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Herb of Grace
By ROSA NOUCHETTE CAREY
Author of "Mollie's Prince," "No Friend Like a Sister," "Rue With a
A. L. HURT COMPANY
PUBLISHERS NEW YORK
J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY
I INTRODUCES A LOVER OF THE PICTURESQUE
II FALLEN AMONG THIEVES
III A PAGE OF ANCIENT HISTORY
V MRS. HERRICK OBJECTS TO BOHEMIA
VI YEA-VERILY AND BABS
VII MORE ANCIENT HISTORY WITH VERITY
VIII THE RECORD OF AN IMPOTENT GENIUS
IX THE WOOD HOUSE
X WHAT THE FERN-OWL HEARD
XI "A LITTLE EGOTISTICAL, PERHAPS"
XII MR. CARLYON'S TEA-PARTY
XIII THE CROW'S NEST
XIV "YOU DO SAY SUCH ODD THINGS"
XV "BETTY IS A TRUMP!"
XVI "IT REALLY IS A GOOD IDEA, DIE"
XVII "ADIEU--Au REVOIR"
XVIII "YES, SHE GAVE HIM UP"
XIX "A TOUCH OF THE TARTAR"
XX A WHITE SUN-BONNET
XXI "IF I WERE ONLY LIKE YOU"
XXII "TWO MAIDEN LADIES OF UNCERTAIN AGE"
XXIII SAINT ELIZABETH!
XXIV DOWN BY THE POOL
XXV "IT HAS GONE VERY DEEP"
XXVI "I SEE LIGHT NOW"
XXVII HUGH ROSSITER SPINS HIS YARN
XXVIII "THE LADY CALLING HERSELF MISS JACOBI"
XXIX "SHE IS A WICKED WOMAN"
XXX IN KENSINGTON GARDENS
XXXI PLOT AND COUNTERPLOT
XXXII STORM AND STRESS
XXXIII "HE WILL COME RIGHT"
XXXIV TRAVELLING THROUGH SAHARA
XXXV VIA DOLOROSA
XXXVI "I HAVE BEEN A COWARD"
XXXVII THE PARTING OF THE WAYS
XXXVIII TANGLED THREADS
XXXIX THE NEW CURATE-IN-CHARGE
XL "HE IS MY RIVAL STILL"
XLI "YOU CAN BE DINAH'S FRIEND"
XLII THE WHIRLIGIG OF TIME
XLIII A MAY AFTERNOON
XLIV "MY DEAREST REST"
HERB OF GRACE
INTRODUCES A LOVER OF THE PICTURESQUE
Our adventures hover round us like bees round the hive when
preparing to swarm.--MAETERLINCK.
From boyhood Malcolm Herrick had been a lover of the picturesque. In
secret he prided himself on possessing the artistic faculty, and
yet, except in the nursery, he had never drawn a line, or later on
spoilt canvas and daubed himself in oils under the idea that he was
an embryo Millais or Turner. But nevertheless he had the seeing eye,
and could find beauty where more prosaic people could only see
barrenness: a stubble field newly turned up by the plough moved him
to admiration, while a Surrey lane, with a gate swinging back on its
hinges, and a bowed old man carrying faggots, in the smoky light of
an October evening, gave him a feeling akin to ecstasy. More than
one of his school-fellows remembered how, even in the cricket field,
he would stand as though transfixed, looking at the storm clouds,
with their steely edges, coming up behind the copse, but the palms
of his hands were outstretched and he never failed to catch the
"Nature intended me for an artist or a poet," Malcolm would say, for
he was given at times to a hard, merciless introspection, when he
took himself and his motives to pieces, "but circumstances have
called me to the bar. To be sure I have never held a brief, and my
tastes are purely literary, but all the same I am a member of the
Malcolm Herrick used his Englishman's right of grumbling to a large
extent; with a sort of bitter and acrid humility, he would accuse
himself of having missed his vocation and his rightful heritage, of
being neither "fish, flesh, nor good red herring;" nevertheless his
post for the last two years had pleased him well: he was connected
with a certain large literary society which gave his legal wits
plenty of scope. In his leisure hours he wrote moderately well-
expressed papers on all sorts of social subjects with a pithy
raciness and command of language that excited a good deal of
Herrick was a clever fellow, people said; "he would make his mark
when he was older, and had got rid of his cranks;" but all the same
he was not understood by the youth of his generation. "The Fossil,"
as they called him at Lincoln, was hardly modern enough for their
taste; he was a survival of the mediaeval age--he took life too
gravely, and gave himself the airs of a patriarch.
In person he was a thin spare man, somewhat sallow, and with dark
melancholy eyes that were full of intelligence. When he smiled,
which he did more rarely than most people, he looked at least ten
In reality he was nearly thirty, but he never measured his age by
years. "I have not had my innings yet," he would say; "I am going to
renew my youth presently; I mean to have my harvest of good things
like other fellows, and eat, drink, and be merry;" but from all
appearance the time had not come yet.
Malcolm Herrick's chambers were in Lincoln's Inn. Thither he was
turning his footsteps one sultry July afternoon, when as usual he
paused at a certain point, while a smile of pleasure stole to his
Familiarity had not yet dulled the edge of his enjoyment; now, as
ever, it soothed and tranquillised him to turn from the noisy
crowded streets into this quiet spot with its gray old buildings,
its patch of grass, and the broad wide steps up and down which men,
hurrying silently, passed and repassed intent on the day's work.
As usual at this hour, the flagged court was crowded by pigeons,
strutting fearlessly between the feet of the passers-by, and filling
the air with their soft cooing voices.
"Ah, my friend the cobbler," he said to himself, and he moved a
little nearer to watch the pretty sight. A child's perambulator--a
very shabby, rickety concern--had been pushed against the fence, and
its occupant, a girl, evidently a cripple, was throwing corn to the
eager winged creatures. Two or three, more fearless than the others,
had flown on to the perambulator and were pecking out of the child's
hands. Presently she caught one and hugged it to her thin little
bosom. "Oh dad, look here--oh daddy, see, its dear little head is
all green and purple. I want to kiss it--I do--I love it so."
"Better put it down, Kit--the poor thing is scared," returned the
man, and the child reluctantly let it fly. It made straight for the
distant roofs behind them, but the rest of the pigeons still
strutted and pecked round the perambulator with tiny mincing steps,
like court ladies practising the minuet. Malcolm looked on with
unabated relish--the homely idyll always charmed him.
He had never spoken to the crippled child or her father, although
they had often crossed his path at this hour; nevertheless he
regarded them as old friends.
More than once he had made up his mind to accost them, but he was
reserved by nature and it cost him an effort to take the initiative.
In his case silence was always golden; in his own cynical language,
he refused to tout for a cheap popularity by saying pleasant things
They were not an attractive pair. The cobbler was a thin meagre
little man, with a round back, bow-legs, a sharp pinched face, and
pale blue eyes that seemed to look dejectedly at life.
The child was the image of her father, only in her case the defects
were more accentuated: her face was still more pinched, and
absolutely colourless, and the large blue-gray eyes were out of
proportion to the other features. A fringe of red hair, curled very
stiffly, and set round the small face like a large frill, gave her a
curiously weird look. Some woman's hand must have curled it and tied
the wide limp bows of her sunbonnet under the sharp little chin.
Neither of them seemed to notice Malcolm Herrick's scrutiny, they
were so absorbed by the pigeons; but the scanty supply of corn had
soon been scattered, and the guests were flying off by twos and
"Oh see, dad!" exclaimed the child in her shrill little voice. "Oh,
my! ain't it heavenly to cut capers like that in the air; it is like
the merry-go-rounds at the fair," and then Kit clapped her hands as
another pretty creature rose softly and fluttered away in the
The air had been growing more sultry and oppressive every moment; a
heavy storm was evidently gathering--already a few heat-drops had
fallen. Malcolm was a man who noticed details; he perceived at once
that the ragged cover of the perambulator offered a flimsy and
insufficient protection. Then he glanced at the umbrella in his
hand; it was a dandified article, with a handsomely carved handle.
The two voices that usually wrangled within his breast for the
mastery made themselves heard.
"It is perfectly impossible for you to offer the umbrella that Anna
gave you to that brat," murmured common-sense; "very likely her
father would pawn it for gin."
"But the child looks ill," remonstrated impulse. "Anna would be sure
to think of the poor mite first." But it was doubtful which voice
would have prevailed but for a chance word.
"Oh, dad, there is a big drop--it quite splashed my face. Ma'am said
the rain would drown us." Then the man, whose wits had been wool-
gathering, looked up in alarm, and began fumbling with Kit's shawl.
"Dear sakes," he muttered, "who would have thought it! But it is
just my luck. You will be drenched before I get you in, Kit, and
Ma'am will scold us for the rest of the day."
"Will you take this umbrella for the child, my good man?" observed
Malcolm pleasantly. "I am close to my chambers. You can let me have
it back to-morrow morning." Then, as the man regarded him in dazed
astonishment, he gave him his address. "Perhaps you may as well let
me know your name," he continued.
"Caleb Martin, sir," replied the cobbler; "and we live in
Todmorden's Lane, leading out of Beauchamp Street. It is Mr.
Bennet's the bootmaker, and I works for him and lives in the
basement, 'long of wife and Kit."
"Beauchamp Street--oh yes, I know. Then you had better get the child
home." He nodded and smiled at Kit as he moved away.
Caleb gazed after him with open mouth and pale eyes full of
speechless gratitude; but Kit had unfurled the umbrella proudly, and
sat like a queen in a silken tent.
"Ain't he a gentleman!" she exclaimed with a joyous chuckle; "seems
to me the angels must be his sort. Wasn't he just splendid, dad!"
But Caleb, who was trundling the perambulator down a side street,
only shook his head in silence.
Malcolm felt a warm glow of exhilaration, which secretly moved him
to astonishment, as he ran lightly up the long bare flights of
stairs to his chambers. "A mere trifle like that," he said to
himself contemptuously, as he entered the outer room, where a small
and exceedingly sharp office boy, rejoicing in the euphonious name
of Malachi Murphy, beguiled the tedium of the waiting hours by
cutting the initials of his family on the legs of the table.
When Malcolm wanted to amuse a friendly visitor, he would question
Malachi blandly and innocently on his brothers' and sisters' names.
"You are all minor prophets," he would say carelessly. "I think Mr.
So-and-So would be interested to hear how you came by these names."
