homeward.
During these days, Maryllia herself, unconscious of the remarks
passed upon her as the lady of the Manor by her village neighbours,
had not been idle, nor had she suffered much from depression of
spirits, though, socially speaking, she was having what she
privately considered in her own mind 'rather a dull time.' To begin
with, everybody in the neighbourhood that was anybody in the
neighbourhood, had called upon her,--and the antique oaken table in
the great hall was littered with a snowy array of variously shaped
bits of pasteboard, bearing names small and great,--names of old
county families,--names of new mushroom gentry,--names of clergymen
and their wives in profusion, and one or two modest cards with the
plain 'Mr.' of the only young bachelors anywhere near for fifteen
miles round. Nearly every man had a wife--"Such a pity!" commented
Maryllia, when noting the fact--"One can never ask any of them to
dinner without their dragons!"
Most of the callers had paid their 'duty visits' at a time of the
afternoon when she was always out,--roaming over her own woods and
fields, and 'taking stock' as she said, of her own possessions,--but
on one or two occasions she had been caught 'in,' and this was the
case when Sir Morton Pippitt, accompanied by his daughter Tabitha,
Mr. Julian Adderley, and Mr. Marius Longford were announced just at
the apt and fitting hour of 'five-o'clock tea.' Rising from the
chair where she had negligently thrown herself to read for a quiet
half hour, she set aside her book, and received those important
personages with the careless ease and amiable indifference which was
a 'manner familiar' to her, and which invariably succeeded in making
less graceful persons than she was, feel wretchedly awkward and
unhappy about the management of their hands and feet. With a smiling
upward and downward glance, she mastered Sir Morton Pippitt's
'striking and jovial personality,'--his stiffly-carried upright
form, large lower chest, close-shaven red face, and pleasantly clean
white hair,--"The very picture of a Bone-Melter"--she thought--"He
looks as if he had been boiled all over himself--quite a nice well-
washed old man,"--her observant eyes flashed over the attenuated
form of Julian Adderley with a sparkle of humour,--she noticed the
careful carelessness of his attire, the artistic 'set' of his ruddy
locks, the eccentric cut of his trousers, and the, to himself,
peculiar knot of his tie.
"The poor thing wants to be something out of the common and can't
quite manage it," she mentally decided, while she viewed with
extreme disfavour the feline elegance affected by Mr. Marius
Longford, and the sleek smile, practised by him 'for women only,'
with which he blandly admitted her existence. To Miss Tabitha Pippit
she offered a chair of capacious dimensions, amply provided with
large down cushons, inviting her to sit down in it with a gentleness
which implied kindly consideration for her years and for the fatigue
she might possibly experience as a result of the drive over from
Badsworth Hall,--whereat the severe spinster's chronically red nose
reddened more visibly, and between her thin lips she sharply
enunciated her preference for 'a higher seat,--no cushions, thank
you!' Thereupon she selected the 'higher seat' for herself, in the
shape of an old-fashioned music-stool, without back or arm-rest, and
sat stiffly upon it like a draper's clothed dummy put up in a window
for public inspection. Maryllia smiled,--she knew that kind of woman
well;--and paying only the most casual attention to her for the rest
of the time, returned to her own place by the open windows and began
to dispense the tea, while Sir Morton Pippitt opened conversation by
feigning to recall having met her some two or three years back. He
was not altogether in the best of humours, the sight of his recently
dismissed butler, Primmins, having upset his nerves. He knew how
servants 'talked.' Who could tell what Primmins might not say in his
new situation at Abbot's Manor, of his former experiences at
Badsworth Hall? And so it was with a somewhat heated countenance
that Sir Morton endeavoured to allude to a former acquaintance with
his hostess at a Foreign Office function.
"Oh no, I don't think so," said Maryllia, lazily dropping lumps of
sugar into the tea-cups--"Do you take sugar? I ought to ask, I
know,--such a number of men have the gout nowadays, and they take
saccharine. I haven't any saccharine,--so sorry! You do like sugar,
Mr. Adderley? How nice of you!" And she smiled. "None for you, Mr.
Longford? I thought not. You, Miss Pippitt? No! Everybody else, yes?
That's all right! The Foreign Office? I think not, Sir Morton,--I
gave up going there long ago when I was quite young. My aunt, Mrs.
Fred Vancourt, always went--you must have met her and taken her for
me, I always hated a Foreign Office 'crush.' Such big receptions
bore one terribly--you never see anybody you really want to know,
and the Prime Minister always looks tired to death. His face is a
study in several agonies. Two or three years ago? Oh no,--I don't
think I was in London at that time. And you were there, were you?
She handed a cup of tea with a bewitching smile and a 'Will you
kindly pass it?' to Julian Adderley, who so impetuously accepted the
task she imposed upon him of acting as general waiter to the
company, that in hastening towards her he caught his foot in the
trailing laces of her gown and nearly fell over the tea-tray.
"A thousand pardons!" he murmured, righting himself with an effort--
"So clumsy of me!"
"Don't mention it!" said Maryllia, placidly--"Will you hand bread-
and-butter to Miss Pippitt, Do you take hot cake, Sir Morton?"
Sir Morton's face had become considerably redder during this
interval, and, as he spread his handkerchief out on one knee to
receive the possible dribblings of tea from the cup he had begun to
sip at somewhat noisily, he looked as he certainly felt, rather at a
loss what next to say. He was not long in this state of indecision,
however, for a bright idea occurred to him, causing a smile to
spread among his loose cheek-wrinkles.
"I'm sorry my friend the Duke of Lumpton has left me," he said with
unctuous pomp. "He would have been delighted--er--delighted to call
with me to-day--"
"Who is he?" enquired Maryllia, languidly.
Again Sir Morton reddened, but managed to conceal his discomfiture
in a fat laugh.
"Well, my dear lady, he is Lumpton!--that is enough for him, and for
"Really?--Oh--well--of course!--I suppose so!" interrupted Maryllia,
with an expressive smile, which caused Miss Tabitha's angular form,
perched as it was on the high music-stool, to quiver with spite, and
moved Miss Tabitha's neatly gloved fingers to clench like a cat's
claws in their kid sheaths with an insane desire to scratch the fair
face on which that smile was reflected.
"He is a charming fellow, the Duke-charming-charming!" went on Sir
Morton, unconscious of the complex workings of thought in his
elderly daughter's acidulated brain! "And his great 'chum,' Lord
Mawdenham, has also been staying with us--but they left Badsworth
yesterday, I'm sorry to say. They travelled up to London with Lady
Elizabeth Messing, who paid us a visit of two or three days--"
"Lady Elizabeth Messing!" echoed Maryllia, with a sudden ripple of
laughter--"Dear me! Did you have her staying with you? How very nice
of you! She is such a terror!"
Mr. Marius Longford stroked one of his pussy-cat whiskers
thoughtfully, and put in his word.
"Lady Elizabeth spoke of you, Miss Vancourt, several times," he
said. "In fact"--and he smiled--"she had a good deal to say! She
remembers meeting you in Paris, and--if I mistake not--also at
Homburg on one occasion. She was surprised to hear you were coming
to live in this dull country place--she said it would never suit you
at all--you were altogether too brilliant--er--" he bowed--" and er-
-charming!" This complimentary phrase was spoken with the air of a
beneficent paterfamilias giving a child a bon-bon.
Maryllia's glance swept over him carelessly.
"Much obliged to her, I'm sure!" she said--"I can quite imagine the
anxiety she felt concerning me! So good of her! Is she a great
friend of yours?"
Mr. Longford looked slightly disconcerted.
"Well, no," he replied--"I have only during these last few days--
through Sir Morton--had the pleasure of her acquaintance--"
"Mr. Longford is not a 'society' man!" said Sir Morton, with a
chuckle--"He lives on the heights of Parnassus--and looks down with
scorn on the browsing sheep in the valleys below! He is a great
"Indeed!" and Maryllia raised her delicately arched eyebrows with a
faint movement of polite surprise--"But all authors are great
nowadays, aren't they? There are no little ones left."
"Oh, yes, indeed, and alas, there are!" exclaimed Julian Adderley,
flourishing his emptied tea-cup in the air before setting it back in
its saucer and depositing the whole on a table before him; "I am one
of them, Miss Vancourt! Pray be merciful to me!"
The absurd attitude of appeal he assumed moved Maryllia to a laugh.
"Well, when you look like that I guess I will!" she said playfully,
not without a sense of liking for the quaint human creature who so
willingly made himself ridiculous without being conscious of it--
"What is your line in the small way?"
"Verse!" he replied, with tragic emphasis--"Verse which nobody
reads--verse which nobody wants--verse which whenever it struggles
into publication, my erudite friend here, Mr. Longford, batters into
pulp with a sledge-hammer review of half-a-dozen lines in the
heavier magazines. Verse, my dear Miss Vancourt!--verse written to
please myself, though its results do not feed myself. But what
matter! I am happy! This village of St. Rest, for example, has
exercised a spell of enchantment over me. It has soothed my soul! So
much so, that I have taken a cottage in a wood--how melodious that
sounds!--at the modest rent of a pound a week. That much I can
afford,--that much I will risk--and on the air, the water, the nuts,
the berries, the fruits, the flowers, I will live like a primaeval
man, and let the baser world go by!" He ran his fingers through his
long hair. "It will be an experience! So new--so fresh!"
Miss Tabitha sniffed sarcastically, and gave a short, hard laugh.
"I hope you'll enjoy yourself!" she said tartly--"But you'll soon
tire. I told you at once when you said you had decided to spend the
summer in this neighbourhood that you'd regret it. You'll find it
"Oh, I don't think he will!" murmured Maryllia graciously; "He will
be writing poetry all the time, you see! Besides, with you and Sir
Morton as neighbours, how CAN he feel dull? Won't you have some more
"No, thank you!" and Miss Pippitt rose,--"Father, we must be going.
