Part 3 out of 5
His voice was very low, his eyes all tenderness. He had been reproaching
himself that he had so often of late avoided difficult discussions and
thorny questions with her. Was she hurt, and did he deserve it?
"I will go driving with you," she said slowly.
"Very well"--he sprang up. "I will be back in twenty minutes--with the
He left her, and she dreamed afresh over her book.
She was thinking of a luncheon at Whinthorpe, to which she had been
taken, sorely against her will, to meet the Bishop. And the Bishop had
treated her with a singular and slighting coldness. There was no blinking
the fact in the least. Other people had noticed it. Helbeck had been pale
with wrath and distress. As far as she could remember, she had laughed
and talked a good deal.
Well, what wonder?--if they thought her just a fast ill-conducted girl,
who had worked upon Mr. Helbeck's pity and softness of heart?
Suddenly she put out her hand restlessly to pluck at the hedge beside
her. She had been stung by the memory of herself--under the Squire's
window, in the dawn. She saw herself--helpless, and asleep, the tired
truant come back to the feet of her master. When he found her so, what
could he do but pity her?--be moved, perhaps beyond bounds, by the
goodness of a generous nature?
Next, something stronger than this doubt touched the lips with a flying
smile--shy and lovely. But she was far from happy. Since her talk with
Polly especially, her pride was stabbed and tormented in all directions.
And her nature was of the proudest.
Where could she feel secure? In Helbeck's heart? But in the inmost shrine
of that heart she felt the brooding of a majestic and exacting power that
knew her not. Her jealousy--her fear--grew day by day.
And as to the rest, her imagination was full of the most feverish and
fantastic shapes. Since her talk with Polly the world had seemed to her a
mere host of buzzing enemies. All the persons concerned passed through
her fancy with the mask and strut of caricature. The little mole on
Sister Angela's nose--the slightly drooping eyelid that marred the
Reverend Mother's left cheek--the nasal twang of the orphans'
singing--Father Bowles pouncing on a fly--Father Leadham's stately
ways--she made a mock or an offence out of them all, bitterly chattering
and drawing pictures with herself, like a child with a grievance.
And then on the top of these feelings and exaggerations of the child,
would return the bewildering, the ever-increasing trouble of the woman.
She sprang up.
"If I could--if I _could_! Then it would be we two together--against the
rest. Else--how shall I be his wife at all?"
She ran into the study. There on the shelf beside Helbeck's table stood a
little Manual of Catholic Instruction, that she knew well. She turned
over the pages, till she came to the sections dealing with the reception
How often she had pored over them! Now she pored over them again,
twisting her lips, knitting her white brows.
"No adult baptized Protestant ('Am I a Protestant?--I am baptized!') is
considered to be a convert to the Catholic Church until he is received
into the Church according to the prescribed rite ('There!--it's the
broken glass on the wall.--But if one could just slip in--without fuss or
noise?') ... You must apply to a Catholic priest, who will judge of your
dispositions, and of your knowledge of the Catholic faith. He will give
you further instruction, and explain your duties, and how you have to
act. When he is satisfied ('Father Leadham!--satisfied with me!'), you go
to the altar or to the sacristy, or other place convenient for your
reception. The priest who is with you says certain prayers appointed by
the Church; you in the meantime kneel down and pray silently ('I prayed
when papa died.'"--She looked up, her face trembling.--"Else?--Yes
once!--that night when I went in to prayers.) 'You will then read or
repeat aloud after the priest the Profession of Faith, either the Creed
of Pope Pius IV'--(That's--let me see!--that's the Creed of the Council
of Trent; there's a note about it in one of papa's books." She recalled
it, frowning: "I often think that we of the Liberal Tradition have cause
to be thankful that the Tridentine Catholics dug the gulf between them
and the modern world so deep. Otherwise, now that their claws are all
pared, and only the honey and fairy tales remain, there would be no
chance at all for the poor rational life.")
She drew a long breath, taking a momentary pleasure in the strong words,
as they passed through her memory, and then bruised by them.
"The priest will now release you from the ban and censures of the Church,
and will so receive you into the True Fold. If you do not yourself say
the Confiteor, you will do well to repeat in a low voice, with sorrow of
heart, those words of the penitent in the Gospel: 'O God, be merciful to
me a sinner!' He will then administer to you baptism under condition
(_sub conditione_).... Being now baptized and received into the Church,
you will go and kneel in the Confessional or other appointed place in the
church to make your confession, and to receive from the priest the
sacramental absolution. While receiving absolution you must renew your
sorrow and hatred of sin, and your resolution to amend, making a sincere
Act of Contrition."
Then, as the book was dropping from her hand, a few paragraphs further on
her eyes caught the words:
"If we are not able to remember the exact number of our sins, it is
enough to state the probable number to the best of our recollection and
judgment, saying: 'I have committed that sin about so many times a day, a
week, or a month.' Indeed, we are bound to reveal our conscience to the
priest as we know it ourselves, there and then stating the things certain
as certain, those doubtful as doubtful, and the probable number as
She threw away the book. She crouched in her chair beside Helbeck's
table, her small face buried despairingly in her hands. "I can't--I
can't! I would if I could--I can't!"
Through the shiver of an invincible repulsion that held her spoke a
hundred things--things inherited, things died for, things wrought out by
the moral experience of generations. But she could not analyse them. All
she knew were the two words--"I can't."
* * * * *
The little pony took them merrily through the gay October woods. Autumn
was at its cheerfullest. The crisp leaves under foot, the tonic earth
smells in the air, the wet ivy shining in the sun, the growing lightness
and strength of the trees as the gold or red leaf thinned and the free
branching of the great oaks or ashes came into sight--all these belonged
to the autumn which sings and vibrates, and can in a flash disperse and
drive away the weeping and melancholy autumn.
Laura's bloom revived. Her hair, blown about her, glowed and shone even
amid the gold of the woods. Her soft lips, her eyes called back their
fire. Helbeck looked at her in a delight mingled with pain, counting the
weeks silently till she became his very own. Only five now before Advent;
and in the fifth the Church would give her to him, grudgingly indeed,
with scant ceremony and festivity, like a mother half grieved, still with
her blessing, which must content him. And beyond? The strong man--stern
with himself and his own passion, all the more that the adored one was
under the protection of his roof, and yielded thereby to his sight and
wooing more freely than a girl in her betrothal is commonly yielded to
her lover--dared hardly in her presence evoke the thrill of that thought.
Instinctively he knew, through the restraints that parted them, that
Laura was pure woman, a creature ripe for the subtleties and poetries of
passion. Would not all difficulties find their solvent--melt in a golden
air--when once they had passed into the freedom and confidence of
Meanwhile the difficulties were all plain to him--more plain, indeed,
than ever. He could not flatter himself that she looked any more kindly
on his faith or his friends. And his friends--or some of them--were, to
say the truth, pressing him hard. Father Leadham even, his director, upon
whom during the earlier stages of their correspondence on the matter
Helbeck seemed to have impressed his own waiting view with success, had
lately become more exacting and more peremptory. The Squire was
uncomfortable at the thought of his impending visit. It was hardly
wise--had better have been deferred. Laura's quick, shrinking look when
it was announced had not been lost upon her lover. Father Leadham should
be convinced--must be convinced--that all would be imperilled--nay,
lost--by haste. Yet unconsciously Helbeck himself was wavering--was
He had come out, indeed, determined somehow to break down the barrier he
felt rising between them. But it was not easy. They talked for long of
the most obvious and mundane things. There were salmon in the Greet this
month, and Helbeck had been waging noble war with them in the intervals
of much business, with Laura often beside him, to join in the madness of
the "rushes" down stream, to watch the fine strength of her lover's
wrist, to shrink from the gaffing, and to count the spoil. The shooting
days at Bannisdale were almost done, since the land had dwindled to a
couple of thousand acres, much of it on the moss. But there were still
two or three poor coverts along the upper edge of the park, where the old
Irish keeper and woodman, Tim Murphy, cherished and counted the few score
pheasants that provided a little modest November sport. And Helbeck,
tying the pony to a tree, went up now with Laura to walk round the woods,
showing in all his comments and calculations a great deal of shrewd
woodcraft and beastcraft, enough to prove at any rate that the Esau of
his race--_feras consumere nati_, to borrow the emendation of Mr.
Fielding--had not yet been wholly cast out by the Jacob of a mystical
Laura tripped and climbed, applauded by his eye, helped by his hand. But
though her colour came back, her spirits were still to seek. She was
often silent, and he hardly ever spoke to her without feeling a start run
through the hand he held.
His grey eye tried to read her, but in vain. At last he wooed her from
the fell-side where they were scrambling. "Come down to the river and
Hand in hand they descended the steep slope to that rock-seat where he
had found her on the morning of Easter Sunday. The great thorn which
overhung it was then in bud; now the berries which covered the tree were
already reddening to winter. Before her spread the silver-river, running
to lose itself in the rocky bosom of that towering scar which closed the
distance, whereon, too, all the wealth of the woods on either hand
converged--the woods that hid the outer country, and all that was not
Bannisdale and Helbeck's.
To-day, however, Laura felt no young passion of pleasure in the beauty at
her feet. She was ill at ease, and her look fled his as he glanced up to
her from the turf where he had thrown himself.
"Do you like me to read your books?" she said abruptly, her question
swooping hawk-like upon his and driving it off the field.
He paused--to consider, and to smile.
"I don't know. I believe you read them perversely!"
"I know what you read this morning. Do you--do you think St. Francis
Borgia was a very admirable person?"
"Well, I got a good deal of edification out of him," said Helbeck
"Did you? Would you be like him if you could? Do you remember when his
wife was very ill, and he was praying for her, he heard a voice--do you
"Go on," said Helbeck, nodding.
"And the voice said, 'If thou wouldst have the life of the Duchess
prolonged, it shall be granted; but it is not expedient for
thee'--'_thee_,' mind--not her! When he heard this, he was penetrated by
a most tender love of God, and burst into tears. Then he asked God to do
as He pleased with the lives of his wife and his children and himself. He
gave up--I suppose he gave up--praying for her. She became much worse and
died, leaving him a widower at the age of thirty-six. Afterwards--please
don't interrupt!--in the space of three years, he disposed somehow of all
his eight children--some of them I reckoned must be quite babies--took
the vows, became a Jesuit, and went to Rome. Do you approve of all that?"