And thus encouraged, Malachi would twist his face knowingly, until
it resembled a gargoyle rather than a human face, and start away as
though he had been wound up afresh.
"Well, it was like this, sir. Father was just reading Hosea on
Sunday evening, when mother took bad, and so they made up their
minds that they would call my eldest brother Hosea; the next one was
Joel, because father liked the name; and by-and-by mother put in her
word for Amos. Obadiah only lived five weeks; and the next was a
girl, and they called her Micah. Father wouldn't have none of us
christened Jonah, because he said he was real mean; but we had
Nahum, and Habakkuk Zephaniah and Haggai Zechariah; and when my time
came there was nothing left but Malachi, and father said we had
better finish the job: and so Malachi I was. It is a blessing,"
continued Malachi frankly, "that Habakkuk Zephaniah and Haggai
Zechariah died when they were babies; for none of us would have
known what to call them; as it is, I am mostly called Mealy Murphy
down my way."
"There's a gentleman waiting to see you, sir," observed Malachi,
dropping his clasp knife dexterously into the waste-paper basket.
"Wouldn't give his name. Seems in a mighty hurry by the way he has
been walking all over the shop," he continued, sotto voce, as he
dipped his pen into the ink again. "I wonder what the governor would
say if he had heard him whistling like a penny steamer and playing
old Sallie with the pen-wipers and sealing-wax. A lively sort of
bloke as ever I see."
Malcolm walked rapidly to the door and opened it; as he did so, a
look of surprise and pleasure crossed his face at the sight of a
handsome, fair-haired youth, lying back on his easy-chair, with his
feet resting on a pile of ledgers.
"Hallo, Cedric!" he exclaimed in a cordial tone. "What on earth has
brought you up to town on the hottest day of the year? No, stay
where you are," as his visitor attempted to rise, and Malcolm put
his hands lightly on the boy's shoulders, pressing him gently back
against the cushions. "I never sit there myself unless I am lazy."
"All right, old chap," returned the other easily. "I didn't want to
move; only manners maketh man--I always was the pink of courtesy and
politeness, don't you know. Ask old Dinah, and she will tell you."
"Oh yes, we all know that," returned Malcolm drily. "Now, will you
answer my question--what brings you up to Lincoln's Inn in this
"Keep cool, old fellow, and take a seat, and I will tell you,"
returned the lad in a patronising tone. "You see I am staying at
Teddington. Fred Courtenay was spliced yesterday, and I had promised
to be at the show."
"Oh, I forgot Courtenay was to be married yesterday," muttered
"It went off all right," continued Cedric. "No one forbade the
banns, and the happy couple drove away with half-a-dozen satin
slippers reposing on the roof of the carriage. But now the business
is over, it is a trifle dull. Fred's sisters are all in the
schoolroom, you know, so I told Mrs. Courtenay that I had a pressing
engagement in town."
"Oh, I begin to see light."
"I did some shopping in the Strand, and then I thought I would look
you up in your grimy old diggings. My word, we are going to have a
storm, Herrick," as a flash of lightning lit up the dark room.
"Yes, but it will soon be over, and you are in no hurry to catch
"No, you are right there. The house is all in a muddle from the
wedding, and we are to have a sort of nondescript meal at eight.
Herrick, old fellow, I want you to put me up for a couple of nights.
You are coming down to Staplegrove on Tuesday, so I told Dinah that
we might as well travel together."
"Does your sister really expect me?" asked Malcolm dubiously. "My
dear boy," as Cedric grew rather red and pulled his budding
moustache in an affronted manner, "I know you were good enough to
invite me, but I understood from you that your sisters were the
owners of the Wood House, and as I have not yet made their
"Hang it all, Herrick, I suppose a fellow can see his friends
sometimes, even if he is dependent on his sisters," and Cedric's
tone was decidedly sulky. "Besides, Dinah sent you a message--she
and Elizabeth will be delighted to see you, and all that sort of
thing, and they hoped you would stay as long as possible."
"I am glad you told me that," returned Malcolm, with a relieved air.
In reality he had been secretly much embarrassed by Cedric's
invitation. "You know, my dear fellow, how pleased I am to be
introduced to your people, and it is most kind of Miss Templeton to
send me that message."
"Oh, Dinah is a good old sort," returned the lad carelessly. The
cloud had vanished from his face. "Well, Herrick, what do you say
about putting me up? There are two or three things I want to do in
town, and it is a bore staying on at the Briars now old Fred has
"When do you want to come to me?" asked Malcolm. "I am to sleep at
Queen's Gate the next two nights, and I have promised to take Miss
Sheldon out to-morrow. She is my mother's adopted daughter, you
know--Anna Sheldon. I have often mentioned her to you."
Then Cedric nodded.
"I shall be back at Chelsea on Friday, if you like to come to me
then; but the guest-chamber is remarkably small--at present it holds
all my lumber and little else." But as Cedric professed himself
indifferent on the subject of his own comfort--an assertion that
drew a covert smile from his friend's lips--the matter was soon
An animated conversation ensued, consisting mainly of a disjointed
monologue on Cedric's part; for Malcolm Herrick only contributed a
laconic remark or question at intervals, but there was a kindly
gleam in his eyes as he listened, as though the fair, closely-
cropped head lying back on the shabby cushion, with the eager bright
young face, was a goodly spectacle.
At first sight the friendship between these two men seemed
singularly ill-assorted; for what possible affinity could there be
between a thoughtful, intellectual man like Malcolm Herrick, with
his habitual reserve, his nature refined, critical, and yet
imaginative, with its strong bias to pessimism, and its intolerance
of all shams, and Cedric, with his facile, pleasure-loving
temperament, at once indolent and mercurial--a creature of moods and
tenses, as fiery as a Welshman, but full of lovable and generous
The disparity between their ages also seemed to forbid anything like
equality of sympathy. Malcolm was at least eight or nine years
older, and at times he seemed middle-aged in Cedric's eyes. "He is
such a regular old fossil," he would say--"such a cut and dried
specimen of humanity, that it is impossible to keep in touch with
him; it stands to reason that we must clash a bit; but there, in
spite of his cranks, Herrick is a good fellow." But, notwithstanding
this faint praise, the inhabitants of the Wood House knew well that
there was no one whom Cedric valued more than his friend Malcolm
FALLEN AMONG THIEVES
Why insist on rash personal relations with your friend?
Why go to his house, or know his mother and brother and
sisters? Why be visited by him at your own? Are these
things material to our covenant? Leave this touching
and clawing. Let him be to me a spirit.--EMERSON.
Malcolm Herrick was a devout disciple of Emerson. He always spoke of
him as one of the master minds that dominated humanity. "He is the
chosen Gamaliel at whose feet I could sit for ever," he would say;
"on every subject he speaks well and wisely;" and once, when he was
strolling through Kensington Gardens with his sister-friend, Anna
Sheldon, he had electrified her by quoting a favourite passage from
his essay on friendship.
"Friendship requires that rare mean betwixt likeness and unlikeness
that piques each with the presence of power and of consent in the
other party. Let me be alone to the end of the world, rather than
that my friend should overstep, by a word or look, his real
sympathy. I am equally baulked by antagonism and by compliance. Let
him not cease an instant to be himself.... Better be a nettle in the
side of your friend than his echo."
Malcolm had uttered the last sentence in rather a tragic tone, but
he was somewhat offended when the girl laughed. "What an odd idea!"
she observed innocently. "I should strongly object to anything so
stinging as a nettle; perhaps it is because I am a woman that I
should prefer the echo;" but Malcolm, who had received a douche of
cold water from this feminine criticism, declined to be drawn into a
discussion on the subject.
"Women are so illogical," he muttered angrily, and Anna's heaven of
content was suddenly clouded. Malcolm's approval was vitally
necessary to her happiness--a chilling word from him had power to
spoil the fairest landscape and blot out the sunshine; nevertheless
she took her rebuff meekly and without retort.
A mere chance, an accident in the destinies of both men, had brought
about this acquaintance between Malcolm Herrick and Cedric
Templeton. The vice-president of Magdalene was an old friend of the
Herrick family, and was indeed distantly related to Mrs. Herrick;
and after Malcolm had taken his degree and left Lincoln, he often
spent a week or two with Dr. Medcalf. He was an old bachelor, and
one of the most sociable of men, and his rooms were the envy of his
friends. Malcolm was a great favourite with him, and was always
welcome when he could spare time to run down for a brief visit.
About two years before, he was spending a few days with his friend,
when one evening as he was strolling down Addison's Walk in the
gloaming, his attention was attracted by a young undergraduate. He
was seated on a bench with his head in his hands; but at the sound
of passing footsteps he moved slightly, and Malcolm caught sight of
a white boyish face and haggard eyes that looked at him a little
wildly; then he covered his face again. Malcolm walked on a few
steps; his kind heart was shocked at the lad's evident misery, but
to his reserved nature it was never easy to make the first advance;
indeed, he often remarked that he had rather a fellow-feeling with
the Levite who passed by on the other side.
"I daresay he was sorry for the poor traveller in his heart," he
observed, "but it takes a deal of moral courage to be a Good
Samaritan; it is not easy for a shy man, for example, to render
first aid to a poor chap with a fractured limb in the middle of a
crowd of sympathising bystanders--one's self-consciousness and
British hatred of a scene seem to choke one off."
So, true to his diffident nature, Malcolm walked to the other end of
Addison's Walk; then something seemed to drag at him, and he
retraced his steps slowly and reluctantly; finally, as though
constrained by some unseen power that overmastered his reserve, he
sat down on the bench and touched the youth lightly on the arm.
"You are in trouble, I fear; is there anything I can do to help
The words were simple almost to bluntness, but they were none the
worse for that, for they rang true from a good heart.
Malcolm's voice was pleasant; when he chose, it could be both
winning and persuasive; to the lad sitting there in the Egyptian
darkness of a terrifying despair, it sounded honey-sweet. He put out
a hot hand to his new friend, and then broke into a fit of tears and
sobs. "Oh, can you help me?" he gasped out. "I wanted to drown or
hang myself, sooner than disgrace them; only I thought of Dinah and
I couldn't do it;" and then as he grew calmer a little judicious
questioning and a few more kind words brought out the whole story.