You have not yet explained to Miss Vancourt the object of our
"True, true!" and Sir Morton got out of his chair with some
difficulty--"Time flies fast in such fascinating company!" and he
smiled beamingly--"We came, my dear lady, to ask you to dine with us
on Thursday next at Badsworth Hall." No words could convey the
pomposity which Sir Morton managed to infuse into this simple
sentence. To dine at Badsworth was, or ought to be, according to his
idea, the utmost height of human bliss and ambition. "We will invite
some of our most distinguished neighbours to meet you,--there are a
few of the old stock left--" this as if he were of the 'old stock'
himself;--"I knew your father--poor fellow!--and of course I
remember seeing you as a child, though you don't remember me--ha-
ha!--but I shall be delighted to welcome you under my roof--"
"Thanks so much!" said Maryllia, demurely--"But please let it be for
another time, will you? I haven't a single evening disengaged
between this and the end of June! So sorry! I'll come over to tea
some day, with pleasure! I know Badsworth. Dear old place!--quite
famous too, once in the bygone days--almost as famous as Abbot's
Manor itself. Let me see!" and she looked up at the ceiling
musingly--"There was a Badsworth who fought against the
Commonwealth,--and there was another who was Prime Minister or
something of that kind,--then there was a Sir Thomas Badsworth who
wrote books--and another who did some wonderful service for King
James the First--yes, and there were some lovely women in the
family, too--I suppose their portraits are all there? Yes--I thought
so!"--this as Sir Morton nodded a blandly possessive affirmative--
"How things change, don't they? Poor old Badsworth! So funny to
think you live there! Oh, yes! I'll come over--certainly I'll come
Thus murmuring polite platitudes, Maryllia bade her visitors adieu.
Sir Morton conquered an inclination to gasp for breath and say
'Damn!' at the young lady's careless refusal of his invitation to
dinner,--Miss Tabitha secretly rejoiced.
"I'm sure I don't want her at Badsworth," she said within herself,
viciously--"Nasty little insolent conceited thing! I believe her
hair is dyed, and her complexion put on! A regular play-actress!"
Unconscious of the spinster's amiable thoughts, Maryllia was holding
out a hand to her.
"Good-bye!" she said--"So kind of you to come and see me! I'm sure
you think I must be lonely here. But I'm not, really! I don't think
I ever shall be,--because as soon as I have got the house quite in
order, I am going to ask a great many friends to stay with me in
turn. They will enjoy seeing the old place, and country air is such
a boon to London people! Good-bye!"--and here she turned to Marius
Longford--"I'm afraid I haven't read any of your books!--anyway I
expect they would be too deep for me. Wouldn't they?"
"Lord Roxmouth has been good enough to express his liking for my
poor efforts," he replied, with a slight covert smile--"I believe
you know him?"
"Oh, quite well--quite too well!" said Maryllia, without any
discomposure--"But what he likes, I always detest. Unfortunate,
isn't it! So I mustn't even try to read your works! You, Mr.
Adderley"--and she laughingly looked up at that gentleman, who, hat
in hand, was pensively drooping in a farewell attitude before her,--
"you are going to stop here all summer, aren't you? And in a
cottage! How delightful! Anywhere near the Manor?"
"I am not so happy as to have found a domicile on this side Eden!"
murmured Adderley, with a languishing look--"My humble hut is set
some distance apart,--about a mile beyond the rectory."
"Then your best neighbour will be the parson," said Maryllia, gaily-
-"So improving to your morals!"
"Possibly--possibly! "assented Adderley--" Mr. Walden is not exactly
like other parsons,--there is something wonderfully attractive about
"Something wonderfully conceited and unbearable, you mean!" snapped
out Sir Morton--"Come, come!--we must be off! The horses are at the
door,--can't keep them standing! Miss Vancourt doesn't want to hear
anything about the parson. She'll find him out soon enough for
herself. He's an upstart, my dear lady--take my word for it!--a
pretentious University prig and upstart! You'll never meet HIM at
Badsworth!--ha-ha-ha! Never! Sorry you can't dine on Thursday! Never
mind, never mind! Another time! Good-bye!"
"Good-bye!" and with a slight further exchange of salutations
Maryllia found herself relieved of her visitors. Of all the four,
Adderley alone looked back with a half-appealing smile, and received
an encouraging little nod for his pains--a nod which said 'Yes--you
can come again if you like!' The wheels of the Pippitt equipage
crunched heavily down the drive, and as the grating sound died away,
clear on the quiet air came the soft slow chime of the church-bells
ringing. It was near sunset,--and Walden sometimes held a short
simple service of evening prayer at that hour. Leaning against the
open window Maryllia listened.
"How pretty it is!" she said--"It must be the nearness of the river
that makes the tone of the bells so soft and mellow! Oh, what an
insufferable old snob that Pippitt is! And what a precious crew of
'friends' he boasts of! Lumpton, who, when he was a few years
younger, danced the skirt-dance in women's clothes for forty pounds
a night at a New York restaurant!--Mawdenham, who pawned all his
mother's jewels to pay his losses at Bridge--and Lady Elizabeth
Messing, who is such an abandoned old creature that her own married
daughters won't know her! Oh, dear! And I believe the Knighted Bone-
Boiler thinks they are quite good style! That literary man,
Longford, was a most unprepossessing looking object,--a friend of
Roxmouth's too, which makes him all the more unpleasant. And of
course he will at once write off and say he has seen me. And then--
and then-dear me! I wonder where Sir Morton picks these people up!
He doesn't like the parson here evidently--'a pretentious University
prig and upstart'--what a strong way of putting it!--very strong for
such a clean-looking old man! 'A pretentious University prig and
upstart' are you, Mr. Walden!" Here, smiling to herself, she moved
out into the garden and called her dog to her side--"Do you hear
that, Plato? Our next-door neighbour is a prig as well as a parson!-
-isn't it dreadful!" Plato looked up at her with great loving brown
eyes and wagged his plumy tail. "I believe he is,--and yet--yet all
the same, I think--yes!--I think, as soon as a convenient
opportunity presents itself, I'll ask him to dinner."
The next day Maryllia was up betimes, and directly after breakfast
she sent for Mrs. Spruce. That good lady, moved by the summons into
sudden trepidation, lest some duty had been forgotten, or some
clause of the household 'rules and regulations' left unfulfilled,
hastened to the inner library, a small octagonal room communicating
with the larger apartment, and there found her mistress sitting on a
low stool, with her lap full of visiting-cards which she was busily
"Spruce!" and she looked up from her occupation with a mock tragic
air--"I'm dull! Positively D U double L! DULL!"
Mrs. Spruce stared,--but merely said:
"Lor, Miss!" and folded her hands on her apron, awaiting the next
"I'm dull, dull, dull!" repeated Maryllia, springing up and tossing
all the cards into a wide wicker basket near at hand--"I don't know
what to do with myself, Spruce! I've got nobody to talk to, nobody
to play with, nobody to sing to, nobody to amuse me at all, at all!
I've seen everything inside and outside the Manor,--I've visited the
church,--I know the village--I've talked to dear old Josey
Letherbarrow till he must be just tired of me,--he's certainly the
cleverest man in the place,--and yesterday the Pippitts came and
finished me. I'm done! I throw up the sponge!--that's slang, Spruce!
There's nobody to see, nowhere to go, nothing to do. It's awful!
'The time is out of joint, O cursed spite!' That's Hamlet. Something
must HAPPEN, Spruce!"--and here she executed a playful pas-seul
around the old housekeeper--"There! Isn't that pretty? Don't look so
astonished!--you'll see ever so much worse than that by and bye! I
am going to have company. I am, really! I shall fill the house! Get
all the beds aired, and all the bedrooms swept out! I shall ask
heaps of people,--all the baddest, maddest folks I can find! I want
to be bad and mad myself! There's nobody bad or mad enough to keep
me going down here. Look at these!" And she raked among the
visiting-cards and selected a few. "Listen!--'Miss Ittlethwaite,
Miss Agnes Ittlethwaite, Miss Barbara Ittlethwaite, Miss Christina
Ittlethwaite, Ittlethwaite Park.' It makes my tongue all rough and
funny to read their names! They've called,--and I suppose I shall
have to call back, but I don't want to. What's the good? I'm sure I
never shall get on with the Ittlethwaites,--we shall never, never
agree! Do you know them, Spruce? Who are they?"
Mrs. Spruce drew a long breath, rolled up her eyes, and began:
"Which the Misses Ittlethwaite is a county fam'ly, Miss, livin' some
seven or eight miles from here as proud as proud, owin' to their
forebears 'avin' sworn death on Magnum Chartus for servin' of King
John--an' Miss Ittlethwaite proper, she be gettin' on in years, but
she's a great huntin' lady, an' come November is allus to be seen
follerin' the 'ounds, stickin' to the saddle wonderful for 'er size
an' time o' life, an' Miss Barbara, she doos a lot o' sick visitin',
an' Bible readin', not 'ere, for our people won't stand it, an'
Passon Walden ain't great on breakin' into private 'ouses without
owners' consents for Bible readin', but she, she's 'Igh, an' tramps
into Riversford near every day which the carrier's cart brings 'er
'ome to 'er own place they 'avin' given up a kerridge owin' to
spekylation in railways, an' Miss Hagnes she works lovely with 'er
needle, an' makes altar cloths an' vestis for Mr. Francis Anthony,
the 'Igh Church clergyman at Riversford, he not bein' married,
though myself I should say there worn't no chance for 'er, bein'
frightful skinny an' a bit off in 'er looks--an' Miss Christina she
do still play at bein' a baby like, she's the youngest, an' over
forty, yet quite a giddy in 'er way, wearin' ribbins round her
waist, an' if 'twarn't for 'er cheeks droppin' in long like, she
wouldn't look so bad, but they're all that proud--"
"That'll do, Spruce, that'll do!" cried Maryllia, putting her hands
to her ears--"No more Ittlethwaites, please, for the present!
Sufficient for the day is the Magnum Chartus thereof! Who comes
here?" and she read from another card,--"'Mrs. Mordaunt Appleby.'
Also a smaller label which says, 'Mr. Mordaunt Appleby'! More county
family pride or what?"
"Oh lor' no, Miss, Mordaunt Appleby's only the brewer of
Riversford," said Mrs. Spruce, casually. "He's got the biggest 'ouse
in the town, but people remembers 'im when he was a very shabby lot
indeed,-an awful shabby lot. HE ain't nobody, Miss-he's just got a
bit o' money which makes the commoner sort wag tails for 'im, but
it's like his cheek to call 'ere at all. Sir Morton Pippitt, bein'
in. the bone-meltin' line, as 'im up to dine now an' agin, just to
keep in with 'im like, for he's a nasty temper, an' his wife's got
the longest and spitefullest tongue in all the neighbourhood. But
you needn't take up wi' them, Miss-they ain't in your line,-which
some brewers is gentlemen, an' Appleby ain't--YOUR Pa wouldn't never
know HIS Pa."