Helbeck reddened. "It was a time of hard fighting for the Church," he
said gravely, after a pause, "and the Jesuits were the advance guard. In
such days a man may be called by God to special acts and special
"So you do approve? Papa was a member of an Ethical Society at Cambridge.
They used sometimes to discuss special things--whether they were right or
wrong. I wonder what they would have said to St. Francis Borgia?"
"Mercifully, darling, the ideals of the Catholic Church do not depend
upon the votes of Ethical Societies!"
He turned his handsome head towards her. His tone was perfectly gentle,
but behind it she perceived the breathing of a contempt before which she
first recoiled--then sprang in revolt.
"As for me," she said, panting a little, "when I finished the Life this
morning in your room, I felt like Ivan in Browning's poem--do you
recollect?--about the mother who threw her children one by one to the
wolves, to save her wretched self? I would like to have dropped the axe
on St. Francis Borgia's neck--just one--little--clean cut!--while he was
saying his prayers, and enjoying his burning love, and all the rest of
Helbeck was silent, nor could she see his face, which was again turned
from her towards the river. The eager feverish voice went on:
"Do you know that's the kind of thing you read always--always--day after
day? And it's just the same now! That girl of twenty-three, Augustina was
talking of, who is going into a convent, and her mother only died last
year, and there are six younger brothers and sisters, and her father says
it will break his heart--_she_ must have been reading about St. Francis
Borgia. Perhaps she felt 'burning love' and had 'floods of tears.' But
Ivan with his axe--that's the person I'd bring in, if I could!"
Still not a word from the man beside her. She hesitated a moment--felt a
sob of excitement in her throat--bent forward and touched his shoulder.
"Suppose--suppose I were to be ill--dying--and the voice came, 'Let her
go! She is in your way; it would be better for you she should die'--would
you just let go?--see me drop, drop, drop, through all eternity, to make
your soul safe?"
"Laura!" cried a strong voice. And, with a spring, Helbeck was beside
her, capturing both her cold hands in one of his, a mingled tenderness
and wrath flashing from him before which she shrank. But though she drew
away from him--her small face so white below the broad black hat!--she
was not quelled. Before he could speak, she had said in sharp separate
words, hardly above a whisper:
"It is that horrible egotism of religion that poisons everything! And
if--if one shared it, well and good, one might make terms with it, like a
wild thing one had tamed. But outside it, and at war with it, what can
one do but hate--hate--_hate_--it!"
"My God!" he said in bewilderment, "where am I to begin?"
He stared at her with a passionate amazement. Never before had she shown
such forces of personality, or been able to express herself with an
utterance so mature and resonant. Her stature had grown before his eyes.
In the little frowning figure there was something newly, tragically fine.
The man for the first time felt his match. His own hidden self rose at
last to the struggle with a kind of angry joy, eager at once to conquer
the woman and to pierce the sceptic.
"Listen to me, Laura!" he said, bending over her. "That was more than I
can bear--that calls me out of my tent. I have tried to keep my poor self
out of sight, but it has rights. You have challenged it. Will you take
She trembled before the pale concentration of his face and bent her head.
"I will tell you," he said in a low determined voice, "the only story
that a man truly knows--the story of his own soul. You shall know--what
And, after a pause of thought, Helbeck made one of the great efforts of
* * * * *
He did not fully know indeed what it was that he had undertaken, till the
wave of emotion had gathered through all the inmost chambers of memory,
and was bearing outward in one great tide the secret nobilities, the
hidden poetries, the unconscious weaknesses, of a nature no less narrow
than profound, no less full of enmities than of loves.
But gradually from hurried or broken beginnings the narrative rose to
clearness and to strength.
The first impressions of a lonely childhood; the first workings of the
family history upon his boyish sense, like the faint, perpetual touches
of an unseen hand moulding the will and the character; the picture of his
patient mother on her sofa, surrounded with her little religious books,
twisted and tormented, yet always smiling; his early collisions with his
morose and half-educated father--he passed from these to the days of his
first Communion, the beginnings of the personal life. "But I had very
little fervour then, such as many boys feel. I did not doubt--I would not
have shown any disrespect to my religion for the world, mostly, I think,
from family pride--but I felt no ardour, and did not pretend any. My
mother sometimes shed tears over it, and was comforted by her old
confessor--so she told me when she was dying--who used to say to her:
'Feeling is good, but obedience is better. He obeys;' for I did all my
religious duties without difficulty. Then at thirteen I was sent to
Stonyhurst. And there, after a while, God began His work in me."
He paused a moment; and when he resumed, his voice shook:
"Among the masters there was a certain Father Lewin. He took an affection
for me, and I for him. He was even then a dying man, but he accomplished
more, and was more severe to himself, than any man in health I ever knew.
So long as he lived, he made the path of religion easy to me. He was the
supernatural life before my eyes. I had only to open them and see. The
only difference between us was that I began--first out of love for him, I
suppose--to have a great wish to become a Jesuit; whereas he was against
it--he thought there were too many special claims upon me here. Then,
when I was eighteen, he died. I had seen him the day before, when there
seemed to be no danger, or they concealed it from me. But in the night I
was called, too late to hear him speak; he was already in his agony. The
sight terrified me. I had expected something much more consoling--more
beautiful. For a long time I could not shake off the impression, the
misery of it."
He was silent again for a minute. He still held Laura's hands close, as
though there was something in their touch that spurred him on.
"After his death I got my father's leave to go and study at Louvain. I
passed there the most wretched years of my life. Father Lewin's death had
thrown me into an extraordinary dejection, which seemed to have taken
from me all the joy of my faith; but at Louvain I came very near to
losing it altogether. It came, I think, from the reading of some French
sceptical books the first year I was there; but I went through a horror
and anguish. Often I used to wander for a whole day along the Scheldt, or
across lonely fields where no one could see me, lost in what seemed to me
a fight with devils. The most horrible blasphemies--the most subtle, the
most venomous thoughts--ah! well--by God's grace, I never gave up
Confession and Communion--at long intervals, indeed--but still I held to
them. The old Passionist father, my director, did not understand much
about me. I seemed, indeed, to have no friends. I lived shut up with my
own thoughts. The only comfort and relief I got was from painting. I
loved the studio where I worked, poor as my own attempts were. It seemed
often to be the only thing between me and madness.... Well, the first
relief came in a strange way. I was visiting one of the professors, an
old Canon of the Cathedral, on a June evening. The Bishop of the See was
very ill, and while I was with the Canon word came round to summon the
Chapter to assist at the administration of the last Sacraments, and to
hear the sick man's Profession of Faith. The old Canon had been good to
me. I don't know whether he suspected what was wrong with me. At any
rate, he laid a kind hand on my arm. 'Come with me,' he said; and I went
with him into the Bishop's residence. I can see the old house now--the
black panelled stairs and passages, and the shadow of the great church
"In the Bishop's room were gathered all the canons in their white robes;
there was an altar blazing with lights, the windows were wide open to the
dusk, and the cathedral bell was tolling. We all knelt, and Monseigneur
received the Viaticum. He was fully vested. I could just see his
venerable white head on the pillow. After the Communion one of the canons
knelt by him and recited the Creed of Pope Pius IV."
Laura started. But Helbeck did not notice the sudden tremulous movement
of the hands lying in his. He was sitting rigidly upright, the eyes half
closed, his mind busy with the past.
"And as he recited it, the bands that held my own heart seemed to break.
I had not been able to approach any clause of that creed for months
without danger of blasphemy; and now--it was like a bird escaped from the
nets. The snare is broken--and we are delivered! The dying man raised his
voice in a last effort; he repeated the oath with which the Creed ends.
The Gospels were handed to him; he kissed them with fervour. '_Sic me
Deus adjuvet, et Sancta Dei Evangelia_.' 'So may God help me, and His
Holy Gospels!' I joined in the words mentally, overcome with joy. Before
me, as in a vision, had risen the majesty and glory of the Catholic
Church; I felt her foundations once more under my feet."
He drew a long breath. Then he turned. Laura felt his eyes upon her, as
though in doubt. She herself neither moved nor spoke; she was all
hearing, absorbed in a passionate prescience of things more vital yet to
"Laura!"--his voice dropped--"I want you to know it all, to understand me
through and through. I will try that there shall not be a word to offend
you. That scene I have described to you was for me only the beginning of
another apostasy. I had no longer the excuse of doubt. I believed and
trembled. But for two years after that, I was every day on the brink of
ruining my own soul--and another's. The first, the only woman I ever
loved before I saw you, Laura, I loved in defiance of all law--God's or
man's. If she had struggled one heartbeat less, if God had let me wander
one hair's breadth further from His hand, we had both made
shipwreck--hopeless, eternal shipwreck. Laura, my little Laura, am I
hurting you so?"
She gave a little sob, and mutely, with shut eyes, she raised her face
towards him. He stooped and very tenderly and gravely kissed her cheek.
"But God's mercy did not fail!" he said or rather murmured. "At the last
moment that woman--God rest her soul!--God bless her for ever!----"
He took off his hat, and bent forward silently for a moment.
--"She died, Laura, more than ten years ago!--At the last moment she
saved both herself and me. She sent for one of my old Jesuit masters at
Stonyhurst, a man who had been a great friend of Father Lewin's and
happened to be at that moment in Brussels. He came. He brought me her
last farewell, and he asked me to go back with him that evening to join a
retreat that he was holding in one of the houses of the order near
Brussels. I went in a sullen state, stunned and for the moment
"But the retreat was agony. I could take part in nothing. I neglected the
prescribed hours and duties; it was as though my mind could not take them
in, and I soon saw that I was disturbing others.
"One evening--I was by myself in the garden at recreation hour--the
father who was holding the retreat came up to me, and sternly asked me to
withdraw at once. I looked at him. 'Will you give me one more day?' I
said. He agreed. He seemed touched. I must have appeared to him a
"Next day this same father was conducting a meditation--on 'the
condescension of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.' I was kneeling, half
stupefied, when I heard him tell a story of the Cure d'Ars. After the
procession of Corpus Christi, which was very long and fatiguing, someone
pressed the Cure to take food. 'I want nothing,' he said. 'How could I be
tired? I was bearing Him who bears me!' 'My brothers,' said Father
Stuart, turning to the altar, 'the Lord who bore the sin of the whole
world on the Cross, who opens the arms of His mercy now to each separate
sinful soul, is _there_. He beseeches you by me, "Choose, My children,
between the world and Me, between sin and Me, between Hell and Me. Your
souls are Mine: I bought them with anguish and tears. Why will ye now
hold them back from Me--wherefore will ye die?"'