He had fallen into bad hands; two or three men older and richer than
himself had got hold of him for their own purposes, and had led him
into mischief. The culminating misfortune had happened the previous
evening, when they had induced him to play at cards; the stakes were
high, though the boy was too much fuddled by champagne to guess
"They made me drunk, sir," groaned Cedric; "and there was a
professional sharper there--Wright has just told me so--and he will
not let me off. If they found out things at headquarters I should be
rusticated, and I am only in my first term. The Proctor has vowed to
make an example of the next fellow caught gambling, and they say he
always keeps his word."
"How much do you owe?" asked Malcolm; and when Cedric in a low voice
mentioned the sum, Malcolm gave a whistle of dismay. No wonder he
was in despair.
"If I had not drunk too much, I should have stopped playing when I
saw I was losing," went on Cedric in a contrite tone; "but they
plied me with liquor, and I got reckless, and then I knew no more
till I found myself in bed with my clothes on."
Cedric was not shirking the truth certainly. The young prodigal
already realised the nature of the husks given to him; he was so low
and abject in his abasement that a word of rebuke would have seemed
cruel. One thing was certain, that matters were serious--gambling
and drunkenness were no light offences.
Malcolm had already been put into possession of the youth's domestic
history. His name was Cedric Templeton; his parents were dead, and
he was dependent on his half-sisters; his father had had heavy
losses, and Cedric's inheritance had been small. The first Mrs.
Templeton had brought her husband great wealth, but the money had
been settled on the daughters. Mr. Templeton's second wife was a
penniless girl. She had died two or three years after Cedric's
birth, and Dinah, the elder sister, had mothered him.
"You must put a good face on it and write to your sister," continued
Malcolm. "If you take my advice, Templeton, you will keep nothing
back--' the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth'--and
hang the consequences." Malcolm finished his sentence with a touch
of impatience, for the boy's scared face almost frightened him.
"No, no, no!" returned Cedric vehemently. "I would sooner drown
myself a hundred times over. Look here," plucking at Malcolm's coat-
sleeve with his feverish, restless hand, "you don't understand--you
don't know Dinah; she would break her heart, and Elizabeth too. They
are such good women, they don't allow for a fellow's temptation;
and--and I have broken my word."
"How do you mean, my dear lad?"
"I gave them my sacred promise not to play for money. I don't know
why Dinah was always so afraid of that. They never thought of the
other thing," and Cedric hung his head in shame--"they would not
believe it was possible; it was always debt and not paying one's
bills that Dinah feared."
"Your sister was right, Templeton," returned Malcolm somewhat
sternly. "Wait a moment, I must think over things and see what is to
be done;" and then he rose from the bench and paced slowly up and
down. "A hundred and twenty pounds lost in a single night to a
professional card-sharper," he thought. "The rogues ought to be
shown up, only this would involve the end of the lad's university
career." Malcolm knew the Proctor well--not even a first offence
would receive a merciful verdict.
If only the boy would throw himself upon his sisters' compassion--
women were so soft-hearted and forgave so easily. But Cedric had
refused this; he had even used strong language when his adviser
"Obstinate young beggar," he growled; "it would serve him right to
let him get out of the mess by himself;" and then he relented from
his severity, and rapidly added up some sums in his head. The result
of his calculation was satisfactory. He had just that amount lying
idle at his banker's. His mother made him a liberal allowance, and
he was beginning to turn an honest penny by literary work. At that
time he was still an occupant of his mother's house, so his expenses
were not great.
"Yes, I will risk it," he thought, with one of those sudden impulses
that took other people as well as himself by surprise, and then he
walked quickly up to Cedric.
"Look here, Templeton," he exclaimed, "I have made up my mind to go
bail for the whole amount. It is too late now to do anything, but
to-morrow I will see those fellows and give them a bit of my mind.
Your friend the card-sharper will have to make tracks. Anyhow, I
will pay up."
"Good heavens, Mr. Herrick, you don't mean--you don't mean;" but
here Cedric could not utter a word more, for his voice was choked
with sobs. Malcolm could just gather a few incoherent expressions--
"benefactor"--"God bless him"--"eternal gratitude," or some such
"Tut, nonsense," returned Malcolm testily; but his eyes were not
quite clear, and he laid a kindly hand on the boy's shoulder. "I
want no thanks, only you must promise me, on your word as an English
gentleman, never to play for money as long as you are here."
"I promise--I will vow if you like--there is nothing--nothing that I
would not promise you. Mr. Herrick, you have saved me from disgrace,
and Dinah from a broken heart."
"No, please let me say one thing more. It is a loan--of course I
understand that; it may be years before I pay it back, but if I live
it shall be paid back, every penny."
"Oh, we can talk about that in the future," returned Malcolm
quickly. He had little hope that Cedric would ever be able to repay
"It shall be paid," replied the lad firmly. "My sisters are very
good to me--and I have more than I need;" and Malcolm's good sense
and knowledge of human nature made him hold his tongue.
It would be a pity to damp the lad's good resolution, and probably
the small sacrifices and petty self-denials necessary to the
settlement of the debt would be valuable training, and help to make
a man of him; so he said nothing further on the subject, and a few
minutes later they parted.
Malcolm kept his promise, and before the next day was over he had
paid Cedric's debt of honour, with a stern word of caution to his
tempters that turned them chill with dismay.
From this day Cedric attached himself to his benefactor with a dog-
like fidelity and devotion that secretly touched Malcolm. During the
latter's brief visits to Oxford they were seldom apart; and in spite
of the disparity between their ages, and the marked difference in
their tastes, a warm mutual attachment sprang up between the two.
Malcolm was soon put in possession of Cedric's history and manner of
life from his boyhood; he listened to copious anecdotes of his home
He was soon made aware of Cedric's crowning ambition to take part in
the Oxford and Cambridge race, and that this honour was the dream
and purpose of his life.
His other purpose, to compete for the Civil Service Examination at
the close of his university life, seemed relegated to the background
and scarcely entered into his thoughts at all; and though Malcolm
dropped a warning word from time to time, he dared not put too much
pressure on the lad, for he recognised intuitively how body and mind
were developing under an athlete's training. Cedric's fame as an
oarsman soon reached the ears of authority, and at the time of his
visit to Lincoln's Inn it was already a foregone conclusion that his
name would be entered for the next race.
They talked of this for some time; and then, as the storm still
raged, Malcolm handed his visitor his own copy of the Times, and sat
down to answer one or two pressing letters. As soon as these were
finished and Malachi had received his instructions for the next day,
he tilted his chair back from the table and disposed himself
comfortably for further talk.
But first there was a little dumb-show on Cedric's part; for he drew
from his breast-pocket a Russian leather cigarette-case and held it
out with a significant smile. But Malcolm waved it away.
"Avaunt, Satanus," he said with dignity. "Are you aware, my dear
fellow, that you are in a place of business--a venerable institution
sacred to the Muses--and that I have to live up to my reputation?"
"Oh, I thought you were boss of the whole concern," returned Cedric
in a discomfited tone. "You are pretty safe from visitors on such an
"Even if there are no clients, we have a minor prophet always on
hand," replied Malcolm.
Then Cedric laughed.
"Mealy Murphy! Oh my prophetic soul, I forgot the youthful Malachi.
I say, Herrick, I was just thinking, as you were writing just now,
how odd it seems that I have known you just two years, and you have
never been near the Wood House yet."
"It has not been for want of invitations," returned his friend with
a smile. "Don't you remember that when you first kindly asked me I
had arranged to take my mother abroad, and the next time I was going
to Scotland with a friend?"
"Oh yes, and the third time you were moving into your new diggings
in Cheyne Walk." Cedric spoke with a touch of impatience.
"But we have often met at Oxford," observed Malcolm smilingly. And
then he coloured slightly and continued in an embarrassed voice, "I
am afraid, my dear fellow, that you have rather wondered that you
have not been invited to No. 27 Queen's Gate; but, as I once
explained to you, the house belongs to my mother."
"Just as the Wood House belongs to Dinah and Elizabeth," returned
"Ah, just so; but there is a difference. My mother is not quite like
other ladies. Her life, and I may say the greater part of her
fortune, are devoted to charitable objects. If I had invited you to
stay with us you would have been simply bored to death. Amusement,
social obligations, the duties we owe to society, do not belong to
my mother's creed at all. If I might borrow a word from a renowned
novelist, I would call her 'a charitable grinder,' for she grinds
from morning till night at a never-ceasing wheel of committees,
meetings, and Heaven knows what besides."
"She reminds me of the immortal Mrs. Jellyby," observed Cedric
airily; but Malcolm shook his head.
"No, there is no resemblance. My mother is a clear-headed, practical
woman. She manages her house herself, and the domestic machinery
goes like clockwork. The servants know their duty and do their work
well; and I have heard our old nurse say that one could eat off the
floor; but in spite of all this the word 'comfort' does not enter my
"Good gracious! Herrick."
"She has splendid health," continued Malcolm gravely, "and work is a
perfect passion with her. She is energy incarnate, and among her
fellow-workers she is much respected. Unfortunately she expects her
belongings to live up to her standard." Here Malcolm paused.
"You mean Miss Sheldon has to work too?" observed Cedric.
"Yes, I mean that," returned Malcolm slowly. "She is very fond of my
mother--they are much attached to each other--but there is no doubt
that Anna works too hard. You can see now," he went on hurriedly,
"why I thought it better to take rooms for myself. I was not in
sympathy with my mother's pursuits; and when I left Oxford I soon
began to realise that life was impossible under my mother's roof.
The separation was painful to us both, and it nearly broke Anna's
heart, but at the present moment I do not think that any of us
repents of my action."
"You are all right now, Herrick?"
"Yes, I am all right, as you will see for yourself on Friday. My
crib just suits me. I have excellent companionship when I want it,
or solitude if I prefer it, and though life at Cheyne Walk is a
trifle Bohemian after Queen's Gate, I would not exchange it for a
"I am so glad to hear you say that. But, Herrick, I begin to be
afraid, don't you know, that you will find the Wood House slow. Of
course I think no end of my sisters; but you see they are not
"So I imagine," returned Malcolm, who was secretly disposed to agree
with Cedric. Two maiden ladies of uncertain age might be endeared to
their brother; but Malcolm, who was rather fastidious on the subject
of female beauty, was not over-anxious to cultivate their
"Dinah is much older than Elizabeth," continued Cedric
confidentially. "There were two or three brothers and sisters
between them, only they died. She is over forty, you know, and
Elizabeth is nearly thirty. There is a good bit of difference--only
she never makes herself out young. You will be sure to like them,"
went on the lad eagerly; "they are good women, and just your sort."