"Then that's settled!" said Maryllia, with a sigh of relief.
"Depart, Mordaunt Applebys into the limbo of forgotten callers!"-and
she tossed the cards aside-"Here are the Pippitt names,-I small
remember them all right-Pip-pitt and Ittlethwaite have a tendency to
raise blisters of memory on the brain. What is this neat looking
little bit of pasteboard-' The Rev. John Walden.' Yes!-he called two
or three days ago when I was out."
Mrs. Spruce sniffed a sniff of meaning, but said nothing.
"I've not been to church yet"-went on Maryllia medi-tatively. "I
dare say he thinks me quite a dreadful person. But I hate going to
church,-it's so stupid-so boresome-and oh!-such a waste of time!"
Mrs. Spruce still held her peace. Maryllia gave her a little side-
glance and noted a certain wistfulness and wonder in the rosy,
wrinkled face which was not without its own pathos.
"I suppose everybody about here goes to church at least Once on
Sundays," pursued Maryllia-"Don't they?"
"Them as likes Mr. Walden goes," answered Mrs. Spruce promptly-"Then
as don't stops away. Sir Morton Pippitt used allus to attend 'ere
reg'ler when the buildin' was nowt but ruin, an' 'e 'ad a tin roof
put over it,-'e was that proud o' the tin roof you'd a' thought
'twas made o' pure gold, an' he was just wild when Mr. Walden pulled
it all off an' built up the walls an' roof again as they should be
all at 'is own expense, an' he went away from the place for sheer
spite like, an' stayed abroad a whole year, an' when 'e come back
again 'e never wouldn't go nigh it, an' now 'e attends service at
Badsworth Church,-Badsworth Barn we calls it,-for'tain't nowt but a
barn which Mr. Leveson keeps 'Igh as 'Igh with a bit o' tinsel an'
six candles, though it's the mis'ablest place ye ever set eyes on,
an' 'e do look a caution 'isself with what 'e calls a vestiment
'angin' down over 'is back, which is a baek as fat as porpuses, the
Lord forgive me for sayin.' it, but Sir Morton 'e be that set
against Mr. Walden he'll rather say 'is prayers in a pig-stye with a
pig for the minister than in our church, since it's been all
restored an' conskrated--then, as I told you just now, Miss, the
Ittlethwaites goes to Riversford where they gits opratick music with
the 'Lord be merciful to us mis'able sinners'--an' percessions with
candles,--so our church is mostly filled wi' the village folks,
farmer bodies an' sich-like,--there ain't no grand people what
comes, though we don't miss 'em, for Passon 'e don't let us want for
nothin' an' when there's a man out o' work, or a woman sick, or a
child what's pulin' a bit, an' ricketty, he's alhis ready to 'elp,
with all 'e 'as an' welcome, payin' doctor's fees often,--an' takin'
all the medicine bills on 'isself besides. Ah, 'e's a rare good sort
is Passon Walden, an' so you'd say yerself, Miss, if ever you took
on your mind to go and hear 'im preach, an' studied 'is ways for a
bit as 'twere an' asked 'bout 'im in the village, for 'e's fair an'
open as the day an' ain't got no sly, sneaky tricks in 'im,--he's
just a man, an' a good one--an' that's as rare a thing to find in
this world as a di'mond in a wash-tub, an' makin' so bold, Miss, if
you'd onny go to church next Sunday---"
Maryllia interrupted her by a little gesture.
"I can't, Spruce!" she said, but with great gentleness--"I know it's
the right and proper thing for me to do in the country if I wish to
stand well with my neighbours,-but I can't! I don't believe in it,--
and I won't pretend that I believe!"
Poor Mrs. Spruce felt a sudden choking in her throat, and her
motherly face grew red and pale by turns. Miss Maryllia, the old
squire's daughter, was--what? A heathen?--an unbeliever--an atheist?
Oh, surely it was not possible--it could not be!--she would not
accept the idea that a creature so dainty and pretty, so fair and
winsome, could be cast adrift on the darkness of life without any
trust in the saving grace of the Christian Faith! Limited as were
Mrs. Spruce's powers of intelligence, she was conscious enough that
there would be something sweet and strong lost out of the world,
which nothing could replace, were the message of Christ withdrawn
from it. The perplexity of her thoughts was reflected on her
countenance and Maryllia, watching her, smiled a little sadly.
"You mustn't think I don't believe in God, Spruce,"--she said
slowly--"I do! But I can't agree with all the churches teach about
Him. They make Him out to be a cruel, jealous and revengeful Being--
"Mr. Walden don't---," put in Mrs. Spruce, quickly.
"And I like to think of Him as all love and pity and goodness," went
on Maryllia, not heeding her--"and I don't say prayers, because I
think He knows what is best for me without my asking. Do you
understand? So it's really no use my going to church, unless just
out of curiosity--and perhaps I will some day do that,--I'll see
about it! But I must know Mr. Walden a little better first,--I must
find out for myself what kind of a man he is, before I make up my
mind to endure such a martyrdom as listening to a sermon! I simply
loathe sermons! I suppose I must have had too many of them when I
was a child. Surely you remember, Spruce, that I used to be taken
into Riversford to church?" Mrs. Spruce nodded emphatically in the
affirmative. "Yes!--because when father was alive the church here
was only a ruin. And I used to go to sleep over the sermons always--
and once I fell off my seat and had to be carried out. It was
dreadful! Now Uncle Fred never went to church,--nor Aunt Emily. So
I've quite got out of the way of going--nobody is very particular
about it in Paris or London, you see. But perhaps I'll try and hear
Mr. Walden preach--just once--and I'll tell you then what I think
about it. I'll put his card on the mantelpiece to remind me!"
And she suited the action to the word, Mrs. Spruce gazing at her in
a kind of mild stupefaction. It seemed such a very odd thing to
stick up a clergyman's card as a reminder to go to church 'just
once' some Sunday.
Meanwhile Maryllia continued, "Now, Spruce, you must begin to be
busy! You must prepare the Manor for the reception of all sorts of
people, small and great. I feel that the time has come for 'company,
company!' And in the first place I'm going to send for Cicely
Bourne,--she's my pet 'genius'--and I'm paying the cost of her
musical education in Paris. She's an orphan--like me--she's all
alone in the world--like me;--and we're devoted to each other. She's
only a child--just over fourteen--but she's simply a wonder!--the
most wonderful musical wonder in the world!--and she has a perfectly
marvellous voice. Her master Gigue says that when she is sixteen she
will have emperors at her feet! Emperors! There are only a few,--but
they'll all be grovelling in the dust before her! You must prepare
some pretty rooms for her, Spruce, those two at the top of the house
that look right over the lawn and woods--and make everything as cosy
as you can. I'll put the finishing touches. And I must send to
London for a grand piano. There's only the dear old spinet in the
drawing-room,--it's sweet to sing to, and Cicely will love it,--but
she must have a glorious 'grand' as well. I shall wire to her to-
day,--I know she'll come at once. She will arrive direct from
Paris,--let me see!"--and she paused meditatively--"when can she
arrive? This is Friday,--yes!--probably she will arrive here Sunday
or Monday morning. So you can get everything ready."
"Very well, Miss," and Mrs. Spruce, with the usual regulation 'dip'
of respectful submission to her mistress was about to withdraw, when
Maryllia called her back and handed over to her care the wicker
basket full of visiting-cards.
"Put them all by,"--she said--"When Cicely comes we'll go through
them carefully together, and discuss what to eat, drink and avoid.
Till then, I shall blush unseen, wasting my sweetness on the desert
air! Time enough and to spare for making the acquaintance of the
'county.' Who was it that said: Never know your neighbours'? I
forget,--but he was a wise man, anyway!"
Mrs. Spruce 'dipped' a second time in silence, and was then allowed
to depart on her various household duties. The good woman's thoughts
were somewhat chaotically jumbled, and most fervently did she long
to send for 'Passon,' her trusted adviser and chief consoler, or
else go to him herself and ask him what he thought concerning the
non-church-going tendencies of her mistress. Was she altogether a
lost sheep? Was there no hope for her entrance into the heavenly
"Which I can't and won't believe she's wicked,"--said Mrs. Spruce to
herself--"With that sweet childie face an' eyes she couldn't be!
M'appen 'tis bad example,--'er 'Merican aunt 'avin' no religion as
'twere, an' 'er uncle, Mr. Frederick, was never no great shakes in
'is young days if all the truth was told. Well, well! The Lord 'e
knows 'is own, an' my 'pinion is He ain't a-goin' to do without Miss
Maryllia, for it's allus 'turn again, turn again, why will 'ee die'
sort of thing with Him, an' He don't give out in 'is patience. I'm
glad she's goin' to 'ave a friend to stay with 'er,--that'll do 'er
good and 'earten her up--an' mebbe the friend'll want to go to
church, an' Miss Maryllia 'ull go with her, an' once they listens to
Passon 'twill be all right, for 'is voice do draw you up into a
little bit o' heaven somehow, whether ye likes it or not, an' if
Miss Maryllia once 'ears 'im, she'll be wanting to 'ear 'im again--
so it's best to leave it all in the Lord's 'ands which makes the
hill straight an' the valleys crooked, an' knows what's good for
both man and beast. Miss Maryllia ain't goin' to miss the Way, the
Truth an' the Life--I'm sartin sure o' that!"
Thus Mrs. Spruce gravely cogitated, while Maryllia herself, unaware
of the manner in which her immortal destinies were being debated by
the old housekeeper, put on her hat, and ran gaily across the lawn,
her great dog bounding at her side, making for the usual short-cut
across the fields to the village. Arrived there she went straight to
the post-office, a curious little lop-sided half-timbered cottage
with a projecting window, wherein, through the dusty close-latticed
panes could be spied various strange edibles, such as jars of
acidulated drops, toffee, peppermint balls, and barley-sugar--
likewise one or two stray oranges, some musty-looking cakes, a
handful or so of old nuts, and slabs of chocolate protruding from
shining wrappers of tin-foil,--while a flagrant label of somebody's
'Choice Tea' was suspended over the whole collection, like a flag of
triumph. The owner of this interesting stock-in-trade and the
postmistress of St. Rest, was a quaint-looking little woman, very
rosy, very round, very important in her manner, very brisk and
bright with her eyes, but very slow with her fingers.
"Which I gets the rheumatiz so bad in my joints," she was wont to
say--"that I often wonders 'ow I knows postage-stamps from telegram-
forms an' register papers from money-orders, an' if you doos them
things wrong Gove'nment never forgives you!"