"My whole being seemed to be shaken by these words. But I instantly
thought of Marie. I said to myself, 'She is alone--perhaps in despair.
How can I save myself, wretched tempter and coward that I am, and leave
her in remorse and grief?' And then it seemed to me as though a Voice
came from the altar itself, so sweet and penetrating that it overpowered
the voice of the preacher and the movements of my companions. I heard
nothing in the chapel but It alone. 'She is saved!' It said--and again
and again, as though in joy, 'She is saved--saved!'
"That night I crept to the foot of the crucifix in my little cell.
'_Elegi, elegi: renuntio!_'--I have chosen: I renounce.' All night long
those alternate words seemed to be wrung from me."
There was deep silence. Helbeck knelt on the grass beside Laura and took
her hands afresh.
"Laura, since that night I have been my Lord's. It seemed to me that He
had come Himself--come from His cross--to raise two souls from the depths
of Hell. Marie went into a convent, and died in peace and blessedness; I
came home here, to do my duty if I could--and save my soul. That seems to
you a mere selfish bargain with God--an 'egotism'--that you hate. But
look at the root of it. Is the world under sin--and has a God died for
it? All my nature--my intellect, my heart, my will, answer 'Yes.' But if
a God died, and must die--cruelly, hideously, at the hands of His
creatures--to satisfy eternal justice, what must that sin be that demands
the Crucifixion? Of what revolt, what ruin is not the body capable? I
knew--for I had gone down into the depths. Is any chastisement too heavy,
any restraint too harsh, if it keep us from the sin for which our Lord
must die? And if He died, are we not His from the first moment of our
birth--His first of all? Is it a selfish bargain to yield Him what He
purchased at such a cost, to take care that our just debt to Him is
paid--so far as our miserable humanity can pay it. All these
mortifications, and penances, and self-denials that you hate so, that
make the saints so odious in your eyes, spring from two great facts--Sin
and the Crucifixion. But, Laura, are they _true_?"
He spoke in a low, calm voice, yet Laura knew well that his life was
poured into each word. She herself did not, could not, speak. But it
seemed to her strangely that some spring within her was broken--some
great decision had been taken, by whom she could not tell.
He looked with alarm at her pallor and silence.
"Laura, those are the hard and awful--to us Catholics, the
majestic--facts on which our religion stands. Accept them, and nothing
else is really difficult. Miracles, the protection of the saints, the
mysteries of the sacraments, the place that Catholics give to Our Lady,
the support of an infallible Church--what so easy and natural if _these_
be true?... Sin and its Divine Victim, penance, regulation of life,
death, judgment--Catholic thought moves perpetually from one of these
ideas to another. As to many other thoughts and beliefs, it is free to us
as to other men to take or leave, to think or not to think. The Church,
like a tender mother, offers to her children an innumerable variety of
holy aids, consolations, encouragements. These may or may not be of
faith. The Crucifix _is_ the Catholic Faith. In that the Catholic sees
the Love that brought a God to die, the Sin that infects his own soul. To
requite that love, to purge that sin there lies the whole task of the
He broke off again, anxiously studying the drooping face so near to him.
Then gently he put his arm round her, and drew her to him till her brow
rested against his shoulder.
"Laura, does it seem very hard--very awful--to you?"
She moved imperceptibly, but she did not speak.
"It may well. The way _is_ strait! But, Laura, you see it from without--I
from within. Won't you take my word for the sweetness, the reward, and
the mercifulness of God's dealings with our souls?" He drew a long
agitated breath. "Take my own case--take our love. You remember, Laura,
when you sat here on Easter Sunday? I came from Communion and I found you
here. You disliked and despised my faith and me. But as you sat here, I
loved you--my eyes were first opened. The night of the dance, when you
went upstairs, I took my own heart and offered it. You did not love me
then: how could I dream you ever would? The sacrifice was mine; I tried
to yield it. But it was not His will. I made my struggle--you made yours.
He drew us to each other. Then----"
He faltered, looked down upon her in doubt.
"Since then, Laura, so many strange things have happened! Who was I that
I should teach anybody? I shrank from laying the smallest touch on your
freedom. I thought, 'Gradually, of her own will, she will come nearer.
The Truth will plead for itself.' My duty is to trust, and wait. But,
Laura, what have I seen in you? Not indifference--not contempt--never!
But a long storm, a trouble, a conflict, that has filled me with
confusion--overthrown all my own hopes and plans. Laura, my love, my
sweet, why does our Faith hurt you so much if it means nothing to you? Is
there not already some tenderness"--his voice dropped--"behind the scorn?
Could it torment you if--if it had not gained some footing in your heart?
Laura, speak to me!"
She slowly drew away from him. Gently she shook her head. Her eyes were
full of tears.
But the strange look of power--almost of triumph--on Helbeck's face
remained unaltered. She shrank before it.
"Laura, you don't know yourself! But no matter! Only, will you forgive me
if you feel a change in me? Till now I have shrunk from fighting you. It
seemed to me that an ugly habit of words might easily grow up that would
poison all our future. But now I feel in it something more than words. If
you challenge, Laura, I shall meet it! If you strike, I shall return it."
He took her hands once more. His bright eye looked for--demanded an
answer. Her own personality, for all its daring, wavered and fainted
before the attacking force of his.
But Helbeck received no assurance of it. She showed none of that girlish
yielding which would have been so natural and so delightful to her lover.
Without any direct answer to his appeal or his threat, she lifted to him
a look that was far from easy to read--a look of passionate sadness and
of pure love. Her delicate face seemed to float towards him, and her lips
"I was not worthy that you should tell me a word. But--" It was some time
before she could go on. Then she said with sudden haste, the colour
rushing back into her cheeks, "It is the most sacred honour that was ever
done me. I thank--thank--thank you!"
And with her eyes still fixed upon his countenance, and all those deep
traces that the last half hour had left upon it, she raised his hand and
pressed her soft quivering mouth upon it.
* * * * *
Never had Helbeck been filled with such a tender and hopeful joy as in
the hours that followed this scene between them. Father Leadham arrived
in time for dinner. Laura treated him with a gentleness, even a
sweetness, that from the first moment filled the Jesuit with a secret
astonishment. She was very pale; her exhaustion was evident.
But Helbeck silenced his sister; and he surrounded Laura with a devotion
that had few words, that never made her conspicuous, and yet was more
than she could bear.
Augustina insisted on her going to bed early. Helbeck went upstairs with
her to the first landing, to light her candle.
Nothing stirred in the old house. Father Leadham and Augustina were in
the drawing-room. They two stood alone among the shadows of the
panelling, the solitary candle shining on her golden hair and white
"I have something to say to you, Laura," said Helbeck in a disturbed
She looked up.
"I can't save the Romney, dear. I've tried my very best. Will you forgive
She smiled, and put her hand timidly on his shoulder.
"Ask her, rather! I know you tried. Good-night."
And then suddenly, to his astonishment, she threw both her arms round his
neck, and, like a child that nestles to another in penitence or for
protection, she kissed his breast passionately, repeatedly.
"Laura, this can't be borne! Look up, beloved! Why should my coat be so
blessed?" he said, half laughing, yet deeply moved, as he bent above her.
She disengaged herself, and, as she mounted the stairs, she waved her
hand to him. As she passed out of his sight she was a vision of
gentleness. The woman had suddenly blossomed from the girl. When Helbeck
descended the stairs after she had vanished, his heart beat with a
happiness he had never yet known.
And she, when she reached her own room, she let her arms drop rigidly by
her side. "It would be a crime--a _crime_--to marry him," she said, with
a dull resolve that was beyond weeping.
* * * * *
Helbeck and Father Leadham sat long together after Augustina had retired.
There was an argument between them in which the Jesuit at last won the
victory. Helbeck was persuaded to a certain course against his
judgment--to some extent against his conscience.
Next morning the Squire left Bannisdale early. He was to be away two days
on important business. Before he left he reluctantly told his sister that
the Romney would probably be removed before his return, by the dealer to
whom it had been sold. Laura did not appear at breakfast, and Helbeck
left a written word of farewell, that Augustina delivered.
Meantime Father Leadham remained as the guest of the ladies. In the
afternoon he joined Miss Fountain in the garden, and they walked up and
down the bowling-green for some time together. Augustina, in the deep
window of the drawing-room, was excitedly aware of the fact.
When the two companions came in, Father Leadham after a time rejoined
Mrs. Fountain. She looked at him with eagerness. But his fine and
scholarly face was more discomposed than she had ever seen it. And the
few words that he said to her were more than enough.
Laura meanwhile went to her own room, and shut herself up there. Her
cheeks were glowing, her eyes angry. "He promised me!" she said, as she
sat down to her writing-table.
But she could not stay there. She got up and walked restlessly about the
room. After half an hour's fruitless conversation, Father Leadham had
been betrayed into an expression--hardly that--a shade of expression,
which had set the girl's nature aflame. What it meant was, "So this--is
your answer--to the chivalry of Mr. Helbeck's behaviour--to the delicacy
which could go to such lengths in protecting a young lady from her own
folly?" The meaning was conveyed by a look--an inflection--hardly a
phrase. But Laura understood it perfectly; and when Father Leadham
returned to Mrs. Fountain he guiltily knew what he had done, and, being a
man in general of great tact and finesse, he hardly knew whom to blame
most, himself, or the girl who had imperceptibly and yet deeply provoked
That evening Laura told her stepmother that she must go up to London the
following day, by the early afternoon train, on some shopping business,
and would stay the night with her friend Molly Friedland. Augustina
fretfully acquiesced; and the evening was spent by Mrs. Fountain at any
rate, in trying to console herself by much broken talk of frocks and
winter fashions, while Laura gave occasional answers, and Father Leadham
on a distant sofa buried himself in the "Tablet."
* * * * *
The word was Laura's. She had been busy in her room, and had come
hurriedly downstairs to fetch her work-bag from the drawing-room. As she
crossed the threshold, she saw that the picture had been taken down.
Indeed, the van containing it was just driving through the park.