"Oh, I daresay we shall get on first-rate," returned Malcolm
mendaciously, for he was anything but certain of it. "Hallo, old
fellow," interrupting himself, "the storm is over and we can make
tracks now." And then they went out together.
As they parted at the Temple station, Cedric pushed a little sealed
packet into his friend's hand.
"It is the first instalment," he whispered, growing very red; "don't
open it till you get back." But Malcolm's curiosity would not allow
him to wait; and when Cedric had disappeared into the station he
broke the seal. To his surprise there were fifty pounds in notes and
gold, the saving and scrapings of two years.
"Good lad," he murmured approvingly, as he stowed it carefully away
in a breast-pocket, and a thrill of pride and pleasure shot through
him. Yes, he must keep it, he thought; he could not affront his
young manliness and independence by returning it. "It is what I
should have done in his case," he said to himself. And then he
thought that he would lay out part in buying a keepsake for Anna.
There was a little brooch she had much admired, a mere toy of a
thing, a tiny quiver full of arrows, studded with small diamonds and
tipped with a pearl. The shop where they had noticed it was close
by, and he would buy it at once. But as Malcolm hurried off on this
kindly errand he little realised what the joy of that possession
would be to Anna Sheldon.
A PAGE OF ANCIENT HISTORY
Before we can bring happiness to others, we must first
be happy ourselves; nor will happiness abide within us
unless we confer it on others.--MAETERLINCK.
During the preceding hour or two Malcolm's face had worn its
brightest and most youthful aspect--the society of Cedric had roused
him and taken him out of himself; but as he approached the handsome
and imposing-looking house where his mother lived, his countenance
resumed its normal gravity.
To him it had been a house of bondage, and he had never regarded it
as a home; his environment from boyhood had not suited him, and
though he loved his mother, and gave her, at least outwardly, the
obedience and honour that were due to her, there had not been that
sympathy between them that one would have expected from an only son
to a widowed mother.
Malcolm's father had died when he was about six years old, but his
infant recollections of him were wonderfully vivid. He remembered
waking up one night from some childish dream that had frightened
him, to see a kind face bending over him, and to feel warm, strong
arms lifting him up.
"Never mind, Sonny, father's with you," he heard a cheery voice say.
"Daddy's wid baby," he repeated drowsily, as he nestled down in his
father's arms. "Nice, nice daddy," and two hot little hands patted
Then a voice in the distance said, "You are spoiling him, Rupert.
Malcolm ought to be a brave boy and not cry on account of a silly
dream." Of course it was his mother who spoke; even from his infancy
her method of education had been bracing. "Baby isn't a boy,
movver," he had once said in extenuation of some childish fault;
"movver must not punish Baby."
The memories of early childhood are always vague and hazy; but in
the distance, among shifting forms and changing prospects, there was
always a big, big figure, with kind eyes and strong arms, looming
largely in his recollection.
"If my father had lived, I know we should have been such friends,"
Malcolm would sigh to himself in his growing youth; and though his
mother never suspected it, he often looked at his father's portrait
that hung in her dressing-room, until his eyes were full of tears.
"If father had lived, I shouldn't have been so lonely and out of it
all," he would say as he turned away with a quivering lip.
Mrs. Herrick tried to do her duty by the boy; but she was a busy
woman, and had no leisure to devote to his amusement. The long
holidays were more pleasant in anticipation to both mother and son
than they proved in reality.
In the working hive at 27 Queen's Gate there seemed no place for the
restless, growing lad. His mother was always shut up in the library,
where she wrote her endless letters and reports and added up her
accounts, and Anna was with her governess.
Malcolm would be put in Anderson's charge, the steady, reliable
butler and factotum, and introduced to all the sights of London--
Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's, the Tower, and the British Museum,
the Zoological Gardens, and Madame Tussaud's. Sometimes they went to
Kew, or Richmond Park, or took the steamer to Hampton Court. The
nearest approach to dissipation was an afternoon spent with the
Christy Minstrels. Mrs. Herrick would not hear of the theatre; but
once, sad to relate, when Anderson was indisposed, and the footman,
a rather feeble-minded young man, had been sent with Malcolm to see
a panorama that was considered interesting and instructing, Malcolm,
by sundry bribes and many blandishments, had seduced his guardian
into accompanying him to Drury Lane, where they sat in the pit, side
by side, and watched with breathless interest the never-to-be-
forgotten pantomime of "Jack and the Bean Stalk."
"They'll run you in for this, Master Malcolm," Charles had observed
ruefully, as they hurried through the dark streets. "If I lose my
place it will be all along of you, and it is a good place too,
though Mr. Anderson is a bit down on one." But, strange to say, they
escaped scot-free. Mrs. Herrick had not returned from a monster
meeting at St. James's Hall, and Anderson had retired to bed to
nurse his cold. Malcolm confided the whole story of his escapade to
Anna, and she had wept with grief and dismay. "Oh, Mally, how wicked
of Charles to take you!" she sobbed. "I never did think he looked
quite good. Mother would be so angry and unhappy if she knew; she
says theatres are not good for young people."
"It is just a crank on mother's part," returned Malcolm loudly; his
eyes were bright with excitement. "It was the loveliest thing you
ever saw, Anna. The princess was a beauty, and no mistake; even
Charles thought so, and he has seen princesses by the score. I am
glad I went; the boys won't think me such a duffer when I tell them.
Don't shake your head, Anna; you are a girl, and you don't
understand how much one has to put up with from the fellows. They
call me the Puritan, and ask if I wear pinafores at home. But I
stopped that," and here Malcolm doubled up his fists in a singularly
Malcolm's only sister, a pretty, fair-haired girl, had died of fever
when she was eight years old, and for years Mrs. Herrick had felt
her loss too deeply to mention her name. "If Florence had lived,"
she once said rather bitterly to her son, "she would have been my
close companion, and we should have thought alike on all points;"
but it may be doubted if this maternal dream would ever have been
A mere accident had led to the adoption of Anna Sheldon shortly
after Florence's death. She was the orphan child of a young artist
in whom Mrs. Herrick had interested herself, and when the broken-
hearted wife had followed her husband, Mrs. Herrick had taken the
lonely child home.
The kind action had brought its own reward. Anna's gentleness and
sweetness of disposition soon won the affection of her adopted
mother. She was submissive by nature, and yielded readily to the
opinions and wishes of those she loved. Mrs. Herrick's ideas on the
subject of education might be bracing and invigorating, but there
was nothing oppressive in her rule. Perhaps she understood girls
better than boys, for Anna thrived under her system. The old nurse
Mrs. Dawson, who still officiated as Mrs. Herrick's personal
attendant, taught her needle-work: an excellent governess, who was
both judicious and reasonable, presided over the schoolroom and
accompanied her in her walks; nor was she entirely without
companions, for she attended dancing and deportment classes with the
young daughters of their vicar, a much-esteemed guide, philosopher,
and friend to the Herrick family.
Until the governess, Miss Greenwood, left them to be married, and
Anna grew up to woman's estate, her life was as happy as most
girls'. The chief events in it were Malcolm's holidays. Anna looked
forward to them for months beforehand, and she always cried herself
to sleep the day he left.
She and her adopted mother were the best of friends. Anna regarded
Mrs. Herrick as one of the noblest of women, and her dutiful
submission and anxiety to please her benefactress secretly surprised
Mrs. Herrick was not a demonstrative woman, but in her own way she
was very good to Anna; she encouraged her to call her mother, bought
her pretty dresses and ornaments such as girls loved, but there
Anna's list of privileges was at an end. It never struck Mrs.
Herrick that she had simply no life of her own--that at seventeen or
eighteen a girl craves for congenial companionship, pleasant
occupation, and a fair amount of amusement.
When Anna was liberated from the schoolroom, she would have liked to
go to picture-galleries, attend concerts, and mix with interesting
people; in spite of her shyness and gentleness, she had plenty of
mind and character, and Malcolm had already cultivated her artistic
tastes. One summer, indeed, they had gone abroad, and Malcolm had
been with them, and for two months Anna felt they had been in the
anteroom of Paradise.
"The summer we spent in Switzerland and in the Austrian Tyrol," were
words perpetually on Anna's lips. Poor child, she little guessed, as
she built up wonderful castles in the air, that it would be long
before she had such a holiday again.
It was an evil moment for Anna when she volunteered to learn
typewriting, that she might help her adopted mother; from that day
she became the willing slave bound at the chariot wheels of a good-
natured despot. No amount of work tired Mrs. Herrick; she had the
strength and vitality of ten women. It never entered her head that a
growing girl in her teens was liable to flag and grow weary, and so
the pretty pink roses that had bloomed among Alpine snows faded out
of Anna's cheeks, and the soft brown eyes grew heavy.
Anna never complained; if her back ached and her head was hot and
throbbing, Mrs. Herrick never knew it, and she was quite indignant
when Malcolm spoke to her of Anna's changed looks.
"She is not strong, and she is doing far too much. Dawson and I both
think so." Perhaps he spoke with some degree of bluntness, for Mrs.
Herrick responded with unusual irritability.
"I am very much obliged to you and Dawson," she returned rather
sarcastically, "for your solicitude on Anna's account, but I believe
I am still quite equal to the charge of looking after her."
"Oh, if you take it in that way," retorted Malcolm in an offended
voice; and then Mrs. Herrick resumed her smooth manner. She was a
good-tempered woman, and seldom indulged in sarcasm; but things had
gone wrong that morning, and her young secretary had made several
mistakes. Anna had at last been obliged in her own self-defence to
own that she had a severe headache.
Mrs. Herrick had just sent her to her own room to lie down, and had
rung for Dawson to attend her. She was sadly inconvenienced by this
untoward accident, and it was at this inauspicious moment that
Malcolm lodged his complaint.
"If these headaches continue I shall ask Dr. Armstrong to look in,"
she continued tranquilly. "Anna's services are most valuable to me.
I almost feel lost without her. It was a good day for me when she
threw herself into the work; it makes me regret my dear child less,
to feel that Anna sympathises with me so entirely;" and, in spite of
himself, Malcolm felt a little touched by these words.
A few weeks later he spoke to Anna; the girl had not recovered her
looks, and Nurse Dawson told him privately that she was losing her
appetite and getting thin; but Anna's eyes filled with tears at the
"Oh hush, dear Malcolm, please," she said, encircling his wrist with
her soft hand; it was a favourite caress with her, and Malcolm used
playfully to term it "Anna's handcuff," or the "Sheldon shackles."