"Ah, you'll never get into no trouble with Gove'nment, Missis
Tapple!" her gossips were wont to assure her, "For you be as ezack
A compliment which Mrs. Tapple accepted without demur, feeling it to
be no more than her just due. She was, however, in spite of her
'ezack' methods, always a little worried when anything out of the
ordinary occurred, and she began to feel slightly flustered directly
she saw Maryllia swing open her garden gate. She had already, during
the last few days, been at some trouble to decipher various
telegrams which the lady of the Manor had sent down by Primmins for
immediate despatch, such as one to a certain Lord Roxmouth which had
run as follows:--"No time to reply to your letter. In love with pigs
"It IS 'pigs and poultry,' ain't it?" she had asked anxiously of
Primmins, after studying the message for a considerable time
through, her spectacles. And Primmins, gravely studying it, too, had
"It is undoubtedly 'pigs and poultry.'"
"And it IS 'in love' you think?" pursued Mrs. Tapple, with
perplexity furrowing her brow.
"It is certainly 'in love,'" rejoined Primmins, and the faintest
suggestion of a wink affected his left eyelid.
Thereupon the telegram was 'sent through' to Riversford on its way
to London, though not without serious misgivings in Mrs. Tapple's
mind as to whether it might not be returned with a 'Gove'nment'
query as to its correctness. And now, when Maryllia herself entered
the office, and said smilingly, "Good-morning! Some foreign
telegram-forms, please!" Mrs. Tapple felt that the hour was come
when her powers of intelligence were about to be tried to the
utmost; and she accordingly began to experience vague qualms of
"Foreign telegram-forms, Miss? Is it for Ameriky?"
"Oh, no!--only for Paris,"--and while the old lady fumbled nervously
in her 'official' drawer, Maryllia glanced around the little
business establishment with amused interest. She had a keen eye for
small details, and she noticed with humorous appreciation Mrs.
Tapple's pink sun-bonnet hanging beside the placarded 'Post Office
Savings Bank' regulations, and a half side of bacon suspended from
the ceiling, apparently for 'curing' purposes, immediately above the
telegraphic apparatus. After a little delay, the required pale
yellow 'Foreign and Colonial' forms were found, and Mrs. Tapple
carefully flattened them out, and set them on her narrow office
"Will you have a pencil, or pen and ink, Miss?" she enquired.
"Pen and ink, please," replied Maryllia; whereat the old
postmistress breathed a sigh of relief. It would be easier to make
out anything at all 'strange and uncommon' in pen and ink than in
pencil-marks which had a trick of 'rubbing.' Leaning lightly against
the counter Maryllia wrote in a clear bold round hand:
"Miss CICELY BOURNE,
"17 RUE CROISIE, PARIS.
"Come to me at once. Shall want you all summer. Have
wired Gigue. Start to-morrow.
She pushed this over to Mrs. Tapple, who thankfully noting that she
was writing another, took time to carefully read and spell over
every word, and mastered it all without difficulty. Meanwhile
Maryllia prepared her second message thus:
"Je desire que Cicely passe l'ete avec moi et qu'elle arrive
immediatement. Elle peut tres-bien continuer ses etudes ici.
Vous pouvez suivre, cher maitre, a votre plaisir.
"It's rather long,"--she said thoughtfully, as she finished it. "But
for Gigue it is necessary to explain fully. I hope you can make it
Poor Mrs. Tapple quivered with inward agitation as she took the
terrible telegram in hand, and made a brave effort to rise to the
"Yes, Miss," she stammered, "Louis Gigue--G.i.g.u.e., that's right--
yes--at the Conservatory, Paris."
"'No, no!" said Maryllia, with a little laugh--"Not Conservatory--
Conservatoire--TOIRE, t.o.i.r.e., the place where they study music."
"Oh, yes--I see!" and Mrs. Tapple tried to smile knowingly, as she
fixed her spectacles more firmly on her nose, and began to murmur
slowly--"Je desire, d.e.sire--oh, yes--desire!--que--q.u.e.--Cicely-
-yes that's all right!--passe, an e to pass--yes--now let me wait a
minute; one minute, Miss, if you please!--l'ete--l apostrophe e,
stroke across the e,--t, and e, stroke across the e---"
Maryllia's eyebrows went up in pretty perplexity.
"Oh dear, I'm afraid you won't be able to get it right that way!"
she said--"I had better write it in English,--why, here's Mr.
Walden!" This, as she saw the clergyman's tall athletic figure
entering Mrs. Tapple's tiny garden,--"Good-morning, Mr. Walden!" and
as he raised his hat, she smiled graciously--"I want to send off a
French telegram, and I'm afraid it's rather difficult---"
A glance at Mrs. Tapple explained the rest, and Walden's eyes
"Perhaps _I_ can be of some use, Miss Vancourt," he said. "Shall I
Maryllia nodded, and he walked into the little office.
"Let me send off those telegrams for you, Mrs. Tapple," he said.
"You know you often allow me to amuse myself in that way! I haven't
touched the instrument for a month at least, and am getting quite
out of practice. May I come in?"
Mrs. Tapple's face shone with relief and gladness.
"Well now, Mr. Walden, if it isn't a real blessin' that you happened
to look in this mornin'!" she exclaimed--"For now there won't be no
delay,--not but what I knew a bit o' French as a gel, an' I'd 'ave
made my way to spell it out somehow, no matter how slow,--but there!
you're that handy that 'twon't take no time, an' Miss Vancourt will
be sure of her message 'avin' gone straight off from here correct,--
an' if they makes mistakes at Riversford, 'twon't be my fault!"
While she thus ran on, Walden was handling the telegraphic
apparatus. His back was turned to Maryllia, but he felt her eyes
upon him,--as indeed they were,--and there was a slight flush of
colour in his bronzed cheeks as he presenty looked round and said:
"May I have the telegram?"
"There are two--both for Paris," replied Maryllia, handing him the
filled-up forms--"One is quite easy--in English." "And the other
quite difficult--in French!"--he laughed. "Let me see if I can make
it out correctly." Thereupon he read aloud: "'Louis Gigue,
Conservatoire, Paris. Je desire que Cicely passe l'ete avec moi et
qu'elle arrive immediatement. Elle peut tres-bien continuer ses
etudes ici. Vous pouvez suivre, cher maitre, a votre plaisir.' Is
Maryllia's eyes opened a little more widely,--like blue flowers
wakening to the sun. This country clergyman's pronunciation of
French was perfect,--more perfect than her own trained Parisian
accent. Mrs. Tapple clasped her dumpy red hands in a silent ecstasy
of admiration. 'Passon' knew everything!
"Is it right?" Walden repeated.
Maryllia gave a little start.
"Oh I beg your pardon! Yes--quite right!--thank you ever so much!"
Click-click-click-click! The telegraphic apparatus was at work, and
the unofficial operator was entirely engrossed in his business. Mrs.
Tapple stood respectfully dumb and motionless, watching him.
Maryllia, leaning against the ledge of the office counter, watched
him, too. She took quiet observation of the well-poised head,
covered with its rich brown-grey waving locks of hair,--the broad
shoulders, the white firm muscular hands that worked the telegraphic
instrument, and she was conscious of the impression of authority,
order, knowledge, and self-possession, which seemed to have come
into the little office with him, and to have created quite a new
atmosphere. Outside, in the small garden, among mignonette and early
flowering sweetpeas, Plato sat on his huge haunches in lion-like
dignity, blinking at the sun,--while Walden's terrier Nebbie
executed absurd but entirely friendly gambols in front of him, now
pouncing down on two forepaws with nose to ground and eyes leering
sideways,--now wagging an excited tail with excessive violence to
demonstrate goodwill and a desire for amity.--and anon giving a
short yelp of suppressed feeling,--to all of which conciliatory
approaches Plato gave no other response than a vast yawn and
The monotonous click-click-click continued,--now stopping for a
second, then going on more rapidly again, till Maryllia began to
feel quite unreasonably impatient. She found something irritating at
last in the contemplation of the back of Walden's cranium,--it was
too well-shaped, she decided,--she could discover no fault in it.
Humming a tune carelessly under her breath, she turned towards Mrs.
Tapple's small grocery department, and feigned to be absorbed in an
admiring survey of peppermint balls and toffee. Certain glistening
squares of sticky white substance on a corner shelf commended
themselves to her notice as specimens of stale 'nougat,' wherein the
almonds represented a remote antiquity,--and a mass of stringy
yellow matter laid out in lumps on blue paper and marked 'One Penny
per ounce' claimed attention as a certain 'hardbake' peculiar to St.
Rest, which was best eaten in a highly glutinous condition. A dozen
or so of wrinkled apples which, to judge by their damaged and worn
exteriors, must have been several autumns old, kept melancholy
companionship with assorted packages of the 'Choice Tea' whereof the
label was displayed in the window, and Maryllia was just about
wondering whether she would, or could buy anything out of the musty-
fusty collection, when the click-click-click stopped abruptly, and
Walden stepped forth from the interior 'den' of the post-office.
"That's all right, Miss Vancourt," he said. "Your telegrams are sent
correctly as far as Riversford anyhow, and there is one operator
there who is acquainted with the French language. Whether they will
transmit correctly from London I shouldn't like to say!--we are a
singular nation, and one of our singularities is that we scorn to
know the language of our nearest neighbours!"
She smiled up at him,--and as his glance met hers he was taken
aback, as it were, by the pellucid beauty and frank innocence of the
grave dark-blue eyes that shone so serenely into his own.
"Thank you so very, very much! You have been most kind!" and with a
swift droop of her white eyelids she veiled those seductive 'mirrors
of the soul' beneath a concealing fringe of long golden-brown
lashes--"It's quite a new experience to find a clergyman able and
willing to be a telegraph clerk as well! So useful, isn't it?"
"In a village like this it is," rejoined Walden, gaily--"And after
all, there's not much use in being a minister unless one can
practically succeed in the art of 'ministering' to every sort of
demand made upon one's capabilities! Even to Miss Vancourt's needs,
should she require anything, from the preservation of trees to the
sending of telegrams, that St. Rest can provide!"
Again Maryllia glanced at him, and again a little smile lifted the
corners of her mouth.