White and faltering, the girl came up to the wall whence the beautiful
lady had just been removed, and leant her head against it. She raised her
hand to her eyes. "Good-bye," said the inner sense--"Good-bye!" And the
strange link which from the first moment almost had seemed to exist
between that radiant daughter of Bannisdale and herself snapped and fell
away, carrying how much else with it!
* * * * *
About an hour before Laura's departure there was a loud knock at her
door, and Mrs. Denton appeared. The woman was pale with rage. Mrs.
Fountain, in much trepidation, had just given her notice, and the
housekeeper had not been slow to guess, from what quarter the blow had
Laura turned round bewildered. But she was too late to stop the outbreak.
In the course of five minutes' violent speech Mrs. Denton wiped out the
grievances of six months; she hurled the gossip of a country-side on
Laura's head; and in her own opinion she finally avenged the cause of the
Church and of female decorum upon the little infidel adventuress that had
stolen away the wits and conscience of the Squire.
Miss Fountain, after' a first impatient murmur, "I might have
remembered!"--stood without a word, with eyes cast down, and a little
scornful smile on her colourless lips. When at last she had shut the door
on her assailant, a great quivering sigh rose from the girl's breast. Was
it the last touch? But she said nothing. She brushed away a tear that had
unconsciously risen, and went back to her packing.
* * * * *
"Just wait a moment!" said Miss Fountain to old Wilson, who was driving
her across the bridge on her way to the station. "I want to get a bunch
of those berries by the water. Take the pony up the hill. I'll join you
at the top."
Old Wilson drove on. Laura climbed a stile and slipped down to the
The river, full with autumn rain, came foaming down. The leaf was falling
fast. Through the woods on the further bank she could just distinguish a
gable of the old house.
A moan broke from her. She stooped and buried her face in the grass--his
When she returned to the road, she looked for the letter-box in the wall
of the bridge, and, walking up to it, she dropped into it two letters.
Then she stood a moment with bent brows. Had she made all arrangements
But she dared not let herself think of the morrow. She set her face to
the hill--trudging steadily up the wet, solitary road. Once--twice--she
turned to look. Then the high trees that arched over the top of the hill
received the little form; she disappeared into their shadow.
"My dear, where are the girls?"
The speaker was Dr. Friedland, the only intimate friend Stephen Fountain
had ever made at Cambridge. The person addressed was Dr. Friedland's
On hearing her husband's question, that lady's gentle and benevolent
countenance emerged from the folds of a newspaper. It was the "first mild
day of March," and she and her husband had been enjoying an
after-breakfast chat in the garden of a Cambridge villa.
"Molly is arranging the flowers; Laura has had a long letter from Mrs.
Fountain, and is now, I believe, gone to answer it."
"Then I shan't enjoy my lunch," said Dr. Friedland pensively.
He was an elderly gentleman, with a short beard and moustache turning to
white, particularly black eyes, and a handsome brow. His wife had put a
rug over his shoulders, and another over his knees, before she allowed
him the "Times" and a cigarette. Amid the ample folds of these draperies,
he had a Jove-like and benignant air.
His wife inquired what difference Miss Fountain's correspondence would or
could make to her host's luncheon.
"Because she won't eat any," said the doctor, with a sigh, "and I find it
Mrs. Friedland laid down her newspaper.
"There is no doubt she is worried--about Mrs. Fountain."
"_E tutti quanti_" said the doctor, humming a tune. "My dear, it is
surprising what an admiration I find myself possessed of for Sir John
"Sir John Pringle?" said the lady, in bewilderment.
"Bozzy, my dear--the great Bozzy--amid the experiments of his youth,
turned Catholic. His distracted relations deputed Sir John Pringle to
deal with him. That great lawyer pointed out the worldly disadvantages of
the step. Bozzy pleaded his immortal soul. Whereupon Sir John observed
with warmth that anyone possessing a particle of gentlemanly spirit would
sooner be damned to all eternity than give his relations so much trouble
as Bozzy was giving his!"
"The application is not clear," said Mrs. Friedland.
"No," said the doctor, stretching his legs and puffing at his cigarette;
"but when you speak of Laura, and tell me she is writing to Bannisdale, I
find a comfort in Sir John Pringle."
"It would be more to the purpose if Laura did!" exclaimed Mrs. Friedland.
The doctor shook his head, and fell into a reverie. Presently he asked:
"You think Mrs. Fountain is really worse?"
"Laura is sure of it. And the difficulty is, what is she to do? If she
goes to Bannisdale, she exiles Mr. Helbeck. Yet, if his sister is really
in danger, Mr. Helbeck naturally will desire to be at home."
"And they can't meet?"
"Under the same roof--and the old conditions? Heaven forbid!" said Mrs.
"Risk it!" said the doctor, violently slapping his fist on the little
garden table that held his box of cigarettes.
"My dear--don't be a hypocrite! You and I know well enough what's wrong
with that child."
"Perhaps." The lady's eyes filled with tears. "But you forget that by all
accounts Mr. Helbeck is an altered man. From something Laura said to
Molly last week, it seems that Mrs. Fountain even is now quite afraid of
him--as she used to be."
"If she would only die--good lady!--her brother might go to his own
place," said the doctor impatiently.
"To the Jesuits?"
The doctor nodded.
"Did he actually tell you that was his intention?"
"No. But I guessed. And that Trinity man Leadham, who went over, gave me
to understand the other day what the end would probably be. But not while
his sister lives."
"I should hope not!" said Mrs. Friedland.
After a pause, she turned to her husband.
"John! you know you liked him!"
"If you mean by that, my dear, that I showed a deplorable weakness in
dealing with him, my conscience supports you!" said the doctor; "but I
would have you remember that for a person of my quiet habits, to have a
gentleman pale as death in your study, demanding his lady-love--you
knowing all the time that the lady-love is upstairs--and only one elderly
man between them--is an agitating situation."
"Poor Laura!--poor Mr. Helbeck!" murmured Mrs. Friedland. The agony of
the man, the resolution of the girl, stood out sharply from the medley of
"All very well, my dear--all very well. But you showed a pusillanimity on
that occasion that I scorn to qualify. You were afraid of that
child--positively afraid of her. I could have dealt with her in a
twinkling, if you'd left her to me."
"What would you have said to her?" inquired Mrs. Friedland gently.
"How can there be any possible doubt what I should have said to her?"
said the doctor, slapping his knee. "'My dear, you love him--_ergo_,
marry him!' That first and foremost. 'And as to those other trifles, what
have you to do with them? Look over them--look round them! Rise, my dear,
to your proper dignity and destiny--have a right and natural pride--in
the rock that bore you! You, a child of the Greater Church--of an
Authority of which all other authorities are the mere caricature--why all
this humiliation, these misgivings--this turmoil? Take a serener--take a
loftier view!' Ah! if I could evoke Fountain for one hour!"
The doctor bent forward, his hands hanging over his knees, his lips
moving without sound, under the sentences his brain was forming. This
habit of silent rhetoric represented a curious compromise between a
natural impetuosity of temperament, and the caution of scientific
research. His wife watched him with a loving, half-amused eye.
"And what, pray, could Mr. Fountain do, John, but make matters ten times
"Do!--who wants him to do anything? But ten years ago he might have done
something. Listen to me, Jane!" He seized his wife's arm. "He makes Laura
a child of Knowledge, a child of Freedom, a child of Revolution--without
an ounce of training to fit her for the part. It is like an heir--flung
to the gypsies. Then you put her to the test--sorely--conspicuously. And
she stands fast--she does not yield--it is not in her blood, scarcely in
her power, to yield. But it is a blind instinct carried through at what a
cost! You might have equipped and fortified her. You did neither. You
trusted everything to the passionate loyalty of the woman. And it does
not fail you. But----!"
The doctor shook his head, long and slowly. Mrs. Friedland quietly
replaced the rugs which had gone wandering, in the energy of these
"You see, Jane, if it's true--'ne croit qui veut'--it's still more true,
'ne doute qui veut!' To doubt--doubt wholesomely, cheerfully,
fruitfully--why, my dear, there's no harder task in the world! And a
woman, who thinks with her heart--who can't stand on her own feet as a
man can--you remove her from all her normal shelters and supports--you
expect her to fling a 'No!' in the face of half her natural friends--and
then you are too indolent or too fastidious to train the poor child for
her work!--Fountain took Laura out of her generation, and gave her
nothing in return. Did he read with her--share his mind with her? Never!
He was indolent;-she was wilful; so the thing slid. But all the time he
made a partisan of her--he expected her to echo his hates and his
prejudice--he stamped himself and his cause deep into her affections----
"And then, my dear, she must needs fall in love with this man, this
Catholic! Catholicism at its best--worse luck! No mean or puerile type,
with all its fetishisms and unreasons on its head--no!--a type sprung
from the finest English blood, disciplined by heroic memories, by the
persecution and hardships of the Penal Laws. What happens? Why, of course
the girl's imagination goes over! Her father in her--her
temperament--stand in the way of anything more. But where is she to look
for self-respect, for peace of mind? She feels herself an infidel--a
moral outcast. She trembles before the claims of this great visible
system. Her reason refuses them--but why? She cannot tell. For Heaven's
sake, why do we leave our children's minds empty like this? If you
believe, my good friend, Educate! And if you doubt, still more--Educate!
The doctor rose in his might, tossed his rugs from him, and began to pace
a sheltered path, leaning on his wife's arm.
Mrs. Friedland looked at him slyly, and laughed.
"So if Laura had been learned, she might have been happy?--John!--what a
"Not mine then!--but the Almighty's--who seems to have included a mind in
this odd bundle that makes up Laura. What! You set a woman to fight for
ideas, and then deny her all knowledge of what they mean. Happy! Of
course she might have been happy. She might have made her Catholic
respect her. He offered her terms--she might have accepted them with a
free and equal mind. There would have been none, anyway, of this _moral
doubt_--this bogeyfication of things she don't understand! Ah! here she
comes. Now just look at her, Jane! What's your housekeeping after? She's
lost half a stone this month if she's lost an ounce."
And the doctor standing still peered discontentedly through his
spectacles at the advancing figure.
Laura approached slowly, with her hands behind her, looking on her way at
the daffodils and tulips just opening in the garden border.
"Pater!--Molly says you and Mater are to come in. It's March and not May,
you'll please to remember."