In spite of their close intimacy as brother and sister, he had never
kissed her, but there was entire confidence between them.
"Please, please, Malcolm, do not say any more; it was very wrong of
nurse to put these ideas in your head. You know mother spoke to Dr.
Armstrong, and he is giving me a tonic; he says I must go out more,
so mother is trying to spare me all she can."
"And the headaches are better?" Malcolm looked at her quite sternly
as he put the question.
"Yes, I think so--I hope so," rather hesitatingly, for Anna was
absolutely truthful. "I still feel rather stupid of an evening; but
mother is so good, she lets me go to bed early."
She sighed rather heavily. "I wish I were stronger, Malcolm. Nurse
says I have never been robust. I do so love to help mother. I always
feel as though I can never do enough to show my gratitude to her.
What would have become of me when my parents died if she had not
brought me here. We were so dreadfully poor, and had so few friends.
Oh Malcolm, think of it," and then she whispered in his ear, "they
would have taken me to the workhouse--there was nothing else."
"Nonsense--rubbish," began Malcolm wrathfully; but Anna put her hand
upon his lips.
"No, dear, not nonsense. I am telling you the sober truth--mother
would endorse it. Do you think I do not owe her a life's service and
love for all her dear care of me!"
"If I am tired, I glory in my fatigue, for it is for my adopted
mother and her poor that I am working;" and Anna's eyes were very
soft and bright. "Malcolm, you have no idea how much happier she is
now I share her work. I know she never complained of her loneliness-
-it is not her way to complain--but she has missed Florence so
terribly. We talk of her sometimes, mother and I," continued the
girl thoughtfully, "and she tells me what a sweet daughter she would
have been, and how we should have been sisters. It is so dear of her
never to exclude me, even when she is thinking and talking of
Florence. 'If my little girl had lived,' she said once, 'I should
have had two daughters.'"
Malcolm had to hold his tongue at last, but he grumbled freely to
Nurse Dawson. In her he had a staunch ally; the old woman was
devoted to Anna, and by no means sided with her mistress.
"You see it is just this way, Mr. Malcolm, my dear," she said to him
once; "the mistress, bless her heart, thinks of nothing but them
charitable societies, from morning till night; they are more to her
than meat or drink or rest. She is as strong as a horse, and so she
is never tired like other folks. Why, my dear, I have known her
spend a whole day going from one meeting to another, speechifying
and reading reports, and yet when I have gone up to dress her in the
evening she has been as fresh as paint. She is made of cast-iron,
that's my belief," continued Dawson, who secretly adored her
mistress; "but cast-iron is one thing and a fragile blossom like
Miss Anna is another, as I made bold to tell my mistress the other
day; 'for it stands to reason, ma'am,' I said to her, 'that a young
creature like Miss Anna is not seasoned and toughened like a lady of
your age, and I never did think much of her constitution.'"
"And what did my mother say to that, Dawson?"
"Well, dearie, she had a deal to say, for I am free to confess that
my mistress is never at a loss for words. She argued with me for
pretty nigh half an hour--until she made things look so different
that I did not know whether I was on my head or my heels."
"She would have it that every one ought to work, old or young, rich
or poor; that she loved Miss Anna all the better for so readily
offering herself for the work. 'I should have left her free,' she
said that, Mr. Malcolm--'no one in my house should be compelled or
urged to put their hand to the plough; but when she came to me of
her own accord I could have wept with joy.'"
"Did my mother really say that, Dawson?"
"Ay, Mr. Malcolm, she did; and begging your pardon, dearie, you do
not half understand my mistress. She is quiet-spoken, and does not
show her feelings; but she has a warm heart. I know as well as you
do that our poor child is put upon and overworked, but she is the
sunshine of my mistress's life; that's what makes things so
difficult, for Miss Anna is bent on helping her, and will not listen
to a word."
Malcolm soon found he must hold his peace, and very soon his mind
was too much absorbed by his own concerns. After a time he got used
to Anna's pale cheeks; she had refused to listen to his advice, and
must dree her weird.
He had his own battles to fight, and victory was not easily
achieved; nevertheless his masculine will prevailed.
It was no hastily considered resolution that determined Malcolm to
leave his mother's roof and set up in chambers of his own, neither
did he effect his purpose without a good deal of pain; but, as he
told Cedric, life at 27 Queen's Gate was becoming impossible to him.
But it was one of the worst moments of his life when he announced
his intention to his mother. She listened to his embarrassed
explanation silently, and without offering any interruption; but her
pleasant, strong-featured face grew set and stern, and when he had
finished she looked at him almost solemnly.
"He was the only son of his mother, and she was a widow," she said
slowly and sadly, and no word of reproach could have stung him more
deeply. It made him angry.
"Mother, you have no right to say that, and to speak as though I
were failing in my duty towards you," he returned indignantly; "it
is not fair--all my life I have tried to please you, and to carry
out your wishes."
"I am not complaining of you, Malcolm," she replied quietly; "your
own conscience is accusing you, not your mother. Would you have me
suppress the truth or tell you a lie? Do you think any mother could
listen unmoved to what you have told me just now--that you intend to
leave my roof, that my only son finds his home so uncongenial, and
his life here so irksome, that he is forced to quit it?"
"Mother, you are making things worse and worse," returned Malcolm
passionately; "you are putting matters in a wrong light. Will you
listen to me a moment?"
"Have I ever refused to listen to you, my son?" and a softer and
more motherly expression came into the gray eyes.
"No, you have always been kind," he replied; but there was a slight
quiver in his voice. "Mother, it is not my fault--at least I hope
not--that we think so differently on most subjects. I am nearly
eight-and-twenty, and at that age a man is bound to do the best for
"I hoped you would have married before this, Malcolm."
"There is no question of marrying at present," he returned in a
constrained voice. "I have not yet seen the woman whom I wish to
make my wife."
Then a singular expression crossed Mrs. Herrick's face.
"I am sorry to hear that, Malcolm; I would have willingly given you
up to a wife, but life in chambers seems to me so Bohemian."
"It is only an idea," he returned impatiently. "Mother dear, try to
believe that I am doing it for the best--for both our sakes. I am
not leaving you alone--you have Anna; and in spite of all your
kindness to me, I am well aware that I have never been any real help
or comfort; if I thought you needed me--that you relied on me for
assistance or protection--I would never have carved out this
"It is the spirit of the age," she returned a little bitterly; "it
is the children who make terms, and the parents who have to yield
"That is an old argument, mother," replied Malcolm wearily; "how
often we have gone over that ground, you and I. When our wills have
clashed it seems to me the concessions have all been on my side. How
many men of my age do you suppose would have yielded to you in the
matter of a latch-key? Poor old Anderson has been the chief
sufferer, and the victim of your strictness; do you think it has not
troubled me to keep him up night after night?"
"Anderson is my servant, and has to do his duty," replied Mrs.
Herrick rather stiffly.
"And he has done it," was Malcolm's answer; "he has been perfectly
conscientious; if he grumbled a bit now and then, no one could
wonder, at his age. Mother, it is no good talking--it is not only
the question of the latch-key, I want to have a place where I can be
free to lead my own life and see my own friends; there is no room
for them here--your busy life is too much crowded up with work to
have leisure for society."
"I have never refused to entertain your friends, Malcolm;" and a
dull red flush crossed the mother's face, as though this reproach
had gone home.
"Possibly not," rather coldly, "I do not think I have ever asked
you; but, mother, let us make an end of this. The first break will
be painful to all of us, but we shall soon shake down, and then you
and Anna will own that it was for the best. When you want me I shall
always be at your service. I shall see you every few days--Cheyne
Walk and Queen's Gate are not very far apart. As soon as I am
settled, you and Anna must come and have tea with me, and I must
introduce you to the Kestons. Now, mother dear, say something
comforting to a fellow;" and then Mrs. Herrick smiled faintly. She
loved her son far too well to hurt him by her reproaches; in her
secret heart she strongly disapproved of the step he was taking, but
she was a sensible woman, and knew that it was no good crying over
At eight-and-twenty a man may refuse with some show of reason to be
attached to his mother's leading-strings, and may also be permitted
to strike out new paths for himself. Nevertheless, for many a long
day Mrs. Herrick carried a heavy heart, and only her adopted
daughter guessed how sorely Malcolm was missed by his mother.
Better to feel a love within
Than be lovely to the sight!
Better a homely tenderness
Than beauty's wild delight!
Malcolm often spent a night at Queen's Gate; he made a point of
never refusing his mother's invitations, and would even put off an
engagement if she needed him. On this occasion he had promised to
remain two nights.
A meeting on behalf of a college in Japan, for training; native
candidates for holy orders, was to be held at 27 Queen's Gate that
evening, and some excellent speakers--women as well as men--had been
announced for that occasion. Mrs. Herrick thought the whole subject
would appeal to Malcolm, and in this she was not wrong. Hitherto he
had fought shy of zenana meetings, barmaid associations, working
girls' clubs, open-air spaces, and people's parks, and even cabmen's
shelters and drinking fountains.
"They were all good and worthy objects," he had observed to Anna,
and he could have tackled them singly, but not when they were piled
on ad nauseum. But the Japanese college had been largely discussed
in his special circle, and also in the paper of which he was the
editor--the Times had even devoted one of its columns to the
subject; and Mrs. Herrick had been secretly much gratified by
Malcolm's readiness to be present.
"The Bishop will be with us," she said, with an inflexion of pride
in her tone; "he is over here just now on account of his wife's
health, and has promised to take the chair." Then Malcolm signified
his perfect willingness to make his Lordship's acquaintance, and to
listen to any amount of speeches; and Mrs. Herrick had gone to her
bed that night a happy woman.
Why could not Malcolm be always like that? she thought, and then she
sighed gently as she took her Bible in her hand.
It opened of its own accord at Samuel's childhood and Hannah's
solemn dedication of her first-born; no passages in the well-read
book had been more frequently perused.
Of all the characters of holy writ, this Jewish mother appealed most
forcibly to her imagination: the little coat brought year by year to
the Temple child, the precious sacrifice and oblation made in
gratitude for an answered prayer, the pride and joy of the mother's
heart, as she stood in the court of the women and saw her boy
ministering in his fair linen ephod, seemed to touch her
irresistibly, and in her secret soul she had envied Hannah.
The evening was to be devoted to this important meeting, but the
next day Malcolm had promised to take Anna for an outing--it would
be her birthday--and already they had made and rejected many plans.