"I must pay for the telegrams," she said abruptly--"Mrs. Tapple---"
"Yes, Miss--I've written it all down," murmured Mrs. Tapple
nervously--"It's right, Mr. Walden, isn't it? If you would be so
good as to look at it, bein' tuppence a word, it do make it
different like, an' m'appen there might be a mistake---"
Walden glanced over the scrap of paper on which she had scrawled her
"Fivepence out, I declare, Mrs. Tapple!" he said, merrily. "Dear,
dear! Whatever is going to become of you, eh? To cheat yourself
wouldn't matter--nobody minds THAT--but to do the British Government
out of fivepence would be a dreadful thing! Now if I had not seen
this you would have been what is called 'short' this evening in
making up accounts." Here he handed the corrected paper to Maryllia.
"I think you will find that right."
Maryllia opened her purse and paid the amount,--and Mrs. Tapple, in
giving her change for a sovereign, included among the coins a bright
new threepenny piece with a hole in it. Spying this little bit of
silver, Maryllia held it up in front of Walden's eyes triumphantly.
"Luck!" she exclaimed--"That's for you! It's a reward for your
telegraphic operations! Will you be grateful if I give it to you?"
"Profoundly! It shall be my D.S.O.!"
"Then there you are!" and she placed the tiny coin in the palm of
the hand he held out to receive it. "The labourer is worthy of his
hire! Now you can never go about like some clergymen, grumbling and
saying you work for no pay!" Her eyes sparkled mischievously. "What
shall we do next? Oh, I know! Let's buy some acid drops!"
Mrs. Tapple stared and smiled.
"Or pear-drops," continued Maryllia, glancing critically at the
various jars of 'sweeties,'--"I see the real old-fashioned pink ones
up there,--lumpy at one end and tapering at the other. Do you like
them? Or brandy balls? I think the pear-drops carry one back to the
age of ten most quickly! But which do you prefer?"
Walden tried to look serious, but could not succeed. Laughter
twinkled all over his face, and he began to feel extremely young.
"Well,--really, Miss Vancourt,---" he began.
"There, I know what you are going to say!" exclaimed Maryllia--"You
are going to tell me that it would never do for a clergyman to be
seen munching pear-drops in his own parish. _I_ understand! But
clergymen do ever so much. worse than that sometimes. They do,
really! Two ounces of pear-drops for me, Mrs. Tapple, please!--and
one of brandy balls!"
Mrs. Tapple bustled out of her 'Gove'nment' office, and came to the
grocery counter to dispense these dainties.
"They stick to the jar so," said Maryllia, watching her
thoughtfully; "They always did. I remember, as a child, seeing a man
put his finger in to detach them. Don't put your finger in, Mrs.
Tapple!--take a bit of wood--an old skewer or something. Oh, they're
coming out all right! That's it!" And she popped one of the pear-
drops into her mouth. "They are really very good--better than French
fondants--so much more innocent and refreshing!" Here she took
possession of the little paper-bags which Mrs. Tapple had filled
with the sweets. "Thank you, Mrs. Tapple! If any answers to my
telegrams come from Paris, please send them up to the Manor at once.
"Good-morning, Miss!" And Mrs. Tapple, curtseying, pulled the door
of her double establishment wider open to let the young lady pass
out, which she did, with a smile and nod, Walden following her.
Plato rose and paced majestically after his mistress, Nebbie
trotting meekly at the rear, and so they all went forth from the
postmistress's garden into the road, where Walden, pausing, raised
his hat in farewell.
"Oh, are you going?" queried Maryllia. "Won't you walk with me as
far as your own rectory?"
"Certainly, if you wish it,"--he answered with a slight touch of
embarrassment; "I thought perhaps---"
"You thought perhaps,--what?" laughed Maryllia, glancing up at him
archly--"That I was going to make you eat pear-drops against your
will? Not I! I wouldn't be so rude. But I really thought I ought to
buy something from Mrs. Tapple,--she was so worried, poor old dear!-
-till you came in. Then she looked as happy as though she saw a
vision of angels. She's a perfect picture, with her funny old shawl
and spectacles and knobbly red fingers--and do you know, all the
time you were working the telegraph you were under the fragrant
shadow of a big piece of bacon which was 'curing,'--positively
'curing' over your head! Couldn't you smell it?"
Walden's eyes twinkled.
"There was certainly a fine aroma in the air," he said--"But it
seemed to me no more than the customary perfume common to Mrs.
Tapple's surroundings. I daresay it was new to you! A country
clergyman is perhaps the only human being who has to inure himself
to bacon odours as the prevailing sweetness of cottage interiors."
Maryllia laughed. She had a pretty laugh, silver-clear and joyous
"Fancy your being so clever as to be able to send off telegrams!"
she exclaimed--"What an accomplishment for a Churchman! Don't you
want to know all about the messages you sent?--who the persons are,
and what I have to do with them?"
"Not in the least!" answered John, smiling.
"Are you not of a curious disposition?"
"I never care about other people's business," he said, meeting her
upturned eyes with friendly frankness--"I have enough to do to
attend to my own."
"Then you are positively inhuman!" declared Maryllia--"And
absolutely unnatural! You are, really! Every two-legged creature on
earth wants to find out all the ins and cuts of every other two-
legged creature,--for if this were not the case wars would be at an
end, and the wicked cease from troubling and the weary be at rest.
So just because you don't want to know about my two friends in
Paris, I'm going to tell you. Louis Gigue is the greatest teacher of
singing there is,--and Cicely Bourne is his pupil, a perfectly
wonderful little girl with a marvellous compass of voice, whose
training and education I am paying for. I want her with me here--and
I have sent for her;--Gigue can come on if he thinks it necessary to
give her a few lessons during the summer, but of course she is not
to sing in public until she is sixteen. She is only fourteen now."
Walden listened in silence. He was looking at his companion
sideways, and noting the delicate ebb and flow of the rose tint in
her cheeks, the bright flecks of gold in the otherwise brown hair,
and the light poise of her dainty rounded figure as she stepped
along beside him with an almost aerial grace and swiftness.
"She was the child of a Cornish labourer,"--went on Maryllia. "Her
mother sold her for ten pounds. Yes!--wasn't it dreadful!" This, as
John's face expressed surprise. "But it is true! You shall hear all
the story some day,--it is quite a little romance. And she is so
clever!--you would think her ever so much older than she is, to hear
her talk. Sometimes she is rather blunt, and people get offended
with her-but she is true--oh, so true!--she wouldn't do a mean
action for the world! She is just devoted to me,--and that is
perhaps why I am devoted to her,--because after all, it's a great
thing to be loved, isn't it?"
"It is indeed!" replied John, mechanically, beginning to feel a
little dazed under the influence of the bright eyes, animated face,
smiling lips and clear, sweet voice--"It ought to be the best of all
"It ought to be, and it is!" declared Maryllia emphatically. "Oh,
what a lovely bush of lilac!" And she hastened on a few steps in
order to look more closely at the admired blossoms, which were
swaying in the light breeze over the top of a thick green hedge--
"Why, it must be growing in your garden! Yes, it is!--of course it
is!--this is your gate. May I come in?"
She paused, her hand on the latch,--and for a moment Walden
hesitated. A wave of colour swept up to his brows,--he was conscious
of a struggling desire to refuse her request, united to a still more
earnest craving to grant it. She looked at him, wistfully smiling.
"May I come in?" she repeated.
He advanced, and opened the gate, standing aside for her to pass.
"Of course you may!"--he said gently,--"And welcome!"
Now it happened that Bainton was at that moment engaged in training
some long branches of honey-suckle across the rectory walls, and
being half-way up a ladder for the purpose, the surprise he
experienced at seeing 'Passon' and Miss Vancourt enter the garden
together and walk slowly side by side across the lawn, was so
excessive, that in jerking his head round to convince himself that
it was not a vision but a reality, he nearly lost his balance.
"Woa, steady!" he muttered, addressing the ladder which for a second
swayed beneath him--"Woa, I sez! This ain't no billowy ocean with
wot they calls an underground swell! So the ice 'ave broke, 'ave it!
She, wot don't like clergymen, an' he, wot don't like ladies, 'as
both come to saunterin' peaceful like with one another over the
blessed green grass all on a fine May mornin'! Which it's gettin'
nigh on June now an' no sign o' the weather losin' temper. Well,
well! Wonders won't never cease it's true, but I'd as soon a'
thought o' my old 'ooman dancin' a 'ornpipe among her cream cheeses
as that Passon Walden would a' let Miss Vancourt inside this 'ere
gate so easy like, an' he a bacheldor. But there!--arter all, he's
gettin' on in years, an' she's ever so much younger than he is, an'
I dessay he's made up his mind to treat 'er kind like, as 'twere her
father, which he should do, bein' spiritooal 'ead o' the village,
an' as for the pretty face of 'er, he's not the man to look at it
more'n once, an' then he couldn't tell you wot it's like. He favours
his water-lilies mor'n females,--ah, an' I bet he'd give ten pound
for a new specimen of a flower when he wouldn't lay out a 'apenny on
a new specimen of a woman." Here, pausing in his reflections, he
again looked cautiously round from his high vantage point of view on
the ladder, and saw Walden break off a spray of white lilac from one
bush of a very special kind near the edge of the lawn, and give it
to Miss Vancourt. "Well, now that do beat me altogether!" he
ejaculated under his breath. "If he's told me once, he's told me a
'undred times that he won't 'ave no blossoms broke off that bush on
no account An' there he is a-pickin' of it hisself! That's a kind of
thing which do make me feel that men is a poor feeble-minded lot,--
it do reely now!"
But feeble-minded or not, John had nevertheless gathered the choice
flower, and moreover, had found a certain pleasure in giving it to
his fair companion, who inhaled its delicious odour with an
"What a dear old house you have!" she said, glancing up at the
crossed timbers, projecting gables, and quaint dormer windows set
like eyes in the roof--"I had no idea that it was so pretty! And the
garden is perfectly lovely. It is so very artistic!--it looks like a
woman's dream of a garden rather than a man's."
"You think women more artistic than men?" he queried.
"In the decorative line--yes," she replied--"Especially where
flowers are concerned. If one leaves the planning of a garden
entirely to a man, he is sure to make it too stiff and
mathematical,--he will not allow Nature to have her own way in the
least little bit,--in fact"--and she laughed--"I don't think men as
a rule like to let anything or anybody have their own way except
The smile still lingered kindly round the corners of Walden's mouth.
"Possibly you may be right,"--he said--"I almost believe you are.