She came up to them with the airs of a daughter, put a flower in Mrs.
Friedland's dress--ran for one of the discarded rugs, and draped it again
round the doctor's ample shoulders. Her manner to the two elderly folk
was much softer and freer than it had ever been in the days of her old
acquaintance with them. A wistful gratitude played through it, revealing
a new Laura--a Laura that had passed, in these five months through deep
waters, and had been forced, in spite of pride, to throw herself upon the
friendly and saving hands held out to her.
They on their side looked at her with a tender concern, which tried to
disguise itself in chat. The doctor hooked his arm through hers, and made
her examine the garden.
"Look at these Lent lilies, Miss Laura. They will be out in two days at
Laura bent over them, then suddenly drew herself erect. The doctor felt
the stiffening of the little arm.
"I suppose you had sheets of them in the north," he said innocently, as
he poked a stone away from the head of an emerging hyacinth.
"Yes--a great many." She looked absently straight before her, taking no
more notice of the flowers.
"Well--and Mrs. Fountain? Are you really anxious?"
The girl hesitated.
"She is ill--quite ill. I ought to see her somehow."
"Well, my dear, go!" He looked round upon her with a cheerful decision.
"No--that isn't possible," she said quietly. "But I might stay somewhere
near. She must have lost a great deal of strength since Christmas."
At Christmas and for some time afterwards, she and Mrs. Fountain had been
at St. Leonard's together. In fact, it was little more than a fortnight
since Laura had parted from her stepmother, who had shown a piteous
unwillingness to go back alone to Bannisdale.
The garden door opened and shut; a white-capped servant came along the
path. A gentleman--for Miss Fountain.
"For me?" The girl's cheek flushed involuntarily. "Why, Pater--who is
For behind the servant came the gentleman--a tall and comely youth, with
narrow blue eyes, a square chin, and a very conscious smile. He was well
dressed in a dark serge suit, and showed a great deal of white cuff, and
a conspicuous watch-chain, as he took off his hat.
Laura advanced to him, with a face of astonishment, and held out her
Mason greeted her with a mixture of confusion and assurance, glancing
behind her at the Friedlands all the time. "Well, I was here on some
business--and I thought I'd look you up, don't you know?"
"My cousin, Hubert Mason," said Laura, turning to the old people.
Friedland lifted his wide-awake. Mrs. Friedland, whose gentle face could
be all criticism, eyed him quietly, and shook hands perfunctorily. A few
nothings passed on the weather and the spring. Suddenly Mason said:
"Would you take a walk with me, Miss Laura?"
After a momentary hesitation, she assented, and went into the house for
her walking things. Mason hurriedly approached the doctor.
"Why, she looks--she looks as if you could blow her away!" he cried,
staring into the doctor's face, while his own flushed.
"Miss Fountain's health has not been strong this winter," said the doctor
gravely, his spectacled eyes travelling up and down Mason's tall figure.
"You, I suppose, became acquainted with her in Westmoreland?"
"Acquainted with her!" The young man checked himself, flushed still
redder, then resumed. "Well, we're cousins, you see--though of course I
don't mean to say that we're her sort--you understand?"
"Miss Fountain is ready," said Mrs. Friedland.
Mason looked round, saw the little figure in the doorway, and hastily
saluting the Friedlands, took his leave.
"My dear," said the doctor anxiously, laying hold on his wife's arm,
"should we have asked him to lunch?"
His wife smiled.
"By no means. That's Laura's business."
"Well, but, Jane--Jane! had you realised that young man?"
"Oh dear, yes," said Mrs. Friedland. "Don't excite yourself, John."
"Laura--gone out with a young man," said the doctor, musing. "I have been
waiting for that all the winter--and he's extremely good-looking, Jane."
Mrs. Friedland lost patience.
"John! I really can't talk to you, if you're as dense as that."
"Talk to me!" cried the doctor--"why, you unreasonable woman, you haven't
vouchsafed me a single word!"
"Well, and why should I?" said Mrs. Friedland provokingly.
* * * * *
Half an hour passed away. Mason and Laura were sitting in the garden of
Up till now, Laura had no very clear idea of what they had been talking
about. Mason, it appeared, had been granted three days' holiday by his
employers, and had made use of it to come to Cambridge and present a
letter of introduction from his old teacher, Castle, the Whinthorpe
organist, to a famous Cambridge musician. But, at first, he was far more
anxious to discuss Laura's affairs than to explain his own; and Laura had
found it no easy matter to keep him at arm's length. For nine months,
Mason had brooded, gossiped, and excused himself; now, conscious of being
somehow a fine fellow again, he had come boldly to play the
cousin--perhaps something more. He offered now a few words of stammering
apology on the subject of his letter to Laura after the announcement of
her engagement. She received them in silence; and the matter dropped.
As to his moral recovery, and material prospects, his manners and
appearance were enough. A fledgeling ambition, conscious of new aims and
chances, revealed itself in all he said. The turbid elements in the
character were settling down; the permanent lines of it, strong, vulgar,
Here, indeed, was a successful man in the making. Once or twice the
girl's beautiful eyes opened suddenly, and then sank again. Before her
rose the rocky chasm of the Greet; the sound of the water was in her
ears--the boyish tones of remorse, of entreaty.
"And you know I'll make some money out of my songs before long--see if I
don't! I took some of em to the Professor this morning--and, my word,
didn't he like em! Why, I couldn't repeat the things he said--you'd think
I was bluffing!"
Strange gift!--"settling unaware"--on this rude nature and poor
intelligence! But Laura looked up eagerly. Here she softened; here was
the bridge between them. And when he spoke of his new friend, the young
musical apostle who had reclaimed him, there was a note which pleased
her. She began to smile upon him more freely; the sadness of her little
face grew sweet.
And suddenly the young man stopped and looked at her. He reddened; and
she flushed too, not knowing why.
"Well, that's where 'tis," he said, moving towards her on the seat. "I'm
going to get on. I told you I was, long ago, and it's come true. My
salary'll be a decent figure before this year's out, and I'm certain I'll
make something out of the songs. Then there's my share of the farm.
Mother don't give me more than she's obliged; but it's a tidy bit
sometimes. Laura!--look here!--I know there's nothing in the way now. You
were a plucky girl, you were, to throw that up. I always said so--I
didn't care what people thought. Well, but now--you're free--and I'm a
better sort--won't you give a fellow a chance?"
Midway, his new self-confidence left him. She sat there so silent, so
delicately white! He had but to put out his hand to grasp her; and he
dared, not move a finger. He stared at her, breathless and open-mouthed.
But she did not take it tragically at all. After a moment, she began to
laugh, and shook her head.
"Do you mean that you want me to marry you, Hubert? Oh! you'd so soon be
tired of that!--You don't know anything about me, really--we shouldn't
suit each other at all."
His face fell. He drew sullenly away from her, and bending forward, began
to poke at the grass with his stick.
"I see how 'tis. I'm not good enough for you--and I don't suppose I ever
She looked at him with a smiling compassion.
"I'm not in love with you, Mr. Hubert--that's all."
"No--you've never got over them things that happened up at Whinthorpe,"
he said roughly. "I've got a bone to pick with you though. Why did you
give me the slip that night?"
He looked up. But in spite of his bravado, he reddened again, deeply.
"Well--you hadn't exactly commended yourself as an escort, had you?" she
said lightly. But her tone pricked.
"I hadn't had a drop of anything," he declared hotly; "and I'd have
looked after you, and stopped a deal of gossip. You hurt my feelings
pretty badly. I can tell you."
"Did I?--Well, as you hurt mine on the first occasion, let's cry quits."
He was silent for a little, throwing furtive glances at her from time to
time. She was wonderfully thin and fragile, but wonderfully pretty, as
she sat there under the cedar.
At last he said, with a grumbling note:
"I wish you wouldn't look so thin and dowie-like, as we say up at
home--you've no cause to fret, I'm sure."
The temper of twenty-one gave way. Laura sat up--nay, rose.
"Will you please come and look at the sights?--or shall I go home?"
He looked up at her flashing face, and stuck to his seat.
"I say--Miss Laura--you don't know how you bowl a fellow over!"
The expression of his handsome countenance--so childish still through all
its athlete's force--propitiated her. And yet she felt instinctively that
his fancy for her no longer went so deep as it had once done.
Well!--she was glad; of course she was glad.
"Oh! you're not so very much to be pitied," she said; but her hand
lighted a moment kindly and shyly on the young man's arm. "Now, if you
wouldn't talk about these things, Hubert--do you know what I should be
doing?--I should be asking you to do me a service."
His manner changed--became businesslike and mannish at once.
"Then you'll please sit down again--and tell me what it is," he said.
She obeyed. He crossed his knees, and listened.
But she had some difficulty in putting it. At last she said, looking away
"Do you think, if I proposed it, your mother could bear to have me on a
visit to the farm?"
"Mother!--you!" he said in astonishment. A hundred notions blazed up in
his mind. What on earth did she want to be in those parts again for?
"My stepmother is very unwell," she said hurriedly. "It--well, it
troubles me not to see her. But I can't go to Bannisdale. If your mother
doesn't hate me now, as she did last summer--perhaps--she and Polly would
take me in for a while?"
He frowned over it--taking the airs of the relative and the counsellor.
"Mother didn't say much--well--about your affair. But Polly says she's
never spoken again you since. But I expect--you know what she'd be afraid
He nodded sagaciously.
"I can't imagine," said Laura, instantly. But the stiffening of her
slight frame betrayed her.
"Why, of course--Miss Laura--you see she'd be afraid of its coming on
There was silence. The broad rim of Laura's velvet hat hid her face.
Hubert began to be uncomfortable.
"I don't say as she'd have cause to," he said slowly; "but----"
Laura suddenly laughed, and Mason opened his eyes in astonishment. Such a
strange little dry sound!
"Of course, if your mother were to think such things and to say them to
me--every time I went to Bannisdale, I couldn't stay. But I want to see
Augustina very, _very_ much." Her voice wavered. "And I could easily go
to her--if I were close by--when she was alone. And of course I should be
no expense. Your mother knows I have my own money."
Hubert nodded. He was trying hard to read her face, but--what the deuce
made girls so close? His countenance brightened however.
"All right. I'll see to it--I'll manage it--you wait."
"Ah! but stop a minute." Her smile shone out from the shadow of the hat.