Kew, Richmond, Hampton Court, and Henley had all been proposed; but
Anna had been indifferent to each. She had been to the Royal Academy
more than once, and all the best concerts were over; the weather was
too hot for sight-seeing, and in her present state of languor she
dreaded fatigue and crowds. "What did the place matter after all,"
she said to herself, "as long as Malcolm was with her? Her rest and
enjoyment were in his society--to sit beside him and listen to his
dear voice, and tell him all her little joys and troubles."
The programme was still a blank when Malcolm knocked at his mother's
door. Anderson received him with a beaming face. The old man had
grown a trifle stiff and rheumatic of late years, but he still kept
a sharp eye on his coadjutor--the weak-minded and erring Charles.
"They are not expecting you just yet, Mr. Malcolm," observed
Anderson respectfully; "the mistress has a committee in the library,
and Miss Anna is in the drawing-room along with Charles and the
carpenter, arranging the seats."
"What time do they dine, Anderson?" Malcolm put the question with
some indifference--he knew quite well what the answer would be.
"Why, you see, Mr. Malcolm, it is past six now," returned Anderson
apologetically, "and the meeting's for eight, and the mistress said
there would be no time for dinner as the committee would not break
up until seven, so she will have a cup of tea and a sandwich."
"Oh, indeed," returned Malcolm drily. "I suppose Miss Anna and I are
to be regaled on the same fare."
"No, sir, I think not. I believe Miss Anna and Dawson have contrived
some sort of meal for you in the schoolroom. They have done their
best, Mr. Malcolm; but what with committees and deputations and
Heaven knows what, my mistress has been driven almost out of her
senses. The maids are in the dining-room now, for there's to be tea
and light refreshment; and they've been behindhand too with the
plants from Covent Garden, drat them," muttered the old man
irritably. He was a faithful servant, and true to his mistress's
interests; but he was growing old, and there were times when he
longed to sit quietly under his own fig tree, in the Surrey village
where he was born, where meetings and committees were unknown.
"Never mind, Anderson," returned Malcolm pleasantly, "we cannot
entertain a Bishop without some degree of fuss and discomfort. I
will go up and find Miss Anna; I daresay she has nearly finished."
But as he ascended the handsome staircase, he was not so certain in
his own mind that this was a foregone conclusion; and again he
blessed the day when he had pitched his tent in the quiet pasturage
of Chelsea, where bishops and committees and drawing-room meetings
never interrupted his lawful meals, or impaired his digestion; for
Malcolm, like many other men, abhorred that nondescript meal so dear
to the feminine mind, a meat tea. The wide, softly-carpeted
staircase led to a spacious landing-place, fitted up with couches
and easy-chairs, and ending in a small but pretty conservatory.
The drawing-room was a large, well-proportioned room, with a
curtained archway opening into a smaller one, which went by the name
of the music room. Here there was a grand piano and a fine
harmonium; the latter was Mrs. Herrick's special instrument. The
drawing-room wore its usual aspect on these occasions; rows of
chairs and cushioned benches occupied the entire floor space, and
overflowed into the inner apartment.
A crimson covered dais or platform, decorated with plants in full
bloom, and tall spreading palms, with a semicircle of comfortable
easy-chairs, was the chief feature in the arrangements; and here,
with the evening sunshine streaming on her, stood a tall slim girl
in a white dress, with a loose cluster of Shirley poppies in her
It made such a pretty picture that Malcolm stood quite spell-bound:
the crimson dais was such a rich background to the soft creamy white
of the girl's dress, while the poppies held so carelessly added to
the effect; even the sunshine filtering through the partially drawn
curtains gilded the fair hair until it shone like gold. Malcolm was
almost sorry when Anna caught sight of him, and ran down the steps
towards him with a bright smile of welcome, and two hands
"Oh, Malcolm, I never thought you would be here yet," she said, and
her voice was very soft and clear; "but I am so glad to see you, and
I have quite finished."
Anna Sheldon was not a pretty girl, but people always said she was
so interesting. Her figure was well formed and graceful, and her
expression and smile were remarkably sweet; but her features were by
no means faultless, and her want of colour was certainly a defect.
She had beautiful hair, which was fine and fluffy as a baby's; its
tint was rather too colourless, but she wore it in a style that
exactly suited her. At this moment, when her eyes were bright with
pleasure and there was a flush on her face, Anna certainly looked
pretty, but such moments were transient with her.
Malcolm pressed her hands affectionately; then he looked her over
with brotherly freedom.
"You look very nice, dear. I see you are dressed for the evening;
are those poppies part of the toilette?"
Then Anna laughed and fingered her pearl necklace as though she were
embarrassed by his scrutiny. "No, of course not--what an absurd
question. Fancy flowers at a drawing-room meeting. I am going to put
them in a vase directly. Now, as mother is engaged just now, I am
going to take you to the schoolroom, and nurse will give us
something to eat."
"Feminine nectar and ambrosia, I imagine," muttered Malcolm to
himself, for he had partaken frequently of these schoolroom feasts.
But he was determined to make the best of things during his short
visit, so he linked his arm in Anna's and said cheerfully, "Lead on,
Hebe, and don't scatter poppies as you go," which was exactly what
she was doing. The schoolroom was still Anna's special room,
although it had changed its character of late years. It was a large,
cheerful front room, two floors above the drawing-room, and Anna had
made it very pretty and comfortable. Here she kept her books and all
her treasures, and here her canaries twittered and sang in the
sunshine. Malcolm, who loaded her with presents, had himself
selected the handsomely framed prints that adorned the walls; his
favourite "Huguenot," and "The Black Brunswicker," and Luke Fildes's
"Doctor," and some of Leader's landscapes, had their places there.
In this room Anna spent her leisure hours, few and far between as
they were; here she read and thought and wrote her letters to
Malcolm--sweet, maidenly letters, which he read lightly and tossed
aside with a smile, not unkindly, but with the preoccupied
carelessness of a busy man.
The sound of their voices brought Dawson to the door. She was a
little pincushiony woman, with bunched-up gray curls, which she wore
in defiance of all prevailing fashions, and of which she was
secretly very proud;. her complexion was still as clear and pink as
a girl's; and her somewhat wide mouth was garnished by the whitest
of teeth. It was Dawson's boast that she had never sat in a
dentist's chair in her life.
"I am sixty-five if I am a day," she would say, with a quick little
birdlike nod that always emphasised her statements; "but there,
mother was eighty-three when the palsy took her, and she hadn't a
gap in her mouth, dear soul."
Malcolm always kissed his old nurse, for there was a warm attachment
between them; and indeed he never forgot that he had owed all his
childish comfort to her.
"Blessed is he who expecteth nothing," observes the wise man, and
Malcolm, who had indulged in moderate expectations in which the
teapot loomed largely, was somewhat surprised by the agreeable sight
of quite a tasteful little dinner-table laid for two, with a half-
filled vase in the centre for which the poppies were evidently
intended. Anna smiled delightedly when she saw his face, and at once
proceeded to arrange her flowers, while Dawson bustled about and
rang the bell, and chattered like an amiable magpie. In a very short
time the weak-minded Charles, now a reformed and steady character
and engaged to the head housemaid, brought in the tray, and a modest
and appetising little meal was served. Cutlets with sauce piquant
and pigeon pie, salad such as Malcolm loved, and a delicate pudding
which seemed nothing but froth and sweets, while an excellent bottle
of hock, sent up by Anderson, completed the repast.
"I wish mother could have joined us," observed Anna regretfully; "I
did my best to persuade her, but she said there was no time. The
people have not gone yet, and she has to dress, you see, so she said
she would have some tea in her dressing-room and talk to you later."
"I must just see about getting the mistress's things ready,"
interrupted Dawson, but she spoke in a grumbling tone. "Don't you
fash yourself, Mr. Malcolm,--I told Charles to unpack your Gladstone
and put out your clothes ready for the evening. My mistress won't be
dressed, you may take my word for it, for a good three-quarters of
an hour. There is nothing like a committee for dawdling along, and
keeping one standing on one leg as it were, like a pelican in the
wilderness, or a stuffed goose, or anything you like to call it.
Don't you let Mr. Malcolm hurry his dinner, Miss Anna, for there is
nothing so bad for the digestion; a good digestion comes next to a
good conscience in my opinion," and Dawson hurried away, all ready
primed with a scolding for her mistress--sandwiches being like the
proverbial red rag to a bull to this excellent woman.
"Such a pack of nonsense," she ejaculated, as she took down the
black satin dress from its place in the wardrobe and shook out its
lustrous folds, "a lady of her age, just passed fifty, and acting as
though she were in her teens;" for Dawson, who was a privileged
person, always spoke her mind to her mistress; indeed, it was
rumoured in the household that Mrs. Herrick stood somewhat in awe of
her faithful retainer, and it was certainly the fact that if any of
the servants had incurred their mistress's displeasure, Dawson was
always the mediator, and brought the apology or conciliatory
message. Mrs. Herrick had a great respect for the straightforward,
honest little woman, who was never afraid to speak the truth on any
occasion, and she was sufficiently magnanimous to forgive her sharp
"Dawson is worth her weight in gold," she would say sometimes. "When
the children were young I was never afraid to leave them in her
charge, I knew I could trust her;" and once she said with a sigh, "I
cannot forget her devotion to my dear Florence. She watched beside
her night and day, and yet there were other nurses. I shall never
forget her saying to me, 'Dear Miss Flo mustn't wake up and find
herself amongst strangers, or she will be scared, poor lamb. She
will like to see her old nurse's face, bless her,' and it seemed to
us all as though she lived without sleep. She was right too," went
on Mrs. Herrick softly, "for when Florence caught sight of her she
put out her arms with such a smile. 'It is my own dear nurse,' they
heard her say--those were my darling's last words."
When Dawson had left the room Malcolm looked at Anna with a smile.
"Well," he said tentatively, "have you made up your mind about to-
morrow; is it to be Kew, or Cookham and Henley?" But to his surprise
the question seemed to embarrass the girl.
"We have been so often to Kew," she returned in a hesitating voice;
"and though the Quarry woods are delightful, it will be so hot on
the river. There is something I should like so much better, but I am
afraid you will laugh at me." But as Malcolm continued to look at
her with an indulgent smile, she went on with renewed courage--
"I hope you will not think me absurd, but I should so love to see
your chambers in Lincoln's Inn, and Malachi, and the pigeons, and
little Kit with the curly red fringe, and the old cobbler; and
afterwards," and here Anna caught her breath with excitement, "we
could go to Cheyne Walk and have tea and look at the river and
"My dear child," in quite a startled voice, "what a programme for a
"It will be just lovely," returned Anna with sparkling eyes. "I do
so long to see Goliath and Yea-Verily and Babs. You know, Malcolm, I
have only been twice to your rooms in Cheyne Walk--once with mother,
and once when we had been to the Albert Hall--and each time the
Kestons were away."