Men are selfish,--much more selfish than women. Nature made them so
in the first instance,--and our methods of education and training
all tend to intensify our natural bent. But"--here he paused and
looked at her thoughtfully; "I am not sure that absolute
unselfishness would be a wise or strong trait in the character of a
man. You see the first thing he has to do in this world is to earn
the right to live,--and if he were always backing politely out of
everybody else's way, and allowing himself to be hustled to one side
in an unselfish desire to let others get to the front, he would
scarcely be able to hold his own in any profession. And all those
dependent upon his efforts would also suffer,--so that his
'unselfishness' might become the very worst kind of selfishness in
the end--don't you think so?" "Well--yes--perhaps in that way it
might!" hesitated Maryllia, with a faint blush--"I ought not to
judge anyone I know--but--oh dear!--the men one meets in town--the
society men with their insufferable airs of conceit and
condescension,--their dullness of intellect,--their preference for
cigars, whiskey, and Bridge to anything else under the sun,--their
intensely absorbed love of personal ease, and their perfectly absurd
confidence in their own supreme wisdom!--these are the hybrid
creatures that make one doubt the worth of the rest of their sex
"But there are hybrid creatures on both sides,"--said Walden
quietly--"Just as there are the men you speak of, so there are women
of the same useless and insufferable character. Is it not so?"
She looked up at him and laughed.
"Why, yes, of course!" she frankly admitted--"I guess I won't argue
with you on the six of one and half-dozen of the other! But it's
just as natural for women to criticise men as for men to criticise
nowadays. Long ago, in the lovely 'once upon a time' fairy period,
the habit of criticism doesn't appear to have developed strongly in
either sex. The men were chivalrous and tender,--the women adoring
and devoted--I think it must have been perfectly charming to have
lived then! It is all so different now!"
"Fortunately, it is," said John, with a mirthful sparkle in his
eyes--"I am sure you would not have liked that 'once upon a time
fairy period' as you call it, at all, Miss Vancourt! Poets and
romancists may tell us that the men were 'chivalrous and tender,'
but plain fact convinces us that they were very rough unwashen
tyrants who used to shut up their ladies in gloomy castles where
very little light and air could penetrate,--and the adoring and
devoted ladies, in their turn, made very short work of the whole
business by either dying of their own grief and ill-treatment, or
else getting killed in cold blood by order of their lords and
masters. Why, one of the finest proofs of an improvement in our
civilisation is the freedom of thought and action given to women in
the present day. Personally speaking, I admit to a great fondness
for old-fashioned ways, and particularly for old-fashioned manners,-
-but I cannot shut my mind to the fact that for centuries women have
been unfairly hindered by men in every possible way from all chance
of developing the great powers of intelligence they possess,--and it
is certainly time the opposition to their advancement should cease.
Of course, being a man myself,"--and he smiled--"I daresay that in
my heart of hearts I like the type of woman I first learned to know
and love best,--my mother. She had the early Victorian, ways,--they
were very simple, but also very sweet."
He broke off, and for a moment or two they paced the lawn in
"I suppose you live all alone here?" asked Maryllia, suddenly.
"Yes. Quite alone."
"And are you happy?"
"I am content."
"I understand!" and she looked at him somewhat earnestly:--"'Happy'
is a word that should seldom be used I think. It is only at the
rarest possible moments that one can feel real true happiness."
"You are too young to say that,"--he rejoined gently--"All your life
is before you. The greater part of mine lies behind me." Again she
glanced at him somewhat timidly.
"Mr. Walden"--she began--"I'm afraid--I suppose--I daresay you
John caught the appealing flash of the blue eyes, and wondering what
she was going to say. She played with the spray of lilac he had
given her, and for a moment seemed to have lost her self-possession.
"I am quite sure,"--she went on, hurriedly--"that you--I mean, I'm
afraid you haven't a very good opinion of me because I don't go to
He looked at her, smiling a little.
"Dor't you go to church?" he asked--"I didn't know it!"
Here was a surprise for the lady of the Manor. The clergyman of her
own parish,--a man, who by all accepted rule and precedent ought to
have been after her at once, asking for subscriptions to this fund
and that fund, toadying her for her position, and begging for her
name and support, had not even noticed her absence from divine
service on Sundays! She did not know whether to be relieved or
dissatisfied. Such indifference to her actions piqued her feminine
pride, and yet, his tone was very kind and courteous. Noting the
colour coming and going on her face, he spoke again---
"I never interfere personally with my parishioners, Miss Vancourt"--
he said--"To attend church or stay away from church is a matter of
conscience with each individual, and must be left to individual
choice. I should be the last person in the world to entertain a bad
opinion of anyone simply because he or she never went to church.
That would be foolish indeed! Some of the noblest and best men in
Christendom to-day never go to church,--but they are none the less
noble and good! They have their reasons of conscience for non-
committing themselves to accepted forms of faith, and it often turns
out that they are more truly Christian and more purely religious
than the most constant church-goer that ever lived."
Maryllia gave a little sigh of sudden relief.
"Ah, you are a broad-minded Churchman!" she said. "I am glad! Very
glad! Because you have no doubt followed the trend of modern
thought,--and you must have read all the discussions in the
magazines and in the books that are written on such subjects,--and
you can understand how difficult it is to a person like myself to
decide what is right when so many of the wisest and most educated
men agree to differ."
Walden stopped abruptly in his walk.
"Please do not mistake me, Miss Vancourt," he said gravely, and with
emphasis--"I should be sorry if you gathered a wrong opinion of me
at the outset of our acquaintance. As your minister I feel that I
ought to make my position clear to you. You say that I have probably
followed the trend of modern thought--and I presume that you mean
the trend of modern thought in religious matters. Now I have not
'followed' it, but I have patiently studied it, and find it in all
respects deplorable and disastrous. At the same time I would not
force the high truths of religion on any person, nor would I step
out of my way to ask anyone to attend church if he or she did not
feel inclined to do so. And why? Because I fully admit the laxity
and coldness of the Church in the present day--and I know that there
are many ministers of the Gospel who do not attract so much as they
repel. I am not so self-opinionated as to dream that I, a mere
country parson, can succeed in drawing souls to Christ when so many
men of my order, more gifted than I, have failed, and continue to
fail. But I wish you quite frankly to understand that the trend of
modern thought does not affect the vows I took at my ordination,--
that I do not preach one thing, and think another,--and that
whatever my faults and shortcomings may be, I most earnestly
endeavour to impress the minds of all those men and women who are
committed to my care with the beauty, truth and saving grace of the
Maryllia was silent. She appeared to be looking at the daisies in
"I hope," he continued quietly, "you will forgive this rather
serious talk of mine. But when you spoke of 'the trend of modern
thought,' it seemed necessary to me to let you know at once and
straightly that I am not with it,--that I do not belong to the
modern school. Professing to be a Christian minister, I try to be
one,--very poorly and unsuccessfully I know,--but still, I try!"
Maryllia raised her eyes. There was a glisten on her long lashes as
"Please forgive ME!" she said simply--"And thank you for speaking as
you have done! I shall always remember it, and honour you for it. I
hope we shall be friends?"
She put the words as a query, and half timidly held out her little
ungloved hand. He took it at once and pressed it cordially.
"Indeed, I am sure we shall!" he said heartily, and the smile that
made his face more than ordinarily handsome lit up his eyes and
showed a depth of sincerity and kindly feeling reflected straight
from his honest soul. A sudden blush swept over Maryllia's cheeks,
and she gently withdrew her hand from his clasp. A silence fell
between them, and when they broke the spell it was by a casual
comment respecting the wealth of apple-blossoms that were making the
trees around them white with their floral snow.
"St. Rest is a veritable orchard, when the season favours it," said
Walden--"It is one of the best fruit-growing corners in England. At
Abbot's Manor, for instance, the cherry crop is finer than can be
gathered on the same acreage of ground in Kent. Did you know that?"
"No! I know absolutely nothing about my own home, Mr. Walden,--and I
am perfectly aware that I ought to be ashamed of my ignorance. I AM
ashamed of it! I'm going to try and amend the error of my ways as
fast as I can. When Cicely Bourne comes to stay with me, she will
help me. She's ever so much more sensible than I am. She's a
"Geniuses do not always get the credit of being sensible, do they?"
queried John, smiling--"Are they not supposed to be creatures of
impulse, dwellers in the air, and wholly irresponsible?"
"Exactly so,"--she replied--"That is the commonplace opinion
commonplace people entertain of them. Yet the commonplace people owe
everything they enjoy in art, literature and science to the
conceptions of genius, and of genius alone. As for Cicely, she is
the most practical little person possible. She began to earn her
living at the age of eleven, and has 'roughed' it in the world more
severely than many a man. But she keeps her dreams,"
"And those who wish her well will pray that she may always keep
them,"--said Walden--"For to lose one's illusions is to lose the
"The world itself may be an illusion!" said Maryllia, drawing near
the garden gate and leaning upon it for a moment, as she glanced up
at him with a vague sadness in her eyes,--"We never know. I have
often felt that it is only a pretty little pageant, with a very dark
background behind it!"
He was silent, looking at her. For the first time he caught himself
noticing her dress. It was of simple pale blue linen, relieved with
white embroidered lawn, and in its cool, fresh, clean appearance was
in keeping with the clear bright day. A plain straw garden hat tied
across the crown and under the chin with a strip of soft blue ribbon
to match the linen gown, was the finish to this 'fashionable' young
woman's toilette,--and though it was infinitely becoming to the fair
skin, azure eyes, and gold-brown hair of its wearer, it did not
suggest undue extravagance, or a Paris 'mode.' And while he yet
almost unconsciously studied the picture she made, resting one arm
lightly across his garden gate, she lifted the latch suddenly and
swung it open.
"Good-bye!" and she nodded smilingly--"Thank you so much for letting
me see your lovely garden! As soon as Cicely arrives, you must come
and see her--you will, won't you?"
"I shall be most happy---" he murmured.
"She will be so interested to hear how you sent her my telegram,"--
continued Maryllia--"And Gigue too--poor old Gigue!--he is sure to
come over here some time during the summer. He is such a quaint
person! I think you will like him. Good-bye!"
"Good-bye--for the present!" said John with a slight note of appeal
in his voice, which was not lost wholly upon the air alone, for
Maryllia turned her head back towards him with a laugh.
"Oh, of course!--only for the present! We are really next-door
neighbours, and I'm afraid we can't escape each other unless we each
play hermit in separate caves! But I promise not to bore you with my
presence very often!"