"If I go there's a condition. While I'm there, you mustn't come."
The young fellow flung away from her with a passionate exclamation, and
her smile dropped--lost itself in a sweet distress, unlike the old wild
"I seem to be falling out with you all the time," she said in haste--"and
I don't want to a bit! But indeed--it will be much better. You see, if
you were to be coming over to pay visits to me--you would think it your
duty to make love to me!"
"Well--and if I did?" he said fiercely.
"It would only put off the time of our making real friends. And--and--I
do care very much for papa's people."
The tears leapt to her eyes for the first time. She held out her ungloved
Reluctantly, and without looking at her, he took it. The touch of it
roused a tempest in him. He crushed it and threw it away from him.
"Oh! if you'd never seen that man!" he groaned.
She got up without a word, and presently they were walking through the
"backs," and she was gradually taming and appeasing him. By the time they
reached the street gate of King's he was again in the full tide of
musical talk and boasting, quite aware besides that his good looks and
his magnificent physique drew the attention of the passers-by.
"Why, they're a poor lot--these 'Varsity men!" he said once
contemptuously, as they passed a group of rather weedy undergraduates--"I
could throw ten of em at one go!"
And perpetually he talked of money, the cost of his lodgings, of his
railway fare, the swindling ways of the south. After all, the painful
habits of generations had not run to waste; the mother began to show in
In the street they parted. As he was saying good-bye to her, his look
"I say!--that's the girl I travelled down with yesterday! And, by Jove!
she knew me!"
And with a last nod to Laura, he darted after a tall woman who had thrown
him a glance from the further pavement. Laura recognised the smart and
buxom daughter of a Cambridge tradesman, a young lady whose hair,
shoulders, millinery, and repartees were all equally pronounced.
* * * * *
Miss Fountain smiled, and turned away. But in the act of doing so, she
came to a sudden stop. A face had arrested her--she stood bewildered.
A man walking in the road came towards her.
"I see that you recognise me, Miss Fountain!"
The ambiguous voice--the dark, delicate face--the clumsy gait--she knew
them all. But--she stared in utter astonishment. The man who addressed
her wore a short round coat and soft hat; a new beard covered his chin;
his flannel shirt was loosely tied at the throat by a silk handkerchief.
And over all the same air of personal slovenliness and ill-breeding.
"You didn't expect to see me in this dress, Miss Fountain? Let me walk a
few steps with you, if I may. You perhaps hadn't heard that I had left
the Jesuits--and ceased indeed to be a Catholic."
Her mind whirled, as she recognised the scholastic. She saw the study at
Bannisdale--and Helbeck bending over her.
"No, indeed--I had not heard," she stammered, as they walked on. "Was it
"Only a couple of months. The crisis came in January----"
And he broke out into a flood of autobiography. Already at Bannisdale he
had been in confusion of mind--the voices of art and liberty calling to
him each hour more loudly--his loyalty to Helbeck, to his boyish ideals,
to his Jesuit training, holding him back.
"I believe, Miss Fountain"--the colour rushed into his womanish
cheek--"you overheard us that evening--you know what I owe to that
admirable, that extraordinary man. May I be frank? We have both been
through deep waters!"
The girl's face grew rigid. Involuntarily she put a wider space between
herself and him. But he did not notice.
"It will be no news to you, Miss Fountain, that Mr. Helbeck's engagement
troubled his Catholic friends. I chose to take it morbidly to heart--I
ventured that--that most presumptuous attack upon him." He laughed, with
an affected note that made her think him odious. "But you were soon
avenged. You little know, Miss Fountain, what an influence your presence
at Bannisdale had upon me. It--well! it was like a rebel army,
perpetually there, to help--to support, the rebel in myself. I saw the
struggle--the protest in you. My own grew fiercer. Oh! those days of
painting!--and always the stabbing thought, never again! I must confess
even the passionate delight this has given me--the irreligious ideas it
has excited. All my religious habits lost power--I could not meditate--I
was always thinking of the problem of my work. Clearly I must never
touch, a brush again.--For I was very soon to take orders--then to go out
to missionary work. Well, I put the painting aside--I trampled on
myself--I went to see my father and sister, and rejoiced in the
humiliations they put upon me. Mr. Helbeck was all kindness, but he was
naturally the last person I could confide in. Then, Miss Fountain, I went
back, back to the Jesuit routine----"
He paused, looking instinctively for a glance from her. But she gave him
"And in three weeks it broke down under me for ever. I gave it up. I am a
free man. Of the wrench I say nothing." He drew himself up with a
shudder, which seemed to her theatrical. "There are sufferings one must
not talk of. The Society have not been ungenerous. They actually gave me
a little money. But, of course, for all my Catholic friends it is like
death. They know me no more."
Then for the first time his companion turned towards him. Her eyelids
lifted. Her lips framed rather than spoke the words, "Mr. Helbeck?"
"Ah! Mr. Helbeck--I am not mistaken, Miss Fountain, in thinking that I
may now speak of Mr. Helbeck with more freedom?"
"My engagement with Mr. Helbeck is broken off," she said coldly. "But you
were saying something of yourself?"
A momentary expression of dislike and disappointment crossed his face. He
was of a soft, sensuous temperament, and had expected a good deal of
sympathy from Miss Fountain.
"Mr. Helbeck has done what all of us might expect," he said, not without
a betraying sharpness. "He has cast me off in the sternest way.
Henceforth he knows me no more. Bannisdale is closed to me. But, indeed,
the news from that quarter fills me with alarm."
Laura looked up again eagerly, involuntarily.
"Mr. Helbeck, by all accounts, grows more and more extreme--more and more
solitary.--But of course your stepmother will have kept you informed. It
was always to be foreseen. What was once a beautiful devotion, has
become, with years--and, I suppose, opposition--a stern unbending
passion--may not one say, a gloomy bigotry?"
He sighed delicately. Through the girl's stormy sense there ran a dumb
rush of thoughts--"Insolent! ungrateful! He wounds the heart that loved
him--and then dares to discuss--to blame!"
But before she could find something to say aloud, her companion resumed.
"But I must not complain. I was honoured by a superior man's friendship.
He has withdrawn it. He has the right.--Now I must look to the future.
You will, I think, be glad to hear that I am not in that destitute
condition which generally awaits the Catholic deserter. My prospects
indeed seem to be secured."
And with a vanity which did not escape her, he described the overtures
that had been made to him by the editor of a periodical which was to
represent "the new mystical school"--he spoke familiarly of great
artists, and especially French ones, murdering the French names in a way
that at once hurt the girl's ears, and pleased her secret spite against
him--he threw in a critic or two without the Mr.--and he casually
mentioned a few lords as persons on whom genius and necessity could rely.
All this in a confidential and appealing tone, which he no doubt imagined
to be most suitable to women, especially young women. Laura thought it
impertinent and unbecoming, and longed to be rid of him. At last the
turning to the Friedlands' house appeared. She stood still, and stiffly
wished him good-bye.
But he retained her hand and pressed it ardently.
"Oh! Miss Fountain--we have both suffered!"
* * * * *
The girl could hardly pacify herself enough to go in. Again and again she
found a pleasure in those words of her French novel that she had repeated
to Helbeck long ago: "_Imagination faussee et troublee--faussee et
No delicacy--no modesty--no compunction! Her own poor heart flew to
Bannisdale. She thought of all that the Squire had suffered in this man's
cause. Outrage--popular hatred--her own protests and petulances,--all met
with so unbending a dignity, so inviolable a fidelity, both to his friend
and to his Church! She recalled that scarred brow--that kind and
brotherly affection--that passionate sympathy which had made the heir of
one of the most ancient names in England the intimate counsellor and
protector of the wheelwright's son.
Popinjay!--renegade!--to come to her talking of "bigotry"--without a
breath of true tenderness or natural remorse. Williams had done that
which she had angrily maintained in that bygone debate with Helbeck he
had every right to do. And she had nothing but condemnation. She walked
up and down the shady road, her eyes blinded with tears. One more blow
upon the heart that she herself had smitten so hard! Sympathy for this
new pain took her back to every incident of the old--to every detail of
that hideous week which had followed upon her flight.
How had she lived through it? Those letters--that distant voice in Dr.
Friedland's study--her own piteous craving----
For the thousandth time, with the old dreary conviction, she said to
herself that she had done right--terribly, incredibly right.
But all the while, she seemed to be sitting beside him in his
study--laying her cheek upon his hand--eagerly comforting him for this
last sorrow. His inexorable breach with Williams--well! it was part of
his character--she would not have it otherwise. All that had angered her
as imagination, was now natural and dignified as reality. Her thoughts
proudly defended it. Let him be rigorous towards others if he pleased--he
had been first king and master of himself.
* * * * *
Next day Molly Friedland and Laura went to London for the day. Laura was
taking music lessons, as one means of driving time a little quicker; and
there was shopping to be done both for the household and for themselves.
In the afternoon, as the girls were in Sloane Street together, Laura
suddenly asked Molly to meet her in an hour at a friend's house, where
they were to have tea. "I have something I want to do by myself." Molly
asked no questions, and they parted.
A few minutes later, Laura stepped into the church of the Brompton
Oratory. It was a Saturday afternoon, and Benediction was about to begin.
She drew down her thick veil, and took a seat near the door. The great
heavy church was still nearly dark, save for a dim light in the
sanctuary. But it was slowly filling with people, and she watched the
In front of her was a stout and fashionably dressed young man with an
eyeglass and stick--evidently a stranger. He sat stolid and motionless,
one knee crossed over the other, scrutinising everything that went on as
though he had been at the play. Presently, a great many men began to
stream in, most of them bald and grey, but some young fellows, who
dropped eagerly on their knees as they entered, and rose reluctantly.
Nuns in black hoods and habits would come briskly up, kneel and say a
prayer, then go out again. Or sometimes they brought schools--girls, two
and two--and ranged them decorously for the service. An elderly man, of
the workman class, appeared with his small son, and sat in front of
Laura. The child played tricks; the man drew it tenderly within his arm,
and kept it quiet, while he himself told his beads. Then a girl with wild
eyes and touzled hair, probably Irish, with her baby in her arms, sat
down at the end of Laura's seat, stared round her for a few minutes,
dropped to the altar, and went away. And all the time smartly dressed
ladies came and went incessantly, knelt at side altars, crossed
themselves, said a few rapid prayers, or disappeared into the mysteries
of side aisles behind screens and barriers--going no doubt to confession.