"And you want to see little Verity. I am not sure that she is quite
up to your mark, Anna; she and Goliath are rather Bohemian."
"Oh, but you like her, and she makes you so happy and comfortable. I
want to know your friends, Malcolm; it seems to bring you nearer,"
and Anna's eyes grew wistful.
"Are you sure my mother will approve of your programme?"
Then Anna smiled and nodded assent.
"She will call me a silly, fanciful child," she replied laughing.
"Mother does not understand sentimentality; but I am a privileged
person on my birthday. Now, Malcolm, please do not throw cold water
on my little scheme."
"Certainly not; we will go to the Seven Dials if you like. Only I
wish I had known beforehand. Verity is occasionally like the
renowned Mother Hubbard, her cupboard is bare. You will have to put
up with plain bread and butter, I expect."
"What does that matter!" returned Anna scornfully. "Thank you,
Malcolm dear. Then we will have a real good time."
"I think we shall be able to carry out your modest programme,"
replied Malcolm. "Wait a moment, I have an idea. Suppose 'we beard
the lion in his den;' in other words, look up Caleb Martin and my
umbrella in Todmorden's Lane?" And then he gave Anna a graphic
account of the little adventure, and, as he expected, received her
"Oh yes, you shall take me there too," she observed. "I must see
that poor little Kit; it was so like you to think of her comfort;"
and here Anna laid a soft little hand on his coat-sleeve. "Malcolm,
I am afraid I ought not to let you talk any longer. I heard mother
go into her dressing-room ten minutes ago, and she is never long
over her toilet."
"That means I must get into my war paint too, or Dawson will be
coming in search of me;" and then he went off to his old room,
leaving Anna looking thoughtfully out of the window.
"To-morrow I shall be one-and-twenty," she said to herself; "it
seems a great age, but Malcolm is nearly nine years older." And then
she added to herself in a whisper, "And from morning to night we
shall be together, just he and I, our own two selves," and there was
a soft look of contentment on Anna's face.
MRS. HERRICK OBJECTS TO BOHEMIA
We fear originality as a coat which is too new, and do
our utmost to be like the rest of the world.--CARMEN
Life is work.... Life without work is unworthy of being
lived.--BISHOP EDWARD BICKERSTETH.
Twenty minutes later Malcolm knocked at the door of his mother's
dressing-room. A deep, sonorous voice bade him enter. As he did so
Mrs. Herrick laid down the book she was reading on the toilet-table,
and turned to greet him. "My dearest boy, how glad I am to see you!"
she exclaimed with a warm, motherly kiss. Then she put her hands on
his shoulders and regarded him with an affectionate smile that quite
lighted up her homely face. Even in her youth Mrs. Herrick had never
been handsome. Indeed, her old friends maintained that she was far
better-looking in her middle age, in spite of all her hard work and
that burning of the candle at both ends which is so abhorrent to the
well-regulated mind. Her features were strongly marked, and somewhat
weather-beaten, and the lower part of the face was too heavily
moulded, but the clear, thoughtful gray eyes had a pleasant light in
them. Malcolm was secretly very proud of his mother. He liked to
watch her moving among her guests in the dignified, gracious way
that was habitual to her.
"She is the very personification of an old-fashioned English
gentlewoman," he said once to Cedric; "but she is hardly modern
enough in her ideas. She takes things too seriously, and that bores
It must be confessed that to her young acquaintances Mrs. Herrick
was rather awe-inspiring. Mere pleasure-seekers--drones in the human
hive and all such ne'er-do-weels--were careful to give her a wide
berth. Her quiet little speeches sometimes had a sting in them. "She
takes the starch out of a fellow, don't you know," observed one of
these fashionable loafers, a young officer in the Hussars--"makes
him think he's a worm and no man, and that sort of thing; but she
doesn't understand us Johnnies." Perhaps Mrs. Herrick would
willingly have recalled her crushing speech when, years after, she
read the account of Charlie Gordon's death. "He would have had the
Victoria Cross if he had lived," exclaimed his weeping mother to
Mrs. Herrick. "They say he was the bravest and the finest officer
that they had ever known. You can read the account for yourself. All
those lives saved by his gallantry." But here the poor woman could
say no more. How could any woman bear to think of her boy standing
at bay in that dreadful defile, to gain a few precious moments until
"I wish I had not been so hard on him," thought Mrs. Herrick with a
remorseful recollection of the young officer's hurt look. "What
right had I to climb up into the judgment seat and rebuke one of
these little ones?" and for a long time after that she was more
gentle in her speeches.
"You look well, Malcolm," continued his mother with a satisfied air,
"in spite of the heat and thunder. Anna has been complaining of a
headache all day; but it was impossible for her to rest. However,
Dawson tells me she is better."
"Oh yes, I thought she looked much as usual. She is always rather
pale, you know. I need not ask how you are, mother--you look as fit
"Yes, I am very well, thank God! I sometimes think I have more than
my fair share of good health. Malcolm, as you are here, I want to
show you what I have chosen for Anna to-morrow," and she handed him
a small case. It contained one of those minute toy watches, set very
prettily with brilliants.
Malcolm lifted his eyelids in some surprise. "It is a perfect
beauty," he observed; "but you must have paid a goodish bit for it."
"It was certainly rather extravagant of me," returned Mrs. Herrick
apologetically; "but you know how girls love pretty things. Anna did
so long for one of these little watches, and you know it is her one-
and-twentieth birthday. By the bye, Malcolm, what have you two
arranged for to-morrow?" But when her son briefly sketched out
Anna's modest programme, Mrs. Herrick's pleasant face clouded a
"What a singular choice the child has made!" she observed. "Malcolm,
I am not particularly anxious for her to be introduced to your
Bohemian friends. Oh, I don't mean to say anything against the
Kestons," warned by a certain stiffness of manner on Malcolm's part-
-"I have never even seen them; but Anna and Mrs. Keston move in such
"Yes, of course," he returned rather impatiently; "but a mere
introduction need not lead to intimacy. Verity is a good little
creature, and her Bohemianism will not hurt Anna for one afternoon."
Mrs. Herrick's firm lips were pressed together rather closely as
Malcolm spoke, and her manner became still graver.
"Will you forgive my speaking plainly, Malcolm?" she said quietly,
"but I do think it such a grievous mistake for you to call Mrs.
Keston by her Christian name. You know I have mentioned this
before." Then Malcolm reddened; but though he laughed, he was
"I spoke without thinking," he returned, trying to control his
impatience, "but I suppose habit was too strong for me. There is
really no harm in it, mother. You know Keston is my most intimate
friend--he is one of the best fellows in the world--and it stands to
reason that his wife should be my good friend too."
"Yes, but there are limits, Malcolm."
"Of course there are limits," rather irritably; "but if I were to
talk for ever I should never make you understand, mother. In the
first place, you have never seen Verity--I mean Mrs. Keston. She is
the product of a modern age. From babyhood she has lived among
artists. She has imbibed their Bohemianism and learnt to talk their
jargon. A studio has been her nursery, playroom, and schoolroom, and
as soon as she grew up she married an artist."
"But all this does not prove that she is not to be treated with the
respect due to a married woman, Malcolm."
"My dear mother, there is no question of respect. There is not a man
who knows Mrs. Keston who does not esteem, and hold her in honour.
She is an original little person certainly, but a more loyal wife
and devoted mother never lived. He would be a bold man who ventured
to take a liberty with her, or to overstep the limits laid down by
her. He would soon feel the measure of Goliath's foot--in plain
words, he would find himself kicked downstairs by Amias Keston."
Mrs. Herrick shrugged her shoulders. The conversation bored her, and
as usual she found Malcolm a little impossible; he seemed so
determined to maintain his point.
"From the first Mrs. Keston wished me to call her by her Christian
name," he went on, "and Amias wished it too. We were on such
brotherly terms," he said, "that Verity--you see habit is too much
for me, mother--wished me to regard her as a younger sister."
"I thought you looked upon Anna as your sister, Malcolm;" but Mrs.
Herrick's keen gray eyes had a curious look in them--an acute
observer might almost have thought that she was hoping that her son
would contradict this statement.
"Oh, Anna," and then he laughed. "My dear mother, one cannot draw
comparisons between them--they are utterly dissimilar."
"So I imagine," was the dry response; and then Mrs. Herrick made an
effort to recover her wonted placidity. "Malcolm," she said, putting
her hand through his arm, "we must go downstairs now or the Bishop
will be arriving. I expect Anna is wondering what has become of us."
Which proved to be the case.
Malcolm soon regained his good-humour. His mother had rubbed him up
the wrong way, as usual, but his good sense told him that it was no
use resenting her plain-spoken remarks.
She had her own fixed opinions on every subject, and nothing could
move her out of her groove. She was a good woman and a kind-hearted
one, but the sense of humour was lacking in her. She disliked all
that she did not understand, and under the comprehensive term
Bohemianism, she embodied all that was irregular and contrary to her
"Herrick mere is a Philistine of the purest type," Amias Keston once
said to his wife. "No, I have never seen her, but I can draw my own
conclusions. Yea-Verily, my child, far be the day when that British
matron crosses our humble threshold."
Malcolm had determined not to disappoint his mother that evening, so
he banished all thoughts of his friends from his mind, and a few
minutes later he was showing people to their seats and chatting
pleasantly with his acquaintances.
Now and then, in the midst of her duties as a hostess, Mrs.
Herrick's eyes rested on her son's dark face with motherly pride and
He was doing his part so well--in his quiet, unobtrusive manner he
was making himself so agreeable. Oh, if he would only have stayed
with her, and been indeed the son of her right hand, and given
himself to the work; and then for a moment there was a filmy look in
the mother's eyes, and she listened a little absently to her
Malcolm did his part like a man. He applauded the speakers at
exactly the right moment, and when the meeting was over he actually
made a neat, telling little speech, conveying the vote of thanks to
the chairman; and both the manner and matter were so good that more
than one of Mrs. Herrick's friends observed to her that her son
would make his mark in the House.