She waved the spray of white lilac he had given her in farewell, and
calling her dog to her side, passed down the village road lightly,
like a blue flower drifting with the May breeze, and was soon out of
Walden closed the gate after her with careful slowness, and returned
across the lawn to his favourite seat under his favourite apple-
tree. Nebbie followed him, disconsolately snuffing the ground in the
trail of the departed Plato, who doubtless, to the smaller animal's
mind, represented a sort of canine monarch who ruthlessly disdained
the well-meaning attentions of his inferiors. Bainton, having
finished his task of training the vines across the walls of the
rectory, descended his ladder, making as much noise as he could
about it and adding thereto a sudden troublesome cough which would
he considered, probably excite his master's sympathy and instant
attention. But Walden paid no heed. He was apparently busy fumbling
with his watch-chain. Bainton waited a moment, and then, unable any
longer to control his curiosity, seized his ladder and deliberately
carried it across the lawn, though he knew that that was not the
proper way to the tool-shed where it was kept. Halting close to the
seat under the apple-tree, he said:--
"Yon red honeysuckle's comin' on fine, Passon,--it be as full o' bud
as a pod o' peas."
"Ay indeed!" murmured Walden, absently--"That's all right!"
Bainton paused expectantly. No further word however was vouchsafed
to him, and he knew by experience that such silence implied his
master's wish to be left alone. With an almost magisterial gravity
he surveyed the Reverend John's bent head, and with another
scrutinising glance, ascertained the nature of the occupation on
which his fingers were engaged, whereupon his face expressed the
liveliest amazement. Shouldering his ladder, he went his way,--and
once out of earshot gave vent to a long low whistle.
"It do beat me!" he said, slapping one corduroy-trousered leg
vehemently--"It do beat me altogether--it do reely now! I ain't no
swearin' sort, an' bad langwidge ain't my failin', but I feel like
takin' a bet, or sayin' a swear when I sees a sensible man like,
makin' a fool of hisself! If Passon ain't gone looney all on a
suddint, blest if I knows wot's come to 'im. 'Tain't Miss Vancourt,-
-'tain't no one nor nothink wot I knows on, but I'm blowed if he
worn't sittin' under that tree, like a great gaby, a' fastenin' a
mis'able threepenny bit to 'is watch-chain! Did anyone ever 'ear the
like! A threepenny bit with a 'ole in it! To think of a man like
that turnin' to the sup'stitions o' maids an' wearin' a oley bit o'
silver! It do make me wild!--it do reely now!"
And snorting with ineffable disdain, Bainton almost threw his ladder
into the tool-shed, thereby scaring a couple of doves who had found
their way within, and who now flew out with a whirr of white wings
that glistened like pearl in the sunlight as they spread upwards and
away into the sky.
"A threepenny bit with a 'ole in it!" he repeated, mechanically
watching the birds of peace in their flight--"An' on his watch-chain
too, along wi' the gold cross wot he allus wears there, an' which
folks sez was the last thing wore by 'is dead sister! Somethin's
gone wrong with 'im-somethin' MUST a' gone wrong! Ginerally speakin'
a 'oley bit means a woman in it--but 'tain't that way wi' Passon for
sure--there's a deeper 'ole than the 'ole in the threepenny--a 'ole
wot ain't got no bottom to it, so fur as I can see. I'm just fair
'mazed with that 'ole!--'mazed an' moithered altogether, blest if I
The Reverend John, meanwhile, seated under his canopy of apple-
blossoms, had succeeded in attaching the ''oley bit' to his chain in
such a manner that it should not come unduly into notice with the
mere action of pulling out his watch. He could not, for the life of
him, have explained, had he been asked, the reason why he had
determined to thus privately wear it on his own person. To himself
he said he 'fancied' it. And why should not parsons have 'fancies'
like other people? Why should they not wear ''oley bits' if they
liked? No objection, either moral, legal or religious could surely
be raised to such a course of procedure!
And John actually whistled a tune as he slipped back his chain with
its new adornment attached, into his waistcoat pocket, and surveyed
his garden surroundings with a placid smile. His interview with Miss
Vancourt had not been an unpleasant experience by any means. He
liked her better than when he had first seen her on the morning of
their meeting under the boughs of the threatened 'Five Sister'
beeches. He could now, as he thought, gauge her character and
temperament correctly, with all the wonderful perspicuity and not-
to-be-contradicted logic of a man. She was charming,--and she knew
her charm;--she was graceful, and she was aware of her grace;--she
was bright and intelligent in the prettily 'surface' way of women,--
she evidently possessed a kind heart, and she seemed thoughtful of
other people's feelings,--she had a sweet voice and a delightfully
musical laugh,--and--and--that was about all. It was not much,
strictly speaking;--yet he found himself considerably interested in
weighing the pros and cons of her nature, and wondering how she had
managed to retain, in the worldly and social surroundings to which
she had been so long accustomed, the child-like impulsiveness of her
manner, and the simple frankness of her speech.
"Of course it may be all put on,"--he reflected, though with a touch
of shamed compunction at the bare suggestion--"One can never tell!
It seemed natural. And it would hardly be worth her while to act a
part for the benefit of an old fogey like myself. I think she is
genuine. I hope so! At any rate I will believe she is, till she
proves herself otherwise. Of course 'the trend of modern thought'
has touched her. The cruellest among the countless cruel deeds of
latter-day theism is to murder the Christ in women. For, as woman's
purity first brought the Divine Master into the world, so must
woman's purity still keep Him here with us,--else we men are lost--
lost through the sins, not only of our fathers, but chiefly of our
That same evening Maryllia received a prompt reply to one of the
telegrams which Walden had sent off for her in the morning. It was
brief and to the point, and only ran:--'Coming. Cicely';--a message
which Mrs. Tapple had no difficulty in deciphering, and which she
sent up to the Manor, post haste, as soon as it arrived. The
telegraph-boy who conveyed it, got sixpence for himself as a reward
for the extra speed he had put on in running all the way from the
village to the house, thereby outstripping the postman, who being
rotund in figure was somewhat heavily labouring up in the same
direction with the last delivery of letters for the day. Miss
Vancourt's correspondents were generally very numerous,--but on this
occasion there was only one letter for her,--one, neatly addressed,
with a small finely engraved crest on the flap of the envelope.
Maryllia surveyed that envelope and crest with disfavour,--she had
seen too many of the same kind. The smile that brightened her face
when she read Cicely's telegram, faded altogether into an expression
of cold weariness as with a small silver paper-knife she slowly slit
the closed edges of the unwelcome missive and glanced indifferently
at its contents. It ran as follows:
"MY DEAR MISS MARYLLIA,--I feel sure you do not realise the great
pain you are inflicting on your aunt, as well as on myself, by
declining to answer our letters except by telegram. Pray remember
that we are quite in the dark as to the state of your health, your
surroundings and your general well-being. Your sudden departure from
town, was, if you will permit me to say so, a most unwise impulse,
causing as it has done, the greatest perplexity in your own social
circle and among your hosts of friends. I have done my best to
smooth matters over, by assuring all enquirers that certain matters
on your country estate required your personal supervision, but
rumour, as you know, has many tongues which are not likely to be
easily silenced. Your aunt was much surprised and disturbed to
receive from you a box of peacock's feathers, without any word from
yourself. She has no doubt you meant the gift kindly, but was not
the manner of giving somewhat strange?--let me say eccentric? I hope
you will allow me to point out to you that nothing is more fatal to
a woman in good society than to attain any sort of reputation for
eccentricity. I may take the liberty of saying this to you as an old
friend, and as one who still holds persistently to the dear
expectation, despite much discouragement, of being able soon to call
you by a closer name than mere friendship allows. The disagreement
between your aunt and yourself should surely be a matter of slight
duration, and not sufficient in any case to warrant your rash
decision to altogether resign the protection and kindly guardianship
which she, on her part, has exercised over you for so many years. I
cannot too strongly impress upon your mind the fatal effect any long
absence from her is likely to have on your position in society, and
though as yet you have only been about three weeks away, people are
talking and will no doubt continue to talk. If you find your old
home an agreeable change from town life, pray allow your aunt to
join you there. She will do so, I am sure, with pleasure. She misses
you very greatly, and I will never believe that you would wilfully
cause her needless trouble. I may not, I know, express my own
feelings on the subject, as I should probably only incur your scorn
or displeasure, but simply as an honest man who wishes you nothing
but good, I ask you quietly to consider to what misrepresentation
and calumny you voluntarily expose yourself by running away, as it
were, from a rightful and affectionate protector and second mother
like your good aunt, and living all alone in the country without any
one of your immediate circle of friends within calling distance. Is
there a more compromising or more ludicrous position than that of
the independent and defenceless female? I think not! She is the
laughing-stock of the clubs, and the perennial joke of the comic
press. Pray do not place yourself in the same category with the
despised and unlovely of your sex, but remain on the height where
Nature placed you, and where your charm and intelligence can best
secure acknowledgment from the less gifted and fortunate. Entreating
your pardon for any word or phrase in this letter which may
unluckily chance to annoy you, I am. my dear Miss Maryllia,--Yours
with the utmost devotion,"
"What a humbug he is!" said Maryllia, half aloud, as she nut the
letter back in its envelope and set it aside--"What a soft, smooth,
civil, correctly trained humbug! How completely he ignores the
possibility of my having any intelligence, even while he asks me to
remain 'on the height' where it can best secure acknowledgment! He
never appears to realise that my intelligence may be of such a
quality as to enable me to see through him pretty clearly! And so
the 'independent and defenceless female' is the laughing-stock of
the clubs, is she? Well, I daresay he is quite right there! There's
nothing braver for men to do at their clubs than to laugh at the
'defenceless' women who would rather fight the world alone and earn
their own livelihood, than enter into loveless marriages! The
quaintest part of the letter is the bit about Aunt Emily. Roxmouth
must really think me a perfect idiot if he dreams that I would
accept such a story as that she was 'surprised and disturbed' at
receiving the box of peacock's feathers. Aunt Emily was never
'surprised' or 'disturbed' at anything in her life, I am sure! When
poor Uncle Fred died, she pressed her handkerchief to her eyes for
five minutes, and then sat down at her desk to write her orders for
mourning. And when I spoke my mind to her about Roxmouth, she only
smiled and told me not to excite myself. Then when I said I had
determined to leave her altogether and go back to my own home to
live, she took it quite easily, and merely stated she would have to
alter her will. I assured her I hoped she would do so at once, as I
had no wish to benefit by her death. Then she didn't speak to me for
several days, and I came away quietly without bidding her good-bye.