There was an extraordinary life in it all. Here was no languid acceptance
of a respectable habit. Something was eagerly wanted--diligently sought.
Laura looked round her, with a sigh from her inmost heart. But the vast
church seemed to her ugly and inhuman. She remembered a saying of her
father's as to its "vicious Roman style"--the "tomb of the Italian mind."
Ah!--Suddenly a dim surpliced figure in the distance, and lights
springing like stars in the apse. Presently the high altar, in a soft
glow, shone out upon the dark church. All was still silent; the sanctuary
spoke in light.
For a few minutes. Then this exquisite and magical effect broke up. The
lighting spread through the church, became commonplace, showed the
pompous lines of capital and cornice, the bad sculpture in the niches. A
procession entered, and the service began.
Laura dropped on her knees. But she was no longer in London, in the
Oratory church. She was far away, in the chapel of an old northern house,
where the walls glowed with strange figures, and a dark crucifix hovered
austerely above the altar. She saw the small scattered congregation;
Father Bowles's grey head and blanched, weak face; Augustina in her long
widow's veil; the Squire in his corner. The same words were being said
there now, at this same hour. She looked at her watch, then hid her eyes
again, tortured with a sick yearning.
But when she came out, twenty minutes later, her step was more alert. For
a little while, she had been almost happy.
* * * * *
That night, after the returned travellers had finished their supper, the
doctor was in a talking mood. He had an old friend with him a thinker and
historian like himself. Both of them had lately come across "Leadham of
Trinity"--the convert and Jesuit, who was now engaged upon an important
Catholic memoir, and was settled for a time, within reach of Cambridge
"You knew Father Leadham in the north, Miss Laura?" asked the doctor, as
the girls came into the drawing-room.
"I saw him two or three times," she said, as she made her way to the warm
but dark corner near the fire. "Is he in Cambridge?"
The doctor nodded.
"Come to embrace us all--breathing benediction on learning and on
science! There has been a Catholic Congress somewhere."--He looked at his
friend. "That will show us the way!"
The friend--a small, lively-eyed, black-bearded man, just returned from
some theological work in a German university--threw back his head and
The talk turned on Catholic learning old and new; on the assumptions and
limitations of it; on the forms taken by the most recent Catholic
Apologetic; and so, like a vessel descending a great river, passed out at
last, steered by Friedland, among the breakers of first principles.
As a rule the doctor talked in paradox and ellipse. He threw his
sentences into air, and let them find their feet as they could.
But to-day, unconsciously, his talk took a tone that was rare with
him--became prophetical, pontifical--assumed a note of unction. And
often, as Molly noticed, with a slight instinctive gesture--a fatherly
turning towards that golden spot made by Laura's hair among the shadows.
His friend fell silent after a while--watching Friedland with small sharp
eyes. He had come there to discuss a new edition of Sidonius
Apollinaris,--was himself one of the driest and acutest of investigators.
All this talk for babes seemed to him the merest waste of time.
Friedland, however, with a curious feeling, let himself be carried away
A little Catholic manual of Church history had fallen into his hands that
morning. His fingers played with it as it lay on the table, and with the
pages of a magazine beside it that contained an article by Father
No doubt some common element in the two had roused him.----
"The Catholic war with history," he said, "is perennial! History, in
fact, is the great rationalist; and the Catholic conscience is
scandalised by her. And so we have these pitiful little books--" he laid
his hand on the volume beside him--"which simply expunge history, or make
it afresh. And we have a piece of Jesuit _apologia_, like this paper of
Leadham's--so charming, in a sense, so scholarly! And yet one feels
through it a cry of the soul--the Catholic arraignment of history, that
she is what she is!"
"You'll find it in Newman--often," said the black-bearded man
suddenly--and he ran through a list of passages, rapidly, in the
"Ah! Newman!" said Friedland with vivacity. "This morning I read over
that sermon of his he delivered to the Oscott Synod, after the
re-establishment of the Hierarchy--you remember it, Dalton?--What a flow
and thunder in the sentences!--what an elevation in the thought! Who
would not rather lament with Newman, than exult with Froude?--But here
again, it is history that is the rationalist--not we poor historians!
"... Why was England lost to the Church? Because Henry was a
villain?--because the Tudor bishops were slaves and poltroons? Does
Leadham, or any other rational man really think so?"
The little black man nodded. He did not think it worth while to speak.
But Friedland went on enlarging, with his hand on his Molly's
head--looking into her quiet eyes.
"... The fact is, the Catholic, who is in love with his Church, _cannot_
let himself realise truly what the Home of the Renaissance meant: But
turn your back on all the Protestant crew--even on Erasmus. Ask only
those Catholic witnesses who were at the fountain-head, who saw the truth
face to face. And then--ponder a little, what it was that really happened
in those forty-five years of Elizabeth....
"Can Leadham, can anyone deny that the nation rose in them to the full
stature of its manhood--to a buoyant and fruitful maturity? And more--if
it had not been for some profound movement of the national life,--some
irresistible revolt of the common intelligence, the common
conscience--does anyone suppose that the whims and violences of any
trumpery king could have broken the links with Rome?--that such a life
and death as More's could have fallen barren on English hearts?
Never!--How shallow are all the official explanations--how deep down lies
Out of the monologues that followed, broken often by the impatience or
the eagerness of Dalton, Molly, at least, who worked much with her
father, remembered fragments like the following:
"... The figure of the Church,--spouse or captive, bride or martyr,--as
she has become personified in Catholic imagination, is surely among the
greatest, the most ravishing, of human conceptions. It ranks with the
image of 'Jahve's Servant' in the poetry of Israel. And yet behind her,
as she moves through history, the modern sees the rising of something
more majestic still--the free human spirit, in its contact with the
infinite sources of things!--the Jerusalem which is the mother of us
all--the Greater, the Diviner Church.... Into her Ursula-robe all lesser
forms are gathered. But she is not only a maternal, a generative
power--she is chastisement and convulsion.
"... Look back again to that great rising of the North against the South,
that we call the Reformation.--Catholicism of course is saved with the
rest.--One may almost say that Newman's own type is made possible--all
that touches and charms us in English Catholics has its birth, because
York, Canterbury, and Salisbury are lost to the Mass.
"And abroad?--I always find a sombre fascination in the spectacle of the
Tridentine reform. The Church in her stern repentance breaks all her
toys, burns all her books! She shakes herself free from Guicciardini's
'herd of wretches.' She shuts her gates on the knowledge and the freedom
that have rent her--and within her strengthened walls she sits, pondering
on judgment to come. In so far as her submission is incomplete, she is
raising new reckonings against herself every hour.--But for the moment
the moralising influence of the lay intelligence has saved her--a new
strength flows through her old veins.
"... And so with scholarship.--The great fabric of Gallican and
Benedictine learning rises into being, under the hammer blows of a
hostile research. The Catholics of Germany, says Renan, are particularly
distinguished for acuteness and breadth of ideas. Why? Because of the
'perpetual contact of Protestant criticism.'--
"... More and more we shall come to see that it is the World that is the
salt of the Church! She owes far more to her enemies than to any of her
canonised saints. One may almost say that she lives on what the World can
spare her of its virtues."
Laura, in her dark corner, had almost disappeared from sight. Molly, the
soft, round-faced, spectacled Molly, turned now and then from her friend
to her father. She would give Friedland sometimes a gentle restraining
touch--her lips shaped themselves, as though she said, "Take care!"
And gradually Friedland fell upon things more intimate--the old topics of
the relation between Catholicism and the will, Catholicism and
"... I often think we should be the better for some chair of 'The Inner
Life,' at an English University!" he said presently, with a smile at
Molly.--"What does the ordinary Protestant know of all those treasures of
spiritual experience which Catholicism has secreted for centuries?
_There_ is the debt of debts that we all owe to the Catholic Church.
"Well!--Some day, no doubt, we shall all be able to make a richer use of
what she has so abundantly to give.--
"At present what one sees going on in the modern world is a vast
transformation of moral ideas, which for the moment holds the field.
Beside the older ethical fabric--the fabric that the Church built up out
of Greek and Jewish material--a new is rising. We think a hundred things
unlawful that a Catholic permits; on the other hand, a hundred
prohibitions of the older faith have lost their force. And at the same
time, for half our race, the old terrors and eschatologies are no more.
We fear evil for quite different reasons; we think of it in quite
different ways. And the net result in the best moderns is at once a great
elaboration of conscience--and an almost intoxicating sense of freedom.--
"Here, no doubt, it is the _personal abjection_ of Catholicism,
that jars upon us most--that divides it deepest from the modern
spirit.--Molly!--don't frown!--Abjection is a Catholic word--essentially
a Catholic temper. It means the ugliest and the loveliest things. It
covers the most various types--from the nauseous hysteria of a Margaret
Mary Alacoque, to the exquisite beauty of the _Imitation_.... And it
derives its chief force, for good and evil, from the belief in the Mass.
There again, how little the Protestant understands what he reviles! In
one sense he understands it well enough. Catholicism would have
disappeared long ago but for the Mass. Marvellous indestructible
belief!--that brings God to Man, that satisfies the deepest emotions of
the human heart!--
"What will the religion of the free mind discover to put in its place?
Something, it must find. For the hold of Catholicism--or its
analogues--upon the guiding forces of Christendom is irretrievably
broken. And yet the needs of the soul remain the same....
"Some compensation, no doubt, we shall reap from that added sense of
power and wealth, which the change in the root ideas of life has brought
with it for many people. Humanity has walked for centuries under the
shadow of the Fall, with all that it involves. Now, a precisely opposite
conception is slowly incorporating itself with all the forms of European
thought. It is the disappearance--the rise--of a world. At the beginning
of the century, Coleridge foresaw it.
"... The transformation affects the whole of personality! The mass of men
who read and think, and lead straight lives to-day, are often conscious
of a dignity and range their fathers never knew. The spiritual stature of
civilised man has risen--like his physical stature! We walk to-day a
nobler earth. We come--not as outcasts, but as sons and freemen, into the
House of God.--But all the secrets and formulae of a new mystical union
have to be worked out. And so long as pain and death remain, humanity
will always be at heart a mystic!"