Malcolm felt rewarded for his exertions when his mother wished him
"You have been my right hand this evening, Malcolm," she said,
looking at him with unusual tenderness. "Thank you so much, my son;"
and these few words gave Malcolm quite a thrill of pleasure.
The heavy storm had tempered the extreme heat and the night had been
comparatively cool, and the little group gathered round the
breakfast table the next morning looked as bright as the day itself.
Anna had been charmed with her watch; but when she opened Malcolm's
case and saw the tiny diamond-studded quiver, she was almost
speechless with surprise and delight. "Oh, Malcolm, how could you--
how could you be so kind to me!" was all she could say. But Malcolm
only laughed and fastened the brooch in her white dress. Then he
took some half-open pink rosebuds from a vase on the table and bade
her wear them. "You are too pale, and these will give you colour,"
he said in a cool, critical tone.
Anna took them from his hand rather shyly. She had put on her
daintiest white frock in his honour, but the rosebuds savoured of
vanity to her. She never disputed Malcolm's opinion on any subject,
but as she adjusted the flowers she gave Mrs. Herrick a deprecating
glance, which the latter met with an indulgent smile.
"No, dear, you look very nice," she observed, as though in reply to
this mute question; "you are not at all too smart. Now I must go and
read my letters. Have a good time, children; and, Malcolm, remember
Anna must not be overtired," and then Mrs. Herrick nodded cheerfully
and withdrew to the library. Anna ran off to put on her hat, while
Malcolm read his paper.
They went first to Lincoln's Inn, and Anna stood on the wide steps
looking at the pigeons fluttering over the old buildings, quite
unaware, in her innocent excitement--though Malcolm was not--that
many an admiring glance rested on her.
In spite of her lack of beauty, Anna's pretty girlish figure and
youthful grace often attracted people--her expression was so
guileless and sweet, and the fair fluffy hair so softly tinted; and
as she stood there in the morning sunshine, in her white gown and
shady hat, Malcolm felt secretly proud of his young companion, and
his manner became still more affectionate.
They interviewed Malachi, and to Anna's delight Malcolm put him
through his paces. Then they went into the inner room, and Anna sat
down on the chair Cedric had occupied, and looked round her with
undisguised amazement: the shabbiness and ugliness of the
surroundings almost shocked her.
"Oh, Malcolm, it is not a bit nice and comfortable," she said with
an anxious frown: "fancy your spending your days in this dreary
Then Malcolm gave an amused laugh.
"Poor little girl, so you are disappointed in my literary den. I
suppose you thought I should have carved oak and Russia leather
bindings; but we don't go in for aesthetic furniture in Lincoln's
"But it is so ugly and so dingy, Malcolm."
"Is it?" he returned, quite surprised at this severe criticism. "I
think it quite snug myself. I have done some good work here, Anna,
so I suppose the ugliness and dinginess are somewhat inspiring." And
Malcolm glanced at his littered writing-table rather proudly.
As Anna felt no temptation to linger, they started off briskly in
search of Todmorden's Lane.
They found it with little difficulty. It was a small side street, of
somewhat unprepossessing appearance, leading out of Beauchamp
Street. Bennet, boot-maker and umbrella-maker, had a dark, dingy
little shop just at the corner. It had evidently been an ordinary
dwelling-house in old times, but a bow window had been added to
transform it into a shop. A flight of broken steps led to the
basement, where the cobbler and his household lived; but as they
carefully descended, Malcolm suddenly paused.
"What on earth is that noise?" he asked in a puzzled tone. And Anna,
drawing her dainty white skirts closely round her, stood still to
It was certainly an extraordinary combination of sounds. It seemed
at first as though two people were singing a duet in different tunes
and without any regard to time; there was persistent melody and yet
there was utter discord, and it seemed accompanied by the clanging
Presently Anna began to laugh. "Do let us go in and see what it
means," she whispered. "Somebody--a man, I think--is singing 'Rule
Britannia' and 'Hark, hark, my soul' by turns, and there is a woman
talking or scolding at the same time."
"I believe you are right," was Malcolm's answer. "Take care of that
last step, child, it is quite worn away." And then, as they stood
side by side in the dismal little area, he looked vainly for a bell.
Finally, he rapped so smartly at the door with Anna's sunshade that
they distinctly heard an irate voice say, "Drat their imperence,"
and a tall, bony-looking woman, in a flowered gingham dress and a
very red face, bounced out on them.
She was so tall and so excessively bony, and so altogether
aggressive-looking, that Anna felt inclined to hide herself behind
Malcolm. Indeed, he remarked afterwards himself, that he had never
seen a finer specimen of a muscular Christian, barring the
Christianity, in his life.
"What's your pleasure?" observed the Amazon, folding her arms in a
defiant manner, while through the open door they could now hear
distinctly the cobbler's subdued and singularly toneless voice
meandering on--"O'er earth's green fields, and ocean's wave-beat
"Deuce take the man!" continued the woman wrathfully. "Will you hold
your old doddering tongue, Caleb, and let the gentlefolk speak!" But
there was no cessation of the dreary, dirge-like sounds. They found
out afterwards that Caleb always worked with cotton-wool in his
ears, so his wife's remonstrance failed to reach him.
"You see, it is like this, sir," he observed to Malcolm afterwards,
when they became better acquainted with each other: "Ma'am's tongue
is like a leaking water-butt. It is bound to drip, drip from week's
end to week's end, and there's no stopping it. It is a way she has,
and Kit and me are bound to put up with it. She means no harm,
doesn't Kezia; she is a hard-working crittur, and does her duty,
though she is a bit noisy over it; she is good to us both in her
way, and I am not quarrelsome by nature, so, as I like to work in
peace, I just stop my ears and hum to myself, and if she scolds I
mind it no more than I do the buzzing of the blue-bottles on the
"But the child Kit?" questioned Malcolm a little anxiously. Then a
queer little twisted smile came to Caleb's face.
"She is used to it, is Kit, and she don't take it to heart much. I
have heard her cheek Ma'am sometimes. Ma'am wouldn't hurt a hair of
her head, for all her bouncings and flinging of pots and kettles
when she is in a temper. It is the basement tries her, poor soul.
She says she has never been used to it. Her first husband was in the
tin trade, and they had a tidy little shop in the Borough."
"Oh, Mrs. Martin has been married before," observed Malcolm. He was
rather surprised at this piece of intelligence.
"Lord love you, yes, sir; and when she became Josh Leggett's widow
she just took up with me because she said she felt lonesome. She did
it with her eyes open as I often tell her, but she has never got
over the basement. It does not agree with her constitution, and it
"I suppose Kit is Mrs. Martin's child?" asked Malcolm, as he
digested this information.
Then Caleb gave a dry little laugh.
"Bless you, no, sir. Kezia never had any family. That was always a
sore point with her. She said that was why she was so lonesome, and
I believe she married me mostly on Kit's account. Oh, she has a good
heart, has Ma'am," continued Caleb in his slow, ruminative way,
"though she would talk a dozen men stupid, one after another, and be
as fresh as paint herself." And with this graphic description of the
second Mrs. Martin, Caleb touched his old hat and slouched away.
YEA-VERILY AND BABS
We will have a swashing and a martial outside.
--As You Like It.
The direct influence of good women is the greatest of
all forces under Divine Grace for making good men.
Never had that much-loved hymn "The Pilgrims of the Night" sounded
so flatly and discordantly in Anna's ears as when she listened to
Caleb's monotonous croak; but her sense of irritation changed to
alarm when Mrs. Martin suddenly shook her fist at the open door and
vanished. Malcolm, who promptly followed her, was just in time to
see her shaking the cobbler by his coat-collar, much after the
fashion of a terrier shaking a rat.
"Are you a born natural?" she screamed. "Pilgrims of the night,
indeed! I'll pilgrim you, you chuckle-headed idiot. Here are your
betters trying to make themselves heard." Then Caleb slowly
unstopped his ears, and rose rather stiffly to his feet.
"You have got no call to be so violent, Kezia," he returned meekly.
"Oh, it is the gentleman who lent us the umbrella. Kit and I were
going to bring it back this afternoon, sir, but I had to finish a
job I had in hand."
"There is no hurry," returned Malcolm. "We were in this direction,
so I thought I would save you the trouble." Malcolm looked curiously
round the room as he spoke.
He was not surprised when he learnt afterwards that the second Mrs.
Martin objected to the basement. It was certainly a gloomy little
place, though scrupulously clean and neat. The sunshine of a July
day filtered reluctantly through the small, opaque-looking window.
Caleb's bench and tools were placed just underneath it, and above
his head a linnet hopped and twittered in a green cage. Kit's
perambulator occupied one corner, while Kit herself, seated at the
table in a high chair, was busily engaged in ironing out some ragged
doll-garments with a tiny bent flat-iron. Anna regarded her
pitifully--the small shrunken figure and sunken chest, and the thin
white face with its halo of red curls. But Kit was almost too
absorbed with her endeavour to get the creases out of a doll's
petticoat to heed her scrutiny. She only paused to nod at Malcolm in
a friendly way.
"I wasn't wet one little bit, though Ma'am scolded dad so," she
exclaimed in her high shrill voice. "I was like a queen in a big
tent, wasn't I, dad? I was awful comfortable."
"She might have been drowned dead for all the care he took,"
returned Mrs. Martin with a contemptuous sniff, as she planted her
arms akimbo in her favourite attitude. Her elbows were so sharp and
bony that Anna thought of the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland. "If
it weren't for me that blessed lamb would be a corpse every day of
her life--though I beg and pray him on my bended knees not to run
her into danger."
She was only a coarse-tongued virago, but even Anna, who had shrunk
from her, felt a little mollified and touched as she saw how
tenderly the rough hand rested on the child's curls. But Kit pushed
it pettishly away. "Don't, Ma'am, you've been and gone and spoiled
Jemima's ball dress, and she is going to wear it to-night," and Kit
held up a modicum of blue gauze which certainly did not bear the
slightest resemblance to a garment, and regarded it anxiously.
Jemima herself, a mere battered hulk of a doll, lay in a grimy
chemise staring with lack-lustre eyes at the ceiling.
"I suppose Kit is not able to walk?" asked Anna, looking rather
timidly at the formidable Mrs. Martin; but to her surprise the
rugged, forbidding features softened and grew womanly in a moment.
"Law bless you, miss, the poor lamb has never stood on her feet in
her life, and never will as long as she lives. The doctors at the
hospital yonder say that when she gets older and stronger she will