And here I am,--and here I mean to stay!"
She laughed a little, and moving to the open window, looked out on
the quiet beauty of the landscape. "Yes!--I too will become a
laughing-stock of the clubs;--and even I may attain the distinction
of being accepted as a 'joke by the comie press'! I will be an
'independent and defenceless female,' and see how I get on! In any
case I'd rather be defenceless than have Roxmouth as a defender. And
I shall not be alone here, now that Cicely is coming. Besides, I
have two men friends in the village,--at least, I think I have! I'm
sure of one,--old Josey Letherbarrow!" The smile lingered on her
lips, as she still looked out on the lawn and terrace, shadowed by
the evening dusk, and sweet with the cool perfume of the rising dew.
"And the other,--if he should turn out as agreeable as he seemed
this morning,--why, he is a tower of strength so far as
respectability is concerned! What better protection can an
'independent and defenceless female' have than the minister of the
parish? I can go to him for a character, ask him for a reference,
throw myself and my troubles upon him as upon a rock, and make him
answer for me as an honest and well-intentioned parishioner! And I
believe he would 'speak up' for me, as the poor folks say,--yes, my
Lord Roxmouth!--I believe he would,--and if he did, I'm certain he
would speak straight, and not whisper a few small poisonous lies
round the corner! For I think"--and here the train of her
reflections wandered away from her aunt and her lordly wooer
altogether, "yes,--I think Mr. Walden is a good man! I was not quite
sure about him when I first met him,--I thought his eyes seemed
deceitful,--so many parsons' eyes are!--but I looked well into them
to-day,--and they're not the usual eyes of a parson at all,--they're
just the eyes of a British sailor who has watched rough seas all his
life,--and such eyes are always true!"
On the following Monday afternoon Cicely Bourne, to whom Walden had
so successfully telegraphed Maryllia's commands, arrived. She was
rather an odd-looking young person. Her long thin legs were much too
long for the shortness of her black cashmere frock, which was made
'en demoiselle,' after the fashion adhered to in French convents,
where girls are compelled to look as ugly as possible, in order that
they may eschew the sin of personal vanity,--her hair, of a rich
raven black, was plaited in a stiff thick braid resembling a Chinese
pigtail, and was fastened at the end with a bow of ribbon,--and a
pair of wonderfully brilliant dark eyes flashed under her arching
brows, suggesting something weird and witchlike in their roving
glances, and giving an almost uncanny expression to her small,
sallow face. But she was full of the most exuberant vitality,--she
sparkled all over with it and seemed to exhale it in the mere act of
breathing. Brimful of delight at the prospect of spending the whole
summer with her friend and patroness, to whom she owed everything,
and whom she adored with passionate admiration and gratitude, she
dashed into the old-world silence and solitude of Abbot's Manor like
a wild wave of the sea, crested with sunshine and bubbling over with
ripples of mirth. Her incessant chatter and laughter awoke the long-
hushed echoes of the ancient house to responsive gaiety,--and every
pale lingering shadow of dullness or loneliness fled away from the
exhilarating effect of her presence, which acted at once as a
stimulant and charm to Maryllia, who welcomed her arrival with
"But oh, my dear!" she exclaimed--"What a little school-guy they
have made of you! You must have grown taller, surely, since November
when I saw you last? Your frock is ever so much too short!"
"I don't think I've grown a bit,"--said Cicely, glancing down at her
own legs disparagingly--"But my frock wore shabby at the bottom, and
the nuns had a fresh hem turned up all round. That reduced its
length by a couple of inches at least. I told them as modestly as I
could that my ankles were too vastily exposed, but they said it
didn't matter, as I was only a day-boarder."
Maryllia's eyebrows went up perplexedly.
"I don't see what that has to do with it,"--she said--"Would you
have preferred to live in the Convent altogether, dear?"
"Grand merci!" and Cicely made an expressive grimace--"Not I! I
should not have had half as many lessons from Gigue, and I should
never have been able to write to you without the Mere Superieure
spying into my letters. That's why none of the girls are allowed to
have sealing wax, because all their letters are ungummed over a
basin of hot water and read before going to post. Discipline,
discipline! Torquemada's Inquisition was nothing to it! Of course I
had to tell the Mere Superieure that you had sent for me, and that I
should be away all summer. She asked heaps of questions, but she got
nothing out of me, so of course she wrote to your aunt. But that
doesn't matter, does it?"
"Not in the least,"--answered Maryllia, decisively,--"My aunt has
nothing whatever to do with me now, nor I with her. I am my own
"And it becomes you amazingly!" declared Cicely--"I never saw you
looking prettier! You are just the sweetest thing that ever fell out
of heaven in human shape! Oh, Maryllia, what a lovely, lovely place
this is! And is it all yours?--your very, very own?"
"My very, very own!" and Maryllia, in replying to the question, felt
a thrill of legitimate pride in the beautiful old Tudor house of her
ancestors,--"I wish I had never been taken away from it! The more I
see of it, the more I feel I ought not to have left it so long."
"It is real home, sweet home!" said Cicely, and her great eyes grew
suddenly sad and wistful, as she slipped a caressing arm round her
friend's waist--"How grateful I am to you for asking me to come and
stay in it! Because, after all, I am only a poor little peasant,--
with a musical faculty!"
Maryllia kissed her affectionately.
"You are a genius, my dear!" she said--"There's is no higher
supremacy. What does Gigue say of you now?"
"Gigue is satisfied, I think. But I don't really know. He says I'm
too precocious--that my voice is a woman's before I'm a girl. It's
abnormal--and I'm abnormal too. I know I am,--and I know it's
horrid--but I can't help it! Whers'a the piano?"
"There isn't one in the house," said Maryllia, smiling; "Abbot's
Manor has always lived about a hundred and fifty years behind the
times. But I've sent for a boudoir grand--it will be here this week.
Meanwhile, won't this do?" and she pointed to a quaint little
instrument occupying a recess near the window--"It's a spinet of
Charles the Second's period---"
"Delightful!" cried Cicely, ecstatically--"There's nothing sweeter
in the whole world to sing to!"
Opening the painted lid with the greatest tenderness and care, she
passed her hands lightly over the spinet's worn and yellow ivory
keys and evoked a faint fairy-like tinkling.
"Listen! Isn't it like the wandering voice of some little ghost of
the past trying to speak to us?" she said--"And in such sweet tune,
too! Poor little ghost! Shall I sing to you? Shall I tell you that
we have a sympathy in common with you, even though you are so old
and so far, far away!"
Her lips parted, and a pure note, crystal clear, and of such silvery
softness as to seem more supernatural than human, floated upward on
the silence. Maryllia caught her breath, and listened with a quickly
beating heart,--she knew that the voice of this child whom she had
rescued from a life of misery, was a world's marvel.
"Le douce printemps fait naitre,--
Autant d'amours que de fleurs;
Tremblez, tremblez, jeunes coeurs!
Des qu'il commence a paraitre
Il faut cesser les froideurs."
Here with a sudden brilliant roulade the singer ran up the scale to
the C in alt, and there paused with a trill as delicious and full as
the warble of a nightingale.
"Mais ce qu'il a de douceurs
Vous coutera cher peut-etre!
Tremblez, tremblez jeunes coeurs,
Le douce printemps fait naitre,
Autant d'amours que de fleurs!"
She ceased. The air, broken into delicate vibrations, carried the
lovely sounds rhythmically outward, onward and into unechoing
She turned and looked at Maryllia--then smiled.
"I see you are pleased,"--she said.
"Pleased! Cicely, I don't believe anyone was ever born into the
world to sing as you sing!"
Cicely looked quaintly meditative.
"Well, I don't know about that! You see there have been several
millions of folks born into the world, and there may have been just
one naturally created singer among them!" She laughed, and touched a
chord on the spinet. "The old French song exactly suits this old
French instrument. I see it is an ancient thing of Paris. Gigue says
I have improved--but he will never admit much, as you know. He has
forbidden me to touch the C in alt, and I did it just now. I cannot
help it sometimes--it comes so easy. But you must scold me, Maryllia
darling, when you hear me taking it,--I don't want to strain the
vocal cords, and I always forget I'm only fourteen; I feel--oh! ever
so much older!--ages old, in fact!" She sighed, and stretched her
arms up above her head. "What a perfect room this is to sing in!
What a perfect house!--and what a perfect angel you are to have me
Her eyes filled with sudden tears of emotion, but she quickly
blinked them away.
"Et ce cher Roxmouth?" she queried, suddenly, glancing
appreciatively at the rippling gold-brown lights and shades of her
friend's hair, the delicate hues of her complexion, and the grace of
her form--"Has he been to see you in this idyllic retreat?"
Maryllia gave a slight gesture of wearied impatience.
"Certainly not! How can you ask such a question, Cicely! I left my
aunt on purpose to get rid of him once and for all. And he knows
it;--yet he has written to me every two days regularly since I came
"Helas!--ce cher Roxmouth!" murmured Cicely, with a languid gesture
imitative of the 'society manner' of Mrs. Fred Vancourt,--"Parfait
gentilhomme au bout des ongles!"
"Yes,--Aunt Emily all over!" she said--"How tired I am of that
phrase! She knows as well as anybody that Roxmouth, for all his airs
of aristocratic propriety, is a social villain of the lowest type of
modern decadence, yet she would rather see me married to him than to
any other man she has ever met. And why? Simply because he will be a
Duke! She would like to say to all her acquaintances--'My niece is a
Duchess.' She would feel a certain fantastic satisfaction in
thinking that her millions were being used to build up the decayed
fortunes of an English nobleman's family, as well as to 'restore'
Roxmouth Castle, which is in a bad state of repair. And she would
sacrifice my heart and soul and life to such trumpery ambitions as
"Trumpery ambitions!" echoed Cicely--"My dear, they are ambitions
for which nearly all women are willing to scramble, fight and die!
To be a Duchess! To dwell in an ancient 'restored' castle of once
proud English nobles! Saint Moses! Who wouldn't sacrifice such vague
matters as heart, life and soul for the glory of being called 'Your
Grace' by obsequious footmen! My unconventional Maryllia! You are
setting yourself in rank, heretical opposition to the
conventionalities of society, and won't all the little conventional
minds hate you for it!"