* * * * *
Gradually, as the old man touched these more penetrating and personal
matters, the head among the shadows had emerged. The beautiful eyes, so
full--unconsciously full--of sad and torturing thought, rested upon the
speaker. Friedland became sensitively conscious of them. The grey-haired
scholar was in truth one of the most religious of men and optimists. The
negations of his talk began to trouble him--in sight of this young grief
and passion. He drew upon all that his heart could find to say of things
fruitful and consoling. After the liberating joys of battle, he must
needs follow the perennial human instinct and build anew the "Civitas
* * * * *
When Friedland and his wife were left alone, Friedland said with
"Jane, I played the preacher to-night, and preaching is foolishness. But
I would willingly brace that poor child's mind a little. And it seemed to
me she listened."
Mrs. Friedland laughed under her breath--the saddest laugh.
"Do you know what the child was doing this afternoon?"
"She went to the Oratory--to Benediction." Friedland looked up
startled--then understood--raised his hands and let them drop
"Missie--are yo ben?"
The outer door of Browhead Farm was pushed inwards, and old Daffady's
head and face appeared.
"Come in, Daffady--please come in!"
Miss Fountain's tone was of the friendliest. The cow-man obeyed her. He
came in, holding his battered hat in his hand.
"Missie--A thowt I'd tell yo as t' rain had cleared oop--yo cud take a
bit air verra weel, if yo felt to wish it."
Laura turned a pale but smiling face towards him. She had been passing
through a week of illness, owing perhaps to the April bleakness of this
high fell, and old Daffady was much concerned. They had made friends from
the first days of her acquaintance with the farm. And during these April
weeks since she had been the guest of her cousins, Daffady had shown her
a hundred quaint attentions. The rugged old cow-man who now divided with
Mrs. Mason the management of the farm was half amused, half scandalised,
by what seemed to him the delicate uselessness of Miss Fountain. "I'm
towd as doon i' Lunnon town, yo'll find scores o' this mak"--he would say
to his intimate the old shepherd--"what th' Awmighty med em for, bets me.
Now Miss Polly, she can sarve t' beese"--(by which the old North
Countryman meant "cattle")--"and mek a hot mash for t' cawves, an cook an
milk, an ivery oother soart o' thing as t' Lord give us t' wimmen
for--bit Missie!--yo've nobbut to luke ut her 'ands. Nobbut what theer's
soomat endearin i' these yoong flibberties--yo conno let em want for
owt--bit it's the use of em worrits me above a bit."
Certainly all that old Daffady could do to supply the girl's wants was
done. Whether it was a continuous supply of peat for the fire in these
chilly April days; or a newspaper from the town; or a bundle of daffodils
from the wood below--some signs of a fatherly mind he was always showing
towards this little drone in the hive. And Laura delighted in him--racked
her brains to keep him talking by the fireside.
"Well, Daffady, I'll take your advice.--I'm hungering to be out again.
But come in a bit first. When do you think the mistress will be back?"
Daffady awkwardly established himself just inside the door, looking first
to see that his great nailed boots were making no unseemly marks upon the
Laura was alone in the house. Mrs. Mason and Polly were gone to
Whinthorpe, where they had some small sales to make. Mrs. Mason moreover
was discontented with the terms under which she sold her milk; and there
were inquiries to be made as to another factor, and perhaps a new bargain
to be struck.
"Oh, the missis woan't be heaem till dark," said Daffady. "She's not yan
to do her business i' haaeste. She'll see to 't aa hersen. An she's reet
there. Them as ladles their wits oot o' other foak's brains gits nobbut
"You don't seem to miss Mr. Hubert very much?" said Laura, with a
Daffady scratched his head.
"Noa--they say he's doin wonnerfu well, deaen i' Froswick, an I'm juist
glad on 't; for he wasna yan for work."
"Why, Daffady, they say now he's killing himself with work!"
Daffady grinned--a cautious grin.
"They'll deave yo, down i' th' town, wi their noise.--Yo'd think they
were warked to deaeth.--Bit, yo can see for yorsen. Why, a farmin mon mut
be allus agate: in t' mornin, what wi' cawves to serve, an t' coos to
feed, an t' horses to fodder, yo're fair run aff your legs. Bit down i'
Whinthorpe--or Froswick ayder, fer it's noa odds--why, theer's nowt
stirrin for a yoong mon. If cat's loose, that's aboot what!"
Laura's face lit up. Very few things now had power to please her but
Daffady's dialect, and Daffady's scorns.
"And so all the world is idle but you farm people?"
"A doan't say egsackly idle," said Daffady, with a good-humoured
"But the factory-hands, Daffady?"
"O!--a little stannin an twiddlin!" said Daffady contemptuously--"I allus
ses they pays em abuve a bit."
"But the miners?--come, Daffady!"
"I'm not stannin to it aw roond," said Daffady patiently--"I laid it down
i' th' general."
"And all the people, who work with their heads, Daffady, like--like my
The girl smiled softly, and turned her slim neck to look at the old man.
She was charmingly pretty so, among the shadows of the farm kitchen--but
very touching--as the old man dimly felt. The change in her that worked
so uncomfortably upon his rustic feelings went far deeper than any mere
aspect of health or sickness. The spectator felt beside her a ghostly
presence--that "sad sister, Pain"--stealing her youth away, smile as she
"I doan't knaw aboot them, Missie--nor aboot yor fadther--thoo I'll uphod
tha Muster Stephen was a terr'ble cliver mon. Bit if yo doan't bring a
gude yed wi yo to th' farmin yo may let it alane.--When th' owd measter
here was deein, Mr. Hubert was verra down-hearted yo understan, an verra
wishfa to say soomat frendly to th' owd man, noo it had coom to th' lasst
of im. 'Fadther'--he ses--'dear fadther--is there nowt I could do fer
tha?'--'Aye, lad'--ses th' owd un--'gie me thy yed, an tak mine--thine is
gude enoof to be buried wi.' An at that he shet his mouth, and deed."
Daffady told his story with relish. His contempt for Hubert was of many
years' standing. Laura lifted her eyebrows.
"That was sharp, for the last word. I don't think you should stick pins
when you're dying--_dying_!"--she repeated the word with a passionate
energy--"going quite away--for ever." Then, with a sudden change of
tone--"Can I have the cart to-morrow, Daffady?"
Daffady, who had been piling the fire with fresh peat, paused and looked
down upon her. His long, lank face, his weather-stained clothes, his
great, twisted hand were all of the same colour--the colour of wintry
grass and lichened rock. But his eyes were bright and blue, and a vivid
streak of white hair fell across his high forehead. As the girl asked her
question, the old man's air of fatherly concern became more marked.
"Mut yo goa, missie? It did yo noa gude lasst time."
"Yes, I must go. I think so--I hope so!"--She checked herself. "But I'll
"Mrs. Fountain's nobbut sadly, I unnerstan?"
"She's rather better again. But I must go to-morrow. Daffady, Cousin
Elizabeth won't forget to bring up the letters?"
"I niver knew her du sich a thing as thattens," said Daffady, with
"And do you happen to know whether Mr. Bayley is coming to supper?"
"T' minister'll mebbe coom if t' weather hods up."
"Daffady--do you think--that when you don't agree with people about
religion--it's right and proper to sit every night--and tear them to
The colour had suddenly flooded her pale face--her attitude had thrown
Daffady showed embarrassment.
"Well, noa, missie--Aa doan't hod--mysen--wi personalities. Yo mun
wrastle wi t' sin--an gaa saftly by t' sinner."
"Sin!" she said scornfully.
Daffady was quelled.
"I've allus thowt mysen," he said hastily, "as we'd a deal to larn from
Romanists i' soom ways. Noo, their noshun o' Purgatory--I daurna say a
word for 't when t' minister's taakin, for there's noa warrant for 't i'
Scriptur, as I can mek oot--bit I'll uphod yo, it's juist handy! Aa've
often thowt so, i' my aan preachin. Heaven an hell are verra well for t'
foak as are ower good, or ower bad; bit t' moast o' foak--are juist a
He shook his head slowly, and then ventured a glance at Miss Fountain to
see whether he had appeased her.
Laura seemed to rouse herself with an effort from some thoughts of her
"Daffady--how the sun's shining! I'll go out. Daffady, you're very kind
and nice to me--I wonder why?"
She laid one of the hands that seemed to the cow-man so absurd upon his
arm, and smiled at him. The old man reddened and grunted. She sprang up
with a laugh; and the kitchen was instantly filled by a whirlwind of
barks from Fricka, who at last foresaw a walk.
* * * * *
Laura took her way up the fell. She climbed the hill above the farm, and
then descended slowly upon a sheltered corner that held the old Browhead
Chapel, whereof the fanatical Mr. Bayley--worse luck!--was the curate in
She gave a wide berth to the vicarage, which with two or three cottages,
embowered in larches and cherry-trees, lay immediately below the chapel.
She descended upon the chapel from the fell, which lay wild about it and
above it; she opened a little gate into the tiny churchyard, and found a
sunny rock to sit on, while Fricka rushed about barking at the tits and
Under the April sun and the light wind, the girl gave a sigh of pleasure.
It was a spot she loved. The old chapel stood high on the side of a more
inland valley that descended not to the sea, but to the Greet--a green
open vale, made glorious at its upper end by the overpeering heads of
great mountains, and falling softly through many folds and involutions to
the woods of the Greet--the woods of Bannisdale.
So blithe and shining it was, on this April day! The course of the bright
twisting stream was dimmed here and there by mists of fruit blossom. For
the damson trees were all out, patterning the valleys,--marking the
bounds of orchard and field, of stream and road. Each with its larch
clump, the grey and white farms lay scattered on the pale green of the
pastures; on either side of the valley the limestone pushed upward,
through the grassy slopes of the fells, and made long edges and "scars"
against the sky; while down by the river hummed the old mill where Laura
had danced, a year before.
It was Westmoreland in its remoter, gentler aspect--Westmoreland far away
from the dust of coaches and hotels--an untouched pastoral land,
enwrought with a charm and sweetness none can know but those who love and
linger. Its hues and lines are all sober and very simple. In these
outlying fell districts, there is no splendour of colour, no majesty of
peak or precipice. The mountain-land is at its homeliest--though still
wild and free as the birds that flash about its streams. The purest
radiance of cool sunlight floods it on an April day; there are pale
subtleties of grey and purple in the rocks, in the shadows, in the